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

December 29, 2007

The Grandma Mabel Memorial Recipe Box Show & Tell Contest

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Dear Ann,

Who knew a dime-store recipe box circa 1960 would unleash a flood of memories? I heard from so many people, via comments and email. Some of them have the exact same box as Most Moisturized Mom (I knew it was mass-produced but I had no idea how mass-produced), some of them have some other fabulous piece of gas-station premium history, and some of them, poignantly, are looking for lost recipes or grieving lost boxes. The outpouring of recipe box love gave me an idea for a quick end-of-year contest/blog party. It's not about knitting, but everybody eats. ("Meat and fish and cereal, carrots, peas and beets.")

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SHOW US YOUR RECIPE BOX! Won't it be fun to see the recipe boxes come out of the cupboards, closets and attics?

There are two ways to enter:

1. Post a picture of your recipe box (binder, drawer, whatever) on your blog if you have one. Also post one recipe from the box. Then, post a comment to this post containing a link to your blog entry, so that I can find you and link to your recipe box. (Let's review: post on your blog, comment on our blog with a link.)

OR

2. If you don't have a blog, or you don't want to use option 1 (because you're ornery I guess), send an email to me at bigbonegalAThotmailDOTcom, attaching a picture of your recipe box (binder, drawer, whatever) and including a recipe from the box. (Please try to make the pictures a manageable size, i.e., not so big that I can see the molecules of your recipe box).

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(Thanks, Erica, for the photo of your thrifting find!)

There will be prizes for best box (binder, drawer, whatever) and best recipe ("best" being highly subjective, of course), and probably for some other categories that will not occur to me until I see the entries. But the real prize, to be shared by all, will be the virtual recipe box (binder, drawer, whatever) that will be created. I'll collect them all in one post and we can start off 2008 with some old-time cooking. Boiled dressing, anybody?

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The deadline is Friday, January 4 at noon New York time. I will post the results as quickly as possible after that.

TIDYING UP YOUR BOX IS CHEATING. (We won't know, but you will know.)

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(Decoupaging your box, like Leta did, is encouraged.)

Let the rummaging begin!

Love,

Kay

PS Left to right: Aunt Clara, Grandma Mabel, Aunt Darlene. Working the cloche hats!

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Posted by Kay at 06:19 PM | Comments (112)

December 27, 2007

Never Fail

Dear Ann,

Out in the country (north of Omaha, south of Fort Calhoun), weakened by WiFi deprivation, I have been digging around in Most Moisturized Mom's treasures.

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The Ancestral Recipe Box. The box itself is not so ancient. It dates to the 1960s, when MMM was beginning her career as a master mixer of canned goods. She was training under her mother-in-law, Grandma Mabel (who in life was called Grandma Gardiner, which sounds less affectionate than it should). Grandma Mabel did not approve of combining (or doing anything else with) canned goods. She made an exception for Jello. In those pre-Julia Child days, everyone made an exception for Jello. Jello had it going ON. But apart from the Jello, Grandma was a scratch cook. She had worked as a restaurant cook in the Depression, so she knew what she was doing. (She worked at the Dundee Dell in Omaha, which I believe still exists, but probably no longer employs a tall taciturn lady to cook all the meals AND bake the pies.)

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It's the contents of the box that are the real treasure.

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There are recipes in Grandma's handwriting, like the one on the other side of this notepaper. This notepad sat for years on Grandma's telephone table. Telephones used to have their own table. Grandma's was a classic black-painted wire and stamped metal contraption with an uncomfortable Early Vinyl seat and a surface just big enough to hold the phone and a notepad. (Grandma could make a notepad last a long time. She had a bottle of Jergens hand lotion that lasted a decade.) Understandably, I was really happy to find this notepaper. I do not know what up-to-the-minute banking was, but it sounds like something a person would have wanted.

Since I am really coming out of seclusion for the sole purpose of getting the cinnamon briquets off the top of the blog, I will share a recipe. This is the recipe that will cure you of cake mixes forever (if you suffer from cake mixes). Grandma told me that this cake is just as easy as a cake mix and twice as good, and I heard her loud and clear: You Will Let Us Down If You Ever Use a Cake Mix. Once when I was 9 or 10 I got up at dawn to make a surprise Never Fail Cake for Mother's Day. I was a bit puzzled by the "sour milk" ingredient, so I put some juice from a pickle jar into the milk. It worked just great. (I think I earned a Camp Fire Girl bead for this project.)


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(I retyped this recipe in the 1970s when I got a portable Smith-Corona typewriter for typing term papers. It was a terrible typewriter. I can only imagine what kind of shape the Never Fail Cake recipe was in before I retyped it.)

This is the best recipe ever for cupcakes. So quick! Get the boys baking. Be sure to tell them about the pickle juice trick.

Love,
Kay

P.S. I have also been knitting. I made 3 more pairs of Fetching mitts, 2 in Malabrigo and one in the remains of the cashmere (sob). I also made a hat for a boy to whom I owe a hat. I didn't have a pattern, so I made the Never Fail Hat that's in my head:

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The ribbing is in 2-round stripes of 2 shades of Noro Silk Garden. The crown is in one of the 2 shades. I started with 104 stitches, joined to knit in the round, striped until I had a generous fold-over cuff (for warmth and size flexibility), then switched to stockinette. The first round of stockinette was *K11, K2tog, repeat from * all the way around. Then I worked even for a couple of inches (judging the size from the 9 year old and 11 year old heads I had on hand). Then I worked 8 evenly spaced K2togs on every other row until I was down to 8 stitches, gathered those stitches, and fastened off.

