Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater and The Sheffield Infinity Scarf

The Sheffield Infinity Scarf

Several years ago I was involved with a man who was British, and he lived in Sheffield, England. Despite the fact that I was here in Boston and we had the vast Atlantic Ocean separating us, I was smitten and I wanted to create a hand crafted testament of my affection for him. No mere hat or scarf would do. Gloves? Mittens? NO! I wanted to craft something warm, that would envelop him and make him think of me every time he wore it next to his skin. I wanted to make him a sweater!

Some of you let out a gasp right now. You are the savvy women & men who are aware of the dreaded Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater. AKA the Sweater Curse or the Curse of the Love Sweater. This legend has been passed down in knitting circles and families for generations. If you knit your significant other a sweater, you are invoking the curse and the relationship will be doomed to end. In some versions of the myth the relationship will end before the sweater is finished. This is not an obscure folktale. It is a discussion that takes place in yarn stores, knitting/crocheting groups, either online or in-person, and has found it's way onto blogs and into mainstream media. It's not taken lightly either. In a 2005 poll conducted by the online knitting magazine Knitter's Review, 41% stated that they had thought twice about knitting for their romantic interests. 15% of those polled admitted that they were victims of the curse. 

I was not aware of this until I went searching for the perfect pattern for him. There were whispers I ignored. I had not gone back for a refresher course in knitting yet at that point, so I was still crocheting exclusively. The curse seemed to be less invasive in that section of the Yarn Universe. Then I came across Debbie Stoller's The Happy Hooker and the Jolly Roger sweater brilliantly designed by Lynn Zykowski. Matthew was, at the time, going for his masters in archaeology, specializing in osteology (the study of bones) and there were supposedly pirates in his genealogical background. The pattern could not have been more perfect. I decided the so called curse was an urban myth. Besides, it only talked about knitted sweaters. I was crocheting a sweater so it didn't apply to Matthew and I. Our love would be curse free. 

Elated, I floated into Downtown Crossing (okay I took the T) and purchased the precious skeins called for in the pattern. It cost about $150 at the time, which is not an inconsequential investment for a gal who lives paycheck to paycheck. I don't remember exactly how long it took me to finish it. I worked on it incessantly, and since crocheting works up faster than knitting I am going to estimate that it was maybe 3-4 weeks. I can remember being on the shuttle bus commuting home from the hospital. As I worked on one of the sleeves, I was gushing as I told the poor guy sitting next to me what I was making and for who. 

When it was finished I lovingly wrapped it, packaged it, addressed it and posted it to the UK. And then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally I got the text it had arrived and he was, well, lukewarm. I know he's British and tended to be a bit stoic but I was heartbroken. It was not the response I had hoped for or was expecting. 

This is a picture of Matthew, in the stunningly crafted sweater I made for him. He sent this as a sort of an apology. He knew his response to the sweater had crushed me. Look at that expression on his face. That should have been my first red flag. It wasn't. It ended. Not right away, it took a while before that happened, but end it did. Badly. When it was over I demanded the sweater back. He sent it back. I put it in a box in my closet where a mouse got to it and ruined it before Orlando got to the mouse. I wish I could say that was the worst of my behavior during the break up but I can't.

Was my relationship with Matthew doomed? Yes. Was it because of the sweater curse? No, but I still would have to think long and hard before I made something else for someone I was involved with on a romantic level.  I'll happily knit and crochet hats and anything else for friends, family and charity, but if I am infatuated with you, you will have to go to the store to get your knit/crochet wear.  It's not that the item itself is cursed, or that the item is poorly crafted. I think it's the symbolism that is woven in with the stitches that causes the problems.

Sometimes the Crafter can sense the relationship is about to end and unconsciously creates an item as a last ditch effort to salvage what remains. I did this with another boyfriend and a blanket. That relationship was pretty much over by the time I fastened off. The receiver can also see the gift as something too intimate too fast. Especially with an item like a sweater. The gift represents a commitment that the person is not yet willing to be obliged to make. Or it could be as simple as the knitter/crocheter sees the gift as something significant. They know the hours and money invested in the item. The time it took and the number of stitches. To them the sweater is a testament. To the receiver it's just a sweater like the 10 other sweaters in the closet. Or, like it was in my relationship, a little bit of all of those things landsliding into one big avalanche of tension.

He actually loved the sweater and was disappointed I asked for it back. In the aftermath of our implosion he said that for him it was a reminder of everything that was precious about the time we had spent together. Common sense tells me that the curse of the boyfriend sweater is nonsense, but my heart still remembers the pain and overrules my head.

The sweater wasn't the only thing I made for Matthew. I also made him a hat. I think I let him keep that, I can't remember, and a scarf that he never received because it ended before I had the chance to give it to him. That scarf is the basis for one of the new patterns I posted on Craftsy and Ravelry this weekend.

The original was my own creation, a scarf with tassels on either end. Because of the color work there were a lot of ends to weave in and I HATE weaving in ends. The tassels were an easy way to avoid that dreaded task. I made it in his favorite color of green and accented it with black. The yarn I chose was Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted. This scarf was stitched with love and perhaps a small amount of desperation to keep something going in a deteriorating relationship. I think I too wanted to create something that was a reminder of what was precious during our time together. We had both forgotten those things by then. 

I kept the scarf over the years as a reminder for me of him, of the intimacy we shared, but also because I liked the style. I wore it one day last winter and a woman on the bus asked me about it. I didn't tell her the whole story, but that encounter planted the seeds of publishing the pattern. Revising the scarf for publication would create something special out of the mess it was originally created in. I truly believe that sometimes the most beautiful things can come from the most difficult of circumstances. Even if it's something as simple and symbolic as an infinity scarf.


1 comment:

  1. You do such great work Kris. I'm glad you started a blog. I look forward to seeing more posts. :)