In November it will be ten years since I knitted my owl sweater.

A lot can happen in a decade, and that’s particularly so for me. In November 2008 I was an academic lecturer at Newcastle University, researching and teaching literary history. Knitting was one of several hobbies I enjoyed, and I’d begun documenting my crafty adventures on this blog. I fell ill with flu, and while I was getting better I made myself a pullover with cabled owls around the yoke. Everyone liked the pullover. So I wrote a pattern and eventually I I put it up on Ravelry. I had no intention then of ever making a living out of knitting. But when I had a stroke, when I was paralysed and working hard to recover physical function, when it was clear my deficits meant I would never return to academia, that’s what I had to do. The sweater I’d knitted myself in November 2008 helped me to do that.

Since then I’ve created other owl-y patterns.

The Owlet (an owl sweater for babies and kids)

The Owligan (an oversized super-chunky owl cardigan)

and the Wowligan (a wee owligan for kids)

I thought it might be quite nice to mark my ten-year owliversary, and I’m going to do this in various ways at the turn of November. I’d like you to be involved (there will be prizes!)


So: is there anything you would like to tell me about your owl sweaters? Did you lose your owl sweater and find it again? Have you mended or re-knitted it? Does the garment or the knitting of the garment hold any special meaning or significance for you? Are there owl-y photographs you would be happy to share with me? For some knitters, the owl sweater was the first garment they made themselves; other knitters have made several owligans or owlets for friends and family. All owl-y tales are welcome. You can leave a comment here; post a comment on my Instagram, or simply email me at: owls@katedaviesdesigns.com

Thankyou, and enjoy your o w l s.

59 thoughts on “owliversary

  1. Wow Kate! Congratulations on the ten year anniversary of Owl Sweater! Like many others, it was my first successful sweater and the seamless construction was an absolute revelation to me! It spoiled me with sweater knitting straight away. I knit it up in four weeks in 2012. This sweater is still one of my favorite items, though unlike you I have rounded out a bit since I made it. It may be time for a new one, a little bigger and in a more luxurious yarn. Thanks for creating the pattern that gave me the confidence to do most all the projects I have done since.

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  2. I am only now catching up here. My granddaughter,age 4, has been wearing her Wowligan the last 4 times that I have seen her: that’s an absolute declaration of success. I would love a child size Carbeth: it would make a terrific kids sized jacket sweater. Hint, Hint.

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  3. My owl sweater was one of the first sweaters I ever knit- back in 2010. I barely knew how to check gauge. I bought the yarn at a thrift shop. I wound up with a short sleeved bulky navy sweater that I promptly gave away. Several years later, I knit another one, this time in tan. I wear it a lot, actually, even though I have many hand knits to choose from. The second owl is a much better made sweater than the first one. Also, I started knitting and joined Ravelry in 2009, so I feel like I have followed you as a designer almost from the beginning. Along the way, I have knit more of your designs and always look forward to your new patterns. Thank you so much for sharing your hard work and talent with us.

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  4. Wow, ten years already!! OWLS was definitely my first full-size (i.e. not baby) sweater, and I do still have it, though I got impatient while knitting it and the yoke and the body are both too short to really be comfortable. But I’m still so proud of it – I knit the whole thing in two feverish weeks. My sister loved mine so much that she then knit her own, I believe also HER first sweater! At some point before I regift it / unwind it to try again, we should get OWLS-sisters photos :-D congratulations on a wonderful anniversary!

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  5. This sweater holds special memories for me. It’s knitted out of yarn I bought at my first Rhinebeck, from Silver Moon Farm. The dyer has sadly passed on, but that makes it even more precious.

    I wore it to my second Rhinebeck with great joy and pride, despite its quirks. The neckline is a bit too wide, the armscyes are a bit too snug. But the shaping is exactly right and the wool is so warm, and the color (a soft hand-dyed lilac) is perfect. I put multicolored buttons on the front 5 owls and it makes them stand out just that extra little bit.

    I wear it often in the winter time and I’m planning another for this year, with more Rhinebeck yarn from another special farm!

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  6. I fell in love with your owl sweater the first time I saw it on ravelry several years ago. I bought the original wool and since then it’s sitting in my closet. I don’t know what it is, but I’m afraid to knit this particular sweater, I’m afraid, that I can’t make it right, especially around the armpits. I’ve knitted several sweaters and every single one fits, but for whatever reason I don’t have the guts to knit myself some owls.

