If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

The Weird That Is at Your Feet

Dear Kay,
Thanks to everyone who gave Cousin Dan a boost yesterday during his marathon!
Now that I have recovered, I gotta get you up to date on the project that has been OBSESSING me since I picked it up again last week.
(I am marinating the gansey idea at the moment. I think I have a good idea, but it’s an epic project if I decide to do it, so I don’t want to just jump in all willynillycrazy.)
As you know, I finished the creepy mom pirate sweater, which would have made a great Halloween costume by the way except that I ended up going as a white-haired vampire due to the availability of a big cape and a leftover Albert Einstein wig from a seventh grade class project. It apparently wasn’t vampirically correct, according to one Twilighty trick-or-treater who seemed to be up for a conversation. When she asked who I was, I said, “An old, tuckered-out vampire.”
She responded, “Vampires always have the color hair they were born with. You know. So. Were you like born with white hair?”
“Here, ya smartypants, take yer Kit Kat and move ON.” This left me thinking, holy cow, of all those suspiciously aged blonde women I see everywhere. You mean they’re VAMPIRES? You mean I’M A VAMPIRE?
Anyway, the project loss I felt after finishing the pirate sweater made me sentimental for something familiar. It’s just not that hard to find half-finished projects at my house: there’s usually one at my feet. So I stirred my feet, which landed upon the Alice Starmore Donegal pullover that I started eighteen months ago. I felt a rush of purpose and CHECKED OUT OF LIFE in order to devote my full attention to this project.
Let me just say: re-starting a Fair Isle project is exactly like restarting an exercise regime, or a diet. It just feels terrible. What was all this mysterious crap inside this tote bag? I found this chart with one column of stitches highlighted, for some reason, in red. There was an index card into which at some point I had tenderly threaded samples of each color of yarn. Seeing these relics made me realize how very little I remembered about the whole thing. All the colors looked the same to me. Rainforest? What kind of a yarn name is Rainforest?
I forgot that you have to set up a command post in order to knit this sort of thing. It is the LEAST portable kind of knitting. So I set up my lovingly purchased KnitPicks Fair Isle Chart Holder Thingie, put the yarn swatches right next to it, arranged the nine shades of yarn in a little pile, fired up my superbright reading lamp, loaded up on coffee, and commenced knitting.
AAAAAAAAAAAAACK! I forgot that the 28-stitch, 32-row pattern was an asymmetrical mosh of 2-1-2-3-4-5-3-5-3 stuff. It don’t make no sense. It was horrible. But, sucker for punishment, I decided I had to stick with it long enough to have justified setting up the knitting command post.
It was so pretty, for one thing. I remembered how beautiful all this Rowan Donegal Lambswool is. And I remembered how clever it feels to knit with two hands. I remembered that as tedious as that first row was, the second row was half as tedious, and by the third row I could hold most of the pattern repeat in my head. GAH, I was a GENYUS!
The good news is that the soul-sucking torso marathon was finished already, and the armhole steeks were under way.
All I had to figure out was the neckline.
It’s clever, really, and it’s not anything I would have ever thought of doing. The neckline on one of these things has a little shaping. To achieve that shaping without abandoning circular knitting and resorting to front-and-back knitting, you place some neckline stitches on holders, and you create little steeks in the front and back of the neckline, decreasing on either side of the steek. When you cut the steeks (stay tuned for that thrilling episode), the neckline opens up, voila, and the shaping is done. It means that you never stop knitting in the round, and you easily keep the pattern cooking. Who thinks of stuff like this?
After a lot of knitting, and Kitchenering of shoulder seams, during which I watched not a single episode of Mad Men because I needed all my brain power to do it, I ended up with a piece of wonky knitting architecture:
I mean, when I restarted this project, I didn’t have it my head that I was in the mood to make this:
It just goes to show that sometimes, you can find a whole world of weirdness right at your feet.




  1. boo-ti-ful! totally worth setting up the command post.

  2. Ahhh. Once upon a time I sighted one of those in the wild. Beautiful beyond belief. But when I came up close I was shocked by mishaps at the shoulder. I never said anything to the knitter, beyond my profound compliments, but I wondered. And now I understand.
    My main use of a time machine would be to go back and buy various discontinued Rowan yarns.

