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

March 30, 2006

The State of the Blanket


Dear Ann,

Honey I'm ho-ome!

Of course I'm going to blog in luxurious sens-u-round about my fab time in England, with particular emphasis on: A Boy and His Dune Buggy Disguised As An Electric Wheelchair, clothes-shopping with Trinny and Susannah's main competition (aka Polly and Belinda) ("cinch it!" "nip it!" "tie something in front of it!"--these were just a few of the helpful (no sarcasm!) tips about jacket features to deal with what we are calling "the tummy issue"), tea with knitpals at Liberty's (2 words: clotted cream) and last but only chronologically so, the wonderful cupcake-encrusted event at Loop (Patsy and Johnny on the hi fi--need I say MORE?).

Not only was my Anglophilia not cured last week, it is now a raging, full-blown, incurable case. I use the word 'dodgy' 12 times an hour. I declare my intention to visit the 'loo', and more specifically to 'have a wee'. I am researching great-grandfather Thomas Gardiner in the hopes of persuading the Home Office that I'm still a British subject. (Current theory: he intended to go back.)

But this will all be recounted in mind-numbing detail in another post. Today, I'm posting about one thing and one thing only: Did I finish the blanket in time to make Belinda cough up 250 grams (see? I'm all metricky now!) of home-bleached denim yarn? (For those who do not check our comments every 5 minutes as I do, blogless Belinda smacked me with a handknit glove and challenged me to make good on my goal of finishing all 12 blocks of the No-Sew Mitered Square Blanket while in England and France for 2 weeks.)

Well, no. I did not finish all 12 squares. But in my defense, (a) I had to come home early, (2) I had to come home early and (iii) I didn't stay away as long as I had planned to stay, losing 4 days of knitting squares for this blanket.

Here's the play-by-play.

Leaving London. Not a great deal of progress, despite knitting on public transportation, the train to and from Emma's, and every spare minute. There just weren't a lot of spare minutes.

I couldn't resist an Atmospheric Shot. Isn't my London Bedroom nice? Note the denimy twill curtains.

Oh, the bedspread? You want to know about the bedspread? It's the gigant-o mitered square blanket Belinda made entirely from scraps of denim yarn. It's a whopper-25 blocks. I.e., 100 miters. Doubly magical for being made of both DENIM and MITERED SQUARES. I did NOT steal it but I did borrow it for the Loop event as a 'sample from the book'.

My then-favorite square. Experimenting with a partially garter-stitch square. The trick is to keep the square the same size as the all-stockinette ones. Trust me, this will be cool. I just know it. I feel it in my bones.

A few days later, packing to leave my chum's home in Versailles. Sorry, this rug is a bit too Versaillesy for a backdrop. But you can see that I had been knitting my little heart out, what with another train trip, then 24 hours of trying to either wake children up or get them to go to sleep against their will, followed by a one-day strike that made it impossible to do anything in France besides knit (I had to WALK to the Phildar store, I kid you not). Things were looking grim, pace-wise. I promised myself to knit 4 miters on the plane to New York.

And here we have the current status. 8.50 squares in total. Nowhere near where I need to be, but it's starting to look downright blankety.

Perhaps I can distract Belinda with the mesmerizing Orange Square. Ooh. Aah. Orange square.

Or the emerging Partially Garter Square? Isn't that EXCITING Belinda?

Anyway, I'm still enjoying knitting on this thing. There has been much evolution of Deep Thoughts on Color, as well as Profound Instincts on What Makes a Particular Stripe Pattern Interesting. There are a couple of miters I'm probably going to re-do for color reasons (it looks to be very easy to take one out if you're careful with the scissors), and now that I've blown the dang 250 Gram Challenge, I'm thinking the blanket should be bigger than originally planned anyway, maybe 4 x 4 squares instead of 3 x 4. I am LOVING the no-sew concept. I really think it works. I am even working out how to solve this pesky little problem:

The Wobbly Center. Fear not the Wobbly Center. The center will hold.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 07:30 PM | Comments (39)

March 28, 2006

Pub Date Housecleaning!

Dear Kay,

I'm feeling so eggcited--it's our publication date! I never had a pub date before, except for that one beer with that creepy assistant back in 1985.

Cleaning out the basement this morning, I found this pile of subtitles. We just about killed ourselves coming up with a subtitle. Anybody who needs a subtitle, feel free to help yourself!

Do It Yourself Handknits

Dream It Make It Love It

Look Ma! No Pattern!

Eyes Wide Shut (just seeing if you're paying attention)

Self-Help For Creative Geniuses Like....You!

Better Living Through Handknits

The Fabulous Handknit Lifestyle

My Knitting's OK, Your Knitting's OK

My Knitting's OK, Yours? Not So Hot

Did You Know You're Brilliant?

You're a Creative Genius--Who Knew?

The Rainbow Connection (The Knitter, the Dreamer and you)

The Manolo Says The Mason-Dixon Knitting Is Fabulous Darling

Pioneer Women With Blogphones

Knit Yourself a Life

Lively Knitting For Chatty Housewives

What's Up With Handknits

Up With Handknits

It Takes a Village (to Make a Blanket)

Tales from the Fascinating Knitblog Subculture

Blog Wars

Amstels, Cheetos, and Knitting Genius

If Thelma and Louise Were Knitters

Get In With The In Crowd

Everybody's Knits

Chatty Knits

Blabby Knits

We Talk About Knitting Endlessly

More About Us

Self-Made Knits

How To Knit Like a Creative Genius

Dee-liteful Knits

Fun Stuff To Knit While Watching TV and Pretending To Listen To Your

Knit as if Your Life Depended on It

Family Knits

Over the Top Knits

Homey Cozy Darling Knits

Awwwww! Knits

How Cute Is THAT? Knits

You CAN Make This Stuff Up

Homemade Knits

Home Cooked Knits

Cook Up Your Own Knits

Half-Baked Knits

Oven-Fresh Knits

Poppin' Fresh Knits

Handknits as an Alternative To Adultery

Recipes for Homecooked Knits

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Free Your Inner Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Women on the Verge of Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Blow Your Mind with Your Own Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Knitting Below Your Skill Level

