Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn CrawlΒ is on through Sunday, September 25.

On the Brink

Dear Kay,
First things first. This is our Christmas tree. The day after we put the thing up, it took on what can only be described as a lean–a slant, a slope. See what I mean?
It’s not at all clear to me that straightening the tree will fix this problem. One touch, and the whole thing goes. It might as well be Wile E. Coyote standing on a boulder on the edge of the canyon.
I walk by this tree maybe 35 times a day, and every time I see it, I go, Enh. It could fall at any time. Our tree stand is bolted to a big square of plywood (my father is prone to screwing plywood onto just about anything), so maybe it’ll hold up. But I’m telling you: if this tree falls over, and our little glass ornaments shatter into smithereens, I truly believe that my reaction will be Yay! I don’t have to take off the lights! I can just chuck the whole thing!
Second Item: Another Free Mini-Tutorial
As I finish up my Perfect Sweater, V-Neck Edition, I have discovered a cul-de-sac of complexity that I didn’t realize existed inside this pattern. My conscience requires that I describe it for anybody out there planning to do a Perfect Sweater, V-Neck Edition.
OK, hardcore mini-tutorialists, I’m talking about the hemmed version of the V-neck.
This is the result. Mine is not perfect, but honestly, I am not in the mood to fix it. The juncture of the V is wacky, and as with the crummy grade I got in that Beowulf class, I know what I did wrong and won’t do it again I rilly promise.
It starts out straightforwardly enough. The idea is that you’re making a cute little hem around the neckline. I like! Very nice! Suzanne, who designed this neckline, knocked herself out. It’s a tidy neckline, don’t you think? (By the way, Suzanne is having moth problems, so if you have any advice, go help her out.)
You pick up stitches around the neckline. (One cool thing is the way this yarn changes color all the time. It’s an Everlasting Gobstopper, this sweater.)
You do a bit of stockinette, knit a purl row, then knit a few more rows of stockinette.
The tricky part comes once you’ve knitted this little flappy bit. You fold the flappy bit in half and “whipstitch” the live stitches to the backside of the sweater. I have never done such a thing, and it frankly didn’t sound all that tough. But it was late, and I was tired, and I yanked a bunch of stitches off the needle, thinking I could simply stitch them down. But (of course) it all starts to fall apart once you have stitches just sitting there, uncontained. I finally realized that a person could hold the live stitches on a needle while sewing them, one at a time, to the back of the sweater.
That’s my tip for the day: do your whipstitching one stitch at a time, holding the live stitches on the needle until you need them.
That’s all I have to say.
The instructions in the pattern are completely correct. But it does make me realize that there’s always room for human error. Always.




  1. Ya’ll are going to have to start charging admission with all of these great knitting tutorials. This is really a great lesson. Thanks, Ann!

  2. Your Christmas tree is lover-ly, yet slightly vertigo-inducing. We had a similar “leaner” one year and my husband actually slung a length of clear fishing line around the trunk and tacked it to the wall behind the tree. Invisible fix that greatly improved my peace of mind. Your sweater is even pretttier up close when I can appreciate the heathery shifts of color. That yarn is cool!

  3. Your tree look nice! Almost alive and inviting you to come on over and open some presents! And thanks for the tutorial, sounds like something I’d do. I do love how it changes colors! Quite magical.

  4. If the leaning tower in Pisa can remain standing after hundreds of years, perhaps your tree will make it until after Christmas. πŸ™‚ Did you by chance put all of the heavy ornaments on one side?

  5. But more importantly, why is your tree PURPLE?

  6. I thought I was crazy when I saw the tree purple. Thanks for letting me know I’m not crazy.

  7. What a lovely tree! To prevent tipping, my tree is secured to the nearest window with a long loop of green yarn & clear duct tape. Works like a charm!
    Growing up, Dad secured our family tree with fishing line & a thumbtack.

  8. What a lovely tree! To prevent tipping, my tree is secured to the nearest window with a long loop of green yarn & clear duct tape. Works like a charm!
    Growing up, Dad secured our family tree with fishing line & a thumbtack.

  9. Pete Townsend! Cool. I almost forgot I was supposed to be in knitting class.
    That’s a freaky looking tree. Halo-ish and ghostly, and tippy. The fishing line sounds like a good idea.

  10. Okay, Missy, I consider myself as harcore a knitter as anyone but how on earth can I possibly pay attention when you toss out a YouTube video featuring the God of Rock, Pete Townshend?

  11. Jack White! Pete Townshend!! Playing The Who!!! I actually got a little teary-eyed just now. Still can’t type right. And the kids were being properly respectful (AS THEY WELL SHOULD BE). Pete Townshend!!!!

  12. I love me a minimalist mini tutorial just as much as the indepth multi-photographed tutorial. You guys rock!
    Great tree. Leaning or not. Because we’ll be treeless this year, I’m appreciating everyone else’s trees and I don’t mind the leaning variety one bit (‘course I don’t have clean up the mess should one topple –hope yours doesn’t).

