When I am an old woman

Published on Tuesday May 3rd, 2011

I shall wear a pullover of the darkest shadows in the fir forest, a green so earthy it is almost brown, with the most exquisite florescence of color ever designed at the yoke.

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It shall be softer than a mole’s armpit, as my grandfather would have said, half of its fiber being angora, and it shall have been knit with the smallest needles I own. This is why I shall be very old indeed before I can wear it, but it shall be Worth It. (In fact, I have taken care that the colors will also suit my daughter, because this pullover shall be an Heirloom, dammit.)

Yes, I have spent nine months regularly peeping the SOLsilke website and trying to choose among the many beauteous Bohus sweater kits, and I have finally screwed both my courage and several years’ birthday money to the sticking place and ordered The Wild Apple. I have lusted for these sweaters since I first learned of their existence about five years ago. I have lovingly petted several gorgeous examples that once belonged to Elizabeth Zimmermann, which felt a little like being allowed to leaf through the Book of Kells. A year ago at the Madrona retreat I was spurred to the action of buying a kit by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, who pointed out that master dyer Solveig Gustafsson, recreator and sole purveyor of the materials and designs originally developed by the Bohus Stickning couture knitters in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, is in her eighties and won’t live forever. Much of what I like to knit and design draws on history for inspiration but veers off in a more modern direction, but occasionally it’s invigorating to go straight to the source and knit exactly as the ancestors did. (The lovely book Poems in Color thoroughly describes the Bohus history and offers patterns for many of the designs — hooray! — but presumes that modern knitters will not wish to tackle an entire sweater at 9 stitches per inch. The results are beautiful, but the sport-weight gauge means you lose a touch of the intricacy of the authentic Swedish sweaters.)

But which to choose? I dithered and dithered. Forest Darkness, with its oceanic color shifts? Guld, with its striking golden collar? Blue Shimmer’s pleasing, classic blues and browns? The subtle beauty of Gothic Window? Or the eye-catching Egg? (Here’s a link to the Kerstin Olsson page on Ravelry so you can drool over all of them at once. Follow the SOLsilke link above and click “Bohus Stickning” if you’re not a Raveler.)

Finally, I decided the choice was simple. The Wild Apple was the first Bohus design to make my heart beat faster, and it still does. It’s the most riotous of the color schemes, but I had no idea how raucous some of those oranges and greens actually were until I breathlessly tore open the package from Sweden that arrived on my doorstep this week. I would never have had the guts to combine these colors. The Bohus addition of purl stitches to the motifs allows the designer to integrate colors to an unusual degree, to bring them into conversation rather than just contrast, but still… mint and olive greens? Paprika and cherry reds? That Kerstin Olsson knew the rules well enough to break them and wasn’t afraid to be loud. I’ll bet my grandmother would have liked her. Because those yoke colors remind me more than a little of this:

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detail from my grandmother’s castle tapestry

Here’s a glass raised to old women with sure minds and sharp needles. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

16 Comments to “When I am an old woman”

  1. Barbara Comment Says:

    Your color choice is beautiful-how exciting. Will it be a cardigan or pullover? I went to the site but could not see how to place an order or the cost of a kit.

  2. thea Comment Says:

    The bohus sweaters are aboslutely gorgeous and your colors will be lovely – nice picks.

    And I soooo love that last line: Old women with sure minds and sharp needles. I want to be one of those when I grow up!

  3. Sarah Comment Says:

    gorgeous gorgeous kits. Definitely heirloom. And I predict you will have it finished much sooner than you think 😉

  4. Sandy Comment Says:

    Bravo! I admire your courage but am not possessing the skilz to conquer that mountain right now! I shall watch your progress with admiration.

  5. Emily Comment Says:

    I, too, have plotted and drooled over these, and Wild Apple is a favorite of mine as well, although I think Forest Darkness with its crazy deco-looking rectangular motifs might be my first choice if I ever bring myself to order one of these beauties. Also LOVE Guld but don’t look good in grays & yellows. Have fun!

  6. Ingrid Comment Says:

    It looks amazing – you are a bohus enabler! You will feel grown up soon enough, enjoy your current state while it lasts.

  7. Denise Comment Says:

    I may have to wait until I am an old woman to even attempt to knit one of those beauties.
    I love the “old woman” wisdom you already have…Your sweater will be a masterpiece.

  8. skeindalous Comment Says:

    How about old women with sharp minds and sure needles? That sounds good, too! I also bought a kit to make Wild Apple, spurred by Steph’s posts. It has yet to be begun. I tremble at the thought. Keep us informed about your adventures.

  9. connie Comment Says:

    Ooooh, pretty! Now you’ve gotten me lusting for these sweaters! Fortunately, my color knitting skills suck, so it’s harder to justify spending so much money on a kit and thus easier to resist 😉 How is Ava?

  10. connie Comment Says:

    Sorry, mistyped, I meant “Ada”… 😉 It’s what I wanted to name Olivia, but my husband said no 🙁 I liked the association with Ada Lovelace, an early female scientist.

  11. Susie Comment Says:

    I love these jumpers. I’m trying to learn stranded knitting at the moment and I’m not succeeding, because I am cackhanded and dim :-(. Some day perhaps!

  12. Anne Comment Says:

    Amen. I’ll see your glass and raise you a second one. It’s gonna be a stunner.

  13. Seanna Lea Comment Says:

    I’ve wanted to do a Bohus for a while, but I’m a bit wishywashy when it comes to getting things done. I really should buckle down and finish things before I go for a very expensive kit.

  14. Linnea Comment Says:

    It is amazing how quickly one becomes an “old woman.” One thinks it is a long time coming. In fact, it is just around a short corner.

  15. Kristen Comment Says:

    Oh, magnificent choice! Wild Apple is my favorite as well, though the yellows of Guld and Egg also make my heart sing. I hope the knitting of it brings you great joy and many happy hours, and the wearing still more.

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