INSANITY: it’s not just for dads anymore!

November 15, 2005, 9:10 p.m., phone conversation with my mom

Me: Did dad like the Sharfik?

Mom: Yeah, he liked it. He wrapped himself up in it, and he’s prancing around.

Me: Did he like the color?

Mom: Yeah, it’s a nice color, it’s nice and neutral, and when he gets it dirty, you won’t be able to tell.

Me: You know, you can wash it. Cool water with a little detergent, then lay it out to dry.

Mom: Oh yeah? Well, I’ll wash it in the spring when I put all the scarves away.

Me: It was nice to knit for him. And I like knitting for grandma.

Mom: Those last socks you knit for her were spectacular.

Me: You know one of those came out smaller than the other. It’s because I knit the second one after I had graded a pile of reports, and I was so pissed off and tense.

Mom: (Laughs) They are still so nice. Grandma coordinates her socks with her outfits when she goes to the doctor.

Me: That’s cute. So, yeah, scarf for dad, and socks for grandma, I guess that’s my knitting! I don’t have much to knit for you – you’re like me, but worse – always hot.

Mom: Yeah, I can’t wear wool socks, and my scarves are light silk, I guess.

Me: I guess there isn’t much more for me to knit except more socks for grandma! Although… there is one thing that has really interested me. So there is this really challenging technique – you take very thin yarn, and fairly thin needles, and knit this delicate scarf-like thing. What do you call that in Russian? Grandma has one, except it’s not knit… the green and gold one with fringe. It’s like a big square, and you can throw it over your shoulders when it’s cold inside the house or wear it under a coat.

Mom: Poncho?

Me: (uttered with a tone of disgust rather than protest) NO! I will not knit any ponchos. It’s like a big square, maybe a meter or meter and a half across.

Mom: Shawl?

Me: Yes! Oh yeah, in English it’s also called shawl. So yeah, the technique for knitting a shawl has really interested me, but you know I wouldn’t ever wear a thing like that! I was thinking that if Grandma ever asks me to knit one for her, I would be up for it. It would take at least 6 months, I think, so it’s a long-time investment, but I would enjoy it.

Mom: Yeah, I imagine a thing like that takes a while. But it’s so fancy, where would she wear it?

Me: It doesn’t have to be fancy. I mean, it can be as fancy or as simple as she wants.

Mom: Isn’t it a triangle?

Me: Well, sure, some are triangular, and some are square or round and you fold them on a diagonal. Anyway, I am not going to offer to knit it for grandma because I don’t want to force my knitting on her, especially such a big project, but if she ever thought of it herself, I would knit it for her. Maybe you could ask her about shawls, give her the idea? And then tell me if it seems like the type of thing she wants.

Mom: You can knit me a shawl.

This is where I choked on my tomato salad.

Me: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, if it was light… Forget it, it’s such a huge project!

Me: I know, but remember how I started the whole conversation – the most important thing is that I’m already interested in the technique – I am only looking for a reason to knit one. So if my only grandma asked for one, even though it’s a huge project, you know I would do it.

Mom: Yeah…

Me: And if my only mom asked for one, same story.

Mom: Yeah… I could wear it to the cafeteria at work – it’s always so cold.

Me: So, you know, hypothetically speaking, how complicated would you want your shawl to be? There are ones with leaf and flower designs, and simple ones with geometric designs, and even simpler ones with hardly any design at all.

Mom: I guess one with leaves would be nice.

Me: What color?

Mom: Well, my coats are either blue or purple…

Me: Maybe light blue? Or something neutral like beige or cream? Or gray?

Mom: Neutral is the thing, it would match many outfits. Yeah, gray would be nice. Like a bluish gray. You know how many metals, like steel and pewter, have that blue undertone? I would like a shawl that color… the color of steel.

Me: Okay, so leaves, and bluish gray. I already know a few shawl patterns that have leaves – I’ll e-mail the pictures to dad, and he’ll show you on the computer. Just like I did for his sharfik.

Mom: No, don’t send them to him, just send me the shawl when you’re done.

Me: You mean you want it to be a surprise?

Mom: Yes, I want it to be a surprise.

Me: So…

Mom: (interrupts) A surprise. Just send it to me when you’re done. Are you clear on the color?

Well. What can I say? I come from a long line of very precise individuals. Even surprises are specified to minute details – triangular, with leaves, bluish gray yarn, not too warm.

