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

April 30, 2007

Living on Tammy Time

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Dear Kay,

I am guessing that you have given up hope altogether that I will ever write about knitting. You're quakin' in your Mom Shoes that I'm going to sit here and tell you about the hilarious send-up of country music, The Doyle and Debbie Show, which Hubbo and I saw on Sairdy night.

And give you constant updates about our vegetable garden.

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Zukes and cukes are up. Beans nowhere in sight.

And report on the health of our newest family member, Dr. Betta, named by Clif.

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Every time I walk past that fishbowl I expect to see Dr. Betta belly up. I have no confidence that we can sustain this Siamese fighting fish any better than we can raise cucumbers.

Well, missy, YE OF LITTLE FAITH. Guess what I made this weekend? Go ahead. Guess. You'll NEVER EVER WEVER guess.

If you were at the Hampton Inn in Green Hills this weekend, and you were in the conference room, you would have found me, and a congenial gathering of the Knitting and Crochet Guild of Nashville, snackin' on cheese cubes and making a junior-sized, all-wool, 100% authentic tam.

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A.

Fair.

Isle.

Tam.

The hat of the islands, that most round and colorful head topper. You see a tam, and within ten minutes you'll find yourself on a golf course wearing knickers and pretending you're at St. Andrews.

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Here's my tam, which I'm calling Tammy, with its two-tone corrugated ribbing, a tubular cast on, double decreases out the wazoo, and a colorway that can only be called yooneek. I take full responsibility for the yarn here--I grabbed my bag of Harrisville worsted on the way to class and hoped for the best. I think my chief learning from this class was that choosing yarn colors carefully can pretty much make a difference in a Fair Isle project.

Our teacher:

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The incomparable Beth Brown-Reinsel, whose serene nature was not disturbed despite her proximity to 80 double-pointed needles.

Beth explained many things to us, in her calm way that belies a woman who can work Fair Isle on the tiniest needles with the most colors imaginable without going bonkers. She talked about contrast. And weaving, and dominant color and yarn spinning and meeting Alice Starmore.

She said that tams are traditionally blocked on a plate.

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I wasn't able to stay for day 2 of this workshop. (I could pretend I was at Kroger for only so long without raising suspicions at home.) A crying shame, because I love ganseys. But Beth did sign my copy of her Knitted Ganseys, which is a classic.

Beth says she's at work on a book about Scandinavian knitting, which has been under way for a while now. It will be a classic too. Sort of like these tams.

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Have you ever seen so many tams in one place other than a national convention of The United Tam Wearers of America? Fellow participant Liana was kind enough to send along a class picture. (Her sock monkey colorway tam, top right, is pure stinkin' brilliant.)

Whatever you say about me, you can't say I never made a tam. Top that, missy!

Love,
Ann

PS FROM KAY: I never do this, and it might even be against The Rules, but I have to jump in and urge everybody to click on that link to The Doyle and Debbie Show. "Strum and drang"--it's killing me! Be sure to read the lyrics while you enjoy the fine music.

Posted by Ann at 11:14 AM | Comments (35)

April 27, 2007

It Makes The Knees Go Weak

Dear Ann,

I believe you know of my affection for the Frick Collection. You walk in, and no matter how many times you've seen Mr. Frick's pictures, the amazement washes over you anew.

There is a numbered plaque beside most of the paintings. You walk up to the painting, you punch the number into your Acoustiguide, and you get a short description in a charming foreign accent (sometimes Brit, sometimes French, and sometimes a lady who sounds like Sophia Loren). They say just the right amount into your ear, and you move on, feeling smarter. It's a small enough collection, and I have visited enough times, that I walk smugly up to a portrait of an elegant lady and say to myself, "Now isn't this just the nicest Reynolds?" Then I punch in the number and learn that it's Whistler. Right. I knew that. I totally meant Whistler.

My favorite painting is the portrait of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein, the Younger. (Not so younger anymore. Long dead in fact.) It's simply arresting. You KNOW Thomas More from looking at this picture. You have met the man, and no one can convince you otherwise. The British accent in your ear is male, plummy and posh (think Alan Rickman meets Dr. Niles Crane). He's gushing, unashamed of how much he adores this painting. He mentions Holbein's rendering of the velvet sleeves and says, 'It makes the knees go WEAK.' I've listened to him on each visit, but I forget that this bit is coming, and it makes me laugh, in an audible way that is not appropriate to the setting. But I can't help it; it's funny, because it's so true. You feel a little lightheaded after seeing this picture.

That's what your post "what makes hard hard?"got me thinking about. Starmore's Katherine Howard jacket is not just an infernally laborious piece of knitting; it gives you the vapors. I don't even LIKE that sort of thing, but I bow before it. And I would knit it, just to make something so beautiful, take a picture of it, and hang it with my bleached and shredded Raspy (the Ick Collection) and my Gallery of Very Loud Blankets.

