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Weirdness, Plus Anna’s Thumbholes: A Tutorial

Dear Kay,
I keep thinking about weirdness–you know, the Six Weird Things that everybody is posting on their blogs. I was discussing this last week with the cab driver who was taking me from the airport to your apartment.
(By the way, I gotta say, your apartment is so far uptown that I felt like I was taking a cab back to Nashville. Honey, I know you have been stalwart over these past months, living in a whole nother neighborhood while they tidy up your digs, but great googlywoogly, I don’t know how you’ve managed to keep it together, what with the uptowning and the downtowning and the go-gets and the princess-style telephone with a rotary dial. Bless. Your. Heart.)
The cab driver was a Nicholas Turturro kind of guy. Young, with a Bluetooth hooked over his ear. I gave him your address and asked him if he knew where that was, and he said, “Oh, sure,” and I said, “I figured you knew. I mean, that’s what you do” and he said, with a knowing smile, “No you didn’t. You didn’t think I knew where it was.” Ouch!
But he was chatty, and he started telling me about his friend who was getting married after dating some woman for three weeks, and how the guy would have a nice long time to be miserable later. That’s when I said, “How weird.” He looked up into the rear-view mirror and said, “Actually, there’s no such thing as weird,” and that’s when I told him about all the Six Weird Things that were going around on the knitting blogs. I told him my theory that everybody is weird, that everybody has a weird list ten pages long.
He just laughed. “My conclusion, after driving this cab, is that nobody is weird. You can’t really judge anybody. You cannot believe the things that people do in the back of my cab.” He said that he doesn’t need to watch Taxicab Confessions, because he lives it every day. Live and let live.
It’s Knitting, It’s Art: A Field Trip
I was glad we got to see Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting at the Museum of Arts and Design, but honestly, it left me feeling extremely unradical. Either I totally lack the subversive impulse, or I am SO subversive that you can’t even tell how subversive I am because it’s so profoundly underground. I’ll let you guess which is more likely.
I like that photo of you a lot. In case you’ve forgotten, you are participating in an art project: Sabrina Gschwandtner’s installation about knitting during wartime. You are knitting a square for Blankets for Recovery, which will go to a soldier recovering in a military hospital. I fixed up some dropped stitches on a helmet liner destined for soldiers who need them. This was my favorite part of the exhibit, because it allows museumgoers to participate. I’m not all that interested in knitting as museum piece. I’m fascinated about knitting as a means to community. ACK! I’m starting to sound like a damn museum catalog. All’s I’m saying is that knitting is a humble, simple act, best enjoyed in the company of other like-minded addicts. Lay your politics on top of it if you like–and it’s legitimate to do so–but the fact is that somebody started knitting because they needed some CLOTHES.
I found it quite moving to be knitting that helmet liner, imagining all the women in years past who knitted in this way, with utility as the single goal.
There are some cool programs coming up associated with the exhibition. Very sorry we missed the Edible Lace High Tea.
PS Slowly but surely, here is Anna’s Thumbholes: A Tutorial. I have been cooking it up as a PDF file, but sadly my PDF button is somehow busted, so here it is in a temporary blog form.
Anna writes:

Here is the amendment I made to the Perfect Sweater to include thumbholes.

1. Add 2 inches to the length of each sleeve after shaping (or whatever is needed for the sleeves to reach your knuckles).
2. When sewing sleeve seams, leave a TWO-inch gap unstitched near the bottom (immediately above the hemming on my hemmed version).
3. Blanket stitch around the thumbholes with blanket stitches one knitted stitch wide and one knitted stitch deep.
With your thumbs in the thumbholes the sweater keeps your hands warm. Without your thumbs in the thumbholes it looks pretty much like a normal sweater. My sister has already asked for me to make one for her . . .
Here’s how to do the blanket stitch:
Sew up the sleeve seam (swatch shown here) using mattress stitch, leaving a gap of about 2 inches (5 cm) close to the cuff.
Midway along one edge of the open portion, bring the needle through the work from back to front through a knitted stitch “V” one stitch in from the edge on the far side. Pull the yarn through.
Hold the yarn with your left thumb. Pass the needle through the work from front to back through the next knitted “V” stitch along. Pull the needle towards you, making sure that the needle passes over the yarn held with your left thumb.
Repeat to form a series of right-angled stitches (blanket stitches).
At each end of the gap, form a blanket stitch along the seam.
When you have sewn around the gap, pass the needle through the first stitch from front to back to hold it in place. Knot or weave in ends.
The end result.

We must get Anna a blog STAT.




  1. STAT!!! Anna needs a blog!!!
    lurve, just love those thumbholes!!!
    and the subversiveness of your knitting constantly surprises me. :o)

  2. I’m intrigued by the thought of hands-on knitting as part of a museum exhibit. That’s really quite cool.
    And thanks for sharing the thumbhole guide 🙂

  3. What a coinkidink or small world or something. My brother might have been at that KnitKnit Sundown Salon. He might even have learned to knit there. The house where the happening happened is his architect’s (http://www.fritzhaeg.com). I’m knitting a pillow for that house (my brother’s) and it is somewhat subversive…and will be fulled…and filled up with down…when I finish it, that is. Am I being weird?

  4. Ann, I truly believe that you are on another plane of subversive. Why the dishcloth clout you and Kay have, nation wide. And (not to make this into some silly “Yes, I agree with everything that Ann writes” comment) everyone does have their own idiosyncrasies that if you don’t share, translates as weird. But maybe the Torturroesque taxi driver had something, if we are all weird, then nobody is weird, sort of like the satisfaction of canceling out the numerator and denominator from math classes of old. Vive la difference.

