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

July 28, 2008

Contest Over!

pixie2.jpg

Dear Ann,

Coming up for air after reading so many wonderful stories in the comments. Oh the humanity! The Schwinns! The matching halters and culottes! The gingham! The Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizzas! Cherry Ames, RN! Trixie Belden! Being reminded of Christy by Catherine Marshall, which I haven't thought of in dog's years, and the image of the cover blasting instantly into my brain. (Must read that again NOW. Worrying that it won't be as good as I remember it.)

I was unable to locate a photo of my youngster self that had the perfect storm of seersucker short set, smeared glasses, and pixie cut, so I went with this view circa age 8, right before I was stricken with with myopia. This shows a very fresh pixie; maybe my mom had trimmed my bangs herself, seeing as how the photographer was coming. (Getting picture taken in our living room by a travelling photographer is another vivid childhood memory. He had a portable screen he put up behind us. Either my brother or my sister could be relied upon to cry; I sat stoically, bangs (what was left of them) facing forward. The burden of Oldestness.) I found photos of Keds, miscellaneous unflattering eyewear, a hot pink maxi skirt I sewed myself --but no seersucker, no appliqued fruit. From my sisters in the comments, I know that these short sets existed. I know I wore them. I got nothing to prove here.

I would like to announce the winners of our contest, who will receive signed copies of our new book when it comes out in September.

Random-draw winners are:

MarilynZ99
Someone who signed "~S" (sulitk)
Ann
Becky
Melissa
Sydney
Nadine
Jill (jrfdalton)

I should know by now that there will always be too many good stories to pick just 2, but I had to, so I did. (Well, OK, I picked 3.) Story winners are:

Erica who was not allowed to check out The Life and Times of Albert Einstein at the library (why yes, she was a giant geek), because she was a child and it was an adult book. Nor was Erica's mother allowed to check it out for her at the library, but all was saved by the bookmobile, which struck a blow for freedom.

Pat ("I could never do a cartwheel, and I blame the bookmobile.")

Tracy, whose mom drove the bookmobile, and in fact WAS the bookmobile.

Winners please email your mailing address to bigbonegal AT hotmail DOT com.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I loved the stories of bookmobiles and libraries. And all those mean librarians of yore--surely they helped mold character. Perhaps they will get their just reward at that big bookmobile in the sky, where you cannot even think about checking out a Harlequin Romance for the first 10,000 years. I cannot believe the similarity of the books that so many read as children, regardless of generation or location, or the wide variety of books people are reading now. It's given me all sorts of additions to my to-read list. Feel free to dip into the comments and find something good to curl up with on the rollaway, everyone.

(Which reminds me of a beloved college professor, whose 1950s high school yearbook caption said his ambition was to "curl up with a good book." I heard the story from his wife of many decades. The former Miss Book.)

And a special thank you to Sharon for leading me to this YouTube, which should be called Disco Bookmobile.

I'm off to Omaha, where I may find evidence of seersucker, or at least culottes. My summer wardrobe could use some pepping up; I'm thinking: scooter skirt. I rocked the scooter skirt.

Happy Monday,

Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:48 PM | Comments (28)

July 23, 2008

Contest: The Bookmobile Just Pulled Into the Shaver's Parking Lot

bookmobile_1953(lg)2.jpg

Dear Ann,

I finally had a breakthrough about our Fifth Blogiversary Contest. I didn't want it to be about knitting slipcovers for chairs. I may be singleminded in my enthusiasms, but I do realize that the appeal of knitting upholstery is not yet universal. I will bring people to this wonderland, one by one, but not in a day. (By the way, my upholstery-knitting chums, I have a CHART for my denim slipcover and I'm almost done with my WIP deck-clearing.)

The contest idea hit me when I was writing in my Abigail Thomas Notebook. You don't have an Abigail Thomas Notebook? Well, if you read her book Thinking About Memoir, you may find it hard not to start one, and then you would see how much effort it takes to keep a notebook. I thought it would be easy but I'm finding it hard not to think, "Well THAT is sure a stupid thing to write in a notebook," and cross it out immediately.

Today I wrote in my notebook, "Bookmobile." Something I was reading jogged a sweet old memory of the Omaha Public Library's summer bookmobile program circa 1967. Near the end of the school year, our teacher told us about the bookmobile's schedule, and told us that if we read 10 books over the course of the summer, we would receive a Certificate in September.

To this day, I will pretty much kill for a Certificate.

And 10 books over the course of a summer? That's nothing for a girl who had to be threatened with punishment to leave the rollaway bed on Grandma's front porch and GO PLAY OUTSIDE for pity's sake. The only challenge to the thing was getting to the Bookmobile to get the documentation necessary for the Certificate.

bookmobile_1953(lg)3.jpg


The Bookmobile came once a week to the Shaver's grocery store parking lot. Shaver's was one of those not-so-super markets that died in the 70s, when people started driving further for luxuries like actual produce and wide aisles. It was a friendly, if dank and dimly lit place. They had an awesome newstand with Tiger Beat magazines, and one of the cashiers was a friend of my mom's, which made me feel like a celebrity when I was checking out and she said hi. All the cashiers were moms. They had memorable coiffures. But back to the Bookmobile.

I rode my bike (a metallic blue Schwinn Sting-Ray with sparkly banana seat--thankyouUncleJohn FOREVER) to the Bookmobile every week. I took a shortcut on a dirt road. And if you think this scene can't get any more wholesome and all-American, please know that at this time, I wore seersucker short sets with matching sleeveless tops. Appliqued fruit was standard. My haircut was known as the Pixie, my eyeglasses were always askew if not taped, and I had a tendency to breathe through my mouth. (In other words, I was adorable.) The Bookmobile was old (even then) and green, and inside it smelled like the back of your car, Ann, when filled with Judith Krantz novels.

bookmobile_1953(lg)5.jpg


But what about the contest? The contest will be a drawing for copies of our new book ( a review--I do believe it's the first-- and a preorder deal, over at the Knitter's Bookshelf) when it comes out in September. To enter, please leave a comment to this post no later than noon (EST) on Friday, July 25, with at least 2 of these 3 things:

1. A Bookmobile memory if you have one.
2. The title of a favorite chapter book from your childhood or your child's childhood.
3. The title of a book you plan to read before the end of the summer of 2008.

There will be 10 winners, mostly randomly drawn but a couple will win on the basis of their Bookmobile memory inducing laughter, tears, or best of all, laughter-through-tears, Dolly Parton's favorite emotion. (Cf. Steel Magnolias.)

Excuse me, I have to go see if eBay has any metallic blue Sting-Rays. Then I'm going to read Dr. Dolittle on the closest thing I can find to a rollaway bed.

Love,
Kay

P.S. The photos are from the Harris County (Mississippi) Library System. They are dated 1953, but the Bookmobile is about the same vintage as the one I remember from the late 60s.

