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

November 30, 2007

Mischief Making

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Dear Ann,

It's a little like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory around here. Squares are backing up on the conveyor belt. Really fun, but leaving me short on time for stuff like doctor's appointments. I will catch up over the weekend but I think it's safe to say we're getting close to 700 squares.

In my last post, I mentioned the need for dull/dark squares for the Grand Plan blanket design. People have generously emailed offers to dig up dark sock yarns from their stash and knit them up for me. Thank you so much, but I don't think this will be necessary. Last night I took a look at the dull and dull-eligible squares, and I feel very confident that we are going to have enough. I am very grateful to knitters for taking time out of holiday preps and holiday knitting and holiday fatigue, to help out, and I don't want to add more to your list by extending the deadline. If you've got unmailed squares, by all means send them in, but there is no need to knit more.

To others who have inquired so generously about helping with sew-up, that will definitely be needed. My reach is exceeding my grasp on this project (yay knitters!), and it's more fun to sew in a group, with knitting water at the ready. I'm working on the details and will announce them as soon as I can.

Happy weekend everyone. Look for a square extravaganza soon. At some time, I'll let Ann get a square in edgewise. At this point I'm a shameless blog-hogger. (AND LOVING IT!)

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:13 PM | Comments (17)

November 29, 2007

Call Me Tippi

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Dear Ann,

Early in Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds (which you can watch in 1 minute 40 seconds here), you start noticing that there are an awful lot of birds hanging around, and you're not really scared, but a little scared. That's where I'm at with the squares. By my quick count, we've received over 500 so far. That's a lot, but there is no reason to go running down the street screaming.

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They come in peace.

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We don't have my desired number (120) of dull/dark plain squares quite yet, but we're definitely more than halfway there, and I do have a plan B that would require 58 fewer dull/darks, and I also have plan C (in which we redefine "dull/dark" to "dull/dark and also blue"). Being a blanket-designing diva on a mission of world domination, I would rather die than divert from The Vision, but if I have to, I will. C'mon, dull/dark knitters! Work with me!

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Here are the brave knitters who pushed us into the slightly scary 500+ zone: Donna H, Erica C, Anne O, Mims, Margaret C, Jane FB, JoAnne A, Jennie D, Kelli Ann, Xana from Portugal, Laura A, Katherine C, Catherine R, Helen H, Zoe M, Jen D, Claudia C, Amanda J, Becky S, Katy K (not that Katy K), Tara D, Rev. Emily, Elizabeth S, Brynne, and Deb C. Thank you so much!

The Power of Blocking

As an anguished commenter has pointed out (quite correctly), blocking was not on the test. Blocking is an extra-credit exercise, but I'm grateful to those who have chosen to block, of their own free will.

I have to single out one knitter, Brynne. Before I opened Brynne's envelope, I laughed because she had written DO NOT BEND on it in big serious letters. I was all, Dude! It's knitting! It bends, no problem!

Then I saw why Brynne was so particular about her postal handling instructions.
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Brynne has been touched by the Power of Blocking. Her squares are the Greenwich Mean Time of 4-inch precision. They are flatter than Kansas, and their regulation unwoven tails are neatly tucked under. (I think it must have hurt her not to weave them in.) Brynne, we salute you. The stitchers of New York are going to bless your sweet steam iron as we sew up those crisp edges.

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To everybody else, I say: No pressure.

M Cubed

Nonstop squareness has made me a little lightheaded. Last evening, I felt a woozy sensation, and a desire to knit something a little bit, oh I don't know: 3-dimensional? I also started to be dimly aware of the approach of December 20 aka Teacher Present Day. I have a reputation for giving dorky homemade exquisite handmade holiday gifts to the kids' teachers. I am under no illusions that the teachers enjoy these gifts, but word gets around: you've got Joseph or Carrie on your roster, you get a handknit. So this year can't be the year I don't do it, you know? This might be the year they really want the handknits!

Enter: Maine Morning Mitts (free pdf of the pattern here). Clara saves the day! For gal teachers, I'm thinking about making Fetching mitts in dainty Noro Silk Garden, but I think for a man, an up-sized version of the Maine Morning mitts in Noro Kureyon could be just the thing. Fingerless mitts are great for commuting by train (read the paper without taking them off to turn the pages), roof playground duty (clearly and swiftly point out bad behavior), and field trips (handle MetroCards, buckle buckles, zip zips, and assist with ice skates). I hereby declare fingerless mitts to be the official Mason-Dixon Knitting Holiday Teacher Gift of 2007. Start your dpns!

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Prototype of Maine Morning Mitts (in a moody-blues shade of Kureyon) in progress, for Joseph if he'll wear them. (Yes, I'm trying to raise up a mini Brooklyn Tweed--is that wrong? Let she who has not been getting her second grader to crank hats cast the first stone!)

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:51 AM | Comments (44)

November 28, 2007

Paranormal

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Dear Ann,

You know how I hate scary movies and the last one I saw was The Silence of the Lambs and I lost 2 earrings from squirming in my seat and hiding my face and clutching the people sitting next to me? I cannot abide anything humanly scary, let alone extraterrestrials messing with the landscaping.


Yesterday afternoon, right after I posted about the most recent crop of squares, I found this on my dining room table.

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Coincidence? Or message?

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See the 3 squares in the center?

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I think it's the landing strip.

Some say the dining room table crop circle is an urban legend created by hoaxsters and pranksters and people with scythes and spare time. I'm not so sure. The ones in the center are getting Special Handling. They are just too good. Proof that beings from other planets can log cabin.

This cornucopia of squares came from Joan, Jan, Kristin S, Mary G, Peggy H, Carolyn M, Elizabeth A, Jill B, Karin H, Sydney, Jessica C, Amanda G, Barbara, Sharon B, Gwen M (20--way to overachieve, Gwen!), Andrea, Jeannie, Anne, Avice, Shai, Nana Sadie, Linda D, Tamsyn, and Sarah. Thanks everybody! You're freaking me out.

