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

August 29, 2008

Just Joffin' Around

Dear Ann,

My Labor Day weekend started early this year. I had a visit from Meli & Mom and their assistant, Other Ann. We passed an idyllic couple of days eating as much as possible. You know it's going to be Good Times when a houseguest hands you a Costco-size cheese danish before she even gets out of the car. I think my first bite still had Saran Wrap on it.

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Meli demonstrates that the Rule Against Multiple Handknits does not apply if you are cute enough.


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Ann! The newfangled strollers have Amstel holders! Now wouldn't that have made those baby years go a little easier?

Drop-Spindling In Public Day

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Ann showed off in front of the tiny quilt museum in Water Mill New York, which is housed in an ancient grist mill that still turns, if only because it can. The quilt museum lady gives out cotton gloves at the entrance, so you can handle the quilts and possibly buy them. I have to stay away from this place.

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Ann and Cara were still arguing about our Scrabble game of the night before, a real nail-biter that went into the wee hours. Non-challenged words included "joffs", "beltoid" ("it's an astronomical term!" huffed Ann), and "olers". None of these are English words, but they should be.

Don't click this unless you are unusually resistant to wasting time on the web: Scrabulous. Now the bickering need never end!

Here's hoping everyone joffs their olers off this weekend!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:39 PM | Comments (24)

Victory (Sort Of)

Dear Ann,

Reverse psychology is a major theme in my life. An example: I’ll be reading a book, with great pleasure. But if my book club decides that this book will be the selection for our next meeting, I will stop reading the book. Suddenly, another book seems a lot more interesting.

Most recent case in point: my Ravelympics sweater.

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This is the condition of my Ravelympics project, a sweater for Afghans for Afghans, a full three days before the closing ceremonies. All pieces knitted. A few simple seams and a neckband to go. Easy as Michael Phelps doing the dog paddle. I had blogged most publicly and Ravelled my little heart out about how I was going to finish this sweater in record time. Did I do it?

Of course not. I finished it the day after the closing ceremonies. I had Stuff To Do. I think the Stuff was vacuuming. Or maybe it was the 500th Grilled Cheese Sandwich of the Week. I can neither confirm nor deny that I cast on a dishcloth during this period. Anyway, I got it done well in advance of the deadline for Afghans for Afghans' Fall Campaign for Children and Youth ages 7-14.

All along, I had a plan for the Triumphal Olympian Photo Shoot. One of Joseph’s pals, who had modeled for our new book with an insouciance that was very promising, was expected to visit us on vacay for a few days of collaborative Wii and kayaking. I kept saying, I hope Pal will not mind doing a little modeling for the blog. I said this not to diss my own flesh and blood, who is the same size, and of equal cuteness in the eyes of his mother, but because Joseph is what the professional photographers call a reluctant model. Not interested in the modeling. May wail when asked to model.

So I said to Joseph, all casual-like, oh darn, Pal has strep throat so he is not coming, which is kind of a bummer for Mom’s sweater modeling situation. And Joseph murmurs under his breath, “I’ll model your sweater.”

Susceptibility to reverse psychology apparently is an inherited trait.

He didn’t say he wouldn’t be blurry.

The chief objective of these pictures is to prove that what Rowan, in 1995, deemed the proper size to knit for a child of “3-4 years” will actually fit a child who is almost 10 years old.

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Here we see the waist length.

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Here we see the sleeve.

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Here we see the beauty of Sweater on Child.

I am well pleased with this sweater. Photos do not show how springy and dense it is, or the wonder, now lost to the world, of Rowan Magpie. Magpie almost makes me concede that wool is a superior fiber for the knitting of sweaters—it’s that good. It makes me very happy to think of this sweater on a child in Afghanistan, hopefully before the snow flies.

Love,

Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:35 AM | Comments (42)

August 27, 2008

A Sneak Peek

Dear Kay,

Hey look! Here's a little peek inside the covers of Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines.

Still nursing the incredible rotator cuff injury I incurred while trying to finish my Ravelympics knitting project before the last 2,008 orange-clad performers swarmed the closing ceremonies on Monday night. OK, so I didn't really have an actual physical injury. But mentally, I'm trashed. I dream about wandering cables. Nightmares! No medal for me, but at least there will be a fashion-forward sweater to send along to Afghans for Afghans.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:26 PM | Comments (51)

August 25, 2008

Silly Season Officially Arrives--Mercifully!

Dear Kay,

Ah, it's Monday. We welcome the start of the political convention season with a tasty snack from animaniac Grey Blackwell and universally beloved comedy guy David Shayne:

The Hollywood Endorsement Song!

Remember: vote early! Vote often! Vote Phelps!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:45 PM | Comments (20)

August 22, 2008

Shocking Yet True Rumors

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Dear Kay,

I need to address some rumors that are floating around out there about our new book, Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines.

It has been said that there are projects that are not square in it. That we are putting patterns out there for things that are not dishcloths, hand towels, blankets, and bathmats.

