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

July 28, 2006

A Very Brady Chair Cushion

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Dear Kay,

Yesterday a random boy came up to me and said, "Wanna see my bug?" He reached into a tiny paper bag and pulled out, by a lacy wing, the hugest dead cicada I'd ever seen. Big old meaty bug. Goodgriefboydontshowmestufflikethat is what I wanted to say, but instead I told him it was a fine bug and asked what he was going to do with it. "Keep it," he said.

It's buggy up here, I tell you.

Sister Buffy arrived on Saturday with her two children for a two-week deployment, so things have been kind of busy around here. I can't really tell you what we've been doing exactly, but generally, it has to do with feeding, talking, sitting, keeping her scrapbooking on schedule, making sure there's enough badminton happening, and trying to not be in my PJs after ten o'clock in the morning.

I paid Buffy fifty cents to get rid of a cricket in the kitchen. I used to pay her when we were growing up to kill crickets, because our house had a never-ending population of big brown gross ones that didn't look like Jiminy Cricket; they looked like pirates of the Caribbean. I'd like to say she humanely ushered it outside, but we subscribe to the belief that a bug outside is a sacred beautiful cog in the wheel of nature's elegant machine and proof that there's order in the universe, while a bug inside is the ENEMY. She dropped the current issue of Real Simple magazine on it. "That was real simple," she said.

Anyway, we went to Nashville last weekend, and I honestly can't believe I did this, but I went directly to the yarn shop in search of yarn for making rocking chair cushions. It's sick, I tell you. Just ill. I have all sorts of projects half baked this summer, but ever since I finished painting those chairs, I have been consumed with thoughts of chair cushions. I wanted them to be quick knits, which would require chunky yarn, which was absent from the porta-stash I brought up here to the Mountain. That's how I ended up going to the yarn shop when I really had no business doing such a thing.

I had in mind a felted chair cushion, one that would have maybe some simple stitching on it that would felt into a blurry, pretty decorative element. All those beautiful Noni bags are so great--and that famous Nicky Epstein bag with all the trailing vegetation. Lurvly! I do not seem able to carry a felted bag as my purse, so at least I could enter the decorative felted world by adapting some of those ideas on a cushion. And the more you bottom-felted them, the blurrier and softer the decoration would be.

The more I pondered this, the more it was clear that a summertime screened porch rocking chair cushion would just be miserable if it were wool. Bleh! Hot! Itchy! Cotton or linen are the only real options. But chunky cotton? Hard to find. Chunky linen? Maybe. But the shop didn't have the zippy shades I was seeking to make these cushions the cheerful mini-fiestas I was craving. After all, I have a world of cream-colored chairs to overcome. These cushions had to be a picante sauce.

I ended up standing, as you often do, in front of the Cotton Classic. The wall of cheer, really. If I doubled the Cotton Classic, I would have access to that wondrous rainbow of colors. I left with a bag of happy yarn, and commenced to swatching.

With felting out of the question, I immediately turned to the Big Dotty pattern that I used for the piano bench cushion that's in the book. I've always wanted to try it larger, in bright colors. Here's what came of that, with doubled Cotton Classic on a size 10 needle:

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Very Laugh-In. One of the things I've noticed in these cottages here in at the Monteagle Assembly is that you can instantly tell when a house had its last bit of decorating done. There's a lot of sheet vinyl kitchen flooring in that avocado and gold Moorish tile pattern. You see chairs with 1960s florals, crewelwork pillows from Erica Wilson's glory days in the '70s, and plenty of giant armchairs from the '80s now slipcovered to disguise their sins. I hope, 20 years from now, people will mistake this cushion for a project from 1968.

More on the construction of this cushion later. Here's what I've got so far, a quick two nights' worth of knitting, which included--o rare treat---an episode of the new season of Project Runway.

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I think I like it as much or more on the dark chairs, the ones that wisely evaded my paintbrush:

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One profound truth so far: these big needles make knitting a snipsnap piece of CAKE! Why didn't you tell me about these before?

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 03:00 PM | Comments (51)

July 25, 2006

How Vivian Met Francie

Dear Ann,

I love a crossover story. You know, like Elvis being at the top of the pop AND gospel charts and probably a bunch more charts? Or, for that matter, the other Elvis, singing with Ann-Sofie von Otter and Burt Bacharach (not at the same time although THAT would be cool)---it's all music, right? If you like music and have even a smidge of curiosity, you like different ways and means of making it.

And so it is with the mitered square. It's in quilts, it's in knitting, it's in carpentry.

