A Tale of Three Sweaters

22 Nov

It’s confession time. My eyes are swimming with the hard truth of this post.

I am a menace with wool sweaters.

The gray sweater is a sweater that fits. The black one is one that used to fit. Before I came along with my shrinking powers.


Just ask my husband, who has a penchant for wool-blends and “line dry only” labels. I think I ruined three of his favorites last year. Actually, I don’t think. I know. I was trying to soften the blow. Why is it that the things we WANT to shrink DON’T and the things we DON’T want to shrink DO?

One of the bummers about cooler weather – in my house-wifely opinion – is the advent of sweater season. I am not good in sweater season. I used to wear them out in the Pacific Northwest, where the damp air makes temperatures feel far worse than they are. But here, in dry-as-a-bone Minnesota (dry in winter, humid in summer) I rarely do. Yes, the temperatures are far worse here, but a sweater just feels too hot. Too restrictive. Like a turtleneck that feels more like a noose.

Signs of the season.


But my husband – bless his heart – has become fond of them in recent years. Last February my niece came to stay with our kids while Colin and I traveled to Europe. Before she left I gave her a pile of my son’s out-grown clothes for her son to grow into. On top was a nice black sweater. Good for Washington. Good for church.

“This was Colin’s,” I said, looking closely at her for her reaction to this news.

“Oh, that’s sweet,” she said. “Are you sure you want me to take it?”

I looked at her; this was not the response I expected. “Yes. It won’t do us any good.”

“But it’s vintage – his own from when he was small….”

“Oh,” I said, shaking my head. “No, you don’t understand. This was his a month ago.”

She did a double-take, holding up the item in question. It was just the right size for her two-year-old son. She looked at me, her eyes questioning my words.

“Yep,” I said, tilting my head to inspect the garment. “You might have to roll up the sleeves. They don’t seem to shrink at quite the same rate.”

More signs of the season.


You might be wondering – and rightly so – why I am so terrible about remembering to remove sweaters before dumping all the clothes in the dryer (and no, I never dry on high, but neither do I have the patience to dry on low). The simple answer is this: I am self-centered, easily distracted, and lazy. I am determining precisely how to kill-off my villain while doing such mundane activities as laundry. I am naming my hero’s sister’s second cousin’s daughter while emptying the dishwasher. I am thinking of all the commitments I made and wondering WHY I agreed to yet another volunteer position while folding the clothes to the point where I don’t even notice that Colin’s sweater is slowly becoming a size 3T.

Hoar frost...a few years back. This is why we need sweaters in Minnesota.


My mother shrank a sweater of mine once. One I got in Edinburgh, Scotland, when I was in high school. I was rather put-out with her. (Told you I was self-centered.) Mom, I apologize officially for my attitude. My husband, on the other hand, when faced with his tiny clothes, proved to be a blessing in an engineer’s disguise. When I shrank his first sweater, he laughed. When I shrank his second one he assured me that it was okay. When I shrank his third one he smiled, said, “It’s no big deal,” and wiped away my tears of remorse. I love that man.

So far, this year, his sweaters are intact. But the season is young. And the potential is not shrinking; it grows with every wash.

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24 Responses to “A Tale of Three Sweaters”

  1. rutheh November 22, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    I hVe a friend that shrinks sweaters she gets from goodwill and cuts them up and crochets along the edges.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 22, 2011 at 8:21 am #

      Such a good idea – the ultimate in recycling. I am considering making mittens out of the tiny sweaters!!!

  2. Rita Vander Kooi November 22, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    It is interesting how the sleeves don’t shrink the same! I bought Vince a wool coat to dress as Captain Hook this Halloween. The body shrank nice, but I ended up cutting the sleeves. Hmmm, perhaps Colin could just wear one of those white short sleeved shirts underneath. Arms would be fine!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 22, 2011 at 8:22 am #

      I really should suggest that to him. 🙂 It’s weird about the sleeves, isn’t it? There must be some scientific reason!

  3. Andrea November 22, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    As I recall, your dad also hates wearing sweaters. Do you find all sweaters restrictive, or just those made of wool?

