Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When Should a Handmade Sweater Retire?

This is on my mind since I think I may be wearing my current sweater for the last time.

I cannot show you a picture of this very cute sweater at the moment because my Flikr Pro account expired back in November. I've been resisting renewing it. I tried just now and got an error message.

Anyway. It's a crocheted sweater from (I believe) the May 2002 issue of Crochet! Magazine, which makes it around eight years old.

It's in a power blue Bernat boucle yarn (that has been discontinued and was hard to work with) with big white buttons. It has a retro style, so I wear it with a pencil skirt or peg pants and look very Mary Tyler Moore.

I put it on this morning, and well, it's kind of stretched out. And it's a little pilly, although that's hard to see with the boucle. It was never the most fitted sweater. The last time I wore it I noticed it was getting a little more generous in the body width. But today it seems to be hanging badly, and the spaces between the snaps (the buttons are for show) are gapy.

Of course, I wore it anyway. But even as I left the house I knew it should probably be retired.

That made me sad because this is the second sweater I ever made. Sure I've been crocheting since I was little, but I always stuck to blankets and toys and never got into the whole clothing thing.

Unless you count that 70s halter top I made out of red, blue, and yellow craft cotton that never did fit right.

Not the First
Which explains my lack of sweater crocheting right there. Growing up I only had access to patterns in library books, which were full of 70s fashions. What respectable child of the 80s would make one of those?

But then attractive crochet patterns started cropping up and it was time to take the plunge.

Of course, here I am mooning over retiring this blue sweater when it's not actually the first one I've retired. I unofficially retired the first sweater I crocheted (not counting the halter top, which I never actually wore) a few years ago.

The first sweater I crocheted was The Big Easy a free pattern from Lion Brand using Homespun yarn. I used the Fiesta colorway (I believe), which is now discontinued. It's a lovely blue with spot of red, white, yellow...oh I don't know lots of colors.

I crocheted it in one marathon weekend session. I got lots of compliments on it. Mainly from the yarn color than the actual sweater, I always thought. The sweater is just an oversized turtle neck. And, oh boy, was it oversized. I could pull it down past my butt. It wasn't the most flattering design. In fact, I always meant to frog it and shorten it, but never did.

Instant Yarn Snob
I had a distinct lack of motivation to rework it because of the nature of the yarn. Homespun, although attractive, quick to work up, and good for blankets, is just horrid for clothing (in my opinion). Being 100 percent acrylic it doesn't breathe at all. Sure, the sweater was a nice, warm, slouchy sweater to snuggle in, but I used to be able to feel the sweat trickling down my back because the yarn wasn't absorbent at all. I actually bought some white t-shirts to wear under it to combat the issue, but that just made me warmer.

Then the yarn started pilling and the sweater hasn't left the shelf in ages.

In fact, between the Homespun sweater, the blue sweater I'm currently agonizing over, and a spring top with granny square flowers (which is also a wee bit stretched but I can still wear) out of yet another acrylic yarn, I suddenly transformed into a yarn snob.

I'm all about the natural fibers for clothing, or blends at the most. (I'm looking at you Rowan Calmer.)

We Need a Checklist
Of the sweaters I made while living in New Hampshire the only ones still in circulation are the white top with the granny square flowers and my first knit sweater (scroll down to "Inspiration") out of Lion Brand Wool-Ease.

They are both still in good shape and fit for public consumption.

My other handmade sweaters are much newer as they are recent projects from 2004 forward.

I probably won't have to worry about retiring another sweater for a few more years.

But shouldn't there be a way to tell it's time?

Do you just ditch it based on age?
That wouldn't work for me. I don't even ditch store bought closed based on age. I don't tend to go for trendy pieces that will be outdated quickly, so I think I can get away with it.

Is it all about looks?
That's what's going to do in this poor blue sweater. It's just not flattering any more.
I think this would be my main factor. If the item is showing wear and tear it's probably done.

How many sweaters have you retired? And what were your reasons?

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