In Praise of the Male Muse

So, it is Monday Muse day again. The Muses were traditionally female but I have Male Muses to speak of today.

First up is Jared Flood – aka Brooklyn Tweed. I know he has been noted in these pages more than once but today he gets a special mention for inspiring me with his Bridgewater Shawl. I queued it at Ravelry the moment it was released. As soon as I lay eyes on its perfect simplicity, I knew for certain that it had to be made. I chose a rich red yarn for it, one that would be soft and warm without giving weight.

For some time now, I have been of the notion that the Shawl class at our local Annual Show could only be won with a Shetland Square shawl. I had never made one of those, despite a long-held ambition. I find them rather daunting, to be truthful. Bridgewater seemed like a good training step on the road to finally achieving a full square shawl… and perhaps that coveted red ticket.

I began my Bridgewater in August last year, with the plan to enter it in this year’s Show. There were a few hiccups but it was finished in January this year. I blocked it on four mats, which meant that I could not do a proper job of the points. It hung around for a while, being brought out to show at craft events and Open Studios, despite not having its ends sewn in either. People even tried to buy it, but I would not let it go.

So. There I was. On Thursday afternoon, looking for things to enter in the Show. I had by now acquired a further set of four blocking mats. I laid them out 3 by 3, with a hole in the centre and I pinned that baby out.

I have a terrible confession to make. I brutalised that shawl: I pinned it out dry, then got my Polti steam cleaner out and blocked the Bridgewater with the steam set on high.

I got away with it.


The shawl was unpinned just an hour or so short of submission time. I had also re-blocked a white triangle shawl, and made that my second entry. It had been in last year’s Show but was entirely unplaced then — adding to my belief that a square was needed.

Show day dawned wet, windy and cold and so we delayed our departure to the field. I was still feeling unwell from last week’s cold sore eruption, manifesting itself that morning with severe neuralgic pain,  and did not feel like the usual long linger until 2pm, when the doors to the Industrial part of the Show open. We headed, as is our habit, to the poultry section first.

Your knitting is superb” was the surprise greeting that I got from somebody standing by the chickens. “It was my section” (she’s a steward.) I expressed my surmise that perhaps I  had done all right this year… “I should say so, get yourself in for a look,” she said. It was nowhere close to 2pm yet and so we set off to look at Gill’s sheep,

where we met another lady steward who grinned at me and said my knitting was… phoarr, or some expression close to that. A nod and a wink. I was starting to feel some thrill of anticipation… but had more important interests on hand – I was admiring an Icelandic fleece on the hoof…

It was at this point that I started to feel really ill. I deduced that the cold wind in my ear was causing problems. A very gentlemanly gentleman proffered his hat for me to wear. I spent the rest of the day looking somewhat odd, but feeling considerably improved.

The men were taking Land Rovers and model railways, so I toddled off to pick a few winners in the cattle judging, congratulating myself that I have not yet lost my eye for a good beast. Two o’clock rolled around and I high-tailed it into the warmth of the Industrial Show – where it took me a goodly time to make my way around, as folk warmly congratulated me on my success.

What success? I was eager to know!

I looked straight towards the Scarf class, as I had made a scarf especially for the Show. I saw the red card on it! and then I noticed my two entries in the “Item knitted from Handspun Yarn” class also had cards  on them!


It was difficult to make our way across the room, and I wanted to go up on the stage and look at the photographs ( I entered none this year) so we made our way past the breads, the carrot cakes and the Bakewell tarts – quite slowly, as folk still kept stopping me to say nice things.  It was Mr L who spotted it from our elevated position: the Bridgewater had the coveted red card in the Shawls class!”

I was speechless.

or so I thought.

There was a yellow card too!

We went down for a closer look and yes, I had First Prize for Shawls but I also had Best Item in the Knitting Section and Second Prize Shawl as well.

The proverbial feather would have bowled me over at that point but when a lady whose knitting I admire greatly stopped to tell me how fantastic my knitting is and that she plans to come round for hints and tips… well!

I was so flabbergasted that I forgot to take a snap of the shawl with its ticket on.

