“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

This, That, and the Other

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Dear Kay,
Well, nobody can say I haven’t heard a hundred tubas playing at the same time.
Tuba Christmas!
Audience reaction was mixed. I loved it–imagine an ocean liner–or ten ocean liners–playing “The First Noel,” and you’ll have the idea.
After having our bones shaken by this group (which included at least one tuba from Bismarck, North Dakota), we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame down the street. Next time you’re in town, I have to take you to the SoBro Grill there, because they had a sandwich that . . . well . . . Imagine a BLT: bacon, lettuce, and tomato. But imagine that the T is green and fried. A fried green tomato BLT, with some wicked mayo concoction and a little fresh mozzarella to bind it all together. I had to lie down. I thought I was literally going to die. It was hardcore.
Interlude with Robin
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Our favorite second grade teacher came over yesterday for a little coffee and conversation. (The fellas kept wandering in, suspiciously eyeing A Teacher From Their School who had somehow infiltrated their home.) Robin gave me this scarf (“There are two weeks of the year when you can wear this color,” she said, ha!), which has a twirly line of Schaefer something or other needle-felted all the way across. Cool, eh? I have GOT to get one of wicked-looking tools.
I Am Starting to Sound Like You
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The serial knitting of the same damn thing continues. I’ve decided to make Perfect Sweaters to match every piece of furniture in the house.
OK, so this will be my final go at this pattern for a while–it’s for the fellas’ tennis coach, who really is the sort of person who deserves a sweater. Lise picked her color, Shade 2425, called Provence, which really is a fine, quiet orange with its slight halo of yellow.
Chronic pattern knitting. Surely there’s some medication I could take to wean me off this.
Advice for a Knitter
Jane in Apple Valley, Minnesota wrote seeking advice for a knitting problem which I think, like the pain and itch of hemorrhoidal tissues, is all too common. She says that her stockinette is inconsistent–purl rows are tighter than knit rows. I wrote her my two cents as follows but wonder if you guys have any other advice for her. She has tried using one smaller needle, without success.

Dear Jane in Apple Valley, MN,
Tension is a really weird thing. When I started knitting, my purl rows were always LOOSER than my knit rows, and I had the same problem you did.
If you think about it, each stitch you make is the result of several factors:
1.) How tightly you wrap (or throw, or however you get the yarn around the left needle).
2.) What happens after you wrap that stitch, and you pull it off your left needle. Are you a tugger? Does your finger kind of yank the yarn a little? Do you do nothing?
3.) The way you hold your yarn. I wrap it around my right pinky one time, then sort of throw with my index finger up near the tip of the needle. Everybody has her own way of doing this. I did find that once I started wrapping yarn around my right pinky, the yarn moved more smoothly, and it was easier for me to knit my knit rows a little looser, and my purl rows a little tighter.
It’s so subtle, though–the slightest change can make a huge difference. It can be like trying to think about breathing–impossible!
At this point I seem to be able to crank a smooth stockinette, but I really did spend some time a while ago trying to fix this problem. It sounds like you’ve found all the fixes that people usually suggest. Maybe you could give yourself a little home seminar in Perfecting Stockinette. Really watch what you’re doing, be aware of all the things you do when you make a stitch, and see if you can pin down why some stitches are tighter than others.

All I Want for Christmas is a Jelly Injector . . .
Love,
Ann

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50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Nothing beats a holiday tuba concert, but then I’ve never owned a jelly injector.

  2. Every Christmas I too suffer with serial knitting. This year it is felted mittens and button hole bags. I actually think this keeps me sane. I can memorize the pattern and work on project mindlessly while watching television or on lunch at work.
    Merry Christmas!! Hope Santa brings you a Jelly Injector.

  3. When will we be getting a Perfect Cardigan????

  4. You might tell Jane to check to see if she’s purling properly. I recently discovered that I was purling improperly which was giving me a too tight gauge and slightly wonky looking stockinette stitches. Make sure that you bring the yarn OVER the needle rather than UNDER the needle (which I was doing). (Of course, if she’s really bringing it under the needle, she can change her knit stitches to match by knitting into the back of the stitch. But that seems rather complicated.)
    Hope this helps.

