Saturday, October 27, 2007

Yangrongxinshengwuzhenzhirong: The Challenge

For a lot of this past year, a sweet friend of mine was out of town for work.

That seems like a perfectly benign sentence, right? You probably didn't make much of it, I'd guess. Well, let me translate it for you and see if you feel differently:

A lot of this past year = 7 months straight
Out of town = in China
Sweet friend = guy who has 12 people over for a birthday dinner, insists that no one bring him gifts, and instead gives every guest a beautifully gift-wrapped present chosen specifically for them. From China.

Small but important aside: Amazing how a simple sentence about a friend and his work can be so rich with meaning. It's stunning to think about how often people say things where there's a whole story quietly waiting to be known, and we just keep on truckin' past it because we're busy, or we think we know what they mean, or we don't even notice that there might be more to it.

But gifts! There were gifts! Let's talk about the gifts! Yes, yes. Gifts!

In the presentation of each of the gifts, my friend provided a thoughtful comment about why the items were selected. Lovely jewelry for some, tea and books for others. Some people were given painted items along with a little verbal warning about possible lead content. Some were given t-shirts and were cautioned that there would be certain shrinkage and lack of steadfastness of the dye. ("It is China," he reminded us.) My gift came not with a warning, but with a challenge.

"I don't know anything about knitting," he said, "but I'm imagining this could be difficult. So, I challenge you to make something out of this."

Super soft.

Lace or fingering weight.

Yarn like cashmere. Only we don't actually know what it is -- the only thing I can read on the label is the name of this post. (Well, it doesn't say "The Challenge" on the label. You know what I mean.) My friend said something like, "It's such thin string, I figured it had to be difficult to knit with."

So I will ask you explicitly -- so there's no confusion-- what should I make with these 11 balls of very fine Chinese yarn? We've got a challenge here, people. What say you?!


Ashley said...

Wow, where do you get all these yarn-bringing friends? And where can I get some of my own?

So, soemthing shawl-like, certainly. But I can't imagine that any shawl would take 11 balls of that yarn (it looks similar to Lacey Lamb, yes?). So what if you held it double (triple? am I mad?) and made a really super cozy shawl?

Kirsten said...

I agree with Ashley, 11 balls is a lot of lace weight yarn. Working it doubled would probably be a good idea. There are so many great lace patterns out there, I'd start with a glass of wine, a cozy chair & one copy each of Victorian Lace Today and Folk Shawls.

I love the way your friend managed to choose a color that is so similar to the green in your recently finished chevron scarf. He seems to really know you.

Rose Red said...

I was going to suggest working it doubled too - but maybe for a fine summer-ish top?? Just because you've got so much of it.

What a great story.

JYGreen said...

What a sweet friend, indeed! I asked my mom to help me translate the Chinese words and she said it was something like:

Yang rong = lamb's wool
xin sheng = brand new
zhen zhi rong = real lamb

Couldn't get the exact translation since it was over the phone, but it looks like you have some pure new wool at your fingertips!

With all that yarn, you can make multiple items! You can make a dozen socks, a pretty lace shawl, a dainty scarf. . . the possibilities are endless!
You can also think about giving back to your friend and make him something cool with it!

Dr. B. said...

JYGreen - What a super sweet thing you just did!! Thank you so much for asking for that translation! And please thank your mom for her help! I also really like the idea of many items. You rock!

Kristy said...

Oh wow. That yarn is stunningly beautiful. I love the sheen. I love, even more, your wonderful friend.

I'm with the others - something(s) lacey or a top holding 2 or more stands together.

As soon as I saw that yarn I immediately thought of the Hanami Lace Stole from Melanie at Pink Lemon Twist Have you seen it? There is a knitalong and they have a Flickr group here (I still don't know how to leave fancy links in comments.) It is beautiful and has a beautiful story to go along with it - just like your yarn.

I also like the suggestion that you make something for the friend who gave it to you. Or maybe for a charity. Would it be an appropriate weight, maybe held together, to make socks for the Dulaan Project?

seth said...

I just poked around google and found an out of print book called "Patterns from China: Sweater Ideas for Children." Your public library should have a copy. Even if you (reasonably) did not want to make a child's sweater, maybe you would find some inspiration to incorporate Chinese knitting designs into whatever you decide to make. (I second the suggestion for a shawl and, in particular, the book "Folk Shawls.")

Risa said...

Really with that much yarn you could make quite a few projects. I see you're on ravelry now, so you could try looking around there. Other than Folk Shawls, I would also look at A Gathering of Lace and Victorian Lace Today, which have a wide variety of lacy projects and levels of difficulty.
What a great friend!

Stella said...

You weren't kidding. What a sweet friend! I definitely second the Hanami Stole idea.

I've also been thinking lately that a simple pullover (something like the hourglass sweater), worked in a laceweight on medium to largeish needles would be a lovely fall garment. You know, over a camisole or something.

You might even have enough for both.

Stacey said...

wow - with all that - you could make a nice, huge stole and a matching set of gloves or something! Maybe double it? what a wonderful friend!

tiennie said...

Wuat a wonderful friend. I like the idea of working it double to make something soft and cozy.

BigAlice said...

Oh, lucky you! It looks gorgeous!
I agree with the others, it's probably pretty similar to lacey lamb (which feels like cashmere to me).
1 ball of lacey lamb is about 850 yards. You've got enough yardage you could use it doubled or trebled and knit and amazing sweater.

Rani said...

Oh, it's lovely! What a nice friend!

Make a pair of socks for your friend and use the rest for a lovely scarf/shawl/shrug.

mgf said...

This is gonna be good...