Posted by Kay at 11:52 AM | Comments (654)

July 22, 2008

Gotta Love a New Toy

Dear Ann,

You know I love a cool blog toy. I saw this over at Amy's and I've been having a grand time with my favorite picture.

carrieframe.jpg

You don't do anything except select your picture and see what happens.

What good is it? I have no earthly idea.

Everybody have fun.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:38 AM | Comments (17)

July 20, 2008

Attention Yarn Shoppers of Middle Tennessee

lynnevogelyarn.jpg

Dear Kay,

A quick note to invite one and all up to the Monteagle Assembly on Wednesday, July 23, for the annual cottage tour and bazaar.

I mention this because a) I'm in charge of the thing and I am getting a little nervous about it. But more important, b) there will be one fiberlicious booth among the 31 vendors with a beautiful range of lovely yarns and handcrafts.

Sewanee resident and author of Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters and the classic Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook Lynne Vogel is hosting a booth with tasty stuff from her line of fiber and yarn, as well as beautiful things from other fiber artists:

Jan Quarles . . . "Daily Fibers" line of yarn and fiber plus some felted items.

Lori Lawson of Capistrano Fiber Arts, San Juan Capistrano, CA . . . some of her gorgeous sock yarn, some luxury fibers and three of her beautiful handwoven scarves. If you can't make it to Monteagle, here's her tasty Etsy shop.

Diane Getty of Sewanee/Baltimore, MD . . . screen print silk scarves.

Pam Harris of Whitwell, TN . . . handspun yarn and knitted items.

Blaine Harkins of Apex, NC . . . hand felted scarves.

Linda Matherly . . . hand dyed silk scarves.

Bazaar is 9 am-4 pm.
Cottage tour is 1-4 pm. Five wonderful cottages will be open, and it's a great chance to tour the grounds and see what it's like up here. There will be food vendors for lunch.

Directions: Take 1-24 to Monteagle, TN exit. Then follow this map to the Assembly. Follow the Cottage Tour signs to the North Gate, hop out, pay your ten bucks, and have a great time. I'll be running around looking kind of sweaty and worrying if the bake sale cupcakes are going to melt. The 25-cent book sale is sure to be a highlight--I've got all the books in the back of my car, so believe me when I say I know about this.

It's going to be fun!--hope to see you guys up there.

Love,

Ann

PS I totally stole the photo above from Lynne's blog. I doubt that particular handspun will be there, but there will be plenty otherwise. UPDATED TO ADD: I just heard from Meg Manning, friend of MDK and proprietor of the destination yarn shop Yarn Expressions in Huntsville, Ala. She points out that the fabby handspun at the top is in fact HERS, and Lynne used her photo when blogging about a spinning workshop at Yarn Expressions. Excellent spinning, Meg . . .

Posted by Ann at 03:22 PM | Comments (11)

July 18, 2008

The Wall of Linen: It Lives

Dear Ann,

When I say things like, "I am going to knit a slipcover for a chair," or "I am knitting a blanket based on this Gee's Bend-y cushion and my impressions of Sean Scully's paintings"--people take me seriously. One person took me so seriously about the Sean Scully blanket that she has actually caught up to where I left off (square 5), and is wondering, in a loving way, where the heck is her square 6? Message received!

Square 6

WOLsquare6.jpg

Square 6 is kind of revolutionary (if something can be "kind of" revolutionary), in that it is not constructed via the log cabin method. I wanted to mimic the uneven stripes on this patch on the cushion. I didn't figure out how to do that with log cabin until after I was already working the square in intarsia.

My takeaway from working square 6: I still don't love intarsia. But I do like the smoothness of this square. Here's the recipe.

Using pale blue, cast on 66 stitches and work 18 garter ridges. On the next row, work 14 stitches in pale blue, then work the remaining stitches in cream. This row sets the position of a cream intarsia stripe, which will be worked for a total of 6 garter ridges. Cut the cream yarn after this stripe is completed.

Work 5 garter ridges in pale blue. On the next row, work 11 stitches in pale blue, then work the remaining stitches in cream. This row sets the position of a cream intarsia stripe, which will be worked for a total of 4 garter ridges. Cut the cream yarn after this stripe is completed.

Work 10 garter ridges in pale blue. On the next row, work 8 stitches in pale blue, then work the remaining stitches in cream. This row sets the position of a cream intarsia stripe, which will be worked for a total of 4 garter ridges. Cut the cream yarn after this stripe is completed.

Work 14 garter ridges in pale blue. Bind off all stitches and continue to work a cro-Kay edging around the other 3 sides of the square. Fasten off.

Bandanas for Humans

carriebabushka.jpg

While not always wearing shawls, Carrie does usually have something on her head. She is a hat person. We were a bit concerned when the Ubiquitous Green Crochet Hat was still getting daily wear in June, but then an elastic bandana was discovered in a shop. I only bought 2, thinking, "I could make that."

bandana.jpg

Here it is. What is mystifying to me as a self-taught seamstress is how it is that there is no topstitching on either end of the tube that encases the elastic. I went looking for a how-to on the web, and found this one, which does use topstitching. Perhaps I will solve the mystery myself. I'm sure that sewing the casing inside-out is involved, but can't get my mind around how this could be done on both ends of the tube. (Clue: on the original, there IS a stretch of topstitching on the seam that forms the tube/casing itself.) Sewing requires mad skills in spatial reasoning

Anyway, I'm posting this for other people with sewing machines, fat quarters, and daughters. A bandana is a fine thing, but adding elastic--basically turning it into a headband--is brilliant and makes it much easier to put on without pulling hair, and to wear without constant re-tying it as it loosens. If you scrunch the scarf part, it turns into a regular headband. (FYI: There are a whole lot of dog bandana patterns on the Internet.)

Sneak Peek Friday

Ann. Do you notice anything different about this copy of our Uncorrected Proof?

newbookjacket.jpg

It doesn't say, "Uncorrected Proof". It's the real book, one of the airshipped early copies. It came yesterday, no warning, no phone call, no nothing. I know you don't have yours yet. Sorry. I'm sure it will arrive on the next Wells Fargo wagon to make it up the mountain.

When I opened the envelope, I felt all funny for a minute, like last time. You know, that feeling that the book has been a mental construct for so long that it doesn't make sense for it to exist outside our minds? This time, I did the same as when I was handed my swaddled newborns:

newbookboards.jpg
I took off their dust jackets to see what they looked like naked. I never dreamed we'd get aqua! We love aqua!

More to come. Sorry for teasing. The paper is nice and shiny, Ann, just how you like it. Gale's pictures look even better than they did when we put our eyeballs right up to the computer screen to choose them. There's something about ink laid on paper that the digital world still can't match.

Happy weekend, everybody!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:26 PM | Comments (36)

July 17, 2008

Pre-Upholstery-Knitting Deck Clearing

Dear Ann,

jamilaup.jpg
This is not Carrie's usual running-for-the-day-camp-bus attire.

jamilaback.jpg
It's a shawl for Afghans for Afghans' campaign to send 500 shawls to new mothers in Afghanistan.

