Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Sweater for Frejya (or rather in her honor)

I purchased the book Cat Knits by Melinda Coss about 20 years ago when I was still in college (it was published in 1988) and then tucked it away. By now it's definitely one of those familiar objects that I only vaguely remember ever having acquired.

One particular design always appealed to me as a possible queue item. You can sing along: "Someday my yarn will come...". The turtleneck sweater features a cheerful tabby cat on the front (complete with whimsical dangling tail!) and a fishbowl with two goldfish on the back. I never really contemplated actually making it, though, until our first pure-blood Maine Coone arrived in 2002. A great big fat orange sassy lady who goes by the name of Frejya (our two boy Maine Coones are Wodin and Thor), she is the spitting image of the cat on the sweater, as you can see from these two photos. Click on either image to get a closer look.

Can you honestly tell which one is the real cat??

Alright, maybe that's going a bit too far, but in all seriousness, the design suits our girl to an impeccable T.

Oh, look! Just as I was typing that last sentence the eponymous lady herself came waddling into the room (that really is the only verb to describe her manner of locomotion) to say hello before curling up on her favorite rocking chair for her afternoon snooze. She snores rather loudly, I'm afraid. It's an unbecoming habit.

The original sweater pattern called for a tweedy background, but not finding anything that I liked well enough in that line I opted instead for plain solid black wool. I chose the remaining yarns in a WIDE variety of textures to accentuate the decorative elements of the pattern design: 3 shades of fuzzy mohair w/ coordinating eyelash embroidery for the cat (see below), a turquoise cotton chenille for the pillow/blanket underneath, varieageted orange ribbon yarn for the scales of the two goldfish on the back, a nubbly dark green boucle for the plant in the fish bowl, pale blue wool for the water, and a metallic silver worsted weight yarn that I dredged up out of the depths of my stash for the outline of the bowl itself. They're all listed on Ravelry for those who are interested in the details. I bought *way* too much. So there will almost certainly end up being a hat, scarf, and mittens to match.

What else? Lemme see...

I first began this project about two years ago. It took a little while to select and assemble all the different yarns from their various sources, but the intarsia pattern for the front took no more than a week to knit. I'm not kidding. Whoosh. It goes that way sometimes.

When it was finished the WS was an absolute NIGHTMARE, with something on the order of 10 *squizillion* loose ends in various colors and textures that each had to be carefully secured first and then woven invisibly into the back side of the fabric. I will not lie: weaving in loose ends is the aspect of knitting that appeals to me least of all, and I simply could not stand to work on this particularly egregious specimen for more than a few minutes at a time. So then the entire project went into hibernation for over a year while I slowly picked away at those ends with a crochet hook and a pair of embroidery scissors. Not fun, but perseverence pays off...

By the middle of last summer the WS was finally all cleaned up (hooray!), and I started in on the embroidery, which is picky work in its own way too, but much more creatively satisfying.

Why all the fuss with embroidery? I want to make the knitted cat look as much as possible like a Maine Coone, for Frejya's sake. Browsing for yarns online, I had the clever idea that a shiny eyelash yarn could imitate the long hair typical of the breed. Early experiments with knitting the eyelash yarn into the fabric alongside the mohair, however, made a horrible tangled mess of the eyelash strands. Undaunted, I then came up with the alternate plan of applying the embellishment by hand using duplicate stitch after the knitting with the mohair was complete. I would guess that I am now ~75% finished with that painstaking task, which has to be done one eyelash at a time for optimum placement and distribution of the strands.

I was afraid at one time that the final effect might look garish or too hoaky, but the entire sweater is so whimsical and over-the-top silly that a little extra glitz doesn't seem to hurt a bit.

Be thankful for small blessings. At least I stopped short of RHINESTONES & SEQUINS!!

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