Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

Dishcloth Cotton: It’s a Good Thing

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Dear Ann,
You were a girl with straight hair, so maybe this will jangle a memory loose. I was a girl with straight hair. Carrie is a girl with straight hair. Last night, right on schedule at age 11 years 2.5 months, Carrie experienced a rite of passage familiar to all straight-haired girls and former girls. She suddenly got the idea that if she put 20 or so real tight braids in her wet hair and went to bed, in the morning she would wake up with FABULOUS CURLS. Sisters: you know how that turns out. I’m sure that even Cher tried it when she was 11. Joni Mitchell too. It’s a long road to straight-hair acceptance; it starts with 20 tight braids.
When she ran out of Goody elastics, she raided my dishcloth cotton and tied her braids with that.
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The Peaches & Creme also came in handy when I realized that I needed to baste the edging onto my Ether top before trying to whipstitch it. I did the 2 front flaps separately, starting from the outside edge and working toward the back, and then I did the back. Since I had done 39 repeats of the lace pattern, I made sure that each section of the top got 13 repeats. I eased it as I went.
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See? I knew it would look better longer. Fox-ay!
Knitalong, Little Doggies
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My copy of Larissa’s brand-new book arrived yesterday. So beautiful, especially the vintage photos, which are not the same old vintage photos if you know what I mean. And little Everett using a pinwheel blanket as a cape! Amidst the loveliness, one pattern speaks to me more than any other. It SHOUTS at me. It will not let me rest until I devote a weekend to making it.
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Page 78: The Pillow of Sei Shonagon.
I feel like I must have dreamed this pillow; it’s so just-right. (Reminds me, somehow, of Yoshiko Jinzenji’s quilts. Peaceful but interesting.) You write a text on strips of fabric. You knit a panel of eyelets. You weave the fabric words through the eyelets. Perfect for Carrie’s words-and-letters themed bedroom. She can rest her 20 braids on words from a favorite book, or her own poems.
I also want to accept my next indigo vat invitation (I’m sitting by the phone), and dye both the yarn and fabric in it, to make a murky tone-on-tone one with words that are hard to read.
I want to have somebody with really interesting handwriting write the text.
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In the never-ending bocce game that is my Must Knit Now list, Sei Shonagon has just knocked the lead ball out of the way.
Love,
Kay

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68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Good for you for letting her discover the braids and results for herself. How was she the next morning?
    I sure tried that…..

  2. Aha! But what will your text be? And onto more pressing matters, did Carrie just end up with frizzy hair, like I always did? And a sore head from sleeping on the plaits?

  3. It’s rainy here in NYC and it’s all I can do to keep my hair sorta straight. Wavy/curly hair is not what you think it is…. it’s unruly and messy, especially in summer’s humidity.
    Enjoy the fact that each day when you wake up, your know your hair will never look like the spawn of Medusa. (Click on my name link for photographic evidence.)

  4. Oh, the memories!! I recall sleeping with my hair stretched over Campbell’s soup cans to straighten it for my senior class photo. A most ironic situation was when Molly, poor, straight haired little thing, would beg me to attempt curls in her hair at the same time I was still trying to calm mine down. We’re never happy, are we?

  5. I was the deprived girl with straight, fine, thin hair. Still am. Still straight. Not even trying. Your Ether Top is gorgeous and here in FL, there’s never enough cotton. I’m making a Clapotis out of it and it is good.

  6. host a handwriting contest! give pens as prizes!
    And yeah, been there, done that with the braids…

  7. Until I was in the 4th grade, I always had my hair in french braids. I slept in them and wore them to school, all so my long fine straight hair wouldn’t become a tangled wreck. Occasionally I would take the braid out at the end of the school day before going home and all my girlfriends would sigh about how lovely the waves were. Of course to a second grader, I’m sure they were.
    By age 11, I was onto the those pink foam rollers Goodie… they were the hot thing at all 5th grade slumber parties, not that they work much better!

  8. Oy! The braids, I feel her pain, some of my elastics had to be cut off. Also I am slow on the uptake and repeated the braid experiment more than once.

  9. I well recall the nights of trying to sleep on 20 extremely tight wet braids. I spent years trying to coax and cajole my hair into ringlets, all to no avail. My hair is still straight, and it’s nearly to my knees. Life got easier when I accepted my hair for what it was. I think that happened one extremely muggy summer in Boston, when a curly-haired friend of mine was suffering the agonies of hair that got frizzier with each passing second. Poor thing!

