It has been many years since I knit a sweater, but in March I could say of the cardigan I had been working on since January, “It’s finished.” I knit the sweater of possum-merino blend yarn manufactured in New Zealand and given to me by a friend whose daughter lives in Auckland. The color is wine or burgundy or beet — it all depends on the light and whether you feel more akin to fruit or vegetables. I’m leaning toward beet.
Apparently, in New Zealand, possums (not the same kind of possum as here in the States) number in the millions. Some clever person figured out that if you blended possum fur with wool from merino sheep, a soft, dense and very warm fiber would result.
The pattern I chose for my sweater is from the summer 2004 issue of Interweave magazine, Page 56, a design by Mags Kandis, creative director of Mission Falls in Canada.
Naturally, the first thing I did was not follow some of the pattern directions. First, the pattern doesn’t call for possum-merino yarn. Second, the sweater is designed to be knit in stripes. But when I swatched the possum-merino yarn to determine gauge, it was spot-on for the pattern. And, third, since I have never been enamored of stripes, I knew I’d be perfectly happy with a plain old sweater knit in stockinette stitch — although, I must say, the striped pattern as pictured in the magazine is gorgeous.
I began the project by knitting the sweater back, working four rows of garter stitch, as instructed, before embarking on the knit and purl rows. All of my knitting the past few years has been socks and mittens with 50 or fewer stitches and it seemed a very long knitty way across the sweater back. But gradually, my elbows got used to the exercise and I was able to knit for longer periods of time.
During the winter evenings, I knit a few rows while I watched a DVD. I figure every time I wear this sweater I am going to recall scenes from “Appaloosa,” “Australia,” “La Vie en Rose” and other movies that flickered on my television screen while I worked on the sweater.
Every time I picked up my knitting needles to work on the sweater, I laughed a little because they are green plastic relics, size 7, permanently bowed, from a Mary Maxim sweater kit I knit for my father in the late 1970s. Despite their age and decrepit appearance, the knitting needles worked well, being neither too slippery nor too sticky for the yarn to slide along.
The evening I bound off the last stitch of the second sweater sleeve, I was jubilant. The knitting was done. Now all I had to do was block it and sew it together.
I did the blocking with my trusty steam iron set a little below the wool setting. I worked quickly making certain not to stretch the pieces out of shape, and paid special attention to the edges to get them to lie flat.
I pinned the pieces together as I worked and used the backstitch to sew them together. I employed the Kitchener stitch technique to graft together the neck extension pieces on the front.
At this point I ditched the instructions again and made a row of single crochet along the sweater front and neck edges, to include button loops.
Then I had the fun of sifting through jars and tins to find just the right buttons. I settled on three off-white faux-pearl buttons of generous size.
So now I have a new sweater which I refer to as the New Zealand sweater, even though I have never been to that country.
I have a few skeins of the possum-merino yarn left. Come fall, I’m going knit mittens of it.
ä Mary Louis Davitt of Nonesuch Farm at Six Mile Falls in Bangor is looking for spinners to demonstrate their craft at the farm’s Open Farm Day events Sunday, July 26. She’s not a spinner herself, but has a flock of Jacob sheep and bags of fleece she’d love to share. Participating spinners may display and sell their completed items, as well as demonstrating. For more, call Davitt at 942-3631, or e-mail email@example.com.
• “Intertwined,” an exhibition of fiber art, will be on display through Aug. 9 at Lord Hall Gallery of the University of Maine’s Department of Art. The exhibit of 59 works by 29 artists is free and open to the public. The gallery is accessible to the handicapped. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. For details, call 581-3245.
• Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette will display her work in the exhibit “Intricacies: Knitwear, Beading and Surface Design,” July 5-Aug. 31, at Maine Fiberarts, 13 Main St., Topsham.
An opening reception is set for 1:30-4 p.m. Sunday, July 5, with a gallery talk at 2 p.m. Visit www.mainefiberarts.org or call 721-0678 for more.
• Costume historian Julie Stackpole will conduct a crewelwork embroidery class 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, June 25, at Montpelier, the General Henry Knox Museum in Thomaston. The cost is $65 to museum members, $75 others, which includes basic stitching materials to take home. For more, call the museum at 354-0858.
• Visit www.magskandis.com to find several free knitting patterns, to read the blog and find links to other knitting sites.