It's also, for Francie anyway, in polymer clay. Check out (scroll down a little) what Francie (who also knits) did with miters and clay! In May, Francie wrote to tell me she was inspired to cook up these polymer clay mitered items, and then she sent me some examples of what she had been up to. I don't even know her! She generously sent stitch markers and a needle case and psychedelic ponytail holders, but my very favorite item was this pin:

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I love a pin. I expecially love a pin on a jean jacket. So when we went to TNNA in Indianapolis last month, I put this pin on my jean jacket, right up there with my 'Boys Knit', 'I Heart Knitty' and 'KNIT BIG' pins. The pins of our people. Everybody asked me about it, oohing and aahing, and I kept saying, stupidly, "You see, it's miters." They saw, it's miters.

Somehow I got separated from you in the convention hall (oh, the anxiety! are we not a matched set? are we not joined at the hip?) and wandered off in search of free samples (hope springs eternal), Knitting Celebrities, and hopefully more pins. And then, there SHE was, big as life, real as real, draped in a mitered coat: Vivian Hoxbro. (Sorry Vivian for the lack of that Danish slashed-o letter in Hoxbro.) Vivian lives in Denmark. She wrote Domino Knitting, a gem of a book on knitting and joining miters, and Shadow Knitting, which teaches a clever way of getting mysterious pictures to appear in your knitting. Spooky!

I approached the Knitting Celebrity. (Digression to explain Kay's Policy on the Greeting of Celebrities: For Regular Celebrities, as a NewYorker I am obliged to follow a strict policy of being too cool to approach or even acknowledge their existence until they are out of sight, at which point I make knowing but silent eye contact with my fellow NewYorkers, so that they know, and they know that I know, that we have just seen a celebrity. A couple of weeks ago I saw Keanu Reeves (yes! I know he is rawr-worthy to female fans everywhere, but I never can forget his stoner-like delivery of lines in Much Ado About Nothing--"Dude....I'm like totally the bad guy in this movie.") on 23rd and Fifth--a decidely un-VIPish corner-- looking lost and talking on his cellphone, and I didn't even blink. Move along! Nothing to see here people! But Knitting Celebrities, as the glittering citizens of a subculture or perhaps another plane of existence, are fair game in my book. They must endure my "Hi! How are ya? I LOVE your work!" I believe I told Debbie Bliss I adored her, for which she inexplicably gave me a candy bar, but that's another story.)

So anyhoo, I ran over to fawn at poor Vivian, who was so kind, and we chatted and very soon she said, 'I love that pin! Where did you get it? You know I love miters!' I was so proud to tell her that someone I 'knew' had MADE it, and we chatted on, and then I remembered: for some reason, I was carrying Francie's mitered-square stitch markers, still on the card, IN MY PURSE. So I asked Vivian, Hey, do you use stitch markers? Well, of course she does. (She is the queen of knitting MITERS.) So wa-la! I presented Vivian Hoxbro with Francie's lovely mitered-square stitch markers. Francie had cleverly attached the set with a kilt pin, so Vivian pinned the whole set on her jacket like a piece of jewelry.

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She loved them.

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Look how cute the tiny miters are, how precise.

This made me very happy. Thanks so much, Francie!

Love, Kay

PS Dishrag Beat: The Monthly Dishcloth Knitalong group, of which I am a proud (but lazy) member, has just reached 1500 members. That just boggles my mind.

Posted by Kay at 08:07 AM | Comments (38)

July 21, 2006

The Doctor is In

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Dear Ann,

A 9 a.m. thunderstorm--very dramatic. Can you believe how many knitters there are in my new hood? We definitely have to get a Way Upper West Side SnB together this September!

Today I'd like to be moderately helpful for a change. Here are some questions and diagnoses:

Dr. Ninepatch

Dr. Ninepatch may be stripped of her epaulets if she's not more careful with her prescription pad. Elizabeth made a sa-WEET Ninepatch Dishrag but discovered that the instructions do not say how I made the stockinette 'spoke' down the middle of each of the corner miters. The answer: On Row 2 and every WS row, I purled the center stitch. (It would also work, maybe even better, to slip the center stitch on the RS, and then purl it on the WS, like we do on the Baby Burp Cloth in the book. This elongates the stockinette line so you see it better and it sort of rides on top of the garter stitch background.) Anyhoo, I fixed the pattern to reflect how I actually did it. The corrected pattern is in this post.

Dr. Miter

Reader Nicole emailed with a question about the Low-Sew Method of knitting miters together to make a mitered square blanket. Since I think others might have the same question, I will clarify the crucial step of stitch-pick-upping that I think is at the heart of Nicole's issue.

