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

February 27, 2009



Dear Kay,

At this point, my Rowan Pearl sweater is done and undone. I am slogging through the sleeves, which are nothing but an endless series of leaning cables--a real pair of soul suckers if anybody's looking for a Lenten discipline. In the interest of Doing Something Else To Cut The Tedium, I decided to get ahead of the game with a stout, boot-camp style blocking of the fronts and backs. You know: a multi-day marathon to get these curling pieces of stuff to behave. At least until I take the pins out.

You know how satisfying this is to me, even as I know that blocking is akin to setting your hair in rollers. (Did you ever set your hair in rollers? I never got the hang of that.) I pinned, stowed the mess in my Blocking Chamber aka under the bed, and left all that moist Rowan Wool Cotton to dry until I finish the sleeves.

On one of my security checks, I noticed something odd:


At one corner, a bunch of pins were loose. Weird. I could see one or two coming out, but a batch of them? I stuck them back in, figuring I'd somehow kicked them out, or that the mighty, glacial force of drying Wool Cotton had popped the pins.

I believed this until late last night, I noticed something very, very suspicious. Kermit was lurking around my blocking board.


He wasn't sitting on my knitting, as he usually does. He was . . .


quietly and carefully yanking the pins out of my blocking. He was totally vandalizing my knitting, trashing the place! I can't believe that my cat hates my knitting!


Posted by Ann at 11:07 AM | Comments (103)

February 26, 2009

Tea Contest Winners!


Dear Ann,

Without further ado, we announce our 5 winners of a copy of Jane Gottelier's fantastic new book, Tea and Knitting.

They are:

Sarah R (who has a Yahoo email address)
Kathy (who is outinwoods)

I have sent each winner an email, so if you just now remembered that your legal name is Argonauta, please check your inbox! Will the real PammieTaj please stand up? We will tolerate no PammieTaj impersonators!

I have been steeping myself in the book since my own copy arrived yesterday, and the patterns are glorious. There is a Chanel-style jacket to die for. There is a pullover with knitted-in sequins (which I have examined in person; knitted-in sequins are there to STAY, people; they look so much more orderly than the sewn-on, or hotglued-on kind.) Like everything the Gotteliers do, there is a high-fashion sensibility at work here. (Well maybe not so much in the cupcake tea cozy, for we know that tea cozies in the shape of baked goods, fruits and vegetables, or animals are not fashion. They are Art.)

I would be remiss if I did not mention: BEADED ARGYLE KNEE SOCKS! I do believe this pair may be the Secret Knitting work of our beloved Polly. You will never drag it out of her! She will carry it to her grave!

At the excellent talk at Knitty City last night, Patrick was telling about how, in a past, ready-to-wear phase of life, he and Jane had intarsia sweaters knitted by hand in the UK, and then they PAINTED ON THEM. I nearly passed out.

Congratulations to the winners! Bless your caffeinated hearts!


Posted by Kay at 05:07 PM | Comments (17)

February 25, 2009

How To Wear a Long-Tailed Shawl, and TEA CONTEST

Dear Ann,

Readers tell me that it's hard to visualize how one would wear a shawl that has a wingspan of something like 90 inches. (Not to mention how to knit the thing; now that it's done I'm sort of amazed that I did it.) [Edited to add: It's not 90 inches, upon measurement, it's 120 inches.][Yikes.]

I asked my assistant, Orna, to demonstrate.

Step 1: Put on your vintage Chanel sunglasses. ("Kay, you don't think the glasses, indoors, look....stupid?" No! What are you talking about? Who's running this?)

Step 2: Place shawl, orienting yarnovers down center back, with tails hanging down in front. Toss one long tail over the opposite shoulder, then the other tail over its opposite shoulder, effectively swaddling the wearer. Jooge lightly, until ecstatic.

Here we see how the tails hang down the back in dramatic fashion. Jemima Puddleduck could use this information.

NB: The point of the shawl hangs below the seat-of-pants area. This is critical, as one of the aggravating factors of Jemima Puddleduck Syndrome is when the point of a triangular shawl appears to be directing the viewer's eye to the wearer's keister. (Orna made me promise to crop this area, on general principle (the principle being Do Not Show My Butt on the Internet, which is hard to argue with), so you have to trust me on this. The shawl is long; this is key.)

Alternate: You can tie it in back like an apron, if you're working a market stall or something and don't want your tails coming undone.


I have successfully cadged five copies of Jane Gottelier's fabulous new book, Tea and Knitting, so let the contest begin! Here's how to enter:

Leave a comment to this post telling us your favorite tea. Do this by noon tomorrow, New York time. (This is a Nestea Instant Tea type of contest. Snip-snap, it's done! Remember the instant lemon-flavored ice tea mix? It had that paper seal on the jar that was so fun to jab with a spoon? And how weirdly delicious the wet powder tasted?)

No muss! No fuss! We'll crank up the random number generator and announce the winners tomorrow.


My favorite tea. I like that it has the name Yorkshire in it. I like that the bags are staple-free. I like that it's inexpensive. I like the way one bag makes a large amount of very strong but not bitter tea in less than a minute. It's not fancy. There is no "leaf" concept: it's almost powder. May Fairway never stop carrying it, along with the Heinz baked beans, the wine gums, and the Bird's custard, on the Exotic English Items shelf.

FAQs about the Tea Contest

Q: Does my favorite tea have to be different from any other entrant's favorite tea?
A: No.

