Yarn Along: The Sumo Sweater Saga (by Bethany)

After almost a week of total radio silence here on the blog (to mix a metaphor), I’m back for Yarn Along. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. Apparently it’s hard to concentrate on reading in the weeks leading up to a cross-country move. Who knew?

From 2007 until last spring I worked at an independent Catholic high school that is both very good and very weird. All kinds of crazy, wonderful nonsense happened there. Once the whole school sang happy birthday to Ralph Nader. Another time we had a memorial Mass for a priest who had passed away on Halloween morning, with everyone – students and faculty – dressed up as axe murderers and panda bears and Elmo and what have you. And for the past couple of years, we have hosted an annual FACULTY SUMO WRESTLING TOURNAMENT as a fundraiser.

Now, the old me (let’s say the pre-2008 me) would have been all about sumo wrestling my colleagues. But this tradition didn’t begin until 2010, and by then I was already pretty consumed with some health issues that would make sumo wrestling inadvisable. I felt bad that I couldn’t participate, though, especially since the tournament was for charity, so last year I decided to contribute a custom-knit item to the raffle that is held at the tournament. The idea was that I would meet with the winner and discuss his or her wishes and then make a hand-knit item to his or her specifications. I got a new knitting project, I didn’t have to sumo-wrestle anyone, and the school’s fundraiser made more money: everyone was happy.

The winner of my hand-knit item turned out to be one of my students. He had been in my sophomore honors English class in 2010-11, and then he was in my junior honors English class last year. I brought a handful of patterns to school (he wanted a sweater) and we talked yarn and took measurements. I started the sweater right after Christmas But then, of course, things started to go very bad shortly after Christmas. By February 2 I was out of school on a medical leave, tending to the very same health problems that made it impossible to sumo wrestle. I kept working on his sweater, but I found that knitting increased my chronic neck pain and I had to stop for a while. Then when I could knit again it was summer, and the thought of having an almost-finished adult-sized sweater spread out across my lap was not too appealing. So I waited. And I procrastinated. And I worked on other projects. And I read a few books.

Finally, last weekend, I pulled out what I am now calling the Sumo Sweater and got busy. I went to visit a friend in Vermont, and I worked on the sweater throughout Friday night as we talked and played Scrabble. Then on Saturday I finished it. I brought it to school on Monday and gave it to my former student. I think he was surprised. I think he liked it too.

Here’s another shot that shows the detail on the sweater a little better:

The book in the photos, of course, is Madame Bovary. I have a similar relationship with this book as I do with the Sumo Sweater. I have spent lots of time carrying it around with me this month. I have admired the beautiful cover. I have taken pictures of it.  I have read the first chapter about nineteen times. And – just yesterday morning – I finally got busy reading it. I will finish it before the end of October, I promise. Just ask my student who won the Sumo Sweater: I do occasionally, against all odds, finish the things I start.

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4 Responses to Yarn Along: The Sumo Sweater Saga (by Bethany)

  1. steph says:

    what a generous raffle item—-and the fact that you had this student in class must have made the knitting just a bit more fun (I tend to think about the recipient of my knits, from cast on to bind off…..I’m sure no one knows they are getting all that good karma along with the their woolies!) glad to hear you are feeling up to the knitting again.

    • lfpbe says:

      Yes, absolutely – it was fun thinking of him as I knit! It was a pattern that I love and will definitely use again, so now I’ll think of that student and this weird, fun story every time I use it. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Valerie Remington says:

    The sweater is beautiful! I love this post. I wish my old school was as clever.

    • lfpbe says:

      Thanks, Valerie! I’ve worked at three independent high schools and they’ve all been quirky in their own ways, but teachers sumo wrestling for charity comes close to taking the cake!

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