(Historical note: Sir Thomas More was beheaded because he refused to subscribe to the Act of Supremacy making King Henry VIII head of the Church of England, which cleared the path for the King to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Young Kathryn Howard, the fifth of Henry VIII's fifth of six wives, was executed also. This is the closest I will ever come to a Seinfeldesque dovetailing of story lines.)

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Here's another knee-weakener. These gave me a bad repeat case of the rockin' pneumonia and the miter-knitting flu. Cara was in the city. It is a sign of our mutual problem that (1) she volunteered to pack up 100 pieces of knitting to show me and (2) I really wanted to see all 100. So we sat around, feeling a little giddy, and then we went out and bought some Tahki Cotton Classic. It seemed like the thing to do. I need to get mitering.

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This project will get me warmed up. Four shades of Cascade 220, doubled, on US 11 needles. You cast on 120 and proceed to miter. This is a blanket that Amber and I are going halfsies on for Afghans for Afghans' Mother's Day baby blanket initiative. Amber is knitting one big fat mitery half and I'm knitting the other. We are not meeting up until the sew-up, but we are blithe and bonny about the ultimate result. It's going to be good, if not knee-weakening. How could it NOT be good?

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:04 AM | Comments (40)

Ann Does Math (Duck and Cover)

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Dear Kay,

Been doin' some figgerin' over at the Slogalong.

How much slogging are we doing? Have a peek.

Back to figuring out how many fingers I have on each hand. It's nine. At least nine. Does the pointer finger count if you're counting with it?

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:33 AM | Comments (5)

April 24, 2007

Adult-oriented Handknit Alert

Dear Kay,

Seeing as how it just turned after dark here in Nashville, I do believe it's time for the great REVEAL.

Julia models her Mason-Dixon After Dark Nightie, Momentarily Strapless Edition.

Totally foxy!

She knits it well, but she wears it even better.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 08:46 PM | Comments (13)

Special Report: Slogging Continues in Halting, Friendly Way

Dear Kay,

Welllll, the Slogalong is going strong. We've already had over 70 posts (confessions is what they really are), over a hundred hardy souls signed up, and an unbelievable parade of projects made, unmade, partially unmade, and just plain frogged. A surprising number of stalwart knitters are really opening up, digging deep and confessing exactly what they're working on. The raw courage of these people can be only slightly overstated.

The haiku are flying, Sarah's had at least one broken-hearted moment, and there have been a shocking number of unfinished handknits, including at least one amazing sock yarn afghan. There are all sorts of sloggers: the Natural Born Slogger, a Multiple Slog Slogger, and our Philosophical Slogger. "How much slogging should we be doing?" Tan asks. Now that is a question.

I hope you'll go cheer on these hopeful, determined, delirious souls. Here's where you'll find 'em!

At some point, somebody may finish something. We'll report back if and when that happens.

Love,
Ann

By the way, we could use a Slogalong button, so anybody who's quick with the Photoshop, have at it!

Posted by Ann at 03:08 PM | Comments (10)

April 23, 2007

Uncle!

Dear Ann,

Help! Who knew there were so many rectangular stole patterns? (JennyRaye knew. Have you seen her listing of rectangular stole patterns? JennyRaye is a one-woman crusade against Jemima Puddle-Duck Syndrome.)

OK, so I've decided. I think. I thought long and hard about Sarcelle. I downloaded Sarcelle. I love wraps that are knit on the bias, like Clapotis and Argosy, two of my favorite knits ever. For these and many other reasons, I love Sarcelle. However. I have to admit that at this time in my life, and particularly when watching Scrubs from 11:30 to 12:30, a pattern without a relaxing purl-back row is probably not advisable. The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, etc. Instead, Pam is going to get Hanami, a design by Pink Lemon Twist.


To give some insight as to why I found Hanami so compelling, I am going to quote the designer's description, highlighting the Words That Make Kay Crazy.

"In 1912 the city of Tokyo gave 3000 cherry trees to the city of **Washington, DC** (Pam lives in the Washington area) as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. Today those trees, and others given later, still **bloom every Spring for a few short days** (Pam's birthday is in early April), in a stunning display of nature's beauty. Hanami is the **Japanese** word used for traditional cherry blossom viewing activities and it is the combination of this tradition and the gesture of friendship that inspired the design of the Hanami stole.

"**Asymmetrical** (hello!) in design, the stole begins with a **beaded cast on** (ruh-roh) and a basket weave lace design inspired by a traditional **Sashiko**, or Japanese **quilting** design. The basket weave symbolizes the **friendships and interweaving of our lives** (me + Pam=so interweavey with our lives!). The second half of the stole is dedicated to the cherry blossoms and the reminder they give us of the beauty of life. As anyone who has seen cherry blossoms blow in the wind can tell you, they make a beautiful pink and white cloud of blossoms. Starting out with just a scatter of blossoms, they get thicker until at the end of the stole, there is a full cloud of blossoms. The second end of the stole is finished with a simple, **flirty** (Pam would deny this) ruffle that is reminiscent of the delicate blossoms themselves."

