Tuesday, August 31, 2010

bride comes before a shawl

the request
[WARNING: long, picture heavy post. This one has an actual story. Make brew now.]

The mind of a knitter, I have long suspected, works in a different sort of way to that of a normal person.

So a very lovely friend of mine got married a couple of weekends ago. It was a few days before the hen do, approximately 10 days before the happy event, that I received an email from the bride to be, containing the excerpt shown here.

Now to the ear of a non-knitter, this is a fairly innocuous enquiry. You might have a quick look in your wardrobe, realise you don't have a lot in the shrug department, and leave it to a better dressed friend to sort out. This would have been the sensible way to take it, and I'm sure how the email was intended.

To a knitter? This is nothing short of a call to arms. It's like someone has blown the Horn of Gondor. Before I'd even finished reading the email, I'd unplugged the laptop, raced to the yarn cupboard and starting rummaging in the posh yarn section with one hand, whilst scrolling down reading the rest of the email with the other. I sent a quick reply to ask what shade of red, because i was already stroking some beautiful pillar box red merino laceweight. This, it turned out, was the required colour exactly.

So many things were whizzing around in my brain at this point. Should I just come clean and say to the bride, look, I could make you something, you can give me exact specifications if you like? But then it wouldn't be a surprise, and it's the week before her wedding, she probably has a billion other more important things to worry about. Also, and rather more worryingly, what if I can't actually do this in 10 days?!?

I am a novice lace knitter, and don't think I would have attempted it except that:

a) I was going to the hen do in London, this meant a 4 hour train journey of valuable uninterrupted knitting time

b) Thanks to a random act of kindness from Kate B, I knew I had a skein of the perfect yarn already and

c) Said yarn was already wound into a ball and ready to go

It just felt like the gods of knitting were on my side, and I knew I had to at least attempt it. So evening 1 was spent looking for a pattern. I looked at shrugs and boleros for a while, but just couldn't find anything that looked sufficiently weddingy. A shawl seemed like the ideal use of this yarn, and there are so many beautiful shawl patterns out there to choose from, so in the end I went for Annis. It seemed sufficiently intricate for a wedding day and yet there are people on Ravelry who have knitted this in 3 days. It must be easy! (Or, as it turned out, they are a bit quicker at lace knitting than I am.)

So I printed out the pattern, made extra sure I had all the right needles, yarn and notions, and set off for my journey to London. I'd probably have it half finished on the way down. Line one: cast on 363 stitches. Blimey, that's a lot. OK, let's try. No wait, that yarn tail isn't long enough. Oh no, now it's all got really tangled up. Let me just recount that: oh, I missed a stitch. AARGH! Really, Stoke already?! Blood pressure rising... RISING! On the fourth cast on attempt, I managed it, and as the train pulled into Euston I was just about to finish Row 1. Gulp. Maybe this was foolishness of the highest order...

During the hen weekend I asked a couple of discreet, carefully chosen questions. Is red your favourite colour? Do you like surprises? What if the surprise is a bit rubbish? Do you know what a nupp is, and are you able to spot a poorly executed one? The responses were all encouraging. So I got leathered and had a lovely time, then knitted like a demon on the way home.
shawl detail 3
shawl detail
And for the whole of the following week, I went to Knitting DefCon One. Flies buzzed around the towering stacks of laundry and dirty dishes in my kitchen. My hair was so greasy it crunched. The child took to playing trains with the dog, after the dog had got back from walking himself. I got the bus into work instead of cycling and knitted in my lunch hour. I even marginally reduced the time I spent arsing around on Ravelry and Twitter. And I am really glad I did, because in the end, I cast off the shawl at 10pm the night before the wedding.
finished shawl on line

Hastily washed and blocked it, and thanks to the fineness of the laceweight, it dried overnight. I exhaled deeply. I even had time to snap a couple of photos before I wrapped it up. Result!

shawl detail

So, er... would the blushing bride like it? I felt a little foolish going up to see her on the morning of her wedding, clutching my homemade offering. I mean, you know, whether you like surprises or not, your wedding day is quite a big occasion, and you're fairly likely to have already decided what you're going to wear by, like, the morning of the actual day. Deep down I suspected that I had got ridiculously carried away with this little adventure. A normal person would probably just say thanks, put the shawl in the pile of other presents, and that would be that.

My mate Debs isn't normal though, she's really pretty amazing.
She opened the present, looking rather pleased with the contents...

Debs opens present

... tried it on with her dress...

... and then actually wore my knitting, on her wedding day, for reals!
bridal shawl outdoors

And looked ruddy bloody beautiful in it.
on the moor

It all made me a very, very happy knitter indeed. *Dabs eyes with hanky*

(PS. Pretty wedding photos courtesy of Mr Rubbish, who would like to add that he is currently available for all your wedding / civil ceremony / bar mitzvah / funeral photog needs for a very reasonable fee. He stipulates that I add the slogan 'Putting the fun into funerals')


Anonymous said...

Aaaah! What a lovely story - and a beautiful shawl!

Kate said...

Oh, I'm getting all emotional just reading about it. :-D I'm so chuffed that some yarn that was just mooching in my stash has been used for something so lovely. And much awe at your deadline knitting abilities!

Eva said...

Great choice for an elegant shawl. Red is a very lucky colour for a wedding - traditional Chinese bridal gowns are red.

Linz Knits Now said...

That is absolutely bloody lovely, story an' all. The shawl is gorgeous and I was fair buzzing off the story, so I guess you were on the highest of highs. Totally wonderful and thankyou for sharing, it was a pleasure to read xx

Katy said...

See, it may sound a little unusual (to the uninitiated), but it worked fantastically in the end!

Wool, shawl and bride (in order of appearance) are lovely!

mary jo said...

what a beautiful shawl and such lovely pictures.
I just did almost the same thing I knitted the same shawl in hand dyed yarn for my niece who got married on august 25. I dyed fingerweight yarn with golden rod and it was a lovely light green.
i wasn't able to attend the wedding so I sent it with a note telling her how I thought of her with every stitch.
your friend is so lucky to have someone who cares so much to knit something so special.

UnderMeOxter said...

It looks so perfect with the dress. Congrats on getting it all done. I didn't knit my Annis is so short a time, I can tell you!

Great blog-post too.