Is Starshower the new Honey Cowl? Only time will tell (but it looks good).

Bulletin: A Fair, a Fern, An Infernal Affair

Dear Kay, and the Unruly Mob Currently Voting on Yarn,
If you have not already exercised your rights as a voter for the Perfect Yarn, please scroll down to the previous entry and do so immediately. The polls are open until Thursday night, 9:41 pm CDT. Please ignore the two people who are trying influence your vote by whispering the word merino in your ear.
If you have already cast your vote, well by cracky, pour yerself a margarita/red wine/Long Island ice tea/martini/gin & tonic/NOT a sloe gin fizz and pull up a chair.
Whither Fern?
Hallelujah, the Tennessee State Fair has arrived and not a moment too soon. The fate of my poor Fern sweater has been haunting me like a lost pet. What happened to you, Fern? Did they put you next to some creepy handknit?
In a rare bi-blogging event, Angela and I took a day trip out to the fair. I knew I couldn’t face the event without serious support, and it was Angela who seemed best equipped to provide the proper backup should “things” not go “well” regarding Fern, my entry in the fair. Angela is steady. Angela has small children. Angela lets it all wash over her.
Imagine my relief when Angela arrived with not only her two adorables but also her mate, The Husband, who is the nicest guy in the world but also may be fully capable of opening up a can of whupass at the right moment. Was whupass required? Read on.
Highlights
Angela ought to be working at the the Metropolitan Museum. Her curatorial sense is uncanny, and her laserlike eye misses nothing. It was an education to stroll with her through the Creative Arts Building. (It’ll always be the Women’s Building to me.) Do not fail to see her reportage of our day. Gems, I tell you. She unearthed pure, solid gold.
At least she had batteries in the AngelaCam. The AnnCam took one crummy photo, then blinked out. With the Blogphone I was able to capture a couple of crucial items.
I know what you guys want to see, so here you go:
statefair3.jpg
Wilburs. Small, potbellied Wilburs. The big Wilburs aren’t due at the fair until the weekend.
statefair2.jpg
A log cabin quilt. With the red patch in the middle and everything.
statefair5.jpg
A denim quilt! Why, it’s just like what Loretta Pettway would make down there in Gee’s Bend, if she had access to a 60-color computer embroidery machine.
statefair4.jpg
The blue ribbon winner in the category of “Croquet Set, Miniature Old.”
statefair1.jpg
A simple, unrewarded stockinette scarf done in Kidsilk Haze on size 2s. Almost transparent. Gorgeous. I give it the Blue Ribbon of Quiet Perfection.
And yes, we found Fern, sitting in a chair not too far from the blue ribbon winner for the category “Afghan, Acrylic/Reminiscent of the American Flag.”
fernsecondplace.jpg
Second Place, Sweater, Children’s Knitted
What, you ask, was the winner of the blue ribbon in the category of “Sweater, Children’s Knitted”? Aw, I couldn’t even bear to take a picture of it: a Dale of Norway children’s Fair Isle sweater that looked like it had been made by a machine.
As it turns out, The Machine won a blue ribbon in this category and at least four others that I saw. She is said to be such an unwavering generator of fabriclike Fair Isle that they changed the rules so that a blue ribbon winner is ineligible to enter in the same category the following year.
Who is The Machine? Why doth she knit so maniacally? Should not a can of whupass be opened upon her?
Nay, methinks not. The Machine has the sort of knitterly ambition that no one can match. She is Tiger Woods; we are Any Other Knitter. She is Lance Armstrong; we are the guys who look at Lance Armstrong’s backside. We take our red ribbon with as much goodwill as we can muster, and we sharpen our needles for the next time. One thing I know: she can’t enter the “Sweater, Children’s Knitted” category next year. So maybe I will.
Epilogue
Angela’s two darlings continue to feed carrots to goats whenever they have the chance.
Angela now works as a curator for The American Museum of Truly Useless Stuff.
The Husband has perfected the remote control model airplane so that it can simultaneously fly in the air and launch fireworks.
The Machine has made Dale of Norway Fair Isle sweaters for each survivor of Hurricane Katrina. She is currently at work on her entries for the 2014 Tennessee State Fair.
Fern entered the Witness Protection Program and is living quietly in an undisclosed location.
As for me, well. I’m turning Fern into a pattern that isn’t written on six scraps of paper, a ballband, and the back of an envelope. And I have a batch of the yarns I used which, I think, would be enough for another Fern. If anybody wants to give Fern a try, it would be great to have a test knitter. This has been my favorite project, ever.
Love,
Ann