Nicole was concerned that after picking up along one edge of the first miter and then casting on another 36 stitches, that first stripe of the miter would be uneven on its 2 'legs'--i.e., that there would be one extra row of stitches in the new color where she cast on, but not where she picked up.

I puzzled over this for an inordinate amount of time. When I did this myself (64 some-odd times), my miters came out evenly striped. Then I remembered that my method of picking up stitches is sometimes called 'pick up AND KNIT', because as I stick my needle into the edge that I'm picking up on, I pull a loop of the new yarn through to make a new stitch. I've seen people pick up stitches just by picking up the existing loops--naked, as it were--and stacking them on the right needle. I don't do it that way because it seems to me that it puts too much strain and stretch on that edge, and the tension of the join is tighter than the tension of the knitting. Here's how it looks the way I pick up stitches:

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See how I've pulled a loop of the new yarn through each stitch as I picked it up?

Then, when I cast on 36 more stitches, there are the same number of stitches in the new color on both sides of the miter. I hope that fixes Nicole's issue, and anybody else who was experiencing the same thing. 'Pick up stitches', like most knitting terms, is in the eye of the knitter. It usually doesn't matter, except when it does matter!

Dr. Dishrag

Wouldja believe that one of my gifted dishrags has been RETURNED for REPAIRS?

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In a year of dish-doing, my pal Diana plumb wore out this dishrag. Way to use the handknits, Di! Group hug! She claims to be so fond of it that she wanted me to fix its holes and raggled edge.

Now I don't want to make a habit of this, mind you. But how could I resist the DIshrag Love implicit in this request?

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SO, I whipstitched the tattered edge, all Folk Arty.

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And I did this improvised weave over the holes, anchoring the 'warp' stitches in good solid knitted stitches surrounding the hole.

And now it goes back to Rhode Island for more wear and tear. (What really warmed my heart was when Diana said that she had lent her place to friends while she was on vacation, but had hidden her handknit dishrags. Because even an otherwise well-bred houseguest might not know better than to clean something really grody with a handknit dishrag. Philistines!)

Dr. Top Down

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The state of the top down boatneck raglan this morning. (This pic reminds me of something...oh what is it....oh, this? No--wait! It's THIS!)

I'm already thinking I'll stop at the waist and not make this a dress or tunic. I like a wide boatneck, but don't want the weight of a longer garment (this is Euroflax Sportweight Linen by the way) to pull the neckband over one of her shoulders.

This weekend we're off....

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...to see Our Rabbit. Yes, a wild rabbit is lounging in the yard every afternoon from 4 p.m to nearly sundown. We say, 'let's go see the rabbit', walk outside, and there he is. Munching the clover and other goodies in the 'natural', i.e., feral, lawn. He doesn't move, or even raise his ears, until you get about 8 feet away. We've found him relaxing with his hind legs out, which Rabbit People tell me is a sign of high rabbity comfort level. I have never seen a wild rabbit as fat and content as this guy. He's no fledging blue bird, I know, but he's Our Rabbit.

Happy weekend all!

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 09:30 AM | Comments (37)

July 20, 2006

In Which I Cease Whining (or at least pause)

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Dear Ann,

Now that I've seen the state of your porch chairs, I've decided to turn over a new leaf, to glop on some fresh psychic paint, to bloom where I am planted, and to make lemonade when life hands me Crystal Light. Thanks for that, friend. Sometimes one needs a reminder that one is not the only Pottery Barn gal marooned in a Grey Gardens world (minus cats and fleas, but I do think about wearing a cardigan on my head).

There are compensations. See that kitchen window up there?

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This is the view.

And not to brag or anything, but I am the mistress of a genuine Can-O-Mat:

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(I don't quite get what is so 'mat' about it. And am I the only person who sees this thing and thinks 'eBay'?)

I am in love with our new neighborhood, Washington Heights. Here's a news flash, people (including taxi drivers): Washington Heights is in MANHATTAN. Hop on the A train, and it's 20 minutes to Columbus Circle. Yet it's a world apart. Small towny (in a New Yorky way). A small shopping street with everything you really need, a couple of nice places to eat and drink, a *bucks for those whose souls are in the grip of the almighty latte, and a venerable German Jewish bakery for those whose lives are governed by the almighty pumpernickel.

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This is Manhattan? Can it be? Yes, it be!


Most of the buildings seem to have been built in the 30s, Art Deco with a human scale and a common touch.

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Check out the fire escapes! Art Deco fire escapes!

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You want Tudor? We got your Tudor!

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Plenty of knitting/quilting inspiration.

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Excellent lengths of curb to walk on.

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These signs are all over the neighborhood. I'm thinking of getting my real estate license. Come on up! Check it out!

