"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 31, 2007

Trippy

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Dear Kay,

Still sailing along on the Tweedy Squares blanket. I'll be brief, despite the fact that this blanket-bordering project is one of the more epic efforts I've made, right up there with fixing breakfast this morning despite a profound lack of breakfast makins. I do have one observation to make: when dealing with the eight-year-old diner, if bacon is part of the menu, then bacon can be the entire menu.

Let's go to the videotape.

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Each side is 56 inches long, making a total of 224 inches of border, a little over 18 feet. I'm well into Side Three of this thing, and as long as the Patrick O'Brian novels hold out, I'll be fine. But I do find that long stretches of garter stitch send me into a sort of hallucinating, free-associating frame of mind. I'm really glad you can't see inside my brain, because it's pretty much like that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where they take that trippy ride down the chocolate river.

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(The corner will be sewn together when all is said and done.)

You may not be able to tell, and you may not care but I do (desperately), but each side uses a different shade of green tweed yarn: Rowan Scottish Tweed, Harrisville New England Highland, Rowan Yorkshire Tweed. We'll see what happens on Side Four, because I'm starting to scrape the bottom of the greeny-green barrel.

Same with the oranges: different on each side. I am developing a real love of the Rowan Scottish Tweed orange, which goes fuschia sometimes when it's next to a burnt orange.

Some of my free-associating has to do with color theory. The taupe squares turned purple at one point last night, and the border (thanks to whoever's comment that this blanket reminds them of 1969) got me thinking about harvest gold kitchen appliances. And my mom's avocado green cookware. And . . . whoooooops . . . . . . . . aaaaaaaahhhhhh . . . . . . . . . . .

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:15 PM | Comments (53)

August 30, 2007

Southampton Show And Tell

Dear Ann, Yoda and Obi-Wan, Saucepots et al.,

Belatedly, I have some photos to share from the knitting party at the Southampton Historical Society that was so kindly organized by the Rogers Memorial Library. I hope it was the "Second Annual" such gathering. I love meeting the local knitters and knitting-curious, and love the opportunity to yak about my knitting hot pash du jour. (This time I carried on about The Knitted Blanket As Uniquely American Art Form Like Jazz, Tap, and Quilts And By The Way When Is The Smithsonian Going To Wake Up And Smell the Coffee On This One?)

But to every good thing in life, there is a Best Part. And in the case of knitting parties, the best part has got to be the stuff that people bring with them to show other knitters.

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Joan the Teenaged Knitting Prodigy was there. This is a blanket she made using Lion Brand Thick & Quick.

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An excellent example of Great Grandmother's Counterpane pattern, I think. This was knitted so tightly, in fine cotton yarn, that it's practically bullet-proof. In my excitement I didn't get the name of the knitter, who made it decades ago and is now doing it again, full-size, at a drapier gauge. All together now: group covet!

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Jennifer proves, once and for all, that the knitted skirt is a wearable, flattering thing indeed.

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This little piece of resistance will absolutely slay you, Ann. A perfect, pristine, plaid-ish knitted coat. Forty years old according to its knitter/owner, Mimi. I begged Mimi to model. With tears in my eyes and that little catch in my voice that almost always works. Mimi fussed about the hem of her floral dress showing, so I wheedled a little more, and she folded it up all the way around.

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It was worth the trouble, Mimi. Look at those 3/4 sleeves--the absolute fashion of the moment! I was in awe of the fact that someone could be the same size for 40 years. I asked about the pattern, and all that Mimi could remember was that it was from a women's magazine back in the day. It's orange. Think about that. It's also LINED. Think about THAT.

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Cathy and Jennifer aka the usual suspects. Cathy brought her delightful mom. It was a great day. You should come next time.

OK, back to end-of-vacay chaos and boredom for me. Today's strategy (brace yourself): kayaks. I am slightly concerned about fitting into the kayak. I hope there is a Mom Jeans of kayaks, with a nice elastic waist.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 02:08 PM | Comments (48)

August 29, 2007

Hoydens and Harridans!

saucebox (sôs'bŏks'), n. One who is obnoxiously self-assertive and arrogant: malapert, witling. Informal know-it-all, smart aleck, smarty, smarty-pants, wisenheimer. Slang wisecracker, wise guy. See good/bad.*

Dear Kay,

Well, I knew there'd be trouble from SOMEbody once I chose a direction for the border for this blanket. Little did I know it would come from formerly loyal galpals Cristina "Saucebox" Shiffman and Belinda "Your Border Should Be Orange" Boaden. Never have I had such cantankerous comments! If I'd wanted your opinion, ladies, I would have--oh wait, I DID ask for it. Man, did I get it. Listen to this snipey little pair of comments from the last entry:

Cristina: "No no no. Must be a wide orange stripe. It does matter. Another color in there is going throw the whole thing out of orbit. Go tonal if you like, but not a whole new color, PLEASE! Belinda, where are you?"

Belinda, of course, piled on like the wretched Mean Girl that she is: "Cristina, what can I say? Great minds think alike. I'm sending out thought waves for a 'wide orange, with narrower neutrals' border, but the deed may be done already, ripped back to 4 ridges. Mind you, if the photo shows ALL the orange yarn available (unless there's Other Stuff, hidden somewhere) - there might not be enough orange for a proper wide border. Not that I want to sound downbeat, or anything."

Coupla Eeyores, they are. Of course, hearing this from the two knitters whose taste I trust utterly sent me into a crevasselike hole of despair. Not only had I already ripped back the 1200 stitches that would put my orange stripe back to a narrow width, I'd already forged ahead with adding a wider border of my favorite color in the blanket, greeny green.

Here's the situation at this point:

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Belinda is correct that I don't have enough orange yarn to make a big orange border. Despite the drifts of tweedy yarn still clogging up the house here, it's all bits and bobs. But still. Who's going to be haunted all the days of her life by the possibility that, had she just listened to the sauceboxes, her blanket would have been better off with a loud, solid, unremittingly orange border?

A Consolation, However

Despite busting my chops about the stripey border, Belinda gave me a tidbit which I absolutely love. So I'll share it will all of you potential bordermakers out there, in hopes that it will make your gargantuan, all-orange borders tidy and neat.

When making a garter stitch border, this edging will fold under the cast-off stitches, giving the edge of your blanket a lovely finish.

Here's the right side of the blanket:
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To make the edge roll, work two rows of stockinette stitch--making sure that the Vs are on the wrong side of the blanket. Then cast off all stitches purlwise. Here's the wrong side:

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I love it when a technique takes advantage of the natural habits of knitted fabric. Stockinette wants to curl up. Here, the curl tucks away the cast-off stitches.

Finally, even a churl like me can't help but to tell you guys about Cristina's new blanket over here. She needs to add about 100 more photos of this project, but let's just say she had an indigo pot going to dye this blanket herself. Absolutely, utterly gorgeous. And: she is making it for a raffle for her school, details of which she had better share on her blog, because I'm entering. OFTEN.

Love,
Ann

*Answers.com

Posted by Ann at 12:11 PM | Comments (91)

August 27, 2007

Orange You Glad You Weighed In?

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Dear Kay,

Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. I have been riveted as I've read everybody's thoughts about the fate of the border of the tweedy squares blanket.