Tags: ,

76 Comments

76 Comments

  1. I would love to test knit that sweater. What’s more, I have a little girl that would be adorable in that sweater! I’m sorry you didn’t win first place!

  2. Blue ribbon, schmoo ribbon. Red’s a better color anyway.
    Congratulations!

  3. Second???!! You was robbed.
    If it wasn’t illegal for a Yankee to administer whupass south of NY, I’d come down there to deal with Missy Fair Isle myself. Hmph.

  4. The machine also probably knit a sweater with Uncle Sams holding 3-D American flags, right? Well, when competition like that comes along I choose to ignore it ;) Congratulations on your beautiful red ribbon!

  5. Congrats! Looking forward to seeing the pattern, as it’ll go on my list to knit for my little girl too!

  6. They put a sweater based on a commercial pattern in the same category as a self-designed sweater? That is SO not cool.
    Fern is absolutely lovely.

  7. Whupass? Whupass is too good for her!
    Not that we have anything against Dale of Norway! Or machine-perfect knitting! It’s the WAY she did it.
    Fern looked like she could positively speak, sitting on that chair. And what she was saying was, ‘We were screwed, Ann!’ Time wounds all heels. xoxo Kay

  8. I’ve always loved that hearth-is-the-heart-of-the-home center in a Log Cabin square . . . because, see? Red IS the better color. Who’d want blue??

  9. Youse was robbed! Once the Perfect Handknit is complete, we should embark on the perfect Tennessee Fair project. Based on the bi-blogging fair commentary, in addition to 9/11, the American Flag, and Baby Jesus (photo?) it should also involve creepy dolls and food. How about a “Fry Up” tam for a creepy doll? Or maybe a crocheted Deep Fried Twinkie?

  10. I think 60 Minutes would be VERY INTERESTED in this, by the way.

  11. Heyyy, second place! Well, before you experience too much rage against The Machine, just be glad that you didn’t get second to some of the… um… masterpieces? displayed on Angela’s blog. Eep.
    (With apologies and full respect for the effort put into all these incredible objects…)
    Fern really is a beautiful creation, one of which you should be very proud. The idea of test knitting Fern sounds good, except for the weaving in all the ends. I’ll leave that to someone with greater fortitude than I have. :)

  12. I’ll double up with Gale and come down and administer some Yankee whupass!
    We love you, Fern!

  13. Oh I so want to make a Fern!
    P.S. Museum of Truly Useless Stuff open M-F 8am-4pm. Closed Christmas and P.T. Barnum’s birthday.

  14. congrats on the red ribbon!

  15. Congratulations on the ribbon! I, too, was awarded several red ribbons at our county fair this year. I competed against myself in one category, so that one was easy to accept. I had no quibble with the judges decision in another category in which I was given the red ribbon, but the third red ribbon was given to my vine leaf lace socks (from Socks x3). The blue ribbon in that category went to a pair of socks knit in self-striping yarn using a generic standard beginner sock pattern (boring stockinette stitch leg). Apparently the self-striping yarn jazzed the judges more than did my solid color lacy socks. Ah well, I feel good about the quality of work that went into those lace socks. And I get to wear the ones I like better!

