Welcome back to another installment of the SGY Roundtable blog post series! In this bi-weekly column, we want to share with you the current discussions and thoughts of some of the fibre artists around the studio.
Are you familiar with the “Sweater Curse?” Apparently it has it’s own wiki page – who knew? In a nutshell, some believe that knitting a sweater for a significant other can bring about the end of your relationship. Maybe a gift that requires so much time and energy scares the recipient away, or maybe too much time is spent working on the garment instead of actually paying attention to your beloved. Either way, many people believe that gifting a sweater to their paramour is a move that requires great consideration and forethought.
So this week, the topic we brought to the table was…
Do you believe in the “Sweater Curse”? Have you jinxed a relationship with your knitting? Or has gifting your handicrafts resulted in closer connections?”
Generally speaking, I’m too selfish for gift knitting. It’s a time-consuming, high-risk operation with extremely unpredictable outcomes, with the great reward of mutual respect, rejoice and appreciation at the other end of the spectrum, and death and carnage at the other.
You just never know which way the scale tips when the gift wraps are torn and the ensuing facial expression of the recipient begins to form. It can be one of infinite delight, or it can be a horrified, forced smile (as in, why, thank you, little Billy, for this elaborate piece of snot pottery which you are apparently very excited about, but I still don’t want it, because it’s gross). Worse yet, it can just be meh.
You may have spent a hundred hours on this unique hand-made item which you think fits them perfectly, but the trick is that you may not know them as well as you think, and they may not have the proper perspective of what exactly goes into making that hat or scarf or, gasp, sweater.
A hand-knit sweater is never just a sweater. It’s a commitment, a sign of trust, the relinquishing of time and effort and comfort on a level that has to be met with sufficient appreciation. A premature sweater, as per the well-documented doctrin of the Sweater Curse, is effectively a very precisely delivered curb stomp on a relationship that could’ve become something great.
Too much at stake there, you see.
That is, unless you have a carefully curated shortlist of knit-worthy people, like I do. It’s indeed short, and mainly consists of my mom and a few others who have proven to understand the factors involved. The Boy is slowly working his way up there, but after making me re-knit the entire Five by Five cowl from scratch after his own measurement error, he’s still on probation.
I knit a sweater for my husband, Cameron.
I was apprehensive at the time: we were already married, but perhaps The Curse could still cripple our relationship somehow? It still seemed like a scary endeavor. Knitting my man a sweater was a BIG. DEAL.
In the end, the sweater wasn’t what we had hoped for. But we are still living happily ever after.
First, Cameron picked out the yarn. He paid for the yarn. He approved of the yarn completely before I even cast on. Ladies and gents – I would highly recommend that any potential sweater-knitters consider taking this precaution. Gifting a ‘surprise’ sweater can seem like a romantic notion, but you run the risk of great disappointment. If the yarn is too scratchy or not the right colour, he might not wear it. Feelings will be hurt. Conflict will commence.
Also, it meant a great deal to me that he offered to pay for the yarn. I would have gladly bought it myself – after all, this was my present to him – but when he purchased the yarn he was also signaling to me that he really wanted me to knit him this sweater. This made me twice as keen to work on it, and every time I looked inside my project bag, I smiled and thought of him. I felt appreciated.
Back to the sweater. Cameron is a tall man, and his sweater is BIG. I constantly bothered him to try it on to ensure that it was the right length and drape. I wanted him to love it. And after two weeks of constant knitting, I had created a sweater that fit him perfectly… he loved it, and I loved it.
But this isn’t a 100% super-happy-love-story. The “saga of the sweater” does not have a storybook ending. Although Cameron still cherishes the sweater, it now spends it’s life folded in our closet.
The yarn he picked out at the LYS was 100% alpaca. When we choose the yarn, I didn’t understand alpaca’s drapey, growing properties. We just bought what was warm and soft. After a few wearings, the sleeves have drooped to become several inches longer than originally intended. The sweater is incredibly heavy and too warm to be worn indoors comfortably.
What makes this a success story is that I understand and accept his reasons for not wearing the sweater, and I feel no resentment over it. He treasures the sweater and feels no obligation to wear it. Under other circumstances I could see this tale ending in turmoil and strife, but since we have compatible communication skills, we are ok with this. Perhaps the moral of my story is “If you can get through a sweater project together, he’s worth keeping.”
But on that note, I think he’s still going to get a pair of socks (again) next year.
I was raised superstitious. My family is a champion of Chinese fortune tellers. And I was swiftly and heavily reprimanded by my grandmother for opening an umbrella inside the house when I was a child. Step on a crack? Walking under ladders? Coming face to face with a black cat in an alley? The world is a mighty dangerous place… how could I not believe in the “sweater curse”?
Luckily for me, my husband is generally sweater-averse since he finds them just too darn hot to wear. Instead, the furthest I’ve gone is to knit socks for him and his beloved futbol team. Maybe, understanding yourself and your significant other is the most important part of this equation. My husband loves the socks I knit for him and deems them too precious to wear, except for on our wedding day and during World Cup game days. He doesn’t frequently wear wool sweaters and I don’t feel the need to change that fact.
The opposite is true for my parents… my father is always complaining about the cold and frequently wears cardigans or sweaters in layers to stay warm. He loves the woolen vest that my mom knit for him when she started learning to knit. It’s a bit wonky… She fudged the bottom ribbing with the wrong size needle, and then she had some challenges getting the double-decreases down for the v-neck opening. But it was her first garment when she started knitting and it is simply wonderful because my father has worn it literally to bits. I suggested that maybe we should get him a new vest and he cheerfully declines and say, “why? I like this one.”
Still, I think I’ll stay on the safe side and stick to gifting hand-knit socks for special occasions. I can’t help but be superstitious.
Do you believe in the “Sweater Curse”? Have you had a knitting catastrophe that ended a relationship, or have you managed to avoid the conflicts that can arise from knitting for a significant other? Please share with us on here on the blog, or on Twitter and Instagram! Stay tuned for for our next topic, to be delivered to you two weeks from today!