Friday, August 12, 2011

"You're not seriously going to wear that in public, are you?!"

Some needlework projects are never-ending, not through any fault of their own, but due mostly to what Gilbert Murray famously called"the failure of nerve" (Five Stages of Greek Religion, c. 1925). I have repeatedly categorized my loving homage to Frejya, our female Maine Coon (a.k.a Big Orange Fluffy Thing or B.O.F.T., see left) as one such. The whole thing took four long years from start to finish. But during that interval I spent most of my time ostentatiously (though guiltily) NOT working on it. Progress came, when it did, in fits & starts, with long empty gaps in between, while I agonized over what to do next. All the actual knitting on this sweater went extremely fast. What worried me was the embroidery, having never attempted to embellish my knitting with decorative stitching before.

Since the pattern did not call for embroidery beyond some simple lines for whiskers and toes, by far the hardest part was figuring out how much, or indeed how little, I should add to the intarsia, which already incorporated texture as well as color, by contrast with the coal black Peruvian highlands wool used in the body of the sweater: brushed Suri alpaca (akin to mohair) in orange, brown, and ivory for the cat, cushy cotton chenille in turquoise for the blanket (or pillow?) that she is curled up on, and on the back ribbon yarn in bright orange for the goldfish scales, and a nubbly chunky wool in dark green for the aquatic plant.

My initial concepts for embellishing the sweater were full of creative inspiration but proved too grandiose, not to say fiddly, and in the end I scaled back quite a bit on the eyelash yarn simulating Frejya's long hair, gave only the barest of outlines to eyes, face, paws, and (on the back) goldfish, and did not attempt to apply whiskers, or (for that matter) fins. I decided to let the cat's whimsical features show through as much as possible. After much deliberation, I chose to omit the dangling tail as well, despite having knitted the intarsia base for it, on the grounds that (a) I could not easily weave in enough eyelash yarn to represent the magnificent plume of a Maine Coon adequately (the breed is described as "the tail with a cat on the end," after all, and see above left), and (b) a tapered appendage hanging down from the side-seam of a garment would present far too great a temptation to our real-life feisty felines, who might attack without warning and damage the sweater (to say nothing of injury to the hapless wearer!!). So my woolen Frejya remains tailless, and contentedly so, at least for now. I reserve the right to change my mind at some point in the future. But in the interest of verisimilitude I should point out that the real Frejya does like to curl up with her tail hidden away underneath her (see above right).

In terms of the actual sweater construction, I kept the turtleneck from the original pattern but converted the raglan sleeves to a set-in style, with straight armholes and a gentle short-row shoulder cap. With its generous outlines and soft fabric, it hangs on me more like a drop-shoulder sweater than anything terribly close-fitted, but the shaping works, and I am delighted with how the garment looks and feels. For all its personality and pizzazz — and yes, that's how I happen to view it, although one friend really did blurt out the question that appears in the heading to this blog post, which simply made me laugh in response — this is also a WARM winter woolly that will serve me well when thermostats are kept low to conserve fuel.

Eventually I will probably sew in a polyester lining, so as to protect the back of the intarsia from abrasion and my dark cotton turtlenecks from stray multi-colored fibers. I have even purchased the black fabric for this, but I have not gotten around to actually doing it yet, in part because I think I want to wear the sweater once or twice as is, before doing anything else to it. Totally typical, hein? Nonetheless, I have been calling this a finished object on Ravelry since March 6th, when I laid down my embroidery scissors and weaved in the last few loose ends, and so I present this photo gallery to mark its completion.

What you see here are wide views of the front and back, followed by close-ups of the neckline, the sleeve shaping, the cat, and the fishbowl. As always, click on any one of these images to view an enlargement.
I just love the goldfish with their *googly* eyes, which I acquired courtesy of the ever-thoughtful Anita, who has a great big bag of them on hand because she often knits sweaters for her grandchildren. :-)


  1. And why wouldn't you? It's fabulous and a fitting tribute to Frejya. Only four years? I'd be dithering for decades. Where did you find the original pattern? (I only ask because I have a number of cat pattern books I haven't attempted yet, notably Beastly Knits).

  2. It's from a book called _Cat Knits_ by Melinda Coss, c. 1988. I think I must have bought it right after it came out. It has a bunch of very cute patterns, all with a feline theme, of course. The author actually contacted me on Ravelry about the Frejya sweater. It was a remarkable moment!! Check back through the blog archive for October 2009 for more details.