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

January 29, 2009

Breaking News: Haunted Sweater Seizes Area Woman

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Dear Kay,

Holy cow, I think my mom's sweater is haunted!

Get this: yesterday, while wearing the cabled fisherman's sweater my mom made 30 years ago--back when she was, you know, alive--I found myself strangely drawn to the top shelf of my closet, that netherland where unfinished objects marinate until they either decay, spontaneously unravel, or otherwise meet some dismal fate. At a time of day when I usually scramble around fixing dinner, I found myself in my chair--the chair where I do my best knitting, that chair that comes into play when I'm SERIOUS about something--with a project that I haven't visited since preblogstoric days.

I mean it--without a blink, I sat down with this project and almost failed to feed my family, just like my mom used to do. I haven't given this sweater a thought since I stuffed it in a plastic bag and swore it off forever. It's the mighty, mysterious mom force that led me back to it, I'm telling you.

How to Carbon Date Your Knitting

I don't even remember when I started this thing, Kim Hargreaves's Pearl from Rowan 32--one of the great Rowans.

Looking at this piece of wandering cables, I found myself wondering when I had started this thing. It is definitely preblogstoric, pre 2003. I do have a few clues that indicate just how clueless a knitter I was when I began this Pearl:

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Freaked-Out Chart Scratching. Should I check off each row, or make a little dash mark, or just cross out the whole damn line?

Also: Size Chosen: Large. Suggests long-standing fear of being perceived as slutty when seen wearing a high-necked cabled cardigan.

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Unfortunate Increases. What the heck kind of holes are those right in the middle of the back of this sweater? Shows complete lack of understanding that there might be some sort of increase other than a Make 1 By Picking Up The Strand Below.

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Use of Cable Needle. Operating without a clue about how to make a cable without a cable needle. I don't know how I got past Row 2 on this thing, using a cable needle for every single shift.

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Stonehengelike Placement of Stitch Markers. What are these? And how did they get there? What is their mysterious message? Who did this?

I have to say, it's kind of heartening to revisit a project that clearly was blowing my brains out, and to find that now I can crank two inches of it without clinging to the chart, without a cable needle, with a halfway decent increase that doesn't leave a gaping hole in the middle of my knitting. It's progress, I guess. This sweater, this woebegone UFO, is now fun. I am itching to get back to it, even as I write this.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:42 PM | Comments (43)

January 28, 2009

Her Morning Elegance

Dear Kay,

Here's a trippy late-afternoon snack for you, "Her Morning Elegance" by Oren Lavie. (Hat tip to that source of so many interesting things, Andrew Sullivan.)

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 05:34 PM | Comments (22)

A Little Compulsiveness Never Hurt Anybody

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Dear Kay,

What on earth got into you yesterday? In the future, when you have eight hours of knitting that you're about to rip out, just send it to me, OK? There's a safe haven for lush, purplygray knitting around here--it's not like I've got some spy satellite eighty miles above the Earth that's going to notice that lost increase. I am happy to offload any knitting that offends--marred shawls, warbly dishrags, send 'em on.

Your stitch marker strategy seems spot on, I have to say. Supercompulsive, which is a side of you we don't see all that often. Yeah, you're breezing though miles of garter stitch . . . but it's accurate garter stitch. Couldn't let it go, could you? So busted! I bet you're rewinding yarn balls that have gone a little out of whack. Lining up stitch markers by weight. Taking better photos of those Ravelry projects from mid 2008.

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Now. StormTrackerDopplerTerrorWeather radar indicates an inch of "wintry mix" coming our way today. Possibly the least satisfying forecast possible. The fellas, trudging off the school, were totally disgusted. "Where's that two inches?" Clif asked. "I was counting on that."

In the interest of pretending that we have bad weather, and because my closet is tidy enough at the moment that my sweaters aren't in a giant pile of undifferentiated horribleness, I've fished out a sweater made at least 30 years ago. It's a straight-ahead raglan fisherman's sweater, and I never used to wear it because it always felt too small.But these days, now that the fashions of the moment are more fitted, and I've discovered that "too small for me" usually means "the correct size that I ought to be wearing," it feels really nice.

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My mom made it, back during one of her enthusiasms for knitting that ebbed and flowed.

