Flowers Springing From the Ashes

None of this would have happened if my daughter had just appreciated her adorableness in the sweater I made her from the leftovers of Mrs. Maisel’s Coat, and had taken it home with her.

Adorable, right? RIGHT???

But no, she said she looked like a colorful cow and rejected the sweater. Plan B is to see if her cousin Cecilia will want it.

Does she look like a colorful cow to you? Sane people with eyes generally don’t think so.

But that characterization doesn’t apply to a 20-something girl with body issues, so there’s no point in arguing it, and that’s why the sweater was sitting on top of a pile of stuff next to my dining room table, in a basket, instead of safely in her apartment. One evening a week or so ago, candles were burning on the table, I was taking a nap on the couch in the living room, and I woke up to smell something burning. My husband ran over to the table to discover the basket having rolled from its perch and the sweater with a big hole burned into the back.

I thought about unraveling the knitting around the body at the level of the burned hole and reknitting the ruined rows, then grafting it to the rest of the sweater, but that would have meant undoing the pockets. That was a bridge too far. At the time I was sick as hell with the flu, and all of the energy that normally goes into my optimism, creativity, and resourcefulness was being diverted to coughing my lungs out. My next option seemed to be trashing the sweater as a metaphor for my life, as I told my other daughter in a text conversation, and a minute later she got me on FaceTime to make sure I wasn’t slitting my wrists. I showed her the damage, and she had the solution in a split second: cover it with a cute cheesy ’70’s style crocheted flower, especially since the burn was exactly in tramp-stamp position on the back of the sweater.

Well, all right then. I could do that. I hadn’t crocheted in a year so I had to refresh my memory. I found the African Flower pattern that I used for the baby jacket I made a few years ago, and whipped one up using Wollmeise DK in some compatible colors, after trying and rejecting the super-bulky yarn that I used to knit the sweater because it produced a sloppy, massive flower. The flower just barely covered the hole, but it did cover it. I snipped away the cauterized wool and stitched around the raw edges with sewing thread and a little sewing needle.

The stiff burned wool has been trimmed away and the raw edges stabilized with needle and thread

A flower springs forth from the ashes!

Ashes, left; Flower, right

Even though the facing side was covered by a cute and pretty flower, I was troubled by that gaping hole on the back side. Would my stitching hold the cut edges of the fabric? Would the edge feel irritating to the skin?

The appliqué patch covered the hole on the front, but the cut edges were exposed to the elements on the inside

I decided the hole needed to be covered on the back side as well as the front side. Using a crochet hook, I picked up loops of a thinner yarn through the fabric of the knitted super-bulky yarn and put them onto a short circular needle. Then I knitted a stockinette fabric in back-and-forth knitting. At the end of each row, I picked up a loop from the fabric of the sweater and knitted it together with the last stitch of the row.

Patching the inside of the hole as well as the outside, halfway into the process
And done! Easy enough to stuff that end inside the patch, along with everything else

One flower begat another.

Two cute flowers. Ought to be enough, but…

But I posted the picture on Facebook, and I was rewarded with a suggestion that what the sweater needed was a butterfly. That was true. It needed a butterfly. I needed to be done with this long and winding road, but how hard could it be to find a pattern for a crocheted butterfly? It’s very easy to find a pattern for a crocheted butterfly. Ravelry has 37 pages of them, but every single one was either hideous and everything I hate about crochet, or unavailable, and not a single one was what I had in mind, whatever that was. I didn’t want to have to devise my own, but it was my best option.

Browsing through those 37 pages of pictures of crocheted butterflies gave me an idea for the structure of the butterfly shape I wanted: big shape on top half of wing, little shape on bottom half, times two, connected by a little tube with a circle on top for the body and head. I have made concentric circles before, and concentric circles would be consistent with the style of the sweater and its current embellishments. I found the Big Dots, Little Dots pattern by Frankie Brown that was the basis of the works I discussed in my blog posts What Happens After You Dye? and A Show of Hands, and I adapted it.

This is the butterfly appliqué that I improvised because I couldn’t find a pattern that I liked.
This is the side of the sweater that took the damage. People tell me it’s much cuter now!

