This week’s topic for Slow Fashion October is LONG WORN. It’s an interesting one and there are a lot of different ways to approach this topic, particularly when it comes to shopping second-hand or thrifting. And I do have a handful of vintage or second-hand pieces that I might decide to write about, but my wardrobe has been in a nearly constant state of flux for the past few years, as I moved in with a partner and got married (and started sharing closets and dressers for the first time in my life) and also saw a natural evolution in my style and how I use it to express my identity. I’m hoping that’s starting to even out a little bit and I’ll be seeing a slightly more stable wardrobe, with less pieces moving in or out, but because of all of that I thought it would make sense to write about one piece that I’m very unlikely to get rid of: the first sweater I ever knit.
Truth be told, I came very, very close to letting this one go last Christmas in the midst of a clothing purge. It was my partner who talked be out of it, actually. “Firsts are important,” he told me, and he was right (he still has his first guitar). Ten months on, I’m really glad I kept it. I was kind of shocked to realize exactly how long I’ve had it, once I started thinking about it; I made this sweater in 2007, which means it was nine years old this summer.
Ten years ago my relationship with knitting was very different, unsurprisingly. I learned to knit as a kid but it didn’t totally catch on for me until around 2005/2006, when suddenly there were new, hip knitting books being published (it was the age of Stitch ‘n Bitch), I was regularly reading Bust Magazine, and there was a crafty community emerging online – I eagerly anticipated each new issue of Knitty (still going strong!) and I remember taking part in the Craftster forums. I had yet to discover local yarn stores and was still using lots of acrylic or acrylic-blend yarns from big-box craft stores and prior to this sweater I’d really only knit scarves. Lots and lots of ribbed scarves. I hadn’t even tried out knitting a hat yet (I was afraid of knitting in the round for a long time). I’d received a copy of Stitch ‘n Bitch from my mom for Christmas at some point and eventually decided I wanted to make the Big Sack Sweater by Jenna Wilson, which looked cozy and inviting.
Since it was nearly a decade ago I remember very little of the decision-making process or how long it took me to knit the thing (I’m pretty sure it was months, though). What I do remember is that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The Big Sack Sweater calls for bulky yarn, but I picked out a worsted weight 100% acyrlic at the craft store. I definitely didn’t swatch, so it seems like a miracle that I ended up with something that basically fits. The sweater’s other flaws are easy to point out: I didn’t know I should track my rows for the sleeves in order to make them the same, so I “estimated” (one sleeve is two inches longer than the other). There’s an accidental m1 increase right in the front of the sweater. My picked-up stitches for the neckline are a mess. The sweater is worked flat in pieces and then seamed, and my seams are maybe the sloppiest I’ve ever seen. I didn’t weave in the ends for years, literal years. But in spite of all of that, I was very proud and I loved this thing. And even though I would make very, very different decisions if I were knitting this sweater today (particularly with regard to yarn), I still love this thing and I do still wear it sometimes, even here in Tromsø, even though I have lots of handmade wool jumpers to choose from. I no longer have the second or third sweaters I made, but nine years on, I recognize the importance of this first for me, and it seems unlikely to leave my wardrobe for good, even if it falls out of regular rotation sometimes.
More on the “long-worn” topic later, perhaps. For now, I’m happy that this is one of the pieces that’s been in my wardrobe for the longest.