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

June 30, 2005

Like I Need Another Craft

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Dear Ann,

So let me just get this out there: I've taken up needle felting. Hey--it's a reason to buy roving without buying a spinning wheel. But I make no excuses. It's fun. It's therapeutic. Kind of like play-doh except it's wool.

It started with a bad case of a peculiar disorder: Exchange Anxiety. I signed up for Back-Tack, which requires one to sew a lovely notions pouch or needle roll for an anonymous recipient. Since I don't sew, I drove down to Philadelphia, where Cristina and her Pfaff talked me through the making of a sweet little Kaffe Fassett needle roll.

I love these exchanges, but I always fret that my gift is not special enough, that my skills and my taste are wanting, and that the recipient will be disappointed. I try to make up for this by enclosing non-handmade treats that would be welcome in any crafty, chocolate-eating household. My attitude is, if you like the handmade thingie, consider it a bonus. If you don't, eat the candy, take a lavender-scented bath, and mellow out.

But then I started surfing around looking at other Back-tackers' work, and I realized that chocolate was not going to be enough this time. I needed Additional Cuteness in my craft.

In an attempt to kick it up a notch--BAM!--I took up needle felting. The idea was to make a matching pincushion for the needle roll.

Famous Last Words: How hard could it be?

Pixel Parade

Cristina of the Gifted Hands was one step ahead of me. A while back, in one of her early needle felting forays, she tossed off this:

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I know. What can one say? Did ya notice

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...the shrinky-dink pins? I won't even get into the little pottery bowl, into which the peach nestles perfectly. (Yeah. She made it. Happened to have it lying around when she was needle-felting the mini-Cezanne.)

Nobody can say I'm not ambitious. Cristina had sent me a little kit so I could experience needle felting for myself.

First I squished up a ball of plain wool, and started poking it into a more compact ball shape:

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Then I flattened it out into a button and poked a round groove into the top.

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Like a button:

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It turns out that I was getting ahead of myself, because as soon as I started attaching the colored wool:

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...the groove filled up and I had to poke it into shape again.

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To outline the button, I used a trick I heard about last weekend from David at My Threaded Bliss in Nashville. David told me that you can use Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride to needle felt, because it is single-ply and very easy to untwist, being barely spun to begin with. This is very handy for details. I had been saving my Lamb's Pride scraps, which was kind of nutty since they were such short bits as to be useless. I thought I was saving them simply because they were Purty and because I save stuff. So now I have a nice ziploc full of many colors of Lamb's Pride, and I even have a use for them.

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I used a 2-inch strand, split in two, to outline the button's groove.

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Then my needle broke. It just busted. I was picking up a wisp of fiber and trying to move it over half a millimeter to cover a tiny white spot, and the tip broke off.

So I ordered more felting needles.

So I can't finish my Button Pincushion until I get my new felting needles. Since I was ordering, I ordered a triple-pointer. (Amazing how early into a new craft we start upgrading the equipment.)

Link-O-Rama

While shopping for needles, I found some wonderful on-line tutorials on needle-felting.

1. how to needle felt a kind of scary doll

2. how to needle felt a ladybug

3. Here's a link showing how scary the needles look and how to needle felt using scraps of homemade felt . Afterwards, you can felt your felted felt, this time with soap and water. (If you do that, though, you are a Felting Freak and there is no hope for you.)

4. But wait--there's more! Here's how to make a needle-felted bird ornament, parts One and Two. The people who put this information out there are so generous with their knowledge. The felted bird is amazing; no wonder it ended up on the White House Christmas Tree.

Git felting, Missy. It's fun.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:55 PM | Comments (18)

June 28, 2005

Dress Your Family in Denim and Denim

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Dear Ann,

I trust you are suffering from separation anxiety, now that we are no longer locked in a room together with your seizure-prone cat and a mess of paper that wants to be a book when it grows up. I miss you hon. But I confess that I really really miss the Bread & Company cafe on Page Road. Iced Fruit Tea so sweet it makes your teeth curl! Chicken Salad frapped into the texture of fois gras! A Southern mastery of the Arts of the Mayonnaise and the Ranch Dressing! Yum!

