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

November 30, 2009

Style Like Who?

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Dear Ann,

Bursting my buttons with pride, here. My old knitting bag (and more!) are in the limelight over at StyleLikeU.

Stylishly yours,
Kay

(Photo by Elisa Goodkind for stylelikeu.com.)

Posted by Kay at 12:59 PM | Comments (42)

November 25, 2009

What Are You Fixing AFTER Thanksgiving?

Dear Kay,

At this point, we are plus eight humans at our house now, I think, but people keep coming and going such that I don't really know who's here and who's not. It's really fun, and some of these people require diapers and such, which is a sort of drama I'd forgotten. OMG she's gonna PEE! I had to buy Size 6 Huggies yesterday and could not believe the proliferation of butt-covering products in the diaper aisle. Dolce & Gabbana Nitey Nites. Hempy Dreams. What has happened to the world, people?

Another great thing about family coming to town is that I have now located at least two people who are willing to go with me to see Twilight: New Moon on Friday. In disguise, of course. As thirteen year old girls.

Anyway, last night was Orange Night here--we're back at Theme Night, which seems to crop up whenever my cooking gets particularly bad. I have to say, the boys' radar about my interest in cooking is supersharp--the minute I go for taco night, again, they're writing out themes and cramming them into a cup. "At least try," I'm told.

The menu included cantaloupe, Cheetos, mac n cheese, orange cheese, butternut squash risotto, and and a flight of orange sodas, not to mention actual oranges and orange zest sprinkled on everything just in case. I apologize for the lack of photo, but I think some child has run off with my camera and dismantled it or sold it on eBay.

I bring all this up because we had a dish that I think would make a great palate cleanser once the bounty of Thanksgiving has left everybody all bloated and regretful about those last three yeast rolls.

It's Salmon with Hoisin, Orange, and Bok Choy, from this month's issue of Bon Appetit. (Let's all pause for a moment to grieve once again the end of Gourmet. I didn't even subscribe to Gourmet, but discontinuing Gourmet seems really unsportsmanlike. Bad form. Sort of like canceling Strunk and White or something.)

You can find the recipe here. I couldn't find baby bok choy and went with adult-sized bok choy, which has an excess of the white stiff celeryish part, so I mostly just whacked that part off. You wrap the salmon in aluminum foil packets, and it poaches and steams up and tastes absolutely fresh and delicious. Cilantro and ginger are the least Thanksgivingy flavors I can imagine.

What will you be making once the leftovers run out?

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 04:45 PM | Comments (40)

November 23, 2009

Proof (if any was needed) that The Holidome Is No Canyon Ranch

Dear Ann,

We're on teevee!

Here we are, goofing off while being interviewed at Rhinebeck by the unfailingly gracious CAT of Let's Knit 2gether. Not for nothing, but could either of us get any pastier? Was it just the overcast skies? I mean, no offense, but geez. You can almost smell the Holidome chlorine wafting off the screen. I am just saying. Next year: pack blow dryer.

Everything I have been knitting is either unexciting (see Ladies Panties Scarf, named for its beigey-pink hue reminiscent of Maidenform pantie girdles circa 1965), or likely to expose me to public ridicule (perhaps another dog sweater). By the way, the Ladies Panties Scarf is now ready to lose its humiliating name via a soak in the dye pot. Does anybody know of a good beginner's dyeing kit, preferably plant-based, to recommend to me? I'm looking to turn this scarf from Flesh Tone (But Not in a Good Way) to a rich, reddish brown, or walnut, or something along those lines. It's a Christmas present, but no pressure! I will dutifully document these items as soon as I am able, so that all may mock and enjoy.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:11 PM | Comments (38)

November 16, 2009

Going All In

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Dear Kay,

Have you seen the new Twist yet? I'm liking Sivia Harding's Dryad. It's not a square, a rectangle, nor a circle: it's . . . ovalish! And I'm intrigued by Alasdair Post-Quinn's Introduction to Double-Knitting: The Four Winds Hat." Video tutorials and everything. Bless him! I've never tried double-knitting, but it's probably twice as fun as single knitting, right? I admire Alasdair's all-in attitude toward this technique--he's King of Double Knitting, and he teaches workshops from time to time. I'm guessing he'll post upcoming classes at his blog.

Speaking of the All-In Attitude

You guys are just going to have to hang in there while I finish this Alice Starmore Donegal sweater. It is a slow roll, the slowest. But now that Mad Men has ended, I have to have something to obsess about, and it might as well be KNITTING. I'm too old to obsess about Robert Pattinson. [pauses to obsess about Robert Pattinson anyway]

Here are some questions that have cropped up regarding this project.

