Imperfection. Shadow knitting.


Even our proudest accomplishments are not exempt from imperfections.

One hundred and sixty-three (163!) repeats of the border surround the main triangle of the Mountainash shawl. Mind. numbing. Was there any doubt that I’d mess up a little here and there?

If I caught those mistakes in time, I would have certainly fixed them. “In time” meaning no more than 3 or 4 inches after I’ve knit past them. But I noticed these two buggers when I was pinning out the shawl for blocking. Oh well. I can live with them. I have to live with them.

The wearability of traditional shawls is always a hot topic. Honestly, I’m not sure where Mountainash will (can?) fit into my jeans-and-tee wardrobe. Tell me, is this sacrilege?

Shadow knitting

So, what’s next? As I finish up the Canal du Midi socks, it looks like March and April will be all about shadow knitting! Seeing the Hidden Passion Socks in my newly acquired Favorite Socks totally triggered some long-forgotten shadow knitting gene. I am very excited to start these using Lorna’s Laces in blackberry and lilac.

And while flipping through Shadow Knitting to reacquaint myself with the technique, I got another interesting idea…

No, I’m not knitting that boxy coat! Stay tuned for what I have in mind!


61 thoughts on “Imperfection. Shadow knitting.

  1. anne marie in philly

    me first!

    I have that shadow knitting book; I have my eye on the kimono jacket. I even have the yarn in my stash!

    love the sox!

  2. Mary K. in Rockport

    Ok, I’ll stay tuned. And I’m pretty adept about noticing deviations from any pattern, but I can’t find the mistakes. If I’m feeling particularly obsessive later, i’ll look again, just because.

  3. Sarah

    I still love your Mountain Ash. I look forward to the shadow adventure with much interest. I’ve never given that technique a try.

  4. Christine

    I honestly can’t see any mistakes. I believe that they are there but that you are the only one that will really notice them. Whenever I make stitch mistakes to me they seem to have a beacon flashing my ineptitude to the world, but no one else ever notices them.

  5. mari

    I had to look pretty hard to find the mistakes, but I know the feeling – once you see them, that’s all you can see. But your shawl is beyond beautiful, and I think tied around your waist is cute!

  6. Megan

    I had the same thing happen with a shawl I made as a gift- except since it was in the middle of the shawl, I didn’t even catch it when I was blocking, I caught it when I was taking a close-up photo for my blog! Your mistakes are much less noticeable than mine was, and I’m sure no one will ever see them when you’re wearing it.

    And it’s your shawl, you can wear it however you want!

  7. Jomy

    The way you’re wearing the shawl in the picture.. it’s definitely… a look. But definitely not to be worn with a T-Shirt. 🙂

    I think that shadow-knitting is the shiz and all, but I don’t like that it’s gotta be so … textural… if you know what I mean.

  8. Laurie

    The shawl is beautiful! Imperfections? If someone comments on them, just drop kick them and move on.

    I’ve got a tee and jean wardrobe, too. But I still like doing shawls. They just don’t get worn that much! But I like to look at them, all the same.

  9. Sarah

    Thank you for making a few mistakes and showing us. It makes me feel human. This is the truth of knitting. We can always do better the next time, or else make different mistakes. The shawl is absolutely lovely. Be proud of your work.

  10. Sara

    Honestly… mountain ash is so beautiful that you could wear it with anything and it would look awesome! Even pajamas!

    I’m fascinated by shadow knitting but have never tried it. Someday I’ll give it a go!

  11. linda

    Hi Kathy, The shawl is gorgeous and looks the best around your shoulders. It is meant for that and it is really lovely on you. Wear it with jeans and a tea shirt, that is great. The time is now.

  12. Alison

    Just about all I own are t-shirts and jeans and lots of shawls. Your shawl is gorgeous and will be lovely with whatever you wear.

  13. domesticshorthair

    Ugh! I can so relate to the mistakes you found. The shawl I made some years ago, has never been a true source of pride to me just because of one error I committed early in the project. Painful isn’t it? I’m a jeans person too, but I finally wore my shawl out to dinner this past weekend–11 years after making it. You really did a fantastic job on the shawl. Love the socks, too; very inspiring.

  14. Angelika

    I have mistakes in some of my work, but I’m not going to admit it. Let them look for them and if they find them and point them out then do it like the amish and tell them the imperfection in there is done on purpose, because according to them only gods creations are perfect. Sorry, didn’t mean to be dramatic here, but that’s one of their quilting philosophies. Comes in quite handy sometimes. 🙂

  15. Brandy

    I have been wondering what so many people do with shawls, also. I see a lot of them knitted up on various blogs, but I never see them being worn (in the real world)! Maybe I will make one, anyway, just for the experience.

