Breaking the yarn

Two weeks ago, a friend showed me a shawl she knit for a woman with breast cancer, and I said, “Philangelus, you idiot…” because I too know a woman with breast cancer. And suddenly I needed to knit her a shawl. (Peer pressure! I can’t handle it!)

As soon as I got home, I dove into my yarn stash, but nothing would work. First off, there had to be enough of it. Secondy, due to where this woman lives, the shawl had to be light. And since she’s dealing with breast cancer, I wanted it to be machine-washable so she wouldn’t worry about having to keep it clean. Someone spilled coffee? Sure, wipe it up with the shawl. No, really.

I had covered my bed with unsuitable yarn when I came up with the last skein, something I’d bought on a whim and then forgotten. It was perfect.

I went to Ravelry. On the first page of search results, I found a pattern I’d “favorited” a long time ago and then forgotten. And it was perfect for this yarn.

Okay, so clearly God looks out for fools, drunks, the United States of America — and me. I cast on and knit like the wind.

I knew I wanted it to end right on one of the dark blue stripes, but of course you can’t control the stripes on self-striping yarn. Nor, I guess, could the manufacturer, because two thirds of the way down, the yarn broke, and there was the wrong color beneath. Mill-end.

Joining it to the wrong color right beneath it was going to mess up the pretty striping pattern and look like heck, and this shawl deserved better. So instead I reached into the center of the ball to more of the light blue, snapped it there, and joined light blue to light blue. And when I reached the last row…? It turned to dark blue. Just like I’d wanted.

I knit along chattering to God what a gift from Him it was that the mill-end had happened in my skein of yarn, otherwise there wouldn’t have been so much light blue, and then the bottom inch would have been dark blue instead of just the very bottom…and then I realized I was running out of yarn. What if I didn’t have enough to finish the bind-off?

I refused to watch the yarn ball decreasing. I had the “wrong” color yarn still, but can you join yarn on the bind-off row? What if I ran out?

And then, another Philangelus, you idiot moment: if two years ago God had seen that I needed this yarn, this flawed yarn, for this pattern, for this person, and had even managed the mill-end such that the shawl turned out just the way I wanted it to…wouldn’t God also know I needed to bind off?

I couldn’t very well say God was smart enough to make sure the yarn was defective in just the right way but then not trust that God would give me enough yarn to finish. So I forced myself. I had to trust.

Guess what?


God indeed looks out for fools.

And as for the shawl? Yeah.




  1. Normandie

    Beautiful, Jane!

  2. hthrb

    It’s beautiful! It makes me think of butterflies in the spring.

  3. Jason Block

    Nice. 🙂

  4. Pat

    Oh, my goodness, Jane. That is beautiful.

  5. seschoen


  6. Jenny

    Is that Multnomah? I’ve just been looking at that pattern on Ravelry. Yours is beautiful.

    1. philangelus

      Yes, that’s it! I used Paton’s Lace in porcelain.

  7. Mom

    Love the shawl and loved the post.. As a “survivor” I also love that it wasn’t “pink.” In sickness or in health, a gal can only take so much 🙂

    1. philangelus

      I’m just not a pink person, so there’s no pink in my stash. I’m not sure why pink became the breast cancer color, but I couldn’t have done pink even if I wanted to. 🙂

  8. details

    You are officially a knitter!

    1. philangelus


  9. k8e308

    Where can I find that pattern?

    1. philangelus

      It’s a free pattern from here:

      The patterns page has several other patterns too, with such intriguing titles as “Unicorn Barf.” 🙂

      I used Paton’s Lace, but any fingering weight yarn will do.

  10. Mom

    P.J. (my name for Philangelus Jane)
    Are you a member of the Catholic Writers Guild? Im typing on my cell phone and cant see your full site. I want to reblog it to

  11. Pingback: I’m So Dizzy « BCHS Trinity Club

  12. Kat

    Jane, someone on my Facebook friends linked to this. I love this story so much! As a knitter, I can definitely relate. And by “coincidence” I have been looking at this pattern on Ravelry too, and thinking of knitting it with some yarn I have hibernating in a plastic tote downstairs.

  13. Ken Rolph

    A shawl is such a good idea. If you are going to spend time in bed for any reason, upper body garments are most practical. The sheets and blankets cover the rest.

    Probably a better response to the illness than that of some people I once worked with. They were an inner city collective of wimmin. If they knew of someone with breast cancer facing radical surgery they would offer to take a latex mould of the soon-to-be-missing part. They would make a plaster cast from this.

    Which I suppose is fine as a personal gesture. The political statement was when they kept copies and hung them on a wall in their house as a kind of memorial room.

    Possibly a bunch of shawls would have been better. They do knit. They are one of the groups that knit covers for lightposts and letter boxes.

    1. philangelus

      It will make you very happy to know there’s a charity here in the US where women will knit replacement boobs for women who have had mastectomies. 🙂

      1. Ken Rolph

        I came across this collective when I worked as a consultant with some of Australia’s largest companies. Our problem was to get in contact with major decision makers, who have many defences set up to divert people they don’t want to deal with. This collective, which I’m sure you will understand was made up of women in comfortable shoes, was also a marketing company. They used their feminine charms and professionalism to cut through the defences and get us interviews with top people in major companies. You would have appreciated them. They applied the most cold-blooded instance of cynicism I’ve ever seen.

  14. Wendy Dinsmore

    Wow… That turned out awesome.

    And you may be hearing from my mom. She was tickled pink.