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

December 30, 2005

Quality Time


Dear Ann,

I know you're hung over, from the yarn-winding, the egg nog, the cosmic mind-melding with the leading lights of KnitWorld Chicago--or some nearly lethal combination of the three. So I'll be brief. For me.

One of Emma's super secret powers is the selection of greeting cards that accurately reflect and or predict the recipient's life. Pictured above is the image from the Cath Tate card she sent me on the eve of my departure for Beautiful Nebraska, Peaceful Prairie Land.

Mind you, I grew up on the mean streets of North Omaha. (Yes! They were mean, those streets!) But after I left home, my folks moved to The So-Called Country.

On my walks, I take the KayCam, and a large stick to keep dogs from killing me. The cows are very interested when I go by.

I got an excellent amount of knitting done while Most Moisturized Mom was spending quality time with the kids. There were:

Hats for the hatless (here we see 2 of 3 that I made from single skeins of Noro Iro in my stash---doesn't everybody go through their stash when they're packing up to go to the airport during a transit strike? "Just a minute honey! Two more boxes --I'm drilling down to the Noro!").

A little keyhole scarf in Touch Me. This project had been ripening in my UFO pile for more than a year. The yarn was a lovely gift from Elisabeth, who figured out that although the core is merino, it's wrapped in a synthetic that I can wear. I really love this yarn, particularly the way it goes all vintagey with a hot wash and dry. I knitted up the last skein, and even though I couldn't remember the needle size I had used on the first 2 skeins, it worked out Just Right.

Most Moisturized Mom enjoying her new scarf. MMM likes the fact that it is just the right size to slip under her Car Coat. Not too bulky or hot to interfere with driving to the Beauty Parlor in the MMMMobile, Patsy Cline and Neil Diamond wailing on the CD player. I already have some lavender Touch Me to make the Vintage Velvet scarf from Scarf Style. For undermoisturized, dry and flaky but ever-hopeful me.

Miracles of the Season

Christmas is a season of miracles, and this year was no exception. We had the miracle of 1970s angels, the miracle of the Holy Family being watched over by a snowman, and the most miraculous miracle of all, the miracle of Men Doing Dishes. In the 5 generations since Thomas Gardiner first landed on these shores, no Gardiner male has been able to identify that big white thing in the kitchen--you know, with the water in it? Every meal, the plates are clean again. "Cool," say the Gardiner men, who, it may be said, lack curiosity. Imagine how I wept with joy when my brother said, 'Sissy, you just sit there knitting and taking pictures of us, you big weirdo, we'll dry the dishes." Sure, I had to show them to the towels. But still. Credit where it's due.

Gusset Department

Remember the Portly Dad Cardigan, aka the Dadigan? Well, over the past week, Portly Dad has had more fittings than a society bridesmaid.

As I had expected, gussets were desired.


First I joined all the raglan seams (and WOW does the Rowanspun Aran seam up beautifully--you wool-knitting people are definitely onto something). Then I picked up stitches along the edge of one side seam, and knit in moss stitch to the required measurement. Instead of binding off, I picked up along the opposite side edge, and then I did a 3-needle bind-off. Anything to avoid a seam! But I do think the 3-needle bind off makes a wonderful, flexible and sturdy seam. I did the same thing on the other side.

But now, how to make the sleeve fit into the enlarged armhole created by the gusset? I picked up stitches along the top of the side gusset, and knit a triangle.


Which I then joined into the sleeve seam.

Considering I was making all this up as I went along, it worked pretty well. Since Dad will always be wearing something like a flannel shirt under this cardigan, it needs a roomy fit. The gussets give the room where it's needed, without affecting the fit of the shoulders.

Next up: Still More Christmas Knitting, in which I make 2 new versions of the Buttonhole Bag in honor of its glorious appearance on the cover of Spin Off magazine.


On the right, we have the 60 Gig, and on the left we have the Mini.

Stay tuned!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:43 AM | Comments (16)

December 28, 2005

Dateline: Chicago

Dear Kay,

Well, the last semi trailer has arrived in the West Loop, ready for the load-in tomorrow morning for the Windy City Winding Party. We borrowed the set from the Country Music Awards, and it's going to be one awesome evening. Mary Neal is working on her Fiona Apple songbook; I'm going hardcore country, myself. Kitty Wells and June Carter Cash all the way. I hope everybody's going to like the show. We're expecting bloggers, knitters, quilters posing as knitters, friends of knitters, suburban knitters, city knitters, people bearing dip, people bearing yarn--it's a regular reenactment of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Oh, I feel a haiku coming on--

Upon Greeting Folks Who Arrive at the Windy City Winding Party

Yes, the stairs are steep
If you lean against this wall
You'll catch your breath soon

What is your name, hon?
Just tell us your URL;
Grab yerself a beer.

Come early, everybody, and stay late! Can't wait to meet you all.

Kay, dearest, it's just killing me that you won't be there in actual person. We'll wind a ball of denim in your honor.