  16. Congratulations on doing so well at the Fair!
    I suspect that every Fair has its Knitting Machine (I there is one in Iowa — she won a whole bunch of ribbons, and the woman looking at the display with me said it was like that every year). Sometimes you’re not competing against their knitting as much as their reputation.
    Fern looks so demure and ladylike, perched in that chair — you did real good there.

  17. !!! the EPILOGUE!!! so wonderful. your storytelling blows me away. no wonder we all come back day after day.
    (and the fact that neither you nor Angela actually photographed the flag afghan tells me you are both smart enough to know that our knitterly imaginations have made it much more acrylic and much more flaggy and MUCH more “creatively” stitched than any real afghan could ever stand to be.)

  18. The Machine seems fairly unsophisticated, not having been programmed to create an original pattern, or at least to add a little flair. Fern was robbed.

  19. oh my dear god. i was wrong about the acrylics. and it’s not the flagish afghan, it’s what comes after. okay, just had to correct my error, now much go look at it more.

  20. Congrats on your ribbon. Fern is gorgeous.

  21. fern is gorgeous and any kid would be glad to have it. congrats on getting something even entered much less placing! yay for you!

  22. If there was a Jacinta State Fair Fern would’ve been a blue ribbon!!

  23. I’m floored! Look at that lovely Fern and her great fiddleheads! Her matching sleeves!! We all know it’s a first place, blue ribbon knit job, and darn that Machine anyways…. Great work, Ann!

  24. Wow- I KNEW it would get a ribbon! I just knew it- for Fern is the loveliest little sweater I ever saw. Congratulations!

  25. Ann,
    Congratulations on the Fair Ribbon! While I’m a nonentity in the world of online knit blogging, I’d love to be your pattern tester for Fern. I’m not a complete newbie to knitting – I have denim yarn in my stash, I’ve done lace shawls, and I’m addicted to socks, and I even have a sweater that I knit in my regular wardrobe rotation (ok, so the neckline looked MUCH better after blocking – it was my first sweater, and I’m proud of that neck!)
    Points in my behalf: I have a good deal of Evening Knitting Time, I’m Project-Free at the moment, and (best of all), I have a kickass digital camera, and I’m not afraid to blog the process to send to you for review by bloggers everywhere! I also have a good deal of experience in hand embroidery work, so the fern fiddles shouldn’t be a problem. My mother also taught me how to sew at a tender age, including the tedious ‘press seams as you go’, and ‘attention to detail is what separates professional sewing from merely good sewing’, which in knit-speak translates to ‘Yes, I know weaving in ends is a big pain in the rear, and yes, I know you’d love to either pretend they don’t exist, or cut them off short and hope they don’t unravel, but I’m sorry, doing it the RIGHT way means weaving them all in, and who told you life was going to be fair?’
    References are available on request! :> (kalista@gmail.com or serendipiday@yahoo.com)

  26. You’re first place to us.

  27. Scandalous. It does point out that the state fair needs proper judging and they didn’t think to appoint an expert. You have a year for your next campaign, unless they see the light and appoint you. Please don’t give the pattern away, there is a great cause we should contribute to.

  28. I don’t understand! Fern is so unique and wonderful! Fern would have been my top pick, for what it’s worth….

  29. Congratulations on the ribbon! I would have given you first place, myself. But at least you have respect for the first place winner – and something to beat for next year. Well done.

  30. Congratulations – on creating, finishing & submitting Fern – those seem to be far greater accomplishments than winning a ribbon. Fern is beautiful!

  31. Fern is truly lovely, and not just because in my universe, green is the perfect color. It’s just one of those knits that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when I gaze upon its beauty.

  32. I’m primarily a quilter and have seen this sort of thing so many times in judged quilt shows. Judges with severe tunnel vision (and sometimes I think tunnel vision is in the job description) don’t attempt to understand innovative design. And items made from patterns being evaluated in the same category with original design–a huge pet peeve of mine.
    Bottom line–you WUZ robbed.

