Aw look! One pattern, 364 versions of the MDK New Ancestral Christmas Stocking.

The Discipline of Discipline

Dear Kay,
In a rare moment of restraint, I have made a deal with myself. Under no circumstances can I begin to work on my Alice Starmore Fair Isle Heart of Darkness Tour 2004 until I finish the sweater I’m knitting for you. No winding of yarn, no photocopying of pattern, no burnt offerings to encourage a successful journey into the netherworld of handknits. Nothing. Until I finish Sassy.
Why didn’t somebody along the way explain to me about setting goals? About “limits”? My eight-year-old seems to have figured out the concept of work and reward–he sure as heck doesn’t have furniture dedicated to the archival storage of yarn. This dangling carrot stuff actually works, you know. Not since Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne dug a cellar in just one day has a project chugged along so steadily.
(For those joining us late, Kay and I agreed to knit each other a sweater back in, uh, November. And if Kay would just go over to Lis’s crib and retrieve the sleeves to my Olive cardigan she left there in a bubbly moment some weeks ago, well. Maybe we could get this exchange party started.)
I’m on the very last piece of Sassy, which features the oft-maligned (OK, oft-maligned by me) yarn known as Fine Cotton Chenille. Forgive me, but chenille has always struck me as a little too close to velour for my taste, just one furry step away from a track suit worn by somebody who ain’t foolin’ nobody that she’s been to the gym in the past five years.* If you’re in the habit of wearing Juicy Couture and I just don’t know about it, I’m supersorry.
But like most of my preconceived notions, my anti-chenille bias falls away in the face of this sweater I’m knitting for you. It’s really, really beautiful. It may never make it to Manhattan.
sassypieces.jpg
A picture here is worth about 10 words. Impossible for me to capture the lurvliness of chenille.
As I’ve worked my behonkus off to avoid the dreaded ladders and worming that are said to accompany this kind of knitting, I have pondered the meaning of Fine. Fine as in “OK not great”? Fine as in “Superfoxy not unlike Ralph Fiennes”? Fine as in “hi kwalidy”?
I know, it’s probably Fine as in “Not Chunky like that other Cotton Chenille we make.” But I think Fine also means “Most pleasant as in ‘One fine day.’ ”
You are going to love this fine, cotton, chenille sweater. And if you don’t, well, that’s fine too.
Love,
Ann
*Full disclosure: I haven’t been to the gym in five years, either, though I know some people who have.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Girl, that IS FINE! IS worming when the chenille twists? Because you’ve apparently got absolutely none of that. You must me knitting slowly, yes? You may want to plan that Fair Isle for 2005 . . .

  2. Gee, looks like I should have taken the time to preview. Above should read “You must be knitting slowly” not that I’m judging your skills, of course!

  3. Maggi–I have NO IDEA what worming looks like, having never seen it. But given my pathological terror of worms, snakes, and caterpillars (hey wait, chenille is French for caterpillar–YIKES!), I don’t want to get anywhere near anything called worming.
    I read somewhere that worming is more common with acrylic chenille–little squirgley things pop up outta nowhere, because of the twisty way chenille yarn is manufactured. I also read (yes, in the Journal of North American Chenille Arts) that chunkier chenille is more prone to this malady.
    My other fear–ladders–has been successfully avoided because I’m knitting with the tippymost eighth-inch tips of my needles. Once you knit a chenille stitch, it sort of locks up like a one-way ratchet. No joojing or fudging the stitches. So if you knit a stitch loosely, there’s a gap between stitches you can’t fix. A horizontal ladder step in between.
    It’s definitely a slow go, but the sweater is only about four inches long, so it’s not like I’m knitting a bathrobe or anything.
    I’m telling you this so Kay will read this and go, Aw, Ann, what a kind-hearted effort you’re making on my sweater. I too am exerting the same sort of tender care on your Olive sweater–uh, if I can find those sleeves I left on the R train.

  4. That looks gorgeous, Ann! You do excellent work — whatever the inherent difficulties in chenille are, you appear to be overcoming them. :)

  5. That sassy sure redeems chenille. I too posess an unreasonable fear of it. That is absolutely lovely. The drape, the sheen, the furriness. Oh yeah.

  6. Fine as in Fine Art or fine wine methinks.
    Lucky Kay.Clever you.
    That Kay person better take a break from creative squares… !

