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

Smoke Signal, Or Perhaps Just a Puff

Dear Ann,
I know. We’re lame. But I have to say, you’re more lame than me. Up here, we’re not on retreat in a bucolic albeit possibly rodent-infested setting. We WISH we were in a bucolic albeit possibly rodent-infested setting. Here, there have been real-life struggles worthy of a reality show. Human versus massive numbers of cardboard boxes and dusty old stuff. (I don’t say humans, plural, because basically, it’s me versus the cardboard boxes. The only stress being suffered by the rest of ’em is the tedium of waiting for me to fish their essentials out of cardboard boxes and dispose of dusty old stuff.)
By now, you’ve surely noticed that there are no pictures in this post. What do you want from me, miracles? I’m on a borrowed computer that does not want to talk to my camera. I could post you pictures of the borrowed computer’s vacation in Venice, perhaps? I suspect the real problem is that the borrowed computer wants pictures of Venice, not What Kay’s Knitting Right Now.
A confession: in addition to the stresses and strains associated with Floral Container Overload, Absence of Nonsecured Wireless Bandwidth, and Personal Stuff in Multiple Locations, there is another factor affecting my ability to contribute to our knitting blog in a meaningful way. Are you ready? I’m quilting. Get OUT! Yes, I’m quilting myself silly. One of the first items to be unearthed from the cardboard mountain was the Janome Jem, jewel of my heart. My first foray to the outside world (other than the Container Store) was to Purl Patchwork. I was jonesing for fabric. I needed a quilting frame. I was out of thread. (Think about that. When was the last time you ran out of THREAD? Until this quilting thing grabbed me, I owned spools of thread that dated back to the early 80s. I intended to pass them down to my heirs, minus at most a couple of buttons worth.)
Since last we spoke, I have discovered the zen of string quilts and the glory that is chain-piecing. I’ve been stacking, and I’ve been whacking. My mind has been blown to SMITHEREENS by this book (Don’t click on that link unless your mind is prepared to be blown.)
Yesterday, thanks to a 30-second demonstration by the kindhearted Joelle Hoverson, patroness of Purl (here’s a tip: a summertime Monday is a great time to drop in on your local quilting retailer to cadge free tips), I learned–really learned–how to do the ‘rocker’ method of handquilting. It’s not, as I had gathered from my booklearning on the subject, something that you do whilst clutching the tiny sliver of a needle between your thumb and index finger. It’s more like acupuncture. You lightly stick the tippymost tip of the needle vertically into the quilt, using only your thimbled index or second finger. You give it the slightest tap so that it goes to the other side. After that, all the work is done by the hand on the bottom. When I tried to do this for Joelle, I couldn’t stop sticking my thumb in there to hold onto the needle. It just wanted to go there. This was messing up my whole style, slowing me down, unevening my stitches and hurting my wrist. As Joelle put it, I needed ‘less thumb involvement’. Last night I sat up practicing, willing my thumb to stay OUT. Eventually, will power triumphed over muscle memory. And it works! It rilly works! I’m making those teeny tracks of handquilting! I may never knit again! (Kidding. The thing I will always love about knitting: I can, um, do it.)
Missing you like the Dickens,
loving you to bits,
and promising to do better,




  1. Kay, you are in trouble. You kno yarn stash? And knitting books? Well, add fabric stash and quilting books to future storage needs. I know, I’m there. Good luck! Oh, and if you stop making those little quilting stitches for very long, you’ll have that learning curve thing to go through to get the muscle memory back. Now you have to knit AND quilt every day!

  2. Is it my imagination or is Kay speaking in tongues? I mean really – chain-piecing? rocker method? “thimbled index or second finger”??? Next thing we know, her head is going to spin around 360 degrees and she’s going to start spewing batting!
    So glad to hear that you are still with us, Kay. We have missed you.

  3. So glad you’re OK. I thought you were Kaynapped by a band of wild knitters and held for a ransome of stash or something…

  4. Kristy, yes – Kay has Gone Away, Abducted By Aliens and they have put an android back in her place that speaks of Strange Things. We need an early version of Harrison Ford, possibly a replicant creature of some kind (snake / owl), Daryl Hannah in dodgy eye makeup and Sean Young looking terribly, terribly glam to help find The Truth.
    Either that or she needs to find the cardboard box that has the denim in it, and a few mitred squares to draw her back.