  16. Dorothy B

    Mountain Ash looks gorgeous! No one would ever notice those mistakes.

    If you knit it, you wear however you want to. I don’t follow the “this must be done/worn/look this way” theory.

  17. Heidi

    I really love your Mountain Ash! I often have the same problem with wearability (is that even a word?). I knit a lot of cute and beautiful things, but then they just lay around somewhere, because I never know when to wear them! Such a shame!! Looks great like that though… Let’s all just wear our knitted things any way we darn well please, just to get a chance to show them off!

  18. lune

    Thirding Risa’s grandmother!

    It’s your shawl, you wear it your way! Have you tried wearing it as a scarf by putting it on ‘backwards’ — with the point in front? If you don’t button your coat up to your neck you get a beautiful lace display peeking out…

  19. Cassandra

    After all that work maybe you and the shawl deserve a girl’s night out, complete with a little black dress (or jeans) and a cocktail!

    Looking forward to your shadow knitting project.

  20. gigi

    a also agree with risa’s grammy – if they can see imperfections, they’re too close…especially if the shawl is on yer bum!

    shawl wrapped around head for a demure mystery woman look?

    stepping out on the stoop to watch fireworks on a slightly chill night?

    stylishly cozy on the couch on a snowy day with a cup of tea and a classic movie on the tube?

    at the movies where the ac is on full blast?

    i ask you, is there anywhere you can’t wear a shawl?

    can’t wait for the socks

  21. Angie

    I can’t see any mistakes in the shawl, but I know how it feels to know it’s there. It’s beautiful and I love it tied around your waist.

  22. kelley

    Someone once told me that small imperfections are what keep handmade things special and distinct from machine-made items. Your craftsmanship is clear; those are just slight imperfections. It looks wonderful.

  23. Margaret

    Totally not sacreligious! I wear one favorite very delicate lacy shawl wrapped around my neck as a scarf. It’s warm and much more casual that way.

  24. ruth

    Mistakes might keep the evil spirit away. Perfection is tempting fate.

    Besides, they’re not mistakes, they’re idiosycratic knitting.

    Spoken by a true believer in a bit of idiosyncracy. Perfection is boring.

    When I was working (librarian), I always wore shawls. So now I’m retired 1.5 weeks, and I guess I’ll also wear my lovelies with jeans. Why not?

  25. ingrid

    Some cultures actually put mistakes in their craftwork because only god is perfect. I saw an exhibit a few years ago of punjabi embroidery…truly exquisite, but there was always at least one very prominent mistake. Your mistake is not so prominent…

  26. Christine

    I’ve heard the same thing that Ingrid said. I gotta say though, if I perfect the art of knitting to the point that I deliberately put in mistakes because otherwise there won’t be any, I will feel that I have transcended the gods and they have nothing on me.

  27. Anne-Caroline

    So, I listened to you talk with Guido, and I have been watching your blog…and I think…I…am…ready…to…knit…socks? I love the Lorna’s Laces Lion & Lamb – so can you please tell me where you get your uni-color Shepherd Sock yarn? Thanks so much!

  28. Gina

    The shawl is beautiful. The mistakes are beautiful…which by the way, I don’t really see…but then I’m a free and easy kinda girl.

  29. Alison

    The shawl is spectacular, Ms. Grump. But around the hips?

    Um, no. Sorry. Perhaps the opinion will make me unpopular, but that’s never stopped me before. Think of it like the girlfriend who tells you not to wear a certain pair of jeans/skirt/sweater/shade of lipstick. She may well be saving you from looking rather inelegant. Then again, like someone else said, it’s your knitted creation. Have a ball. But I vote no on the hips idea. 🙂

  30. Kristen

    It looks fab, I can’t see any supposed errors and you can wear it any way you want but if you sit on that gorgeous shawl I will beat you senseless! Nice work, by the way.

  31. Jeanne

    What mistakes? Where? Am I blind? Because I can’t see any. That lace stuff is far too complicated for me to hone in on a mistake. I recall reading somewhere about someone (or someones) who purposely weave in mistakes so as not to offend the gods. If you think of it that way, then a mistake is a good thing. It’s gorgeous, mistakes or not!

  32. merete

    the shawl is wonderful. i know however exactly what you mean about wearability. i like it wrapped around the hips as a flamenco dancer in jeans. why not? shadowknitting is lovely but the the knitted garments in the book is a bitty uninspirational. reminds me too much of the 80’es and grandmas.

  33. Dorothee

    Okay, I’m tuned! The shawl is just gorgeous, by the way. I don’t think anyone (who didn’t see these pics) would notice the little imperfections. They’d have to use a looking-glass!