  7. Hey now. I was just giving Ann time to catch up, because I had gotten to the cap of Olive’s second sleeve before New Year’s.
    Geesh. You’d think I was the first person to get smashed and leave a couple of detached sleeves somewhere. I’m sure that happens all the time, and to the best people.
    I have experienced the dreaded Worming with the Fine Cotton Chenille, on my Rupert scarf (you know, the one I was knitting just because I like the name Rupert?). I think it wormed because I was carrying it around in a bag and knitting it on the go. Chenille needs to be knit in as serene a setting as possible. I think I was juggling it around and twisting it too much. It bugged the heck out of me, and I stopped midway through block 4 of 5 color blocks. Maybe next year.
    Must retrace my steps and find those sleeves….love, Kay

  8. Hi all. I’m new here, and new to knitting blogs, but I’m enjoying it. I’m glad to see there other people who don’t LOVE chenille. Everyone I’ve talked to does. I thought I was all alone. This may sound insane, but chenille makes my teeth itch. I hate the stuff. Everytime I touch a skein of it, my skin freaks like I have spiders running up my forearms. It looks fine, and I’m sure it drapes beautifully, but you won’t find ME knitting with it.
    I have ventured online because my friends don’t share my passion for knitting. (I have a friend who crochets, and she is TOTALLY into chenille.) I am excited to find a community where knitting is discussed, and where people are sharing their experiences, triumphs and disasters. It makes it all so much more fun. I hope to have a blog of my own up soon. I’m also hoping to contribute to your afghan project. What a fabulous endeavor.

  9. Ann that Sassy is mighty fine (and what a lovely colour too) I can’t wait to see the finished article. I have never experienced worming but have had lots of ladders on a chunky cotton chenille sweater I knitted for a friend a few years ago. Strangely I don’t think I’ve ever seen her wear it…. hhhmmm…. wonder why!
    I have to admit to a love of chenille despite my pathetic attempt to knit with it. Probably would love it even more if I got someone else to knit it for me (nice one Kay!)

  10. Dear Ann,
    A report on chenille knitting from the Far East. I’m working on the Pee Wee sweater for my daughter in rowan chucky chenille. Although I’ve got ladders but no worms (yet), my biggest headache is the casting on which is pulling together no matter how loosely I did it. I know it’s bad knitting habits but after about 5 tries to rectify it, I just went on to knit it. Any hints on how you cast on?

  11. Laura A–Please remember that I’m the one who likes shetland wools in what I like to call “tweedy” shades and which Kay likes to call “dirt” shades. I had my first adventure with novelty yarn last month and had to take a nap afterward. If there’s one thing I have learned from all the knitters who are online, it’s that there’s a big, beautiful world of yarn to be discovered.
    Sarah W–I think chunky chenille would be much harder to knit. This skinny stuff is one thing; I can’t imagine trying to get its larger cousin to behave.
    Siow Chin–Giving something five tries qualifies as Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, as far as I’m concerned. Here’s bad knitting habit: casting on the wrong number of stitches, being too dang lazy to try again, and knitting together the extra stitches on the next row. I have a bunch of techniques like that. The old decrease-sooner-on-the-next-decrease-because-I-forgot-to-decrease-at-the-correct-moment technique. The make-one-swatch-and-assume-the-next-needle-size-down-would-work technique. The chop-off-the-sleeves technique. (OK, so I wouldn’t probably do that one again.)
    I think if you’ve given the cast on five tries, it’s probably OK to move on. Your next try will undoubtedly be better. When I cast on for this, I used the long-tail method and tried to be loose about it. The merciful thing about this project is that it is navy blue, so I’m thinking a world of imperfection is hiding in its murky depths.
    Imperfection has its own perfection! That’s our motto!

  12. I just want you to know that I am *so* working the phrase “I’m supersorry” into my conversation today.

  13. Siow Chin–received your wonderful squares last night. Ann: Our first Afghanalong squares from Hong Kong!!! Can you stand it!!!!!? I’m a bit behind on posting the beauty pageant swimsuit parade o’ squares (I’m guessing that the end of each month is going to be Crunch Time here at Afghanalong Headquarters), but I have definitely photographed their close-up along with several others. It’s only March 4 and the stack is already stacking up nicely. I’m resisting the urge to mix them in with the February squares and start laying them out. Do you all envy me? [Laughs maniacally--THEY'RE MINE ALL MIIIIIIIIIINE!]
    There are no bad knitting habits, only bad, bad yarn. Re: cast-on, did one of your 5 attempts include casting on with a much bigger needle that the ones you were going to knit with? Just wondering if that works because I saw it recommended somewhere.
    Ann, we are not supposed to tell about all our superadvanced techniques. Those are supposed to be things that people do in secret and do not dare speak of. I mean, chopping off the arms of a sweater just should not come up in polite conversation.
    By the way, remember Aunt Ruth’s Winter Flower sweater? I am so glad I heeded the Greek Chorus of knitters here who said, DO NOT SHORTEN THE ARMS BY ANY MEANS. I gave it to a pal whose arms fit! Who loves flowers! Who loves brown tweed! Who loves cardigans! Well, her arms ALMOST fit. Modest amount of joogeing required, but definitely a joogeable fit, which is all I ask for in my handiwork.
    Love, Kay

