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

September 27, 2009

Ode to (J)OY

Dear Ann,

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Meet Olive.

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Olive is part Australian Terrier, and part Flying Nun.

(Seriously, Australian Terrier and Mini Poodle. She is 8 weeks old. She moved in with us yesterday. Her hobbies are kibble and Dragging Things. Her favorite color: Whatever Color Carrie Is. She is frightened of stainless-steel dog dishes, due to the Other Dog that appears in them.)

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Olive tells me she understands how I feel about The Furniture, and also The Rugs. Let's not make such a big deal about it, OK?

I am not a dog person. But it seems I am an Olive person.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 12:40 PM | Comments (172)

September 25, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

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Dear Kay,

Immediately after sewing on the last button for that Rowena cardigan, I realized in a PANIC that I needed to start another sweater, immediately. There was no time for yarn shopping--I ducked into my own personal yarn shop aka my CLOSET, and started browsing.

I was struck by several things: the loathsome quantity of black shoes in there; the abundance of single and double skeins purchased as "souvenirs" or "snacks" or "some of that will relieve the aching emptiness in my soul" or "it is on sale"; the relative lack of yarns in quantities to sustain a garmenty-scale project; the poignant nostalgia that washed over me as I came upon my Rowan stash.

Rowan! O Rowan! Thinking I ought to knit up some of my Rowan archives before they returned to dust, I turned to my Rowan magazines. At this point, I am so familiar with those Rowan magazines that I could almost recite parts of them. We could have a Name Which Issue quiz show, and I think I'd do all right.

But I didn't seem to find the match of Yarn On Hand and Pattern Begging To Be Made, so I sat down with my shiny collection of The Knitter, the new magazine we're writing a column for until they fire us for our poor ability to meet their very reasonable deadlines.

Over the past months, as each MONTHLY ISSUE arrived (a monthly knitting magazine! it boggles the mind to think how Juliet Bernard is doing this with such apparent ease), I have studied these nine issues very carefully, and found much to admire. But I hadn't really gone on The Hunt with them. You know--that mood where you absolutely must find something to make, right then, right that MINNIT GET OUT OF MY WAY.

Well, this is where I stopped and ran to dig out my Rowan Linen Drape yarn:

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The Clarissa Cardigan by Melody Griffiths, from Issue 6. Looks like a bed jacket to me! Why the heck not? I've always wanted a bed jacket. I read in bed. It's chilly in there, and I can't quite imagine investing in a Snuggie. Not to overshare or anything, but I always wear nightgowns, and I like my nightgowns, but honestly, there are times when I NEED A BED JACKET to cozy things up.

I considered making it a really short bed jacket, but then I decided I liked the shape of this as written, and besides--I kind of fantasize about wearing my PJs out and about, so now I'll have something to wear EVERYwhere.

Melody Griffiths really did the math on this little project, thank you thank you Melody Griffiths! All the lace comes and goes very elegantly around all the shaping and the armholes. I'm learning a lot about how you manipulate a lace pattern to make it integral to the garment. She even throws in some waist shaping, at the sides:

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Clever! And it's cranking on my size 8 needles at a satisfying rate. The Linen Drape yarn has a total butcher's twine quality to it, so if this Clarissa Cardigan falls apart someday, I'll be ready to tie up a rump roast NO PROBLEM.

Love,
Ann

PS!!! I have already had word that The Singing Revolution DVD has made two stops on its journey of 100+ stops. Way to go!

A COOL NEW THING: For everyone who has been watching this documentary on your own via Netflix or library, our fellow knitter AndaraKnits (Ravelry name) has started a thread over at the Estonian Knitting group on Ravelry. Please stop by there and share your thoughts about the movie!

Posted by Ann at 11:35 AM | Comments (46)

September 23, 2009

Living the Mad Men Dream

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Dear Kay,

If you have been watching Mad Men (and if you haven't, go ahead and start), you have probably been mesmerized by all the weird style. I'm loving it. The whole show looks so mannered, so odd. The designers can't resist anything having to do with the early 1960s.

Peggy the copywriter in particular has a very strange look. Fabulously dowdy, like Diana Prince before she turns into Wonder Woman.

