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

August 30, 2006

We'll Keep on Knitting Til The End

Dear Ann,

My, you're a hive of wholesome knitting activity now that your youngsters are in school. Me, I'm still hunkered down on the East End of Long Island, where, contrary to what you may believe, it's not all sunny days, celebrities, supermodels, and paparazzi.

In fact, at the moment, it's none of those things. It's been raining for 5 days straight.

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It's been so wet and cold that I made STEW for dinner the other night. Stew in August--that's what it's come down to. It's been so very, very moist that I've been marching the kids around to heat them up, as a mildew-prevention measure.

The one bright spot in all of this, though, is a very bright spot indeed. A bright, mitered, green & orange spot with impeccable borders that nearly sucked the joy out of garter stitch for me.

For today I finished the green mitered blanket, which was started on a whim back in March.

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I apologize for the poor lighting. I assure you that if the sun starts shining again, I will post a miter-stravaganza of pictorial goodness.

I will admit that there was suffering involved in this blanket. Not in knitting the 64 miters--that was pure stinkin' bliss. But in the bordering of the blanket, there were moments of desperation. At one point I ran out of the silvery-sage color of Tahki Cotton Classic, and could not find it anywhere. This served as an excuse to stop all bordering efforts for at least 8 weeks. The good thing about a blanket, though, is that even when it's not quite finished, it looks pretty hanging around the house.

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See what I mean?

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It gave me the strength to carry on.

This afternoon, in the gloom and the steady drip-drip-drip, I sewed in the very last end. I jumped up and sang Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (For the Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth), followed immediately by Freddie Mercury's We Are The Champions. I think you will agree that this was a moment deserving of both oratorio and a power ballad.

The pale, damp children were amused. For a minute.

We are the champions, my friends.

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 09:38 AM | Comments (84)

August 29, 2006

Failure to Zag

Dear Kay,

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This is what happens when a person starts watching Andre Agassi--36-year-old, back-achy, tired, about-to-retire, sentimental-favorite, oddly hairless Andre Agassi--in the opening round of the U. S. Open tennis tournament.

I forgot to zag. I forgot to suck it up and watch the pattern, because I was so transfixed at the match that was taking place. For the record, I am not what you would call a sporty person. I don't sport. We don't have bins of baseball bats and shin guards all over the place. It's just not in the cards for this pale group. But in the past year, ten-year-old David has taken up tennis, and as a result I too have been taking tennis. Granted, I'm not actually holding a racquet or indeed even standing up--OK, I'm knitting--but I'm right there, every time, listening intently as Coach Lise explains the backhand. I am often amazed at how she is transforming David into a tennis player. I can't really believe how good she is.

Thanks to her expert instruction, I'm getting to be a very fine player. In my rich imagination, of course. Why would I mess up this lovely fantasy by actually playing tennis? I'm getting two hours of uninterrupted knitting a week out of this sport. And watching a three-and-a-half hour match in the comfort of my home? I may finish the shawl tomorrow.

Anyway, the match last night lasted three and a half hours, way into the night, and even Hubbo got into it. At one point Agassi was in a big hole, but he somehow dug himself out. It turns out he could tell that his racquet was strung a pound too loose, so he got a tighter racquet and turned the match around. His victory at, like, four in the morning was sweet. Inarticulate, but sweet: “I want to be here real bad for the whole two weeks. Six more!”

Can you imagine being good enough at tennis that your string tension matters? My rich imagination can't quite get there.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:12 AM | Comments (33)

August 27, 2006

Top o' the Stole to Ye

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Dear Kay,

I've got a FEVER, and the only cure is more KNITTING. I've been motoring through this Print o' the Wave stole, and I keep it in the back of my mind all day long. It's actually been a while since I forgot to feed my children because of knitting, so I'm happy to report that I'm back to my old, terrible habits.

At my gauge (I'm using #5 needles with this), it looks to be more of a Print o' the Wave Long Strip of Lace. Blocking this will gain me some yardage, I'm sure, but it's not really going to be a voluminous item.

It will, however, be undeniably teal. T.E.A.L.:

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I have a couple of early observations to make:

Number 1. Ladies, gents, always print out your lace shawl patterns on a color printer. I sadly printed Print o' the Wave out on my black-only printer, and in doing so managed to turn black the giant red box which indicates the 16-stitch repeat. Without this box, a person might read the chart as a 14-stitch repeat and thereby come close to popping a blood vessel when she keeps getting 6 leftover stitches at the end of the first row. Over and over a person might misread the pattern. Oy! A person needs to get a color printer.

Number 2: I'm having a grand time finding all the tricks of the lace pattern. And an 80-stitch-wide stole means you get that feeling of accomplishment fast. None of this 300-stitch malarkey.

Number 3 (and this is for anybody who's still waiting for a distant day to start knitting lace): Because every other row is only purl stitches, this means that half of this shawl is the most moronically simple knitting you can do. Of the 12-row repeat, only 6 rows are lace-ish, and even those are basically rhyming rows--you do similar things in every row. When you do a lace-ish row, suck it up and pay attention. Then blast off down the home stretch. Suck it up. Blast off. Repeat.

Thanks for the pattern, Eunny. Having a swell time. Wish you were here (knitting this thing for me).

Book Nook

Well, there's Claire Messud on the cover of the New York Times Book Review today. Uh, I guess we'll have company when we're reading The Emperor's Children this month.

While I'm waiting for that juicy novel to arrive, I have been mesmerized--transfixed! frozen! distracted I tell you!--by two books I've been listening to on the iPod. It's been so great to have my new best friends Julia Child and Joan Didion talking to me. OK, I'm hearing audiobook narrators, actually, not the ghost of Julia nor the actual voice of La Didion. But still. The Didion narrator is just fantastic. The Julia Child one? Je pense que she is mispronouncing a lot of French words, or semi-mangling them.