Posted by Kay at 06:05 PM | Comments (68)

December 24, 2007

Blue Ribbon Baking

Dear Kay,

Not to be braggy or anything, but I did want to show off a bit of holiday baking I did this morning:

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It's SO EASY, really! All you do is crack open a tube of aerosol-dough Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls-Not-The-Lowfat-Ones-Which-Aren't-Sugary-Enough, quintuple the baking time, and you've got a great centerpiece for your Christmas dinner.

Or fuel for the fire.

Or a weapon.

Gah.

Merry Christmas, y'all! We're going to be out of radio contact after Christmas, so it's time to screw in some low-wattage light bulbs on el blog and encourage you to reuse and recycle our archives.

Speaking of the new year, here's my first resolution: to set a batch of knitting goals for 2008, the way Polly does. She's so insanely productive over there. Anybody else have a resolution?

Wishing everybody a peaceful holiday. May all your cinnamon rolls be golden brown . . .

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:08 AM | Comments (55)

December 21, 2007

Teacher Gifts Revealed

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Dear Ann,

We have to leave for the airport in 90 minutes. Although I'm only halfway packed, I'm caffeinated as hell, and I feel a powerful urge to post pictures of my Teacher Gifts 2007.

I generally don't like the stress of production knitting (as you know all too well), but I like knitting scarves and mitts and such for teachers. This year I think the key to my enjoyment of the process was yarn selection. I used 3 yarns I hadn't knit with before, and loved them all.

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Two pairs of Fetching mitts in two cashmere yarns. The pale blue is Debbie Bliss and the silvery gray is Mongolian Cashmere by Jade Sapphire Exotic Fibers. Both are sumptuous. The Debbie Bliss has a more cottony feel (which to me is a nice thing), while the Jade Sapphire is silky. Really silky. I think I am finally getting why the animal-fiber folks love the cashmere. (Philistine that I am, I used to think that cashmere, like caviar, was something that people liked mostly because it's expensive.) I've got enough of the silvery gray to make a pair for myself, and I will. I have committed Fetching to memory. My only beef with Fetching is that I can't seem to pick up the stitches really smoothly at the ends of the thumb opening. (Why is this a beef with Fetching and not with my own skillz?) I figured out how to make it less noticeable by starting my pickups on the end of the thumbhole that shows less on the right or left hand. (Is that tip vague enough for you? It might make sense if you are actually picking up the thumb stitches for a Fetching mitt. Put the mitt on the appropriate hand, and ask yourself where you would want a little bit of gappy knitting to hide. That's where you start your pickups.)

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This scarf used every bit of 3 skeins of Misti Alpaca Chunky. This yarn is a revelation. I don't usually like knitting with a yarn that is this chunky, but the drape of alpaca is deluxe and the hand is silky smooth. I love the way the Misti yarns are so subtly colored. They read as solids but up close they are full of colors. The pattern I used was good old Mistake Rib, over 31 stitches (which is a multiple of 4 stitches plus 3): *K2, p2; repeat from *, end K2, p1. Repeat this row until you run out of yarn. A great unisex scarf pattern that lets the yarn do the talking.

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Three skeins of a different shade of the same Misti Alpaca Chunky, in a lace rib pattern that is beautifully reversible. I did it over 27 stitches (a multiple of 5 plus 2). It's a 4-row pattern that goes like this:

Rows 1 and 3: K2, *p3, k2; repeat from *.
Row 2: P2, *K1, yo, ssk, p2; repeat from *.
Row 4: P2, *K2tog, yo, k1, p2; repeat from *.

On both of these scarves I used number 10 needles, because they were handy.

Now I'm down to 60 minutes to pack my Omaha gear, which is mostly knitting and jeans. I'm planning to kick back with the homefolks for the next few days. The homefolks have no Internet. Oh, and did I mention that I haven't done any Christmas shopping yet? I got ONE thing, and it's not even for a child. So I'll be busy this weekend, but I kind of love shopping Omaha-style. Load up the cart!

Merry Christmas everyone. Even if you don't celebrate the holiday, it's a sweet time of year.

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Throw your Santa hats in the air, like you just don't care.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:48 PM | Comments (43)

December 20, 2007

Where Is The Dippity-Do When You Need It?

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Dear Kay,

We need hairnets. That's all there is to it. I'm looking at that interview we did at Rhinebeck for Knit-A-Yarn, and I don't know why we thought the hair was OK. I can't believe our hair didn't catch a gust and launch us over the fried pickle stand.

ANYway, in the interest of avoiding standing up and doing something with myself, I just watched the Knit-A-Yarn interviews with Clara "Knitter's Book of Yarn" Parkes, Kristin "Kristin Knits" Nicholas, and Stephanie "Yarn Harlot" Pearl-McPhee, and THEY don't look like Cousin It. Gah! What are we doing wrong?

Among the shocking confessions in these interviews:

Kristin: "I just had this pent-up color thing going on, and I wanted to put it out there."

Clara: "My whole life is about swatches."

Wild women, both of 'em.