So, Jenn, come on down! Send me your address so I can send your Silk o' the Sea. Thank you everybody, for nearly killing me with stole suggestions.

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Meanwhile, back at the shmattah factory, I spent a delightful evening hunting through the scrap pile and cutting out bits of favorite fabrics to make some desperately needed coasters for the new apartment. (I'm still at Stage One of Having a New Piece of Furniture: Delusional Belief That Item Can Be Preserved Forever and Handed Down, Minty-Fresh, To One's Heirs. Stage Two is Grief and the Removal of Plastic Coverings. Stage Three Is Acceptance and the Resumption of Snacks. Stage Four is Preference for Beat-to-Hell Furniture.)

The workmanship ranges from fair to poor, but I like the fabrics so much that I don't care. My favorite is the one with the little bit of muslin from my London In A Bag set, a cherished possession.

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I had only a half hour of sewing time on Sunday, due to beautiful weather. A gorgeous spring day is a dang nuisance. People will not let you stay in the basement sewing all day. They insist on eating their grilled cheese sandwiches al fresco and bouncing basketballs and jumping on the neighbors' trampoline and other stuff that is not nearly as much fun as hunching over a sewing machine in the damp.

Forced out of the basement, and being an optimistic person, I thought that with any luck, I might hunt down a great handknit.

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What's this I see? A gathering of woodsmen (and woodswomen)?

Is that the scent of merino wool in the wind? Let's move in closer.

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[Shhhh. Don't move a muscle. You might startle the handknit. If my Field Guide to North American Sweaters is correct, this is an elusive Dale of Norway pattern, not native to the woods north of Southampton, New York.]

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Yes! It IS a Dale of Norway, even more exotic for being knitted in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino. If you are a knitter in Southampton, you probably know Hilary, who made this pullover for her husband Eric. As the Knitter of the Species, Hilary saw my camera and immediately began clucking about how she is not knitting as well as she used to, and the pattern did not come out exactly like she wanted etc etc. NONSENSE! Knitters, we must stop with the clucking. This is a beauty of a sweater, being voluntarily and happily worn by the knittee. Rejoice! Self-deprecation not permitted!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:29 PM | Comments (47)

April 20, 2007

Shawl Alert

Dear Ann and All You Shawl-Knitters Out There,

Hi. How are ya. I have another bodacious pal who just turned 50. Pam heard about the Argosy Wrap I made for Leslie's 50th, and naturally she wants to jump on the Stole Train. (Get it? Stole Train?) In truth, Pam didn't ask me for a shawl, but she did consent to receive one. Pam can't wear wool, bless her, so I am going to use:

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These two hanks of Handmaiden Sea Silk. They came home in my luggage from the 24/7 yarn shop that Nancy was running at the Magical Moebius Festival. (At breakfast: yarn. At lunch: yarn. At dinner: yarn. Tell me you could resist that.)

The thing is, I don't know what pattern to use. Pam shares not only my wool allergy but my unnatural dread of Jemima Puddle-Duck Syndrome, which we believe, rightly or wrongly, to be caused by the wearing of triangular shawls by women over 40.* To reduce her risk of contracting JP-DS, Pam requests a rectangular shape, aka a stole. (She has also cut way back on her bonnet-wearing.) If anybody has any ideas for patterns, please put it in a comment. If I pick your shawl/stole for Pam, I'll send you a hank of Sea Silk (remember: breakfast YARN, lunch YARN, dinner YARN). If the selected pattern is suggested by more than one person, the hank will go to the first suggester. So it's kind of a contest. I would expecially appreciate, but do not require, a pattern that is available online, so that I don't have to (a) find my books or (b) wait for a pattern to come in the mail. (Today's mood: casty-onny!)

Happy weekend,
Love, Kay

*Not to be confused with Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle Syndrome, which afflicts nervous, whiskery women who wear aprons.

Posted by Kay at 10:30 AM | Comments (191)

April 19, 2007

You're Welcome

Dear Ann,

Yesterday's mail brought two nice surprises: thank-you notes for my humble handknit contributions to the Dulaan Project and the Red Scarf Project. It was surprising only because I know that these charities operate on a shoestring. When you knit for charity, you're not expecting a souvenir tote bag or 10 percent off at the museum gift shop. You knit for the sheer love of knitting, for the reduction of stash and stash-related guilt, for the need to have someone wear all this stuff you're cranking out (your children having declared a moratorium), and because knitting for charity is the correct answer to the question "WWND (What Would Norma Do)"? (If you are ever in doubt, Norma is always happy to tell you.)