That there may be projects with sleeves.

It is true that our first book was composed of projects that almost universally fell into the categories of square, rectangular, and almost square. It's true that there is no lack of garter stitch in that book.

So I can understand why folks who liked the squareness of things, the garter stitchiness of things in that first book might be worried that this new book is going to be somehow hard or otherwise not square.

All I can say is "Fear not!" "Worry not!" This is going to be fun. The longer we all knit, the more we are trying exotic and fascinating techniques that make us feel really clever. That's what we're focusing on in this new book, and I think that anyone who has made it through the Ballband Dishcloth can handle what's coming up.

Granted, there are a few projects that I would be hard pressed to describe, if you asked me to name what shape they are.

What shape is this? Zigzagulous?

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And this thing? Parallelotrapezangular?

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I will point out, however, that the rug shown at the top is undeniably rectangular. We haven't gone totally nuts. Yet.

Love,
Ann

PS Thanks to everyone for taking pity on me regarding the Sea Monkeys. The voted ended up a sturdy 59.8% against the idea of activating the Sea Monkeys, 40.2% pro-monkey.

It did occur to me last night, as I fixed dinner and stared at that little foil packet of potential Sea Monkeys, that I may have stumbled upon the perfect pet. Low maintenance? I'm talking NO maintenance! I'm sticking that packet in my wallet and taking it everywhere I go, my dusty little friends never far away.

Posted by Ann at 12:41 PM | Comments (48)

August 21, 2008

Pet Peeves

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Dear Kay,

I won't sugarcoat this: I have some sad news.

Squeaker has passed away, to the great guinea pig cage in the sky.

She was a noble rodent, always glad for a carrot, happy to eat whatever quantity of hay you put out for her. No matter how much hay, Squeaker would take care of it for ya. I mean: she was the Michael Phelps of hay eaters.

She was five and a half years old, pudgy and low riding in that way that guinea pigs are. My diagnosis is that she suffered from chew fatigue. She was done ruminating.

Life is bittersweet, you know? I was so used to stepping around her cage to answer the phone that now that she's gone, I still make a cage-avoiding maneuver when I answer the phone. Some habits die hard.

But not cleaning out that cage, I'll tell you what. It was like CHRISTMAS to be done with that little hobby.

Of course, In one of the great cosmic jokes, my son came home from a birthday party with a party favor.

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I am tormented with the arrival of these potential Sea Monkeys. Do I activate them? We have raised two previous batches of Sea Monkeys, which had to be the most abstract pet-owning in the world. It's all maintenance, no love. Remember: I'm coming off five and a half years of cage duty. So help me out:

They look so cute in their little foil packet.

Ravelympics Update

I'm so sorry to have been such a poor partner in our Synchronized Cable Sweater team. The minute I point my toes, I forget to keep my arms straight. Please don't send me to re-education camp!

I am on the verge of finishing the body, however. I have divided for front and back, so I should be on to the sleeves shortly.

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To review: I'm using Rowan DK Tweed (circa the late '90s, I'm guessing). I'm using our Perfect Sweater pattern, adapted by using a random cable pattern from our new book.

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I hit a Spaghetti Junction moment last night, where a bunch of the cables met and had a rumble. Still wondering what the sleeves are going to be like. It's going to be a speed-walk to the finish.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:26 AM | Comments (47)

August 20, 2008

Mini Me

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Dear Ann,

I know you are all back-to-schoolish down there. Up here, it's still that lovely time of year when one is sipping a G & T and knitting, whilst hoping the kids aren't setting fire to something. (That plural is pure political correctness; only one of mine would set fire to anything, and the other would tattle, so I can sip with confidence.)

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I have been knitting on my Ravelympics project for Afghans for Afghans so much it's sick. I don't know what it is about this sweater. Some kind of perfect storm of best yarn ever made plus sweet cables that all twist on the same row plus I am just in the zone for this for some reason. I can't put it down. I blasted through one skein in less than 12 hours which included a full night's sleep. I'm starting to worry that maybe the sweater isn't that into me, you know? One sleeve left and then the finish line. I'll be weeping as I weave in the ends.

[Yarn update: I got my extra skein of Magpie shade Berry from Fine Points Yarn Shop in Cleveland, which specializes in vintage Rowan (in case you should ever be in need). They wrote me such a supportive note. Now, consistent with how these things go, I'm not going to need the extra skein. But if I didn't have it, I would need it. So I'm thrilled to have it. Red Scarf 2008 fixins!]

While Watching a DVD of Juno

In other news, I don't know how this happened but the Sunflower Dishcloth had a baby.

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Here's how to make it (I'm writing this for the benefit of the imaginary nut case out there who wants to make a coaster-size Sunflower): Follow the basic instructions here, with these changes: Cast on 14 and work the striped stitch pattern for 3 inches. When you are doing the picked-up chain edging around the center, try to pick up 14 stitches on each side of the center. Pick up 7 stitches for each petal, or make huge 14-stitch petals which would be really cute and Marimekko-ish. Then go find something SERIOUS to knit, OK?