Knitting?

I'm re-immersing in this book:

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To make this:

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It's not a necklace. It's a PulloverOrMaybeATunicOrMaybeADressI'llJustSeeHowItGoesOkay?

So far I've learned that it is one thing to wing a blanket without a pattern. A sweater/tunic/dress? Another thing entirely. So fun!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:18 AM | Comments (51)

July 18, 2006

Gloppy, Distressed, Monteagley: A Chair Story

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Dear Kay,

Today I'd like to talk about distress. I've been thinking a lot about distress--not mental distress particularly, because you can read about that at my other blog, www.iamlosingitbutiguessiwilljustkeepfakingitforonemoreday.com--but the physical, beat-upon distress that happens to stuff once people start using things. Our cottage, for example, is a temple to distress. I'll take you on a little tour sometime, but right now we'll focus on a tiny, isolated area that has been causing me a lot of, well, distress.

It's the porch chairs. For the past two years, ever since we got this cottage, I have been watching four of our rocking chairs decay, right before my eyes. Last summer, toward the end of the season, the green paint started to fail--a flake here, a bubble there. You sat down, kind of hot after wandering around outside, and you got up to discover that your forearm was part green. So ANNOYING.

The thing is, I think the peeling paint is pretty. Look at these colors:

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See proof of the 1970s, right under that green paint:

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See how people long ago dealt with a dried-up leather chair seat:

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Kay, I realize that this sort of distressed paint tends to give you hives. I know that peeling paint is not your idea of a good time. But think about the chair painters of years gone by--the one who thought orange was the right color, the one who hated orange and went for yellow. The one who first decided boldly to paint a stained hardwood rocker in the first place. Palimpsest, I tell you--these chairs are a palimpsest of summery history.

An annoying palimpsest. I'm all for authenticity, but the peely green paint HAD TO GO.

So the other day, my summer neighbor Ginger wandered over and suggested we take our four boys on a hike. I looked out, saw the four boys playing a hot game of badminton, and I said, "Aw, they're playing badminton. Let's not mess with that."

"Right," she said, clearly not too committed to the idea of a hike. Getting four boys to play badminton together in such a charming, picturesque way was almost unheard of. Plus, a hike sounded a lot like work to me. Then she said, "Well, we could always paint those chairs. You're all the time talking about painting those chairs."

A real bluff-caller, Ginger is. We headed off to Greeter's hardware store, scored some wire brushes and sandpaper. We deferred paint until we could see how bad the cleaned-up chairs looked. And endlessly stare at paint sample cards.

We commenced to scraping and sanding, and it was wildly satisfying to see all the crappy paint fall off. It wasn't coming off very evenly, however, and I started to wish we'd just stripped the chairs altogether with a big jug of cortex-eating paint remover. The chairs were turning into a Vietnam-scale project.

Ginger kept saying, "It doesn't matter. It's Monteagley. They'll be great."

The hardware guy persuaded us that spray paint, every Monteagle porch chair painter's first choice, was not going to solve our problem, that spray paint was what had caused our problem. I decided, having never painted anything in my life, that oil-based paint, with a paintbrush, was the only real solution if I was going to avoid painting the damn chairs again anytime soon.

Picking the color took two days of retrieving paint samples and deciding whether to go dark or light. Light meant I would need to prime all the chairs, but light was obviously the way to go.

I had a moment of mourning when I finally put the primer to the first chair. To glop over all that summery history seemed disrespectful, but glop I did. I glopped for hours and hours, glopping the chairs and me and my shoes, soaking myself in mineral spirits from time to time and making just a huge mess. I got totally drunk on fumes, thought I saw Bigfoot at one point. Painting a chair spindle with a paintbrush is just terrible. If I'd had the steam, I'd have rented a paint sprayer and really gone nuts. But once you're into a project with both feet, and both feet are covered in oil-based paint, you can't really change your course. Days passed; civilizations around the world fell in the time it took for the chairs to dry in the humidity.

Then they were done.

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They're really creamy.

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But they're not what you would call Nice. Ginger, who conveniently moved four streets over to another cottage during this effort to avoid the glopping process, came by and said they were really Monteagley. Then she proceeded to rearrange all the furniture on the porch.

I happen to know that under this creamy paint, that there is peeling orange and green and yellow and pink and blue.

Which reminds me. What is missing from this picture?

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Chair cushions. I'll be knitting up some chair cushions, and they'll probably be orange and green and yellow. They'll match just great once the creamy paint starts to peel, and we're back to cream and green and orange and yellow.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:46 PM | Comments (44)

July 16, 2006

In the Year 2003 . . .