Recipe: Cast on 318 stitches in blue yarn (Rowanspun DK). Work 9 garter ridges. Now work 18-row stripes of Noro Silk Garden Light and the Rowanspun, alternating between stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch. (Here, 4 stripes of the Noro and 3 of the Rowanspun, ending with the Noro.) Work 9 ridges of garter stitch in the Rowanspun, and bind off in purl. This is the main body of the shawl, which measured 66 inches long.

jamilaruffle.jpg
The ruffled ends were inspired by the border on Terhi's stunningly simple triangular shawl. On each end, I picked up one stitch in each row end, worked 18 rows of garter stitch, and then worked one increase row of K2, m1 all the way across, thus adding 50 percent more stitches. I continued to work garter stitch until I had worked a total of 36 ridges, and bound off in purl. It's not so much a ruffle as a dignified undulation. It adds a little weight to help the ends stay put when tossed over the shoulders.

jamilahomage.jpg
(Homage to Brooklyn Tweed. I keep trying.)

I would like to be able to report that this shawl is on its way to the big basement in San Francisco, where loving volunteers are waiting to unpack shawls. However, there has been a technical difficulty. After washing and blocking (which I didn't think it needed, but it did a power of good--always block!), I re-measured. The width was only 19 inches. The requirement is 20-24 inches. I wrestled with my conscience, I wrote a dog-ate-my-homework email seeking dispensation/forgiveness/anything. In short, I was fiberglasted. I hate it when an O un-effs on me like that. Done things should have the decency to stay done. I have chairs to slipcover in denim yarn!

Then I remembered an interesting fact: I like to knit. Knitting is, in fact, my hobby. I can knit more. So I've picked up all the way around in the Rowanspun to add a border to the border. I have plenty of yarn and enough time to meet the deadline. These things happen; knit on.

Department of Whimsical Tchotchkes

peacesheep.jpg
Excellent news: there's a new bauble on the KayCam. As you know, I am a patron of the polymer clay arts and, for the benefit of all, not a practitioner. This lovely charm came from Tennessee, from Hilda, who has a lovely Etsy shop. Warning: If you visit Etsy, don't forget to come home. People have been known to get lost there.

Love,
Kay

PS If anyone is bumming that they missed Afghans for Afghans' shawl campaign, fret not. There is a new project to knit warm winter clothing and blankets for children and youth ages 7-14.

Posted by Kay at 11:58 AM | Comments (32)

July 16, 2008

Unscheduled Stops

elmiraquiltframe.jpg

Dear Kay,

Happy blogiversary right back to you. Keep on keepin' on, hon!

We (meaning my sister Buffy, four kids, me, and 500 old Judith Krantz and Tom Clancy novels in the back of my car culled from the Monteagle Woman's Association Library awaiting their fate at the bazaar next Wednesday) made an unscheduled trip last week.

There was a very sad loss in the family, and we made a pilgrimage to Greenville, Alabama, south of Montgomery, for the funeral.

It was less than 48 hours, but it was one of those very, very vivid trips that felt much longer. It may have had to do with the fact that I was traveling with Buffy, who can fill a day, let me tell you.

Stop Number One: Birmingham

Remember Gilchrist, the soda shop in Mountain Brook Village, in Birmingham? Where we hung out with fabulous Rachel when we toured Birmingham two years ago? The limeades were cool, and you would have been proud that I lunched with Buffy's oldest friend in the world, who knows the woman who invented their most famous menu item, the bacon-lettuce-tomato-AND-pimiento-cheese sandwich. Brilliant.

Stop Number Two: Greenville

At this point, the dusty paperbacks in the way back had warmed up, and my car started smelling like the Monteagle Woman's Association Library.

Greenville has the same population it had 40 years ago: 8,000 or so. Dad took us on a tour of the places he used to go as a boy, and it amazed the children to hear how wide open his life was. He camped for 51 nights straight in the woods behind his house, deciding that he needed to bang out the camping requirement toward his Eagle Scout all at once.

Here's the thing: I got to meet Elmira. I met Elmira, Kay!

I think about Elmira literally every day that I'm here in Monteagle, because the quilt she made is on my bed.

elmiraquiltmonteaglebed.jpg

The story of that quilt began a few years ago, here. Elmira has no idea how often I think about her, and how certain I was that I would never meet her.

Our family friend Dr. Betty Ruth is the one who engineered our visit, on the fly and zipzap just like that.

Dr. Betty Ruth showed up at the funeral, up from Point Clear. I can hardly describe how delightful it was to see this lady, fretting about this being the first time in her life she has come through the door of St. Thomas Episcopal Church without nylons on, but she just couldn't do it in 95-degree heat. We stood in the parish house, eating paper-thin cheese straws, lemonade punch (the ice ring was melting fast), and I asked how Elmira was doing. She looked at me and said, "She's doing fine. I wish you could get to see her--" and she stopped, then said, "Let's go. It's five minutes from here. Let's go right now."

So we threw the kids in the car, and five minutes later, they had all shed their blue blazers and ties and button down shirts for their decrepit T shirts. We pulled up to Elmira's house, which is down a quiet road with woods all around.

Betty Ruth opened the door, calling "Elmaroo!" and there was Elmira, sitting in the living room looking exactly like the photographs Betty Ruth had sent me two years ago. There is a profound intimacy between them. They have known each other since they were children. Their babies grew up together. They each have a complete knowledge of the other's life--their families, their friends.

elmiraandbettyruth.jpg

Elmira continues to quilt every day. You would be glad to know that she has an entire room devoted to her quilt frame. It was absolutely delightful to see somebody as crazy about her craft as we are about ours.

elmirahat.jpg

She says she still has not used up all the shirts that I sent her to make five quilts for our family. She's still using them, four years later.

Stop Number Three: Montgomery

greenvillebbq.jpg

Directly after leaving Elmira's house, we a) stopped for gasoline and barbecue which are conveniently one stop in Greenville, then b) hit it for the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery on our way back to Tennessee.

I really wanted to see this memorial. As we wandered around trying to find it in the grid of downtown Montgomery, I said, "You know, I think it's a Maya Lin," referring to the architect who created the memorial.

Buffy, tired of schlepping, said, "A mile in? No way am I going an extra BLOCK."

Now. It is a merciful thing to see the Civil Rights Memorial with four children who have been in a car and a funeral all day, wearing ties and blue blazers and being told how much they have grown by people they do not know. They were so very wiggly, so like cannonballs recently launched, that it helped me get through what is a profoundly moving and upsetting place.

civilrightsmemorial.jpg

There is the beautiful fountain by Maya Lin, who is famous for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

". . . until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." That's from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

civilrightsmemorialfountain.jpg

The boys played in the smooth water of the fountains.

Going inside the small museum requires a run through a metal detector because the Southern Poverty Law Center, who sponsored the memorial, was bombed in 1983 by hate groups, and in the lobby is a melted clock from the offices that marks the moment the place exploded.

