"The Nation's Leading Bi-Regional Knitting Blog" --Ann's husband • "Kay sure is wasting a lot of time on this" --Kay's husband

December 29, 2004

Ho Ho......oh

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Dear Ann,

This year's trek to the frozen tundra and back was blurry at best. Half the family got sick at one point or another, which really got in the way of the celebrating. Please, people! Enough with the hacking cough! I'm trying to watch It's a Wonderful Freakin' Life over here!

It did not begin well. Wednesday the 22nd was the Annual Day of Departure at an Ungodly Hour. The night before, as if on cue, Joseph was feverish, causing visions of ear infections to dance in our heads. It was only a slight fever, and I was willing to Motrin him up, put him on the plane and deal with him in Omaha (which has a first-rate pediatric emergency room at its Childrens Hospital--oh so clean and pleasant compared to any medical facility in New York). But Hubby insisted that Joseph's ears be officially cleared for take off. He nobly volunteered to stay behind, and travel with him to Omaha, if permitted, on a later flight. If necessary, he would even sacrifice his cherished Christmas In the Boonies With the In-Laws.

Does it make me a Bad Wife, an Untrusting Wife, to admit that the thought crossed my mind that Hubby would be only too happy to spend his Christmas with a mildly ill child in New York, instead of with the rustic folk of the Plains, who happen to be related to me? I think it just makes me an Astute Judge of Character. Anyhoo, once Hubby had played the Possible Ear Drum Bursting Card, I realized I had been outfoxed, for the moment at least, in our neverending Championship Marital Poker Tournament. So it was just Carrie and I who raced for the plane in Newark at 8 a.m. I had a lovely knit, I mean flight. Given a pack of Dubble Bubble and a notepad, an almost-8-year-old who loves to draw is a most pleasant travelling companion. At this age, they order their own Sprites and everything. (Kay's Dubious Parenting Tip #316: If denied in the Ordinary Course of Business, Sprite is the Nectar of the Gods. Sprite is Your Friend.)

Joseph went to the pediatrician and was pronounced free of ear crud. (Occasionally I do win a hand at Championship Marital Poker.) When I met them in the Omaha airport that night at 9 p.m., I noticed that Joseph was hanging his head and wafting noxious fumes. He reported, to the floor, in a very small voice, that he had 'threwn up'. Hubby, who was a bit green around the gills himself, explained that near the end of a most pleasant and healthful father & son voyage, Joseph had accidentally locked himself in the airplane lavatory. It only took 90 seconds for a flight attendant to be fetched to release him, but during that 90 seconds he screamed so much that as soon as he got out of the lavatory, he threw up on 4 people, including Hubby. Including the kind flight attendant who had saved him from the lavatory.

Does it make me a Bad Wife, an Uncaring Wife, to admit that the thought crossed my mind, that this might be Divine Retribution for Hubby's attempt to Skip Christmas?

There were some festive moments, but they were fleeting. Christmas Night saw me knitting away in the ER while my dad (aka Portly Dad, for whom I am supposed to have knit a Portly Dad Jacket for two Christmasses now) got some IV antibiotics and bronchial dilators. He's only 68. He's strong as an ox, and just as balky. So when he did not partake of the Christmas feast, and later announced that he'd like to go to the hospital, I was all: dude, gimme the car keys. The Omaha ER was as perky and efficient as you could ask, and Dad is on the mend.

But I was glad to get home, where Major Treats awaited me.

Major Treat Number 1
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Jamie!

Upon arrival, I made a beeline down to Lis's apartment to meet her darling Jamie, who had come home on Christmas Eve.

Jamie is bonded-- hot-glued-- to her mom. I'm not kidding. She is happiest when affixed, like the world's cutest barnacle, to Lis's body. She does not suffer fools such as I, insipid babblers who try to entertain her with 'the little beast who climbs and climbs and climbs and TICKLES Jamie'. She is not interested in the little beast who climbs. She is interested in Mom.

She is also not interested in the orange Ugg Hat I knit for her. She would not keep it on her head even for the nanosecond the KayCam required. With the reflexes of a future Olympian, she cast it off and resumed stalking the elusive Cheerio.

I'm having Toddler Flashbacks; are you? Irresistable cuteness meets immovable stubbornness in a wriggly package of exhausting delight? Me-em-ries!

Major Treat Numero 2

Lookie what I got:

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A bundle from Sissel, all the way from Norway!

