A Great, Dark, Soft Thing, Broken Across With Slashes of Light

When I went to Chicago, I knew going to my husband’s work holiday party was on our agenda. I love getting fancied up and putting together dressy outfits for special occasions. I got out my prettiest shoes from their box to pack, my pearls, some handmade vintage inspired jewelry … fun! I also made this shawl to dress up my coat for the evening and have on hand in case it was chilly inside the party:

Alas, remember, my suitcase had holes in it so I decided to pack as light as I could manage — I unpacked my extra shoes, and wore a practical shawl that was appropriate for daytime (plus — I didn’t want to pack the shawl and have it get all mushed up!) It was a good move, because I sometimes forget that the world is a much more casual place these days; even wearing boots and a more subdued shawl, I was still the most dressed up person at the party. Eeep. I guess there are worse problems to have!

Anyway, I still wanted to show you guys the shawl. I used Karie Westermann’s Alva pattern for the body and little lace bit, but did a picot bind off with midnight blue fingering wool I had in my stash, left over from a lace scarf.

I chose this pattern because I had a skein of fancy, shot with metallic thread mohair yarn in my stash, and this shawl used mohair so beautifully. I remember the day I got the yarn perfectly — we had just moved to Collingswood a few months before, and went to visit Walt Whitman’s grave. We were driving home afterward, and I noticed a yarn store that was sadly going out of business. We stopped in, and I saw this glittering fuzzy skein for $3 — regularly $25. I love the gossamer effect of mohair so I decided to get it, even though I wasn’t so sure about the metallic bits. Now, I like the metallic bits 🙂

They remind me of the Carl Sandburg poem, Window: 

NIGHT from a railroad car window 
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light. 

 …from his Chicago poems, 1916.

Can you see it, too? Although I never got to wear it in Chicago, it will always remind me of my trip — the anticipation, the desire to make something special for it, the experience of spending a night racing across half of America, foretold in my knitting, foretold by a poet.


  1. What a gorgeous shawl! I can see this looking very elegant and dramatic with a black dress and pearls. More though, I think your writing illustrates how dramatically differs from fast fashion garments. A strand of the yarn’s back story, a knitting pattern with a tale, a twist of your own personality, a whisp of a planned trip, the tangle of a changed plans… all these things run through this item!

    1. That’s funny you say that, because I was thinking, “Gosh! I couldn’t have gotten all this resonance with a shawl from a mass retailer!” I’d love to push this even further with the rest of my wardrobe — sew more of my clothing especially. A goal 🙂

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