  5. I started knitting everything in the round just to solve that problem of uneven stitches. Of course this doesn’t work for a lot of things (like warshrags). Recently I saw Annie Modesitt demonstrate her “combination” method on Knitty Gritty and it made a big difference for me in getting even stitches. I was already a continental knitter & the transition to this method was seamless and totally intuitive. My purls have never looked so good or, and this is the best part, felt so good!

  6. My lovely son is performing in the Chicago version of Tuba Christmas this Saturday. I’ll think of you as I’m frantically trying to finish yet another felted bag as I listen to the bombastic low brass.

  7. Also keep in mind that it’s mostly what happens after the stitch that determines the tension. With continental knitting, the yarn is usually held at a more acute angle after a knit stitch than a purl stitch, which makes it inherently a little uneven. But still superior. Ok, ok, just my preference.
    Whatever you do, do not attempt to fix tension by just tightening up. You cannot really cure your problem that way and it can only lead to injury and misery. Experiment with different yarn-holding and stitch-forming holds. Find a stitch-n-bitch and ask them to show you exactly how they hold their hands. Can be very interesting.

  8. Seriously. I need a perfect cardigan. Although maybe I can make it up on my own….
    Just finished a sweater in the perfect yarn and dare I say it is indeed…perfect. Thank you.

  9. LOVE LOVE LOVE the BLT at the SoBro Grille AND the yam fries.
    I have a friend who works at the CMHOF. The other day he was complaining about this loud and odd sounding music that he thought was coming from the GEC. Now I know what it was!

  10. WHY HAVE I NEVER HAD THIS SANDWICH!?!
    WHY AM I YELLING!?!
    Oh yeah, I’m yelling because, I’VE NEVER HAD THIS SANDWICH!

  11. I took a workshop with Melissa Leapman about a year ago and my friend asked her about this same problem. Melissa’s suggestion was elegantly simple: knit with two slightly different-sized needles to compensate for the difference in gauge. Easy-peasy!

  12. Tubas and that dreamy sandwich, very festive indeed. No advice for Jane, sorry. And the last thing we need in this house is a jelly injector(laughing, really)!

  13. I had uneven purl rows too but they were looser than the knit ones. I solved my problem by changing the path of the yarn when purling after I read an article by Priscilla Gibson Roberts. This does require knitting into the back of the stitch on the knit rows though. I found the transition really easy (after 50+ years of knitting). I just have to remember to purl the other way when I’m teaching beginners.

  14. Ditto what Mary Beth said. I had the same problem a few years ago and my hands used to just ACHE. Once I learned a new way of purling (Jane isn’t purling wrong — she’s just purling differently), everything fell into place.
    Hope Jane gets the advice she needs! She’s come to the right place. :)

  15. I’ve noticed that I tend to knit things that match my cat. The kitty seems unusually interested in learning to knit and has already mastered the art of unknitting quite well. Perhaps if I start to knit things that match my furniture she will just lounge and nap on the project rather than trying to help me with it. It will be an interesting experiment.

  16. Tubas, serial knitting and BLFGTWM sounds like an all round great thing.

  17. I have to admitt that I am a combination knitter and my stockinette looks mighty good, but is Jane not getting gauge or does the fabric just look bad? If the fabric looks uneven, I would tell her to block it and then see what it looks like. Everyone knows blocking works wonders and that’s what always does the trick for me.

  18. I have to admitt that I am a combination knitter and my stockinette looks mighty good, but is Jane not getting gauge or does the fabric just look bad? If the fabric looks uneven, I would tell her to block it and then see what it looks like. Everyone knows blocking works wonders and that’s what always does the trick for me.

  19. Tuba Christmas is something else, isn’t it? I dated a tuba player for a while, and there’s something about a group of em all playing together.