Happy Thursday--am losing track of what day it is! The Christmas errand-running is pretty much like a road rally at this point, or an episode of The Amazing Race. It's gotten to where I challenge myself with tests like: Can I get from the White Bridge Road Target to the 100 Oaks CompUSA without using Woodmont Boulevard? While avoiding I-440? Without refueling?

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:25 AM | Comments (23)

December 19, 2007

Fete Accompli

Dear Ann,

You missed out on a real old timey sew-up hootenanny Monday night. So sorry! I will try to convey a flavah of the evening.

You know that I prefer to avoid hyperbole and overstatement of any kind. But dang it, there was magic in the air. For example:

The Beasts of the Field
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Ann and Lenny had never met before. Ann aka St. Francis of Lawn Guyland, is a pooch magnet.

An Angel? A Seraph? A Really Great Gal?
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It's time for new plugs and points on the KayCam, because this picture of Dawn does not show the halos emanating from her head and hands. Dawn was there when we got there, like a beacon from On High. Or maybe just from Beacon, New York. (I get On High and Upstate mixed up.) But the magic was for real: Dawn seamed 3 (3!) of the 9-patch units, and then spent her ample free time fixing everybody else's mistakes, including reconstructive Kitchener surgery on a square that must have gotten the scissors when I was opening the envelope. Dawn, we don't know who you are or where you came from, but please come next time.

A Visitation From the Beyond (Texas)

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Katie showed up and said hi and I gave her a square and rattled off her marching orders and she said, "I've only got 15 minutes because I'm visiting from Houston and I've got sights to see!" Our little sew-up bee got top billing over the Rockettes! We were the pre-theatre sew-up menu. Thanks Katie! Hope you found the pizza place!

The Mother of the Blogzine

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Is there anything more wondrous than a couple that knits together? How about a couple that whipstitches together? Ron and Naomi were there. Naomi has exciting news: she has a brand-new, consciousness-raising blogzine, Knit a Condom Amulet. Check it out! Stick with Naomi, and you are going to learn something.

Lovely Lady Links

Even a control freak can't control everything. I sort of kept track of who was there. If I've left anybody out, send me an email. Here's who else was there: Wendy, Catherine, Mary, Liz, Cara (who taught a little girl to knit in the store), Katherine, Amy, Cynthia, Grace, Alex, Megan, Zontee, Claudia, Anne, Jill, Katy, Jenn, Lisa Daehlin, Stephanie, and Abby.

The Loaves and the Fishes and the Chairs

Many thanks to Pearl Chin of Knitty City for her generous hospitality. We used every chair in the place, but there were always just enough. When one person had to leave, another would appear to fill her chair. Thanks also to Erin, who kept the cash register open late on a Monday night, and also sewed!

The Fruits of Our Labors

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All but one of the 9-patch units are SEWED UP, as are most of the borders.

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Thanks to my vigilant harping and prodding, we've got 99.5 percent of the ends sewn in, with no ambiguous dangling. (When you've sewn in an end, cut it short, people! I don't want to wonder whether it's been sewn in!)

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You can see the pattern emerging, right? RIGHT?

This is where things will stand until the week after Christmas, when I will sew up the remaining seams and embark on a dramatic i-cord expedition (or not). Look for this work of many hands in a raffle drawing in early January! (Fear not: I will remind you. But buy tickets now so you can get in on ALL the raffles. Instructions in sidebar.)

Thanks, everybody. I'm off like a prom dress. Grip me my double-points: today is Teacher Gift 4 of 4!

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 08:26 AM | Comments (38)

December 18, 2007

The View From My Desk

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Dear Kay,

One of my favorite features over at Andrew Sullivan's blog is The View from Your Window. Above is the sky out my window this morning; I'm not a sunrise-photo-taker, but this one was just so pink. If anybody else would like to share the view from your window, leave a comment with a link if you feel it.

It's a week before Christmas, y'all. How's it going?

I thought I'd share a View from My Desk, seeing as how it's totally piled up with all manner of treasures.

We got an invitation to a Christmas party, a big ol' Hatch Show Print poster. Fab!

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These tags came from Michaels, where the Martha Stewart aisle is a quiet little oasis of taste.

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I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at all the Martha gear. It's lovely, every single bit of it. But the intense aesthetic buzz I got during my little meditative moment in the Martha aisle was nipped right off during the desperate hostage situation at the checkout line. We customers set down our baskets of stuff. We blinked in Morse code at each other: "H-E-L-P M-E." We completed the craft projects we hadn't even paid for yet. O.M.G. The gates of hell will look exactly like the checkout stations at Michaels. They'll hand you a basket with a brazillion tiny items, each of which has to be bar-scanned, one by one.

They just need to sell that stuff by the pound. Like a giant, crafty salad bar. The pricing in that place bears no relationship to anything: sometimes it's 70% off half of the store. Eight bucks for a bottle of glue. WhatEVer. They should have Make Up Your Own Price Day.

OK. Here's a palate cleanser, a Wendell Berry poem for ya. This came with an invitation for a Nashville Tree Foundation fundraiser, featuring a talk by this Kentucky novelist/farmer/poet/tree hugger.

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Just sayin, if you haven't given anybody a tree for the holidays yet, this would be a great place to get one.

Here are some really biomorphic stitch markers that Francie O. made for us.