The Year of Magical Thinking: So affecting that I found myself driving around town weeping the boohoos of grief and loss even though I wasn't the one married to John Gregory Dunne. The cool customer Joan Didion really digs deep into the death of her beloved companion. Their writing relationship was so symbiotic. Lovely.

My Life in France: Julia Child explains how she became Julia Child. Let's just say I immediately dug out my Mastering the Art of French Cooking after finishing her memoir. WILDLY INSPIRING! You will want to turn your hobby into a book! You really will!

Each book has a lot of detail about their writerly lives, which is always interesting. I love the way Didion calls the movies she and her husband wrote "pictures." It's so 1936.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 08:40 PM | Comments (34)

August 25, 2006

A Skein, Just One

Dear Kay,

Yesterday I launched the Hefty bag of yarn (the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly!) off to our Guess the Number of Hefty Bags contest winner Danielle. It turns out that she's having a contest of her own, and she's going to be giving away yarn from the Hefty bag, so Lord knows where all that stuff is eventually going to end up. Anybody who wants to get in on Danielle's contest, go here.

As I've been adjusting to a life without as much stuff around, a life where I sit around wearing my wedding shoes and playing with the fake chicken, I've been eyeing my yarn anew. So many yarny souvenirs of our travels this spring! I haven't really been able to contemplate it all properly, what with all the crap covering it up.

The variety and beauty of the new yarns coming out is really lovely. It's impossible to keep up with it all--not like the olden days in 2003 when the Rowan shade cards were all a person needed.

It's funny. I'm loving all the alpaca and natural fiber blends and the soy and bamboo, but get this: the skein that has held my attention the most--the one hank that really gives me a shiver--is this:

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Blue Heron Yarns mercerized cotton, Bluegrass colorway. There are 1,050 yards in this skein. It's string, basically--vaguely sheeny string dyed in the most subtle way imaginable. I just love it. Remember? This was a souvenir of Seaport Yarn in New York.

I love this yarn so much that I've already made two of Polly's beautiful Kiri shawls with it. One in Copper and one in Leaf. Last night I decided I needed to stop carrying the skein around like a chihuahua and make something out of it.

So I wound and wound. Forty minutes later, voila:

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A thousand yards of yarn in a four-inch ball. What to make with it?

It took about a second to figure that out. I am truly in awe of what Eunny does on her blog. She is brilliant, just brilliant. I often find myself shaking my head in wonderment, if not befuddlement. How does she do that?

Anyway, her Print o' the Wave stole is so pretty, and so traditional in a modern way, that I've gotta give it a whirl.

The head-shaking comes when I look at her little sidebar called "Techniques." Right there, free as the wind, is her dissertation on the elements of lace-making. I went to Part IV to see what her feelings were about provisional cast ons, and of course she has many feelings. She has contemplated provisional cast ons the way I contemplate what kind of Dairy Queen Blizzard I am going to order.

She taught me a new provisional cast on that really is, as she says, "ridiculously simple." Ridiculous! I'm making fun of it even as I'm doing it! Silly cast on! How can you be so simple? You should have a crochet chain in there somewhere--but you don't!

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This is a swatch, but look at those little loops at the bottom, waiting for the day when they'll be grafted to a bunch of like-minded loops from the second half of this stole. So elegant!

I'm not totally sure that this yarn will do justice to this pattern--I may need to find a fuzzier, velcroier yarn so that the beautiful zigs and zags read properly. But I'm going to give it a try with the Blue Heron mercerized cotton. A beautiful yarn and a beautiful pattern ought at least to meet each other, right?

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:14 PM | Comments (33)

August 23, 2006

Binge Purge

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Dear Kay,

Yes, that's a hazmat suit I'm wearing, which I discovered in Clif's room. Last year, an enterprising, Martha Stewart Living-reading mom made astronaut suits for her boy's birthday party, but little did she know that I'd end up wearing one around while doing an EPA SuperFund cleanup in my own home.

Okay, everybody, noon has passed, even if you're in Honolulu. What a lot of guesses! Thanks for the encouragement, the discourses on trash bag volume, the gruesome confessions, and the optimism that a Hefty bag of yarn might be a desirable thing and not a burden.

A word on methodology. I'm awfully sorry not to have defined "Hefty bag" more precisely, because there is a difference between a 30-gallon and a 45-gallon Hefty. I decided that a way to finesse this dodgy issue was to consider a Hefty bag full when it was heavy enough for me to lift, but not so heavy that I made weird noises trying to pick it up. A really dense bag of catalogs dating back to 1982 is the same as a big fluffy bag of creepy throw pillows which might have appeared on the set of Three's Company.

I've done my thing, as far as I can stand to do it right now, and the number is:

18.

Here is the elite group known as Guessers of 18:

"18 bags...shoes alone could be 3!" Posted by Beth at August 20, 2006 08:18 PM

"Being a junkstress myself, and knowing how old busted toys can eat up those Hefty bags, Herself and I guess 18 bags." Posted by Jenn Umali at August 21, 2006 09:53 AM

"I'm guessing 18. I just got rid of 2 bags o' crap, and I only cleaned out the stuff under my bad. Under MY side of the bed only. And it's a double bed, not even a queen or king! So, if you are hitting the whole house, I'm hoping you can fill 18!!" Posted by Danielle at August 21, 2006 10:26 AM

"18 bags. More than that you'll have no strength left to knit. Be sure to keep that one bag with 'just not sure' items somewhere safe. Once you start hauling bags to the trash you'll have second thoughts about something....Been there, done that. Best of luck!" Posted by sue at August 22, 2006 09:50 AM

To choose the winner, I scientifically wrote each name on a piece of soon-to-be-recycled paper, placed it in a soon-to-be-given-away hat, and drew out the winner:

Danielle.