And now I take up my Transatlantic travelogue again. After the gracious hospitality of the North of England, I took the train back to Kings Cross. Hubby and the kids had made it to London, and I was very glad to see them. I found them all sleeping in their clothes in the hotel. They had missed me, as I am the family member with the Secret Pajama Knowledge.

We had fun taking in the kid-friendly offerings of London, which are many. Not one, but two leisurely visits to the Science Museum, which is fantastic and FREE.

The London Duck Tour was a hoot.

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The idea is simple: in the middle of the tour, your bus DRIVES INTO THE THAMES. At which point a six-year-old boy goes out of his mind.

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The famous London Eye did not disappoint. (It was a little depressing to see that as each pod emptied of passengers, a crew quickly went in and ran metal detectors all over the floor and ceiling, but hey, these are the times we live in.)

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An elusive photo of the elusive me. It was chilly in London, and Hubby had not remembered the kids' jackets, so you will note that Joseph is wearing his Soccer pullover in every picture.

London Knitting Highlights

Since the family had 'let' me spend two whole days with Emma, they did not give me free range to hang out with knitters in London. I managed to squeeze in meetings with pals, but they were too few and too brief.

One evening while the family was passed out with jet lag, Polly and Amelia came over for a little sit n' knit. We commandeered the hotel lounge. Other guests would stick their heads in, looking for a cup of tea, overhear us yakking about lace and sheep, and get the hell out of Dodge. Fine with us, ya philistines!

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I am an exceedingly bad blogger. I only managed to take a picture of them standing on the curb/kerb afterwards.

It gets worse: I did not even get a kerbside snapshot of the lovely Sarah W. (who lives the blog-free lifestyle). I met her 45 minutes before closing time, for a quick romp through Liberty's. No yarn purchased, either. Not a meter! We spent most of the time just looking at all the other beautiful things Liberty's sells. Priced accordingly, of course. But one can look! The fabric department is the main event. There was a lady from Barcelona who was stacking up bolts of gorgeous prints to make a quilt from one of Kaffe's patchwork books. She was very friendly and kept asking our advice, which was fun. !Viva la quilting!

A Lovely Jumper

The Fiber Arts Highlight of my trip was my morning at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I met Belinda there, and we went sailing through the special exhibition of International Arts and Crafts.

We were inspired, we were uplifted, we were looking for the cafe.

(I know, how shallow! But I'm not the only one who thinks of the V & A as an "ace cafe with quite a nice museum attached".)

Belinda, you will recall, is a fellow Denim Freak. We are the only two we know, who have the obsession quite as bad as we have it. Meeting for the first time was a Special Moment. We were all, 'Gimme a hug, you rope-dyed indigo nut, you!' (Or something like that. Perhaps a little more understated, now that I think of it.)

Like heads of state, when knitters meet for the first time, protocol requires a ceremonial exchange of gifts. (I think in the olden days, actual sheep were involved. 'So pleased to meet you, here--have a Romney!') I was prepared for that, as I knew Belinda was on the hunt for one of the Barbara Walkers. I was not prepared for this:

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Four miters made out of denim that Belinda 'space-bleached' herself, in her kitchen. (We will talk about bleaching denim later and at great length.)

But I was really, really really--not prepared for this:

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This is a handknit BLACK DENIM pullover called 'Whitby'. Belinda claims it was in the back of her closet, that it doesn't fit and she never wears it and has no use for it blah blah blah---NONSENSE!!!!

See the cool label?

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'Trowark' is an anagram for Artwork. Artwork is Jane and Patrick Gottelier. (Lookie: they even have a denim gansey in the V & A's collection!) Belinda worked for them as a student, and apparently whoever bought this sweater was insane, because they sent it back, and Belinda got to buy it. It fits Carrie perfectly in the sleeves. It's rather baggy, so she can wear it for a long time. In the London chill, she wore it everywhere. At Liberty's a saleslady exclaimed, 'My what a lovely jumper that is!'

What a lovely jumper indeed.

Oh, you want to see this Belinda? Here she is.

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Belinda is cocooned inside her own enormous vintage Whitby. See how pale it is? Believe it or not, it was knit in the darkest shade of Rowan denim. It has FADED to its present-day pallor. (Moment of Silence.)

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If you poke into the cables (as of course I did), the inner stitches are much darker. The cuffs are worn to ragged shreds--most glorious, I tell you.

