Sunday, 14 April 2013

On Parting With Hand-Knits (Farewell, Liesl and Coraline)

I have just given away two of my hand-knits to charity.

Coraline, originally blogged here (check out the first comment on that post... pretty loopy, right?!).

Liesl, originally blogged here.

These had lain dormant in drawers for some time, and I decided to clear them out to make room, hopefully, for new and better makes in the future. I bid them goodbye partly for stylistic reasons, but maybe more because of the niggling technical issues that both suffered from. Coraline's thread button loops frayed and splayed...

Furthermore, the neckline was just a little too high, so that when buttoned it felt a bit like an alpaca garrotte (when unbuttoned, it looked like it should be buttoned). The whole confection - the sweet pinky-purply yarn, the heart-shaped pink buttons, the picot edging - was rather sugary for my tastes. It was sort of the cardigan equivalent of a fruity sweet bedecked with rainbows and ponies, and aggressively marketed at the under-five market.

As for Liesl, the hooks and eyes I sewed on in place of buttons always annoyed me in their wonkiness; what is more the yarn I made it out of pilled IN HEINOUS CLUMPS. This was entirely predictable, and my fault rather than the lovely yarn's - I would never make a jumper out of a loosely spun, single-ply wool/silk blend nowadays. But still. HEINOUS CLUMPS.


I absolutely don't mean to do down my own handiwork; I don't have a problem with the things I make looking handmade, or indeed homemade, I just think my skills and my taste have moved on from these particular two knits. Both of these were made at the heady height of the button-at-the-yoke-only cardigan craze - I even bought myself some Manos Wool/Silk to make a Moch Cardi, so utterly in love with that style was I*. Like bell-bottom jeans, or shoulder pads, though, that kind of cardigan such a distinctive look that once it goes out of style it seems extra dated. I mean, feel free to disagree in the comments section, but I think the button-at-the-top cardigan is over; most recent patterns I can think of button firmly at the bottom (unless they are drapily open à la Nanook).

I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that there are passing fashions in knitwear just like in other garments... I must confess, though, that sometimes, when I'm knitting, the word 'heirloom' flits across my mind, and I imagine my descendants (probably wearing space-suits, probably driving hover-cars or at the very least jet-packs) reverentially unwrapping my creations from yellowed tissue paper to run their fingers over the stitches... and coming away with a handful of HEINOUS CLUMPS - no, it was definitely time for these cardigans to go.

Despite the clumps, it really was a peculiarly emotional experience giving them away. Moving them out stirred up a whole dust-storm of memories, about the dank basement room I was living in when I made them (around the corner from my friend Patrick with his nifty camera), about the guy I was with at the time, the party I worked on Coraline at, the audiobook I listened to as I finished Liesl, the fraught decision over Coraline's hem, and how long it took to whip-stitch down every one of those live stitches...

Anthropologists talk about objects having a social life, and I think that is especially true for the clothes we make ourselves, which integrate themselves deeply into the fabric of our existence. That in itself, though, shouldn't be enough to stop us getting rid of them if they get old or shabby, or no longer fit in with the rest of our wardrobe. It's time for these two cardigans to start a new social life, and I really do hope it will be full of pleasant adventures.

What do you think? Have you ever given away, or thrown away, a garment that you've made? Do you violently disagree with my controversial statements on the button-at-the-top cardigan? Let me know!

*incidentally, any suggestions on to do with 900 yards of Manos Wool/Silk would be very much appreciated!


  1. I am debating frogging a couple of garments I knitted some time ago as my shape has changed since pregnancy but at the same time I feel bad about even considering it. But I haven't worn either in two years so why keep them when I could use the wool to make sweaters that fit now.

    I made Abalone (sleeveless) out of Manos and it is lovely and drapy but wouldn't take 900 yards.

  2. I gave my first hand-knit to charity last year and have given several others since. I know what you mean about the memories attached to hand-knits! My charitable donations are usually in yarn I would rather not frog and re-knit.

  3. I couldn't agree more with you. I gave a few handknits to charity too these last couple of years, mainly because I was pregnant and thought they'd never fit me again, and also because I grew older and some designs made me look like a fairy ;))) rather than a quirky mummy!!
    There's nothing wrong with giving them away, someone else will hopefully enjoy them!

    I also think that unfortunately handknits are subject to fast fashion and today I have the feeling that people knit more and more simple sweaters and cardis in stockinette with few details like lace and cables because they are durable in their designs. Something more elaborate (even though it's probably more rewarding to knit - to me anyway!) like Kate Davies' fairisle designs are not for everyone's taste and wardrobe. It demands real patience and neat finishing if you want real quality. But they may not be as wearable as some other designs like Veera's for example (don't get me wrong I love her designs too!) That's probaly where heirloom comes to my mind and also the product/process knitter duality. But I think that was not the subject of your post!!

    As for your 900 yards why not Ysolda's latest design Blank Canvas. Here's something durable and wearable;)

  4. I have given away some of my hand made things. I really struggled with it though because i had spent so much time on them! But i knew I would never wear them and that it would be best to give them away and hopefully some one else would love them.


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