Dropping Stitches

Amit has long had a conviction that someone, somewhere should knit him a sweater. For years he has carried around a gigantic chip on his (gigantic) shoulder that there have been very few people – to be precise, only one – willing to undertake this (gigantic) task. No, it wasn’t me. It was his favourite aunt who attempted this – once and only once. Much to his chagrin, I was smarter that that, and this was an undertaking I had managed to sidestep for the many years we had known each other, by insisting that he obtain sufficient quantities of wool in order for me to do this. For all these years I slept easy in the knowledge that he would never take the initiative to do this. And so it was.

Until the last day of our vacation in Leh, when we suddenly wandered across a wool shop. And there my luck ran out as we quickly bought enormous volumes of wool in the tangled state.

I postponed the inevitable by a couple of months by lugging my backpacks around the deserted mountainous regions of Ladakh on various treks, but eventually money and time ran out and I had to return to Bangalore and face the mountains of wool awaiting my attention.

Turning the tangled mass of sheep’s hair into two dozen balls of yarn was a full time occupation for the next four weeks. With this entertaining activity completed, it was time to get down to work. I put needle and wool together and spent the next four months clicking away with only a few breaks for meals and the occasional toilet break. That apart, I knitted and knitted and knitted. After some time, it began to look as though I might grow roots at my customary place on the diwan in front of the TV. Roots spread over with a brilliant maroon knitted blanket to boot.

TV became a great ally. Without the constant companionship of Friends and Sienfeld (not to mention Desperate Housewives) I doubt I could ever have finished the blessed garment.

But finish I did, albeit only just in time for Amit’s impending departure to colder climes. I spent New Year’s Day sewing the various pieces together.

Now, you know Amit’s size and the simple reality is that you cannot really get a pattern that caters to his giant proportions. So all this time I had been struggling along with a measuring tape and periodic checks against the live specimen. Let me tell you that in my younger days I had a LOT of experience knitting. In one memorable year, I actually put together as many as seven adult-size sweaters in one winter. But that was then, and then was about 20 years ago. Oh, all right, it was about 15 years ago, what difference? Anyway, by now I had only a very rudimentary idea of the various techniques required in making a full-fledged sweater.

So in a way it should not have been surprising how it turned out. Here’s what became of it:

I had forgotten to shape the neck, so instead of a graceful circle, there was an enormous, gaping, empty square for the head to go into. In an effort to block this, I had tried to put together a spacious turtle neck, but ran out of patience knitting in circles and stopped at the turtle’s belly. The result was that, when turned over, the neck formed a half lapel-like collar, sort of like a Chinese collar that wants to grow into a chrysanthemum.

The front and back were enormously long and wide and looked rather as though they were made to fit two Amits simultaneously.

The drop shoulders dropped so much they came almost to his elbows.

The sleeves were too long, but mercifully the cuffs were a bit too tight, so they didn’t slide down over his hands.

Unfortunately and mysteriously, one sleeve was both longer and wider than the other. This is mysterious because sleeves are usually quite easy to do. You start with a certain number of stitches and then you keep increasing stitches every so many rows until you end up with a certain length and width. As long as you increase stitches regularly, nothing should really go long. But somehow I had managed to make one sleeve longer and broader, despite (and I checked this, twice) starting and ending with the same number of stitches.

The result was that the longer/broader sleeve fell in great loops and jowls between Amit’s armpit and chest like the face of a St Bernard’s.

Overall, the sweater looked distinctly funny.

I have never seen anyone slide from being pleased as punch to being utterly outraged in so short a time. Within seconds indignant exclamations were bursting forth from Amit who was now looking like an enraged (and asymmetrical) bull in a red garment that pretty much defied description. As I could restrain myself from laughing hysterically at the sight, he turned to headquarters for sympathy.

My mother, when contacted by phone, proved to be extremely helpful. She suggested that Amit contort various parts of his anatomy to make them fit the sweater. Alternatively, he could hide the sweater under a substantial jacket.

I stopped laughing long enough to assure Amit that I would try “something” to remedy the worst of the defects over the next few days. I’m really not sure that anything short of extreme surgery can straighten out the misshapen creature, but I’m working on it.

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