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Marjorie Atwell

This pattern is available free at knitty.com.

Difficulty: Engaging (click for info)

Hula MargeAfter all that uncertain roving in her early years, I don't wonder that my grandmother was interested to settle down. Born to parents twenty years young and still restless members of a restless generation, Marge spent her childhood traveling to exotic locales in the wake of her mother Maxine, and of Maxine's husbands. Margie's first stepfather was, like her biological father, a sailor, and in 1939, in the thick of the Sino-Japanese War, Maxine followed her husband to Shanghai with her twelve-year-old daughter in tow. My grandmother still remembers the sounds of the bombs detonating in the near distance, and talks with wonder of the freedom with which she would jump in a rickshaw and ride across town to a movie house.

Marge in WaggonThe steadiest home Marge knew was with her grandmother Ida in Vallejo, California, where she lived for long stretches when her mother was away. Maxine was the eldest of eight, and her daughter grew up amongst the older children who were her uncles and aunts. She remembers Ida with fondness; in her grandmother's protection she never felt unsafe or unwanted. With a quarter in her pocket, she would walk across Vallejo to the cinema, taking in classic western double features prefaced by newsreels and the cliffhanging Perils of Pauline.

Morines with TwinsMarge graduated from high school in 1946, and married my grandfather Vic a few months afterward. Years later, when he asked her why she agreed to marry him, she replied "Because my parents weren't getting along, and I wanted out of the house. What did I know about marriage, at eighteen?" Despite her later disparagement, though, the marriage became a devoted one. Which doesn't mean that Marge wasn't sometimes overwhelmed: she suddenly found herself, aged twenty, and having never so much as babysat, with two rambunctious twin boys to raise on slender means. Vic was working long hours to support the new family, and Marge was left to feed, clothe and care for little Victor and Vincent, and, soon afterward, my mother Jessie. In addition, in 1953 the couple returned to Vic's childhood home: the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Marge was now separated by culture, climate, and hundreds of miles of ocean from the only home she had ever known.

Morine FamilyShe rose to the occasion admirably. As Vic got paid only once a month, Marge would stage epic grocery trips, in which she would heap two shopping carts full of the meat, vegetables and tropical fruits on which she planned to feed her family for the next thirty days. During the following week, the living was good. Even at the end of the month, however, when the family was eating mostly Spam and potato starch, Marge's children recall her delicious cooking. And although it wasn't long before her boys outstripped her own diminutive stature, she could still make a good stab at keeping them in line. The young family began to flourish in the sunny, oceanic climes; the plentiful guava and pineapple balanced the lack of mainland produce, and the tradition of jumping in the warm Pacific on Christmas Day compensated for the dried, twig-like quality and prohibitive expense of any Christmas trees that made it to the Island.

Marge with JessieWhenever I look at photographs of my grandmother from this period, I am struck by the aura of poise and classic feminine grace that pervades them. Like Ida before her, Marge exudes a welcoming, motherly quality that coincides with the womanly ideal of the period – a quality I tried to capture in the Marjorie sweater. The wide neckline was one of my grandmother's favorite styles, and the dusty pink alpaca is the epitome of femininity. The fitted shape emphasizes the wearer's waist and bustline, creating a classic 1950's silhouette, and the delicate lattice cabling flows organically into, and sets off, the smooth stockinette surrounding it. Wear it with a small amount of ease (as shown) for a typical period fit, or make a smaller size for a more "pinup" look.

Marge with KittenOne last note: because she is a busty lady, my grandmother has always had a hard time finding clothes that fit. With her travails in mind, I intentionally designed this pattern so that it is easy to mix and match bust and waist measurements. If your waist and bust fall into different size categories, simply increase or decrease the number of k2tog's when transitioning out of the cabling and into the stockinette. It is relatively easy to jump down or up a bust size in this way – hopefully a relief for those whose beauty, like my grandmother's, defines its own path.

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