  14. Ann’s brother Clif has a great concept of kwalidy. There’s lo-quality, hi-quality, and then there’s that DONE quality, which is a kwalidy all its own.
    Siow Chin: are you using a two-needle cast-on? If so, try a one-needle version (what Ann calls the “long tail” method). See [http://www.beehivewool.com/Knitting-Casting-On.htm] I do it the second way, finger and thumb. Even if the chenille locks up once a stitch is made, the method is inherently looser, or more elastic anyway.
    Pay no attention to my pedantic self if this is useless information to you. (I do tend to hold forth. Like today when I shocked the ladies at the LYS. I was buying one ball of a 55/45 hemp/wool blend just to see what it’s like, and I said, “And if you get bored, smoke it.” Why can’t I learn to keep my trap shut??)

  15. Ann, you’re a hoot. I just love those superadvanced techniques! My motto is, why frog it when you can fudge it? Being adept at fudging is also a talent.

  16. Ann —
    I would just like to report the sleeves to your sweater are resting comfortably in my crib. Now, I need to say a few words in defense of Kay on this issue. First off, we did drink a lot of champagne (and Lillet!!) that night. Second, to know Kay is to know that she only leaves things behind if she is in a place or at the home of a person she knows and trusts. She would never leave your sleeves on the R train, she doesnt really ride or like the R train….the 6 maybe, but the R, never!! (and did you know that R stands for “rarely” and N stands for “never” insofar as the N and the R train are concerned.)Third, well, your sleeves look good!! How’s that?

  17. Ann-
    I loved your site. It is sucdh a hoot! Why did you call it Mason-Dixon Knitting? I’ll be on soon.
    Virginia
    ( it is great)

  18. Virginia–The Mason-Dixon Line is a boundary that is traditionally thought to separate the northern and southern states of the U.S. It’s named for two surveyors in the 1700s who mapped out the boundary. Basically, it’s the northern and eastern boundaries of Maryland.
    You can read more than you’ll ever want to know about the Mason-Dixon Line at http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa041999.htm.
    We’re Mason-Dixon Knitting because Kay’s north and I’m south, and the line between us is . . . yarn!
    So glad you stopped by!

  19. Dear Ann, Kay, Mary Neal,
    So thrilled to see your suggestions that I can’t resist replying here, right now in the office, a good thing that the MDK background colour is white. Thoroughly relieved to know that I’m not alone in the world of “unconventional” knitting habits, and I sure can use more of your superadvanced techniques anytime!
    My attempts for casting on include: cable cast-on, long-tail cast-on using the body-size needle (5 mm) one needle, long-tail 5mm holding 2 needles together, long-tail 2 needles stepping up by one size each time. Finally, I used 1 10 mm needle long-tail method. Well, I started with the sleeve and it was only 30 stitches, so it’s not as courageous as it sounds. The loops made are big but the edge was still inelastic. I just went on to knit and thought I’ll make it a little longer and roll up the sleeves. The pix in the magazine has rolled-up sleeves too. Maybe the knitter had the same problem. I used the sewing cast-off which gave an elastic edge. If I got crazy enough, may be I’ll try a provisional cast-on, then sew cast-off the cast on.
    And Kay, I didn’t expect the HK and/or US Post to be so efficient, I sent them out only this Monday!

  20. Ugh, If i had a dollar for every faux “Juicy Couture” sweatsuit I see on campus every day I could take myself to lunch, daily. The only thing worse than a “Juicy Couture” track suit is a faux one…..at least the faux “Juicy” does not make a swishing sound when it “struts” by my reference desk….Oh the horror!

  21. Isn’t Juicy Couture specifically mentioned in Leviticus right after shellfish but before bestiality?
    The hemp blend makes a rhombus when swatched. Any suggestions?

  22. I thought it was snakes and ladders not worms and ladders … did I miss something ?? Sassy is well, – truly sassy looking I have to say ! Tricky stuff though that fine chenille. My one and only looked great, WAS great and then I washed it … worm city !! Okay I washed it in the machine ( I LIKE my jumpers big !) but it was very unforgiving, never spoke to me again as a matter of fact. Sad really.
    Kay, the squares are coming. I was going to post but I got waylaid by another one. I’m so easily lead astray by 8 inches – I think that came out wrong … bed, rather than another glass of red wine I think. Night night !

  23. Heather! Saucy Friday night comments! But do keep at it with those 8 inch squares; we can always wait for another one. The Afghanalong is young!
    I am grateful to you for the cautionary tale about washing Chenille. I never shall! I shall take it to the dry cleaners, or better yet, not wear it while dining with the kids and just keep it pristine forever. Love, Kay