Taj Mahal Shawl
Every project has a story. Or at least that is what I’d like to think. Even when it doesn’t I am enough of a storyteller to just make something up, embellishing the little glimmers of thought that existed in my mind to craft a reason as to why I spent hours crafting something which the outside world will see as ‘just another hat’ or ‘just an other scarf’ or ‘why don’t you just buy them from Wal-Mart’ pair of socks.
Fortunately I don’t have to embellish much on this one. It has a story and a pretty decent one at that. Or at least one that tells of a knitters connection to yarn in a way she cannot describe and might give a clue to yarn shop owners on how to get someone to buy their wares even if they weren’t considering buying anything in the first place.
So lets start with the basics. This, technically isn’t my first shawl. But it is my first traditional shawl: lace, shaping, thin yarn, blocking, the whole nine. Some may call it a shawlette as it is, in fact, decently small. Fine by me. I don’t wear normal shawls and fully intend to wear this as a scarf with the point in the front and the end gracefully draped about my neck. It accommodates my insane desire to wear V-necks in the middle of Wisconsin winters.
It didn’t start with any intention to make this shawl. It started with a late-night yarn purchase one summer evening whilst I was trying to chase away the ‘help me, my crew and I work with idiots’ doldrums. That purchase netted me 2 self-striping rainbow sock maki from Play at Life fiberarts, in a delicious hand-dyed MCN. Once I had the maki in hand and was fondling their beautiful strands I wondered ‘what in the hell will I do with these?’ So I turned to my steadfastly awesome knitting bud Squidwidget and asked her. She agreed with my initial inclination that the maki were too lovely to be socks and trampled on, why not make them into a shawl?
Hm…a shawl? What an unusual idea. I’m not big on most shawls. But someone on Ravelry suggested that I might like the Westknits designs… and what do you know? I like Westknits designs. I particularly love the Akimbo pattern. And so I decided that the sock maki needed to become an Akimbo.
The problem? Akimbo uses a contrast color. I am missing that contrast color. I wanted the same yarn type: MCN and wanted a smoky tonal/kettle dyed blend of grey and black. I soon found that black sock yarn is difficult to come by.
This brings us up to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival. Still looking for MCN, I surfed many booths with a lot of lovely yarn, coming back with very little. Finally, as my intrepid friend SquidWidget was spelunking through a sale bin of ??? yarn I wandered off and found an entire booth of sock yarn. Beautiful sock yarn. MCN sock yarn.
And no black.
Ok, there was close to black, but it registered as dark purple. Tonal, but not perfect. I left the booth, dejected back to see if SquidWidget was making it out alive. ??? hundred yards of yarn later we were back walking towards the Sun Valley Fiber booth and once again I was tempted by the yarns. The booth vendor started up a pleasant conversation, handed out Ravelry buttons and in general gave us a reason to stick around her booth a few more minutes. And that’s when I saw it.
It was not MCN. But it did catch my eye – and for one of the most foolish reasons. I wanted it because it reminded me of another yarn. It had that same misty, smoky colorway of Aruncania Atacama’s misty blue; sadly discontinued. A color style I rarely see. It reminded me of lazy days spent knitting in Vermont, and my first tentative steps through socks. I knit my Mom bedsocks with that blue, bedsocks that were eventually the unfortunate victims of my aunt’s vicious laundering. And this yarn said that I should buy it.
And I did.
Now what the heck was I going to do with a skein of beautiful fingering weight, non-superwash merino? I even set it on my computer desk, right by the screen so I had to look at it and remember it wanted to be knitted. I vowed not to be that type of knitter who goes to a fiber festival and goes wild… putting up half the stuff she bought for sale in destash a month later. I was going to knit this.
But into what?
“Make a shawl!” someone helpfully suggested. Alright, I wasn’t against shawls, but I didn’t have a pattern in mind, and Akimbo was out. So, time to Ravelry search. Fingering weight, yes. Knit, yes. Shawl, yes. Photo, yes. 400 yards, yes.
This produced some 60 pages of patterns to sift through. I ended up actually clicking on maybe 2 dozen, and with page after page tabbed on my screen, I was coming to the end of the list and saw this pattern.
Small enough to be worn as a scarf? Check. Solidly works with 400 yards? Check. Attractive, interesting lace pattern? Check. Not too frou-frou? Check. Triangle shape, pointy hem, cables and lace and kibbles and bits… Sold!
Literally. Purchased from Ravelry Saturday night and cast on Sunday morning while I was chilling out at my parent’s farm. The cast on took a bit of brain-work. Oh yeah… read ahead dummy. And then we were off and going. I like the charts in this pattern better than the written parts, and almost as a gift when I was halfway through an update of the pattern, fully charted came out – glee!
Now Taj Mahal has been cast off. Her final row is finished, and she lays in that lumpy mess that unblocked shawls take. She is beautiful. Cabled ripples like ocean waves undulate across her, with a yarn that reminds me of a quiet respite from crazy theatre days. I will block her this weekend and wear her with joy, and the prideful sense of accomplishment a knitter only gets from finishing a project crafted from impulse yarn. Oh ho! The non-knitters say. You bought that without even having a plan for it!
Ha ha! This knitter sasses back. I know what I like and I am solid in my beliefs that what I like is usable and beautiful yarn. See? I can find a project for the yarn I buy! And I can make something beautiful from it.
Now if I could only find tonal black MCN…