I propose that Elizabeth Freeman is the Thomas Pynchon of the knitting world. She appeared out of nowhere with a background in science, wrote two of the most original, complicated, but ultimately very readable shawl patterns in recent memory, and is totally reclusive. Her Ravelry profile exists but is blank, and she doesn’t appear to have any kind of blog or even to do any design work other than occasionally writing the biggest and best shawl pattern ever. She is responsible for the Laminaria that I recently finished — a pattern that came out a little more than a year ago and has over 1100 projects on Ravelry — and the Aeolian that you see in its nascent stages above — a pattern that came out just a few months ago and is already giving the Laminaria a run for its money, with 840 projects on Ravelry.
What you probably can’t tell from the above picture is that it is in fact evidence of severe mental illness. The yarn you see there clocks in at about forty wraps per inch, making it cobweb-weight — half the thickness of normal lace yarn, which is more like 20 WPI — and I am using US 1 needles to knit it, which are all of 2.5 mm in diameter. Now, to be fair, this was not originally my plan. Originally I was going to knit this shawl in Handmaiden’s Mini Maiden yarn, which is a totally reasonable 14 WPI — I was going to make the smaller shawl in this thicker yarn, it was going to be super fast, and then I was going to get back to those other projects I showed you last time. But when the yarn arrived in the mail it was too purple to match the dress I was planning to wear to the wedding in September, and I despaired. I wrote to Evelyn, the proprietor of Knitty Noddy where I had ordered the yarn from, and explained the problem. Not only did she allow me to return the Mini Maiden, but she photographed several other yarns for me that she thought might work better, so I could see them all next to one another to compare their colors. One of these yarns was the brand-new Nirvana Lace from Stitchjones, an indie dyer — a yarn so new that it’s not on Ravery yet, and so new that Evelyn hadn’t even photographed it for her website yet, so I could never have found it without her help. And the color match turned out to be perfect!
It matches so damn well that I was helpless to resist its crazymaking cobweb-weight charms. The upshot of this story is that (a) it’s not my fault, and (b) Knitty Noddy is a wonderful shop with a lovely & helpful proprietor that will be my first choice for internet yarn-purchasing from now on.
With a dress like this you might wonder why I’m not knitting a white shawl for contrast, and the answer is that I’ll wear a blue shawl on other occasions, but a white shawl would be really hard to bust out for a cocktail party without looking like I was planning to ascend to heaven at any moment. (Like Elizabeth Freeman kinda does in some of those Aeolian pictures.) Also I don’t get invited to that many fancy cocktail parties; I’m having a hard enough time trying to figure out how to wear shawls to bars and barbeques.
Now, the Aeolian is a shawl that is supposed to be knit with beads, which is something that I’ve never done before. I was originally planning to make it that way, figuring I may as well learn to do it and see if I like beaded shawls, but I was unable to find a crochet hook small enough to fit through the beads of the recommended size. I eventually ordered one on the internet, but I decided to go ahead and start the shawl without beads — since the yarn is so skinny, I think a whole bunch of beads might make it rip apart under its own weight. Probably I’ll put beads on the edging, though, in an attempt to have the best of both worlds. Check out how tiny this hook is!
It’s a US 14 hook — crochet hooks get smaller as the size numbers get bigger, which is the opposite of how knitting needle sizes work. It’s a whopping 0.75 mm in diameter at the tip there. The plan for this picture was that the presence of my hands would be a scale to help you see how tiny these objects are, and hence how much misery I am heading towards — but in fact, the tiny hook, yarn, and beads have the effect of making my hands look all fat and huge. Please believe me when I say that my hands are in fact very petite. I have been severely handicapped at playing the guitar because my fingers are just not long enough to make bar chords, and the number of guys I have dated who thought it was debonair to recite those lines from e.e. cummings that go “no one, not even the rain, has such small hands” is pretty embarrassing.
So here’s hoping that my tiny hands will be an asset in this extended visit to Crazytown. Wish me luck!