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

July 29, 2005

Felicitous Mail

fe·lic·i·ty ( P ) Pronunciation Key (f-ls-t)
n. pl. fe·lic·i·ties

Great happiness; bliss.
1. An instance of great happiness.
2. A cause or source of happiness.

Dear Ann,

I got a terrific package yesterday, all the way from England. It's from Felicity. Felicity doesn't blog, more's the pity. She's a Rowanette, though, and one of the Central London Knitters who meet at Liberty's, so she's practically our cousin. More to the point, she signed up for the Edgy Exchange organized by Emma, Polly and Stephanie. It was my great good fortune that the Powers That Be Edgy assigned her to knit for ME.

Look what I got!!! It's a Trifecta of Craftiness. Can you spot all three crafts in which Felicity excels?

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Well, obviously, there's knitting. That's sort of a given. Felicity must have researched me and my annoying wool sensitivity, because she made this luxuriously long feather-and-fan scarf in Rowan Summer Tweed, a cotton-silk blend. I don't think she also knew, because it is one of my very few unexpressed thoughts, but my favorite Summer Tweed colors are the un-summery ones she chose. She thought they would 'suit' me. Which they do. This fall, my venerable workhorse of a jean jacket gets a big upgrade. Please: take note of the buttons. They are on both ends. They are Special To Me.

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Felicity also made the beaded adornments for my knitting needles and ears. Splendid! My favorite combination of green and blue! Just in time for beachy stylishness (from the ears up anyway)!

And most impressive of all really, because she's new at it: the card and gift tag are Handmade Felicity Originals.

I had a moment of self-doubt when I noticed that the body balm is named 'LAUGHTER'. But I figured out that that's the name of the scent, not a comment on my body. (The Rowan Color Namers may do free-lance work naming perfumes.) I can't wait for an appropriate occasion to deploy Body Balm. I'm sure of one thing: you can't do balm on just a regular Friday.

And I guess Felicity knows about my 'thing' about Liberty of London. (You know, the thing where I want everything they've got?) Now I have a needle book, which Felicity considerately loaded up with needles and pins. Sewing is starting to sound like Destiny Calling.

I have mentioned before that I feel blessed by good Exchange Karma. I really enjoy these exchanges. You 'meet' the nicest, biggest-hearted people, and you get to see another knitter's hand and eye at work, up-close and personal. And if you're super lucky you get to anoint your body with laughter! Thanks Felicity, for all the thought and care. And thanks also to the Supreme Potentesses of the Exchange, for all the aggro they must endure in organizing it. It's great fun on both the giving and receiving ends.

I guess I'd really better block ol' Kiri this weekend. I can't wait, since the designer helpfully points out that 'Kidsilk Haze soaked for 20 minutes is like pulling a cat out of the tub.' Adventure awaits.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:25 PM | Comments (8)

July 27, 2005

The Unwanted House Guest

Dear Kay,

One thing I admire about you (other than your copious stash of denim yarn) is the way you look Adversity in the face, squeeze its chubby cheeks, and say, "Hon, I'm doing another Kiri shawl because this one ain't workin' for me. Adversity, I got no time for you."

I, on the other hand, seem to have let Adversity move in, drink my beer, and leave Cheetos all over the floor. Adversity took hold of my Fern project--my exciting, exhilarating state fair entry--and used it as a doormat for about four weeks.

It was a matter of exactly ten rows of knitting: I had finished the back and was cranking on the left front of the cardigan when I realized that I'd made the back about an inch short of what it was supposed to be. The armholes were going to be too small if I didn't rip back all my beautiful short-rowed shoulder shaping and add the missing inch to the back. It was an important inch.

Less than an hour of fixing, right? Well, Adversity invited his friend Dread over, they called Procrastination, and before long they've hunkered down in my living room. A month later, I'm tired of picking up their socks.

With all these courageous state fair entrants popping up with ribbons and tales of sno-kones and funnel cakes, I realized I had to Get With It. August 30, my turn-in date, is creeping up on me. So I handed Adversity a bus ticket, whacked him on the fanny, said "Go bother some other blogger" and set things to rights.

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I'm almost done with the front of the cardigan, then it's on to the sleeves, which I realize now are going to need to be knitted top-down if I have any hope of getting the stripes to match up. Any top-down-sleeve-knitting advice is welcomed--this is terra incognita to me.

Another Ribbon!

A moment of awestruck admiration, please. Kate has taken home a red ribbon in the Kimberton (Pennsylvania) Community Fair for her beautiful quilt of hearts. Go take a peek at her dramatic You Are There reportage.

And a Monstrosity! A Rilly Cute Monstrosity!

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Get a load of this: Susan has just entered her very own creation, a felted monster, in the Texas State Fair. She writes:

"I didn't use a pattern, so it was pretty easy. It was an exercise in letting go (which happens to be the them of the Texas fair--'Let Yourself Go!'). I just had a vague concept of what the monster would look like and went with it. I knit a jumbo body and felted the sucker. Three times. I embroidered the eyes and mouth and knitted the nose on after he was felted. 
 
"I didn't get teary about the thought of the blue ribbon--I got anxious. Where the heck would I hang it so everyone can see it? I would want to be subtle, you know, like 'Oh? That thing? That's just my State Fair Blue Ribbon. I'm sure they must hand them out like candy.' But I also would want to make sure it's somewhere really obvious so no one can possibly miss it. I'm thinking of the guest bathroom."

Judging is in September. We are wishing you the luck, Susan. The monster he is super fantastic in an unthreatening way.

