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

September 28, 2007

The Goat Ate My Homework

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Dear Ann,

I think the two of us are in grave danger of flunking out of Miss Parkes' Charm (n' Yarn) School. For three weeks, in anticipation of the publication of her awesome book, Miss Clara has been sweetly sending us wee skeins of yarn and clever clues, and we've been cutting class. We haven't even managed to sharpen our Number 2 pencils.

My problem was that for the first two weeks, I couldn't narrow it down any further than "beast-based". Some fuzzy, some hazy, all with a distinct quality of beastiness. But then today, Week 3, I went to the top of the class. I instantly recognized not only the yarns, but on one I even got the SHADE NAME. You can cry all you want, but I'm getting that scholarship to Bast Fiber Community College. Here's my test paper.

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Week 3 is bringing up my average. I hope Week 4 has dishcloth cotton on it. Not many people can tell a Sugar n' Cream from a Peaches & Creme, but I know my ampersand from my 'n. I know my Fiesta Ombre from my Mexicali Ombre, you betcha. Arriba! Todo los ombres, andale! Cootchie cootchie! (Pause for a Charo video.) (Sorry.)

Thanks Clara, and I can't wait for Rhinebeck, when we'll be there cheering for the launch of your brand-new book (and signing copies of our sweet old book, bless its heart).

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I'm thinking, Christmas ornaments? Earrings?

Happy weekend all!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:19 PM | Comments (25)

September 20, 2007

Recipe for a Slightly Clerical Scarf

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Dear Ann,

People are wanting the recipe for the stashhappy bias scarf I made for the Red Scarf Project. Once you know how to do something, like making biscuits or knitting on the bias, you forget that there was a time that you didn't know how. Emma first taught me this venerable technique as a way of knitting squares to a specific measurement even if one is gauge-impaired. ( I made the main section 36 stitches wide for kabbalistic good wishes (36 being a multiple of 18, the number that sounds the same as "life" in Hebrew), but you can make it as wide or as narrow as you like.)

Ingredients

A 1 ball Classic Elite Waterlily in Bramble
B 1 ball Knit Picks Swish Superwash in Clematis Heather
C 1 ball Knit Picks Alpaca Silk in Hollyberry
D 1 ball Lang Soft Shetland in 62 (soft grey with a pinkish haze)

Gear

US 5 (3.75mm) needles

Gauge: Well-mannered and discreet

Finished measurements: 4 1/2" (11cm) x 82" (208cm)

Instructions

Increase Section

Using A, make a slip knot and place it on the left needle. Knit into the front and back of the stitch (KFB). On the next row (WS), knit 2. Continue increasing on one edge by repeating the following 2 rows until you have 36 stitches (or to the desired width). (Tip: You can yourself to RS and WS by placing a safety pin on the RS, but after a few increases, the diagonal line of increases will be on the right edge when you are working the RS, and on the left edge when you are working the WS.)

RS rows: KFB, knit to the end of the row.
WS rows: Knit.

End with a WS row.

Main Section

Repeat the following 2 rows until the scarf is the desired length and/or you have used up all the yarn.

RS rows: SSK, knit to the last stitch, KFB.
WS rows: Knit.

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Note on stripes: To create stripes between the blocks of color, join in the next ball of yarn when the first ball still has a few garter ridges left to knit, and begin alternating 2-row stripes until the first color is exhausted. Do the same with each color (B,C, and D) in succession.

Decrease Section

When you are about 2/3 through the last ball of yarn, work the decrease section, starting with a RS row and repeating the following 2 rows until you have only one stitch left.

RS rows: SSK, knit to the end of the row.
WS rows: Knit.

When only 1 stitch remains, fasten it off. Weave in the ends, put it on, and give someone a blessing.

Dominus vobiscum!

Love,
Kay

P.S. The mix of media for my mystery mixed media project does not include bleach. Just saying. Also it's not pillercases. Think bigger!

Posted by Kay at 04:36 PM | Comments (35)

What's On the Chair

Dear Ann,

I know, I'm sposed to be finishing up my edits to a particularly picante and pecadillo-prone part of the manuscript. That's why I'm having so much success doing other stuff I would otherwise procrastinate to Kingdom Come.

