When I first met creative wonder Larissa Brown, she told me that she was working on a book called My Grandmother’s Knitting. I instantly fell for her gumption. Her book is going to offer a gorgeous counterpart to the countless, careless, LAZY instances of journalists saying “This is not your grandmother’s knitting…” This book says, “Hell YES this is my grandmother’s knitting, and it is awesome.”
I am so glad I was able to convince Larissa to include my Concetta Swing Cardigan, a project inspired by an heirloom that I’ve loved my entire life.
Most families pass down folksy, traditional items made with love, things like Christmas stockings, christening shawls and Fair Isle mittens. My treasure is decidedly decadent, a total indulgence for the knitter, my great-grandmother Concetta. This sweater, which has a matching skirt, was knit with a singular intention—to dazzle.
Creating the fabric was no doubt labor intensive—every other stitch on every right side row is decorated with a clear, iridescent sequin. The yarn was well chosen, a smooth, plied yarn that appears to be a wool-nylon blend, perhaps a yarn intended for baby garments. Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine makes a wonderful substitute and stands up to the abrasion of pre-stringing all those sequins.
The inside reveals several loose ends, not woven in after 60 years. I had to laugh—it appears that my at times laissez-faire approach to finishing is in fact genetic! I like to imagine that my great-grandmother simply couldn’t wait to wear this masterpiece.
While the trim, three-quarter length-sleeved top is perfectly modern, my first impulse was to simplify. Knitting with sequins has fallen out of fashion, and perhaps with good reason—there is no getting around that it is a somewhat tedious practice (a tip for threading: measure the length of 10 stacked sequins, then use this measurement to estimate how many you’ve threaded).
To minimize the monotony, I converted the cardigan to a simple circular yoke construction with abbreviated, slightly puffy cap-sleeves, and a decrescendo of sequins. These simplifications keep the knitting pleasant and the overall effect more Vargas than Vegas. I hope you love it as much as I love the original. I wore the original to my senior prom with a vintage jersey disco dress and I felt, quite literally, like a star.