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

Pedicure: Special Victims Unit

Dear Ann,
After three weeks in flip-flops, I am back, all in one piece. A chipped, snaggly piece, but whole. Fear not, Ann, I will tidy up the hoof-sprouting extremities before Sunday.
And while I was away, there you went breaking the sacred rules of our blog. For example, remember what we agreed about Burt Bacharach? How we were only going to speak of him with reverence and awe, and never ever make fun of anything he was wearing in the 70s or early 80s, even if it was an especially girly Patricia Roberts sweater? Consider yourself t.v.-grounded for two weeks. No more That 70s Show for you, Missy.
Some things went wrong in the world while I was out. Julia Child died. Like many of her devotees I’m sure, I had the strange experience of mourning someone I didn’t actually know. I thought about her a lot, and made her fabulous Stovetop Anna that Saturday night. (Not an original impulse on my part: I read in the New York Times that grocery stores in New York were running out of potatoes.) Here’s a great thing about Julia Child, though: We never have to wonder What Would Julia Do, because she’s told us, in painstaking and clear detail. Follow instructions, people! Taste and adjust seasoning! Cut little x’s on the bottom of onions for no reason I could ever understand! It’s going to be OK!
Welcome To The Coven
One of the highlights of my summer vacation was watching my 8-year-old niece Maggie knit her little heart out. At one point, while swimming, she asked her mom, ‘Can I get out now….and knit?’ My heart skipped a beat. Come to me, my pretty! I made her a tannis root milkshake and we were off to the races.
Naturally, I plied the girl with yarn. Quicker than she could say ‘poncho’, I dug out the Classic Elite Weekend Cotton, and taught Maggie how to do a drop-stitch row. Two days later we sewed a seam, and wala:
It’s a bit droopy at the shoulder, but that is not such a big problem. Maggie also designed a baby sweater with yarn she got on a trip to Nova Scotia. Her next project is a waffley ‘dishrag’ rug to match her bedroom decor (the kid watches HGTV and TLC almost as much as you do). No kidding! Go Maggie!
Olympic Knitting
As a former synchronized swimmer myself (making the team, and becoming a member of the Tribe of the Green Hair was my only athletic achievement in junior high school, or come to think of it, ever), naturally I watched the Olympics with great interest. So many sports, so little time. All that sweating and striving inspired me to finally get motivated on my daring plan to make a border for my mitered-square blanket using Debbie New’s labyrinth knitting technique.
Here’s the blanket, awaiting 3 long seams and a death-defying border:
Here’s the basic recipe for labyrinth knitting. You cast on a lot of stitches. Thousands of them. You put markers in two colors. One color tells you to increase one stitch on either side of it. The other color tells you to decrease on either side of it. This robotic action creates miters that turn the strip of knitting this way and that. Debbie New, being a mad genius, has made puzzle sweaters that consist of a single strip of labyrinth knitting. When you lay it out properly, it looks like a sweater, and all you have to do is sew up all the little seams. (“ALL” you have to do?) A very Debbie Newish sweater: boxy but ever so interesting to figure out.
If Evel Knievel were a knitter, he’d be making labyrinth sweaters. When you have to special-order a circular to get enough cable, that’s stunt knitting. Jumping over school buses on your mo-ped is a fair comparison.
I had something much more simple in mind. I wanted to make a strip of labyrinth knitting that looked like a Greek Key pattern. Meaning, it went in and out, and had delicious nooks and crannies, but maintained an even width — so it could be used to border a blanket. A nice, straight line. Newish, but Kayish.
First I tried the Mock Apple Pie of labyrinth knitting; I tried to create the same effect by knitting single miters, and then picking up stitches along the edges and adding more miters in other directions to create the labyrinth effect. This was a total failure. See?
See again?
The problem is, you can’t pick up the stitches on the side you need to. And even if you could, you create so many dangling ends and wobbly pick-ups that you finally mutter something rude and just cast on the dang 2000 stitches. I gave in. I figured out where to put my increases and decreases to get the thing to do a Greek Key, cast on a modest 396 stitches, and whaddaya know–it worked!
Here’s how it looks on the needles:
At the cast-off (you’re such a voyeur!):
And after it was pushed and prodded into a 27-inch strip of border:
It was fiddly as hell, but easy! Only 9 rows, but there’s no counting or fussing once you’ve figured out where to put the markers. It came out perfectly the first time. I could make 2 or 3 of these for each side of the blanket, and fill it in with some stripes.
The problem is: I think it looks bad. Too busy (I know, Cristina! You were right!). So I’m going to do a striped border, garter stitch, with 4 mitered corners, and be done with it. I’ll save my new-found labyrinth technique for another project. The effort was not wasted, because I feel like such a stud to have knit anything from Debbie New’s book.
And with that, I’ve used up my word allotment for who knows how long.
See you on Sunday!
Love, Kay




  1. Kay, I think your Labyrinth knitting is sheer genius. Just sorry it doesn’t work for your blanket. But hang on to that knowledge/experience, it won’t be wasted…….
    Quite off topic – there is a long article on Xenobia Bailey in the Interweave special magazine on Crochet………

  2. Welcome home, Kay. I think it was Cheryl who gets credit for counseling you toward simplicity. I’m more a “More is more” person. Ask Cheryl about the butter I got to make croissants–Plugra (that’s pidgin french for “more fat,” dontcha know).
    Nevertheless, I agree the labyrinth border doesn’t sing with the psycho squares. You can’t go wrong with stripes, but I liked the little fractal (sp?) looking mini psycho squares as a border.
    xo, c.