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Dear Kay,

Hey--I just remembered that today is our anniversary: three years of writing our little blawg together. A grand total of 598 entries, 12,792 comments, and 64,012 miles of yarn knitted.

Clink! Cool beverages for everybody! My treat--really! Thanks, y'all, for putting up with this mess.

Honestly, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled blabbing as soon as Kay stops reading that damn Matisse book, and as soon as I finish painting the porch chairs. Which may just kill me.

Love,
Ann

PS The knitalong continues to amaze and amuse! Kudos to all you intrepid log cabiners and bibbymakers, you dishclothists and ninacrankers. If you haven't seen the goings on at the knitalong, jump in right here. O! It's a beautiful thing!

PSS And no, I didn't make that cake, though I wish I had. This cake is the Second Grade Class Play Cast Party Cake. The play was Peter and the Blue Witch Baby, so of course the cake required a spray-painted blue baby.

Posted by Ann at 11:04 PM | Comments (40)

July 14, 2006

Weekend (Dishrag) Knitting

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Dear Ann,

Let's review our current Situation, Summer 2006.

You: living in a tin-roofed shack. No doubt rendering squirrel fat as we speak. ("Kids, we're having tacos tonight!")

Me: communicating with the world via princess phone. My current telephone number has LETTERS. Do you remember the sound of a princess telephone ringing? Not princess-like at ALL. It rings like a death in the family, every time. Oh, and 'opprima el numero dos?'--I'm not doing much opprima-ing these days. It takes me 10 minutes to dial a number.

But I know you don't want to hear about my problems. (I know because when I call you every day to tell you about my problems, you go all Southern Magnolia on me. 'Oh, that's TOO BAD. You're a mess; oh that's just a SHAME.' You soothing-murmur me 'til I shut up; it's quite a technique.)

The past couple of weeks I've been spending more time than usual on the subway. You know what subway time means: dishrag knitting. What else are you going to knit while communing with your fellow sweaty New Yorkers?

After I wrote this post, a few concerned friends remarked, in a constructive and loving way, that I seem to be stuck on the Ballband Dishrag. Implying, in a constructive and loving way, that I lack imagination and zest in my dishrag knitting. I got the feeling that I should be doing better, trying harder, and not knitting so many of the same dishrag.

I don't agree. Not everybody cares about their dishrags (some people just DON'T CARE). But I do. I like a nice thick, scrunchy, waffly dishrag. From a Quality-of-DIshrag-Life point of view, the Ballband is the best. As for the IQ-Level-of-Dishrag-Knitting, I'm never bored with the Ballband because it has such a groovy rhythm and because I am always fiddling around with the colors, even when, as now, my dishrag cotton cupboard is sort of bare. (The pastels are the official bottom of the dishrag cotton barrel.)

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This week's dishrags. The one on the left is the current fave. Due to its quilt-osity and Gee's Bendiness.

But anyhoo, even when I don't agree with criticism, I do take it to heart and stew about it day and night. So I came up with a new dishrag.

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The New Dishrag.

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The New Dishrag in situ. I'm calling it the Ninepatch.

I'll tell you straight out that I know the Ballband, and the Ninepatch is no Ballband. The Ninepatch suffers from a troubling lack of Waffle Factor. It's a pretty little shmatta, it'll wipe your counters just fine, and it has some fairly obvious potential for adaptation to quilt-knitting, but it's no threat to the Dishrag di Tutti Dishrags. The main advantage that it has over the Ballband is that it's quicker to knit, and you get to knit miters, which is always thrilling. So here goes, a humble pattern for all you dishrag lovers out there. Knock yourselves out!

The Ninepatch Dishrag

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Materials: Dishcloth cotton yarn, worsted weight (I used Peaches & Creme OF COURSE), in 2 or 3 colors. (Patch 7? I found that bit in the bottom of my purse with cookie crumbs stuck to it.) A pair of US 5, 6 or 7 needles. A seat on the subway (optional).

Instructions: Use the numbered photograph above as a guide to the order of knitting the 'patches'. There are zero seams.

Patches 1, 2 & 3

Patches 1, 2 and 3 are knit in a continuous strip.
Patch 1: CO 12 sts. Knit 12 garter ridges. Cut yarn if you are going to change colors for Patch 2.
Patch 2: Change color if desired (or stripe the first color with a new color, in which case don't cut the first color.) Knit 12 garter ridges. Cut yarn if appropriate.
Patch 3: Change back to the first color. Knit 12 garter ridges. BO all sts.

Patches 4 & 5
Patch 4: Pick up 12 sts in the row ends of the garter ridges on one side of Patch 2. Knit 12 garter ridges and BO all sts.