Well, gotta run. On his way out the door just now, Hubby called out, kind of worried-like, "You've got a ton of mail."

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Lucy? You've got some splainin' to do!

Love,
Kay

P.S. For the I Can't Help It, I Love the New York Post File:

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Posted by Kay at 09:25 AM | Comments (34)

November 27, 2007

Square Mail (Not Air Mail)

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Dear Ann,

HELP! THEY ARE BLOCKING OUT THE SUN! Well, actually it's just an overcast sky, but there are indeed stacks of squares casting shadows in my apartment.

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It's a cheerful kind of clutter. I'm not complaining.

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A few arrived over the long weekend.

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Quite a few.

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These squares come from the busy hands and good hearts of: Susan G, Mariel, Susan L, Susan M, Lacey, Norma, Larissa, Christine, Beth, Julie, Ellanie, Suzanne, Anji, Debra L, Aurora, Lora B, Nancy B, Ricki, Gale, Anastasia, and Lauren B. (For those just joining us, the squares are for the American blanket. )

I won't lie to ya, Ann. These squares are not 100% free of minor defects such as curvature of the corners, phat gauge, or poor correlation between perceived and real size. But these few and piddling irregularities are as nothing compared to the overall 4-inchiness we are getting, the walk through The Fascinating History of Sock Yarn, the straight edges bespeaking old-school blocking, in a word: the Squareness. It moves me deeply.

This project is like a powerful magnet, sucking sock yarn from deep within the Rubbermaid bins, ancient shopping bags, and closets of North America and US military outposts around the world. Who knew there was such a rich stockpot of sock yarn, simmering on so many back burners, waiting to be called forth? It's beautiful. You're all beautiful. Socks are beautiful. (I need a moment.)

Designer's Notebook

Before I get too far along arranging the squares, I have a confession to make. The layout I have in my head, and the reason I have knit 45 dull and drab squares myself (so far, and don't be impressed, because my OCD for knitting square things kicks the behind of anybody else's OCD, any day of the week--it's a gift), is not my original idea.

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It's School of Kaffe, with a zig zag border. I like to think Kaffe would approve of the border. I am nuts about the Gridlock Blanket in Kaffe Knits Again. I am not so nuts about the intarsia. Ergo, a patchwork version. I'm sure it will look much different from Kaffe's original, and that's a big part of the fun of doing it. But the layout of alternating checkerboard and square-in-square patches is a great starting point, a good "rule" to follow, and to break. And I am definitely going to try to get a red square like Kaffe did. That touch just makes it for me, the red square in the sea of darkness, big as you please.

One more note for my square-knitting peeps: if you are sending squares in this week, you do NOT need to use Priority Mail to meet the deadline. First-class works just as well (and you can spend the 4 bucks you save on raffle tickets for the blankets). Stick a stamp or two on the envelope and they will get here in plenty of time for the big sew up. (I've gotten a few single or twin squares by Priority Mail, and the ghost of my Grandma Mabel has been just screeching at me about it. She is also mad about the 41 cents to mail a letter, but we can't do anything about that, Grandma.)

Thanks, everybody! I haven't counted them yet but I'm feeling good about the likelihood of having the 304 squares needed for the sketch in the notebook, and maybe even a Bonus Baby blanket to raffle.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:30 PM | Comments (31)

November 26, 2007

Throw Momma Off the Sofa

Dear Ann,

When I started my version of Denyse Schmidt's What a Bunch of Squares quilt back in the summer of 2006, I had the modest goal of finishing it by the summer of 2007, so I could put in on the air bed in the new guest room and people who slept there would be going, "DUDE! Did you see that there is a handmade quilt with MATCHING KNITTED TWIN QUILT on the airbed in the guest room?" (I know, that was a lame fantasy, even for me. Trying to be honest here. Sorry.)

As one who has slept on the airbed in 2007, you already know that I did not meet the goal. Overnight guests for 2007 were downgraded to catalog quilts. It was not my fault. Once I had pieced the immense thing, I really had not a clue how to finish it. I needed to learn so much, from making the quilt sandwich, to smoothing it out with 20,000 smoothing movements on hands and knees, to deciding whether to pin-baste or regular-baste, to figuring out how to quilt something so enormous by hand or machine or perhaps with the assistance of fairies. FInally, I learned something really useful: you can send it out, like a jumbo bale of dry cleaning, and if you send it out to the right person, it comes back beautifully machine-quilted (in an overall "square snail" motif), trimmed and ready to sew on the binding.

Once Thanksgiving was over, I basically spent 3 days on the sofa, sewing the binding to the back of the quilt by hand, in hundreds of teeny blind stitches. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Quilter's Tip: Personal grooming wastes time. You could be stitching!

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Quilter's Tip: No need to change your t-shirt, as this newby quilter did on Day 3; you are not leaving the house until it's done.

Once I had machine stitched the binding on (day 1), it really only took me about 12 hours, spread over 2 days, to sew it down. It was satisfying work, to do something so neatly and methodically. So 18th century.

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On Sunday, I was racing against the setting sun, so that I could run outside in my "lounge pants" (read: PAJAMAS) and take pictures.

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Ma Ingalls would be proud of me. It is a binding for the ages.

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Finally the quilted and knitted versions are united.

(Details: The knitted blanket is blogged about encyclopedically here. The quilt is a template-free adaptation of Denyse Schmidt's What a Bunch of Squares design in this book. The main fabrics are prints that Heather Ross designed for Munki Munki, in particular Pool Party, Farmer's Market, one depicting kids and fish swimming in the ocean, and a later Heather Ross print for Free Spirit depicting fireflies. I loved Pool Party so much that I bought 5 yards of it before I even owned a sewing machine. When I ran out of plain white fabric, I cut up a sheet. Good times!)

