Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who Wants a Shrug?

I am willing to bet $1.25 that a substantial sector of the non-knitting, blog-reading population does not know that "shrug" can be used as both a noun and a verb.

A shrug is a thing, as opposed to person or place.  It is a clothing garment that is meant to cover only the parts of your body that you use when you commit the sinful act of shrugging:  your shoulders, upper back, and arms.  Shrugs are wonderful beginning knitting projects because there is usually not a lot of shaping involved; you just knit a big rectangle, fold it in half, and sew up a couple of seams for the armholes and sleeves.  Easy peasy!  This is another reason they are perfect, mindless, watch-Grey's-Anatomy-but-still-like-yarn-in-my-hands kinds of projects.  Essentially, a shrug starts out as a scarf, only bigger.

One day in December, I was on the phone with my mother, talking about how she and her friend Sue were on a mission to find a shrug for their friend Judy.  The search, as it turns out, was beginning as "hopeful" and ending as "fruitless" at every stop, with the magnitude growing at each store.  My selfless/selfish little ears perked up.

"Why does Judy need a shrug?"

Well, the answer is that Judy had just finished her cancer treatments, and she was cold on a moment's notice now.  Sue and my mother were essentially searching for a garment that was easy to get on and off, something with long enough arms because Judy is extremely tall, and my personal favorite:

"If Judy thinks it looks itchy, she will think it IS.  It can't look itchy."

I offered to make one for her.  I was getting married in three weeks, so my mother balked with the assumption that I was way too busy, but Bert and I were getting married in Vegas.  Everything was done except for the avoidance of foods that would prevent me from fitting into my dress, and that task was not time-consuming.  But I had known Judy since I was seven years old, and I am fairly certain that if I needed a shrug and she knew how to knit, she would have made me one as well.

I started going through my mental yarn stash.  There was the yarn I had purchased at the International Quilt Fest, the clearance yarn from Sugar Land Yarn Company in my trunk, the yarn in the cardboard box in the bedroom...so by "stash," I mean "accumulated mini-yarn-store."  I remembered some Vanna's Choice by Lion Brand (tm) that I had purchased for $1.99 per ball at Michael's a month beforehand.  When I design something, I will sometimes use Vanna's Choice to see how a sample will look in a nice and soft yarn, and then use a similar but natural-fiber yarn to knit the actual garment.  Vanna's Choice is my Garment Pre-Game yarn, so I buy a lot of it.  When it goes on sale, I buy way too much of it.  But I had a bunch of balls of it in the color Brick, sort of a rust color, which happens to be one of Judy's favorite colors.  Perfect.

I only recently started carrying pen and paper with me, so when I cast on for this project for the first time, I had to use the "notepad" feature on my cell phone to write down the pattern.  I knitted, purled, ribbed, dropped, gartered, measured, and threw in a little bit of prayer for good measure.  On the morning of my wedding, 1/1/11, I cast off.  I was pleased.  As it turns out, so was Judy.  This is me, modeling the Waves and Warmth Shrug in my hotel bathroom on the morning of my wedding.

What I am most proud of regarding this pattern is that even now, approaching the first of June, when I ask how Judy is doing, my mother says, "She still wears the shrug you made her all the time!"  Actually, that is my second-most proud moment.  One day in February, I came home and quickly browsed through my emails.  I had one from Judy.  She just wanted to tell me how she could not believe I would take time out of my wedding plans to make her something so nice, and that she and a girlfriend of hers wanted to learn how to knit so they could make these shrugs to give to other cancer patients.

Waves and Warmth, indeed.  In spades, I dare say.

The pattern for this shrug can be purchased on Etsy.com for $3.50, and it will be available for purchase on Ravelry.com later this week.

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