There is a long wall with the faces of the dozens of men and women who died during the civil rights era from 1954-1968, detailing exactly what they did and how they died. The museum's brochure says that the memorial is intended not as a place of suffering, but of hope. But I couldn't help but feel the tremendous ache of so much violence and stupidity right there in front of me. It was extremely disturbing.

walloftolerance.jpg

The next room was intended as an answer to the wall we had just seen. The Wall of Tolerance is a giant video screen with names floating across it. At kiosks, we all added our names to the group of people who pledged to help spread tolerance to the world. We stood for a while, watching our names up there, drifting along, then diminishing and fading, then reappearing in another place on the wall. I think one of my children added his name at least three times. Does that mean that he has extra tolerance work to do? Could it be, that he will be tripletolerant now?

I hope so. I dunno. I do think that a lot of my most vivid memories of childhood didn't register at the time as anything much. But these memories tend to overlap, and echo, and linger, and that's part of what parents are supposed to do: load up their children's brains with the things they don't even know they will remember, years from now.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 07:29 AM | Comments (72)

July 14, 2008

I, Uh-Aye, Uh-Aye, Will Always Love You-ooo-oh!

authorphoto.jpg
(June 2007, Monteagle, Tennesee. Ann and Kay, kicking back on the porch with some handknits --wearing Lady Jackets and full battle makeup, but whatever. Livin' the dream! Keepin' it surreal!)

Dear Ann,

Five years ago today, you: were knitting a Rowan cardi with dreadlocks on it, which you would finish but never wear.

Meanwhile, I: was dreaming about running into you at Target.

In other words, nothing has changed.

Happy blogiversary honey! Semper fi! Five years that seem like five minutes (except for the part where we were proofreading two books' worth of knitting patterns)! Love ya!

Maybe we should have a contest or something? If the prize is an IKEA Tullsta chair and 3000 yards of upholstery yarn, we may get as many as-- gosh-- 5 or 6 entries?

Love,
Kay

PS Photo credit: Gale Zucker. Credit for putting that much makeup on us: Mary Elizabeth Long.

Posted by Kay at 09:20 AM | Comments (89)

July 11, 2008

Erika Knight Has a Lot To Answer For

Dear Ann,

Working quickly (as I always do when delusional), I have found the Victim Chair for my Aran Armchair Slipcover. Wa-de-freakin'-LA:

Chair.jpg

I know, I know: it's going to look like one of those folding-chair slipcovers from a fancy wedding--but don't say that like it's a bad thing. I'm considering this my FIRST chair cover, a STARTER chair cover, if you will. I don't think it will take more knitting than a sweater for Hubby, which is already within my range. And I sit in this chair every day (yes, sometimes ALL day), so I'll really enjoy it. I'm not really using Erika Knight's pattern literally, as I don't like that cable on the arms, for example--it gives me an ooky feeling. This chair is going to be easy because there are no curves to it, and I can work the cover all in one piece if I feel like it, which I probably won't. Most importantly, I don't have to get bogged down and lose mojo while looking for a chair -- this chair is ready, willing and able, and I can start RIGHT NOW.

My lifetime-goal chair? A battered leather armchair with a cabled denim slipcover on the seat and back cushions only. If anybody walks by a battered leather chair on the street, please sit down in it and call me. I'll be right over to pick it up.

My dream right now? That somebody else will do a chair cover too. Yoohoo, Other Ann? Are you with me? (On Ravelry I'm KayGardiner. IM me if you're doing a chair. Chair Group, anyone? Can we not get a little love for upholstery knitting, for pity's sake?)

THIS JUST IN: I just started a Ravelry group called the Society For Knitted Upholstery. RIght now the tumbleweeds are rolling by me and Ann (I managed to sign you up without even asking you!), so please feel free to join, even if your "plans" to knit a chair slipcover are not that clear at the moment. Also, if anyone has a nice horizontal picture that would be good for our banner, please lob it at me. The current photo (all I had) is bringing me down.


Lutheran Pride Friday

For Lutherans, and anybody who likes their pot luck dinner, here's a YouTube for ya. I was convulsed with laughter (which due to my Lutheran upbringing means I almost smiled).

Sneaking, Peeking and Maybe Even Steeking

Starting next Friday we're going to start dishing about Book 2. Pictures! Designers! Let the tease-a-thon begin!

Happy weekend, everybody!

Love,
Kay

PS Other Ann is trying to do a good deed. This good deed requires a few hanks of Rowan's dearly discontinued Aran-weight wool, Magpie, in Shade # 608. (The Poetic Rowan Name for this shad is "Sealord". Ann reports that it is a teal-ish blue.) If you got some, or can get some, please get in touch with Other Ann.

Posted by Kay at 11:48 AM | Comments (38)

July 10, 2008

More Thoughts on Denim and Squareness

Dear Ann:

Are you still with us, with all of this intensely indigo gabbing? Spurred on by comments and emails, I have a few more things to add.

On Denim Blankets: Will a Square Stay Square?

Readers want to know whether a square knitted in denim would stay square after shrinking. The answer is: it depends on the construction of the square.

Bottom Line: log cabin squares? They stay square. They don't ripple or do anything unsightly after you wash them. Mitered Squares? They stay square enough. I know both of these things from personal experience.

Other types of squares? Not so clear that they will stay square after washing, especially if they are knit all in one direction from cast-on to bind-off. Depending on their size and the degree of shrink achieved, they may become squashed squares, also known as rectangles. If they are knit on the bias, they may become squat diamonds. For squares other than log-cabin or miters, I must counsel the washing of a sample, the saying of a prayer and the development of a Plan B.

Previously Unblogged Bloggage

I went digging in my photos and found that I had already given excessive scientific inquiry to this subject, and totally forgotten about it. These photos prove: (a) that a log cabin square will shrink evenly in both length and width and (b) that I have a lot of time on my hands on a Sunday afternoon.

denimtutebefore.jpg
The Before.

denimtuteafter.jpg
The After.

I rest my case. Log Cabin squares shrink square.

(I have 8 of these squares finished. I have never made them into anything. I cannot recall, exactly, where I was going with this last winter. The red center of the squares is Rowan Handknit Cotton; it shrank just fine. We achieved Shrink Compatibility.)

What about denim miters? Do they have square fidelity after washing? The answer is yes, and we have proof.

We have the Taro Blanket. It's denim miters. They appear to be square. Square enough.

We also have Belinda. Belinda knit a queen-size mitered square blanket (seen here as the background for knitting-in-progress), using the pattern in our book, in denim remnants that she had from a previous life supervising handknitters who were making hundreds of Gorgeous Denim Jumpers That I Would Kill For If I Ever Saw One On eBay. I slept under it for several nights without detecting asymmetry of any kind. I think this is rock-solid proof that it is safe to knit mitered squares in denim, and also that we should all do just that.

