First FO of 2020–a throwback to 40 years ago?

On Saturday I completed my first finished object of 2020. It’s a simple top-down sweater called the Book Keeper by Alicia Plummer knit in Shelridge Yarns worsted-weight 100% superwash Merino. I bought a set of the five earth-tone colors, one skein each, at the 2017 New York Sheep and Wool Festival. The yarn was lovely to work with and softened nicely after a brief soak. The pattern was very simple and clear, with no real modifications necessary. I was a bit surprised that it called for size 10.5 needles for the body, as that made the garter yoke a bit airy. But that could be in part due to the fact that I’m not a super tight knitter. Also, the beginning of the round is placed in the very middle of the front of the yoke, which creates a small seam-like ridge. I’d probably have chosen to put that in the back.

But once I finished the sweater and put it on, I was struck by how much it resembled the sweaters I wore in the early part of the 1980s–big block colors, earth tones, simple structure. I thought maybe I misremembered, but then I brought out this gem–Die Schönsten Handarbeiten:

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It was given to me by a dear friend, who runs the Goethe Institut library in Manhattan. She received it as a donation to the library, but secreted it away and presented it to me during a visit to the city some years ago. The book was published in 1982 and is a treasure-trove of early 80s continental European fashion fabulousness.

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Luckily, I speak German and learned knitting from a German person while living in Stuttgart. I would probably need a refresher on the specialized vocabulary, but that extra effort would be so worthwhile if it results in creating some of these amazingly dated, yet still wonderful projects. But the page that grabbed my attention was this one:

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That sweater in the upper-lefthand corner looks mighty familiar!

I joke about how the styles from 40 years seem so outrageous now, but something that is mighty impressive about this book is that there is an entire section devoted to men who knit. It starts by observing how the demands on men had changed; they were still expected to be strong, of course, but they should also show their feelings more, be sensitive and caring, not be afraid to cry. Yet, seeing a man knitting in public was something of an oddity, and onlookers didn’t know how to react. The book goes on to profile eight men who proudly and openly practiced their craft. Not too shabby for 1982!

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