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The Red Scarf thank-you card was so purty, with Gale's photos and all, that I pinned it on my favorite new thing, my Bulletin Board. (Yes that is a photo of Kaffe Fassett up there. Is there a problem?)

I looked at it again.

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HEY. THAT'S MY SCARF.

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Really! I made the scarf that young woman is wearing. At the time, I thought it looked like something a bishop would wear on a really festive holiday. Which goes to show, you just never know. All it takes is a miter and a dream.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:00 PM | Comments (36)

April 18, 2007

What Makes Hard Hard?

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Dear Kay, and all knitting fiends,

I've just been thinking about difficulty, and what makes a knitting pattern hard. What is the hardest knitting pattern you've ever seen? Not that you've necessarily tried to knit yourself--just that you've seen.

What's hard about it? What makes hard hard to you?

Up top there is Kaffe Fassett's Pebbles pattern from Rowan 24. Thirteen shades of very skinny Donegal Tweed yarn, and a 164-row Fair Isle chart with exactly zero repeating patterns. Zero point zero.

But the headbanger that most comes to my mind is that Jade Starmore pattern called Katherine Howard, from the Starmores' Tudor Roses. It's a book of knitting patterns based on the sometimes-very-unlucky wives of Henry VIII.

Here's a photo (scroll down). I wish I could show you the close ups, but a quick Google reveals that nobody in the universe has ever actually finished this thing. I don't even think Wendy has made one, and she's a real sucker for punishment.

I first got wind of this pattern from our Danish pal Thomas, who threatened to try it. I think he came to his senses.

Never mind the ketchup and mustard colorway, which I find deeply challenging. This pattern involves:

Four and a half pages of close-set text instructions
Six stitch charts
A peplum
Intarsia vertical two-color cables
Short-rowed intarsia cables
Stranded knitting worked flat
An edging joined with a three-needle bindoff
Twelve buttonholes
Set-in sleeves
Intarsia diagonal cables using three shades of yarn and 32 bobbins
Adding horizontal knitting to a diagonal piece of knitting
A stand-up Henry the Eighthish short-row collar

What more could a person need? Craziest thing I ever saw.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:58 AM | Comments (98)

April 17, 2007

Class Trip Preparation, Phase 1, Now Underway

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Dear Kay,

The news from Blacksburg, Virginia, has been on my mind ever since I heard about it yesterday. The students, their families, their friends, the staff. Terrible, just terrible. My heart goes out to them all.

It's not the sort of thing you want to dwell on when packing up your fella for a class trip. Last night, David and I sat down with a packing list and a Sharpie, ready to label everything for his first class trip away from school: three days of "learning experiences" at a state park a couple of hours away. I tried to focus on the considerable number of garments he was told to bring. Why so many pants? What are they going to be doing? It's safe to say that he could mount an assault on Mount Everest with the gear he's taking.

Once we got in the mood, we were labeling everything--socks, shirts, individual Band Aids, his toothbrush--and it was fun to see him scurry around the house digging up the Required Flashlight With New Batteries and the Optional Deck of Cards. We rolled up the Required Sleeping Bag. When he went to find the Required Fourth Pair of Shorts, I got all weepy as I looked at his pile of stuff. His stuff! His poignant, 11-year-old pile of stuff!

I hadn't really thought about it, but as I sat staring at all those well-labeled socks, I realized that he's never been away from home for two nights in a row. Can you believe that? It's not like we've locked him up; it's just that he's not all that old. I've spent quite a few days away from him, but in my mind, he's always right here at home. Two nights? What are we going to do?

I keep thinking about the day he will head off to college, and how great that will be, and how excited he'll be, and I wonder how I will ever manage to let him go.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:52 AM | Comments (57)

April 16, 2007

Mother's Day Knitting

Dear Ann,

Still reeling from the shock of finding myself back home, and in possession of an underwear drawer. Sorry if that's Too Much Information. I just have to say, this concept of closets and drawers for storage of one's stuff is such an EXCELLENT idea. All day long, I'm walking around opening drawers and going: 'That's my stuff there.' 'Oh, look in this drawer: nobody else's stuff in there.' 'See here, this entire closet is completely free of unidentifiable household items circa 1957!' It's thrilling. I've pledged to try very hard not to accumulate more stuff than we need. I am loving the stripped-down life. Bare walls, 6 t-shirts to my name, seeing the bottom of the kitchen junk drawer: aaaahhhhhhh.

