Friday, January 8, 2010


Once upon a time, I fell deeply in love for the very first time. A mere lass, I knew not of the dangers implicit in true love: the initial attraction, the resulting passion, the ongoing obsession. Nor did I understand the enormous allure of a beloved from another land - so exotic and resplendent in mystery and promise.

Okay, I'll stop now. Harlequin Romance writer I am not, although my grandmother often begged me to bang out - so to speak - sexually syrupy melodramas. She was certain I would make a fortune penning bodice rippers (true story).

No, today I want to write to you about the first sweater with which I ever fell in love: a wool Fair Isle cardigan hand-knitted in Norway. My mother gave it to me in 1974; her second husband was a first-generation Norwegian who owned lots of beautiful things from the mother country, including this sweet stranded sweater.

The cardigan fascinated me. I had never seen colorwork before, never marveled at the mosaic patterns that could be formed simply by switching colors. I learned to knit when I was four, but I'd never knitted anything like this. Not even close.

I loved everything about the sweater, all the way down to the pewter dogwood buttons and the Norwegian red, white, and blue tag which said "Handstrikket i Norge." I knew from my stepfather that Norge meant Norwegian, but I had no idea what handstrikket meant. I'm not sure I even realized then that people actually hand knit sweaters. The only sweaters I'd ever owned were purchased from Sears and made by a factory in China.

Right then and there, I vowed to learn to knit with multiple colors. Not with that variagated black and rainbow-colored yarn that was so popular in the 60s and 70s, but separate balls of yarn in lots of shades and hues. It took me a couple of decades to get around to this task, but learn I did. Fair Isle knitting is now my absolute favorite pastime. I've knitted up many colorwork hats, mittens, and even a sweater - but sadly nothing as glorious as my original handstrikket Fair Isle cardigan.

This little stroll down memory lane got me thinking. What if I replicated this sweater and at the same time made it large enough to fit me now? Use the same stitch patterns, perhaps with different colors since I always feel like a tree trunk when I wear brown? Wouldn't it truly fulfill a childhood dream to make something as glorious as this? I think the answer is: YES! So, as I always say, watch this space for Julie's Adventures in Handstrikket.

Speaking of my hand-knitting projects, want to see the latest from my Dream in Color baby blanket? It's coming along and gets more beautiful by the day. God, what gorgeous yarn!


  1. color vs stitch patterns.
    Right now I am into cables cables cables.
    Do you think, julie that there is gradual growth from patterns into color for variation or visa versa?
    I have never worked with different colors such as fair isle work because the underside scares me..frogging would send me into a Meltdown!
    And having all those different spooles of thread around me! Yet it is beautiful. you think it is a matter of preference to love stitch patterns rather than various colors and even picture knitting?
    BTW...did you ever get the knitting machine going?

  2. Teresa, I don't know... I guess I think people pursue what fascinates them, whether it's knitting or anything else.

    I think color knitting is much easier than knitting cables because you know immediately when the stitches aren't right; with cables you can screw it up and it takes rows and rows to discover your error. I don't worry about the underside... if it looks right on top, it's fine underneath (as long as you strand the colors). And you're right... with colorwork you have to spend time unraveling the yarn but that's the cost of doing business.

    Sigh... I should have put the knitting machine on my list of New Year's resolutions! It's still in the box, although I have read the instructions. It's a lot more complicated than I thought. Not difficult, but a lot of moving parts and I haven't had the time and attention to devote to it.

    Oh - and you've asked me several times about whether I still plan to knit Jared Flood's Willoughby. YES! But right now I need to finish the baby blanket and then knit a sweater. Then I'll get back to the Willoughby. I love my matching mitts, btw. They're beautiful and surprisingly warm.

  3. Julie, I am amazed that your sweater still looks wonderful after all these years! You must have taken very good care of it. I can't wait to hear about your venture into the recreation of it in your own way.

    And the blanket is looking beautiful :D Anita

  4. What a terrific idea! And the more I see of the Dream in Color, the closer I get to buying some. Maybe to celebrate my next new pattern sale/publication.

  5. That's a wonderful looking sweater, it will be a fun project to recreate it in new colors, that's a great idea.

  6. Anita: The sweater is really in perfect condition. I've kept it away from moths, but honestly it must be a function of the great wool the knitter used to make it.

    Diana: I found your patterns on Knit Picks! You go, girl. I love those Mysig socks!I look forward to your new work.

    Michele: Thank you, hon! Especially since I know you're not a big commenter. :-)

    And to all of you, thank you so much for reading my blog.