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Last night Joseph and I found ourselves without sister and Hubby so we had a Chinese dinner date on the most beautiful, breezy summer night of the year. Sa-weet!

Love,
Kay

PS Breaking news (and also braking news, since some of this birth happened in an ambulance): Our friend Naomi has decided that the arrival of a fourth grandbaby qualifies her as a matriarch. But what you have to check out is the crib blanket that was handspun and knitted by the patriarch!

Posted by Kay at 10:31 AM | Comments (18)

August 17, 2008

Bluebird Sunday

Dear Kay,

I just unearthed a video I thought I had lost forever. So of course I put up on YouTube so I wouldn't misplace it again.

Check it out: here are the five baby bluebirds who nested outside my window last summer.

An hour after this scene of abject squalor, sibling rivalry, and poo, they each climbed up on the doorway, stuck their heads waaaaay out, and launched themselves into the world. Buh-bye, suckas!

Love,
Ann

PS Imagine the sort of day Michael Phelps is having. The guy is 23 years old. NOW what?

Posted by Ann at 12:28 PM | Comments (16)

August 15, 2008

Friday Snipsnaps and Tidbits

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Dear Kay,

Anybody who's kept a blog for any length of time starts taking pictures of stuff just because it needs to be shared with the world. Here's an heirloom tomato MRI. It was delicious.

Stunning Olympic Discovery of the Day

Kay, I just found out something shocking: the Chinese Olympic Committee has been using a cuter, prettier version of me to blog the Olympics. I feel so cheated! I thought I was writing all this stuff!

Michael Phelps Fact of the Day

He has the torso of a 6'8" man, and the legs of a 6' man. His flipperlike legs, combined with his massively awesome torso, are the secret to his freaky success.

Ravelympics

Now, my Ravelympics Sweater for a Boy, as it's listed in the official Team Afghans for Afghans roster of projects, needs to be renamed Ravelympics Sweater for a Fashion-Forward Boy, because it really will look best when worn on the slightly fitted side. I just held it up to my model, who's a giant nine year old (seriously, he's huge), and it fits him nicely if you gently stretch the thing out. He would rather die than wear something that does not have a skateboard logo on it, so it's a good thing this is going to Afghanistan.

At this point, I am totally addicted to this thing. To review: I'm making random k2 cables wander across this Perfect Sweater. The cable recipe is from a sock pattern in our new book.

Here's the front side:

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Here's the back:

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It's really hard to resist the urge to throw a twist in there--you can see how often I succumbed to the temptation. I think this sweater would look cool with as few twists as possible. Or with a jillion twists. What's pleasant is not having to use a chart at all for this, or a cable needle. There's this constant little wondering at what's coming up next: do I need to shift a cable over a stitch? Should I resist the urge?

Dept of How Did We Ever Live Without This?

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Quilt2Go really knows how to give a gadget-obsessed knitter a frisson. This is StitchMinder, a free iPhone App that helps you keep track of how many rows you've completed, what pattern row you're on, what decrease row you're on, what increase row you're on. You tap on the number to change it.

It's such a high-tech solution to a low-tech problem. In other words: FAB! I haven't used it for a project yet (the Ravelympics sweater is pretty much devoid of a need for record-keeping). But I think it could be useful for the right project. Inasmuch as you need to keep a phone/iPod/browser/email nearby when you're knitting a sweater.

Of course, if you already have an iPhone, you don't need me to explain about any of this. You've probably already downloaded the thing.

Love,
Ann

PS BONUS EXTRA! Ten Fiercest Olympic Fashions, as curated by the winner of last season's Project Runway, Christian Siriano.

Posted by Ann at 01:06 PM | Comments (31)

August 14, 2008

Ma'am Who's Knitting

Dear Ann,

Oh for Pete's sake! "How do I knit so fast?" The truth: I don't knit all that fast. I am an old-school thrower, still knitting the way I learned in Camp Fire Girls when I was 11 years old. (To my fellow Camp Fire alums, a hearty Wohelo to ya!) I throw so slow it's like a rope trick. Each stitch is an event.

For me, the secret to fruitful multiplication of knitwear is not speed, but focus. When, as occasionally happens, I find myself not knitting, I ask myself, "Why am I not knitting right now?" Looking at the world from this perspective, one is shocked at the senseless waste of the oceans of knitting time that surround us. Knitting time just lying there: on the subway, in the waiting room, in front of the television, when somebody's mom is talking about somebody else's mom, when a tween is showing pictures of all the things in the PB Teen catalog that would look awesome in her room. One could knit through it all, and nobody would be the worse for it. My ability to multi-task--i.e., to knit while listening to gossip, or to knit while not ordering stuff from PB Teen--is without peer.