  33. Fern is a work of art. Truly beautiful.
    I demand a recount !

  34. Ann,
    Congrats on your ribbon. I have loved seeing the whole process. I would love to get the patten but I would love to see it big enough for me :) I love the colors and the fiddleheads. It is quite lovely and it should have won! Sending (((hugs))) from GA
    Amanda

  35. Way to go, Ann! Your Fern is a most fantabulous creation, as I’m sure every fairgoer will recognize. If they had a people’s choice vote I know you’d have another ribbon, but that red one looks darn swell to me (your college color, too, right?) ~ XXO

  36. This is the speech I give my kids:
    “Did you know that Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team? The Wizard of OZ by Frank l. Baum was rejected hundreds of times. ..”
    I could go on but the kids usually roll their eyes and would rather wallow awhile….
    I love Fern. Does that count? I have so enjoyed the summer of watching you create her. I almost thought of knitting for the State Fair because of you.
    Lets go out for a little ice cream okay? my treat.

  37. Dale of norway..phooey.
    Fern is original and beautiful. When may we purchase the pattern?

  38. Ann,
    1. Fern is the best thing.
    2. We want the pattern, not just for little girls we know, but for ourselves too.
    3. I, for one, am willing to pay handsomely for such a multi-sized pattern. You could raise a bunch of money for your favourite charity this way. It could even be a charity such as APYSE (Aid to Personal Yarn Stash Enhancement).
    Aara

  39. I’d pay for the Fern pattern, too – you should certainly publish it! It may not have won the blue ribbon, but it definitely gets a nation-wide People’s Choice award (does your fair have this? My county fair does, and it’s great). Take that, Machine!

  40. Aara–And we pronounce that ‘appease’, right?
    I don’t think Ann feels as sorry for herself as she’s letting on. She’s a strong woman and a wise (albeit, um, ‘eccentric’?) one. She knows that even if a Machine takes the blue, it is infinitely more fun to make up knitted salutes (was it on Hee-Haw that they said, ‘sa-LOOT!’?) to the Cumberland Plateau, its native vegetation, and EB White–all in the same garment.
    xox Kay

  41. Nothing wrong with second! And you have plenty of time to plan the perfect sweater for next year :)

  42. Well I can’t begin to imagine how you could leave the fair without a blue ribbon. Fern may well be the most lovely children’s sweater I have ever seen. I do not know that I would be up to the challange of knitting her, but I have two daughters who wish I was up to that challange.

  43. Of course Fern is the superior sweater on many levels, but I do feel compelled to point out that second place at the almighty State Fair is pretty darn respectable for a project that started on a wave of nostalgia and an inspired whim! I think Fern is quite proud of herself and she definitely seems to be preening with her red ribbon.

  44. Robbed, I say! It’s a Blue Ribbon in my book. Of course, I live in the blue heart of a very red state. Do you really need the blue to tell you what an incredible sweater that is? I don’t. But you HAVE to enter again next year for sure.

  45. I suspect the Machine is more like Mariah Carey–building a reputation on specific virtuosic flourishes that belie true artistry. Let her revel in the accolades of the Tennessee State Fair, Fern’s doubleplus grooviness is blatantly obvious to MDK’s enlightened readership. Well done!

  46. I thought bi-blogging was still illegal in Tennessee…or at least heavily frowned upon?
    Congrats on Fern, she did well. I love the sweater, I’d test knit for you.

  47. The Machine, the judges, a few rolls of duct tape and a car trunk.
    Fern is beautiful and I would knit her for a child or for myself, no question!

  48. I’m thinking of all those knitters who visited the Women’s Building and saw Fern and ran home and pulled out all their thin scratchy tweedy yarns and began celebrating! I’m starting a N. California version from the top down with maybe wild grape vine embroidery? Congratulations! Thank you for such a beautiful idea! Annhb

  49. Dear Ann: I, who pride myself on making blue ribbon decisions, actually dropped my jaw when I saw the red ribbon. Are you sure there were no hanging chads involved? Oh yeah, you’re not in Florida, but maybe Bush family members are secretly living in Tennessee.

