About that Shawl


Hello all!  November is barreling along here so it’s time for another post.

The shawl in question is the Other People’s Houses Shawl by Heidi Gustad.  She is  is a super spunky designer I discovered through the Yarn Talk podcast on YouTube and then followed on Instagram…but before now I had just gone “ooh, neat!” over her designs and had not actually knitted one.  (As an aside, the Yarn Talk podcasts are awesome and I hope she and Allyson and Leah make more.)  Then the Other People’s Houses read along/knit along (RALKAL) came up in my queue.

I was emboldened by actually finishing a KAL project with the Laura + Maddy KAL (crazy, right?!) and intrigued by the concept of reading the same book while knitting the same pattern.  So I said ha! to the nine UFOs staring accusingly at me and dove in.

There was lots of letting go in this project.  After letting go of my fear of not finishing a KAL, I let go of stash yarn I was saving for SOMETHING.  What was I saving it for?  I have no idea.  It was the last of the Silky Wool I bought on Catalina Island last September, and I’d done several extensive Ravelry searches looking for something to do with this yarn that never ended in me making the much sought-for object.  Also an issue was my hangup with non-interlocking lace.  Somewhere along the line I have made up several rules about knitting, like Ribbing Must Be Knitted on Needles Two Sizes Smaller Or Else and Lace Motifs Must Interlock.  The ribbing one works most days, but after finishing this RALKAL I can tell you it is possible to knit a whole shawl with non-interlocking lace and without the earth spinning into the sun.

At about the same time as the RALKAL started, I was traveling, and both the project and the book (The Smell of Other People’s Houses) turned out to be great for traveling.  (Another rule, Wait to Start New Projects Until You Are Super Busy.)  The pattern is simple and easy to follow, and if you do not get fancy and adjust the pattern to squeeze in an extra drop stitch section near the outer edges, you just need to be able to count to twelve.  If you do decide to get fancy, it would be smart to mark the last stitch before the yarnovers with a removable marker so you can see where your next drop stitch section needs to start.  And maybe don’t wait to use those stitch markers until the middle of the shawl.

This is why lace projects where every single stitch is part of the pattern, and will tell you almost immediately if it is out of place, are a lot easier for me.  With this pattern you have several plain rows before you get back to the yarnover section, and I was traveling and not marking the starts of yarnover repeats so there was a solid day where I had no idea where I was every time I got to a lace section.  This did not actually have to be as big of a problem as I made it: because I was not following the pattern exactly I couldn’t use the stitch counts in the instructions, which clashed completely with my rule that Every Part of the Project Must Be Right.

Once I realized that it didn’t matter if the yarnovers were in the exact right place because the motifs didn’t interlock, the second half of the shawl went much faster.

The one place where I did not let go was with the book discussion.  Truth be told I didn’t quite know how to do a book discussion “properly” and got all shy.  I wanted to talk about what Ruth did next, and how Dora felt, and can you believe what happened to Jack???  But I didn’t want to ruin parts for other readers, and because ehmagherd the author is a knitter and joined the RALKAL I felt like I needed to be saying something Deeper and More Thoughtful about the whole thing.  Sadly, deeper and more thoughtful ideas did not come to me while I was reading this book.  I just wanted to gasp over the characters and go on and on about how Alaska sounds so big and why weren’t any of the characters geeking out about this the way I was?  Oh yes–because they live there.

Heidi did a great job of coaxing us along in the discussion, and now that this RALKAL is over, I’d like to try again, and maybe not get overly worried about discussing “correctly.”  I really appreciated her stepping in to start off the conversation and giving RALKAL participants like me guideposts through the discussion.  She was also super responsive with pattern updates and posted some really nice video tutorials for the project.

Last bit of letting go I did for this project?  I let go of my fear of giving away projects.  I pondered what to do with the shawl while I was knitting it.  I enjoy orange but was not in need of an orange shawl.  If I discovered I was, it is entirely possible for me to knit another orange shawl.  But–the letting go!  I bound off during a road trip, gave it some more thought, finished weaving in the ends, took a deep breath, and delivered it straight to my road trip driver.  She loves orange, and you know what?  She loved the shawl.

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