As for the theme of the Texas State Fair, "Let Yourself Go!" seems to be the theme for me this summer. Off to go find a lipstick, which surely must be stuck down in the sofa cushions.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:38 PM | Comments (12)

Please Pass the Garter Stitch

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Dear Ann,

On the cusp of finishing Kiri, or one of the Kiris, I have a powerful yen for garter stitch. I also feel like it's time to get moving toward finishing up the last loose ends of the Afghanalong for Afghans.

Carolyn is a reader in California we've never met. She sent in one of the very first squares for the Afghanalong. And she kept sending them. She sent so many that our first blanket was almost a 100% Carolyn blanket. Then she kept sending them.

At first, Carolyn was using up leftovers from all her other charity knitting (didja get that? "all her other charity knitting"? enough leftovers to make entire blankets out of?). Then she started sending these fantastic, bright, fine-gauge squares. She explained that her sister had passed onto her 'a lot' of 20-plus year old tapestry wool that she wasn't ever going to use. The tapestry wool wasn't as springy as knitting yarn (less twist, I think), but it knit up beautifully just the same.

I had no idea how much 'a lot' was, but the squares kept coming. To amuse herself, Carolyn gave them names, like 'Oreo' and 'Ivy' and 'Lap Pool'. They were based, mostly and loosely, on the 'log cabin' theme. They were, in essence, brilliant color play.

So naturally I started to hoard them.

In the end, there were 19. Pictured above. I asked Carolyn if she would mind if we made one Superfantastic blanket out of them, and put it up on eBay to raise money for Afghans for Afghans. Carolyn, being Carolyn, said yes. Then she sent me:

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A Righteous Pile of Tapestry Yarn.

So I've been a-thinkin' and a-ponderin' how to put the squares together. First I was going to just sew them together and log-cabin around them until the cows come home. But then I thought, gee, it'd be nice to share this work and maybe finish this thing in time for early autumn, when eBay shoppers start craving wool blankets. So I thought, if we did the strips Courthouse Steps style, then two people could work on the blanket simultaneously, one at each end.

Of course, these two people would have to be in the same room at the same time, to do that, and the strips would get long and get set aside in mid-strip, etc. So I wasn't quite sure about that one, either.

Finally, the answer was in the Taro Blankie. Many hands could make light work, if we joined the squares with sashing and blocks, as in the Taro Blanket. (I have another Californian, Ann HB, to thank for showing me how to sash-and-block). This would have the added advantage of being the kind of project that many people could do, in the same room, while enjoying snacks and beverages. Each person could sash-and-block one square at a time. A nice, do-able evening's project.

So here's the plan: In September, after Labor Day, I'll be having Open House every Monday evening. Anybody who's in the neighborhood and wants to come over and knit a sash-and-block or two, and doesn't already know where I live, email me. We'll do it for a few weeks, until we run out of sashes, blocks and tapestry yarn. Bring a salty snack and/or a beverage to share.

Don't worry, I'll remind you when the time comes.

Now back to Kiri edging(s).

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:21 PM | Comments (25)

July 26, 2005

Tale of Two Kiris

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Dear Ann,

I wasn't going to blog about this because it's kind of weird, but maybe that's why I should blog about it. Here goes:

I appear to have knit two Kiris. Well, almost two.

Kiri The First

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I made it to the 10th repeat (of 12) (they get longer with each repeat, did I mention that?). I was almost home. But bad knitting karma was just sucking the joy out of it for me. I kept making Mistakes of Inattention and Mistakes of Having No Idea What I'm Doing and Mistakes of Stitches Sticking Together and Mistakes of Children Pestering Me Without Pity. These mistakes seemed, maddeningly, to become more frequent as I became more familiar with the pattern. I kept having to un-knit multiple rows, because Lord knows you can't rip this stuff out. The unknitting of the Kidsilk Haze, it is the Torture of the Damned! It is the polar opposite of the Superfantastic Knitting! (I refuse to call it 'tinking', because tinking sounds like something that might possibly be pleasant.)

But I soldiered on, glum as all hell. Then I discovered, WaaaaaaAAAAY down below, some sort of weird dropped-stitchy thing. Like, many REPEATS below. I was sure I hadn't made a mistake that far back and not noticed it, but there it was. I'm still thinking it might be a snagged stitch that got pulled out of shape, and that with a little jooging it might work itself back to rights, but by the time I noticed it, I was not in the mood to jooge. I was not in the mood to mess with this thing for one more second. I was in the mood to throw it in the corner and never speak of it again.

And yet (cue silent-movie player piano), there was my Innocent Exchange Recipient to think of. She has done nothing wrong. Bless her heart, she deserves her Kiri.

And here's the thing: I had enough Kidsilk Haze (have you noticed it's not called 'yarn'?--because it's HAZE) for a second Kiri. Starting over seemed like the only way to go.

I know that's irrational. If I screwed up Kiri The First, what was to stop me from screwing up Kiri Deux in the late innings? But I felt that if I could just get another chance, on a clean slate, I could do it. I could do it correctly and without all the achy-breaky back-knitting.

Kiri Deux

The great thing about irrational beliefs is that sometimes they are absolutely correct. I started again. I have sailed through to the 12th repeat. I have not had to un-knit a single row. As far as I know, there is not a mistake in it. Now that I have abandoned the illusion that the Kidsilk Haze will obey the laws of physics, I sort of enjoy it. It's like miming the act of knitting. You feel no weight on the needles. You can barely see the haze floating hither and thither between the points. So you put on white makeup, you make the motions of knitting, and it turns into little leaves of fern lace.