The thing is, each argument for a particular border idea makes perfect sense. So much sense that as I read all the ideas, I decided that the only way to sort it all out was to count all the responses. Consider the tally:

1. Finish the border as is, 10 rows of orange: 23

2. Wide border, all orange: 22

3. Narrow border, all orange: 21

4. Wide border, with a narrow stripe of orange and a darker, wider stripe outside: 14

5. Not sure—too wide or not enough/don’t worry/doesn’t matter/chillax, honey: 11

6. Make the border in I-cord or crochet: 4

7. Use neutrals for border, not orange at all: 1

8. And of course, you're gonna have the renegades who reject the whole premise. Good ol' Amber suggests five different stripes altogether.

I'm no political science major, mind you, but these results seem pretty close. The top three are each only one vote apart. Could it be that it really doesn't matter?

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As I look at the ten rows currently edging the blanket, they do seem to be sort of uncommitted, sort of twixt-n-tweeny, which is completely par for me. (Every time I take the Myers-Briggs personality test, I get a different result. Who the hell am I, anyway? Introvert or extrovert? Thinker or feeler? Sensing or intuiting? Judging or perceiving? AAAAAACK!)

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So. Here's the plan.

Regarding the width of the border: The border really does need some width in order to keep the stockinette squares from curling under, and the current width doesn't seem to tame them quite enough. So: I'm going wider, at least 10 garter ridges total. I may go more, or I may croak before then.

Regarding the color: I just don't think I can go all orange, but I love that orange and think it keeps this blanket from sinking into a place that even I would consider too grim. The solution that resonates most with me is the idea that the orange should echo the 4-row squares inside the blanket. I really like those skinny orange squares. I just like 'em. So: I'm going to do 3 garter ridges of orange, which will be about the same width as the 4-row squares. (Yes, I'll be ripping back 4 rows, but I'm so far gone on this absurdity of all this that I'm totally punch drunk.) Then I'll add an outside frame of neutrals (different on each side). Then I'm going to do two rows of stockinette with a WS bind off, as you guys so brilliantly suggested. I love the idea that the cast-off edge will curl under and hide. Beeeyooteeful!

One million thanks to you all--I admire your certainty and wish I had it too. I guess. I mean, I guess I wish I were more certain about things. Um . . .

Love,
Ann

P.S. If you're curious about your personality type--if you don't believe it when people tell you you're a big ol' bossypants show-off, you can take the official Myers-Briggs test here, if you want to pay up and get a fancy report back. If you want to blow off work, well, here's a fine timesucker. And of course, it's only a matter of time until there are Ravelry groups for each and every sort of Myers-Briggs personality type. "INTJ Knitters: For the super-rational knitter."

Posted by Ann at 12:04 PM | Comments (44)

August 25, 2007

Stuck

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Dear Kay,

I really need some advice. It's like I'm paralyzed with indecision. No, it's not like I'm paralyzed; I AM paralyzed. I can barely move my fingers to type this. I Do Not Know What To Do.

The good, great news is that I have crossed Finish Line 1 (knitting the squares of this blanket), Finish Line 2 (sewing the squares together), and FInish Line 3 (sewing in all the ends). My euphoria at hitting these marks was such that I ran around the house in a TIZZY, eager to start Finish Line 4 (adding the border).

I dug out a size 6, 32" circular and all my orange yarns. I have five oranges on hand, which is really sort of sick if you stop to think about why somebody would have five orange tweed yarns at one time--but let's not dwell on that, OK?

My plan, based on your excellent advice that a stockinette blanket cannot survive without a garter-stitch border, was to crank each side of border using a different orange yarn for each side. I dove in with my Rowan Rowanspun DK, a very weird little yarn if you ask me, what with its felted texture and tendency to break. But such a great orange.

Anyway--here's the paralyzing part. I've worked ten rows of garter stitch, and I do not know when I should stop. Here are some pix to show you what I've got going:

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My fear is that if I go too long with the orange border, it will overwhelm the blanket. It's hard to see in these pix, but the orange in the squares is pretty low-dose. If I orange out much beyond the ten rows I've done, won't it look too orangey once I get all four sides done?

On the other hand, if I go another ten rows, maybe having a LOT of orange will frame the blanket in an attractive and pleasing way. You know, make a commitment to orange. Go all out on the orange.

On the third hand (which I frankly wish I had if it would make this border-knitting go any faster), maybe the orange border should be even narrower than it already is. But I'm not sure it would provide much stability to the edge of the blanket if it were narrower than the ten rows I've done.

All advice welcomed. I'll be right here, frozen with my unfinished blanket in my lap.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 03:17 PM | Comments (121)

August 24, 2007

R Is for Ravelry

Dear Kay,

Have you ever been in a hotel for, say, a sock-making workshop, while there's a wedding going on in the next ballroom? You see the sign for "Wedding Reception: Newport Ballroom" and you can't resist poking your head in to see what's up. When you open the door, you are hit with a wall of people and a ton of sound and a great band and a beautiful bride and a handsome groom and what surely must be the biggest party you ever saw. All you want to do is to head for the bar and find somebody to dance with, because the Kool and the Gang is just cranking up.

GOOD LORD, WOMAN! I just sneaked into Ravelry, masquerading as KayGardiner because I'm so far down the list of registrants. (Still can't believe you gave me your password--do you know the havoc I could wreak if I started posting as you?)

What a party! What an out-of-control nutcase wingding Ravelry is going to be! The groups are killing me. There are already 600 groups formed, with more appearing every day. A few of them:

Wool Shop Sleepover: for anyone who has spent the night in a yarn or spinning supply shop

Yarn and Falafel: for Israeli knitters and knitters who love Israel (knitters who just like falafel are welcome too)

Fans of Fake News

Fun Fur Anonymous

Breastfeeding Knitters

1040 Knitters: for tax preparers and consultants

There's already a Mason-Dixon Knitters group that I'm dying to join, but I can't until I'm allowed to register, which will apparently be a while. It's so amazing to see everybody's projects looking so great. And all you Mitered Square Blanket people, I have so much recent experience with this particular topic!

The brilliant part of Ravelry, apart from the groups, is the way the databases are going to become so very rich and deep. Imagine how much information is going to be in there after a while. I can't wait to see how it evolves.

Anybody who hasn't signed up yet--get over there ASAP. They've already got the chocolate fountain going, and there's going to be macarena action at any moment. Cousin Billy is going to do his Clay Aiken impression. It's a whale of a party.

Here's the group I'm starting: Knitters Who Are Not Yet Ravelry Members And Wish They Could Be Doing the Macarena Too.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:17 PM | Comments (74)

August 23, 2007

Beginning the Finishing

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Dear Kay,

Well, I've been visiting Gibraltar this morning, as I continue the little process known as finishing a blanket. I've had Patrick O'Brian's The Ionian Mission piping out of my computer as I sew in ends, and Russell-Crowe-I-mean-Jack-Aubrey has been busy chasing a French ship of the line down the coast of France. I'll just say it: this series of 20 historical novels is without doubt the best possible choice to get a person through the many finish lines of a blanket like this. I can't WAIT to get back to my finishing--Jack's moldy, leaky Worcester is heading to the blockade of Toulon, people!

Finish Line 1: Knitting all the squares. All 64 are done; the final 8 are blocking and just about dry, down in the Drying Laboratory. Periodically I have been caught patting my tidy little squares. No, I was not actually TALKING to them; I was talking to, uh, myself.