Wendy asks: "I use spit splicing all the time, just did a top down cardigan for my son with maybe 5 ends to weave in, lovely! But I have a question. When you're using spit splicing to change colors, how do you know where to do it? So that the color change happens on the right stitch? This question is what stops me from splicing on fairisle."

Excellent question, one that plagued me until I started doing spit splicing on this project. Won't the pattern look bad if there are all these color shifts in incorrect places? Here's a photo of the underside of my sleeve. There's decreasing going on in there. The marker shows the beginning/end of each round:

donegalspitsplicingview.jpg

Can you tell where the yarn colors change? I can't, and I think there are several reasons why this is the case.

1. The pattern is so crazy as it crashes into itself at this juncture, who knows WHAT's going on in there?

2. The murkiness of this colorway makes the changes less noticeable.

3. The spit splice joins two shades that are closely related to each other: you know, Juniper into Tarragon. Sapphire into Elderberry. The light shade shifts into a like-valued light; the dark into another dark. A light never splices to a dark, so it's not that big a problem.

As for the actual question--when to do the splice--I found that ultimately "the right stitch" isn't really important. For this project, at least, it's not worth worrying about. So I just break the yarn about three inches from the end of the round, join in the new yarn, and carry on.

donegalspitsplicingdetail.jpg

Laurie asks: Ann, could I talk you into some photos of knitting your sweater inside out for the floats? I just finished my first stranded project (fiddlehead mittens) and they turned out both gigantic and puckered. How did I manage both? I need to give a pair of mittens to someone with small hands so I've got to get this stranded thing figured out but I don't think I'm doing the inside out thing right. I keep finding my project slowly back right side out. I must be holding it upside down or something."

The gigantic and the puckered. Sounds like ME.

ANYway, I wish I could see a video of what you're doing that would make a mitten slowly go from inside out to right side out. So odd!

The gigantic thing is likely some gauge issue; maybe your stitches are a lot looser when you're working two colors? Are you using double-pointed needles? I don't use them much, so maybe there's some weirdness that happens with those?

For those joining us late, I'm working the sleeve for this thing inside out. Projects with a small circumference--socks, hats, mittens--can be hard to work in Fair Isle, because the floats want to take a short cut across the inside of the work, leaving your stitches puckered and tight.

Here's how I hold my work when doing inside-out Fair Isle:

donegalinsideoutknitting.jpg

The circular cable is always held below the two needles. I'm watching the pattern on the inside of the work, carrying the yarns on the outside, and moving stitches from the left needle to the right as I work, just like normal knitting. I am extremely enthusiastic about this set-up; my stitches are more agreeable, less whiny, and they get along with each other so well now. I'm thinking of turning my boys inside out to get these sorts of pleasing results.

Love,

Ann

PS The Singing Revolution DVD has made it from Chilliwack to Comox to Quesnel . . . where? Take a look!

Posted by Ann at 10:22 AM | Comments (46)

November 10, 2009

Tiny Dancer

Dear Ann,

I'm afraid I'm hopelessly behind in my knitting compared to highly industrious types who seem to be born-again sweater knitters. I have little to show, knitting-wise, but I do keep up an endless stream of miscellaneous projects. There's never no knitting around here.

I do have a new FO of which I am most proud. It is, if only technically, a sweater.

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Stitch for stitch, this little t-neck gets as many oohs and aahs on the street as any Kaffe Fassett or Alice Starmore life's work of a garment.

It's the "Everyday Turtleneck" from Kristi Porter's clever, funny and stylish book, Knitting for Dogs. It reminds me of the Perfect Sweater For Humans because now that I've made one, I understand how I can easily change the neckline, the edgings or the stitch pattern and get a whole wardrobe of sweaters for Olive. And now that Olive goes out for half a dozen strolls each day in the crisp autumn air, she absolutely needs a wardrobe of sweaters. She shivers most persuasively without one, and the Dog People look at me through narrowed eyes that say, "Git thee to the Canine Boutique, woman!"

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I opted out of the optional sleeves, and blanket-stitched around the leg openings and the handy leash orifice. Olive's legs are too short for sleevage of almost any length. I cannot say enough about this pattern. Knit back and forth, with the elegance of steeks so that the leg openings do not break the flow of the Noro Silk Garden stripes. (The pattern calls for Kureyon, but Olive was all, "Kureyon? Meh!")

What's been keeping me so busy? It's not like i had to deal with a cement mixer full of pancake batter or anything like that, just minor distractions such as:

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Late nights watching a local team make good, and even more exciting events such as......