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Aw, c'mon, you know how this gives me a smile, looking at all these cables and seed stitches and imagining my mom ditching the kitchen so she could steal a few more rows.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:24 AM | Comments (40)

January 27, 2009

Clean Slated

Dear Ann,

In the immortal words of the Indigo Girls, the hardest to learn is the least complicated. I speak to you from the lowly, lonely place that a person is in when she has just ripped back 8 hours of garter stitch because she had 1 stitch more on the right side of the center stitch of her triangular shawl than she had on the left side of the center stitch of her triangular shawl, and she couldn't see where the stitch was missing. And needless to say it was driving her crazy, sitting there at the girls' basketball game last Saturday. Perhaps she was mad. But in the state of mind she was in, rip she must, and rip she did, and then she had to figure out how to make sure this never, ever, wever happened again.

This wouldn't have happened with a fancy lace shawl pattern. (Yes I'm bitter about that.) With lace, you follow the principle of The Center Stitch, but you're not talking about the center stitch of the whole dang shawl. You're talking about the center stitch of each repeat. If the center stitch of the repeat is not landing in the exact center of the repeat on the row below, you're doing it wrong and you know it. Nothing will work right, ever again in your life, if you do not figure out why that center stitch is not landing in the center, right this minute. So you fix it. It may take you a minute to figure out, but you fix it. It's not something you discover EIGHT HOURS OF KNITTING LATER. You discover it right now.

But my shawl is not like that. It is seductively, deceptively simpler. For a very long time, you increase only on RS rows. On each RS row, you increase one stitch at each end of the row, and 1 stitch on either side of the center stitch of the shawl. You do this until you have 273 stitches on the shawl. THEN, you start increasing more on the ends. You put an increase on each end of each WS row AND on each RS row. The rows are growing crazy fast. Every once in a while you count the stitches, to make sure you have the same number on either side of the center stitch. You have a fleeting thought of using markers, but since the rows are growing from the center and from both ends at the same time, you can't quite figure out where to put the markers, so you just say to yourself: What? Like I'm going to MISS an increase on either end? I can see immediately if I've missed an increase in the middle, because there will be No Hole where there should be a long line of uninterrupted holes, so the only place I could mess it up would be to skip an increase on one of the ends, and that ain't gonna happen, because this is a bone simple thing to do: increase one stitch at each end, every row. Fool.

I know you are thinking it was rash to rip for such a small, invisible, nonstructural mistake. But the deed is done so let's move on. How am I keeping track, now that I know that I must keep track? It's very simple.

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First I counted off the stitches that I had on each side of the center stitch at that time. I put a marker at each end of 140 stitches, on each side, leaving 4 stitches outside the markers on either side of the center stitch, and 5 stitches outside the marker at each end. Wa-de-freakin'-la!

Those 140 stitches always stay the same, trapped there between the markers, with no increases happening to them. The increases are all happening at the center and the ends, on the other side of the markers. Where I can count them, and there are manageable, observable numbers of stitches to count.

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The center stitches. There should always be the same number of stitches on either side of Stitch Zero. When I get so many that it's a lot to count, I can move a chunk of stitches to the other side of the markers.

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Ditto for the stitches on the ends. Each side should have the same number of stitches on the outside of the marker at the completion of each row. When they get cumbersome to count quickly, move a chunk to the inside of the markers. (Equal chunks on each side.)

Can I get a Bless My Heart?

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:27 AM | Comments (64)

January 26, 2009

Fine Arts Update

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Dear Kay,

You know, Oscar season is upon us, so this is the time of year when I dream of sneaking out during the day to watch some dreary movie involving Kate Winslet. This year, she has managed to be in TWO dreary movies, one directed by her very own King of Dreary Sam Mendes. (Road to Perdition, anybody? Fun!) Maybe I'll go for a Grim Film Back-to-Back Double Feature. At least Ralph Fiennes is in one of them: he really peps up a movie, doesn't he?

[Warning: Slumdog Millionaire spoiler alert.]

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I can get through a batch of Kate Winslet. I think I have become too Sensitive.

Example: I managed to sit through an entire viewing of Paul Blart: Mall Cop with the fellas, thrilling for the cop-on-Segway scenes and Paul Blart's evolution into a badass hostage extricator. It may be the terriblest movie ever made, and I'm counting Road to Perdition in there. But I didn't leave, even when the pretty wig salesperson seems to reject poor Paul.

