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

The Finishing of Fern

Dear Kay,
In case you haven’t been keeping track (you always keep track, dontcha?), today is the first Official Turn-in Day at the Tennessee State Fair.
The good news is that
I have something to turn in.
Fern is finished. Done. Mercifully done. Utterly done. Beyond done. Super Done!
Let’s Go to the Videotape
When last we visited this subject, I was still shaking with fatigue after weaving in all the ends. Embroidering the fiddleheads loomed like a slug on the doorstep: not too appetizing, no getting around it. It’s not like I’ve embroidered anything since I was 10 years old. Whose idea was this, anyway?
On the flight home from LA, I settled into seat 10E, directly next to a woman and her five-month-old girl. I descended into a deep and profound fugue state and embroidered my way through Large Baby Girl’s four-hour trip over the Rockies. I’m not saying she was screeching like a rusty wheel and throwing her clammy Elmo at me every two minutes–OK I am.
Now, I know you’re thinking, Aw Ann, it’s a baybee. You just went cross country to see a baybee, remember? You love baybees, right?
Shyeah. Lemme tell you, I was a regular W.C. Fields by the end of this trip. Focus on the fiddleheads, I muttered to myself. Little ones and long ones and mostly, warbly ones. I chain stitched over the seams, over the front and the back and at one point on Large Baby Girl’s Pampers.
(By the way, I continue to be unable to get true colors here. The fiddleheads are actually a perky greeny yellow and yellowy green, as this shocking flash photo shows.)
The Devil Wears Buttonhole Bands
Next excruciating yet life-affirming step: the slightly stretched buttonhole bands up the front of Fern. What continues to puzzle me is why, when I was the one driving this bus, when I was the one making up this sweater, why did I include the slightly stretched buttonhole band? Maybe I thought it was just the perfect little detail? Maybe I’d forgotten the last time I made one? Maybe I’m a total doofus?
As I futzed and sewed and re-sewed the six-stitch strips of woe, I listened to The Devil Wore Prada, the roman a clef by Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s former/disgruntled/not-a-novelist assistant. Night fell, and I kept at it, wallowing in the delicious awfulness of poor Andrea’s boss from hell.
A Collar
When I was in LA, I sought collar advice from Julia. She studied Fern and suggested a wide Peter Pan collar to balance the volume of the bottom of the sweater. Excellent advice and clearly the thing to do. Next time, I will do this. But, feeling the pinch of time, I figured I’d just pick up a bunch of stitches and end up with a big collar. Well . . . a wide Peter Pan collar takes more engineering than I could manage on the fly, so I just did a spread collar that I made up as I went along.
Button Time!
One of my few superstitions is never to buy buttons until a project is finished. Bad mojo to have buttons on hand. Besides, there is nothing more tasty than going to the fabric store, laying your precious handknit out on the table, and holding up button after button.
These buttons violate a sacred rule: buttons must be made of shell. I always use shell buttons (it’s Mother Rowan nagging me). But these buttons looked to me kind of like frog eyes, and frog eye buttons seemed appropriate for a sweater of the woods. Besides, they didn’t have any darkish shell buttons so what was I going to do?
So that’s my tale. Despite the bellyaching, I have loved making this sweater, and I’m sad that it’s done. A real end-of-camp feeling. I’m off to take Fern to the Fairgrounds. A thousand thanks to everyone for their advice and counsel. It’s a much better sweater because of all the brilliant/clever/subtle suggestions.
Which gives me an idea. Stay tuned, y’all!
Lots of love,




  1. Fern is absolutely stunning! Once again, Ann, you are an inspiration. And dispite their un-shellness, those buttons are gorgeous and perfectly compliment your fabulous sweater. Can’t wait to see how she stands up to the competition at the big show.

  2. Ann, what a sweater of utter wonderfulness.

  3. It looks great! A sure Red Ribbon.

  4. Fern is stunning! Love those fiddleheads. Can’t wait to see what ribbon it will earn.

  5. It’s gorgeous! Good luck!
    And, you inspired me with all this state fair talk. I went to my local fair last week and got the information on how to enter next year. The knitting stuff (this year at least) wasn’t too over-the-top so I think I can enter something without embarassing myself.

  6. Fern is gorgeous. You’ll win best in something for sure. πŸ˜‰

  7. I am experiencing a sharp intake of the breath. It’s fabulous. Congratulations and best of luck! I’m crossing my fingers and holding my breath…good news is sure to follow!