  20. My family made attending Portland’s Tuba Christmas into a holiday tradition. I really miss it since I moved away. Of course, part of the magic in Portland is that it takes place in Pioneer Courthouse Square, which means sitting on steps outside, often in rain. There is a great sense of awe and togetherness when you are one of hundreds huddled together, sitting on plastic bags under a mass of umbrellas, watching about a hundred tuba players in little red hats wash the crowd with low, sonorous, and lovely holiday tunes.

  21. Ann, about the needle felting: didItellyadidItellyadidItellya it is so cool??

  22. My looser purls were usually caused by extra yarn that it would take to get across from the right to the left hand needle. If I give the yarn a tug, it cinches up the extra without causing an uncomfortably tight stitch.
    And then I just switched to combination knitting.

  23. I feel your pain on the serial knitting. I’m in the middle of knitting 4 samurai hats from the Folk Hats book. I’ll definately need to branch out to something different when I’m done. Maybe the Perfect Sweater…

  24. jelly injecting was a major portion of my first job at the donut shop down the street. mmmm… jelly. but chocolate and bavarian cream injecting is pretty great too :)

  25. Well, honestly, I see that uneveness even itself out after a gentle washing and after the garmet has “lived” a little. Gravity usually takes care of that.
    If you can’t wait that long, I saw my knitting improve RADICALLY when I started knitting backwards rather than traditional purl. So I knit continental on the right side and then instead of turning the work, I knit backwards back across the piece and this time I throw so I won’t have to change anything with my hands. My stitches became remarkable uniform.

  26. I find my knitting often matches my furniture too – my current project coordinates with my living room rug. I’m jealous of the Tuba Christmas. Cool!

  27. Can we just pause a moment to appreciate the poetry of this yarn description?
    “…fine, quiet orange with its slight halo of yellow.”
    Ahh…I knew EXACTLY the color you were talking about!

  28. Sorry to use your blog to contact other folks, but tell Jane that she can try combination knitting (Annie Modesitt), or backwards knitting. Also, “live” help is available through the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild (meets 3rd Tuesday of each month – sorry it was last night) at the Textile Center in Mpls. 7-9 p.m. Also, if she’s available Monday afternoons, my group meets at the Rosemount Caribou (roughly) 1-3 pm. Perhaps we could help!

  29. Another Combination knitter here. It really works. And I’ve only been knitting since, oh, about April or so. I get smooth purls which are EASY to make! Go see Annie M. She is the Queen of Combination.

  30. Ditto the jelly injector and want me a Fried Green Tomato BLT for Christmas.
    Love the scarf and the sweater.

  31. I have one of “those wicked looking tools!” But no jelly-injector.

  32. Tuba Christmas! My friend plays tuba, is a music ed major, and she did Tuba Christmas in Seattle. One of these years, when I get a car, I will go.

  33. Dang–if I knew you were going to take a picture of the scarf, I would have made it fancier…like your Pisa-tree, every inch decked-out in Christmas beauty. Happy Holidaze. That sandwich sounds like something I need to have. Soon.

  34. Could we have more info on how Robin made that scarf? I’ve got the wicked needle-felting tool, but not much experience using it. Did the scarf start as something she knit, or is it fabric? Did she felt it and then add yarn? Is the Schaefer something a pure wool something? It’s beautiful.

  35. I am a new reader, ladies, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I laugh out loud so many times… If only I found you when I first started knitting 2 1/2 years ago, I would have saved myself many a painful project. :)

  36. Now just look here, never mind all this BLT business, I’ve never even had a fried green tomato! Didn’t even know they existed until I saw Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. And yes, I too am longing for a Perfect Cardigan please!

  37. You could try combination knitting as that means less yarn wrapped with each purl stitch as you are wrapping it opposite the “normal” way. On the other hand that means you have to knit every stitch “through the back” to unwrap it.