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When I finished up my Rowena cardigan (Ravelry link) the other day, I felt a distinct Peggy the copywriter vibe wash over me:

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"Yes, Mr. Sterling, I'll have that London Fog copy for you before lunch."

Have I mentioned how much I LURVED making this thing? It provided all the choice elements of a good knitting project: easy part, weird part, easy part, then RIBBON SHOPPING.

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The hems turned out so tidy. It's so great when a pattern works this way. Kudos to Mel Clark, the designer and former owner of Wildfiber in Los Angeles, who I read has moved back to New Zealand. Her book with Tracey Ullman, Knit 2 Together, provided this pattern.

The fit is looser than the fit shown in the book. The yarn specified in the book, Lana Gatto Feeling, is a wool/silk/cashmere blend. Delicious. But my Yllet 2-ply Extra has a definite mohair and wool scratchiness to it, so I wouldn't have wanted to wear it without a layer inside.

The ruching didn't end up being the problem that I feared it would be. I thought it might end up too stiff, not rumply, but it's rumpling well enough. The cuffs are kind of chunky, but I think of them as sort of bangle bracelets.

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I almost went with a set of mismatched black buttons, but it seemed too loud. So I did what I always seem to do . . . shell buttons. They're not as white in real life; they're just superreflecty in this photo.

I wondered how the garter stitch button band would look amid all the stockinette. I worried that it would look dissonant, out of place. But it slid right up to the edge almost invisibly. VERY cool and unobtrusive.

And as for the ribbon, I love grosgrain ribbon. I keep seeing it everywhere. (I read a New Yorker profile of Lanvin's brilliant, lilliputian designer Alber Elbaz and his ribbons--luscious slide show here. ) Had to go with grosgrain. Textile Fabrics had an even wider ribbon, more than 3 inches, which was gorgeous stuff, but I worried that I would end up channeling the mid 1980s rather than the early 1960s. I've already lived the mid 1980s, and you can't drag me back there.

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Rowena looks so deflated like this! It's really fun to wear, though, so I think I'll be lining up for lamb ravioli at Rhinebeck with my Rowena, my girdle, my Hanes and heels.

OK maybe this Peggy the copywriter thing can only go so far.

Love,
Ann

Next up: OMG something completely different from anything I've ever made before. I am knitting like a maniac these days. Clearly I am procrastinating about something, but I'm not sure what . . . Everything? I'm procrastinating about everything?

Posted by Ann at 01:19 PM | Comments (55)

September 22, 2009

Love Means Having a Contest

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Dear Ann,

Adding to the oddness of life, lately, is the sound of your voice and my voice coming out of my computer, reading our audiobook. Are you finding this weird, or is it just me? We sound so wholesome! We sound like we never ever wever cuss, or yell at our children. (I know you don't yell at your children--that's MY super power--but I have heard you cuss, Missy! Ironic cussing is still cussing! You can call it the spice that makes language savory, but it's still cussing!) I'm especially enjoying the old blog entries we read, in addition to the non-patterny portions of Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. I'm laughing at our hijinks all over again. So many hijinks! So much knitting gone wrong, or gone right, but always in public.

Anyway, I want to give away a couple of copies of our audiobook. Therefore, a contest is required. Pay attention, now.

Contest

You see above you a photograph of Kay's latest knitting project. The game is to guess the name of the project and its source. (Hint: the instructions for the project have been published in the USA and the UK. That's a huge hint! No more hints!)

Note: It is possible that Kay is not following the pattern exactly (now there's a shocker), and the photo shows the project as a work most definitely in progress, but the project is still recognizable as The Project.

To enter, leave a comment to this blog post stating the name of the project and its source. (There may be 2 right answers to both questions, but all correct answers will count.)

There will be 2 winners. The first audiobook will go to the first person to give correct answers to BOTH QUESTIONS. The second audiobook will be awarded by random drawing from all of the entries with correct answers to BOTH QUESTIONS.

DEADLINE: Wednesday, September 23 at noon, New York Time.

OK, back to whatever you were doing.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:20 AM | Comments (86)

September 21, 2009

Right, Round (Right Round)

Dear Ann,

It's been an unusual morning.