Just the other day, I was deep in the bowels of the City government bureaucracy, waiting for an appointment. Everyone else in the waiting room was slumped in their chair, the will to live seeping out of their pores, listening to receptionists chat in that way of receptionists who do not expect to be calling anyone up for their appointment anytime today. I was knitting away, cheerful as hell. (Knitting and eavesdropping--what could be better?) When it was my turn, the receptionist called out, "Ma'am who's knitting?" I wish I could have heard the rest of the story she was telling the other receptionist, but at least I was at the end of my row.

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Here's progress to date on my Ravelympics sweater for Afghans for Afghans youth campaign. The back has been held up to Joseph to confirm that it will fit an almost-ten year old. The back used exactly 180 grams, so most of 2 skeins. I have 4 full skeins left, and I've ordered another from a shop in Cleveland that says it has it. (A big thank you to those who pointed me to potential sources of Magpie shade 684.) When this sleeve is finished I'll know for sure whether I can finish the sweater without compromising on the cabling, but I'm pretty confident (so confident that I'm taking the risk of having to reknit the sleeves and/or turn the back into the front and knit the back plain).

Department of Political Patisserie

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Found these fun cookie-pops at the Jacques Torres chocolate shop, which is perilously close to my daily errand route.

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There seemed to be equal numbers of blue and red pops. Unlike Gray's Papaya, the hot dog stand nearby (our hot dog stands sell papaya drinks, don't know why), which has a sign filling the whole front window saying, "YES, SENATOR ___________". (I'm not telling which Senator. Think about it a minute. Or go get a hot dog and a cup of Coconut Champagne (which thankfully is not coconut and actual champagne) and find out. )

Speaking of Shibori

I know, nobody was speaking of shibori, but the mailman just arrived with an advance copy of Shibori Knits by Gina Wilde. I don't mind telling you that I am quietly flipping out. There are beautiful photographs and clear explanations of simple shibori techniques (shibori is felting with resists--you'd know it if you saw it; it looks like felting with randomly unfelted bits), and gorgeous projects: hats that I want to make into bowls, shawls and scarves that I want to make into blankets and throws. I am intrigued by the mixing of wool and other felting, animal fibers, with non-felting fibers like silk and cotton. The ideas in this book are going to keep me busy when Fall Felting Frenzy strikes. Well done, Gina Wilde!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:18 PM | Comments (28)

August 12, 2008

From Sea to Shining Sea: Road Trip!

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Dear Kay,

Get packing. We just got our marching orders for our book-related travels this fall. Check it out:

LEXINGTON, KY, Friday, October 10
7:00pm, fabulous Joseph-Beth Booksellers

NASHVILLE, TN, Saturday, October 11
3:00pm, the amazing Southern Festival of Books

ST. PAUL, MN, Sunday, October 12
1:00pm, William Mitchell College of Law Auditorium with the insanely fabulous Yarnery

PORTLAND, OR, Monday, October 13
7:30pm, giant and fiercely independent Powell’s Books (Burnside)

SEATTLE, WA, Tuesday, October 14
7:00pm, University Bookstore, home of the Fightin' Huskies

NEW YORK, NY, Thursday, October 16
6:00pm, beloved Knitty City

RHINEBECK, NY, Sunday, October 19
10:00am-4:00pm, the surreal experience that is the NY Sheep & Wool Festival

NEW YORK, NY, Tuesday, October 21
6:30pm, the beautifully bookish Brooklyn Public Library

We're going to have a lot of handknits to show and discuss, so we hope everybody will take this opportunity to ditch normal life and come out to hang out, celebrate knitting, and let us sign your book. Which we hope you will get. And enjoy.

Olympic Effort Now Underway (Non-Medal Contender)

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I don't really get how you can knit so fast, Kay. I just don't get it. I mean, are ya feeding the children? Sleeping? I cast on for my Ravelympic Sweater for a Boy, using our free Perfect Sweater pattern, with some significant pattern modifications already. But I haven't cranked the way you have cranked. Must crank more.

1. I'm knitting it in the round rather than in pieces. Faster, higher, seamlesser!

2. I'm deleting the side shaping seeing as how this is a sweater for a boy, and the boys I know don't have side shaping of any sort.

3. I'm using a stitch pattern from our new book. It's not really a stitch pattern, actually, it's the lack of a pattern that makes it fun. There are four simple cable stitches that, when used in combination, send a k2 rib wandering all over the place. I work them without a cable needle, which is The Way To Go as far as I'm concerned.

I cooked up this idea for a sock pattern. I have wondered for a long time now what this cabling would look like when applied to a sweater, and I'm getting to find out. I can hardly tell you how much fun this is. There is no wrong way to do this. If you can tolerate randomness--and I love randomness, adore it, and find that it's pretty much the only way I can get through life--then there is a lot of fun to be had here.

The result of knitting this ribbed sweater is that it's going to be a serious negative-ease kind of sweater. Ribbing tends to pull in dramatically. Maybe it's going to be for a four-year-old Afghan boy. We'll see what blocking does for it.

