Friday, June 06, 2008

Fruits Circa 1988




Hi Knitters,
Let me take you back for a moment, waaaay back, about 20 years ago to be exact. I was 23 years-old and in graduate school and I was already crazed by knitting. Now, let me set the scene for you. No one knitted at that time, no one. I was a lone fish swimming in uncharted waters with no help by my side. Dramatic, no?

I found this book at the new Borders bookstore here in town. It was a big deal. There were 3 knitting books available, one by Debbie Bliss, one by Kaffe Fassett and one by Susan Duckworth. I bought them all. Susan Duckworth's book sent me realing. I got shivers when I opened this book. I poured over the pages of spectacular knitting, detailed texture and colorwork and design. I couldn't believe my eyes. I finally landed on this pattern called, Fruits. Yes, Fruits. I had no business knitting this sweater, none at all. I did it anyway.

I took the book to a local yarn shop run by a couple of older ladies. I am sure they just shook their heads when I left. Those ladies intimidated me to no end, I never would have asked them for help. I have no idea what that yarn is for the main color but it is some kind of fine wool. The accent colors for the fruits and leaves were all carefully selected wool embroidery yarns. That was all they could do for me.

I knitted this on US size 2 and US size 3 needles. Yes, I just said 2's and 3's at a gauge of 8 stitches per inch. Can you even believe the nerve of that? Naivete is truly a gift at times. The 1 by 1 ribbing on the bottom is at least 10-inches long and extra snug to get that blouson effect just over the top of it. I bobbled, I moss stitched, I intarsia-ed, I basket weaved, I crocheted edging, I had bobbins swinging left and right. Phew, that's exhausting. This thing came with me everywhere I went. What a smart on-the-go knitting project for a young college-aged woman. I wonder what people thought of me. Goof.

Guess what? I got a little burned out. I ended up with a lonely bunch of grapes on the upper-center back and plain stockinette stitch sleeves. The fruits were supposed to be all over the sleeves and back, too. I think this took me a couple of years to really finish because I remember sneaking it out to knit on during lunch at my first teaching job which was in 1990. My husband was in law school and I would knit on this while he studied at night.

I can't believe I actually finished. I will never get rid of Fruits because it taught me so much about knitting. I am still surprised by my courage with my knitting early on. You couldn't pay me to knit something like this, I mean tedious like this, today. No way, no how, period. Never.

Do I resemble the glamorous English model just a little? Nah, not in my dreams. I must say for a girl who had no idea what she was doing and with poor materials my sweater looks pretty darn close. It is all pretty funny.

Here is the cover of Susan Duckworth's Knitting, so English and beautiful. The book is a feast of color and design and gloriousness. I will save it forever. Simply paging through here brings me back to a time where I was game to try anything and I realized that knitting made me catch my breath with excitement. It became my life's calling and it all began with another Susan by my side.

It's 20 years later, it is crazy hair day at school. I have a great tip for you crazy hair designers, like myself, braid pipe cleaners into your daughter's braids and you have an instant Pippi Longstocking look or maybe Medusa (perfect for Halloween). We did four braids and I used 2 pipe cleaners, brown to match, in each braid. 

My daughter had a poetry coffee house with her class this morning. We walked into a dimly lit stage area and were served coffee on the way to our seats. We were instructed to snap instead of clap, very hipster. The kids were told to wear black. They read their poetry with utter confidence and pride. I loved it all. What a teacher she has, simply outstanding. I am indebted forever to good teachers and she is one of them.
Have a good Friday, Knitters.
best, susie

19 comments:

Dianne said...

This post made me laugh out loud!The wonderful thing about being young is that we think we can do almost anything and because we think that, we can! So great that you have saved this sweater.

Anonymous said...

HI SUSAN !!!!
WHAT A GREAT SWEATER !!!!! I THINK IT IS FANTASIC THAT IT STILL FITS AFTER 20 YEARS AND 4 KIDS !!!! WHAT A TREASURE !!!!!

picperfic said...

I have that book!! You were so brave to knit that, I have only looked at the pictures lol! I also have a couple of Patricia Roberts books too...I did manage to make a patchwork waistcoat in 1987. Never worn but too precious too get rid of.

Debbie Terrill said...

That was my first thought: hey, the sweater still FITS! I can't say that about my sweaters from 20 years ago. You were very brave and very determined twenty years ago... and still are! Hooray for you, AND for your wonderful daughter, who looks smashing in her pigtails.

whitefish bay said...

I too have that book, and was also a lone sole knitting in college. The ladies at "yarn it all" in Madison tried to steer me to the acrylic yarn. I still page through this book and marvel at the designs. I did knit the cabbage rose sweater on the cover.
Susan

peaknits said...

omg, bravo for the courage to don that sweater again, and I agree with other commenters - it fits! bless you! I love the crazy hair day and the cool coffee house event at school, very rad - neat teacher indeed!

Barbara C. said...

It's a beautiful sweater, Susan. You must be so proud of it. Next cold season, wear it and wear it and wear it!
When I was a freshman in college, all the senior girls were knitting so my friends and myself high tailed it to Macy's (they sold yarn and patterns in those days), bought pattern and yarn and "tried" to knit. I ended up giving a half finished "back" to my sister.
Then I had to wait for babies and children to start knitting again.
Barbara

Emily said...

I have that book too! I think we are about the same age. Your description of being the lone knitter was me too, except for me it was sewing. I took my sewing machine to college and that was definitely weird. (I didn't knit at the time--yet--just bought the books to gaze at them!)

Leah said...

We used to snap after we read poetry in my Freshman English class...what a cool teacher your daughter has.

That sweater sure is something; I'm glad you still have it after all that work you put into it.

Inspired Tokens said...

Your post is so funny. I can't imagine even tackling a project like that now. You did for your first one. Bravo! I do love the sweater though, it is beautiful.

I adore crazy hair day! What fun, a poetry reading. Oh, how I wish I could have crazy hair day these days. I wouldn't need to comb my hair! Thanks for the laugh and I love the pig-tails!

PS ...did you get my payment for the bee hat pattern?

S said...

I have that book! Which yarn store was it? Knitting Tree with dear Dottie? Do you remember the yarn shop down on State Street? I can't remember the name of it! Looong time ago. I agree that you should wear that sweater proudly next winter!

Your daughter is adorable. I love the coffee shop story....very cool!

celaine53f said...

I can top your story! 36 years ago when i was in college, 1972, between classes, i sat in the halls "indian-style" and crocheted and knitted! Talking about an ODD DUCK and getting ODD LOOKS! Still an ODD DUCK! I had the Debbie Bliss farm version of that sweater!

Emily said...

I happened to open up the Duke homepage (where I just finished grad school) and saw some familiar hats. Check out http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2008/06/healthphotos.html!

Sarah said...

Wow, what a sweater! I'm impressed that you carried it around with you. Thanks for the pipe cleaner tip. I hadn't thought of that before. Your daughters looks cute!

amy said...

When I first came back to knitting as a junior in college, I took a class at the local craft store. The other participants made a garter stitch hat, I made a fisherman's knit sweater - full of cables. I still have it. I now plan to blog about it and show a photo too! Thanks.

Wool Winder said...

Great story! You were born to knit!

ponyknit said...

Love it! Glad to hear you still managed to return from burnout and be knitting up a storm today!

Jewel said...

Wow, what a fun sweater!

Susan Duckworth said...

What nice comments from all of you, I'm delighted that the book is still appreciated. And I'm still going, have a look at my new website (www.susanduckworth.eu) to see what I'm up to nowadays.