Please email me your address! I've got a big ol' bag of yarn for you. Don't hate me when it shows up!

The Ugly Proof

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Down in our Hannibal Lecter garage . . . Row 1: 3 bags of recyclables. Row 2: 5 bags for Goodwill. Row 3: 10 bags of utterly useless crap. This is such a grim sight--I am chastened to see so much dreck coming out of this house, and very sorry that over half of it is going to the giant landfill in the sky.

Ach, what a mess. I hate to drag you through the past three days of my life, but as I've dumped, I've been writing down my thoughts and discoveries so it could be just like you're right here being miserable with me. Misery shared is misery doubled halved.

Day One: My Lair

At first it was going so well, this Hefty Bagging. Right after I wrote you, I immediately loaded up two bags with dead magazines, carefully culling out the Cook's Illustrateds which might as well be National Geographics--I study that eggplant recipe the way I used to ponder those aboriginal disc-lip men.

I got to my desk. Under my desk is the Bermuda Triangle. Ech--what a graveyard of wishful thinking down there. A library book which I discovered was due July 5, 2005. Five New Yorkers hopefully left open to depressing short stories and articles about Kofi Annan. I discovered all sorts of knitting books (Charlene Schurch I love your sock book now that I have excavated it, and I especially love the way you spell your name which sounds kind of like the sound a sock makes when I accidentally zip a DPN out of the stitches: SCHURCH!).

Once I hit carpet, I figured it would be a slice of pie to throw the books up on my shelves, then cart the (several) (yarn-laden and therefore desirable) bags to my closet, which is the innermost inner sanctum sanctorus of my yarn problem. I was making the closet situation much worse by adding these bags, but I also knew that you gotta make a mess to clean up a mess.

I also knew that I have the weakest possible orbit when it comes to wholesale cleanouts. The minute I discovered the photos from when David was three, I lay down on the floor and went all the way through his baby book, my baby book, my dad's baby book. Aren't babies great? Maybe we should have another baby! Where's Hubbo?

Day Two: Toyland

Shelving the books was a problem--my shelves are rilly full--but I decided to fudge the question of books because it is so loaded. A true book purge is its own excruciating event. I moved stuff around to make room, and I even sacrificed a few snorers (The Maya Explorer, Easy Ornamental Grasses). Thinking about what to do about my book problem sent me over to that piece in the Times Book Review by Henry Alford where he attempts to "handsell" books in front of his apartment. I laughed and laughed and started reading one of Henry's books.

Moving on . . .

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Toys. Totally irredeemable crap, just piles of it. What kind of mother imposes so much junk on her children? Since I scraped out the cabinets, the fellas have not even noticed. From now on, they'll have to find their playthings in the yard. Go get some sticks or something. Start a fig war. Roll around in the grass.

Things I discovered during the toy purge:

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A fake chicken.

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Rubber band airplane vs. Kidsilk Haze. Victor: rubber band airplane. Mother never saw this until she pulled it out of the bottom cabinet in our den. Mother was probably never supposed to see this.

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Collection of cotton balls. Who was collecting cotton balls? Why are these ones special?

Day Three: My Closet

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My wedding shoes! Look! My wedding, back in 1783, was so glorious and rainy that my ivory shoes ended up the exact brown of the backyard of Hubbo's grandparents' house. So I dyed 'em black for a party, ages ago, haven't worn them for fifteen years. Free shoes! I'm thinking I ought to wear them out somewhere. Maybe to see Marie Antoinette? Sofia Coppola + Kirsten Dunst + decline and fall of French empire = right up my alley.

Unearthing shoes meant that I had worked my way to my closet. Jeezeepers what a mess. At least the yarn was still in pretty good shape. But my new sock-knitting habit has added an entire new category which means that I need to think up someplace for THAT stuff.

Nobody mentioned that cleaning up can be lucrative. The pocketbook-purging segment netted me $6.89, which bought me a tasty gyro at Kalamata's. Ka-ching! Bring on the tzatziki sauce!

Stowed the yarn, dumped a bunch of clothes from the mid '90s, managed to change the flourescent light bulbs which just about killed me.

Conclusions

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People write books, build entire careers on what I just experienced. I can't really say that I'll never have to do this again, but I do think I could save myself a lot of trouble by asking the simple question, "Why am I bringing this throw pillow/handbag/magazine/pair of shoes into my house?"

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One fact: this sort of container Does Not Help. This little magazine bucket, for example, contained four street atlases from the early 1990s. If you don't believe in the system--if you're putting street atlases in your magazine rack--don't have a magazine rack.

I keep thinking about Flylady, who is the Einstein of order. Flylady says to pitch 27 things a day. She says things like: "Go outside, walk 7 minutes, turn around, come home. That's almost 15 minutes of exercise right there." Nuggets of wisdom from her are really inspiring.

I think it's one thing to clean out a bunch of junk for the landfill. Maybe a better thing would be to fill a Hefty bag with stuff that still has actual value--stuff that another human might actually have a use for, and move along some of THAT. Now that I've scraped off one layer, maybe I can scrape off another one. Quick, everybody! Grab a Hefty! Toss until it feels good! I cannot exhort you loudly enough.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:36 PM | Comments (89)

August 20, 2006

I Have Met the Enemy, and She Is ME

Dear Kay,

So irritable right this minute. Remember those bags of stuff that I mentioned? The undigested drifts of stuff brought home from travels and whatever which are taking over my house? Remember those? I can't stand them--they're driving me NUTS. I'm just in the worst mood possible, which means:

Time to clean house!

Time to slap some order onto this chaos, time to sift through the consumables that are threatening to consume me, time to GET IT TOGETHER.

A bad mood is essential in a situation like this. It's Hefty Bag Without Mercy.

