Tag Archives: curses

The Sweater Curse

Informant Information — SD

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 16
  • Occupation: Student
  • Residence: San Pedro, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: April 3, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

The informant’s grandmother was a lifelong knitter and introduced all of her grandchildren to knitting and other handicrafts. The informant regularly attended crafting circles with her grandmother as a child, which is where she learned this belief.


Can you tell me about the curse involving making a sweater?


So my grandma used to believe in a curse where anyone who knitted or crocheted a sweater for the person they were dating would end up breaking up with the person. Since you spend so much time making the sweater, the relationship is usually over by the time you finish it and you break up once you give it to them. She said that you could only make sweaters for family, lifelong friends, or your husband or wife after you were married. 


Did this curse apply to other gifts, or was it strictly sweaters?


It was always just sweaters. You could make other big stuff, like blankets, but sweaters were cursed. My sister crocheted her girlfriend a quilt once and it was fine. 


Do you believe in this curse?


I don’t crochet or knit, so I don’t really believe one way or the other. It makes sense though. 


The informant is my sister, so we grew up hearing the same superstitions from my grandmother. As a crochet and knitting enthusiast, I believe in this curse while my sister, who never enjoyed crocheting or knitting, does not. Making a sweater takes a great deal of time and effort, tying you to the intended recipient. Finishing the project may release you from a sense of obligation, allowing the relationship to end. However, it is interesting that most crafters agree that this curse is limited to sweaters– blankets, rugs, and tapestries are all considered to be “safe,” despite also being large projects. Unfortunately, I seem to have witnessed this curse take effect in real life: my roommate crocheted a sweater for her partner as a two-year anniversary gift and they broke up the same weekend that she finished it.

The Sweater Curse

Background: The sweater curse is a superstition commonly held in knitting communities. My informant is a 28 year old knitter from California who has friends who have claimed they experienced this phenomenon. 

Me: I’m more of a crochet kind of girl, but I dabble in knitting. I’ve definitely heard of the sweater curse on the internet. I actually first found out about it like, right after I had the thought I should make one for my boyfriend. It was spooky! But anyway, what’s it all about?

A: Yeah, the sweater curse. Brutal stuff… Basically, the sweater curse affects girls [or boys, nonbinary people] who are knitting a sweater for their boyfriend [or partner, assume all characters can be genderswapped or gender neutral], and says that they will break up. Probably before the sweater is finished. It’s only supposed to affect unmarried couples, so it’s not that everyone who knits their partner a sweater is doomed. But yeah, knit your boyfriend a sweater too soon and you will pay the price. 

Me: Geez yeah, why do you think this happens? Because anecdotally, this is totally true. Do you believe it?

A: I mean… yeah, I think there’s something to it. It happened to a close friend of mine a few years back. she was 25 and her boyfriend was the same age, and they’d been dating for like, 8 months maybe. She started working on this sweater for him as a Christmas present, like, back in the summer. Knitters can get so involved in their projects, you know that. I think probably even more so when you’re making it for someone special, so she was knitting ferociously and was putting a lot of her time into this, like, fairly complex sweater. Anyway, they broke up sometime around thanksgiving, which is kind of a thing of its own, y’know, breaking up before you have to meet parents… Family is stressful, being close to someone is stressful, and I think that’s why the sweater curse has merit to it. So much effort and love goes into making a sweater, it can be too much for some people. I think my friend’s boyfriend found out about the sweater around the time they broke up, and I don’t know too much about how it went down, but I think he might have been a little… off put. The sweater can signify a lot of commitment…

Me: Yeah, especially if that commitment is one-sided… I feel like girls who knit are pretty dedicated people. 

A: You have to be if you tackle those big projects! If you date a guy who just isn’t reciprocating that energy, it’s probably not going to work out. You should save your sweater for someone you’ve uh, vetted better *laughter*

My thoughts: This superstition sounds silly at first, but there are a lot of reasons why a large, personal gift like a sweater can cause a reevaluation of the relationship, especially if the relationship is relatively new. I don’t think that anything handmade is a bad gift idea, but a sweater represents commitment to a degree that people are understandably uncomfortable with. The sweater itself can represent strangulation quite literally if it’s poor-fitting. It can also be very possessive, wanting to clothe someone in your work. I don’t think the intention is usually so negative, but the reception is what matters.

For more information on the sweater curse, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweater_curse

The Cursed Daughter

The interlocutor (JG) has many relatives living in Mexico and is a first-generation Mexican American themself. The area their family is from is very superstitious about witches, curses, and magic. The following describes one of the stories about curses being put on a member of that community.

DESCRIPTION: (told over a phone call)
(JG): “Okay-but, so- basically, um…my grandma has a house in Mexico. She lives here now, um, ‘cuz she came over here but like, she still has her house in Mexico. And that’s where we stay whenever we go visit. Um, and she told us this story about how when she was younger, her next-door neighbor, this older woman, had a daughter. And the daughter got cursed by someone. They don’t know what happened. They probably think it had something to do with a…cheating situation, ‘cuz that was a lot of the things back then, or…even now. Yeah. And so she got cursed.