But of course, it's all well and good to aspire to a stripped-down life when you're living a First World lifestyle that is anything BUT stripped down. Meanwhile, Afghans for Afghans is still doing its hard work of helping people in Afghanistan who lack basics like blankets and socks. They've got an urgent need, at the moment, for wool baby blankets for newborns at a new health center. Read about it here. You know me: extremely vulnerable to pretexts for knitting acres of garter stitch. These are small blankets, too, so I think the Mother's Day deadline is realistic. Go forth and bust ye some stash, my friends, if the spirit moves you. If you send me pictures, I'll post them, old-school Afghanalong style, in the Found Objects.

I'm using the karmically perfect yarn: warm wool sent to me, far too long ago, by the Undisputed Champion of the Charity Blanket Knitters, dear Anna. (If you are unfamiliar with Anna's work, go take a look at her stunning collection of charity blankets--125 of them so far. So far!)

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To enable me to knit without looking, while watching midnight reruns of Scrubs (always a priority) (don't you dare judge me, Miss Blades of Glory, Miss Ballad of Ricky Bobby), I'm using Cara's brilliant "Chance" formula. How this works: I pick a random number between 1 and 18 (18 representing 'chai', or 'life', in Jewish mysticism), and that number is my initial cast-on. (My "random number generator" is: asking whoever is handy, "Quick: Pick a number between 1 and 18!") The next random number between 1 and 18 tells me how many garter ridges to knit before binding off the initial strip. The next random number between 1 and 18 is the number of garter ridges for the next strip, and so on until I've used up all of the beautiful blue Finnish wool. The colors get used in the same order, over and over. When a color runs out, I'll just skip ahead to the next color, and so forth until I'm out of yarn or the blanket is 40 inches by 40 inches. Should look really cool if I'm lucky. And it'll be very warm.

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OK, so it's kind of small at the moment. Gimme a couple of nights with Dr. Dorian, willya?


Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:02 AM | Comments (29)

April 13, 2007

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: A Superpretentious Literary Examination

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Dear Kay,

That's Canadian yarn up there--Fleece Artist Merino 2/6. I thought I'd lead off with that beautiful stuff because I first heard of it from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and she's on my mind today.

I just finished reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off. When I started reading it, I'd fold down a corner whenever she wrote something particularly funny, something I could quote in my little book review. Pretty soon I realized that this wasn't going to work:

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It's just too much. Too much funny. I don't really want to deprive anybody of the delicious pleasure of discovering these nuggets, so I'm not going to tell you the parts I liked best. The fact is, anybody opening a random page in this book is going to find something very, very funny.

I keep thinking about Stephanie, and what she does. I keep trying to figure out the literary taxonomy of Stephanie. (Hey, I was an English major.) Where in the world of the written word does she fit?

Possible categories:

1. Essayist. She is certainly an essayist. Is she some kind of knitterly Montaigne? I checked out Montaigne, because I frankly don't know much about him except that he wrote a lot of essais and it sounds kind of classy to be talking about Montaigne. Our Wiki friends write, "He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography." True! Stephanie has led me to speculate in a seriously intellectual way about thrummed mittens. I didn't even know what thrumming was until I read her blog. And she pretty much owns the casual anecdote and autobiography.

But I don't think Montaigne was a knitter. And laff riot is not the vibe I'm getting from him. Furthermore, I don't know whether he spent much time pondering the absurdity of life. Stephanie, on the other hand, loves the absurd. Despite her claim that sometimes things can get too weird, I don't actually think she believes that. I think that she finds it barely weird enough to take a head of nappa cabbage, wrap it in duct tape and roving and panty hose, and felt the thing.

2. Canadian humorist. There's a Wiki list of Candian humorists, but somehow she's not on it. She does, however, have her very own entry. Which really ought to be cross-referenced with the Canadian humorists entry. (Would one of you Wikiers please go fix that?) There is plenty of snow, hockey, and maple syrup in her stuff, but even somebody born in Alabama can understand the joke. So I don't think Canadian humorist is the defining term for her.

[Update: Actually, Andrew has taken care of the Wikipedia problem. There's now a Canadian Humorist listed whose last name begins with a P. Strong work, Andrew!]

3. Knitting humorist. Stephanie has been described as a knitting humorist. I reckon that's the most technically accurate description of what she does. But I really think Stephanie should be considered in the same breath as all the other fine contemporary humorists. If you poke through my dogeared copy of her book, what you see is humor, period. It simply happens, often, to involve the topic of knitting.

Think about Calvin Trillin, David Sedaris, Erma Bombeck (who in my mind is too often spoken of without the proper respect--that woman was a genius). It doesn't matter whether their topic is Kansas City barbecue, growing up in crazy North Carolina, or life as a suburban homemaker. They lure us into their worlds, however familiar or strange, and show us the absurd, the goofy, and the weird. The great humorists of our time draw on their lives for their material. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee happens to have a life that is filled with yarn.

4. Humorist. That's it! She's a humorist, plain and simple. Which is a big deal, because there are few things as difficult as writing humor. And there are few things more generous than making us all laugh.