  3. Wow. That is a mysteriously wonderful thing of beauty. I’m dumbstruck.

  4. You are a genius! To pick that up after 18 months and figure out your notes and where you were, etc. I have trouble if I leave a pattern for a couple of weeks! The sweater is a beauty, by the way,

  5. Gorgeous!! Nuff said.

  6. Oh, boy. You are a better woman than I. This makes my brain hurt to think of it. You probably made it all the way through “Atlas Shrugged,” too, didn’t you? (I am headed to my book club tonight having made it 600 pages through the interminable 1,100. Blech. I’d rather knit. But you, my dear, you would have finished it.)

  7. Beeyooteeful! Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  8. Good for you! You’ve inspired me to pick up a UFO of my own!

  9. Where is the “like” button in this comment box….Hrm.
    Anyway, (like).

  10. Did you say steek?????

  11. Ahh, I’m jealous… I worked like crazy to eliminate ufos from my to-do list and organize gift knitting. From now until January (daughter’s bday is in January), I’m limited to gift knitting and all I can think of is self knitting – not just a pair of socks or a scarf – really involved two-handed, multi-colored knitting.

  12. I had such a blast with my first-ever full-on stranded and steeked knitting (Jade Starmore’s “Rosarie de la Haie” vest, finished in Oct ’08) that I jumped right into two more Starmore projects, AS’s Grant Avenue vest and Jade’s Elizabethan jacket, both now in the blocking stage. Yep, I’ve got more on the wishlist. All Starmore, all the time!

  13. You are going to CUT YOUR KNITTING! I’m going to make popcorn and stay tuned.

  14. I really don’t know what to say except the colors are truly beautiful…the rest of all that leaves me speechless and not at all certain that what I do can really be called knitting when compared to what you’re doing.

  15. Oh my. I feel weak in the knees.

  16. You have an amazing ability to describe what it’s like to open a UFO bag and find odd notes in what seems to be your own handwriting. What is this? What does it all mean? Where am I? Too funny!

  17. This is truly beautiful. I’ve recently finished my Autumn Leaves cardigan and it, too had it’s delays and restarts so I sympathize totally. But I’ve yet to tackle a Starmore. My hat’s off to you!
    Azaleaknitter on Rav

  18. Have you knit the Liberty Afghan? Soul-sucking, assymetrical pattern, knitting station. But so pretty when it’s all done.

  19. I’m quite tired just from thinking about the steeks, Kitchener, etc. It is going to be gorgeous.

  20. That is a great way to describe resuming a hibernating colorwork endeavor.

  21. I’m nearly done in from thinking about the steeks, Kitchener stitching, etc. As a result, I may have to have a gin & tonic when I get home from work. It’s going to be beautiful . . .

  22. Wow.
    I can’t wait to see the neckline once it’s cut.

  23. OMG! That is gorgeous! I have plotted out that pattern with plans to knit it using only 2 colors of Kauni yarn (dark-ish for the background and lighter tones for the pattern), so I am completely intrigued by the neckline shaping. Can’t wait to see your progress!

  24. Steeks scare me just thinking about cutting into that beautiful pattern. Please show the process!

  25. You are to be congratulated for resuming this project after 18 months!! Hope the rest goes well — it is beautiful.

  26. The colors are gorgeous!!! Good luck with the rest of it.

  27. Bee you tee ful. I remember when you were collecting yarn for this. I was hoping to see it someday. I have a few Starmores in the queue. Now I remember why they are there.

  28. Fantastic, Ann YOU ROCK ! 😀

  29. Beautiful —
    Similar story to picking up lace again after months of neglect… but
    Only one episode left to the season ….

  30. what can I say. you rock. I love it and can’t wait to see what that jumble of beautifully patterned stuff turns into!

  31. I wondered what had happened with this project! I can’t wait to see it finished and have one request: can you please take pix of the inside when it is finished? I am particularly interested on what the inside of a finished steek looks like. Thanks.

  32. You sir, rock. That is rilly rilly rilly pretty.

  33. That is both gorgeous and absolutely amazing!

  34. I feel a little dizzy. That is Some Impressive, Ann.
    And maybe it’s evidence of an unsophisticated knitting palate or something, but…as much as I love the “real” pattern, I love the looks-like-eye-of-partridge-heel-and-I-think-you-are-going-to-SLASH-it-with-SCISSORS part just as much.
    Purty, purty.