Yet I could tolerate exactly sixteen minutes of the Triumphant Movie of the Year, Slumdog Millionaire, before I left and asked for my money back. Ever since I've had children, my tolerance for graphic violence and brutality has evaporated. There is no room in my head for that stuff. I didn't get the memo that the first fifteen minutes of this movie include 1) torture involving a car battery, 2) boy in cesspool, 3) teacher throwing books at students, 4) mother clubbed to death in front of her sons. So poorly framed, all this mess, and so gruesomely rendered! I didn't even remotely care what happened after this--now I have all that imagery in my head, and it'll be there like plutonium for the rest of my life. So disappointing!

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In happier news, I have been living yet another novel about New York, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. So absorbing, so tender a story of a man very much at loose ends after 9/11. I read a chapter of that, and I let it sink in. Plenty of sad and shock, but it takes you there without smacking you in the face like Slumdog Millionaire. Highly recommended.

Who's Thanking Whom?

I gave some yarn to the best second grade teacher in the universe, the incomparable Ms. Smith, who has taught hundreds of second graders how to knit. In return, these came back to me:

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How many second graders can doodle up a circular needle?

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Or convey the elemental core of knitting:

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Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:59 AM | Comments (106)

January 21, 2009

Speaking of Our Patchwork Heritage

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Dear Ann,

I still buy a lot of knitting, sewing and miscellaneous craft books. I tend not to need a book for a specific pattern; I use books as sparks. I choose the ones that make me want to go in the direction the author is going. Once I get that spark, I'm off to the races, and the thing I make usually turns out to be different from the thing that inspired it.

This would explain my collecting Japanese books and magazines, when I can't even read the instructions. They show possibilities. If I don't bring them home, I won't have them handy when I am searching for the right idea and need to sit down with a teetering stack of inspiration. The quilt that inspired Carrie's quilt (aka My Life's Work or at least it seemed like it at the time) is a simple concept, easy to describe: a large-scale log cabin with crazy big prints and found fabrics. But I needed to consult that specific picture again and again, to imitate it or even to NOT imitate it.

This all brings me to Alicia Paulson's book, Stitched in Time: Memory-Keeping Projects to Sew and Share from the Creator of Posie Gets Cozy. (Ann. I do believe Alicia is trying to challenge us in the Long-and-Impossible-to-Remember Subtitle Competition! Upstart!)

Normally the phrase "memory-keeping" would send me screaming from the room. I have an unreasonable horror of scrapbooking as it is generally practiced. All those smiley pictures with happy sentiments expressed on stickers, stencils, etc. -- I am afraid that glossing up one's mementoes, making them chirpy and shiny, obscures the real memories. (A game I play: "Think of a Memory of One of My Babies. Now Think of One That Is Not In a Snapshot." This is a really hard game. I worry that photography replaces memory. But I keep taking photographs.) To me, the messy memory, the blurry memory, or even the wrong memory is worth more than a packaged, generic image of happiness. Life is complicated! That's what we like about it!

Ahem. But Alicia's book is not about this tarted-up kind of memory. So it's giving me crazy sparks. Look at that apron up top. An old recipe card! That's a concrete touchstone. It conjures a lot, without saying "GRANDMA ROCKS" in Cartoon Sans. (My grandmothers were wonderful, rich characters whom I think of, wistfully and with awe, every day. However, they did not "rock".)

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This project, the Farmboy photo frame, is the one that got me going. Simple, beautiful execution of an idea (photo on fabric) that could so easily go cheesy if you're not careful.

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I warn ya, this book could lead me to stitch up a raft of small photo quilts. Despite my best intentions, they may be sugar sweet. People may be smiling. (It does happen.) First I have to figure out the mysteries of inkjet printing onto fabric. But now I have a direction, and a picture to stare at. Thanks, Alicia!

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Aaaaaaiiiiiiiiieeeeeeee! Run for your lives! Photo quilts are coming!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:18 AM | Comments (52)

January 20, 2009

Live-blogging the Inauguration

Hello everyone. This morning we live-blogged the Inauguration (or tried to). If you didn't read it in real time, it will be easier if you scroll to the end of the post and read it from the bottom up.

1:31--I'm signing off, too. Tea Cozy fans: the pattern is from Interweave Knits' Holiday Gifts 2008 issue. For some reason, it's called the Brick-Stitch Tea Cozy by Sandi Rosner. I call it the Ballband Tea Cozy. I had to make it, just because I feel (rightly or wrongly) like I have dibs on that stitch pattern and need to make everything that anybody cooks up in it.