  8. BEE-YU-TI-FUL!! And inspiring. Truly, very lovely.
    So nice to see an original!!

  9. Wow! That’s amazing!

  10. Your Fern is an absolute stunner, beautiful and inspiring. I hope you kick ass at the fair. πŸ™‚

  11. Beautiful, beautiful! I just love it. Blue Ribbon worthy, for sure!

  12. Wow! Fern is so beautiful! What a wonderful service you are doing the craft of knitting by including such a marvelous sample in a state fair. Pieces like this invigorate interest and awe from knitters and non knitters alike. I look forward to hearing more.

  13. Fern looks wonderful. Thanks for the inspiration to get back to colour, colour and more colour.

  14. ….”pheasants under glass?”….how ’bout “fiddleheads under glass?”….heirloom quality!

  15. Gorgeous sweater!

  16. Good luck, Ann!
    Fern is so beautiful; I’ve loved seeing the progress!

  17. This is the most beautiful sweater I have ever seen! Bravo!

  18. Beautiful!

  19. Wow.
    I am just starting to think about embroidering my knitting, and this is pure motivation/inspiration!

  20. Beautiful… just beautiful.

  21. Beautiful – worth all that work!
    And just so ya know – we can, and will beat senseless any judge who deems Fern less than a first place/best in show/whatever.

  22. Beautifully done!

  23. Fern is lovely. Can’t wait to hear how the Fair goes ….

  24. Blue Ribbon Babee! All the way! Really, Ann, just a wonderful piece of work. Kudos to you!

  25. truly a thing of beauty!

  26. I absolutely adore it. Just beautiful!

  27. Everything about Fern is perfection Ann! I hope you’ve picked out the perfect spot to display all the ribbons she garners!

  28. Wow. How wonderful. If you don’t win the highest honor, I will personally come to Tennessee and threaten them with pointy sticks. I saw some photos of some state fair entries on another blog and it included foam-soled flip-flops with fuzzy yarn “embellishment”. If that’s the kind of thing that gets entered in Tennessee, then Fern might just knock the judges over dead. Or at least a bit stunned. Be sure they know you designed it from scratch.

  29. It’s already a winner! Best of luck, Ann!

  30. A beautiful sweater. But I have to admit that I like the colors even more than the knitting. It really does look like the mountains of east Tennessee where I grew up!
    Since leaving Tennessee I have moved to Minnesota where thanks to your encouragement I entered The Fair. I got a Third Place ribbon. My family is so proud of me in a very sweet Meet the Fockers kind of way that it is touching.
    Thanks for doing such inspiring work and encouraging all of us to also.

  31. Glorious Fern! She’s sure to win first prize. Keep us posted! And hey, you can always add that Peter Pan collar on later, right?

  32. Fern looks absoluuttttearley amazing! Well done!

  33. Your Fern is so pretty~

  34. Wow, a lucky person will wear that delightful item!

  35. lovely wonderfulness, a true treasure!

  36. Wow, Ann! Great Fern. When do we hear about your blue ribbon?? And what’s next on your plate?
    Mary de B

  37. A beautiful piece of work – should be treated as a family heirloom.

  38. Wow, Fern is lovely! You should be really proud of it. Good luck at the fair!

  39. Wow. Wowie, wow, wow!

  40. Wow Ann,
    This is one super impressive and beautiful sweater. You really brought your vision to life! What an inspiration.
    The blue ribbon is so yours – but that’s not what it’s about, right?

  41. It’s gorgeous. You should be very proud. If they don’t give you a blue ribbon, I’ll lend you my pointy-toed cowboy boots with the steel tips to kick them with.

  42. If that doesn’t win a blue ribbon at the fair, there’s something very wrong with the judges. The sweater is so beautiful!

  43. Fern… she be so utterly gorgeous that if you dont win… well I will be with out words!

  44. Woa, I am amazed at your creativity and perseverance. A beautiful sweater that does an amazing job of capturing a bit of nature. Good luck at the fair!

  45. Wow oh wow. That is one gorgeous fiddlehead fern sweater — a blue-ribbon knit if ever I saw one.

  46. Stunningly beautiful !
    A superb piece of knitting and design.
    Fab !

  47. GORGEOUS!!

  48. I’m leery of the jinxing, so I’ll have to be careful here. Basically, I’d sure like to see what would beat that sweater becuase it’s impossible to imagine. So purty!!!