What's the epiphany here? When I was knitting Kiri Deux, I stopped thinking about rows or repeats. I thought of each leaf individually. I know each row of each leaf. As I knit each leaf, I could tell whether the stitches, decreases and yarnovers were arranging themselves as they should, with that lovely leafy symmetry. Then I knit that row of the next leaf, and the next. It's hard to explain why this slight mental shift made any difference, but it made all the difference.

That's knitting; it's not for the stupid. It requires a constant, graceful kind of intelligence. At least when you are knitting little fern leaves.

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So now, get this: I'm ready for the edging! Woo-hoo! A new lace repeat to memorize, and new clarity and grace to be acquired by the skin of my teeth. A world-class bedsheet blocking experience awaits me, just around the corner!

(What happened to Kiri the First?) Well, it looked so cute on Carrie when she modeled it, that I suggested making it into a small-scale shawl for her to wear to the High Holiday services this autumn. Since the Jewish holidays are the only occasions on which she will submit to girly dress, and since she seems to think that a mohair lace shawl is the most sophisticated, grownup garment possible, she jumped at it. So now I'll get to try out that tip about putting Kidsilk Haze in the freezer in order to rip it back. If that fails, I'll take the scissors to it. (Does that make me a Bad Ass Knitter, Wendy? I hope so.) If anyone has any ideas on modifying Kiri for a child, I'm all ears. I was thinking of maybe doing an eyelet edging so that I can thread a satin ribbon through it so that it won't fall off her shoulders.....? Can I get an 'amen' on that?)

Piecework

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In other breaking Lace News, the July/August issue of always-wonderful Piecework magazine is devoted to all manner of lace: knitted, bobbin, needle, crochet. (There is one mind-blowing picture of bobbin lace-in-progress, with at least 50 wooden bobbins hanging from it.) Really delightful historical material, including a piece on a 19th Century 'penny dreadful' novel called 'Tina', about a poor, beautiful lace-maker and the specific lace patterns she made while defending her virtue. PLUS a Nancy Bush pattern for an Estonian lace shawl that is to die for. (Polly, remember that midnight blue Kidsilk Haze? I think it's going to be Estonian when it grows up.....) And once I'm in the Baltics, can Latvian mittens be so far? (Yes! They can be very far!)

Please don't think I'm weird about the 2-Kiri thing,
Love, Kay

P.S. When I dragged Kiri the First out of its hole to take a picture, I couldn't find the mistake that made me scrap it.

Posted by Kay at 01:41 PM | Comments (25)

July 22, 2005

Breaking News: The First Blue Ribbon!

Dear Kay,

Well, every once in a while an email is so delicious, so fantastic that a girl just has to go lie down. Get a load of this:

Our reader Donna writes that a few months ago she made a buttonhole bag for her daughter’s friend. Her daughter’s friend got the buttonhole bag fever and made one herself. She entered it in the Dane County Fair in Madison, Wisconsin, and guess what.

blueribbonbuttonhole.jpg

She won a blue ribbon! The judge said it was excellent! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Congradualizations! Waiting to get Donna’s daughter’s friend’s name. We’re all just clucking with pride.

State Fair News

Fellow blogiste Kate writes that she’s figured out what she’s going to enter in her Pennsylvania county fair. She’s devoted the appropriate amount of careful thought to what, when, and where she’s going to enter. Go take a peek at her entry over here. It is super fantastic! We give the entry a blue ribbbon! The quilting it is a good friend of the knitting!

And While We’re At It

Everybody, please send all news of your state fair activities our way—we’re all in this together, you know?

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:28 AM | Comments (11)

July 20, 2005

Mason-Dixon Rubber Stamping

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Dear Ann,

I thought I'd put the fear of rubber stamps into you, and show you what could happen if you continue your lackadaisical blogging-from-the-mountain-whenever-you-feel-like-it-like-a-freakin'-oracle approach. If you leave me to my own devices, know this: the needle-felting? That was just a start. I have other crafts yet to explore. And just so we're clear, know this: at the Other Crafts? I am Not So Good. Today, we take on (1) rubber stamping and (2) sewing teeny tiny stitches with that awful, fiddly stuff called sewing thread.

This all started when I was flipping through the August issue of Martha Stewart Living, wondering whether I should let my subscription lapse after all these years. I admire what Martha has done for Good Taste in America, but she makes me cranky with all that domestic perfectionism (yes, I'm still scarred from when she told us to avoid unsightly creases in our table cloths by rolling them in archival tissue paper and building an appropriate storage facility for these 5-foot long logs of fabric; I mean, I'm as eager as the next nut to improve my Fine Linens Maintenance Program--that's why I was reading that article in the first place-- but I do not want to feel like a slovenly slattern because I FOLD the dang things).

But all doubts vanished when I saw that this month had two most excellent how-tos: On page 64, 'Repairing Heirloom Quilts', with instructions for sewing on a label:

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And on page 112, 'Rubber Stamp Designs', with vital techniques for stamping on eggs, twigs, shells, leaves and feathers.

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You know what's coming, right? A rubber-stamped label for Taro's quilt-inspired blanket.

I have a Past. My Past includes this collection of rubber stamps:

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I'm pretty much over the Rubber Stamp Thing. (Although if My Paper Crane or
Amy Ruppel or Making Fiends made rubber stamps, I'd fall right off the wagon.) The kids and I get them out on rainy days and stamp all over the place, though, and it's great fun. I love the rickety look of a stamped word. (And wouldn't those ink-stained alphabet stamps make a cool intarsia or needlepoint design?)