  5. Oh Kay, the rocker action has you. I love thimbles! Watch out – you start wanting to collect those too! Now you REALLY get why you need that special soap to “get the blood out”
    “ROCK ON”

  6. Don’t worry Ann. I still knit and I’m CRAZY over Log Cabins. We don’t need Kay anyway. And that “book” she linked to? More like a cult brainwashing technique. Let’s just say I’m still trying to pick my brain up off the floor. Blew my mind in a million directions. I fear I will never be the same.
    Darn that Kay. L, C

  7. Hey Kay! Happy to know you’re not buried under floral containers! Can’t wait for you to figure out a camera solution so we can see some quilt pix!

  8. You know we all clicked on that link don’t you. You know stuff like that is contagious don’t you, damn you!

  9. I learned my lesson when I clicked on the one-skein wonder link. I am now far too obsessed with Glampyre patterns to even contemplate quilt-stripping or thimble-rocking or whatever other shenanigans you’re up to over there. Lucky for me, I have a one track mind. (One mini-sweater/boob holder down, one bazillion to go. I’m really getting the “potato chip” feeling with that pattern!)

  10. Good grief woman ! Go knit something !

  11. Kay! So glad the boxes aren’t holding you hostage. And not that you all couldn’t find this by yourselves, but there’s more here:
    My favorite part of the website, from Nancy Crow’s bio:
    “Occupation: artist; medium: quiltmaking.”

  12. Yeah, but have you seen the book Quilt Artistry by Yoshiko Jenzenji? Talk about mind blowing. She has a mind blowing website too if you google yoshiko quilt. (I’m just paying you back for blowing my mind with the Nancy Crow book.) (And for getting this poor defenseless knitter all quilt obsessed).

  13. Fairweather Knitter. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind piccies of Venice.

  14. Well, Miss Kay, you found the only sure-fire way of saving yourself from the wrath (don’t exactly know what that wrath would lead to, but it was sure building up) of this quilter-turned-knitter who has only recently become addicted to your blog — Just in time for the Great Lame-Off! Sheesh!
    But the hardened heart melts when I read of string quilting (yes!!) and chain piecing (double yes!! You go girl!) – you are rolling now. Leave it to Nancy Crow to blow your mind – I’ve got an arsenal I could share with you… I love thinking of you staying up late hand-quilting! I knew there was quilting mojo in there somewhere. After all, the Taro blankie inspired me to finish a quilt, one of the first times I read your archives. You know you have a co-conspirator if this MDK thing starts needing a “Q”…. I only wish I lived nearby and could witness this and conspire in person!

  15. Kay, I wrote a small ode to you today, for I finished Buster! Thanks for the Rowan Babies, thanks for the intro to Denim, thanks, thanks, thanks. Also, the sewing bug. I might have it. I visited a fabric store recently and it’s in my blood, so I sort of felt like i was at a fambly reunion and yet knew no one. Weird. I’ll be taking some classes. We can compare flesh wounds. Miss y’all.

  16. OM MY, Quilting is fun too but I have not been able to do both knitting and quilting. My youngest child wants another flannel quilt because his current one is too small but quilting interferes with my knitting time! If you figure out how to find time to do both, please post that marvelous bit of info online. I have been sorely tempted to visit Purl Patchwork after clicking on the link from the Purl site. It looks awesome!

  17. Hey! I ran out of thread yesterday too! While making pillows! Great minds and all that….

  18. I’ve been lurking since I picked up your book and fell in love. Just wanted to take the opportunity to say Hi and thanks for writing such a fantastic and inspiring book. Kay, congratulations on learning to quilt. Warning, it can be, no IS, every bit as addicting as knitting. At the risk of being labeled “enabler”, I’ll mention you might keep your eyes open for quilt shows. I’m just one state south of you in PA we’ve got two big ones in our area (Quilter’s Heritage in Lancaster every April and Quilt Odyssey in Hershey in July). I bet if you checked out the calender section of Quilter’s Newsletter magazine, you’d find plenty of New York shows. The shows are full of inspiration and tons of goodies & fabric. Can’t wait to see pictures of what you are quilting!