  49. Truly amazing! You did a great job all around, the design, the knitting, the finishing. If you don’t win there is no justice in the Fair World.

  50. Never mind about the silly old fair; you’ve gone WAY past any category of prize. That is a treasure of a sweater.

  51. Those are the most beautiful fiddleheads I’ve ever seen. What a gorgeous sweater!

  52. oh, ann – no only does little fern ROCK – you ROCK – now, show that state fair just where it’s at. you go, girl!

  53. Ann, this is definately a ribbon winner. I can’t imagine any other entries that can come close to this beautiful sweater.

  54. Ann, this is definately a ribbon winner. I can’t imagine any other entries that can come close to this beautiful sweater.

  55. That’s gorgeous! When are you making an adult sized sweater? *ducks*

  56. Fern makes me want to swoon, weep and have a little lie down all at once. She really is perfect. Congratulations on a beautiful piece of work.

  57. Great job, Ann! Good luck at the fair.

  58. That sweater is so gorgeous, I can’t even express myself adequately. Just gorgeous! And those buttons are perfect.

  59. Oh my gawd!
    Fern is so loverly – great work. Best wishes at the fair.

  60. Fern is absolutely gee-orgeous! It definitely is way up there with the other “blog-land county fair” grand prize winners. Hopefully the judges in your neck of the woods agree.

  61. OHMYGODANNITSBEYUUUTEEEFULLLL! I hope that conveys the vigour with which I am attempting to express my total state of rapture over Fern. I cannot even imagine how cute fern is in person. The fiddleheads are simply amazing and the fact that you could pull them off while sitting next to a rather large and screeching five month old is really impressive. You are truly worthy of sitting in the chair of ————-. May you go forth and win the blue ribbon.
    I also want you to know that we saw the preview of your bookbookbook at the store last night. It looks heavenly! Can’t wait to see it in person as well.

  62. Wow, Ann. It’s Fern! It’s very cool how clearly the inspiration from the spring walk in the forest you described is manifest in this lovely and perfect piece of knitted art. Excellent!

  63. If you don’t win first prize for that, it’s a DAMNED SHAME!!

  64. You definitely stuck the landing, Ann. You will ribbon in the final round.

  65. Wow! Just… wow!!! I have to say, I was having a hard time visualizing the finished product along the way, but it was well worth all the effort you put into it. Congratulations on finishing a must stunning project – blue ribbon or no, you’ve earned accolades from all your devoted readers. πŸ˜€

  66. Can I be the 65th person to say how wonderful this sweater is, from all views? Congratulations. If they don’t give you a blue ribbon I’m gonna lead a write-in campaign for impeaching the judges.

  67. Gorgeous! Not only is Fern a splendid design, beautiful done, but you have also set new, impossible standards for in-flight needlework…Remember to show us Fern modeled by your baby niece in a couple of years.

  68. Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous!

  69. Ann, that is just too cute! Looks like a blue-ribbon winner to me. The lucky recipient is going to have a beautiful heirloom to wear. what an inspiration!

  70. I’m not going to waste my time reading everyone else’s comments,because I know they all say what I said. OOOOH! Glorious.

  71. Good luck at the fair with your ultra-fab creation!

  72. Wow! Incredible!

  73. Hard to imagine wool sweaters from my current vacation post in Hawaii (mustering up the desire to knit anything, even silk, is somehow a challenge here), but even in this setting I can appreciate the Finished Fern!
    So…are you and Kay going to create a Virtual Mason-Dixon State Fair so that we can all motivate ourselves to actually finish a project of such magnitude? Just wondering, because this whole external deadline thing seems pretty powerful.

  74. Yeah, a deadline would probably help push me over the edge to complete some of those projects!

  75. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t wait to see the photos from the fair.

  76. love, love, love Fern. bravo ann!

  77. Whta a beautiful sweater!
    It is a masterpiece :o)

  78. It looks so great! You did an amazing job of taking it from idea to finished, and in such a short amount of time too. Can’t wait to see how you do πŸ™‚

  79. Ann, Fern is waaaay more classy, beautiful, adorable etc. than anything published by Rowan in the laST mag (and a few others)!
    i am impressed beyond words. i just came up for air from my books, and now i am just speechless.
    and i totally love the collar. totally.

  80. Practically Perfect In Every Way.
    That is Art, is what that is.

  81. Wow, absolutely beautiful! I hope you win! You deserve best of show!

  82. Good god, that’s wonderful.


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