There are many knitters in the world--Stephanie has proved that this spring, if we ever doubted it. But there are even more people who don't knit, perfectly decent and upstanding people who would likely find Stephanie's world view totally engaging. Like it or not, "knitting humorist" implies a certain specificity in what she's doing. People who don't knit aren't likely to head for a writer who's called a "knitting humorist." I think this is their loss, of course, but there it is.

I'm going to venture a guess. It's fine if Stephanie chooses to write about knitting for the rest of her life. It's a world that we all know is a bottomless pit. At some point, however, Stephanie may start to write books which are not so directly focused on the world of knitting. I frankly encourage this. She seems to have an inexhaustible arsenal of words at her disposal, and it may well be that she decides that hockey is a topic that's interesting to her. Or medieval dentistry. My point is that it doesn't really matter what she chooses to write about, because whatever it is, it will be funny. And I will be right there, loving hockey and pulling my own teeth because she's so wicked persuasive about it all.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:42 PM | Comments (56)

April 11, 2007

Slogalong: Long-Haul Knitters, Unite

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Dear Kay,

I'm soooooo excited. Thanks to our web guru Becky, we now have a fresh, shiny new rec room for everybody who wants to come hang out and write about their projects which will never end.

This is a different kind of knitalong. It's more like group therapy. It's a Slogalong.

The genesis of the Slogalong came when I had a strong impulse to find a group of fellow knitters who, like me, were working on the Blue Sky Alpaca Silk Shrug designed by Bobbi Intveld. It's a beautiful pattern, but really folks, it's a 68-inch-long piece of stockinette with a ruffle. It's not very complicated. It is, however, worked on size 4 or 3 needles. You know: a very slow roll. A slog.

The more I talked to people, the more I discovered that there are plenty of folks slogging along on long-haul projects. Reeeaally long-haul projects. The projects that are hard to imagine ever ending. The kind where you go, Could there be anybody else in the world working on something that is taking as long as this?

The answer, of course, is yes. Yesyesyes! Meeeeee!

So please stop by the Slogalong and give a little encouragement to knitters who frankly could use the help. And if you'd like to join in, just email me, and I'll send you the directions for logging on. (Include your blog address if you have one, please.)

If you have already emailed me to join, yet your name is not showing up in the Slogalong's list of Masochists, please email me again. Very sorry--my cat seems to have eaten a bunch of email . . .

If you're blogging your slogs on your own blog, you can leave a link on the Slogalong so we can come take a peek. At the Slogalong, no one slogs alone.

Wishing everybody knitting that never ends.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 03:48 PM | Comments (24)

April 10, 2007

Priceless

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Dear Ann,

Can you believe that we went all the way to Portland and Newport, Oregon, that we met the Super Chicken and the Angry Eggplant and even went Cat Bordhi-ing together, and that I have remained silent through all of it? It only goes to show the stress I'm under. Moving is very stressful. Even, or perhaps especially, if you've spent the last six-to-eight months screaming and stomping and threatening your husband because you want to move NOW. It is going to be hard to break the habit of starting every conversation with Hubby with "when are we moving?" I will try my best but I think sometime in May is the earliest we can hope for.

One casualty of the move has been the disappearance of the thingie that makes the pictures go out of the KayCam and into the Blogotron 2000. I'm going to go to Staples this morning in search of a new thingie. Until then, let me just share the Top Ten Things That Are Making Me Happy To Be Back In My Own Apartment Even Though It Reeks of Paint and Carpet Glue. (For those just joining us, for the past eight months we have been living in the apartment of my late-mother-in-law, who lived -- and collected things -- in it for almost 60 years.)

10. Not opening a closet and saying, "What do you suppose THAT is?"
9. Not being afraid to open the closets.
8. Having closets.
7. Being able to comply with automated voices telling me to "push the pound key" (although I did grow fond of the Rotary Phone Experience).
6. OMG OMG. There is this AWESOME machine in the kitchen. You put the dirty dishes in it. Then, after a while, you open the door and--get this--the dishes are CLEAN. GET OUT! I am NOT making this stuff up.
5. Fun fact: you can make ice in your own home.
4. Not having to unplug the fridge in order to use the hair dryer.
3. Not hearing the sound that means that the hair dryer just blew up.
2. The only mirrored surfaces are actually mirrors. (If anyone is looking for proof of a mid-20th Century fashion for mirroring things--a trend that seems closely connected to the use of Lucite for everything from furniture to jewelry--see me for documentation.)
1. Not drying my hair in the kitchen.

