I wasn’t the kind of mother who knitted “Mommy and Me” matching sweaters when my daughters were little, but I seem to be making up for lost time now that my younger daughter is an adult. The way that generally happens is that I try out a new idea for myself that would work well for my daughter, who is the most knitworthy person I know because she wears everything I make her and trusts my taste and decision-making. I made some machine-knit sweaters for her that I recently wrote about in my posts More Panels, Melissa’s Largesse, and January 2022 Swatchathon, but I needed to give her the two newest ones, and most of all, I needed pictures. She came home to visit us recently, and we did a mother-daughter photo shoot in our matching sweaters.
OK, this pair of sweaters made from inherited yarn (detailed in the Melissa’s Largesse post) doesn’t really match, although I was surprised to see a kind of fraternal resemblance in the use of squares and right-angle delineations that the very different construction methods achieved.
My friend Samantha modeled this sweater for me before Zoe herself could be here to show me how it looks, and I’m even more pleased with how well it suits her than I expected to be. Zoe says it’s her new favorite sweater, which seems right to me. It’s sophisticated and elegant and professional looking for a young doctor at the beginning of her career. A nice sweater isn’t the same as hard work, medical knowledge, and accurate problem-solving, but maybe it will make her feel better while she’s doing the things her job requires.
Before she traveled to us, I asked Zoe to be sure to pack her previous favorite sweater, her birthday sweater, the paneled machine-knit sweater made from yellow, orange, and blue/green groupings of my plant-dyed yarn. I made myself a related sweater from the same yarn in a big boxy shape with two interlocking zigzag panels on the front, whose details I explained in More Panels. I was very keen to see how Zoe’s sweater fit her in real life, because the dingy mirror selfies she had sent me were frustratingly uninformative. Since she told me that she loved the fit, I used the same numbers for the new paneled, intarsia sweater pictured above, but it was a small leap of faith and I wanted to verify that it worked. It fit her with more ease than it did Sam. As Zoe says, her job is eating her alive. The sweaters will also look nice on her when she has time to eat during the day.
As I have mentioned in the previous blog posts, I made myself a simple paneled sweater based on the numbers I used for the zigzag panel sweater pictured above, which I embellished with embroidery at the neckline. Zoe saw me wearing the sweater on FaceTime and fell in love with it and said she wanted one just like it.
I had one skein each of the hot pink and pink-red multi remaining from the six skeins that I had bought at Lovelyarns‘ trunk show for the dyer a few weeks earlier, and I had used only four of them for my sweater. I ran back to Lovelyarns to see if it was possible to get another skein each of the hot pink and pink-red multi I had used in my own sweater. It wasn’t possible, so I chose a couple of green skeins, one a grassy green multi and the other lighter green and more solid, which I thought would look nice juxtaposed with panels of hot pink and pink-red multi. Zoe is much thinner and taller than I am, but I used the same numbers for her sweater as I used for mine, because I think thin, pretty young women are fetching in very oversized sweaters.
After I got the sweater off the machine, I decided to wash and block it before I did the embroidery. And it was a disaster, a reputation-destroying disaster for a dyer, which is why I’m not mentioning the name, because the dyer is a nice lady who wants to make it up to me. The pink yarn bled all over the light green panel on the back, big red splotches that couldn’t pretend to be anything but dye bleed. I soaked the sweater in a vinegar solution and washed it, and that took out some of the bleed but not all of it, so I did it again, and that took out a bit more of the bleed, but there was still a discolored area over the shoulder and a dimming of the light green color overall. I abandoned hope that I would be able to restore the original color, so I tried to figure out how to live with the color as it was, since Zoe loyally swore that she would love the sweater no matter what.
The deeper green on the front also was not what it used to be, but it still looked all right. I started embroidering the green half in greens and blues, with swirling lines and lots of texture. At this point I had acquired some proficiency in my embroidery techniques, so it was no longer so much a matter of sticking a needle into the knitting and hoping it came out somewhere near where I was aiming. I was in much better control of the placement and shape of the French knots, the curve of the lines, and the spacing of the spokes of the circular motifs.
As I worked, I developed a unifying idea for the two sides of the front. Since the green side was being embroidered in cool colors, the hot pink side would be warm colors, and the two distinct color groupings would meet in the middle with curlicues snaking between the two sides without any interruption in the curved lines other than the cool colors on the green side and the warm colors on the pink side. First I embroidered the green side, fitting the snaky line into the spaces that still remained between the motifs that I had already embroidered.
Then I began embroidering the pink side, and a space emerged that needed to be filled at the center point of the embroidery.
I decided to make that space the focal point of the composition. It would be a circular motif with a woven center and wrapped spokes, in vivid cool and warm colors meeting precisely at the center join. Then I filled in a few more empty spaces and called the front done.
Now I had to deal with the back. I thought about embroidering a border line around the edges of the splotch to pretend it was intentional, but I had gotten rid of the darkest parts of the stain and now there was just a general discoloration of the entire (previously) light green piece that intensified slightly over the upper back. I did try to embroider a line around the darkest part of the discoloration, but I couldn’t see it well enough to delineate it. Generally I can pull rabbits out of hats when I have a problem that can be disguised with a design solution, but there were no rabbits in this hat and no disguise. All I saw was a red tide creeping over expanse of the knitting, so I decided to embroider bubbles over the red tide in a green yarn that was related to the original pre-disaster color of the yarn. Why bubbles? I have no idea. Does it work as a design element? I really don’t know. I guess it’s better than nothing. Maybe I could have covered up the back with tons of embroidery, but that seemed like lipstick on a pig. So there it is, five green bubbles floating existentially in a stained sea whose color has no name. At least the front is pretty.