Image of me holding a very bad kitty on my shoulder while I wear the Guthrie color work yoke sweater pattern.
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Making Guthrie while listening to Guthrie

I won’t pretend at having great knowledge of Woody Guthrie’s body of work, other than singing “This Land is Your Land” in Elementary school music class. I only fell in love with some of his songs by following what Billy Bragg and Wilco were doing on Mermaid Avenue. But that is all stuff I now love. Those songs played through my head a hundred times as I worked on Caitlin Hunter‘s Guthrie sweater. 

Guthrie is a good example of mixing an affordable yarn with a pricier hand dyed contrast color to get a unique looking sweater with the hand spun, color-changing look at a price I felt I could justify to myself. If I had stuck with my original plan to use a stashed Wool of the Andes Sport brown, it would’ve been a real bargain. But I didn’t feel like the contrast between the Mississippi Marsala and the Fedora was strong enough.

When I saw this version on instagram, however, I knew that was the combo I wanted. The Contrast skeins really get to show off. So I found some Cascade 220 Sport that was on sale at Bluprint, which was Craftsy and is now Craftsy again- but without all the yarn supplies, and I went with it.

Details: I used size US 2 and 4 needles with 3 skeins of SpinCycle Dyed in the Wool in the Mississippi Marsala colorway and 6 skeins of Cascade 220 Sport in the natural color. The Dyed in the Wool bloomed a little with soaking and blocking and ended up pairing well with the Cascade. 

It’s been a while since I knit this, so I don’t remember much about the process. Not remembering is usually a good thing because it means there were no traumatic moments or fits of rage. I will say that this sweater fit my upper arms with more ease when I finished the body and a sleeve, and that is the fit I prefer, but that was like three years ago and I only recently wove in ends. If I were to re-knit this today, I would go up a size.  I think this yoke design actually works well with my broad shoulders (especially if it were the right size for me) and that isn’t always true with yoke shaping.

Even though I don’t remember a lot about the actual knitting to share with you, I do recall my mind working overtime with memories. Ones that the Woody Guthrie tribute album, Mermaid Avenue always brings to mind. So you get to hear about that instead. 🙂

For instance:

Driving from southeast Texas all the way to the California coastline in a truck with my husband and children. California Stars ran through my mind a thousand times on that drive. As did every song praising the state for its beauty. It was our first time to see it and I finally GOT it. 

I get why Joni Mitchell longed for it like a lover, how the trip there was the perfectly harsh, yet beautiful  backdrop for The Grapes of Wrath and Sweet Thursday. And as we found constellation after constellation we had never seen before, I got why Woody wanted to rest his heavy head on a bed of those California stars.

Christ for President is an infectious bluegrass tune that gives me mental flashes of various political scenes from my childhood: listening to my parents, grandparents and uncles talk about politics and working conditions in local industry. I get déjà vu thinking of hanging out as a bored child at the union hall while my dad coordinated a refinery strike and of playing in the grass outside of a polling place while he campaigned for someone.

So my dad’s political leanings wouldn’t fully gel with Woody’s. He wouldn’t even vote for Bernie, though he respected him, because of the socialist tag. But the sentiments of this song- both the Christian overtones and desire for a better way than our greed/ power driven governance would’ve rang true to him.

Then there’s Hesitating Beauty” that has a sweetness to it that makes me think of the kind of love I’d only dare to let myself hope for as teenager- the sort that made me watch old movies. Even though there was no coyness involved in their courtship, my grandparents come to mind when I hear it because of that sweetness of building a simple, long life together. They met in church as children and celebrated 74 years of marriage together before he passed away.

And then there’s Hoodoo Voodoo,” which I mentioned in Podcast Episode 56, which makes me think of the crazed energy of my children when they were little. I have such a vivid recollection of playing hide and seek in the house with my daughter as a toddler. We were so impressed the first time she truly hid from us. I also hear my son’s almost maniacal 2 year old laughter as he’d bolted for the farm road in front of our house just to watch me freak out. (Don’t be concerned. Two year old bolting = Scooby Doo running.) This is where I would love to insert photos of their decidedly unenergetic selves sleeping through movies and family functions, but I don’t want to be disowned.

Suffice it to say, they’ve outgrown their hyperactivity. The days of toddling at top speed through the house until the dog’s wagging tail topples one of them, or climbing a tall rope swing to the branch from which it hangs, using only arms, then flipping upside down á la Circe du Soleil may be gone, but the same spirit and wonderfully ridiculous sense of humor pervades their speech. And I can still hide behind doors to surprise them.

Another post on Guthrie is here. More on Ravelry, on instagram here and here, on flickr, and on the podcast Episode 56: Big Summer Knitting Plans.

There’s also several California vacation posts on this blog under the travel tag, if you’re interested.

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