…Which officially began a few months ago in these climes, has been eluding us. Even today in Manhattan, I saw a teenager in shorts and flip flops as I marched by in tall boots, sweater, scarf and raincoat. Despite being dressed for the rainy grey day, I wouldn’t call it cold or even chilly. My sweaters are ready to go, but on many days they feel too heavy and uncomfortably warm. Here’s hoping temperatures will drop, so I can bundle up properly.
My sweater stack is a tidy group of mostly shopped pieces. As a Floridian, I wasn’t in the habit of acquiring sweaters. Since moving to New York, I’m happy to boast a few Indigenous cotton sweaters ethically made in Peru and a charcoal grey alpaca sweater by Zady that I’m getting a lot of mileage out of. But the sweater that has the most history with me is a hand-knitted pumpkin spice sweater that keeps me cozy warm. It came into my life in 2005 on a return trip to Argentina. As I’ve mentioned before, Argentina is a great place for yarns and knitting. My friend, Silvia, was working away on this sweater. She said it was for herself but when finished, she realized that it was way too big for her small figure and gave it to me as a gift. I thought it was too big for me as well, but didn’t want to refuse it. I made room in my suitcase somehow- this thing is really bulky! And it lived in clothes storage for many years before I moved North. I think the oversized slouchiness really works now, although the color isn’t my favorite and I prefer natural fibers. On the coldest days, this sweater has found itself stuffed inside my down fill coat. A tight fit, but no complaint of chill. And I can always use a scarf to offset the color. This sweater has become a lounge staple. Best of all, I love that it is handmade by a friend…
Story N˚1: Argentinian wool + Polish handicraft
In 1995, I served a mission for my church in Argentina. I was so happy to be sent overseas. Not only did I start to break down my U.S. ethnocentrism, I fell deeply in love with the Argentines and their culture.
As vast and diverse as it is geographically, the area of the central sierras and south along the Andes to Patagonia relies on warm knitted handicrafts. Sheep and wool production are thriving industries there. I saw many women taking their knitting projects wherever they went, often making an income on their skills and products. Many men are skilled knitters as well. I saw my first knitting machine run by a man proud of his own sweaters. I was amazed to learn that most of the sweaters and baby clothes my friends had were handmade by someone.
The town centers always have at least one major yarn shop. In downtown Córdoba, I remember a shop with floor to ceiling colorful skeins. I wasn’t a knitter then, but I couldn’t help going into every yarn shop I passed. I was mesmerized by the textures and colors. I ended up buying several skeins of a heathered mauve wool. I must have bought it promising myself to learn knitting, although I can’t remember what I thought I would make, perhaps baby clothes…
Back in the U.S., I packed those skeins around for roughly a decade, moving them from place to place through college and beyond. I made a few half-hearted attempts to learn to knit, but the skeins remained stashed in my ever growing pile of some-day projects.
Finally, I met a Polish woman, Eugenia, at work who is a crochet master. She was continuously creating adorable clothing for her granddaughters. I mentioned the yarn I was hoarding, and she jumped at the chance to turn it into whatever I wanted. I couldn’t believe my luck. I asked for a cap with ear triangles, a sleeveless sweater top and a scarf- I had that much yarn and then some. The resulting pieces weren’t as I imagined them, despite my notes and illustrations. The cap was a puffy beret with a strange ruffle and, yes, ear triangles. The crocheted top was also ruffling in an unflattering way. Polish crochet master and I clearly didn’t share the same vision. But the scarf, which was actually more like a shawl, turned out beautifully, and I still have a large skein of yarn left to adorn my stash. I didn’t appreciate Eugenia’s work until I moved to New York. Now the shawl is my cuddly wrap on cold nights. The merino wool is so warming and comforting, and I’m proud of its Argentinian origins and Polish crafts(wo)manship.