Q: What if I do not have a favorite tea?
A. We encourage you to lie.


Posted by Kay at 09:12 AM | Comments (1535)

February 24, 2009

And the Yarn Goes To . . .


Dear Kay,

Thanks to everyone who came by to watch the Oscars with us. I feel like we completed some sort of Outward Bound experience: grueling, with tedious/terrifying moments throughout.

I hope everybody has had a good time reviewing all the post-Oscar fashion roundups. Never mind the gowns: up top there is my pick for Best Shoe, Anne Hathaway's divine heels. (Did you know there's a website called Celebrity Shoe Size? Worrisome in so many ways.)

Our Oscars quiz contest has proved to be a total and complete pain, for many reasons.

For one thing, just as the Committee on Picking the Winner was set to meet, a guy from the Nashville Electric Service showed up and announced he was cutting off my power so they could fix a current transformer that was busted on our house. This was news to me--I thought our current was being transformed just fine. Anyway: I survived four hours of an Internet silence not unlike the far side of the moon. BLEAK! Too quiet! Eight clocks to reset! But one day of free electricity, apparently, because our meter is still unhooked. Come on over and plug in!

The larger problem, as you all noticed, was that a central character in our Oscar quiz questions, the actor Ralph Fiennes, was not even at the Oscars. He turned up in a clip from In Bruges but was otherwise off someplace wishing his hair would grow back after all that Voldemortian baldness. That can't happen too soon, if you ask me.

ANYway. The Committee has decided to eliminate three Ralph Fiennes questions from the seven original ones:

1. Will Ralph Fiennes bring a date?
2. If yes, who is she?
3. What color will Kate Winslet's dress be?
4. If Kate Winslet wins Best Actress, will she cry?
5. Exactly how long will the telecast be?
6. If Kate Winslet wins Best Actress, will she hug Ralph Fiennes?
7. Tiebreaker essay question (most moving answer to this will win): In twenty words or less, why didn't Ralph Fiennes get a nomination for "The Reader?"

So: here are the answers to the remaining questions:

What color will Kate Winslet's dress be? GRAY. It looked aubergine to me at first sighting, but I think that was just my macular degeneration talking. Aubergine would have perked up its austerity a bit, don't you think? I do think she looked regal, in a Here To Claim My Oscar way.

If Kate Winslet wins Best Actress, will she cry? The Committe got into a big argument about what constitutes "crying" and concluded that "crying" involves "tears" and "oozing." "Hyperventilating" or otherwise "gasping" do not count. A close study of the relevant YouTube reveals that she came very, very close yet did not shed actual, liquid tears. She did not sniffle or in any way indicate that she was oozing. So: no, she did not cry.

Exactly how long will the telecast be? The actual Oscars show began at 8:30 Eastern time, and wound up at, by my clock, 11:58 pm. Three hours and 28 minutes.

And the Yarn Goes To . . .

Nobody guessed gray. Most people thought Kate Winslet would cry. And many thought the Oscars show would last a nonspecific amount of time along the lines of "too long" or "an eternity." After a long argument about exactly how long "an eternity" is, the Committee opted to go for more specific guesses.

So: The winner is tejasmom, who said Kate would not cry, and that the show would last 3 hours, 17 minutes--11 minutes off the actual time.

I'm giving a special yarn award for clairvoyance to the ONLY person who guessed that Ralph Fiennes would not even be there: Helen. She's paying attention, that one.

Tejasmom and Helen, please email me your addresses via the link in the sidebar to the right, and I'll send you your prizes.

We're all winners, right? High five!


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

February 23, 2009

Knitting Party! Tea Party! Book Party!


Dear Ann,

Hey there, hello! I just found out that my LYS, Knitty City, will be hosting a Knitting and Tea Party on Wednesday night (February 25), from 6-8, in honor of Jane Gottelier's brand-new book, Knitting and Tea.

Lest you think this is going to be a book about knitting and "tea", as in mugs of Lipton's like the one I've got going cold on my desk right this minute, dangling a patented Flo-Thru tea bag tag, take note: the book is gorgeous, with amazing photos of real tea farms (OK, they're called something else--ranches? orchards?) in Sri Lanka. Also, it may surprise you to learn that some of the cutest guys ever to model handknit sweaters are HUGE tea drinkers. Apparently tea is a big part of cricket. You work up an appetite for finger sandwiches out on the pitch, doing your chukkers and your wickets (and getting yourself all confused with polo).

Suffice it to say that for raging anglophiles like you and me, this book could be overexciting.

I'll be there at the very start of this tea party, hoping to get a glimpse of Jane and Patrick (Patrick Gottelier, erstwhile tea farm boy, who took the photographs) and a good chat with the always fabulous Knitty City regulars. Hope to see yas, locals!


P.S. Stay tuned for possible CONTEST! I'm begging a couple of giveaway copies of the book as we speak!

Posted by Kay at 05:52 PM | Comments (25)

February 22, 2009

Live Blogging the Oscars

Dear filmfans,

7:08 Eastern time: Well, well, welcome everybody! So you guys will know, tonight I'm wearing a fabulous pair of vintage jeans (vintage mid 2007) (vintage Gap, reminiscent of the momjeans look so popular back in um 2007), along with a T shirt in a shade that we'll go ahead and aubergine because that's superclassylike.