Fashion-wise, I learned a lot today. Black suede boots are not just an option--they are an essential for the foxy middle-ager, and olive green gloves are the new black. (Although I like to think that the green gloves/gold dress combo was just a happy accident of Mrs. O rooting around in her coat pockets when she realized she would be needing a pair of gloves this morning.) Bye everybody! (Kay)

1:07--And so to lunch! Thanks for watching the Inauguration with me. Back to my feather and fan scarf. I need to go read that inaugural speech and poem again. (Ann)

1:04: The signing of the Presidential Ketubah.

12:53--Aw man, I think Obama is, like, doggin' us. "Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

12:55--Freezing and smiling before saying goodbye. The matching dress & coat look is so great, on both First Ladies. Make a note of it! (Do you have to be a First Lady to wear it?) (Kay)

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12:40--It's been a while since a First Lady has shushed a First Child in public. So fun to see. (Kay)

12:34--What I'm knitting:

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Another cashmere shawl, to comfort a friend. More likely, I am the one getting the comfort. (Kay)

12:19--Fiber arts analogy: "our patchwork heritage"!

12:06 It is done!

12:03 SOME GIG.

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12:01--Who's screeching for Utah senator Robert Bennett?

11:53--Her hat is a 10.

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11:52--There are 1801 people on Ravelry right now. Aretha is singing people! Get off the computer! (Kay)

11:50--You'll be happy to know that Hubby stopped dozing in the chair and is paying full attention now. (Kay)

11:48--What must he be thinking? (Ann)

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11:41--The LIncoln bible is so tiny! I was expecting some coffee-table-size behemoth. (Ann)

1134--The KayCam batteries are dying. I begin to see how CNN has the edge over live knitblog coverage. (Kay)

1134--What's with the guy with the binder next to Bush? Does he have a biology test tomorrow or something? (Ann)

11:32 Sasha & Malia and wait---is that ME in the pink coat? No, it's Ms. Robinson. (Kay)

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11:31--Tennessee, represent!

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11:26--President Bush père on a cane, sigh. I like their purple scarves which I am taking as a blue/red fusion moment. (Ann)

11:17--Still thinking about Dan Quayle and how he hasn't aged at all--that is worrisome, no? (Kay)

11:13--My ferklemptitude threshold is SO low today.

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11:13--Laura Bush has been gracious through all this transition. I bet she's going to have a big mojito on the way to Texas tonight.

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11:08--Dan Quayle!

11:08--Here's my inaugural scarf:

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11:07--Scalia looks like a Medici with that kooky cap on! Get the guy a handknit!

11:00--They're in the Capitol!

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10:58--"I couldn't afford to do this shot in a movie," Stephen Spielberg says.

10:57--An inaugural scarf, in Mountain Colors Mountain Goat, which is a wool/mohair blend that really has the most extraordinary small color shifts. Green. Fabulous, emerald green in a fan n feather pattern.

10:54--Hey Ann, what are you knitting, anyway?

10:53--This is a sacred moment for teapot cozies!

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10:48--"This is a sacred moment for democracies," David Gergen says. So true. Peaceful transition of power. Very big deal. Almost as big as that teapot cozy.

10:44 I made a teapot cozy.

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10:37--Sandra Day O'Connor, high five! Looking good!

10:31--Here come the members of Congress. They're all so normal looking--pep up, y'all! Go check out what those people on the Mall are doing! Flag waving! Hefty bags with names of ancestors taped on!

10:28--Just saw a man who appears to have an entire possum pelt on his head.

10:25--Trying to figure out the best channel to watch. Diane Sawyer has a real tender groove on, so I may hang with her. Charlie Gibson just tried to describe the designer of Michelle Obama's suit, and he was charmingly terrible at it.

10:00

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Michelle Obama brought Laura Bush a present. (Aw! That's the Midwestern upbringing; always bring a covered dish.) Tom Brokaw growled, "You can be sure it's not Tupperware in there."

How can he be so sure? The woman is moving house! Tupperware would be very helpful.

I'm hoping it's a handknit.


Dear everybody,

Here it is, a day that will live on forever in our memories, so Kay and I are going to live-blog it.