At 7:30 a.m., I hailed a cab that was speeding up Amsterdam Avenue. There is a style of taxi driving, to which this driver seemed to ascribe, in which you feel like it's almost a shame the guy has to slow down long enough to pick up a passenger. You hop in, say your destination loud and clear and courageous, and before you've even done this your head is bouncing into the back of the seat and you're sailing off like Star Wars. I was buckling my seat belt (a widow thing, this buckling of seat belts in cabs when there are no children present to be edified by my good example), and the guy (who was cheerful as hell and had already wished me Good Morning), HITS THE BRAKES. He stops short alongside a recently stopped cab that had just swooped past us, and he SHOUTS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS out the window. (At this point, I'm thinking, "Ruh Roh! Road Rage!" --in the half-second I have for reflection.)

What does he scream at the other driver?

"SEE YOU LATER FOR LUNCH! I LOVE YOU!"

And the other driver, who looks enough like my driver to be his brother, down to the short-sleeved plaid shirt, yells back, "I LOVE YOU!" My driver then planted his foot back on the accelerator.

I wish I could tell their ma! I am SURE it was brothers, or perhaps cousins; definitely family--I have long been convinced that there is a gene for "short-sleeved plaid shirt". "I love you"--isn't that great?

This almost made up for how early Joseph's school bus is getting me up in the morning these days.

THEN, an hour later, I'm walking down Broadway, and I see a small lady wearing A WHITBY PULLOVER IN ROWAN DENIM. I know! Freaky! I would not mistake the Whitby for any other jumper in the world, with that center cable with the wrapped stitch bundles. Nicely faded, more at the bottom than the top (the pullover not the lady). I called out after her, in front of Fairway, "I LOVE YOUR SWEATER!" She didn't turn around.

It's been kind of an "I love you" morning.

Cake And Tart Update

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As so many readers recommended, I used the "Elegant But Easy" plum cake recipe. (As Craig Ferguson would say: I used to dance under that name in the 80s.) It did not disappoint, except I should have made 2 of them. It kind of disappeared on the first round of dessert-dishing. I was complimented so heartily that I suspected nobody had tasted plums before. Easy! Elegant! (The blackened bits are from my extracurricular idea to stick it under the broiler at the end to caramelize the plums a little. Not sure I would do that again, but it did give it that Jamie Oliver flair.)

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I also made an apple tart. This is an old-school cheat, and a great one. You slice up four or 5 apples and lay them to rest in a Denyse Schmidt pattern on a circle of puff pastry that you have lovingly purchased in the Frozen Foods Section. You bake it and while it is baking you see if you have any sweet and sticky ingredients to make a glaze (in this case I used honey, orange-apricot marmalade, and a jot of butter), which you bubble into goo in the microwave, and then you paint it on the top of the tart very generously when it comes out of the toaster oven. (Picture shows tart prior to glaze glopping.) I used a rosemary branch as paintbrush. (I think I have been reading too much Jamie Oliver.)

Rosh Hashana was great, as ever, and I only cried the normal amount that one does at moving moments of communal religious experience, such as when a young woman cantor's voice is so small and still in a quiet sanctuary, and I manage to understand like one word of the Hebrew, and the word means "mercy". These are the good times. It's the days when nothing is going on that are hard, for me. People's mileage really varies on these things, I know. But one feels the palpable presence of loved ones here and gone, at such gatherings, I think. (The Lutheran ones are going, "what are we doing here, exactly?") And one has a ton of work to do to locate lost gravy boats, get boys' feet into shoes they have outgrown since the last time they had to wear nice shoes, and stuff like that. It's busy. Busy is good.

Now With More Roundness

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I'm continuing the new year theme of roundness with my knitting, Alison Brookbanks' mysterious Shadow[]Box. It's kind of a cowl, I think, and kind of a cape, but I will let you know for sure when I'm done with it. I'm using Pure Virtuous Stash this time: a double strand of Rowanspun DK with a strand of Rowan Kid Silk Haze. The blues match so well that the KSH does not really show, but it does add a lovely fuzz and, I'm hoping, luminous depth to the flat, tweedy Rowanspun. I've been knitting round and round, on US 9 needles. Finally I'm up to the decreases, so I should have this one done soon and we will see what it looks like.

I'm thinking of it as the underachiever's answer to the Rhinebeck sweater.