I know you never thought this would happen but I think I'm out of things to say right now. Thank you, London and Londoners.

Have fun on your mountain. Do write.

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 10:12 AM | Comments (21)

June 23, 2005

Warm Up the Slide Projector

Dear Ann,

Hi there. Are you comfy? Do you have a beverage? Because this is Part One of my vacation photos. We'll be here for a while, and the knitting content will be 100% indirect. No actual knitting.

I went to England by myself, a few days ahead of Hubby and kids, because I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the home of beloved Emma. I've been chatting to Emma from my first days on the Internet. Hers was the first knitting blog I ever looked at. We even talk on the phone. It was High Time we met in person.

(An aside for purposes of Self Affirmation: I am quite proud that I navigated self and baggage through Heathrow to the Piccadilly Line and got on the right train (the only train, which helped) and took it straight to King's Cross. There, despite the dire warnings of certain Londoners, I was not accosted by highwaymen. (It was no worse than Penn Station. I stood there drinking a coffee and making phone calls while I waited for the train, safe as could be but poised, like a good New Yorker, to be obstreperous and noisy if anything went amiss.) From King's Cross I caught the train to Darlington, stayed awake so I wouldn't miss my stop (knitting all the way on a misbegotten gansey attempt, if you must know), and stepped onto the platform where Emma's husband Allan was waiting for me. Yay!)

Next stop was Emma's garden, just like it looks in pictures on her blog, where Emma and Oliver were waiting, roses were blooming, and a giant bee was buzzing. The next 36 hours flew by. I took very few pictures. Too busy blabbing, munching, and sipping! Occasionally knitting, even. It is bittersweet to have such a good time with someone, knowing that in-person get-togethers will always be a rare thing. It would be so great to live within drop-by-unannounced range. But that is the thing about the Internet. It makes the world seem small, but the world is not physically getting one bit smaller.

The next afternoon, we picked up Oliver at school (he introduced me to his teacher!), piled into the car, and went to Whitby. To get there, we drove through actual moors. Actual sheep were grazing. It was actual Yorkshire. Quite astonishingly rural. Lovely, lovely. Once we got to Whitby, I managed to crank up the KayCam for a while.

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Emma and Oliver. Oliver is a great sightseeing/dining/hanging-out companion. He likes to give the grownups helpful hints on what they should do next, which made me a little homesick for Joseph.

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Whitby's postcard harbor. Quel thrill to be in the town where those vintage pictures in the Rowan Denim book were taken, long ago.

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Bobbins had closed at 5. Emma pointed out -- too right-- that this was saving me a ton of money. Who could seriously suggest that I would not have walked out of there with armsful of gansey kits with denim wound off of cones? That's crazy talk! And the window alone was worth a visit and a picture.

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Another Bobbins sign. My heart went pitter-pat; denim usually doesn't get top billing.

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Allan kindly posed to demonstrate the height of Whitby's ancient doors.

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Nearby, you can look through the doorway of Arguments Yard (whatever it is, it sounds like a handy public amenity) and see clear through down to the waterside.

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After the best fish & chips ever, PLUS my introduction to Mushy Peas, which are so much tastier than you would think from the name (hello Yorkshire advertising people: try 'pate vert', or even 'pea pesto' and see if that helps), we found a spot to take the sea air on the cliff, and squint into the sun for this picture. It was all so gloriously Victorian and Merchant/Ivory.

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This was the view over the edge.

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Hello? Is this a Rowan Photo Shoot, or what? Where are the tall pale girls in the sweaters and underwear? (I actually think I've seen this location in one of the magazines....I'll have to dig around.)

I did not manage to take pictures of the wonderful jet and amber shops, the fossil/mineral/goth shop, or other delights of Whitby. Know this: Whitby does not disappoint. Well worth a journey even if you're not a denim, gansey, or denim gansey fan.

Thank you Emma, Allan and Oliver for a lovely time! I'll be back!

I'm not done yet with the travelogue. Oh no. There is more denim to come, in London.

Love, Kay



Posted by Kay at 11:43 PM | Comments (24)

June 22, 2005

Pool Party

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Dear Ann,

Hey, I'm back. Pretty soon I'll be on your doorstep for a few days of cussin'/swearin'/bitchin'/moanin'/fussin'/fightin'/ drinkin'/laughin'. By which I mean "working on the book galleys". (Aw, just kidding, folks, except about the Amstels and laffs.)