I'm over at E! Entertainment right now watching people on the red carpet try not to act like they've spent the last eight hours fixing themselves up, as if they just happened on their John Galliano gown.

Heidi Klum's rockin' a straight red dress and what looks to be the entire inventory of the jewelry counter at Target. Heidi's hubby Seal looks his usual fabulously cool self. Just shared that she's been "sitting on one butt cheek" for over an hour in order to keep her red dress in order. "What a cheek it was," Seal comments.

Taraji Henson, nominated for Benjamin Button, is showing us the tattoo of her departed father on her ankle? I missed what exactly was going on down there, but it had to do with her dad, and it's symbolic.

Michael Shannon, supporting actor nominee for Revolutionary Road. BIG head on that guy--ought to win just on skull circumference alone.

7:15--Mickey Rourke has red hair tonight. Just wanted to throw that out there if you're keeping track.

Sarah Jessica Parker. Commentator says, "That is a DRESS. Rockin' a Miley Cyrus vibe." Ouchie.

Josh Brolin is looking more and more like Glen Campbell every day.

7:19 I could have sworn the guy just said Amy Adams was nominated for her role in "Gout."

OK the Robert Pattinson guy from Twilight is so pale! Is he really a vampire or something?

7:23: Sarah Jessica Parker is totally correcting her husband on the color of his clothes. "MIDNIGHT BLUE," she practically screeched. "NOT black!"

7:27: Switching over to the Barbara Walters special. Anne Hathaway is trying to persuade us that she does "terrible debauched things." SHYEAH! Her must-have goals for the next ten years: children, being in love, traveling all of Asia. In that order?

7:31: Backa to E! Beyonce is working the Vanderbilt colors tonight! Black n gold! Go Commodores!

Mickey Rourke admits that he's wearing Jean-Paul Gaultier. He is talking about his dear departed poochie. I am actually moved!

7:39: Thanks for letting us know what YOU're wearing tonight, Judith. Anybody else out there wearing Land's End? I LOVE Land's End! Superclassy!

Robert Downey, Jr, looking like a total movie star. So great.

7:44: Mickey Rourke says after $68,000 of therapy that most of his demons are gone. I am LOVIN this guy, even though his movie totally grossed me out. Says if he won the Oscar, "You can't eat it, you can't ____ it, and it won't get you into heaven." Gracious! Cover your ears, statuette!

7:45: Back to E! Phillip Seymour Hoffman is wearing a watch cap that looks pretty much like a swimming cap! Fella! That's so wacky!

BREAKING NEWS: Kate Winslet is wearing a very soft shade of . . . AUBERGINE! JUST LIKE ME! I KNEW IT! I JUST KNEW IT!

OK now the guy is saying it's gray. I'm going to have to research this. I'm not persuaded it's not AUBERGINE.

7:56: Hugh Jackman on Barbara Walters, getting choked up talking about his dad coming to see him sing at Carnegie Hall. BBBBBBOOOOOOHOOOOO. She's got him semi-weeping. Now he's threatening to give us a little more "show" and a little less "biz" for his hosting gig. Ruh roh . . . that top hat I saw online yesterday may not be ironic after all . . .

YIKES! He's giving her a lap dance! I cannot watch!

8:01: Over at ABC for good, Tim Gunn is Mister Klassee. I love that guy.

And yes, now that I've seen Miley Cyrus's dress, Sarah Jessica Parker has a lot to think about.

BREAKING NEWS: Yoplait ad features knitting!!!!!

8:10 Hi. It's Kay. Believe it or not, I thought the Oscars were tomorrow night. Isn't it always on Mondays? Have I missed something? Feeling embarrassed. I have to CATCH UP NOW.

8:11 Have to give an AMEN, SISTAH to the Tim Gunn comment. I'm sure that if he ran into me RIGHT NOW, he'd say, "So, Kay, you are really working that Black Pants & Gray T-Shirt Look. It's a CLASSIC. Who did your pants?"

8:13 Can I tell you where I just came from? We saw a 3:00 matinee of South Pacific. Joseph and I sat together, Hubby and Carrie sat a few rows away, and Most Moisturized Mom had her own single seat in the 3rd Row, which she thought was Pretty Sweet. It's a fabulous show. But what I want to tell you is that sitting next to Joseph was Mrs. Bob Costas, and sitting next to her was Mr. Bob Costas. I may have told you that I think Joseph could be The Next Bob Costas. Despite this, I exercised my usual New Yorker restraint and did not say One Single Word to the Costas. Mrs. Costas and I grinned over the top of Joseph's head at a couple of moments in the play. Like you do. I have declared them Very Nice People.

8:22: (Ann) [OK here's my favorite South Pacific-related knock knock joke:

Knock knock.
Who's there
Sam and Janet.
Sam and Janet who?
Sam and Janet eeeevening . . .


8:26: Vintage Balmain on Penelope Cruz. Isn't she just the handsomest big-eyed ol' movie star?

8:31: OK somebody's talking about the Piazza del Campidoglio or something for the stage set? Are these people crayzee?


No matter how many Swarovsky crystals they use, it's not going to look this great. Just saying.

Am I the only one who has low expectations for Hugh Jackman? I have never gotten the appeal of Hugh Jackman. His kind of sexy is a very fake sexy. My opinion. Go ahead and disagree.

OMG! The Craigs List Dancers! LOL!

See what I mean?

8:44: (Ann) Aw c'mon, he's Australian. That's cool.

