Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Breakup Shawl

It's done, it's finally done! I present to you the Pacific Northwest shawl, aka "the Breakup shawl". I can tell the story now, as almost a year later there's some humor to be found in it.

Pacific Northwest Shawl By Evelyn A. Clark. Yarn: Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk

This shawl has sentimental value to me for several reasons. I first saw the pattern knit up by one of my college peers as a sample at WEBS. It was one of the most stunning things I had ever seen (having not had much exposure to lace), and on my last visit to Northampton a few years ago, I picked up the yarn and the pattern to make the shawl. This was to be a long-term project, and was my first go at anything beyond a simple lace pattern. However, in the year that followed I couldn't find a good reason to cast on, as I didn't know the right person to fit the shawl.

And then I met her: a bold, striking, intelligent woman who lived on the west coast, who looked like the shawl-wearing type. She also happened to be the mother of my now ex. I loved this woman dearly - we had many frank and wonderful conversations, and she treated me like part of the family. Having finally found the right reason to cast on for the shawl, I began knitting, thinking of giving it to her on a happy occasion somewhere down the road in our relationship.

Did I in some way insult the knitting gods so as to prompt them to smite me? Had I found myself some perverse permutation of the legendary boyfriend sweater curse? No later than four days after I had cast on for the shawl did I receive an email ending my relationship. Darn it. After that email, I just couldn't stop knitting. Counting YO's and k2tog's was so much easier than thinking. The shawl provided a source of comfort and focus during the months that followed when being alone with the thoughts in my head was too hard.

I shall certainly be more wary of knitting for future relationships, having also knit three lovely pairs of man-socks into the cavernous hole of no return. However, when knitting is for some of us one of the strongest ways to say "I care about you", that's easier said than done.

The shawl is still going to the originally intended recipient (it's not her fault things turned out the way they did!). Part of me doesn't want to send it off knowing that I'll never see it again, as it reminds me of those marvelous Northampton days, and because it's been a fixture in my knitting basket for so long. At the same time, it also reminds me of less-good times, and clearing out the closet might just be best.

Now that the shawl is done and blocked (what a cool transformation), I'm itching to start a new lace project. What should it be?


Yarndude said...

Wow, this looks absolutely gorgeous! Just the kind of shawl I've been looking to make. Sorry about the breakup. :(

Heather said...

I'm proud of you for several reasons on this one:
a) for seeing the humour in the situation
b)for giving this work of art to the intended recipient, as it will indeed suit her perfectly
c) for finishing such an AMAZING piece of knitting!


Eva said...

Jess, the shawl is beautiful as is your writing. I'm really sorry that things didn't work out. I'm sure though that the recipient will appreciate the incredible gesture, despite everything.

Don said...


What a great piece of work and writing. Glad you see the humor in it all. You have knit me two pairs of socks and I will love you forever!


Marie said...

Holy Hannah! How many stitches is that? If I live to be Uncle Joe's age, it would take me the rest of my life to finish that! Jessie, this is breathtakingly beautiful. I am in awe (especially after my struggle with the wee Raha scarf). I think the recipient will cherish it.
Love you,
Aunt Marie

Anonymous said...

Jess, your mother showed me this blog entry last night at knitting night. What a beautiful, beautiful shawl! I love the colour and every complicated stitch is so perfect. And your writing just flows even though the subject was painful for you. Knitting is good medicine. Hope to see you this summer. . .


Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,
this is absolutely beautiful! I am not surprised that you will give to the intended recipient...but knit a mini-me one to remind you!!!
This...boyfrind sweater exists for people other than me??? I threaten to knit a sweater for Naz every so often and he in turn threatens to buy me a watch as both have always led to break ups with other boyfrinds in the past!

See you this summer! enjoy BC

love Sandy

Don said...

Jess, Your mother once knit me a sweater. However she made too big so I never got to wear it. She gave it to Grampy. Maybe that was a good thing:)