In which I attempt to write about my life in stitches
The Fauxhair Sweater
Hmm what age am I in this fibrous anecdote…
11, going on 12. I was approaching the end of primary school, my last year, and we were going to have one of those glorious days, at the start of summer, just before school finished. One where we didn’t have to wear the ultra strict uniform for once! I loved those days, and this year I was determined to make a statement. It was the late 1980’s and I wanted to look “grown up”. What did that mean back then? It meant a big fluffy mohair sweater in colour block triangles, worn with dangly (clip on) earrings. Apparently. Perhaps so I could look like a smaller, younger, and less cool member of Bananarama, or a miniature 80’s secretary on a casual night out.
I had seen the pattern in my Nan’s collection of things she’d picked up at the wool shop or gathered from magazines, and this was the one I wanted, it was one of the few things that looked fashionable to me and therefore it must be made, and made fast! So I asked her to knit it for me, I didn’t knit fast, I could still only really make simple things with holes in (albeit far less holes than a couple of years back…) and didn’t use patterns, so it was way beyond me. Also I had better and more selfish things to do… like listening out for A-Ha songs on the radio, reading Smash Hits magazine, minding my little brothers, and messing about with lipstick donated by my aunt.
Of course it wasn’t actual mohair. It was fully washable 1980’s brushed acrylic fake mohair. It still cost more than the usual stuff we were knitting with, and looking back now, I can see that it was a really special gift, and quite a labour of love from my Nan. I can’t imagine how annoying and grabby it must have been to knit with, tricky yarn combined with intarsia colourwork panels….and acres of it, since it was big and oversized (as was the fashion!). Oh and big batwing sleeves. Mustn’t forget the batwings! The colours were pale yellow, pale jade green, and white. So my poor Nan wasn’t even getting to use any pillar box red…
Over the few weeks the jumper was being knitted, I would check progress excitedly every time I was visiting, watching the pieces grow and grow (and grow) into a pile of fluffy funny shapes, with dangling fuzzy ends. It was made in several pieces, then had to be sewn together at the end, probably another awful job! Finally, the day came when it was ready! I tried it on. It certainly wasn’t too small, and fit me about as well as a bin liner. Which was exactly what I wanted and had insisted on, despite my Nan’s occasional commenting on the size and asking me… “are you sure you want it like that?”.
So the jumper was made and proudly worn to the casual clothes day. I had forgotten one thing though. It really was summer now. It was hot! The thing was enormous and fluffy, entirely concocted from man-made fibres, and totally perspiration-inducing. I didn’t care. I refused to peel it off. It got a lot of strange looks from a lot of the other kids and a few teasing comments. I really didn’t care about that either! It was my 80’s popstar sweater (literally a sweat-er). Nobody else had one. There wasn’t a single kid there who was wearing anything like I was wearing. And I was happy!
Fast-forward about 25 years and my Nan gifted me her entire old pattern collection. She used to keep absolutely all of them. But you know, I looked and looked and hunted for that crazy sweater pattern. I found patterns for baby clothes I remember my brothers being dressed in, toys we all loved and some we still have, jumpers that I recall my Nan wearing. But that 80’s monstrosity….nowhere to be found! I quietly suspect that she made sure the pattern disappeared, so she would never be asked to knit another one again.
….truly, it was one of a kind!