8:47: Tilda Swinton looks like The Movie Star Of The Future.


8:52: Penelope Cruz and her SMOKIN' vintage Balmain take the Supporting Actress Oscar! Mazel tov, P! "Art is our universal language." Not Esperanto? All those lessons for nothing?

BREAKING NEWS: Two lines of Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges!

8:59: Tiny Fey/Steve Martin. LOVE (1,000)

9:00 (Kay) Quoting Charlotte Bronte! Yay!

9:09 (Kay) Best Animated Short, aka Best Animated Short Movie Nobody Saw. Sad! I'm sure they're awesome!

9:10 (Kay) Speaking of MOVIES. Every Saturday night on our local PBS station, Channel 13, there is something called Reel 13. A classic, a short, and an indie movie, which are then all 3 repeated. Last night it was A Thousand Clowns, which I had never seen or even heard of. Amazing!

9:16: (Ann) Gwyneth Paltrow in an American Express ad . . . she's no TINY FEY in an American Express ad.

9:13 (Kay) Hey. No slamming on Gwyneth. She's the best looking blonde since Grace Kelly. As good-looking blondes, we have to show her R.E.S.P.E.C.T. And during the commercials, can we have a moment of silence for Good Looking Blonde Icon:

(Kay) Eva Marie Saint? Thanks, Eva, I had been wondering what to wear to my daughter's bat mitzvah next January. I am NOT being sarcastic. You rock, Eva!

8:22: (Ann) Kind of crushed over here that The Duchess, one of the world's terrible movies, didn't take Art Direction Oscar. I mean, that was its only hope. And I say this knowing full well that Ralph Fiennes was in this movie.

8:25: (Ann) DUCHESS for COSTUMES! Forgot it was nominated! With a special high five for wigs! Have a peek at 'em during the next commercial.

8:30: (Ann) Tell me that guy is not a vampire.

8:40 (Ann) Cinematographer's wife's hairdo looks like a delicious ice cream cone.

8:44: (Ann) Jessica Biel talkin' kinescopes! Methinks we're heading into the Bermuda Triangle portion of the show . . .

8:49: (Ann) Spoke too soon--James Franco/Seth Rogen so funny. And yes, I saw Pineapple Express.

9:47 The Pig didn't take the Oscar for Best Short Live Action! Crushed! Who are these German poseurs?

9:48 Ann, I keep trying to ask: WHATCHU KNIT 'N?

9:58: (Ann) BEYONCEEEEEEEEEEE! Knitting a sleeve.

9:59 (Kay) OK, I generally like to be positive about things but that medley was awful. Baz! Baz! What's up? OK, I know it must have been tough to include High School Musical. You should have said no to that. (Sorry to be crabby. I love a big musical number.) Back to my shawl. I am at Ruffle Stage One. Grim.

10:02 (Kay) Still wondering about those random "Maria! I just met a girl named Maria!" bits.

10:07: (Ann) Christopher Walken! YIKES! Don't hurt me! And Kevin Kline, what a doll, that one.

10:09: (Ann) These round-robin complimentfests sound like it's Nominee Bar Mitzvah night. "Josh Brolin, you're turning into a very fine young man."

10:10 (Kay) And I just want to say this: Josh Brolin cannot help how much he reminds me of Burt Reynolds circa 1976. I am not going to hold it against him.

10:14: (Ann) I'm seeing Glen Campbell, but there's some Burt in there, true that.

10:18: (Ann) Feel like I just watched all those documentaries. Boofreakinhoo!

10:21: (Ann) Balancing his Oscar on his chin! Give that guy a medal!


10:21 (Kay) It's a little late to mention this but Ben Stiller CRACKED ME UP with his Joaquin imitation.

10:33: (Ann) Pins n needles time: the sound editing Oscar . . . you know I have my favorite . . . and the winner is . . . THE DARK KNIGHT????? Wall-E was ROBBED!

10:41: (Ann) Whoopsy, kind of slid off into a fugue state during the technical Oscars. Lemme guess: Slumdog won the Oscar for best use of a car battery . . .

10:43: (Ann) Okay, y'all, this is where we have to DIG DEEP. The upcoming Jerry Lewis retrospective is going to be tough, but I know we can all do it. Remember: he is a national treasure in France. He is the patron saint of talking through your nose. Knit if you must, but don't turn off the teevee. We've got to make it to Best Actress. Must . . . keep . . . viewing . . .

10:49: OK so he's getting his award for raising $2 billion for Myscular Dystrophy. He really is a national treasure, nutty professor or not!

10:56: (Ann) Holy cow, I didn't realize they were going to play the entire score of every single film. How many violins can we possibly take?

11:10: (Kay) I have given up Diet Coke. But I REALLY NEED A DIET COKE RIGHT NOW. Waltz With Bashir should have won Best Foreign Film, but I do want to see this Japanese movie about working in a funeral home. Sounds....fun!

11:17: (Ann) I'm sorry. I wanted to watch the Foreign Film part but was too busy doing Bollywood dancing in order to alleviate the BEDSORES that are setting in. Queen Latifah is a tonic, though, I have to tell you. I always like her.

11:23: (Ann) Reese Witherspoon is not representing for her Nashville hometown with that blue eyeshadow, just sayin. Though if anybody could wear blue eyeshadow, it'd be Reese Witherspoon.

