“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

Thorny Thoughts: A Finished Object

thorn-flat.jpg
Dear Kay,
Fresh off the blocking wires is the Thorn shawl, first finished object of the new year. I have been wearing it constantly, collecting compliments from Green Bay Packers fans at coffee bars (not really but at least I’m ready for next season), and thinking about my experience with this project.
thorn-8.jpg
This project is an excellent lesson for me. A perfect yarn and a perfect pattern do not always combine to create a perfect finished object. I say this a little nervously, because I don’t want you to think for a second that I have anything but the deepest admiration for both this yarn and pattern. They are splendid. It’s MY choice to combine them that was the problem.
I knew shortly after I started this that the yarn was not the right choice for this pattern. Pretty soon I knew that the shifty color was going to compete with the stitch pattern, and not in a way that would let the cleverness of the pattern shine. Thorn is beautiful because of the interesting thing that happens as the increases make the shawl grow in an irregular and pretty way. It’s a pattern that works best with a solid color. Take a peek here if you’d like to see a Thorn in its pure glory. Beautiful work, butterfly67!
In fact, if you look at all of butterfly67′s projects right here, you will see my fantasy of a lifetime of gorgeous knitting.
Isn’t that a breathtaking pile of projects? I’m seeing a 5:1 ratio of gray projects to color. That’s about right.
Such unity of aesthetic!
Sigh.
Anyway.
I loved this yarn, this Alisha Goes Around Zeal of Zebra, and I liked watching the color shifting with each stitch. I guess it’s a measure of how gone I am as a knitter that I would finish a shawl that uses the wrong yarn.
Once the second skein revealed its flashes of light and increased the light/dark variegation even more, I knew for sure that this was going to be a star-crossed project. I was surprised, actually, that I kept knitting when in the past I would have probably freaked out, ditched, and done something else.
thorn-detail.jpg
But this merino/silk yarn, this elegant pattern–they were enough for me.
thorn-hmmm.jpg
The redemptive and mighty power of blocking cannot be overstated. If anybody out there craves a moment of delightful transformation, knit a shawl, then block it.
thorn-edge-detail.jpg
(The blocking wire wounds are still healing!)
The lesson here: A perfect yarn may not be THE perfect yarn for a pattern.
Special thanks to staff photographer David Shayne for documenting shawl on human.
Love,
Ann
PS I’m now obsessed with looking at Ravelry project pages, seeing how a knitter’s taste shapes what s/he chooses to make. Would welcome links to knitters who are making interesting choices.

Tags: , ,

72 Comments

72 Comments

  1. While you are disappointed, others will probably stop you in the street to say what a lovely creation this shawl is. I know I would.

  2. I think it looks gorgeous and striking, Ann. Non-knitters don’t notice the pattern anyway, even if you HAD knit it in a solid. Gawjus!

  3. Well, maybe not perfect in your eyes but lovely nevertheless!

  4. I would love to knit a million shawls, but I can never wear them and not feel like they’re falling off, or hanging wrong, or just look goofy. Maybe I need a lesson.

  5. While the pattern isn’t as clear it is still identifiable. It might not be a perfect match, but it isn’t a horrible match. You could have fallen on your head and knit it with fun fur after all.

  6. I love the contrast of the yellow border. And the pattern do the shawl still comes through. I may have to make one now.
    And lastly — Go Packers! (next season)

  7. While the yarn did not produce the same effect as the original, it produced a lovely shawl with its own interest. I like yours equally as well, and the edging gives just the right finish. You wear it well, too.

  8. I like it! I tend to wear shawls scrunched up around my neck under a coat, so no one can have any knitterly ideas about pattern or suitability of yarn. This is very pretty!

  9. I think it is awesome beautiful!
    I love the colours the bright hit ion the edges is lovely
    I would wear it all the time too!

  10. I think it is awesome beautiful!
    I love the colours the bright hit ion the edges is lovely
    I would wear it all the time too!

  11. I think it is awesome beautiful!
    I love the colours the bright hit ion the edges is lovely
    I would wear it all the time too!