She is my mom, though, one and only. Considering that in many respects I’m just like her, she will get exactly what she wants.

The beauty of blogging “in real time” is that readers have honest-to-goodness input into the knitting process of the blogger. I can’t tell you how many times I thought of one thing or another, blogged about it, and based on readers’ feedback changed my mind before even getting a chance to work on the project again. It’s wonderful.

However, as you can see, that conversation took place on the 15th, and since then I’ve had the time to chat with some knowledgeable lace knitters and make up my mind about various aspects of this project.

Pattern: I know it’s been knit absolutely to death, but I’m going with Fiber Trends Leaf Lace Shawl. From what I’ve read, this is a nice pattern for a beginner lace knitter like myself, and even more importantly, it features the design elements my mom wants – triangular with leaf motif.

Other patterns I considered: Rowan Birch, All Tangled Up Kiri, Fiber Trends Flower Basket Lace Shawl, Lotus Blossom Lace Shawl from Shawls and Scarves: The Best of Knitter’s Magazine, Charlotte’s Web, Florence Triangle Scarf from Fiddlesticks, Daisy Meadow Scarf from Fiddlesticks, Triangles within Triangles Shawl from Heart Strings, Hydrangea Shawl from Jade Sapphire, The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep from MagKnits, and a few others :).

Yarn: I’m definitely aiming for laceweight yarn. It doesn’t have to be as thin as thread, but I hope to be able to knit with something thinner than fingering weight. It’s a challenge I welcome, especially considering I won’t have to do much knitting! First, the shawl is already a triangle, and second, I think I’ll be aiming for a generously sized scarf rather than something bigger – the tip of the shawl should not reach lower than mom’s waist. That’s a comfortable and familiar size, similar to the other “shawls” she and my grandma have. And if she decides that she wants something bigger, I’ll just knit her another :).

Shopping for laceweight yarn is a very tricky process, especially if it has to be the precise shade of bluish gray my mom wants! My impression is that unless you want to play the “hit or miss” game, you have to order online – LYSs just aren’t well or reliably stocked. Of course shopping online is its own “hit or miss” game, sigh…

This colorway (Everywoman) from Schaefer Yarn really caught my attention since it seems to have the right combo of gray and blue. I could order their laceweight (Anne) in this colorway, but it has mohair in it – yuck, yuck, yuck! Plus I think it’s just a little too dark and too blue. For those reasons I’m currently looking into having some non-mohair laceweight custom-dyed into approximately this shade :). And if that avenue isn’t fruitful, perhaps I can bear the mohair… perhaps.

Other yarns I considered: JaggerSpun Zephyr, Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace, Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb, one of Skaska Designs yarns, a hint from June (I thought it would be pretty cool to call and speak to Galina in Russian!), one of Treenway yarns (another June hint), and a few others.

My eyes and brain are so tired from surfing the web for all this crap… The planning for this project is definitely more challenging than for dad’s sharfik.


43 thoughts on “INSANITY: it’s not just for dads anymore!

  1. Cara

    I did the FBS as my first lace – very satisfying knit. I’m sure you’ll find the perfect yarn!

    Just about to turn the heel on my first sock in my THIRD pair of Jaywalkers. Is it wrong to want to make this my one and only sock pattern? Thank you again! I love it!

  2. Agnes

    I like the Triangle within Triangles … would be lovely in steely blue. Birch is beautiful too … but casting on 299 stitches …

  3. Jennifer

    The shawl you’ve chosen is perfect. I think the Zephyr would be nice, but I’m not sure about color. You could always check out the Fiddlesticks website and check out their yarn choices. They oftentimes have laceweight yarn I’ve never heard of.

  4. Jenn

    I did the leaf lace as my first lace and it turned out beautiful. I used fingering weight because I was too chicken to jump into lace weight.

    I know that it will be beautiful!

  5. winnie

    There’s Skacel Merino Oro, and also the merino lace yarns from Knitpicks if your mom is sensitive to mohair. Laceweight alpaca from Misti is pretty good too. The instructions for the FBS calls for 2 strands of the Misti Alpaca lace knit together. Or you can also knit the Diamond Fantasy Shawl (diamond shaped instead of leaves) by Sivia Harding.

  6. Angela

    Good choice on the Leaf Lace shawl! I did birch as my first shawl and will probably do either the Leaf Lace or FBS as my next one. The Leaf Lace has a little more “structure” to it than birch does and has a cleaner more “precise” look to it, plus you don’t have to deal with something like KSH while you’re trying to manage your first lace project.

