Sunday, March 14, 2010

Harder than Knitting

There are many things in life that are difficult.

But what is difficult for one person is perhaps easy for another, and vice-versa, a simple fact that I think was perhaps best expressed on Sesame Street many years ago.

For me, knitting has come fairly easily. I started less than two years ago, and in the interim I really haven't yet been stumped. Of course, I've had an amazing and very supportive group of knitters to lean upon for inspiration and advice, as well as an exceptional local yarn shop.

Since first announcing the Bitterroot shawl giveaway several weeks ago, I've received an amazing response. Amazing first because I seem to have touched a nerve - many others are apparently also troubled by the vast prairie-like expanse between Megan Fox's eyebrows and her hairline.

Amazing also because so many of the people who wrote in suggested that they were somehow intimidated to try a lace project. A few even said that they could "never" pull off so complicated a pattern.

This simply isn't true.

There is nothing particularly complicated about the Bitterroot. In fact it is a relatively simple and straightforward pattern. Like any pattern, you need to spend some time keeping track of where you are in it. And placing the beads can be a bit of a pain. But it certainly isn't difficult.

For me, choosing a winner of the giveaway has been much more difficult than actually knitting the shawl. First of all, there was the sheer number of entries. When I started this process I had no idea that I would get entries from so many people - let alone entries from people on other continents. The response was startling, and making a decision proved to be quite a challenge.

In the end, and with the assistance of a few close friends (none of whom had entered), I narrowed it down first to 25, then 10 and then 4 entries. At that point, I was on my own.

Finalist #1

From a mother and her three daughters, ages 7-12, I received the following entry:

We would like the shawl because we want to provide it a home where it will feel loved and appreciated. It is difficult to go through life knowing that you are unwanted, to be called 'ugly'. There are four females here who appreciate handknit items and would dote lovingly upon the poor little shawl. (We promise not to fight over it, much.) We are willing to open our hearts and home to the lovely piece of yarny goodness.

This initial submission was followed by a second message, promising to love the shawl and wear it to innumerable "dances, proms, weddings and balls for many years to come," along with the following haiku:

Three daughters and mom
lovely shawl from a stranger
longing for its warmth

This entry really spoke to me. By selecting Finalist #1, I'd have the chance to make four people happy. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, this entry should be the winner.

Finalist #2

From S.R., a knitter in Maryland, I received the following entry:

Sometimes hard to see
The beauty of what we make.
I'd kill for that shawl

Seriously, it is lovely. And yes, I'd wear it. I'd wear it like nobody's business! I am so tempted by shawl patterns but, at the same time, so intimidated.

This entry too captured my attention. I love haiku. People talk about how twitter is changing the world because we're now forced to communicate in 140 characters or less. But the haiku makes your average tweet look like War and Peace. Once you limit yourself to seventeen syllables, you're really forced to concentrate on your message. And with this entry the essential truth of the first two lines is irrefutable. Plus, the last line adds humor and humanity. This is one exceptional haiku. If the giveaway was judged solely on the basis of poetry, this would be very tough to beat - but then again so would a certain sonnet.

Finalist #3

From L.C., I received the following combination letter and poem:

There once was a straight male knitter
who would never be called a quitter
when he knit a wrap
that he thought was crap
his contest made me all a twitter

so I promised that I would take care
of the shawl that his wife wouldn't wear
we'd be cozy together
in all sorts of weather
while admirers notice and stare

Oh, how I wish I had your beautiful shawl at this very moment, sitting on my sofa, typing away with a big ol' fuzzy black blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I am cold. I tend to always be cold. However, my husband always tends to be hot. Guess who wins when the heat setting is chosen?