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I'd link to her website, but she has put herself on polymer clay hiatus for the moment. Maybe we can persuade her to go back into bidness.

Jingle bells waiting for their jingle moment:

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A holiday note from a pal I hadn't heard from in a while. So delightful! Let's all drop a line to somebody we haven't talked to in a while.

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Here's my dwindling pile of catalogs. I've opted out of 49 catalog companies via Catalog Choice.

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I'm not anti-catalog; there's nothing like a wallow in the weird parallel universe that is Anthropologie. But doesn't it give you a little pang to see yet another catalog in your mailbox from the Popcorn Company, when you've probably ordered your last batch of that stuff? Hm, wait a minute. Caramel popcorn? What was I thinking? I LOVE THAT STUFF.

I hesitate even to bring it up, but I've started a blanket for Clif, now that I've finished David's. I hate even more to let you know that it may well involve little squares of garter stitch. But it does.

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And finally, the view from my desk I enjoy the most these days is this photo of Clif heading for the beach this summer.

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Peace out, everybody!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 02:11 PM | Comments (31)

December 17, 2007

Here We Come a-Blanketing

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Dear Ann,

As I face my personal Moment of Gift-Knitting Truth (I'm on Teacher 3 of 4; will I make it, or should I go shopping STAT?), I'm also packing a shopping bag with PLO SUUs (pre-laid-out sew-up units) for tonight's sew-up party. We'll be whipstitching our little hearts out from 4 until at least 8 at the ever welcoming city of knitting: Knitty City, 208 West 79th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. You don't need to bring anything, but if you bring your own tapestry needle you will receive one additional snack of your choice. Stop by!

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Cara and Other Ann will be driving in to join us. Pinching of bingo wings will NOT be tolerated. This is for the safety of all, and Knitty City's insurance.

Department of Can You Stand It

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This just in: the first UK blanket has been finished. It's gorgeous, it's cozy, and it's got more than 1200 rows of i-cord in the border. The raffle drawing for this blanket will be on Wednesday, December 19. Tickets are still on sale. Simply send a PayPal payment to [email protected], and you get one chance for each $2 or 1 British pound. Tickets stay in the pool for the items to be raffled in the coming weeks, including our American blankets. Which we can't show you a picture of yet.

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Well, we can show you a picture. It's just not very inspiring at the moment. Unless your tattoo says "Born to Whipstitch". (Come to think of it, if I had a tattoo, it might say that.)

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Happy Monday!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:38 AM | Comments (28)

December 16, 2007

The Best Part of Waking Up

Dear Ann,

I'm embarrassed to report: my interest in collegiate a cappella remains undiminished. (Symptoms d'une femme d'un certain age: fluctuation of estrogen levels, and yearning for harmony and rep ties.) This one is holidayish. You have to stay with it for a few seconds before you realize that it's going to be fun. (Have I ever steered you wrong?) (Don't answer that.)

Only 1.7 million people have watched it. That seems wrong.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:11 PM | Comments (50)

December 14, 2007

Eduardo and Jingle: Weird Little Houseguests

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Dear Kay,

A few years ago, David came home from school and said that if we left saltines and water under our Christmas tree, an elf would come and stay with us until Christmas Eve. He said all his friends had elves.

I had never heard of such a thing, but what the heck. If the Tooth Fairy and Santy Claus knew our address, maybe we could lure an elf if we laid out the right schnax. So David set out a plate, and lo and behold, the next day there was a creepy little trollish elf sitting in the branches of our tree. David started writing notes to him, and it turned out that this elf was named Eduardo and he was 874 years old.

Eduardo, it turned out, liked to write letters to David, and he would give David quizzes:

1. What's your favorite thing about Christmas?

David's answer: Getting gifts.

2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

David's answer: Chuckey Chese's. [sic]

3. How much do you like bran cereal? A lot? or a whole lot?

David's answer: A whole lot.

The next year, David's brother Clif was old enough to start luring elves, too. Another one showed up, named Jingle, and he was an amateur dentist, he said.

Anyway, this has been going on for a while now, and sometimes the elves go sort of dormant for a few days, and sometimes they forget to eat saltines, and sometimes they go on long trips to the North Pole. They hang out in our freezer because it's never really cold enough for them in Nashville. But they seem to like it here, and they like writing the boys, and the fellas get into deep philosophical discussions about, like, how can Santa make all the toys? Is luck real? Are we going to get a Wii for Christmas?

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They always leave December 24th, and we're always sad when they do.

The First Gift of Christmas

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Speaking of gifts, I do believe I am the proud owner of a totally fab felted bag, thanks to Clif's second grade knitting skillz and also the considerable help of his teacher, the amazing Mrs. Smith. Clif gave it to me about two seconds after coming in the door from school. I told him how much I loved it, and I was going to put it under the tree to open again at Christmas. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Mom. Why would you do that? I mean, I just gave it to you already."

As for what I'm knitting, it's highly miscellaneous and not really blogworthy at the moment. But I'm hoping to get a mojo on shortly.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:25 AM | Comments (31)

December 13, 2007

Clapotitis Revisited

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Dear Ann,

Yesterday I got a blast from the very pleasant past when my pal Orna wore Clapotis to her birthday lunch at ye olde coffee bar. Seeing as it was her birthday, she had let down her hair. Her hair was the whole reason I had given her the Clapotis in the first place. (I had knit it with no particular person in mind--remember Clapotis fever? I had it bad.) There was a hint of bluish sunlight in the park as we walked home, so I finally got to take some action shots of a 2005 FO.

