Finished Objects Knitting

Mixed feelings and surprising turns – my Ancasta Nettle cable dress

As you might know at this point, knitting for me is not just a nice way to spend time and having something to do. I also want to create long lasting pieces of clothing that carry a significance for me. Clothes that carry stories, feelings and memories, which I can revisit whenever I pull the garment out of the closet. Here’s the story of my Ancasta Nettle dress – which I should probably rename “almost” or “one day”, since it’s still waiting to fulfil its original purpose.

Love at first sight

I had been dreaming of knitting a dress or a tunic for a long time. Knitted dresses are my favourite type of clothing to wear to work, since they look smart, feel comfortable and are extremely versatile. One of my favourite go-to-dresses – you know the one dress you put on when you need a bit of extra confidence, like to a job interview or to give a big presentation – had for quite a while been a really simple black knitted dress, but I had worn it so often I figured I could really use another one.

When I came across the gorgeous pattern for Ancasta dress (on Laine Magazine no. 1), I knew it was the dress for me. I had earlier considered making a Lotta dress, but I was a bit worried that knitting just plain stockinette stitch would make me grow bored. In addition, I just love cables, which probably made Ancasta so irresistible for me. I decided early on to make the hem fitted instead of loose, to better suit my own taste in dresses, and make the sleeves full-length, so I could wear the dress in the winter also without a cardigan.

I started to work on my Ancasta just few weeks after my daughter was born. Since the birth of a child made me even more aware of everything that’s wrong in this world, I wanted to use a yarn without any plastic in it – I couldn’t bear the thought of my baby ever having to drink water infested with microplastic. So I was beyond thrilled when I discovered Onion Knit’s Organic Wool + Nettle yarn, and in a perfect beige colour. So not only was the yarn plastic free, but it had NETTLE in it!

Nettle is such an awesome little weed, that I could write a dedicated post about it. Actually, I will do that and link the text here later! Until then, I’ll just say that for several reasons, nettle is one of my all-time favourite plants, despite it’s reputation as mean little stinger. And for this particular yarn, it gave a beautiful, subtle shine just perfect for something you wear at the office.

Nettle - one of the most underrated wonders of the nature

Bittersweet memories

I vividly remember the day I bought the yarns for the project. I walked to my nearest LYS called Lankamaailma on a crisp and sunny early October day, with my 3-week-old sleeping peacefully in her pram. I had an audiobook playing in my headphones and just feeling extremely excited, blessed and happy about my life. I had so many things to look forward to, I had no schedules or deadlines and my main task in life was just to spend as much time as possible with my sweetest, cutest little baby. And knit, of course, whenever possible.

However, the autumn of 2019 was also a sad time for me and my family. My grandmother had been hospitalised in the summer, and finally in the age of almost 95 years, she passed away not soon after I started the Ancasta project. As I’ve mentioned in my post about my knitting roots, It was originally my grandmother who taught me to knit and beckoned me on when the loops were too tight, when I dropped a stitch (or five) or when my yarns got tangled. So in my mind, I dedicated this project – the most ambitious one so far – also to her, in addition to my daughter.

Now, maternity leave is a very special time in many ways, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, at least like 95% percent of the time. But to be honest, one aspect I really did not enjoy was the maternity (i.e. nursing) clothes. I really missed wearing normal clothes (especially my sweaters!), so my Ancasta Nettle project was in a way therapeutic for me – my plan was to wear it on my first day back at work. Which also meant that I didn’t have to hurry with the project. I knitted it when the baby was sleeping (in the balcony – in Finland almost all babies sleep their naps outside all year round!), but I was every time happy to put it down when she woke up – I had better things to do then!

The bittersweet side of this maternity leave project was, that it made the passing of the time very concrete. As the dress grew longer, my return to work was inevitably approaching, and the precious, special time with my baby girl was slowly but surely coming to an end. On the other hand, it gave the return to work an element of fun: a new, self-made dress to wear.

An unexpected turn

On the last weeks of my maternity leave the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. Nobody knew anything about this new virus, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as scared and small as I did in March of 2020, holding my 6-months-old in my arms and crying silent tears over the fear of losing her. At the same time I felt connected to generations and generations of mothers fearing for horrible diseases and plagues from the Black Death to the Spanish Flu and polio. The crippling feeling of helplessness was simply overwhelming. Luckily the evidence soon began to indicate that the Covid virus was not that dangerous for infants, which made it a bit easier to breathe.

The pandemic of course meant that I did return to work in April 2020, but without actually, physically returning to the office. The upside was that it was a softer way for both me and the baby to move into a new phase. I was able to spend time with her and my husband over coffee and lunch breaks. And with no commuting to the office, the days were shorter.

On the downside, I DIDN’T GET TO WEAR MY ANCASTA DRESS! Instead, I continued to wear the same old ugly maternity clothes that I already hated so much. Being at home during the days made it possible to continue to breastfeed the baby, and I naturally but unfortunately had to put her best interests before my own vanity. (And I wont’t even start with the other downsides of returning to work after a long leave and work remotely – let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.)

Eventually I did get a chance to visit the office (like once or twice), and it was a no-brainer what to wear for the occasion – too bad there was literally nobody to see me. So my poor Ancasta Nettle never really got to play the part I had planned for it! Then came summer, which is not the best time for knitted dresses, and then came the time to quit my job and move to Belgrade. And here we are!

The best is yet to come (for my Ancasta)

Luckily, a hand-knitted garment made with quality yarn is forever, so the time for my Ancasta Nettle to shine may still be coming (IT WILL COME!).

Besides, I have managed to wear it for some meaningful occasions, like the first meeting with the principal of my thesis work, a reception for the Finnish language students in Belgrade, and a wine-and-dine evening with my friends when we were visiting Finland. And I know there are more to come, when life finally gets back to normal one day!

Until then, before the new memories are tied to its stitches, my Ancasta Nettle carries a bit if newborn scent, a lot of excitement over everything new and wonderful, a touch of anticipation and longing, and a dark shade of fear of the unknown. Quite a mix of emotions – but that’s what makes wearing it so special.

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1 Comment

  1. […] I mentioned in a previous post about my Ancasta Dress, the nettle (Urtica dioica) is – despite its mean reputation – the most underestimated […]

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