PS Have I mentioned how much we're loving Chicago? Upon arrival, I simply had to watch Chicago's Favorite Adopted Daughter Oprah this morning as I had my ritual Morning Muffin of Life on the Road. Oprah didn't disappoint, lemme tell you--she had not only FAITH HILL, the prettiest country music singer, but FAITH HILL'S HAIR which really was outstanding. (Faith Hill Hair Watchers: It's gone deeper blonde. Memo to us: go deeper blonde). And Faith brought along the hard-workin' mother of five from Stoughton, Massachusetts, who wrote three of the songs on Faith's new album. Oprah: crying. Just totally slobbercrying. Mother of five: crying like she just found Jesus. Faith: preserving that Revlon contract by appearing to cry yet not actually spilling tears over the boundaries of her mascara. Pure stinkin' genius how she managed it.

I can feel the Oprah in the air, I really can. I keep waiting for an Oprah staffer to tap me on the shoulder and say, "Ma'am? Are you a hard-workin' mother of five? Or two? Could you by chance help us show our studio audience how to knit?"

Posted by Ann at 10:28 PM | Comments (12)

December 26, 2005

Sober Reflections on Fair Isle Knitting

Dear Kay,

It's been just a heckuva week, between the bourbon milkshake problem last Sunday at book group, the Rebecca Ruth Bourbon Balls which made their annual appearance at our house, and the general bourboniness of the season. Hubbo figured out a way to debourbon the Bourbon Balls (he likened it to gutting a fish--a swift twist of the knife, and you're left with a chocolatey shell), but to me, why would you want to tamper with a product that leads with chocolate and ends with a cocktail, all in one piece?

Anyway, I hope everybody had a great holiday. I've entered chocolate detox (Weight Watchers Anonymous), and swear I will never, ever eat a Rebecca Ruth Bourbon Ball for breakfast ever again.

In the brief hiatus while the Perfect Handknit pattern is mellowing in its aged oak cask, I've come dangerously close to achieving my new year's goal: completing unfinished objects. I'm down to a small pile of stuff:

Baby sweater, needles yanked for another project never to return.

Ill-fated day trip into log cabin knitting.

Something cylindrical, never to be felted.

Worst idea of the year: nutmeg-colored shetland lace. Even the needles ran from this project.

Nutmeg? Please don't say anything about this, or about any of these. Dregs, dregs, DREGS. I'm scraping them into a bag, writing TIME CAPSULE--OPEN IN 2105, and throwing it in the attic.

Down to the Wire: Keava

The 2004 UFO that has most dogged me has been the one that's been teaching me the most: the Keava Fair Isle pullover from Alice Starmore's 1995 In the Hebrides. (I'd include a link to it but I can't find one for this elusive, seriously out-of-print book. I may have hallucinated the whole thing.)

I'm just about done with the first sleeve, and I have some observations:


The simplicity of this pattern (three tubes, basically, with no seams) means that once you've begun the sleeves, you're toting a serious load of knitting with you. It means that you're not taking this thing anywhere. It turns this into a Homebound Project, which is a bummer because some of my finest moments are the five and ten minutes that come along while Waiting for Children.


Kay, I know this is an alarming sight. I know we agree about socks, and how we are not sock knitters. (Yet.) But the dirty secret of Keava is that by the time you crank your way cuffward, there comes a point when even a 12" size 3 circular needle is no longer helpful. The time comes when the double-pointed needles come out, and you're down to 72 stitches, and hell you might as well turn a heel and make the thing into a giant sock. This sleeve has me halfway to a sock without my ever realizing it. I have been tricked into knitting a sock.


This is the seamy underside of the Keava sleeve. The pattern crashes together like two women at Kroger fighting over the last chess pie. I have a lot to refine when it comes to decreasing a Fair Isle pattern in a tidy way. It's not hard, but for some reason things get very blumpy and burbly during the lane change. The good news: this pattern is so LOUD and CRAZY that it doesn't even much matter. What's going on back there? Just keep it down, willya?

Packing Up for Chicago

We're heading out tomorrow for Chicago. The Sister-in-law and I are really looking forward to seeing everybody at the Windy City Winding Party Thursday night. If you'd like directions, please email me. I'm packing my yarn winder and some yet-to-be-determined portable projeck.

I'm contemplating my 2006 new year's resolutions. What are yours?

Happy new year, everybody--we'll be back in Nashville next year . . .


Posted by Ann at 10:49 AM | Comments (25)

December 23, 2005

Holiday Hideout

Dear everyone,


I hear a voice yelling out, "Help! Help! I'm traaaaapped!"

I discover Boy Under Tree.

Hope you get what you wish for under your tree.

Merry Clifmas to you all!


Posted by Ann at 02:26 PM | Comments (13)

December 21, 2005

Perfect Yarn: Waning Days of the Discount

Dear everybody,

First of all, I have no idea whether Kay made it to the Newark airport in time to make her flight yesterday. She did call me at what I thought was an alarmingly late hour in the day to chat about felted balls and whatnot. "Shouldn't you, like, be trying to figure out how to get to Newark or something?" I asked. She was all "Piece of cake it's not that far a walk and I only have the kids and luggage so it shouldn't be a problem." I couldn't tell whether she was being fatalistic or just her usual stalwart Willa Catherish-we-just-get-through-it-all self.