Wish me luck.

Love,
Ann

PS My reward will be--oh hell, I'll get no rewards for this. But it would be great to have some sort of fun, so here's a contest: how many Hefty bags of outgoing junk/magazines/busted toys/ugly shoes/miscellaneous accreted awfulness am I going to end up with? The correct guess wins a Hefty bag of yarn, which I promise will not be ALL crappy. We'll have a drawing if multiple people guess the right number. Anybody with a really tidy house is not eligible to enter. Must be 4 years old to enter. Leave a comment by Tuesday, August 22, at noon.

PSS I do reserve the right to mail ALL the Hefty bags to the winner.

Posted by Ann at 03:27 PM | Comments (425)

August 18, 2006

Getting Home

Dear Kay,

O! Many moons have passed since I last picked up my quill and ink.

Right this minute I'm eating a hazelnut biscotti which the ultrakind yarn shop owner Jamie gave us when we visited North Fork Stitches. I'm touched that she thought we weren't getting enough snackage these days. I've already made short work of those North Fork chocolate turtle things and the North Fork potato chips. I trust that you are saving the North Fork honey and the North Fork chardonnay for me, because I decided my plan for getting them through security just wasn't going to work. "It's formula." [uncork bottle, take swig] "See?"

It was great to see you and your wounded foot, if only for a day. Meeting so many great knitters was a ton of fun. (You can go see what we were up to here and here and here.)

I flew home to Nashville next to a poor guy who was just trying to finish his Michael Connelly novel. He shouldn't have said anything about the sock I was knitting. If he'd kept it to himself . . . but he didn't. He asked the question--you know: "So what are you making?"

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I snapped. "Mister. I'm TIRED of these mutha%*$&#* SOCKS on this [email protected]$+*$(% plane."

OK not really. But I was so weary and so bored that I started talking. What was he going to do? Switch seats? I talked and talked, about knitting and blogging and meeting people and writing books and having imaginary friends and motherhood. I concluded with a lame "Well, it's a funny little world."

He said, "I can't believe people get so involved with their knitting. It's like this guy I met who's really into spelunking. Cave people are really protective of their discoveries." I told him my theory that everybody has that thing they're nuts about, and I asked him what his thing is. "Golf," he said, then launched into what it is about golf that gets him. He likes old golf, historical golf. He told me about his attempts to get on the list for tickets to the Masters golf tournament, which is the hardest ticket in all of sportendom. By the end of his tale, I had stopped knitting, hanging on his story, waiting to hear if he ever hit Lotto and got the tickets.

Everybody has that secret thing, you know?

Home home HOME

It's been an amazing summer for me, but I'm glad to be home. Sweet, sweet home, where there are bags and bags filled with bags all over the place. What is all this stuff?

I have so much to write that it's going to take me days to dump it all out. My life is a big old vinyl pocketbook loaded with pressed powder compacts, packets of Kleenex, and Teaberry gum. I've got all these blog entries half written on the back of Piggly Wiggly receipts--when my bandwidth was wanting, I figured I ought to keep the blog fires burning somehow. Here's one scrap of paper I just found: "Socks and sculpture. Pretentious? Get ant poison. Call Kay. "

Books I Am Most Excited About This Fall

OK, there are two. I met a writer this summer, Claire Messud, whose fourth novel is due out on August 29. The Emperor's Children. A big, New Yorky novel--my favorite kind. It's going to be great, y'all. She writes so, so beautifully. I can't wait to read it.

The other is a memoir that was just published this summer. I've just started reading it. How's this for a barn-burner of a title: Hillbilly Gothic: A Tale of Motherhood and Madness by Adrienne Martini. It's her memoir of overcoming post-partum depression and her exploration of the women in her family. Adrienne's a knitter, people. She has a blog here which is a real bento box of tasty snacks. We need to encourage this sort of thing.

Captivated

I went to Florida, people. I haven't even written about going to Florida. After seven weeks in Monteagle, we headed south for the now-traditional week with Hubbo's sister and brother's famblies. We're up to eleven humans, with the latest addition celebrating her first birthday during our stay.

While other members of the family parasailed, inadvertently caught shells instead of fish, and grossed me out with the whole issue of bait ("GOOD EATING TOO"?), I made a pair of Koigu socks for my sissy-in-law:

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These are not shiny socks. Really. They're normal old Koigu. Would I knit a shiny sock? Who wants a shiny sock?

I collected sunsets the way my fellas collected shells. Here you go--a week of Captiva sunsets to save you the buggy trouble of collecting them yourself:

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Cushioning

At our last writing, I was receiving boatloads of help from everybody regarding the dire state of my rocking chair cushion. In particular, the best way to end the knitted cover I'd cooked up. How do you close up such a thing so that you can take it off to wash after it's been marinating in the 80% humidity of a Grundy County summer? Thank you, everybody, for suggestions which ranged from zippers to buttons to ribbons to shoelaces to monkeyfist buttons to hot glue and staple guns. I'm going to use them all. This cover is never, ever coming off this cushion.

Love,
Ann

PS Am I caught up on Project Runway? Yes! Working on my neck tattoo like Jeffrey's.

PSS Did my plane companion get his Masters tickets? Yes!

PSSS Did he swap his Masters tickets for my socks? I'll never tell.

Posted by Ann at 02:37 PM | Comments (33)

August 17, 2006

East End, We Hardly Knew Y'all

Dear Ann,

Were you here? Was that you sleeping with the spiders at Casa Kay? Was the coffee too strong? Was the shower okay? Did you make it home all right?

Here's your report card for this mini-leg of our Neverending Book Tour.

Ann Shayne: East End Report Card

Grooming: A-plus! You have never looked more summery and serene. (I credit the Grundy County 8-Week Cure. Sign me UP.) And you managed to achieve Perfectly Fine Hair without your ionic (iconic, ironic, whatever) hairdryer, which frankly scares me whenever you start talking about it.