And Slumdog director Danny Boyle is looking more like Rudolph Giuliani every minute . . . AND did you hear that on-air erratum he just gave--leaving out a choreographer from the credits? Classy!

11:35: (Ann) OK Kate Winslet is already weepy and she hasn't even won yet. I don't know how these actresses are sitting through these wedding rehearsal dinner toasts without boohooing.

11:35 (Kay) Kate wins! And her dress is GRAY! Grey for our UK and Canadian readers!

11:39: (Kay) "How did he do it? How for so many years did Sean Penn get all those roles playing straight men?"

11:30: (Kay) Ann, how do you feel about these "group hug" things for the acting awards? It's kind of awkward, no? I'm betting this is gone next year.

11:46: (Ann) Spotty. Nicole v. Angelina was a total frost-off. Shirley MacLaine to Anne Hathaway: incredibly sweet.

BREAKING NEWS: first surprise of the night: Sean Penn over Mickey Rourke!
"You commie homo-loving sons of guns . . . " hilarious. "I know how hard it is to appreciate me." He's so nervous. Awww!

10:58: (Ann) Best Picture . . . Rudolph Giuliani takes to the stage! The little kids are supercute.

11:58: (Kay) Good night Ann! Been fun! I got a whole row of my ruffle done!

12:00: (Ann) And . . . we're . . . DONE . . . clocking in at a cool 3 hours and 30 minutes? I'll get an official time from someplace official . . . HIGH FIVE, everybody! We're all part of the elite few who managed to sit through the whole thing! I'm off to the Vanity Fair party now. I mean: the Vanity Fair party, uh, website.

Ann n Kay

Posted by Ann at 06:55 PM | Comments (77)

February 20, 2009

We're Going to the Oscars! Come with Us!


Dear Kay,

Okiedokey, filmfans, it's time for the Oscars, and while I've been reading nothing but bellyaching about how unblockbustery the nominees are--and while I've been complaining bitterly about the entries myself, come to think of it--I still love the Oscars. Super Bowl for women? GUILTY AS CHARGED. Ultimate television event for knitting? ABSOLUTELY.

To give you a sense of how wound up I get about the Oscars, I played "Guess Who's Wearing the Oscar Dress" over at People.com. (What? you haven't? Well have at it!). I scored 12 of 13--it was bighead Renée Zellweger who tripped me up. She certainly didn't ask me for my advice on that ill-considered piece of vintage.

Am I proud that I can recognize a dress from 1993? I think of the Oscars as the Westminster Dog Show of couture: yeah, it's kind of embarrassing to care this much about borrowed clothes on people who don't seem to eat enough, but once you get into it, you stop caring what anybody thinks. (You can catch up on the dog show here.)

You Are Cordially Invited . . .

Kay and I will be live-blogging the Oscars, because the only thing more fun than knitting during the Oscars is live-blogging WHILE KNITTING while watching the Oscars. We may konk out somewhere around the Irving K. Thalberg award, but we will try to hang in there. Please join us for the drama, the tedium, and the chance to wonder how it's all come down to this.

In the interest of making all this even more fascinating than it already is, we offer up the Official Mason-Dixon Knitting Oscar Pool. Leave your answers in the comments. The winner will receive a batch of Oscar-worthy yarn. If multiple entrants end up with the highest number of correct answers, we'll go to the tiebreaker, question #7.

Here are the questions:

1. Will Ralph Fiennes bring a date?

2. If yes, who is she?

3. What color will Kate Winslet's dress be?

4. If Kate Winslet wins Best Actress, will she cry?

5. Exactly how long will the telecast be?

6. If Kate Winslet wins Best Actress, will she hug Ralph Fiennes?

7. Tiebreaker essay question (most moving answer to this will win): In twenty words or less, why didn't Ralph Fiennes get a nomination for "The Reader?"

Deadline for entries is Sunday, February 22, 3 pm Eastern daylight savings time.

Good luck, and let the festivities begin!


PS If you're jonesing for some finery to tide you over until Sunday, go have a peek at these vintage gowns. Good lord, what brilliant stuff.

Posted by Ann at 11:23 AM | Comments (84)

February 19, 2009

Barking Mad


Dear Ann,

When we last saw Our Heroine, she was knitting on a cashmere ruffle with 900-plus stitches. To say that she was clinging to her sanity would be colorful. It would be dramatic. But it would imply that she was making an effort to stay sane, when in fact, she had surrendered completely. She would have continued adding 6 stitches every two rows until she had a shawl big enough for a family of four. She would have kept at it until hell serves Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum & Coke over ice. (Which actually sounds like something they would serve in hell, but whatever.)

But eventually, somewhere in the sky en route to a 5-day fambly va-cay for Presidents Day, she ran out of yarn.

What to do, what to do?

Take a picture of the thing, obviously.

Never Say Never

This shawl, inspired by Terhi's brilliant tweak of the Wool Peddler Shawl(Ravelry link), has shaken me to my core. When it came to shawls, I used to be very anti-triangular. I spoke of the unfortunate "Jemima Puddleduck Effect", and my feeling--my highly personal, prejudiced feeling--that shawls start out elegant, but too easily lose their way and take a girl straight to Dumpy Town. A momentary lapse in posture while wearing a shawl, and people start free-associating words like "hunchy" and "doddering."

