hello!  i am back (finally) to write about this epic, epic shawl.  i had many exciting ideas about how to spend a month without children, which included visions of yoga, rock climbing, travel, and of course, sewing.  lots of sewing.  the travel part has been going well as we march through our pre-planned trips, but the rest, all the rest, is a distant fantasy now, replaced with backbreaking, heartbreaking work, endless hours of it, with emotional and physical demands so great i struggle just to feed myself and sleep well in between shifts.  it would appear my endless quest for balance needs yet more tweaking.  serious tweaking.  but for now, this shawl.

IMG_6149isn’t she a beauty?  i know i rarely blog about knitting projects, but this one is deserving both in stature and because it has an equally epic backstory.  

you may or may not recognize this as the whisper wrap from the purl bee, a true happy place for crafters full of inspiration and calming visuals.  purl bee is a rare entity that i am willing to follow on all social media outlets.  i can never hear too much about their products or projects.  leafing through their archives is among my favorite crafting pastimes–which is how i found this shawl.  i mentally bookmark my favorite projects that i think would make fitting gifts for people, and give me an excuse to splurge on the finest materials to create something really special for the most deserving recipients.

IMG_6175this was the initial impetus behind the whisper wrap.  over a year ago, its intended destination was a very special birthday gift.  crafted from over two skeins of anzula mermaid, a strange and beautiful combination of silk and sea cell, some magical plant fiber retrieved from the bottom of the ocean, this is no cheap date.  absolutely not something i would *ever* buy or make for myself.  i think it’s a common issue among mothers of young children–we tend not to invest a lot of time or effort into something only we will benefit from.  on top of this, i acknowledge that i’m not an appropriate owner of fine things.  i’m sloppy and careless and spend 90% of my time with equally sloppy and careless little people, so a gigantic wearable silk comforter is not a top priority or wise investment.

IMG_6153however, i still enjoy making fine things for other people who will appreciate and care for them.  and so, over a year ago, i began this wrap as a birthday gift.  i had read somewhere in the comments that it would take a beginning knitter roughly 60 hours to complete.  seeing as i am not a beginning knitter and am actually quite a fast knitter on account of my evidently super efficient continental yarn handling, i figured 60 hours was an overestimate.  i learned to hold yarn at a very young age from my swiss-german grandmother, and what can i say, they seem to do everything with maximum efficiency.  in spite of this, over 10 hours in to the project, i noticed a pretty grievous error in my lace pattern, and knew i should rip it out to do justice to the project.  i also knew i would never get it done in time for the birthday.

IMG_6180quite uncharacteristically, i shelved the project.  i think it’s the only knitting project i’ve ever shoved into a dark corner.  knitting slippery, silky lace weight under pressure was a major turnoff and also very time consuming.  without the deadline, i just didn’t have the time or need to work on it.  and there it stayed, hidden in a drawer where it mildly tugged at my subconscious for a year and a quarter.  however, i had so many projects on my plate, including knitting projects, i just couldn’t justify working on it.  i even took the needles out of it to work on a different project, and with 481 stitches in a lace pattern now on waste yarn, i was pretty sure the whole project would get scrapped after that.

IMG_6152then something unexpected happened–the weather started warming, and i finished up all my knitting orders.  i love having a project on the needles at all times, because it keeps my fingers busy while still interacting with the kids.  it’s the reason i began knitting in the first place.  i had made a couple of lace weight projects, simple but tedious on account of their gauge, but i found i was starting to love the tedium.  i started swatching some kid seta just for entertainment, but i had to stop myself.  i already had a major project in progress that had eaten up tens of hours of my time 15 months earlier.  if i had no orders to attend to, it was time to return to the epic shawl.

IMG_6182so i did.  miraculously, i had zero problems getting every single stitch back on the needles, with no errors in the lace pattern.  i picked up exactly where i left off, and the pattern became emblazoned in my brain quickly enough that the project was totally portable.  without the pressure of a time restraint, i enjoyed knitting it.  i also decided that after all we had been through together, and that it appeared i would finish it right around my own birthday, that i would keep the damn thing for myself.  i deserve it, right??

IMG_6194progress was slow but steady, and after joining the second ball long before the halfway point, it was obvious i would need a third skein of yarn (they mention in the pattern notes that if your gauge isn’t perfect, you can anticipate this).  i went to the project page and ordered another skein of mermaid in maple, as called for by the project.  i had learned only days earlier that purl will wind yarn for you on request, and recalling the investment of time in winding hundreds of yards of lace weight without a swift, i made the request, knowing i would thus waive my right to return the yarn.

throughout the morning, i started having doubts about the order.  why did the shade on the project page look a bit darker than what i was knitting?  finally, three hours after placing the order, i decided to try and dig up my initial order from a year and a half ago to assuage my fears.  to my horror, i saw that i had in fact elected to knit the project in the color au natural, not maple.  i called purl in a complete panic, and my horror deepened as they informed me that, being a friday, they had rushed to get orders out to everyone before the weekend.  the yarn had been wound and shipped within hours of me placing the order.

