Skeleton Sweater story for Lost Objects Series on Hilobrow

Illustration for PROJECT:OBJECT by Monica Garwood

I wrote a short story about my lost skeleton sweater for the Lost Objects series on Hilobrow:

Hand-knitting an adult-sized sweater is a big achievement for any knitter. Making one that fits properly is the ultimate knitting win. I managed to accomplish this one time only, and with the addition of a complex custom two-color skeleton design, naturally I loved my handmade cardigan. I wrote up the pattern and posted it online with a tutorial — one of the first of hundreds I would create over the course of my career.

Shortly after finishing it, I brought the sweater, along with several other precious handmade projects, to Maker Faire to show them off. My luggage went missing on the way home⁠ — on a direct flight from SFO to PHX⁠ — and was never found. It felt like the previous creative year of my life had just vaporized. The business cards of all the contacts I had made during the event, the gifts I had purchased, and my original artwork that I had brought in the first place — all gone.

I made a claim with the airline for the lost bag, but they only take responsibility for clothes, tools, and toiletries, and you need to submit receipts for everything over a certain value. How could I possibly show the value of my handmade sweater? I phoned the alpha knitter in my life: my mom. She had a recent receipt for some expensive yarn, which I submitted with my claim. The reimbursement was some solace.

The lesson I learned from this experience is to never, ever check anything you’re not willing to lose or able to replace. Ship stuff ahead with an insured carrier, or carry valuables on with you.

Making the skeleton cardigan piqued my interest in digital knitting machines, since it took over 80 painstakingly attentive hours to knit by hand. Surely a machine would be faster, and give a higher-resolution result. I later bought a computerized knitting machine, and became known online for having “hacked” it to knit out custom digital graphics made on modern software. I can draw a straight line between the desire to replace my lost sweater and the notoriety I gained later on regarding the knitting machine. My usual drive is fueled by curiosity and excitement, but this time I could also feel the palpable motivation to fill an empty space left by my missing sweater, since our time together came to a premature end.

I think about what happened to my suitcase — since it was green (not black), it wasn’t likely in the luggage warehouse, but more likely stolen off the carousel in Phoenix, where I was living at the time. It’s true the pickup curbs are right outside the luggage carousels at PHX, making bag-snatching a cinch. What did the thieves make of the bag contents? Six new blue blank notebooks, my embroidery samples, my hand-knit sweater, tools and camera accessories, and my recently-purchased Thingamagoop synth toy robot… did any of my things come to be significant to those who came across them next?

read the story on Hilobrow

I created the skeleton cardigan in 2008.

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