Recently in Ethel Mildred Ferguson Pullover Category

She's up!


The Ethel Mildred Ferguson pattern, sized for busts from 30 to 58 inches and test-knit by multiple patient and talented people, is available for sale. Go get her!


And, as always, my ruminations about the person Ethel, along with photo illustrations, go up alongside the pattern. I had a great time sorting through old photos and swapping stories with my aunt the other day, and this essay is much richer for it. Check it out over here, and be sure to click on all the links and photos. You get much more detail in the larger-sized versions, and there are a few cool bits of ephemera hidden in the text.

Enjoy Ethel!

Meet Ethel


Someone would like to introduce herself.


The finished Ethel Mildred Ferguson sweater, in which I have been absolutely LIVING since I finished it two days ago.

I think all the ripping and re-knitting really paid off in the end. The new, svelter front looks much, much better; it's amazing what a difference an inch plus or minus can make on a garment's overall fit. The current front, especially the lines of the horseshoe cables on either side, more closely mirrors the back and is much closer to what I originally envisioned.


Our photoshoot for this sweater produced some of my favorite Family Trunk Project images yet; I'm still sifting through them, figuring out which ones will go on the site, which in the pattern, and so on. David, Mr. Bingley and I went up to Powell Butte, which is topped with a gorgeous abandoned orchard and wide, rolling hills of brambles and brown grasses; a more perfectly Novembery location I have seldom seen, nor a more fitting setting for Ethel Mildred. Powell Butte didn't have the biographical connections to my great-grandmother that, say, Cleveland High School had for Betty Jean McNeil, but as far as matching object to place I think it was pretty inspired.


I completely fell in love with the location too, independently of the photos; there will definitely be return trips if I have anything to say about it. I was happy to be wearing such a wintery garment, though: the wind up there gets chilly!


In addition to the final front, I'm especially pleased with now the sleeves turned out. They're ever-so-slightly flared, with long cuffs that duplicate the horseshoe cable used on both sides of the body. I really like the hand-skimming length as well; it's one more element in a sea of cozy!


Another delight about wearing this sweater is the texture of the yarn, which I think works well with the overall pattern. I've been loving it throughout the knitting process, and wearing the finished garment is equally special. Sadly, I don't know if future Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm yarn will have the same rustic feel; parts of this years' share were processed at two different mills, and I'm not sure which one won out in the end. That said, I'm sure the Martha's Vineyard Cormo will remain gorgeous, and there are also other rustic yarns, should any of you fall in love with the look of this fabric.


The pattern grading is begun, but quite a way from being finished. For a while I was very responsible about figuring out the multiple sizes for every step in the process, but after a bit I got carried away with wanting to finish my version, and I also realized that there's a slight problem that needs to be sorted out with some of the larger sizes. However! I'm hoping to have it ready for test knitters in late December or early January, with the essay released shortly thereafter. In the meantime, I'm snuggling in for a cozy winter.




The talk has been flying a little fast and loose around the Family Trunk Project blog lately: suggestions that the knitting projects may be progressing "without a fiasco in sight," my own unbelievable statement that I am "making things easy for myself" and do not plan to shed hysterical tears while working on this sweater project.

I think we can all see where I'm going with this.


As of an hour ago, that nice, nearly-finished sweater front I showed you before, looks about like this. It's the fourth or fifth time I've ripped it back. The first three or four times were more or less expected; I've been tinkering with the cable pattern, trying to get it honed to my satisfaction, and trying to decide how I want it to interact with the neckline. And then, this last time, on my ninth draft of the cable, I really thought I had it all sussed out. It looked just like I wanted it to, and I'd even seamed the front and back together. And then, a little issue that had been poking at the back of my brain from very early in the process, leapt forward and demanded my attention.

It was a fitting issue. I won't go into the gory details, but suffice to say, I made a series of decisions early on that resulted in the lower front pooching out a bit, as if the wearer had a little beer belly. And as much as I sometimes find bellies, beer or otherwise, to be charming, that's not the look I was going for here. It was subtle, but it would have bothered me. Rip, rip, rip!

