The Hope Sweater

Was there ever a project name better suited for the time in which I worked on it? The Hope Sweater by Elsye Machon, of Igaia Knits, was given to me at a time when the concept of “hope” was being refined in my thinking. I started it at the beginning of 2021, so there were the big things that you are all tired of thinking about: reckonings, pandemics, evictions, etc. There was all of that. But then I had, as I’m sure you did, my own private worries, and so I hoped a lot. 

If you’re here for the knitting, skip down to Details. Let me say, I don’t think we have to go through crisis or make big decisions to learn trust or hope but I shouldn’t refuse to learn it when it’s the only obvious choice. So I was transplanted, lived alone for a few months, sorting through painful experiences from childhood and working on my health. I felt the call to hope. For me, for my family, for other people. 

There’s this verse that goes: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Hope has never been my thing. I pray about lots of the things and overthink most things, but I’ve never been big on hope. It gets disappointed and can blind me to the flashing, warning signs of impending doom. I manage my expectations to manage my moods. The point of being vigilantly prepared for disappointment is to keep my medium to low-level peace from dropping any lower. Yes it’s a defense mechanism, but it’s also responsible, isn’t it? Who needs a mom who is too lost in her dreams or her woes to make supper? Families need balance. Everyone needs balance. And I learned to add balance where needed when I was a teenager. I was not supposed to get everything I wanted. Why build my day (or my life) around some hope which, if it doesn’t materialize, will make the whole thing crumble? This way, if something good happened it could be an unexpected miracle, giving my spirits fuel for another year or so of that medium to low-level peace. Better to prepare for disappointment and have a plan to live through it.

Clearly, I had the idea of “bearing” and “enduring” down. Got it! A friend calls this trauma response. The pragmatic side of me was fully developed, veering away from hope like swerving away from a pile-up on the highway. Now, it was time to work on the idealistic. I am mid-forties and have finally stopped practicing subdued hope.

It’s amazing what just hearing the words “trauma response” did to make me more self-aware of my stoic views on joy. All of a sudden, feelings and thoughts that I once saw as normal were suspect. Here’s a sample of my low expectations thinking:

-That wasn’t a huge decision yet it left me feeling sick because I did what I wanted. Did this situation warrant such caution, or is this a trauma response? 

-What is normal for a woman my age to feel like, live like and is it okay for me to expect some normal?  

-If I hope for someone, is it the same thing as trusting in them? Is that unwise? If I let myself hope for a thing- a tender, gut level thing- will I be ruined when I don’t get it? 

-Yes, a refinery exploded in my backyard, moving my entire house and blowing out all of the windows, and is still not getting proper maintenance, but is it wise to move just because I want to? I mean, not everyone gets to live where they want? Get the picture? 

Basically, I wondered if I could trust God to help me walk the line between hopeful and foolish? If he made me to love and love “hopes all things”, will he help me see the flashing red, warning lights when I am too hopeful? Would he let me drive the car of life off of a cliff? What if other people are in it with me? Could I trust that if I give my life to his plan, that He will help me see if I go too far with the happy? Can you go too far with the happy?!! 

I no longer think so. I am feeling free to hope about so much more than I once could. Talking to God about these things feels like guessing how the next good thing will happen with a friend. I’m not nervously looking over my shoulder for an inevitable blow of disappointment, even though disappointments happen. I’m trusting that he is watching my back, balancing my desires and I don’t feel guilty for asking or hoping. Part of that is because I know him better now and my desires line up better with his, but I am also just giving myself a little grace. If he can do it, why can’t I? Besides, how can I be very loving without being very hopeful? So, I hope. I still don’t get everything I want. And I am okay with that.

Haha! You knitting people now hate me for talking hope when you want to talk sweater. I’ve read threads about “why bloggers won’t just get over themselves and talk about the item.” (Note: If you feel this way, maybe you should be reading a catalog instead of a blog.) 

So here are the details, or what little I remember of them

I know I used US size 2.5 needles for the corrugated ribbing and other ribbing on this. I think I used size 4s for the body. My dilemma was not having 3 colors that worked together for this. I wanted to use some stashed Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport in Sagebrush and Midnight Heather, but I had nothing in a similar weight that would go well with them for the neckline/ sleeve ribbing and for the lace panel. As I dug through the Knit Picks I had, I saw some Kenai Aloft, which is lace weight mohair/ silk. I held it together with some of the Sagebrush for those areas. Together they marled to make a nice transitional color between the lightest and darkest. Yay for using what ya got!!

I loved all of the changes in stitch pattern and color. This project is a good intermediate design and stayed interesting from beginning to end. It seemed like something Elsye designed for her own amusement, then decided to share with the rest of us. And I need to talk about the mosaic-like stranded color work along the bottom of the front. It was just so satisfying to watch it materialize beneath my needles. 

The Hope Sweater is really three designs in one. Elyse has also included directions for two additional solid colored versions that alternate the positioning of garter panels on the body and employ the same neckline and cuffs. 

A few modifications: I only picked up about 116 its for the neckline because the sport plus laceweight mohair made a heavier yarn. I picked up 48 its for the sleeve ribbing and decreased 8 its for the shaped ribbing.

Things I loved about this knit: 1) The way there is shaping on the sleeve ribbing. That’s so unique. 2) I also dig that there really aren’t traditional sleeves to knit, since it is dolman. 3) Lastly, this thing is just so versatile. You can use as many or as few colors as you want. There’s the main design full of stitch patterns, or the two subsequent versions with ideas on how to edit out any or all of those stitch patterns. Basically, you can make this as focused or mindless as you like- very choose your own adventure. Oh! and 4) This is good for stash busting!

If I could change one thing I think I would swatch in the garter stitch and compare row gauge to that of a stockinette swatch. The garter panel on the back doesn’t hang as low as it could have. I wish I’d knit a couple of more rows, rather than aggressively blocking to make the front and back even. It worked but I wish I had swatched for that. But who am I kidding? It was a miracle I swatched at all. Wait, did I swatch?

I made one little mistake when transitioning from the corrugated ribbing to the basket weave/ garter stitch panel on the back. I switched from one segment to the next on the wrong row and so the little purl ridges of the Sagebrush yarn show in the darker garter panel. When I realized this, I didn’t feel like ripping back. It wasn’t bothering me, so I made sure to repeat the transitional mistake as I moved from the stockinette portion to the upper basket weave section, allowing the dark strands in Midnight Heather to show in the stockinette Sagebrush part. It just added to the slightly patchwork feel of this design.

I lied, I actually made a huge mistake, but it was fixable. I went to join the sweater at the shoulders and, rather than joining the front right side with the back right side, I joined both sides of the front to each other. I am not kidding. Didn’t I say something in a recent post about it not taking much to baffle me?

Check out Els’ Ravelry store for some more of her designs. I’ve mentioned her Atenea Midnight Top before because it is so cute and makes me think of the 90s and early 2000s Delias catalogs. Her instagram as @Igaiaknits is full of design inspiration and shows more of her crafting projects than her Ravelry. She has her versions of Hope and also everything else she is making. She recently finished the sweetest tank covered in little flowers. It is incredible! 

And then there is her Youtube channel for Igaia Knits where she discusses her process and projects in Spanish and English episodes!

More on the My So-Called Handmade Life channel Episode 51: Hopeful 

On my Ravelry, Instagram, and Flickr

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