Patch 5: Repeat the instructions for Patch 4 on the other side of Patch 2.

You now have a piece of knitting that is in the shape of a cross.

Patches 6, 7, 8 & 9

Patch 6: In one of the corners of the cross, pick up 12 stitches along one side of the corner, 1 stitch in the corner itself, and 12 sts along the other side of the corner. (Note: in the photograph, the stitches were picked up on the WS, for decorative effect. (Because I am a little bit country, and a little bit rock & roll.) If you pick up on the RS, you need to knit the WS row before continuing, so that your decreases will be on the RS.)

With RS facing, place a marker (the locking type that can be opened and stuck onto a knitting needle, or a little bit of contrasting yarn) just before the center stitch (if you are counting stitches, this is Stitch 13, the stitch in the corner).

With RS facing, knit a miter into this corner as follows:
Row 1 (RS): K to 2 sts before the marker, SSK, K1, K2tog, K to end of row.
CORRECTED ON JULY 20, 2006:
Row 2 (WS): Knit to 1 st before marker, P1 (this is the center stitch), K to end of row.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until there are 3 sts remaining. On the next row (WS), slip 1 purlwise, K2tog, PSSO. Fasten off the remaining stitch.

Patches 7, 8 and 9: Repeat Patch 6 in the remaining 3 corners of the cross. Crochet an edging around the dishrag if you're feeling nutty.

Happy weekend and happy dishragging!

Love, Kay

P.S. Please alert me to any misnakes.

Posted by Kay at 07:58 PM | Comments (57)

July 11, 2006

The Seven Deadly Vintage Knitting Needles

Dear Ann,

So last week Cara calls me up. I get the warm 'Dude!' greeting that always takes 10 years off my age, and an invitation to come help pack Spin Out prizes on Monday. 'Dude!' I said, 'I'm so there!' I mean, really dude, after the month I've been through, if I can't pack and unpack a box, I don't know who can. I can dump out a box, pack the contents in another box, put the box in a stack of boxes, and forget about what's inside better and faster than any other dude.

I was not worried about the Sin of Covetousness. There would not be any whimsical printed fabrics there. I don't spin, and I'm allergic to wool. I can look at 8 ounces of your Corleydale, your Wensleydale--any of your damn dales--and it's all sheep to me. I pack it right up and send it off to a perfect stranger, no regrets. Have fun with that, you spinning nutcase, you. God Bless!

So Cara and her Ann pick me up at Penn Station. We zoomed in style to New Jersey, took in the sights of See Caucus, and set to work.

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I was thrilled-- thrilled I tell you! -- with Cara's Packing-Tape Tool. Dude, I am so going to Staples today to get one. It rocks! This thing will change your packing experience forever.

So we packed colorful braided rovings and big batts of what I suspected was fiberglas insulation (but whatever), and everything was pretty much sin-free until Ann and I saw the Vintage Needle Set in Bakelite case (scroll down to Prize #3, if you are strong enough). This is the most awesomest prize I've ever seen (including the Booker Prize, the Stanley Cup, and the Nobel Prize). A complete set of vintage faux tortoiseshell (tortoise-safe!) needles, in perfect condition, starting with size ZERO, lovingly culled from many eBay sales and reunited in a circa 1940 Bakelite case that says 'KNITTING NEEDLES' and has a needle sizer drilled into the lid. Could you die? Could you swoon? Could you gnaw off a limb from sheer envy?

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Could you wrestle a mother of two over it? Don't be fooled by the perfect hair. Ann is a no-mess lady. She totally kicked my butt, no problem. (Yes there was hairpulling. "Not the highlights!" I screamed, to no avail.)

Honestly, we DID mail the needle set to the winner. We lit a candle and prayed that the winner is deserving of the stewardship of a National Treasure, keened and ululated for a few minutes, and moved on.

Later we noticed that Ann was hoarding other tidbits, like one of these these fabby Knit Big t-shirts donated by our favorite publisher, who happens to be Amy and Jillian's favorite publisher.

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Experienced perp that she is, Ann has perfected the Who Me I Would Never Stick Knitting Needles In My Shirt look.

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My law enforcement background came to the fore.

Anyway, it was great fun. I still can't believe Cara and Ann's little Spin Out idea raised such a huge pile of moola for Heifer International. Can you imagine what the prizes will be next year?

Me, I'm haunting eBay for faux tortoiseshell and Bakelite.

Love,

Kay

Posted by Kay at 07:31 AM | Comments (29)

July 06, 2006

Audubon Society Meeting

Dear Kay,

We'll start with knitting today, but we're not going to end there.