But before I leave home again, I wanted to show you a baby dress bodice I knitted up the night before I left for England and France. This was what we call Anxiety Knitting. Knitting you do when you're supposed to be doing something else (hey--isn't that what most knitting is?), like packing up all your stuff and all your kids' stuff for a 2 week trip, finding your e-ticket confirmation and the phone numbers of people you will be staying with, etc.

I like to make my Anxiety Knitting count for something, so generally I try to (a) cast on something new and (b) finish it before daylight. This does not relieve anxiety, mind you. But it makes last-minute packing all the more exciting and may help you sleep on the plane. If you manage not to miss the plane.

Little Mixed-Media Dress

As is so often the case, good ideas start with Cristina. Cristina was remembering a dress I had made for Carrie a few years ago. It was an ornate and old-timey number with a knitted lace bodice and a gathered fabric skirt. Cristina wanted to make a fun and funky knit t-shirt or bodice, to go with some Munki Munki fabric she had. She wanted to make 2 dresses, in fact, for 1-year-old twin girls. Aww! I had to get in on that project! I know a couple of cute toddler girls, too, ya know! I have acquired some Munki Munki myself (Pool Party, pictured above). Lack of a sewing machine has not stopped me before.

The idea was to come up with something that could be knit up in an evening or two (or the night before a trip). I wanted to keep the one-piece construction of the pattern I had used in 2002. (One-piece, but knit flat--love that!). It needed some kind of flounce on the bottom, so that the fabric skirt could be neatly attached underneath. Here it is, all finished in one night, except for edging and buttonholes, and of course the attaching of the Munki Munki skirt (a mere technicality). This is a size 18 mos-2 years, I think, and it took less than 2 1/2 balls of Rowan Handknit Cotton.

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The front. Don't worry, I will fix the wobbly neck shaping by working a single-crochet edging. I made it long enough that it will work as a little top if the attached skirt is not desired. (Imagine how cute with Munki Munki capris, and a baby belly under the ruffle!)

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The back. The buttonholes will be 2-chain loops in the single-crochet edging. Super easy. Even I can do it.

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This picture shows the construction. Those armholes are, essentially, vertical buttonholes. (I know. Like the man with the hammer, I think everything is a buttonhole. But it IS!) You will also note that the front is a bit shorter than the backs, because somebody forgot to count her rows (so sue me; I'll do better next time, I promise, and in any event it works and looks fine).

Cristina's versions (yes, she already made 2) are different and so fun. Both of hers are knit in the round. One has straps. Munki Munki's 'sushi' fabric is involved. I'd show you, but Cristina forbade me to post pictures of her baby boy modelling them, in case Some Day Far In The Future, Elio is going through our archives and comes across a cross-dressing picture of himself. I'll say this: the boy looks adorable in a strappy sundress. I'm hoping we'll get some fantastic twins-in-dresses shots. Bring on the Summer Babies in Handknits!

A deluge of words and pictures from my trip, coming soon.

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 02:21 PM | Comments (24)

June 20, 2005

Telegram from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Dear everybody,

Very sorry for the long radio silence--I've headed up to Monteagle Mountain for the summer, and I've finally got my smokin' dial-up connection going. Literally smokin'--these wood-burning Internet connections are kind of taxing. So rustic! So 56k!

I'll be in touch as soon as I figure out how to work this candle-powered digital camera.

As for Kay, well, she's just vanished into the European Union somewhere, and at some point she'll have to come out because she's going to run out of denim yarn.

Let me know how your State Fair knitting is going--if you want me to enter you in the Tennessee State Fair, email me so I can fill out your form for you.

Happy solstice! Happy summer!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:24 PM | Comments (6)

June 14, 2005

Whoop-t-do: Teva Durham

Dear Kay,

You know, I just joined Crafter's Choice book club, a clear sign of capitulation. I am giving up all pretense of being selective about what I add to my fiber arts library. Four books for a dollar? Sure! I have to buy two more of 'em? I'm doing it anyway, why not?

My new membership in Crafter's Choice gave me the exquisite experience of receiving my very own copy of Teva Durham's Loop-d-Loop, with an invoice that read "Amount due: $0." Even though I knew that wasn't exactly true, the whole thing felt like Christmas.

