Some time ago (a timespan measured in years), my sister had a big birthday. Big enough that I offered to make her something special for it. More than anything, she wanted a shawl. A square, lace shawl. A square, lace shawl in black. Coincidentally, I was in the mood to make just such a shawl, so I was delighted. We chose a pattern; I ordered the yarn; the shawl was all but made. Right?
I have a vague memory of my sister expressing some concern about the complexity of the project. “Are you sure?” I sort of recall her asking. “Are you sure it isn’t too much to ask? It looks very complicated.” I pooh-poohed these concerns. “Pooh-pooh,” I said. “Pish posh. Don’t worry. I can do it. I have the skills, and besides, I like a challenge.” The shawl in question is worked in pieces, and I soon had the first square done. Somewhere in the second square, I ran into trouble. Bad trouble. I sent off an email: “Dear sister, I have made a discovery. Working lace in black is hard. It’s fine if things are going well, but things went a bit awry, and I couldn’t see the stitches to fix it, and then they went a lot awry, and there was swearing, and I could press on, but, um, is there another colour you’d like?” She apologized profusely (not necessary), and chose another colour (very necessary). The shawl would be light blue. To make up for changing the plan, I ordered some very special yarn, custom dyed in a beautiful, pale blue, and whipped off a stop-gap shawl in acid green*, a colour we’d briefly discussed and rejected as a bit limiting for an heirloom piece.
I started the square shawl again. I even enjoyed it, though it required a fair amount of attention, and so could only be worked on when I was both wide awake and not doing work-related knitting. As a result, it took a while, but I finally got the pieces done. I put them together. I’m pretty sure I botched the seams, but I had found the seaming process so irritating that I decided to fix it once the edging was on. I started the edging, and the wheels fell off. I had lost faith in the project. It wasn’t fun any more. Not only was the seaming all wrong, I was seriously questioning the yarn choice — I still loved colour, but worried that the structure (a single) wouldn’t work with the pattern. I found myself thinking about more stopgap projects, since this was taking so bloody long. The shawl had taken on such a weight of guilt and fear of disaster that I couldn’t face it. Meanwhile, I wasn’t working on later gift commitments, so they were taking on their own guilt weight, dragged in by the massive, growing darkness in my work basket. I also knew that my sister would be horrified if she knew what this thing had become to me. The force was so great that it would even suck all of her enjoyment out of the thing. Something had to be done.
I made another shawl. A less challenging shawl, and one that was fun to make. I chose a yarn that I was pretty sure would work well, and that I’d wanted to try for a while. I finished that shawl in a few months, and enjoyed every minute of it.
It’s big, it’s warm, it’s a lovely pale blue, and most importantly, it’s done. I really hope she likes it.
And the other shawl? It’s lost its unwarranted weight. I actually want to work on it again. I may even finish it, perhaps for my sister’s next big birthday.