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  7. My owls story is a sad one (and a long one). A few years ago, I reconnected with someone who I’d been at university with when we both started going to an immersive theatre production in London that proved addictive. We’d never been close friends at university but she was in my wider circle of friends and when she’d moved to London with her partner after university we’d often been at the same parties. I hadn’t really seen her properly in years but I knew that she’d been in very poor health for a long time, needing exhausting and physically traumatic treatment. She had heard about this immersive theatre show that I’d been enjoying for a while and, although very poorly indeed, she decided to come along with me one evening. And she loved it. Although the show required a lot of energy as you were on the move the whole time, she found it invigorating and we both found it a source of great fun and it allowed us to reconnect again.

    We found each other on Facebook again and often shared our stories about the show which we went to repeatedly. Then one day I saw that she’d posted on Facebook that she had fallen in love with your Owls jumper and was looking for someone to pay that could knit it for her. I immediately stepped in and said that I would knit it for her (free of charge of course). One evening we met up at our favourite show and she handed over the big bag of wool that she’d chosen for the jumper, slipping in a couple of extra balls for me as a gift. And I started knitting.

    It was probably the biggest project I’d taken on and certainly the first item of clothing, beyond the usual hats and scarves. But I found it was an easy to knit and I was whistling through it, looking forward to getting to knit the owls and see them take shape. But then I heard that my friend had been much more seriously ill than even she thought and had been moved to a hospice for the last few days of her life. I knitted as quickly as I could but sadly I and my friend ran out of time. She passed away peacefully with her family around her. I felt so very guilty that I hadn’t finished the Owls jumper in time for her to see it but I kept going and eventually it was all done. But I couldn’t get beyond sewing on just a few of the button eyes. It just seemed so sad. So it’s still sitting with my wool stash, without the full quota of eyes and never to be worn. It’s still very beautiful though.

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  8. Just over seven years ago, I was a new mother in a new city trying to navigate a career field that usually expects mothers in quietly exit, regardless of talent or drive. I met a woman who was pregnant with her first child, and we became good friends, with little girls who were just about six months apart. It was so vital to have a colleague and close friend experiencing the same frustrations, rejections and challenges that I was, all while negotiating a new world of diapers and being everything to one little person. I cherished the times where we drank tea while the girls played, celebrating the other’s successes, and occasionally drowned our sorrows and rejections in a glass of wine. My wonderful friend loved owls. She was fascinated by them as creatures, went to bird shows, found owl reserves where she could see them in their natural habitats, and decorating her little girl’s nursery with whimsical owl decor. I knitted her a teal owl jumper for Christmas one year, and knitted a matching owlet for her daughter for her birthday that year. I loved seeing two of my favorite people cavorting around in their Owl sweaters, and I was so pleased they loved their jumpers as much as I did. My beautiful friend passed unexpectedly, nearly four years ago, just before her daughter’s third birthday. I found the void created by her loss to be so awful, and so incredibly difficult to even begin to fill. Last year, I finally sat down and knitted myself an owl sweater. Wearing mine makes the loss of my friend feel less painful, as if I have this wonderful talisman of hers whenever I wear it. I’ve made many of these beautiful jumpers since, and they bring me a lot of joy, knowing that a bit of her memory is in each one.

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  9. Congratulations on your Owliversary, Kate! I have only made one Owlet (so far) – such a great pattern with cute results. My daughter-in-law asked for an easy-to-put-on sweater with hard-to-destroy qualities for her toddler to wear to daycare, so the Owlet pattern combined with inexpensive acrylic (sshh, I hate to admit that) suited the request. Embroidered eyes instead of buttons for safety reasons. This reminds me … need to knit myself an Owligan …

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  10. I knit an owl sweater for my daughter who is an alumnae of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Bryn Mawr’s mascot is the owl. I loved knitting the bottom up, no seams pattern. Sizing was perfect, too.

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  11. This is a bit off topic but inspired by your own owls story. I’ve purchased and read your book about your journey through and beyond the stroke. It has helped me and a dear friend who had a similar stroke (other side affected) fill in the expectation gaps left by doctors who told us nothing of what to expect in recovery. Would you sometime consider telling the deeper story of the ‘deficits’ that lead you to leave academia? i.e. was it memory, stamina for teaching, eyesight? if you’d rather not, I do understand. And thank you so much for what you have already shared. Happy Owlsday!

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  12. I’ve knit one Owls (although it’s in Rowan Cocoon, and since I now live in North Carolina I can wear it about three days a year), and four Owlets. It’s a fan favorite at my house, and my kids love coming to the yarn shop to pick out their next Owlet color. I need to make another for me that isn’t quite so warm as my Cocoon version. Although I love it and wear it every chance I get.