Lookie what it contained:

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14 balls of rare, discontinued Rowan Handknit DK Cotton in an intense, lilacky shade called Fuschia. Check out the vintage labels (swoon)! Who knew Sissel's Rowan creds went back that far? Sissel is right: like fine wine, yarn improves with age, although I do wonder what project she had envisioned when she bought it. I am very very happy with this wonderful treasure. I'm not sure I can keep it in the cellar much longer, but what should I make with it?

Thanks to Sissel, I got to feel like Super Eggplant opening up a package of Candy That's Not From Around Here. White chocolate and marzipan pigs (possibly bears, but piglike bears)! Chocolates filled with raspberry! Exotic Norwegian exclamations on the package! Here, Ann, try one:

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Ann, this is so weird! I am writing you a letter, yet you are here, bag and baggage, boys and Hubbo, on a fambly jaunt to soak up New York City festiveness.

I know you thought it was strange when I went into the kitchen and emailed you while you were sitting in my living room. Sorry--sometimes I just feel like emailing you.

Happy New Year everybody! I'm taking care of Ann!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:02 PM | Comments (19)

December 24, 2004

Not an O. Henry Story But Close Enough

Dear Kay,

What I didn't tell you yesterday in my story of pioneer survival amid dire circumstances was that my car got stuck. In the crummy driveway. You see, our garage is under our house, kind of a Bat Cave deal where you swoop up a steep short hill to get out and fight crime.

It turns out that if you're swooping out to do errands, and the hill happens to be coated in ice, you have maybe one shot at swooping, and if you decide halfway up the hill that you need to stop, your car will start to slide right back toward the very Bat Cave you were trying to leave. Well, for some unknown reason I decided, halfway up the Bat Cave Entryway, that I needed to adjust my exit angle. I think the "Holly and the Ivy" blasting out of the radio was a factor, or maybe I was feeling a little too clever for getting out of the house before I packed up the boys in a box and mailed them to Aunt Buffy.

For one lurching moment I thought, I can't believe I'm going to have a wreck with my own house. As the Mom Bomb slid, and kept sliding, I wondered, Will it make a crunching sound? Like a Roadrunner cartoon where Wile E. Coyote stops at the very edge of the cliff, the Mom Bomb came to rest about twelve inches from the wall of the house. I sat for a while, wondering what would happen if I took my foot off the brake, if I shifted to the left, if I exhaled.

I finally bailed out, tenderly shutting the door knowing full well that if I slammed it, two tons of Mom Bomb would plow into the garage, taking out the barbecue grill, the recycling bins, the litter box, a soapstone Inuit carving, and the entire kitchen above it.

I found solace in hanging with the fellas and knitting up a pile of this scribble lace.

The Next Day

So I'm sitting in the kitchen this morning snarfing down Sister Schubert Cinnamon Yeast Roll number FOUR, drinking reheated coffee because remember we don't know how long this ice will be here, and we might run out of coffee if I don't ration it, and Hubbo comes in. He has a sheepish look on his face, and he tells me, "Ann. I'm rilly sorry but I didn't get you anything for your stocking. I know you like stocking things and all but . . . I saw the stockings [ed note: see Found Objects for recent photograph of the actual stockings to which he refers] and it made me remember to tell you that I . . . didn't . . . and I'm sorry . . ."

Then he says, out of the blue, "I'm going out to get your car out."

The next thing I know, he's out there with the de-icer pellet stuff, a snow shovel, and two boxes of kosher salt ("We answer to a higher authority"). I watch him, no hat or gloves, doing his thing. Sprinkle sprinkle scrape scrape and the Mom Bomb is miraculously at ground level, ready to blast off. I hadn't even finished slurping down Sister Schubert Number Five, and Hubbo had given me the beautifullest Christmas present of all: a liberated Mom Bomb.

Merry Christmas to all. Clif, so very five, just told me in a knowing way, "Mom. Tonight. I'm going to be keeping an eye on, you know, Santa."

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:17 AM | Comments (9)

December 23, 2004

All Work and No Play Makes Ann a Dull Girl

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Dear Kay,

I don't . . . know . . . if I can write . . . a whole post . . . Things are . . . dire . . . here . . .

We had a night of frozen stuff clicking against the windows which brought to mind the Big Freeze of '94.

Why, the Big Freeze was the sort of event we'll be talking about for another ten years. All the trees fell over, limbs cracking in the night like gunshots. It was like somebody got out a giant firehose and coated the entire city in a half inch of glassy ice. On the third day, Hubbo and I got so sucked into the idea that our entire civilization was coming to an end that we bought a gallon of antifreeze and filled up the toilets. Our next-door neighbor, an incredibly decent guy who was the World's Most Prepared Boy Scout troop leader, told us this was necessary.