Those city folk. I'm more freaked out about getting to Kroger's than she is about negotiating a transit strike with seven million other people.

I have just received the news that the Fiber Gallery, the fabulous yarn shop out west who has given us 25% off Cascade 220 (The Perfect Yarn), will be ending their discount on December 31. That means that you have about a week to dither some more, stare at the shade card, and get yer order in. Look to your right in the Snippets column for the details. Thank you, Mary and Jessica, for a great deal!


Posted by Ann at 11:00 AM | Comments (6)

December 20, 2005

Great Balls of Felt

Dear Ann,

OK, so I'm in a hurry because I sort of need to pack to go to Omaha, um, today. Didja hear about our little transit strike? I think we might be walking to Newark to catch our flight.

I've been doing a modest amount of seasonally-induced crafting. So I'm going to show you a bunch of pictures now, and then I'll be away from the blog for about a week.


As a warm-up for full-blown Felting Season, I did a little felt-ball making with the kids. Here's the recipe for Felt Balls My Way:


2 small boys, more or less enthusiastic

2 bowls of water, 1 warm and soapy, 1 cold and clear

latex gloves (which you won't use but the boys will enjoy filling up with water, blowing up like balloons, etc.)

a large surface that is well protected or that you don't care about

Wool roving in a variety of colors (I used a big bag of Penny Candy from Decadent Fibers.)

Roll up boys' sleeves. Give a pep talk about not slopping water all over the dining room (pep talk will be accompanied by boys slopping water all over the dining room). Decide you don't care about the dining room. Take a deep breath, and just Let It Go. Pull off golf-ball sized chunks of roving in colors chosen by boys, roll into loose balls. Allow boys to dip the balls in warm water and roll in their hands ("like play-doh!" "like cookies!") until very foamy with soap, then dip in cool water. Keep rolling and dipping in warm and then cold water until the balls begin to shrink and harden slightly. When balls are 'done' as determined by boys, make more balls. When sister comes home, set her to work. Continue to make felt balls yourself as boys tire and sister does homework. Try not to think about the dining room table.

Place finished balls on radiator to dry. (This is my innovation. Yes I'm proud.)

Left to right, we have Joseph's, Kay's and Carrie's. (Joseph doesn't like an overfelted ball; he makes his al dente. )

Expect to find felted balls in various stages of feltedness in and around the dining room, for several days.

What I learned: The soapy water doesn't have to be hot. The balls will be smoother on the outside, and less prone to cracks and crevices, if you work them slowly and softly at the beginning. When you feel them starting to shrink, that's when you can apply more pressure to shape them.

What To Do With Felt Balls

Felt balls are a joy in themselves. They toil not. They need no purpose. But they can be useful:

...filling up a wedding present flower vase that always tips over when filled with flowers and water.

...making ornaments to accompany Teacher Chocolate. These ornaments involved buttons, craft glue, and tiny beads and more dining room trauma. Between you and me, we're not doing the craft glue. Ever again.

Other Applications for Handmade Felt

When I visited Cristina a couple of weeks ago, we made some felt stuff. Not a lot, due to time constraints and the fact that I wouldn't stop talking for 5 minutes.

I made Felt Ring Stitch Markers. I wound roving around the handle of a wooden spoon and felted this tube using my hands and one of those sushi-rolling mats. Later, when the tube was dry, Cristina snipped little calamari rings. Which I think make excellent stitch markers because they won't get stuck on knitting, nor will they go zinging across the floor.

Cristina made a small flat piece of felt.

Which she later turned into this and gave to me. Note the blue moon. I know. What can I say. (Cherish is a word I use to describe/all the feelings that I have hooting here for you inside.)

Open the Pod Bay Doors Hal


This just in: I've made a robot.


I succombed to the lure of the Jess Hutchison toys. Can you blame me? Look at him! World's cutest handknit mechanical device!


As toys go, the bot is not too fiddly--his lines are all straight and his body, legs and head are made in 2 pieces, front and back. The best moment is when you start stuffing the legs and they go all roly-poly on you. (Shut up! You have to either try it or take my word for it.) My next toy will be: Squarey. I've got a serious crush on Squarey.

Happy whatever you're celebrating down there with the bourbon milkshakes and the ultra-festive heirloom sweaters. We're off for a good old-fashioned Chrismukkah in Omaha.


Posted by Kay at 01:56 AM | Comments (23)

December 19, 2005

Ho Ho Hoooooooooooooo

Dear Kay,

In this holiday season, we all try to be helpful, right? We try rilly hard to do what we can.

Well, we have a challenge before us: Nicki is overwhelmed with the urge to recreate the sweater her mother made back when her mother [pause for moment of awe] owned a yarn shop here in Nashville. Back in the day when this was a once-in-a-city business. Back when the pioneers of our art form stocked the Bernat, the Pingouin, the Sirdar back when Sirdar was Sirdar. Back when Susan Bates was a real, live woman. Nicki's mom paved the way, people.