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....victory in the Seventh Grade Spelling Bee. A ticker tape parade cannot quite compare to winning a pizza party for your homeroom. Let's be real. (The winning word: ENTREPRENEUR.)

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:20 AM | Comments (112)

November 09, 2009

Trying to Fix What Can't Be Fixed

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Dear Kay,

MUCH has happened since last I wrote. My duties as one of four co-chairs of the Eighth Grade Pancake Breakfast are now complete, after a 3 am wakeup and a respectable serving of 1,500 breakfasts on Friday morning. The only mishap, other than running out of sausage and pancake cooks who did not want to stop making pancakes, happened here:

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(That's 3,700 pieces of bacon being laid out to meet its destiny. The stuff of dreams and nightmares, I tell you!)

During the pregame food prep, I was dismantling Canteloupe #9 and managed to slice my left index finger. One of the cooks handed me a Band-Aid and said, "It was one of those blue knives, wasn't it?" to which I said yes, and she nodded. "It's always those blue knives," which made me think: it's funny how we know things aren't always quite right, but we don't always fix them, do we?

Which brings me to the knitting thing. I didn't think much of my cut until I hunkered down with the ol' Donegal project and found that the cut was precisely at the landing spot for Yarn No. 2. You know: you hold the two yarns for Fair Isle across your index fingers. I couldn't get anything going, what with the Band-Aid mucking up the works. And taking off the Band-Aid meant that all that woolly goodness was slicing right into the cut.

Ech! Sorry! I just gave myself that electricity-in-my-feet feeling.

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It was just as well, actually, because I was crabby about this small circular needle anyway, and this gave me the opportunity to take some of the good advice suggested last time I wrote about the challenge of knitting on a 12"-inch circular. (Thanks, you guys, for all the ideas.) Time to swap out some needles.

I didn't have a long size three, to do Magic Loop. But I do have a pile of size 3 circs, so I went with the notion of knitting the sleeve on two circular needles. I do this sort of thing all the time--I love two circs! Makes me think of Cat Bordhi, and that's never a bad thing. I threaded the stitches onto two Clover bamboo circs, only to remember that Clovers are not good for this two-circs knitting thing: the cables are too stiff to droop out of the way properly. I limped back to my needle stash, dragging my bad finger behind me, to dig up some floppier-becabled needles.

Great, great. I got that all situated, only to find that the sleeve had become even more tangled than before, what with all the floppy circs and the two yarns and the narrow diameter of the sleeve and the so forth and the so on. The constant yarn changes, with the accompanying spit-felting, made all this exhaustingly cumbersome, worse than ever.

So I ditched the two circs and returned to my 12" circular, relieved that at least I knew what the deal was. It was like trying to get comfortable in an airplane seat: no matter how many pillows you stuff around yourself, no matter how cleverly you wedge yourself against the bulkhead, you inexorably arrive at that moment when you have to accept the fact that you're trying to sleep sitting upright.

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If you need proof of why spit-felting is superior to not-spit-felting, take a look at the right side, where I was joining yarns before I remembered to do spit-felting. That's FUN ON THE HORIZON, folks.

By Sunday, my wound had healed up enough that only a little yarn got stuck in the cut--JUST KIDDING! Just trying to gross you out. I flipped the sweater inside out to work the sleeves, because working a narrow-diameter Fair Isle inside out means that your floats automatically get a little longer, and you don't end up with those pinched floats inside when you're knitting with the right side out. Once I did this, things really started looking up: my stitches were smoother, I was reconciled to knitting with these $(%*&$*# freaking needles, and I knew at some point this flight was going to end.

Still picking yarn out of my wound--JUST KIDDING!

Love,
Ann

PS Still wallowing in the season finale of Mad Men. Wasn't it deluxe?

Posted by Ann at 11:05 AM | Comments (49)

November 07, 2009

And the Reviews Continue to Pour In

Dear Kay,

Just in case you haven't been keeping up with the YouTube comments on our video, here's one that came in today from what appears to be the Dutch version of YouTube:

Knitonepurl2 heeft een reactie geplaatst op Pardon Me (I Didn't Knit That for You):

love it. are they both men?

I like the implication that one of us is OBVIOUSLY a man; it's just not clear whether BOTH of us are.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 07:18 PM | Comments (61)

November 04, 2009

Skatepark Steek

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Dear Kay,

To give you a sense of how gone I am on this Donegal project, I packed up the entire knitting command center--the charts, the swatches, the backup skeins of yarn, the Alice Starmore Celtic Collection book because I'd failed to photocopy the page I needed, the whole megillah--and took it to the skatepark for a three-hour stint while Clif wallowed in his subculture and I in mine.

