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The News From Gee’s Bend

Dear Ann,
Here’s the current status of Bricklayer (my knitted tribute to one of Loretta Pettway’s quilts from the Whitney Museum’s Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit last spring). At last count, 7 rounds of those courthouse steps had been knitted. Only 3 or 4 more to go, but it’s a long way around at this point.
Sunday night, faced with a 2 hour ride in the way-back rumble seat of the family vehicle, I decided to try some Extreme Knitting. I grabbed Bricklayer — endless garter stitch, around and around– and knitted away on it in the pitch darkness. All was cool until it was time to cast off the strip. What to do? Put it back in the bag and squander a perfectly good hour of knitting time? No way!! I fished out of my purse my trusty emergency mini-Mag-lite, held it in my mouth, and cast off, say, 150 stitches. Then, I had to hold the light in my mouth as I picked up another approximately 150 stitches on the other side. Can you spell ‘certifiable’?? It was the sort of feat only a triathlete of our craft could even attempt. Really, though, it’s time to research the miner’s hat for these late-night car rides–I used to think wearing a light on my head would be too weird, but after holding one in my teeth I’m thinking, it’s a fine line and it seems I’ve crossed it. Definitely crossed it.
A word about the Mag-lite. Naturally, I came up with the great idea of carrying a flashlight in my purse only after the blackout, when I was thinking about what I would have done if I had been in the subway or an elevator with the tykes when the lights went out. My practical pal Lis has had a mini-Mag-lite on her key chain since 9/11, and it helped her walk down many flights of stairs in the dark during the blackout. It’s a cool thing. A talisman against scary situations, and the new essential for the knitting bag.
Summer is over. Hurricane Isabel is en route. The languid beach knitting days of 2003 are over.
xox Kay




  1. Hi Kay
    The Bricklayer is looking good!.
    I’ve carried a mini-Mag-lite on my keyring for years and have a climber’s headlamp (on elastic) in the car so that I can see to knit on all those late night journey’s in the car. It’s great as I can even change the beam intensity! Now you know how certifiable I am!!

  2. Now I want a climber’s headlamp for when I sit outside,knitting,at 2 a.m. The neighbours already think I’m crackers !
    Kay,you look so happy in your sun hat,knitting on the beach.Sigh.The nights are starting with that autumn chill thing.Soon be time to sit knitting and roasting [!] in front of an open fire.Reminds me ,must call the sweep out.
    Bricklayer is beautiful.It echoes that sparse,pure simplicity of quilts made from cast-off cothes.Utilitarian beauty,no less.

  3. oh, kay!! the loretta pettway tribute looks fantastic!! i can see the steps, even on the lighter shades of the denimin. high fives all around, a victory dance, and a glass of lillet in celebration.
    wish that someone in the family had snapped a picture of you, mag lite in mouth, knitting in the dark like a trooper in the bergmobile on the long island expressway!! would you be willing to do a recreation of this moment so that i can snap a photo for your readers?
    and yvonne….where can we all get the miners hat? and more importantly, will it fit over my big head covered in curly hair?

  4. Kay–Good Lord. You must have a constitution of steel: KNITTING in a CAR in the WAY BACK? I come from a long line of queasy travelers, and the thought of knitting in the throw-up seat way back just about puts me over the edge. I managed to knit on our Road Trip Pawleys 2003 only because of proximity to freezing cold air conditioning pointed directly at me. I bow to your greater fortitude.
    Mag-lite. Has to be the cutest disaster aid anywhere. I won’t tell if you get a miner’s headlamp. But you have to promise not to tell that I got one, too.
    x0 A.

  5. I love that blanket. It’s looking fabulous! I am really jealous that you get to knit in the car. Husband tells me that he is concerned that I may impall myself in an accident, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that he is more concern about me impalling him!

  6. Wow at it all. AND! This is the first time I’ve seen someone knitting on the beach. I wanna try that, tooooooooo.

  7. Ya know, Becky, you have got to get with the beach-knitting program. On the day this picture was snapped, a lady behind me was knitting something very eyelashy (I averted my eyes so as not to upset my Yorkshire-tinged Rowan sensibilities), while a woman one umbrella over was cross-stitching (I debated whether interrupting her for a quick interview for the blog). The technique is simple: Plant self under umbrella. Apply SPF Whatever. Assign someone else to chase children. Dig feet into sand. Knit. Enjoy. xox Kay

  8. Yvonne–I hope I won’t insult you if I say that I’m not one bit surprised to learn that, on occasion, you wear a light on your head. You are a true visionary. I will walk tall into the sporting goods store, and not even pretend that I intend to use my head-light for cave exploration. ‘It’s for knitting in the dark–you gotta problem with that?’ Love, Kay

  9. Go get a head torch – they’re fantastic things – great for those I-don’t-care-if-it’s-November-I-want-barbequed-chicken-for-tea nights, and for searching out the log pile after dark, besides the “normal” camping things. Ideal for reading in bed & knitting in the car too! not v. glam but for Lis, they definitely fit over a mop of curls (well they fit over mine anyway & on frizz-days I look like Crystal Tips).

  10. crystal tips? who the heck is that?

  11. Beautiful blanket, Kay! I was really disappointed not to get a personal look at your Gee’s Bend inspiration, but I’ve not made it to NYC since 2/02. Knitty Amy wrote about wearing one of those headlamps in the Toronto blackout, and only days later my driving brother handed me one from his bag as I knitted in the dark. He’s a gadgety videographer, prone to such tools, but it’s good to hear I won’t be alone if I get one of my own!

  12. Crystal Tips & Alistair … a children’s cartoon,early 70’s.Alistair was the dog,Crystal Tops the little girl with BIG hair.Ut was very ‘yelow submarune’ style animation.Very Peter Blake – he was a great lecturer ! Did a print making course with him.If only I could afford a press etc. Rather miss making etchings.
    You did ask,dear Lis.

  13. Kay, If you are certifiable, then I am in very good company. I always knit in the car at night, though I don’t yet have the Mag-Lite.I just keep turning on the overhead light every time I need to see. And as for knitting on the beach, I lived on a Caribbean island for ten years and always knit on the beach. Topless, no less!

  14. Topless!! You go Louise!! Totally unscientific MDK Poll: How many topless knitters out there? I mean in public of course.
    Talk about your subcultures!

  15. Louise: Whoa. You top ’em all. Or not.

  16. My needlepointing friend got a headlamp for Christmas, specifically for needlepointing. Yes, I do have craft stuff envy.

  17. O.K. ,apparently I’ve nothing better to do :
    Crystal Tipps – a girl whose hair my own very closely resembled in my prime !

  18. Emma–The rude thing a New Yorker would say is, ‘GET A JOB!!’ But I, for one, think you provide a valuable public service and cultural enrichment!! Love, Kay


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