  13. When we were little, we had a big dog and a cat – both liked to climb the Christmas tree. So my mom anchored the tree to the corner with rope (it was a big dog). We then hung ornaments on the rope to make it festive, although she didn’t intend for that to happen.
    But the tree never did fall over…

  14. WooHoo more Jack White!
    By the way, do we need to start “evaluating” the perfect sweater’s “behavioral and personal issues” in order to decide how we will go forward with its reign? My sweaters defnitely have issues, and it looks like yours do, too!
    (I would love to see where the v neck hits on a real person… I am reaching the point where I am going to have to make a decision which neck I want on my own little bit of (at present, well-behaving) perfection.)

  15. Human error. Yup. I used to have a screen saver that put up various sayings. My favorite was “It’s hard to idiot proof things because idiots are so clever.”
    Thank you for the mini tutorials. They are amazingly helpful.

  16. I vote for the fishing line solution. I have used it many many times. Right under your molding there you could insert a little hook and tie the line off. Don’t try to anchor it to the floor – my sister tried it that way and her tree fell over, and over, and over again. She was wondering why she was missing so many ornaments this year and then remembered about the falling tree.
    I remembered she called me last year while I was at work. The tree was falling out of the base, my son was at her house napping in his baby swing and she couldn’t move till I got there casue the tree would have fallen on my son before she could get him out of the way. That was a fun one to explain to the boss!

  17. Why didn’t I think of this? Thank you, Suzanne and Ann! Now I know how to edge the neck of the cardigan version of the sweater. Which means the pattern should be done, um, soon.

  18. Um, does it seem weird to anyone else that on this CLEARLY LABELED BLOG which even includes KNITTING in the title, Kay and Ann feel the need to apologize-slash-post-big-warnings for knitting content? Have I entered BizarroBlog? Am I in Dixon-Mason land? Don’t apologize, y’all!

  19. Last year as my 13 year old daughter and I were in the kitchen discussing frosting colors we heard a big crash in the adjoining living room. Yep, it was our tree. On the floor. We never laughed so hard. I don’t think we lost any ornaments though. We still had a lot to put away!

  20. I just want to throw out there that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has a drive to raise money for Knitters Without Borders. The goal is to raise the total from $120,000 to $240,000. You can read all about it here:

  21. I have done a hem like the one you show in your tutorial but instead of whipstitching it, i pick up a stitch from the cast on row (that lines up with my stitches) with my left hand needle and then knit those 2 stitches together, and finally pull the stitch from the right hand needle over the left stitch. Does this make sense? it’s essentially a regular bind off but with the additional picked up stitch. It’s very clean and easy and you can do it while watching tv, which is most important!

  22. thanks for the tutorial as I have avoided finishing a v neck sweater for some time now.
    And you know I must comment on that amazing spur of the moment between Pete and Jack : pure. magic.
    thank you- after working for 13 hours, that made my day!

  23. Lady, I had to bungee cord the tree to the wall with two hooks and a grand plan to avoid the whole thing careening to the ground. I appreciate and endear myself to the tilted aspect of your tree. It is endearing, and charming, and tilted.
    I love it.

  24. Holy cow – that video! Pete would you just spit it out!! I couldn’t make it past the first minute – and I so wanted to see what the Jack White hoo-hah is all about.

  25. Ann, thanks for introducing me to You Tube (okay, I’m a bit lame), but I couldn’t resist, and knowing that the Raconteurs will be touring with Dylan, I may just go see them. Do you think you could get Pete Townsend to come to your knitting group in Nashville–tisa cool world. And thanks to your reader for the idiot proofing quote–I love that!

  26. Love the tutorials!
    Sounds like there’s a kodak moment to take advantage of. All the tourists in Pisa take pictures that look like they are holding the tree up themselves. I bet the kiddos would love it!

  27. Pete Townshend and Jack White! You really shouldn’t distract knitting Who fans that way. I almost forgot to come back to the tutorial. Long live Rock!

  28. Yo.
    I just wanted to say that one year, our Christmas tree was a leaner, too. And, we tried everything, including wiring it up with supportive braces. However, it tumbled down, and I got home to find my mother weeping over many, many broken bulbs. And this incident is now forever part of our holiday memories. So, act now. Save the ornaments! Have a tear-free holiday!

  29. EEEK! Your tree is falling! Just looking at it makes me wince. This happened to ours three years ago. I hate to tell you, plywood didn’t help. We lost LOTS of ornaments. Of course, we lost almost all the very old ones that belonged to my great-grandmother who brought them over from Germany, etc., etc. My elderly mom cried. It was very sad. PLEASE DON’T LET YOUR TREE FALL! Maybe you can stick some magazines under the stand to even it up. Tie it to SOMETHING.
    Of course, our tree is sitting there without even LIGHTS on yet, so who am I to talk πŸ™‚


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