Olympic Fact of the Day

Michael Phelps eat 10,000 calories every day.

That is, like, SO MANY CALORIES.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:01 AM | Comments (77)

August 11, 2008

Help An Olympic Pal

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Dear Ann,

Kind of a good news/bad news situation here in the New York outpost of Ravelympics Team Afghans for Afghans.

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Good news: I love this pattern (Pie Man from Rowan's hoary Tadpoles and Tiddlers of 1995) as much as I did during my Olympic training, i.e., 6 or 7 years ago when I knit it the first time.

Bad news: When I went to the stash, I learned that I only had 6 skeins and a little of the red Magpie, whereas the size I was planning to knit calls for 7 skeins.

Good news: Children were so much bigger in 1995 that the finished dimensions of the Size 3-4 years are bigger, in both length and girth, than any garment belonging to my boy, who will turn 10 in October. Although I am troubled by the shrinkage of children in the past 13 years, I am prepared to be OK about that if it means I can finish this sweater with only 6 skeins of Magpie. (What 3-4 year old wears a 32 inch chest, I ask you? For a toddler, that is a life-threatening amount of ease.)

Nervous news: Having finished the first skein, I am only halfway done with the back. This means the back and front will take most of 4 skeins, leaving only 2 skeins-and-a-little for both sleeves. Not sure I will be able to get 2 circa 1995 sleeves (o, the flappage we enjoyed in the latter days of the 20th century) out of 2 skeins and change.

So I'm looking for someone to be the Jason Lezak to my Michael Phelps. If Jason Lezak had a skein of discontinued Rowan Magpie, in Shade 684 ("Berry"), he would totally swap it with Michael Phelps.

In return, in addition to a square swap for your Magpie, I promise not to strip to the waist and scream at you like a wild man. Frankly I think the not-stripping deal is worth a hank of Magpie all by itself.

Please email me, Magpie owner. I know you're out there. They made a lot of this stuff. Somebody's got it.

Love,
Kay

PS Plan B is to call the back the front and work the new back and/or the sleeves plain, without the heavy cabling. My question: would this really save much yarn? Bueller?

Posted by Kay at 08:19 AM | Comments (46)

August 09, 2008

Craigslist Beijing

For sale

Sat Aug 9

500' x 70' LED screen. Used once. WORLD'S BIGGEST! ROLLS GREAT --->

4,006 GIANT DRUMSTICKS THAT LIGHT UP (sorry, 10 got lost in the crowd)

2,008 ancient-type Chinese drums. Wheels! Superloud. Will swap for good hearing aid.

1 150' tall expandable globe. Can hold two pop stars on top. WIRED FOR SOUND. Let's trade . . .

600 PADDLES. Makes picture of Chinese boats when held together. Great for home dec or giant rowboat owner.

JUMPSUITS JUMPSUITS JUMPSUITS. 1,500 lime green, wired to light up orange AND white. Sweet!

64 women's dresses, red splotchy flowers. Made in Hungary.

238 women's blazers, red, barely worn! Made in Spain.

142 fedoras, some dented. Made in China but worn by Polish team.

1 red blazer, size ginormous. Could use as tent. [email protected]

213 orange ties. Really orange, actually. Quite orange. Made in the Netherlands.

312 "gallic" red sashes. Tres tres Francais! That's what we THOUGHT. Look like obi sashes, but didn't realize that until we got to the stadium and saw those Japanese people.

1 Tuvalu ceremonial costume. I wore this at the opening ceremonies and wish I hadn't. HELP A GUY.

2,008 cheerleader uniforms. Need cleaning but water-bottle holsters are MINT>>>>>>

Purple silk dress NOT A NIGHTGOWN. email [email protected]

2,008 umbrellas with kid faces. Used once! TO SELL AS ONE LOT ONLY.

Olympic ring wall hanging. 300,000 lights, six burned out. Good for Christmas dec. Or opening ceremony.

Crazy rubber swimsuit. Don't need it. Kicking @$$ without it. [email protected]

Posted by Ann at 02:31 PM | Comments (58)

August 08, 2008

Let the Fireworks Begin

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Dear Kay,

Holy crapoley, the Ravelympics started TWO HOURS AGO and I haven't even got my yarn out! I haven't wound it. I haven't swatched it. I barely even know what I'm using. Wait for meeeeee!

I thought the Ravelympics started when the TV coverage on NBC started--you know, I measure everything in my life by what time it starts ON TV, not in real life . . . I won't start until I see that Parade of Nations thing and the Jamaican bobsled team goes by. Oh wait, that's the Winter Olympics. But still--what's the smallest team this year? That's who I'm for.

This time zone difference is going to be a BUMMER. But I am so entranced by all the architecture that I'm going to be happy no matter what time I'm watching this stuff.