It wasn't, of course, but we did learn how very BLUE antifreeze is.

It took five days for us to get power back, and weeks for anybody unlucky enough to be out in the country. It was one of those times when everybody was all excited at how terrible the whole thing was, even though we knew it wasn't anything more than a big mess.

Today's ice event hasn't sent me to the auto parts store yet, though it did make the cedars droop like a tuckered-out shopper at the mall:

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The illusion that we are stranded today has me feeling all Ma Ingalls (when I'm not feeling all Jack Nicholson in The Shining), like I need to make do with the meager stores we have put away here. Thank God I remembered to stash five tons of yarn over the past year! Rooting through the inventory for a little something to start, I came across:

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On the left is Lang Venezia, which is half mohair and half acrylic. At the right is everybody's favorite, Rowan Kidsilk Haze. I'm going to try some scribble lace on 15s. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE scribble lace? Especially in these rugged times we're facing down here?

I'm going to check the larder to make sure we haven't run out of Breakfast Blend and biscotti. Please! Send a St. Bernard!

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 12:35 PM | Comments (12)

December 21, 2004

Bears in Hats

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Dear Ann,

There are times when a still, small voice tells you it's time to take a break from what you're currently doing. One of those times is when you find yourself putting a hat on a teddy bear and taking a picture of it. I know, Ann, that using stuffed animals as knitwear models is not in accordance with the Mason-Dixon Stylebook. But as this hat is for Jamie, and as Jamie has yet to show up in her new hometown, and as this hat is so damn cute that I could not wait to share it, I made do with an old teddy bear. A very stoic teddy bear. Here is yet another view of this hat.

Taking pictures of teddy bears is a slippery slope. Once you have done it the first time, you lose all dignity and find yourself putting not only hats, but boots, on bears. And then taking a picture.

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This is exactly why my comrades were worried when I quit working.

Both the hats and the boots are from the 'Ugg' booties and sherpa hat pattern available here. My blue hat and boots are not yet finished. They are super easy to knit but super fiddly to finish. Much knitting of tiny trims and attempts at embroidery with nylon faux fluff. For the blue hat I free-lanced an extra row of the fake shearling to add to the overall Sherpa-tude of it. I'm going to add the earflaps and the little brim tonight.

I'm betting they will all look better on real babies.

And with that, I head off to the frozen tundra for Christmas r & r. Hopefully a few days at my mom's (the House of A Thousand Santas) will cure me of the teddy bear thing.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Love, Kay

P.S. I want to be clear: I did not, at any time, talk to the teddy bear.

Posted by Kay at 01:47 PM | Comments (20)

December 18, 2004

Mason-Dixon Mailbag, Pre-holiday Edition

Dear Kay,

I have a couple of items for Show 'n' Tell, not a one which can vaguely compete with the news of Lis and baby Jamie. (Has Jamie discovered Pepperidge Farm Goldfish? Has she heard her first Baby Mozart tape? Weep!)

Doodad Number One: Elmira Strikes Again

Those of you following quilting news in the lower reaches of Alabama already know that Elmira Sanders has reached superstar status, thanks to the recent Greenville Advocate profile of her. Not only did she receive major ink about her quilting, her church had a special service in celebration of her talents. I love that. Kaffe Fassett could walk into the Greenville Waffle House and get nothing. Elmira has people sleeping in front of her house hoping for a glimpse of her.

Her latest creation arrived yesterday, just in time for me to (ssshhhh) send it to Hubbo's sister Liz and family for the holidays.

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This one is a combination of oxford cloth shirts, blues and yellows, pale to bright. Hubbo's dad had a lot of blue shirts. And yellow ones.

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The early line on Elmira III is that it involves . . . madras. There was no shortage of madras in Hubbo's dad's life.

Tidbit Number Two: Those Wacky Outer Hebrideans

It's been a while since my yarn-jaded, yeah-yeah-so-it's-handspun-roving-from-yer-own-flock-of-sheep self has seen something brand spankin' new. Imagine the thrill of seeing the "Small Packets" package sitting on my front doorstep. It didn't even bother me when Clif drop-kicked my long-awaited bag of yarn across the front hall. Even his "Not! More! Stinkin'! Yarn!" failed to yank my chain.

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Lobster, Thistle, Apple, Sunset

These are the new Rowan Harris DK wools, made from the wool of the Harris Tweed textile mills, waaaay out there in the Atlantic northwest of Scotland. Chilly! Authentic! Possibly uncomfortable!