Square Mail

Over the holiday weekend, the squares poured in. The building's mailroom has upgraded me to "gets her own bin" status. I'm still cataloguing them--pictures soon! Thanks to everyone who has knitted and mailed them. I will start laying them out for real this coming weekend. My sofa-sitting skills are strong for the sew-up. Plant me on upholstery, and I shall not be moved.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:35 PM | Comments (46)

November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving: Turkey. Friday: Vietnamese

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Dear Kay,

Let's just say that there's still a half gallon of gravy in the refrigerator. We seriously overshot the gravy requirement.

There are seven extra people staying at our house, which is great. This place is like a kibbutz. It completely maxes out the accomodations here, but having eleven people in a house makes for things that don't otherwise happen.

1. Food. Somebody's always fixing a meal in the kitchen. You can go in the kitchen at any time, and somebody will have a concept for food going, and you can just pile on. Grilled turkey panini with tapenade? I am IN.

2. Shoes. There are so many shoes and jackets all over the place that if you want to go outside, you just grab some shoes and a jacket, and they're likely to fit.

3. The endless playgroup. There are four boys here between the ages of four and eleven, plus one two-year-old girl. This may be the perfect permutation of small humans, because the boy clump shifts and mixes, and just when they start to gnaw on each other too much, the girl wanders in and is so uniformly charming that whatever head-butting is going on stops instantly. She has this effect on adults too. The charm offensive. She is brutal yet effective in laying on the cute. Mercilessly cute.

4. The mysterious dishwasher. Somebody in the family is washing dishes and putting them away. I have a suspicion about who it is. She thinks I don't notice this.

5. Guitar Hero III. There's a lot of "Sweet Child o' Mine" coming out of the TV these days. The Wii has this game where you have a plastic guitar and you play every single terrible song you ever heard growing up. I was told that I should start with "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" because it's, like, stupid easy.

6. Staying up late and talking. Last night we were all talking while yawning, yet we kept talking. It was like a game of chicken; nobody wanted to be the one to cave. We may have actually talked while sleeping, I don't really know.

7. Election predictions. At dinner last night, which included a dozen more cousins imported from all over the country, we all made our predictions for the 2008 presidential election. We put them in a time capsule (aka a Ziploc bag to be placed a frankly sort of insecure and disclosed location) to be opened next Thanksgiving. I can't wait to see who wins. I am insanely interested in the upcoming election, and I think we all should be. These are tangled times, and there are stark choices among the candidates.

8. Achievement in carving. The day before Thanksgiving I noticed that the most-emailed article in the New York Times was a video of a butcher in New York explaining how to get the most meat out of your turkey. This was a weirdly moving video for me--I can't really explain it except that the guy is so clearly a genius at carving meat. He was so matter of fact about his profession, yet so good at it. He said that he thinks about carving a turkey as a butcher does, not a chef. The goal is to get the most meat possible from the bird. So I figured, we have two turkeys this year, so if I totally botch one, I get a second chance.

Vegetarians may not want to see this, but here's how it went.

It worked, people. This 15-pound bird yielded 14.8 pounds of turkeyish goodness. Pretty much. OK, I'm exaggerating. But if you're getting a bird for the holidays, here's your ticket to a whole new way to carve.

9. Knitting. Feeling very tiny about knitting, very back to basics as I make squares for Oliver's Blanket. I carry them around in my purse, a tiny ball of yarn and a pair of needles. I'm using the littlest leftover balls of sock yarn I can find, spit-felting these scraps together. It's such a simple thing to do; I like thinking about all the squares being made for this blanket, and how it's going to look when it's all assembled.

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10. Family as destiny. I actually caught myself saying what my grandmother would say to us within an hour of our arrival at her house in Selma: "When you coming back to see me?" I said this. To family members who were standing right in front of me. AAAAAACK! They aren't coming back: they are actually here, this minute!

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Wishing you all a great nap sometime this weekend. I gotta go figure out how to make a gravy smoothie. Or something.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:40 AM | Comments (33)

November 20, 2007

Vast Tracts O' Land!

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Dear Ann,

Busybusybusy here at American Blanket Central. The square-shaped love is pouring in the door. Some of the square-shaped love is more traditionally square-shaped than others, but after some remedial blocking and laying on of hands, it's all going to be SUPER FANTASTIC.

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These squares (2 days worth pictured above) came from:

Dana, Cindy, Cathy, Flaky, Liz F, Kate, Ruanne, Rita, Debbie Amy, Deb V, Liz S, Kristy, Sally, Sarah Z, Maryanne, Becky, and Missy. (If I'm missing your blog link, email me and I'll add it.) Thank you so much for knitting, all of yaz. I'll try to live up to your dedication and speed when it comes to the sew-up phase.

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This should give you an idea of what I'm doing with my spare time: playing with layouts. See why I love the dirty drab colors? POP!

We Had a Great Time (and Were Thoroughly Searched Before Leaving)

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Yesterday, Other Ann and I journeyed to Secaucus to help Cara pack up the prizes for the Spin Out 2007 raffle. Last year, I couldn't believe the quality and quantity of the loot Cara had collected, and this year it was even more gobsmacking. Ann and I packed over 40 prize boxes, each of which combined several beautiful yarns or fibers with tools, accessories or other useful stuff. Cara is repacking them right now. (It seems that Ann and I were cavalier in our tissue paper/prize pairings. We're savages, really. You cannot take us anywhere.)

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Cara likes to try to provoke me by saying that she can't spare a square for a group blanket, only knits for her own sweet self, yadda yadda. (I guess she's too busy RAISING 30 GRAND for Heifer International or something.) But sitting around her apartment, I got this strong feeling that I was in the presence of a lot of sock yarn. I wondered out loud if there might be any spare sock yarn, you know, that she didn't love so much anymore, or leftovers or whatever. Let's just say I came home with some really deluxe skeins from Cara's stash. Cara, you spoiled brat, thank you. You WILL spare a square, even if I have to knit it for you myself.