  7. Diane

    Whether the pattern has been done or not, it’s a great pattern, and a good one to start.

    As for the yarn, you might want to consider some of the alpaca, silk/mohair, etc. laceweight yarns from Knitpicks. ( Fantabulous yarns, and you just might find a color to suit.

  8. Isela

    First, I have to say I was laughing through the call with your Mum…so funny. I am glad she wants something knitted though, it is always nice to knit something for Mum.

    As for the pattern, I haven’t done a shawl yet, but the one you choose looks very nice.

    I am sure you will finish it very soon :).

  9. jody

    i have several laceweights in my stash. if you’d like little samples of them to see before ordering online let me know. off the top of my head i know i have jaggerspun zephyr, knitpicks alpaca cloud and schaefer anne (i know the mohair will drive you insane but i thought i’d mention it just in case). let me know and i can drop samples in the mail on monday!

  10. Christina

    I knit Lace Leaf in Misti Alpaca laceweight. Super affordable. I think- including the pattern- the shawl cost me $22. I bought both yarn and pattern from and received my parcel in two days.

  11. kim

    great idea. do you know how you’re going to have her keep it on? i mean, i love shawls, surprisingly, but i have a hard time with the flower basket one i made because it’s triangular and i can’t get it to stay on my damn shoulders. i’m only saying this because i know you’re particular, and i’m wondering about your solution to this problem.

    so that i can copy it. obviously.

  12. Sheila

    Look at – Jaggerspun/Zephr. Has a color called steel. I have ordered from them – their yarn is lovely. Plus this yarn has no blister making mohair. See what you think! The shawl will be lovely I’m sure. A little love in every stitch!

  13. joy

    Hehe, funny conversation. I love that your mom knows exactly what she wants and lets you know! I was thinking the knitpicks alpaca cloud would be nice too, if they have your mom’s color.

  14. betty

    Oh Kathy!

    I hope you don’t think I copy ALL the projects you publish here!. I did begin the Curlicue because of you, but I promise I had the yarn and the pattern of the Leaf Lace Scarf before I read about it here. And I’ve had the pattern and yarn for the Leaf Lace Shawl for ages! I promise! But now I think I will wait a little longer to knit it. šŸ˜‰

    But the fact is that you have a very good taste šŸ™‚

  15. diana

    What a great choice for your mom’s shawl. It will be beautiful! And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it šŸ˜‰

  16. Saun

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it yet but take a look at They have some nice colors in their laceweight yarns. I think you could find the blue you are looking for. The only catch is that it can take up to 2 weeks to get the yarn.

  17. Marisa

    I love that pattern! Not to confuse things more but have you looked at Malabrigo lace weight? There were some steely blue dyelots I think, and that’s 100% wool. Try here. I hope the link works!

  18. Marilotte

    I third the handpaintedyarn recommendation, it’s great stuff! The only thing you might want to be awary of is that, because of the handpainting, the skeins can be rather variegated in themselves (with lighter and darker areas).

    But you’d only need one skein for a shawl I think, and you could email them and ask for one that is evenly dyed – they’re some of the most friendly and helpful people I’ve ever dealt with.

  19. the country girl

    I had to laugh about your conversation with your mom. It sounds like my conversations with my daughter. All she’ll let me knit here is scarves. And the colors all have to be exactly as specified! Oh well…. I can’t wait to see your steel blue shawl. I know it will be beautiful. I’m currently working on a Kiri shawl. Love the pattern and I’m using Knitpicks new “dye your own” lace wt. ABSOLUTELY LOVE this yarn. soft, squishy, light, just wonderful.

  20. Laurie

    Yup. I’ve heard that before. It’s the “I don’t want to be a burden” of conversations.


    I’m sure you’ll find the perfect yarn. The pattern looks very nice. If it’s leaves she wants then LEAVES she will get!

  21. CatBookMom

    This will be a great project, Grumperina-style!! Calamintha (Knitting Forum) is a lace expert. She has strongly recommended The Knitter (.com) as a source for laceweight yarns. Free shipping. I just drooled over the choices, but just managed to clear my basket before pushing “buy”.