  50. I’d knit Fern, and I even have the six year old for it. She loves this sweater (she’s seen it on your blog before, and squealed when she saw it, “Wow! Maman, looooook! Swirly curlies! Can you make me that, pleeeeeeeeeease…”)
    I didn’t understand the redness of the ribbon until I went to Angela’s description of the event. Holy crap. Literally, a LOT of holy crap. And even something to take your holy crap in on that blessed day of matrimony…jaysus you know who.
    You’re a brave woman, Ann. I would have needed way more than one stiff drink to get through that one…

  51. Purls before swine, I say. (Metaphorically speaking–I mean no disrespect to Wilbur & Co.)
    Fern is an inspired design and those judges have no poetry in their souls.
    Where do I sign up for APYSE? I hope there’ll be a secret handshake.
    xo, c.

  52. Congratulations Ann!
    Fern is much loved by your loyal blog friends, and really, we’re the ones who *know*. Those Fair judges… what do they know? Nuthin. Revel in the red ribbon and know that next year you’ll be the one who can’t be beat!

  53. Has Fern become the Perfect Handknit? She is beautiful, and she seeks revenge on The Machine (and all like her) which we, the Unruly Mob, could help her attain. She could be entered in State and County Fairs across the nation to see how she does. And the opportunity for APYSE is a bonus for all. I’m giddy with the thought!

  54. Ok, Ann, we’ve always said that if Mariah Carey ever came up on our blog, we’d quit and die happy.
    It has happened. Thanks to Stephy, we got both Maria Carey and virtuosic flourishes in the same sentence!
    Obviously it’s the eggZACK metaphor we were looking for. Fern is Maria Callas; the Machine is Mariah Carey.
    xoxo Kay

  55. Fern will always be first to me.
    As for whispering merino, yes I will always whisper merino, but not fine-gauged variegated merino of the sort unsuitable for tasteful sweaters. There is a BIG difference! I hope Jon will back me up on this one, otherwise there is likely to be a schism in our faction of two.
    Wishing you a DK-weight solid merino of the loveliest color,

  56. What they said. Fern is beautiful. Anyway, I’ll bet The Machine doesn’t have a loyal posse like you have.

  57. Is it wrong that I would totally knit and wear the *adult* version of Fern? I would…

  58. …..crocodile tears by the bucketful….but fern’s a winner in our hearts, and that’s all that counts…..

  59. Congratulations on the Red Ribbon! You won!! That’s all that counts. See it as a build-up for next year, then ‘The Machine’ is out!

  60. congrats on a ribbon! I agree that it should have been placed “above” the machine-knitter but there’s probably some secret “fair judging” protocol I don’t know about. (it must be similar to the rules that umpires follow in baseball…)
    As for voting for a favorite yarn (the “island” yarn) – I’ll admit that it caused me a bit of distress this afternoon. How was I going to pick just one? how was I supposed to feel confident that my choice really was what I’d want to spend a loong, loong time knitting with (theoretically of course)?
    I finally settled on one, knowing that it’s a good multi-purpose yarn that can be knit up on a wide variety of needle types and sizes and will create several garments if needed, and I’d enjoy working with it. Now that I’ve picked it I am convinced that it is the only yarn that I’ll ever buy again, and must try all of the yarns I have yet to experience.
    this was an expensive blog post to read.

