Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In which I keep a promise that I'd forgotten I made to somone who didn't know about the promise to begin with.

A few years ago I was at Rhinebeck with Kristen and one of the vendors had a display of Russian Wedding Shawls. They were gorgeous, weightless, cloud-like things made from very fine yarns knit into intricate lace designs. Both of us were in awe, but determined that we would someday attempt to make one.

On the drive home Kristen and I discussed who in our lives we would make one of these shawls for, should they ever decide to get married. The few names that made it onto those lists were women important to each of us. Making the shawls would be a labor of love with wishes and hopes and care knitted into each stitch.

Last June, my brother and his long-term girlfriend Julie got engaged. When I mentioned it in drop-in at Webs that Thursday night, Kristen reminded me of that conversation we had on the way home from Rhinebeck and that Julie was one of the names on my list.

So I spent some time researching the traditional shawls and finally came across a more modern pattern inspired by the traditional shawls from the Shetland Islands. It is the Forest Path Stole out of The Best of Interweave Knits. It combines lace with another challenge - entrelac. I decided that, while the entrelac would make it more complicated, it would also make it easier to work on in short bursts of time. Throughout the main body of the shawl I would only be working on 20ish stitches at a time as I worked each diamond.

I then decided that a cobweb weight shawl might not be practical for someone who lives way up in the mountains of Colorado, as my brother and Julie do. So I looked for slightly warmer yarns. After much squishing and stroking of yarns and discussing the various merits of each with the drop-in ladies, the winner was a baby alpaca and silk blend that I'd found tucked away on a bottom shelf of Webs. Absolutely scrumptious stuff that I hadn't known existed before that - Buckingham from Bristol Yarn Gallery.

Over the past year, I worked on this shawl on airplanes, in coffee shops, in bars, in cars, in movie theaters, while teaching classes, in rooms full of friends and curled up on the sofa with two cats, during snowstorms, watching British costume dramas. Friends and coworkers kept track of the progress and encouraged me every step of the way. So the love of my whole tribe is knitted into it too. Last week, as I was working on the borders (in a bar) a fellow Drinking Liberal asked what I was making. I explained and he said 'Wow, you must love your brother very much!' I replied, 'Well yes I do, but this is for my new sister.'

On Friday, I drove down to Connecticut where Julie was visiting her parents for the weekend. I gave her the shawl and neither of us could keep back the tears. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and walking on the beach by the Long Island Sound. I don't know how my little brother managed to convince such a lovely, warm, intelligent girl to marry him, but I'm glad he did.

Many thanks to my coworker Tara who, once again, agreed to be my model. Thanks also to my employer for housing our office in a building with a lovely porch that makes a spectacular backdrop for knitting photoshoots. I regret that I didn't think to get a photo of Julie with the shawl, but I plan to get some next month at the wedding.

Note: Because I feel I must, I will point out the glaring mistake I made. If you look at the photos of the back of the shawl, you can see where I flip-floped two of the diamonds. The lily-of-the valley looking one and the one that looks a bit like heads of wheat. And I know you will all say that no one will notice but me. But I also know that some of you (I'm not naming any names, but you know who you are...) enjoy the fact that I am not a perfect knitter, so I point it out for your benefit and mirth. Don't say I never did anything for you.


  1. It's just gorgeous. And sounds like the perfect pattern and perfect yarn for your soon to be sister-in-law!

  2. The shawl is so beautiful it takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes...as does the strength of sibling (and sibling-in-law) love in our family.

  3. Absolutley lovely!!

  4. I am so incredibly impressed with your wedding shawl. Nice work....even with your "signature". (A knitting teacher once told me that the errors that only you know are there are signatures and not mistakes!!"

  5. Wow. I remember you telling me about this project but I had no idea how absolutely stunning the shawl is. Julie is a lucky girl to be part of your family.

  6. Wow - that is a major work of art, and love. I still have the shawl that an aunt crocheted for me when I was around 10 or 11 and I've worn it periodically over the years.
    TFS this loving story.
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