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Pull From The Tangle

Dear Ann,
A few years ago, I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology to hear our cutest knitting heroes, Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably, speak. As you know, one of Kaffe and Brandon’s super powers is Intarsia. During the Q & A, someone asked Brandon whether he used bobbins when working with so many colors at once. With a blitheness that can only have come from decades working with Kaffe, Brandon said that his technique was to “pull from the tangle.” I sat there smug as hell, because that is my own “technique” for bobbin management: no bobbins. Pull from the tangle.
Ever since, it has struck me that Pull From The Tangle has application beyond intarsia or Fair Isle, or even knitting. Just keep all the strands of whatever it is you’re managing ready to hand, and pull out what you need, when you need it. Keep going. Pull gently, pull hard, shake loose what you’ve got to shake loose, cut something if you must, but KEEP GOING. It may look like a mess just now, but in time you’ll have a magnificent chrysanthemum, in 3 weights of yarn and 17 shades, to show for your efforts.
The last 2 months of December, I was in Pull From The Tangle mode as never before. Bar Mitzvah prep/boy management/party planning cooking on all burners, abnormally high activity levels in Real Job, etc. etc.; I’m getting anxious just thinking about all the strands in that tangle. I just kept pulling, once in a while stirring in dollops of overambitious knitting. And on December 17, the tangle yielded up a glorious chrysanthemum: my boy, bookended by kindly rabbis, tunefully chanting the sorry tale of Judah and Tamar. While also looking splendid in his new suit and his first proper necktie, which he had tied himself with the aid of a YouTube video. Hair freshly (but not too freshly) shorn. Mother in the front row, rivulets of mascara plopping onto her neck in joyful fashion.
Kind of a great day. Followed by Hanukkah, Christmas in Nebraska, New Year’s, and in two days I’m off on a TBT (tedious business trip) to the Land o’ Luther, specifically Ulm, Germany.
I don’t know how to catch up with my blogging, so I’ll just pull some random threads out of the tangle.
Knitting Is Not the New Yoga

Between Christmas and New Year’s, it seemed like a good idea to knit 7 of Kirsten Kapur’s raffish Thorpe hats, for the 7 kids who would be New Year’s-ing at our house for the weekend. I started on Boxing Day, having nobody to box, but soon got distracted by a new Noro blanket, such that by December 30, the count was a rather anemic 2 Thorpes. Enter my sister-in-law, Aunt Kathy. In 2 days we knit the other 5, using a Henry Ford-inspired modified sweatshop system. I’d do the fiddly moment where you start with 4 stitches on DPNs, knit the crown increases, and then pass it over to Kathy for the straightaway. She’d knit until it was time to bind off for the brim, and pass it back to me for flaps assembly. Meanwhile, I’d have gotten another Thorpe to the straightaway phase and I’d pass that over to her. It did not trouble either of us that the DPNs were not all the same size, that we only had one (slightly-too-long) circ, or that 5-7 children were clamoring for grilled cheese at any given time. PULL FROM THE DANG TANGLE. GIT ‘R DONE!
(Aunt Kathy also finished hooking that rug I started after Rhinebeck 2009. She likes to keep busy.)
On January 1, I crocheted the edging on Thorpe the Seventh as Aunt Kathy drove me and a carload of teens to the beach to take the photo that got me started on this idea in the first place.
Seven Thorpes on the Beach. (What the hell is wrong with me.) (Rhetorical question.)
In retrospect, I don’t know why I was so hellbent on knitting all those hats when I had a houseful of hostessing. It puts the lie to that whole “restful and meditative” reputation of knitting. It was not restful, it was not meditative. It was manic. But it was fun, it ate up a few pellets of my pallet of Lamb’s Pride Bulky, and it amused Aunt Kathy. I think.
I also knit a dress.
Still waiting for the modelled photoshoot op. Nobody puts Baby in the corner, or Allegheny in a bathroom mirror shot.
I also knit a Schmatta (or two), as did Amy Chicken. Amy and I are conspiring to cook up a knockoff of an Eileen Fisher knockoff of a Martha Stewart knockoff of a public domain chestnut from the mid-20th century, early mimeograph period. It is so fun to have Amy on the knitting team!
Almost forgot: also helped my friend Diana finish her first knitted blanket, a magnificent Fussy Cuts. Diana did narrow borders in Berrocco Ultra Alpaca. It’s all done but the end-weaving. Everybody should have a Fussy Cuts on their TV-cave sofa.
The Quality of Mercy
As the new year begins, there is one thing I want to mention with bowed head. Last year, thanks to generous knitters purchasing the Mitered Crosses Blanket pattern, we sent $18,500 to Mercy Corps to support its relief efforts in Japan in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster there. Now that 2011 is over, we will still send all proceeds of sales of this pattern to Mercy Corps, but these contributions will not be designated for any specific purpose. Working on the Mitered Crosses Blanket pattern, and seeing knitters take it to heart and make so many beautiful versions, to benefit such an amazing organization, was one of the highlights of my year. I’m very grateful to everyone who purchased it, knitted it, blogged it, tweeted it, Ravelry’d it, hosted a yarn shop event for it, or sent supportive thoughts our way.
This is starting to feel like a really long tweet.