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Finish Line 2: Sewing the squares together. As promised, I kept an eye on the clock as I seamed, and at this point I'd say that 56 squares took 5 hours and 46 minutes. This was spread over four days. I did find that it's not all that productive to sit down for ten minutes with the thing; there was a lot of frictional time wasted finding the damn needle and scissors, figuring out what square to do next, making sure there was a baked good within arm's reach at all times. When I carved out an hour or more of late-night stitchery, I found a total groove and could do a 7-inch seam in 10 minutes. So, here's my advice for seaming: do not do it in small bites. Get your knitting nook the way you want it, and shoot for an uninterrupted chunk of time. I could have trimmed at least an hour from this if I'd been more organized.

I'm mattress stitching these, which is so delightful here because all the edges of the squares are oriented for perfect, easy mattress stitch. The seams are virtually invisible on the front of the blanket. This is one of the HUGE BENEFITS of using your low-sew square method. All the awkward cast-on and cast-off edges--the edges that are tricky to sew up cleanly--are buried in the centers of the squares. (For those of you who want to know what Kay's low-sew mitered square method is, she explains it right here. If you are contemplating a mitered square blanket, low-sew will save you a LOT of heartache. This is absolutely ESSENTIAL reading. Rilly!)

In several places, I had to finesse the line-up of the stripes, due to the varied weight of the wools I used. There's only one place where I'm not all that happy--the thinnest yarn I used ended up next to a chunkier weight yarn. But I don't hate it enough to redo it. And in general, I'm surprised at the way all these yarns behave next to each other. We really CAN get along. Aw.

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Finish Line 3: Sewing in the ends. This exercise should be called Threading Your Needle 384 Times. By my calculation, 64 squares as I made them means 6 ends per square, or 384 ends. I sewed in 56 squares' worth of ends in 1 hour and 58 minutes. (I am embarrassed to have held on to that little statistic, but this is a knitting blog, right?) It got to be quite the game, hiding the ends in the seams in the least obtrusive way possible. Those suckers are NOT COMING OUT. I BURIED 'em. Tweedy wool is so fantastic for its velcroey way.

I'll be finishing Finish Line 2 and Finish Line 3 once I unpin my pwecious little squares from their blockfest. At which point Finish Line 4 and Finish Line 5 loom. I am going to be looking for some advice on these last two finish lines.

Somebody asked what yarns the Tweedy Squares blanket uses. At this point there are 20 different shades of yarn. Here's my best recollection. It's basically every tweed known to humans.

Rowan Scottish Tweed DK
Rowan Harris Tweed DK (the early version of Scottish Tweed, until a fit was pitched about Rowan's use of the term "Harris Tweed")
Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK
Rowan Felted Tweed
Queensland Collection Katmandu DK Tweed
Rowan Donegal Lambswool Tweed, doubled
Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed (Such a beautiful orange! I had to use it even though it's aran weight!)
Elspeth Lavold Silky Wool DK (Such a great golden color, even though it was on the thin side of DK.)
Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed
Tahki Donegal Tweed

Thanks for all the kind words about the last post--I am DEFINITELY becoming a sportswriter, just as soon as Frank Deford and Roger Angell take up knitting. And I'm awfully sorry about Clif's Seahawks bashing. I'm going to get after him with a Titans foam finger.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:16 PM | Comments (38)

August 22, 2007

Another Place I Have Tried to Knit and Failed

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Dear Kay,

3:48 pm, yesterday: I look around the place I have found myself, and I think, How did I get here? C'mon, I'll take you on a little field trip.

Clif and I are at the home of the Tennessee Titans, Clif's favorite NFL football team. As with everything else in the NFL ("AmSouth First Down!"), the Titans sold naming rights to their headquarters to Baptist Hospital, so this place is called Baptist Sports Park. Never hurts to have a little upstairs connection, you know?

Sweet Jeebus, it is hot. We're standing on a sidewalk, leaning on a chain-link fence, watching 80 buff guys practice. A couple dozen other people watch, too--a dad with a two-year-old baby dressed like a Titans quarterback, three short Italian-loafer guys who are clearly sports agents. They speak in whispers. I overhear one of them say, "He's smaller than I thought." I'm dying to know which players they're here to see, but I can't get up the nerve to ask.

A dozen guys with huge cameras are inside the fence, taking pictures. Directly in front of me, a photographer with a long, gray mullet pulls out a folded piece of paper. It reads "10, 83, 33." Number 10 is Vince Young, the star quarterback who was NFL Rookie of the Year last year. Number 83 is Eric Moulds, a 12-year veteran just signed by the Titans in hopes of giving VInce Young somebody who can catch his passes. And 33 is Michael Griffin, the Titans first-round draft pick, who will replace the notorious Pacman Jones, who's out on a historic 10-game suspension for bad behavior.

How do I know all this pointless stuff? It's because Clif is relentless in his superfandom, so I've taken to reading the Tennessean so I can keep up with him. I don't know how we ended up with a kid who loves football. He's some sort of changeling, swapped at the nursery with the bookish little baby who was ours. He hangs on the fence, mesmerized, reciting NFL facts and asking me who my third-favorite AFC team is. I answer Seahawks, as I do to any question like this he asks me, and he says, "MOM. The Seahawks suck. Besides, they're NFC," and I say, as I always do, "But they have an awesome logo."

I don't really like football--too brutal--but I have been fascinated by it ever since Brian's Song. Remember that movie? "Don't die on me, Brian Piccolo." A football tearjerker! There are a bunch of great football movies: Friday Night Lights, Any Given Sunday, Jerry McGuire, The Longest Yard, Remember the Titans. It's all gladiator stuff. Who's going to end up on crutches?

The receivers are lanky, lean. Beautiful thoroughbreds. It's so hot that everybody's conserving their energy, but the receivers look twitchy, ready to boing up into the air. The linemen are lumpy potato sacks, human obstacles, a fleshy berm in front of the quarterback. As they warm up, the big guys are more flexible than I thought they would be. Vince Young looks like a Pilates instructor. He's 6'5", but he folds neatly in half as he holds the bottoms of his feet.

It's a giant, sweaty job interview out there: the current roster of 80 will cut to 75 in five days. And in 12 days, 22 players will go. This is the end of training camp, so every dropped ball is a heartbreaker for somebody. It's remarkably quiet, except for the coaches who encourage and berate the guys. "Jeeeeeesus Christ can't you guys $^#%^$% LEARN THIS? What kind of *@*&^#&$ IS this?" The only player who talks much is Vince Young, whose job security is such that he can say whatever he wants. "ROBY!" he yells at the receiver who catches his not-great pass. "RobyRobyROBEEEEEE!"

The offense is practicing passing. Vince Young starts firing spirals toward the sideline, where the receivers are hauling down the field. The balls are coming directly our way, and it feels like he's throwing lightning bolts at us. Eric Moulds, the best receiver out there, leaps for one, maybe ten feet from us. Clif is frozen--we all are--because Moulds is careering right toward us. He tumbles and rolls, holding the ball as if it were an egg, or a baby. When he stops, he's on the ground at our feet. He stands, shakes his head, and says "shit" in a matter-of-fact way. The baby next to us shrieks, Clif looks up at me with a huge grin, and number 83 lopes back to the field.

