My 5 Stages of Holiday Sweater Grief thanks to Covid-19

A note before we get started, I do feel a little bit like I’ve felt all of the feelings about the holiday season this year. Not being able to see my family regularly, particularly the older members of my family, has been a gentle reminder about how lucky I am to have them. As I poke fun about the situation, know that keeping everyone safe this year is my top priority. Even if it makes me a little sad.

Stage 1: Denial

Back in September, I plotted three big projects. One of them was my accidental NPR shawl, another was my second attempt at the Stonewall sweater and the third was a Campside sweater. Each of these projects had a purpose: the shawl for adding some color to my winter wardrobe, Stonewall for hiking and Campside for Christmas.

As the stitches of Campside slid along my needles, I was oddly confident that Covid-19 wouldn’t get in the way of our traditions. There was even pure glee at the thought of my Cioci touching the soft cashmere blend of Capra and admiring the color. I could see us gushing on projects that we were working on and projects that we were planning. For 27 years, I have sat at my Cioci’s table and enjoyed a cooked Turkey. Why would this year be any different.

Stage 2: Anger

This stage sunk in as cases started to rise around me. Why is this still a thing? Why aren’t people following the CDC guidelines? Why do people still think that this isn’t real? Don’t people know that I’m working on a sweater that I want to show off?

Stage 3: Bargaining

At this point I had started the first sleeve. Perhaps if we all stay home and quarantine before getting together. Perhaps if we all wear masks we can all crowd round the dinner table. I’ll give up on the idea of everyone touching the squishy goodness of my sweater.

Stage 4: Depression

This stage sunk in when I received the official news in the form of a hand written note: we would not be celebrating in our traditional manner this year. I would not be knitting a few rows while we laughed about the Apples to Apples game that was taking place or sipping a coffee while admiring my Cioci’s latest blanket project (she’s a crocheter).

True, I was sad that I wouldn’t get to show off my special holiday sweater, but during this stage I was mostly upset that I wouldn’t get to spend time with my family (I can’t even make light about this stage).

Stage 5: Acceptance

I will wear my new sweater proudly, even if that means no one will be able to see it in person or admire how soft it is. There will come a day when I can see my family in person again, just not on Christmas Day. I am incredibly lucky that under normal circumstances, we are able to get together at all.

My (accidental) NPR Scarf

About a month ago, I caved and bought yarn for three big projects. After careful consideration, the first project to be casted on was Cold Spring Shawl by Kirsten Hipsky. Other than changing the cast on number to 120, I didn’t make any modifications to the pattern.

In progress Cold Spring shawl. The fourth strip (orange black) is currently being worked on.
In progress Coldspring Shawl, knit in Aloft

Despite enjoying the Lava Lake shawl, I found Cold Spring too simple of a project and often found myself putting off knitting it. Knit a row, purl a row, knit a row. Eventually change colors. Repeat. The saving grace to this project is that the colors I chose were high contrast!

My partner spent a lot of time looking at this shawl, trying to figure out what flag it made him think of. As I loaded yet another NPR podcast, we realized where my colors probably came from. Not too shabby subconscious. I’m happy with the way these colors turned out!

Knitting for Myself

I’ve been following callmedwj on Instagram for a few years now. I think it happened when we were both added to a group for promoting the Fibre Co, but honestly it doesn’t matter how it happened. Her content is so much fun to look at and as more challenging conversations have been happening in the crafting community, her content has been thought provoking.

Lately, I’ve been think a lot about what Dana posted about on her story: how she apologetically knits for herself and that every year for her birthday she makes herself a sweater. Now, Dana knits a lot of sweaters, so it really should not have been a surprise that she took the time to make herself a sweater just for her birthday. For some reason, I felt as though she gave me permission to no longer feel bad about knitting sweaters for myself even though it meant not working on something for others.

I probably didn’t really need this permission, it’s a concept that I’ve been working towards in the last few years, but I started my knitting journey by knitting someone a baby blanket. I literally started my knitting career with the goal of knitting gifts for other people and spent years stressing myself out around the holiday season to get it done. Last year was the first year I decided not to knit for for the holiday season only to change my mind and crank out a few last minute items.

When Dana admitted that she learned to knit so she could knit for herself, I was in awe. I mean, how awesome is that? To, from the beginning, say that this is something special that I do for myself. So, I took Dana’s message and my almost non-existent yarn stash (at the time that this post is being written I only have two skeins) and picked out a few projects on Ravelry that I’ve been eyeing for myself. Then I bought the yarn for them and I’m so excited!

It’s not even super fancy hand dyed yarn, I bought some sale yarn from KnitPicks (ok and some non-sale yarn). The point is, I sat down, let myself get excited and then bought yarn for three projects.

My first attempt at Stonewall, 2015

The first project I purchased yarn for is Alicia Plummer’s Stonewall. This pattern was my third or so sweater and went so wrong the first time I made it. First and foremost, it grew about a foot when I blocked it. Don’t ask me whether or not I did a gauge swatch a) because I did and b) because the circumference of the sweater fit great. The next problem was that I wasn’t good at picking stitches for necklines, so the neckline didn’t lay flat. The last big problem, is that the hip shaping on most of Alicia’s designs look terrible on me.

So here we are, 5 years later. I’m a better knitter and am still in love with the look of this sweater. It’s going to be knit in Wool of the Andes, colorway pumpkin.

Next up is another sweater by Alicia Plummer: Campside Pullover. This is a sweater that has been in my queue for a long time, I think I purchased the pattern the first week it came out. I’m not sure how easy it will be to eliminate the hip shaping, but I’m going to knit it in Capra, colorway Embers Heather. Hello on sale Cashmere blend! I wonder if I can get it done in time to wear it for the Holidays.

The final project I’ve picked out (and bought yarn for!) is Cold Spring Shawl by Kirsten Hipsky. The plan is to blend three colors of Aloft (Celestial, black and Koi) in the hopes of ending up with a warm airy piece. Separately, these colors are in my wheel house, but they’re not something I would have thought to combine.

I’m excited! It isn’t always easy to buy yarn for larger projects and I’ve just purchased yarn for three of them. I’m lucky to have a supportive partner and the ability to jump at yarn sales.