OK. I'm not that shallow. As time goes by, I am going to have sweet memories of looking out every window at the Hudson, the Palisades, and the George Washington Bridge. I am going to be glad that I spent some time getting to know, through her belongings, someone I barely knew in life. I am going to be very glad that the kids spent part of a year living in the (historically preserved) bedrooms that their dad and uncles shared as boys, falling sleep and waking up to the trucks rumbling across the bridge, and coming home from school to a door that still has their long-gone grandfather's name on it. (Although Hubby's dad died decades ago, if I were to call you from the apartment, your caller i.d. would say he was calling. It spooked me the first time I noticed it, but perhaps it's a sign of my adaptation to the family culture that I've started to think that love means never changing the phone listing.) It's been good. It's a relief to be home, but it's been good.

Knitting: there's been some knitting. More later, when I've located that picture-loader thingie.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:11 AM | Comments (38)

April 07, 2007

Eggs, Paper Towels, We'll Dye Anything

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Dear Kay,

Eggs were a dollar a dozen at the store yesterday, so we flat did some dyeing last night.

At one point, David held up the paper towel he had been using to rub on his eggs and pointed out how much like tie dye it looked. Well, you can imagine where that led:

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It's a lot faster than tie dyeing a shirt.

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You can decorate your door with it.

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And you end up with some trippy wrapping paper.

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This was our best batch--these eggs were abandoned in the dye cups when Hubbo showed up with barbecue from Whitt's. If you leave eggs to steep for two hours, they look like a bunch of factory-reject billiard balls.

Tonight the weather's going to be in the low 20s. The Easter Bunny absolutely does not function outside when it's below freezing. Maybe he'll come down the chimney like Santa.

Happy Easter, everybody!

Love,
Ann

PS Knitting at the Nashville Downtown Public Library is coming up this Monday, April 9, noon to 2 pm. Come one, come all! Directions right here.

Posted by Ann at 10:37 AM | Comments (30)

April 04, 2007

Dateline: Inside Cat Bordhi's Brain

Dear Kay,

(My suitcase showed up, you'll be relieved to know. Those cones of organic cotton chenille are safe with me. You can go back to your moving and Passovering now.)

We Arrive at the Oregon Coast

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And we discover that this was no "Puppet Show and Spinal Tap" situation; the Magical Moebius Festival was definitely the hot ticket at the Shilo Inn in Newport.

As incredible as it may seem, I have never been to a knitting workshop of this magnitude--a multi-day sensory deprivation type deal, with room and board and deliriously lovely yarns stacked up in piles all over the place, waiting to be (inevitably) adopted. Nancy Parsons and her husband Bob Lathe organized the weekend, and it was just right: mind-blowin' teachy bits from Cat Bordhi, followed by long stretches of knitting time. Great company in the form of knitters who knew their way around a circular needle. And, oh yeah, the Pacific Ocean for a palate cleanser when the thinking got too heavy.

About This Cat Bordhi Person

The first night, Cat gave us an overview of what we would be thinking about in the coming days. I knew she was famous for figuring out the most elegant way to make a knitted Moebius (here's some Moebius Wiki for ya). I had never made one, but I figured heckfire how hard could it be? When she held up a Moebius scarf and asked where the cast-on row was, and several brainiac knitters said, "In the middle," I got very, very sleepy. I decided that I would take her advice and just follow her directions and not wonder about how any of this was happening.

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The next morning, we dove in, learning how to cast on for a Moebius. In the above picture Cat is in the midst of knitting Nancy. Nancy got mad when I started following her around with a circular needle: "You don't knit me, you nutcase redneck."

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Above you can see our brilliant pal Ann Buechner (she of the Flying Geese Blanket in our book) cheerfully absorbing graduate-level Moebiusness. You can see how I'm doing.

After the hair-raising cast-on, it really was a piece of delicious cake. I ended up triple-stranding the very high-calorie Handmaiden Sea Silk for my second Moebius, which I finished on the way home during my travels with the Camas High School Papermakers Marching Band.

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That strand marks where the cast on began. Most peculiar.

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I winged the pattern, a simple k5, YO, k2tog for 5 rows. Then p5, YO, p2tog for 5 rows. That was all I did for the entire knitting of this scarf. But do you see all that chevron action? Do you know how trippy that was for me? Stitch patterns do strange and cool things when they're done in a Moebius.

(Edited to add: I fergot to mention that on each round, I made the YO one stitch to the left of where it fell on the previous row. So the chevroniness is because of my placement of the YOs, but the symmetry of the slanted lines of YOs is because of the Moebius cast on.)

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I can't wait to start another one. If you are intrigued by all this (and truly, it is fascinating), you can find A Treasury of Magical Knitting (Moebius 101) and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting (Moebius intro plus lots of felted projects), as well as Cat's other books at Nancy Parsons' Knitter's Bookshelf, which is the best-edited shop of knitting books you'll find anywhere on the Internet. It just is.