This shawl has changed all that. The long--overlong!--tails, which I made using Cheryl Oberle's instructions for the base of the "Feather and Fan Triangle Shawl" in Folk Shawls, wrap all the way around the front of the body on both sides, and end up dangling down the back. This turns the shawl into swaddling clothes for an adult. In a good way! It narrows the torso and somehow looks very flattering--elongated like an Erte lady--and also cozy. And also a bit over the top. It helps that it's cashmere. Toss on a pair of dark glasses and you start saying things like, "I vant to be alooooooone." Danger! Next stop: turban!

Working the ruffle, I continued making an increase on each side of the center stitch, but instead of "yo, k1, yo", I switched to "make 1 right, k1, make 1 left".

There is one final fussy thing I want to do, involving the wrong side, and hiding where the color change occurs. Then I'll try to get a victim to model it, and then it will make its way to its recipient.

Mason-Dixon Brown Shawl Knitting

What I did next is kind of troubling, even for a notorious multiple-knitter such as moi.

I cast on another brown shawl.


This may be one of the very few instances when knitting something in Koigu Pure Merino is a downgrade in materials. I'm knitting a very similar shawl, in a very similar color, in merino instead of cashmere. I think this shade of brown, with its slight striations, looks just like bark. (Which is why I amused Hubby by taking pictures of it in a tree.) I'm knitting the basic shape of Cheryl Oberle's "Wool Peddler" shawl from Folk Shawls, but I included the 2 shaping rows at the shoulders from the "Feather and Fan Triangle Shawl"--a vestige, no doubt, of my Jemima Puddleduck Phobia. The recipient of this shawl is very petite, so I didn't think the ultra long tails would be good for her, but I still wanted a generous fit across the top of the shoulders. I'm on Skein 4 of the bark brown. We'll see if 4 skeins gets me to a good size, of if another one will be needed before Ruffle Initiation.

The ruffle will not be black. That would be repetitive.


Posted by Kay at 08:37 PM | Comments (19)

February 18, 2009

The Sister Projeck


Dear Kay,

It's a funny idea for a website, The Sister Project. At first glance, it seems so particular, so specific. But it's about sisters the way some knitting blogs aren't really all that much about knitting . . .

The zookeepers of this place, Margaret Roach and her sister (of course) Marion Roach Smith, have created a place with plenty of room for good humor, serious reflection, and a bit of the absurd. It's pretty much a rabbit hole to fall into--the galleries of artists' work are so beautiful. I liked reading about how the site came about. It's so fluid, this Internet thingie. I love the way an idea like this can percolate, then boil over so fast.

Our Q & A with Margaret is up over there.

In a recent life, Margaret was the editorial director of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, which had to have been one of the large jobs of the universe. Now, in her "retirement," not only has she stirred up The Sister Project, she keeps a rich rich rich gardening blog, A Way to Garden. You can see her lush and subtle gardens if you go over there. Highly recommended. All this, while tending her garden in upstate New York. So glad that she's taking it easy these days!


Posted by Ann at 09:43 AM | Comments (23)

February 12, 2009



Dear Kay,

I had a bad moment with the right front of this Pearl cardigan: increasing, decreasing, cabling all in one row. Forgot to increase. Reknit. Forgot to decrease while fixing the increases. Reknit. Forgot to cable when I was fixing the decreases, then the increases--ah, whatever. Three strikes is my rule: if I make three screwups in a row, I ditch out for a while.

But I got me mojo back, so I'm looking forward to the relative calm of the sleeves, which are nothing but slanting cables all the way.


Never mind Pearl--I HAVE to show you something that pretty much takes my breath away. It's Lene's recently finished Margaret sweater, a design by Mary Neal Meador that appears in our latest book.

Really. Please go take a look at Dances with Wool! I really am bowled over by what she did--it's fascinating to read her thinking, and to see how she made this pattern her own. So very inspiring.


Posted by Ann at 01:16 PM | Comments (25)

February 10, 2009

Please Read the Letter that I Wrote!

Dear Kay,

Yesterday, I awoke to the sound of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant singing "Please Read the Letter That I Wrote" on NPR, on account of they won the Grammy for Record of the Year. Record of the year! This peculiar collaboration has been the talk of Nashville ever since Robert Plant came to town and rented a house to do this project. Such a head-bonking combo! Hearing his superfamous Led Zeppelin voice paired up with Alison's silvery soprano is such a surprise. So great.

(This profile about them makes me love Robert Plant so much. So musical, and humble.)

So of COURSE, hearing this song on this particular day gave me a CHILL, I tell you, because soon after I heard it, I was scheduled to


head up to Joelton


down a gravel road, which is how you tend to find recording studios around Nashville


to do just what Alison and Robert were singing: yesterday was my day to read the letter that I wrote! OK, the letters that I wrote--to you--along with that knitting book we did together. I was cooking up my part of our audiobook for Knitting Out Loud . . .

This is David:


However weird this gig was for him, I assured him that it was way weirder for me. He seemed to be game enough, though he did ask me whether there was any difference between knitters and quilters, to which I answered, "Well, uh, of COURSE."

David stored me in the knitter containment facility:


And made sure I had enough


conga drums and books.

One cool thing about this project was that Kathy Goldner, the creator of Knitting Out Loud, was in my ear the whole time, from Maine, telling me what to do. I can hardly tell you how sad I was after I left and realized that she wasn't going to be there anymore. It would be so helpful to have her in my ear all the time, whispering things like, "Compliment her shoes." "Don't say THAT." "Go feed the cats."