The scene at Baptist Sports Park has stayed in my head all night. What an odd, odd industry. The players' wives stroll in with their tiny babies. Players' girlfriends minutely adjust their white-blonde hair. Dozens of staffers run around like squirrels, bringing water, fetching balls, collecting towels. They divide into those who clearly used to play ball in younger days and those who clearly never did but wished they could have. And the coaches--head coach Jeff Fisher, offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz--watch the players, silent. Calculating.

So much wishing and hoping and worrying. It looks a lot like work, not a game. It looks like the least-fun place to be in the world. But when you hear the players talk about it, they all say the same thing: this is my dream. This is my chance. I just want to play ball.

Clif has had a fine time. I bend to pick up my purse--my knitting hasn't even come out of my bag--and my head spins. I am so hot that I think I need to sit down. Clif tells me that I would probably not be a very good NFL player.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:39 AM | Comments (55)

August 21, 2007

The Mighty Skanks

Dear Ann,

I live such an exciting life; you have no idea. Take a week ago Friday, for instance. I had a lot on my plate. Niece Kristin arriving, via 3 planes, Carrie due home from her annual Sleep Week (aka low-dose sleepaway camp for kids whose dads don't want them to go away to camp, or away to anywhere, ever). On top of this pre-existing agida inducement, look what the mailman brought me around 1 p.m.:

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It's the Dish Rag Tag Box! Tag: I'm it! My beloved team, Skanks With Hanks (which in the parlance of Ann and Cara, translates to Skanks With Skanks), is counting on ME to:

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1. Open box.

2. Bask in the Goodies for a few brief seconds. (Blue Chibi! I got a Blue Chibi!)

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3. Admire the lovely washcloth Jen made for me in the brief interval before niece swoops in on it.

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4. Knit a dishrag with the enclosed yarn.

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5. Post the box, containing fresh-knit dishrag, new goodies, and new yarn for the next Skank, by Priority Mail in as little time as is humanly possible.

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Now. I am a humble creature, but I believe I can crank out a dishrag on a world-class level in terms of speed and overall dishrag quality. (If not me, who? If not now, when?) But this was a tough day, full of distractions and interruptions. Plus it was a Friday. I knew that even if I made it to the post office by closing time, that box was not going to arrive in Maryland (its next stop) until Monday or Tuesday. Kind of a buzz killer. But I cast on, with very little fussing (for me) about the color scheme. I knit and knit, under the quizzical watch of Kristin and her boyfriend, who until then had not really seen the full force of Aunt Kay's Knitting Thing. ("You're knitting what? You're in a hurry why?")

Then I had to stop to welcome a very bedraggled girl off the bus from so far away (aka 20 miles away), de-cootify her belongings, and tend to supper.

Long story short, on Saturday morning I was at the Post Office by 8:30. Saturday morning. 8:30. ME. That's commitment.

I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from the strain of it all.

OK not really. But it was fun being a Competitive Knitter for a day. If you look at the standings, the Skanks are not doing too shabby. Having thought about this a lot, though, I think the Priority Mail (which should really be called "First Class Mail Only More Expensive") is kind of equalizing any differences in DTT (Dishrag Turnaround Time) stats. It might be more of a knitting race, and less of a Priority Mail lottery, if all the participants lived really close to each other and literally ran from village to village, trailing dishcloth cotton. (Subway series! Sign me up!) But then again, it's been a blast getting to know my fellow dishrag enthusiasts from across the country. Thanks, Emily, for organizing such a great party.

GO SKANKS!

(Please note the hilarious names of the competing teams in Emily's sidebar. Rags to Dishes is my favorite, I think.)

Love, Kay

P.S. The Southampton knitting party was a smashing good time. More later! Must limit my time hanging out in parking lots spongeing free WiFi.

Posted by Kay at 03:03 PM | Comments (27)

August 20, 2007

Tomatoes, Porter, Dolly, and Such

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Dear Kay,

Tidbits from the past few days . . .

Friday afternoon: World's greatest tomatoes. So great. Had to take a pitcher of 'em. Heirloom tomatoes from the Fresh Harvest Cooperative in Nashville. I've never had such a tomato. Absolutely perfect. Enough to make a girl weep.

Real late, Saturday night: I'm watching the teevee, and I come across Porter Wagoner in one of his most baroque outfits, sitting on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, looking solemn. Out comes Dolly Parton, in one of her classic all-white get-ups which she tends to save for finales. It's Porter's fiftieth anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, so Dolly starts into her showstopper, "I Will Always Love You," which she always sings better than Whitney Houston ever did. Now, I am TELLING YOU, amid this sea and I mean SEA OF RHINESTONES, Dolly's sincerity and Porter's long face just did me IN.

11:02 pm, Sunday night: I'm working on my tweedy squares, Hubbo is Up To Something in the basement, and I hear thunder. It's raining. Raining! It hasn't rained here since July, weeks and weeks of 100+ degree temperature. In Patrick O'Brian's seafaring novels, he writes about sailors long at sea who can smell land hundreds of miles away. That's the way it is with this rain: within moments of the rain starting, even without opening my windows, the scent of the rain creeps into the house. So green, and damp--I didn't realize how wet the rain smells, and how I missed it.

11:43 pm, Sunday night: Square #64 is done. I've made a big ol' blanket! Sort of!

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Let the seaming begin. I'm kind of looking forward to sewing this mess together. As I said before, I'm going to be clocking myself on this. (You know, there really needs to be a knitting reality show. If I can sit and happily watch people cook and sew clothes, why not knitting?)

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 03:20 PM | Comments (40)

August 16, 2007

What Goes On In Our Basement

Dear Kay,

Get a load of this: country financial twangster Merle Hazard, featured in yesterday's entry, has done gone hit the dang big time. That New York Times has discoverated him, honey! See? You can say you knew him back when.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere in Our Basement

While SOMEbody was recording country songs over in the superdank portion of our basement, I was patiently standing over in the slightly-less-dank portion, at the ping pong table, doing that thing I love to do which was not ping pong:

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Blocking. Blockingblockingblocking!

Your finishitis really is contagious. Once I finished making that silk shrug, and reveled in the doneness of the thing, I cast about for another unfinished-yet-once-compelling project which I could finish.

It didn't take long to dig out the bag of tweedy mitered squares I started last spring, which I had put aside when we had to put our heads down to work on that book project.

So great: the reunion with all that tweedy yarn was like CHRISTMAS, people.

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And to find 41 of 64 squares already completed, well hell, that was like seeing your husband dressed like a dang country singer in the New York Times.

I totally forgot what my plan for this blanket was, but I knew I'd drawn up a chart somewhere. Not my finest work, that chart.

But once I laid out my squares, I started to recall that I'd been going for a set of 16 big squares with inset squares of varied size.

I used your low-sew method of making miters, which you describe so elaborately not to say obsessively right here. (Strong work you did there--anybody who's contemplating this sort of project needs not only to clip 'n' save Kay's tutorial, you gotta LAMINATE the thing.)

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You make one square, then pick up stitches along the edge for number 2, then do the same for numbers 3 and 4. This eliminates a buttload of seaming. But it does mean that a totally carefree, random blanket can be a little trickier. And it locks in your squares, making last-minute color swaps impossible. This doesn't bother me in this blanket, because my pattern is defined.

While blocking, you discover stuff you had no idea was happening when you were knitting:

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Like, an 8" x 7" square instead of a 7" x 7" square. Euw. We're calling this one The Artistic Flourish.

