I wanted to meet a bear in the Smoky Mountains. I’d be wearing my Smokey sweater and it would just be a big bear, and we could sense that we were kindred spirits in the forest, exchange nods from a distance, and say “S’up?” as we each went our own way.
Yeah, once I get an idea like that in my head there’s no exorcising it unless I just make it happen. It was just a personal challenge for myself: to make an Oh My Bear sweater, by Stephanie Dosen of Tiny Owl Knits, while in the Smoky mountains.
Isn’t Stephanie the most most creative person? I love her Flickr stream. Great as this project was, I almost didn’t make it. I already have yarn for several (ahem, fifty), intricate, winter sweaters in my closet. I also didn’t really need a giant bear face in my wardrobe…. unless I did.
The thing that finally pushed me into it was my husband asking me what else he could do for me on my birthday as we drove to a restaurant to eat. I couldn’t think of anything practical that I needed. After some prodding from him, I finally admitted I would like a ton of brown tweed yarn to make a giant bear hoodie. Husbands, be careful what you ask for.
Before we even pulled into the restaurant that day, we had raided Joann’s, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby for all of their Patons Classic Tweed. Since each store refuses to carry a half a sweater’s worth of any type of yarn, I ordered a few more. I had like eight skeins of the stuff, plus a bunch of leftovers in 4 other colors for the intarsia facial features sitting in my closet, waiting to become Smokey. Only, the days ticked by and before I knew it, it was time to leave for the Smokies. So, I tossed the pattern book and bag after bag of yarn onto the floorboard of the truck, and my road trip project was decided.
I’ve never tried intarsia on purpose, so this was quite an undertaking. I also didn’t know to bring, or make, bobbins, so it was insane. But what else are you going to do when driving from Texas to Tennessee except read, listen to music, and talk? These are all things I can do while constantly untangling fifty little yarn strings. In this way the front and a portion of the back were knit on the first day of driving. Bulky has it’s advantages.
Deciding where to do fair isle and where to do intarsia was kind of like choosing the order of paint colors for a paint-by-numbers. Had I used bobbins, it would have been completely relaxing and fun. As it was, I still enjoyed the process, but it looked all messy. Being my first time to do intasia or duplicate stitch, I had a sad, tumorous-looking bear head staring up at me the whole way. I doubted my abilities, but decided to wait until we got to the hotel to start over.
Thank goodness for steam blocking and spot blocking. They are my new favorite things! I laid a damp towel over Smokey and used the hotel iron on the wool setting to press him. Voila! He was suddenly smooth and fierce. I did the same thing in our one night at a hotel on the way home with the sleeves. They were knit in the camper or by the fire at night and they seemed a little too thin for the armholes. I seamed them together anyway so I could take these photos, but after steam blocking them, they stretched in width perfectly
Did I mention seaming? This was the only truly frustrating part of this knit. I ran out of yarn and so had to splice several strands together to seam the sides and sleeves. I stayed up late on our second-to-last night to do this. My husband didn’t mind because we were both interested in how Broadchurch would end. (Ah, the great outdoors and netflix.) This way, I could wear the sweater while still in the Smoky Mountains the next day. I don’t know why this mattered so much to me, but it did.
And wear it I did. I waited for another bear to show up, even had my ears on, but… nothing.
I have met a bear on the Appalachian Trail before. It was a true, wild bear. Not the ones that are bored by all the tourists, like at Yosemite.
We were traveling with our children that time and as we rounded a corner on the trail, hurrying home from Charlie’s Bunion before dark- there he was. He was close enough to have taken at least two of us out, if he’d wanted. The kids were nervous, but we just did all the things the guides tell you to do. We stood close together and waved our arms to convince the bear we were a large multi-armed creature. (Remember Echo and the Bunnymen? Well, like that.)
We had nothing to make noise with except to talk really loud. It was like dumb ad-libbing in a school play. My daughter threatened to kill me if I took a photo. Eventually he became as bored as the bears at Yosemite, shrugged, and climbed up the mountain, weightlessly. It was dark when we got to our car.
Anyway, I wore the bear hood this time, but no one came out to play.