Chattiness: A good solid A. You talked fully as much as I did. I believe our Combined Word Count exceeded previous levels, which nobody thought possible.

Preparation: This is bringing down your average, Ann. You forgot your camera. Wait, I need capitals for that: YOU FORGOT YOUR STINKIN' CAMERA!!!! To borrow a phrase from your Hubbo, forgetting the AnnCam was 'subpar'. I'm going to have to give you an incomplete. Next time, bring your camera, and I'll restore you to a B.

I suppose that in fairness, I should give my own report card.

Kay: Honest Self Performance Evaluation

Grooming: C. This is a 'gentleman's C'. My whole look was irreparably dragged down by my Footwear Situation, to wit:

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My foot is okay, except for the unfortunate aesthetics of the Surgical Shoe. On Monday, I was in the city for a quick tour of pediatric dental care providers. I was walking on West 3rd Street with the kids. Wearing my Merrill Flip Flops 2006. A person walking in front of me accidentally kicked a broken bottle. The bottle hit Joseph's sneaker-clad (praise the Lord) foot and ricocheted into my left foot, painlessly gashing 2 toes. I immediately activate Mommy Mode: 'oh tra-la, kids, I've got a boo-boo on my foot let's just go to the dentist and she'll give me a bandaid oh I feel just fine I'm definitely a-ok and can we just walk a little faster okay?' Two doors down, my flip-flop is filling with blood at a sort of scary rate. I do not understand how a mere toe boo-boo is causing such a lot of bleeding. I look up, and (violins playing in my head) find I am standing in front of a Firehouse. I go in, as if this is a normal thing to do, and say, 'Excuse me, my foot is bleeding do you have a first aid kit?' Firefighter is very helpful but says the truck has just left with their first aid kit. He gives me a giant wad of Bounty paper towels (the Quicker Picker Upper--this was no time for off-brand paper towels). I swaddle my foot and limp onward for 3 blocks to the dentist's. I pass many people. These people see a woman hobbling on a bloody paper-towel-swathed foot with two young children. They do not bat an eye. I love New York.

Long story short, I had 2 stitches in 2 of my toes, and I have to wear the dreaded Surgical Shoe for 10 days. No swimming, no bathing, no getting it wet in the shower. I was not embarrassed by the shoe itself, or even the ratty sock--I was embarrassed that it was not a handknit sock. And I call myself a knitter. Disgraceful really.

Let's move on to the next categories, in which I promise to try harder and do better.

Chattiness: A-plus. What do you take me for? I unleashed a blue streak of solid KnitChat. No question un-answered, or even under-answered. I'm an open book. What do you want to know?

Preparation: I had the KayCam. I had the ultra-fine Sharpies. I had the Suitcase of Love, freshly pressed. I found my car keys EVERY TIME (even if it took a few minutes of going, 'Crap, I can't find my car keys'). So I think I get an A here too.

Let's do some pictures shall we? It was really a great time. Made me proud to be an East End resident. The knitters out here have mad skillz and a strong sense of community.

North Fork Stitches/Cutchogue

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Tuesday we went straight from the airport to the North Fork, stopping only long enough for you to raid the cooler full of steaming hot roasted corn at a roadside stand in Aquebogue. We were not prepared for the fabulously festive scene that awaited us.

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The panorama of cheese. Darn GOOD cheese.

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Young Jack taking orders for delicious local ciders. Note that Jack is wearing the Official Yarn Boy Polo Shirt.

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It was touching, how you needed A Moment when you were reunited with the Tailgate Rug. Proving the old saying about how you can take the girl out of Grundy County, but she still loves a rag rug.

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MDK rules surrounded us with inspiration. Maybe you were right: we SHOULD have called them 'Profound Truths' instead of merely 'Rules'.

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North Fork Stitches' customers are some knitting FOOLS. Look at this amazing Elsebeth Lavold cardigan, modelled by the lovely lady who knitted it, and whose name I didn't write down!!! (Ellen? Helen? Betsy? Am I even close?) What amazed me most was the finishing, which I do believe would pass inspection by Becky herself. Grosgrain ribbon buttonband reinforcement, with machine-sewn BUTTONHOLES---that's what I'm TALKIN' about.

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Go ahead, look at the back. Perfect fit. Sumptuous yarn (Debbie Bliss Cashmerino). Yum. YUM. North Fork Stitches had the sublime, but it also had:

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....the Ridiculous. This is a Baby's First Birthday hat. I still haven't figured out why the store calls it the 'Weenie Hat'. What is that all about?

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After a dee-vine evening of laffs with a great crowd of Forkers of the North and South persuasions, we just HAD to stop by the Modern Snack Bar. It just felt like the thing to do.

Thank you, Jamie, Jack, Jack, Beatrice, Doris, Carol and EVERYBODY at North Fork Stitches. I cannot believe that the East End has such a fabulous full-service yarn store now, thanks to you. Well worth a detour, and be sure to stop for some roasted corn.

Southampton

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By way of introduction, let me just say that Southampton is a town with a history. Its history is that it was founded in 1640 by brave folks who sailed down from Massachusetts, which hadn't been settled for very long itself. The descendants of those hardy settlers are alive and well. Being from Nebraska, and having no idea where my forbears were in 1640, other than that they were not in Massachusetts or Long Island, when I am in Southampton, I try to keep a low, respectful profile. If I had a bumper sticker, it would say, 'Just Happy To Be Here.' So imagine the inutterable THRILL for me of getting to sit and knit in the Southampton Historical Museum, at an event sponsored by the Rogers Memorial Library. I'm not kidding. I can't believe our good fortune. This explains why I took a lot of pictures when we were setting up. In the MUSEUM y'all!!!! Get OUT!!!!!! We're setting up the handknits in the MUSEUM!!!!!