So pull up a Barcalounger, get your knit on, and enjoy the day with us.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:14 AM | Comments (91)

January 15, 2009

People Are Getting Punchy Out There

Dear Kay,

In the course of clearing my desk yesterday, an epic and rare undertaking, I decided finally to settle up with my friend Katie for a party we had. I look at the wine store receipt, and I see this:

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In an equally rare moment of cleaning out my closet, I discover these:

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And a fortune cookie gave up this:

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I was so delighted to uncover my desk that I took a picture of it:

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Can't figure out what to do about that cat, though.

Incoming Lopi!

Sometimes the mailbox coughs up a great surprise. Yesterday, this:

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From genuwine Iceland and everything! Our friend Landy, who has been known to rescue kuky knitting patterns from Edinburgh thrift shops, was in Iceland over the holidays, so of course she saw itchy, scratchy brown yarn and thought of me. Deeply moved!

Another Treasure Excavated from the Desk

My all-time favorite piece of swag, from the sublime Stash in Berkeley, California. I've had this for a few years, and every time I see it, I chuckle.

It's a coaster:

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But on the back:

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The tidiest, most compressed guide to gauge, needles, yardage. Stash proprietor Ellen Roosevelt cooked up this wheel, and I think everybody should go buy some yarn from her to encourage more elegant loonacy like this.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:09 AM | Comments (60)

January 14, 2009

This Cake Is Really Good

Dear Ann,

For several years, I have had this image in my head, and on my bulletin board:

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I really wanted to make a quilt like this for Carrie. It just seemed like the right quilt for the girl. The problem was, at the start of my quilting career (for lack of a better word), I had zero stash. This is a quilt that takes deep stash. I could not see any repeated fabrics in the photo. (At least not any obvious ones. The thought occurred to me that maybe this quilt was made from a single crazy fabric -- a fabric that you could buy a couple of yards of and be done with it--that was just cut up into strips and sewn back together. Will somebody please make a fabric like that?)

Having no choice but to do what must be done, I put my PayPal to the grindstone, and Carrie and I started to buy quarter yards and half yards of fabrics we liked. I started to gather "found" fabrics--dish towels and bags--that had printing or images on them. Friends sweetly sent me precious bits of this and that. I kept studying the picture in the book, trying to figure out what the heck made this mess of fabric look so cool to me. As the fabric came in, I sewed blocks together. I put the project aside for months at a time. Finally all the blocks were done. I squared them up. I stacked them up. Eventually I sewed the blocks into strips and the strips into the top. Eventually I pieced the backing, from a new sheet and bits of old sheets. (We can't ever get rid of old sheets. We are sentimental. Crib sheets? Are you CRAZY? We would never throw away a crib sheet.) Eventually I sent it to the machine quilter, and eventually it came back. I sewed on the binding--immediately. The hour was at hand.

Today was The Day. The day I put a flower in water and put the vase on the bed. Flowers on beds is something done only in Japanese Quilt Book Land, as far as I know. Here it is, proof of something about me, but I don't know what:

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[Thank you, my foto-flipping friend.]

(Note: I didn't make the log cabin cushion. Lisa Congdon made it, back when she was making cushions.)

That's really all I have to say about this quilt. It means a lot to me. Carrie likes it a lot. It has taught her patience, or at least how to ask politely how a project is coming along.

Here's how it looks in Real Life Land, sans floral embellishment:

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This year I'm working on that Mini Quilt Wall above the headboard. It's kinda thin, for a quilter's daughter.

Thanks for special fabrics to:


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Cristina,

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Maggi

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Jan

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Heidi

Sources (of endless shopping pleasure and friendly, prompt service, inspiration and advice):
Cia's Palette
Purl Soho

My next quilt will be smaller.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 04:16 PM | Comments (146)

January 12, 2009

Secular Shawl Ministry

Dear Ann,

Sometimes you want to knit something for somebody who is Up Against It. This needn't be part of any spiritual practice you've got going, although it can be. I had a strong urge to knit this Kiri for a friend. Only while knitting it, and thinking of the recipient, did I realize that I probably wouldn't be knitting it for her if she didn't look so dang good in a shawl. Not everybody has shawl chops. Just saying.

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The idea is that my friend will receive healing, galvanizing vibes from the potent fiber cocktail of cashmere shawl plus flannel nightgown (flannel nightgown sold separately). I imagine her curled up in a drafty house in the country, sipping a grappa in her Lanz of Salzburg nightie, looking impossibly romantic. She wraps the shawl snugly, thinking, "Wasn't it nice of Kay to knit me a shawl?" (Be honest, my sister shawl missionaries. We totally want the recipient to think that.)

