Saturday, May 3, 2008


"It is better to unstitch than to rip."
--Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE– 43 BCE), On Friendship

Carla--my friend and accomplished fiber artist (she might contest this "accomplished" label, but I speak from my can-barely-thread-a-needle pov)--has been knitting a Danish-designed pullover wool sweater, off and on, over the past couple years:

Despite what the Danish shop clerks assured her, it has not been "easy."
The elegant Scandinavian design allows for no error, and recently Carla came to accept that she'd made a big one.
A big, big one.
In the second row.

[For you knitters, I'll relay what Carla told me:
The pattern said "k1, m1, k1, m1," ["knit one, make one]" and then "k to end" of the row. But Carla kept on with the "k1, m1" pattern.

For those of us who don't speak knitting, this means she kept adding, or "making," stitches, so the sweater doubled in size, though only in one section...]

Carla told me that when she realized she'd erred back on Day 1 of creation, her first impulse was to take a scissors and cut the sweater into thousands of little bits.

But she didn't.

She decided to unknit the sweater and start all over again.

I asked her if I could document what to me is a truly heroic act, and she agreed.

Carla is one of the most generous people I know (she might contest this too, but I have backup on it), and I thought she was being kind to share this with me.
Turns out, in this case, she had an ulterior motive: I was an extra pair of hands to wind the wool onto the wooden swift (left), as she unravelled the sweater.

Carla will hang the skeins of wool (like the one to the right) in the shower and the hot steam will allow the kinks to relax.

Because the wool was once a living material (from Shetland sheep), it will relax back into its natural shape, and she can use it all over again.

Getting small now...

The lesson in this, Carla said, is "Buy exquisite yarn. Don't settle for junky stuff that was once plastic or oil."

I say, the lesson in this is if you learn to accept it when you fuck up, you can still get a sweater out of the deal.


bink said...

I hope you post a picture of the sweater (when Carla finishes it) on your blog, so that we can see the results. Fun picture essay.

Hooray for Carla for being so brave and starting over again. It's great when one is able to recognise and acknowledge failure and not get stuck in it but move forward. Sweaters for all!

fresca said...

Yes, I will post a picture of the finished sweater. Carla doesn't know how long it will take but predicts far less time than this aborted one, now she knows how to do it right!

I too think it was brave of her. As with any art, editing is the hard part and the part that makes the result better (one hopes).
And it's part of the whole process to, if you want to say its the process not the product...
But it's not the fun part.

poodletail said...

Carla is an inspiration as a knitter and in lots of other ways. Every hand-knit thing has a story and this will be a really good one. To be continued ...

ddip said...

As a knitter and fiber/fabric person myself, I can tell just from the pictures what gorgeous, soft yarn Carla's using for her sweater. It will be beautiful when it's finished, and sooooft on the skin. Well worth the frustration and extra effort.

As an aside, the pattern of Carla's sweater took me right back to our 6 months in Copenhagen when we were kids. Oh my, did it remind me of the striped sweaters all the girls in my 8th-grade class used to wear! I actually learned to knit at that school, and we girls would knit our way through just about every class. Fond memories!

fresca said...

Poodle: Maybe I could do a series of knitting tales--let me know if/when you have something going!

Sister: I had totally forgotten (!) how the Danish girls in school would knit in class! Very civilized. And I even had a thin-striped could i have forgotten??? Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Even a dismal has-been knitter of ONE argyle sock (donated eventually to the Veterans Hospital in hopes of pleasing a one-legged man)can appreciate the ecellent reporting and photographing of this brave endeavor to tear out and redo! All my admiration to Carla and to Fresca. . .great story. Please do more!

momo said...

I knit one sweater successfully after taking a class. The next sweater I made, out of gorgeous yarn, turned out to be unwearable because the armhoes were too small. I did unravel it, but then the yarn sat in a bag for years because I didn't have the heart to do what Carla did. Go, Carla!