Now. Loop-d-Loop is blowing my mind the way Debbie New's Unexpected Knitting blew my mind. Anyone who is still lacking this book needs to either join the Crafter's Choice Book Club, get it from the library, or make a special trip to the LYS. A book like this is a rare, delicious thing.

(Very sorry not to have images for the following. There's a slide show at Loop-d-Loop.com if you want to get a feel for the innovative genius at work here.)

My three favorites:

Cabled Riding Jacket Totally foxy. All that shaping transforms the sometimes-frumpy Aran pullover into a totally caliente sweater. I was reading in Harper's Bazaar (don't ask how I ended up with it) (the new issue with Ashley Olsen on the cover with her lips looking like they always do, mooshed together like somebody making a duckface) about Azzedine Alaia (provide your own umlaut), "Alaia has the ability to weave sexiness into the structure of his clothes, no matter how concealed the look is." Eggzackly.

The collar is beautiful, and the whole thing looks like a futuristic antique. At Disneyworld's Futurama there's a diorama of people wearing Teva Durham sweaters. "By 2070, all handknit sweaters will look like this."

Fair Isle Short-row Pullover You knew I'd like this one. It's like Alice Starmore (whom Teva politely cites) kind of lost track of things. Some of the rows of Fair Isle patterning make it all the way across, some simply shrink to nothing. Hilarious/brilliant sweater, though I was relieved to see that she had done the thing in separate pieces. If she'd done it in the round, I think she would have spontaneously combusted.

Slinky Tree Bark Rib Tunic This one is on the cover of the book. Such a sly, subtle sweater. The ribbing travels up the front in a meandering way. To me, this is as lovely as can be.

I have lots more to say, but I reckon I'll have to save it for our Long-Term Strategic Planning Retreat. Or maybe Oprah will do this book once she finishes up with the Summer of Faulkner. (When I hear the phrase "Summer of Faulkner" I'm seeing a literary Woodstock with 100,000 mud-covered English teachers swaying in the rain.) Aw hell, Oprah's going to be busy with the sound and the fury for a while. Let's have our own book group. What you think about Loop-d-Loop?

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:55 PM | Comments (24)

June 13, 2005

Yarn Shopping in England?

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Dear everybody,

What with Kay on the lam and all, and me wishing I were wandering around England myself, would you mind indulging in a bit of fantasy?

Mason-Dixon reader Mary B is heading to England and Scotland on Friday and needs recommendations on the most choice yarn and fabric sources. She'll be all over (London, Bath, Cardiff, Chester, Edinburgh, York, and Cambridge), with the longest periods of time in Edinburgh and London.

As we all know, the right yarn shop can make all the difference.

Must run--I'm going to go look at my guide books and pretend I'm going to London/Beth/Cardiff/Chester/Edinburgh/York/Cambridge myself.

Thanks, y'all.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:48 AM | Comments (23)

June 10, 2005

Les Tabliers de Paris

Dear Ann,

Here I am with a Magic Remote Blog Post! Perhaps you thought you'd have the whole place to yourself for two weeks; forget about it, sweets. I can't keep my mouth shut even when I'm not here. I fully expect that after I die, I will continue to chat for at least three weeks.

The Apron Thing--What's Up With That?

Amy of Angry Chicken/Kingpod fame has started the coolest thing: Tie One On, a monthly show & tell of homemade aprons. Like Loobylu's wonderful Month of Softies, the idea is simple: People who share the same mad love--in this case, for vintage aprons--make a new one that is inspired by the theme of the month, and send in a picture for the gallery. When the gallery is published, new heights of worldwide crafty ecstasy are reached. Everybody gets inspired, and in my case, envious, covetous (insert your deadly sin here).

You can partake of the domestic goodness even if you don't sew. Knitty to the rescue! Here's a great handknit party apron pattern from Jordana Paige. Knitters can adapt it any way they like. I'm thinking about sawtooth edging, eyelets, and dishcloth cotton......ooh, denim? Blimey, that's a great idea. (See, I said 'blimey' because I'm over here in England, get it? I'm practically British already. I say 'bloke' now, too.)

