Little Blue Ribbon

 QD-Quadratische Decke Shawl done with Shibui Knits Cima in Bordeaux

Every year I challenge myself to learn something new.  Two years ago it was complicated lace.  And just to put me to the test I added two additional aspects - beading and knitting from charts.  I was confident in my ability to knit basic lace, and I had taken on a couple of basic beading projects, so why not, right?

 Well, let me tell you that this project scared the daylights out of me.  It's a Herbert Niebling adaptation by Hayley Tsang Sather and it was 31 pages of pattern calling for almost 1,000 beads and using 8 charts.  But I had my yarn, I had my needles, and I took the plunge.
The project grew quickly, and as I became more familiar with the techniques and the beading, it went rather quickly.  It was certainly bead heavy up front, so I knew that if I couldn't handle this I'd be able to pull up early and call it quits.  Instead I became fascinated with the process.

The more I knit, the more I loved it.  And with my faithful knitting support dog always by my side I had an easy way to judge progress - when I almost had her covered I knew I'd make it to the end.  

 And I did.  I made it to the end and got her off the needles.  And then I realized that I had never blocked something this epic.  I've blocked lace, I knew the magic that would happen, but how I was going to get this right?  Shaping and making sure that the elements of the lace that are so important to the Niebling style didn't get stretched out of shape.  My previous blocking skills included stretching things to their maximum reach and holding it down with pins until dry.  This was going to be interesting.

I got there, though not without a few issues - my square in the center looked a bit wonky and my picots aren't perfect by any means.  But after fighting it for a bit I left it as a "best I can get" type of acceptance and figured that I would learn from the experience.  Anxiously waited for it to dry.

Once I got her off the mats I realized that I may have inadvertently done exactly what I was supposed to do.  That wonky square?  Made the blooms drape perfectly down the back and gave the spine the flow it needed to look natural.  The uneven picots?  Gave some flare and style to the bottom giving each bloom a unique space to stand out.  It's a completely impractical shawl, useless for anything but dress-up, but it didn't matter, I was in love.

I wanted to take pictures at every angle and with every detail.  And so I did.  And I got some fun shots of this one.  It was then I decided that this would be my entry for the county fair coming up.  What the heck, it is free to enter and worst case it would be overlooked as a entry.  No harm no foul.

And would you look at that?  It won.  That little taste of victory - besting a complicated pattern and then taking home a blue ribbon began a quest for more.  And yes, it was just that little blue ribbon - no prize, no cash, not really any glory as the display doesn't identify the knitter.  Just a ribbon when you go look at your work on display.  And that was enough.  Every year since I've found a way to stretch my limits and push my skills.  All for a little blue ribbon.