Today, I'll be winding yarn and trying out the stitch pattern I'm going to use on my Ravlelicious Ravelympics Perfect Sweater for a Boy (Once I Leave Off the Side Shaping). I really did look around for another boy pattern to knit during this competition, but I happen to know that the Perfect Sweater works, and I want to try a stitch pattern that is going to be appearing in a sock pattern for our new book.

I'm using, like you, Kay, a batch of Rowan yarn that has reached the perfect stage of marination. It's DK Tweed, a true classic wool from days of yore, in a winey purpley color that I thought would a) not show dirt and b) look warm.

For everyone on Team Afghans for Afghans, HIGH FIVE! All those steroids were WORTH IT! We are going to crank the handknits like Paris HIlton cranking campaign ads.

Here's a handy time counter for those of you who are as time zone-impaired as I am.

Quote of the Day

From the Beijing Olympics fireworks designer, Cai Guo-Qiang, "Why can't ceremonies be art?"

Cai is an artist who works with gunpowder. He just said on the Today show: "Gunpowder is very artistic. By sprinkling gunpowder on paper, then lighting it, the change of energy when the material sets fire leaves another work of art, long lasting, after the gunpowder burns away."

When you click on all the little squares at his website, you can see his work. Here's one example. I find this totally great.

Team Afghans for Afghans, keep us up to date on your progress over at the Team A4A message board. And really, you don't have to be on the team to knit for the fall Afghans for Afghans campaign.

I already feel sorry for Meredith Vieira! Olympic fatigue is going to hit her like the Great Wall of China.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:03 AM | Comments (16)

Ravelympics Finish Line

Dear Ann,

When I send something off to Afghans for Afghans, I sometimes hear that someone saw my thing "in the Basement." I try to imagine this Basement, stacked with cardboard boxes and tender woolly handknits. I wonder, sometimes, if The Basement is something that was made up to enhance the mystique--already considerable--of sending something to A4A. Today I have evidence that The Basement is real.

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Authentic basement atmosphere--you just can't fake it. From left to right, volunteers Annette, Laura, and Antje. Each has her own special role. Annette opens boxes for hours without stopping (cardboard trembles, duct tape melts), Laura flits around Ravelry, inspiring everyone with her beautiful knits for Afghanistan and making sure the supply of handknit donations is not interrupted, and Antje has miraculous powers of Garment Resuscitation and Rehabilitation. (When I confessed to Laura that my shawl had blocked out a couple inches too narrow, she said, oh, not to worry, *we* might fix it in the Basement. The thought of someone--Antje and company-- having to pick up stitches to add girth onto my shawl shamed me into doing it myself.)

Anyhoo, as Ravelympians cast on today (or tonight, although the Opening Ceremonies have already happened in China, so I think it's legal to cast on right now), I thought it would be fun to see the Basement. It's the finish line for the Sweater Sprint; it's the mat we hope to pin our WIPs to in Greco-Roman WIP Wrestling; it's the balance beam from which we are going to flip and STICK THE LANDING.

And remember, you don't have to be in Ravelry to knit during the Olympics, or to knit for A4A. Knit your heart out!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:28 AM | Comments (4)

August 06, 2008

Sunflower Season (Free Pattern!)

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Dear Ann,

In the midst of submitting a pattern for the 2009 Dishcloth Calendar, I remembered last year's design, which I am now free to share with my fellow dishrag-knittin' freaks. It's classified as a "Grade 2 (Impractical)" in the Dishrag Classification Manual. Meaning it's pretty, but not utilitarian. I beg to differ! At heart, it's a simple-- albeit florally-reminiscent-- counter mop. It puts on its dishrag pants one leg at a time. It will scrub its little heart out if you give it the chance. And if you leave it lying in the sink too long, it just might germinate.

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Sunflower Dishcloth
(Copyright Kay Gardiner 2007)

Yarn: Peaches & Creme worsted weight by Elmore-Pisgah Inc., solid colors 1 ½ oz (71.5g) balls, each approximately 122 yds (112m), cotton], 1 ball each in the following colors :

A cream
B chocolate brown
C apple green
D yellow

Note on yarn quantities: Although the pattern calls for four balls of yarn, it requires a total yarn weight of less than 2 ounces, so you can use an assortment of leftovers. Sunflowers come in lots of colors!

Size 7 (4.5mm) needles

Woven stitch pattern:
Rows 1 and 3 (WS): Purl.
Row 2: K1, *slip 1 with yarn in front, k1; repeat from * to last stitch, k1.
Row 4: K1, *k1, slip 1 with yarn in front; repeat from * to last stitch, k1.

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INSTRUCTIONS

CENTER OF THE FLOWER

With A, cast on 28 stitches. Work Row 1 of the woven stitch pattern in A, then work rows 2 and 3 in B, then work rows 4 and 1 in C. Continue working 2-row stripes of A, B and C (changing color on Rows 2 and 4) in woven stitch pattern until piece measures approximately 6 inches from cast-on edge. Bind off loosely.

