Once a bridesmaid . . .

March 2, 2010 at 11:58 am (knitting, writing)

March 20 is the last day of winter, and even though March supposedly goes “in like a lion and out like a lamb,” I counted on the 20th being cold this year. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. I love the cold.

But when Cassie scheduled her wedding for the 20th and I chose a chiffon bridesmaid dress, I knew I was in trouble. How on Earth was I supposed to keep warm if I didn’t have a coat that matched my dress?

My initial response was pretty naive: no problem, I’ll make something to keep me warm. I hopped online and searched for a pattern.

When I came across MMario’s “Artemis” and “Queen of Heaven” shawls, I should have known I was in trouble.

But I bought the yarn. I eventually gave in and bought beads after I’d settled on “Queen of Heaven.” I had the needles, the row counter, and 32 hand-tied stitch markers made from scrap yarn. By some miracle, I finished the project three weeks before the wedding, even after it got moved up.

So what does this have to do with writing? Allow me to set up some visuals.

Astronomer's wrap, pre-blocking

This is what the shawl looked like fresh off the needles. The radiating pattern looks nice, but all the details are muddled. There’s not much of a chance for the beads to shine through.

After taking the shawl off the needles, I dunked it in a tub of tap water. (Wool creations must be bathed in order to make them behave.) I let the wool completely absorb the water, squished out some of the excess, and went to my room to block.

“Blocking” is what allows the pattern to “open up.” In short, it means saturating wool with water, then pinning the wool into a desired shape. Wool has a strong memory and will maintain its form from the skein if unblocked. Blocking, however, rewrites that memory.

The downside, of course, is that blocking takes up a massive amount of space. This

The Astronomer's Wrap in the process of taking over my bedroom floor

took up most of my bedroom floor and took an hour and a half to pin.

Why bother, then?

I’ve asked myself the same thing about revisions. I’m usually pretty happy when I finish a scene (though that may just be the elation of getting done). So why go through the agony of tweaking it?

The answer comes after perseverance. Just as I wouldn’t want to wear an unblocked shawl, I wouldn’t want an editor, to read an unpolished novel.

And who knows? Maybe someday, one of my books will be this beautiful:

The Astronomer's Wrap is more patient than I am

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