IMG_6198now, two thirds of the way done with this project, so many hours and dollars already invested, i had wasted $50 on a ball of yarn i couldn’t use, and if i wanted to finish the project, would have to invest another $50 in the right color.  suddenly the already too fancy shawl was twice as expensive as i had budgeted for.  i was sick.  as a last ditch effort, i threw myself at the mercy of jen hoverson, one of the masterminds behind purl, and a regular contact of mine regarding customer service issues (which have been handled in a most attentive and professional manner, always). within 30 minutes, i received the following response:

Hi Ashley,

Thank you so much for writing such a nice, thoughtful email even when you’re unhappy!
We were ahead of orders today so got this out quickly – usually that is a good thing but it seems this time it wasn’t.
Since it is wound, we would usually charge a restocking fee for this as we wouldn’t know if some of the yarn had been used upon its return.  Since we know that you are returning it truly unused, I think we can make an exception.  While UPS has already picked up today, there is a very small chance he will drive back by as he has another pickup at another warehouse in our complex.  I’ll see if I can flag him down and look through outgoing packages to see if I can find it.  If I can, we can just ship the Au Natural to you and call it an even exchange.  I’m sure we will have another customer who will purchase this that won’t mind a wound skein.
If I can’t catch him, you can send it back to me (Jennifer) and I’ll take care of it then!
Hopefully that softens the blow.
shortly after this, she emailed to confirm that she ran outside, flagged down the truck, rifled through its contents, and pulled my erroneous order, simply to spare me the cost and inconvenience of return shipping.  i don’t know your general feelings or experiences with customer service, but for me, this is so above and beyond, it completely blew me away.  yes, purl is costly, but the quality and selection are unparalleled, and with people like this at the helm, i think you can feel comfortable with the investment.  they will really go out of their way to ensure you are happy with your order.
IMG_6184so with my new yardage, i knit and knit and knit.  around the house, at the park, camping, on the (too many) plane trips i took through may and june.  i appreciated the yarn was beautiful, but i’m not quite the fiber fanatic so many knitters are.  i began to appreciate the unique and ethereal quality of the yarn at squam, overrun by serious fiber addicts and giants of the knitting world, ALL of whom couldn’t help themselves but to approach me and request permission to stroke, squish, palpate, pet, and generally fondle the project.  between the yarn, the epic quality of the project, and my apparently mystifying knitting style, this shawl received a good deal of attention out in new hampshire.

IMG_6199i knit right down to the wire in michigan so i could wear it to a friend’s wedding (because really, how many opportunities will i have to wear this in the foreseeable future?!).  the 481 stitch bind off was a killer, and i actually ended up missing the wedding ceremony as a result (shhhhh…. i know other manic crafters will understand).  but after a year and a half, several states, countless hours (more than 60 for sure), and a quickly corrected meltdown, i finally have my first heirloom wardrobe piece.  the process of creating it over so much time and in so many places has already filled it with wonderful memories, and i think the nature of where it will be worn in the future will continue to do so.  it’s nice to be the owner of something really beautiful, something that i made, even if i didn’t mean to keep it.


10 Comments on the shawl that stopped a truck

  1. What a beautiful post (and finished project)! I was on the edge of my seat all the way to the end about the gift, the truck, and the wedding. Bravo!

  2. I’m really loving that customer service. This place sounds like the Nordstroms of yarn. How kind of them to help you out!

  3. Ha, your stories are so entertaining Ashley :) I’m sure it is not so funny to you when you are in the middle of said yarn crisis, but at least you can console yourself that one day, eventually, when you are over the trauma, there will be a great blog post that will amuse the likes of me….

    • it is such a thing of beauty…too beautiful i think for me, but i hope it becomes a part of many more happy memories! aren’t you inclined to get into very intense lace weight knitting projects?!

  4. Wow.
    I just hope the original intended recipient doesn’t read your blog ’cause man would she be cross!
    This is utterly, utterly beautiful. I don’t knit at all but I can see all the work that went into this and I’m pretty sure I can imagine how good it feels.

  5. I left a comment earlier ( then realized it was back in 2013) and will do so here in the present. I just happened upon your blog and just think it’s wonderful!! Has def made my day! Your knitting, ideas and words are lovely and inspiring!! I adore the Purl Bee and it’s archives, I know need to head over and look for this pattern! It’s beautiful, as are you! Happy Holidays to All!!!

    • hi jennifer! i received both your lovely comments but have been out of town until today–i see all of them no matter when the post was written initially. thank you so much for your kind words, you really made *my* day! i could get lost in the purl bee archives for hours–it’s a wonderful place to wander. hope you have a fantastic holiday. take care!

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