  10. Oh gosh – I have a very strong memory of asking my babysitter to braid my hair for me. I was younger than Carrie, maybe 7 years old or so, but it was the 80s and EVERYBODY had ugly wavy hair and I really wanted to fit in. My poor, poor, super-patient babysitter once got up to 45 braids. The worst part is, my hair couldn’t hold a curl at all, and within 5 minutes it would be stick straight again!
    Also, that pillow is amazing. I want one too. Will have to look into that book more!

  11. Delurking to guffaw — I was a child in the 80s. Crimped was in, and my other straight-haired friends and I regularly did the braid thing on purpose. :-)

  12. OMG this is The Perfect Gift for a very dear, Poety/Wordy/Authory friend.
    You are the Must Knit Now Guru! Forget the crazy wild interesting socks that were slated for her. This. Is. The. Gift.

  13. You’re giving me and my dead straight hair flashbacks! I SO did the tight braid thing. *sigh* It was tragic.

  14. The pillow reminds me so much of my thesis project. I recruited 50 knitters to knit anything they wanted, but attaching tags into their work along the way. On each tag, the knitter writes a short journal entry. The end result resembles a blog that you could wear.
    I wish I had known about the pillow a few days ago, before I submitted my work to be juried. It would have fit in wonderfully with my research.

  15. Love the Ether!
    I wasn’t smart enough to stop at 20. I had to have something like 200 tiny, little braids, and then spray them with “Sun In” highlighter – Just to take the next morning horror to a new level. YIKES!

  16. Great idea to use it for the basting… Kitchen cotton has got to be my least favorite yarn out there. But where’s the picture of the hair?!
    My 10 year old went through that two nights ago … there’s nothing like a horrible “My hair!” scream to wake you up in the morning…

  17. I nearly burst out laughing when I read about Carrie’s entry into the world of tiny braids. For about 3 minutes in the 70s the post-tiny braid look was in – think Linda Clifford. Otherwise, it is a long way from tiny braids to bautiful curls. Sigh.
    Love your granny squares and Ether!
    P.S. FWIW, tiny braiding makes the best use of braces rubberbands ever.

  18. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I have two weddings in May ( One is my boss). The pillow is a perfect gift.
    Your Ether is just lovely!

  19. The straight hair and braids thing: Yeah, been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

  20. Oh that takes me back, I have annoyingly thick hair but still straight (with one annoying kink). Sadly even after many uncomfortable nights my hair was not curly when I woke up. And damp pillows are not at all nice to sleep on (but the sei shonagon looks wonderful.)

  21. From the age of 7 to 11, I used to put my in the pink foam rollers. I would do so many things. I would twist it and put it in the rollers. Then when I turned 11, I bummed my grandmother’s 1/4″ barreled curling iron off her. I then curled my waist length hair every day sometimes twice a day so it would stay curly and beautiful. At one point in my foam roller days, I was bored during nap time and I used a fish tail comb to “curl” my hair. Needless to say it got stuck and I cut my hair off at the scalp. I hat a bang Mohawk for weeks afterwards.
    By the time I reach high school, my mom gave in and let me perm it. I had curly hair which everyone thought was natural for 8 years. I have finally accepted my straight hair, but I do miss the simplicity I had with the curls.

  22. I’ve mostly come to terms with my straight hair, but my sister and I would try it all. Our deluded hopes included: braids, hot rollers, velcro rollers, curling irons, rag curls. If it worked, it was for less than a half hour.

  23. I remember the braids! But when I was doing it, crimped hair was TOTALLY in. So it was ok when I woke up in the morning and discovered that it wasn’t actually curly…
    The pillow is really interesting! And I like the idea of tone-on-tone with the dye. But wouldn’t it be easier to write on ribbon or cotton tape? Rather than going to the trouble of cutting strips of fabric and then have them fray to bits…

  24. Love the pillow idea!
    Didn’t you do some Copperplate handwriting lately? Maybe some texts from that era, like ‘Little Women’, written in that style?