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Somehow this gave me strength for my last-minute gift-knitting journey.

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Orna got these fetching Fetching mitts for her birthday. I had started them for a teacher, but couldn't be sure the teacher would love their mismatchiness and obscure cables. I need those two qualities to be loved. The Orna adores the Noro Silk Garden.

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She went gaga the other day when I gave her son Ben the Maine Morning Mitts that had turned out a bit too big for Joseph. (In the same coffee bar. One might think we live there. One might be right.)

These two pairs of mitts were a detour from my scheduled teacher-gift knitting. But I'm not stressing. I found some dee-vine yarn for a pair of more subdued and luxurious Fetchings, and I'm doing fashionably chunky scarves in suave, ropy Misti Alpaca for the other two teachers. One scarf is already finished and even blocked. I rock! (Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "I knit like an automaton!") I will show those soon, the next time we get a few seconds of bluish light.

The Fetching pattern is a quick and satisfying knit. My only modification was to eschew the picot bind-off so that the mitts would fit a bit more snugly, as I saw Emma doing on her Fetchings. A plain bindoff, with 3 evenly distributed K2togs, did just fine. Maine Morning Mitts are even quicker, and just the thing for the Extreme Outdoor Gameboy boy in your life.

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What's knitting down there?

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 04:50 PM | Comments (17)

December 12, 2007

Behind the Music: Blanket 1

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Dear Ann,

I want to share some tips on laying out an homage-to-Kaffe Fassett blanket starting with 1053 4-inch squares in a sampling of every sock yarn that has been on the market since 1974 plus a little handspun. This isn't done very often, so it may be of interest to others who have a couple-odd thousand squares sitting around.

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Tip #1: Call in Amber. Amber brings muffins and endless patience for swapping squares in and out of a layout, in miserable December light. Helpful hint: Make sure you have the basic necessities for a home birth, as Amber is awaiting a Blessed Event in the very near future. Keep Amber hydrated, and she will work all day.

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That's my only tip, really. Amber.

We ("we" used loosely) got the central 20 blocks laid out and taped to cardstock for ease of sew-up, and also the inner border. The squares look even better taped close together than they did spread out on the bed, which bodes well for how they will look seamed up. All that's left to do is to sort through the crazy diagonal squares seeking only the most crazy, most diagonal ones for the outer border. Snip-snap--blanket laid out. At this point it is unclear whether it will be recognizable as an Homage to Kaffe Fassett's Gridlock blanket, but whatever it is, we like it.

The biggest revelation so far is that even if you have 1053 squares, if you are trying to establish a discernible pattern you will spend a fair amount of time hunting for the right ones. Even with over a thousand squares in your palette, when you are looking for the right pinky-red, most are too pinky or too red and you just have to get over yourself. (Hey, that's a tip: Get over thyself.)

Quotes:

"I like it."

"I hate it."

"Yes!"

"Not so much."

"It looks like one of those spectrum packs from Purl!"

"So. Great."

"Contrast! More contrast!"

"I thought I would like that but I don't."

"Can this block be the weird one?"

"OK, it's done now. Right?"

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:19 AM | Comments (26)

December 11, 2007

One Thousand Fifty-Three

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Dear Ann,

So. I counted the squares.

1053 is the number, not counting the 54 I made (in case we didn't get enough, you know?) and the three I just got from Emma. And Amber is bringing me a few more today when she comes to help me lay them out. Let's call it 1100, shall we?

That's kind of a lot. Two large blankets, with plenty of leftover square loveliness to share with our friends in the UK. We are going to ROCK THE RAFFLE.

The squares pictured above are the last of the later arrivals. I have gone a couple of days without receiving new ones, and been demoted from "gets her own bin" status, so I am pretty sure we are near the end. This last batch came from Jan (again!), Jessica, A.D., Diane H, Janny S, Rebecca C, Gretchen H (her own handspun!), Jennifer F, Amanda M, Catherine E, KD, Maggi, Erika B, Tricia C, PJ, Quinn, Jenn, Ashley C, Theresa, Ari, Siri, Sarah, Robin, Amber, Julie, and Renee S. Thank you so much, stalwart holiday knitters.

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Honorable mention goes to Ari for sending 9 of these mitered beauties, apparently for the sole purpose of making me crazy (which I appreciate).

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You cannot really tell, but the squares are sorted. They give new meaning to the term "window treatment." (For inquiring minds, the sorting categories are: crazy stripey diagonals, solid and semi-solid non-dark colors, dark colors, and reds.)

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We're waiting for Amber.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 12:37 PM | Comments (22)

December 10, 2007

Gifty!

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Dear Ann,

[Note to skimmers. If you stay with this post, there is a free pattern in there somewhere.]