  5. The lady in the top picture is a little scrunchy around the shoulders, bless her heart, but she is wearing a BITCHIN’ Kaffe Fassett cardi, isn’t she?
    Weirdness: The reason I can’t post my 6 weird things is that I can’t decide which I fear most: that my weirdness will horrify everyone (“we meant CUTE weird things,” they’ll shriek), or that my weirdnesses aren’t weird after all–and then where would I be? I knit ALL THE TIME. This is considered weird, even by you. Even by me. Especially by Hubby. xoxo Kay

  6. *sigh* I so miss rotary phones. I know they’re not particularly useful these days, but there’s just something solid and reassuring about them. That, and I love that ratchety sound they make.
    And the cabdriver’s comment about the weird things people do in the back of his cab? Ick. I’d have asked him if he’d had it steam-cleaned recently.

  7. Hmm…I think if I add this feature to a sweater, I might do it in a single crochet edging rather than the blanket stitch. I think it would give it a more finished look, and feel more cushy on the little nubbin of skin between thumb and forefinger.

  8. Love the cab driver summary. I have had the most interesting conversations with cabbies. This guy sounded like a gem!

  9. My oldest had a sweater (she purchased) with built in thumbholes. I remember thinking it was so ingenious. She actually wore it out, that’s how much she loved the idea of the built in handwarmers. Thanks for the reminder and the tutorial!

  10. I miss rotary phones, and card catalogues, and they’ve been obsolete for the majority of my life. They were just so satisfyingly tactile. (No wonder I took up knitting.)

  11. I have been known at times to take myself too seriously, but recently I read a commentary on consumerism that posited that craft was one of the most subversive actions one can take in this day and age. Imagine, in a world in which we are constantly bombarded to purchase goods and services that we don’t really need, to turn it all off, sit down, and MAKE SOMETHING. Stick THAT to the man.

  12. I spent the second half of the reading of this post wondering: Did you feel a little squibly riding in that cab after the driver said “that he doesn’t need to watch Taxicab Confessions, because he lives it every day”? My mind would immediately start worrying about what exactly the previous passenger had been doing in that very seat.
    I love the idea of knitting as a museum exhibit. There are times that I wish I was all cosmopolitan, living in New York and popping over to the Museam of Arts and Design. Of course, then I remember about the Taxicab Confessions talk and I am once again at peace with my cab-free-far-from-the-city valley life.

  13. About the thumbholes…if I knit the sleeve in the round, when I got to the place for the thumbholes, couldn’t I just start to knit flat in stst and then when the thumbhole was done, go back to knitting in the round? That would work, wouldn’t it?

  14. Awesome! Thanks for that tutorial. 🙂

  15. And here I thought I’d be getting a tutorial on being weird. Dang!

  16. Ann, that cabbie was trying to tell you something. I hope he cleaned it good before he let you sit there;) Thank you for the tutorial, and when’s the next book?

  17. Have you seen Althea Merback’s website? http://www.bugknits.com It’s mind-boggling.

  18. I possess a postcard with the intriguing thought: “Everyone’s normal until you get to know them.”
    Which means we’re all abnormal.
    Which means it’s normal to be abnormal.

  19. I love the Perfect Sweater with the thumbholes – could you knit the sleeve with a circular or double pointed needles and knit a steek for the thumbhole??

  20. Hello:
    Turtlegirl76 – I agree that a crocheted edge would be good. Would love to see one if you make it. Sadly I can’t do any more with crochet than make a long chain that isn’t attached to anything.
    Jen – Yes, I think you could knit sleeves in the round and go back and forwards for the thumbhole. It would have the advantage that the thumbhole could be wherever you wanted and not necessarily in the underarm seam (which doesn’t line up perfectly with the thumb). I just took the easy option!
    Shona – I don’t know much about steeks. In principle I guess it should work, and would have the same advantage as Jen’s idea. Wouldn’t you need to increase for the steek to allow stitches for the facing so that you didn’t end up with a gaping hole, or maybe pick up stitches around the steek and knit an edging?

  21. Thanks for the tutorial, I love the taxi story.
    Stay warm.

  22. C’mon ladies, look at the evidence here:
    you can’t be THAT middle-aged if you know what Taxicab Confessions is… Old people don’t have sex, remember?

  23. OK, I really wish I could enlarge that photo of Kay so I could see her gorgeous sweater. Love the colors! And then a question that’s been keeping me up at night, about the beverly hillblankie: is all that cool hillbillyness rowan denim yarn? Does the denim yarn come in other colors? Be still my beating heart. Weird, yess indeedy. Life sure would be boring without a little weirdness knit into it.

  24. Here’s weird. I read your blog this morning, then open the New York Times, and on page B8, the book being reviewed is “The Call of the Weird,” by Louis Theroux. Eeeky.

  25. I am SO glad that you called that stitch BLANKET STITCH. I do 18th C reenacting, and must do a lot of sewing of 18th C clothing for my family…lots of hand worked buttonholes, and people keep calling blanket stitch buttonhole stitch…and it is NOT the same stitch! Buttonhole stitch is a nuisance, it has this little twisty bit in it, to make a knot. (except when it misbehaves…which is not infrequently).
    So thank you for calling blanket stitch BLANKET stitch!!!!!!!

  26. I’m so with you about
    “what is weird”.
    i’ve heard how weird i am most of my life. But “weird” is such an objective idea.
    I really found it hard to write out six things that could be weird (that i’d admit to).
    finished my list only yesterday. I swear it took me two weeks.

  27. bumped into kay the other day just after the two of you were plotting together in the very cold new york city. there’s a meta-message i’ve noticed in your blog that i’ve experienced with kay in person: excellent listeners. need more of that in blogworld.
    looking forward to the next production.


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