  19. Say it isn’t so, Kay. First, the Red Sox are killing the Mets tonight and now YOU would rather quilt than knit to relax. I’ll have to send the PMH out to shake you up with some more commands.
    Hope the unpacking goes well. We are in the midst right now and I hate it.

  20. Kay, I know the book – My copy came Saturday from Amazon.com. I did what you said and signed up for the fast action Amazon. I was almost afraid to click on the link for fear there would be another must have book! I have three coming tomorrow that were “must haves.” Can’t wait till you can post and we can see what delectable quilts you are creating. Good luck with the boxes… you’ve been missed.

  21. Hi Kay – I’m 1 of those quilter/knitters also – can’t decide which exactly – there needs to be a word to describe this hybrid – anyway – if it’s string quilts you’re wanting be sure to check out Gwen Marston’s book (& web site) Liberated String Quilts – once you’ve made 1 it’s a slippery slope ’til you’ve made each style – Gwen herself is so much fun – puts together a wonderful retreat each September – I’m counting the days til I go – you would love it

  22. The next time you wander into Purl, please beg them to sell fabric online.
    Beg them from the Alabama girl who wants to come fondle the imports in person.

  23. Kay,
    I must admit this also,,,after starting to do mason dixon log cabins, darn it all , I HAD to give the fabric quilting a go,,
    OK,,, so I got the string quilt book now and what can I say????
    Its like I have this duel personality,,part of me wants to work on a sewing machine, all day,,, EVERY DAY ,,,and in the evening,,,knit my heart away.
    That would be OK,, but,,
    I have 3 acres here to garden and it aint easy keeping up with all the daily things,,,
    THAT USED to be my ” summer ” day thing to do,,
    Now,,I am torn,,
    what to do???
    I DO blame this on me buying the book that started me on making log cabin blankies you know,,
    At least I take SOME comfort in the fact that we DO live in a cold climate and wont have wildflowers, raspberries and cherries forever,
    or hostas, or,,etc etc etc
    Martha,, I am no more,,,Done,,
    Yep.., I too,got bit by the bug, and am doing both.
    Now the thing is,,,,,how to balance the both?
    have a good time unpacking,,,
    blessings to all,

  24. Oh dear,,,,, I forgot one more thing,,
    Since I went to the national Bead and Button show here,,,I was taught how to crochet pearls to make some really lovely pearl bracelets and then now I DO THAT TOO!
    My husband is getting suspicious of all this new stuff being delivered to our home,,,, like 15 -20 strands of freshwater pearls at time,
    I am obsessed with it all, there MUST be help for me somewhere!!!!

  25. Well, for heaven’s sake— blog the quilting!! As one who goes into my local quilting boutique just to look wistfully at the fabric, then leaves because I don’t feel like I have time to figure out the whole quilting thing, I would love to hear about what you are learning. You could call your blog Mason-Dixon Needlearts if you’re feeling guilty. Sounds like you’re having a wonderful time! Good for you. Share the joy!

  26. Okay, the rocking thing is where it is at. My first and only hand-quilted quilt (I have pieced and *tied* two others) was accomplished using the very slow and totally self-taught poke/stab method. Um, yeah, it took me five years to finish a baby quilt. Good thing I had two more kids- someone got to use it! Then, only then, did someone tell me I was doing it all wrong. If I ever get the guts to try the quilting thing again, I am going to a quilting store on a Monday. Thanks for continuing to inspire.

  27. Could we see a little video of the rocking thumb quilting? Just make sure no squirrels are at risk, okay?

  28. Hi,
    have you had a look at Gwen Marston’s Liberated Quiltmaking and Liberated String Quilts? Love those books and think you might like them.

  29. All I can say is ………… INTERVENTION!
    Me like knitting. Have done quilt thing without being bitten. Come back to the light.


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