Hey there. IT'S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!!! Hanukkah is in full swing, but I can handle Hanukkah. Hanukkah requires one Unnecessary But Greatly Desired Electronic Item (To Be Purchased By Dad), plus 7 small items such as: Croc buttons (still looking for here's the Israeli flag Croc button I saw recently--how cool would that be as an embellishment for the national shoe of Israel), CDs (although CDs are obsolete technology, I persist), paperback biographies of US Presidents (reliably thrilling for a boy here), and craft materials (although Model Magic is hard to wrap, it's the It Gift for a girl who has rendered the Trojan War in the medium, causing serious red ink in the Model Magic budget but hopefully earning her teacherly adulation). (Tip: If you are giving Model Magic as a gift--and why wouldn't you be--the best color is white, because you can make it any other color with felt-tip markers. Color on the surface of the clay and work it in; repeat until you get the desired shade. With a gold marker and a toothpick, you can get Helen's hair just right.) By Day 7 or 8, expectations get so low that we can give them a pencil or stick of gum. (Last night, we gave stickers. Got a big "woo-hoo" for the stickers.)

But Christmas is another category altogether. Christmas wears me out just thinking about it. Christmas is particularly difficult in families that also celebrate Hanukkah and whose kids have adequate supplies of presidential biographies and Model Magic to begin with. And then there are all those other lovely people upon whom one would bestow a seasonal token of affection, if only one could think of one. What to give? We have questions; the Internet has answers.

The Bomb

That cleverboots Mrs. Lear is doing bath bombs that smell like grapefruit and sweetgrass! She's using this recipe. Bombs away!

Chocolate

Chocolate is never a wrong gift, unless it is not good chocolate, and even chocolat ordinaire qualifies as a guilty pleasure. Be careful, though: the bacon bar is not for everybody. If you gave someone a Hannukah gift, err on the side of caution and give them the Woolloomooloo Bar instead. Whatever it is, the Woolloomooloo is pork-free.

Oh Yeah. You Could Knit Something.

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Nothing goes better with a bath bomb or a bar of weird chocolate than a washcloth. And not the same old washcloth you gave last year. Even though your chums are begging you for more Ballband Dishcloths, mix it up a little and suprise them with a BRAND NEW DISHCLOTH DESIGN. Here, in the extended entry portion of this post, is a free pattern for the Lobby Dishcloth. I have roadtested this dishcloth and it's a winner. It would also make a great blanket if you just kept going...and going....

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Homekeeping Tip: Whether a cloth is a dishcloth or a washcloth is entirely a matter of which room you put it in. Once you've put it in one room, though, you can't change it to the other one. That's a rule. Nobody wants to wash her face with a dishcloth, or vice versa.

Now HERE's a Fab Idea

Save yourself all that messing about and just get 'em a copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters' Guide. Have you heard of it? It's AWESOME. A surefire people pleaser. (And a great stocking stuffer, if you have extra-wide stockings at your place.)

Sorry for the commercial, but despite our poignant letter to Santa, it doesn't look like we're getting an ad in the New York Times this year. Maybe next year!

Merry merry everybody!

Love,
Kay

P.S. There should be an "Unsuggestions" list as well. Tops on my personal unsuggestions list is the Dearfoam "Opera". I think they must be joking about the "opera", right? Even a very old lady does not want her house slippers to scream "old lady!" Proceed with extreme caution when buying slippers of any description. It is so very easy to go wrong. Ask yourself, "Why not chocolate?"

P.P.S.
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Once again we were given the privilege of injecting jelly into our friend Aliza's delectable kirschwasser-infused sofganiot. I can't decide what was my favorite moment from Aliza's Hanukkah party on Friday: the kids all doing the traditional Hebrew dance "Crank That (Soulja Boy)", or Aliza screaming about how disorganized she was, how her stove is worthless because it was not frying right, how she's going to do it COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY next year, and in the same breath saying, "Listen---do you hear the kids? They're having a GREAT TIME!" From "kvetch" to "kvell" in 2 seconds flat.

Lobby Dishcloth

While I admire a dishcloth with a clever picture or stitch pattern, I also want a dishcloth that’s tough enough to scrub counters and keep its shape over many washings. A dense, ridgy garter or waffle stitch works just great.

This pattern was inspired by the terrazzo, stone and metal floor of the 1929 apartment building that I live in. There are so many colliding miters, squares, and chevrons laid into this floor that it must have been a challenge even for the master tile setters of the Art Deco period. Now a small corner of this masonry is immortalized in a dishcloth, using striped corner miters in combination with Barbara Walker’s “Parquet Squares” pattern.

While I’m waiting for the elevator, I’ll keep staring at the floor, looking for more dishcloths.

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FINISHED MEASUREMENT

Approximately 8 inches square

MATERIALS
Peaches & Creme worsted weight 100% cotton in at least 2 solid colors. You will need approximately half a skein of the main color and a smaller quantity of the other color(s) to make one dishcloth.

1 set US #6 or #7 straight needles
1 16-inch US #6 or #7 circular needle (for optional edging)
1 crochet hook (for optional edging)
1 stitch marker


GAUGE
18 sts/36 rows = 4" in garter stitch

PATTERN NOTES

The edging is optional and can be created using either a circular needle or a crochet hook.

The pattern refers to Colors A and B because the mitered squares are striped. Needless to say, you can use more than two colors and change them at will. I used four colors for my set of three. (Matchy!)

The dishcloth is constructed in 4 square units. The first unit consists of 4 small squares that are knit onto each other, after which the remaining three squares are attached.

PATTERN

Unit 1 (Mini-Parquet): Using Color A, cast on 9 sts. *Knit 9 garter ridges and on next RS row, BO all sts but do not cut yarn.** Turn this square one-quarter turn to the right, and pick up 1 st in each garter ridge. (9 sts).

