DAY ONE: Well then. Sometimes you have to recognize and admit when you’re failing.

I’ve been knitting on this Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl for a year and a half now. It’s a re-knit. I made one ages ago and gave it to someone very undeserving (which I realize is not a nice thing to say, so I don’t make that claim lightly.) I wanted to make another version. To maybe feel better about the pattern? To give it to *someone better*? I don’t know exactly what my reasons were.

I’ve been slogging away at it since December of 2019 and hating every second. Not because it was too complicated; I didn’t quite have any technical difficulties until this weekend.when I thought I might make some shortcuts. I think the real, actual failure that I’m referring to here is not listening to my heart and my guts screaming “we hates it!” every time I’d glance at the work in progress.

So…in the course of cutting out a few steps, realizing it wasn’t going to work, and tinking back to where I had left off prior to my error in judgement…the needle join unscrewed and at least half the stitches tumbled off the needles, all of those lacey YOs lost in the fall. There were close to a thousand stitches on the needles before that happened.

Yeah. So. Thanks for the sign, universe. I get what you’re trying to say. Fuck this thing in particular. We’ll find something better and more fun to fail at next time.

DAY TWO: While unknitting that spectacular failure of a shawl yesterday and simultaneously winding the liberated yarn into a ball for a new project, I had old episodes of House playing in the background to distract me from being angry and depressed. I know it’s silly, but a project not working out can really leave me feeling quite down and really cross with myself and I was hoping that watching a cranky Bertie Wooster bantering with a Dead Poet’s Society alum-turned oncologist might cheer me up.

Tapeworm and tumors, sepsis and scurvy, oh my! Over the course of several episodes and even more medical misdiagnoses, I suppose I became inspired as I glanced down at the dwindling body of my shawl to see I was holding its perfect heart in my hands. And I knew that I could save it.

I teased those fragile remaining stitches back on the needles, gently bound them off one by one, and crocheted a delicate looping border around the whole thing.

What died a shawl was resurrected as an altar cloth with that stunning floral motif in the center fully intact. A centerpiece for my holy space of creative failures. These doomed beauties deserve a place in the temple, too.


Finishing a thing–whether it’s a book, or a television show, a piece of writing, or, in this case, a knitting project, always makes me a little sad. This thing and I, we built something together, we took a journey together, traveled as companions, unraveled mysteries and solved problems together, we probably hit more than a few bumps in the road, and then… we reached the end of the line. Rewatching, re-reading that same story, recreating that sweater or shawl or whatever, it’s just not going to be the same as the first time we embarked upon and engaged with that experience. This reddit user sums it up pretty well.

And although holding a finished project in your hands is nice…that *thing* you’ve now got is never really the point. It was the stitches we made along the way, you know? And anyway, I don’t keep most of the things I knit, so having the thing after I have bound off the last stitch is definitely not the reason I knit it to begin with, and certainly not what kept me working on it for five months only to rip out the whole thing and turn it into something else entirely.

Whoa, that is strangely specific, isn’t it?

This is the Vedbaek shawl, which began its life as the Carlina sweater. I had knit up the entirety of the body and half of a sleeve when I decided it absolutely was not working for me, and I then proceeded to unknit the whole thing. I will confess that the demise of that sweater is one ending which did not make me at all sad.

In the process of taking that sweater apart, I was not able to unravel the yarn in one entire unbroken piece, and so there are several knots that poke through the pattern of the shawl now, in places where I had to tie the snipped pieced back together. I’m trying to convince myself that these imperfection add to the wabi-sabi rustic beauty of this piece, but I don’t know that I am entirely persuaded.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter! That project is bound off, pinned down, and stretched out, and there’s nothing more I can do with it. Furthermore, as soon as it is dry and and the ends are woven in, it’s going to surprise someone in the form of a parcel at their doorstep in the next week or two, and I will never have to see it again!

Unless, of course, this individual sends me a photo of it being draped or dangled or worn or used in some way, in which case I will be very happy to see* the beginnings of this finished thing’s next journey.

*P.S. if I have ever sent you something that I knit, I hope you will always feel free to share with me photos of you wearing it! Nothing delights me more do see how these projects live out their new lives.

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