Oh Sure, It's Schnell, But Is It Trendy?

germandenimlabel.jpg

Mary de B reported that she had seen a bunch of Schachenmyr/Nomotta "Blue Jeans" yarn in a sale bin. She wanted to know if it is true denim yarn and therefore, naturally, she should stop whatever she is doing and go buy it all. This led, eventually, to a recollection of this post. It seems I have already knitted with this yarn and that it is in fact true denim--it shrinks and fades. HOWEVER, check the weight and recommended gauge of the yarn before committing to it. It comes in a heavyweight version, which is very chunky indeed. It also comes in a DK weight which is a little lighter than Rowan or Elann--you get 20 more yards in the 50 gram skein, and the recommended stitch gauge is 6 stitches per inch. Personally, I would knit it to 5 stitches per inch and consider it a fine substitute.

I want to thank Mary de B for reminding me of how much I love all things schnell und trendy and certainly anything with the slightest jeanseffekt.

A Clever Thing To Do

denimtutemeasuring.jpg

Also in the archives was this piece of evidence. On the left, a store-bought (feh!) sweater that fits Hubby well, and on the right, the back of the Cornish Knit Frock I was knitting for him at the time. I think I took this photo to demonstrate how I had adjusted Jane Gottelier's pattern, which was written for denim but not for the Ultra Tall population, of which Hubby is a member. My solution--which worked out fine--was to knit 20 percent more length into the body of Hubby's frock before shrinkage. (I still love saying "Hubby's frock".)

In Which We Debunk Misinformation: Strong Language Warning

Rowan recommends that before a denim sweater is sewn up, the pieces should be washed and dried, and that you should also pre-shrink the yarn that you are going to use to sew up the sweater. I believe that these recommendations are unnecessary.

I usually do wash and dry my pieces before sewing up, but only because I want to. I'm eager to see the transformation of the fabric that comes with washing, the fading helps me see my sewing better, and the edges seem to be a little smoother. But it's not necessary. Do it only if you feel like it.

That bit about pre-washing the sewing-up yarn really gets my goat. No wonder knitters hesitate about trying the yarn, if it requires such fussing! Washing yarn is a pain in the neck. The cut ends are going to fray, and even if you skein it up neatly, it could become a tangled mess in the wash. The only thing that you achieve is a bit of shrinkage that is absolutely not going to affect the strength or appearance of the seams in your garment. (The shrinkage is only material when the yarn is knitted up into FABRIC; not when it is being used as a single strand of string.) I say this with all the passion of my being: PISH TOSH. Don't do it.

There is more good news, though: the shrinkage of the fabric ensures that the ends, which do fray slightly on the wrong side of the garment (where you have woven them in), are shrunk tightly in place and are not going to undo themselves.

The Denim Bookshelf

denimbookshelf.jpg

It's easy to avoid adapting a pattern to denim yarn, because there are many splendid patterns that were written specifically FOR denim yarn. (Note subtle self-promotion in photo above. There ARE denim patterns in both our books; it's not like I snuck them onto The Neurosurgeon's Bookshelf.)

denimbooksbig3.jpg
But these are the Big Three.

Rowan Denim (which may be out of print; I didn't even see it at the Rowan website, and I had a mild moment of panic when I couldn't find my copy) has divine gansey-based garments, for adults and children. HOWEVER, the book dates from the early 90s, when it seems that folks liked to climb three at a time into a single sweater. Once, I started a child's sweater from this book for Joseph, who was 6 at the time, and as I was working the bottom of the back, I realized that if I translated the number of stitches on my needles into inches, the sweater would be a very roomy fit for ME. These sweaters need some adjusting to the current preference for single-occupancy clothing.

Denim People. This more recent book has great modern sweaters, jackets and tops, and some especially nice things for men. Martin Storey at his best. No traditional Arans, though.

My personal fave: Indigo Knits by Jane Gottelier. A great mix of traditional ganseys--rendered exquisitely and sized nicely--and more high-fashion clothing and accessories suitable for your appearance on The Sartorialist. I'm going to be knitting from this one forever.

denimbooks6.jpg

Here's a smattering of other books including denim offerings. Patterns for Rowan Denim are also sprinkled throughout the Rowan Magazines. Little Badger has the sweet, sweet Museum Sweater, a denim Henley for babies. ADORE. But that brilliant Erika Knight, she takes the cake:

denimbeanbag.jpg
With her denim bean bag chair. I will not make it, though, until I have achieved my Lifetime Goal of making this:

aranarmchair.jpg
The Aran Armchair Cover. She's mad--MAD--to specify wool for this one. It would felt and mat! I'm doing mine in inky doubled-up denim, and it will get all kinds of cool wear marks, and sun marks, and it will be my favorite thing ever. I need to find the victim chair and git busy. I am not getting any younger.

I think that's all. For today. We can talk about something else if you want to.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:12 AM | Comments (36)

July 09, 2008

Guess It Up: Knitting With Denim Yarn

denimtutestack.jpg

Dear Ann,

What with all the summer scandal the New York Post is serving up these days (Madge & Alex! Christie & Hub Number 4!) I am kind of busy, you know? But people have been asking me questions about knitting with denim yarn, and I want to help. But I must be brief; there is also a YouTube of a dancing young man I have to watch a few more times today. (People ask me: "How do you do it all, Kay?" I really don't know, honestly. I suspect I may be one of those SuperMoms.)

denimtuteoldrowangauge.jpg
(Note: This label, while charming, is out-of-date as to stitch gauge and recommended needle size.

Denim yarn, with its label warning of shrinkage, freaks some people out. But I have the sure knowledge, deep in my heart, from the hundreds (truly) of skeins of denim I've knitted, that there is absolutely no cause for freaking. Don't waste a perfectly good freakout on this! Denim yarn is pure joy. It's easy to adapt a pattern that is not written for denim to become a beautiful denim sweater. All that is required, when you get right down to it, is a little faith that the extremely long thing on your needles is not going to be an extremely long thing when it comes out of the dryer. It's going to be a just-right thing. Plus it's going to be a gorgeous weathered blue that gets softer and better with age. (Or gets softer and better with a little help from the emery board.)

What Do We Mean By Denim Yarn?

There is a fair amount of yarn out there with the word "denim" or "jeans" in it, which often means only that it's blue or it's got a faux faded coloring. That's NOT what I mean when I talk about denim yarn. To me, denim yarn is yarn that is 100% cotton and indigo-dyed (with synthetic indigo), so that it is intended to shrink and fade when you wash it.

denimtute3yarns.jpg

The brands I know well are Rowan Denim, Elann Den-M-Nit, and Elle True Blue (left to right in photo above). These yarns are quite similar, but their labels all vary a little bit in what they say about gauge and shrinkage. For purposes of this exercise, we're talking about Rowan Denim.

denimtuteoldrowanlabel.jpg
(From the Museum of Denim Yarn--i.e., my closet--an old Rowan label, from back when they called it Den-M-Nit. I love it So. Much.)