The sweater Nicki wants to recreate is one I've never seen before. Never mind a sweater with a Santa on it--I'm talking about a sweater in which you ARE Santa:


Has anyone out there seen a pattern for this? This thing just kills me.


PS Just discovered a pooch version here. Arf! And this one is dangerously close to an actual Santa suit.

Posted by Ann at 10:56 AM | Comments (24)

December 18, 2005

Meet Seta Wharton


Dear Kay,

As you may recall, I along with my friend Judy host a bi-monthly group we call Sit 'n' Knit. It's technically supposed to be for people who attend our church, The Church On Broadway Closest To The Titans Stadium Except For The Baptists. Sit 'n' Knit is wide open in terms of who attends. We have regulars. We have cameo appearances, sort of like when Alex Trebek showed up on Cheers. We have people who flee in terror after one visit. We don't really blame them, and we would pray for them except they're probably praying harder for us and we frankly don't want to get in the way of that energy.

On Friday, I'm heading into my knitting parlor to find some yarn to show somebody, and I see a little lady making her way up my driveway. Hurray! Somebody else to suck into our wormhole.

It takes her a while to make it to the door. She's wearing white orthopedic shoes and stockings so industrial you could make a trampoline out of them. She's wearing this cardigan of sorts that has been profoundly Bedazzled, and her foundation garments have at some point failed. Her hairdo is the sort that clearly goes to the Beauty Shop once a week.

She looks to be 75. She tiptoes her way into the house, and I see she has a name tag: "Seta Wharton. Call 383-1998 if lost." I greet her in my best hostessy way. She has that whispery old lady voice that you hear when you are at H. G. Hill's grocery store and the widow in front of you is asking the stockboy if the Cream of Tomato soup is still on sale. She lets us know that she's been on the road since seven AM to get to my house.

I offer her some (you'll like this) babka, and she says, "Oh. No thank you." When I offer it a bit later, she says, "BABKA? I thought you said VODKA . . . and I really didn't think that . . ." It goes on like this for a while.

So odd, this lady. We all chat gamely, agreeing heartily when she points out how wonderful it is that we all have birthdays.

I look closer, and I realize that she's not really an old lady. It's Corabel, who is a regular Sit 'n' Knitter. Corabel has teenage kids. Corabel is not 75, even remotely. She's an actress, and she has dressed up as Seta Wharton to come to Sit 'n' Knit.

As I'm looking at the fascinating list of all the folks who are interested in attending our Windy City Winding Party in Chicago after Christmas, I'm thinking: If any of you wants to come as some alternate personality you've always wanted to be, now would be an excellent time to reinvent yourself. We're really not going to know the difference. Bring. It. On.


PS Thursday, December 29 is the date for the knitting party at The Sister-in-Law Mary Neal's, in downtown Chicago. Five o'clock. Please email me for directions and details! We can't wait to meet you, whoever you choose to be at that moment when you show up.

Posted by Ann at 06:26 PM | Comments (20)

December 15, 2005

Perfect Sweater: Remedial Coverage

Dear Kay, and everybody who's not quite as, uh, troublemaking as Kay,

YIKES, WOMAN! You start leaving Comments with words like dolman sleeves, and people are going to bolt for the doors. You don't yell dolman in a crowded Future Search!

I state it plainly: the Perfect Sweater does not have the sleeves of the flying squirrel. There is no peculiar winged element to these sleeves. Nobody's going to be storing nuts in these sleeves. You can wave your arm high over your head in this sweater. These are set-in sleeves, by jinky, free-flappin' set-in sleeves.


See? I do wonder if the sleeves should be just a bit less full. The fact that you even thought of the word dolman suggests that maybe they are too full. Thoughts, everybody?

It looks so deflated, without a human wearing it. This photo shows just how three-dimensional a set-in sleeve is--it won't lie flat because it's spoze to fit an ackshul arm. Here's the left sleeve, inflated by Ms. Super Fantastic:


Still not loving those Frankenstein scar decreases. Lord willing (and Rev. Linda has offered up the proper entreaties), that's been fixed in the pattern.

You are right, of course--yesterday's lone, slightly blurry photograph of the Perfect Sweater was undeniably pathetic. I am embarrassed to have underblogged so grievously. In the interest of achieving a Kayworthy Overview of a Finished Object (in this case an Object Very Much in Process Yet at a Stage Worth Studying), here are some upcloseandpersonal photos of the Perfect Sweater, Beta Version.

The side shaping. Just the simple fact that you can make a curve in knitting gives me a great pleasure.

The side seam. Who thought up knitting, anyway? So cool.

The shoulder seams, with the short rows. Refining those little wrapped stitches which prolly shouldn't be there.

The collar, about which please don't be alarmed because this isn't how it's actually going to look and it's a mess here but we knit samples in order to discover stuff like this right?

Bonus Pictures!

If you've read this far, you deserve a present: Baby in Handknits! So here is Crockett, the official mannequin of our knitting group. Laura, his mom, has pretty much taught herself to knit, and has discovered that her baby is the perfect creature to cover in handknits.