I discovered that I really like a sort of blocking I haven't done very often: washing the squares, then pinning them down while totally wet. I'm more of a steamer when it comes to blocking. I'm here to tell you that this method really lets you adjust the squares with abandon. I know that it's not possible to block something into a totally different size, but making all these squares 7" x 7" will making sewing them together a lot easier. Plus, they're just so very SMOOTH now.

I have seven more squares to make, then the seaming begins. I am going to use a stopwatch to see how long this takes. People always worry about the extreme labor required in making up a blanket; by the time I'm done, we'll know exactly how much time that is. I have a suspicion that it's not as dreadful as we fear. It's like party dread, or dentist dread.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:05 PM | Comments (30)

August 15, 2007

A Star Is Born

Dear Kay,

This just in: I know that you share my love of YouTube, that repository of everything ever recorded on video. So I simply have to show you this fresh-baked YouTube which features HUBBO. MY OWN SPOUSE. It was only a matter of time before Hubbo the investment manager would record a country song in the style of Tammy Wynette about the hedge fund crisis.

Making the rounds of trading desks around the globe, here is the world knitting-blog premiere of un film de Jon Shayne:

Share it with the leveraged speculator in your life here.

Love,
Ann

UPDATE: Hubbo just called to deny VEHEMENTLY any connection with this Merle Hazard guy, says I need to have my eyes examined. Note also Merle's comment making a similar denial. Hmmm.

Posted by Ann at 09:31 AM | Comments (45)

August 14, 2007

Blue, Orange, Green, Green, Green, White, White, White, White

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Dear Ann,

I don't know if you heard about it, but NYC had some bona fide Biblical Weather last week. (A tornado. In Brooklyn. What next? Grasshoppers?) I just couldn't stand to post a mini-tute on how to make the Buncha Squares blanket without decent pictures of the thing. (You know how I love to run around in public with a big piece of knitting and try to take pictures of it all day long. Super fun!) Eventually, I gave up on the city and hauled the blanket back out to Southampton, where the weather and the Involuntary Models are cooperating. I may have taken too many pictures. I don't know. It took me a long time to knit this thing, and I think I'm entitled to take as many pictures as I want.

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(Fun fact: The Atlantic Ocean has a Bathing Capacity of 358. Who knew?)

First the disclaimer: This is not a Proper Pattern. Buncha Squares is just not that kind of blanket. A couple of the squares I used were experiments (using--ACK!-short rows), and I'm not including instructions for those because (a) I don't really remember what I did and (2) wonky squares do create additional sewing-up challenges. One down side to this approach is that my yarn quantity is only an estimate based on the weight of the finished blanket (a little over 2 pounds). The up side is huge if you like to play around with your knitting. You really can't screw this up. If a square comes out too big or too small, you can fix it easily in the sew-up phase. (To paraphrase a wise quilter, "If it's too big, unravel it; if it's too small, knit a few more garter ridges.")

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BUNCHA SQUARES: How To Knit An American Quilt

Finished measurements: 52" by 52" (each square is a little over 12" square)
Materials: Approximately 40 ounces (1000g) of worsted weight cotton yarn in cream or white, plus approximately 8 ounces (200g) of the other colors (described below)
Gauge: 5 stitches + 10 rows (5 ridges) = 4" (10cm)
Needle: US5 (3.75mm)

Here are the yarns I used. I didn't keep track of the exact quantities, but the yarns are listed in order of how much I used of each kind.

Cream/White Yarns:

Rowan Denim (ecru color) (I'm not going to wash it hot so I'm not worried about shrinkage)
Classic Elite Provence
Tahki Cotton Classic
Rowan Handknit Cotton

Colored Yarns:
Tahki Cotton Classic (oddments in a variety of shades of green, blue, orange and pink)
Katia Jamaica (green, blue and white colorway)
Noro Lily (cotton blend with a little silk, in a green & brown colorway)

INSTRUCTIONS

The blanket requires 16 log cabin blocks. I made 3 types of blocks, which I called Fat, Skinny and Medium. I made 5 Fat, 5 Skinny, and 6 Medium.

All blocks have 9 strips. The difference between the three types is in the proportional size of each patch or strip, especially at the center.

COLOR SEQUENCE

For all types of squares, you follow the same color sequence (except when you don't feel like it).

1. First Strip (the center square) is always in blue or a blue mix (think of a lake).
2. Second Strip is always orange or yellow (think of sunshine and beachballs).
3. Third Strip is always green (think of a forest by the lake).
4. Fourth and Fifth Strips are always dull or pale green.
6. Sixth, Seventh, Eighth & Ninth Strips are always cream or white.

In other words: Blue, Orange, Green, Green, Green, White, White, White and White. That's all you truly need to know. It matters not what style of log cabin block you make: traditional or Courthouse Steps. The proportions of the colors do not matter either. Knit them as you like, and at the end make them all roughly the same size so that you can sew them together.

OK, that's probably not teachy enough for some people. Here's a little more detail on my version.

THE THREE TYPES OF BLOCK

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Meet Fat Block.

How to Make Fat Block:

(The numbers correspond to the numbers on the photo, to show the order in which the patches were knitted.)

1. Cast on 18 stitches in blue yarn (here it's blue-green-brown Noro Lily).
Work in garter stitch until you have 18 ridges showing on the RS, then bind off on the RS. Cut yarn

2. On one side of the finished patch, using orange yarn (here it's pinky-orange Tahki Cotton Classic Tweed), pick up 18 stitches (picking up one stitch in the end of each garter ridge), and work garter stitch until you have 10 garter ridges showing on the RS, then bind off on the RS.

3. On the opposite side of the first patch, using green yarn, pick up 18 stitches (icking up one stitch in the end of each garter ridge), and work garter stitch until you have 10 garter ridges showing on the RS, then bind off on the RS. (Log Cabin aficionados will recognize that this is the 'Courthouse Steps' arrangement of log cabin strips.)

4. Now turn the piece so that the first patch is oriented as shown. Using green, pick up 38 stitches across the top of the piece (10 in the garter ridges of one side strip, 18 in the bound off edge, and 10 in the garter ridges of the other side strip), work 10 ridges of garter stitch, and bind off on the RS.

5. Now go to the opposite side of the block and repeat what you did for the 4th strip.

6. Using cream, pick up 38 stitches as shown and knit 9 garter ridges.

7. Using cream, go to opposite side and pick up 38 stitches again, work 9 garter ridges and bind off on the RS.

8. Using cream, pick up 56 stitches as shown, work 6 garter ridges and bind off on the RS.

9. Using cream, pick up 56 stitches as shown, work 12 garter ridges and bind off on the RS.

This square is now done. You will notice that in the last two strips, you divided 18 garter ridges unevenly between strips 8 and 9, knitting 6 garter ridges on strip 8 and 12 on strip 9. You could just as easily have knit 9 garter ridges on each strip, or 3 and 15, 4 and 14, etc. You can be symmetrical or assymetrical with any of the strips, as long as you end up with a log cabin block that is roughly 12 inches square.

For the other two types of block, I am not going to spell out the exact number of stitches and ridges for strips 4-9. The graphic design of the square is determined by the first 3 strips. After knitting the first 3 strips, use the diagram as a guide to color placement and proportion, and knit strips 4-9 until the block is roughly 12" square. Do not fear asymmetry! Asymmetry is your friend in this project!

