Flogging a Dead Shawl

I should be, according to the scientifically-produced schedule, knitting the WARNING! socks. But not me, no. I had to be clever. I had to tell myself what a psychological boost it would be to just whip out that Swallowtail Shawl and romp through it. It’s an easy knit after all and there is no real reason why it has languished so long – it was just that more exciting projects reared their glamorous heads.

Well, some romp. I tell you, I have been close to tears with this thing.

Where we left it

According to my handy-dandy (and very scientific) tracking spreadsheet, I was at the end of Row 123 – the end of Lily of the Valley Chart 2, and 67.57% complete, with 239 stitches on the needle. These tracking sheets are really useful. They save an awful lot of errors… (remind me of this later on)

Where we went first

It was tea time before I got my knitting out yesterday. That was alright, we had a substantial lunch and were not planning a third meal yesterday. I had time to count a few rows off the shawl before going to Craft Club.

The Final Chart! Hip, hip, hooray. Off I went, until I got close to the end of the row and realised that I had insufficient stitches.

I tinked back.

I counted.


What the..?

Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I counted nupp rows. I was one short. I was actually on Row 121 when I put the shawl to bed. It looks as though I had got to the end of the chart, found an error and tinked back, but forgotten to unmark those rows on the tracking sheet.

I did the final nupps and got back on track, heaving a sigh of relief that the nupps were behind me.

Where we went next

The Peaked Edging Chart beckoned. I got stuck in.

I knitted rows 1 and 2 and got straight on to row 3.

Row 3 did not work out. I had a look, thought I had it sussed and fudged it to make it right.

I knitted Row 4, the purl side with no twiddly bits – these rows are very useful for consolidation. What did I do? No don’t be daft, of course I didn’t count my way across…

Row 5 didn’t work out either.

I tinked back to Row 4. I counted. Wrong. Too many stitches!

I tinked back to Row 3. I counted again. I had too many stitches, according to my handy-dandy very scientific tracking sheet. The original pattern only gives stitch counts for the end of each chart, no interim row counts – so I calculated the stitch counts by row on my tracking sheet and it has proved very useful in keeping me on track.

I tinked the row out.

I went forward. Wrong again.

I tinked back. I knitted. I counted. I tinked. I iterated. And iterated. Each time the row came out – but with the wrong number of stitches.

(You’d have though a light would have dawned, wouldn’t you?)

I tinked back to Row 3 once more. This time I counted stitches on each side of the centre line. The counts differed by 2. I looked very carefully at the side that had 2 stitches extra. I counted the pattern stitch by stitch. I could not spot the error. Clearly it was there – I had two stray stitches!

None of this was making any sense. Yet still I went forwards and backwards. Maybe it was low blood sugar 🙂

Tearing my hair out

I was close to despair. Tears were pricking. I was late for my crochet. But I had stitches all over the place and I knew that if I set my work aside it would be even more difficult to work out where I was when I came back to it today.

There was only one thing for it. I had to stick at it – tink back to the plain knit row at Row 1 of the chart. That way, if the error lay in the previous chart then I could easily fudge the stitch count and be set up all right and proper for the final chart. I had to tink – I had forgotten to put a line in after the nupps and my last lifeline was between Lily of the Valley charts. I was not going to knit more nupps – so fudging was my only solution.

I began to tink my way back, very painfully, to the beginning.

Some clarity is restored

You know, sometimes there’s a delay on that light switch…

Finally I did the sensible thing and I returned to the charts. I calculated the stitch counts again. I had them wrong in the final chart. The rows were increasing by 4 stitches and not by 2, as the previous rows had. Those times the pattern came out but the count was wrong? Yep – they were right all the time.

It’s right, but it’s late

Thankfully, I hadn’t tinked all the way back at the point at which common sense took hold. I had in fact got back to that troublesome Row 3 – which I now found was not the correct number of stitches at all, but in fact two stitches short. There was no wonder that I couldn’t find an error in the side that had the two extra stitches – that side was the correct one. The error was in the other side, where I was two stitches short once the correct row count was taken into consideration.

Of course the error was right back at the very beginning of Row3!

Finally I ended a Row 3, with the properly correct number of stitches and was ready to progress. The time? 11:20pm.

Clearly some kind of lunacy overtook me yesterday – certainly a total inability to think analytically.


Today I spent an inordinate time in the kitchen again and it was late afternoon before I could tackle the knitting. There has been much to-ing and fro-ing again. For some reason I just can’t keep my stitch count right and the dark yarn does not lend itself easily to error spotting. All the same, I am now at the end of Row 133 – and 85% done. Only seven rows to go, and the cast off. This shawl will not be an FO today, nor even tomorrow I think, but will make it by the end of the week, I am certain


  1. January 20, 2009

    I managed to do something similar on my first ever lace except I’m not as patient as you so I just made an extra stitch when I was one short. Only after blocking and drying did I spot the stray dropped stitch! Oops, luckily you couldn’t spot the fix I did.

    • January 20, 2009

      Every lace piece that I have done so far has yielded an error or a dropped stitch on blocking. I swear they aren’t there before I soak the piece, but they are always there afterward. It’s uncanny.

      I shudder to think what I will find when I block both the Butternut and the Swallowtail later this week.

  2. Chris
    January 21, 2009

    (now you’re going to think I’m a stalker, but I’m not….I swear. I never comment, but you asked! And I’m displacing too, which I know because of you! See, it’s all your fault!)

    I spent two hours figuring out a problem with a selbuvotter mitt before I checked for errata, and had to tink back three rows to fix it. I was so *frustrated*. I can’t even benefit from my experience, since I’m only making the one as a shop sample!

    My heart is with you – I hate thinking I’m going to be so productive, and then spend so much time walking backwards and forwards over the same exact spot.

    • January 21, 2009

      I spent two hours figuring out a problem with a selbuvotter mitt before I checked for errata, and had to tink back three rows to fix it.

      I’d be fuming. We get into the habit of assuming the designer is almighty and follow blindly. I know I need to engage my brain more frequently. Mind you, the only time I posted an error report on a Ravelry pattern somebody uppity followed up and said it was designer’s intention (a scarf pattern – it began by going straight into the pattern. but ended with a three row garter stitch hem)

      I can’t even benefit from my experience, since I’m only making the one as a shop sample!

      No! That’s awful…

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