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My Red Scarf 2007 is done. Once again my Red Scarf Project entry has taken an unexpectedly ecclesiastical turn, but I do think it's truly unisex. Four balls of DK wools that were bouncing around my stash. (Well, OK, one only bounced for a half hour or so after I bought it; that last gray heather is Lang Soft Shetland, an exceedingly well-named yarn. Gawgeous.)

And I've been CONSUMED (when not working my fingers to the bone for Literature) with a new project.

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I will not divulge the details at this time, but I will terrify you by telling you that this is a mixed media item. Oh yeah. Could be scary. Stay with me, I've got a good feeling about this one.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:58 AM | Comments (28)

September 19, 2007

Knit Like a Pirate Day

Dear Ann,

Given all the High Seas dramas you listen to on ye olde iPod, I'm sure you know that today (and every September 19) is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Avast, me lovely chumbuckets! (How's that? No? Will keep trying.) I've got something Very Special to mark the occasion. Ahoy, take a gander from the crow's nest:

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("You have exactly 5 seconds to get me off this rock, and by the way, the hat smells funny.")

This, me hearties, is the Pirate King Jacket. It was designed by the fashion gurus I most admire (now that Coco and Gianni are gone), Jane and Patrick Gottelier. Would you believe--batten down the hatches and do whatever it is that they do with the foc'sle!--they have given us this pattern so that we can give it away for free? I barely had to whimper! They just gave it to us!

In other news from the The Gotteliers ROCK! Fan Club (Kay Gardiner, Founder and Sycophant-in-Chief), it's only a few weeks until their book, Indigo Knits: The Quintessential Guide to Denim Yarn from the Founders of Artwork is released. The Pirate King Jacket is not in the book, but there are plenty of pirate items for grownups and kids. People of all ages enjoy dressing like pirates. Pirates had it going on, stylewise. Dental-wise, not so much.

Here is the PDF of the pattern instructions.

Here is the PDF of the chart for the AWESOME DECORATIVE COLLAR SHAPING. (The details do not show on screen, but will appear when you print it out.)

Arrrrrrrrrr, y'all! Enjoy the patterrrrrrrrrrrrrn! Last one to post theirs on Rrrrrravelrrrrrrrry is a scurvy dog!

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 08:53 AM | Comments (23)

September 14, 2007

Envious? Me?

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Dear Kay,

I am writing today mostly to brag about my new friend Mareike.

I met Mareike two weeks ago, when Hubbo and I were invited to a back-to-school party hosted by a Vanderbilt professor and his wife whom I'd never met. It was the first time in ages that I had attended a party that involved a keg. How thrilling! How communal! We are all going to drink this thing together! There were dozens of young graduate students speaking foreign languages. People from the Iberian peninsula. People in the back yard playing guitars. For a brief moment, I pretended that I too was an exotic academic, not a suburban knitter with a stale old B.A. in English.

The rumor spread to me that this professor's wife was a knitter, and that she had published patterns. I forsook the keg in order to find her. "She's in an orange dress," I was told, which was helpful considering that there had to be a hundred people in this bungalow. Sure enough, there was Mareike (I kept chanting her name so that I wouldn't blow it), looking cool in her orange dress. We talked knitting for a minute, but we resolved to continue our conversation when there was less cultural anthropology going on around us.

The next night, Hubbo and I went to see The Doyle and Debbie Show with Mareike and her brilliant hubby Ted and other assorted reprobates. I realized, as we were eating blue cheese polenta fries after the show, that I knew that Mareike knits, but I didn't know anything else about her. I realized that I'd forgotten, as I often do, that anybody who knits could actually HAVE anything else going on in her life. It was at about that moment that she started speaking in Mayan.

I discovered that she's working on a dissertation about modern Mayan culture. While cranking out patterns for Knitty and Interweave on the side. And throwing huge parties at her house. And wearing the sort of dress that, the very next day, the New York Times would remind us is the "season's dominant shade on Fifth Avenue."