Mason-Dixon Knitting: How to Blow Your Own Mind

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Inside the Grotto of Your Brilliant Mind

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Cul de Sac of Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: In Search of Pure Stinkin' Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Age of Aquarius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Percolating the Beautiful

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Stew of Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Bouillabaisse of Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Gumbo of Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Burgoo of Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Smooching Your Inner Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Big Book of Fabulous Creative Genius

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Lovin' the Lifestyle

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Living Large

Mason-Dixon Knitting: In Which the Party Is Started

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Love, Freedom, and the Joy of Knitting

The Remembrance of Things Knitted

You Knit, You Love, You Rip It Out

On the Verge of Creative Genius

The Days of Our Yarns

Creative Genius: A How-to Guide

A Guide for the Modest Creative Genius

Patterns, Talk, and Lush Deluxe Photos Galore

A Why-to Guide

Blow Your Mind with Your Own Creative Genius

Your Guide to Free-Thinking Handknits

Knitting Below Your Skill Level

Jumping Off the Cliff of Creative Genius

Bombs Away!

The Complex World of EZ Knitting

Happy Sappy Wabi Sabi

Your Best Knitting Now (ripping off any issue of Glamour/Cosmo)

The Workbasket of Creative Genius

A Salon of Knitterly Goodness

Inside the Sordid World of Knitting Fixation

The Seamy Underside of Seaming Undersides

Kay and Ann Explain It All for You

Dude, Where's My Needle?

Inside the High-Fiber Lifestyle

Living the Life of Reilly

It's All Good

It Is What It Is

Pix, Laffs, and Sunshiney Goodness

There are bunch more, needless to say, but these were the really good ones.



Posted by Ann at 08:45 AM | Comments (101)

March 26, 2006

Spring Break, Mayan Style


Dear Kay. Kay, Kay, Kay, Kaaaaaaaaaaaaay,

It's funny. Before I met you in actual real person, back in the olden days when we were writing each other like a couple of dotty Victorians, I imagined you sitting in some vague New York apartment. You had a vague, undiagnosable accent; your features were vague--you were this puffy cloud of a person. It was only when you told me some detail of your life that the fog lifted. Carrie has big eyes. Hubby is really tall. Your parents live in Omaha. You don't knit with wool.

I mention this because this morning I just had that vague sensation about you, for the first time in ages. I mean, today is the first time a yarn shop owner has got some people together to see our book, and it's just making me nuts not to be there. I can't envision it. All I can figure is that you're over there in London somewhere (a city I've never visited), surely drinking tea or something vaguely British, chatting it up with some London knitters, all of whom have lovely, vague accents. I know two things: at some point today you'll be eating a cupcake, because the yarn shop owner at Loop is providing them. And you are likely to be wearing your favorite knitted denim jacket. I can't wait to hear how your trip has gone, who you've met, what you did, all of it.

As for meeee . . .

Mexico was great. Just great. Ohhhhh, what a trip! What a wander-around/layabout, do-stuff/do-nothing trip. I've already written my hate mail to a hotel about the prepaid reservation that resulted in a profound lack of a room. It's not a trip without one totally pfaffed-up logistical moment.

But I digress!

I just want you to know: I did it. I went COLD. TURKEY. A whole week without a peek at email, the Internet, the beloved bloggy world of bloggy knitting. No TV, no phone, no radio--I decided to get in touch with my inner Mayan and go native.

You would think, in a place like Mexico, that it would be easy to pull the plug. Day 1: We arrive at our hotel before our room is ready. The FIRST thing the guy at the front desk says is, "Well, you can use the Internet over there if you like." I'm all Hola Señor I am trying a very tricky experiment this week, and you are NOT helping. We divert to the bar, where David the 10-year-old discovers ping pong. In a world with no electronic media, there is room for a lot of ping pong.

The week went like this: Beach. Ruins. Ruins. Beach.



When I was little, the preferred family torture was to drag all four of us to Civil War battlefields. For the fellas, Mayan ruins seem to work just the same. Actually, they really hung in there. The ancient Mayan lifestyle was full enough of human sacrifice and gore that there's plenty to think about.

At Chichen Itza (the Washington, DC of its day), we spent a while at the well where they dumped their sacrifice victims. We had a nice long discussion about how many times a person could survive before giving up. Eighteen is the number. After hauling yourself out of the 60-foot-deep cenote eighteen times, you'd give up.

We happened to be at Chichen Itza on March 21, the day that the giant pyramid does its coolest thing.


9 am: Peaceful, haunted place.


4 pm: By magic, the pyramid attracts 40,000 people from all over the world, covered in every imaginable brand of sunscreen, to sit in the blazing sun. For this one day--the spring equinox--the shadows of the pyramid appear to be a serpent god slowly slithering its way down the side of the pyramid. I was not smoking enough weed to get a full hallucination going, but in the moment I could see, in a world without electronic devices, how this would be cool enough to blow the minds of those Mayan people.


I thought about imperfection, and the way the top of this pyramid is not symmetrical even though it first appears to be. It's out of whack so that it aligns with celestial calculations. The Mayans didn't have metal tools, but they loved a calendar. They loved keeping track so much that they built pyramid-sized calendars.

What I Made


Remarkably little! I'm feeling sort of twixt and tween right now. I decided to cook up a blanket along the lines of the Keepsake Blanket that's in the book. Instead of denim, I'm using up some Tahki Cotton Classic, and I'm making up rules as I go along--you know, squarey pattern follows wavy pattern. Juicy color then blah color. I've already forgotten some of the rules. This project was great for Mexican back roads when you've tired of yelling POTHOLE every ten seconds. And it was great for hanging with my peeps at the Cancun airport.