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  13. Knitting my owls taught me that I could modify patterns to fit my body and my tension and get a sweater I liked that would fit and be comfortable. I added more depth above the yoke, changed the back shaping to suit my shape and widened the sleeves to get the fit I like. I wear it in the winter when a jacket would be too much.

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  14. The Owl sweater was my second sweater, and my first sweater with shaping, with cables, with a bottom-up construction. Because of this sweater, I love bottom-up sweaters. Because of this sweater, I love sweaters with exact-ease (neither positive nor negative). Because of this sweater, I gained the confidence to move shaping to fit my own body. Because of this sweater, I can knit cables on anything. Because of this sweater, I can’t stop knitting sweaters! Thank you for designing this sweater!

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  15. My first ever hand-knit garment was an Owls, and it shaped me as a knitter in many ways! I remember I was very nervous about it but I enjoyed the process and result so much. It was a project of many “firsts” for me as a knitter. It was the first time I bought a large amount of yarn for a project as well as the first time I ordered yarn online – there were no local yarn stores where I lived. It was the first pattern that I modified in any way (I turned it into a cardigan). I didn’t know what steeking was yet, so I just knitted it back and fort. It’s also the first time I put any effort into properly photographing and documenting the result. I also think that this was what the project that turned me into a predominantly garment knitter and made me realize my love of yoke sweaters. I’ve come a long way as a knitter since that first garment but to this day I’m convinced that this project had a profound influence on the kind of knitter I am as well as my personal aesthetics and style.

    The garment also provided me with plenty of other memories throughout the years of wearing it: while I was knitting this, the World Cup was going on, so plenty of people thought I’d chosen the orange colour in a sudden bout of patriotism (haha, no!). A few years later when I went to study at university, and I had just come out of a traumatic period in my life, Owls was like armour for me, and I wore it a lot during this period of change. During those first few weeks at my new place my new classmates proved to be excellent people and also very appreciative of knitwear so I knew I landed at a good place. Later, when I visited Scotland for the first time, a waitress in Edinburgh stopped at our table on the first night to ask me about the cardigan, as she recognized your owls pattern! That convinced me that Scotland truly is the knitter’s paradise that instagram makes me believe it is ;)

    Congratulations on your owliversary Kate! Knowing your personal owls story, knowing what it has mean for you personally, as well a reading the Owls stories of so many other knitters has deepened my appreciation for the pattern even more. Thank you ❤

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  16. I have been knitting since I was 6 years of age and am now 72. I was raised on the old knitted patterns and had no idea how to knit from a graph. Then I happened on your owl pattern at the same time as the arrival of my grand children. It was so perfect that I had to bite the bullet and learn how to read those graphs.
    The pattern instructions were so clear I got the first one knitted and went on to knit 5 more. Now I can’t imagine using those old patterns ever again.
    So it sort of changed my knitting life!

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  17. I knitted this owl sweater for my, then teenage daughter. It was the first thing I ever knitted in the round and that after a break from knitting for many years due to carpal tunnel issues. It’s one of my favorite projects and my, now 21 year old, daughter still wears it! Thank you for getting me back into one the most relaxing and rewarding pastimes!

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  18. I’ve made two, one for my daughter’s Christmas present, the other for me. It’s a lovely fitting jumper and flattering with the waist shaping. They were a quick knit- it took as long to sew the buttons on as it did to knit the jumper!

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  19. I love my Owl sweater; I knit it in a baby blue, and it brings me joy every time I wear it. It also makes others happy. It was one of the first sweaters that really fit me. I love the shaping of it. Congratulations on your Owliversary! Woot Woot!

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  20. Happy Owliversary Kate! I have loved all the owls and so far I have knit 2 owls, 4 owlets, 1 owligan, and 1 wowligan. One year I made each of my three grandsons an owlet as part of their Christmas present. My daughter in law is a photographer and secretly took a photo of the boys wearing their sweaters and had a blanket custom woven with this image on it. She then surprised me with the blanket on Christmas. Such a blessing! Thank you Kate!

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  21. I made an OWLS sweater for my best friend’s 25th birthday present. 3 years later she decided to become a nun in a closed convent and didn’t have need for garments other than her habit. The only garment she did take was her OWLS sweater as she could wear it under her cloak in the winter and it kept us close even though we weren’t able to be in communication very often.

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  22. I rescued an owl sweater from a charity shop. I just couldn’t leave it there. It is mostly completed except underarm gussets and neck finishing. Two of the owls even have eyes! The yarn is Miss Babs Hand Dyed Yarn, K2 in French Marigold–a lovely, multi-layered orange. K2 is a 3-ply chunky. I’m torn between unraveling and completing–except, although I’m sure I have the pattern, I can’t find it! There’s more than enough yarn to complete it. What to do, what to do?!