O what a scene it was, with all this mess arrayed around me, sitting there slurping my Christian skatepark coffee (it was so delicious that it would make ANYbody believe). I fished out my supersharp new FISKARS to whack the first steek on this sweater.

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It took about half a minute, and the great maw of the sleeve hole opened up like something from the book of Revelation.

In this pattern, Alice says to run a line of backstitch through the centers of the first and last stitch of the steek. I hadn't done this before, but I wasn't one to question her on this or much of anything, so before coming to the skatepark, I had added this extra bit of stitch insurance:

donegalsteekbackstitching.jpg

You can sort of see how those stitches look a little different, what with the stitchery added in there.

Once I whacked the steek, the backstitching was clear on the back:

donegalsteekbackstitchbackview.jpg

Isn't this FASCINATING? It was only after taking these photos that I realized that I was sitting in a skatepark coffee bar, taking pictures of my knitting. The guy behind the counter was studiously watching a DVD on his computer or otherwise avoiding eye contact with me. His movie, something with a swelling soundtrack and probably involving Matt Damon, really added to the drama of it all.

At this point, a bunch of skaters came in to turn on the Titans game, and I resolved to stop taking pictures of my knitting in case Clif came in and had to explain what his mother was doing.

I'm working the sleeve with a 12-inch size 3 needle, which isn't exactly the easiest needle in the world. It's like you're knitting for a Barbie, all cramped up and constantly swapping out yarns. I despise double-pointed needles, especially when doing colorwork, so I'm resolute if grumpy.

And yes, I did consider making this thing into a skirt. It would save so much futzing. It would be so cute.

The amount of spit-felting would make your head spin--but the result will be a sleeve with no ends to weave in.

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End of day: steek done, Titans won, and Clif avoided me for three straight hours.

Love,
Ann

PS Singing Revolution update: I know you're all wondering! It is going to take longer for this DVD to make its journey than it took to achieve Estonian freedom. Let's just say that after six weeks, it's made seven stops. There are 103 folks on the list. You do the math.

I'll be tracking its progress on this Google Map. Fun! Who doesn't love a Google map!

For those of you on this long-running Freedom Train, it's helpful to hear from you when you get the DVD.


View The Singing Revolution in a larger map

PSS By the way, speaking of awkward needles, at Rhinebeck I saw an 8", size 0 needle. Like this. What in the world would you make with something like that? Misery!

Posted by Ann at 10:22 AM | Comments (57)

November 02, 2009

The Weird That Is at Your Feet

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Dear Kay,

Thanks to everyone who gave Cousin Dan a boost yesterday during his marathon!

Now that I have recovered, I gotta get you up to date on the project that has been OBSESSING me since I picked it up again last week.

(I am marinating the gansey idea at the moment. I think I have a good idea, but it's an epic project if I decide to do it, so I don't want to just jump in all willynillycrazy.)

As you know, I finished the creepy mom pirate sweater, which would have made a great Halloween costume by the way except that I ended up going as a white-haired vampire due to the availability of a big cape and a leftover Albert Einstein wig from a seventh grade class project. It apparently wasn't vampirically correct, according to one Twilighty trick-or-treater who seemed to be up for a conversation. When she asked who I was, I said, "An old, tuckered-out vampire."

She responded, "Vampires always have the color hair they were born with. You know. So. Were you like born with white hair?"

"Here, ya smartypants, take yer Kit Kat and move ON." This left me thinking, holy cow, of all those suspiciously aged blonde women I see everywhere. You mean they're VAMPIRES? You mean I'M A VAMPIRE?

Anyway, the project loss I felt after finishing the pirate sweater made me sentimental for something familiar. It's just not that hard to find half-finished projects at my house: there's usually one at my feet. So I stirred my feet, which landed upon the Alice Starmore Donegal pullover that I started eighteen months ago. I felt a rush of purpose and CHECKED OUT OF LIFE in order to devote my full attention to this project.

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Let me just say: re-starting a Fair Isle project is exactly like restarting an exercise regime, or a diet. It just feels terrible. What was all this mysterious crap inside this tote bag? I found this chart with one column of stitches highlighted, for some reason, in red. There was an index card into which at some point I had tenderly threaded samples of each color of yarn. Seeing these relics made me realize how very little I remembered about the whole thing. All the colors looked the same to me. Rainforest? What kind of a yarn name is Rainforest?

I forgot that you have to set up a command post in order to knit this sort of thing. It is the LEAST portable kind of knitting. So I set up my lovingly purchased KnitPicks Fair Isle Chart Holder Thingie, put the yarn swatches right next to it, arranged the nine shades of yarn in a little pile, fired up my superbright reading lamp, loaded up on coffee, and commenced knitting.