Rep from * to ** 2 times, to knit the second and third squares of this unit. Do not cut yarn.

You now have an L-shaped piece formed from three 9-stitch squares. With RS facing, in the angle of the L, pick up 9 sts in the garter ridges of the last square knitted, place marker, and pick up 9 sts from the cast-on edge of the first square knitted.

Next row (WS): Knit.
Now change to Color B and work a striped garter-stitch miter into this corner by working a double decrease on every RS row as follows:

Row 1 (RS): Knit to 2 sts before marker, SSK, K2tog, knit to end of row.
Row 2 (WS): Knit.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2, alternating Colors A and B and carrying the color not in use up the side of the work, until there are 2 sts remaining. On next (WS) row, K2tog and fasten off but do not cut the yarn. (If you have done it right, you should be using Color A, but this is not crucial.)

Unit 2 (Plain): Turn the work one-quarter turn to the right, and using Color A, pick up 18 stitches (the first 9 in the garter ridges of the mini-miter, and the second 9 in the remaining garter ridges). Knit 18 garter ridges. On next RS row, BO all sts but do not cut yarn.

Unit 3 (Plain): Repeat the instructions for Unit 2, knitting Unit 3 onto Unit 2.

You now have an L-shaped piece formed by the first 3 units.

Unit 4 (Striped Miter): Using Color A and with RS facing, in the angle of the L, pick up 18 sts in the garter ridges of the last square knitted, place marker, and pick up 18 sts from the edge of the first square knitted (the mini-parquet unit).

Next row (WS): Knit.
Now change to Color B and work a striped garter-stitch miter into this corner by working a double decrease on every RS row as follows:

Row 1 (RS): Knit to 2 sts before marker, SSK, K2tog, knit to end of row.
Row 2 (WS): Knit.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2, alternating Colors A and B and carrying the color not in use up the side of the work, until there are 2 sts remaining. On next (WS) row, K2tog and fasten off.

OPTIONAL EDGING
Using a contrasting or coordinating color, create an edging either by working single crochet all the way around the cloth, or as follows using a circular needle.

Pick up sts along all 4 sides of the cloth. When you get back around to the first stitch you picked up, purl this stitch and bind off all stitches purlwise.

Weave in all ends and wipe off the counter.

ABOUT THE DESIGNER
With Ann Shayne, Kay Gardiner is a co-author of the blog masondixonknitting.com, and the book Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide, which contains patterns for dishcloths and other items for the home as well as for kids and adults and just for the sheer fun of knitting stuff. Ann and Kay are working on a second book and blabbing daily on their beloved blog. Stop by!

Copyright 2006 Kay Gardiner

Posted by Kay at 03:20 PM | Comments (43)

December 06, 2007

It's Getting Hot in Here, So Sew Up All Your Squares

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Dear Ann,

First, very important: THE SEW-UP DATE HAS CHANGED. (The yarn shop had a conflict.) The new details are:

DATE: Monday, December 17, 2007
TIME: 4-8 p.m.
PLACE: Knitty City, 208 West 79th Street (between Amsterdam and Broadway)

Note: Nobody has to come for the whole 4 hours! Come when you can, leave when you must. I know everyone is busy this time of year, and then there's those pesky day jobs, too.

Please send me an email (bigbonegalAThotmailDOTcom) if you're planning to come, so that we have some idea of what the demand will be for tapestry needles, munchables and potables.

Roll On, Squares!

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As scientists map the human genome, I hope they are looking for the gene labeled "deadline-oriented". This is a very real thing in human behavior: gittin' 'r done in the face of a deadline. Surely this must have been a survival-enhancing trait for early man, which is kind of amazing when you consider that they didn't even have a calendar back then. They must have had to have their squares knitted by the next full moon or something.

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The deadline brought a ree-diculous quantity of squareliness to my doorstep.

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This load of love was brought to you by: Seanna Lea, Rev. Linda, Sally D, Kate R, Eve B, Margo Lynn, Sara L, Laura L, Celia, Tish, No Name from Tennessee, Gwen M (again!), Jorun, Sally, Betsy T from Classic E, Anne R, Stacey P, Marlena C, Barb C (and daughter Stella!), Kathy D, Ren W, Joyce T, Jan, Kathryn K, Angie N, Mary Lou E, Adrienne, Danielle (fun fact: Danielle used yarn she received in her Hefty Bag Contest prize from you, Ann), Cynthia N, Sandy R, Gusty, Marie P, Birdsong S, Joanne E, Lisa, Elizabeth D, Leslie B, Colleen, Annell, Julie McC, Laura K, Stephanie, Vicki, Marina M, Kate R, E.H., Laura T, Al, Morna C, Mary Lynn, K.D., L Moon, Kathryn R, Theresa H, Jennifer M, Melissa, Becca, Robin S aka Clif's Teacher, Mary B, Mary Sue T, Francie O, Kelly S (again!), Susan, Patty M, Helen C, Sheryl, Emily, Felicia R, Kathleen N, Julie B, The Rubins, Alexis J, Jennifer, Libby B, Barbara C, Dale-Harriet, Pink Sky, Mary B, Kathy K, Wendy S, and Lacee.

PHEW! My linkerator is hurting!

In the crowd, I came across this square.