HOW TO RE-GAUGE A PATTERN FOR DENIM YARN

Like the Supreme Court, we start from First Principles. Denim yarn shrinks 5-20 percent (depending on which label you're reading--I think 5 percent is too low and 15-20 percent is more like it) the first time you wash it in hot water and dry it in the dryer. (Fun fact: all those other 100% cotton yarns we knit with? They would also shrink if we washed them hot and dried them in the dryer.) (Corollary of fun fact: If you want to mix denim with other pure cotton yarns of the same gauge, for example to achieve red,white & blue stripes, they will shrink at about the same rate. Unless they are treated not to shrink, like old-fashioned "Sanforized" jeans. I have never seen a cotton yarn that has been treated not to shrink, but it may exist. Let's ask Clara!)

One more mystery and wonder: when knitted up, denim will shrink in length only. Ergo, the stitch gauge remains the same before and after washing. The stitch gauge for Rowan Denim is 20 stitches over 4 inches/10cm. In other words, 5 stitches to the inch. What this means when you are adapting a non-denim pattern for denim: you don't need to make any adjustments to the pattern in terms of the number of stitches you cast on, or increases or decreases as they affect width measurements. We are going to adjust the length of the garment only.

To adapt a sweater pattern to denim, your goal is to add back that 15-20 percent in length that you expect the fabric to shrink.

Pause for a Totally Obvious Point That Did Not Occur To Me Until Quite Recently

If you decide that you are NOT going to wash your denim sweater in hot water or dry it in the dryer (i.e., that you are going to treat it like other 100% cotton handknits), YOU DON'T NEED TO MAKE ANY ADJUSTMENTS TO THE PATTERN. If the pattern is suitable for the pre-washing gauge of the denim, just follow the pattern.

Back To Our How-To

I'm assuming that the pattern is compatible for denim's stitch gauge (in the range of 19-21 stitches over 4 inches). You should make sure of that, because I am not telling you anything that is going to help adjust for a different stitch gauge.

denimtuterowangaugelabel.jpg

Let's take the Baby's First Aran pattern as an example. At the start, I cast on the number of stitches that the pattern required for the size I was knitting (because stitch gauge is not affected by the shrinkage). Like most sweaters that are knit flat in pieces, after the ribbing at the bottom edge, the pattern tells me to work the chart until the piece measures a certain length: in this case 6 inches.

The pattern specifies a row gauge of 24 rows over 4 inches/10 cm, or 6 rows to the inch of length. I know (because the ballband says so, and because I've knit so many denim sweaters), that the POST-WASHING row gauge for Rowan Denim is 32 rows over inches/10cm, or 8 rows to the inch of length.

So all I have to do is multiply the length specified (6 inches) by the POST-WASHING ROW GAUGE (8 rows per inch), to get the number of rows I need to knit: 48 rows.

With a pattern like Baby's First Aran, in which you're working from a cable chart, you don't need to count rows, you just need to work the chart the right number of times. (In this case, it's a 24 row chart, so I worked it twice.)

You do this simple calculation for every length measurement in the pattern. For Baby's First Aran, after the "6 inches" (which looked more like 8 inches, because I hadn't shrunk it yet), I did the armhole shaping and the pattern then instructed to keep working the chart until the armhole measured 5 inches. At that point I multipled 5 inches by my POST-WASHING ROW GAUGE of 8 rows per inch, so I knit 40 rows of the chart.

By bind-off time, I had a sweater for a Long Tall Baby. I did not worry, I swear to you. When it came out of the dryer, all shrunk up, the cables and texture stitches popped beautifully, and the sweater had Regular Baby proportions.

Variations on a Theme

Obviously, not all patterns are written as straightforwardly as this one, but a lot of them are (especially Aran style sweaters, which tend to be Boxy But Good). Here are some variations and how I approach them:

What if the pattern tells me to knit a specific number of rows?

If the number of rows is very small, like "work 6 rows of ribbing for the edge", I just work 6 rows as instructed. Over this short distance, the shrinkage is not going to have a noticeable effect.

Over a longer distance, like a sleeve or the body of a garment, I simply knit 20 percent more rows. (I assume the maximum shrinkage because I wash my denim sweaters really hot and dry them hot, and I'd rather err on the side of the sweater being a touch too long than a touch too short. (This preference may be all about my personal tummy situation; you may be willing to risk tummy exposure.) (Ya floozy.)

What if there is--GASP--shaping?

That is a totally justifiable gasp. If there is shaping--say, at the waist--you don't want to add all your additional rows before or after the shaping. You want to work them into the shaping. This is easy to do if you follow my basic method of figuring out how many rows you need to knit in total, and then re-spacing the decreases and increases so that they are spread evenly over the Area of Shaping. Sometimes this means that you are working these increases/decreases every 7 rows instead of every 6 rows, which means that you are not always working them on the same side of the piece, but this is not so hard. Stay with it. It will work. You don't need to be surgically precise in placing the increases/decreases, as long as they are in the right area of the garment. As my boy says, when you're not sure, just "guess it up".

Isn't there a danger of the cable pattern ending in an awkward place, if you're adding all those rows the designer didn't contemplate?

denimtutedurrow.jpg
(This cable--adapted to denim, and to a little boy's size, from (RAVELRY LINK) Durrow--has a lot of awkward places to stop; pretty much anyplace would be awkward, so I felt I should complete the whole chart each time I started it. It was a pure stinkin' miracle that the sleeve came out the right length. Luck trumps skill.)

Since patterns typically tell you to work to a given measurement--not a specific point on a cable chart-- it doesn't seem to me like the designer usually knows (or cares) where the cable is going to end on any given version of the garment. When I'm knitting cables--denim or not--I will sometimes work a couple of extra rows on the chart, or stop a couple of rows early, to end the cable at an elegant (or at least non-bunchy) point in its twining. Again, a couple of rows more or less is not going to affect the length of the garment enough to matter, so go ahead and guess it up.

Now I'm ready for any comments and emails others may have about this vital topic. I'm sure there are things I haven't thought of. I've described the way I've been doing this myself, with results I've been happy with. One piece of advice for nervous first-time denim-knitters: make your first project a pattern that was written specifically for denim yarn, so that you don't have to make any changes. Once you've seen how it works, you will not be as worried about how the shrinkage is going to affect your garment.

Back to my New York Post and my strangely moving international dancing guy.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:34 AM | Comments (41)

July 08, 2008

Mysteries of the World: Solved!

Dear Kay,

I have so much to report.

1. The Eggs

deviledegg2.jpg


Our friends Josh and Katie were drafted to peel 'n' pop. (That's the part where you zoop out the yolk into a bowl so you can mush it up with whatever goo you think is going to make it taste better.) They were surprisingly game about it all, but they're like that.

The net completed deviled egg count was 41 rather than a full 48, due to some cracking during boiling, poor slicing, bad yoke placement resulting from off-center yoke float, and some pre-event egg eating done in the name of "testing." I went with the basic mayo-mustard-sweet relish-salt-and-white-pepper (which sounds compulsive but that white pepper has been here as long as we have owned the house, so it was mostly ceremonial), and paprika for garnish.

