This morning as we made waffles and chatted about our business, Elliot and I discussed the weather. There is a big snowstorm coming, I explained to him. It is snowing now, and it is going to snow all day, and all night. Elliot looked at me, then looked out the window at the bleak landscape, and rather seriously said “and all summer” with the exact kind of pessimism that settles into a Canadian heart at this time of year. We learn it young, here in the frozen North.
We are all also on high alert today, because as any birth worker can tell you, this is exactly the sort of weather that babies prefer to arrive in. Not now, not while the roads are still pretty clear and it’s not too terrible to drive around in, but later – at 2am, when everyone is tired and there’s 20cm of snow on the ground and it’s still coming down hard. If there is a moment of lowest possible visibility, and you’re looking out the window thinking “mercy I hope I do not have to travel in this” that is when they are possessed of a sense of urgency. I have it on pretty good authority that every midwife in the city woke up this morning, looked at the weather and thought “Right then” and went straight away to make sure that all their ducks are in a row and they still have that shovel in their trunk.
I have my bag packed and ready to go (and there is already a shovel in my trunk) and I’m going to spend the whole afternoon working on the blanket (as soon as I can skip out on the rest of my work.) Last night Elliot did not go down early (thanks dude) and it took me a little longer than expected to get around the corner of the edging (if by a little longer you understand I mean about 90 minutes) so the blanket is almost the same as when I showed it to you last. I’m officially only about 1/4 of the way through the edging. In short -weather and blanket status combined, it is a perfect day for a baby to arrive, if you have a neonate’s sense of humour.
I promised to distract us all from Baby Watch 2020 with a little show and tell about an old sweater, so here goes. I save things. Not a lot, you understand – I part with objects fairly easily and (yarn and patterns aside) have few hoarding tendencies. My mum was the same, and she saved very little from when we were babies, but she did have the good sense to tuck away a few bits, and I’ve been able to pass them on to Meg – along with some stuff that she and her sisters wore as bairns. My mum didn’t knit, and neither did my maternal grandmother, but my great-grandmother did, and she was really pretty good at it. When I was born, she knit me a tiny little layette set in a newborn size, despite the fact that I was born in June. (See above comments re: Frozen North. All babies get woollies.)
Considering that it is a 52 year old sweater set worn by six babies, it is in pretty good shape. It’s a soft baby wool, slightly yellowed by age and felted by washing, and it was white (or natural) when it was new. (I can tell because the ribbons don’t match.) I took it out to pass it on to this baby, and found that in the almost three decades since it graced a little one, something’s had a bit of a snack on it. It looks to me like carpet beetles, rather than a M**h – the holes are clean and look like they were drilled through – and the damage is localized. Three distinct spots, two on the bonnet and one on the sleeve of the sweater. Apparently this beastie cares not for bootees. I gave it a good wash and a little dose of sunshine, and started.
When I make a repair, usually I have some of the old yarn, or can salvage some from the garment. Unpick a cast off and pull back a row or two… then cast off again, but this is a little felted so that wasn’t going to work. I needed a fine, softly spun wool in a matching colour. I knew I had nothing like that in the stash (rather unbelievably) but I did have a yarn that was the right colour, though not the right weight.
Undaunted, I took just one ply of the worsted weight I found, and it worked just fine. There was a tiny hole in the brim of the hat – that took just a stitch or two to fix, I simply worked duplicate stitch over the missing bit. The larger hole in the bonnet was a little harder, a combination of darning and duplicate stitch made that one go away.
The hole in the sleeve was another matter. One whole column of stitches was absent – it’s missing all the ladders in that column- so I couldn’t just ladder it back up like a dropped stitch, it was too wide to just sew up, and it wouldn’t look right if I darned it.
I thought about knitting a patch, a little heart or something, and sewing it over the hole, but then I had another idea. I used a technique that I teach in my Fix is in Class. *
Working back and forth, I gave myself the ladders that I needed, one for each missing row, then inserted my tiny crochet hook in the intact stitch at the bottom of that section, and laddered it up like it simply was a dropped stitch, anchoring it at the top with a single stitch of grafting to the intact stitch at the top. Voila!
You can’t even tell it was ever munched. When I was done I took the ribbons out and thought about replacing them, but though they’re a little ragged, they’re the originals, and silk, and serviceable enough that I didn’t want to swap them out. They got a little pressing, and I put them back in. The whole things looks almost as good as new, or as good as a 52 year old sweater set can.
Now my little grandchild can wear something I did, and that their mother did, and it was lovely to work on something my great-grandmother made with her own two hands. It felt really good to be able to be responsible for restoring her good work like that, and I think it will feel even better to dress a babe in something her great, great, great grandmother knit. I know it’s a wish of mine that the things I make will last this long and be this loved.
That’s her – Dorothy, in the back next to my Great Grandfather Archibald. My Grandmother Kathleen is on the left, and there’s my mum Bonnie, holding me.
(PS. At the Spring Retreat I’m going to teach this sort of repair, our theme is the letter E, and that covers “Errors” and this comes up in that section. All the workshop spots are filled up, but we still have a few spots for textile artists who’re able to spin and knit. For the record, and because people always write to us and ask, you do not need to be a very experienced knitter or spinner for these retreats. They’re learning experiences, and it’s just fine to be a beginner in both departments. Everyone always says “maybe when I’m good enough” and there’s no reason to wait. This sort of thing is supposed to help you become that good. More info here if you’re into it.)