By the end of the week, the noise inside my brain was like an empty gymnasium, with one lonesome basketball bonking around. I didn't write, I knitted in only the most desultory way, and I have to say, it was quite a change. I'm still digesting this electronics-free week. I felt so . . . vague.

And no, that's not me dangling from that rope. But if you go a week without email, the idea does occur to you.


Posted by Ann at 11:44 AM | Comments (20)

March 22, 2006

London Blanket


Dear Ann,

Weekend before last, the family went to Florida for the weekend to attend a memorial service in honor of a beautiful friend who lived to the fullest almost every minute of her 85 years.

Florida explains the sunlight and greenery in some of the pictures. Others go to Florida to swim and bask and wear green & pink capri pants. Me, I'm not a sun person. I'm a knitting person.

We were about to go through security at La Guardia when I reached for my second bag. You know, the one with a weekend's worth of knitting in it. ("Weekend's worth" being an absurdly optimistic concept.) THERE WAS NO SECOND BAG. Ack! I ran back to the curbside check-in: No Bag. This meant that either the bag was locked in the car in the long-term parking garage, or a Knefarious Knitting Thief had swiped it while I was distracted at the curbside check-in. The unconnected parts of two sweaters, a ton of yarn, and some choice blue-stained bamboo needles--all potentially lost. I did a little pre-mourn, but took heart when I realized that if I ripped out a wonky log cabin strip on the Kaffe Intarsia Log Cabin (thank goodness I had separated the knitting into 2 bags!), I would have enough knitting for the plane ride. On arrival in Florida, I would call upon my survival skills to reconnoiter some yarn. Hubby, who was only partially successful at hiding his delight at the disappearance of 2 sweaters' worth of clutter, assured me that yarn-finding would be a top priority, right up there with Lunch.

So we found a yarn store. In a strip mall on the west of Lake Worth, Florida, a nice little shop called Just ImagiKnit (aw!). They had no Rowan Denim to help me with the Kaffe Intarsia Log Cabin, so I had to figure out what to knit with what they had. I spied some Tahki Cotton Classic, which I had used for months and months of knitting on the Mitered Square Blanket of beloved queen-sized memory. I have been wanting to make an alt version, only smaller and cuter. I picked out some skeins of Tahki Cotton Classic, including a spritely 'tweed' (2 colors) and a 'colors' (3 or more colors) blend. I set to work.


This project may seem like Deja Vu All Over Again. But it's not. I loved knitting the first one, but I couldn't bear to do the same, huge thing a second time. This one has a more limited palette. I am trying to come up with some new graphic effects with the squares. But my grand ambition for this blanket is: a NO-SEW patchwork blanket. This thrilling objective will be achieved through the deployment of 2 key strategies.

1. Knitting the squares onto each other by picking up stitches. This will form the 4-square blocks without sewing. It also means that the striped squares will be differently oriented, creating interesting challenges and opportunities for messing around.

2. Joining the blocks, be they 4-square or be they 2-square or even 1-square, by picking up stitches along the edges to be joined, and doing 3-needle bind-offs. The 3-needle bind-off will be another design opportunity.

What fun! What great portable knitting! As I was mentioning to Norma, I'm going to London. So I need some major portable airplane and train knitting for the next 2 weeks.

Here's one of the hopefully cool graphic thingies starting to emerge

Here's the state of play on my departure from New York.

Now I'm in London, so this post is posting all by itself, by the magic of Moveable Type. The goal: finished blanket by the time I get home. Just to keep me honest, the blanket will have the equivalent of 12 4-square blocks. And a border. Of course a border. Well, maybe not a border.

Love, Kay

P.S. The bag was in the car when we got home. So the unconnected sweater parts are still with us, and new yarn has been added to the clutter. Yay!

Posted by Kay at 11:30 AM | Comments (26)

March 20, 2006

Passionate Bleaching

Dear Ann,

Running out of time on my way out the door to London. Mustn't waste time with gibblegabble. Must convey the essence of my weekend of bleaching denim. (Doesn't everybody bleach up a batch of denim yarn when they're spozed to be packing for two weeks away from home?) Pictures say it all, but I will say some of it anyway. Gibblegabble is my destiny.


Safety Advisory: Use extreme care if you have children, pets, or whine-prone husbands with highly sensitive noses. Bleach is toxic and stinky. You would be, too, if you took the dye right out of fabric.

1. Random pieces of Failed Denim Projects, prewashed and dried.
2. Clorox bleach. I prefer the splashless version. It stays where you put it.
3. Kids' paint brush, seems to be natural hair of some kind.
4. Small glass jar.

Method 1: Painting (Note: This Version Is For The Timid)
Place dry denim swatch in dry kitchen sink. Put a bit of bleach in the jar.
Dab the brush into the bleach, which you have very slightly diluted with less than half the volume of water.
Paint onto the surface of the knitting. Do not saturate the fabric. Just keep dabbing.

This is what you get after waiting a minute or two.

Here's what you get if you lose patience with the dabbing and you pour a little bit right onto the denim, soaking through. Pale blue, although it will turn white if you wait a bit.

Method 2: Dumping (Note: This Version Is More Fun)

Pour the bleach onto the denim fabric in an approximation of stripes. This is how it will look after just a minute.

After another minute.

This is how it looks on the wrong side, because the bleach has soaked clear through.

It started to look kind of greenish.

Time to put it in the washing machine. As you can see, this is a lame-o U.S. toploading washing machine. I washed it on hot with a small amount of detergent. If I were using a European washing machine that heats its own water, I would have used a very moderate warm temperature because I would have been worried about the hot water leaching out more of the blue dye and depositing it on the white stripes, creating pale blue spots where white was intended. This is not a worry with a lame-o U.S. machine; even on the hot setting I can stick my hand in the water, no problem. I rinsed twice in cold water.

Look how crisply white the stripes came out. (Green apple to show utter lack of green in bleached stripes.)