Orna volunteered to model the shawl. (She expressed her volunteerism by coming over for coffee. Thank you, Orna.) We had very bad light. You can tell it was snowing, from the light, right?

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Here is how Kiri looked pre-blocking.

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Here is Kiri after a very brief stint on the wires. Blocking is an amazing trick. So glad you turned me on to these wires. I really hate pin-blocking, but stringing a shawl up on wires seems like a fun craft project all by itself.

Git R Done Dept.

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I've been in a rare state of productivity. This quilt came back from the machine quilter last week, and I got the binding on in a flash. When a quilt comes back from machine quilting, it is so very nearly DONE that I can't wait to get the binding on. It's no trouble at all to sit there for hours, blind-stitching away. I wish I felt that way about finishing sweaters.

For the quilters and future quilters out there, this is a pretty faithful rendition of Joelle Hoverson's "Foursquare" (edited to add: erm, actually I think it's called "Cutting Corners") pattern from her fantastic book Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. The only thing I changed was the dimensions, so that I could make it with fabric on hand. I think it's a little smaller than the one in the book. Perfect nap size. Covers lap and feet without smothering person or being a chore to fold.

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I was surprised--honestly-- to find that once again I put together the same colors I always do. "Hey! Chartreuse and slate blue!"--it always seems like a brand-new idea.

Finish a Blanket, Willya?

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Remember this old chestnut, a random log cabin in Finnish wool, started long ago for Afghans for Afghans? It got lost in the knitting bag wilderness, and at the moment Afghans for Afghans does not have a call out for blankets. But I'm finishing it now, for this project for a homeless men's shelter. I've dispensed with the "random" idea, which was slowing me down and creating a tangle of ends from so many narrow strips. Instead, I'm doing whole skeins in each direction. It's a great subway/TV project. (FYI, Masterpiece Theatre is running those Girly Classics on Sunday nights again. Last night Tess of the D'Urbervilles finished up with much manly weeping. Next week it's Wuthering Heights. A tasting menu of bad men. Fantastic!)

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:22 PM | Comments (61)

January 09, 2009

Rated G (for Gynecology)

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Dear Ann,

Despite the challenges of Kilt Distraction, the contest brought out a strong effort from readers. Every body part has been tingled, spanked, kicked, tickled, busted, shaken and quaked in an effort to describe....a knitting magazine. The English language is so rich--so arsetastic, if you will-- that it is a joy, even for those of us who speak the watered-down colonial version.

One contestant got it, or came so close that the judges gave it to her. The answer is that the magazine was described to my poor, linguistically deprived American ears as "knickers wettingly". (Which I thought was the equivalent of "pants peeingly", which is also funny.) Sorry. That's how they talk over in Blighty. They just put it right out there. I will never stop laughing at British people talking. I am very certain that we are not one-tenth as entertaining to them, as they are to us.

I will notify SUSAN H, who has no URL, that she is the lucky winner of a year's subscription to The Knitter. (You will have to scan the entries for hers if you want to know exactly what she said. A couple of other entries focused on the same, um, physiology, but didn't get either of the 2 words; Susan got one of them and the meaning, so she wins. The judges are very arbitrary.) Susan, I hope you have fun explaining to people how you managed to win this one.

Happy weekend everyone,
Kay

PS The photo up top is another sneak peak from Issue 1 of The Knitter. Thanks, everyone at The Knitter!

Posted by Kay at 12:12 PM | Comments (43)

January 07, 2009

"Blank Blankingly Wonderful"

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Dear Ann,

"Blank blankingly wonderful": that's what they're saying about the brand-new UK-based knitting magazine, The Knitter, which hits newstands in the UK and abroad TODAY. (If you click on the pictures, they get really big.)

(OK, "they" might be a little biased because they have some connection to the magazine, like "they" might be the editor of it, or something along those lines, but still--the vivid endorsement stuck in my mind.)

The Knitter, which I can't stop calling "The Knittah" in my head, is available in Borders and Barnes & Nobles stores in the US, so look for it. (Ask for it! scream for it!)

What I like about The Knittah, from the sneak peaks so far, is that it is unapologetically aimed at the knitter with a bit of experience; it also has a sense of humor, and over-the-top photo styling. Perfect armchair knitting -- and a swift kick in the pants for when you've knit one dishcloth or scarf too many and it's time to get going on something a little more exerting.