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In other news, I got my very first quilt back from the machine quilter today. Wow. What a difference a professional job can make. My homely little quilt looks so beautiful now, so "shut up--I am a real quilt." I feel the tiniest twinge of regret that the project isn't entirely my own work. But as you are fond of saying, it has a quality of doneness that is awesome. In 2006, I pieced it in a 24-hour fever (hotter than a pepper sprout), and dithered for more than a year about how to quilt it. Then I got a friendly referral to a top-notch machine-quilter, and in a matter of weeks it became an almost-finished quilt, with the straightest-trimmed edges you have ever seen. This long holiday weekend is going to be all about the binding. I am so psyched about those hours of hand-sewing it down to the back. I'm not kidding even a little bit about that.

Kay K's Kitchenette

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I will leave you with a Thanksgiving recipe. This is a child-pleasing side dish from the Heartland, where Combined Canned Goods Cuisine is as vibrant today as it was in 1956. My kids, who otherwise live on air and Gatorade, ask for seconds, as do their cousins and, truth be told, their uncles and aunts. I make no apologies for it. It's delish.

Corn Souffle*

*Formerly known as Corn Casserole, renamed because my children, who did not come up the Hudson in a banana boat, will not eat anything called casserole.

2 cans cream-style corn (ew! stay with me)
1 package frozen corn kernels or fresh corn cut off the cob if you are some kind of freak
6 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
approximately 2 cups of crushed cracker crumbs (I use saltines like my depression-era grandma did; Most Moisturized Mom goes for the finesse of Club Crackers)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cracker crumbs, and butter the remaining crumbs, which you will use for the topping.

Mix all the other ingredients together with the 1/2 cup of reserved cracker crumbs until well combined, then pour into a buttered casserole dish. Top with all of the buttered crumbs, which will seem excessive. (Because it is).

Bake at 350 degrees until the souffle puffs up a bit and the crumbs are golden brown, which is usually about 30 minutes. (You want your frozen corn well-thawed and your eggs set.)

It's delicious. You can thank me later.

Love,
Kay

P.S. By the way, you, me, and Merle were in the New York Times on Sunday. Yee haw! Oy vey!

Posted by Kay at 10:40 AM | Comments (55)

November 16, 2007

In Search of MoJo

Dear Ann,

When I was a teenager suffering from the Humiliation of the Week, Most Moisturized Mom would console me by saying that "this is really building your character." (Translation: being a big geek/loser now is going to make you a much better person later.) Needless to say, I found this infuriating at the time, but like many things mothers say, it has stuck with me and actually proved to be a useful mantra.

I'm currently in a character-building phase (mellow-harshing moments, nothing dire or drastic, it's all good, etc etc.). To my great shock, one of the things that I'm losing my grip on is (please sit down, or stand on a padded surface in case you plotz): knitting. Don't get me wrong; I still love the knitting with an intense passion. Nothing centers the chi like knitting. But I flit from project to project and can't get enthused about any of them long enough to make any headway. I await the return of the sweet knitting mojo, that great compulsive/impulsive love affair with a project or a technique, be it the urge to knit 900 dishcloths by Tuesday, 16 hats in 16 days, or the overbleached denim sweater of my dreams. I have cast on and tossed aside 5 projects in the last 2 weeks.

Which is why I'm really glad to have these little squares to knit for Oliver's American blanket. A 4-inch square, repeated endlessly, can get a really good buzz going. I'm currently at 24 squares, and since the family is heading into the countryside for a Hebrew School retreat this weekend, I think I'll easily get to 36 by Thanksgiving. Ain't no stopping me now!

More great distraction has arrived in the mail: the First Squares!

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These are from Kelly (your college pal), Margot, Jen W, and from someone I really understand, on a very deep level, because she knit 8 squares in a couple of days and probably alarmed her family members by not answering when spoken to: Melissa.

While I hate to keep changing the rules on y'all, I've had a change of heart on my stated preference for solids or near solids. Since answering that question, I've had a brainstorm about a cool way to incorporate the crazy striping or patterning yarns, so BRING 'EM ON. (The answer came from the Gee's Bend quilters. Images of the Gee's Bend quilts sometimes float into my brain, unbidden. I cannot remember, clearly, most of the paintings I really love, but I could sketch favorite GB quilts from memory.)

More wholesome entertainment: watching Merle Hazard's new video several times daily and waiting for the end to see MY SONGWRITING CREDIT. Can I just say that working with Merle was an absolute RIOT? The guy cracks me up (mostly intentionally). I was pleased and proud to make my humble contribution to the songwriting team. Next time I'm in Nashville I hope you will work your connections to get me an autograph or something. I would add, in passing, that I've been keeping up my sight-singing skillz and I'm available to fill in for any back-up singer who calls in sick while I'm in town. (I can sing ALMOST as high as Merle's boys.)

Another great diversion/blood sport I've been meaning to share: cancelling catalogs. If cancelling catalogs is your hobby, then Catalog Choice is your Ravelry. So fun to add catalogs to my list. It takes 10 weeks to work, so I'm grimly recycling bushels of holiday catalogs, but with hope in my heart that the stream of wasted paper will dwindle to nothing before too long. Catalog Choice currently has over 100,000 people signed up, but they're aiming for a million and beyond. This could really green up the way mail order businesses operate. I love Garnet Hill, but I don't replace my sheets 3 times a month, and when I do, I know how to find them on the Web. People: Go forth and cancel ye catalogs while ye may. You did not come down the Clyde on a biscuit! Red up your mailbox!

Happy weekend everybody!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:22 PM | Comments (43)

November 13, 2007

World Premiere! Merle Hazard Returns!

Dear Kay,

Mason-Dixon Knitting has the honor, for a second time, to be the very first bi-regional knitting blog to premiere the latest hit from country financial twangster Merle Hazard.

Fresh off his monster smash hit "H-E-D-G-E," and from his media appearances around the world, including USA Today, NPR, The New York Times, CNBC, Reuters, Fox News, The Guardian (London), The Telegraph (London), and, uh, our blog . . . here's The Man in the Beige Hat singing a song that will touch the heart of every beleaguered mortgage bond trader: "In the Hamptons."

