My husband and I are going to London soon to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Naturally, about as soon as we firmed up our plans, my thoughts turned to knitting — the projects I’ll take with me and the finished projects I’ll wear.
It’ll be full-up springtime when we go, so I don’t need bulky sweaters or winter gear. A shawl or wrap that goes with everything from dressy to casual would fit the bill — something that would go with about everything in my travel wardrobe.
I surveyed my current holdings of wraps and shawls. Although I have quite a few, none seemed like “the” shawl to take with me. The Rosebud Shawl is too dressy.
Multnomah is the right idea, but won’t go with everything in my travel wardrobe. Plus, it’s a little too heavy for London in springtime.
I dismissed others for that same reason. The Oriel Lace Wrap was a contender, but I had misgivings in that it doesn’t always provide the coverage I want if I’m someplace chilly.
I decided to make something new. And the something I decided on was Alice Starmore’s Birdsfoot Wrap. Perfect, I thought. The 2-ply yarn is a nice, medium weight. If I knit up a 24-inch wide wrap, I should have the coverage I want at a weight that’s neither too heavy nor too light for this time of year.
I considered the various colorways that Starmore offered, finally deciding on Pebble Beach. Online, it looked sort of granite-ish, an overall neutral color with flecks of many different colors would go with about anything in my wardrobe. And the pattern looked pleasant to knit — not too stupifyingly dull, but not too intricate, either. The overall effect would look like bird tracks in wet sand. Pretty evocative of a vacation, I thought.
When the kit arrived on an overcast and snowy day, I opened the box, and my heart sank. What I saw were sixteen skeins of an unattractive dun-colored yarn. I sighed and left the yarn to sit on the dining room table. What would I do with it? I didn’t like the color. Sending it back to the Hebrides wouldn’t make economic sense. If I didn’t want to use this particular yarn, and if I wanted to knit Birdsfoot, I’d have to order still more yarn in a different colorway, and lose precious knitting time between then and our departure date while waiting for another delivery.
The next morning, the sun was shining brightly. I came downstairs to have breakfast, and saw the yarn in the sunlight on the table. It had transformed. Rather than being the color of an antique soldier uniform, it was now granite grey with a multitude of color flecks. I’d learned an important lesson about this colorway — it never looks the same twice. It’s appearance depends on the lighting, and it varies from dun to grey to sort of purply-taupe, and the multicolored flecks are more or less prominent, depending on the lighting. Intrigued, I swatched up a sample.
My first impression of the yarn had been deceiving. After I washed and blocked the sample and looked at it in the sunlight, where it revealed bits of just about every colorway that Starmore makes, I decided that this colorway would make a good wrap, after all.
I knit up a few inches, using up a skein, and then did a sanity check. One skein knit up to four inches long. I had 16 skeins. I could make a wrap that was 24 inches wide and 64 inches long, at my particular gauge. Perfect. But what about the time involved? Would I have enough time to knit the thing before we went to London?
In an average week, I probably knit 10 hours. I’d like to knit more than that, and sometimes do, but I can’t commit to more than 10 hours per week on an ongoing, regular basis. When I started Birdsfoot, I had nine weeks before the London trip. That’s 90 hours of knitting.
Each 10-row repeat takes me about 75 minutes (yeah, I’m a slow knitter, but a methodical one). I needed about 51 or so repeats, meaning that the wrap would take about 64 knitter-hours. I breathed a sigh of relief. The wrap had passed the sanity check. I could knit it in time, having time to knit on a few other odds and ends, if I knit it diligently.
So, for weeks, that’s what I did. Usually, I rotate among four to six projects. Polygamous knitting keeps me engaged. But for this? Due to my time constraints, I was almost completely monagamous. The dedication paid off. With just a little time to spare, I finished.
The finished wrap is blankety, but not too heavy, nor too light. It’s about right for a chilly airplane cabin (or chilly anyplace else). The color works well with just about anything.