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Look at the beautiful room.

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This guy was Not Amused by the Suitcase of Love. I was getting this Scooby Doo vibe off him. (And because I know people will ask: YES, this portrait was the inspiration for the Baby Bib o' Love. Original name: Puritan Bib o' Self Denial.)

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More Poetic Scenes of Ann. (If only you'd had the AnnCam, we could have Poetic Scenes of Kay. Alas.)

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While waiting for the audience to show up, you finished a sock. Rilly! You just sat there and Kitchenered that toe. (Matisse would have loved the shawl.)

Once the audience came, I forgot all about my camera. We had such a fun time. It was the best kind of knitterly gathering. Knitters of all ages and backgrounds, local book-lovers who were curious to see what a couple of knitting-book authors could possibly have to say, out-of-town knitters dropping in for a fix---really a lively, fun bunch.

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I managed to capture a picture of lovely Joan, our youngest knitter in attendance. Joan is 16, and MAD MAD MAD about knitting. I tried to talk her into knitting that Rowan "Arlen" Ball Gown--in Kid Silk Haze and Kid Silk Night, for prom--wouldn't that be awesome? We'll see! (C'mon Joan! We'll help ya!)

I've been coming out here in all seasons for the past 16 years--suddenly I feel (almost!) local. Thanks, Southampton!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:27 AM | Comments (37)

August 14, 2006

R.S.V.P. (Find Out What It Means To Me)

Dear Ann,

Oh no! Looking through the Southampton Press with my Sunday coffee, I saw that the event on Wednesday at noon at the Southampton Historical Museum requires an RSVP. So to any folks who are planning on going, please call 283-0774, ext. 523 to ensure that there will be enough cookies and lemonade for our porch-knitting needs!

Dept. of Sparkleness

Pop quiz:

Kay finished her mom's Sparkle Wrap in less than 48 hours because:

a. She is an exemplary daughter.
b. She loves her mom.
c. The knittin' goes fast on those number 19s.
d. She was going to kill herself if the sparkle yarn stayed in the house for one more day.

I think you know the correct answer. I was going to give myself some moral window dressing by adding an 'all of the above' option. But we know the real true down-and-dirty answer is (d): urgent need to remove sparkle from the premises.

I won't sugarcoat it for you. It was a quick project but it knocked the stuffing out of my knitting mojo. If I ever have to double-strand stretchy AND twinkly yarns together on Number 19s again, I'll be looking for a new hobby real quick. (I'm thinking ice fishing would be more enjoyable.) My elbows hurt. I felt real cranky. Very un-devoted-daughterly. I could barely bring myself to take a picture of the thing. Oh, all right:

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It's like 12 feet long. Seriously, it's at least 7 feet long. Mom is many things, but 'tall' is not one of them. She is going to have to double-wrap herself.

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Here's a side effect for ya: bad dreams about hammocks.

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The edging is in a cat's eye pattern, which would look great if it were about 10 times smaller, or if you stood WAY back from it.


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It was eggzackly the same gauge as safety fencing. I know it's not kind to say that. It turns out that I am a huge size-ist when it comes to knitting. Small is better. More like, you know, KNITTING. I'm not extreme about it. I'm not so into the needle sizes lower than 3, I'll admit. But the needle sizes over 8 or 10 are just not fun for me. Quick results but while you're knitting, you feel like you're miming knitting for a large audience that is not sitting very close, and the finished product looks more like macrame. It is hard for me to call it 'lace'. Plus, talk about expensive: you can blow through serious quantities of yarn in a few hours.

Whew! I feel so good to have gotten that off my chest. I hope Mom enjoys her wrappy, really I do. But next time she's getting human-sized knitting. Just sayin'.

In fambly news, Carrie spent 4 nights at Sleep Week at her day camp. She went away on Monday. On Friday, they sent me back:

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This person. I ask you, is this my kid? Not only is she blonder and much dirtier than the child I gave them in good faith, she is older and tougher beyond anything that could have happened to her in 4 nights and 5 days of wholesome outdoor activity. I want my kid back.

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She's still crazy about the Window Art. So it must be her.

See you Tuesday!
Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 12:19 AM | Comments (30)

August 09, 2006

Lawn Guyland Here We Come

Dear Ann,

Hey! We need to tell everybody about our plans for NEXT WEEK! We will be on the East End of Long Island at two fabby knitting parties/book signings. True to our message of peace, love and natural fibers and our guiding principle of North/South sisterhood 4-ever, one event will be on the North Fork and one will be on the South Fork. Hey--if you're out here, hop on a ferry and you can attend both events!

Tuesday, August 15

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From 5-7 p.m., we'll be dishing and knitting at North Fork Stitches in beautiful Cutchogue, New York. (86 Main Road, which is Route 25, the main drag through the North Fork. You'll see it on your left as you head east through the hamlet of Cutchogue. I love a hamlet, don't you?)

Yesterday I took the fambly on an outing to case the joint. What a treat!


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Friendly owners! Here, Jamie listens to Most Moisturized Mom, who is telling her how she MUST HAVE that sparkly blue wrap on the right (which means that her daughter MUST KNIT it).

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A resident Yarn Boy! aka Jamie's husband Jack. Jack has that quality we prize in husbands: the long-suffering quality. Jack is resigned to his fate. He embraces his inner Yarn Boy. He prints out promotional post cards for visiting Knitting Book Authoresses. He smiles bravely as he rings up your purchases.

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A nonresident Yarn Boy! Joseph found a cozy spot to train his Nintendog, Kate. (He is eyeing a second dog. The second dog will be named Kate Jr.)

So that's Tuesday, Ann. I'm airing out the Suitcase of Love. Hope you're all aired out and ready to go. What's up for Wednesday?

