When I was a teenager, my parents took an extended trip abroad. They left us kids in the care of two young Swedish women who were smart, hilarious and very kind. These gals were whizzes at both cooking and knitting, and from them, I learned how to make Swedish delicacies that ranged from meatballs to flaky desserts. I also learned to knit with one needle tucked into my armpit. Are you laughing? People always laugh when they see me knit this way. Yet, it is a clean and speedy method as the one needle tucked in your pit stays completely still and the second needle simply works off it. You can really fire off those rows!
Under the guidance of the sweet Swedes, I knitted a mohair sweater vest that was pretty fancy – it had cables, pockets and button holes. Next, I knitted a ski sweater that I've saved for posterity - behold below! It still looks great after decades in the closet.
Handknits sweaters are true acts of love. There is nothing like receiving a hand made sweater, hat or blanket when you have a baby or young child. These items are one of a kind and become instant heirlooms. Here is my son years ago, wearing one of the special sweaters knitted for him by a friend.
It is wonderful to experience the way certain cultures display their own individuality through the beauty of hand knit sweaters. Ireland's Aran fisherman's sweaters are not only iconic but unmistakable. In the past, the various knitted patterns of these sweaters acted as markers of family and culture and could be used to identify a fisherman who washed up on shore. The cables on the design signified fishing ropes and the squared patterns pertained to pastures and land forms.
We all know Fair Isle sweaters which display wonderful multicolored knit patterns, but did you know that this kind of sweater actually originated in a place with the same name? Fair Isle is an island in Northern Scotland, halfway between the Orkney and Shetland islands. This blue sweater below, currently available on Etsy. is a gorgeous example of Fair Isle knitting.
If you've never knit a hand knit sweater before, perhaps this starkly long, cold winter could be a great time to try your hand at it. It is an ultimate labor of love and your creation could last a lifetime. For inspiration and support, check out this wonderful blog “Knitting to Stay Sane” which speaks to all the various joys and challenges of knitting hand knit sweaters. Then, pick up those needles and get your fingers flying. I won't laugh if you tuck one into your armpit.
Lorne Holden is an artist and author of the Bestseller "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done." Think you don't have time to knit a hand knit sweater? Think again, pick up a copy of MAKE IT HAPPEN and see what you can done in just a handful of minutes a day.