Sunday November 11th 2007, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Written Saturday, waiting to be able to deliver it.

So much to say on this one, as I wait for it to dry.Marguerite’s shawl

The first day I was at Stitches East last month, we got to the end of the first row of booths, something soft-looking caught my eye and I went, “Ooh, I need to touch that.”

Karen and Amy wheeled me instantly over to it. I was just going to stroke it and be satisfied with that and go on; to me, it is a given that you never ever buy the first yarn that catches your attention at a Stitches event. It’s Disneyland for knitters with major sensory overload and you have to kind of scope out the place before you can make any decisions with any kind of sense, even if that means you miss out on a few things that other people snatch up before you can get back to them.

But it was their first time going. Cashmere? It was exquisitely soft, some of the best I had ever felt. I liked it? A good price? They weren’t letting me leave till I got it.

There were three to choose from. The dove gray was emphatically not my color. That shade of vivid orangey red is exactly what makes my balance go bonkers. No way. There were only two skeins left of the white, so I thought I was safe–no luck here, okay, let’s move on.

But no, they were telling me I would find just the right person and I would be disappointed later if I didn’t get it and I had to buy it and that was that. I argued and we went the rounds for several minutes.

Now, that’s unusual enough, coming out of those two, that when my inner feeling was, okay, just go with the flow here, I finally counted up how many balls I would need, took a deep breath, and bought a half a pound in that red. One or two for a scarf didn’t seem to cut it: I needed enough for a shawl. But I wondered why; I kept picturing a particular friend it would look great on, but hey, I had other yarns already in my stash I could knit up for her (part of why I kept trying to put Karen and Amy off). How many ages was that red going to languish in the back of my stash, I wondered, as I signed that credit card slip. It was so much not my color.

Fast forward.

My friend of twenty years, Marguerite, let it be known at church last Sunday that she’d been diagnosed three weeks before with breast cancer.

But. But. She’s too young! She… Her kids…

I wondered whether I should knit an afghan for her teenage children and husband to wrap themselves up in when things got just too hard, or whether I should knit her a shawl, or maybe eventually both. Knowing what I know and what my own family has gone through, I truly felt for them. I had to knit–something!

I walked over to the bag of yarns I’d bought at Stitches and thought at it, If I’m supposed to knit her a shawl, tell me which of you it’s supposed to be out of. Just, please, tell me, and I sent up a prayer to that effect. I opened the bag, poked around–

–and that red cashmere leaped into my hands the instant I saw it. I held it in front of me, going, Of course! Nothing else could possibly do–this was it! This was why! YES! I did a mental count: it had been three weeks since I’d bought that cashmere. And she was exactly the person I was thinking of as I did so. The only person. Even though I know plenty of other people with her coloring, certainly. But she was the one that I’d argued with myself over. It all made perfect sense now. And that red! For someone of Chinese ancestry! It was perfect, and Karen had been right, if I hadn’t bought that I would have been sorely disappointed now.

Marguerite and her husband used to live in Ann Arbor. I started with my Nina’s Ann Arbor shawl pattern, scaling it down in size to fit Marguerite better, and, because I only had so much yardage. As I wrote a few days ago here, I began, but then I frogged that first yoke. It wasn’t right this time. Not with this yarn. I replaced it with fern lace. Ferns are soft and airy looking, but they have the strength of ancient wisdom: there were ferns on this planet in the days of the dinosaurs. They seemed to convey longevity to me. Cheerful survival. And they are lovely to look at.

Marguerite and her mother are master gardeners, and her mother often shares her floral arrangements with the church. Bougainvillea, I thought, as I knit those red arbors. Or brilliant autumn leaves for Marguerite to enjoy, fall after fall. It was my speaking to her of autumns to come, my inner feeling, wrought in cashmere, that she would go into remission–for how long, I do not know, but she will go into remission. I feel that. I strongly do. And I knitted those feelings into life with this shawl.

Karen and Amy were thrilled to find out what an essential part they’d played. They live 3000 miles away and have never met Marguerite, but now how she does is important to them, and their prayers are added in with mine, befriending her from afar, whoever she may be, no more strangers but fellow travellers in this life. They had intervened for her sake without even knowing it, and now they do because they know it.


I wrote this last night. I held off posting it; I wanted Marguerite to have her shawl first, and I wanted her permission.

We compared notes today: it was October 9th that she was given her diagnosis. It was October 12th that Karen and Amy talked me into buying that cashmere. Marguerite said, “I hadn’t told anybody yet. Not anybody.” And yet there I was, thinking about her, thinking about how good that color would look on her and letting myself be talked into buying that yarn.

And after I knew, nothing else could possibly do.

Marguerite’s shawl, finished

26 Comments so far
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I thought the shawl just lovely before hearing its story. Now it is even more so. I’ll be sending Marguerite good vibes, too. =-D

Comment by Gigi 11.11.07 @ 5:48 pm

Dear Alison, how joyously blessed you and Marguerite are to have each other in your lives, your journey. Not only is the shawl “a joy forever” in itself, but added to the love and thought you poured and knit into it, cannot but help to bring wholeness, healing and light as Marguerite commences with whatever therapy she chooses to fight this scourge.

