A wedding cardigan
I am ancient enough to have been one of those little girls who attended parties and special occasions in handmade, proper party dresses. When I was very small, these included some beautiful smocked numbers made by my Grandma, then by the time I was at primary school I’d graduated to ankle length, empire lines in printed floral cottons (it was the early ’80s and the Laura Ashley influence was still strong). By the time I was nearing a double figures age, things had moved on and junior versions of grown-up’s ra-ra skirts and ski-pants were more standard wear for pre-tween partying.
These nostalgic musings are not so unconnected with knitting as you might think. The proper party dresses I mention were invariably accessorised (in my memory at least) with a fluffy white bolero style cardigan, along with white socks and sandals. The cardigans would have been hand-knits by my Grandmother or great aunt and usually passed from my older sister to me, then on to my younger sister.
There’s nothing like having children of your own to make the nostalgia-prone go into overdrive. It’s not that I’m trying to recreate my childhood wholesale for my daughter, but there are aspects I’d like her to share. Fortunately my mum has slightly more time on her hands these days to indulge her talent for sewing and quilting and needs very little encouragement to get stitching for her grandchildren. As a result, M’s birthday party was Liberty print, hand smocked (front and back, I’m amazed my mother didn’t go blind). For an upcoming wedding Mama came up trumps again, going all the way to London to source the perfect dusky rose coloured silk to make this traditional style party dress, complete with big bow at the back.
So what was M to wear with a short sleeved dress to an autumn wedding? Of course, it had to be a fluffy white cardigan. Trouble is, with the amount of work I’ve got on just now, between the avalanche of paperwork that accompanies a new term of teaching, a satisfyingly hefty pile of commissions, a couple of birthday presents and the grading course I mentioned here previously, designing and making a cardigan in under a week was an insane idea.
So I didn’t design it. I just made it. Not insane at all, ahem. I had just enough Artesano Alpaca DK to make a little number with the sort of fuzzy halo I remembered from my own party dress days. I chose the pattern Jane by Georgie Hallam, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a simple, seamless, button-free number that I felt I had a fighting chance of getting through in the snatched late-night hours I’d have to put into it. Secondly, when I’d previously made her ever popular Milo I’d been really impressed by how clear and well-written her pattern was. Again, I thought that this would give me a fighting chance of getting through it, even when I was tired.
True to form, the pattern was a joy to work with- clear, easy to follow and so satisfying as the top-down design took shape. The moss stitch edging and eyelet band (which you can thread ribbon through) adds just the right amount of detail, and having taken the designer’s advice and decided which size to make according to M’s measurements, rather than her age, the fit is perfect. I’m really pleased with it, and can’t quite believe that I’ve got it finished and blocked in time for this weekend.
Even though I’m delighted with this one, however, I still suspect that one day (it will have to be soon as it will probably seem like no time before M gets past the party dress and cardigan stage) I will have to design my own version of the cardigan that exists as much in my memory as in the handful of old photos of a late seventies/early eighties childhood.