I have loved Harris Tweeds since my childhood, when my dad had a jacket that was a scratchy, sheepy thing. You can't make a tweed too grim for me. Even the brights above have a little of that Scottish gloom about them -- bright in spite of themselves. My heart really belongs to this sort of thing:

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Yep, this is Shade 008, Herring, as muddled and murky as the coldwater fish for which it's named. Everything but the kitchen sink thrown into this one, resulting in a possibly unknittable yarn. What color is this? Who cares?

Just looking at this ball of yarn leaves me wishing for some tasty North Atlantic chow. Here you go: everybody's favorite holiday treat, Herring in Oatmeal! First person to fix a batch of this wins a ball of this yarn. Proof of herring required.

By the way, these yarns bear no resemblance to the shades shown on the Rowan web site. It's like their photographer just went, "I don't get this stuff" and shot a bunch of blurry-looking whatever.

Highly recommended for anybody who's had their fill of Zing, Fizz, Salsa, or any other eyelashy nutcase novelty yarns. This is not about novelty; it's about ancient, deathless oooooooldnessssssssssss.

Love,
Ann

PS And how could I forget Celtic Mix? Thanks, Melanie, for reminding me:

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I see olive, brown, moss, peat, yellow, crimson, brass, bronze, copper--so much Celticness all mudged together!

Posted by Ann at 01:21 AM | Comments (19)

December 17, 2004

The Sisterhood of the Blankie

Dear Ann,

Well, there I went, calling myself a control freak, and I didn't even set a deadline for the Jamie Blankie [hangs head in shame]. I didn't even give any finished measurements for the squares [writhes in humiliation].

What the heck: it turns out I'm bossy but I'm not all that effective at controlling other people. And isn't controlling people the whole point--the joy, really-- of being a control freak in the first place?

Those who are knitting mitered squares for the Jamie blanket want to know, so here goes:

1. What is the Deadline? There is no deadline, but I'd like to sew up the blanket early in February. I'll post a big "Toot-Toot: All Aboard for the Jamie Blankie" when I'm getting ready to do it, so that those who are holding back can send theirs in. Sometimes a firm 'Last Call' is the only thing that can get me to the post office. I'm happy to oblige.

2. How big are these mitered squares sposed to be? I measured mine. They are 9 1/2 inches square. There is about a quarter-inch variance between my biggest and smallest miters (DAMN I'M GOOD). Being a wizened old veteran of the Afghan Sew-Up Bees of 2004, I can live with squares that range from 9 inches to 10 inches square. I know an inch sounds like a big discrepancy, but I'm hoping most squares will be in the middle of the range, and I'm relying on my field-tested ability to move squares around to even up the strips. Serpentine, Sheldon, Serpentine!

3. Design Workshop Addendum. Cristina, who thinks deeply about such matters, points out that if it's all orange, or mostly orange, it will start to look like a kitchen appliance and/or shag rug from 1973. She thinks adding pinks/fuschias into the mix would be a good thing, and I agree.

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See how nice?

With the addition of pinks, the blanket will be reminiscent of my stunning Ikebana arrangment of pink & orange plastic forks at the baby shower:

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You would not believe how many guests buttonholed me to whisper, "Who did your forks, Kay? You must tell me, darling." [Yo, Kay! Wake up from your idiotic fantasy that anybody noticed your Still Life With Pink & Orange Plastic Forks!]

What I'm saying is, if your stash lacks orange, use pink or fuschia. In the best of all possible blankie-knitting worlds, use some orange and some pink. I also think it would be wise to avoid black and other very gloomy colors. Being Lis's daughter, Jamie probably will wear black, early and often. She might sometimes remind people of little Wednesday Addams. But we don't have to be a part of that.

Don't be surprised if all postings about the blankie disappear in a week, when Lis returns home. Right now I'm counting on Jamie to keep Mommy out of the computer room at the White Swan Hotel. (Jamie: When you see the sign for 'Business Center', you know what to do. Remember what we agreed? Full-blown tantrum and/or hissy fit? Your best effort? Got it? Good.) When Lis returns, we will go Deep Underground with this project. I will deny all knowledge of any 'blankie', be it orange or pink. But I will be taking calls on my shoe phone, or you can email me on my secure line (bigbonegalAThotmail.com).

2005 resolution: be more controlling; make more rules.

Love, Kay

P.S. UPDATE! WE HAVE A NEW RULE!