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  23. Kate,
    I haven’t knit Owl yet, but I’d love too! I was recently gifted some gorgeous yarn that would be perfect for a young one’s version! I’m simply writing to say how much I LOVE OWLs! We live on the edge of a Wildlife Urban Interface in Northern California, and overnight we hear the Great Horned Owls (which sometimes visit our own heritage trees) and absolutely adore hearing them. I would like to make this sweater in their honor!
    Best wishes for a very Happy Owliversary!
    Susan

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  24. I made myself the owls jumper as my first sweater for myself and I love it. I made the owligan 3 years ago and it’s been my longest WIP as although I’ve worn it every winter for 3 years, the poor owls never got their button eyes so I don’t consider it finished!

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  25. Happy Owl-iversary Kate! I have never knitted the owl but wanted to comment here because in July of 2012 I was an expat wife looking for something to fill time but didn’t know what. I spent quite a lot of time on Pinterest back then and the picture of your Betty Mouat Cowl led me to Ravelry. I couldn’t knit but had to have one so I opened a ravelry account, ordered a kit from Jamieson & Smith and iwth a few vague memories of learning to knit as a small child followed Mel’s video on the no purl garter stitch and I was away. Haven’t stopped knitting for the past six years, and still use mostly your patterns. I’m so proud of what you’ve become and can’t wait to see what the next six years brings for KDD! Cheers!

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  26. I am another one who downloaded the pattern, along with Textisles, back in May 2012, but have not yet made the sweater. I know that Owls was designed to be an adult sweater, and thousands of people have made it for themselves, but I have always seen it as a child’s style & I have no children to knit for. I may rethink this now in view of the Owliversary.

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  27. thank you for the reminder, I have also never knit the sweater but have long wanted to. You are inspiring me to pick out yarn and make a nice cool weather project

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  28. Kate, I’ve had your Owl pattern in my library since it’s early days, but never knitted it. I can’t believe it’s decade old! I’m glad to see your reminder here & will have to dig through the stash for appropriate yarn to cast on. My stash in currently being transferred to storage as we prepare to move, so the digging may have to wait for a bit to get my hands on it again!

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  29. I made myself and O w l s jumper over the first summer of a new job in a total career turnabout (how apt!). I carried my knitting everywhere with me, and when my station was quiet I’d add a few rows. I played yarn chicken with it because my finances were very, very limited after leaving my previous job, and I lost – so I unravelled the sleeves to bracelet length and finished the neckline, splicing in every spare unwoven end that I could. Four years later I’ve bedded down in the new career and am in a position that I really love (museum learning!) and I managed to match colours by eye to make the sleeves longer and give the neckline a little bit of squish. It’s the first jumper I’ve ever knit myself that fit properly and it marks a hard, but really special time in my life too. Congratulations on a decade of pattern writing!

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  30. I don’t have a special story about my OWL but it is absolutely one of my all time favorite knits. I knew as soon as I saw the pattern I had to have one for myself. Since so many years have passed and I’m not nearly as thin as I used to be it’s a bit snug now (ha ha) and I’ve been thinking I need to knit a new one!

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  31. I’ve never knit it, but saw a woman wearing one on a birding outing on Sauvie Island, Oregon. It really is a fun and charming sweater.

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  32. Three children – three owl sweaters, well loved & worn out. Last December saw three more owls (and matching hats…) for three grandchildren. Now I look longingly at all the lovely exemplars out there, but think I must wait a bit – at least until I manage to forget the time involved in sewing on 96 tiny buttons!!!

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  33. I’ve always meant to make it, and have chosen yarn tons of times in my head. I think I had been celebrate it’s anniversary with casting on!

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    1. Me too it’s like I always meant to cast it on but never got to it as other patterns kept popping up. I think this will need to come out and be made as I still love this pattern

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  34. I made an Owl from a farm yarn relatively close to my home in Nebraska. I wore it for several years until, after a move to Virginia and subsequent weight gain, it just didn’t look good. I gave it to a great niece who is slender and loves owls. I plan to make another for myself.