SKINNY BLOCK

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Meet Skinny Block.

1. Using blue, cast on 10 stitches. Work 8 garter ridges and bind off on the RS.

2. Using orange, pick up 8 stitches in the ends of the garter ridges of the first strip. Work 4 garter ridges and bind off on the RS.

3. Using green, go to the opposite side of the piece and pick up 8 stitches in the ends of the garter ridges of the first strip. Work 20 garter ridges and bind off on the RS.

4-9. Using the diagram as a guide to proportion and color placement, continue adding strips until the block measures approximately 12" square.

MEDIUM BLOCK
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Meet Medium Block.

1. Using blue, cast on 12 stitches, work 12 garter ridges, and bind off on the RS.

2. Using orange, pick up 12 stitches in the ends of the garter ridges of the first strip, work 7 garter ridges, and bind off on the RS.

3. Using green (in this case, Katia Jamaica blue/green), pick up 12 stitches in the ends of the garter ridges of the first strip, work 17 garter ridges, and bind off on the RS.

4-9. Using the diagram as a guide to proportion and color placement, continue adding strips until the block measures approximately 12" square.

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THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND AS YOU KNIT YOUR 16 BLOCKS

None of the numbers are cast in stone. Some of my fat squares were fatter, and some of my skinny squares were skinnier, because I cast on more or fewer stitches.

The color placement is not cast in stone. If you look at my blanket, you will see places where I broke the color rules to suit my fancy. A bit of variation makes the blanket more fun to knit, and also makes it more fun to look at (in my opinion).

After you have knit a square or two, you may have figured out how many stitches/ridges it takes for you to knit a 12" square. If you know this, and adhere to it, you will have an easier time sewing your squares together because they will not vary much in size.

Another way of adding visual interest to the blanket is to sometimes pick up stitches for a new strip on the wrong side of the old strip. I did this quite to add another quilt-like touch. The right side and wrong side of each square are only finally determined by which side you decide to sew the ends into.

FINISHING THE BLANKET

Arrange the squares in 4 by 4 formation, to suit your eye. I placed fat, skinny and medium squares randomly, but I alternated the vertical and horizontal orientation of the centers. (Look at the photos to see what I mean.) If your squares vary in size, you can compensate for this by arranging them so that each strip of 4 squares will come out as near to even with the others as possible.

Join the squares into 4 strips of 4 squares each. I used whip stitch, placing the right sides of the squares together and whip stitching on the wrong side. To ensure that the blanket would lie flat, I took care to maintain a 1-to-1 correspondence between stitches and ridges on either side of the seam, without any stretching or bunching of the knitted fabric. I did this even when it meant that the squares didn't line up exactly opposite each other, or when it resulted in a strip being longer or shorter than the other strips.

Lay out the 4 strips. If there are any strips that are shorter than the rest, use cream yarn to pick up stitches and add the necessary number of garter ridges to equalize the strips' length.

Once the lengths are equalized, join the strips together using whip stitch on the wrong side, just as you joined the squares to form the strips.

Weave in all ends.

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EDGING THE BLANKET

I used Katia Jamaica to make an applied i-cord edging as described in this post.

So, my friends, my fellow people of the log cabin, have fun with this. Tell me if anything is not doing right for you, but remember that it's sposed to be a little crazy. I would really love to see photos of what you come up with.

Love, Kay

P.S. I would like to thank my Involuntary Models, Carrie and Kristin.

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Kristin: Does she make you do this a lot?
Carrie: More than you would think.
(All dialogue guaranteed overheard. Honest!)

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Last picture, I promise.


Posted by Kay at 12:09 AM | Comments (77)

August 13, 2007

Mason-Dixon Mailbag

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Dear Kay,

Just had to share this letter from reader Sue Smith, which illustrates the mighty power of the ballband dishcloth--that most humble of patterns, the pattern that has been around for ages, putting sponges out of business. I know a ballband dishcloth has extraordinary absorptive powers, but I didn't know it could do this:

Hi Ann,

I just had to tell you what just happened to me thanks to ballband washcloths.

I live in NJ, & the only place I can find the Peaches & Creme yarn is in Wal-mart, so whenever I see one I stop to find more colors. That is the only reason I was in that particular Wal-mart in Rockaway, NJ today. On our way out of the parking lot I noticed a van all the way in the back, with the doors open & a dog on a leash sitting outside the van. With my second look, because I love animals, I saw a sign on the van's window saying "family stranded, no money, need help". I told my husband to turn the car around, got out, & asked what happened. That poor family was driving back from vacation on the way home which is Florida, & their old van broke down. It took all their money to fix it & they had none for gas & tolls to get home. I gave them $20, but could not just leave. We went back into the store, bought 2 cases of water & boxes of food & of course, dog food, plus gave them $60. They were so thankful because there were also 3 kids with them, that the husband hugged me & cried. We went to drive off again, & I made my husband turn around again, I couldn't get them halfway home, I had to give them an even $200, which should pay for gas back to Florida.

We have been very blessed in our lives & it gave me such a good feeling to help these people who aren't as blessed as we are. I just had to write you because if it wasn't for those dishcloths, I wouldn't have been there to help these people.

Sue

Of course, I'm joking about the ballband dishcloth's awesome power. But I'm not joking when I say that Sue's willingness to help, snipsnap just like that, is so inspiring. Such a great story--thanks, Sue, for telling us about your experience.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:42 AM | Comments (39)

As the Ryan Turns

Dear Kay,

Just saw Ryan on the CBS Morning Show. He won! Ryan took the cake! HE WON, HONEY! He's going to be on As the World Turns for 13 weeks! It's enough to make me watch As the World Turns, which is really saying something, when I think of the years I spent watching All My Children.

Of course he won! Go knitters! Way to multiply-click! Way to stuff the ballot box!

And Ryan . . . Congratulations, but remember that payback is hell . . . Let's just say that you'll be hearing from us about the handknit modeling. You think we're a one-blanket operation around here . . . there's more where that came from.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:36 AM | Comments (25)

August 11, 2007

Tidbits and Knicknacks

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Dear Kay,

I have voted as much as I possibly can for Ryan. Thanks to everyone for helping out this young actor. Voting ends Saturday night at midnight: here's where you can see Ryan in action, and where you can vote up to five times. How often do you get to vote five times??? For a nice guy???

And one small thing: I'm sorry to have to say it, but I'd like to encourage everyone to keep it cordial on our comments. You're entitled to your opinion, but if we think you're simply being mean, well, go put it on your own blog. Or maybe think about why you'd leave a snarky comment on anybody's blog. I really don't have any patience for intolerant comments. Hey! I guess I'm intolerant of intolerance. Hunh. Will go ponder that one.

A quick reminder for middle Tennesseans: knitting at the downtown Nashville public library is coming up on Monday, August 13 (as in SOON!), noon to 2 pm. Directions right here. I've been away for two whole months, so I'm looking forward to seeing everybody again.

And Kay's Southampton (NY) Library tea party is ON for Wednesday afternoon, August 15. You can get the details here (scroll down).

Love,
Ann

PS That's the Aquinnah Lighthouse in Martha's Vineyard. You thought I was through with the vacation pix? Shyeah.

Posted by Ann at 12:10 PM | Comments (22)

August 08, 2007

Vote for Pedro Ryan

Dear Ann,

Maybe you're wondering about that snippet over there asking people to vote for Ryan.

