Once upon a time there was a boy whose mother was a knitter and whose father was a button maker. The mother wanted to knit a cozy wool sweater to keep her boy warm in the wintertime. (Just kidding, I’m not going to tell the story that way.)
This sweater was a long time in the making, let me tell you! For years I was completely in love with the Gramps pattern by Tin Can Knits. I knew I wanted to knit it for Bracken. First I was going to knit his sweater with some handspun yarn, then with some other yarn from some farming folks at a fiber festival, but with both I just wasn’t able to get the right gauge to make those yarns work for the pattern, and using either of them would have taken way more adjustments than I wanted to think about. So finally I headed to the yarn shop to pick out some yarn that would work. I chose Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed. The yarn was purchased at Stash, my long time favorite yarn shop.
I decided on brown and green. (The name of the green colorway is Button Jar. Love!) I was surprised when the yarn broke a few times when I pulled too hard on it, but on their site it said- “Shelter is woolen spun, meaning the fibers remain in a lofty jumble that traps air and offers remarkable warmth and lightness. Its two plies are gently twisted to preserve that buoyant quality, so Shelter is a little more delicate than most commercial yarns.” I knit gently with it and was mindful not to pull too hard. One thing I really liked about the yarn was the different flecks of color throughout, and it made for a beautiful sweater.
Once I had the yarn figured out, I was finally ready to start knitting. I have very little experience knitting sweaters, so I struggled quite a bit. I got stuck in the beginning and went to a nearby knitting group for some help. I had to pull out my knitting and start over a few times. I ended up figuring it out and moving forward, but kept getting stuck at different parts of the pattern. I would look through forums and search online for help. (And sometimes the sweater would get set aside for a stretch when I couldn’t figure it out.)
After being a good ways into the sweater, I realized that Tin Can Knits had helpful tutorials on their website! Not only helpful tutorials, but in-depth tutorials, which you can find on this page. (That page is a treasure! Incredibly helpful and such a great resource.) If you knit the Gramps cardigan, they have step by step tutorials specifically for that cardigan and they are your best friend! (By the way, I also contacted the designers when I got stuck and they responded quickly with help. They were awesome!) It’s funny to me now how long I struggled, when those helpful tutorials were there all along. When I found them, I wished I had discovered them in the beginning. And you know what? At the bottom of each page of the pattern it said they had in-depth tutorials. Ahem. So learn from me, knitting friends, and make things much easier on yourself!
If I remember correctly, I wanted to knit this sweater for Bracken’s 5th birthday, but the yarn I had wasn’t working out for it and I ended up knitting him a vest (a few months after his birthday) instead. I got the yarn for the sweater in August of last year, intending to finish the sweater for Bracken’s 6th birthday in October. I didn’t finish it for that birthday, or for Christmas… But you know what? I did eventually finish the sweater! (All the while knowing I needed to get it done while it still fit him!) What a good feeling it was when I blocked it and then sewed on the buttons. (The collar looked a little stiff after blocking it, but will loosen up as he wears it.) I was able to give Bracken his sweater for his 7th birthday. It wasn’t a total surprise, because he had seen me working on it for so long, but I had finished it in the summer and then saved it until his birthday in the fall, since he wouldn’t wear his wool sweater in the summer anyway. Tucking it away for that time, he did forget about it for awhile, which made it sort of a surprise when he opened it.
Bracken shares his name with the fern that grows around here, as well as throughout North America. The colors of his sweater reminded me of the forest and I started calling it his woodland sweater. When he was little he would always ask me to tell him stories and once I made up a story about him that I called ‘Bracken of the Wood’ and it was one he always loved to hear. That makes calling it his woodland sweater even more fitting I think.
Oh yes, and the buttons! Tree buttons seemed fitting for his woodland sweater and I asked Jeff if he would make some. He made tree buttons in several different woods for me to choose from, bless his heart. I originally thought buttons in mountain mahogany would be amazing, but I ended up falling in love with a set he made in Oregon myrtlewood. (This set in the shop he made with some myrtlewood that was lighter in color and I almost chose those, but I liked the wood that was a tad bit darker better with the sweater.) I think the buttons really make the sweater! (The pattern called for 1/2 inch buttons, the buttons I used were just a smidgen over an inch. The larger buttons fit just fine with the flexible buttonholes and I loved the way that size looked with the sweater.)
On a sidenote: when I finished knitting the sweater and all I had left to do were the elbow patches, I almost skipped that part because I was feeling so impatient to finish it. I’m so glad I didn’t skip that part, though, because I adore the elbow patches on this sweater!
I snapped a few pictures of Bracken wearing his sweater during our trip at Thanksgiving. I included them because I think the bangs-flying-in-the-wind in that first picture are so fantastic and the second one is so sweet in his great grandma’s garden in the afternoon light, but they didn’t really show the sweater that well. (And when a sweater has taken so long to complete, you really want to get some pictures of it!) On our most recent trips to the beach I took some more pictures…
I’m so pleased with the way this cardigan turned out, Gramps is such a beautiful pattern! Luckily Bracken’s hat I knit for him last year, though a different shade of green, matches well enough to go with his sweater. I realize I didn’t end up taking pictures of his woodland sweater in the forest (which would have been fitting), but the beach had some beautiful lighting for it. As pleased as I’ve been with the sweater, what makes my mama heart happiest of all is just how very much Bracken loves it and how often he wants to wear it. A handknit made specially for you by someone who loves you feels is a bit magic, doesn’t it? My hope is that every time Bracken wears it he will feel wrapped up in some extra love. I think we could all use constant reminders of how dearly loved we are, and though there are so many ways to do that for others, giving a handknit is one of my very favorites ways.
And that, my friends, is a story of a special woodland sweater, a long time in the making.