I want very much to win your shawl because I would love to be warm AND lovely, even when in my home. I would love to wrap it around my shoulders in the morning as I got everyone out the door for the day and wear it into the preschool when I drop off my son. I would love to wear it through the grocery store, as I wander into the dairy aisle and catch a chill from the open refrigerators. I would love to wear it out on the playground, where I sit with my "Mom Friends" while my son runs and climbs and plays with his friends. Imagine the envy from the other moms! I would have on a hand knit piece of art, and they would have on fleece vests from LL Bean! I would wear it home, to sit and knit in the playroom while my son built legos and waited for his brother to get home from school. I would wear it into my sons' swim practice where the humidity of the indoor pool makes me sweat inside my bulky sweaters - but not in a shawl draped elegantly across my back! I would love for my husband to come home and find me in my "so nerdy they are cool" reading glasses, sitting in the kitchen in my pretty shawl and not in one of my giant sweatshirts from college. "Hi honey! You look nice," he would say. And as soon as the babysitter arrived, we could jump in the car and head out to the movies - he in his jeans and button down shirt, and me in my jeans and "mom tee" and stunning shawl.

I love pink. What matches pink? Turquoise, brown and green!! The "neutral" shawl would match everything I own! The browns that match my hair and eyes, the lime green I buy so I don't always wear pink, the blues that remind me of my sister and her blue eyes (Maybe that's why I wear pink? 'Cause she got the pretty blue eyes?) The different shades of yarn in the shawl would keep it out and on my shoulders instead of hanging, lonely, in the back of my closet with the bright red scarf/wrap that matches nothing.

Oh, please, TSMK, pick me. I would give your shawl the happy, chilly home that it deserves!

This is a delightful poem. But more to the point, when I read the letter I find myself thinking it might have been written by Mrs. TSMK. She also hangs out at the park with her "Mom Friends". She too spends time sweating at the pool while our boys swim. And she has more than a passing familiarity with legos. Passing the shawl on to L.C. would be almost like giving it to Mrs. TSMK - except it would be a Mrs. TSMK who knits and likes this shawl.

Finalist #4

From Sandra, in Australia - the following entry:

Much easier to bear when
wrapped in lovely lace.

Precious cloud of lace,
come live with me Down Under.
Blue sky, red earth, home.

Wow. I'm not often speechless, but this one did the trick. And it stuck with me. Within hours after receiving the entry I found I'd committed it to memory. Many entries made mention of current difficulties or recent challenges. But this one was different. The way the author weaves the difficulty of her circumstances with the desire for the object and the beautiful imagery of her home. Just brilliant. Plus, given my recent stance on all things breast-related, this really struck a chord.

And so I was left with a final four. I announce the recipient below. But first, an important announcement.

I'm going to give more things away.

As it turns out, giving away something you make is intensely enjoyable. And so, being somewhat of a hedonist, I intend to do it again. And again. In fact, I've decided to give away something hand-made every two months or so. I'll do it through the blog. So far, I'm not sure what I'll give away. But I have a penchant for knitting lace, so more lace shawls are fairly likely. If you have a particular favorite pattern that you'd like to see the subject of a future giveaway, shoot me an email at and let me know. The format for the giveaways will likely vary from time to time, but I'll try to keep it interesting.

And now - the winner.

Thank you to all who submitted an entry.

Sandra in Australia, your entry haunts me - will you wear my shawl?



  1. I loved all the entries from your four finalists; they're all touching in their own way. FWIW, I agree that Sandra's is haunting.

    Sandra in Australia, I wish you good health at the end of your chemotherapy.

  2. Oh Brian, I most certainly WILL wear your shawl! Thank you so much for choosing my poem as the winner. I think I might have to buy a new outfit to wear with it - yep a very good idea. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the other entries you posted and am still a little bit gobsmacked that I won. Thank you!

  3. I have had the pleasure of meeting Sandy at a knitting session. Sandy is a very giving person and a very deserved winner. Good health Sandy, Keryn

  4. As I read the entries early this morning, my first thought was "Sandra needs to win this shawl!" As much as I covet it, that was the best entry.

    Brian, this was fun! I'm looking forward to more contests!

    S.R. from Maryland