CENTER EDGING
Using C and starting at any point on one of the 4 sides of the center of the flower, work 2 rounds of single crochet around all 4 sides of the center of the flower. (This edging will keep the center from stretching out of shape, and form a clean chain of stitches from which to pick up stitches for the petals.)

[Tip: To make the petals come out evenly spaced and without any gaps, try to pick up 27 stitches on each side as you work the edging. If you have a couple too many or two few, you can fudge this by increasing or decreasing in the first row of a petal, but it's easiest if you have 27 stitches on each side to begin with.]

For those not learned in the ways of crochet, use knitting needles to work the edging in cro-Kay, as follows: pick up 2 stitches, *bind off one stitch, pick up one stitch; repeat from * until you have gone around the edge twice.

PETALS

Turn the center of the flower over so that the WS is facing. Starting at the upper right edge of the center and using D, pick up 9 stitches. [Tip: You can start anywhere on the edge. If you place the first petal so that it goes around a corner, you will get a rounder, more realistic looking flower. If you work 3 petals evenly on each edge, your sunflower will be more stylized and square in shape.]

Row 1 (RS): K1, *p1, k1; *repeat from * to end of row.
Row 2 (Ws): Repeat row 1.

Rows 1 and 2 establish the seed stitch pattern of the petals. On the next row and every RS row, decrease one stitch at the beginning and end of the row, maintaining the seed stitch pattern, until 3 stitches remain. On the next row (WS), slip 1 stitch, purl 2 together, and pass the slipped stitch over. You have just completed one petal. Cut the yarn, turn the piece over so that the WS is facing, and repeat the instructions 11 more times, for a total of 12 petals on all four sides of the piece.

Sew in ends. (Yes, there are a lot of ends. What is your point?)


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So there you have it: Sunflower. It's the tiniest bit fiddly, but fun and good. Also very seasonal. Go buy a bunch of local sunflowers with those Incredible Hulk stems, to keep you company while you knit. I would love to see these in non-traditional sunflower colors. My problem is that I like my dishrags to fit squarely in the Dishrag Drawer. I know this is uptight in the extreme, but I can't help it. I may have to knit them exclusively as gifts. I also think they would make a great sewn-on motif for a baby blanket/play mat.

If somebody out there knows how to add this pattern to Ravelry, have at it!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:36 AM | Comments (33)

August 05, 2008

Overcommitters Anonymous

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Dear Ann,

It's a good thing I like to knit. I seem to have a lot on my plate with the knitting. It's not that my initial wild enthusiasm for a project dies down; it's more that it runs into all the other objects of said wild enthusiasm. They start bickering and jockeying for time and before you know it, I am only doing the choicest, most fun bits of each project. But then I remember: this is my HOBBY. This is supposed to be FUN. It's OK to do the fun parts first.

Last weekend I got to work on a bunch of stuff because for about two hours nobody needed sunscreen, food, or my undivided attention as they recited the play-by-play from a Yankee game. (I'm feeling a sudden kinship with Bob Costas' mom. O the maternal fortitude.)

Wall of Linen "Square" 8

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The Wall of Linen has benefited from a couple of airplane rides including a weather delay. This square is 3-squares-in one. You start with the center one. Cast on 60 stitches. Knit 60 ridges, striping as the mood strikes you. Bind off on the RS.

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I introduced peach and brown to echo the cushion that inspired me, but did not try to copy it exactly. I subbed in a small amount of leftover indigo-dyed linen that I've been hoarding, for a couple of the pale blue stripes.

THEN, pick up one stitch in each ridge (i.e., 60 stitches) on one side and continue striping away in the same palette for 60 garter ridges. Bind off on the RS.

THEN, go to the other side, pick up one stitch in each ridge (i.e., 60 stitches), and work 60 ridges in alternating stripes of navy and cream. Bind off on the RS. Finish by edging the entire rectangle with cro-Kay (pick up 2 stitches on the edge, *bind off one stitch, pick up one stitch, continue from * all the way around the rectangle).

One would be justified in pausing to reflect on whether the cro-Kay is really needed. It takes a while. Its purpose is obscure, its usefulness uncertain. Since I haven't tried to join any of the pieces yet, I don't know whether I'll be glad, sad or mad about the cro-Kay. (Kind of a Seussian moment. Will you cro-Kay in a box? With a fox? In a house? With a mouse?) But for the moment I am committed to the cro-Kay. I have this idea that it will make the join look like a design feature instead of something cobbled together.

WOLlayout8.jpg
(For those knitting along: Yes, I skipped over Square 7. I can't remember why, but there was a reason, probably something to do with Colors In Bag. Also, the picture shows that there is a slight glitch with Square 8, in that it would appear to be too short. Will rectify.)