  12. Go Pack!!

  13. I think it’s an Oops! that turned out to be a fabulous finished product. But then, chartreuse is my solution to EVERYTHING.

  14. This is a great looking shawl. The colors may have moved you out of your comfort zone, but I see the stripes of garter and stocking stitch. You wear it well. And who’s to say that you you can’t knit another with a very different personality? This scarf says “I’m ready to move out in the world and take on new and exciting challenges.

  15. What they said!

  16. I think it’s lovely, but I can also see where it would be a very different shawl in a soft heathered gray. I’d be very tempted to knit another so I could have my gray shawl and wear color too.

  17. In photos, the flashes of chartreuse look like the play of light. I hear what you are saying–but it’s a damn fine FO.
    And dang. That butterfly67 Raveler has knit a lot of grey shawls. RESPECT. Find a color, and just knit the HELL out of it.
    xoxo Kay

  18. oh so sorry about multiple comments :~{
    but I really do love it!

  19. I think it looks beautiful on you! And I love the edge!
    Totally lusting after all that grey on butterfly’s page and I don’t even like grey. Then again, maybe my page could be all purple.

  20. I understand what you are saying about yarn and pattern but your finished shawl is lovely and I see why you persevered.

  21. I understand what you are saying about yarn and pattern but your finished shawl is lovely and I see why you persevered.

  22. I understand what you are saying about yarn and pattern but your finished shawl is lovely and I see why you persevered.

  23. I understand what you are saying about yarn and pattern but your finished shawl is lovely and I see why you persevered.

  24. I think it’s a beautiful FO….and I’m a Bears fans, so, you know, that’s kinda hard for me to admit that it’s beautiful. And, dang, you knit fast!

  25. See, I have a black coat so I love me some color at the neck in these dog days of winter (if summer can have dog days, why not winter, huh?). I think your Thorn is beautiful and perfectly subtle.

  26. It really is beautifully done. Do you know a nice Packers fan you could give it to?
    (The association didn’t occur to me until you said it, but now it’s all I can see.)

  27. The pattern has all those horizontal garter ridges that already confuses the vertical columns. I don’t think your yarn is inappropriate. The grey shawl you linked to is dark enough to obscure them, or downplay them. The yellow edging is what people will notice and it was a brilliant decision.
    When I looked at the shawls on Ravelry, I loved that grey shawl too. Grey has been my favorite color since childhood.

  28. Ann – It is lovely. It may not be what you envisioned, but it is lovely. You look wonderful wearing it. Now satisfy your desire and knit it again in a solid yarn. One can never have too many shawls.

  29. In the pictures I can totally still see the stitch definition. Lovely. I have to say I also love looking at well curated ravelry user pages. Alas, I don’t think I will ever have one myself as all of my kid and baby projects tend to skew my stuff from sophisticated to PINK WHEEEE!

  30. It may not be the ultimate manifestation of Thorn. But it is yours.
    I’m sure once you let go of your idea of what it should be, you will revel in the glory of what it is.
    I’m also sure once I let go of my idea of what time we need to leave the house in the morning, I will revel in the frolicking of my small children instead of hollering at them.
    Sigh. The Zen of it all.

  31. Dear Ann,
    I don´t know what to say…
    I love your Thorn and I hope you wear it a lot!!!
    butterfly67

  32. I wish I had butterfly67′s restraint in choosing yarn. On the other hand…colors.

  33. Hmmmm, I’m guessing I know how you’re using that tricky word ‘interesting’, but I think your replies might also prove to be ‘interesting’.

  34. Each version of Thorn is entirely successful in its way – one is a colorful accessory that will sing in certain combinations of garments and the other is an element of wardrobe created around a central theme.
    Today’s posting by “chopkins” dealt with the same problem, worse result – a failed project being re-done.
    Being all too often smitten by a color way and hand-dyed myself, I am destined to experience every consequence of the struggle! Is it true that context is everything? Golly, I hope so. Meanwhile, decisions, decisions. Onward! jdu

  35. I would never consider buying grey yarn – too boring. After looking at buterfly67′s projects, I think I need to make a grey shawl. So fabulous!
    Does Thorn stay put when you wear it?