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 22, 2011 at 8:23 am #

      You’re right! I hadn’t thought about that! Mostly just the wool ones bug me…I wear cooler ones more often…so long as they’re nice an big! Lately I’ve been into fleece vests…

  4. Rose November 22, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Love this fun post. I was very distracted with things I was doing yesterday because I was thinking about other things…

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 22, 2011 at 10:47 am #

      I hope that nothing was destroyed in your distraction!! It’s a busy week for everyone, that’s for sure…

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots November 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Great last punch line to this post.

    I’m so glad no one in this house wears wool sweaters. I can only wear sweaters with buttons, so I can remove the sweater when I get too hot. Did I mention that I am in my mid 50s? Explains it all.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      Ha! You make me giggle. I’ll be there soon enough, too. Hopefully by then I’ll have learned not to throw everything willy-nilly into the dryer!

  6. ceciliag November 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    So it is YOU! YOU shrunk my lovely cardigan! I knew it cannot have been me! c

  7. Kimberly Robertson November 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Gretchen-
    My mother-in-law was FAMOUS for shrinking everything. She could shrink a 3 month cotton onesie to become fit for a micro-preemie. It got so bad we would hide our dirty clothes when we would visit for fear of her shrink-ray. For her it was about drying everything on high so her babies would have warm clean clothes in seconds. Thank you for writing this post and causing me to remember her with a smile.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

      Horray! So glad to give you a fun memory of her – I know you’ll all miss her this first holiday season without her. Funny how those kind of memories become so great…though living through such ideosyncrasies are not always so easy!

  8. Stacey Greely November 23, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    this post was both painful and delightful. painful because i can just imagine how you felt each time you saw C’s smaller-now sweaters. but delightful because the way you wrote it totally made me able to “see it happening”.

    What are you…a writer or something?

    😉

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

      You’d think I could have learned through the pain a little better!!! Thanks, Stacey! I’m so glad that it worked!

  9. Just A Smidgen November 24, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    This is awesome, love your excuses… yes, business brain does that to all of us, doesn’t it!! We’re just so incredibly great at multi-tasking… no one said we had to be perfect?? I try to do all the laundry because my husband shrinks my workout gear… and no, that is definitely not a sight you want to see… plus, I feel like I’ve put on weight!! Not a good thing!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

      No, no one wants to feel like they’ve gained weight when they haven’t!!! I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this. :o)

  10. Just Add Attitude November 25, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    One of my few talents is my ability not to shrink sweaters (aka jumpers in this part of the world). However I would much prefer to have a talent for singing (I am totally tuneless). BTW I love the patchwork quilt.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      Isn’t it funny how “jumper” means such different things here than where you are?! I remember being terribly confused by “braces” when reading Winnie-the-Pooh as a child, too – not realizing that, to Christopher Robin, “braces” didn’t go on teeth, but rather held his pants up!

      You are lucky to be so blessed with such talent! I can sing a bit…but not nearly as well as I used to think I can!

      Thanks for your quilt comment! My sister and mother made it for us and I love it!

  11. hotlyspiced November 27, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    It must be getting so cold in Minnesota. I love the look of sweaters and they are so practical in cold weather but like you, they are a nuisance to wash and yes, very easy to shrink. You are not alone in ruining your husband’s jumpers – there are many of us out there!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      It’s nice to know I’m in good company!! Enjoy your SUMMER!!!!

  12. Samantha Keller November 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I taught my thirteen year-old son how to do laundry this summer. Now my ten-year old daughter has a new summer wardrobe. All of my cruise clothes, worn only once, are now her prized possessions. But, on the flip side, I have a young man ready for college! And, I send our sweaters to the drycleaners. I think long term it actually saves money from me destroying them.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

      That is huge – that your son knows how to wash his clothes properly! BUT…such a bummer about your clothes though I can totally see your daughter appreciating his mistake! Yes, I probably should do the dry cleaning thing…it’s just that I hate doing errands and it adds exponentially to the errand-running!

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