My Mary Lennox


My Mary is done. Finally.

The Mary Lennox shawl, designed by Kate Poe, is inspired by little Mary’s adventures in the tale, The Secret Garden.  It’s a classic pi shawl and can be made as a full circle, half circle, or 3/4 circle. The designer establishes a pattern for the first two sections which mimic a rocky path followed by an ivy covered wall. After that the knitter is free to explore options for each garden section.

This Finish Off was a long time coming. I had to push myself to keep knitting it. Some days I’d only do a few stitches. Some days I do a row or two. Some days I didn’t even pick it up.

My official excuse, the one I laid off on my friends and students, was that this project just did not travel well. The yarn is fine and delicate. The charts are involved. If anyone talks to me, or even breathes hard, I’ll loose my place. All that is true but I didn’t work on this shawl much even at home. The truth is, for personal reasons, this project made me feel sad. I felt a little sad every time I picked it up.

The project started before the knitting, before I even found the pattern. I spun all the yarn for this on my Louet S75 wheel and that took about two weeks. But it really started before that. It got its start when my friend gave me the roving about a year ago. Its a beautiful undyed merino/angora/silk blend and it was given to me by my friend Mary.

Mary gave me the roving for this project and a whole lot more. She gave me a lifetime’s supply of roving to spin. That’s not an exaggeration. Her gift came packed into five bins. Some of that gifted fiber is ordinary, work-a-day merino. Nice, serviceable, but nothing I couldn’t buy for myself. Not all of it though. There was also pounds of tussah silk, pounds of alpaca, bags of cashmere, and one very special bag of yak down. Its a treasure. For a hand spinner, its a real treasure.

But she didn’t want to give it to me. She didn’t want to give it to anybody. She had to move out of her home and into an adult living center. She only gave it to me because she couldn’t keep it.

Its a wonderful gift, and it was very hard to accept. Mary’s daughter and I had to do most of the packing and sorting while she watched. She has mobility issues, there was no way she could pack it up herself. It took about an hour to got through it all. We all kept up a good front and cheery voices but underneath all that it was strained and awkward. I wanted very badly to just put it all down and walk out. But no one in Mary’s family spins. If I didn’t take it, it would have gone to a Goodwill store. That was the daughter’s plan if I left any roving behind. Goodwill. The staff there wouldn’t have even known what it was.

So I packed it all up and drove it to my apartment. I set it those five bins down just inside my front door and I left them there. It was four days before I could face moving them into my closet. That’s when I really accepted it was mine, when I had to jockey things around and find space for it all. That’s when I had to admit that I had taken my friend’s entire fiber stash.

Sure I had reasons. They were good ones. Unavoidable ones. But I still feel terrible about it. It put an end to our friendship. We stayed in touch at first but it was hard. We couldn’t talk about spinning anymore and it was passion we both shared. After a while she started turning down my offers to get together. Then she stopped answering my emails. I lost her. All I get now is updates from a mutual friend, that she speaks to on occasion. Mary is doing fine. She just doesn’t want to see me.

I’ve tried to be understanding about the whole thing. I’ve tried to put myself in Mary’s place. I ask myself how I would feel if, after a lifetime of spinning my circumstances, my health and my own daughter made me give it up. (I’d be majorly pissed off, btw.) I’m sure Mary feels sad and embarrassed and frustrated and wishes she could have it all back. I  imagine that seeing me is a reminder, a painful one, of what she lost.

I get that. Still hurts though.

So when I saw the Mary Lennox mystery knit-a-long, I thought, yes. I’ll use some of Mary’s roving to make a Mary Lennox. A Mary shawl made possible by my Mary. I thought it would help me feel better. I’d do something with the fiber, with the yarn, make something pretty… well, you know what I mean.

It did help. Some. Writing all this out helped some too. But I still want my friend back. The truth is every time I would knit on this shawl I told myself I should have just let it all go to Goodwill. Maybe then I’d still have my Mary.

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"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

9 Comments on "My Mary Lennox"

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This shawl has turned out to an amazing work with loving memories! Did I ever meet her, as I think I may have? Aging issues are vast, varied, and emotionally difficult. What a wonderful tribute to spinning! ♡ ♡


Thank-you. Thanks for the complements and for being a reader and for the understanding. Just writing it all down was a relief and as always, this blog lifts me up.


Like you many of the projects that have produced amazing results and your shawl is amazing come with a story of struggle and loss. Thank you for sharing.


A bittersweet story behind your lovely shawl. Thank you for sharing.


I loved this post. I hope you don’t mind I tweeted it. Too good not to share.


Not at all. Thank-you!

And thanks to everyone for all their encouragement and support. It was just what I needed.