I had brunch with my best friend over the weekend.  It had been a while since I’d seen her, and it made me sooooo happy to catch up. 

There are a boatload of reasons I couldn’t live without Lish.  She’s an amazing person.  Although we both live in California these days, we met far, far away in a land called New Jersey.  We both come from tiny towns in the same Midwestern state, although our paths didn’t cross until we were knee-deep in all things Jersey – back when we were wild-and-crazy twentysomethings. 

Familiar, anyone?

Familiar, anyone?

Both thoroughly white-bread and corn-fed at the time, with pale skin that could blind you in winter and (arguably more importantly) not much experience yet in the way of street smarts, we stuck out *just* a tad amongst the been-around-the-block-a-few-times Italian-American brew that is Northeastern NJ.  Our specialty was dancing in bars that weren’t actually set up for dancing, as well as harassing DJs until they would play “Sweet Caroline” for us (so good! so good!) and hurling ourselves toward the stage when local cover bands struck our fancy.

Since then we’ve taken our show on the road to any state, country, or continent that will let us in.  Our passports have taken a nice beating together, and it’s fair to say we’ve gained a fair bit of worldly wisdom (some days this is debatable).  One jet-set long-weekend trip took us to Portugal – my recollection includes a very sweaty hike up to the top of a Moorish castle and some guy named Paolo? Marco? Marco Paolo? – but that’s a story for another post. 

However (here comes the segue) – Portugal is the place that harbors the location that inspired my new knitting project.

I’ve had this project in my unofficial queue for a while now, but haven’t Ravelried* it yet because I’m kind of making it up as I go along.  I wouldn’t say I’m designing this sweater, really; I’m loosely basing it on a sweater I picked up a few years ago when I was at The End of the World

Ah, yes – good question.  Basically, this is a very, very windy place on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic at the the southwesternmost point in Europe.  Back in the day, before their little boats made it over to the Americas, the Europeans considered this the edge of the world: a horizon of churning water stretched as far as the eye could see, beyond which lurked the abyss.  Whodathunk there were a bunch of people across the pond, eh, guys?  Silly landlubbers.

 Fisherman's Sweaters

Fisherman's Sweaters

Right.  So when you’re at The End of the World, it’s not only a minor tourist attraction with a nice view and a story to go with it, but also an opportunity to freeze your patootie off.  Even on a bright, sunshiny mid-summer day like the one of my visit, it was nippy, with wind gusting in every direction.  I need to find the photo from that trip to properly illustrate this; the one in which I’m still shooting for glamorous with my pose, but all bets are off with my swirling hair captured with all split-ends pointing north – straight up, Paula.

It’s-Not-Really The End of the World was a draw for me as a side trip from the warmer climes of the beach far below mostly because of the “seaworthy sweaters” that my guidebook told me were on offer there.  I envisioned a weather-beaten crinkly-looking Captain Ahab, perched next to his ramshackle lean-to of a vendor stall, balancing on the leg that wasn’t his peg-leg, eyeing me suspiciously, ready for me to barter with him for one of his authentic salty-sea-smelling jumpers.  Of course, these would be hot off the needles; pleasantly-irregular creations that the missus was whipping up for him back down on the boat in his quarters.  Maybe after we shook on the deal for one of his wife’s crafts, he’d mutter “Arrrrrrr” gruffly under his breath as I walked away.  In my last glance back at him before forging ahead to the mighty sea, I might even catch him picking at his teeth (what remained of them) with his steel hook of a hand.



One word: authentic

Ahab turned out to be a Portuguese kid wearing a Yankees T-shirt and outlandishly shiny bling.  The missus was nowhere in sight, but I suspect she may have been kicking her feet up after hitting the “go” button on the industrial-grade knitting machine a few hundred times. 

Even though it was a teensy bit different than I’d imagined, there was still a nice display of sweaters that did indeed look seaworthy.  Machine-made with acrylic or not, these little fellas had led me here – I’d come a long way and was going to have a look.  Plus I was starting to get pretty cold, and they were looking mighty warm.

The Fisherman’s Sweaters weren’t incredibly ornate – just very simple Aran-inspired designs, most with a few cables and big cozy collars or turtlenecks; some with cheesy design patterns, some more plain and to the point, which were the ones I liked best.  Bulky knits, as you’d imagine, and in an array of earthy tones.  True, the cardboard boxes they came out of didn’t foster that handmade feeling, but I still decided I needed to take a sweater home with me (and/or immediately pull it over my wind-whipped mane and shivering blue lips).  I chose one in a heathery sandy color with a short zip at the top to keep out the wind, and proceeded to speedwalk out to the edge of the cliff for a gander before scampering back to the safe haven of the car.

When I bought this sweater, I wasn’t yet a knitter, and frankly, would have been shocked at the time to learn that I’d ever become one (such was my aversion to anything approaching a domestic art).  However, since I’ve picked up the needles, it’s crossed my mind that it would be fun to re-make this sweater with a nicer natural fiber and a few modifications to make it just right.  I’ve seen a host of patterns out there for something similar, but I’m going to give this a go with making my own measurements and building a pattern based on the gauge of the yarn I choose.


Color: Driftwood, 161

And that yarn is:  Rowan Plaid.  Poor Rowan Plaid.  Why discontinued, why?  Not that I’ve made anything from this yarn yet so as to form a strong attachment, but it just seems so well-loved by the knitting community at large.  I’ve had a few Ravelrers message me to ask if I’m willing to sell part or all of my Driftwood colorway, but I’ve had this stashed specifically for my Fisherman’s Sweater since the Rowan Plaid pattern book caught my eye with its chilly-seaside photo spread.  I grabbed the last of this colorway on sale at Jimmy Beans (after a flirtation with and eventual purchase of Sea Kelp for another project) when they were liquidating the last of their Plaid inventory last year.  So sad.  The fact that they were getting rid of it, that is – not the fact that I was lucky enough to snag it before it was gone!

Chilly.  Seaside.

Chilly. Seaside.

Bottom line – my baby’s now on the needles, and I’m lovin’ it.  No good light for a photo of my work yet, but will do this soon.

If it turns out as fabulously as I’m planning for it turn out, I’ll post the pattern for anyone who wants to give it a shot.  Easier to decide if you’re in this category, of course, after you’ve seen the final product.  When I’m finished we’ll decide how the original acrylic prototype – the photo of which I will hold in suspense for now (meaning I haven’t gotten around to taking it yet) – stacks up to my creation.  Here’s hoping this moves along without any tears, other fits of drama, or industrial-grade knitting machines.  Stay tuned, just in case.


*Oh, ravelried – don’t you just love the verb form?   I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’m now declaring “ravelry” as not only a noun but also a verb, in all its glory:

1rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ noun —  website community where all the cool knit-kids hang out
2rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ verb —  to enter the details of a knitting project, pattern, fiber, or accessory on one’s profile on the aforementioned website, so that everyone can see what you’re up to, or plan to possibly be up to in the future


Inflected Form(s):

rav·el·ring; rav·el·ried \ˈra-vəl-riŋ, ˈra-vəl-rēd\



rav·el·rer \ˈra-vəl-rər\ noun — one who ravelries