  38. Ann, love the colour of the new perfect sweater (and, obviously, the couch). Happy holidays!!!

  39. Amisha, thanks for enlightening me on what a jelly injector is. Google comes up with some mighty scary hits when you plug in that search term. I’m glad it’s more innocuous than it sounds.
    I’ve never had a fried green tomato, but aside from the mayonnaise, which I despise, that sandwich sounds excellent.

  40. In Santa Barbara we have our BLTs with fresh farmers market tomatoes and avocados, a BLAT. mmmm.

  41. If I ever heard 100 tubas then I would think that I had seen it all and heard it all. Also,I would have been fighting hysterical laughter the whole time. But really, how delightful.

  42. Regarding the picture of the “tubas”–the ones with the big bell up top are called “Sousaphones”. My brother used to play one. He thought he’d join the band when the moved to a new town, went to the first concert and saw a line up similar to your picture. Oh well, maybe some other time.
    Love your knitting blog and read it all the time. I’ve been knitting for 59 years! and always have at least three projects on the go at once.

  43. Regarding the picture of the “tubas”–the ones with the big bell up top are called “Sousaphones”. My brother used to play one. He thought he’d join the band when the moved to a new town, went to the first concert and saw a line up similar to your picture. Oh well, maybe some other time.
    Love your knitting blog and read it all the time. I’ve been knitting for 59 years! and always have at least three projects on the go at once.

  44. Regarding the picture of the “tubas”–the ones with the big bell up top are called “Sousaphones”. My brother used to play one. He thought he’d join the band when the moved to a new town, went to the first concert and saw a line up similar to your picture. Oh well, maybe some other time.
    Love your knitting blog and read it all the time. I’ve been knitting for 59 years! and always have at least three projects on the go at once.

  45. Re your picture of “tubas”– the ones in the back row with the large “bell” on top are called “Sousaphones”. My brother used to play one. One time when they moved to a new town he thought he’d join the local band. Went to a concert and saw a line up just like your picture. Oh well, maybe some other time.
    Love your blog, and read it all the time. I’ve been knitting for 59 years and always have at least 3 projects on the go.

  46. To Jane, hi from SW Minneapolis.
    I’m a thrower, unable to convert, no matter how much I try.
    My purled rows were always looser than my knit rows. I’ve completely solved it by paying attention to where the already-knitted portion of the garment is held. Rather than just letting the “fabric” ruffle between my hands and the needles in any way it wants to, I *knit* with the finished section pushed all to the back, away from me, and *purl* with all of it folded/pulled toward me. It almost forms a tent or a fold that I’m working within, that moves along with me.
    I think it evens out the distance that the yarn travels to make the stitch.
    Does this make any sense?
    Deb

  47. Oh, how I LOVE Tuba Christmas! We have a great one here in Portland, OR on the second weekend of December each year. My favorite holiday activity (next to compulsive knitting of gifts) is taking the electric train downtown (called MAX), getting off in Pioneer Courthouse Square, getting an eggnog latte from Starbucks, and looking at all the Christmas windows before the concert in the Square. Then during the concert, singing with all those strangers (on the best years, it snows! That’s just one of the things I love about this town that “Keep Portland Weird.”
    My heartfelt thanks to both of you for “darned cute” bookplate! It came in the mail last night and I promptly stuck it in my book and enjoyed the HannuChristmaKwanzaakamas present! I’m not sure my husband truly understood my joy, which lasted until I unwrapped his present: A YARN WINDER AND SWIFT! Oh, be still my heart; I think I’ve died and gone to heaven! 3, count ‘em, 3 great presents in one day!!!!

  48. Kay’s making scarves and you’re making sweaters. Is that some kind of co-blogging one-upmanship? Doesn’t seem very nice. :)
    By the way, this perfect sweater pattern seems to be made for short people…

  49. You love knitting the perfect sweater, I love knitting and crocheting hats – I’ve made dozens this year. The great thing is everyone loves them! PS My purl rows are always looser – ow well.

  50. Your marvelous teacher friend send scarves to my girls too!