And of course, it being Nashville, David knows the bass player on Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's album . . . he had excellent dish about Jack White, and western swing bands, and the future of the Station Inn, which looks rosy . . .

I guess I can cross another of my lifelong fantasies off my list: spending a day in a Nashville recording studio. I can't wait to hear how your session goes up there in New York. Maybe we should do a collaboration, or something?


Posted by Ann at 10:10 AM | Comments (47)

February 09, 2009

Hey--Over Here


Dear Ann,

I'm over here! Under the undulating waves of garter stitch! I'm all bunched up and I can't get out!

Srsly. The Feather and Fan Triangle Shawl (from Cheryl Oberle's book Folk Shawls), which I am making sans feather and fan feature, gets to a daunting row length, especially if you are working a gentle ruffle on the edge, which requires you to (K1, kfb) across the first row of the ruffle. I am up to circa 900 stitches, and even though garter stitch is my most favorite stitch, and even though the length of the row should not, in itself, be wearying, it is frustrating to be unable to finish a row during a subway ride to Brooklyn and back. Brooklyn is just not that far. But it's more than 900 stitches, apparently.

I'm almost done. This shawl doesn't look like much on the needles; it's a blob, a human-sized drawstring bag. But off the needles, it's an elegant, drapey, swingy thing that I am already planning to replicate, row length be damned. (How do I know what it looks like off the needles? I don't want to talk about that.)

Should have an FO on this one sometime soon, but I am no longer predicting a date.


Posted by Kay at 04:31 PM | Comments (28)

February 04, 2009

I Can Has Helping Yur Cablz


Dear Kay,

Motoring along here on Rowan 32's Pearl. This will be a quick note today because I'm still suffering the aftereffects of leaving another movie in the middle because it was so appalling.

[WARNING: The Wrestler SPOILER ALERT and also some gruesome imagery ahead, so skip ahead to the cat playing on the handknits if you're as squeamish as I am.]

Yesterday, a galpal who shall remain nameless because she was seen at the Green Hills Regal Cinema with a fresh pedicure and a blown-out flipflop in 30-degree weather--as tragic a sight as you can imagine--semi-talked me into seeing The Wrestler. OK, I was an easy mark, in a weak orbit. I decided to go as part of my pre-Oscar research.

I didn't ask for my money back on this one, because I knew full well that it was about a broken-down professional wrestler trying to make a comeback. I knew it would be gritty, and tough, and hard to watch. I'd seen Mickey Rourke win his Golden Globe when he thanked his dogs, which I found extremely moving, and I knew he was kind of a busted-up guy portraying a busted-up guy.

HOWEVER. I was not even vaguely prepared for the scene where The Ram and another wrestler agree beforehand that their fight will involve barbed wire and a staple gun. And sure yeah why not, we get to see every glistening staple in our hero's poor back. It's a good five or ten minutes of straight-ahead amateur suturing and abuse. At that point, my scarf went over my head and I started checking email on my phone. Finally, Pedicure Pal leaned over and said, "It's OK now. He's in the hospital now. He had a heart attack."

I just want to know: does anybody out there who saw this movie think that this over-the-top gruesomeness is necessary to the telling of this guy's story?

Look. The scariest movie I ever saw was Psycho. I still take a shower with the curtain cracked. Yet Hitchcock never showed a knife hitting Janet Leigh. He knew how to play on the viewer's anxieties. There was art in the way he messed with us. There's no art in the violence shown in The Wrestler. It just feels exploitative, cheaply manipulative of the audience, low. And it means I can't get to the heartwarming part when friendly stripper Marisa Tomei finally puts on some clothes and she and The Ram go have a beer together.

Or see the poor kid in Slumdog Millionaire find his true love and win all the rupees.

I can't figure out to whom to complain, so I'm writing this here in hopes that somebody has an idea about how to howl properly about all this nasty business in movies today. Now I think I should have asked for my money back, so at least there would be a piece of paper somewhere that reads "Reason for Refund: Pointlessly Violent."




This is going well enough. The yarn is Rowan Wool Cotton, one of the durable all stars of the yarn world. Kermit thinks knitting needles are alive, somehow.

I am grumpy about the left leaning cables but not tragically so. This project is such a foundling that it's fun even if it's imperfect.


See how smooth the right leaners are? How ragged the left leaners are? Well, I finally remembered the tip I read from the Queen Of All Things Cabley, Melissa Leapman. Now that I have cable fever, her Cables Untangled is looking more tantalizing than ever. And I need to get her latest book, Continuous Cables: An Exploration of Knitted Cabled Knots, Rings, Swirls, and Curlicues, because those crazy tangled cables are really my favorite.

Anyway. Her tip for making those left leaners look better is to work the purl stitch to the left of the last knit cable stitch by wrapping the yarn in the opposite direction from the usual way. It twists the stitch, tightening it. On the next row, when it appears as a twisted knit stitch, knit through the back of the stitch to untwist it. I'm going to give this a try, even if means that half of my right front looks warbly and the other half looks smooth. I really want to improve it, asap.

Other Helpful Tidbits

Readers ask how to knit cables without a cable needle. The incomparable Grumperina explains it in her clear, surprisingly ungrumpy way here. We love you, Grumperina!

For those of you who have our new book, Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines, there's a quick tutorial on page 50, accompanying the pattern for the Stephen Colbert Socks. This is my favorite sock pattern in the whole world, because you can make the cables wander wherever you like, liberated from a cable needle.