  36. Hello Ann,
    Your Thorn is simply lovely. I do get though what you mean about loving a yarn and loving a pattern and then trying your darnedest to make the two work together even when you know in your heart of hearts that the end result isn’t really what you were hoping for.
    I have fallen prey to this train of thought and gone into denial over it numerous times. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I have resolved to work in a more well way this year with the marriage of my yarn and pattern choices.
    Love, love Butterfly’s aesthetics. Thanks for the link to her amazing creations on Ravelry.
    Am hoping to put a Thorn on my needles soon too. Will give a great deal of consideration to my yarn choice…
    Knit on

  37. When I saw you start to add that chartreuse to the edges, my thought was uh-oh, no. Now that it’s done and on you, I think it was a brilliant decision. I love it. In fact, I think I may have to get some of this color for my baby blanket borders (Mitered Cross, variation). It’s gorgeous, Ann. I see no problem with the green yarn. I’ll go check out the one you linked to now.

  38. Live and learn. Thank you so much to the beautiful feast of grays on butterfly67′s page. I can go to bask in neutrality, or to bolster my resolve as I knit a black cardigan.

  39. I understand what you are saying, but I like it, and love, love, love the color combo.

  40. That is one gorgeous shawl, however you feel about the colors. I have to tell you a funny story. I was at the Barnes Foundation Museum in Philly just after Thanksgiving last year and saw a woman wearing what looked like a beautiful handknit shawl in grays and reds. It was gorgeous. I was able to use Ravelry’s amazing search capabilities to find it and discovered she was the designer as well as the person who knitted it. Sent her a message on Rav that freaked her out, hopefully in a good way! You never know who will see your handknits.

  41. I do love it, and not just because I am a Packer fan girl. I love the way the colors work together and I love the textures too. I think you can see as much stitch definition as you need. I like subtlety – this plays down both yarn and patterns in a gorgeous way. It has me re-examining some of the knitting “rules” I set for myself.

  42. Ooh! I just blocked a shawl I knit in 2009. It felt so goooood!

  43. butterfly67′s archive is wonderful … but what I noticed is that her “about me” page says she’s been knitting *again* since 2010. A quick check reveals that she’s done ALL THAT FABULOUS KNITTING in the last two years.

  44. Do not let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good!
    Lovely, absolutely lovely – and the finished border makes it. I can’t believe it, I thought for certain that was a mistake. Wrong again. So glad that you persevered, might it grow on you? Sometimes beauty will grow on you.

  45. This is one of those situations where the person who knit the object is way too intimately involved with said project to objectively appreciate its beauty. You only see the imperfections, but I just see one gorgeous piece of knitting.

  46. I learned the hard lesson a couple of years ago from a lace shawl pattern done in variegated sock yarn — intricate or interesting stitch patterns and variegated, tonal, or ombre yarns don’t play well together.
    That lesson was brought back to me when a fellow knitter did an Aran sweater in a hand-dyed and spun yarn with such wild colors it looked like the aftermath of an explosion in a dye factory. All those carefully and lovingly executed intricate cables and bobbles and whatnots were totally invisible knit in that dizzying yarn.

  47. Oh yeah, I almost forgot . . . another hard lesson learned . . . variegated yarns often look much better in the skein than they do made up into anything.

  48. Ah, yes. Those knitters who seem to know the perfect yarn for the perfect project, and most important, they understand what is going to work for them. No need for stepping outside of their own comfortable, stylish box. I’ve been following Knittimo’s projects for the same reasons Butterfly’s have appealed to you.
    And, by the way, gorgeous wrap you have there!

  49. while it may not be *your* perfect shawl, i also think it’s a beautiful piece of handknitting. good work ann!

