My favorite ugly sweater got kidnapped by a gang of sweats. I found it a little while ago when I was checking the dryer for stray socks. It was pretty badly mauled. The sweats had tried to cover up their mischief, but the linty evidence was all over them.

Unfortunately, my ugly but comfortable sweater is now a rather small, stiff, and sorry felt garment. It is still blue (sort of), still has two holes at the back of the neck where I ripped out the tag in a moment of irritation. But its graceful cables are now rigid columns, its ribbed cuffs and neck, yarny shackles.

In my defense, it was an accident. I was listening (really) when my mother told me about wool and dryers. Laundry is a religion with her. Before sending me out into the world of dormitories and laundromats, she taught me all about sorting laundry, washing sweaters by hand, and using fabric softener. She showed me the correct way to iron a shirt, information I would definitely use if I weren’t so fond of wrinkly garments.

My previous favorite ugly sweaters met similar fates. One developed a few small holes in front, but I continued to wear it. As soon as my mother noticed, she condemned it to the trash, guilty of harboring moths. The rest of my clothing was put in mothballs. I think my wool socks went into a witness protection program.

But that was when I still lived at home. Now I have only myself to blame myself for moths and sweater-devouring dryers. Formerly beautiful sweaters fill my drawer, each a victim of some neglect or lapse of judgement. Ugly they may be; I cannot part with them.

I do not feel a similar attachment to sweatshirts, t-shirts, or any other garment. Sweaters are made of yarn, which reminds me of my grandmother and her annual reindeer sweaters. Don’t tell me that machines made the ones in my drawer; I like to believe there was a grandmother running that machine, putting love into every row.

Holes in a garment usually mean it has to be thrown away, but when I look at all those raveled ends and ladders I see a puzzle that ought to be solvable. My mother used to darn holes in socks to fix them, but my attempts at darning generally end up looking like fuzzy scar tissue.

Still, I would rather wear a beat-up sweater than buy a new one. Wearing a new sweater feels like an act of betrayal. Like the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse, my shabby old sweaters lie in my drawer, waiting for the Magic Wool Fairy to turn them into real sheep. Sometimes, if I listen closely, I can almost hear them bleating.

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