This month's theme is Home on the Range. You know I am a huge fan of All Things Cowgirl, and I also love the kitchen-stove connotation of 'range'. And hey-- anybody who has an abandoned fried breakfast on their back burner from Stacey's fry-up-along can make wonderful use of those handknit bacon and eggs--the perfect accent to any Hotpoint range.

Rachel, I think you know it already: Lala needs a properly Western apron to go with her fantastic Mary Maxim birthday cardi. No back-talk, Miss Sassy--git busy!

O, la la!

I've been getting into the Japanese craft books, in a small way. A few months ago, my first acquisition was this marvel:

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Mais oui, Les Tabliers Sont Arrives de Paris! This fantasy of French aprons, through a Japanese aesthetic, is beyond delightful. It's lyrically photographed, kitschy and exquisite. The ISBN is 4-579-10972-4. For further enticement, here are a few pages:

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(And you thought the Rowan models were skinny?)

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(If an apron doesn't make you feel housewifey enough, a matching kerchief is just the thing.)

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(Another kerchief, but not so much housewifey as housewaify.)

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(On the left, a denim apron with gussetted pockets. On the right, an apron you can wear to the office, provided you keep your back to the wall.)

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(As with most of the Japanese craft books, the instructions themselves are suitable for framing.)

OK, that's all I have to say about aprons. For now.

Love, Kay

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

June 08, 2005

The Fern Goes On. Plus: A Spectacular Screw-Up

Dear Kay,

Who knew there were so many fellow queasy knitters out there? The Pepto-Bismol is working, and so is the commiseration, y'all. Queasiness shared is queasiness halved--and doubled, come to think of it.

Thanks too for all the great suggestions for Fern, my entry in the Tennessee State Fair. I've taken them all to heart except for anything having to do with intarsia, intarsia, or intarsia. I'm sorry, but I'm trying to cut down on my intarsia intake these days. It's not that I'm trying to win a blue ribbon; I just want not to be turned away at the door on August 30, when I drop off my entry. "Hon, why don'tchew felt that thing and bring it back next year?"

Here's a sketch:

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Set-in sleeves, moss stitch at the edges and button bands. The sleeves will have fiddleheads on the cuffs, too. We'll worry about the collar when we get there. The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan hasn't called yet for this drawing.

The following picture was taken in complete gloom: it's the closest I've come to capturing the colors of this thing. I ended up adding a shade of blue as I got toward the skyline of the forest. The thing seemed to need some sky. What think ye?

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The apparently blogless Stephy suggested I try chain stitch for the fiddleheads, and by gum, I think I likes it. (I added the chain stitch sprouts to my earlier, anemic ones. I like the little pattern the chain stitch makes. And chain stitch is something I can actually sort of do. It looks like duplicate stitch on the move. Yay Stephy!) What do you think?

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I kept thinking about how to do a yoke on this sweater, and I recalled Kim Hargreaves's cool trick on that Asta sweater I made. You cast off all stitches right before beginning the yoke, then picki up stitches and start anew. This creates a cute little ridge, so that's what I did here.

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Then I made a 3 x 1 rib for the yoke, and blasted my way to the top.

Except.

Did you notice something about the back? Did you notice that the right armhole has ten cast-off stitches, while the left has only six? Can you believe I actually blocked this thing and did not notice this?

The excellent news here is that if any of you has a good alternative to my 3 x 1 ribbing, now would be a good time to suggest it, because I'm going to go rip the yoke out right this minute. Garsh.

Bon voyage! Be sure to write! Take a lot of pitchers!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 07:30 AM | Comments (29)

June 06, 2005

Baby Steps

Dear Ann,

As you know, when I'm not checking the blog to see how many catalogs have been cancelled and whether you're ambulatory, I've been doing a bit of mitering. As always, my plans at first were grandiose: I wanted to make a large denim mitered-square blanket like Belinda's majestic original. Then I thought, 'Um...nah. Too much work. I've done this queen-sized mitered-square blanket thing a bit too recently.'

And anyway, I needed a baby blanket. Why? Here is a tip on Controlling Kay's Brain (not that it's difficult): If you want me to knit another blanket for your baby, send me a picture like this:

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Awwww! and double-Awwwww! He even has a halo on his pillow.