Hubbo continues to deny that he looks exactly like Merle. Still trying to catch them in the same room together . . . And am I right, Kay, or did I see your name in the songwriting credits? Am I dreaming?

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:50 PM | Comments (29)

The Wind Beneath My Bingo Wings

Dear Ann,

Well. That was fun. And it's so hard to choose favorites from all the crazy talk people submitted, isn't it? But choose we must, and these are our choices.

Category: Sounds Like Something They Used To Say In East Omaha (When There Was an East Omaha)

grip me = hand xxx to me; put xxx in my hands

as in "Grip me some chips, would ya?"

(Dennis's Mommy, come on down and grip your new knitting book!)

Something To Say Instead of "Shut Up And Row" (Which I Say 10 Times a Day)

And the winner is:

Don't sweat the mule goin' blind, just load the wagon.

(Congratulations, Kathy B!)

Category: Best Inside Family Slang That We Are GoingTo Adopt Ourselves Immediately Because It's So Great

Shui
Noun
Derived from "Feng Shui"

Meaning: Junk, clutter, items to donate to a worthy cause and never be seen again.

Based on a book (since lost to this family) which claimed to simplify our lives through Feng Shui. We got through the first part of the first chapter, mainly consisting of throwing away useless belongings and clearing out the junk from the house. Although we never were able to fully embrace the feng shui ideals, we have recoined "shui" as a term from the first step of this process.

Can also be used as a verb: "I'm going to shui the sewing room this afternoon, so bring me the big garbage bags."

(Kudos to Katie and her wicked funny --and tidy--family.)

The People's Choice Awards, i.e., the random draw winners, are:

"Don't harsh my mellow."

Submitted by Kirsty. If we'd had a category for Best Use of Adjective As a Verb, this would have been an on-the-merits winner.

---AND--

"Do ye think I came down the Clyde on a biscuit?' meaning 'do you think I am stupid?' Scottish.

Submitted by Sarah, who most certainly would never use a biscuit as a flotation device.


Winners: Please email me your mailing addresses, so I can ship your books!

Thanks to everyone who played. It was a blast reading through all the entries. A pity there wasn't a category for expressions using the word sh*t, as the competition would have been fierce!

Ann, I understand you have big news in your extended fambly of country singin' fools. Lay it on us!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:51 PM | Comments (15)

November 11, 2007

NaNoSquaKniMo, And Finally: the Dang Contest

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Dear Ann,

I love knitters. You make a knitter a straightforward request, such as "Please knit a 4-inch square for a really good cause." You jot down a recipe to make this easier. And then you brace yourself, because to a knitter, life is a rich baroque tapestry, full of complexity. There are many ways to do a thing, even a humble thing like a tiny square of small stitches. Sure, knitters want to git 'r done. But we want to git 'r done RIGHT. You have to admire that.

So first, before the contest, I will answer more questions about the knitting of the 4-inch squares. These are all real questions that I have received. Some were in the comments, and some raised issues so HORRIBLE and SHAMEFUL that the knitters emailed them to me privately. I did not make these questions up just to give myself something to blog about, because even though there are two of us, posting every day for NaBloPoMo (or whatever it's called) seems like an unreasonably difficult thing to attempt. I do not say that I will answer ALL the questions, because it is not possible for me to remember all the questions, and even if I could remember all the questions, if we wait a couple seconds, there will be more questions. So consider these questions, and their answers, and see if you still have questions, and if you do, by all means just AXE ME! I am here to help.

Question: Kay, you say to increase at the beginning of each row in the first half of the square, and then you say to decrease at the beginning of each row in the second half of the square, but you don't say WHAT TYPE OF DECREASE! HELP! I MUST KNOW: WHAT KIND OF DECREASE?

Answer: The type of increase or decrease is a Knitter's Choice. Free to be, you and me, each of us increasing and decreasing in our own special way. I am doing it the bone-simple way: I knit into the front and back of the first stitch to increase, and I knit the first 2 stitches together to decrease. Being a knitter and therefore never satisfied unless I have considered all possible options, I was tempted to add the refinement of doing the increases as a make 1-left and then to do SSK decreases (also so as to lean left), but then I said "Girl what is wrong with you? This doesn't matter!" And so, I used the primal KFB and K2tog, which were invented by our ancestors, the caveknitters. ("Make stitch come!" "Make stitch go!")

Question: Do you want us to slip the first stitch of every row, for ease of sew-up?

Answer: I'm not doing this for my squares. You may do it if you really like to do it. It's not necessary, or particularly helpful in whipstitching squares together (the current plan), but I want you to have a lot of fun doing this, and maybe slipping the first stitch makes it fun for you, and if that's the case, knock yourself out.

Question: I'm not getting the same gauge as you, meaning the legs are not 4 inches when I get to a stitch count of 41 stitches. Is this okay? Must I rip out and change needle sizes until I get the correct, spot-on same gauge as you are contriving to get using one size 1 needle and one size 2 needle (bless your heart but you are a MESS)? Since I am a tight knitter, should I use one size 2 and one size 3, or that metricky needle that is between a size 2 and a size 3?

Answer: You do not have to get the same gauge as me. (Nobody ever gets the same gauge as me. I am a Gauge Unto Myself.) Knit at a gauge that seems sock-ish to you. A gauge that you would be proud to see on a pair of socks knitted by your own fair hand, 6 or 7 or even 8 stitches to the inch. When the legs of the triangle equal 4 inches, you begin decreasing, Sisterwoman, whether you have 47 stitches or 35 stitches or some other number of stitches on the needles at that point in time. Somehow I will manage to sew up these squares. I swear to you I'll do it! (Tip: No matter what your stitch count is when you get to that magic 4-inch triangle-leg measurement, make a note of that number. This will make it easier for you to knit a second square without having to do any more measuring. We hate to stinkin' measure things! Avoid needless measuring! Remember your Personal Stitch Count!)