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My favorite detail is the perfect fake seam that forms at the spot where you switch from knit to purl and back again to achieve garter stitch when knitting in the round. If I were starting over, I think I'd do the switching on both sides so it would look like I had made it in two pieces and have supernaturally perfect seaming technique.

L'Shana Tovah and/or Happy Autumn to all!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:57 AM | Comments (70)

September 20, 2009

'Tis the Gift To Be Simple

Dear Ann,

Reader Gretchen kindly wrote to tell me (a) she liked our audiobook, and (b) to send me a link to this blanket for a baby boy because she thought I'd like it. Well, yes. I like it and in fact I lurve it! As it happens, for the past few weeks I had been running through my mental list of Baby Blankets I Like To Knit, for a couple of baby boys who are growing a pound a day and speaking in full sentences at this point, and wasn't coming up with anything that I was in the mood for. The Baby Shane blanket is IT. Thank you Gretchen, and thank you, Tanis for putting it out there.

And then I had this great idea--I don't know where it came from--to make this blanket in......Rowan Denim.

I don't know how I keep coming up with these new ideas. It's a gift, I guess.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:06 PM | Comments (20)

September 18, 2009

Sorry It Took So Long

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Dear Ann,

You saw this coming, right? The knitting of fruits? This one was is based on the Per Orla dishcloth pattern.

I hate to be so predictable. I bet y'all have had a pool going. Whoever bet on "September 17" and "plum" takes all.

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What's next? Kiwi? Acai berries, or whatever form of fruit acai is? (I don't even know what acai looks like; I think it might spring from the earth in the form of smoothies.) I really couldn't tell you. The plum might be my last Knitted Fruit. You never know.

Seeking Cake Recipe

Hey, all you bakers: I am looking for a link to a plum cake for tomorrow's Rosh Hashana eve feast. I am already making an apple tart, so no tarts. Cake. I want cake. Rich but not elaborate. A plumcentric kind of cake. (I'm thinking of this one, from Nigel Slater. Things just taste fancier when you use metric measurements, don't you think? All European and stuff.)

Much obliged.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:49 AM | Comments (76)

September 17, 2009

"Patience is a weapon . . ."

Dear Kay,

So the box is off!

More than a hundred knittas are on the list to receive The Singing Revolution, so if you didn't manage to send me an email asking to be put on the list, chances are you'll see the movie faster if you hop on a bicycle, ride six hundred miles or so, and pick it up at a library not very near you.

Meanwhile, all you intrepid viewers, remember the words of the movie: "Patience is a weapon." Or at least a virtue. Or maybe you'll just forget all about this and be pleasantly surprised, many weeks from now.

Happy Thursday, everybody! The Office is back! 30 Rock woopsy! I mean PROJECT RUNWAY is on!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:13 PM | Comments (13)

September 16, 2009

Almost Ready to Go

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Dear Kay,

VERY rainy day, most excellent.

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I'm in the midst of the Constant Hem, and I turn on the radio only to find myself listening to a two-hour NPR call-in fest, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, all about the topic of CIVILITY. Of course, if you throw Camille Paglia into the mix, things get feisty pretty fast. It's kind of funny.

The bottom flap of the cuff folds under, all hemlike, whereupon one commences to matching up stitch for stitch, around the ruching which just seems like insanity once you look at it.

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It hems up right good. For those hem enthusiasts who wonder whether it would have been better to do a provisional cast on and work this hem while I was knitting, I say: I thought it would be sort of unwieldy to do such a long hem in that elegant, time-honored way. Or maybe I forgot . . .

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Packing Up

I'm so happy that The Singing Revolution is about to leave on its road trip. I watched it again, just to refresh myself before I say farewell, and I've been singing fakey Estonian ever since. I'm so excited to hear from so many of you! This is going to be superfabby.

If you'd like to join this slow-moving peace train, email me your address quick quick quick, and I will add you to the list. In order to get this show on the road, I'll collect addresses until midnight tonight Central time.

And if you're living outside of Canada or the U.S., way to go! I'm not totally sure this disc will work in your DVD player, but maybe your computer will work? Thanks to those who pointed out this nettlesome compatability issue. (If you want to bang your head against the wall, read this explanation of the problem.)