The entrelac blanket is lovely. Baby Taro is enjoying it in a very photogenic way. But there's one problem: since this blanket is made out of Noro Silk Garden, it's hotter than heck, hairier than a Yeti, and needs very careful treatment to preserve its status as a Priceless Heirloom. Baby Taro deserves a workaday blanket with charm. He deserves a blanket that can be wadded up, crammed into the stroller basket, and plopped on the grass in the park. He deserves a blanket that repeated washings, dryings, and wiping his face with it will only improve and patinate.

My friends, Taro deserves a 100% cotton, denim blanket. (How I got this idea of a denim blanket, I don't know--it just came to me.)

So I started out on a small, 6-block crib-sized quilt.

Block 1 was normal enough:

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And so was Block 2:

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Then I got bored. I started to think about the Gee's Bend Quilts, and how there is always a surprise that breaks the symmetry. So I used some scraps from my big Tahki Cotton Classic blanket, and did this:

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Which led to this:

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And then this:

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I added 'sashing' and mini-blocks to widen the blanket, and basically just for the fun of those little spurts of color. Now I have 5 squares ready to seam.

babymiter5square.jpg

For Block 6, I was tired of mitering. With an admiring nod in the general direction of Finland, where our beloved Anna goes wild with bias-square stripes and patterns, I did this:

babymiterbias.jpg

Haven't sashed-and-blocked the last one yet, but here is the proposed layout:

babymiter6squarelayout.jpg

When it's finished, it will have sashes and blocks on the right and bottom edges as well. (I can only take the asymmetry so far, or my consistency-craving brain will explode.)

I'm trying to finish it before leaving on my trip! But I may not make it. At least my passport arrived on Saturday. (Yes, I live on the edge.)

Hope you're feeling perkier, and David too!

Love, Kay

P.S. Speaking of the Quilters of Gee's Bend, check out Jan's post about meeting them in person!. Thanks, Jan!


Posted by Kay at 12:17 PM | Comments (38)

June 04, 2005

Piece of Cake

Dear Kay,

I think I've explained to you the general queasiness with which I go through life. I knew, when I woke up yesterday, it was going to be a Queasy Challenge Day.

We get to the dentist at 9:59, figuring that the closer we are to the appointed time, the less time David will stew while waiting to have his tooth pulled. It is Mother, of course, who is the problem. David is a trouper, a real pile of stoic steely will. He has no clue about what tooth pulling entails. "Will I be asleep for this?" "Uh, not really. Numb is the word. You'll be really numb and rubbery."

Heather the Prettiest Dentist Assistant Ever opens the door, beckons David, and says to me, "You coming?" I say, "Oh, you go on, David," and he says, "Aw, you come too, Mom." So, against every bit of good judgment in my body, I go. I sit in the corner, knitting furiously on Fern, never in my life so focused on a piece of knitting.

Dr. Cummings has the elegant ability to stick a big needle in a kid's gum without the child ever knowing he has had a shot. (Hubbo asked later if he'd gotten a shot, and David said, "No, it was just this gel stuff, mostly. Couldn't feel a thing.") I avoid watching any of this. I glance over just as Dr. Cummings comes in and, with the stealth of a cat burglar, slides a big pliers onto his tray, out of David's eyeshot. I go back to Fern.

I decide to Fern my way through the whole thing. Fern, Fern, Fern. I am mesmerized by Dr. Cumming's brilliant patter. He talks endlessly, about anything, and he finally slips in, "Do you mind if I just wiggle it a little?" which is the Dentist Code Phrase for "I'm pulling your tooth now." Unfortunately, at the worst possible moment, I forget to Fern and glance over again. I catch sight of the scene: that root-n-all tooth, fresh out of the gum, as God never intended a mother to see her boy's tooth. I instantly put my head between my knees, hoping they think I'm searching for a lost . . . anything.

Decades pass while I study my shoes. I come up for air and find that David is great, with a wad of gauze in his mouth and one Iron Eyes Cody tear in the corner of his eye. He's the star; nobody's paying any attention to me. We make it to the waiting room where I lie down full out on the sofa. I tell him I feel kind of hot and woozy. (I am seeing stars and a long tunnel with Jesus at the end.) David says, "Momth. Ah you OK? Weawwy, ah you OK?" I can't believe the wheels are coming off so totally. "Okydoky, we're off," I say, and we make it to the sidewalk in the parking lot. "I think we'll just sit down right HERE," I say, even as the drizzle falls around us. I cannot look at David's wounded mouth without going into full headspins, so I say to the cement, "I am so DIZZY!" He says, "I hink you hath hat viwus thing I had wast week." I suddenly realize that he has not connected my queasiness with what he has just been through, and for that I am hugely relieved.

