Ok, it’s been ages since I’ve written. It may seem backwards, but when Life-things are going well and I’m busy, updating this blog is the first thing that gets postponed… and postponed… until basically it’s cut out altogether. But when Life-things are not going so well, it’s comforting to show-and-tell about creating—probably because it feels like proof of purpose and therefore validation—even if only two people are still reading (Hi Kara! Hi Michael!)
Anyway. Amateur psychology aside, this is one of those tougher times. My grandmother, or as we called her, Mommy Jane, passed away last week. Both of my grandmothers were creative forces: Grandma Joyce is my Sewing Grandma; Mommy Jane was my Knitting Grandma. While Grandma Joyce showed me how to stitch up calico yo-yos, it was Mommy Jane who taught me to chain crochet and finger knit.
When I was in high school, Mommy Jane wanted to make me a sweater; she sent me a catalog of knitting patterns and asked me to choose one. Being the snot-nosed, generally self-absorbed teenager that I was, I selected what, looking back on it, was probably the most complicated, time- and labor-intensive sweater I could possibly have asked for. It was a hefty, oversized, cable-knit Aran pullover, complete with hood (if it was here with me now, I would show you a photo, but unfortunately it’s at my parents’ house). It took her months, if not years to complete, and the final product was nothing short of stunning. It is truly an heirloom. That sweater, along with a quilt made by my Grandma Joyce (quilted by hand, mind you), is probably the most important and irreplaceable item I possess.
Mommy Jane taught me at an early age the value of craftsmanship, of working with your hands. She showed me by example how, when you hand-make a gift for someone you love, you give a little bit of yourself in the process. It’s so much more humble and simple than most of the trappings of gift-giving today—but it’s also scary: it’s an offering, an extension of you. It’s both vulnerability and connectivity. That’s what I aspire to, anyway.
There’s also something so wonderfully tactile about gifting a homemade sweater. From your hands to someone else’s back—as corny as it sounds—it’s a hug incarnate.
I am not a knitter. Knitting is magic to me—it feels like conjuring clothing out of thin air, and I am constantly in awe of those who have mastered the art. I’ve never had the patience to learn, and, for now at least, it’s completely beyond my abilities.
But when I saw this pullover from Madewell before Christmas, I was inspired: maybe it would be possible to sew—instead of knit—a simple raglan-sleeve sweater, as a holiday gift for friends.
The Madewell website indicates that this is made of a wool/poly/acrylic blend, and it was very thick and kind of scratchy when I touched it in the store. But… it kind of looks like fleece… right?
Fleece is great, because it’s super soft and inexpensive and easy to work with. But it’s also kind of cheesy.
So I tried to be super careful with both fabric and pattern selection, hoping to end up with something that, in addition to being warm and cozy, was visually appealing.
The pattern :
I struggled a bit with the sizing—this pattern is intended for lightweight fabrics, so I ended up having to go up a couple of sizes to account for the extra thickness of the fleece.
BUT this pattern has pockets! Oh the joy therein!
I chose three different combinations of fleece:
And while each version turned out slightly different from the others, I’m pretty happy with them. I will definitely be returning to this pattern for warm and cozy gifts in the future. Hopefully Mommy Jane would approve.