It's going to take a while for this movie and the comments notebook to wend its way. I mean: it's going to take WEEKS and WEEKS. I may do a few slight adjustments to keep the thing from crossing continents too often. At any rate, off it goes tomorrow.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 05:03 PM | Comments (18)

September 15, 2009

Oh, BeHAVE! And Let's All Watch a Movie Together

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Dear Kay,

I don't know WHAT is going on, but these outbursts--congressman Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, Kanye West, even Federer!--are getting on my NERVES. What is with people?

Whoopsy--getting a little unattractive there myself. I sincerely apologize for my outburst. Don't censure me! I don't know what came over me.

Seriously, even my ten year old saw Kanye's ploy for what it was: "He just wants attention," he said in a deadpan voice. Everybody just needs to take a breath, think for about two seconds before opening up the ol' piehole, and be a grownup.

A Portable Movie Festival

Speaking of being a grownup, I have to tell you that I got my copy of The Singing Revolution, the documentary about Estonia's nonviolent road to independence. A whole COUNTRY filled with grownups, Estonia is. If you want to watch a movie about people who are apparently unusually able to do courageous things without shooting a bullet or getting nasty--by singing Estonian folk songs, actually--I have an offer for you.

Here's the plan:

Email me here with your address, and I'll cook up a list of viewers in order of receipt. I'll send the DVD and the list to the first person.

To keep things moving, you have to promise to watch the DVD within 24 hours of receiving it, then send it to the next person on the list. (Please be willing to send it to an international address if necessary. It's still cheaper than buying the DVD! And you're promoting world peace!) It's a 90-minute film, and it makes for the best kind of knitting entertainment. Except, of course, for the parts where you're wiping away tears with your sock and singing along even though you don't speak Estonian. I will warn you that there are several brief scenes of violence done to Estonians, so be aware of that.

Feel free to watch the trailer and to buy your own copy here.

Maybe we can't make a 400-mile-long human chain of peaceful people, but we can all learn from this extraordinary slice of history. I'll stick in a little notebook so you can share your thoughts about it.

Meanwhile, Sleevishly Moving Along

OK, my need to begin making the collar for Rowena (Ravelry link) was so overwhelming that I took the sleeves off the blocking board, still damp. I hope the thing doesn't mold up or anything.

I sewed the raglans together and commenced picking up stitches. I increased into every one of those stitches I had picked up, making the collar a very ruched experience.

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It won't be long now until the thrilling field trip to the fabric store to find buttons and ribbon to thread through the ruched parts.

Ruched is starting to look like a big typo.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:06 AM | Comments (54)

September 14, 2009

Game, Set, Match

Dear Kay,

A quick hello and Rowena update.

But first of all: Roger Federer . . . watch this:

My blågrå Rowena cardigan is heading into the thrilling Finishing phase. I bound off the last sleeve late last night, delirious, wondering what I had just done. Let's just say that the US Open makes for prime knitting. Except for when you throw your needles in the air in abject delight.

I took The Big Piece of the sweater off the blocking board, which never fails to be one of those knitterly moments of High Satisfaction.

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The redemptive power of blocking. This yarn swole up and smiled such a sigh of relief when I gave it a bath. Really great.

Next: the attaching of the raglan sleeves, a ruched collar extravaganza, and a button band pickup. It doesn't get much better than this.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:35 AM | Comments (21)

September 11, 2009

Liberty Glory

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Dear Ann,

I was sewing the binding down on this little quilt while talking to you on the phone just now. Today seemed like a good day to finish it.

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This mini-quilt was inspired by Janey Forgone's stunning "Liberty Jack" quilt, an international prize winner. (A picture and more details about the Liberty Jack quilt are at the end of this post.) All the fabrics in my wee translation are from Liberty of London, except for a scrap of Yoshiko Jinzenji on the pieced binding, and the backing, which is also Yoshiko Jinzenji. I always have that jones to break the rule.


It was only by making this that I realized how crucial the diagonals of the Union Jack are to the original quilt's dazzling shimmer.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 04:34 PM | Comments (29)

September 10, 2009

Free Yarn with Purchase! Am I Dreaming?

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Dear Kay,

I don't know if our audio publisher Kathy Goldner has lost her everlovin' mind, but I just learned that Knitting Out Loud is giving away free yarn with every order.

See? Over there in the right column?