Wednesday, August 16 --Noon

Wednesday, we head to the South Fork, where we will be the only activity in town not requiring a bikini. At noon, we'll be at the Southampton Historical Society (17 Meeting House Lane, just off Main Street in Southampton), knitting on the porch of a grand old house and yakking away like anything. This event is sponsored by Southampton's Rogers Memorial Library, and my fave local bookstore, BookHampton, will be selling the books. Bring a bag lunch and your knitting and we'll sit until we're all knitted out.

Meanwhile, I must face the harsh realities of knitting sparkly yarn for my mom.

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As sparkly yarns go, you can't get any finer than Louisa Harding's 'Glisten'. It glistens, which is WAY more tasteful than actually sparkling. It's more of a glisten, ya know?

But still, as the French say, 'c'est pas mon truc'. I'm more of a sparkle-avoider, personally. And did I mention that the sparkly yarn is double-stranded with a stretchy Ultra Silk by Berrocco? That it's on Number 19 needles? That my mom refused all offers of linen and other natural, non sparkle-riffic fibers? But there is a saving grace.

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The pattern. It's a lovely design from the French Girl. Gotta love it!

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See you soon,
Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 09:36 AM | Comments (38)

August 04, 2006

Department of Why We Do This

Dear Ann,

Wednesday, aka The Hottest Day of My Life No Kidding, I shlepped into the city for a couple of very pressing reasons. One was to look at a slab of stone in a stoneyard in Brooklyn. I was very curious to see what a stoneyard in Brooklyn looks like, and it did not disappoint. Acres and acres of slabs, all neatly filed in wooden slab-holders, and a leviathan of a machine with giant clothes-pin thingies that could pick up individual slabs as if they were playing cards, to show the people. Plus, the person who guided us through the stoneyard was a lady. A lady who could really talk Stone. I missed my Gramps. He liked to look at stone. He would have recognized some of the stones as old Italian friends.

The other reason, even more pressing, was to attend one of the monthly meetings of my newly formed Craft Nite, consisting of me and --oh the delicious, victorious irony--two of my former bosses from my US Attorney's Office days. Jane had reached the 'need-to-purl' stage in her knitting journey, and I wanted to Be There for her, in the most supportive way possible. (Do you remember learning how to purl? How DIFFERENT it seemed from knitting? How USELESS it was when your teacher said, 'It's really just backwards knitting"?) Our other member, Nancy, does needlepoint. (Do you know what an epic event the finishing of a needlepoint is? It's like the World Cup, only maybe not so frequent.)

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There was much rejoicing when Nancy unfurled the needlepoint. Nancy is deciding how far to needlepoint around the edges, but otherwise it's pretty much a done deal. Ready for a visit to the Needlepoint Day Spa, where it will be made into a velvet-backed cushion to reside in perpetuity on a yellow chintz sofa, fulfilling its Needlepoint Destiny of being admired while reposing on chintz.

But the main event of Wednesday evening's Show & Tell was this:

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Jane brought out two cardigans that had been made for her by her aunt Rose Vera. I will show only one, because the other is in a Color No Longer In Fashion. (I don't want to hurt anybody. We're talking Harvest Gold meets Near Chartreuse.)

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Jane received this jacket when she was 14, and wore it a lot. Yet it has never been repaired. It looks brand new.

I examined it very carefully.

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The zipper. I was stunned by the handsewing on the zipper.

Jane has 3 sisters and a brother, and her aunt made multiple cardis for all of them, plus for all of Jane's cousins, plus for the offspring of these siblings and cousins. Jane said they all were very similar, made of good plain wool in simple styles. I wondered if Aunt Rose Vera had a basic pattern in her head that she always made, but Jane was adamant that her aunt ALWAYS uses a pattern.

So why do we do this, this knitting thing? Because Jane, a grownup woman with a grownup (well nearly!) son of her own, has kept these little cardis all these years, in a readily accessible place, in case somebody like me should drop by to admire them. They are a tangible memory of somebody caring enough to hand-sew a zipper into a cardigan for her to wear to school. (This we know: there is no greater love than installing a zipper.)

So meditate on that, and cast on another kid sweater willya?

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:18 AM | Comments (45)

August 02, 2006

FO-A-Thon!

Dear Ann,

Luv yer cushion. Just love it! I also admire the way you totally lost your mind and doubled Cotton Classic to get the cushion of your dreams. And may I add that I am coveting that silvery sage background color because I have run out of it, Downtown Yarns has run out of it, and I am 1.5 sides away from finishing the Unrealistically Wide Border on my latest Mitered Square Blanket. So could you lob any leftovers this way?

Just one complaint here. Please stop showing pictures of your shady porch, until further notice. It is 108 degrees here. We hate you for your shade. We would kill for some shade, some cream-colored rocking chairs, and a cool green cotton cushion. Ixnay on the orch-pay, okay? Yer killin' us up here.

I've been entertaining Most Moisturized Mom and Portly Dad at the weekend digs. One of the charms of the weekend digs is the lack of mod cons such as air conditioning. I always tell people, in a morally superior way, 'You only need the AC one or two days a year, so why go chopping all those holes in the floor and messing up the environment?' Well, today is one of those one or two days when I know why. You chop all those holes and mess up the environment so that your mom and dad don't go all wilty on you.

This August I am all about straightening up and flying right. With Mom and Dad around (wilty or not) to entertain the kids, I am cleaning out closets and effing every O in sight. Oh yeah, including the woollens.

Closet cleaning has its rewards--talk about moral superiority! what is more morally superior than a clean closet?-- even in 100 plus temps. Look what I found buried in my own closet:

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Some lurvly Scandinavian baby cotton (pink), some murkily-painted Katia cotton tape, and a WHOLE BAG of Rowan Denim. Black denim! Texas Tea! I had completely forgotten about it! I have no idea how or when I acquired it.