I think this is the Umbilical Cord Hat from Stitch 'n' Bitch.


Judy cooked up this one.


This is Crockett imitating his favorite performer, Bootsy Collins.

He's like an American Girl doll. Oh wait, he's a real baby. I'll stop Christmas shopping now.


PS Re the Windy City Perfect Sweater Winding Party--So glad to hear from everybody! Details will be forthcoming shortly. Please email me if you'd like to attend--it'll be either the 28th or 29th, five o'clockish. The sister-in-law Mary Neal will be hosting us at her loft in the Loop, bless her.

Posted by Ann at 11:03 AM | Comments (33)

December 14, 2005

Perfect Sweater: Code Name MANDY

Dear Kay, and patient knitters the world around,

Thanks to everyone for the support in my time of need. Sixteen pre-first graders armed with cups of frosting are not to be trifled with.

My apologies for the long delay in announcing the latest chapter in the Perfect Sweater! I've managed to wipe all the frosting off my monitor. To recap (and to refresh MY memory) here's where we are:

We're on the cusp of greatness. We have a very basic pattern--think of it as a sort of sourdough starter pattern. Much is going to flow from this basic pattern. In a second we're going to send it to everybody who volunteered to cook up a neckline variation. And it's also going to be available to everybody who wanted to test-knit it in the small size. At the end of the day, we will have lots of sizes, lots of variations, and pullover and cardigan versions. A veritable smorgasbord of sweater options, a groaning board, a pu pu platter!

Here's how it looks on Ms. Small.


I have finally persuaded Ms. Small (aka Ms. Shy) to let me show her face. Ms. Small is Bertha, our babysitter extraordinaire who has given the fellas the only slivers of goodwill and charity they possess. Bertha has been giving me the business lately about how I've never made her a sweater. So I made this first Perfect Sweater for her.

Kay, you're not kidding that I've been futzing around with the pattern endlessly. I'm just worried, thassall, the way pageant mothers put that last glob of Dippity-Do on the bangs right before L'il Miss Sparkly hits the stage.

I think it's a good fit, so we're ready to move to The Next Step: Collars.

The really amazing news is this:

We have a secret weapon.

Mandy. Mandy is the technical editor of Knitty. Mandy does not blink when faced with a pattern for, say, knitted denim blue jeans for babies. She reads a pattern, studies it, and makes sure it actually will work for the manufacturing of knitted denim blue jeans for babies.

In a clearly deluded moment, Mandy volunteered to crank all the sizes for the Perfect Sweater. I can hardly tell you how fantastic this is--but I'm guessing that you can feel my relief emanating from the computer. Everybody please be rilly nice to Mandy while she's over in the corner with her abacus. THANK YOU, Mandy, for what you're about to go through.

We have another potential secret weapon which I'm still investigating. It's a potentially insanely cool thing. I may have hallucinated the whole idea, but then again, maybe not.

If you volunteered to create a neckline pattern, we will be sending the basic pattern to you shortly. If you are one of the folks who wants to test-knit the basic pattern in size small, please refresh my memory and leave a comment. We'll get the pattern off to you asap.

A Winding Party in the Windy City!

As it turns out, the fambly and I are going to be spending a few days in Chicago the week after Christmas. My sister-in-law Mary Neal (She of the Long Red Hair) and I are cooking up a gathering for knitters in the Chicagoland area. So if you'd like to come for Perfect Yarn winding, miscellaneous knitting, and beverage-based hospitality, puhlease email me, and we'll figure out the details of where and when. It would be so great to meet the mighty knitters of Chicago.


PS As Kay's personal public relations executive, I'd like to point you to her latest exciting moment: the Buttonhole Bag has turned up on the cover of Spin Off magazine. What a surprise! Never mind that we don't know how to spin anything except the bottle, and even that was a long time ago . . .

Posted by Ann at 12:50 PM | Comments (25)

December 13, 2005

Live From Denim Central

Dear Everybody,

This morning, Ann is indisposed. She has been called away on an Urgent Matter involving Gingerbread Houses and something called the 'pre-first' grade. She expects to be up to her elbows in royal icing for the better part of the day. I would venture to say that although surely 'pre-first' graders are much more mature than kindergarteners, there may be airborne gumdrops. The vocabulary word for the day might be 'pelting'.

Bless her heart, Ann is such a sucker.

What does this mean for you?

I'm afraid it means more denim. Denim denim denim. I heart denim. I do wonder whether I'll wake up some morning, look around me, and ask myself, "Dude. What is with the denim?" But so far that hasn't happened.

It's a shame, really, because until this gingerbread thing came up, Ann was poised to show everyone the finished prototype of the Perfect Sweater. I've had a sneak peak, and I gotta say, it's one heckuva Perfect Sweater. I daresay it's the Ultimate Sweater, especially if your passion is stockinette stitch. This sweater is a long, smooth ride in the ol' Stockinettemobile. And it fits Ann's small-sized model, perfectly. Ann's pleased and proud and being a knitter, she wants to tweak the living heck out of it.