This dementedly delicious offer runs now through September 12th. The variety of knitting-related audiobooks is really choice, so move fast. Before Kathy gets her wits again.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:19 AM | Comments (9)

Tidings of Lemon Fresh Joy

Dear Ann,

If you are not a dishcloth knitter, keep moving, nothing to see here. But for the few, the proud, the stubborn among us, who openly knit the humble dishcloth in the face of dismissive public opinion, at times even from fellow knitters, it's a big day each year when Janet Nogle's Dishcloth Calendar comes out.

Well, my raisiny-handed friends, the 2010 Dishcloth Calendar is here, where you can purchase a download or a printed copy of 38 glorious new episodes in your journey of dishrag-knitting love.

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My contribution this year is a knitted dishcloth salute to Orla Kiely For Target, this past spring's wonderful collection of housewares featuring the mod graphic fruits and flowers of Orla Kiely, whose work I admire and long to collect. I love it when something in the mass market, like Fiesta Ware, for example, is so good that you can't get anything like it, and certainly not anything better, no matter what you pay. There is no Fiesta Ware but Fiesta Ware, and there is no Orla Kiely for Target but Orla Kiely for Target. I'm sad that it was a limited run this past spring and summer. I'm glad that I scored a modest hoard of it, and I thank good friends who unquestioningly followed my instructions to head immediately to the nearest Target to see if they had any Orla canisters left.

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It's called "Per Orla" (get it? "pear"? "Orla"?), and it owes a big debt to the Ballband Dishcloth and also to the miracle of applied i-cord. Applied i-cord remains my favorite knitting trick, now and forever.

Technical point: this pattern has been test-knitted by a Boston Red Sox fan, who (OBVIOUSLY) would never say a Yankee fan's knitted pear was error-free unless it really was. (Thanks Wendy! I know it's killing you! We have to overcome our ancient animosities, for the greater good of dishrag knitting.)

At a recent seance, Paul Cezanne told me that he had painted enough fruit on earth, and has taken up knitting in the afterlife. He added that "votre poire, elle n'est pas mal!" Je vous en prie, mon vieux!

Happy dishragging, everybody.

Love,
Kay

P.S. Miss Gardiner's dishcloth cotton was supplied by Peaches & Creme. Thanks P & C!

Posted by Kay at 09:08 AM | Comments (39)

September 08, 2009

Gråblå Garn and a New Fever

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Dear Kay,

I think I mentioned the fact that I didn't knit much over the summer. It's true--but that's not to say that I didn't knit at ALL. I was indeed motoring away, in a very mild way. Near swimming holes. On rocks.

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I finished that superdygreen handspun feather and fan, which I gave to the brave woman who chaired the Woman's Association bazaar in July. And I finished another handspun scarf that went with me to many lectures, none of which I remember. But I do recall liking these two yarns together a lot more than I liked them by themselves.

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This is, of course, Jared Flood's Noro Striped Scarf (Ravelry link) except not with Noro. When I ran out of the yellow yarn, I just kept going with the bluegreen, not wanting to waste an inch of this handspun yarn.

I'm sorry not to be able to tell you who spun these yarns, but I lost the labels along the way which means they're waif yarns--there's no Ravelry database of handspun, you know?

Back in Bidness

Since I've been back from our trip, I have made up for lost time. I think it was the sight of all that souvenir Yllet Ullgarn Extra 2-Ply sitting there on my desk. And the fact that my carpool fell apart when my carpool partner took a new job. It means I'm back in the hookup line: The Golden Half Hour! Plus Guitar Lessons! And Tennis Lessons! Never mind the fugue state I enter at the skateboard park. I'm knitting my heinie off!

Check it out. This is what got me going again.

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Just waiting, blinking at me, wondering how it ended up in Nashville, Tennessee, where it sometimes gets leaned on by a cat. I couldn't let it go unknitted, could I?

I know you're sitting there, clucking at the fact that I bought yet another pile of GRAY YARN, stupefied that once again, I went for gray. Well, it's NOT gray! It's gråblå. That's gray-blue. In Swedish. And it really is bluish. Sort of. In a gray way. Actually, it changes color every time I take a picture of it, so I don't know what color it is.