Another thing I like about The Knittah is that they are not afraid to show a guy wearing a sweater and a kilt, as if this is happening on a regular basis in our lives in 2009. (Again, the theme of "be the change you want to see in the world." If we want the kilt to survive--and we DO, oh we do!-- we must make the men wear the kilts. )

They Had Us At "We Are British"

Here's another sneak peak: Come February, we're going to be IN The Knitter. They are cooking up something fun for us. We can't wait. You and me, honey--IN THE U.K.! Can you stand it? Girly hug & hop! Jolly good! Tickety-boo!

Contest

To celebrate the arrival of a new knitting mag, we asked The Knitter to let us give away a subscription. A year of The Knitter --the inaugural year, and it's a monthly magazine isn'tthatawesome--will go to the person who can correctly fill in the blanks in the phrase "blank blankingly wonderful." (Grammatically, it's along the lines of "lip smackingly" or "earth shakingly", but here's a hint: it's, um, colorful.) If more than one person gets it (not bloody likely), we will select the winner by random draw from the correct guessers. If no one gets it (more likely), we will do a random draw from all entries. Leave your entry in a comment to this post, please! (Edited to add: You must enter by 1 a.m. New York time tomorrow, January 9. Meaning, tonight!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 04:34 PM | Comments (342)

January 06, 2009

People Say That I'm A Dreamer

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Dear Ann,

I suspect you are dying to know my New Year's Resolution, so let's get that out of the way.

Listen. I don't want to make anybody feel inadequate. Just because I have dreams and ambition and a crackling fire in my belly doesn't mean that everybody does. Life is hard. We have difficult choices to make. But my feeling is: aim for the stars. Get out there and TRY, girl. Like it says on the sweater, BE the change you want to see in the world. So that is why I am fully committed to my New Year's Resolution, however unrealistic or difficult it may prove to be. I solemnly promise, in front of God and this assembly, that throughout the calendar year 2009:

I will use hand cream on a regular basis.

It may be too late to prevent early onset of Dinosaur Claw Hands. (The feet have already gone mesozoic, and cannot be saved.) But, doggone it, I'm going to try.

Stuff I Made in 2008

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So. I made 2 more Noro striped scarves before I was Done With That. One in mistake rib and one Classic Jared, for a total tally of 4 scarves or 16 skeins.

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I have come to prefer the Mistake Rib version. Less stripe, more drape. A bit easier to knit. Wafflier.

These were Christmas gifts. I finished them in Nebraska but brought them home to wash and block, because I don't like my mom's well water and it was too cold there for handwashing anyway. Handwashing must wait for spring. And now I'm mailing one back to Nebraska. That's the way it goes, sometimes, with the handknit Christmas gifts. No point in stressing about it. It's not like it's not still winter there or anything.

Straight Talk About Calorimetry

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With my rich lode of Silk Garden leftovers, I finally got around to making a couple of Calorimetries.

Now. There is one reason that Ravelry has 6,898 Calorimetries logged in so far. It's not because our society has a gaping unmet need for partial hats, or woolly button-on headbands. Sure, it's nice to have such a thing if you have long hair and you wear it bunched up in the back, but people were finding ways of dealing with their hairstyle/hat interface before Calorimetry came along. The reason this pattern is so wildly popular has nothing to do with the FO itself, its utility or beauty. It's about how truly fun they are to knit. The perfect tasty snack, with a little trick that is easily figured out the first time through. I could see myself falling and not getting up from this project if I'm not careful. As a precaution, I decided never to knit one from anything from leftovers. That should keep my production levels somewhat related to the number of people I know who might wear such a thing. (By the way, for my Silk Garden versions I cast on 100 stitches instead of 120, and used size 6 needles to keep the gauge reasonably tight.)

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Such a great place to put a vintage button or two. (If you put 2 the fit is more adjustable to the Hair Of the Day.)

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This one really looks like an eye. Creepy? Yeah, but so what. I think there are remnants of 4 different shades in it.

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Maggie liked it. She would have liked it a lot more if it had a North Face logo on it, just saying.

That clears my 2008 FO inventory. Moving on.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:24 PM | Comments (43)

January 05, 2009

First Day

Dear Ann,

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My 2009 started out at midnight with much banging. This tradition was a lot quieter when they were two or three, and "midnight" came at 8 p.m. Every year I lose a utensil. And a little piece of my mind.