Question: Sob! I have committed [insert Big Mistake Of Tragic Proportions That Does Not, However, Affect the 4-Inchiness of the Square]. Should I rip it to nothingness and start again? And if so, can my self-esteem get any lower?

Answer: Pull yourself together and listen to me. Hear me now: the only things that really matter are (1) a proper sockish gauge and (2) a 4-inch measurement. All other discrepancies are embraced with love. Do not rip. Get to the mailbox. All is forgiven and your square will be gratefully received.

Question: Do you care what colors or patterns the yarns are?

Answer: Can I be candid? Am I among friends? May I bare my soul? If you have a lot of choice in your sock yarn remnants, and you are not going to be using them all, and all things being equal, I am very fond of solid colors or subtly variegated colors, and think it's easier to make solid-ish colors play together nicely at the sew-up phase. If all you've got are self-stripers and self-fair-islers and argyle-o-matics, then by all means, knit 'em up and send 'em in. They're going to fit in just fine. Grays and dulls and murkies are particularly beloved because they will make the other colors POP, like the grout in a glittering mosaic.


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AND NOW CAN WE PLEASE DO THE CONTEST?

By dint of wheedling and begging, I have in my possession five copies of Jane and Patrick Gottelier's brand-new book, Indigo Knits, to give away.

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I am already working on my second project from this book. (My first one, a SuperSize Cornish Knit Frock for Hubby, flew off the needles in record time.) For denim fans, and the denim-curious, this book is a must-have, crammed with must-knits. Plus it's beautiful. Never have fishwives looked so slammin'.

In honor of the Gotteliers being Brits (Cherie Blair blurbed this book, y'all) and Brits being well known for their colorful slang, we are having a SLANG CONTEST!

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Here are the rules:

1. Leave a comment to this post, sharing a favorite item of slang and explaining what it means. The slang does not have to be British slang. The slang does not even have to be in the English language, but you should provide an English translation so that we can all share the fun. Regional slang? Bring it on!
2. Leave your comment by noon, Eastern Standard (US) time, on Tuesday, November 13 (which happens to be the release date of the book).
3. There will be 5 winners. Three will win on the merits (categories to be determined, but along the lines of "Funniest" or "Best Foreign Language Entry", as judged, in highly subjective fashion, by Ann and me), and two will be awarded in a random drawing from all the entrants. Where there is a duplication of entries, only the first one will be eligible on the merits, but both will be eligible for the random drawing.

So without further ado, let us spread our bingo wings* and fly, my friends.

And if you don't like my rules, it'll be handbags.**

Love,
Kay

*Noun. Flesh on the underarms of women who might commonly be seen at bingo nights. Mean but funny, and in my case, bingo!

**Noun. A harmless altercation. Abbreviation of handbags at dawn, which in itself is a riff on pistols at dawn, a reference to duelling. Belinda has explained this to me as what one remarks when two really good-looking soccer players get angry and look all belligerent and mean, like they're going to tear each other apart, but everybody knows they're too pretty to really fight--it's handbags for those two.

Posted by Kay at 06:47 PM | Comments (466)

November 09, 2007

We Like It Loud

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Dear Kay,

Squares 1 and 2: Watching the Country Music Awards show, which is a lot fancier than it used to be. There's a singer, Big Kenny, who is moving into the neighborhood soon. Maybe you're a fan of his duo, Big & Rich? Well, Big and his partner Rich performed a song called "Loud" which involved a lot of shimmying girls and I think fireworks? Can't wait for him and his entourage to attend the neighborhood pot luck supper next year! I have a theory that Big Kenny is not as wild as he makes out to be. He's no Kid Rock, I'm just sayin. I mean, the guy is investing in landscaping. Would Kid Rock buy shrubs?

Square 3: Waiting for my turn in the mammogram holding pen. Humbling, ain't it? You sit there with your plastic bag of clothes, in a gown, with all the other plastic-bag-carriers. While knitting. Don't forget your mammograms, y'all.

Square 4: Downtown indoor skatepark, watching Clif improve his kick-shove-it and ollie skills. Gauge wobbly on this one due to clenched fingers.

These squares are so fast--they're falling off me while I'm walking.

Mid-Tennessee knitters: knitting at the downtown public library on Monday, November 12, noon-2 pm! If you bring squares, I'll mail 'em to Kay.

See below for details on what the deal is with these squares.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:24 AM | Comments (24)

November 07, 2007

This Just In: The American Blanket

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Dear Ann,

I was chatting with Michaela about her cool raffle project to benefit Oliver's Fund. It occurred to me that it would be nice (and green) to save the Stateside knitters the hassle of waiting in line at the Post Office and filling out custom forms just to mail teeny squares to the UK, when here I am, in the good old US of A, easily (and cheaply) mailable and wishing I had a LOT more squares to arrange and rearrange in charming 9-patch patterns. SO. Here's the details.

What it's for: A blanket for Michaela to raffle off for Oliver's Fund. (You buy raffle tickets by contributing to Oliver's Fund (the button is on the right sidebar). Each ticket is 1 British pound, which is roughly 2 US greenback dollars. Michaela is handling the raffle details and awarding the prizes.)

What you can do: Mail me 4 inch squares knitted in sockweight, fingering, or 4-ply yarn. Each square will earn you a raffle ticket. (This is not the only blanket; there will be at least one and possibly two blankets from the UK.)

How to do it:
1. Make squares. (I get a 4-inch square very reliably by casting on 3 stitches, increasing in the first stitch of every row until the "legs" of the triangle are 4 inches long (at my gauge, this is when I reach 41 stitches), and then decreasing in the first stitch of every row until I'm back to 3 stitches again, and bind off.)
2. Email me at bigbonegalAThotmailDOTcom for the mailing address, and pop them in the mail. Single squares are welcome! (There will be a single squares mixer every Saturday night.)

DEADLINE: Squares must be received by FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30th. I know this is a short deadline, but you can knit a 4-inch square in one episode of Gray's Anatomy. This project will be more fun if we just git 'r done in a matter of weeks. (Kaffe Fassett would say that with a little focus, we could get it done by lunchtime.)

