Picking up where someone else left off

Suzie Blackman
Monday, 13 February 2017

My latest FO was mostly not my handiwork but that of one of my Great Aunts who lived in a tiny house in a Suffolk seaside village. Having both passed away, their house was cleared and this was given to me some years ago as a garment body, 1 1/2 sleeves and half a ball of red yarn. I have no idea when it was started, who it was for or what the original pattern was of even which Great Aunt was making this. Now seemed like a good time to finish it off, as it’s intended for a small person and I will soon have one of those.
Baby cardigan
Finishing the remaining sleeve by copying the first was straight-forward. As there wasn’t enough red yarn for a button band and collar I used white, and I love how it makes it look like a baby ski jacket.

We often think of our knitting elders as experts, but there are several things about this project that make me recoil in horror, and not just the acrylic content.

Firstly, the lax tension. I am fortunate in that I almost always hit the yarn stated tension without any adjustment, and my stitches are nice and even without blocking. As you can see below, Great Aunt’s tension is loose and uneven, but then again she may not have been at her prime so this can be forgiven. Hopefully blocking with even out the transition.
Diagram showing change in tension

Secondly, the Fair Isle technique is sloppy! My grandparents’ generation didn’t have the benefit of blogs and YouTube to explain colour dominance in detail, so it’s perfectly understandable that someone could have knitted their entire life and without gaining that knowledge, and it probably wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference to their enjoyment of knitting or the appreciation of the garments they made.

Fair Isle detail

Sloppy fair isle technique

Most terrifying to me is Great Aunt’s treatment of the ends – they’re either knotted or barely fastened at all before being trimmed to within an inch of their lives. I am of the firm opinion that there is no “proper” way to weave in ends, and knitters should be free to choose whatever method works for them, but this is living a little too dangerously for me. In fact some ends had already come loose. Also notice that a separate stand has been used for each row of colour work, rather than them being carried along at the edge.

Ends trimmed to within an inch of their life

The most bizarre “feature” of all is that the edge stitches of each row are worked in garter. I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to seam or pick up stitches without getting odd bumps or holes. Maybe the lady knew something I don’t about seaming? It is a great shame that the creator is no longer here to ask but happy that her project is finally complete.

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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