Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Not Sweater Weather

Not long ago (in honor of My Mother The Dowager Duchess's birthday in June), I posted a photo from 1949 of The Dowager Duchess sitting and knitting on Coney Island Beach. She was working on a sweater for my father.

THEY DON'T MAKE 'EM LIKE THEY USED TO (SWEATERS OR DOWAGER DUCHESSES).

In the late 1960s, my father passed the sweater on to me. He was 23 when the sweater was new. It hadn't fit him for some time. By 1969, I was almost 5 inches taller than my father. But because I was so skinny (a bean pole), the sweater fit me just fine. I wore it through my hippy phase and I continued to wear it through my respectable phase. I wore the sweater for another 20 years until I also (finally) outgrew it.

1949.  THE DUCHESS KNITTING THE SWEATER.

I was heartbroken when I could no longer squeeze into the sweater. The wool The Duchess had used was such high quality and her skills were so exceptional that, after 40 years of wear, it was still in perfect condition. I gave it to my cousin to give to her son (along with several other sweaters The Duchess had made). After the fact, I realized my cousin's son wouldn't want them. But, knowing my cousin, they're probably safely stored away, another 20 years later, for some future generation. And that's fine with me.

1986.  I WAS 32. THE SWEATER WAS 37 (AND A BIT SNUG).
(OUR FRIEND'S DOG, MAGGIE MAY, WAS 6 MONTHS.)

I found a photo taken in 1986 at our house in New Haven, Connecticut. It made me really miss that sweater. I wonder if The Duchess would be interested in making me a new one. Sadly, I know the answer to that.

Oh well. The Duchess made me so many sweaters over the years and I do still have a gray mohair V-neck she knitted for San Geraldo in 1983 that I plan to wear for the rest of my life. I love hand-me-downs.

18 comments:

  1. LOVE this story so much. We are knitters and totally appreciate this historical account of DD's beautiful creation and the passing down of it to you and others. In 1979 I made a v-neck black sweater for Jim for Xmas and our cat took a special liking to it and chewed a hole in it. Aaargh! Such is life.
    Hey maybe DD will succumb and at least start a sweater for you, something simple maybe.

    Ron

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    1. Ron:
      Yeah, I don't think a sweater would survive with our two cats now. If the DD could I know she would, but it's hard on her fingers and her eyes, so she doesn't like to take on the big projects anymore. She now sticks to projects for babies... sweaters, hats, bibs.

      Delete
  2. A 'vintage classic' for sure! The sweater that is!
    What a great pattern too. A good 'winter' project for someone I know...
    Wonder if the DD remembers the pattern book?

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    1. Jim:
      I wouldn't be surprised if my mother still has the instructions stashed somewhere (but never to be found).

      Delete
  3. Wow- that is an amAZing sweater! I can't imagine how someone would be able to knit a sweater with that stripe pattern. You folks are a creative and talented bunch! Very impressive, DD (if you're reading) ;)

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    1. Judeet:
      The Duchess reads the comments, too. Thanks! That was in the early years of her knitting "career"; she was 22. That plaid pattern was simple compared to other things she did. She's created amazing things over the years, but that sweater was always my favorite.

      Delete
  4. They don't knit 'em like they used to!


    I could that sweater today; yesterday we were 95-degrees, today we'll barely make it into the 70s.
    Oy!

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    1. Bob:
      Although I'd love to still have that sweater, I wouldn't get much use for it. 85 today, 85 yesterday, 85 tomorrow...

      Delete
  5. I don't recall seeing a sweater like that before, combining vertical and horizontal stripes far apart to create a series of 'windows'. It would certainly be considered 'cool' these days. What goes around comes around.

    Now, are we going to see a picture of you in your 'hippy' days - long beard, long hair, maybe wearing beads?

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    1. Raybeard:
      I'll see if I can find a good one from my "hippy" days. I had the beads. I had the long hair. I just don't know if I've got a decent shot of it all. The beard didn't come until years later (during my hippy days I couldn't grow a good one).

      That sweater was cool in the '40s and has been cool many times since. The Duchess knew what she was doing!

      Delete
  6. Mitch, seeing you as a hippy is going to be memorable, I know - and you're never going to live it down, at least if I get my way. ;-)

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    1. Raybeard:
      I'm on it! Coming soon... I hope.

      Delete
  7. What a treat to see you wearing the sweater your mom is knitting on the beach. Such a wonderful memento, not to mention a tribute to the DD's knitting skills.

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    1. Stephen:
      The Duchess is a woman of many talents. Maybe a needlepoint post is due. Then painting (oils and then water color). Then sculpture. Unbelievably creative... and skillful.

      Delete
  8. It's actually quite a timeless design isn't it? I mean you wouldn't see someone wearing it and blurt out "look at that mid century modern sweater".
    I'd proudly wear it to a swanky restaurant but, like you, I'd probably not fit into it.
    My Mum is a knitter too but sadly, people don't want hand knitted goods now. I plan to ask my Mum to knit me something for this winter.

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    1. Craig:
      Definitely a timeless design and I always loved the background color (kind of like crushed Oreo cookie). As you can see, I wore the sweater to work that day (why else would I be wearing a tie). I hope we get to see what you convince your mother to make for you!

      Delete
  9. I found this really moving. I wish I had such continuity in my life. Thanks for sharing this

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    1. HK:
      It's interesting. I love telling stories and writing about the past. I've always enjoyed having mementos. But quite often I wish I could dump the past, the history, and even the continuity.

      Delete

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