Next comes the unravelling part. If you sewed in your ends, now would be the time for a little cussing, as you learn how nice and tightly denim ends get shrunk into the fabric. But see how nice the yarn is.

Seriously, SEE HOW NICE the yarn is. It's very soft and not stinky at all.

Here's how it looked knitted up. I striped it with the yarn that had been painted lightly, to mellow out the space-dyed effect.

There is a wide world of kitchen-sink bleaching methods. For example, there is the Ann HB Patented Baggie Method, the Cristina Oxyclean Wash It 800 Times Method, and the Belinda Dippity-Dye Method. These are all good methods, or you can make up your own.

Or you can just knit up the yarn the way it comes in the ball, like a normal person.

Now I'm off to London.
Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:34 AM | Comments (23)

March 17, 2006


Dear Kay,

As you may have heard, Spring Break is upon us. At 12:01 pm yesterday, life as I know it ended, and the tasty thing known as Time to Myself has evaporated. I can feel it already--there has already been a request for Lucky Charms, the official breakfast cereal of Spring Break.

I'm going to be away next week, so I need you to house-sit for me. Here are the things that need to be taken care of:

1. Feed the blog. There's a sack of content over by the hot water heater. One big scoop a day will do.

2. Water the blog. Do NOT forget to change the water. Don't think just because there's water in the bowl that it's GOOD water. It's got to be NEW water.

3. Bring in the mail. Don't let it pile up in my In box. Feel free to coordinate the soccer team's snack schedule while you're at it. Which reminds me: how did I end up being the Snack Coordinator? I think I've mentioned to you how much I hate Snack.

4. (most important) Please do NOT have any house parties while I'm gone. That means: no intarsia, no denim, no shrinking or fading or dyeing. When I get home, if I can smell even the slightest hint of a bleach pen, we'll have to talk.

Where are we going? To the jungly ruins of the Yucatan! It is SO rustic down there in Mexico: I have heard that you can go a HUNDRED MILES without seeing a Wal-Mart. Can you imagine?

I'll try to write, but I may end up in some Alfred Maudslay Victorian Mayan ruin explorer fantasy, and we may not come back. The children will just end up archaeology brats. Did you know that in the 1880s, there was a woman, Annie Hunter, who spent twenty years in the jungle painting pictures of all the Mayan hieroglyphs and carvings. For posterity? For the ages?

Nay, it was so that dorks like us could come down on spring break 120 years later and go, "Look at all this crazy stuff. Hey--that bus smell is kind of making me queasy."


Posted by Ann at 10:55 PM | Comments (17)

Doubters, Blasphemers, Charlatans...and Babies

Dear Ann,

Some of the comments to yesterday's post had coffee coming out of my nose. Others had me blushing. Others gave me ridiculous, pompous, self-aggrandizing ideas. Which of course I am considering very seriously. So let's deal with them in order shall we?


There have been many mentions of the ends on the back of the intarsia. How very horrifying they must be, how we are afraid to imagine them let alone look at them, how I should be knotting them or Pfaffing them or covering them with duct tape or crocheting them into fringes. So brace yourself for a small lecture and another EXTREME GRAPHIC PICTURE (MATURE AUDIENCES):

Uncover your eyes, you big chickens! It's only knitting:


See? Not so bad.


It is my belief that for intarsia, there is no viable alternative to sewing in the ends. Even if you are going to somehow cover the wrong side of the work later, for example in the case of a cushion cover, where all the ends would be inside. Sewing in the ends, as neatly as you can, deals with the ends as ends, of course. But when you are sewing in the ends, you also even up the tension of your intarsia, close gaps where a new color was joined, etc. Forget about the back: you need to sew in the ends to make the front look good. It also makes all those color joins and changes much sturdier. So you gotta do it, peeps. Don't shoot the messenger. Hear me now, or hear me later. Etc. etc.

Don't get me wrong, AMBER. I have gone over to the no-sew side when it comes to the ends from striped mitered squares and dangling sew-up yarns, etc. If you can tie a snug square knot, and you don't mind an inch or two of dangle below each knot on the wrong side, this is a perfectly acceptable way to deal with millions of ends. But stripes look fine on the front side regardless of what you do on the back. So. I welcome a frank exchange of views on this subject, but I have to say my heels are pretty dang dug in.


I admit that I roared with glee at the kind comments that suggested even the slightest comparison with Kaffe. I mean, KAFFE...OMG I can die happy now. But here's the thing; I didn't design the intarsia. This thing is Kaffe's own pattern! All I have done is leave the chart behind, as Kaffe is always a-preaching, and turn it into something other than the needlepoint cushion that was intended. Don't get me wrong: it was my highly original idea to surround the thing with subtly undulating textured strips of denim. That is my own Special Gift--surrounding things in denim, over and over again. I will not hide my light under a bushel. But Kaffe-ish? I think not. Thanks, though, dolls.


Blasphemy aside, I do think it would be great fun to change the spelling of my name to Kayye, as Ann so boldly suggests. That could change my whole life right there. Look at ol' Cherilyn Sarkisian. "Sonny and Cherilyn Sarkisian?" Never woulda happened. Without the name change, the world would never have known Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. Feel free to become Annnnne, now. The doubling up of letters just makes a person so much more fascinating, doesn't it?

And Finally, Babies! Handknits! Babies in Handknits!

The Ancestral Bjorn is back from China, loaded with cuteness:

Whatta kid. Zoe made herself right at home this morning at Villa Kayye, all smiles except when posing in the Bjorn. Posing in a Bjorn of such honorable vintage is serious business. Note that Zoe is wearing a handknit. So cute. I inquired about the bobbly yarn. I am told that all that is known is that it is from Boca Raton, knitted up by a friend of Zoe's gran. The perfect spring jacket.

But wait! More baby! Last week I had lunch with Valentina and finally met the illustrious She Who Squeeks. We posed together, trying to look all Rembrandty despite the fact that it was lunch hour at the City Bakery.

