My mother knitted them for my niece’s Barbie dolls. She followed careful patterns to make sweaters, pants and dresses. She counted stitches. She included details of stripes and snaps, elastic waistbands and ribbing on the cuffs.
She must have used tiny knitting needles. The little loops curl around one another in rows, neat as bowling pins with equal distance between each one.
How satisfying it must have been to make the miniature outfits! A whole wardrobe could be finished in a week.
Making clothing for adults can be tedious. You never notice how big a grown man is until you try to knit a sweater for him! You notice how strange our heads are shaped once you wrestle with the angles of making a hat fit.
Dolls make perfect models. Never growing, they stand ready to pose in your latest fashion. They won’t stretch out the sleeves or wear out the elbows.
A new purpose
My niece grew up. The dolls—no longer needed—waited for a fashion show that never came in southern weather unsuited for sweaters.
Because of my interest in all things yarn, my sister asked if I wanted the Barbie clothes.
“Of course! Sounds fun!” I said.
She mailed me the clothes in an envelope the size of a thin paperback.
I admired them and put them in a box. The sweaters waited.
Meanwhile, my husband’s Ultramen protected the bookshelf from attack. They stood unyielding in molded red plastic armor.
The realization struck me. Sweaters are made to be worn, not stored in boxes.
These Ultramen need sweaters! I got them dressed immediately.
Could my mother imagine her creations would decorate Japanese plastic superheroes from the 1960s? Would she be distressed—or delighted?
After we’ve made something, we can’t control how it’s used. We can make it with joy and give it away with our best hopes. Once it’s out of our hands, it goes in its own direction.
What are you making now that will outlast you?
Her work—with its unintended purpose—continues to produce joy.
Proud Ultramen in knitted glory look out from their bookshelf across the vast bedroom. They are never cold, always cozy, cheering us up every time we see them.
Ultramen in hand knit sweaters—the silliness of it, the wonderfulness of it, life!