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Knitting Sisyphus and the Boyfriend Sweater Curse

As a knitter, you often hear tales of superstitions associated with knitted gifts. Or, if not, you have at the very least experienced the dread that the item you’ve dedicated countless hours of your life to, sacrificed your already dwindling sanity to, lovingly donated blood and tears to, might just be under appreciated by its intended recipient.

Back in September, I decided to knit a sweater for my boyfriend as a Christmas present. S is very deserving of a hand knit sweater. I figured that four months would be a fairly generous amount of time in which to complete the project, and since S lives in a different province, I didn’t worry that I would have to lose time “hiding” my knitting.

Now at this point, for those of you who are non-knitters, I will tell you that the “boyfriend sweater” is a cursed project. Knitting lore has it that knitting your boyfriend a sweater will bring about the dissolution of your relationship, and that somehow, the sweater itself will be instrumental in this dissolution. The only thing I found “cursed” about this sweater was the process. And all of the issues, every last little one of them, well now, they were my own fault (*grins sheepishly*).

I could have helped myself. I could have made it so this project didn’t turn me into Knitting Sisyphus winding a giant ball of yarn up a hill, just to have it unravel down the other side.

For starters, I could have helped myself by choosing a less complicated pattern, but I have yet to discover a Brooklyn Tweed Addicts Anonymous group out there to help address my addiction.

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The sweater pattern I chose was Jared Flood’s “Timberline” cardigan, from the BT Men collection. I really love how every pattern in the BT collection has little details that teach new skills, and make the finished products absolutely stellar. For “Timberline”, the tubular cast-on and I-cord edging make everything look so finished, but the complicated cable pattern does make it difficult to “mindlessly knit” the thing quickly.

My second issue was with my yarn choice. I selected Briggs & Little, and since I find that BT’s Shelter tends to be a bit thicker than most of the worsted I generally work with, I picked their Light Grey “Heritage” yarn, which is actually an aran-weight yarn.

I ordered it off the Internet, which meant I didn’t actually “feel” the yarn before a sweater’s worth ended up on my doorstep. When it arrived, it looked perfect, but was stiffer and scratchier than I imagined it would be. After washing, the wool will soften, but as I discovered while knitting the first sleeve, the stiffness and thickness of the wool, combined with the fact that my gauge required me to work on needles a half size smaller than the pattern recommends, means that the cables were incredibly difficult to work, and that my hands suffered painfully. I had to purchase replacement yarn.

The second yarn I selected was Cascade Yarn’s Eco +, in colour 8401, which is another light grey. The Eco + is also an aran-weight, but has more give, and is a lot softer than the Heritage. It made things much easier to work with, and in the end, probably stopped me from getting arthritis.

My next issue was actually the fact that I entirely lack the ability to say “no”, and tend to have a bit of knitting related ADHD. I want to knit all the things.

  • People having babies? – Must knit them sweaters and blankets.
  • People want help with their knitting? Hold on, don’t touch anything, I’ll be right over.
  • People want to give hand knit gifts as presents? Hold on, let me grab my needles.
  • New pretty projects on Ravelry? Oh, it’s only commuter knitting.

I am such a knitting pushover and self-enabler.

My last major issue was what I’m calling “the Cable Debacle of 2015”. After completing the body of the sweater, I noticed what I had failed to recognize as I was knitting. I had crossed a cable the wrong way in an early repeat of the pattern. Now, I’m fairly proficient at fixing things, but there were a number of factors that made it impossible to just drop back those six stitches. The only way I could see to fix it was to rip back to the error…40 hours of knitting ago. At this point S was texting K, my housemate, to physically restrain me from doing so.

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I felt the bitter taste of failure at that point. After putting so much time and effort into the sweater, knowing that that one cable was amiss was horribly disappointing, and I really didn’t think I could handle ripping back to fix it. I whined about it on Instagram, and then some other knitter – like an angel garbed in his very own “Timberline”– gave me the solution. He sent me a link to I need orange’s blog post on fixing incorrectly crossed cables by cutting them in the centre, and then kitchener stitching them back the correct way. New skill acquired, and thank you kind stranger wherever you are, you have saved my slightly deranged sanity.

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I did not finish S’s sweater in time for Christmas. Nor did I finish it in time for his birthday. It wasn’t even finished for Valentine’s Day when I went to visit him. (Instead he got a shirt, and his very own knitting lesson.) I finally sewed the buttons on at midnight on Friday. He is coming to visit next weekend, and will finally get his long overdo Christmas sweater. He’s promised to model it.


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In all, I can’t say that I believe in the “curse” so to speak. I certainly wouldn’t have knit a sweater; especially one that gave me so many difficulties, for someone I didn’t think would appreciate it. But I’ll let you know what he says when he gets it…or if he ever puts it in the dryer…DSC_0016 1

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2 thoughts on “Knitting Sisyphus and the Boyfriend Sweater Curse

  1. zannieblossom says:

    I really enjoyed your post. I like to blog but I enjoy reading another’s heroic tales of knitting problems overcome and the wonderful end of a project hard fought. Congratulations in the sweater and I look forward to seeing if he likes it and praying he never puts it in the dryer. By the way, I knit my boyfriend a sweater and several pairs of socks. We are now married and have been for almost 8 years. He loves my knitting and puts up with, without much complaint, my yarn addiction, stash, and house fully strewn with projects in the works.

    • leighmcdonna says:

      Zannieblossom,
      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and for your kind response. it sounds like your house suffers from the same affliction as my apartment -that of yarn everywhere. Congratulations on “defeating” the boyfriend sweater curse. It sounds like your husband is truly amazing.

      Leigh

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