To make the Taro Tag, I cut up a muslin pillow protector and did some test-stamping with my one and only pad of fabric ink, which was kind of a lighter color than I would have liked. Everything was going great until I got to the part where I wanted to stamp '2005', and I realized that I don't have any number stamps. This is where a solid elementary school education, and a habit of watching movie credits until the very end, can come in handy. I made the date in Roman numerals. I hope I got it right, 'cause Taro's dad went to Princeton and I don't want him to bust my chops about it.

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Next came the sewing part. To frame the Roman numerals, I raided my fabric mini-stash for a spritely Kaffe Fassett print, appropriately called Roman Glass.

I threaded a needle with orange sewing thread (elapsed time: 30 minutes), and I sewed the white patch to the Roman Glass and the Roman Glass patch to the back of the blanket (elapsed time: 6 days). Just kidding. It seemed like a long time, is what I 'm saying. Here's the result:

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I'm not kidding about the stitches being small.

Confident of more frequent postings from Tennessee, I remain,

your loving pal,
Kay

P.S. The 'Buffy Rocks' and 'My Little Sis Can Out-Eat Yer Little Sis' t-shirts will go on sale soon. I've got a feeling that a Buffy Fan Club is on the way.

Posted by Kay at 10:05 AM | Comments (27)

July 19, 2005

Decreasing Ability, and Le Tour de Grease

Dear Kay,

I know I seem to be a little preoccupied with a passel of irrelevant gibble gabble, so I promise that this letter will contain 100% hardcore knitting content—no rambling, no Chopin, no excessive-eating-with-my-sister episodes.*

I show you the following only as a cautionary reminder that even when a pattern is a snipsnap piece of cake, things can go horribly wrong even as you think you’re really clever.

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Exhibit A: The armhole shaping to Teva Durham’s Irregular Ribbed Toggle Raglan Pullover Whatever. From The Greatest Knitting Book Ever Published Involving Capelets, Short Row Fair Isle, and Things Too Beautiful and Wacky to Contemplate.

(I should mention that this sweater has one raglan sleeve and one set-in sleeve. Very Teva. You’d think I’d screw up the raglan sleeve, but no. It was the set-in sleeve.)

Look carefully at the left side of the armhole, which is the back of the sweater. See how the right side has a lovely river of stockinette? See how the other side is a curling mess of reverse stockinette? See how the decreases look all nutty, and how the ribbing pattern on the back falls apart? See how far I knitted up the back before noticing this? Setting a sleeve into this mess would be a heartache. Even my low standards could not let this slip by. In a crabby moment, I ripped it back to the start of the armhole and vowed to Pay Attention.

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Exhibit B: Better. At least now there’s a lovely river of stockinette on the back side. I am chastened.

Your humble servant, I remain,

Living la vida mountainous,

Ann

*OK, there was one incident yesterday that bears repeating.

My sister has a friend, Billy, who is a professional eater. Actually it’s her husband’s old college pal who is the 28th best eater in the world. So talented, in fact, that he was invited to the Alka-Seltzer US Open of Competitive Eating in Las Vegas last weekend. (You can watch the competition on prime-time ESPN, July 28-30.) Sadly, Billy was eliminated in the first round, when he was pitted (unfairly, some say) against the 8th-ranked eater. (Each round is a different food, unknown to the contestants beforehand.) Apparently, Billy was able to chow only three and a half pounds of cheese fries before Mr. Harukara kicked into overdrive and outate him.

Well, yesterday my sister and I daytripped with the young ones to Chattanooga, Tennessee, which everybody knows is the world headquarters of the Krystal Corporation. Buffy decided that in honor of Billy, or something, we should have a Krystal-eating contest, sister against sister.

Now, I have waited all my life to take on my sister, to compete head to head with the girl who was always cuter, sassier, and smaller of feet than me. She is, after all, named Buffy. So we sit down to this:

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A Number 7 Combo 12 Krystals, two large fries, and two large drinks.

We agree that our competition won’t be a strict time trial, but more an endurance event. Who can eat the most Krystals in a reasonable amount of time? She decides that she must have cheese on her Krystals, and I see my opportunity. She’s going to get bogged down in cheese while I slide right through my cheese-free Krystals.

I am wrong.

I slip the slippery square from its cardboard box and start in. When I look up, proud to have snarfed a Krystal in four bites, Buffy is on her third Krystal. She is eating them in two bites. I say, “Has Billy been coaching you?”

She just smiles and starts number four.

The children are enjoying this spectacle. As I start number three, Buffy is finishing number five, and suddenly she stops. “I don’t feel so . . . “

She’s hit some kind of congestion problem, a Krystal lockup. She whacks herself on the chest, pauses, then picks up number six.

David, my nine year old, realizes that something unholy is happening to his mother. “Mom. Really. I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

My nephew Lawson chimes in. “Please, don’t. Please stop. Who’s going to drive us home?”

The contest ends the way competition with Buffy always ends: Buffy Victorious.

She'll be back for the IFOCE-sanctioned Krystal Square Off Hamburger Eating Championship on September 5.

Posted by Ann at 12:50 PM | Comments (23)

July 18, 2005

Quilt-Knitting Monday

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Dear Ann,

So there I was Sunday afternoon, hanging out the knitting on the clothesline. Happy as a pig in a blanket, because I've finished the denim blanket for my friends' baby, Taro. I took a few pictures, because when you have an FO, it's all about the bragging, isn't it?

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I love the way Belinda's space-bleached patch (lower right) throws everything off-kilter. Your eye doesn't get what it expects. I think the squares will blend more as the blanket fades and mellows. At some point, it will seem like it was meant to be.