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  35. I bought o w l six months after it was published. For me it was a return to knitting after 15 years hiatus caused by the local unavailability of “worthwhile ” yarn, childcare and having lost interest as jumpers got enormous and patterns lacked flair. Then then the Internet happened! Ravelery! My daughter and her friends valued my skills! Small, beautiful yarn suppliers were at my finger tips! My first Ravelery purchase was o w l s, everyone loved it, it was passed around a group of friends, l shamelessly ripped of the owl for mittens (sorry!). And I became a knitter again! I loved your blog and bought other of your patterns and the books and my revived skill became my mainstay through treatment for breast cancer, I became a bit obsessed, no one was without a pair of Eccclefechans! I joined the Knitting and Crochet guild, I found my people. Thank you (from under my huge yarn stash)

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  36. I knitted and owligan for my daughter and finished it on the train on the way home from a few days in Lisbon with my family – it always reminds me of that trip. Since then she has given it to me (says it’s too warm!), and I lengthened the body and sleeves. I still wear it a lot, and it’s true, it’s very warm, but that’s what I like about jumpers!

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  37. I first knit Owls about 7 years ago. I loved it. Then I felted it!
    I knew I would do another and eventually did it last year. I had learnt more about knitting jumpers and to look at the actual shape of my body so this Owls fitted much better.
    I still have the old felted one and one day I’ll turn it into a bag, tea cosy or hot water bottle cover and it’ll be loved again.

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  38. I have been knitting for just a few years now and finally have the courage to tackle a sweater. Owls have always had special meaning to me, and I’ve had my eye on this pattern for some time now. I think it’s time for me to take the plunge!

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  39. My owls (https://www.ravelry.com/projects/halcyonday/owls) was my first successful (i.e. properly fitted) garment project and I have very fond memories of knitting it. I used the Rowan Pure Breed and it is the warmest jumper I own (well, my Keith Moon may surpass that but I haven’t worn that yet as knitted it in the summer!) and still quite…rustic. I lovingly refer to it as my All Seeing Hairshirt as it definitely still requires an underlayer. It’s just come out of the ‘winter clothes box’ in preperation for the winter wardrobe swap and I look forward to wearing it again soon.

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  40. I’ve knit two of your original O W L S jumpers – one for my niece (which just came back to me because it is now to small), and one for myself – but I “hacked” the design and turned it into a cardigan. Which involved my first steek!

    I love the OWL jumper ;-), and I foresee more in my future.

    Connie (streepie on Ravelry)

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  41. Your post made me smile, as I’m sitting here cocooned in my gorgeous chunky Owligan. The builders are in residence, and we have no heating or hot water on a grey and chilly October morning, so my woolly friend has come into its own! Congratulations on this ten year anniversary: what amazing things you have accomplished, and what an ironic quirk of fate that your stroke has meant it’s us knitters rather than academia that benefit from your talent and creativity.

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  42. Happy Owliversary!!
    In 2016 I knit a Wowligan for my first little granddaughter Amelie, who was 6 months old … to keep her warm on autumn days! Two years later my second little granddaughter Esmee is approaching 6 months and the little Wowligan is coming out again to keep another wee girl warm for her first autumn. I can’t explain the joy it gives me to see my grandbabies wear their handknits!
    Thanks for a great pattern Kate!

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  43. my owls sweater for my zoology student daughter started as a surprise birthday present but due to sizing issues (mine not her) and way too many restarts it skipped Christmas and became a much loved and laughed at addition to Easter celebrations …. though I don’t think I’m forgiven yet for sending her the button eyes to sew on herself!

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  44. It was the first garment I knitted for me. I had two young children, and had lost my job under horrid circumstances, but knitting gave me a focus. I was knitting hats and baby cardigans and things but had never knitted any garment for myself and wasn’t even contemplating it, due to memories of 1980s acrylic handknits…
    I remember exactly where I was when I came across the pattern for O w l s and I remember buying it, my first purchase from Ravelry too. It took me a while to get started but the satisfaction of making it has stayed with me.
    My original O w l s went in a clearout recently, but I want to knit another in decent yarn this time.

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  45. Owls was the first jumper I ever made and I made it for myself in a light green coulour. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken the stretch of the wool into account and it rapidly became a bit big on me. Luckily I had a friend that was starting small scale farming in the chilly Australian mountains who was very happy to recieve it. It now does a very good job keeping her warm when she is working outside on frosty mornings :D

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  46. I was my first knitting project made from a pattern. My first cabled knitting project. My first cardigan project. My first KDD project. My first Ravelry purchase. Also my first project where I realised gauge probably was a bit more important than I had thought — I renamed it Owl Coat but love it anyway :) Happy owliversary!

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  47. C’est en découvrant ce modèle que j’ai repris le tricot !
    C’est le premier pull que j’ai tricoté en rond
    Et j’ai eu grâce à ce modèle mon premier accès à Ravelry !!!!!

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