AAAAAAAAAAAAACK! I forgot that the 28-stitch, 32-row pattern was an asymmetrical mosh of 2-1-2-3-4-5-3-5-3 stuff. It don't make no sense. It was horrible. But, sucker for punishment, I decided I had to stick with it long enough to have justified setting up the knitting command post.

It was so pretty, for one thing. I remembered how beautiful all this Rowan Donegal Lambswool is. And I remembered how clever it feels to knit with two hands. I remembered that as tedious as that first row was, the second row was half as tedious, and by the third row I could hold most of the pattern repeat in my head. GAH, I was a GENYUS!

The good news is that the soul-sucking torso marathon was finished already, and the armhole steeks were under way.

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All I had to figure out was the neckline.

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It's clever, really, and it's not anything I would have ever thought of doing. The neckline on one of these things has a little shaping. To achieve that shaping without abandoning circular knitting and resorting to front-and-back knitting, you place some neckline stitches on holders, and you create little steeks in the front and back of the neckline, decreasing on either side of the steek. When you cut the steeks (stay tuned for that thrilling episode), the neckline opens up, voila, and the shaping is done. It means that you never stop knitting in the round, and you easily keep the pattern cooking. Who thinks of stuff like this?

After a lot of knitting, and Kitchenering of shoulder seams, during which I watched not a single episode of Mad Men because I needed all my brain power to do it, I ended up with a piece of wonky knitting architecture:

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I mean, when I restarted this project, I didn't have it my head that I was in the mood to make this:

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It just goes to show that sometimes, you can find a whole world of weirdness right at your feet.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:39 AM | Comments (54)

November 01, 2009

Semi-live Blogging Cousin's Marathon

Dear Kay,

9:50 am: Cousin Dan's off! On my CousinMarathonTracker gizmo, it shows he made the first 5k in good time!

He's in Sunset Park, Brooklyn now.

Whew. I need somebody to hand me a paper cup of orange juice. This is exhausting!

10:01: Heading into Park Slope! Almost at the Mile 6 mark.

10:13: Pickin' up the pace . . .

10:31: Ai yi yi! He's passed 15k. Bed-Stuy, represent!

I'm thinking of driving the marathon next year.

10:49: Yikes! The little runner icon thingie on my marathon map won't show up. Dan, didja veer off for a latte in Greenpoint?

11:02: OK, back on track! Past 20k at this point, running like a maniac in my opinion. But they're all maniacs to be doing this in the first place, right?

11:19: Halfway home. I wonder what he's thinking right now.

11:35: Over the bridge into Manhattan, mile 16. Must be a cool feeling. Or a tiring one!

11:48: Kay! Dan's over there near the Via Quadronna! Probably snarfing a panini. Mile 17.

I'd just like to point out that this racertrackermapthingie is teaching me all sorts of New York geography. Like: Manhattan pokes WAY UP THERE. You think it tails off after, like 111th street, or OK maybe 125th. But you've got five more miles of STUFF up there.

(But you know this, don't you? Having lived up there on 183,000th street for a year, right?)

12:08: MILE 20! THE WALL! He's kept the same pace for the whole race so far. Go, Dan, go!

More geography tidbits: there's a place in the Bronx called Morrisania. It sounds like a magical, fantastical place where the Great Morris lives.

12:24: Ohhh, back in Manhattan after a couple of miles in the Bronx. Almost home . . . Mile 21 . . . [wheeze] . . .

12:36: While I'm thinking of it, here's the link to Dan's fundraising page for Team Fox for Parkinson's Research. If we all buy him a celebratory virtual beer, in the form of a contribution to Team Fox, it'll go toward a big fundraising goal he's set.

12:42: Why yes, Dan, you're not hallucinating--that's Central Park ahead. You've actually run from Staten Island to Central Park! Or maybe you are hallucinating, in which case I'm not going to get in the middle of whatever alternate universe you're seeing right now.

12:48: So close! Wish I were there! Mile 24 .......

1:04: Rillllly cloooose............

1:14: He made it! All 26.2 miles! Every single one of 'em! No skipping or anything! At a pace that I could sustain for exactly one mile, if a bear were chasing me. CONGRATULATIONS, COUSIN! YOU'RE A SUPERHERO!

1:15: Wishing Dan a glorious night of celebration, relief, and epsom salts or whatever it is you're supposed to be doing tonight.

And once again, here's the link to Dan's fundraising page for Team Fox for Parkinson's Research.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:45 AM | Comments (13)
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