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I love the spots of color in the block-and-sashing. Especially the pink one. May Taro be a boy who does not feel excluded from pink or any color. I don't approve of that pink/blue baby-labelling thing. When a new person comes into the world, he is entitled to all the colors we've got.

Technical details, I sewed the mitered squares together into the 6 blocks using mattress stitch. All the other bits--the 'sashes' and mini-blocks, were picked up and knitted on. The seams between the blocks, and the long one down the center, were made by picking up stitches on one edge of each piece, and then doing a 3-needle bindoff. I now think the 3-needle bindoff makes a superior seam on a blanket. It is extremely flexible and strong, and it is neat on both sides. The only trick is making sure you pick up the right number of stitches on each edge, so that the join is even and you don't have stitches left over on one side. I did the narrow border by picking up along each edge separately, and then knitting a few rows of reverse stockinette; the four edges were tacked together at the corners. The edge curls toward the back of the blanket, and looks like i-cord or piping.

One more thing: the colored blocks are Tahki Cotton Classic. I had no problems with the denim shrinking and the Cotton Classic not shrinking. It all worked out fine, with no puckering or pulling. Over short distances, the denim's 10-15 percent shrinkage is not very noticeable, and I believe the Cotton Classic also shrinks a bit in hot water.

Bragging for the Blogless

As long as I was hanging stuff on the line, I figured I'd show off a little. To the right of Taro's Denim Blanket, we have: Apron From One of My Grandmas (Which One, We've Forgotten) and Quilt Made By Charlie's Grandma.

The apron is fun. Although I had assumed it belonged to my apron-wearing grandma, Mabel, my mom thinks it belonged to my non-apron-wearing grandma, Pearl. Pearl was a case worker for a social work agency. Her job was providing services to a large group of 'seniors', some of whom were younger than her. (Sometimes I got to go with the seniors to bingo, where I learned Speed Card Marking.) They showed their affection for Grandma by making her stuff: ceramics, crochet cozies for toilet paper rolls (the hoop-skirted doll ones), and other handmade tributes including aprons. This was funny because Grandma really REALLY was not the Apron Type (she was the Taking-People-To-Bingo Type; once when I was about 10, she picked me up, told my mom she was taking me for 'a ride', and took me to the Ozarks for several days, but that's another story). But I'm guessing you are more interested in the quilt.

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I got the quilt at a silent auction for the kids' nursery school a few years ago. It was made by Charlie's Grandma. At the auction, I basically parked myself within eyeshot of this quilt the whole evening. Luckily everyone else was bidding on spa days and restaurant dinners, so I did not have to engage in Antisocial and/or Unladylike Behavior to get the quilt.

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There are only three kinds of houses, but each one looks different. When I bought the quilt, I didn't know whether it was from a pattern, or if Charlie's Grandma had designed it herself. Later I saw another version of it at a quilt show in Glens Falls, New York, so I guess it must be from a pattern. Charlie's Grandma did a wonderful job selecting the fabrics--I hear a steel drum when I look at the colors.

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As you get closer to the sea, the houses give way to cabanas. The cabanas remind me of Kaffe's 'tents' intarsia pattern -- which, for all I know, may have been inspired by a quilt. Fun fact: cabanas are totally knittable; Barbara Walker's 4th Treasury gives instructions for how to make cabana-shaped pieces. (She does not explain WHY to make them. We just make them. We don't ask why.)

The waves are really clever, and there is a nice bit of quilting in the sand. As I've learned a bit more about quilts, I've realized that this quilt has very little quilting on it. I think it would be particularly nice to quilt in the skies above the houses, and in the strips around the border.

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But I love it just as it is.

Happy Monday,
Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:28 AM | Comments (34)

July 14, 2005

Fine Dining and Deep Thawts

Dear Kay,

We’ve got the guinea pig hooked up to the generator, so I’ve got time to write you as long as Squeaker keeps running on that wheel.

Speaking of pigs, life this summer is different. I’m not saying we’ve hit rock bottom here in our mountain refuge, but whenever my sister shows up, the food always takes a turn. Buffy and I managed to make supper tonight out of this:

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Cocktail Smokies Enrobed in Coats of Piggly Wiggly Pizza Dough

If you’re wondering why there are so many Pigs in Blankets here, it’s because our house hosted the first course in a progressive dinner for the Monteagle Assembly’s 9-to-12ers. David suggested that we serve Pigs in Blankets. Where he got this idea, I don’t know. Must have seen some Brady Bunch rerun. Well, it sounded fun. In fact, it took an hour and a half of wrappin’, bakin’, coolin’, and taste-testin’ to get a respectable platter of appetizers. Just about killed us. (And if you want to know what happens to a can of house brand pizza dough if you forget to put it in the fridge, we can tell you. After a while it explodes—blows the end right off the can.)

Buffy clocked what happened. At 6:31 pm, swarm of locusts arrived. By 6:34, the Pigs were gone. These forty kids would have eaten the napkins if they’d stayed another five minutes. Like a bunch of goats they were. “Shoo! Git! Stop EATING stuff.” If Buffy and I hadn’t been sneaking factory rejects for the previous hour, we would have missed altogether the sublime greaseball that is a Cocktail Smoky Pig in Blanket.

The Cocktail Smokies As Supper situation here reminds me of that article years ago in the Times about what happens when people eat alone at home. One woman confessed to eating spaghettini, the slightly thinner version of spaghetti, every single night of the week. Another was fond of Chinese dumplings, fried not steamed. My favorite was the woman who cheerfully ate a bowl of Cheerios, over and over again. I remember reading this article and thinking, These are my people! Yes! I too can eat popcorn and call it dinner.