If Mareike weren't so uncommonly great, I would despise her brainy/knitty/stylish ways.

If you've seen the new Knitty, then you have likely seen her pattern, Henry. It's the handsome herringbone scarf. There are so many things I admire about this pattern. It is knit longways, which to me is much faster than having to turn your work all the time. It uses a slip stitch herringbone pattern that looks like it's woven. The long edges require cleverness to work, and the resulting edges are exactly what that scarf needs. And it passes that killer test: will a man actually wear it? Her field tests indicate that yes, he will.

I'll get over this Mareike thing, at some point. Someday . . .

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:57 PM | Comments (29)

September 12, 2007

Takin' Time to Make Time

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Dear Kay,

I am having a Dusty Springfield kind of morning. "Son of a Preacher Man"--come ON, now. What more could you ever, ever want in a song? That video of her makes me CRY, it's so great.

Also weeping with joy at the election of Nashville's new mayor, Karl Dean. This makes three mayors in a row who didn't grow up here. Speaking as somebody who did grow up here, I can tell you that the city seems to do best when there's a person from Massachusetts running the place. (Ask me sometime about the days when Bill Boner--real name--was the mayor. It was like the city was coming aPART.)

How's that manuscript-reviewing coming? I personally have decided to drape knitting over the thing in hopes that it will be like a magic trick where I lift up the knitting to discover that POOF everything is all tidy. I also am certain a shiny new pony is going to fall out of the sky at any moment, too.

I'm finishing up a long-delayed Perfect Sweater, the fourth of these that I've made. I began it last winter, when David's incredible tennis coach Lise complained about her trouble finding sweaters long enough for her Wimbledony arms. I explained to her how GREAT knitting is--that you can make sleeves any dang length you want can ya believe it?--and she got sort of tearful upon considering this. So I sent her the link to the Cascade 220 web site, and she picked this deluxe orange heather (shade 2425).

(One bit of Ravelry fun is to poke through their yarn area. (Disguised as you, of course. I expect never to get to join the thing at the rate I'm going.) Cascade 220 is currently the most popular yarn in use (2,264 projects started), well ahead of second-place Koigu (1,764 projects). Fawhscinating!

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I have never made a sleeve this long. If I had arms this long, I could go to Wimbledon too. On my shiny new pony, with my perfectly edited knitting book manuscript.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:11 AM | Comments (39)

September 11, 2007

Calling All Do Gooders

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Dear Ann,

Today's anniversary of 9/11/2001 is, for me, different from the others. I'm not feeling quite so somber, so overwhelmed as in years past. I'm glad it's raining here.

It's as good a day as any to issue a couple of bulletins about Exciting Charity Knitting Opportunities That You Won't Want To Pass Up.

Red Scarf Season Is Early This Year

If you've been living under a rock that has no broadband, you might not know that the beloved Red Scarf Project is starting--and ending--much earlier this year. Deadline is NEXT MONTH! This is rocking my world because in my world, January is a much scarf-knittier month than September. But I really love the idea of knitters showing tangible love to college kids who have aged out of foster care. It's such a good thing, such a sweet gesture of human kindness.

So I said, oh all right, Norma, and cast on a nice unisexy garter stitch scarf (pictured above). I am knitting it on the bias (to give the project that essential something to scream about when I mess it up). I started with a sample ball of Classic Elite Waterlily, in Bramble. Whatta yarn! I love the way the color mottles. Almost imperceptibly, yet it mottles. Plus it's all squishy and springy and beautifully spun and--oh. I guess you wool knitters are used to those qualities in a yarn. For me it's a novelty, the springiness especially. When I was close to running out of the Waterlily, I started striping it with a skein of Knit Picks Swish Superwash in Clematis Heather. Swish is 100% merino wool. (Hello--have you heard about this "merino wool" stuff? It's awesome! So soft! So perfect in the department of stitch definition. I have it on good authority that the name is derived from a breed of sheep known as "Merino".)

I think this concept of "wool" could really catch on with the knitters. Although I doubt they'll ever show much interest in the specific sheep breeds. That would be bizarre.

