Lace Knitting and Mistakes

Last year, I got two cakes of Wolle’s Yarn at Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival (SVFF). I had seen friends knit beautiful, color-changing shawls out of this yarn but didn’t have a plan of my own. More often than not, this is how I buy yarn: I fall in love and bring home a skein or two, and come up with a project later. So these two cotton cakes have been looking at me from my yarn shelf for a year.

After I finished my Find Your Fade shawl (which I should/could also write about one of these days) just as this year’s SVFF was about to take place, I started looking around for shawl patterns that would work well with this yarn. I landed on Leila Raven’s Shaelyn (that’s a link to Ravelry, by the way – just a heads up in case their UI is problematic for you). It’s a triangle shawl that alternates stripes of lace with stripes of stockinette separated by a row of purl stitches.

I printed the pattern and put it with the yarn in my knitting basket next to the couch. Our puppy Rosie, who came home with us Memorial Day Weekend, had been very good about leaving my knitting and yarn alone so I was lulled into a false sense of trust and security. But puppies are puppies and Rosie couldn’t resist the open invitation I had left for her – she had a great time pulling the yarn out of the ball with her teeth and turned it into a giant tangle. I tried to untangle the tangle but the yarn is cotton and so it very easily catches on itself and is prone to knotting. Also, it is a 4 ply that’s not twisted so it’s very easy to catch and pull one ply, which Rosie probably did over and over.

I saved the tangled cake for just in case (some of it is salvageable but barring a yarn miracle, not the whole thing) and pulled out the second perfect cake and got started. The lace pattern is a relatively easy 11 stitch repeat. I say “relatively easy” because I always overestimate my ability to follow lace pattern repeats. So I jumped into the knitting confidently, completing the first two pattern repeats following the chart with no mistakes until I got to the third repeat when I went off chart and used a row counter for the stockinette section. When I knit the lace section, the right side of the shawl (before the center double increase) was perfect but the left side had too few stitches.

Still, I persisted. I knit the stockinette section not by following the chart and moving a marker after each row, but by counting the rows with a row counter. (Aside: I finally bought the paid version of Cordless Dog’s Knitcounter after using the free version for years and years. Five stars – I highly recommend this app!). By the time I got to the fifth lace repeat, there were there were too many stitches on the right side and still too few on the left, but I made some on the fly adjustments (a k2tog here, a skipped decrease there) and voilà, I got the pattern back on track.

Except I didn’t.

On the sixth lace repeat, I actually bothered to count my stitches; I had the correct number on the right, but I was off by a staggering 9 stitches on the left. An increase here and a skipped decrease there weren’t going to blend in without much notice. And the mistakes in the previous lace section really bothered me.

So I frogged it and started over, rewinding the yarn and frogging my mistake-riddled shawl. Of course the yarn tangled during this process and I lost some of the final color to another impossible tangle. When I started the main shawl chart, this time I marked the lace repeats with stitch markers to help me track the increases as well as make sure I’m on pattern for each and every repeat.

NOTE TO SELF: Mandy, stitch markers may feel like they slow you down but they ultimately save time, money, and in this case, yarn. Using them or not using them doesn’t indicate anything about your knitting skill: they are a tool, use them.

Okay. So that brings us to the current situation.

I’m not quite back to where I was when I frogged the shawl, but I’m really happy with how its going. I modified the lace pattern decreases to use a mix of k2tog and ssk instead of all of one or the other. I have two mistakes that I’m just going to live with. One is in a lace section and no one (not even me) will be able to find it unless they count stitches; I was down one stitch in one of the lace sections so skipped a decrease.

The other mistake is very, very noticeable: I lost the center stitch (the one thing I’m not marking with a stitch marker) and made increases one stitch to the right of it. By the time I noticed, I was a few rows away. I could have dropped the affected stitches down a few rows and fixed it but I didn’t want to take the chance with this yarn. It splits. It tangles. So I didn’t want to take the risk to fix the problem that way. I also didn’t want to rip out a few rows and pick stitches up (also tricky with this yarn) and tinking back a few rows wasn’t worth it: I will live with the very visible mistake.

Metaphor for life? I’ve made mistakes and I wish I could go back and to try something different to solve some friendship problems over the years. Going as far back as early high school, I have ended friendships that felt lopsided in some way. I suppose I never learned how to properly establish boundaries or how to ask for what I need. When I do set boundaries, it ends friendships. There are three people who I’ve been thinking about and missing, but I don’t think any of those relationships are reparable, so I will have to live with those mistakes.

A really good friend that I still have completed a year of group Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a flavor of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and recommended it to me. It was developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder but has been found to benefit many others (I have Bipolar 2 and Seasonal Affective Disorders). My friend recommended the materials she used, so I bought Marsha M. Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual and DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. I suppose it’s time to crack them open.

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