    You could wear the shawl wrapped around your neck like a scarf… I’m not too sure about the hips. It can look trendy like that, but sometimes trendy isn’t so nice. But I know exactly how you feel about the wearability, that’s the reason why I haven’t knitted a shawl (yet).

  34. Amy

    Oh WOW, Mountainash is beautiful! Bravo bravo! You’re making me excited to get back home to my own cobweb-weight project.

    I think tying a shawl around your waist isn’t sacrilege. Think of it as a bellydancing hip scarf! 🙂 And I just love the blackberry and lilac together. They look like a certain favorite blackberry cake that I make…

  35. Melanie

    Yes, wear it with jeans! I remember all the beautiful lace tablecloths my Grandma made and left in the drawer because she was afraid they’d get food on them. This was made for your body – wear it proudly, however you want! Thanks for the inspiration as always.

  36. Jouf

    I’m mostly a jeans/tee person too. But I do go to dinner at “medium scale” restaurants sometimes. So last Saturday I had on jeans, white tee with a black V neck over it with some black boots and I tied my royal blue Swallowtail around my neck/shoulders at an angle and voila! I was “dressed up.”

    Your shawl is gorgeous! Wear it any ole way you want, just wear it!

  37. marie in florida

    yesterday i finished a tiny baby lacey sock. when it was completely finished it scarely seemed like something “I” made. wonderful. dont cha sorta feel that about Mountain Ash?

  38. Magatha

    Perfect and never finished, or flawed yet beautiful and DONE? The eternal question and really it is answered by the beautiful wearable shawl.

    Those shadow socks intrigue me too. I just got my Favorite Socks book yesterday, thanks to you and letting me know they had it at Overstock.

  39. Sue

    Those mistakes are so minute that I doubt anyone else would notice unless they were pointed out. That shawl is beautiful; and no, it’s not a sacrilege to wear it as a sarong.

    Love the idea of shadow knitting, and now will have to put that book on my wish list.

  40. martha

    Mistakes? You’ve got to be kidding! If there are any deviations from the pattern, consider them variations on a theme and celebrate your creativity. You’ve done a beautiful job!

  41. Michelle

    The Navajo have a tradition of always putting a “mistake” in their sand-paintings because only god can be perfect. I agree that small variations are what make it perfectly handmade. Paraphrasing EZ, no one will notice it as you fly by on your bicycle! That is my new standard for whether to frog or not! Ha!

    Enjoy wearing it, show it off.

  42. Jennifer

    Mistake? Where? Checking your masterpiece for mistakes is kind of like staring at one of those hidden 3D object posters. I looked and looked, but I just couldn’t see it. Your knitting is simply amazing.

  43. Moby

    Hmmmmm. If I had made that shawl, I would have called it a complete and utter success! It’s magnif. And congratulations on your pattern in Interweave Knits. Yay.

  44. Terri Lynn

    WOW! Yur shawl is as beautiful as the name, and the work is fantastic! yep, I too would gripe, and resolve the mistakes as you have and get on with more. Whose is gonna know? And the shadow work is so cool. Glad you showed all the pics!

  45. kitkatknit

    I didn’t see the mistake in my Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl until after I posted pictures of it blocking! Checked it out in person and sure enough the mistake was done on about row 3 of the border. Crums…

  46. Kim

    Love the shadow knitting socks. I have to say, I had to stare at the photos for like 10 minutes to see any errors, and I’m still not sure I’m right. (That’s not to say I see more – more like, that hole is a little smaller than that other one…is that what she meant?) Wasn’t there some tribe somewhere that purposely inserted an error, so as not to challenge the perfection of God?

  47. michael

    I recall reading somewhere that in even the most masterfully made persian rug, the artisan will introduce a mistake. Not an evident one, but there if one studies hard enough. Something about it being too presumptious to create something wholly perfect. I think it applies itself nicely to lace.

  48. gail

    Oh no, you did it again. You selected a project from a book I have been resisting. My library of knitting books is much too large. Now, I have to go out and purchase another book to make those shadow socks.

  49. Skye

    Thank heavens for computers and talented people who will share…I have been looking for something different to knit – Shadow Knitting seems to fit the bill — however, how is it done?

    Is there an easy way to describe the “pattern” – I haven’t seen anything like this here in our little out of the way burg. Any infor re: weight yarn best for project; size needles (circ/str) etc… would be extremely appreciated.

    I would like to be the “first on the block” to be able to do this technique…

    Thanks so much for any info you may be able to impart!

    Bright Blessings


    Knit on!

    PS: the error stitch is called the humility stitch as none of us are perfect..

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