KAL-TTL Mystery Shawl 14 · Knitting-Shawls · Mom

I get by with a little help from my friends

Caught up in the excitement and camaraderie of a knit-along with, among others, some of my oldest (in blog years) friends, I was easily tempted into signing up for the TTL Mystery Shawl 2014. The prospect of dyeing my own gradient yarn for the project made it even better — it's been a long time since I spent time in the dye kitchen. The pattern would be released in five clues, one each Sunday in June, and I was amped up to blog about it (I even created a special category) and looked forward to photographing it a couple of times for #100happydays.


I wound and dyed the yarn on the last day of May and managed to cast on and knit a few rows on Sunday, June 1st — right on time.

A few days later, on Wednesday, I helped my stepdad take my mom to the ER. She was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia… partly the result of complications from side effects of a new chemo. By Saturday afternoon, after two episodes of arterial fibrillation, Mom was transferred to ICU where she remained until she died 16 days later.

The last time I actually spoke with my mother was Friday, the day before going to ICU. I'd brought my knitting to work on while we visited, and she asked about it. I told her about how a mystery pattern works, and how fun it was to dye yarn again. I had no idea that it would be our last real conversation, and that it would be about my knitting and this shawl. It's not surprising, though, she was always interested in what I was doing, and I can't tell you how many times over the years she'd say, half-exasperated/half-prideful, "You're always busy doing something!"


I was happy for the distraction that the knitting provided while Mom's condition fluctuated, eventually declining, over those 19 days. I was grateful, even, to tink back and re-knit many rows (14, I think) of Clue 2, stitch by stitch, to right an error. My knitting was something that I could fix.


Probably the most complicated lace pattern I've ever knit, arguably moreso because I'm one of those rare super freaks that works from written directions alone, it gave me something to concentrate on and think about that wasn't my mother, though of course I thought about my mother constantly.


I looked forward to knitting every night — after work, after visiting the hospital, no matter how late it was… I had to take time. I enjoyed following along, contributing, reading about others' progress with the pattern, how they felt about their colors, how they were working out the transitions*, concerns over yardage and whether one had enough stitch markers in their possession, what types of needles people were using. I spent time carefully highlighting my pattern clues, color coding the different sections so that it would be easier to keep my place; I employed sticky notes to further zero in; breaking it down, keeping control.


A margarita-induced setback late in the game resulted in the tinking of a few more rows, and the discovery that while I can drink and knit at the same time, a good hoppy craft beer yields the best result!


By the end of the month, I was on track and nearing the finish. Therapy knitting at its finest, I was really pretty astounded at my progress and, without being too sappy about it, gave a thankful nod to Mom & Sharon, my guardian knitting angels. I was in first grade when my mother taught me to knit for the first time. Though her prowess in knitting never matched that of her sewing, she was knowledgeable and appreciative. My sister Sharon was neither steady nor prolific as a knitter over the years, but she chose the most amazing projects and the quality of her work was incredible.


Thanks to my model, my youngest sister Ann. She models all (2) of my TTL Mystery Shawls! The first was finished just before they left for Brazil, this one as they returned.

*1-4-2-3-2-2 as suggested by Terry, and probably because it gave me one more slightly complicated aspect to control.


22 thoughts on “I get by with a little help from my friends

  1. Beautiful story and the end result is just stunning. I think it will bring you comfort to wear it and think of how you watched over and cared for your mom at the end of her life.

  2. You have me in tears, tears of sorrow and joy for you, dear friend. Your shawl is a reminder of all that is good in your life.

  3. Vicki, the shawl is beautiful! and how special that you stitched in the memories of your mom. (I cannot believe you knit this without the charts!) xo – M.

  4. That shawl will always carry the memory of your mom, that last conversation, and the time you spent with her during her last days. I think having a tangible thing to help you process your feelings and grief is actually a very good thing. When my mom died I had just started learning to sew and I had just finished a dress for Hannah to wear on Easter. I never got a chance to show it to my mom but I had told her all about it and how much I enjoyed making it and for that reason (and the fact that it was the first thing I ever made for Hannah) I have kept that dress in my hope chest. The memories are good and it gets easier with time, too.

  5. That is a gorgeous shawl, and will now always be a part of you. Knitting is therapeutic and thank goodness we have it. I know, I speak from experience. My condolences to you.

  6. Your shawl is just beautiful, Vicki. And the “story” behind it makes it even more so. I’m always grateful for my knitting whenever I’m Up-Against-It, so I’m not surprised that this project helped keep you grounded during your Mom’s last days. Hugs to you, dear Vicki.

  7. This shawl will always be a special treasure. I’m so happy we did this all together and even more so now reading what a comfort and distraction it was for you.
    Much love!

  8. A beautiful story and stunning shawl. This has been the healing shawl for many of us. I’m glad you had something to keep you grounded during such a difficult time and glad your mom got to see it in it’s infancy. I am so sorry you lost her.

  9. Your shawl is absolutely beautiful and so special Vicki. I really love the color. I knit a sweater during the last summer of my Mom’s life and I will treasure it always.

  10. I did this KAL too, and your yarn is the best gradient set I have seen. Your shawl is stunning—I’m glad it was able to bring you a little solace during your mom’s illness. Bless you.

  11. Your shawl is beautiful! I was going to write that you have such a great story to go along with your shawl, but that’s not quite right. It’s a bittersweet story. The great part is about how knitting helps us through tough times.
    Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses written instructions! I just can’t remember/understand symbols (not on elevators, not in knitting, not on my iPhone). I’m symbol-challenged.

  12. I’m just reading old blog posts and am so sorry I missed this one. It is a beautiful post and you know how much love and prayers I sent during that time.
    Now you are off having adventures! Enjoy them!

  13. Beautiful shawl and lovely sad and happy memories all wrapped up in it. Hope you are keeping it for YOU!

  14. Vicki I am so so sorry to hear about your Mom. What a beautiful post. This will be your Mom’s shawl. It is gorgeous. I am thinking about you.

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