I did not know ferns were so ancient and wise – thank you for sharing the story, the path, the road less taken – and thank you to Marguerite for letting you share the story. I shall also pray for Marguerite, so prayers come from “the heart of the continent” in Canada.


Comment by Joan 11.11.07 @ 6:08 pm

She is added to my thoughts as well.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 11.11.07 @ 6:56 pm

Beautiful shawl, beautiful post. My thoughts will be with Marguerite as well.

Comment by Cari 11.11.07 @ 11:37 pm

zee shawl. eet ees gorgeous! many blessings to marguerite…

Comment by Amy 11.12.07 @ 8:12 am

Gorgeous. I am working on a shawl of yours now. And my needles came undone on the train this morning. Just what I needed to inspire me…. my mom had breast cancer 2 years ago so my thoughts are with you both!
Karen =)

Comment by Karen 11.12.07 @ 10:59 am

Best of luck to Marguerite. It’s a terrible disease. My thoughts are with you both, and with her family. Thank goodness we know how to knit in times like these.

Comment by amy 11.12.07 @ 1:36 pm

You truly are a blessing.
Thank you for reminding us how easy it is to be selfless and bring joy to others.

Comment by Jamie 11.12.07 @ 5:48 pm

Beautiful. Both the shawl and the serendipity of your story.

Your friend will be in my thoughts.

Comment by Sunflowerfairy 11.12.07 @ 6:14 pm

That little voice never lets you down. The shawl will help Maguerite get through it all. My prayers are with her.

Comment by Vicki 11.12.07 @ 6:47 pm

Wow that’s absolutely gorgeous and I love the color. I’m sorry that Maguerite has to go through this but I’m sure having friends like you helps!

Comment by Allison 11.13.07 @ 1:04 am

The shawl is just beautiful!I’ll keep Marguerite in my prayers. Have a great day.

Comment by Toni 11.13.07 @ 8:58 am

My thoughts are with Maguerite. The shawl is beautiful and absolutely perfect.

Comment by Alison 11.14.07 @ 3:54 pm

Now she can wrap herself in strength and love. Nice work Alison!

Comment by Adrian 11.14.07 @ 4:41 pm

I’m so glad you bought that yarn…that we talked you into it…and that you made such a gorgeous pattern with it. Marguerite will truly be wrapped in comfort…just as I am, simply by having you as my friend. (And then there’s that beautiful shawl I have!) Red is so auspicious and absolutely perfect!

Comment by Karen 11.14.07 @ 4:44 pm

What a lovely shawl. My best wishes to your friend. May she heal quickly and fully! How nice that she has you in her life.

Comment by Romi 11.15.07 @ 12:34 am

how totally sweet. and as a survivor myself, it totally touches my heart. i am currently making a shawl for a friend with a bunch of yarn that waited for the exact right person before it would let me knit it.

Comment by marti 11.15.07 @ 1:43 pm

Oh no! I so did not want to read this… My prayers are with M and her family. They did so much to me and K when we lived in Palo Alto. If anything I want the whole family to get stronger after this! ‘Cause there will be an after. An happy ending. The shawl is beautiful, by the way.

Comment by Monica 11.20.07 @ 12:33 am

[…] so very much not my color vs my internal struggle in thinking how perfect it would be for my friend Marguerite (but it wasn’t not her turn!) and finally just going along with the peer pressure and buying […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.21.08 @ 12:00 pm

[…] Marguerite had invited her medical team and just a very few close friends who had played roles in supporting her in her ordeal to come to her home as the time of her treatments came to an end. This was for the doctors, the nurses, the woman at the clinic who scheduled her appointments: she felt she owed much. She wanted to give back. She wanted to thank each of us for playing a role in sustaining and affirming her life in the face of her cancer, to have us celebrate with her her last week of radiation. Her teenage son snapped pictures of the small crowd, keeping record. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 06.18.08 @ 10:11 am

Red for luck. Beautiful.

Comment by Lene 06.20.08 @ 7:34 pm

[…] Marguerite’s mother spoke in church recently, detailing what her daughter had gone through, thanking God and every member of the congregation for their help, their love, and their prayers. For all the encouragement and hope that always seemed to come in at the moments it was most needed.  It was her daughter’s birthday, and her mother wanted to celebrate her good health out loud with us. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 12.03.08 @ 6:56 pm

[…] friend Russ, Marguerite’s husband, played tonight, and I missed Knit Night, but oh goodness, you should hear the St. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.07.09 @ 9:29 pm

[…] for joy in my hands in sheer anticipation, enough to part me from the price of it, and I thought of Marguerite’s cashmere.  (She is doing well now, […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 11.06.09 @ 9:57 pm

[…] to the bridal shower for my friend Marguerite’s daughter tonight. (Quietly rejoicing that Marguerite and her mom, too, for that matter, […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.17.12 @ 10:40 pm

[…] She knew me when all seemed lost when I was later in the hospital, too, and I too came back. So did Russ’s wife. We are […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.09.14 @ 11:39 pm

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