You know how you have patterns in the back of your mind, stowed away? Or on some endless Ravelry queue? Well, ever since you gave me my very own signed copy of Knit 2 Together by Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark, I've kept that ruched cardigan in mind.

Rowena.

Kind of easy, with a few thrilling moments.

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I decided to work the two fronts and the back at once, rather than piece them together. This was a good idea, but it made for a moment when the 245 stitches swole up to 490 for the rumply ruched part. I was glad I had found a use for the 5-foot-long size 3 needle that I somehow seem to have.

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This gotlandull/merinoull/mohair garn is not as drapey as the Lana Gatto Feeling (Ravelry link) garn that the pattern specifies, so my ruching seems to have a sort of dimensionality that may end up looking weird. But I'm so dementedly knitting this thing that

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I cannot stop to worry about that.

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Since taking this photo yesterday, I've finished the giant piece and am already sleeving along. Help meeeeee!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:54 PM | Comments (38)

September 04, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

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Dear Kay,

You don't think of the word agile all that often when you're on a cruise ship. It feels so big, so unwieldy and ridiculous. There's an atrium, for heaven's sake. A ship shouldn't have an atrium.

Before long, though, you realize that a minutely choreographed dance is going on all around you, a perfect coordination of people working very hard. You glimpse the details: three dozen bowls of roses sit on the dock, waiting to board for their big night in the restaurant. Six pallets of bottled water load into a part of the ship you didn't know even had a door. The decks are wet in the morning, clean. You discover the one small, round window in a door that lets you look into a staff stairwell, and it looks like a navy ship: gray paint, bright light, purely functional.

On the night we left Helsinki, a sick crew member had to be airlifted off the ship. The ship seemed to race along even as a helicopter came and went three times, never landing, only hovering. Agile. Crew members lined the stairs of the atrium, watching through the glass door to the pool deck. We passengers lurked in our corridors, not knowing what had happened. When I said to the purser that I hoped the crew member would be OK, he said, shaking his head, "I don't think so." That was all he would say, clearly upset.

Sometimes, the ship was as graceful as a fish. In Helsinki, it slipped away from the dock using its mysterious propulsion pods, pushing off the way a swimmer does. It seemed impossible, this almost parallel departure. Ships can't do that. I looked up, and far above, I saw an officer watching, too, walkie talkie in his hand, focusing on nothing in the world but that wake.

That final morning, I managed to wake up before six a.m. to float through the Stockholm archipelago. It was chilly, in the low 50s, as I sat on our tiny balcony in my ship's robe and slippers, watching as island after island floated by. There are 24,000 islands to see, astonishing in their number. The ship slid through this chain without a sound, without a wake.

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The rocky outcroppings, called skerries, left me wondering what lurked under the water. And the houses on the shore made me wish I could spent a month or two here.

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The tiniest cottages were everywhere, stuck into the rocks like little packages.

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As we approached Stockholm, the houses became grander. And in some cases, torqued to fit the ground.

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It was such a watery, dreamlike end to our cruise.

At breakfast, I had one final encounter with the müesli vat at La Veranda. After a week of breakfast there, I FINALLY figured out that "La Veranda" meant "the Veranda." All these languages!

We collected our bags, and we bid farewell to our agile little ship.

The Coyote Grind Lounge

Clif and I made a deal, early in the trip: in Stockholm, he could get a full dose of the Coyote Grind Lounge, which was not a slutty bar but rather a skateboard shop that he knew about from his virtual skateboard pals. His skating and my knitting have long had a symbiotic relationship. This was going to be great.

After a little old-town wandering in Gamla Stan (the Nobel museum? why the heck not?), Clif and I set off for the Coyote Grind Lounge.

Along the way, we saw churches.

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We were staying in Södermalm (the umlauts I'm typing these days! option-u! option-u!), and we stopped by the hotel to get skateboard necessities. I was so excited to be going to the Coyote Grind Lounge that I forgot to bring my knitting.

Incredibly, and I do mean incredibly because I had not scoped out the Stockholm yarn shop situation, we passed this:

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About a block from our hotel.

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A skein, waving in the breeze.

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Mariasgarn is the juiciest yarn shop you would ever need. Clif sat down, remarkably patient, knowing that the Coyote Grind Lounge was still closed. I had twenty minutes. I visited with Maria, the longtime proprietor of this gem of a shop, and she helped me pick out the most Swedish yarn possible.