It's funny: logically, I would expect to feel kind of miserable after ripping back, but that's not how it goes for me at all. The misery comes BEFORE the ripping, as I'm trying to make the decision about whether it needs to happen or not. I almost always decide that it does need to happen, and in fact have never regretted ripping out and redoing, so I'm not sure why I persist in fighting it. Nevertheless, it sometimes takes hours of contemplating a piece, getting more and more unhappy in my indecision, before my brain finally snaps into place and I decide to rip. Once I make the decision I always do it rightawaythissecond, since for me the second-most horrible knitting-related feeling is having decided to rip something out but not having done it yet. (The Most Horrible Knitting Feeling I have personally experienced is working for months on something, only to have it be a poor fit. I imagine an even more horrible feeling would be working that hard on a gift for an unappreciative recipient, but thankfully I have never had to deal with that one.) Anyway, once the ripping is done, and the yarn is drying in the laundry room, I tend to feel energized and excited to implement the changes I have in mind, and that's where I'm at right now. I think this next version of the sweater front will be The One...but then again, I could be wrong. I'm confident that it will, at least, be better than the last one.

The odd thing about redoing the front so many times, is that I have a lot of time to work on the other pieces while the yarn is drying out, so my finishing sequence is all off. The front (version 1) was the first piece I finished, and will probably (as version 9) also be the last. The back and one sleeve are done, and the other sleeve is in progress. I know plenty of knitters who intentionally work pieces out of written order - do sleeves first, and get up to all kinds of wacky hijinks - but I am generally so eager to see how the finished product is coming, that I stick to strict seaming order - back, front, (seam), sleeve (seam), sleeve (seam), finishing. It's going to drive me a little nuts that I'll have a back and two sleeves, and not be able to seam them together without the front. BUT. We must persevere. I can seam the underarms to take the edge off.

But seriously, folks.


In addition to silly, silly dog garments, I've been working furiously on the next Family Trunk Project pattern. ("At last!" I hear you exclaim. "I thought she had forgotten the purpose of this blog!") Inspired by Betty Jean's mother, this is the nascent Ethel Mildred Ferguson sweater.


Kind of a terrible name, huh? Ethel Mildred didn't like it much, either. The story goes that when she was little she would often ask "Ma, what's my middle name?" "Oh, Ethel," her mother would impatiently reply, "you know your middle name is Mildred." Upon which young Ethel Mildred would break down into hysterical tears.


But hysterical tears are one thing I hope NOT to experience during the design of this sweater. I'm intentionally making things easy on myself: all of the design elements are well to the front of the area where the increases and decreases for waist shaping and set-in sleeves will occur, so there's no need to fret about disrupting the pattern. And good grief, sweater knitting certainly goes much faster in a worsted weight yarn and size seven needles, than in a fingering-weight yarn on size ones!

The yarn is very special, and, I think, fitting for Ethel's memorial: it's rustic, deliciously sheepy-smelling cormo wool, my share in the newly-minted Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm CSA. For those not familiar with the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) model, it's commonly applied to produce farms: shareholders invest their dollars up front at the beginning of the growing season, and are then entitled to a share of the harvest. If there's more food than anticipated, each shareholder's portion is larger; if something happens to decrease the harvest, the shareholders get less. Generally, shareholders are also welcome to visit the farm at any time, lend a hand with the chores or just bring a picnic. It's a fantastic way to support your local farmers and show confidence in your community economy, and I've often thought about joining one of the many food CSA's in the Portland area. But, truth be told, I'm just not that excited about food, and it seems exhausting to have to come up with imaginative ways to use whatever veggies arrive on my doorstep. When I heard that the concept was being applied to FIBER, though? I rushed over to join, despite Martha's Vineyard being about as far from "local" as you can get without leaving the country. The first crop of shareholders just received our buttery, soft yarn, and it was ideally suited to the Ethel sweater that's been percolating in my brain.


The vine cable motif has been by far the greatest challenge to get hammered out, and this isn't the completely final version; I'll be ripping back to about the armhole bindoff and re-working the upper portion slightly. But I'm pleased with how it's coming, nonetheless.

And that hounds-tooth skirt is a bit of a teaser. It's a little sewing project I'll share with you in a few days.