  1. Pull from the tangle . . . what an excellent metaphor for most of our lives!
    Also, I must stop skimming quite so quickly. It leads to reading things such as “my boy, bookended by kindly rabbits.” Oh, the images. (I once skimmed a headline that I could have sworn said Paris Hilton was caught with cannibals in her purse.) Sometimes we pull a little too hard on the tangles.
    Enjoy Germany!

  2. Happy New Year, Kay!!

  3. Who cares if it’s a lengthy tweet, it’s KAY for heaven’s sake and it’s great to see a slice of your life. I will, indeed, just keep pullin’ (a la Dory) and remember how you’re a great example. Happy 2012!

  4. Gorgeous knitting, as usual, and a timely motto. I am pulling from a literal tangle today — three dogs got into a basket of yarn that I thought was safely hidden behind a closed door. It’s about 600 or 700 yards of tangle. Pull a bit, shake out what needs shaking, cut when necessary; that’s what I’m doing.

  5. Ahh…I love the picture on the beach. We can not always be rational human beings and the picture was worth it – a memory to always cherish.
    Short story about life theories –
    My daughter is taking saxaphone lessons. Her teacher told her that bending over at a 90 degree angle would help her with her saxaphone because it changes how she has to hold her mouth to get a better sound. I took that as a mom and ran with it – I said “What!!! Bending over at a ninety degree angle can solve all your problems??!?” It made my daughter laugh…But the grain of truth to that is that somethimes changing your perspective can help solve a problem.
    Pulling from the tangle is life. No matter how neat and organized we try to be – it’s always messy!! Thanks for your post – Blessings to you and safe journeys –

  6. Your year looks like it came to an awesome end. The busyness to me makes hosting feel more real (which probably doesn’t make any sense). If things are 100% smooth, then it means that the hostessing was an afterthought.
    Ah forget it. I cannot explain why I think it is perfect that you knit all those hats while hosting. It just is.

  7. Ulm, huh? A quick glance at the ravelry group Ulm knitters leads me to believe you’ll be headed to a little street called Pfauengasse while you’re there (LYS aplenty, it would seem)!
    It’s a shame you’re not heading Hamburg way, I’d gladly take you out on the razzle – I guess that’s just 450 miles too far this trip…
    Happy New Year!

  8. Pull from the tangle – way to go, knitter-mom! Last year I decided to knit hats or mitts for each of the 7 cousins we were seeing at Christmas. I got them all, but I also had 8 weeks between the decision and Christmas.
    And congrats on what I hear was a tremendously successful Bar-Mitzvah! (I hear it from Ann’s post, actually; I promise I’m not a creepy stalker knitter.)

  9. Happy New Year and save travels.

  10. I’m dying to see Allegheny modeled! I put it on my list when you initially wrote about it. It looks beautiful.

  11. I thought KNITTING was your Real Job . . .

  12. Y’all had the fundraising mojo! Gimme five – all I do for charity is knit dog sweaters.

  13. This was such a satisfying & excellent post in so many many ways. Pulling from the tangle, that is exactly right.
    Just two points to address:
    1) What is wrong with you? NOTHING! and
    2)Agreed. Everyone SHOULD have a Fussy Cuts on their sofa. Complete or in progress.

  14. Commenting, tweet style!
    Judah and Tamar? That’s a pretty exciting story for a young ‘un!
    Awesome Thorpe study! And great teamwork. Knitters are the best.
    Looking forward to the modeled Allegheny pictures!
    Mitered Crosses: Bought the pattern. Love it. May never get around to knitting it. But I’m happy to support the cause!

  15. Lovely post, Kay. Pull from the tangle — brilliant. My brain is better with that motto lodged in it.

  16. I too pull from the tangle when I knit — and occasionally in other circumstances. I love your Thorpe story — I received my reward for a similar knitting foolishness – either knitting mittens or said Thorpe at the last minute — actually both may have been done that way. My daughter described that event as “mom knitting them till midnight like a little elf so I could take them with me.” Worth every crazy minute!

  17. Ooh, did you say Eileen Fisher? πŸ™‚

  18. I just got my knitting mojo back after a very long, very busy fall. I puttered along with a hat and mittens feeling compelled to get these 2 (non holiday) gifts finished before I started anything else. They are almost dry!! I did start a ripple blanket and bang out a birthday cowl.
    Now the knitting is kicked into high gear as I have about 28 things I want to knit right now. Is Aunt Kathy available?
    Have fun in Germany. Sorry to hear you have a “real job”. I hope it’s managing some sort of fair-trade-yarn-globilization-wage-resource-collective. And if such a thing doesn’t exist well then gosh darn it git ‘er done!