4. One 4-cornered square per customer. Emma is right. It IS a baby blanket. I'll knit her a queen-sized one, later. We have time.

Posted by Kay at 11:15 AM | Comments (12)

December 15, 2004

V.V.V.V.V.V. Good News

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Dear Ann,

To my great relief, this morning I got an email from Lis, who is now in Guangzhou with her healthy daughter. WITH HER DAUGHTER, PEOPLE! For those who are dropping by for news of Lis, I will simply paste in her email. Place Kleenex in a convenient spot, and enjoy.

(I'm not sure Lis wanted me to be broadcasting her emails over the World Wide Web, but she is well aware that I am (a) a blabbermouth and (2) a blogger, so I figure she assumed the risk.) So here goes, glad tidings of great joy:

Jamie and I have been united at last!! She is wonderful! Healthy, smart, alert, active, and delicious!! All the things a little girl should be. When they handed her to me she was clothed in an orange outfit!! (one more good omen among the many I had that day!!) She has a red bow mouth, sweet soft cheeks, and more hair than in her referral pictures. While she has a a bit of a cold and an ear infection, she is otherwise fine. While we will have many a physical exam upon her arrival, the one she had here with the doctor on the trip was very favorable.

When they put her in my arms for the first time she was clutching a red ball! (She loves balls, things that jingle and make noise, blocks, and anything else that is worthy of being used as a drumstick!!) She went into my arms without hesitation and took in all that was going on. While other babies were crying, she was very calm and serious, not too worried about the arms she was currently in. I took her into another room to get her away from the crying babies and came upon her nannies from the orphanage. They made such a fuss over her, one of them cried, sorry to see her go. They gathered around us like bees to honey, shouting out her nickname and pinching her cheeks and legs. (Lee Lee!! Lee Lee!!) (How ironic that she is named after my father and her nickname is that of my mother!!) Within minutes she was fast asleep in my arms. Words cannot express how I felt having my baby in my arms. It was a v. beautiful and bittersweet experience. My eyes are welling up now just writing about it.

That night, in order to get her to settle down and go to sleep, I had to turn out all the lights in the room and rock her in my arms. Just when I thought she had fallen asleep, she stood up on my lap and chattered away! Dadadada, Mamamam,rrrrrrr.....and then several raspberries. It cracked me up. She crawled for a bit and then I put her down in her crib where she settled in. She sleeps fitfully, up and down the bed, legs up over the side of the bed...but, she SLEEPS!! The whole night, without interruption. 10 hours!! So, yes, I am sleeping. The downside, she wants to be held and is needy for physical contact. [my arms are tired, as is my back. but hopefully I will have her walking soon and maybe then she will be more interested in running around the apartment than hanging on momma's hip] She only cries when she wants to be held or is tired, otherwise she just kind of coos in a raspy little voice. V.v.v.v. cute!!!

You may now return your Kleenex boxes to their upright position.

Speaking of Orange Omens

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Is there any occasion that does not make a knitter feel like she ought to knit a little something? Some of Lis's e-pals have asked me about knitting for Jamie. So I cooked up a little group knitting project, in which all are welcome to join. Since it was me doing the cooking, you knew that either Log Cabins or Mitered Squares were going to be involved, right? After much dithering between my two square-shaped passions, I chose Mitered Squares. Why? Because they're easy and addictive and there aren't many ends to weave in. The color scheme of this project will skew strongly to ORANGE. Peach, apricot, passion fruit, mango, creamsicle: the Cheese Doodle Rainbow. You get the picture:

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Anybody who wants to join in, the instructions (yes, I'm a control freak, but I'm a really mellow control freak) are in the 'Extended Entry' to this post . The miters are small, as they start with 48 stitches and decrease 2 stitches every right-side row. My first one took under an hour, but the subsequent ones took only 45 minutes, so total time for a 4-miter square is around 3 hours if you're a medium-to-spicy knitter.

I must warn you that knitting miters is like eating [insert your most addictive snack here]---one of them does not satisfy the craving. You may wake up with a half-knitted miter and your knitting needles in bed with you, so circulars are recommended. You may find yourself watching 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels', for at least the fourth time in your long and distinguished career of knitting while watching dubious late-nite t.v. I'm not sayin'.....I'm just sayin': You've been warned.

Please email me if you're knitting so that I can send you the mailing address, and so that I don't sew up the blanket without each and every portion of orangey happy baby vibes!