Other Cosmic News

I had a little Moment this week.

This past weekend, Hubbo brought an electronic keyboard up to Monteagle and I immediately wished I had some music to play. Hubbo plays by ear and rarely uses music. He just plays, and the girl from Ipanema shows up outta nowhere. I’m a terrible pianist, but that keyboard sitting there was driving me crazy. Where in this neck of the woods could I find some music?

I wanted to find something evocative, something delicate and lovely and slow to play as night fell, as the fellas were off watching “Shrek 2” and getting buzzed on Skittles. Because Barry Manilow was not available, I realized it had to be Chopin, a nocturne. The quietest music ever. Through the miracle of the Internet, I googled “Chopin nocturne” and downloaded whatever the first entry was. I could not believe my good fortune, that this sublime, elegant music could be mine simply by printing it out on my little printer. For free. As I studied the music, and picked out the first notes, I marveled at the way a sheet of paper could bring to me this piece that was written so long ago. That lucky Mme Camille Pleyel, getting nocturnes dedicated to her by Chopin. What did she do to get nocturnes dedicated to her? All those beautiful notes, so carefully written out.

Ah, you know where this is headed. A knitting pattern and a sheet of music. It’s all code, a shorthand for very technical steps that must be followed in a certain order. So straightforward, yet so open to the imagination of the person following the steps.

Must go lie down, overcome with the wonderfulness of it all. And must google Mme Camille Pleyel so I can envy her a little more.

Love,
Ann

PS Summer reading done so far:

The Master by Colm Toibin (A novel with Henry James as the main character. So great, and I never even finished The Ambassadors back in school.)
My Antonia by Willa Cather (This audio is read by Joan Allen, my favorite reader.)
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl (Such fun. New York Times food critic tells all. Names names, suitably dishy.)

Yet to come:
The Devil Wore Prada
The Known World by Edward Jones
Some Maeve Binchy novel
The rest of The Half-Life of Happiness by John Casey which is a long shot seeing as how it's an actual printed book and not on audio.

Posted by Ann at 01:21 AM | Comments (24)

July 12, 2005

Fluffernutter*

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Dear Ann,

I just can't let well enough alone. In my last post, I set everything up perfectly. I hoped and expected that the voters would be kind, and that I would be knitting up Kiri in absorbent, summer-friendly Euroflax Linen. The people spoke, and they spoke overwhelmingly in favor of the Easy Way Out (although there was a strong and vocal minority pointing out that the Easy Way Out was not very character-building, that I am a wimp or at the very least flirting outrageously with Wimphood, that Kidsilk Haze is Not So Bad, that it can be frozen and ripped out, etc etc.). All systems were go.

But it didn't work out that way. In the end, for reasons that I cannot disclose on the off-chance that my Edgy Recipient is reading, my heart told me I had to go with the Kidsilk Haze. In Trance, a lovely pale teal. (I do so admire the Color-Name Pickers at Rowan. They have the unerring ability, matched only by the folks at Garnet Hill, to pick color names that give you all the atmosphere in the world but not a single clue as to what COLOR we might be talking about. Apparently, if you find yourself in a trance, the color you will see is a pale, fuzzy teal. Who knew?)

But back to the Kidsilk Haze. Oy! Whatta yarn!

Scene: Saturday, July 9. Our protagonist, Kay, is in the hammock. It is a lovely, cool-for-July, not-humid-for-July afternoon. There is a pleasant breeze, intermittently wafting. Kay is dreamily entranced by one of the early repeats of Kiri. She is figuring out where the center of each little leaf is, depending on whether the leaf is in the 'opening' phase or the 'closing' phase, which, to her, is the ultimate in intellectual stimulation. She looks down at the small mass of shawl hanging from the needles, gasps, and laughs out loud: a tiny puff of a breeze has set the whole mass of mohair tendrils a-tremble, like a sea anemone. This is entertaining, but impossible to knit.

Lesson learned: Kidsilk Haze requires stillness. It is not a Rugged Outdoor Yarn.

Scene: Sunday morning. 9 a.m. After an hour of pleasant knitting in bed on the Fourth Repeat, the humidity rises one-half of one percent. The Kidsilk Haze solidifies in Kay's hands. It is a felted mass of mohair. The needles will not budge.

Lesson learned: Kidsilk Haze requires low humidity. It is not a Rugged Indoor Yarn.

Since then, I have been knitting Kiri under precise climate control, my eye on the barometer at all times. Since even a molecule of invisible hangnail can put Kidsilk Haze into Passive Resistance Mode, my manicure has not been this good since my wedding day. With these slight modifications to my normal routine, all has gone well.

Well, except when it hasn't. Even a simple lace pattern is good for one's humility, I find. In lace as in life, it is when we are most sure that we are doing a fabulous job, that we are most likely to be completely screwing it up without realizing it.

The pictures show Kiri in the middle of the Seventh Repeat (of 12 ever-growing repeats) of Chart 2. The first ball of Kidsilk Haze is almost finished, so I figure I'm one-third of the way home. (Note: If my recipient were 8 years old like my model, I'd be done. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.)

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See that column of double yarnovers down the center back? You don't want to make a mistake there. If you make a mistake there, you can't just knit 2 together on the next right-side row and pretend it didn't happen, or pick up a non-existent yarnover on the wrong side. It can't be fixed. You must assume a submissive posture and un-knit back to the mistake, with the Kidsilk Haze kicking and screaming and busting your chops the whole way.

