I’m going to be in a wedding on Saturday, and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve knitted myself a shawl for an extra bit of warmth over my dress. Back in December, when I began to plan my own project, I also offered to knit a coordinating shawl or shrug for the other bridesmaids or the bride in case I’m not the only one who struggles to stay warm enough. After not hearing back for a while, I moved ahead with my shawl and forgot about the offer I’d extended.
So with that small back story in mind – and a small forewarning that this post is a completely self-absorbed vent – here we go, on a small descent into Shrug Induced Madness.
(NB: If you want to skip the vent and just read something funny, jump down to Sunday.)
Monday, January 28th: In the midst of a flurry of emails about other wedding related items, another bridesmaid – we’ll call her Shrug Recipient – said in passing that she was sorry she’d never gotten back to me about the knitting project, it had just gotten away from her (which I understand, given everything else on her plate), she would have liked a shrug, but she knew it was too close to the wedding for anything to be done about it at this point. I thought to myself: “Shrugs are tiny and simple. I can easily make one in a week!” and let her know that I would still be happy to make one for her if she’d like. After all, shrugs are tiny and simple – and SR is a friend and someone I’m happy to go out of my way for, and someone I haven’t knit for in the past. Why not?
Why not, indeed.
Tuesday, January 29th: After some phone calls and a visit to my local yarn shop, I obtained a skein of very similar yarn to the one I’d made my own shawl from; it’s slightly more variegated, and is a heavier weight, but hey – all the better. Heavier yarn means bigger needles, which means fewer stitches. Perfect!
Wednesday, January 30th: I had been harassing SR with a plague of emails – what sleeve length do you want? How do you feel about this pattern, or this one, or this one? - and finally had a firm idea in mind of what she’d like, and how to make it. I balled the yarn, made a few swatches to check my gauge and fabric density, and cast on. After about 20 rows, I realized that starting at one wrist and knitting across to the other wasn’t going to cut it with the lace pattern I’d chosen – and ripped back. I then made a provisional cast on, thinking I’d begin in the center and work my way out to both wrists – and after another 20 rows, ripped back. I decided instead to follow the exact pattern that SR had pointed to as having some specific design features she liked, but after another 20 rows of that one, realized the edges were shabby looking and the lace pattern had a definite twisting bias… and ripped back. I choose a similar lace pattern out of my handy Barbara Walker stitch dictionary, recalculated the pattern, and cast on for the 4th time.
Thursday, January 31st: After knitting about 40 rows, I realized that the new lace pattern I chose was definitely wider than the pattern’s – and that my shrug would end up fitting Red Bryant if I continued. I threaded my blocking wires through it, in the desperate hope that if I stretched it enough lengthwise, the width might shrink enough to make it wearable … but no such luck.
(In retrospect, it’s pretty funny that I was feeling desperate at that point – but, not having foresight about what would come – I did.)
Feeling somewhat discouraged, I ripped back, cast on fewer stitches, and began again.
Friday, February 1st: My shrug was progressing with no apparent problems, flying off the needles, looking just as it ought to have looked. I finished it in the mid-afternoon, and did a very loose and sloppy seaming job, so that I could try it on. But … something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t as stretchy as I thought it would be; the lace pattern was not at all flattering across the shoulders; and I hadn’t done anything to change the sloppy looking edging from the original pattern. I decided there was no way I was going to pull it back yet again (ha!), and that instead I could at least salvage the edging by picking up stitches around the entire edge and working a garter or seed stitch for a few rows, which I began to do…
Saturday, February 2nd: My qualms about the shrug kept nagging at my brain, and I sent another few questions to the very patient SR. Her responses made it clear – the almost-finished shrug was not going to be what she really wanted, and since I wasn’t pleased with it either, it would be better to start over again than to spend any further work on a failing enterprise.
I pored over my stitch dictionary, eventually choosing a new lace pattern – and decided to abandon the original pattern altogether. The main design feature that SR wants is an “x” across the back, and I decided top-to-bottom (and seamed up the sleeves) would be a better way to achieve this than side-to-side. I calculated, sketched, calculated some more … and finally cast on, for the 6th attempt, saying to myself forcefully that no matter what, this would be my last attempt.
Sunday, February 3rd: I woke up with a vivid dream replaying in my head; in it, I had been an employee of a huge corporation, Shrugway, whose theme song was suspiciously similar to a certain sandwich shop’s. Although I didn’t pick up my knitting once all day, and the new Super Bowl Subway commercials didn’t include the old jingle, “shrugs made just the way I say, fresh at Shrugway!” kept running through my head until bedtime.
Monday, February 4th: After a solid hour of knitting, and I-don’t-know-how-many-rows, I realized that the newly chosen lace pattern was much too busy with the variegated yarn; the stitches didn’t show up well, and the entire thing was a mess. I swatched a few versions of the classic and simple feather-and-fan, then set the yarn aside in discouragement (which was fine, because I had quite a few other things I needed to work on) until John came home, at which point I queried him – and he agreed, that the chosen lace pattern was not working, and I needed to rip back … yet again. I picked one of my swatched feather-and-fans – recalculated – and re-cast-on.
Tuesday, February 5th: I knit a solid half of the feather-and-fan shrug before I realized the x-back design was just not working out properly. John agreed. I ripped back. I thought some more. I cast on again – time number 8 – hardly believing that this could have happened.
On the upside, I’m getting really good at ripping.
Today: I have moved through the despair, and through the disbelieving hilarity, and am now reveling fully in how fitting this is – my prideful thought to myself that “it’s tiny and simple!” – and that thought’s direct, absurd, Sisyphean consequence.
(Although now that I think about it, perhaps the Sisyphus myth was intended as a parable against the perils of perfectionism, rather than hubris.)
I’m also feeling very grateful that the wedding’s on Saturday – and with the definite end point, if I don’t finish by then, I can scrap the whole thing.
And, of course, I’m knitting.
And with that, I’ll say goodbye until next week, when you’ll be able to either find me back here as usual … or else in an asylum somewhere, singing “I got it made, I got it made, fresh at Shrugway” quietly to myself.