Red Square

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This is a single square from the glorious Barn-Raising Blanket in Knitalong. It's my contribution to a sweet gift blanket that is being done all in reds. I fell in love with this sock yarn from ShibuiKnits (which means "elegant with a touch of bitterness" in Japanese--isn't that cool?), because of the subtle striations. I prefer a slightly uneven solid, to flat solids or truly variegated colors. There's something so pleasing about that flicker of color. (Maybe it's the touch of bitterness.)

Woolly Beach Blanket?

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I'm still soldiering on with the second raffle blanket for Oliver's Fund. I'm anxious to get this done because Michaela has so kindly kept the raffle bookkeeping open for so long, waiting for the paint-drying/grass-growing process that is me, sewing square to square. It's not what you would call a portable project, at this point. It's more than halfway there, including the border. As always with "improvised" blankets, I'm loving the surprise of seeing the idea play out. Such beautiful squares. The border is a a Koigu solid in a walnutty brown. Again with the flickering monotone.

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It's so exciting to see all the projects piling up for Team Afghans for Afghans! Can't wait to cast on my project. (Pie Man, from Tadpoles and Tiddlers, in Rowan Magpie Aran.) For those not in Ravelry, you still need something to knit while watching the goings-on in Beijing, and Afghans for Afghans will welcome your contribution regardless!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:24 AM | Comments (23)

August 04, 2008

Team Afghans for Afghans! Join Today

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Dear Kay,

You know how much I love the Olympics, right? You know how I wept when Jim McKay died in June. I loved that guy, man. He's the one who gave me my start in armchair athletics, back when I had my little black-and-white Sony TV that I would put on my stomach and watch in bed until I fell asleep and it slid onto the floor.

(I have to pause here to consider the fact that my mother gave me a TV for my eleventh birthday. GOD BLESS HER.)

Because there were only four channels, it was hard for me to watch enough TV, so to fill up properly, I watched a lot of ABC's Wide World of Sports. Drag racing, logrolling, jai alai--if Jim McKay was taking me there, I was going.

So much has changed since those long, sleepy afternoons when I would get bedsores from so much television. I managed to attend the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, despite the fact that I had left a six-month-old baby back in Nashville and carried a breast pump with me in the blistering heat of downtown Atlanta. Good times, and I still have a hatful of cloisonné pins.

But there's nothing like watching from the comfort of my sofa, AC cranked to infinity, watching the world's greatest athletes evade detection for steroid use compete at the highest level. Some things never change, mercifully, and I am ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT waiting for the Beijing Olympics to start.

Never mind the smog, the weird government-induced Internet lockdown, the creepy shots of one brazillion Chinese police officers in riot gear--this is going to be GREAT, people. There is no greater piece of television than this 17-day wallow. For us knitters, this is the ultimate opportunity for us to knit ourselves silly.

Ravelympics!

Ravelry has gone completely nuts over the Olympics. If you haven't taken a look, more than 5,000 knitters have signed up for the Ravelympics. The goal: to start and finish a project during the Olympic Summer Games.

We are participating in Ravelry's Ravelympics as members of Team Afghans for Afghans. There's a great new campaign by Afghans for Afghans, calling for wool blankets and garments for youth ages 7-14. The details are all here.

We heartily encourage all you armchair athletes to join us on Team Afghans for Afghans. Time is short: the deadline to sign up for Team Afghans for Afghans is this Thursday, August 7, so that we can all fire up our needles during the opening ceremony on August 8.

You sign up here. This page splains it all for you. (Be sure to become a member of Ravelry, if you haven't already.)

In short:

1. Figure out what you want to make for Afghans for Afghans during the Olympics.

2. Add a project page to your Ravelry notebook.

3. Tag your project for Ravelympics, Team Afghans for Afghans, and which event. (You choose your event--there are many events, from Sweater Sprint to to Afghan Marathon.)

4. Ready, set, KNIT.

5. Send a hello to Renee, the captain of Team Afghans for Afghans. Her sceen name is "revknits" on Ravelry.

Here's the schedule of Olympic events. I'm already strategizing on how to make the most of this. I'm going to make a pullover for a boy, age 12 or so. (I have a 12-year-old boy here to use as a mannequin.)

Please leave a comment if you have any questions. This is our chance to rock the Afghan world with handknits, watch a righteous amount of TV, and compete at the highest level of armchair athletics.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 02:37 PM | Comments (18)

August 01, 2008

The Never Ending Quest For Adorable Drawings of Our Heads

Dear Ann,

We have been keeping this secret for so long. I don't know about you, but I was about to bust.

At long last, Twist Collective, a brand-new online knitting magazine, is live with its very first issue. I am so excited about where this new voice in the knitting community is going to take us, visually, knittingly, and every other way.

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And we're in it! Blabbing away as our alter egos, the Problem Ladies, who are not only blabby but pretty dang good looking.

Please, people, send us some juicy questions for the Problem Ladies--we've got a deadline for our next column, ya know. (It's hard to run a Q & A without Qs.)

Happy weekend, all!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:56 AM | Comments (40)
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