There’s a shop in New York, Purl Soho, that sells all things woolly and sewy (what I’d call a haberdashery, but apparently not in American!) and that maintains a simply gorgeous website and blog – Purlbee. Since I know of several non-knitters who have come across it, you may have, too… It is a site that has very very yummy eye-candy in the way of yarns and notions, which they also sell online, but one of the main attractions is that every week they publish new patterns, beautifully and drool-inducingly photographed, which seem to give everybody the “wants”. I’ve noticed that these lovely things are often fairly simple ideas beautifully executed and exquisitely presented, and of course Purlbee thereby intends to sell their not inexpensive products, completely understandable and it probably works, too, so convincingly marketed. Since I am a long way from New York and not willing to pay postage to Switzerland, it’s the patterns that I will pore over, considering my options, my stash and the contents of my LYS (local yarn shop, for the uninitiated). Dovetail Wrap by Purlbee
So, last week was a case in point. A quick click-thru’ and there was an utterly luscious, cuddly shawl that was too easy for words and would be fabulous in just the right yarn. An enormous bell practically knocked me unsconscious (in my mind, folks!) – yesss, THAT was the pattern for that squishy alpaca I’d had in my stash for ages! A deep, dark inky brown, this Lana Grossa yarn would be perrrfect for this pattern. Bought several years ago in an online sale, the poor yarn had twice been knitted up and each time, unravelled again – nope, bolero far too warm, nope, pattern doesn’t show up and so on, and meantime, it had been languishing in my stash for too long.
Excitedly, I rushed upstairs to my little studio area to dig it out and get going. Pah, this would finish like lightning on those 6 mm needles (about the fattest I’m willing to use) and I could just envision the light warm garter stitch shawl, almost feel it settling round my neck and shoulders… except, I couldn’t find the yarn.
I searched the cupboard, inside the boxes, inside the bags, on the bottom shelf. I rummaged through some plastic tubs of sock wool, baby wool and merino. I scratched my head thoughtfully. I dug into another bag that caught my eye. No, the alpaca wasn’t there, either. I cast my mind back a few weeks, remembering a big bag of yarn I’d taken to the charity shop, some stash I’d decided I’d never use… had I really put the alpaca in there?
I decided that I had. It was no use crying over spilt milk, I had given the alpaca to a better home and that was that. Silly of me, yes, but well, if I wasn’t going to use it, why keep it, after all, I was proud of myself for all the decluttering I had done, letting things go that others might yet enjoy if I didn’t actively use or admire them. And it’s not as if I had no wool left – I have plenty of other stash (just nothing that thick…) and plenty of other WIPs (works in progress) and more than plenty of other patterns, too, even without Ravelry’s delights. Ah well, that was that and it couldn’t be helped, I needed to focus on something else. With this, I wandered back downstairs to the living room, intending to do something completely different. But of course I couldn’t resist, I had to check the boxes and baskets that now seem to have “moved” there, neatly tucked under the console table. Oh really, no of course it’s not there, I know exactly what’s down here – MadelineTosh sock yarns, Malabrigo lace merino, Drops baby alpaca-silk, I can practically recite ball band numbers and colours and amounts of all that, no, I was just being unrealistic.One of the frogged projects I’d foolishly tried with this yarn… Isis Wrap by Kathleen Power Johnson
Then I spied two knitting bags hanging on my embroidery stand… and lo and behold, one of them held about 6 or 7 little balls of varying sizes of that lovely dark brown baby alpaca!! Well!! Mentally patting myself on the back, proud as punch and beaming like a Cheshire cat, I pulled it all out, considered it briefly (there seemed a lot less than I remembered…surely I’d had 5 full balls of it?) and set to – even the 6mm circular was in there, it was simply meant to be. 8 stitches cast on, turn, sl1k1yok1yok1(pm)k1yok1yok2 and off I went.
I’d started with the biggest ball, then the next and the next, and by the time I’d caught up with a couple of taped TV programmes on a dull afternoon, I was using balls that got me only 3 or 4 rows further on – and then I ran out. The “wrap” was about bandana sized (83x41cm) and would just about tuck inside the neckline of a close-fitting coat, so snug and sweet, but far from a shawl. What to do? Opening my trusty laptop, I didn’t really think I’d find more of the same colour or batch after all these years, but gosh, you never know, do you?! Stranger things have happened. What I actually found was that the yarn had been discontinued, drat… but look, there’s a replacement, just the same, oh yes, well no, not the same colour range, but check that out, it’s the brand my LYS sells so surely I could have a look – couldn’t I?
My LYS is a 25 minute drive away. I didn’t have much time, as my game plan was to use another errand and a visit as an excuse to bypass the town where the shop is and it was getting near to closing time. As I drove, the sun began to come out and surely that was a good omen? Fortunately, it was quiet in town, I found a parking spot and hurried over to the shop. The assistant greeted me warmly and was a little surprised that I came with such a definite request, having memorised the name of the “new” yarn. Her brow furrowed as she tried to remember – and then cleared as she reached towards a box of samples, apologising as she did so, “I’m afraid I only have a very few colours left of this yarn…” Ah. Well, never mind, I should be grateful I was getting any opportunity to finish my shawl, and quickly plumped for cream (bright green seemed a little too… off?), asking for 3 balls and heading to the cash desk. “Oh, she said, I’ve only got 4 in so shall I keep the last one on one side, you know, just-in-case?” My brain was pretty much switched off anyway, so I insisted that no, she could sell me all 4, no use leaving yarn orphans lying in the shop!
As soon as I could, I returned home and settled in with my delectable wrap, oh it was going to be sooo gorgeous, too cuddly for words. Pulling the yarn end out of the centre, my mind began to register something. I wrapped the yarn round my finger and picked up the bandana. Then it hit me. The yarn was nowhere near as thick as the dark brown. Oh yes, it was the same percentage of merino and alpaca, but spun far more thinly. I checked the ball band. 140m/50g. I checked the old ball band. 85m/50g. I stopped in my tracks, stunned. That, my friends, is a considerable difference in thickness, needle size, tension, you name it. That was not going to work!
If you have read my blog for any length of time, you will know that I am Queen of making lemonade out of lemons. Why should I be daunted? How could I be stopped? Woe betide those who shake their heads at my hastiness! I barely skipped a beat. Grabbing the bandana, I tinked a row and cast off with that last precious bit of yarn, sewed all the (many!) ends in. So it was a bandana and not a shawl, see if I care! It’ll be useful to somebody, just you see, someone will ooh and aah over it and snuggle into its alpaca warmth on a chilly winter’s day. Yes they will.
And then I set to with the new cream yarn. 4 balls of alpaca merino loveliness, 5 mm circulars, a super pattern and now you could set a timer, the rate I whizzed along! Within a weekend (my husband was sick with ‘flu so I got lots of knitting time :o), I had busily garter stitched and yarnovered my way through 520m of soft cream dream wool and had a shawl worthy of the name to show for it: 130cm across and 62cm deep. Happy? I was delirious! Now that was more like it!! Contentedly, I started sewing in ends again.
Late on Sunday, my husband was tired of spending all his weekend in bed or on the sofa feeling awful, so we decided to take the dog for a walk in the last light. I was soon in coat and boots, an enormous green shawl wrapped round my upper torso against the cold. My husband came towards the door, wearing a flat cap and flimsy scarf. I reached for the drawer that holds our hats, gloves and scarves in the entrance, surely we had something warmer than that for the poor man to wear. As I opened the drawer, my eye was caught by something cushily deep dark brown and hand-knitted, sitting innocently on the top of everything: the hat and cowl I had made my husband out of the brown baby alpaca not two months ago….