When cranking out yet another tweed mitered square begins to tax a girl's imagination, I go hang out with my sock. (Tweedy is going well, don't worry. But it IS a blanket, you know.)

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Part of a sock, actually. This is Sock Number 7 (I'm starting to sound like Howard Finster, who consecutively numbered each of his paintings to the point that at the bottom of a painting you'd see "#34,309." Come bonk me on the head with a mallet if I make sock #34,309.)

Ol' No. 7 uses that lush sock yarn, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. (I think. My yarn taxonomy skills are wasting away this summer, what with the relative lack of yarn shops in my life.) It's purple all right, but a warbly purple that moves around just the way I like a color to move.

The pattern is the Child's First Sock (Made for a Woman with Big Feet) from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. I bought this book at the Flagstaff, Arizona, Barnes and Noble last month, when I snuck away from the fellas to see if a person could find a sock book in Flagstaff. A person could.

What a great book. Really great patterns, including the exotic idea of a bed sock--"Here in Victorian England, we're covering our bodies all day, every day."

I am here to tell you that knitting a lace pattern in a sock is a very different experience from knitting a plain old ribbed sock. It's just not the same at ALL. I'm finding myself having to Pay Attention, at a level that I tend to reserve for projects I want to wear at eye level, visible to all, available to be complimented or at least commented upon. Not for a project that's going to live its life inside a shoe.

I'll keep soldiering away, but the empty-headed pleasure of the plain old sock is what I really crave.

Next Topic: BIRD TALK

Apologies for not providing a proper bluebird update until now. Believe me, it's not like I haven't been thinking about them, or keeping my little birdwatching diary. Or taking dozens of pictures of them. It's just that getting online is kind of tricky up here in Monteagle. Here's how it has gone since I last reported.

Saturday, July 1:

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One, two, three beaky heads poke out in the door in various permutations all morning. The mom is going to need to start taking Xanax before long; she is freaked that humans have shown up. I tell everybody not to use our kitchen door, for the duration, in hopes of giving the mom a little peace.

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Dad keeps the bugs coming, cool-headed fighter pilot.

At this point, we had to return to Nashville over the past weekend for a memorial service which ended up being a tender time. It was Hubbo's grandfather, Big Daddy, who died two years ago and who wanted his body donated to the medical school at Vanderbilt. Well, we finally bade farewell to this great person--the one whose swingy piano-playing inspired the Big Dotty piano bench cushion. (Now THAT'S a legacy, right?)

I was doing great at the Temple Cemetery until the rabbi, a young woman with a great voice, said, "And now Albert has left the circle of family . . ." I looked around the circle of family and realized that our generation is starting to look suspiciously like the Grownups in the family circle. Booooohooooo! I looked down and saw all the markers for the Beloved and Departed Relatives Previously Known as Grownups. Booooooodoublehooooooo!

Sunday, July 2:

Much fambly fun, but no bluebirds. No bluebirds? Ack!

Monday, July 3:

All weekend I worried that the babies would take off while we were gone. But upon returning on Monday, I found them sticking their actual heads out their porthole:

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Yay! They didn't leave!

They look less like pteradactyls than they did even two days ago, and their round heads look sort of like Flipper the dolphin.

They're heavy into sunbathing, and they rest their beaks on the doorway for long periods. One of them lounges with his mouth WIDE OPEN, like some Venus flytrap.

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At one point, a bug flew in, and the bird just about flipped with surprise.

The big observation yesterday is this:

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At the time I took this photo of the mom on a nearby gutter, bug in mouth, ready to feed, there was another female bluebird feeding the babies. TWO MOTHERS. HUH? It turns out, after my wikiresearch, that sometimes the first batch of babies grows up enough to help with the second batch. Blended family. Or polygamists. So 21st century . . . or 19th century . . .

Tuesday, July 4

The birds? One of them sticks half his body out the door.

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This one is clearly the overachiever bird--I can recognize this one because his (her?) head looks smoother than the other ones. I think I see a fourth beak today. It's like Loch Ness in there. I really wish I could see what the deal is inside that squalid little condo.

They have figured out that the little bugs flying outside the door are Food, if they catch them. The birds are terrible at catching them, but they do try.

Wednesday, July 5

5:12 am: I am wide awake, which is unusual for me during the summer. I'm awake because I realize that my little talk today will be a disaster if I don't find out, and soon, whether my laptop will connect to the projector in the chapel where I'm going to be blabbing about knitting. I decide that nobody has ever used a Macintosh in this place, and it won't work, and I will be doomed to describe handknits using only words. Could there be a more grim hour than talking about knitting with nothing to show? No, there could not. There will be no answer to my question until the office here opens at 8:30.