Love,

Kay

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1. Yarn: Cotton or cotton/acrylic/microfiber. No wool please, we want it to be machine wash- and dryable, at least in theory. Each miter is in two colors. One of those colors should be orange or some shade of peach, apricot, cantaloupe, pumpkin, etc. The other color is any color you think looks good with the orange. If you are buying yarn for this, you might bear in mind that Lis particularly likes the combination of orange and cream, or 'creamsicle'. Variegated yarns are fine, too. Anything that makes it fun to knit and interesting to look at, while remaining appropriate for a washable baby blanket.

2. Gauge 5 sts/inch. SINCE THIS IS A PATCHWORK BLANKET, GAUGE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT—- the goal is to be able to sew the squares together into a single, glorious, even-edged work of art. We recommend ‘DK’ or worsted-weight yarn. Thicker yarn is o.k. if you can knit it tightly enough to get gauge. (As of this writing, thinner yarn is not recommended. If you want to use Patons Grace, Rowan Cotton Glace or Rowan 4-ply, contact me as I am working on figuring out how many to cast on to yield the right size square in these finer-gauge yarns.)

3. Suggested yarns: You can easily get gauge if you use:

Tahki Cotton Classic
Rowan Handknit DK
Twilleys Cotton DK
Peaches & Creme or Sugar 'n Cream

By downsizing from the recommended needle size, you can get this gauge with: Rowan All Seasons Cotton, Cotton-Ease, and even with Rowan Summer Tweed (I succeeded with Summer Tweed, but knitting so tightly made my hands hurt).

3. The pattern:

Cast on 48 stitches and work a plain ol’ garter-stitch miter, like so:

Row 1: K22, (K2tog) twice, K22

Row 2 and every WS row: Knit every stitch

Row 3: K21, (K2tog) twice, K21

Row 5: K20, (K2tog) twice, K20

Continue decreasing 2 stitches at the center of every RS row until 2 sts rem. (Hint: I didn’t use markers. On every RS row, the number of stitches that you knit before decreasing, goes down by one stitch.)

Last row: (This will be a WS row.) Slip 1, K1, PSSO, fasten off the last stitch.

[Note: a miter takes less than an hour and leads to a crushing desire to knit another miter. You will be powerless to resist. You will start your own blankie. You will still be knitting miters this time next year.]


4. The stripes are 4 rows long. Do NOT cut the yarn between stripes; carry the yarn-not-in-use up the side. (I like to twist the yarn-not-in-use with the yarn-in-use once, immediately before starting the 3rd row of a stripe. This makes the edge nicer (eliminates a 'loop' of the yarn-not-in-use), but is not essential. If you forget to twist, do not rip back! This loop will be buried in the seam on the wrong side.)


5. Design Workshop: Play with the 4-row stripes. If you do 4 miters that all use the same 2 colors in the same order, or the same sequence of orange & non-orange, you will get concentric squares when they are sewn together. If you alternate which color is used first, you will get a different, 'broken square' look. It would be cool to combine both of these patterns in a single blanket. (Little Jamie will have plenty to look at. Our goal is to become her favorite blankie. I believe we can achieve it. We will achieve it. We must achieve it.) If you run out of yarn, join in a new one. Baby eyes will enjoy the surprise.

6. Ultrafakeynice Request From Your Sewer-Upper: I encourage [visualize: a pleading, desperate smile on my face] knitters to sew their miters into squares, and request [see: my hands clasped in front of me in an unctuously importuning gesture not seen since Uriah Heep] that they use the 'invisible seam' a/k/a 'mattress stitch' technique to ensure that the rows of the miters line up nicely with each other. Blocking is not necessary unless you are one of those who love to block. Endless gratitude and good karma will be heaped upon the haloed heads of those who weave in the ends on the wrong side. Mwahs, mwahs, mwahs! Sainthood: yours for the taking!

7. If you need yarn for this project, email me at bigbonegalAThotmail.com and I will send you a chunk of my Orange Yarn Hoard. I collected a bunch of it as soon as Lis announced her plans, and I find that at this time of the year it is a bit difficult to find orange cotton in the stores, so do not hesitate to ask.

Posted by Kay at 08:20 AM | Comments (17)

December 12, 2004

Where the Curls Are

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Dear Ann,

I stopped by over at Curls and Purls to see what arrangements Lis had made for posting to her blog while she's in China. Guess what? She made arrangements for you and I to report on her news from China. So here goes, from your curly-haired (NOT!) New York correspondent Kay Gardiner, live on location (sitting at her computer receiving emails) di-reckly from China:

Hi All!!

I have arrived safe and sound in Beijing!! All I can say about Beijing is OMG! It is nothing like any other city I have ever been to, yet exactly like every major city I have visited!!