For all of the details on the Red Scarf Project, hop on over to Norma's fab site. She will tell you everything you need to know.

Afghans for Afghans

Afghans for Afghans, dear to our hearts, is still chugging along with its wonderful, challenging work delivering handmade woollen clothing to children and adults in need in Afghanistan. I love this organization. It is so small, yet so mindful of its mission and so dedicated to giving people what is actually needed. What is needed right now is handknit wool clothing for children aged 7 to 14. Go here to read about A4A's fall campaign to assist specific schools and institutions serving kids in need.

Also, if you happen to be looking for a new destination for knits that you made for the Dulaan project, think of afghans for Afghans. I don't think they thought they'd still be in business in 2007, but they are still needed, so they are still urging on knitters and shipping handknits.

This just in: Commenter Allison reports that there is a Ravelry raffle going on to benefit Afghans for Afghans:

Wait, there's more! Those on Ravelry can join Fans of Afghans
for Afghans group where we have a raffle for this campaign. Or
if you're on the Ravelry waiting list, just enclose a slip of
paper saying "Ravelry" with your item and the good folks who
sort things will let me know. Deadline for Canada is 10/1; 10/12
for the US.

Now I have to go back to cooking up a little tutorial on something near to my heart, and to literally cooking up two epic meals for Rosh Hashana, which starts tomorrow night. Wish me luck as I try to locate the tablecloths. It's been a while since I hosted an epic meal. The Mother of All Briskets is chilling in the fridge.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:20 PM | Comments (22)

September 10, 2007

All You Gotta Do Is Act Naturally

Dear Kay,

Hold onto yer hat, hon--our favorite country crooner Merle Hazard has done gone and ended up in the USA Today:

See?

You can say you knew him back when . . . all those years days ago.

You know, I ran into Merle at Robert's Western World the other night, and he's just as humble and kind as he's always been. He autographed a copy of the Wall Street Journal for Hubbo, and he says he's back in the studio with the boys. "It's powerful stuff, what we're working on now," he told me.

Love,
Ann

PS Knitting at the downtown Nashville Public Library is TODAY, y'all! I completely forgot to remind everybody. Noon to 2 pm. Directions here. And for heaven's sake: it's yarn swap day. Bring some yarn you're willing to swap, and let's swap it.

Posted by Ann at 07:43 AM | Comments (20)

September 07, 2007

Quilting Japanese

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Dear Ann,

Quilting is not something that ought to be undertaken when one has eleven people sleeping in one's house for the Labor Day weekend. (So of course I tried it.) Carrie is really hocking me to finish up the quilt for which we have been collecting fabric in recent months, loosely based on

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...this picture in this Japanese patchwork book. I've done the 20 inner squares, and am halfway through framing them in dark and light fabrics.

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I say "loosely based" because loosely is the way I base; I am incapable of simply following a pattern, especially if it's in Japanese. Also, I love the picture, but it would take me years to acquire a comparable stash of the exquisitely quirky fabrics used to make this quilt. I do not favor such strong primary reds and blues, so I substituted Carrie's favorites: greens, blues, and lavenders, with lashings of Lots of Other Colors. The thing I am trying to copy most closely is the alternating dark and light frames for the squares, which to me is the key that rescues the quilt from overwhelming random patchiness.

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(My epitaph: "She loved the Wrong Side.")

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In other news, I finished the Cornish Knit Frock. The WendyStart To Finish Project FidelityTM method works! The Kay Re-Sizing Denim Patterns for Unreasonably Tall MenTM method works! But more (much more) about that anon.

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(I don't like to brag, but this is a king size bed. The lack of WiFi out east made for some long stretches of denim knitting goodness.)

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:50 AM | Comments (46)

September 06, 2007

Flaxen Update

Dear Kay,

Here's a quick peek at the Handmaiden Flaxen swatch knitted up. It's 6" x 8" wide on a size 4 needle.

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I really love this yarn, I love these colors, but I do not love this swatch. No matter how pretty the colors are in the skein, something happens to them when they're knitted together, and it just doesn't sing for me. Who knows how the color breaks would fall when worked at a wider width?