But for that, you have to wait until Ann gets the calcified egg white out of her hair. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe never. The royal icing, she is a tenacious icing.

So here's the denim show. Let's get it over with, shall we? If y'all would just start knitting some denim, I could move on with my life. Until then, there will be.....

SIXTY-THREE SQUARES of Barbara Walker's Learn-to-Knit Afghan, in--you guessed it--denim!!!

Today, though, just squares one through 10. I'm sorry, but you make me do this. Send me pictures of all the denim you're knitting out there, and I'll ease up on you. We can forget all about the other 53 squares.

Squares One Through Eight--Knit-Purl Combinations

Square 1: Striped Garter Stitch. When Barbara says 'learn-to-knit', she means Learn. To. Knit. Back to basics. I have to say, maybe I was having a good day or something, but I handled this one with no problems whatsoever.

Square 2: Striped Stockinette Stitch. Steady now, it's time to learn-to-purl. Again, I was pretty comfortable. No surprises. At this point, I was still trying to heed Barbara's advice--which she's not very, um, flexible about--to learn to knit continental-style. I can do it, okay? I just don't want to. I need to keep in touch with my inner Camp Fire Girl, and knit the way I was taught. It works fine, okay? Leave me alone!

Square 3: Basketweave. Knitting and purling in the same row. Remain calm.

Square 4: Lattice With Seed Stitch. I'd like to do the whole blanket in this. Lurvly.

Square 5: Diagonal Ribbing. A stair-steppy little stitch. Extremely difficult to photograph. Would make an awesome alternative to a regular ribbed edging. Plus it doesn't pull like regular ribbing. I give it a big thumbs-up.

Square 6: Twisted and Crossed Ribbing. I.e., not really ribbing. This will look fabby when the indigo starts to rub off of the raised stitches.

Square 7: Garter and Rib Pattern. When Barbara wants to teach you something, she teaches you. This pattern is meant to show how "different patterns can create very obvious differences in gauge (number of stitches and rows to the inch) even when worked with the same yarn and needle size." The garter spreads out and the ribbing pulls in.

Square 8: Rose Fabric. This is the last of the "Knit-Purl Combinations", and it requires the death-defying maneuver of knitting in the stitch below. The revelation of Rose Fabric is that it is such a light, airy fabric, even in cotton. What I learned from Rose Fabric is that you can't pick a stitch pattern just by looking at the picture.


Here's where the learning curve went from flat to steep. I'd never knit a mosaic pattern before. They always struck my eye as kind of ruggish. Kilim-y. Pretty but what do you do with them? Another revelation was in store. Mosaic patterns yield a fabric that feels woven. It lies flat. It doesn't spring the way knitting generally does. Sometimes that's what you want.

Square 9: Horizontal Chain. Mod!

Square 10: Diagonal Chain. For the background color I used mixed strands of denim from my Texere cones.

Okay I'm done. For now.

I'll be back.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:05 AM | Comments (46)

December 09, 2005

My So-Called Handknit Presents

Dear Ann,

I said I'm not knitting gifts this holiday season, and I did not tell a lie. But I am giving handknits the NEW, FAST, EASY way!


What is the NEW, FAST, EASY way to give exquisite handknits like these?

You buy 'em, silly!

To ensure that you're buying hi-kwalidy handknits, you must Know The Provenance.

The provenance of these is most excellent. Cristina made them for a school holiday bazaar, I found out about it (an ex-litigator's interrogation skills die if not used; I think I got this info with the classic lame-o deposition-ending question: "Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about?"), and the rest is history. Wins all around for the school bazaar, me, Cristina (what knitter doesn't want her work to go to a good home?) and the end-users.

Both scarves use the swell stitch pattern from Stacey's "My So-Called Scarf", which yields a different effect in each case.

This one is knit vertically (i.e., the normal way), in stripes of blue Manos and (I think) Noro Transitions (the yarn that boasts A Luxury Fiber For Every Allergy). Isn't it dreamy? (Edited: Cristina says it's Noro Kochoran, possibly with cat hair!)

This one has a cool retro-prep vibe. Cristina knit it horizontally (huge cast-on but few rows) in stripes of 100% wool that was hand-dyed, with vegetable pigments, by a friend of Cristina's. Some friend! Some scarf! With new radiant action!

And you'll love this part: you, Ann, are getting in on the virtual knitting fun, because these lovelies are going, from you and me, to our fabby photogs Steve and Sue. Aren't they just perfect for them? S & S are so sweatery and vintagey (and they don't read knitting blogs so this doesn't blow the surprise element), and so appreciative of any object bearing the mark of the human hand. We owe them sweaters or a handknit sofa for how nice they were to us, but for now I think these beauties will hold that thought.

Shop on, little buddy, support your local bazaar-knitters, and happy weekend everybody.


Posted by Kay at 01:42 PM | Comments (10)

December 08, 2005

Maybe This is a Good Thing

Dear Ann,

Do you ever have a week where you are just a one-woman hive of productive activity? You know, where you polish all of Hubbo's shoes while doing the taxes and organizing family photos going back to 1988? Where you re-do the rolodex and cook up multiple batches of chili and soup to freeze for nutritious meals of the future?