Squeeky was overcome by being walked all over creation, so she was fast asleep and barely peeking out of her cocoon of shawls (we were sitting by the drafty door). She is wrapped in both Clapotis (knitted by her ma) AND Kiri (knitted by Madame Kiri herself). Is there any better handknit mojo?

Happy weekend everybody,
Love, Kay(ye)

Posted by Kay at 02:53 PM | Comments (17)

March 16, 2006

Warning: Extreme Graphic Intarsia (Mature Audiences)


Dear Ann,

Intarsia is one of those techniques that is not so much in vogue these days. (Or in Vogue, for that matter.) You got your lace, your cable, your fair-isling in all directions and dimensions, but you don't see a lot of cool new intarsia designs. (Important exception: skull and crossbones motifs. Those are classic. Those we will always, always keep alive in Our Craft.)

About 10 years ago, as a fairly new knitter, I didn't look at patterns the way I do today. Today I look at a picture and think, "Cablicious!" or "Lace-intense!" or "WTF?" Back then, I only thought, "Purty!" And proceeded to buy 18 colors of cotton yarn without realizing that the idea would be, when I got home, to knit with all 18 colors at the same time, following a chart. With the result, at the end of a long and tangly process, being a sweater that made me look eggzackly like a sofa (or a love seat, I was slimmer then) in a Laura Ashley slipcover. Even if you are very careful to avoid reindeer, bells and candy canes, an intarsia sweater can quickly go Christmassy on you. I gradually came to avoid them. Intarsia was for children and Other People.

But the other day I stubbed my toe on a basket, looked down, and saw an abandoned WIP. Memories rushed back. Years ago, in one of Kaffe's 'passionate' or 'glorious' books, I saw a room that he had done up all in squares. A vintage postage-stamp quilt, squares on the ceramics, squares everywhere.

And you know, I love a square. One particularly alluring item was a needlepoint cushion with overlapping squares, approximately a million of them. The book included a full-size chart to make this needlepoint, with different black and white symbols for each of the tapestry wool colors. In my youthful hubris I thought, 'Hey! I could knit this chart, no problem!' I started out heedlessly. Bobbins? To heck with bobbins! Brandon Mably says to just 'pull from the tangle', no? I like the zen of that, and if it's good enough for Brandon, it's good enough for me.

Y'all. When Brandon says 'pull from the tangle'?--- This would be the tangle.

The tangle was not the real issue though. The real issue was the chart. It is no fun to follow an elaborate intarsia chart. You are no longer knitting. You are reading and stopping and checking and losing your row and figuring out a system to keep track of your row and then you are deciding maybe to knit something else for a minute, just until the Advil kicks in.

After just one partial row of boxes, I abandoned the project-- tangle, needle, connected balls of yarn-- and all, for a good six or seven years.

Then I had An Idea. An idea that couldn't have occurred to me seven years ago. A truly Kaffe-ish idea. Why not knit the overlapping boxes WITHOUT A CHART? Can you stand it? Boxes are SQUARE. Knitting is square. You can SEE THE BOXES in your knitting. They are meant to OVERLAP so you can do them any whichway. LET'S DO IT!!!

To make it more fun (could it possibly get more fun?), I ditched the notion of a cushion cover (so '1999'), and decided to just make a piece of fabric. And bam! to kick it up one more notch, I would knit it really fast. Over and out. Speed intarsia. An afternoon's knitting, and wherever those boxes stood, they would be bound off.

This is what I got. You just have to believe me when I tell you, it was a hoot and a half to knit this thing.

What am I going to do with it? I'm feeling a little.....blankety.


Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:01 AM | Comments (55)

March 15, 2006

Out of the Blue


Dear Kay,

Everyone around here has been reeling the past couple of days over the news of a beloved family who has just learned that their little girl is very sick. It's the kind of thing that hits you in the stomach like a sucker punch. I run into a friend, and we look at each other without a word, both stunned at the news.

Yesterday I took Squeaker to school so that Clif could introduce the guinea pig to his classmates. Squeaker is not what one would call a "good traveler." Actually, I'm not sure whether Squeaker knows she's traveling. Actually, I'm not sure what goes on in that bullet-shaped head at all. We're out on the side steps of the school, and Squeaker is sitting in Clif's lap under a towel, accepting the (simultaneous) fervent pats of four kindergarteners. It is a cool, bright blue afternoon. It smells incredible, because the Girl Scouts' daffodils have all bloomed at once, all over the school, and the air is so sweet you can almost eat it. I try not to hover over Clif and his fat pet, but I am worried that Squeaker is going to make a run for it if she figures out that she is no longer in her cage at home. So I sit right beside them, ready to nab the pig if the moment comes.

Squeaker makes a move, scrambling out from her towel. I lean in, get a handful of pig belly, and tuck her back into Clif's lap. At that moment, I look up, and there's the mom of the little girl who's so on our minds. I haven't seen her since a school event weeks ago, before all this trouble started. She's in a big hurry, but she leans over the group of children and says, "Clif, I like your guinea pig." She gives me a quick look and heads up the steps. I can't believe I've seen her, this mom who has been so much on my mind.

I wander through the rest of the afternoon, wishing I could somehow let this woman know how much I'm thinking about her. She's adrift in people doing stuff for her; everybody is consumed with trying to help when there's no help to be given. Last night I started making a scarf for her, the fastest scarf I know how to make. This stupid scarf isn't going to change a thing. But if there's one thing that a piece of knitting shows very clearly, it's time. Time spent sitting there putting the stitches on the needle, time I want to give to her. Here, I want to say--here's some time for you.


Posted by Ann at 10:26 AM | Comments (38)

March 12, 2006

The Epizootics, Or, How to Sit Very Still

Dear Kay,

When I was growing up, whenever one of us got sick in a general infectious way, my Selma, Alabama-born mom said we had a case of the epizootics.