  50. Brava! Bellisima! YES!!
    Ann,
    I was very excited to see the finished wrap the minute the screen opened up! It was even more exciting to see how wonderful it looks on you and how nicely you’ve arranged/draped it. I just had to stop and type this to you before reading a word. I am THAT excited! I think that the “neon” Koigu was just the ticket. It adds interest, whimsy, and gives the wrap a “je ne sais quoi” (OK, I can’t spell in French, but you get the idea).
    Great project! Great appearance! Thanks!
    LoveDiane

  51. It looks incredibly beautiful on you! Very flattering.

  52. Just love it!!!!!!!

  53. Just love it!!!!!!!

  54. I love this! I am not very shawl-y, but I am shawl-y about this one! I love the wacky yarn changes, the beautiful shock of edging and how nice you look. And pleased. Great job sticking to it and discovering that the perfect yarn is sometimes not revealed until it is the perfect finished item!

  55. Dear Ann
    I think your Thorn is beautiful!
    While I appreciate your love of grey, I would like to argue the case for the opposition – the Loving Colour Party. Have a look at Craftivore on Ravelry and be amazed at the joyous colour of her projects. (She’s even done a version of your Moderne!) Her Strips and Stripes blanket is my Aspirational Project for 2013.
    Cheers
    Penny

  56. I love it. I had some similar self debate about my Tewa shawl, but in the end, I love it (and so do my knitterly friends). I actually think a too dark solid would be worse, but that is just me.

  57. And, ps, just went to butterfly67′s ravelry page. Knitting so few years, I feel like a total slouch!!!

  58. The shifting colors and the stitch pattern really don’t compete with each other. They just make each other a bit more subtle, a bit less in-you-face.
    Now that chartreuse edging, on the other hand. . .!

  59. Ann, your shawl is beautiful! It’s a work of art, no matter what your mirror says.

  60. Another Packer fan saying this shawl would totally solve my game day problems…when my husband says “why are you not wearing game day colors”. Magical thinking works for some. But now I have a real excuse for a yarn purchase.

  61. Love your expression in the fourth pic! But seriously, Ann, this is drop-dead lovely. I think the stitch pattern brings out the variegation just enough, and the neon is, as everyone above has said, inspired.

  62. I like it – especially the forest green. Good for you trying other colors besides gray! Yes butterfly67 is practically perfect like Mary Poppins and even though I did que up several projects based on her knitting I still like and admire you more! Go you! But try not to go to the sequined Aran…Chris

  63. Oh, Ann! Your pictures caused me to
    1. spontaneously clap out loud! (COL)
    2. pick out a yarn for Thorn
    Thank you for those pics! Ooooh… Lovely.

  64. I love the neon edge of your Thorn and may steal that idea for myself on my next project. Butterfly67 led me to this project page which I think will also appeal to you:
    http://www.ravelry.com/projects/knittimo

  65. Actually, Ann, I agree with everyone else who has said it is actually gorgeous. The plain grey one is nice, but yours is not less nice — it’s stunning.

  66. Notwithstanding all these accurate assessments of your Thorn’s beauty, I hear what you’re saying about the marriage of yarn and design. Some are happier than others. That’s a fascinating and mysterious subject, one I’d like to see explored more often.
    Back when I sewed, I used to find the same issue between pattern and fabric. We create garments by hand in order to bedeck ourselves and those around us uniquely, and economy precludes a lot of test products.
    So shouldn’t there be some way to determine in advance how a pattern and yarn will harmonize or conflict? Some rules of thumb, please!

  67. It is beautiful no matter what.

  68. It’s lovely on you. Congrats on plowing through & finishing it! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  69. Love the Thorn and the artful still life composition with the white Christmas cactus! Also love the lightning blogging that let us peek over your shoulder while Thorn was created. Thanks!

  70. Like Michelle Obama’s choice of yellows and golds, this has that flash of optimism. Very nice!

  71. I understand what you’re saying about losing the pattern in the yarn, but still that is one be-yooo-tiful shawl! I love, love, love the contrasting edge! I also think that color green really brings out your eye color!

  72. Grellow edges ahead! See the baby pants here:
    http://www.slagtenhelligko.dk/