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WIP Wednesday: Duskwings

Today I’m sharing with you one of my longest-running current projects, biggest headaches, and greatest sources of pride – my six-month-and-counting journey of knitting Renate Haeckler‘s Anna Baltzer Wings of Peace shawl pattern. Have you ever looked at the plans for a project, thought “yeah I could do that,” and found yourself regretting that sentiment once you’re fingers-deep in the work? That is exactly what happened to me with this pattern.

I promised my wife I would knit her a shawl. I showed her all the shawl patterns I’d already saved in my Ravelry library. And, based on looking at the photographs of finished objects, she picked this one – and I, not yet aware of how deeply misleading Ravelry’s crowdsourced “difficulty ratings” for patterns can be, agreed. We bought the yarn (again, my wife’s pick – a lovely four-strand worsted merino by Malabrigo) and the new needle size I didn’t own yet, and I got to work.

When all is said and done, I’ll use three balls of this yarn. I’m also definitely considering going out and picking up a longer circular-needle cable!

There’s a concept I learned back in my earlier career path of teaching called the zone of proximal development – it’s meant to illustrate a range of difficulty at which a student will most efficiently learn new material. When I first cast on this shawl, I did four rows of stockinette for the collar, and quickly found as I broke into the lace section that this was, if at all within my ZPD, very very near the top of it. I had to learn several new lace stitches simultaneously, start keeping meticulous count of stitches and repeats in a notebook next to me, and rip back a frankly sad number of stitches again and again as I got the hang of the irregular, organic feathered patterns. Em tried to help me chart it, more than once, as the pattern only comes with written instructions, but the design seems impossible to chart out, or find convenient places for markers in the chaotic top section. At least my thorough notes are providing what ought to be an accurate stitch count for each row – once I’m done, I’ll gladly donate those notes to the pattern comments to help future knitters!

In the last month or so, I have finally gotten a sense of mastery over the tricky mix of stitches, only to hit the simpler part of the pattern. The long, repetitive flight feathers of the wing design are much easier on my mind and my hands to knit, although they are still taking some time to complete as the stitch count continues to climb past 300 per row. It will be a relief to see it done…

My progress as of today, stretched out on holding yarn to best show the shape.

…but even as I picture binding off, I’m browsing through yarns I’d like to use when I cast on a new version. I’d love to see how I can improve now that I’m a much more confident lace knitter, and I’ve got this dream of a dawn-themed colorway to match my wife’s Duskwings.