Hearts and Kittens

Who is this alien that has occupied my brain and hands and is compelling me to make sicky-sweet cute stuff? Six months in Frog and Toad World and now pink hearts and gray kittens. Some kind of cuteness bug bit me last spring, after I started knitting Frog, when I ran across a free pattern on Ravelry for a crocheted sweater with a heart made in concentric stripes. Its loose sweatshirt shape had kind of a grunge look that gave a sense of irony to the cuteness and sweetness of the big graphic Pop Art heart, and I was smitten. I asked my older daughter if she could see herself wearing it, and she could. So Melissa at my LYS (local yarn store, knitter jargon) Lovelyarns printed out the pattern for me and piled up a stack of yarn sample books in front of me so that she could order exactly what pleased me.

The pattern suggested either acrylic or wool yarn, and if wool, fulling the work after constructing the sweater to make it soft and fluffy. That seemed like a lovely idea, and I’m too much of a yarn snob to work with acrylic, so I chose Cascade 200 worsted in light gray and fuchsia pink because the color combination was on my mind a lot. I got three skeins of each color, and let the bag of yarn sit on top of my stash all summer long while I worked on Frog and Toad World. I turned my attention to the crocheted heart sweater in September, and quickly understood that I was going to have to deviate from the pattern right from the start, because it was written to fit a woman whose torso was probably 4-6 inches shorter than my daughter’s and there were no instructions for other sizes.

Normally I would have linked to the pattern and credited the designer by now. The main reason why I’m not naming the designer is that the pattern has disappeared from the internet. First it disappeared from Ravelry, then a different version of the pattern disappeared from the designer’s website. The designer originally had a YouTube explaining her construction method, and that disappeared too. I have no idea why. Was it because the designer didn’t want to answer questions about the confusing and incomplete instructions she had published? Was there a copyright issue? There’s a similar pattern sold on Etsy that might have influenced her, but there are significant differences in construction method and appearance between the two. As I understand copyright law, the differences ought to have been enough to put her out of reach of violation complaints, but I’m not a copyright lawyer and I don’t know anything about the circumstances of posting or removing the version that Melissa printed out for me.

So by the time I wound my yarn and took out the crochet hook, that printout and my own brain were the guides I followed. The pattern offered some bread crumbs, my brain filled in the rest. I’m not a particularly skilled crocheter, but I know my way around sweater construction, and this was the most basic of dropped shoulder shapes. It consisted of rectangles for the front and back, smaller rectangles for the sleeves, and narrow rectangular ribbed strips for the cuffs at the wrists and the waist band. The pattern provided some information that I used. It gave measurements for the finished garment, which I adapted, and called for making the back first, with alternating stripes of two triple-crocheted rows in back-and-forth crochet. The front is built around the heart shape, which starts with a circle for the first row. On the second row, right and left of center, there’s a double crochet stitch, a couple of triple crochet stitches, a couple of double crochet stitches, and several single crochet stitches down to the bottom center of the heart shape. The instructions for the concentric stripes radiating out of the heart were hard to follow because they were written out in a long string of all-caps abbreviations, no chart, and missing information like where the start of the row was. I decided to start my concentric stripes at the top of the heart, not realizing that the pattern was starting at the bottom, and I wondered why my heart looked more heart-shaped than the photos. My version was an inadvertent improvement.

Seat-of-the-pants instructions, seat-of-the-pants execution

For the inner rings surrounding the heart, I tried to follow the pattern to produce the curves it described, but I pretty quickly found myself applying the increases where I could fit them in and doing the same thing on the other side. If I ended up with something sort of like the number of stitches the pattern seemed to end up with at the end of each row, fine, and if not, oh well. But when I got to the point where the pattern was theoretically squaring the circle and making the front piece the same size and shape as the back, the pattern writer completely abandoned all pretense of trying to communicate the stitches and numbers that would result in what she had made. She had made it up as she went along, and I did the same. As for my efforts to make the front the same size and shape as the back, both sides had edges that ended up at the same point, more or less, and the bottom edge of the front could be persuaded to be more or less the same width as the back. By some miracle, the numbers in the pattern for the sleeve rectangles happened to be exactly right for my version. Consistent with the slackertastic, seat-of the-pants aesthetic of this garment, the pattern writer had whip-stitched her seams. That was a little too slackertastic for me, so I gave my seams proper mattress stitch seams. Then I tried it on. It looked cute on me, a little skimpy but cute. That was bad news.

I am much wider and shorter than my daughter, and her six-inch height advantage over me is mostly in the length of her torso. If the sweater, without bottom ribbing, was hitting me at the pelvic bones, it would hit her at the ribs. I added two additional stripes around the bottom edge of the work, about four more inches. She’ll have to remember to zip her fly when she wears this sweater, but it should cover it about halfway. The other good thing the added stripes did was to straighten out the edge of my imperfect effort to square the circle of the heart center and replicate the size and shape of the back piece. Next, the ribbed strips. The pattern had completely run out of steam on the ribbing and gave some instructions for something other than what the photos depicted. I had a different pattern that had crocheted ribbing, and its instructions were coherent. It’s very simple, just single crochet into the back loop, working flat back and forth. I used the original pattern’s measurements for the rectangular cuff and hem strips because they were right for my daughter. The strips were a little more than half the length around of the pieces they were being attached to, so I pinned the strip to the work at intervals and mattress-stitched to fit. I couldn’t get the crocheted ribbing to work for the V-neck, so I knitted it. After blocking, I beat the work up with Melissa’s wool carders to full the garment the way the pattern suggested. Repeatedly. Violently. It was a lot more physical work than I expected, but now it’s all warm and fuzzy, like a pink yarn heart is supposed to be.

