Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The tale of the shawl

Friend-of-the-shop Ruth stopped in to share the last chapter of "The Tale of the Shawl." You see, we had been involved in the story from the beginning, and though the ending was never in doubt, we wanted to hear it for ourselves.

Amanda was the first to play a role. She waited on Ruth back in January when Ruth came in to find the perfect yarn for a shawl to wear to her daughter's wedding in June. She wanted something in a pale green to coordinate with her silk dress, without being too "matchy." Alchemy Silken Straw in a color called "Sour grass" was perfect and she purchased 3 skeins.

The next player was Helen, who helped Ruth work a series of swatches to figure out the perfect pattern for this unusual yarn. After several unsatisfactory tries, Helen suggested a simple seed stitch on big needles. "The effect was magical" says Ruth, "like gossamer wings on a butterfly." There seems to be a rule: the most spectacular yarns reward the simplest treatments.

Next, Jeanne had her turn. Ruth realized that she needed one more skein to achieve the length she wanted. By then, the shop had sold all our stock and a frustrating search lay ahead for the right color and dye lot. That's when Jeanne volunteered that she had personally bought some of the remaining stock and sent it as a gift to her niece in California. The niece good-heartedly agreed to send a skein back, and that's how Ruth got the fourth skein she needed.

The yarn was a bit of challenge to knit at first: it had no elasticity and queer, papery texture. "But I got used to it" Ruth says, and it had such a fascinating organic feeling, "as though it were unraveling directly from the cocoon." One problem: wound into a ball, loops of yarn kept unspooling both from the center and outside of the ball (it's not "sticky" enough to stay nicely in a ball), and at one point Ruth had the yarn draped across the furniture from living room to dining room and back trying to get it untangled. Eventually she brought the last skein back to the shop where we improvised by rolling it onto a discarded paper tube from the center of a roll of toilet paper.

All this time the wedding plans were going forward and the knitting frequently had to be laid aside for other, more pressing concerns. Nevertheless, when Ruth needed some peace and quiet, she'd go out onto a little private balcony and knit. "It helped me gather myself." Sometimes her best friend would come and keep her company, holding the "roll" of yarn (now skewered on a wooden dowel where it unrolled very much like actual TP!). It all came together on the day of the wedding when two dear friends finished weaving in the ends for her. You can judge for yourself whether the shawl was a success.

Mazel Tov, Ruth & family. More good news: next year her son is getting married!


  1. Absolutely Gorgeous!! Certainly worth the enormous effort.

  2. This looks soooo beautiful! The length is perfect! Kudos for sticking with it!
    And how exciting to meet Kay Gardiner!

  3. Ruth your family and your shawl are stunning!!! Congratulations!! Jeanne