I decide to clean out the refrigerator as a way to distract myself from dwelling on the fact that my 75-slide presentation is never going to be seen by humans. As I chuck out four jars of dead salsa, I grieve over the sad truth that my presentation will die on the vine.

The refrigerator has never been so organized. Flylady.com would admire the sorting of the jars in the door. Fruits? Right bin. Celery? Left bin. Why do I have celery? Who eats celery around here? Why didn't I resolve the projector problem last week?

Another diversionary tactic: I dry my hair. Have I mentioned that I got a new hair dryer, a hair dryer that (GET THIS) blows IONS ONTO YOUR WET HAIR AND MAKES IT SMOOTH? Have I mentioned this? You MUST get one of these things. It'll change your life.

Still worrying about the projector.

I check the bird situation every five minutes or so. They're awake, but not all that busy. Dad starts bringing stuff, and the babies open up as usual with their desperate FEEDMEFEEDMEFEEDMEs. But when Dad leaves, I notice that their voices have changed. Their cheeps are lower and more expressive. When did that happen?

Why didn't I check the projector thing last week?

8:05 am: Overachiever is doing something new.

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See those little feet under there? He/she has been sticking half its body out the window for the past few minutes, still as a stone. All of a sudden, he pulls his body all the way back in, then out, then in. He gets his claws up on the edge of the doorway.

I realize that something is happening here.

8:10 am: One, two, three--JUMP! He heaves ho, and in a blink he's gone. I can't believe it--he's flying, just like that. He veers right, heads up, and disappears into a tree. It's a curving flight, not too strong, but he doesn't wipe out or bonk into the wall.

I'm searching desperately to find him (and he's definitely a male, bright blue).

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There he is, twenty feet up on the branch of a tree. Blue back, white belly. He looks for all the world like any other bird. You wouldn't know that a minute ago, he was a baby.

I can't believe I get to see this. I could have been drying my hair or worrying about the projector.

8:12: Number Two is in the doorway. You can hear Dad calling to him. One, two, three--JUMP! Bonks right into the kitchen window, flapping madly, trying to perch on the edge of the window sill.

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He can't get a grip and slides to the ground. Dad swoops down to check, then swoops away. Up rises what looks like a small, drifting ballon, except that it has wings which are flapping madly. He lands on the wood fence (I see that it's another male), where he sits perfectly still. I get a good look at him. That's who's been in that box all this time.

He veers over to the metal roof:

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Can he be half as surprised as I am?

8:15: Number Three is not so eager. He puts his head out, but there's no urgency in it. For fifteen minutes he stares out the window. He's like Ferdinand the bull or Bartleby the Scrivener.

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Dad comes by to exhort him.

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Still no flying. Dad calls again. He cheeps in return, but doesn't move.

8:35 am: This bird looks somehow younger than the other two. He's up on the edge of the doorway, but his feathers look different from the other two fledglings. I realize it's a female, smaller than her brothers. She really looks timid. One, two, three--JUMP. She immediately falls to the ground, where there's a giant hosta. I can't see the ground, but I see Dad swoop down. I run outside and peer around the corner of the house.

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She's under the hosta, still. I watch, and after a minute she flaps out, gaining only two feet of altitude, and bonks into the wood fence, where she settles.

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There she sits. Another five minutes of sitting, fluffing up her feathers, smoothing them. Fluff/smooth. Fluff/smooth. Is she going to fly?

Up she goes, another drifting balloon of a bird, to the metal roof of our shed. It's a terrible place for a fledgling to land, because she can't get a grip. She scrambles her way to the peak, catches hold, and surveys the view. She's off again, landing in a sassafras tree.

8:50: Will a fourth bird emerge from the nest? I wait, but there is no fourth bird.

What a day. What a day: I saw the bluebirds launch, the fridge is clean, and my hair is so very smooth. I don't even care if the computer hooks up to the projector.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:05 PM | Comments (65)

July 05, 2006

Parade: Spirit of America

Dear Kay,

Aw, it was a great Fourth of July parade. Finally able to post some hi-lites:

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Betsy Ross.

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Iguana traveling in woman's lap.

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Nun riding beside large stuffed bear.

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Mama Pat's Day Care. Where guardrails won't hold 'em back. Because we don't use 'em.

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Somebody left their jar of mayonnaise. I hate it when that happens. Can't find my damn mayonnaise.

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Creepy clown on a tiny bike.

And, of course, the traditional launching of

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Mentos and Diet Coke. Four Mentos + one 2-liter Diet Coke equals:

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Happy Fourth of July!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:26 PM | Comments (54)
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