  25. Coming from the wavy hair contingent, I just braided mine to make it seem like everyone else’s (not that that worked either). But thank you Lucinda, for the sun-in reminder, I had a college friend with dark brown hair who used it and her head looked like an orange hunter’s hat.

  26. LOVE the pillow! Seems like you could also write on ribbon to avoid any stitching/hemming or fraying sides on the fabric strips. LOVE LOVE LOVE the wedding gift idea someone mentioned! Now I just gotta find someone getting married.
    Oh dear Carrie. I hope she doesn’t freak. I will recommend one big French braid down the back as a pretty decent way to temporarily wavy hair.

  27. Indeed, that pillow is divine. I may just have to have that book for the purpose of knitting that pillow.
    Speaking of fabulous knitting books, please tell me that the tour for the new book will include a stop in Northern California…hell, a stop anywhere in California. I would totally drive to see ya’ll.

  28. Gorgeous poem pillow! But I think it needs to be a blanket!

  29. i now have i must do that project
    the pillow is a must do that
    like your self i am one of the
    dish rags in the browns projects
    the lace is lovely
    pin curls oh the pin curls
    and the goop in the jar
    braids were the answer

  30. Wow, that pillow is so great! Thanks for sharing – I will have to check out this book. I was just thinking today about how I could incorporate Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me” into some artwork for my next apartment.
    And…I am a girl with straight hair. There’s just no getting around it.

  31. OH my. I did the tight braid thing. What a horror show the next day.

  32. OH my. I did the tight braid thing. What a horror show the next day.

  33. oh crud. I apologize for the double post.

  34. SO how hard did Carrie cry? I spent some time locked in the bathroom, as I recall.

  35. I had straight hair, but unlike many people here, we had a solution that worked.
    Pin curls.
    Step one: take a bath and wash your hair.
    Step two: get hair gel stuff (we had stuff called “Dippity Do”)
    Divide hair into small sections and slather on the “do”.
    Step three: starting with the tip, roll the hair into a curl, pinching it together.
    Step four: take 2 bobby pins and pin the curl to the head so that it lies flat and the boby pins make a cross over the circle.
    Step five: Cover the head with a kerchief or something like that and go to bed.
    Step six: Wake up and take the bobby pins out. Luxurious curls that last all day!
    By the way, we used to do this while watching Mystery or Masterpiece Theatre so it wouldn’t be so tedious for my mom. It is definitely a labor of love, but fun to have curls. The practice, by the way, is at least as old as World War II.

  36. I had straight hair, but unlike many people here, we had a solution that worked.
    Pin curls.
    Step one: take a bath and wash your hair.
    Step two: get hair gel stuff (we had stuff called “Dippity Do”)
    Divide hair into small sections and slather on the “do”.
    Step three: starting with the tip, roll the hair into a curl, pinching it together.
    Step four: take 2 bobby pins and pin the curl to the head so that it lies flat and the boby pins make a cross over the circle.
    Step five: Cover the head with a kerchief or something like that and go to bed.
    Step six: Wake up and take the bobby pins out. Luxurious curls that last all day!
    By the way, we used to do this while watching Mystery or Masterpiece Theatre so it wouldn’t be so tedious for my mom. It is definitely a labor of love, but fun to have curls. The practice, by the way, is at least as old as World War II.

  37. You know you could crochet that pillow, right? LOL
    My sister did the wet braid thing AND the pin curl thing (well, we both tried the pin curls). It would have been perfect in the 80’s when big hair was “in”!

  38. I braided mine. When that didn’t work, I had the preacher’s wife give me a curly perm.
    It took great, in the front. She ran out of perm rods in the back, though. It was still quite straight in the back.
    Ahh, the memories.

  39. Plaiting hair; sleeping with kirby grips and kiss curls; dreadful seventies perms; overnight curlers (how DID I sleep in them?). Now I keep my hair extra straight with mindblowingly expensive hair straighteners and my 12 year old daughter plaits/curls/twists in an attempt to get even a teensy weensy kink in her hair LOL!
    That pillow is begging to be made. I was just about to check out at Amazon (two basic knitting books and Twyla Tharp’s Creative Habit) then I read your blog and had to go and check out that book. Aagh I couldn’t find it … then discovered that UK Amazon has it filed under NITALONG ???? Back to hair again I suppose LOL Popped it in the basket all the same!

