Bittersweet

There is something both sad and gratifying in finishing projects started by knitters who are no longer with us. I have been working on projects from a knitter’s queue.  She had put together yarn and pattern for four projects and noted the intended recipients. I hav never met her and I don’t know her name, but from the projects I can get a glimpse of the type of knitter she was. The yarns range from fingering weight to worsted, and the projects from delicate lace to chunky cables. The colors are all muted and I’ll just have to guess whether that was her preference or reflected the tastes of the recipients. She probably regretted not being able to get to these projects and I am happy that they will be more than left behind dreams.

Closer to home, I have finished a knitted cape which was started by a dear friend who passed away a couple of years ago. It was the last project she worked on and she was more than halfway done when she became too sick to knit any more. I would visit with her and we’d talk about the project as she worked on it. She used a pattern in a magazine as a guide, but heavily adapted it to suit a combination of farm-produced and her hand spun yarns and the gauge she wanted. Since she was making up the body pattern as she went along, her daughter and I had to guess at her intentions for the collar, trying to recall what, if anything, she’d said about that part of the plan.

I’ve had the project in my active queue since soon after she died and I’ve worked on it off and on, but mostly off until just recently. There are a lot of memories bound up in this. Not just the visits near the end, but the annual treks to the local sheep & wool festivals, exploration of yarn shops, and just visiting and talking about knitting. Elsie and I spent a fun day in her basement one summer day with dye pots and some boring commercial yarn I wanted to overdye.


Elsie was never afraid of color, the more the better and I’m not sure that she didn’t think my choices were a bit restrained 😏 I called my colorway Mermaid’s Bower and was delighted with it. Years later the yarns are still waiting for me to figure out a project.

Our friendship began when I searched the internet for someone to help me learn about a circular sock machine which I had found at a yard sale. Amazingly she lived just a couple towns away from me and turned out to be the mother of a good friend and work colleague. She was a prolific and skilled fiber artist who dyed, wove, knit and spun (and maybe more). I was surprised, and flattered when she asked me to knit a sweater for her as I truly believed there was nothing she couldn’t do. She picked out a bag of her homespun and favorite worsted yarns, we took some measurements and I made this Adult Surprise Jacket for her.

But back to the cape. I’ve always known it was at the back of the project shelf, and it resurfaced during the tidying up of last week. It needed to be finished and given back to her daughter. I’m sure, deep down, I haven’t wanted to finish it because it will go away. But isn’t that the way it works? We knit for those who are close to us and then those things that we’ve spent hours making go away.

IMG_0368

It’s maybe not exactly as she envisioned it, but I think she’d like how it turned out.

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Author: Jennifer Kortfelt

Owner, Heron Pond Designs, a fiber and textile exploration.

4 thoughts on “Bittersweet”

  1. I love that you finished projects started by others that they were unable to complete. There’s lots of love and care in doing so, plus holding the person close to you while you worked. Lovely work worked with love 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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