One last detail because I know you'll ask: You do not have to weave in the first and last end, because I will use those for the seams. (Therefore, please leave me a nice 8-inch tail on either end.) I would appreciate it if you would weave in any ends in the middle of the square.

I promise:
1. To sew up the blanket very quickly, even if I have to beg all my pals to come over and help me.
2. To admire each square.
3. To give my full artistic attention, such as it is, to the placement of each square.
4. To take an overwhelming number of photos of the finished blanket.
5. To mail the finished blanket promptly to whomever Michaela tells me is the winner.

EDITED TO ADD ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

--Fiber: Wool or wool blends are preferred.
--Color: Go nuts. The more colors we have, from murky to dazzly, the more fun it will be to lay them out. The self-stripers and self-patterners are fine, too.
--Gauge: I'm getting 6.5 stitches to the inch. Your mileage may vary, but we're looking for a gauge that is undeniably sockish. Knitting to the measurement is more important than your exact gauge.
--Stitch pattern: I gave the bias-square, garter stitch recipe because it's an easy way to hit the 4" mark with great accuracy, but all stitch patterns are welcome.
--Needles: I'm using one Size 1 and one Size 2. I know. Leave me alone.
--Washing/blocking: Unless you've got a curly and/or dirty square, no need to wash or block.
--THANK YOU! Thank you to all who have sent emails asking for the address. I can't wait to start hoarding squares.

I know I said my next post would have a contest (totally unrelated to the blanket project), but now, really, my NEXT post will have a contest.

KNITTERS: ACTIVATE!
FORM OF: 4-INCH GARTER STITCH BIAS SQUARES!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:26 AM | Comments (50)

Cabinet of Curiosities

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Dear Kay,

In the kitchen, I usually keep a pile of emergency reading for use when eating my morning baked good and slurping coffee while keeping Clif from skateboarding in the kitchen. At the moment the emergency reading is Clara Parkes' Knitter's Book of Yarn, which I have moved from my bedside table because I keep falling asleep before I get to read anything. This book makes the best emergency reading because you can read exactly one-third of a page and get something out of it before having to say in a crabby way, "STOPIT! If your feet are on the skateboard, and the skateboard is in the kitchen, that means you are skateboarding in the kitchen which you CANNOT DO."

The other morning I managed to read the Gospel According To Clara In Regard To The Tricky Issue Of Chenille. It was so inspiring--the photograph of her chenille washcloth was so lush and lovely--that I immediately dove into the stash to find my cone of FoxFibre® Colorganic® yarn, which I have been hoarding since Nancy Parsons's sock Woodstock last March. I paired its chunky self with some shelf-aged Rowan Fine Cotton Chenille, and the hand towel I'm cooking up is going to be really cushy. Or squishy, as Ravelry goddess Jess says. Clara encourages the washing AND drying of all-cotton chenille in order to make it more dense and velvety. It'll lose some size, but I can't wait to see what happens to it.

I am dragging these days; it's some sort of a cold, or bubonic plague, which has me rooting around in the medicine closet, fighting the urge to slurp some Nyquil and call it a day. I started pitching out old medicine and unearthed enough rolled gauze to bandage a World War I trench war victim.

I also discovered some ancient, quaint family planning items. Not exactly amulets made out of goat's hair and booby feathers, but close enough. It made me realize that family planning used to be a big hobby of mine. I spent a lot of time and money planning not to have a family. Then, when the time came, I spent a lot of energy planning TO have a family. Now, I'm mostly done with the planning and I spend most of my time executing a family--aw, not EXECUTING my family, but you know, HAVING a family. Done with strategy, on to tactics. Keeping the extreme sports out of my kitchen. Explaining gravity to an eight year old as it pertains to why you might break your elbow coming off a plywood ramp if you're not wearing a pad.

Life rolls on, doesn't it? Anybody who needs a half a case of Today sponges which expired twelve years ago . . . I'm your girl.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 07:34 AM | Comments (15)

November 06, 2007

A Good Day for Wheelchairs

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Dear Ann,

Sunday was Marathon Day, one of my favorite days of the year. There's a holiday atmosphere in the city, something exciting to watch on TV, and tons of stuff to see, whether you squash in along the barricades to cheer the runners on, or just walk around beneath television helicopters, catching drifts of streetcorner bands playing. After watching the finish of the women's race (SO EXCITING! yay Paula, and also yay Gete!), I had to catch the subway to hostess some out-of-town Yarn Pilgrims. (The first tour, Mary de B from Toronto and Helen from New Zealand, was on Friday, and I didn't even take a picture. The second group was coming through on Sunday, skipping the marathon and heading straight to the Purls.)

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Walking out of my apartment building, I found the street in front of me completely blocked off and filled with wheelchairs. Racing wheelchairs, regular wheelchairs, handcycles, red-coated volunteers on walkie-talkies, and piles of mylar blankets. You could feel the excitement of the volunteers, everyone activated, everyone ON. Someone got a message on their walkie-talkie and called out "three-eleven!" "Three-eleven" got passed all around. I wondered, was 3:11 someone's time? How fast do these athletes go? And then:

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Number 311 came swooshing out of the park. I could have watched them finish all day. But I had a yarn tour to guide. Bye bye 311! Congrats!

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I had a rollicking good time with Gusty and Cathy, who were in town to celebrate The Birthday That Shall Not Be Spoken Of with two more of their college roommates. (Although it's hard to recognize them without cowboy hats and Cheeto earrings, you will remember Gusty and Cathy from beautiful Swarthmore, PA and the unforgettable Finely a Knitting Party party. Wherever these two are, it's a party. Gusty knit the creamsicle sweater Cathy is wearing. Blocked so hard it would make you weep.)

Then I walked up Eighth Avenue through throngs of catatonic/triumphant marathon finishers swaddled in mylar, and saw another kind of wheelchair being put to excellent use.

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I knew that New York's pedicab drivers were an entrepreneurial lot, but the number of pedicabs on the street, loaded with tuckered-out runners, was staggering.

