Dooner’s Girasole

Let’s see if I can find my way back to the beginning of the story of this shawl.

The year was 2013. The month was August or September, I forget which. Stringbean, then a tiny six-month old, had been in the hospital with a UTI. Being a new mother left me feeling completely shattered, all the time. I can’t think about that time without flashbacks to how vulnerable I felt.

Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh was not too far from a cool yarn store, so I tended to use our visits to one to excuse a visit to the other. According to my memories of that day, it was Stringbean herself who first grabbed this off the shelf.

It seemed such an impossibly indulgent purchase. 8 oz of 50/50 merino-yak, at a time when I wasn’t likely to have time to spin 8 oz of luxury fiber. We were two twenty-somethings, in grad school, on food stamps. I felt like a bit of an idiot. But that braid called to me, with its earthy rainbow of colors and natural dark streaks peeking through. So I did it.

Of course, I was not ready to spin such a yarn at the time. I found some spinning time when Stringbean was a baby, but by the time MiniMighty rolled around, I was done. My wheels were packed up, two to move to my mom’s house and one to move to the arctic.

This fiber finally got its day in the sun, three and a half years later, in April of 2017. I had discovered Wool n’ Spinning in January, and was gaining confidence as an intentional spinner. This braid was my first truly successful experience with sampling and record keeping. I sampled specifically for prep and grist, knowing I wanted enough yardage for a large lace shawl.

In my hubris, I started this spin right before vacation. My one finished bobbin sat on a shelf and glared at me for months before I returned to it.

But, because I managed not to lose my sample and card, I was able to return to this spin later and finish the yarn I started. It was an incredible lesson in the power of sampling and keeping records, which I have obviously never forgotten.

Fast forward again to Dooner’s arrival. When Stringbean and MiniMighty were born, I had made shawls for both of them to set aside as heirlooms for them. Both were the Evenstar shawl pattern by Susan Pandorf, with completely beaded borders.

This is the shawl that became Stringbean’s. You can read its original story here, but it has since been stored as an heirloom for the now-oldest sister.

Its companion for MiniMighty, was completed about seven months after she was born.

So I knew that, at some point, I would want to knit an heirloom shawl for Dooner as well. Not another Evenstar, but perhaps another Pandorf LotR pattern.

Back when I started spinning the Merino/Yak blend, Dooner was no more than a twinkle in her daddy’s eye. I thought I would make Emyn Muil with the finished lace yarn, and planned accordingly, with a gentle gradation of value worked into the spinning. When I was ready to cast on for Dooner, a year ago last summer, I thought I’d stick with that plan for her heirloom. I got as far as casting on the pattern and working a repeat or two.

I used to enjoy complex lace knitting. I always found it challenging, but the reward more than made up for any trials in the work. This has changed. I noticed when knitting Galadriel’s mirror that completing it took more grit than I was used to. But when I tried to knit Emyn Muil, it sparked… rage. I was angry that I was making myself knit this. It took way too much concentration, and the very idea of surrendering a hundred hours of my full attention to the project made me want to light it on fire.

Isn’t it interesting how much we change? I feel like the same person who struggled through puberty, who faced down young adulthood brimming with anxiety and ideals, and who was completely interrupted and altered by motherhood. I know I am the same person, and I know that people change. It’s funny that what brings it home to me is the alteration in my relationship to knitting.

Anyways. I had the good sense to rip out Emyn Muil without a look back, and purchase Girasole, a Jared Flood pattern I’d admired by for ages. This would echo the circular shawls I’d made for the older sisters, with much more approachable lace. Let’s get real: I wanted rest rows.

I cast it on September 1st, 2021. (Thank you, past me, for recording that fact in Ravelry.) I knit up the center patterns in a month. Then I sort of stalled in the final outer ring of chevron stitch pattern. I wanted the shawl to be as large as possible, so I added a few more repeats. This happened on and off, on and off, in between projects.

When I was finally satisfied with the chevron repeats, I spent months hemming and hawing over the border. I wanted to eke out every inch possible, so I went through every single border on Knitting-and to find a larger one I liked. Then I couldn’t figure out how to knit it. The shawl stayed in park a little longer.

Finally, I don’t remember when, I realized the thing wasn’t going to happen if I kept making it hard for myself. That’s what this whole project has become, anyways – embracing the limits to my knitting life that have come with a third child. I did the border in the pattern. A million six-row repeats later, and I was finally done. I blocked it last month.

My original vision, for a gradient of value, sort of worked. But not in any organized kind of way. I like the strong bulls-eye of maroon that extends nearly through the tall vertical chevrons. I love how the teal turns abruptly to orange right in a section with not as much openwork, but lots of waves.

I find it interesting that the long area of more muddied, lighter hues starts right around where the large section of chevrons begins, the lighter colors being lightened even further by the more open pattern. And I’m relieved that the muddied nature of the lighter colors makes any striping in the border more forgiving.

Dooner is the only child of the three of them old enough to see and understand while her shawl was being made. She would ask who it was for, and I said, “it’s for grown-up you.” She said, “Oh. Thank you, mama.”

This shawl doesn’t have the complex lacework that her sisters’ do. It doesn’t have the beading. But it does have my handspun yarn. It started when I first became a mother, but it contains all the ways I’ve grown since before she was in my life. Becoming less, but also more.

Like the other two shawls, this will be carefully packed away for future-Dooner. One day, perhaps when the girls each graduate from high school, these shawls will start their real lives, in ways that have nothing to do with me. They will be used, or not, and I might never know about it. But, like their wearers, that is their ultimate purpose: to have their own lives. We give our children the best of ourselves, which after all might not be so very bad, and let go. I’m not looking forward to letting them go. But I am looking forward to seeing who they become.

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