  35. Sooo pretty, and so very weird-looking!

  36. Thank goodness for the diagrams. It is beautiful!

  37. Absolutely beautiful! Your sweater is awe-inspiring.

  38. you are far braver then i am
    the only steek i want is a
    is a sirloin medium rare

  39. “Here ya smartypants, take yer KitKat and move ON”–Best laugh I had all day! Really needed it, too.
    As my screen was slowly loading (dial-up) I got that first glimpse of the Donegal, and I made a little gasp–it’s really gorgeous!
    But it left me wondering, how come the only weird things I ever see at MY feet are my toes…..?
    P.S.–Steek? EEk! Can’t wait till you show us how.

  40. Loved it all: the Halloween detail and dialogue, your humor and style throughout (I feel queasy saying the obvious and perhaps making you self-conscious, but you’re a big girl and can take it, and I just want to finally say it), the description of re-entering the zone of unfinished projects, and the ex-quiz-it beauty of your knitting, the pattern, the YARN, and all of it together, where the parts are each beautiful and the sum of them just takes you out there….
    It looks as if that yarn is variegated? But how beautifully all the shades harmonize, with neighbors and with the whole. I think the steek makes a lovely interlude in the pattern; it would be hard for me to cut into for that reason, as well. Thanks, as always.

  41. Wunderschön. Ich bin zu Sprachlos und begeistert um in Englisch zu schreiben. Ganz, ganz, ganz toll! (Und so viele Farben!!!- Kein grau und beige…nanu? 🙂 )

  42. Wow, you’re sure making the rest of wonder why we aren’t knitting masterpieces but only simple, unassuming stockinette. Your knitting ambitions are impressive (and the only thing better is that you actually finish some of these projects).

  43. Reading this, my hair got a whole lot grayer (don’t know nuthin’ about vampires), I think I got some more wrinkles, and now I have fewer brain cells left for my LSAT. THANKS, Ann!
    I bow to you. I could never, ever, not in a million-trillion years, be bothered to try this. I do love to look at it, though. 😀

  44. Don’t listen to the Twilight generation. Anyone who ever watched Buffy knows that vampires continue at the age they were when they got turned into a vamp so white hair perfectly plausible. I bet you looked fabulous anyhow.

  45. I so enjoyed seeing this with all the diagrams! The arrows helped so much in clarifying directions/pictures of ‘how to’ instructions for steeks. They make more sense to me now (why doesn’t the people that make ‘how to’ patterns know how to do this? I now know how weird the sweater is supposed to look before cutting. One day I will steek something! Right now I’m gathering patterns and my nerves. This is totally beautiful, I will stay tuned and as another poster asked-please show the inside when you are in the process of cutting and finishing.

  46. Thanks for the photos! I am almost to the armpits on my first steeked project and it was hard for me to visualize what armholes and a v-neck were going to look like. Please keep the pictures coming!

  47. What a cool way to do the neckline. Can’t wait to see how it pans out. Beautiful, as usual. Reminds me that I gotta get going on my Liberties (one for each daugther, preferably before they are off to college – they are 8 and 4 now).

  48. OMG! Grafted shoulders meeting perfectly in pattern! I am not worthy!!!

  49. I have eagerly awaited seeing you pick up this project again. You are such an inspiration. It is beautiful and I loved your lacy bed jacket. These kids think they invented vampires or something. Hah!

  50. Alice Starmore rocks. I love the colours you’re using, weird names and all.
    I’ve been meaning to dust off my Alice Starmore pattern book…

  51. That is so stunning, and steeking is the bravest knitting trick of all. I don’t think there is enough red wine in all the world for me to try it. I am in awe of your bravery!

  52. “Christian skatepark coffee” scares me more than steeks.

  53. Holy Cow! Your steeks are so perrty. I still can’t figure out how to change colors in the middle of the steek and make it look nice and neet and tidy like yours! Thanks for showing all the details in the photos!

  54. Really lovely – too complicated for me though! This reminds me that I shouldn’t have too many wips on the needles ’cause then I lose my momentum and have to re-learn the whole deal.


A bit of news from us, every now and again.

(Your email is safe with us.)