Me neither. Which is why the past few days have been so strange. Honestly, I've been getting so much done I can barely keep track of myself. Knitting and otherwise. At some point, I asked myself, when have I felt this peculiar feeling before? And I remembered that day in October 1998, when I suddenly realized that it was necessary to vacuum all the draperies and blinds with the Special Drapery Attachment whilst standing on a step ladder with a bottle of Windex in my other hand. By early evening I had achieved a Dust-Free Enviroment and realized that it was time to have a baby. In a couple of hours. Oh, so this is the Nesting, I said. The Nesting is a powerful thing.

Well, clearly, we can rule out Nesting. So then it occurred to me, with a horror and a dread, that maybe this was something of a similarly hormonal nature. Like maybe it could be a sign or a symbol of the beginning of....the Condition About Which We Are Not Ready To Think. I'm not saying that I've taken the step of discussing this with anyone to whom you are related by marriage who may or may not be my age, but let's just say that notes have been compared and I'm expecting the house to be EXTREMELY CLEAN and my person to be TOASTY WARM, on and off for the next couple of years. It might be a good time to visit if you'll be wanting fluffy towels and muffins for breakfast and the occasional 20-minute rant about lint filter maintenance.

With all this productivity, I do not have time to be sitting here at the computer (wait, let me just dust off the screen with the Microfiber Mitt--there that's much better) jawing with you. So I'll just show you the knitting pictures so I can get on with the business of Alphabetizing the Spice Jars 2005.


My friend Mary the Paralegal Extraordinaire, who saved my butt from many a document production nightmare back in the old days, has taken up African Drumming. Mary doesn't do things by half-measures. She's a-drumming all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. She needed a case for her tray drum which she informed me, in a sort of hinty way, is 18 inches in diameter and 2 and half inches deep.

(Universally Recognized Object is for scale.)
This is my third attempt. I do not want to talk about attempts One and Two. This is going to work, dammit! I'm making a drum sandwich out of two of these, joined with a garter stitch strap. All pieces will be felted separately and then dried on the drum itself. It's going to fit, okay? I need to believe that.

In re Blu


Cristina and I would like to post a tip sheet for the Blu baby jeans. So far my only tip is that it is not strictly necessary to sew the live waistband stitches down with sewing thread. Personally, I hate taking those sharp sewing needles to knitting. They are sticky and pokey and so very reminiscent of Home Economics Class. So on one of my 5 pairs, I used regular denim yarn to sew the waistband down, and found that it didn't add much bulk to the waistband, and even if it did, it was well worth it to be able to use my blue plastic yarn needle and not hurt myself or have to deal with making teeny-tiny knots in sewing thread.

If anybody has any tips, please send them in.

We also have a beautiful schematic drawing, which may be helpful and may even qualify as a tip. (Tip: this is how the leg pieces are sposed to look.) Reader Cheryl K. of Philly was kind enough to cook it up for us. Isn't it so cool and professional looking?

BluSchematicGardiner copy.gif

The question has been asked: why did I make so many? (The assumption here is that I needed a reason.) Well, for one thing, I never seemed to have the right size at the right time. Also I wanted to test-drive the different sizes, and I was curious to see how many cool handmade labels Cristina could come up with. Also I wanted to show a pair with a "WEAR Rowan Denim" label. (Tip: one of these labels comes in every 20-ball pack of Rowan Denim. If you are not buying a full bag, ask your friendly yarn store person to see if there are any full bags in the back; the label will be stapled to a piece of paper in the bag.)

Glad Rags (and I Do Mean Rags)

I know you, my girl. I know that nothing says Festive Holiday Spirit to you like a brand new cardigan the color of peat, or dung, or perhaps a color that is so colorless that it is not considered a color at all. So I am channelling a little of my manic busywork in your direction:

Yes, it's the much-delayed, long-promised Olive cardi. The sweater voted Easiest to Forget You Ever Made Because It's Such A Long Murky Slog of Tweed Stockinette. It's all for you doll. I'm a-settin' in some sleeves while the light is good enough to distinquish one doleful piece from the others. Is this a sleeve? Is this a front? Will anybody notice if I set the fronts into the armholes? We'll see. One thing is certain: you're gonna just sparkle on New Year's Eve this year!!!!

Time for a bracing cup of soy hull tea or other godawful holistic remedy. You have a nice day now!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:43 AM | Comments (24)

December 05, 2005


Dear Everybody,

I know Cristina and Kay are too modest to tell you this themselves, but I'm immodest enough to brag about their latest little act of creative genius.

The new Knitty is out, which is cause for delirious celebration anytime. But I'm especially delirious today--just careering around the house konking around (not bonking, I promise)--because Cristina and Kay have a pattern in it:


Mazel tov, ladies. Proud to know ye.



