A few months ago my mother dug a box out of the attic filled with hand-knit sweaters made for me and my brother when we were wee ones. The majority were knit by my Grandma Shirley. Shirley was married to Harvey Bernstein, who lends his name to our darling boy. So you can imagine that Great-Grandma might be pleased as punch to see this photo:
A visual reverse-engineering tells me this is a "surprise sweater" of the Zimmerman variety, though the detailing is much more impressive than any lazy-ass surprise sweater I had planned to make. Why all those cables are passed in back rather than in front I'll never know. An extra labor of love, perhaps.
Upon seeing the photo my mother sent this blessing-dash-warning:
That sweater was always one of my favorites. Jake wore it all the time. take good care of it (no washing machine)
Good advice! Knitters everywhere take heed - do not put your hand knit wool sweaters in the washing machine.
But beyond that, what does it mean to take good care of a sweater? I would posit that the right way isn't to handle it with kit gloves like it's on auction at Christi's. No matter how vintage it is.
As a knitter myself, there's one thing I fear about every project. Not that it'll come out bungled or I'll run out of the right color yarn (although on my budget that's always a concern.) My fear is that it won't be worn. Hours lovingly poured into a project stitch by stitch, only to know that it gets thrown in a drawer or an attic box, sitting unused for years.
So I say this to all future wearers of my sweaters in all generations to come: wear with abandon! Roll in the leaves. Spill your soup. Wrestle with the dog and pull at a thread or two. When it comes time to wash the thing, of course have momma use some cold water and re-block it on a flat surface. But when it's dry again, take it out to play. And hopefully, when the sweater is good and destroyed, there'll be someone new with a set of needles ready to nock out another one. She may not do the button-hole edging in popcorn stitch, and she might pass all the cables in front, but for the love of God no one in their right mind is going to notice.
Alls I ask is that you take a picture. In digital. It'll last longer.