Ten minutes later, I decide we need either to go home or call an ambulance. The mailman has walked by three times now, and he's going to get out the defibrillator if I don't move on. I decide that I probably can navigate the four-minute drive home, and risk passing out and plowing into a Starbucks.

Our babysitter Bertha howls with laughter when I tell her what happened. I say, "I wonder how I got through childbirth." A minute later she says, "How DID you get through childbirth?"

I'm getting queasy again just telling you this. David said, as I put him to bed, "I was glad you were there with me, Mom. It made me feel better." "Glad to be there," I said. "Anytime you get a tooth pulled, I'm your gal. Any. Time."

Love,

x0x0x0x0x Ann

Posted by Ann at 02:22 PM | Comments (33)

June 01, 2005

Fern: The Art of, Um, Process

Dear Kay,

We're friends, right? I show you the crummy knitting, you get all supportive and pretend it hasn't been blocked, right? We're all about process, yes?

fern1.jpg

Well, here's some process for you--the swatch I mentioned yesterday, my first ponderings about my Tennessee State Fair entry. So much to be humble about here.

Yarn. I try out all the yarns to see how they knit up, a mix of Rowan Donegal Lambswool and Alice Starmore Scottish Campion, knitted on size 3/3.25 mms.

Observation 1: I am eternally surprised at how different a yarn can look when it's no longer in its skein. Those long, smooth strands can change utterly when they're broken up into stitches.

Observation 2: Color is relative. I mean totally. I keep thinking about Josef Albers, the artist about whom I know very little except that he spent a lot of his career contemplating the way a color changes depending on what colors are next to it. In my swatch, see that strip of blue? By itself, it is jade green, no fooling.

Conclusion: I decided to go with A, B, C, and D as the major colors for this little coat. But stay tuned. Everything's relative, right?

The Pain and Itch of Intarsia. Take a peek. Look at all those ferny shoots coiling up there. THAT is what I'm talking about, along the hem and the cuffs of the Fern coat. See how smooth and elegant they are?

Now, see the strange, lumpy areas on the right of my swatch? Test 1 is actual intarsia. I defy anyone to do an intarsia fiddlehead that doesn't look like it's been pixellated all to hell. Even Sasha Kagan couldn't whoopsydoodle her way through it. (Using cotton chenille doesn't help, by the way. And being a terrible intarsia knitter may a problem, too.) Test 2 is duplicate stitch, something I have done boatloads of yet looks terrible here. At this point I abandon the notion of following the knitted grid and move on to embroidery, which allows a curve, for heaven's sake. Test 3 abandons chenille for a nice smooth wool, shows some potential. Test 4 is that stitch where you lay down a long piece of yarn, then stitch it down all around it. Test 3 may work, I dunno. One conclusion: I promise, you'll be seeing no intarsia on this thing.

The Pattern. Everybody please go out and support Ann Budd, whose Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns is pure workhorse genius. I am imagining an old-fashioned little jacket with a yoke, a collar, and set-in sleeves. Do I want to crank the numbers to figure out those little set-in sleeves? Nope. Has Ann Budd already done it for me? Yay! I'll draw a pitcher of what I'm envisioning.

I started another swatch, to start figuring out how to use all the colors. But before I knew it, that Grundy County fresh air addled my brain and I was halfway up the back, randomizing the stripes and having a fine old time. I cannot for the life of me capture the color of this thing. (How I wish She Shoots Sheep Shots Gale lived next door.) Neither of these is accurate--the thing is just a deep, browny green loamy forestfest, what with the moss stitch moss along the edge.

fernback.jpg

fernback2.jpg

Seaweed, Bark, Heath, Leaf, Leprechaun, and Eau de Nil. The colors will get lighter toward the top, sort of the way the forest does. Or something.

Advice/suggestions/comments welcome. My State Fair honor is on the line.

x0x0x0x Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:45 PM | Comments (26)
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