  40. See, knit vs. crochet is often a matter of mood to those who are versed in both (i.e. ambicrafterous). yesterday it was “granny”,and today it’s that pillow which simply captures the imagination…
    -So exciting to see Ether put together (even if only basted). It’s lovely, and just in time for spring, too…
    -My (straight haired) cousin used end papers for her pin curls. I was only 10 years old, but I can remember the roll of toilet paper on her vanity to this day (puts new light on the term “end papers”, doesn’t it?)
    Happy Spring/Purim/Easter to all!
    LoveDiane

  41. The ether sweater is beautiful…must add it to my “got to knit” list!! the pillow is very pretty too, I can see why you need to make it. wish I had nice enough handwriting to do the ribbon, but alas, I am a lefty and can’t even read my own handwriting!!
    My daughter, Katie, is 18 and had the thickest curly blond hair you would ever want to see!! and it took her a long time to stop trying to straighten it!! I kept telling her to just enjoy the curls and be glad to not have to do the roller thing!! we always want what we don’t have, don’t we!
    I really enjoy your blog and read it every day. thanks to you guys I started knitting again after 17 years away from it and found out I didn’t forget a thing! it’s just like riding a bike! Thanks!

  42. The 20 braids thing didn’t occur to me until I was in college. Does that make me a late bloomer?

  43. The braiding hair subject really brought back memories. When my daughter was 11 or 12 she occasionally did the overall braid thing but she used pipe cleaners as one of the three strands for every braid. What fun. For wacky hair day she would leave the pipe cleaners in… so of course one could bend her braids every which way and they would stay that way.
    Unfortunately there was one school morning that some of her hair in one of the braids got tangled around the pipe cleaner and we could not untangle the pipe cleaner out of her hair. She had one pipe cleaner sticking out of her forehead area. She was ready to give up and grab a scissor and wack that lock of hair off her head but I kept trying and finally got everything untangled. It was a good thing because it was School Picture Day that day. We were a little late to school that morning. Every time I look at her 6th grade school picture with her curly hair I think of that fiasco. She’s in 10th grade now but I don’t think she yet sees the humor in that morning… maybe someday.

  44. As someone with curly/wavy hair that frizzes with humidity, I’ve never had the 20 braids experience. But I can well identify with the waking up to “my hair is so horrible I can’t face the world.” For years, my hair was LONG (past my waist) and somewhat wavy. It occasionally did the Medusa thing in the mornings, but a lifetime of experience meant that I could handle it. Then a couple of years ago, I cut it to shoulder length (I think I took off 14 inches). Minus the weight, there was a whole new level of curliness, and I had NO idea how to handle it. The first morning with shorter hair was really pretty traumatic.
    P.S. Ether looks great!

  45. I am a wavey haired woman who straightens her hair EVERY day. I was a wavey haired girl who wore wet braids or sponge curlers every so often to try to have gorgeous curly locks. It never really worked, or I looked like a poodle. Never the way I really wanted. Even though I straighten my hair, I still end up with strange wing things here and there on my head.
    I am not sure the obsession of curly or straigh ever ended at 11 for me!
    At least Carrie hasn’t asked for a perm.

  46. I had tick straight hair that wouldn’t hold a curl growing up – definitely tried the uncomfortable, wet braids which didn’t really do much. I say had straight hair because it turned wavy/curly when I was in my early twenties – no explanation just slowwwly got frizzier till it started making waves then curls. I’d go back to straight hair anyday.

  47. I had stick straight hair growing up and tried everything to get some curl – the braids, a perm – nothing helped. It just wouldn’t hold a curl. Then in my eary twenties it started getting frizzy then eventually wavy and now curly. No idea why. I’d go back to the straight hair anyday.

  48. Child of the sixties, and to this day I still want STRAIGHT hair– not the fine, wimpy kind but the Breck Conditioner Tahitian Girl kind. Thick, shining, black, long and straight. Or the ultimate cool: a Louise Brooks bob (see Catherine Z-J in “Chicago”). Unfortunately, curly bangs, the only kind I’ll ever have, are an atrocity I straightened my hair in junior high (that rusty bleach look!), I slept in rollers the size of soup cans. . . at least the invention of the blow dryer helped (a lot). But my hair still won’t really do any style but the Princess Di short layers or a mullet. That’s wavy hair for you. At least now I like my chestnut color (of course in high school I wanted true red). Maybe a shaved head and wardrobe of wigs is the answer.