The great news is that Flaxen comes in other solid and semi-solid colorways. See? Really lovely--you would love this yarn, which looks a bit like a nice firm twine, with a very subtle sheen.

Off to continue my marriage therapist training course. JUST KIDDING! I would be such a terrible therapist! "Rupert, stop nagging her, willya? And you, missy--enough with the weird and time-consuming hobbies!"

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:45 AM | Comments (28)

September 05, 2007

Palate Cleanser

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Dear Kay,

It has been an interesting morning. I had a great phone conversation with a friend about the nature of church, which at our church is quite a topic at the moment. We discussed the nature of men, which is also quite a topic. And we discussed marriage, which is ALWAYS one of my favorite topics.

We were pondering the question of why men cheat on the women they are still married to. Cheat really is a great word to describe the whole phenomenon: you had a deal with somebody, and now you're breaking the rules. You're cheating. It's the disrespect of it all that really gets me--if you're miserable in your marriage, for heaven's sake get out of the marriage in a respectable way, then go find somebody else. Anybody (say, for example, me, when I was in 9th grade) who's had to claw through the wreckage of their parents' divorce will tell you that there are bad divorces and worse divorces. No busted marriage is any good; but when one parent is totally dumped on, it makes it kind of tricky for the children to navigate the aftermath. There's my free marriage advice for the day.

ANYway, while we were discussing all THAT, I wandered into my closet to survey my yarn situation. Now that the Tweedy Squares blanket is done, I needed to find a non-wool palate cleanser. When I came upon three little pigs' worth of Handmaiden Flaxen, it was a regular grapefruit sorbet.

Flaxen is 65% silk, 35% linen. Works up on a size 4 needle. I can't think of another yarn that has this delicious texture, so I'm going to make a swatch and see what the variegation does. I'm not persuaded that this is going to look all that great when it's knitted up. But jeezeepers, it is so very beautiful in the skein, and today, that's plenty.

And seeing this yarn again, which I discovered at Nancy Parson and Cat Bordhi's sock workshop last March, reminds me of that great trip to Oregon. Yarn really does make a fine souvenir.

Sorry to rant about lyin' cheatin' philanderers. But really, there's just not much shame left anymore, and anybody out there who's cheating ought to think hard about what they're up to. It's hard to imagine a situation where it's a good idea.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:34 PM | Comments (56)

September 04, 2007

Feeling Like Mary Anne and Mike Mulligan Over Here

Dear Kay,

You can beg for more all you like, but this is IT, hon. This is the very last time you'll ever get to see pix of the Tweedy Squares blanket, because the fact is . . .

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It's done. Four corners, neat and, um, kind of rounded because of all the corner decreases and curled edges and whatEVer.

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This corner is a freaky little collision of yarns.

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In case anybody thinks I didn't actually finish the border (and don't think I didn't consider ditching the thing), here's the whole blanket which is harder to photograph than you might think and no I didn't put it on my bed because that would have meant that I would have had either to MAKE my bed or put my unmade bed on the Internet. Euwwwks. So here it is on a sofa:

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How long did the border take to make? Using my preferred unit of measure, the O'Brian (1 O'Brian = one audio version of a Patrick O'Brian novel) it took 13 hours of The Ionian Mission (86% of the book) plus 3 hours of Treason's Harbour (25% of the book). So: about 1.1 O'Brians to make an 18'-long, 3"-wide garter stitch blanket border.

Here's the thing: I have never been bored during the making of this blanket, which is the largest thing I've ever knitted. It's kind of mysterious, actually, but I think it has to do with the bite-size squares, using all the yarns which have been like pets to me, and cooking up the design myself.

I really wanted to show you this blanket with its new owner, David. Ever since I renewed my work on this project, he has been consulting with me on color choices; the juniper green is completely a David recommendation. But this morning I took the fella to school early for the sixth grade whitewater rafting trip in West Virginia, so I'm rattling around the house wondering about the guy. He'll be gone for four days.

So please pretend that this chair is David: a large-eyed, 11-year-old boy.

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What in the world am I going to do with myself now?

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:07 PM | Comments (64)
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