The Sock Part

Once I was feeling sassy about my Moebius skills, it was time to take on Cat's new obsession, her forthcoming three-book series, New Pathways for Sock Knitters. She basically bashed us all about the hindquarters with a size 35 as a gentle reminder that we were not to blog about any of the socks we were making. But I can't help it! It's just too amazing! Here's Kay's sample sock:

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And here's mine:

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Isn't that COOL?

I can't say much, but I can say that Cat's new books are going to give the sock-lovin' knitter about ten years worth of diversion. I can't quite figure out how she could find ideas that are at once so simple and so very new. But then, that's Cat.

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Love,
Ann

PS The hotel in Portland was a hoot. (Thanks for the tip, Larissa!)

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It's the Kennedy School, a former elementary school built in 1915, back when a one-story schoolhouse was considered wildly innovative. The spaces were so lovely, and there was art everywhere, often derived from the school's archives. This photograph haunted me the whole time we were there:

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It apparently got in the head of a painter, too:

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PSSS I just unearthed proof of other shadowy Internet legends we met in Portland:

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Taking the measure of Mariko, which just doesn't take all that long. Left: the elusive Super Eggplant Mariko, whose online shop Super Buzzy is loaded with squeedorable Japanese fabrics, notions, and gifties. Only somebody as sleek and stylish as Mariko could pull together a shop like this. At right: the legendary Angry Chicken Amy. Amy's forthcoming book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing, is so beautiful that it makes even a person without a Hello Kitty sewing machine want to take up the craft.

PSSS The trip home was long enough and strange enough that at one point I looked out my window and saw this:

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From Portland to Nashville, with a detour by the Grand Canyon. At this point I was all whatEVER. Maybe I'll see a little elf on the wing. Maybe I imagined this whole, entire thing.

Posted by Ann at 12:08 PM | Comments (30)

April 02, 2007

Dateline: Southeast Portland

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Dear Kay,

So last night when I had finally disembarked from two legs of air travel with the 105 members of the Camas High School Papermakers marching band, the lost baggage clerk asked, "If we were to open your bag--if the tag was missing--what sort of recognizable items would we find in it?"

"Yarn. It was about 50 pounds. A bunch of knitted stuff in there, but mostly, yarn."

Such a poetic end to our little journey. After five days of nonstop talking, visiting, flying, driving, knitting, eating, yarn shopping, and more yarn shopping, it was only right that I should end up with only the clothes on my back, a finished Moebius scarf, and memories--sweet, sweet memories. Misty watercolor meeehhhhemories . . .

I can't really hope to impose order on all this, so I'll go all "impressionistic" (otherwise known as disorganized). One step at a time. It's going to take a while.

Une Nuit d'Abundance

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We were amazed at Abundant Yarn and Dyeworks. It does in fact have a footbath. I can confirm that. Heck, you could probably give yourself a footbath in the vat of indigo they had stewing. Pat and Stevanie probably encourage that sort of thing. I can also confirm that the knitters we met at Abundant Yarn were really, really welcoming and full of all sorts of wacky craftiness. At this point my notes are in the (abovementioned lost) bag, so I'll share my pix and hope you guys will help me identify these geniuses.

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Kay Gardiner, meet Kay Gardner. TWINZ! I am so relieved finally to have a backup. Kay, if you flake out, I know what my second phone call will be (after my alerting the Rowan people that their denim sales are about to tank).

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A righteous piece of a Moderne blanket. This seems like the right amount of garter stitch for a person to be doing.

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Serious gartery miter action, too. I like how these vibrate.

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You're witnessing the birth of a felted box/remote control cozy. SOMEbody's wife is being awfully nice to somebody.

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Bib action.

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More bib action.

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And, OMG, we had a Retriever. This cool dad was carrying out that most dire of assignments: getting a book signed for his daughter in, I believe, Wisconsin. There is a special VIP lounge in heaven for men who retrieve books for their loved ones.

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And after we rattled on for a while, we settled in for a bout of knitting and poking around the store. There was Jessica, who road tripped from Seattle with her galpal Sarah. So great finally to meet this shadowy figure. And also Kathy, whose busted ankle didn't keep her from showing me the Perfect Sweater CARDIGAN which she has almost finished. I am so making one of them. Once she cooks up the pattern. Which will be any day now. I'm sure. Any . . . day . . . now . . .

Speaking of shadowy figures, incredibly absent from our photos are Stitch Marker Larissa and her curly-haired dervish, Sebastian. You need a toddler in the mix to keep things frisky.

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And after dinner, an abundant black cat crossed our path. Omen? Or just a really big cat?

Next up: Heading south. And west. Or somewhere.

Love,
Ann

PS The adorable one at the top came to the store with her decorating process already under way. We were rubber-stampin' anything within ten feet of us, so she ended up with Kay on her arm.

Posted by Ann at 03:42 PM | Comments (33)
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