In 2004, Mr. Gren and I were living in France. We had a meeting to attend along with Pastor Brian just outside of Venice (what a shame, I know). While there, we visited an American military base with Brian, who had base access. I saw a crochet magazine. I missed crochet! I had brought my hooks with me, but I only had one pattern book. And as any crocheter would know, that’s just not enough! Brian was nice and bought me the magazine.
I fell in love with the sweaters on this page, specifically the Mocha floral sweater.
It’s a little difficult to tell from the scan, but the brown sweater, excuse me, mocha sweater has a mesh yoke bordered by small flowers. The same motif is repeated on the sleeves. The construction of the sweater is a little unusual because you first crochet all the little flowers, connect them in a daisy chain, crochet the mesh on top and then, working from the bottom of the flowers, add the front, back and sleeves. Looking back, this was probably above my skills at the time. But who am I to shy away from things I supposedly can’t do? Full speed ahead!
First, I wrote my mom and asked her to send me some yarn. In France, you can get one kind of yarn — a sort of super soft acrylic sportweight with fantastically flimsy drape. I probably would have been better off using that. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned just from this pattern. It called for a 100% cotton sportweight. Did I pay any attention to that at all? Psh. Would I have a story to tell if I did? I asked my mom to send “brown yarn.” She doesn’t have many shopping options in her area, so the only brown yarn she found was Lion Brand Wool-Ease. Now, I actually like Wool-Ease quite a bit; I’ve used it for various projects since then. But the thing with Wool-Ease is that it’s a worsted weight yarn. If you know anything about yarn, you can see where this is headed. If you don’t know anything about yarn, worsted weight is heavier and works up bulkier than sportweight. Not having crocheted anything more significant than pot holders, I didn’t even consider the yarn weights as a factor in the finished product.
I got right to work crocheting little flowers. I can’t even remember how many now. 27 maybe? It doesn’t matter, because, in the end, it’s probably closer to 100. I blissfully ignored the gauge listed on the pattern and continued to forge ahead with the mesh. And don’t think that I accomplished that all in one fell swoop. There was much mulling over the instructions, and much, much ripping out and starting over. Finally, after weeks of wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finished the yoke. Upon trying it on, I saw immediately that it was going to be a problem. It probably would have fit Mr. Gren better than it did me. There was no way that thing was going to stay on my shoulders. I was so frustrated, that I stuffed all the yarn in a sack in the closet and left it there to rot.
Several months later, I had an itch to tackle this thing again. Comparing my yoke to the photograph, I realized that my flowers were monstrous. My solution? Make fewer of them. The pattern page in the magazine is all marked up with my ridiculous notations, eliminating stitches and so forth to try and make this come out smaller. A better solution? Would have been to go down a hook size. The best solution? Use the right yarn, for pete’s sake! I began cannibalizing ginormous flowers to make new, smaller flowers. I got to the exact same point when my rudimentary crochet skills petered out and my brain began to fry. Into the closet with ye, foul beast!
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how or where to attach the front/back/sleeves. For the next few years, I would continue my vain attempts at finishing this thing. Mr. Gren would come home and see me toiling away with the brown yarn and comment, “Ah, so it’s that time of year again, huh?” Apparently I was fairly predictable. Also predictably, the sweater never made any progress as long as I continued working with the brown yarn. I’d crochet several rows, realize that the spacing or something was off and have to rip the whole thing out again. The positive side of all this is that each time, I learned a little more. I was doing other crochet projects in between my yearly fight with the Mocha Floral Sweater, and those, too, taught me more.
Finally, through all of that, I realized that the wrong yarn was playing a starring role in this tragedy. By this time, we were back in the States. The only cotton yarn I could find was kitchen cotton. But the material isn’t quite as important as the weight. I chose Caron Country Spa, a bamboo-acrylic blend, in some kind of pale green. New start, new yarn, new color. By this time, the only thought in my head concerning this project was conquer. I was not going to let it get the best of me. The mighty struggle continued for another year or so. When I was pregnant with Konik and too ill to move off the couch and had no hope of actually wearing the finished product, I buckled down and finish it I did. Yes! Victory was mine! Except… I hated it now. I shoved it into the bottom of my closet once again. Just like before, I’d pull it out periodically, fuss with it, decide it didn’t look good with anything I owned and cram it back into the closet.
Until this past Sunday.
Perseverance pays off! I’m not in love with it and it could stand to be blocked to straighten out the mesh on the sleeves, but I doubt anyone at church noticed. And besides.