Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Deeply Felt Post

Before: the Grim Reaper Snuggie Coat

The other day, I was giving a knitting lesson to my friend. He's a quick study and we were talking about mistakes and how to fix them. I was telling him what Allison told me on last year's Monhegan Island retreat-- her mother used to say, "If a man running for a bus can't see a mistake, don't worry about it." That's a rule which-- even before I heard it put like that-- has served me well. If I make what feels like a noticeable error and I'm far enough along that fixing it means ripping out inches and inches, I remind myself that probably no one else will ever notice it and, once I let it go, I also will stop noticing it.

As I was discussing all this with my friend, I remembered one of these errors on a sweater coat I made a couple of years ago. So I trotted out the sweater coat to show my friend and see if he could spot the mistake. Even when I pointed it out he couldn't tell. That was the good news.

Then there was the bad news. Well, okay, not horrible news. But let's just say I had a little accident after the knitting session was over. Looking at the sweater coat I remembered a much more noticeable problem with it. When I made it, I only realized when I got to the sleeves-- which seemed extremely long-- that I had been knitting the XL pattern and not the L pattern. As my goal had been to finish the coat to wear on my pending trip to France, and as-- like I said-- I'm not one to do much ripping, I thought to heck with it, I'll just keep going.

The end result was what my boyfriend termed the World's Most Expensive Snuggie. It was massive. When I pulled up the hood, I looked like the Grim Reaper. But I remained determined to wear it on my trip, and consoled myself that it was so big I could wear added layers under it. That was good since it was about negative 50 degrees most days we tromped around Paris.

Somewhere along the way, my friend Suzanne, who owns Hill Country Weavers in Austin (I blog for the shop here), suggested I try a "light felt" to get the sweater to a more reasonable size. I parked the idea, then forgot it, then remembered it when I took the sweater out to show off the invisible mistake. I thought about an upcoming trip to New York, where it's still chilly, and I decided that it was time for a "light felt" so I could take the sweater with me. I worried that all of the bobbles would sort of melt together, that the definition of the cables would be gone. But I reasoned that at least I'd be more inclined to wear the thing if it fit me.

Then I did that thing I'm famous for. I convinced myself that surely it would turn out just right if I let the fates have a hand in the process. I looked up how to felt on a couple of websites but admittedly just skimmed them. I recalled an accidental felting years ago-- that time the first sweater I ever made sneaked into the washer and in the end I cut it up to make a bag-- but assured myself this time wouldn't be a disaster. I thought of one other felting project I'd done when the bag I knitted just would not shrink down enough to please me. Then I said, "Whatever," tossed the coat (made from Manos de Uruguay) into a hot washer and let it agitate. I checked it after a few minutes. It still seemed big. I let it agitate some more. I wandered off and...

After: my new felted "short coat"

Yes, that's right, I wandered off. And so what I ended up with was... well, let's just say I'm glad I recently watched Robert Altman's movie Pret-a-Porter about the Fashion Industry. Because if I squint my eyes just right when I look in the mirror with my "new" sweater on, I can convince myself that it is High Fashion. Granted the arms and armpits are so tight that it feels like a straightjacket. And can I really get away with the new jumbo "collar" that used to be the hood and now sticks out like something you might see on an old episode of Star Trek? Um... well... probably not if I'm in any city except for Austin, which fortunately is where I live. Here "fashion" mostly refers to which pajama bottoms and flip-flops you decide to throw on before heading out to a food trailer. But I'm thinking I will not be wearing the felted "short coat" in New York.


Did I learn a lesson? Maybe. Maybe not. Yes, I will admit I do have a tendency to sometimes do things the hasty way. And when I think of how many yards of yarn went into the original, and how many hours (I really did lose track, though I remember getting up every morning to put in 2 - 3 solid hours on it before my trip)... well, I'm trying not to think of that. It'll probably be a long time before I felt anything again. But I absolutely, positively will be sure that I circle the right size pattern next time I start in on a garment.


  1. Spike, clearly you have missed your calling. You are a designer!!!!!!!!!!!
    Brenda Morison - Monhegan Island alumni x 2