  61. I’m sorry you were up against the machine.
    We rage against The Machine!
    Your sweater is so lovely and unique!
    Donna in Wisconsin…where there is no doubt you would have won a blue ribbon….cause they give out more than one :o)

  62. Ann,
    To quote my kids and their friends (and this has to be done in a high-pitched sing-songy voice to be truly effective) “first is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the hairy chest” (with apologies to whoever came in 3rd)(unless it was one of those scary dolls *shudder*). So obviously, the kids know what’s what. BTW, what’s the scoop on the (denim? denim-colored merino?) gorgeous cabeled bag in the sidebar, and where can I get the pattern?
    And Kay,
    Speaking of pattern, my first OSW (in size HS freshman) went on the needles this evening while I was sitting outside a hockey rink soaking up the last of the sun and waiting for my son to finish practice. It’ll be black Brown Sheep worsted with a hot pink BSW trim to match the dress she is wearing to the homecoming dance next Friday. The almost 5yo is pawing thru the stash to find her “one skein”.

  63. Over here in the good old U of K red is first place anyway. I could mutter about it being the taking part that counts etc. etc, but what the hell, ‘best’ doesn’t always win…. and at least Fern is Original. In some of the village fetes here (nearest things to your County / State Fairs, I think, but smaller) there are classes for, say, specific recipes by Delia (as in ‘The Delia’s chocolate cake’ class). This, I think, is a good thing – there should be ‘knitted from a published pattern’ classes and ‘Very Own design, submitted with Workings Out’ classes. So there.

  64. Congrats!
    Now, if you care to send the Fern #2 to me out here in Singapore, I am game for it…after all, stripes do not scare me now :)

  65. Dear Ladies: You have neglected to mention one of my favorite yarns–FREE YARN of unknown fiber content and unknown age, that’s what I vote for–FREE YARN.

  66. CONGRATULATIONS! I think your Fern Sweater is fantastic.

  67. Fern is lovely. I’d be thrilled to be a test knitter. I love stripes and weaving in ends and all that hard stuff I keep putting off forgetting how much I enjoy it once I start.
    Write up that pattern!

  68. Holy crap, that sweater is gorgeous. Don’t give up! You are obviously very talented!

  69. Yay Ann! Yay Fern! You’re both delightful. Be of good cheer. You have given much happiness to all of us crazy knitters. (I save Mason-Dixon for last when I surf, like the finest dessert…) Keep on keepin’ on and make sure we get to know all about it!

  70. What!!?? Recount! Recount! Don’t those judges read your blog!!?? Where’s the “Original Design” and the “knitting you fingers to the bone” and the ” most hours spend embroidering an originally designed and knitted piece” Catergory? Those jerks……

  71. Ann – Congratulations on the state fair ribbon! It looks great!
    Kay – I have also knit a Brooklyn bag (I’m actually a little bit of a bag-addict, so I have made several bags from that particular Rowan issue). I do, however, wish I’d made the strap a little shorter (even with the petersham ribbon imbedded in it, it has stretched. and I am short, so it was always on the long side) and that I had ironed some “stiff stuff” into the lining. I suppose I could go back and fix it. It’s a great bag.

  72. i volunteer to test knit too ;-)
    Sorry that fern didn’t take a first. It should had… anyone can knit something from a book, it takes true talent to take an idea and bring it to fruition as you’ve done woth fern.

  73. Ann,
    Congratulations on the ribbon, red as it may be. Fern is a beauty and an inspiration. Thanks for letting your readers and admirers share the Fern experience with you.
    Now, about the world’s most perfect yarn…I voted, fer sure, but really, really wanted to vote early and often. What do you mean, only choose one yarn? Lots and lots of great choices there. What’s next?
    Kathy in Oakland

  74. Awwww….can you say “unfair judge bias”?
    Fern is lovely, and original, and handknit. You was robbed.

  75. The Machine knows all of the judges and one is in fact her future daughter in law and is terrified she will disrupt the wedding so she blackmailed the other judges with information gleaned from her years as a postal carrier… they know everything after all. That is obviously the only explanation.

  76. I was dying to hear the result! No accounting for taste – Fern is *beautiful* let me know if you need a pattern checker.