I’m a fan of Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, http://thebloggess.com. Recently, she shared her struggles with depression and self harm. This lead to a huge resurgence and expansion of her “Travelling Red Dress” project. I won’t go into details, you can find them on her website, twitter and a few main stream media articles in the last few weeks. What I will say, is I was inspired.
Over the weekend we had a fiber retreat here in Asheville. One of my favorite knitting authors came all the way from South Dakota. Kathleen Taylor‘s last book is titled Fearless Fair Isle Knitting and contains the most incredible pattern of all time. It’s named Dragon Ride Shawl and is this beautiful dragony hug of all things good.
I’ve had this book for a year and always wanted to knit this. But I was not fearless, I was very fearful.
I’m a knitter and a very good knitter but fair isle is the one type of knitting I’ve never mastered. There’s a trillion different colors and a ton of end to weave in when you are done. I’m bad at weaving in ends, I hate that worse than I hate seaming things together. I like the knitting part, the actual finishing bores me.
In addition, this pattern and most fair isle requires you to do something called “Steeking”. A steek, and steeking is on of those incredibly horrible Scandinavian inventions along the lines on Lutefisk. These are things that never should be, things that make Lord Voldemort look cuddly. Steeking is taking this nice lovely intricate piece of knitting that you have poured over for hours and, *shudder* taking a pair of scissors and…
I’m even having a hard time typing this…
and you CUT it. You slice it open like you are going to gut a deer.
In my mind, the yarns will start writhing in pain like snakes and the whole piece of lovely knitting will crumble.
Anyway, back to the story. I mentioned my idea of donating a Dragon Ride Shawl to travel as a not-red-dress red dress to Kathleen on facebook saying if I had the courage and resources, I would totally do it. She thought it was a great idea and dove into her yarn stash surfacing with just enough yarn to make one Dragon Ride shawl which she threw into her suitcase for her flight to North Carolina. Saturday morning she presented the yarn to me (and a copy of one of her mystery novels) with no obligations and no pressure to actually knit, complete or donate the shawl.
But seriously, the Travelling Red Dress is all about doing something daring and outrageous simply because it’s daring and outrageous. Not Knitting this shawl would be like getting the red dress in the mail and never putting it on. My red dress is creating this shawl which I hope will be a “red dress” for someone(s) to wear and feel beautiful and powerful in. With this in mind, last night I gathered my courage, set aside my fear and cast on.
A side note and a confession. Casting on is really hard for me. I can spend hours and hours trying to get something cast on correctly, not because the physical act of casting on is hard, but because I can’t keep count. I’m ADHD, I have a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum which I didn’t get until I was 38 years old. I’m also slightly dyslexic. Most things in knitting can be broken down into smaller sections, or repeats. I’m good with those. The rest is mainly “look at what you did last row and do that again”. I’m good with that too. Neither requires me to have to concentrate and keep a count with out getting distracted. Casting on is different. You are doing the same repetitive motion over and over and need to do it an exact number of times, in this case, 334 times. Then, you need to join it without twisting to start knitting. I often don’t realize I don’t have the right number of stitches until I get to the end of the first row/round, then its rip it out and start again.
It took me almost 4 hours, 15 stitch markers and a spiked cup of coffee to get the cast on and first row knitted. All of you that tell me how amazing a knitter in here is my secret shame. I struggle and berate myself and try to trick my mind into being able to count to 10 without getting distracted and losing my count. The more accomplished I get at knitting, the more stressful it is to get those first few rows in a project because I tell myself that I’m a moron and I know better and put all the pressure on myself to try to trick my mind into focusing and it only makes it worse. Eventually I make it through because I am a knitter and I know that it gets a lot better past that hurdle. What I gain from the act of knitting soothes the frustration of casting on.
After the cast on and foundation rows, I did something I would never do if I wasn’t so committed to being fearless with this project, I cut the yarn to switch colors. One of the things I love about knitting is the fact that until the very end, you can always go back. Its easy to pull out knitting and erase any mistakes or poor choices or trace that you every did it at all. You have the ability to Ctrl+Z your entire project up to the point you take scissors to your yarn. These small lengths of colored yarn can never be longer. They are knotted to their neighbors and ripping out my work will not result in a batch of raw materials bursting with possibility, it will just create a huge pile of former glory, future mulch. (though it would be really colorful mulch and maybe that was it’s destiny all along)
So this is my one shot and I’m going for it. I have my tools, my yarn, my book with the pattern. I have Kathleen in town for the next few days for final advice and encouragement. I have a start and that is the hardest part for me, literally and figuratively. World I give you the beginnings of a Dragon Ride. It may not look like much now, but it is going to be amazing.
If anyone would like to receive the finished shawl, should it turn out, please leave a comment or get in touch with me on email, twitter or facebook. I’ll start a list.