If you’re Rhinebeck-bound, we would love to see youย at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night–details here.

Perfect Handknit: Onward!

Dear Kay, and the Style Council,
My apologies for the delay in corresponding, but between the submarine-style blog disaster and the shocking realization that they didn’t put glasses on those cowgirls on the book cover, well. I’ve been a little shaky. I mean, we are myopic, have been myopic, and shall forevermore be myopic. The lie! The utter deceit of it all. I can hardly look at the thing.
A Brief Knitting Moment
Before we return to the Future Search, I’ve got to report some serious Lost Weekend knitting. On Sunday, the fellas burned stuff in the fireplace for three hours while I occasionally offered Smokey the Bear advice along the lines of “No you can’t burn all the catalogs like you did last time.” As every twig and stick in the yard turned to ash, I knitted and knitted, around and around and around.
The way I see it, this sort of knitting became popular on the North Atlantic island of Fair Isle because it is so fiercely addictive that people don’t notice that the sun has not shone for 29 days, that there are no trees, that there are only 64 other people on the island. It just doesn’t matter.
For those just joining us, this is Keava, one of Alice Starmore’s least-popular patterns, from In the Hebrides, a book published in 1995. Keava has been scorned for its lack of technical complexity and for its insane colourway. Those are, of course, are the very reasons I chose to start it back in 2004 when I was trying to overcome an all-gray knitting habit. What better way to learn how to Fair Isle than by doing a measly 18-stitch repeat, and by doing it in the loudest colors possible?
This is a steek. It’s how those Fair Islanders figured out how to continue knitting their kooky patterns in the round while making a place for armholes. The checkerboard of 8 stitches will be cut right down the middle, four stitches on each side. The Velcro-like Shetland yarns really will cling together and it’ll be just a piece of cake to chop into the stitches. (She said in a high, nervous voice.) Once the shoulders are sewn together, the armhole stitches will be picked up, and off goes another tube of Fair Isle for the sleeves. You trim down and overstitch the steeks, and there you go: seam-free knitting.
This is the even weirder neckhole steek. It’s hard to see what the deal is, but basically the stitches off the needle are the front of the neckhole. By making this 8-stitch steek above those stitches, it’s possible to continue knitting in the round to make the left and right front shoulders. This will be a two-inch or so steek, with decreases on either side of the steek. Snip snip and the neckhole opens up, with shaping along the front of the neck. I find this very amazing. See what happens when you have 29 days of clouds, no trees, and only 64 people to talk to?
The insides are so cool, so woven looking, that I may just wear the thing inside out.
Future Search: Days of Awe
When last we polled, the question was how to proceed. Do we continue voting our way to a perfect pattern, with consensus all the way? Do we use an existing pattern and simply modify it on our own–keeping ourselves busy? Do we simply pick a rilly pretty sweater, the Serene Highness of handknits, and call it a day? Do we call it a day, period, and retire to the lounge? The results:

At this point, the option I like best is the
Consensus All the Way Option. 44% 188
Keep Ourselves Busy Option. 24.1% 103
Retire to the Lounge Option. 15.9% 68
Serene Highness Option. 14.3% 61
Other [leave a comment with your idea] 1.6% 7
total votes: 427

So, the consensus is . . . consensus. With a healthy dose of agreeing to disagree, live and let live, and Can We Just Call It a Day?
I think I see a via media, as our Episcopalian friends say, a middle road that may allow us to keep the Keep Ourselves Busy folks happy. (I’m not worried about the Retire to the Lounge folks; they’re already happy.) Ponder this: It may be that the Consensus sweater ends up being something that the Keep Ourselves Busyists will then be able to modify.
Whoa. It might just work out?
At this point we have a welter of small votes to make, having to do with the details of sweater construction. In order to keep this process efficient, and to have a conclusion before 2008, I’m going to provide a bunch of polls, based on this mind map:
[click for the big picture]
We may end up with some inconsistences, but we’ll worry about that later. I personally would like to make a cableknit Fair Isle short-sleeved coat and plan to vote that way.
Finally, Words to Ponder
Honest moment of the week comes from Mary Neal: “This is about stretching ourselves for collective joy instead of selfish pleasure. I’m not good at that, but I’ll try.” See, Mary Neal? Didn’t that feel good?
Mary B: “Maybe the title needs to be changed. Maybe instead of ‘The Perfect Handknit,’ we agree to agree on ‘One Perfect Sweater,’ given that in the universe there can be many perfect sweaters.”
Kymm has learned how to kvell, which is going to serve her well the rest of her life.
Laura: “I’m going to rebel and make a shawl.”
Come back tomorrow–there’s work to do.




  1. Am I really the first one?
    I just want to say that I am humbled by your st*rm*re. I think I may have to go home and send my entire stash to someone more deserving, as I don’t think, even in my brightest moments, I could even ATTEMPT something like that.
    I will go hide in the corner with my Pacific Northwest Shawl and my stalled out Rogue now…

  2. Gorgeous! I don’t care if it’s the least-popular – it’s the MOST gorgeous. I think I might make 2006 the Year of Fair Isle for me. No excuses.
    Bring on the polls! I’m in a voting mood. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Cable knit AND fair isle? In the same sweater? will I live long enough to finish it…..
    Love your AS – beautiful colourings….

  4. I, too, am working on an unpopular Starmore (Rheingold, by Jade S.) Mine is unpopular, I think, because it is mostly shades of yellow, which everyone is convinced is a bad color. But they are wrong! Just come back in five years when I finally finish the dang thing and you’ll see how great it is!