More Exchange News

I have great Exchange Luck. Look at the great handmade goodies I got from my secret Back-Tack buddy:

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The pouches are beautifully made and just my style of mod, fun prints. Inside one pouch was a yarn snipper and a handy, tiny calculator (which gets rid of my excuse for not figuring out my row gauge correctly). But what what really touched me was this:

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A beautiful collection of crochet flowers, in my favorite cotton yarns including Rowan Denim. 14 of them! They are like candy. I can't wait for the perfect embellishment project for them.

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Meanwhile they make a stunning pin on my jean jacket.

Thank you anonymous, generous, talented Back-Tacker!

Love, Kay

*A recipe for Fluffernutter Sandwiches. A New England favorite since 1917!

Posted by Kay at 12:27 PM | Comments (33)

July 08, 2005

Department of Knitting With Tony Award Winners

Dear Ann,

In the words (and non-word) of the slogan, I heart New York. Sure, it is a patriotic act to take the subway, but there are rewards. Every so often, something fun happens. Like this morning, when BD Wong asked me about a play I saw last night (the Playbill was sticking out of my bag). We chatted for a minute about the wonderful performance of S. Epatha Merkerson. He knew he was BD Wong, and I knew he was BD Wong, but we were both too cool to mention it. (That's me, isn't it? So dang cool.)

Fun fact: I was knitting during this conversation. What was I knitting?

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My swatch for Kiri! At long last, I am knitting Kiri. Remembering your early life-and-death struggles with Kidsilk Haze, I tried out the lace pattern on some leftover Tahki Cotton Classic. I can see that it is easy to memorize once you visualize the leaves and get their stitch counts fixed in the brain. But I dread the unintentional K2togs that I am sure to commit, with such a fine and fluffy so-called yarn as Kidsilk Haze.

This project is destined for my contribution to the Rowanettes' Edgy Exchange. Hey! I know I'm starting late, but the pattern says it only took Polly 24 hours! (So for me, could it take THAT much longer than, say, 48? 96? The rest of my natural life?)

Here's the question: Should I do it, as I intended, in Kidsilk Haze, or in Euroflax 100% Linen Sportweight? (I happen to have both In-Stash.) Either yarn will show the lace. The linen, while stringy, is much easier to manage on the needles, since you can both see and feel the stitches (seeing and feeling are great advantages in knitting, I find). Personally, I like a nice linen wrap in warmer weather, and the Euroflax has a wonderful swing and drape. On the other hand, in the world of lace shawl yarns, kid mohair is the pink Cadillac with fins. Knitting with a weightless, invisible substance would surely be a character-building experience for me.

Ooh--I feel a Blog Poll coming on!

I am prepared to obey, or at least give deep consideration to, the Will of the People.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:37 PM | Comments (39)

July 07, 2005

Happy Knitting Content

Dear Ann,

I do not turn on the TV in the morning, so it was through the Internet knitting world that I found out the sad news about the London explosions. From Belinda, who -- CNN take note -- is the perfect news source: factual, concise and braced with Churchillian fortitude. Belinda's most recent email was entitled, 'Happy Knitting Content'. On the theory that Happy Knitting Content can never hurt, and may help, here is:

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Wait....is that a French Market Bag? Is it a Buttonhole Bag? No! According to Belinda, it is a "bastardization of the Buttonhole Bag and the French Market Bag". She used Cascade 220, doubled I think but perhaps tripled, from the chunky look of it. It is striped, in a pattern that I would describe, technically, as 'stripey'. But I would be wrong. Belinda's stripes started out as Fibonacci stripes, but her guy told her they went wrong somehow and turned into binary stripes. That's fine; like I said, stripey!

The hank of Rowanspun DK is for scale. It's a small-to-medium size handbag. You could lose your phone in it, but you will find it before it stops ringing. The bag may or may not end up with a lining,. which may or may not be red.

There is other knitting content, but I'm not in the mood. Happy Knitting Content will always keep for another day. Meanwhile, sending thoughts and prayers out to Londoners.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 03:01 PM | Comments (14)

July 06, 2005

Bonus Summer Reading Issue

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Dear Kay,

HELP! SUFFERING MAYONNAISE OVERDOSE! SEND BALSAMIC VINEGAR ASAP!

I’m very sorry for the lapse in my correspondence. If you want to get Mary B to blog with you, or some other unblogged genius out there, I don't blame you a bit. Hell, I've never even knitted a sock.

It’s just that I have been experiencing a mind-busting combination of summer in a new place, reunion with long-lost relatives, and a Fourth of July existential episode. I’ll explain. And yes, there is knitting in here somewhere.

Summer in a New, Old Place

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As I have mentioned a bozillion times already, we have set up house in Monteagle, Tennessee, at a place called the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly. It’s a chautauqua dating to 1882, back when condos in Destin were but a dream, and before colleges offered summer programs for teachers. In the day, hundreds of heat-fleeing Protestants would take the train up Monteagle mountain for a summer of educational programs, fellowship, and life in beadboard cottages constructed in a carefree, codes-free way. They probably never dreamed that one day, five generations later, 21st-century people would be living in these cottages, where the floorboards drop a foot and there’s not a right angle to be found.

(If you want to get a fairly uncharitable taste of what the Assembly is like, someone just started a serial novel set in the Assembly. I’m guessing--given that his story line involves a scheming Episcopal bishop done in by a Civil War saber--that Bruce doesn’t really plan on spending time at the Assembly anymore.)