  22. Emily

    I think you picked a great pattern. I know what you are going to say, but I have seen a pretty good color selection of merino lace weight at Woolcott. But otherwise, I agree that Malibrigo would be a good place to look. They sell it at Windsor Button. If you call them, they could probably tell you if they carry the lace weight. Then you don’t have to guess at colors.

  23. Meg

    My mum was the impetus for my first lace shawl too. I’m happy your mum spoke up and let you know she didn’t want to miss out on the Grumperina-family-knits!

  24. Carolyn

    I can’t wait to see your lace knitting. I loved doing ene’s scarf. You may be surprised and love the look of a shawl for yourself, but wrapped like a scarf…not an old lady shawl.

  25. Kristin

    Have you considered Knit picks? They have a few mohair free laceweight yarns. I have some shadow which is 100% merino. I haven’t knit it up yet but it feels lovely.

  26. Stephanie

    Have you considered Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool? It comes in a few grey-ish blue-ish colors. I’m knitting the midwest moonlight scarf from scarf style with it right now and love it. I know it’s not “lace weight”, but it is pretty thin and might be an acceptable alternative.

  27. yahaira

    We must have the same mothers or they went to the same school of pickiness, because I had the same conversation with my mom about her gift.

    ps Windsor Button doesn’t sell the lace weight malabrigo, since it isn’t “malabrigo”.But you knew that already : ) You could email them to get something custom though. Don’t go with the mohair!

  28. Gale

    I have not read the rest of the comments, but knowing that your mother wants something that is not too warm, and knowing you don’t care for mohair, I suggest you stay completely away from it. Earlier this fall I made Birch out of the recommended kid silk haze. That thing was like having a furnace in my lap. It is surprisingly warm when worn, especially considering it is less then a mere 3 ounces of yarn!

  29. jpt

    I just mailed my most-successful lace (a 20″ by 60″ stole) to a friend. The most exciting thing about the project was finally feeling like I understood how each stitch contributed to the pattern–this is key for A) spotting mistakes and B) fixing without ripping out entire rows. Based on my experience, I *highly* recommend doing a smaller practice piece in fingering weight (maybe the size of a head kerchief–plenty of pattern repeats wide and long). That way you have a chance to understand the structure of your lace separately from learning how to handle the laceweight.

  30. cursingmama

    We won’t talk about the success (or failure) of my lace knitting adventure – you are a much more qualified knitter than I so I’m sure it will go much better and much faster for you. I will however recommend knitpicks lace weight, I recently used their Alpaca Cloud in the Mist colorway and it is beautiful (the yarn, not my knitting). The only thing I would do different is to double it because I didn’t come out at thick as I would’ve liked it…swatching would’ve been a good idea.

  31. vitpil

    No one’s suggested it yet: Moorehouse Merino lace. They have a lot of colors available. I’m making the Melody shawl with their Monet variegated yarn which is rather nice to work with. It’s a bit thicker than the knitpicks laceweight (at least the alpaca cloud, I’m not sure about the knitpicks merino lace).

  32. jnovgirl

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, because, generally speaking, I am a mohair hater (just the thought of it can give me chills), but I’ve recently acquired some Kaalund Yarns Expressions, which is a laceweight mohair — I couldn’t not buy it — it is SO gorgeous. And so soft and silky I couldn’t believe it was mohair — and it doesn’t shed when you knit it. It’s divine. The Jacaranda color ( might be nice.

  33. Laura Neal

    I would go with a lace weight alpaca since it is so light weight and super warm. Plus it is so soft on the fingers. Not like some of that stuff that makes fingers peel and itch! You know the stuff. Ugh! I hope you have lots of patience! I didn’t. I tore my shawl apart and threw it across the room. That is the story of my life lately. šŸ˜€

  34. Lisa Dusseault

    Dear grumperina,

    If it’s not too late, I can recommend Lisa Souza for custom hand-dyeing yarn jobs. I wanted a very specific shade of merino for my aunt, who travels so much she has a travel wardrobe consisting only of red and black. I wanted to make her a shawl that had both red and black and *nothing else* and that turned out to be very hard to find, searching online, in shops and even at the Stitches West yarn market. I also wanted the red to be subtle enough that the shawl itself would end up being neutral. Lisa had some yarn in her stall dyed in garnet then overpainted with touches of black, and I specified I wanted 75% black coverage. It turned out perfectly for what I wanted.

    Lisa’s site:


    The finished shawl (scroll down):


    Finally since this is my first comment in months of reading your blog — thank you for it!

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