  5. Wow, how cool is the “other” side of your fair isle sweater! I love the colors in it….especially great when you live in perpetual darkness for 29 days, you NEED some colors! As for the perfect sweater, I’ve got my pencil ready to vote. I just hope it won’t be too hard to decide!

  6. No glasses, that’s a crime.
    That Fair Isle stuff is amazing, and I am in awe of your interior neatness. Why isn’t it a tangled mess of over and under stuff?? I’d for sure need bifocals for that kind of work!

  7. Ann, I could never knit something like that, and I certainly couldn’t ever bring myself to CUT INTO SOMETHING THAT GORGEOUS THAT I’D SLAVED OVER!!!! Stunning, just stunning. If I wore a hat I’d take it off.

  8. Mary de B–That’s the beauty part of two-handed Fair Isle. The yarns are held one color in each hand–there are never more than two colors in any row–and the two yarns naturally alternate without tangling. It is the darndest thing. I despise tangled yarns. These yarns never tangle. Purely miraculous. Really different from intarsia.

  9. Emily–LOL! We should start an Unpopular Starmore Knitalong. None of those mauvey, fussy Fair Isle for us. Bring on the YELLOW!

  10. Did I miss our Jam phase?
    So glad Keava is back. Cutting steeks is a thrill–better than skydiving (probably). I think this is where you need to figure out how to get a video feed to the blog. I, for one, want to be there.

  11. Just tell’em you wear contact lenses for state occasions, like sitting for a woodcut picture.

  12. Whoa! That’s some serious knittin’ you got goin’ on there. The thought of steeking causes me to hyperventilate.

  13. Whoa! That’s some serious knittin’ you got goin’ on there. The thought of steeking causes me to hyperventilate.

  14. Keava is getting so big! Remember a while ago you had an entry on switching yarns by plying them together so you don’t have to darn in the tails? I did a search on Keava, but can’t find the entry – can you give me a hint in my search? I’m going to keep trying. It was a thing of continuous beauty.

  15. spit splicing, annhb. Try Heather’s “Dolly Dimple Knits” blog. I think she was the one who turned us on to this technique
    If you do it in the checkerboard steek, no one is the wiser.

  16. *speech slightly slurred from a weekend in the lounge*
    Wooo-hooo, perfect sweater, woohoooo. K, I vote yes. Huh? Oh okay, D.
    What? not tme to vote yet…can I vote for more limes? We’ve been out since Saturday..
    Boo-teee-ful sweater BTW, just goegeous!

  17. My, what nice steeks you have! Lovely, lovely sweater.
    I am really happy that we are going with consensus. It will be great to stretch the brain for something other than eluding small hollering boys.

  18. I think fair isle is gorgeous, although technically, the closest I’ve come to making one is patterned Scandinavian sweaters–not actual Fair Isle, but really, they’ve got some definite similarities! And yes, the knitting of fair isle is addictive and mesmerizing (not to mention extra warm for the finished product from all those floaters). In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t done any color work in a while . . .

  19. I’m glad consensus won, because I cast accidently cast a ballot for Pat Buchanan disguised as I think “Serene Highness Option.”
    Love, Love, Love the book cover!

  20. the fair isle is B E A U T I F U L!!! Just attended a knitting retreat where we learned a bit about the original fair isle knitting. love it love it love it.

  21. ann…..i heart and soul your ambidextrous-ity!

  22. Here’s what *really* happens when there are only 64 other people on the island and there is no sun. Note the lack of Fair Isle knits.

  23. ooops. frames darnit.
    Go to “Past” (top left) and then “Religion and Culture.”

  24. i love the keava colors ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Collective schmollective, hon. I already live in a democratic system where the majority enjoys a tyranny over the rest, so call me a dissenter from here on out. Knitting is a personal pleasure for me after all, and I enjoy my little corner of selfishness in an otherwise selfless life. You’ll find me in the lounge. Smooches.

  26. oh yeah, I almost forgot; keava is looking great. You’ve been keeping secrets! Go Ann go!

  27. Funny that Keava is back, when Suzani suddenly started calling loudly from the big box in the bathtub where she has been sleeping for the past year. Suzi is even putting crazy thoughts in my head like “finish me this winter.” Insanity, I tell you, but at the rate you are going on Keava I will not be able to put her off.
    (P.S. — The steeking thing? It really does work. And is strangely liberating to your knitterly life. Right before you cut, just think of it as knitted fabric, not knitted stitches. What a concept!)

  28. Consensus is good. But…what happened to the frozen margaritas? With salt.
    That feels better.
    Now, about the book cover. I think they’re assuming that once y’all start making those big publishing bucks you will both immediately get lasik eye surgery.

  29. Love seeing other knitters doing Fair Isle and I wear my Tree of Life (stranded) pullover inside out as well!
    The WS of Fair Isle, or some stranded, knitting can look like overshot coverlets, because of the floats.
    And steeks? LOVE ‘EM – do them all the time, even on solid color in the round garments, like raglans.

  30. Not to fret Ann. We will each use our gold metallic paint markers and give you and Kay each a pair of stylish specs before we open the cover of the book. Scouts Honor! (And yes, I was a Scout and still am registered as a leader so I have to keep my vow or all my badges will sprout moth holes). Keava is gorgeous and if you think those colors are loud, you haven’t seen my youngest’s contribution to the cotton yarn stash. The yarn almost glows in its purple, pink, yellow and orange-ness. (Not all in the same ball- even I draw the line somewhere!)


A bit of news from us, every now and again.

(Your email is safe with us.)