Who is this Ryan?

Why do we care if he wins an acting job on As The World Turns?

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This is Ryan.

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Ryan is a Handsome Devil.

But Ryan is So. Much. More.

You see,

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Ryan loves handknits.

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Ryan really loves handknits.

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(Maybe a little too much.)

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Hey, who's this?

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This is Abigail. Abigail loves handknits, too, because Abigail is Norma's Abigail.

But let's get back to Ryan, and why we should vote for Ryan.

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Knitters, ACTIVATE. Form of: VOTING ON COMPUTERS. The deadline is Saturday night. You can vote 5 times from a single computer. Let's put a handknit-lovin' handsome dawg on TV! Vote for Ryan!


Love, Kay

P.S. Ryan, when you're famous, you still have to model knitting for me.

Posted by Kay at 02:37 PM | Comments (58)

August 07, 2007

Home Home Home FREEEEEEEEEEE!

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Dear Kay,

I'm finally home, after a week in Martha's Vineyard which I can only recommend TOTALLY. What a lovely, unreal place. So watery--everywhere you look, there's some pond or ocean or bay or sound. We had to wade across a stream to get to the beach. Crazy. And the ferries--you can't even get to Chappaquiddick without getting on a boat, and Chappaquiddick is, like, forty yards from Martha's Vineyard. Why build a bridge when you can have a three-car ferry?

At one point I went totally stupid and sat in a chair staring out at these two Teletubby rabbits who wandered into the yard. It was all so supermagical that I concluded that the rabbits had to be fake--the ocean, the warm scent, all of it. Eet ees ridiculous, that place.

I have so much in my head that it's going to take a while to dump it all out of my mental tote bag.

Atlas Shrugged

I have to confess, my pre-trip knitting planning was shockingly bad. I was so full of knitting--I had eaten so very much knitting at the Country Kitchen Knitting Buffet this summer--that I honestly had a moment when I thought I'd go cold turkey on knitting for a week, just one week.

Shyeah, right. The night before we left, I lurched around the house in a panic, realizing that there was no way I could survive plane trips AND a week in a rental house without a little something to tide me over. So I grabbed the first bag that looked likely, which contained my long-neglected Silk Shrug.

Remember: this was the project that launched the Slogalong last spring, when I was in full-out procrastination mode. (More on the Slogalong in a minute.)

It turned out to be the perfect vacay knitting: I was 3/4 finished with the big part, and after such a spell away from this project, I was all happy again to be working with such lush yarn. Blue Sky Organic Alpaca Silk. Not a summery yarn, but I really did love wallowing about in it. As long as the breeze was blowing.

Once I finished, it was time to add the 6" k5, p5 ribbed edging. The tube of the shrug was so curly that I really didn't want to proceed without at least a LITTLE blocking. In a rental house, you never know what you'll find (dog ashes, dog blue ribbons, general dogginess), so it was six closets before I found an iron.

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Remember acetate, acrylics, and sheer acetates? This thing should be in the Smithsonian.

After digging up some beach towels, I commenced to steaming, doubtful that I was going to achieve the boardlike smoothness that I love.

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Oh, it was boardlike all right. Smooth as a pancake; the Alpaca Silk loved being steamed by a 1978-vintage iron, lemme tell you.

This project has defied photography all the way, but here's the finished shrug. It looks like a sweater for the Headless Horseman:

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And here I am wearing it. (Glad you can't see the contortion I achieved in trying to take this picture.)
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Love it, loved making it, will love wearing it someday when it's not 101 degrees around here.

Slogalong Update

Maybe you've forgotten about the Slogalong, but I haven't--and neither have the stalwart sloggers who have been FINISHING PROJECTS RIGHT AND LEFT! WAY TO GO, SLOGGERS! HIGH FIVE!

The curious thing is that once people finish one slog, they immediately pick up another UFO and start slogging again. Having just finished my Silk Shrug Slog, I now totally get it. It's addicting, this slogging. I'll show you my new slog next time; it's an oldie but a goodie.

I think finishitis and slogitis are related.

Love,
Ann


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PS Before we left for the watery island place, my final act in Monteagle was a calligraphy class. I just love doodling, always have, so when it was announced that a calligrapher was coming to teach people how to write with pen and ink, I threw down my needles. Roundhand, honey! Copperplate! None of that goofy Celtic Italic Olde English stuff; this class was going to teach me how to write like Laura Ingalls Freaking Wilder. In two days, I learned a lot, but I mostly learned that it'll be a while before I write like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Always with the dipping, that inkpen. Easy to go all wobbly. Teeny pointy nib, a jar of black ink none blacker--so addicting. Confirms (once again) that I was born in the wrong century.

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Posted by Ann at 07:34 PM | Comments (36)

August 06, 2007

Whatta Buncha I-Cord

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Dear Ann,

The Log Cabin faithful have been writing in for the recipe for the Buncha Squares Blanket, which warms my heart. But today is another rainy Monday, and I could not live with myself if I posted the how-to without gorgeous technicolor fantasy photos (I do not rule out soft focus) demonstrating that This Blanket Will Change Your Life. So the recipe will await better weather. Today, I will speak of I-Cord.

You know how I like to fuss over the border of a blanket. I think this is my way of deferring the last goodbye to a project that has sat around my house in so very many piles for so very many months. Sometimes I do a skinny little border.

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(Recipe: With right side facing, pick up along each edge, knit a row, purl a row, and bind off in purl on the wrong side. Join the corners by sewing a couple of little tacking stitches. It kind of curls backwards, so it looks like i-cord. It's too curly on this example, but see how nice it looks on these afghans for Afghans?)

I also like to do Wide Boy borders. (Note to Belinda and everyone in the UK: I finally heard the term "wide boy" used on EastEnders last Saturday! SO excited!)

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This is where I pick up on an edge, knit a really big chunk of garter stitch, repeat on the other 3 edges, leaving square gaps in the corners, which I fill in with picked-up miters. I LOVE THIS BORDER. But it is a whole separate Knitting Event. It takes forEVER. It is strictly for heirlooms and hopelessly obsessed knitters with no life.

Another option is what I call 'picture frame' borders. Similar to the Wide Boy, you pick up on an edge and knit a desired width of garter stitch, but on every right side row, you increase one stitch at the beginning and end of the row. When you have done this on all 4 edges, you will have created a border that looks like a picture frame with nicely mitered corners. All you need to do is sew the seams to join the miters.

[Pause to worry for a moment: Do I think too much about borders on blankets?]

[Nah.]

I chewed on all of these choices for Buncha Squares. Buncha Squares is a knitted version (loosely interpreted) of Denyse Schmidt's fabric quilt design called What A Bunch of Squares. (Go here to see what I'm talking about. You might be there a while.) When I am knitting a blanket based on a quilt, it is kind of a game to echo quilt details in knitting--which is impossible (OF COURSE I KNOW THAT), but fun to think about. The log cabin method of construction looks like pieced fabric log cabins, and to my mind it also works in a similar way. For example, as with fabric log cabins, you start in the center and work outward, and you can add on additional strips to "square up" a block that is too small.

I was trying to think of a border that would echo Denyse Schmidt's choice of a narrow bias binding on Whatta Buncha Squares. I thought, what the heck, why do cheesy fake i-cord? Why not go all the way, just go ahead and i-cord around a 52-inch by 52-inch blanket (i.e., FOUR 52-inch edges)? It's just knitting. I love knitting!

