In case the rainbow explosion I received in the mail hadn’t been enough of a sign, I picked up the skein of Yarn Enabler’s Sock Monkey at the bottom of the envelope and heard it say: Make me something marvelous, darling… Make me a lovely lacy shawl.
A couple of weeks back, I discovered I had a Knitting Fairy Godmother, who in her wisdom had been waiting for the right moment to pass on some epic knitting mojo in the form of interchangeable needles. As I took all this gear out of the envelope I suddenly felt that there was nothing I couldn’t knit – and when the yarn asked to be a lacy shawl, I didn’t panic, I just knew that this is exactly what I’d make.
What I didn’t know, and should have given my previous experience with shawls and lace, is that this was some next level knitting. I needed to get to a different level of understanding to get over my fear of lace and figure out what pattern would do this lovely yarn justice.
I approached this the same way I’d been taking on all my knitting challenges: I went to Ravelry, opened up My Favorites, chose a beautiful pattern and jumped right in. The yarn was not best pleased and neither was I. As I tried a few patterns, I discovered that my missteps with lace have had less to do with my skill level, than my ability to understand how the patterns work. My next attempt involved casting on the BLT Shawl pattern, only to discover that this was not a pattern for self-striping yarn. Like the shawl before it, the pattern worked vertically and it just didn’t suit. After trying the Zaubershawl, I discovered that I was on the right track with a pattern that worked diagonally and was designed with self-striping yarn in mind but I couldn’t deal with that much garter stitch and the yarn wasn’t having it…possibly due to the way it mangled the color transition or the complete absence of lace – oops!
I almost chickened out of the shawl part at this point– the Friendship Scarf and the Noro Bias Scarf met all my conditions after all, but one look at the yarn had me back on the hunt for a pattern. Then I came upon the Rickenbaker Shawl and I knew the week of reading patterns and experimenting had paid off. I never buy patterns when I’m experimenting with a new kind of project, but after all that research, my intuition told me that this was absolutely the right thing to do.
I wish I could say that I was off immediately, but that didn’t happen because deep down inside I was still kind of scared of lace and I let that trip me up a bit. It took three tries, before muscle memory took over and little by little, I saw a shawl start to appear on my needles. I was actually making a shawl and that brought me no end of joy – despite having to rip back whole inches sometimes. I’m going to blame me fancy new needles. Wooden needles have always felt good in my hands but these had this enthusiastic warmth to them that I’m convinced is Paula’s knitting mojo and who can be grumpy in the presence of such an awesome thing? Yeah, not even me, so I kept going.
The skein of Sock Monkey came in two parts, the self-striping part and this gorgeous pink that I was tempted to keep for the exclusive purpose of Kitchener Stitching all my socks. That lasted until was getting close to the end of the self-striping hank, and then I knew I needed to use every last scrap of this skein. To that end, I was going to need more yarn. The way that this pattern worked, had me running out of each hank in the first fifth of the last row, so I went to the yarn bin thinking Two For Joy and reached for the charcoal yarn that I’d been using for Joy in the Mood Scarf. It was perfect, as it kind of matched the grey in the self-striping hank and looked really nice against the pink. Also, every time I’ve introduced myself as Maggie in the last week, people have responded with some variation of: “Maggie… Oh, like Magpie!” So now I’m owning it with this shawl 🙂
[Working with this charcoal yarn has inspired me to finally kick off the Mood Scarf. I think it would be fun to knit up my first official/legal year as Maggie this way, but that’s a whole other post.]
When I got to the end of the pattern, it asked for me to knit the last six rows and bind off loosely with a US 7 needle. This was easier said than done. So I switched out the US 5 tips to US 6’s and knit those last six rows, making the bind off with the US 7’s a bit easier. I’m not sure that I bound off as loosely as they probably meant… It didn’t feel exactly right, but I decided to go with it and moved on to the next instruction: “Block aggressively”
Now, I’ve never once blocked a project before and I have zero blocking gear so this was going to be an adventure. In the end, I used a nice fluffy blanket and safety pins, and though I can tell this needs to be blocked a lot better, I’m pretty amazed with the results. At long last, I have a shawl! Which is weird. I’ve never thought about purchasing one but every time I’ve gone star-gazing, I’ve seen folk wearing them and would then remember that this article of clothing was in fact a thing. But no more! Come late evening, the Missus and I are going on a walk, and I’ll have just the thing to keep me warm.
Fairy Godmothers are the best!