The judging did leave me a little mystified. Let’s face it – the Bridgewater is a very simple shawl and quite plain. My white shawl is much finer and was far more work, with more stitches and more complex knitting in it – but had failed to make the judging at all last year. Clearly some subjectivity is employed. That or some rules that are not made explicit to entrants. It would probably remain one of life’s great mysteries, was my conclusion.

That was when a couple of people passed on some of the judge’s comments to me. Most importantly – she would have given 1st to the white shawl if it had been a full shawl – so I was right about the square thing. Most strikingly – she was impressed by the garter centre of the shawl. Far from being too simple, as I thought, she had said that there is nowhere to hide in a plain centre; that garter cannot be fudged and that you almost never see such even garter – my tension showed true craftsmanship.

My, how I wish my mother could have been there to hear that!

There will be more on the Show later – I am supposed to be concentrating on Muses today!

So, my thanks go to Jared for inspiring me to knit the shawl that won the 2011 Show’s shawl class… and I have been spending time this weekend in wondering where I go from here.

I love the Show. I love being part of it. I like it best when the tables are groaning with entries and there is too much to look at. I love to see the talent and skill exhibited by my friends and neighbours… and I love the way that it inspires me to push my skills that bit further each year. The Show has been instrumental in increasing my skills many times over in the last few years, and I have now met my goal in producing a winning shawl (though a year or three earlier than the plan allowed for!)

Where do I go from here?

That goal is very necessary for me. I am not one to rest on my laurels and I truly need to push myself to the limit and gain new skills all the time. Do I learn embroidery or patchwork, and set my cap at a red card in a needlework class?

No. Thank you. I am no masochist. I want a challenge, not an insurmountable hurdle. Nor do I wish to make my challenge into a misery for me. A challenge ought to remain fun, don’t you think? Well, I do.

I have elected to make an entry in a new-for-me class in the Knitting section. This time it will be Knitted Lace in Cotton. My inspiration will be provided by another male Muse – Herbert Niebling. I’ve had him in my sights for a long time, but had always planned to turn a doily or tablecloth into a shawl in a fine merino or cashmere.

It is a huge project – knitting with crochet cotton will be a very different experience. There will be disasters and frustrations along the way but Niebling’s wonderful designs will keep me going and inspire me to meet his challenges. This time next year I hope to be waving at least a green card around and bounding in delight at my new found skills.

Oh,  did I say… I do not plan to mess around with a wee doily. I am going for a tablecloth! Though I shall probably start with a doily in order to get the feel  of the cotton and small needles and I may test the cloth pattern by making a shawl first.

I shall be needing you to cheer me on.

Note the method in my madness – if the plan fails to come to fruition I should still have one or both of: a doily in cotton to enter in the chosen class, and a pretty shawl to enter in the shawl class. I had better get on with it – that is a great deal of work!

First things first, though – it is time to clear the decks and shift some UFOs. I started working on the Flambé shawl again last night. Easy and mindless and perfect for knitting in bed while we pondered the weekend’s prize crossword puzzle.


  1. August 8, 2011

    I entered my Aeolian in a local show last year, hearing praise from friends is nice, but because I have a very large competitive streak nothing beats winning a prize at a show…
    Wonder if our local show has a section I can enter something in this year… I must check!

    • August 8, 2011

      nothing beats winning a prize at a show…

      Except perhaps winning a prize at a larger Show… me, I’m in it for the coos and the candy floss 🙂

  2. August 8, 2011

    Ooh, seriously Well Done !! I’m looking forward to seeing next years entry already.

  3. August 8, 2011

    Oh congratulations, that is wonderful. You totally deserved it!

  4. August 9, 2011

    After five minutes of failing to come up with a smart and witty reply to your obvious well deserved and joyous success I decided to settle with:

    Aye, that’ll do lass. That’ll do.

    {warm hugs filled with squee}

  5. Susan aka paintermom
    August 9, 2011

    Mazel tov! (I bet I’m the only reader who will reply with that!)

    Well done and well deserved.

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