I've been thinking about this word, epizootics, seeing as how I have had a case of them since Saturday. As long as I lie perfectly still, I'm just fine, but when I get up, it's like shaking a bottle of Sprite. Anyway, during the long periods I have been lying perfectly still, I got curious about whether my mom had made up the epizootics or whether it is a real thing.

In a word, yesandno. Here's a fine exploration of the whole issue. Do you think there's going to come a time when every single thing a person could ever wonder about will be fully explored somewhere on the Internet?

And I've decided that epizootics are plural, like grits. My grits are always plural, and so are my epizootics.

In this current state of mine, stockinette doesn't shake the Sprite bottle too much, but moss stitch is a killer.

Hope you're having an uncarbonated weekend.


PS Fellow Nashvillian Angela lists her top 10 brushes with fame--go tell her yours here and you might win a puhrize.

Posted by Ann at 02:29 PM | Comments (22)

March 09, 2006

Could We Have Been More Wrong?

Dear Kay,

CHLOE? CHLOE won Project Runway?

Hubbo came in as I was hunkered down in front of the TV, watching this stunning announcement. I couldn't even knit. He poked me with a feather, and I toppled over like a fainting goat.

Take a look at all three of the collections that were shown last night.

I've got my theories, all right. I think Daniel was a victim of his own subtlety. All the things that make his clothes so cool don't really work well on a runway where you're spoze to be swishing and flurfing and making a statement. All that beautiful draping and detail and construction got lost.

This jacket is beautifully constructed, but you can't see it from 30 feet away. The hem on party dress is cool, but you have to be close enough to see the pleats. His color choices were neutral, like this combo which would look great going down the street but not down this runway. (And the purses! I died a small death when somebody found the lost bag of purses at the last moment.)

Santino was spanked for actually doing the thing the judges asked him to do all season: to control his impulses. His collection was full of light, girly dresses (with one leathery overload moment) which had all the Santinoey trademarks. No lederhosen, no bustles of crap pinned on the butt. If I were Stevie Nicks, I would be all over Santino's clothes. This gown has all the restraint of Chloe's stuff, but Santino keeps it light.

As for Chloe, I give her credit--all her dresses fit beautifully. The construction is great. But her fabrics (excuse me) suck. Imagine wearing this mess o' satin. So heavy! I can feel the clammies coming on just looking at this thing.

Nice tan line! Don't they pay models to not have tan lines?

Beautiful baby doll dress, but the proportion on the top part is so teeny.

This is just awful. This too. Joan Collins, relax--1985 is still with us. And this sort of thing is well made but still ooky.

To Chloe's credit, this is pretty in a I-need-something-for-the-Swan-Ball way, which for Chloe is really her market: the women of Houston have a new muse. When lady dress designer Kay Unger raved about Chloe, I should have known things were going south.

America's Next Great Designer? Quick! We're all moving to Paris!


Posted by Ann at 10:38 AM | Comments (46)

March 08, 2006

Whoopsy I Wrote Up the Pattern

Dear Ann,

Yay you for finally finding something to do with the fabulous red Yarn Least Likely To Be Purchased By Ann. I remember the day you bought it, and how I was thinking we really must be on the verge of a nervous breakdown if the Queen o 'Brown Tweed was stocking up on gold-wrapped red handpaint. I don't know if you recall, but I spoke to you very slowly and quietly after that. "Ann. Sweetie? Love your purchase. That gold-wrapping feature is real hard to find in the Jamieson's range. Yes. Why don' t you have a little lie-down now?"

Speaking of knitting red for adorable babies from China, guess where my Baby Bjorn is right this very minute?

It's in China. The old rugged Baby Bjorn is making its fourth round trip to escort friend Laurie home with her second daughter, beautiful Zoe, little sis of Julia. If Baby Bjorns were eligible for frequent-flyer upgrades, ours would be sipping champagne in First Class. I defy you to show me a Baby Bjorn with better patina. This one's career spans Carrie, Joseph, Julia, Rose, Taro, Jamie, and now Zoe. And it's still going strong.

What's Up With the Charity Knitting Dude?

Lately it seems like I've been doing more charity knitting. Sometimes I go months and months without knitting a thing for charity, and then the urge hits me. For me, knitting is primarily about fun. It's about pleasure and indulgence, embarrassing my children, and amassing as many Unconnected Sweater Parts as possible. But sometimes a charity project really moves me. Or I feel like knitting a whole bunch of the same item because I just WANT to. (Or I need to get rid of that voice in my head that sounds a lot like Norma.) That's where the charity knitting comes in handy.

Like for example the 16 hats for Dulaan. Would you believe I am still grooving on knitting hats? Would you believe I have no friends or relations currently accepting hats? Would you believe that afghans for Afghans has just issued a call for 100 baby hats and baby sox by April 28, for a midwife project in Afghanistan? Read about it here. This suits me just fine. I am definitely going to make a few more, teenier, hats. I may even get crazy and ramp up a small teeny-sock operation. I do own that fabulous book about socks and how to make them Soar on Two Circular Needles. I do have 2 brand-new Size 2 Addis. I just feel like it. The unconnected sweater parts, they will always be with us. They can sit through a few more hats.

Anyhoo, there have been a few requests for the crazy Corrugated Dulaan Hat pattern. So I wrote it up. Here it is. Enjoy, and everybody please let me know if there are any bugs in it.

"Mom. Tell me this hat's not for me."

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 07:48 AM | Comments (15)

The Tea Leaves Never Lie

Dear everybody but Kay who is too busy making hats to watch the show,

Who's going to win Project Runway tonight?

Readers predicted as follows:

Santino 14

Daniel V. 11

Chloe 2

Take it to your bookie! I'm holding out for Daniel V . . .



Posted by Ann at 02:43 AM | Comments (10)

March 07, 2006

A Red-Letter Day

Dear Kay,

Red! The color of the day is RED! I had the best red-letter day I've had in ages when this came in the mail:


A red letter.