PS Apologies for the shocking brevity of this entry, but I am currently being held hostage by a paper I have to write for my book group. The topic: a two-volume biography of Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead Revisited. This is shaping up to be a total disaster: all I know is that Evelyn Waugh was not a woman. And my paper sounds like a blog entry. "OMG Evelyn Waugh was such a total creep. He was, like, AWFUL to his wife--go read this if you want to know more. Such. A. Dork. And here's more."


Dear Ann, this is Kay. Yes, you know me so well. I am the very soul of modesty and it pains me--pains me I tell you--to talk about myself. (Everybody who actually knows me may want to snort loudly at this time, or shout 'Getta loada this!' to your neighbor.)

But I feel I must put aside my innate reluctance to self-aggrandize, because I owe it to Cristina, co-designer extraordinaire, to post a few pictures of the RAWKINEST BABY JEANS IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE!!!!!





The model in these shots is Cristina's adorable Elio. We'll be doing some tips, and soon there will be a Flickr gallery for photos of Blu baby jeans in the wild. One thing Cristina and I have been most excited about is seeing how other knitters tweak the finishing and make these little jeans their own. So git crackin', knitters of baby stuff. We can't wait!

Love from Your Hyperventilating Correspondent Kay

Posted by Ann at 09:37 AM | Comments (43)

December 04, 2005

Weekend Devotion

Dear Ann,

I've been knitting in secret again. I don't mean knitting presents-- which I'm NOT DOING THIS YEAR, ok?--I mean knitting stuff and then forgetting to blog about it. In the spirit of No Knit Left Behind, here goes.

Genius and a Great Baby Jacket

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I made a Baby Suprise Jacket. I made it because in her description of it in Newsletter and Leaflet #21, Fall '68 ("Free until spring '69; then 25 cents")*, Elizabeth Zimmermann says "it looks like nothing on earth when you have finished knitting it, " and that "your friends will be AMAZED." I am all about knitting things that look like nothing on earth (accidentally or on purpose), and amazing my friends. It's garter stitch! It has miters! What took me so long?


Of course, since I seem to lack imagination, I made it in denim. These photographs are pre-washing; after a trip through the washer & dryer, the edges were nice and even. I think it looks a little like a manta ray.

It's a puzzle to put it together the first time, even if you're not spacially challenged like me.



Next time I'll do a provisional cast-on so that I can lengthen the arms a little, and I'll highlight the mitering by using more color changes. Why waste a good miter on a solid color?

Genius, in general, is pretty rare. But genius plus a cute baby jacket?-- this is the only thing going. No wonder there are people who've made 50 of them.

Now all I have to do is find 3 "very pretty little buttons" and a baby the right size. Can I get a measurement on wee Molly's arms?

Love, Kay

*My copy of this newsletter is in The Opinionated Knitter, Elizabeth Zimmermann Newsletters 1958-1968. It is so cool to see facsimiles of the actual newsletters, with EZ's own typing, handwriting, and drawings. When Belinda was visiting, she and I snatched the last 2 copies off the shelf at Seaport Yarns, and I'm guessing that by now there are one or two new Baby Surprises in England. The pattern also appears in EZ's book Knitting Workshop. Can you tell that I am poised to order the videotapes?

Posted by Kay at 12:56 PM | Comments (23)

December 01, 2005

Close Encounter of a Bloggy Kind

Dear Kay,

So get this one.

You know my sister-in-law Mary Neal? The one who appeared in the Frappr map category of


My Hair Is Red (and Quite Long)? Well, you may recall that she and my brother Clif recently moved to Chicago.

Mary Neal is a freelance graphic designer and editor, right, so the other day she's at a publishing company to pick up a project, right, just sitting there waiting for a minute. The guy she's been talking to disappears for a minute, then comes back and says, "Excuse me, but there's someone here who thinks you might be in the same knitting group or something?" He looks quite puzzled, and he leads her around the corner, at which point Mary Neal comes upon a person named Susan.

It's Susan M.! The Susan M. of West Chicago in the Mason-Dixon Knitting Frappr Map. Susan works at the publishing company Mary Neal was visiting. The thing is, Susan didn't recognize Mary Neal because of her picture; Susan overheard her co-worker saying the name Mary Neal and figured that there could be no other Mary Neal in the world except the Mason-Dixon Mary Neal.

Small, tiny, infinitesimal world, eh?

We've got to have a Perfect Sweater Yarn-Winding Party in Chicago so that any other Frappr Chicagoans can all meet once and for all. We just can't have people bonking into each other all willynilly like this.

A Surprise in the Mail

So a box shows up, extremely light, which makes a person fantasize that there might be yarn inside it. But the box is marked "Fragile," which only the truly obsessed would write on a box of yarn. Yarn is many things, but fragile just isn't one of them. What could it be?


Fragile yarn!

Kristy M. has a family tradition of giving family members Christmas ornaments at Thanksgiving, and she was kind enough to share some with me. I love 'em! The thing that cracks me up is this:


Yarn provenance! Rule No. 42: Don't send anybody a yarn ornament without telling what the yarn is.

We haven't got our Christmas tree yet, so for the moment we're decking the ficus with balls of yarn. Thanks, Kristy!


Posted by Ann at 12:36 PM | Comments (25)
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