May 6th, 2008
To me, my grandfather was larger than life. He had been the sheriff of a small town in the Adirondacks and personified elegance, authority and grace — he rode a chestnut-colored horse and wore a shiny, star-shaped badge. He was always impeccably dressed and adhered closely to a “don’t buy a lot, but buy well” philosophy. I remember his uniforms and suits and how all of the things that hung in his closet were tailored and pressed.
One of the items my twin sister and I inherited from him was a beautiful, handmade extra-large gray wool cable knit sweater that he had gotten in Ireland. Every winter we would switch off and either she would wear it or I would. It got to the point where I would jokingly not want to give it back to her at the end of the season and I began to think to myself, what I need to do is make one of these and our problem would be solved. The idea was fun but seemed impossible — the only thing that I had ever knit was a few basic sweaters and blankets and I had no idea how to cable.
I went to my local yarn store and had the great fortune of meeting a wonderful teacher named Beth. During one of her classes, I shared my cable sweater dilemma with her and told her with a smile that I planned to make an exact copy of it. With a large smile back she said, “Well, then let’s do it!” For several weeks, we mined stitch pattern books to try and find the series of cables we needed. Many of the diagonals were too short or too tall and there was an endless back and forth. Then the long hours of learning the twist stitches and different sequences came. We fiddled and charted and tested and finally came up with the pattern. I searched high and low for wool that was just the right color gray (which took a few weeks — had to be 100% wool in just the right shade) and finally set out to make the sweater.
The biggest challenge along the way was the saddle shoulder. I remember Beth said, “Well, we’ll just do a regular shoulder and won’t get involved with that mess!” And I remember pleading with her to help me figure out the saddle shoulder. “It has to be exactly the same!” I told her – big, huge pain in the neck that I was. I even insisted that we recreate two mistakes that I found along the way and ended up stretching out the neck a bit when I was done (Grandpa had a big neck). In the end, it was as close a replica as I could manage and took just under two years to complete.
Since then, I’ve used small sections of the pattern many times for smaller projects – once for a baby vest and another time for a scarf. I laminated the original graph and love having it in my larder to use for future designs. In many ways, I feel that when I use the pattern, I’m giving my friends a piece of my history and love for my grandfather.