Mae loved to knit, but she didn’t like beautiful things. Elegant and chic were two words not in her vocabulary. “If you want something that’s in style, go to a store,” she joked when relatives and friends gave her their requests for tasteful scarves and fashionable hats. Her specialty was tastelessness. Homespun kitsch—the kind of sweaters people wear ironically to ugly sweater parties—those were Mae’s favorite pieces to make. She found beauty in the awful and was determined to share it with everyone she knew.
There was a sweet logic to Mae’s preference for the ugly: in her eyes, the aesthetics of knitting were an afterthought. It was the connections she made with others that she valued most about her favorite pastime. In over ...