Then I had to think about the yarn. Denyse had used a beautiful lagoon blue fabric. I dug around and came up with a precious discontinued turquoisey teal skein of Rowan Handknit Cotton. Having just the one skein of this irreplaceable artifact, I hesitated. I remembered that I am quite taken with pieced bindings on fabric quilts. Pieced bindings tell you that one of two things has occurred. Either the quilter didn't have enough matching fabric for a skinny binding, or she just couldn't resist the urge to cut fabric and piece it together even if it made no sense to do so. I dug around some more and found a skein of Katia Jamaica, a lightweight cotton that self stripes, in perfect lakey colors. And so began the 5- or 6-hour process of knitting an applied 4-stitch i-cord all the way around the blanket.

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I knit it at the beach.

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Where inspiration for more blankets abounds.

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(I love how people with mortgages and 9-to-5 jobs turn into nomads when they get to the beach. They just plop down and dig in for the day, with the bare necessities of shade and ground cover provided by rusty umbrellas and shredded sheets and towels, and nothing matches or looks Classy.)


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And I kept knitting it way past all the good late-night TV. (Even "Frasier" was over, and I was still i-cording.)

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It really does resemble bias binding, doesn't it?

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Look at that corner. Sa-mooth.

Because someone will ask, and I love to Instruct, here is how I did my i-cord, using straight, single point needles. You could also follow the Keyboard Biologist's excellent tutorial on the double-point needle method. Both ways take about the same amount of time and involve the same amount of fiddling, so it's a question of whether you prefer sliding your stitches or slipping them. I'm a slipper, but I've been known to slide. You may be a slider. We can live in peace and harmony.

Optional preparation: First I went all the way around the edge in off-white yarn, doing a cro-Kay edging. (Pick up 2 stitches, *bind off 1 stitch, pick up 1 stitch, repeat from * all the way around.) My thinking was that the i-cord would be more even and pretty if it was applied to this nice chain of bound-off stitches. I don't think it was necessary, but it worked great, and kept me occupied for a good 45 minutes.

1. Cast on 4 stitches onto the right needle.

2. Choose a stitch on the edge. Stick left needle into this stitch to pick it up. (I didn't pull a new loop through this stitch, but I treated it like a stitch. It has that right.)

3. Transfer the 4 stitches from the right needle to the left needle. (Now you have 5 stitches on the left needle.)

4. Knit 3, knit the last 2 stitches together. (Now you have 4 stitches on the right needle.) (And yes, to do this, you have to pull the working yarn all the way from the other end of the row. Just do it. It works.)

5. Pick up the next stitch with your left needle.

Repeat steps 3-5 until all available episodes of "Frasier" are over and you have worked back around to where you started. Bind off very neatly. Go to bed. (Seriously! Go to bed!)

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:09 PM | Comments (38)

August 03, 2007

I See Your True Colors (That's Why I Love You)

To All You Lovely Raffle People,

Thank you so much for your generous conversions of greenback dollas (and loonies) into pounds sterling for Oliver's Fund. A total of 75 tickets were sold (raising a handsome sum--about 375 U.S. bucks) and logged on my trusty yellow legal pad in a way that can only be described as "methodical". I programmed the Random Integer Generator to randomly arrange the integers 1 through 75, and the one that came out on top was 43, which belongs to none other than Stacie M. (What? No blog?) Stacie will be getting an email from me, followed by a prize package that will come in really handy if she is in high school and doesn't have anything to wear for Eighties Day. (Velcro shoulder pads not included.) Girls just want to have fun!

I would also like to thank all the sneaky people who made a contribution and didn't email me for a raffle ticket. (Oh yeah. You think I'm not wise to ya?) Y'all are fabulous, you know. When the hat is passed for a good cause (or the bar tab), you can always count on the knitters.

Happy Weekend Everybody!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:42 PM | Comments (9)

August 02, 2007

Canary in a Coal Mine

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Dear Ann,

Why should you get all the fun with the summer contests and the YouTube strolling? I'm getting me some of that! I'm doing a raffle!

Last night hubby and I went to see The Police at Madison Square Garden. (Moment of Silence for the fact that the 1980s are no more.) Sting is fitter than a man has any right to be, Stewart Copeland is still the cutest bespectacled guy on two feet, and Andy Summers' guitar chops are smokin' hot, plus he gets extra credit for looking dignified while remaining rock-star raffish They did not play Canary in a Coal Mine, a nervous bit of fluff that sends me rocketing back to 1982, doing aerobics to a boom box in the dorm with my law school flatmates Bobby and Elaine, while our other flatmate Ivan locked himself in his room until the coast was clear. (Twenty-five years later, Ivan still runs like hell from Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightgowns and the smell of Noxema skin cream.)

(Here's a YouTube of last night's show.)

Life being full of surprises, last night, for the first time in my life, I had a backstage pass. No kidding. GET! OUT! For all the years that I have been a New York Liberty fan, I have longed to go down the tunnel where the team runs after each game. What is back there? Who is back there? And are there snacks? So, although I have a nearly fatal shyness in the presence of celebrity (unless we're on the street and we're both pretending that I don't know the celebrity is a celebrity, and we say something like, 'Hot enough for ya?'), I went backstage and shook Sting's hand and deployed my rapier-sharp wit to say, "Glad to meet you. Great show." Dorothy Parker had nothing on me.

As I was going out, there was Bette Midler coming in to pay her respects. Bette Midler made me think of mermaids dancing in wheelchairs. Wheelchairs made me think of Oliver's Fund, which made me think of this raffle idea. Oliver needs a new manual wheelchair. (A kid with CP needs an unbelievable amount of stuff, and while we thank God this stuff exists, it's awfully spendy.)

So here's the fabulous prize package behind Door #1 (the only door):

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1. A Police world tour t-shirt, size XL, with the Union Jack on the front and all the cities and dates on the back. (The printing is not reversed as in this Photobooth image.)
2. A backstage pass for August 1, 2007.
3. A skein of ArtYarns Ultramerino, because I know who I'm dealing with.
4. The dishrag I finished on the subway to Madison Square Garden, which the winner is free to re-gift. (No judgments.)

To get a virtual raffle "ticket", go on over to Emma's blog, click on the link for Oliver's Fund in the right sidebar, and make a donation of $5. IMPORTANT: Send me an email (bigbonegalAThotmailDOTcom) telling me you have done this. (If you give more than 5 bucks, and want to tell me how much, you'll get one chance for every $5.) Tomorrow, Friday, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (my time), the winner will be selected using the random number generator of my choice, and announced shortly thereafter.

EDITED TO ADD: I just realized that the Oliver's Fund PayPal account is set up to accept British pounds only, at a conversion rate (currently) of .47 pounds to the U.S dollar. So the raffle ticket costs 2.5 British pounds. Sorry about the confusion, and thanks to everyone who has been giving 5 pounds!

And remember, we are doing this just for fun and to raise a little dough for Oliver's Fund, which is not an offical charity but just friends helping friends. By making a contribution, you're saying that you understand that and agree to make your contribution anyway. (As you know, I am haunted by my legal training. After almost 6 years law-free, I still love the smell of Notices of Deposition in the morning.)


You are going to have to trust me that it's even better with the wheelchairs.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:26 AM | Comments (36)
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