Knitting for the Older People in Your Life?

On July 29, Nora Gaugan wrote a post about knitting for the older women in one’s family. Nora suggested a few patterns but didn’t explore the topic any more. I think it needs addressing.

LindaErase2First, don’t be afraid to knit or crochet something a little stylish and colorful for your granny. For goodness sake, they are old – not dead! Think of age as a marker for experience and wisdom … why should such people dress like frumps?

Next, when knitting for any age person, you should consider that person’s likes and dislikes. While older people are generally thought of as “set in their ways,” young people can be just as firm – if not firmer – about what they like!

My son-in-law’s mother E provides examples I can draw on.

  • Though nearing 70, E continues to have severe and frequent hot flashes. (By way of example, when I am bundled in a wool coat, hat, gloves and scarf, she wears a sweater.) So if knitting a winter sweater for E, my first choice would probably be Brown Sheep Company Inc.’s Cotton Fleece (80% cotton/20% wool). Cotton Fleece comes in some great colors! (By the way, Brown Sheep Company is a family owned- and operated-spinning mill in Mitchell, Nebraska, USA.)

LindaErase4Chic Knits has several elegant cardigan patterns that would work beautifully for older women.

(By the way, I have my eye on this Elisbeth Cardi for myself. I love the way the simplicity of the vest/cardigan showcases the cabling. I’m sure there’s enough worsted weight yarn in my stash just waiting to be knit into this pattern.)

Third, what is it about the hand knit item you wear that that person admires? That will give you some ideas about what you could knit for her/him.

  • E and I like to take “power walks” together around a big park. When she admired my a pair of fingerless gloves I knit, I said, “These were an experiment. It would help me if you would try these on and let me know what you think of the fiber, color and fit.” I learned that she loved the feel of the yarn, that they were a bit too small for her, and that she would have chosen green! (So guess what I soon surprised her with!)

Next: What colors does the person like? Remember, that may be quite different from the colors s/he tends to wear.

  • E could wear so many colors but she tends to wear colors I think of as faded or dusty. Why? Because her now-ex-husband regularly criticized her and over their 35 years together and this became her way of feeling invisible. But after one too many of her “oh, I wish I could dress like you” laments, I dragged her with me to one of my favorite clothing stores. I learned a lot watching her: She loves purple – the deep purple of violets! She loves jackets with some swing! She loves unusual pins! She loves colorful shoes! I think she just needed a friend to say, “Wow, that looks great on you!” While E still has a lot of dusty-looking clothes, over the years she, slowly but surely, has incorporated color.

Fifth: Does the person have any disabilities or limitations that you should take into consideration? For instance, large buttons or a zipper might be easier on arthritic fingers than small buttons.

  • Another example, but not E: My father had Parkinson’s Disease, and he preferred cardigans to pullover sweaters. But buttons and thin zippers frustrated him. Instead, I sewed in Velcro closures and thick zippers (almost like zippers on sleeping bags), with some sort of pull ring far. They were far easier for him to manage.
  • Is the person wheel chair bound? Talk to her or him before presenting a finished project! A sweater with the back in straight stitch but an intricately cabled front might be better than a sweater heavily cabled all over. Shallow but long shawl might work better than a deep shawl.

Next: What is the person comfortable with? Older people are not in the same shape as they were in their prime, but they still want to look attractive. You want to knit or crochet a sweater they feel good in, not one you think they will feel good in. Knitting a shapeless sweater that “hides” a soft stomach, for instance, makes the older person look like an older person with a soft stomach in a baggy sweater. The baggy sweater can even make the person appear larger.

Admittedly that person might not feel comfortable wearing a cropped or tight sweater. So try knitting or crocheting a sweater in a favorite color in a pattern with some elegant detail or flair (lace, bell sleeves, cables, an intricate neckline, an unusual button band, etc.), in a slightly fitted or a swing style.

  • LindaErase3E is very self-conscious about the 20 pounds or so she gained after her divorce. I think she would look – and feel – great in Vonica, a Chic Knits pattern by Bonne Marie Burns.The sweater is stylish; the lace in the sweater gives it a little pizzazz (and makes it less heavy); the open front will allow E to feel a little less self-conscious about the extra weight around her tummy; and the 3/4 length sleeves provides “venting” for E’s power surges.
  • . Maybe in a deep, regal purple?

And yes I know, I know … this sweater for E has to go in my knitting queue before the Elisbeth Cardi for me. :)

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber artist, practitioner of yoga, author, consultant and amateur chef.
This entry was posted in Fibers, Knitting, Miscellany. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Knitting for the Older People in Your Life?

  1. babywren says:

    Great thoughts on knitting for any age person. I will be keeping these thoughts in mind as I plan projects.

  2. Mary Jo says:

    Using these guide lines will be sure to produce an article of clothing a person will use not one that sits in a drawer being saved for a special occasion.

  3. This was a lovely post and at the risk of being too “self promoting” I must show you this!
    Weaver gets another mention! http://gentlestitches.com/2013/07/21/happy-100th-birthday-dorothy/

  4. jenyjenny says:

    What a juicy post! I could definitely ponder some of these points again and again!

  5. Well said. I made a short poncho for a friend who had brain surgery and was left with limited physical abilities. The gift was appreciated– all she had to do was throw it over her head. No buttons, zippers, etc.

  6. ethgran says:

    I am the older person in my family now, but I knit for them – not the other way around. However, my baby son and wife sent me a purchased sweater in bright orange/pink with a hedgehog plastered across the front. They know we well, except the color is a bit too orange for my skin tone – I use plenty of rouge to counteract the color drain. I am having so much fun wearing the thing and get some sort of fun comment when I do. I am a former ballet costume designer and will probably never start dressing my age. Excellent article to guide one no matter how old the individual is.

    • Your post made me grin. When I was still working, I kept my hair short and very stylish. Now it is long (last time I had long hair my daughter was in preschool!), brilliantly silver, and I regularly borrow an array of hair clips from my granddaughter – often using a half a dozen or so when wearing my hair up. Drives my daughter nuts, Thor just grins and shakes his head, and my granddaughter says I look like I am wearing Minnie Mouse ears. Great fun!

  7. knitnkwilt says:

    A nice job of cutting through some ageist stereotypes. I especially liked “young people can be set in their ways too.” I would add the young people can be disabled too, and the principles would also apply. And Ethgran, your way of dressing is one way people (of whatever your chronological age is) can dress. Go for it.
    Claire, your 75 yo fan

  8. Pingback: Twisted goodness | From the Purl Side

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