Pink and gray crocheted sweater with concentric pop art hearts hanging from green bars with orange walls
I did some location scouting before my photo shoot with a friend who modeled for me

I had leftover pink and gray yarn. What was I going to do with it? I had just bought a book of sock and mitten patterns by a Finnish designer, Wild Mittens, Unruly Socks 2 by Lumi Karmitsa. In my opinion, the Finns are the best sock knitters in the world, but they usually write their patterns only in Finnish. I don’t need an English translation to use a chart, but purchasing books on Finnish websites requires more motivation than I have. This one was in English and on Amazon, and it’s delightful. I especially liked the socks with the detailed faces of kittens at a three-quarters angle, because my daughter loves cats. She grew up with cats and wishes she could have one now. So I decided to surprise her with a matching hat, gray kittens on a pink background. I liked the three-quarters face but I wondered how to adapt the chart so that it would be a full face. When I saw a chart for a full faced cat in the first volume of the Wild Mittens, Unruly Socks series, I bought that book too. It’s not on Amazon, but I was able to get it from the publisher, Trafalgar Square, in Vermont.

The chart wasn’t going to have quite enough stitches for the size I wanted to make, so I needed something to fill in the extra space. Cat paw prints? Yes! I did a Google image search on cat paw print charts and found a couple of charts that I could adapt to fit the space between the beginning and end of the cat face chart. A paw print on top of the kitties’ heads added length to make the hat a bit slouchy. And it was so much fun to knit a stranded chart again. That’s my comfort zone, and it has been a long time since I did stranded knitting.

Stranded knitted hat with kitten face from Finnish sock pattern
Hat knitted with another angle of cat face using stranded knitting
Hat with stranded cat paws pattern

While I was knitting the hat, I worried that I was going to run out of pink yarn, so I bought an additional skein. Then I looked inside a Lovelyarns bag and discovered an unwound skein of the pink and an unwound skein of the gray that I had forgotten I had. What should I do with all this pink and gray yarn? I remembered I have a bag of worsted and DK weight yarn in lime greens, reds, fuchsia, and orange. With the pink and gray yarn and a desire to do stranded knitting, I’m thinking about knitting an autobiographical “chicken knitting” sweater that depicts my life in the routine my husband and I follow, which is very similar to our children’s daycare schedule 30 years ago.

There was a time in the golden past when I could cajole and guilt-trip my daughter to model for me. She’s out of reach of my requests now, so… if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, as the song goes. (Sorry about my appalling disloyalty, of course I still love my daughter.) My knitting friend Sam kindly stepped into the breach, and I must say, it is not possible to take a bad picture of her. Fabulous Sam!

Crocheted Pop Art heart sweater and knitted hat with kittens modeled against background of window with green bars and orange wall
Back view of striped crocheted sweater and hat with kitten faces and pompom
Crocheted heart sweater and hat with kitten faces modeled next to mural of smiling bulldog
Model in kitten hat and side view of heart sweater looking at mural of smiling bulldog
Sam and the bulldog share a moment
Side view of crocheted heart sweater and face of kitten knitted into slouchy hat
Close-up of hat showing view of cat paw prints
Cat paw prints climbing up Sam’s head

Now a package full of cuteness is winging its way across many time zones to arrive, I hope, in time for the older daughter’s birthday. Her younger sister’s birthday sweater is also en route to that daughter. The two sister sweaters spent a few last minutes together before they got ready for their separate journeys. (Sneak peak at another paneled machine-knit sweater variation.)

Crocheted heart sweater and knitted hat with kitten faces posed with paneled machine-knit pullover knitted from plant-dyed yarn, front view
Back view of two sweaters, one machine-knit in panels from plant-dyed yarn, the other crocheted in wide pink and gray stripes, and matching hat, posed with the sleeve of one sweater around the shoulders of the other

7 thoughts on “Hearts and Kittens

  1. What super knits! Your photo shoot is so creative. I am particularly fond of the bull dog. You have such a wonderfully creative mind. Now, if only you can knit a kitty hat that has lasers shooting from the eyes. There are a dozen or so middle school kids who would love to see that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Abby!! This is amazing! I love that you can go completely outside your comfort zone and still produce something that is unmistakably your work. Pink is my favorite color, so I’m delighted to see you going all in for pink, lol. The heart sweater is a truly special, fun, and funky piece. The kitty hat is so over-the-top that iot becomes ironic. I love them both. Loving that other-daughter sweater too!

    Liked by 1 person

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