  49. Love the Ether!
    I have stick straight Chinese hair. I did the braid thing, too. Also had a couple perms in the 80’s; the second one took so well that it was poodly! Never again.

  50. who didn’t do the braids? but my experiences weren’t horrible because after i braided (on just slightly damp hair because my hair would have never dried if the hair had been wet)i wrapped the ends up in kleenex, so i’d have wave and a curl at the end.
    but part of the fun of being a girl is the experimenting. and that’s what a quick shower is for, to erase the horror if it is in fact horrible.

  51. PS: You want an architect to write your ribbons for you! Love that handwriting style.

  52. OMG, I’m so excited that you’re going to make a pillow!
    And to those with suggestions, I think a blanket to go with it would rock. Now I want to make one of those….hmmm…..and I can add that holding ribbon still to write on is really hard. A full “sheet” of fabric with interfacing backing is much easier to hold still and write on successfully, then cut out.
    And oh the braids. My head is squinching with a physical memory of that feeling.

  53. I love that idea. One of the places I work at does ribbon printing, which could be a cool alternative.
    My handwriting probably wouldn’t work for something like that. It’s all kind of cramped and tiny or so I’ve been told.

  54. Oh man- I really wish I had not seen this project. I already have so much on my knitting plate, I really should not add another project and now I’m on the verge of of a full blown attack of Startits. I instantly knew EXACTLY what I would put on my pillow – A tribute to RENT and Jonathan Larson. I need someone to infect me finishits quick! Someone?? Anyone??
    P.S. I’ve gone through several phases of the wet braids – and I actually had some success

  55. What a cool idea!
    (((hugs)))

  56. The pillow in the picture is great…My daughter loves the prologue to Romeo and Juliet….I think I am rushing to get this book and make this for her to take to college with the prologue written……and yes she has done the whole braid thing…I had to endure foam curlers as a child…

  57. The pillow in the picture is great…My daughter loves the prologue to Romeo and Juliet….I think I am rushing to get this book and make this for her to take to college with the prologue written……and yes she has done the whole braid thing…I had to endure foam curlers as a child…

  58. Thanks for sharing the straight haired perspective. As one who ironed her hair–unsuccessfully I might add–and tried to sleep on orange juice cans, it is nice to hear the other side.
    I LUV THE PILLOW. Bought the book cuz I figured anyone who presented such a wonderful item deserved my $$$ even though I could have figured it out. I made one with a lullaby for a baby shower gift. HIT OF THE PARTY!

  59. Indigo weather approaches. Consider this your invitation.

  60. I LOVE THE LACE BORDER, IT REALLY ‘MAKES’ THE SWEATER!! GREAT JOB!! HOPE THE BRAID INCIDENT WAS NOT TOO DISAPPOINTING. MY MIDDLE CHILD HAS SUCH STRAIGHT HAIR, THAT GOING TO BE WITH WET BRAIDS COMES OUT DRY AND STRAIGHT BY MORNING!
    LUV YA, SARA

  61. About the hair…
    You need rag curls! Cut flannel strips and do spiral rag curls. I’m a straight hair mom with 3 straight hair daughters. They love the loose curls. And its such a ‘little house on the prairie’ moment thing to do, it will make you smile.

  62. I tryed the many braids but found that 3 or 4 worked perfectly. I must say that it looked pretty good, slighly wavy hair; not curls but fast easy and close.
    Love the pillow, I’m now trying to come up with text that will work for just about everyone I know.

  63. That pillow, like your log cabin recipes, suggests untold play: the bag of ribbons I’ve been saving from years of fancy wrappings suddenly have a purpose. Hurray for Larissa!

  64. So my Weaving/spinning guild is having an indigo dye workshop in April in beautiful southern California…why don’t you come & bring your (then) finished pillow???

  65. i too _need_ that pillow. twill tape and sharpie rub a dub here i come.

  66. Oooo! You could write the words in a resist (wax for cold dyes, or that other resist that Dharma Trading sells for hot dyes) and then dye the fabric, and thus get the words in white on blue!

  67. I bought the book basically for that pattern, along with the peace crane one. Is it a beautiful book!