Hope Strings (or Sometimes You and Your Lace Project Need Counseling)

When the lace pattern and its
bobbles flow smoothly, life
is good.  (I'm making Louisa
Harding's Oaksike from Little
Cake pattern book.)
You fell in love.  The romantic image of a dewy young woman, standing by a hedgerow in the English countryside captured your romantic sensibilities.  She sported a lacy cardigan, long-sleeved, the color of cornflowers, a garment seemingly crafted by fairies, so gossamer and perfect was the yarn from which it was created.  You searched high and low, willing, this time, to pay the price for lavish yarn, a rare heathery mixture of silk and wool, in dusty rose, rather than the sample's blue.  Your passion was worth the extravagance.  In the throes of your initial infatuation, you cast on, put the project away for a while, picked it up again, and knit three rows, and then eight more, in perfect lace—no tearing out, no coming to the end of a row and finding that you were shy of one necessary stitch, no picking up dropped stitches along the way.  This match was made in heaven.

It is evening.  You glance at the pattern.  You look again, this time with more concentration.  Your brow furrows.  You read, “Change to 3.25 mm (US 3) circular needles.”  This statement appears before the instructions for the last eight rows.   You were supposed to cast on and knit several rows using size six needles and then switch to size three.  Such an unorthodox beginning, you think.  Normally it’s smaller needles and then larger.  You’ve used the wrong size—not the first time you’ve made this mistake in a new relationship (see my blog post "Throw Me a Lifeline" from March of 2012).  You’re irritated, but not angry.  Bumps are natural along the way of getting accustomed to your project, you suppose.  Sadly you rip out and begin again, knitting away, gradually forgetting your dismay at this initial eye-opening revelation, and rekindle your love affair. 

You and your project are now knit together in a fine marriage of purpose and high ideals.  You will come together and create something refined and beautiful, an offspring worthy of the gods.  You ply your needle and the fabric grows.  Along the way, you discover, however, the rocks that need to be pulled from your field, in order to keep smoothly plowing, so that your harvest will be bountiful. 

You find that noise, troublesome pets, demanding doorbells and cell phones, unyielding school schedules drain the vitality from your marriage.  You mean to devote more time to your project, but when you try to steal a few moments in the evening to bond with it, you find yourself peevish and ultimately furious when you realize that you’ve bungled a row, three rows back.  You discover that the perfect slip one stitch, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over  that creates wonderful stacked Gothic arches in your knitting has produced instead an off kilter, leaning tower—sixteen times in one row of your sweater.  You need time!  An expanse of calm to deal with flaws and wounds to your psyche. 

You pour some wine, and then some more, and attempt that row with sixteen repeats and a total of 32 yarn overs again.  A discussion of dental appointments the next day interrupts your labors, and then the dog jumps on the couch, fastening your ball of yarn securely under her bulky heft and gazing at you with abandoned, mournful eyes.  This time you’re more than peeved, but not at the dog.  A string of invective emerges from your lips.  You need a break to reassess this relationship.

The morning dawns fine and bright.  You’re contrite.  You don’t want to sever yourself from your lace sweater.  You extract the fine mess from your knitting bag and begin counting stitches and then ripping out, but you’re halfway through a row and you notice that it’s time to go to work.  The fact that your issues can’t be addressed immediately festers all day.  You know that when you return home in the evening, you will be bleary eyed and tired, in no shape to deal with painful complexities. 

This process repeats itself, with moments of blissful peace, when the atmosphere is calm, when you are not fatigued, when the sun shines, when you are able to find stolen moments when productive harmony prevails, but those times are few and far between.  The months roll by.  Your initial aspirations have paled a bit.  You just want to finish this project.  At times, a glimmer of your initial idealism and hope shimmers through.  The rest of the time it’s the deadening day-to-day routine that sucks the life out of much of your relationship. 

With a picot edging and sides and a back that are knit in one piece, this pattern has heartbreaking appeal. 
Ultimately, however, the choice is yours.  Abandon hope or persevere?  Should the knots and thickets become too frustratingly agonizing, it may be best to sever ties completely.  Tear out. Rewind.  Give the yarn away.  Or maybe it’s time to get to work.  Schedule a retreat somewhere, where you and your lace can regroup and recommit, free from the cares and interruptions of your ordinary life.  Ultimately, with time and dedication you’ll end up with something beautiful, maybe not the romantic vision of your dreams, but darn close, despite the snags and tears along the way. 

Note:  I saw Hope Springs this past weekend and, after some uncomfortably embarrassing moments watching Meryl Streep’s and Tommy Lee Jones’s characters attempt to rekindle their romantic passions, I made a connection to my own relationship (with a current lace project). 


  1. This is extraordinarily witty, Liz! I so enjoyed reading it but it's so agonisingly true to life both life with yarn and life with a capital L that it made me wince with recognition! It's a sad fact of life that uninterrupted time for creative activities is often at the tail end of the day when we are not at our brightest and best. One of the things I like about crochet is its forgiving nature when things go wrong and rows need to be frogged and re-done as I can generally find my place again. And one of the things that really scares me about knitting is that I can't do this - the ripping out is OK but I can never work out how to pick things up again! I hope you and your lace cardigan make it on through and have many happy years ahead of you! E x

  2. Cool post :) I like the idea of a retreat to find your peace and continue to knit your beautiful sweater :)


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