Here are instructions for my butterfly.

Yarn and equipment:

I used Wollmeise DK and a 2.75 mm hook, for an appliqué that is 4 3/4″ at its widest and 4 1/2″ long, not counting the antennae. Use whatever yarn you want and any hook that you can comfortably crochet the yarn with.

Big concentric circles:

Slip knot, chain 4, slip stitch into first chain to make a ring.

Round 1: Chain 3, 11 double crochets into the ring, join with a slip stitch into the top of the 3-chain stitch, for 12 stitches in the ring.

Round 2: Change to a new color. 2 chains in a space, a single crochet in the same space. 2 single crochets in the next space, 11 times, for 24 stitches.

Round 3: Change to a new color. 2 chains in a space, a single crochet in the same space. 1 single crochet in the next space. 2 single crochets in next space, 1 single crochet in next space, 11 times, for 36 stitches. Fasten off.

Make two.

Small concentric circles:

Slip knot, chain 4, slip stitch into first chain to make a ring.

Round 1: Chain 2, 9 single crochets into the ring, join with a slip stitch into the top of the 2-chain stitch, for 10 stitches in the ring.

Round 2: Change to a new color. 2 chains in a space, a single crochet in the same space. 1 single crochet in the next space. 2 single crochets in next space, 1 single crochet in next space, 9 times, for 30 stitches. Fasten off.

Make two.

Body:

The body is a length of i-cord, also known as “idiot cord.” Cast 3 stitches onto a short circular knitting needle. Slide the stitches to the right end of the needle. Knit the stitches and slide them back to the right end of the needle. Do that for 9 rows. On 10th row, knit into the front and back of first stitch. Knit 4 stitches in the same way for 7 rows, then increase as before for 5 stitches, and knit a total of 25 rows of i-cord. Bind off.

Head:

Crochet round 1 of the big concentric circle.

The parts of the butterfly before assembly

Assembly and finishing:

I recommend leaving ends that are long enough to use for stitching together the pieces and positioned so that they can reach the places that are to be joined. Attach the two halves of the wings, the wings to the body, and the head to the body. Outline the wings in a contrasting color with single crochet in every edge stitch. To make the extensions of the wings’ outer margins at the top and bottom corners, chain 4, single crochet in the bottom three chains. Single crochet in the next wing stitch. Chain 3, single crochet in the bottom two chains. Single crochet in the next wing stitch. Chain 3, single crochet in the bottom two chains. Continue single crochet in the wing stitches.

Outlining the butterfly appliqué in a contrasting yarn and attaching it to the garment

I found that the easier way to make the antennae was to chain 14 or 15 stitches on either side of the center stitch of the head, and sew it to the surface of the garment. That was after struggling with surface crochet for the first butterfly, when I discovered that either I’m not very good at it or it’s harder than I thought.

These are a couple of the appliqués that I attached to the front of the sweater. The flower has only five petals! I wanted a smaller flower anyway.

You may have noticed that the pictures of the garment so far have one blue cuff and one gray one. That’s not a design decision. That’s because one of the original cuffs, which were gray, also rolled into the candle and I didn’t have any more gray yarn. I had to reknit the charred cuff in blue yarn, which gave me the opportunity to make it a bit longer, and I didn’t get to the other cuff until after I had taken the pictures I have posted so far.

This is the front of the completely repaired sweater, including two matching blue cuffs

People tell me that the need to salvage this damaged garment resulted in embellishments that made it nicer than it was originally. That’s gratifying, but undertaking this salvage process did something else for me. I spoke facetiously earlier about the effect the flu had on my mood, but the worst symptom of this illness was a bout of uncharacteristic depression that made me apathetic and numb to beauty and problem-solving, which normally motivate my pursuits. It was scary to lose my reason for… well… living. But then this situation came up, which gave me some bite-sized practical problem-solving tasks and aesthetic decisions that reactivated my creativity and resourcefulness and helped restore my normal state of mind. Maybe it’s not a bad thing my daughter rejected a sweater that actually looked good on her.

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