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You think I'm lying, but I swear I could see this square, anywhere, and say, "That one is Ann's." It's so you! So mostly-not-an-actual-color, so drabby-graybrown, and then that wedge of jazzy citron (is it yellow? is it green? YES!). Your squares--this one and its many handsome siblings--betray you.

Have I re-counted them yet? No. Are there more? Yes. There are quite a few straggler envelopes that I've yet to open and inventory. Thank you, everyone. I'm so glad people "didn't have time to knit many" squares this time of year; if you had had any more focus, my linkerator would be busted, and I'd be sewing until the end of time.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:54 PM | Comments (29)

December 05, 2007

Git R Done: The Sew Up Details

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Dear Ann,

This fine gloomy morning I'm heading down the turnpike to Philly for a visit to Phila*craft HQ, so time is short. Here's an aerial view of the most recent delivery of squares for the American Blanket(s):

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Tomorrow I will post the link-a-thon of where these fine squares came from. But today I have news to share: the details of a little sewing-up party.

DATE: Tuesday, December 18, 2007
TIME: 4-8 p.m.
PLACE: Knitty City, 208 West 79th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam)

What would we do without Pearl Chin? During the busiest time of the year, I asked her to keep Knitty City open for us on an off-night, and Pearl said "of course!" If you are planning on coming, would you please RSVP so I can give Pearl an idea of what she's in for? Just send an email to me at bigbonegalAThotmailDOTcom. Just bring yourself, and your willingness to submit to instruction from that domineering woman sitting in the chair Kaffe sat in when he was at Knitty City last month. (No, she will not let anyone else sit in that chair.) (Yes, she is me.)

More square details tomorrow--I must fly!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 07:06 AM | Comments (13)

December 03, 2007

Return of the Hot Water Bottle

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Dear Kay,

Back in prehistoric times—I mean ancient, barely electronic times before we had this blog—I used to make hot water bottle covers for people. It was one of those things that I liked to make. Kind of weird, but not the weirdest thing I've ever made.* There is a place in the world for a hot water bottle, even if it's a small place, and one that has mostly been usurped by those cloth tube things with buckwheat or rice or something that you heat up in the microwave for a minute. I had one of those once, and it really got hot as hell, but it always smelled kind of odd. Too much like food, you know? I am not putting a bag of hot, damp buckwheat on my aching back. That's not really making me feel better.

At some point I stockpiled a bunch of hot water bottles that were half off at Restoration Hardware, which is one of those places where you ironically buy the things that people used to literally buy. But I was literally buying these ironic hot water bottles, because they were cheap, and I knew I'd need them at some point.

Well, some point came on Saturday, when I was digging around in my closet, and I found my stash of hot water bottles. I realized that I missed making hot water bottle cozies, so in about one point one minutes I was off to find the pattern I'd used, the classic "Hottie" from the very classic Rowan Magazine #28.

I had to change the gauge because I wanted to use Crystal Palace Merino Stripes, a yarn that I never, ever, wever would have used back in the day I was first making hottie covers. Such a snob I was! It has so many elements I used to despise: It is multicolor. It is merino, but it also has a bit of polyester. It is bulky weight. But I like this yarn, people, I really do. It changes color over a long stretch, and it makes a fluffy soft fabric. I have come a long way, y'all, if I'm making a multicolor bulky weight wool blend hottie cover.

This was a two-day knit, if you sort of ignore your family and catch up on Project Runway. So it makes a good last-minute giftie projeck.

If you're looking for hot water bottles to cozy up, you can go for FashionHot, a site that sells thermoplastic hot water bottles that apparently don't smell like rubber when they're hot. Or you can go to a surgical supply company, which seems sort of stern. Which I sort of like.

As for patterns, this Rowan Hottie is kind of a pain, to tell you the truth. It's like making a weird turtleneck for, I guess, an actual turtle who has retracted all his limbs. At one point you end up with a very strange thing in your lap:

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I'm strong for this pattern, though, having made it so often before.

The world has changed since I started making these, and if I were only at the beginning of my hot-water-bottle-making journey, I'd go poke around the Web, because it's so easy to discover new patterns that way. A quick tour reveals all sorts of smarter patterns--it begs to be made in the round, you know? Blue Sky Alpacas has a pattern that lets you get your Fair Isle on. Free, even. Their server seems to be down right now, but here's the link for when it's back in action.

And Ravelry has a number of free patterns too.

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Actually, Restoration Hardware is still selling hot water bottles--cashmere covered, even, here. But that seems sort of easy, don't you think? If you're going to go for a hot water bottle, might as well go all out. And as for those fancy new thermoplastic hotties that have no smell? I am pretty sure that the scent of warm rubber has a profoundly therapeutic effect. Pair it up with some Vicks Vapo-Rub, and you'll be on the mend toot sweet.

Love,
Ann

* OK, SINCE you asked, here's one of the weirder things I've ever made: Gliz, who in case you've ALREADY FORGOTTEN was the ice cube mascot of the 2006 Winter Olympics. The weirdest thing I've ever made? To the GRAVE I'll carry that little secret.

Posted by Ann at 09:00 PM | Comments (32)

December 02, 2007

Forrest's Momma Was Right

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Dear Ann,

Getting squares in the mail is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.

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These 31 squares made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Such perfect knitting. So much heart.

Thank you, Cindy.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:14 PM | Comments (56)
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