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Sunset on January 1. (Cooper's Beach, Southampton, New York.)

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The light: so warm.

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The air: so cold.

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Don't even think about the water temperature.

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The net: so green.

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My horizon: striped.

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First knitting: Kiri (click links in left sidebar for English, French and -- NOW!--German PDFs of this wonderful pattern). (It's blocking now. First wire-block of 2009! Those things are going to be earning their keep this month, I tellya; I feel a powerful cashmere-shawl thing coming on.)

Happy new year.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 09:03 AM | Comments (17)

January 02, 2009

We Have Liftoff: 2009 Begins

Dear Kay,

Well, happy new year to one and all. Only three days until school starts again! Never have I been such a fan of education for my children. Let's just say that when Santa brought a new wah-wah pedal for somebody's electric guitar, there has been so much "Stairway to Heaven" around here that I feel like I'm reliving Lori Greenbaum's bat mitzvah party twelve times a day.

Still dragging down here a little, but hanging in there. We managed to dispense with the LEANING TREE OF DOOM on New Year's Eve, and it felt like we were waving goodbye to the worst houseguest of all time. Just a terrible piece of holiday decor. David said he thought we'd picked the wrong tree. "Remember that first tree we liked? We should have stuck with that one."

It did, however, not fall down, though I'm pretty sure it would have had extreme engineering measures not taken place. So, due to the screwed-up nature of the circumstances, there are two winners to the Leaning Tree of Doom '08 Guessing Contest, selected by a random number generator. (By the way, FYI, we had 211 optimists guessing the tree would stand and 176 pessimists/realists/nihilists/schadenfreuders.)

Predicted It Would Fall Winner: Gail at December 16, 2008 02:47 PM: "It will fall on December 20 at 8:08 PM, because I will be partying so hard to celebrate turning the big 5-0 that you will feel it all the way 3 states away! (sorry to cause your tree to fall)."

Predicted It Would Stand Winner: chemgrrl at December 17, 2008 11:57 AM: "Your tree will not fall. It has achieved perfect balance with everything around it, and will thwart that persistent bitch we call gravity. Be steadfast and have courage, little tree! You are a ray of hope for sagging boobs everywhere."

Gail and chemgrrl, please email me (link is in the sidebar) with your addresses! Yarn will be coming your way.

Out with the Old

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One side effect of having two new cats in the house is that I spend a fair amount of time trying to locate them. They have really warmed up since their arrival two weeks ago, but they are constantly turning up in places like the second shelf of the linen closet which just about gave me a stroke yesterday. JesusGodCatDon'tDOThatToMe.

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This is Kermit, the Loch Ness Monster cat. Rarely photographed. He's figured out where the best afternoon sun location is, and he follows it the way a teenage girl shifts her beach chair. Kermit reminds me a lot of Kramer from Seinfeld: he makes terrible entrances, then freezes and acts like nothing just happened.

They're great cats.

One search for Eliot led me deep into my creepy closet and took me up close and personal with a lot of miscellaneous piles of handknit swatches and old, misbegotten unfinished objects. In a fit of gumption I piled them all up and discovered that they towered over the cat and thus posed a safety hazard--all I need is to suffocate a cat with my knitting. I threw the whole mess into plastic bags--crappy, awful plastic bags--and stuck it all in the attic without a single bit of archival labeling or anything. It's just up there, like Citizen Kane's Rosebud or Indiana Jones' Ark of the Covenant. I hope somebody finds it fifty years from now and wonders who ever thought a Fair Isle yoga mat cover was a good idea.

It left me feeling very tidy, very new yearish. I had in mind a post that Tara wrote recently about cleaning the slate off. And I thought about Clara Parkes' massive stash sorting plan--here's where she discusses the concept of the happy pile and the unhappy pile. Maybe a stash sort would be good for us all?

So Instantly Addictive

Once I launched my final Christmas present in the mail, I immediately reached for the Alice Starmore Donegal sweater that I began a while back. Now that it's cold again, I'm all over this thing.

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The yarn (discontinued Rowan Donegal Lambswool) is such a small collection of little balls--a bit of this and a bit of that, and before you know, it's a sweater.

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I've cranked about three inches in the past few days, started the sleeve steeks, and feel pleased about it all. It suits the season, this murky tweedy yarn.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:33 PM | Comments (26)
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