Last summer, I made a new friend. She and her husband and young son have just adopted a beautiful baby from China, and now that she's here, the girl obviously needs a handknit and SOON.

In China, red is the color of happiness, good luck, and/or prosperity (at least, that's what my Google search tells me).

I immediately went to my yarn archives in search of the proper red with which to decorate this adorable, and adored, child. It was hard to find a red that was RED enough.


Too itchy, too murky, too much made out of paper, too WRONG.

Then I came upon the reddest yarn I ever bought:


Scheepjes Java: 42% cotton/38% acrylic/14% viscose/6% nylon/100% WACKY.

Now THAT is some red yarn. Remember it, Kay? The yarn I bought when you were here in Nashville, when we were supposed to be fixing pattern directions but we decided it would be better for everyone if we went yarn shopping?

I think your words at the time were along the lines of, "That is the ugliest yarn I have ever seen." Or maybe it was "What on earth would you ever do with such a doggish yarn?" Or "I need to rethink our entire friendship based on the yarn you have just chosen."

I defended it by saying something like, "But look, it has little wrapped gold parts on it . . . it has cotton . . . it's . . . red . . ."



The wrapped part is really cool. I loved the . . . novelty of it all. So I bought three balls despite your howls and left it to marinate in the stash.


I'm cooking up a little seed stitch cardigan, knit in one piece from the bottom until I get to the armholes at which point I'll worry about sleeves. It'll have one button, a RED one I expect, unless it's a GOLD one. Once I find the right dress to go with it, our new Nashvillian will be all covered up in happiness, good luck, and/or prosperity.

I guess there really is a project for every yarn. Even a cotton/acrylic/viscose/nylon yarn. That's rilly red.


PS Here's a little quiz--name the eight red yarns that weren't red enough for the baby sweater, and you'll get a little prize. A hint: I have written about all these yarns except for #2 and #8. And Kay has written endlessly about those. Send your guesses to me via email. If more than one person gets them all right, we'll have a drawing. Please send your entry before 11:48 pm, Central Standard Time, Thursday, March 9, 2006.

PSS And talk about good luck-- I discover from Emma that making this red sweater puts me in good shape for Project Spectrum, Lolly's six-month exploration of color. March = Red Month!

Posted by Ann at 11:22 AM | Comments (14)

March 06, 2006

Whip Up Whiplash


Dear Ann,

I had an exceedingly crafty weekend, how about you? But first, I need to announce that my conscience is free of all bonds and obligations undertaken with respect to my Olympic 16 Hats For Dulaan pledge. I give you:

The Final Four.

As you can see, the corrugated rib groove carried me all the way through. I love how 2-color ribbing highlights the striping of the Noro. In hat 14, the somber shades of the Noro Silk Garden rescued an insipid pale blue and white Rio de la Plata (yummy yarn, just don't know why I picked that pasty shade).

I especially love the woven look on the wrong side. It gives me all kinds of ideers. Why is this magnificent technique so seldom seen outside of cuffs and edgings? (Um, because it's slow and tedious? Is that a very good reason? I think NOT.)

A fond goodbye to an Alp of hats. I had a great time making them.

Crafty Sunday: The Chroni-What-Cles of Darn-ia

Now, you know about Whip Up don't you? A group of the bestest, most craftiest bloggers, updating constantly on every aspect of making stuff by hand, by all means and in all media? Whip Up makes me dizzy with crafty longing. I cannot walk through my apartment without seeing something that needs whipping up. I start to think about branching out beyond knitting, beyond log-cabinning on borrowed sewing machines, beyond......the pale.

Whip Up is totally to blame for what I did yesterday. What I did yesterday involved a Cherished Wedding Gift and this:


Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Cherished Wedding Gift in question is what I call, with no pejorative connotation, a Catalog Quilt. I have quite a few Catalog Quilts. I buy them, well from catalogs of course, because I prefer cotton quilts to regular blankets and down comforters and stuff like that. You can wash them and hang them on the line and they are so dang cuddly. When I started, I didn't have any 'real' quilts to compare them to, so I didn't mind that their quilting is kind of .... sketchy.... or that their color schemes can be bland or matchy-matchy. Even with my more educated appreciation of craftsmanship, I still enjoy scoring a nice quilt in the Garnet Hill super-duper middle-of-the-catalog-70-percent-off sale. This particular quilt was a wedding gift from 4 sibs who are beloved cousins-in-law. They asked me what color I liked (being the bride and the only person whose color preference mattered), and I said blue (surprise!), and they gave us this:

We got married in 1991. So naturally there are a few spots that are worn-out and busted. In the quilt I mean.

I love a Matching Pillow Sham, and this quilt was my very first experience of it. I felt so grown up. I would invite people to visit: "Please stay with us," I would say. 'We have Matching Pillow Shams, you know.' I don't ever want to get rid of this quilt, or any quilt, but Whip Up got me started thinking I could IMPROVE this quilt. So yesterday, my helper man (Joseph) and I set to work.

Although I've read of Kaffe Fassett painting dye on the strips of a quilt that were too light, one look at Joseph, and the Rit box warnings about staining, convinced me that I should go the Washing Machine Route.

First you mix up some salty dye soup.

Euw. Second thoughts occurring now. Joseph is hell-bent, though.

So we washed, we soaked, we re-set the machine 6 or 7 times, we rinsed and at the end of it all we pulled this out of the dryer:

Mmmmm, denimy! (See the sham to compare the original color.) The pattern still shows--yay for that. I might give it a second treatment to deepen the blue when I restore the shams to their original, intended matchy-matchiness. A successful project, thanks to a bad case of Whip Up Fever. I wonder what's going on over there today. Hmmmm?