  19. You have a Real Job? When?
    Mazel Tov on your son’s becoming a Bar Mitzvah! I’m kvelling on your behalf. (Oy.)
    Love the hats. Totally worth it for the photo.

  20. [I’m going to do a Dad Tribute Comment, because I had lunch with him yesterday and he’s so great.]
    Kay. Where do I leave a comment on here? Those are nice hats.Kay. Why are there so many hats you made? Where do I leave a comment on here? Those are nice hats. Those are nice hats.

  21. What Ann said. Nice hats. Nice blanket.
    NICE photographs! Wicked nice Allegheny.

  22. Pulling from the tangle is the best description of how I approach life!!!
    And what’s this about a real job? What real job? (As if taking care of kids, a house, a blog, writing knitting books…isn’t a real job, or four…)

  23. Seven matched hats on seven kids on the beach at New Year–brilliant! It makes perfect sense to me, but you had the guts to DO IT. Thanks, Kay, for all you do!

  24. I just (like, 20 minutes ago) finished my first Mitered Cross Afghan. Love the pattern, love the design, love the afghan!! And love the charity piece of it. All ready to start another. Thanks.

  25. Kay-so lovely to see your post! Whether between kind-hearted rabbis or rabbits, Mazel Tov to you and your son. The Alleghany looks amazing even folded so demurely on the bed. I agree-it needs serious photog modeling when on.

  26. woo hoo – love that Fussy Cuts!

  27. Pull from the tangle. Words to live by.
    I would also love to live by “a knock of of Eileen Fisher knocking off Martha Stewart” that would be perfect for me.
    Check out T magazine and the knitted hotel room today!
    Happy New Year.

  28. Long Tweet, indeed. I wish I could get the hang of Tweeting, just for the “Mason-Dixon” of it….Kay, this was a great post, full of news, great pics,interesting tidbits, and, finally, making me remember that I want to start my own “Fussy Cuts” blanket. Although it’s way past my sleepy-bye time, I’m glad I stayed up for the read.
    Happy New Year to you, Ann, and all of my fellow Mason-Dixonphiles.

  29. I have been pulling from the tangle metaphorically for a long time! Thanks for giving me a knitterly name for it! I have to say that I am a little annoyed that I feel like I have to knit a Thorpe now! Just one, at least!! I am in the process of trying to mix my mitred cross with a fussy cut! Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. Oh, yes. Pulling from the tangle. I am so using this phrase to describe my life From Now On. Perfect. Just perfect. πŸ™‚

  31. Great post filled with some new phrases I’m going to adopt (I’ll credit you), whirlwind knitting and great projects!

  32. wait, Real Job???

  33. Wow. I’m kind of breathless just reading about it all! You are amazing.
    Also, Joseph learning how to tie a tie from youtube rather than his dad is so poignant. But at the same time it is also a good illustration of Pulling From the Tangle: the Next Generation.
    Nice solo and collaborative work on everything. Thanks for sharing with us.

  34. I needed “Pull from the Tangle” today. Thank you

  35. You knit a DRESS also?? What is wrong with you woman? Or is that also rhetorical ?
    Much love in the New Year.

  36. Being able to knit all that is called LIVING THE DREAM. I wish I could knit faster just so I could create all that stuff.
    Have fun in Ulm and take pictures! It’s been a long time since I’ve been there.

  37. What a great post! I laughed out loud at my vision of the Kay-and-Kathy Thorpe production line and teared up just a little at the thought of Joseph learning to tie his tie from youtube. And “pulling from the tangle” is my new life motto, I think. So — laughs, tears and life lessons, all in one blog post. Fantastic!

  38. Ulm Germany is where my mother’s family is from. My grandparents were married in the church with the tall spire. Someday I hope to go there.

  39. Pulling from the tangle is brilliant! Daughter’s wedding is in 26 days, enough said. I did manage to get her lace wedding stole (Hanami) finished and blocked in time to give it to her at a shower this last weekend. It’s nice to have a skill that can make a special memory and convey our love. I love the picture on the beach. The kids will have good memories of their moms knitting together. The other projects are gorgeous, too! Congrats on the Bar Mitzvah!

  40. Happy new year! Thank you for the new and so well-understood metaphor. As well as everything else.

  41. Happy New Year! I’ll have to find a way to remind myself to Pull From The Tangle throughout this year, which has already geared up into stress mode.
    Have fun on your TBT to Ulm (will you be In Ulm, um Ulm or um Ulm herum?). If it gets too bad: you’ll be less than 2 hours from Pfaffenhofen, where the Wollmeise yarn lives.


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