In going through my wardrobe recently, I culled some decade-old sweaters that had holes beyond repair. I had already darned some holes and new ones were appearing. So it was time for them to go. The sad part was that they were cashmere, which is a beautiful fabric that I hate to waste. So I decided to make a blanket out of them. In fact I had this project in mind for a while, but it took a fit of pique to make me tackle it. I don’t know what I was piqued about. I can’t remember. Probably a lack of sleep. But I do my best creative work when I’m fed up, so I went to town on these sweaters.
Here’s what I started with: two cashmere sweaters of mine and a men’s wool vest bought secondhand and already partly cut up for another sewing project. I washed them all in the washing machine in hot water, hoping the fibres would felt. Well, those are some good sweaters, because for the most part they didn’t, although they did shrink a bit.
Then I cut them into squares, sizing my squares so that two would fit exactly across the body of the sweaters and thus make best use of the fabric. After I ran out of space to cut squares, I cut strips of the same length, but various widths to be patched together.
Then I sewed them all together by hand, using some thin yarn. And here is the finished product.
It’s lap-sized, not whole-body-sized, unless you are my daughter for whom it is now the favourite sofa blanket. I pondered, in my usual manner, some grand plan of waiting until I had more sweaters to recycle and could add them on to make an even bigger blanket…but if I had done that, it would be another ten years before I finished it.
My stitching ain’t perfect, but through a few documentaries and an audiobook over a week of evenings I stitched away and worked out my pique, whatever it had been about.
In fact, using these sweaters satisfied a longstanding emotional need both to get them out of my closet (since not worn) and to redeem them for some new purpose, since they have too many memories attached to be thrown away. I wore them constantly when I was in grad school in the UK. Some of my readers may even remember them if they knew me then! They are imbued for me with the feel of the air in those cold winters: the blustery wet rain, the prickly frost, the stone library chill, the draft around the edges of plate glass windows. And at the time I could not have afforded to buy cashmere for myself, but received these as Christmas presents, and enjoyed them as practical luxuries that, far from being delicate, in fact wore hard and long. I darned their first series of holes because I really didn’t know how I would have kept warm without them.
It’s a homely blanket, obviously, and doesn’t quite match our decor. But in fact it’s become a favourite for sitting under on the sofa because it is both warm and lightweight. And you can guess, from all I just said above, that I am very happy still to be keeping warm under my old sweater companions.