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Like sedan chairs in a Cecil B deMille movie.

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To the victor go the pedicabs.

All of which got me even more fired up with my square-knitting for Oliver's blanket, which is being raffled to raise funds for...a new wheelchair.

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The light squares are in Koigu, the dark squares are the new Regia sock yarn colored by Kaffe Fassett.
These are really fun to knit. I get a 4-inch square very reliably by casting on 3 stitches, increasing in the first stitch of every row until the "legs" of the triangle are 4 inches long (at my gauge, this is when I reach 41 stitches), and then decreasing in the first stitch of every row until I'm back to 3 stitches again, and bind off.

In other news, we have a dog.
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Kidding! We wish we could have a dog, but we can't. We rejoice because good friends in our building are crazy enough to take on a puppy just as their boys are getting ready to leave the nest. Four floors down from us, college applications and potty training are occurring simultaneously. This insane situation creates a nice dogsitting/walking job opportunity for dog-crazy Carrie.

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Meet Artie. Artie is a girl. (Full name Artemis, after the goddess of the hunt, currently the hunt for the wee-wee pad.) We heart Artie.

That's it for me today. My next post: a contest. Stay tuned.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:51 PM | Comments (29)

November 05, 2007

Trophy Hunting

Dear Kay,

What happens when the hunt is over and you've bagged a big Aran sweater?

Here ya go. EDITED: Looks like she's either sold her knitting-covered deer head or hung it in her den. Hope it's the former!

Kudos to Rachel Denny for her domestic taxidermy.

Happy Monday . . .

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 07:59 AM | Comments (27)

November 02, 2007

Instinct Is a Good Designer (and So Is This Guy)

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Dear Ann,

I went into Kaffe Fassett's talk last night thinking that, being a SuperFan, I pretty much knew what there was to know about The Man and His Work. I came away surprised, and more than anything, inspired. My pictures, however, are anything but inspiring. The light was awful and I was too shy to flash. (Flashing would be impertinent, don't you think?)

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Surprises: He doesn't have an English accent. He still sounds like a California boy, one who might have seen a lot of British movies. (When Kaffe "talks" to me in my head, he has an English accent. BBC-correct, and a bit bossy. He says things like, "Kay old thing, your pastels are simply not glowing.")

He's funny. It seems like more than a person could expect, that on top of all his other gifts, he'd be funny, but he is. He had me at "The color wheel is the work of the devil." (He finds color combinations derived from the wheel to be sterile and boring. I repressed a big RIGHT ON BROTHER!HAIL YES!)

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He's still very excited about COLOR. I guess I thought that after all he's done, he might be a bit "been-there-done-that-and-by-the-way-I-invented-color." Not at all! He thinks people should work a few rows of his colorwork patterns, to imprint the structure on the brain, then throw away the chart and change colors at will. That's how he does it himself, with a black & white chart or sketch, and a bag full of colors.

The thing I found most inspiring is his attitude toward the perfectionism that afflicts many of us when we knit or stitch. He is impatient with those whose work is slowed down by repeated ripping-back. Keep going! Git 'r done! (OK he didn't actually SAY "git 'r done".) You can't really see the effect of your color and design choices at the row level, or the swatch level, or even the halfway-there level. You have to be willing to wait for the whole effect. If you work quickly, instinct starts to kick in, and "instinct is a good designer". I'm going to remember that one for a long time.

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I didn't know about his large mosaics. This one is a wall of broken china for a local preschool. He and Brandon Mably did another large one for a china factory, which custom-made pieces for them to smash up and glue back together. Could anything be more fun than smashing up new china and sticking it back together all crazy-like? (Sign me UP.)

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I also didn't know about his commissioned big-stitch tapestries (one is behind Brandon Mably in the photo above, pretty much life-size), or his many crazy needlepoint chairs. MEMO TO THE PUBLISHING WORLD: Hello--where is the book about Kaffe's house? I want that book!

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The evening ended with Kaffe signing his new book, Kaffe Knits Again (as Brandon said, he actually never stopped, but whatever), and being charming to everyone. I have marked him and Brandon down in my Book of Living Dolls.

Love,
Kay

PS I was too shy to ask for a picture, but here's proof that my Smoulder got to meet her dad.

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Posted by Kay at 08:51 AM | Comments (41)

November 01, 2007

Letter from the Castle

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TO OUR MOST NOBLE AND virtuous correspondent KAY,

Elizabeth her humble co-blogette wisheth perpetual felicity and everlasting joy.

We had a most trying evening.

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These ragamuffins appeared, one boldly claiming to be Slash, a member of the band Guns 'n' Roses. We pointed out that the Slash we admire so deeply is at least a foot taller, and still this one declared himself the one true Slash.

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We attended a function where our consort, Merle Hazard, performed droll songs of a financial nature. We do feel most tender toward our vagabond minstrel, though his belt buckle which we coveted most dearly was found to our dismay to be of paste. Otherwise, we would be wearing this buckle on this very day.

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This impertinent girl claimed to be the queen. She has been removed to the lowest depths of the Tower.

We suppose the evening was amusing to those who favor carnival atmosphere and tomfoolery.

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Tin Man with a cell phone. Think of all the trouble THAT bit of technology could have saved the guy.

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Many beasts were arrayed as fairies, ladybugs, bumblebees, and here, a chicken. Pitiable creatures. So put upon!

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Nostradamus predicted that we would die. Such a pall he cast. We had him removed to the second-lowest depths of the Tower.

A commoner clad as an inflated sumo wrestler had the gall to suggest that Her Majesty's accent varied considerably, from Helen Mirren to Eliza Doolittle to Posh Spice. And others noted that Her Majesty became quite blotchy as the evening progressed. These people! They have no idea what we endure! Off with their heads, the lot of them!

Elizabeth R

From suburban Nashville, the first day of November
of the year of our Lord, 2007.

Posted by Ann at 10:13 AM | Comments (41)
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