I will tell you that I remain unconvinced that sweet relish has any place in a deviled egg. It wasn't terrible, but even as I stirred in those two teaspoons of sweet relish, I was wishing it had been dill relish.

They got eaten, with five left after an hour of hard eating. My "friend" Cary pointed out that when SHE makes deviled eggs, there are NEVER any leftovers. And she goes chives all the way, and lumpy not smooth. Had to point it out, didn't she? So competitive, that Cary.

julyfourthpicnictable.jpg

The Fourth of July here is extreme, as I think it is in so many places. The unapologetic wearing of patriotically striped pants, the bringing of chairs down to the picnic area, the slightly unpleasant process of getting all the food there without dropping the flag cake--I can see how rituals embed themselves in a family. One by one, things get done again, and again, and before you know it, the Fourth of July picnic takes three days to engineer. When somebody, at the age of 92, finally suggests that it would be easier to have the picnic back at the house, he is indulged with great love, then politely ignored as the chairs are once again lugged out of the kitchen.

I think this means I will be making deviled eggs for the next four decades.

And for the record, that table of chow is a three-family effort. I can't even imagine how to make a flag cake that tasted as delicious as that one.

2. The Tapping

Houseguest Katie singlehandedly, easily solved the mystery of The Early Morning Tapping that has plagued me ever since I arrived here. She solved it by waking up early and making coffee.

Here is the source of The Early Morning Tapping:

dadbluebird.jpg

Maybe if I had simply got out of bed to investigate The Tapping, I would have discovered Crazy Dad bluebird having his daily freakout outside the kitchen window. Every day, I have learned, he flies at the window, defending himself against what is likely his own reflection.

I usually have my daily freakout late in the afternoon, so it's no wonder we never met. We have so much to discuss.

I haven't even written about the bluebirds this year. It has been spectacular, and it isn't over this year as it has been in the past. Four babies launched on the one day I was back in Nashville, so I didn't get to see them take off. They ditched out four days earlier than last year, so their fledging caught me by surprise. I felt so abandoned!

A week later, I was gobsmacked to discover that Dad The Tapper has brought back some of his now-flying babies to start building more nests. I don't know why they're doing it--they have been stuffing four different holes with pine needles and flurf--but it means that there are at least three mangy, teenage-looking bluebirds working out the window now, with Naggy Dad The Tapper providing security.

bluebird081.jpg

They're less than two months old, but they're already working like Trojans. We should all take notes here: put those kids to work!

bluebirds082.jpg

I haven't seen the mom; she's likely off getting spa treatments and therapy. Are the babies practicing nest-building? Is mom going to return and fill four nests with more eggs?

3. Knitting

laceribbonscarf.jpg

Ah, you knew I was knitting somewhere in all this. I too have been bitten by the Lace Ribbon Scarf bug--it hit when I was home for a day and poking around in the stash. This Handmaiden Flaxen may remind you of our trip to Portland, Oregon last year? It's meeting its destiny in Veronik Avery's lovely, interesting scarf.

laceribbonscarfscrabble.jpg

As for the Scrabble this summer: we're using the two-letter-word list that comes with the game. It makes Scrabble into a whole other kind of game when you can use crazy stuff like HM and SH.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:17 AM | Comments (36)

July 07, 2008

Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Denim

babypantszoocity.jpg

Dear Ann,

I'm dying to know how your deviled aigs came out. In my family, we are mustard, Hellmann's, salt & pepper people. We don't think about it too much. But if we did, we'd be looking askance at pickle relish. (Needless to say, we don't go in for decorative pastry-bag piping of the yellow part back onto the white part. That is some kind of decadent, Martha-Stewart-meets-Marie-Antoinette notion. You use a tablespoon. A dusting of paprika if you are bringing them to the PTA and you're feeling insecure. I have credentials! I grew up knowing somebody who had an official Tupperware deviled egg carrier!)

Our 4th was its predictable, traditional self. I was gratified that a huge bowl of onion-free potato salad was made just for me, and the baked beans were awesomely caliente. The main non-eating activity was the Reading of the Declaration. Nobody had the New York Times, so we had to print it out.

july4reading.jpg
It was Rose's maiden voyage. Surrounded by supporters, she did extremely well.

Each year I realize that I have forgotten how whiny the Declaration of Independence is. Halfway through, you want to say, "So leave already! Don't let the door hit you!" But the listing of King George's outrages continues. He was fatiguing us into compliance! We have tried and tried to get along with the guy, but we're SICK of it!

july4readingjoseph.jpg
It was a decidedly anti-monarchy moment, but I declared myself the Queen of Lo-Light Photography.

I am slowly putting the finishing touches on the baby sweaters knitted on our vacation. I had tossed 4 balls of each color of Rowan Denim and this booklet into my bag, so it was all denim baby sweaters, all the way. I ran out of yarn for the second sleeve of this one, which turned out to be a 5-ball sweater.

babycable.jpg
It's called "Baby's First Aran."

benedictpeek.jpg
I checked with Benedict, and what do you know, he didn't have an Aran, so it's his first.

babypantsleg.jpg

Inspired by the fantastic distressing of the Zoo City jeans (scored at a sidewalk sale in Germany), I gently emery-boarded the center front cable.

denimbabycable.jpg

Just a touch. Really quite restrained. Benedict will outgrow it before there is any chance of a hole.

(Careful observers will note that I twisted the side cables a little differently than the pattern "suggests". I didn't realize I was doing it wrong until I had finished the back, so I just stuck with it on the front. I love tight rope cables, so twice as many is fine by me.)

That's the most knitting I've blogged in about a month. I'm going to go lie down.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:07 AM | Comments (33)

July 04, 2008

Dateline: Monteagle, July 4 edition

kidwithglasses.jpeg

Dear Kay,

It's 5:07 am, and I was awakened by the racket of every bird on this mountain. I was lying in bed, minding my own business, when this one really naggy-sounding bird let it fly from what sounded like two feet away from my head. Now, it wasn't in the room as I had thought as I woke up thinking Bird In My Room, but it woke me up so thoroughly that now I am in deviled egg mode. I need to get deviled eggs ready before lunchtime. I gotta start boiling at some point soon. And now that I am 100% completely AWAKE, I'm wondering if sweet relish is really the awesome, crucial ingredient that my deviled egg consultant says it is.

I'll give you a report back. Somehow, I'm thinking that dill would be the ticket, but there is no dill up here in Grundy County that I can find.

I'm sorry to have been such a sorry correspondent this summer. Somebody ought to write a Balky Computer blog entry, just a generic wail, so that we could all simply link to it when we each have our inevitable reckoning with The Apple Guy On The Other End Of The Phone. It's boring to write about, so I won't, but I'm surprised at how frustrating it has been. Do I actually care that much about having my laptop during the summer? Yes, it turns out, I do! How can I live in the real world if I don't have my little parallel world where all the knitters are?

