In knitting circles, there’s an iconic lace scarf known as the ‘Ishbel’.

Me and Ishbel are having some trouble getting friendly with each other. And just in case you are not a knitter, just read on and substitute Ishbel for any other task or project that ails you.

I first picked up Ishbel some about 18 months ago. It all went well doing the plain bit in the middle. It all went to pieces doing the fancy lacy bit. Sadly, with lace knitting, there’s no cheating… you gotta get every stitch right or the pattern just won’t work. I learned that trying to cheat. I also learned that there’s a lovely concept in knitting called a ‘lifeline’.

Basically, you insert a thread of yarn through all your live stitches on the needle. If you are doing a complicated pattern that you need to unpick, you can then quickly rip it back exactly to your starting point and begin again.

So restarting the lace bit of my scarf for the umpteenth time, I used a lifeline. I knit four rows and was chuffed that the pattern and my knitting seemed to match up. I got to row five only to discover that I no longer had a match made in heaven. Reluctantly, I ripped back four rows of lace knitting back to said lifeline. Recounted the stitches. Reread the pattern. Started over (again).

Same story. Five is not my lucky number. In desperation, I consulted a well-known knitting site looking for errata. Errata are pattern corrections. There were none. Instead I discovered that Ishbel is so popular that 10,850 other knitters have made this project. And that’s just the ones who have bothered to post online. Over 10,000 people and I can’t master the damn thing. Great.

Problem with starting over yet again is that full of foolish optimism, I had already moved my lifeline up by four rows. So this time, no quick ripping back to the beginning but knitting painstakingly backwards. Stitch by stitch. Several hundred of them. Aaaargh…!

But I won’t give up. I have now printed a fresh copy of the pattern. Energy-cleansed the whole project over burning sage. Without setting fire to it (although it smells smoky). I’ll be using multiple lifelines. And stitch markers. And everything else other knitters have told me will work. And pray. A lot.

I will conquer Ishbel. And wear her proudly.

One day.

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