  3. You’ve created a fabulous new knitter ! Maggie’s poncho is fantastic.Well done Maggie !
    The Labyrinth knitting is amazing.Very clever new technique.It really does look bad as the border though.Mitred stripes will be fab.It’s well on the way to being a most beautiful blanket.

  4. Hooray for your new knitter! The poncho is adorable!
    Have you read Jacques Pepin’s autobiography? Great book for Child fans as well as Pepin fans.

  5. i’m so proud of lovely maggie’s accomplishments at such a tender age….such a lucky girl to have an in-house educator at her side! i’m nearly weeping with joy!… your psycho squares are a thing of illustrious beauty… and isn’t it something else to have come full circle once again to ye ole faithful gartering stripe, solving the border conundrum!… knit on!

  6. Love that your “ministry” is growing. I met a waitress at a restaurant last Friday night, and taught her how to knit Monday…and she caught on quickly. I’m doing my part to keep knitting in the forefront.

  7. Welcome back to blogland Kay. I missed ya and I’ll really miss being able to be in NYC on Sunday. As Ann knows, I really did consider it but must recover both me and the shop from The Great Grand Opening. Have a great bee.

  8. Welcome back! You were missed.

  9. What a great poncho and what a great color too! Baked the Queen of Sheba cake on the Friday Julia passed away and I’ve been baking ever since! I bet I’ve gained 10lbs! I love that labyrinth border! Are you going to add it to something else? I’m thinking of doing a maze, but I want to do it without so much seaming.

  10. Hey welcome back Kay! Your psychosquare blanket is looking amazing. I agree about the key border though – it’s very cool and will look great on a different blanket.
    Your niece looks so happy in her poncho! Pass on that knitting lurve!

  11. VERY cool, Kay. You’re amazing. But you’re right, I think a basic border will look better. Still, what a great experiment. I’m very impressed.

  12. Kay, Kay, Kay, Kay, KAAAAAY. Welcome virtually home. We virtually missed you.
    Re: Way to proselytize! Maggie looks to be a natural.
    I’m loving the drop stitch poncho–so girly.
    And as for the labyrinth border, how cool is that? Sometimes knitting just is. Let it be its cool self; it doesn’t need to go anywhere.
    BTW–How do you seam it? Do you just do little cul de sac seams? Can you do it without creating a zillion ends?

  13. So impressed! Now, just curious. Do you think you would have been willing to conduct a 400 stitch experiment if you weren’t on vacation? Or is Debbie New’s pull that inexorable? My accomplishment for 2004 is finally losing my fear of yarnovers and entering the lace knitting world. Not quite up to par with mastering the labyrinth!
    The Coven. I SO love that. Four of the associates here at work have declared a passionate desire to learn to knit and we are having an inaugural session in one of the conference rooms next week. One of the recruits was chatting excitedly about our upcoming knitting session with me at a department meeting yesterday and I found myself nervously glancing around, worried someone would overhear us talking about (whisper now) knitting… Then I realized what was going on in my head and decided we have indeed come a long way (baby) if Gen X just doesn’t have the reticence about “girl” pastimes that we did when I was starting out. (Remember, I am of the dreaded floppy bow vintage. I still remember one of my law school roommates being absolutely shocked that I was wearing a paisley blouse — although it did have a bow tie — and wedgewood blue suit to interviews.)

  14. Woo, hoo ! Another recruit brought safely over to the dark side. Before you know it she’ll be using her pocket money to enhance her stash and making herself late for school ‘cos she just has to finish that row. Result ! – for both Maggie and you !
    Labyrinth – well, it’s labyrinthine innit ? It’s lovely and I think stripes will do it proud.

  15. Kay, I love love love your exploits. You the things that I dream of doing while droning away at my desk.

  16. Welcome back, Kay!

  17. Welcome back, Ms. Kay! Comme d’hab, this entry is filled with tons of photo goodness and wit, but I must say: Maggie is the shining star with her fabulous poncho. What a knitter!

  18. Wow! Fab poncho & fab psycho-blankie!
    A huge welcome to the coven to Maggie – that poncho is a stunning item.
    As for labyrinthine borders – that’s one amazing piece of knitting (at my current knitting rate, it’d take another 3 months for me to have finished casting on – things have s-l-o-w-e-d a little here) but I don’t envy you the sewing-in of ends. But, I do concur that it’s not psycho-blankie material – it doesn’t do itself or the psycho squares justice, on a plainer blankie it’d really zing out.
    P.S. expedition (with camera) to House of Hemp is planned for tuesday.
    P.P.S. Lots of love to all attending the afghan sewing get-togethers, wish I could be with you.

  19. Maggie ROCKS! She seems like a really cool kid, we need more like her. I love the way you photographed the blanket. It looks like it goes on forever. I imagine it carpeting an entire room.

  20. Yay! Another knitter into the fold! Way to go Maggie, that poncho looks great!
    Kay, your labyrinthe border is very cool. Too bad it won’t work out for this project.
    And I have to say a little woohoo! to an ex synchro swimmer! I am a synchro coach and (ex)swimmer myself. What a great sport! WTG to the US Olympic team who wiped the deck with our Canadians. Not that we didn’t deserve it though…
    Welcome home!

  21. Sarah (fish), You would not believe how much people make fun of me for having been a synchronette. But you know what? After a few drinks, if a pool is handy, everybody wants me to show them how to do a somer-sub and a ballet leg. I even had a bunch of well-served folks doing that ferris-wheel thingy where everybody has their feet around the neck of the next person, and you only get to breathe at the top of the circle? Nobody drowned, but everybody gained new respect for the sport. Just because it’s girly doesn’t mean it’s not difficult.
    Must admit I can no longer do a ballet leg that actually sticks up straight. It’s more of a ballet foot. LOL……xox Kay


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