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A Knitter's Ode to the Sweatshirt

"About 1925, the word sweatshirt came into the vocabulary. Sweatshirts were originally for athletes to wear while warming up, before or after sports. The earliest sweatshirts were utilitarian gray pullovers."

Currently a peculiar shade of almost orange, the sweatshirt I wear the most used to be a lovely deep red. Unless a bitter prairie wind takes me by surprise, and I have forgotten my hat, I rarely use the hood. Maple Lag, the rustic cross-country ski resort where we used to take our kids every winter, is still clearly written in deep blue across the front. The flocked letters, no longer fuzzy, lost their glory some time shortly after my youngest daughter willed me her former treasure. A relatively recent and purely unintentional encounter with an overly generous measure of bleach is responsible for the unfortunate color change.

Like my Maple Lag hand-me-down, our favorite sweatshirts often carry with them a special place we visited, teams we cheered, restaurants we enjoyed, events we were a part of, camps and schools we attended--or hope to attend. Shrugging on those sweatshirts, we remind ourselves and show others, who we are, what we’ve done, and where we’ve been.

Once a deep green beauty, my prized sweatshirt dates back to when I was a camper at Camp Hochelaga on Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vermont. Frequently worn back then over a damp bathing suit on cool summer mornings and sometimes by campfires on chilly evenings, my Hochelaga sweatshirt was a part of my cherished camp days. With frayed seams, a ragged neck, and unraveling cuffs, age has rendered it out of practical service. So although it still fits me, I’m afraid to wear it. Newer models have been offered by the camp, but not one ever had the same feel or look.

Adult Hooded SweaterA while back it did occur to me that I might knit a worthy substitute. More than a decade ago at a reunion, I even purchased a camp patch for a handmade replacement. And since then, many times I have downloaded my perfect candidate, the Knit Adult Hooded Sweater (pictured left; click the name of the pattern to open details). Rated "Easy", knit in machine washable, soft Lion Cotton, and designed with a comfortable positive ease, it looks like a sweatshirt.

For all these reasons, this pattern continually ranks high on my annual "to knit" list. But as it happens with a knitter’s best intention, more urgent projects--gifts and community donations--usually take over. That might have occurred again this year had I had not experienced a springtime of knitting snags requiring much re-knitting and creating a serious backlog of unfinished shawls and socks. A summery break was needed. The time had finally come to knit myself back to Camp Hochelaga.

Eight balls of Fern Green Lion Cotton were ordered. On the inside of the first ball band I removed, compactly and clearly printed, was Knit Adult Hooded Sweater pattern--a sure sign I was on the correct knitting path. In Iowa City, Iowa, in June's deep greenness, starting out with a twenty stitch swatch, a journey of a thousand miles began.

The back is done now, and half of the front, too. The hood, the pocket, and the two sleeves will be finished soon. I'm no longer sure about sewing on the camp patch I have saved all these years. Maybe this sweater should be allowed to gather its own memories. Even without flocked letters, an emblem, or logo, maybe one day this plain green sweatshirt-like sweater will help remind me how summer here turns the rolling hills of Southeast Iowa into a velvet patchwork of greens.

Michelle's notes:

The Hooded Sweater pattern is also available in children’s sizes 4-12. Click here for the pattern.

I eliminated the first 6 rows of stockinette before the ribbing on the sweater’s bottom, the cuffs, the pocket.

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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