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It rains a lot here in the afternoons, which makes knitting on the porch a varsity sport. I’m into Teva Durham’s Irregular Ribbed Toggle Raglan which is great, simple knitting—a series of ribs that go 33122344 around and around. The Rowan Magpie is incredibly dense. I wonder when I’ll ever wear this. But it is green, like everything else I'm knitting in the Summer of Green.

(My State Fair Knitting will be back front and center shortly; I trust everybody is working on their projects.)

Reunion with Long-Lost Relatives

Last weekend I headed down I-59 to Birmingham, Alabama, for a reunion of Allens. The Allens are my mother’s family. When my mother died, 20 years ago, an only child, our limb of the fambly tree dropped right off. Just like that! Snap! Gone! Somehow, some Allens tracked us down and invited us to a reunion, and in a fit of curiosity, my sister and I decided to go.

Buffy flew in from Virginia, and the two of us had the rare experience of walking into a backyard in Vestavia Hills and being surrounded by family that we did not know. They studied me as carefully as I studied them: “She looks just like Helen,” a third cousin said, peering into my face. “But I bet you hear that a lot.”

Actually, I don’t hear that a lot. I never hear that. I realized that nobody in my current life knew my mother at all, and there I was in a nest of relatives who grew up with her, who could tell me all sorts of stories about her. I looked around and noticed several people whose deep-set eyes had the look of Grandaddy Allen’s.

After I finished boohooing in the powder room--buck up, girl!—I managed to wobble through a day with cousins old and young, large and small, trying to figure out how we all fit together. Buffy had brought a large family tree she was determined to finish filling out.

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Our cousin Lee had us boohooing all over again when he brought out the ancestral family doll Cora, who could be seen in an 1895 photograph where she was already 25 years old. The letter that was tucked in the box with Cora told us that Cora was to be passed from generation to generation as a reminder to keep the Allen family close.

Lee (clearly the official Keeper of the Allen Boxes of Stuff) read another letter chronicling the family history. Our early relatives came by wagon to Alabama in the 1820s. In the back of the wagon, sitting atop the pile of belongings, our great-great-great grandmother knitted the entire way. Huge disagreements erupted when she needed more “string” for her knitting, but her husband did not want to unpack the trunk so she could fetch more. (People did a lot more fetching back then.)

Fourth of July Existential Experience

All the above—being in a new place, the reunion of unknown cousins, Cora the doll, ancestral domestic knitting disagreements--have been tumbling around in my head. It all mudged into a pudding yesterday as the entire population of the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly gathered for the July Fourth lunch on the Mall. Each cottage had its own table (aka moldy plywood on sawhorses), and some cottages had four or five tables worth of fambly. Laughing, hugging, passing mountains of potato salad and having a gay old time. Our single slab of plywood, festively decorated with bunting and tomato sandwiches had, well, the four of us. Three, actually, once Clif declared the whole thing BORING and wandered home. At this rate, I thought, this will end up with just me, sitting there at my moldy plywood table slurping mayonnaise.

Why am I telling you all this? I dunno. I seem to be having some cosmic reckoning about family: the family you choose and the family that's just out there, whether or not you choose to know them. I looked at Buffy's family tree and found my little twig--me, Hubbo, the fellas. I looked up the chart, saw the hundreds of other twigs, and the enormity of family just washed over me. All those relatives! The forest of cousins out there! I need to busy myself finding all these people--the moldy plywood table of life needs to be filled.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:19 AM | Comments (31)

July 05, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

Dear Ann,

Mary B of Richmond, who graces our comments and Found Objects on a regular basis, is a modest and dignified mother of two. She does not claim to have invented the dubious practice known as "showing the sock a good time"; that distinction lies elsewhere. But I will go out on a limb and say that Mary B may well have perfected the art. I will let the evidence speak for itself. The following photos are from Mary's recent trip to Britain.

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Sock with ghost in Yorkshire.

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With Mary and Yeoman at Tower of London. (Yeoman is on the right.)

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With William Wallace Guy (center) in Scotland.

Last but not least (my personal favorite, although it's hard to choose):

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Sock with one of the many Roman Centurions one still finds wandering the countryside.

The sock, apparently, had a very good time indeed. As did Mary.

Write when you return to civilization.

Love, Kay

P.S. Thanks, Mary B!

Posted by Kay at 09:51 AM | Comments (17)

July 01, 2005

Afghanalong News

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Dear Ann,

The Afghanalong lives! In April I sent another box of completed afghans to the Afghans for Afghans processing center in San Francisco. Today, out of the blue, I got a wonderful email from Ann Rubin at Afghans for Afghans:

Kay, your Afghanalong blankets continue to dazzle us! We opened the box today. Gorgeous. Each blanket is a work of art. You all are masters of combining color and texture. I think your gifts show so much honor and respect toward the Afghan people. Please say hello and extend our appreciation to your congregation. Your recent delivery will be sent to Kabul in Sept. We'll keep you posted.
-- Ann [Rubin]

(I hope that the reason it takes them a few months to open the boxes is because they get so many donations, which apparently they do, which makes it especially nice to get a lovely note like this.)

Yes, I did giggle at the part about the 'congregation.' Sister Ann, the pews need polishing! We must get busy and put the All-Noro Afghan up on eBay to benefit Afghans for Afghans and help with the costs of shipping all those warm woolies to Afghanistan. It just seems kind of HOT out right now to be getting a good bidding war going on a 100% wool blanket. So we'll wait just a bit longer and do it in the early autumn. I'm keeping it safe and moth-free, not to worry.

Happy 4th!

Love,

Kay
Assistant Lay Preacher

Posted by Kay at 12:19 AM | Comments (13)
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