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When last we left the Top-Down Boatneck Raglan, Carrie was modelling it every morning before heading off to camp. When the body got to mid-waist, I realized that despite Carrie's lack of shaping, the sweater could use some shaping, so I stoically ripped it back to the armholes (bearing in mind what Elizabeth Zimmermann said about the proper attitude toward ripping and reknitting: 'yay! more of my favorite hobby!) I reknit it with some waist shaping so it wouldn't swamp her, kept going until I was flirting with not having enough yarn for a border, knit a garter border to match the neckband, bound off, sewed two 3-inch seams in the sleeves, washed it and dried it in the dryer, and dragged the kid out into the yard for a photo shoot.

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I got the front...

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...the back...

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...and a smile...

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...and then Carrie was done modelling.

You can see in the photos how the Euroflax linen softens up and drape-ifies with the wash & dry treatment. (It also loses a little color.) For Carrie, the key feature is that the boatneck shows the straps of her camisole. The camisole, in case you didn't know, is the height of sophistication. If you are 9 and a half, you don't want to be wearing a camisole without showing the straps, because then nobody would know you were wearing a camisole.

I should also brag that I made this top with only 2 skeins of Euroflax Sportweight. Mind you, I was fully prepared to shorten the sleeves if I needed a little more yarn for the body, and I did end up unravelling my swatches to finish, but the beauty of the top-down method is that it is so easy to gauge where you are, yardage-wise, and adjust the pattern to make the yarn be enough yarn. Carrie is a girls size 10, and this is a generous fit (with room for a camisole AND a tee underneath).

I did take a teeny break mid-closet, and swatched the Katia tape:

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I've got 4 balls, 50 yards each, and I'm trying to figure out who I know who is small enough for a wee top-down something-or-other with 200 yards of yarn in it.

Happy shady-porching,
Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 03:00 PM | Comments (41)

August 01, 2006

Git 'Er Done

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Dear Kay,

I'm in a total flow state with the rocking chair cushions, wallowing in some dorked-out cushion-coverin', fambly-neglectin', upholsterizin' good times. Before I started this little project, I stewed about how to make a cushion without having to get into the hardcore mechanics of cushion making. I didn't want to be RESPONSIBLE for the structural INTEGRITY of my CUSHION--I just wanted it to look purty, OK y'all?

So I cast about for a likely base cushion. I went through every single home furnishings catalog that I had in the house. I studied the pillow department at Target. At the end of the day (literally--it was late and I was despairing), I discovered a stack of patio cushions SITTING ON THE DECK, just sitting there being annoying because they were all the time getting rained on and every time, I'm sitting down and GYAH YICK DAMMIT again with the WET CUSHIONS.

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I drafted them immediately for screened porch rocking chair cushion duty, ending the tyranny of the damp khaki shorts. They looked promising as a core for my knitting project. Not too thick. Knife edge rather than the box edge that so often collapses when a girl sits on it. Sunbrella so they won't mildew for at least two days. Sturdy ties. And, most important, they were THERE. I didn't have to go FIND THEM or BUY THEM.

For the technically curious, the cushion is 18" x 16". I swatched to figger out the gauge. This is Tahki Cotton Classic, doubled, on a size 10 needle. It took an insane amount of yarn to make this: fourteen skeins. I don't want to talk about what this cushion costs. Did Vermeer worry about paint costs? OK so maybe he did.

I cast on 77 stitches for the front edge of the top, knitted like a fiend for a couple of days, beginning decreases once I got halfway down the top (a decrease near each edge every inch or so), then cast off once the piece seemed slightly smaller than the cushion. I figured it would stretch once khaki shorts started sitting on it.

I wanted the back to be in one color so that the ends (a gruesome sight down one edge of the front) would be minimal. I picked up stitches along the front edge of the piece using the back color yarn, then knitted a boxy little texture pattern.

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The plan is to thread some yarn through the purl bumps to see if it looks kind of decorative. But I reserve the right to take it out if it's too dumb-looking.

Well, I finished the cushion panel and COULD NOT WAIT to sew it together. One edge made nice late-night mattress stitching. The edge with all the ends?

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Kind of like that scene in The African Queen where Humphrey Bogart is dragging the boat through the Amazonian swamp. But if you pay attention to what the stitches are supposed to be doing--if you watch the V shapes and try to keep them aligned, the Big Dotty pattern shapes up passably.

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This yucky corner, however, is not what I would call my finest hour. Ah, who cares?

Moving on . . .

As I knitted the top, and the bottom, I kept worrying about the ties. How do you make ties that are not the ooky Sunbrella fabric, but also not an inadequate crummy I-cord deal that will fail after you tie them three times?

Aw, you got it: a tie cozy.

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This is six-stitch I-cord threaded over the ties. Weirdly stimulating. Just saying.

I Need Some Advice

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Here's where I really need some help. The opening at the back edge. It's not really clear to me how best to seal up this little envelope. I'd like to be able to take the cover off every once in a while to clean it, but it doesn't need to open very often. I put a row of yarnovers along the bottom side, figuring that they would be useful for some kind of fastening deal.

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A long tie, whipstitched through the holes sort of like the repair a person makes on a dishcloth? The stitches in the Big Dotty part are loose enough that I could thread a cord through them with a big needle.

A bunch of ties, which would be fiddly to tie but kind of fringily decorative?

Buttons? Incredibly enough, last summer a little girl was selling bracelets she made, and I bought one: Eight buttons which completely do not match the cushion.

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But they do have sentimental value at this point. And they have the virtue of BEING HERE. I didn't have to go BUY them.

So close! Yet so far! The right solution to the back edge will make all the difference. Help meeeee!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:06 AM | Comments (72)
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