Over the course of several years in the 1960's (before I was born), My mom had a love affair with a knitting pattern. And by "love affair", I mean a torrid, stalking, drunk-dialing bodice-ripper. How, you may well ask, would I know?
My mother loathed doing anything the same way twice; so deeply that she would allow as much extra time as possible to drive anywhere, just so that she could take a new and different route. She craved change the way most people crave caffeine. As a girl, she once wore two different shoes to school, claiming she had another pair just like them at home.
This woman, this hater of the known, knit the same sweater, something like TEN TIMES.
We know this because many of them still exist. Several were in small childrens' sizes, which I remember wearing as hand-me-downs from my two older sisters. They were later worn by our own daughters, and are currently in stasis till the next wave need them. Others were made for her friends, her mother in law, and Heaven forbid, for herself. Yep. In one of her only known fits of hedonism, Jane Wolff Scott, Wife and Mother of Five, knit her favorite cardigan at least three times, just for herself.
I've been trying to reverse-engineer the thing for years. Once, she brought me a dog-eared hand typed copy of what she thought might be the pattern. It was totally indecipherable, but I held on to it, hoping one day to crack its code.
Lately I've fallen prey to the wiles of the cardigan, just as Mom did all those years ago. Probably it's because her health is failing, and I know it's time to start letting her go. Don't misunderstand - I'm not eager for this by any means, but the fact is that Dementia took her from us a long time ago. It's not the real her, but the idea of her that we still cling to, and the real her has just about worn out her physical self.
I pulled out the old copy of the possible sweater pattern last week and took another crack at it. I have the originals, after all, and I'm supposed to be somewhat proficient at this stuff, for pity's sake. After yet another failed attempt, I put the pages aside and frogged the poor result.
And the next day, three of the 4 pages of the maybe-sweater-pattern were gone. Vanished. Vaporized. As if they never had existed. I interrogated all the suspects. I tore apart the house. I sifted through the garbage (thanks, wet coffee grounds!). No evidence left anyplace, except that pitiful fourth page.
I cried. I cried for the loss of that rotten unintelligible pattern. I cried for the lost origin of the real one, wherever it was. I cried for the twenty failed attempts I'd made at recreating it. And most of all, I cried for the loss of something my mother cherished, on the eve my losing her.
I realized that what I really wanted more than anything in the world was to tell Mom that I had rescued this favorite thing of hers from oblivion. That I, the only one of her children who understood knitting, had not only saved the pattern, but made it available for others to love. She might not understand my words, but she could feel the knitted wool. She would hear the joy in my voice. I would know that I had done it in time to tell her. And my only chance had flown. Lost forever with the first three pages of a pattern which maybe wasn't even the right one.
Or so I thought.
Through gulping sobs, I made a desperate Ravelry search for a "cabled raglan cardigan". And would you believe it? There it was. One lone modern Raveler had not only made one, but had taken the time to scan the pattern cover and photograph her final project, so I knew this was it and at last, I had the name of the pattern:
I was delirious with joy. I sent a message to the knitter on Ravelry (whose project was made something like five years ago), explaining my bizarre and desperate need to get a copy of the pattern.
Saraheeyore responded right away. Not only did she still have the thing, she had actually scanned it, and she e-mailed it to me at once. Saraeeyore had received an original vintage sweater kit from a friend, and knit it up just for fun. So now, I knew the name of the pattern, its manufacturer (Fleisher's, sadly long defunct), and that it was part of a kit, back in the day. Following a hunch, I searched for it on e-bay, and there it was: An original Yours Truly Cardigan kit, in "Flamingo", of all colors. I snapped it up in a cloud of euphoria as dense as my fog of grief had been before.
So now I'm knitting a prototype, using a basic worsted from my stash to experiment with. I'm changing the gauge to one I like better (sorry, 4.5 sts/inch: you are too floppy for me).
Here's my new Yours Truly, in progress, with a couple of my mom's old versions. The ballerina pink one is mohair, with teensy rosebuds embroidered in the center of each cable cross, and each Dorset button. The blue one is a later interpretation, with a slightly different cable, and worked from the bottom up, rather than top down as the original was. Of course Mom was improvising, by that time. Even her favorite pattern ever couldn't be made the same way twice.
On the day my Yours Truly kit arrived, Mom moved to Hospice.
I hope I'll get to show her my finished cardigan, and tell her I'm working on giving the pattern back to knitting. My hope is to re-publish it as my interpretation of the Fleisher's original, and give it away for free. I'll probably never know where Mom got her copy of the pattern. It's unlikely she had a real kit because with all those children, her knitting budget had to be squeaked out between jars of peanut butter. I imagine she admired a friend's kit sweater, and was given a typed copy of it. You know how knitters are.
I'm passing it on for you, Mom.