The first use of the term comes from the 15th century. That is about the time that knitting first began. Prior to this if you needed some extra warmth you were dependent upon a cape or shawl.
With the development of knitting it first became possible to have a garment that had some stretch. Trying to move your arms and shoulders freely was difficult unless you wore a loose-fitting garment. Conversely, loose-fitting clothing for warmth, like a cape, allows quite a bit of air flow up into the garment decreasing its ability to keep you warm.
In the 21st century we have threads that have stretch and we love materials that have fibers like Lycra and spandex woven into them.
We have the advantage of being able to keep warm and comfortable without considering how for centuries those were mutually exclusive objectives.
When they first came on the scene a sweater was a marvel of new technology.
Sweaters can be works of art or works of love when they are hand knit. Or they may be called, “ugly” when they are mass-produced gaudy.
The sweater depends upon who made or purchased it and how they fit the wearer. It is easy to take a sweater for granted. Most of us have drawers full of cardigans and pull-overs with which we keep ourselves warm and comfortable.
If you are a knitter you know they extent of the labor involved in making a sweater. It does not consist simply in the sheer quantity of the thousands of stitches, but also in the complications involved in shaping the piece to fit the body.
Let it be sufficient for me to say that if you ever happen to be the recipient of a hand-knit sweater you are extraordinarily loved.
To knitters who wish to attempt this Everest of knitting, tell the recipient, make sure they like the design and take repeated measurements and fittings throughout the process.
To attempt a surprise is tempting fate and will like result in a complete waste of your time and considerable money.
A well-made hand-knit sweater will fit the recipient exactly. Unlike ready to wear it is a personal garment.
Treasure the sweater for the love that it represents, even if you hide the offending item when the maker is not around.