So apparently she got really, really skinny, like she completely lost her appetite. Um… she started throwing up lizards, and they said that like, nails started coming out of her head. I’m not sure if it’s like, fingernails or if it was like, steel nails. But yeah, my grandma wouldn’t really ever see her, since she was always inside the house and stuff, but she started getting really, really bad. And so they started a healing process, like, they brought a healer. And one of that included like, putting a lizard in a jar and like letting it shrivel up and die, and that killed off that part of it. Um… and then they tried to do like, an exorcism-type-of-thing. But, something went wrong and like, the house started catching fire. But it was only that house.

And so like, that house is still burnt—like, we can see it when we go. The daughter, I think, turned out fine, like everything turned out okay, but that was one thing that happened.”

I’m curious about the effects of the curse, from the lack of appetite to the more surreal aspects, such as the lizards and the nails. I’m conflicted about the legitimacy of this story, since JG did bring up how everyone in their grandmother’s community knew about it but never really saw the girl, so all of the information they had was mostly word-of-mouth. I’m also unsure about whether this was a result of homeopathic or contagious magic, and while JG doesn’t know too many details of the curse itself, they do know that many kinds of these curses have some connection to the person’s corporeal self, so I’m leaning more towards understanding this curse as a form of contagious magic.

Witchcraft and Curses in Mexico

The interlocutor (JG) has many relatives living in Mexico and is a first-generation Mexican American themself. The area their family is from is very superstitious about witches, curses, and magic. The following describes one of the stories about the community’s cemeteries acting as a hotspot for placing curses

DESCRIPTION: (told over the phone)
(JG): “There’s also a really….because witchcraft is just like—fairly common in Mexico, especially in the cemeteries. So like, when we went to the cemetery, ‘cuz we went to go visit my uncles and we also went for like, a spooky little tour that they do.

There’s this grave that’s like, split open, like it’s broken open, and they regularly have to send people to like, check, because they put like, little witchcraft charms in there to curse people…because of, like, the energy of the cemetery. So they do that.

And then also, when we went to go visit my uncle, my brother saw something sticking out of the ground. And he was like, “What is that?” (He was like, younger.)

So he went to like, dig it out and it was a picture of a guy and it had like a coin and some pottery stuff… and it was meant to cure him. And that man had been, like, cursed. So we had to take it to a priest and he had to like, bless it and undo the curse. So that was that.”

Different stories about magic and curses are prevalent across cultures, and I definitely find it interesting to hear about the different ways people acknowledge and try to free themselves of these malevolent forms of magic. Oftentimes, we hear about curses being lifted by some kind of shaman or healer, one that the community designates as someone who can control or get rid of a curse. JG and their family taking the cursed objects to a priest is an example of this.

I also find that the graveyards being a hotspot for these curses to get placed makes a lot of sense. Since death is a major element of these curses and is considered one of the worst effects a curse can allegedly have on a person, it’s no wonder that curses and cursed objects can be found throughout a cemetery.

Curses and Ghosts

The interlocutor (JG) has moved into different houses and buildings with their family, taking note of strange occurrences happening in each location. Documented below are some of their experiences with the paranormal.

DESCRIPTION: (told over the phone)
(JG): “The houses and apartments that I’ve like, lived in have been very active with ghosts. If you can’t tell, we have a lot going on in the family.” (They laugh).

“So the house I lived in before this one [their current home], I lived in an apartment before that one, before that one. So like, three household…residences ago. That one was like, really, really active. There’d be a lot of stuff going on, like doors would open and close by themself. At that point, my brother was a baby and that was when my uncles had just passed away. And so there was a lot going on with that. Like, he would sit in the middle of the living room and babble to himself. And-he-my dad and my uncle, like as [my brother] was talking to seemingly no one, would feel, like, rushes of cold air. My mom had sent up like, a little altar for my first uncle that passed away and we put like a little beer thingy there. And somehow all of the beer that was in that cup disappeared in a few minutes, but the only person who was there was [my brother], but [my brother] was a toddler, like he couldn’t even walk at this point, or reach the thingy. We never told him my uncles’ names either, but when he grew up and got old enough to talk, he knew their names and that’s because we think that whoever he was babbling to as a baby was my uncles.

There was also, whenever it would rain, if you went all the way to the back, you could hear heels. Like heels heels. Every single person who went over to our house heard them at least once and they would come up to the back door. There was that. Yeah. Stuff here and there, doors opening and closing, napkins floating around, aprons moving, wind always passing around, lights and the TV turning on by themselves. There’s been a lot of things in every single house we lived in but those are some examples. From every place we’ve lived in.”

Personally, I have never had an experience quite like JG’s with the supernatural. I found it interesting how JG notes that their baby brother (at the time) was the only one who had the ability to “communicate” with who their family believed to be the recently passed uncles. It’s even eerier how JG said how their family never told their brother about the uncles’ names, but he grew up and was able to recall them. I don’t understand how exactly, but it is definitely worth mentioning! JG stated that they’ve moved houses a lot, so I’m curious about whether or not other residents of the homes or apartments felt the same ghostly presence.