The plane ride was god awful....13 hours on a plane is not pretty, no matter how you slice it. The plane was packed and I was in the back of the plane in a MIDDLE seat. Need I say any more.

So, I must admit that I am experiencing a million emotions right now --joy, fear, love, excitement, apprehension. Every emotion and feeling is heightened. I am experiencing nothing like I have ever experienced before.

There are ten other families with me on this trip. Several families have daughters who are in the same orphanage as Jamie...their daughters arrived at the orphanage on or close to the date Jamie did. Accordingly, they spent the first year of their lives together as sisters ofanother kind.

More to follow

xo Lis

Since I know all of Lis's readers love pictures, I have taken the liberty of including pictures from my time in China in July 2002. Insert some colder weather, grayer skies, and better hair, and I'm sure it's pretty much what Lis is encountering right now.

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(Rosie's on the right--THE ONE IN THE HANDKNIT.)

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(Rosie in Ancestral Baby Bjorn being driven by Auntie Kay -- insert curly hair.)

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Meeting friends along the way. This time Rosie's mom Diana is operating the Baby Bjorn.

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Another baby girl in our group, with Tommy, her new big brother. Remembering Tommy's tender care of his little sis, and the prodigious pile of trinkets a determined 14-year-old boy amassed in two weeks of souvenir-shopping -- I'm farklempt. I hope there's a Tommy in Lis's entourage.

If my 2002 journey with Rosie's mom is any guide, I believe Lis is probably holding Jamie right now, and wondering (in Lis-speak): OMG! What do I do now? This is unlike any baby I have ever held! This is MY baby! OMG! OMG!

Bless Your Heart, Lis, we are thinking of you and your darling girl.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:58 PM | Comments (14)

December 07, 2004

Wishing for Snow

Dear Kay,

Got a newsletter from Whippoorwill Farm Day Camp, where David had a grubby, great time last summer. We learn that Lily the camp dog has adopted a possum for a pet. Those genius hippie types also include this little nugget from Thoreau's Walden:

"The thin snow now driving from the north and lodging on my coat consists of those beautiful star crystals, not cottonly and chubby spokes, as on the 13th december, but thin and partly transparent crystals. . . . How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat. Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand. . . . The same law that shapes the earth-star shapes the snow-star. . . . What a world we live in!"

Eggzackly.

Remaining Full of Awe at Nature's Wacky Ways,

I remain,

Yours in the Unproductive Lifestyle,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:02 AM | Comments (3)

December 06, 2004

What Is "Knitting"?

Dear Ann,

It has come to my attention, looking at my 'Favorites' menu, that I have a knitting blog. I wonder why this is, since I don't knit. Not that I can remember, anyway. I haven't knit anything for eons, or at least the past week. What is this "knitting"? Do I knit? And if so, what do I knit?

Instead of knitting, I have been overseeing a variety of Baby Activities for a variety of Babies. Some events involved real babies, others, for reasons of public safety, involved baby substitutes:

lisbjorn.jpg

Here, Lis is strapped and snapped in the Baby Bjorn Simulator Module, rehearsing possible Baby Bjorn Situation Scenarios in preparation for her upcoming trip to China to be united with her daughter Jamie. This particular Baby Bjorn happens to be our family's Ancestral Baby Bjorn. It is sacred. My own babies spent many squished hours suspended in it while I walked the streets in search of adult conversation. It has been to China and back, twice already. It has been washed and dried and Febrezed countless times. Someday, when there are no more babies to ride in it, I am going to have it bronzed. Or something.

And then along came an actual baby: Rosie stopped by for a few days. Yay! Rosie Time! Carrie tenderly read to Rosie:

roscarriereading.jpg

...while Joseph tenderly performed 24-hour surveillance on Rosie:

rosiejosephreading.jpg

In this picture, Joseph looks like he is reading a book, when actually he is assuming a covert position from which he could, without detection by the subject, observe her every move. Joseph's expertise at Human Intelligence was impressive. Rosie did not do or say anything even slightly against the Rules of Not Touching Things or the Rules of Not Turning Things On or the Rules of Not Making That Noise--she did not even have a look on her face hinting at an intention of violating these rules--without Joseph filing a prompt and detailed Report of her shocking lawlessness.

It turns out that even if you are 6, and even if you don't much like your mother kissing you, you still experience a twinge if your mother kisses someone else, particularly if that person is younger than you and very cute and kissable. Upon kissing or hugging Rosie in what I consider to be a routine manner, or casually calling her 'sweetie', I would hear, from some distant reach of the apartment, Joseph calling out, 'I love you, Mommy!' Just because he loves me? I think not.