Another reader inquiry: How do you do an increase that is less noticeable than the Make 1?

Here's a nice, quick instruction from Knotions. The idea is that these lifted increases don't create a big hole in your knitting the way a Make 1 does. These are much more subtle, and they blend in well. I love 'em.


Posted by Ann at 09:20 AM | Comments (78)

February 03, 2009

The Great Muskrat Uprising

Dear Ann,

Apparently my memory is completely gone. If you had told me, as a child, that I would ever mix my muskrats and my badgers, I simply wouldn't have believed you. But now I've gone and done it.

As readers were quick to point out, badgers had no role in predicting the long winter in The Long Winter:

Pa was shaking his head. "We're going to have a hard winter," he said, not liking the prospect.

"Why, how do you know?" Laura asked in surprise.

"The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses," Pa told her. "I never saw a heavier-built muskrats' house than that one."

There it is, right on page 12. Muskrats.

To make myself feel better, I tried to figure out how I could have made such a grievous error. Then I remembered the Badger Story in On the Banks of Plum Creek. This story terrified me as a child.

Laura has disobeyed Pa and is on her way TO THE SWIMMING HOLE.

She came into the path that Pa had made, and she trotted faster.

Right in the middle of the path before her stood an animal.

Laura jumped back, and stood and stared at it. She had never seen such an animal. It was almost as long as Jack [the Ingalls' pooch] , but its legs were very short. Long gray fur bristled all over it. It had a flat head and small ears. Its flat head slowly tilted up and it stared at Laura.

She stared back at its funny face. And while they stood still and staring, that animal widened and shortened and spread flat on the ground. It grew flatter and flatter, till it was a gray fur laid there. It was not like a whole animal at all. Only it had eyes staring up.

Oh. The. Horror. Can you believe they let 9-year-olds read this stuff? Anyway, Laura later confesses to her horrible-animal-thwarted disobedience, and Pa tells her it must have been a badger. (Did I mention that "a frightful snarl came out of it. Its eyes sparkled mad, and fierce white teeth snapped almost on Laura's nose"?)

I will divert you from my inexcusable sloppiness with this photo from a friend in the East End of London, which experienced an 18-year snowfall yesterday:

Wot's that, luv?

Why, it's a snow geezer, innit?

(Note handknit scarf.)

And wot's that on 'is 'ead?

I think it's a badger.


Posted by Kay at 08:10 AM | Comments (42)

February 02, 2009

Monday (Again)


Dear Ann,

It's a huge Monday. Obviously: Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day has gotten a lot better since the movie, I think. Before the movie, it was just a weird day about trying to understand what "6 more weeks of winter" meant. If he doesn't see his shadow, is it less than 6 weeks, or more than 6 weeks? Does he ever not see his shadow? Should we be leaving this up to a groundhog? Personally, I subscribe to Laura Ingalls Wilder's teaching--it's the badgers we ought to be consulting. If the badger has built a very sturdy house, it's going to be a long winter. Check your badger houses.

This Monday is also Silent Poetry Reading day. Here's a cool and creepy warning for ya:

Lucy Ashton's Song

Look not thou on beauty's charming,
Sit thou still when kings are arming,
Taste not when the wine-cup glistens,
Speak not when the people listens,
Stop thy ear against the singer,
From the red gold keep thy finger;
Vacant heart and hand and eye,
Easy live and quiet die.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
From The Bride of Lammermoor

(You know how I am always saying, "play/sing/read that one at my funeral?" Well, not that one.)

Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival: I Didn't Go. Again.

Once again, I failed to get myself to the Tokyo quilt festival. Luckily for all of us,--Rabbit Hole Alert! --Bemused was there, Moving Hands was there, and Moonstitches was there.

I got so overexcited after viewing all these photos that I spent Sunday afternoon hyperventilating while stitching on this abandoned small quilt. Quilting is so exciting. (Ann! Get quilting! I know it's not the kind of thing a person takes up on another person's say-so, but srsly, y'all-- it's life changing.)

The only thing I can articulate about the Japanese quilters is how very far they take their vision. All that mind-bogglingly detailed handwork is expressive, not merely technical or devotional. They are so strong for it; they see so clearly what they are about. It makes me want to work on the same quilt, every day for a year. And see what happens.

Subscriptions Dept.

To everyone who has written to us about how to get ahold of the new UK knitting magazine, The Knitter: The Knitter thanks you. They are working out the kinks with Barnes & Noble, which should be stocking it soon. In the meantime, they are offering a special deal--65 pounds for 13 issues-- exclusive to U.S. subscribers. Go here (if the link asks you for a password, try cutting and pasting the link into your browser; it worked for me after I did that). (Note: you do have to pay in pounds. The British people are fond of the pounds. A credit card will make the conversion to US greenback dollas.)

Speaking of subscriptions, have you seen this adorable thing?


It's the first installment of Handknit Heroes, the first graphic novel for knitters. What will the kids think of next? It has a pattern. (Because don't you hate that Spider Man has no knitting patterns in it?) I got a copy at my fun-loving LYS, and it's also available here.

I have done a spot of garter stitch recently, but I will keep you in suspense about that for a while longer.


Posted by Kay at 01:53 PM | Comments (26)
Copyright masondixonknitting.com. Page design by fluffa! Hosted at Pretty Posies. Powered by Movable Type 3.2