Färgkraft (Colorcraft), hand dyed wool from the Gotland sheep I'd met back in Visby earlier in the week. In a deep oceanic blue. Poifeck!

The shade, "odon," means "bog whortleberry." And by golly, bog whortleberries are exactly the shade of this yarn.

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I had yarn, but no needles. It was sort of OK, actually. My head was so full of sights and thoughts that I easily sat for more than two hours, trying to sort through it all.

The Net Result

I told you that I didn't do much knitting on this trip. I was not kidding. I'm semi-embarrassed even to show you. One thing and one sock:

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I think I had it in mind to make some sort of handspun scarf out of this beautiful LV Ltd. handspun, but it petered out into a wide-ribbed swatch that provided me with a fair amount of amusement, even though it isn't really a useable piece of knitting at this point. It's like watching TV, this handspun. I watched at least four episodes of the shipboard hit "Meet the Crew" while knitting this. I loved meeting the crew, and I loved wondering when the brown part was going to show up in my knitting.

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I did manage to scrounge a regionally appropriate sock pattern for this Rio de la Plata sock yarn: the superpopular Knitty pattern Sunday Swing socks by FINNISH designer Krystel Nyberg. Krystal, I waved at ya in Helsinki! Next time, next time!

Wish I Was There!

I have really loved reading everybody's comments about these places--I have a lot of reading to do, thanks to you all. I'm left with more questions than answers about everything we saw, which I reckon is the reason we travel. And now that we have been home for a while, I have almost stopped asking myself the question that has nagged me since we set foot back in Nashville: "Why aren't we living in some Scandinavian city?"

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:14 PM | Comments (52)

September 01, 2009

The Power of Collective Thinking About Square Shapes

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Dear Ann,

I'm on the jitney bus to Southampton, soaking up the delicious free wifi. Our house out here is an Internet-free zone, which forces us into all kinds of involuntary wholesome activity not involving sitting on our butts staring at the screen. Not that sitting on our butts staring at the screen is a bad thing, mind you-- I'm all for it! But for a few precious weeks and days of the year, we choose to spray water at each other, fill up balloons with water and throw them at each other, and engage in very, very slow, muliti-day, glacially paced games of Dogopoly, which is Monopoly, but with dogs. You try to buy the butcher shop, you get sent to the pound instead of jail. It's fun if you don't, you know, have the Internet or anything else to do.

Needless to say we are surviving on pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches. It's rugged, all right. If it cannot be cooked in a Teflon pan, to hell with it. We ain't eating it.

But here on the jitney bus, I wallow in the wifi waves, and come up with marvelous stuff. Like, remember my old Lobby Dishcloth? This past spring, I re-jiggered it into a wool square for the MacMillan Comfort Blanket project, a very worthy effort to knit blankets for a cancer charity in the UK. I'd been living with this little pattern, a tweak of Barbara Walker's Parquet Squares, for several years. I liked it just fine the way it was.

But I never thought of doing this to it.

Isn't that cool? How one person can take another person's seed of an idea, and run with it?

The interwebs have brought me other news of good deed availability out there, which I am happy to pass on.

Afghans for Afghans is back in business with a new campaign for wool baby blankets. Wool? Baby blankets? Sign me up! I just finished one! It needs a home! In Afghanistan! The deadline will be sometime in October, so there is time. Check the a4A website for updates on the deadline and for the all-important requirements to knit to. (We only want to knit what they need, right, not just any old thing we feel like knitting.) (Right?)

Attention! I've just learned of a very cool project called Iraqi Bundles of Love, organized by a soldier in Iraq and his wife. It tickles me no end that in militaryspeak, "Iraqi Bundles of Love" turns into "IRBOLS". The idea is to pack up a USPS Priority Mail flat rate box full of knitting or sewing supplies from your bulging stash, and send it to an APO box (in the US), which magically and militarily gets the box all the way to Iraq, where it will be distributed within a community that is short of knitting and sewing supplies. The deadline is SOON-September 8--and the details of what to do are here. As you were.

Am I still knitting? Why yes I am. I'm calling this the Summer of Denim. More later. I have to throw water at somebody.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:57 PM | Comments (33)
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