Posted by Kay at 09:53 AM | Comments (27)

March 03, 2006

Project Runway: Remedial Help


Dear Kay,

As a public service and a special present for you, I'm going to give you all the links to Project Runway that you will need to prepare yourself for the final episode next Wednesday. I know you're coming to this late, but hey--you had to catch up on those 3,000 episodes of EastEnders, right? This will be a piece of cake.

First of all, go to the official show site to get the lay of the land. Those 16 little happy faces you see? They've all been cut except for three:



Daniel V. (as opposed to Daniel F. who was a contestant on Season 1 and managed to talk his way onto Season 2)

See? It's all kind of complicated, but at this point, what you really need to know is that a) the beloved favorite Daniel V. is facing deep jeopardy; b) Chloe's collection looks mighty bridesmaidey to this viewer; and c) Santino The Evil One appears to have a killer collection.

But the show is well produced enough that how the situation looks now is surely not how it will end.

Now (and this is a real gift to you, who clearly isn't busy enough), go visit Blogging Project Runway. A wormhole into the zillions of blogs about the show.

When you've digested all this, you can go to the Project Runway shop, where you can buy one of host Heidi Klum's insanely foxy maternity dresses. Me? I'll be busy with my Carolina Kostner ice skating costume, which just fits like a dream, I tell you.

To everyone who's already up to date on all this, who's going to win?


Posted by Ann at 12:58 PM | Comments (42)

March 01, 2006

Take Your Shoes Off, Set a Spell


Dear Ann, and People Who Haven't Finished Catching Up on the Saga of the Perfect Sweater Which At This Point Is Longer Than the Combined Episodes of Brideshead Revisited AND Upstairs/Downstairs,

I hate to stomp all over your post, but honey, we have to get the word out about the Mini-Tour for our book which is coming out at the end of THIS MONTH.

You know--the Road Trip we're doing in April? The rent-a-mom-bomb? You and me, fighting over who gets to knit and who has to drive? Here's the schedule as it stands right now.

Naturally, as I was daydreaming about all this, my mind started running through Appropriate Theme Songs for MDK Mini-Tour 2006. You'll be pleased to know that it's not Streisand this time. It's not even Loretta Lynn. It's the Beverly Hillbillies. Read on at your peril; personally I can't get this tune out of my head now. (Listen to it here. Lester Flatt! Earl Scruggs! No wonder it's great!) (Original lyrics here.)

The Ballad of Ann and Kay Clampett

Come and listen to a story 'bout a girl named Kay
Poor little thing, sat home knittin' every day
But then one day she met a doll named Ann
So they wrote a little book and they loaded up the van.

(Knitting book, that is. Black yarn. English tea.)

Next thing you know they had highlights in their hair
The menfolk said, Hey girls it's quite a glare!
They said, LYSes are the place you oughta light
So they booked babysitters for every single night.

(Spouses, that is. Relatives and next-door neighbors. Folks who know how to warm up chicken nuggets.)

OK I'm done now. Really looking forward to knitting the USA, in our Chevrolet. Meeting people! Talking their ears off! Drinking and eating! Buying souvenir yarn! It's gonna be great!

Love, Kay

P.S. Everybody read the post below about the Perfect Sweater: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Posted by Kay at 12:02 PM | Comments (66)

Perfect Sweater: Sticking Their Necks Out


Dear Kay, and Everybody Who Has Found Peace with Their Finish in the Knitting Olympics,

If I sound deliriously excited, it's because I am.

Just goofy, really, because even as I write, there are seven geniuses at work on the Perfect Sweater pattern. Seven intrepid artists who have looked Destiny in the face and said, "Destiny, I'm not askeered of you." "Destiny, I flinch not." "Destiny--look, you're not really destiny, you're just a neckline that has to be designed, and it's just not rocket science or anything, but Ann sounds kind of desperate and clearly needs the help blessherheart."

For those just joining us, go back and read every entry with the word "Perfect" in the title, dating from September through November 2005.

OK, you're back? Long story short, we (the readers of this blog) have been in deep discussion, in a Future Search, about what constitutes the perfect handknit. What are the elements? What is it--a sweater, a sock, a dress that harkens to the days of Flashdance? What is the perfect yarn? Wool? Cotton? Alpaca? Scratchy wool? Merino???? We nominated; we voted; we had run-offs; we broke into factions; we argued about how you pronounce the word schism; we veered off into the subject of beverages. Some people retired to the lounge rather than face the possibility of continuing this process.

The conclusions that came out of this winnowing process: Cascade 220 was deemed the perfect yarn. A sweater was named the perfect project, by a good margin, and we managed to get a majority for slight shaping and set-in sleeves. But at that point, the consensus collapsed like a pup tent in a hurricane. Cardigan? Pullover? Couldn't crack it--so we're writing patterns for both. Edging? A flat-out tie between hemmed and seed stitch, so we're including both options. Neckline? Ach, hopeless! Try to get a turtlenecker to lay down with a scoopnecker, and all you get are complaints of itchiness and immodesty. We concluded that the perfect sweater really does need a neckline that suits its wearer, so we decided on a variety of necklines.

As I have mentioned, I've been trying out the pattern (beautifully edited by Mandy), along with Kathy of California and Kendall of Tulsa. We are feeling pretty good about the way it's working, so at this point in this (quick) (E-Z) process, it's time to create the varied necklines that everybody seems to like so much.

Please say hello to the women who are going to be working out the necklines. They may be writing about their design process on their blogs, and I'll let you know when they're posting. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how they do what they do.

Tara will be designing the crewneck.

Lauren: sweetheart neckline

Suzanne: V neck

Molly: shawl collar

Kathy: jewelneck AND cardigan

Morgan: scoop neck

Oh yes and one more! Kristy: square neck

Can't wait to see what you cook up. Everybody, please get out your leftover cowbells from the Torino downhill and give a rattle for these designers. Thank you, designers!!!!

We expect to start having patterns available later this month.


Posted by Ann at 10:50 AM | Comments (23)
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