One Problem Solved

One blogbustin' problem has been my lack of camera. Which means I can't show you what I've been knitting. Now that I have my computer back, with a new, blank operating system, I just discovered that one of David's friend's iPhone pictures somehow mysteriously landed in my computer, so I'll share some of those with you.

1. (up top) Who is this kid? What are you doing in my computer?

dogwithcup.jpeg

2. Dog on the verge of eating a styrofoam cup.

blurryrock.jpeg

3. Blurry rock, probably taken on a nature hike. Possible weird bug in there somewhere that prompted the photo.

trooperguy.jpeg

4. Trooper guy at Safety Day here at the Assembly. The Upside Down Car Demonstration was actually great: it spins around and around and throws out the dummy who didn't have his seat belt fastened.

What Has Been Going On

We've been in Monteagle for almost three weeks now, at our shack in the woods, and it's going well enough up here. I have a job this summer, president of the Woman's Association, which means that when my phone rings, which it never did up here before I was assigned this job, it could be absolutely anybody in the whole Assembly, asking any sort of question having to do with the Woman's Association. It makes me feel very popular and important, even if I don't really know where to get a Grundy County Vendor Certificate for the woman's bazaar in three weeks. Or where we should keep the leftover fabric for the new porch cushions for the Woman's Association library.

I spent one day trying to make sense of the collection of books in the Woman's Association library. They were sorted Hardback and Paperback. Which meant if you were looking for a Judith Krantz novel (of which we have four, including Scruples Two which is no Scruples, let me tell you), you'd need to check in two places. In the interest of making it easier to find your next Phyllis Whitney (of which we have eleventy four billion), I blew up the library and sorted all the books on the floor by author. I went totally OCD on this project, into a tunnel-like zone, and emerged with all the fiction in alphabetical order. There was, of course, a Thorn Birds in the edition I read back when it was published, and all the John le Carrés my mom loved. It's pretty much a museum of the ’70s, kind of dispiriting if you ever think it would be fun to write a novel. Such a graveyard!

The Shack of Usher

It's 5:40 now, and there it is: the morning tapping sound. Somewhere in the walls, every single morning, I hear an irregular tapping sound: tap, tap . . . tap tap . . . tap tap tap, followed by a brief sound like small claws scratching up a wall. It happens only in the morning, in a part of the house I can't pin down. It really does feel like a Poe story. And NO, I did not wall my sister Buffy up in the kitchen or anything, I promise.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. Off to boil eggs. Happy fourth of July, everybody! I'm feeling very tender about the U.S. of A., feeling grateful for all the freedoms I tend to take for granted. Go read the news these days, and it'll make you appreciate how lucky we actually are. Even if we do have unidentified and creepy tapping in the walls. And no dill.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:20 AM | Comments (29)

July 01, 2008

The Fatherland, Motherland, Auntland and Uncleland

Dear Ann,

Gosh it's good to be back at the blog! I've been Snippeting and Found Objecting with glee, and now I'm going to blab some more about our trip. The knitting must wait a little more. (I said I knit 3 baby sweaters; I didn't say I sewed the ends in.)

Stop 2 in Germany is tricky to write about in my typical breezy style. (Moi? Breezy?) It was a wonderful time, but of the tender-moment, not the loads-of-laughs variety. It was a visit to the town Hubby's father's family had to leave in 1938. The extended family had lived for several generations as proud Germans in a small community in which Christians and Jews had coexisted peacefully since 1724. It's a sad story even though, for this family, it had a sweet ending in New York. (Where, among other things, fabulous girls from Nebraska and the Bronx were waiting to marry the boys of the next generation. Hey, I have to make a footnote for me and Aunt Kathy in this story.)

Like some other German Jews, this family revived some of their connections shortly after the war. Despite everything, and not without mixed emotions, they retained a fond feeling for their old home. In recent times, that feeling is being validated, in large part by people who were not even born until after the bad times, and who, it seems, are trying to understand what happened by documenting it.

versaillestwigstitchholder.jpg
(The only knitting in this portion of our travelogue is the knitting you should assume I am doing pretty much constantly, to the eyerolling of my companions: baby sweaters in Rowan Denim. There was cabling; there were blue fingers; a twig did duty in as cable needle; I had a fantastic time. )

A few highlights in pictures:

laupheimfriedhof.jpg
The Jewish cemetery, a place of peace. A shambles in the 1960s, the stones have been restored, and today are maintained by volunteers. They open the gate each day in case there are any visitors. It's a lovely spot, frozen in time, in the heart of town. Joseph got to stand in front of the marker of his ancestor Josef, which was not creepy at all. (Funnily enough, this practice-- grave-visiting as family outing--was also a tradition of Die Gardiners aus Omaha. Loading up the aunties' Corvair with peonies in coffee cans, reading the out of style names on the stones: good times.) Our guide-- a high school history teacher who met us there out of kindness--knew more about how we were related to people than we did.

laupheimcemetery1914.jpg
Several markers (including this memorial to "our sons"--Jewish soldiers lost in the first world war) were designed by the Art Nouveau designer Friedrich Adler, a native of the town who perished in Auschwitz in 1942.

laupheimstadion.jpg
The running track. (The kids are in mid-air because the track was named to honor a cousin who high-jumped her way onto the 1936 German Olympic team, but was kicked off before the opening ceremonies.)

laupheimjudenberg.jpg
Homes of extended family members; these houses were the first housing for Jews, built by the nobles who allowed them to stay in the town, initially by paying for the privilege.

laupheimjosefantonporch.jpg
Some of the houses are in more or less original condition, and one has been repurposed as a public music school.

laupheimruthsroom.jpg
When we stuck our heads into Aunt Ruth's childhood bedroom, there was a flute lesson going on, which she would like. She would love the posters of Louis Armstrong and Yo-Yo Ma, and the kids skidding into the parking lot on bikes, instruments strapped to their backs. It's a happy place.

laupheimhairvat2.jpg
Music is fine, but a chance to visit the wig factory? Sign us UP. Surprisingly, none of the youngsters expressed any longing to be in ye olde family business. Something to do with the aroma of stewing hair, I think? (Yes, the shade swatches reminded me of yarn. If only the family had been in garn instead of haar--where did the dyeing talent go?)

laupheimbergmannstrasse.jpg
So what if it's a short street in a small town: it's our street, dangit. We haven't been able to get a street anywhere else yet, so this one is just fine. First exit off the roundabout, or you'll miss it.

laupheimmuseumwig.jpg
A long day ended in awe with a visit to The Museum of the History of Christians and Jews, which was started in 1994 but was new to us. For a town this size to have such a museum was stunning. (We were particularly enamored of one of the items on display. A wig catalog. A really beautiful wig catalog. Wigs R Us.)

I'm going to get Hubby working on an indigo vat, to see if he's got the chops. I think it's premature to start winding off hanks of linen for that.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:08 AM | Comments (35)
Copyright masondixonknitting.com. Page design by fluffa! Hosted at Pretty Posies. Powered by Movable Type 3.2