[Be on the alert, now, for some Knitting Content. If you blink, you'll miss it.] Part of the Baby Rose agenda involved taking her with me on my search for provisions for Baby Jamie's Baby Shower. Sort of a double-baby whammy. Rosie went with me on the subway(it's noisy if you're not used to it) and taxi, all the while wearing an adorable hat that Lis had knit for her. (That was the knitting content.)

Here's some of the stuff we gathered for Jamie's shower:

jamieroses.jpg

My decades-long study of Kaffe Fassett's theories of colour! glorious colour! has had a profound effect on me. I spent an hour in Party City, trying to find just the right close shades of related colors to layer upon each other for an intense effect. And that was just the plastic forks. I also did some excellent work with napkins, paper plates, and cake:

jamiecake.jpg

Note: I didn't make the cake. Note for Ann's Brother-in-Law: I got the cake at the Cupcake Cafe. I asked them to use as many close shades of orange and pink and as many kinds of flowers as they had. Which, without missing a beat or changing their tone of voice, they did. I suspect that Kaffe has something to do with the Cupcake Cafe. That seems rather obvious.

The shower was a rocking success. It was a newfangled, New Age baby shower, in that men were invited. Men at these events are sort of sweetly clueless. They do not get the Basic Idea, which is to sit close together and cheer for the gifts. Instead, they stood around the table eating, and tried to understand the decorations.

It was a great week of babies. I'm exhausted. Gotta go learn how to knit.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:32 AM | Comments (15)

December 02, 2004

Pimp My Cushion

Dear Kay,

Sorry sorry sorreeee for my absence. I know you're wondering where I've wandered off to. What obscure backwater of that obscure backwater called middle Tennessee have I been haunting?

Leiper's Fork. The far side of Leiper's Fork, actually, right near where the Natchez Trace Parkway crosses Leiper's Creek Road. I've been to see Danny.

It all had to do with the Big Dotty piano bench cushion, which is in the same limbo that most of my life is at the moment: done yet undone. I have had the knitted top part finished since, um, the first administration of George W. Bush. But I've had trouble pinning down Danny.

Who's Danny? Danny is the upholsterer, the sole person who holds in his hands the fate of this long-shot projeck. Ah, Danny, who is rumored to have a way with the welting, Danny with whom I have had a running phone relationship that rivals my correspondence with you. We have discussed the challenges of turning knitting into upholstery ("Uh, it's gonna stretch on me, you do know that"). We talked about the trials of making replacement cushions for anything ("It's just real hard to get a decent fit"), and we talked about the forty-three reasons he couldn't come to town to pick up this projeck.

So. I decided to make a day of it, the Delivery of the Makin's. I down- then uploaded Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, which I had purchased as a book when it came out but in my addled state never got past page four. The blogphone has taken on new life as an MP3 player, so now I can talk on the phone, surf the Web, read email, check my calendar, find a phone number, take pictures, and listen to the syrupy-voiced Anna Fields make Bel Canto sound like an opera. If my blogphone could toast an English muffin and buy me groceries, life would be complete.

I drove and I drove, and I ended up here:

leipersfork.jpg

As I came up the gravel driveway, the "Robinson's Upholstery" van was a welcome sight amid the five pickup trucks, three of which had gun racks. Are these people training for the Leiper's Fork Upholstery/Riflery biathalon?

Danny was a barrelly-looking, kawntry fella who could not have been nicer nor more focused on the challenges of knitted upholstery. It'll either work or it won't work, but it won't be for lack of Danny trying.

I've been knitting and knitting, but absolutely nothin' to show. Hey everybody--whatchew been knitting?

Love,

Ann

PS Now that Hubbo has installed Tivo in our Salon de Nuit, I have been watching drifts of television. I haven't watched this much television since I was ten. I LOVE TV! I LOVE IT! Top events so far:

"Regency House Party," yet another PBS reality program/social studies course, this one on life in 1815 England. Too goofy to describe. Much pointed holding of lady's hand.

Biography episode about Led Zeppelin. We counted at least seven things directly parodied in Spinal Tap, not least of which was Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a violin bow.

An episode of MTV's "Pimp My Ride" in which a 22 year old, Erin, has her 1987 Chevy Blazer pimped out by the guys to the point that it has a working fireplace in the way back. Would love to take that through the hookup line at school.

Posted by Ann at 05:24 PM | Comments (12)
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