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

December 31, 2009

Sometimes a Great Notion

Dear Ann,

Preparing for the journey to Omaha last week, by which I mean, going through the stash and patterns and trying to figure out what to knit, I smacked myself on the forehead and said, "Hey! I could knit for a human!"

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Joseph is a human, and he has been asking for a "charcoal grey sweater"--I kid you not. Back in June I bought 7 skeins of Rowan All Seasons Cotton in a lovely charcoal grey. Now all 7 skeins are in the sweater, and as you can see, there is a little problem with the sleeves being missing.

I am telling you, he was a lot smaller in June.

The pattern is the fabulous Mr. Boy by Cristina Shiffman. I will tell you that I had some moments of hesitation as I was knitting on this. Joseph's size falls between the boy sizes and the men sizes of the pattern, but this was pretty easy to adjust for. I worried about the way the sleeves attach to the body of the sweater--they are unusually deep-set, if that's the way to describe them. But the more I thought about it the more I thought that this is going to look really cool and boyish. A big armhole is a plus in a boy's sweater. I think one of the reasons boys prefer sweatshirts to sweaters, apart from the fact that their mothers did not knit them, is that the deep, wide armhole of a sweatshirt is more comfortable than a typical set-in sleeve.

Which still left me with the problem of no yarn for the sleeves. I was getting myself all hepped up about going on Ravelry and rooting through other people's stashes, and putting out a worldwide interweb SOS for my dye lot, and sending Belinda and Polly running down to Liberty's, when another great notion occurred to me: Call the yarn store.

So I let my fingers do the walking, and rang up lovely Sakonnet Purls in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and within 5 minutes 8 more skeins in my dye lot were ordered up and on their way. Sometimes old-school technology works just great, even if you feel like you are in a Merchant Ivory movie.

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Here is how Sakonnet Purls looked back in June. Aaahhhh.

Happy New Year everyone!

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 09:29 AM | Comments (38)

December 28, 2009

I Hope Someday You'll Join Us

Dear Ann,

Imagine your sweater is too short to cover your hindquarters
(It could happen to you)

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The vet could be laughing at your "belly sweater"
(And the vet's assistant, too)

Imagine all the people, LOLing at you!

You may say-ay-ay-ay I'm a dreamer
You may say I'm barking mad

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But I bet the Big Lady Who Yells will make it longer
And my sweater will be rad!

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Love,
Kay

P.S. I'm pretty sure this is not the first time I have to say apologies to John Lennon for trivializing this song. But hey, "imagine no possessions"? This is "easy if you try"? I can't even imagine no dog sweaters!

P.P.S. Technical note: I lengthened Olive's puppy sweater by picking up stitches along the edge and doing a 2 x 2 rib, back and forth, with the opening at the center belly. When it was long enough, I sewed the center seam about halfway to make it fit snugly. It came out real nice. Very glad to be a knitter in such a situation.

Posted by Kay at 12:22 PM | Comments (41)

December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Tidings

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Dear Kay,

I just checked the weather in Omaha, and it's looking to me like you're having Some Weather out there. Among the thrilling things I read was this: "11.4 degrees. Blizzard warning. Light Snow. Blowing Snow. Freezing Fog." ALL AT ONCE?

FREEZING FOG? JEBUS, woman! I don't even know what that is.

Did Pa Ingalls's friend bring you that stick of horehound candy yet? Anybody sleeping in a snowbank?

Things are really mild around here, with only two dramas to speak of: 1) The Lights On The Tree (see above for the confounding midsection area) and 2) Will The Turkey Thaw By Tomorrow Morning?

The fellas have already gone to sleep, a sure sign that they are 13 and 10. They are thinking that early to bed will mean early to rise and thus early to open presents. They seem skeptical at my claim that Santy Claus will in fact come and take it ALL BACK if they wake their parents too early.

There's knitting down here, but I'm too sleepy to write about it. There's always knitting, isn't there? Or the likelihood of it.

I hope everyone has a peaceful, warm holiday, however you celebrate these wintry days. The new year is right over there, a new decade even.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:43 PM | Comments (42)

December 22, 2009

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

Dear Ann,

We are in Omaha. Going to Omaha necessitated placement of Olive in a suitable child care, I mean dog care, facility. Since Olive is not the best-behaved small dog on the planet, I was in a bit of a quandary about this. The logical choice was my sister Amy's. Sister Amy has two big shepherds, Ike and Kimba. Kimba (seen below) is the smaller, older one. Ike is the recently adopted, huger one. I worried that Olive might be a little too "fun size" for Ike and Kimba, if you know what I mean.

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But it looks like the kid is all right.

The Wifi is hard to come by right now, so let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Merry!

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 05:39 PM | Comments (51)

December 14, 2009

Oy Is Just Yo Backwards: More Hanukkah Videos In Lieu of Knitting

Dear Ann,

There IS knitting, but it's all very hush-hush. Not really. Haven't had the minimal gumption that is required to recharge the KayCam for, oh, 4 days or so. Much deathless photography has gone unphotographed. For example, I saw, but was unable to document, a delivery man on a bike in the rain, wearing a plastic poncho that said, in huge reflective lettering:

STAY DRY

ORDER IN

Way to promote your business! We need to get rain ponchos that say, "STAY DRY, GO HOME AND KNIT (FROM A FABULOUS MASON-DIXON KNITTING BOOK)!"

Anyhoo, a kind commenter clued us in to yet another fabbily festive Hanukkah video, this time minus Rabbi Slim, but plus the Girl in the Pink Bolero. Here ya go:

Tonight, our candlelighting was delayed for a short time, and a boy was heard to gripe, "Are we doing any RELIGION around here tonight?" Oy!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:37 PM | Comments (30)

December 11, 2009

Yippee O Chai Ay

Dear Ann,

You know how I love those boy groups. Laffing my latkes off at this:

Happy Hannukah, little dogies!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:50 AM | Comments (29)

December 09, 2009

Never (Ever Wever) Wash It

Dear Ann,

The Blogger's Canon of Ethics states that if a blogger shares her marvels and blessings: the intricate lacework that catches the sun just so, the well-scrubbed children heading off to do their charity work, the homemade biscuits cooling on a vintage plate, the tiny terriers romping on windswept beach--well then, the blogger is duty-bound to publicize a few of the things that aren't working out quite so well. If you're going to blab your prouds, blab your sorries. In the spirit of living up to my ethical obligation to confess wrongdoing, I give you:

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This.

This matted tangle, composed of highly compressed wool and kid mohair of the finest quality, for which I paid full price, used to be on its way to being a Best Friend cardigan by Twinkle. You will recall that I was making this for Carrie when we were at Rhinebeck. Last weekend I decided to git r' done. All that was needed was a quick wash n' block to see if I could get the thing to expand a little before sewing a few short n' chunky seams, putting it on my girl and snapping some self-satisfied photos in an idyllic setting.

I was cocky. I had been having great success using my little Euro-washer, a front loader that uses about a half-cup of water per load, on the "handwash" cycle, to soak my knitting and spin most of the water out before blocking. I had just done it the day before with my Red Scarf 2009. No more tedious soaking-in-sink (requiring removal of dishes), followed by rolling things up in towels to squeeze out the water. The gentle washing machine would barely jostle it, in cool, harmless water, and spin it to damp-dry perfection.

It didn't work out that way. It came out of the washer so boardy that even if I sew it up for a much smaller girl, it's just not what comes to mind when one thinks of "garment, human". I'm trying to console myself thinking about what a sturdy little jacket it will make for Olive. Warm enough for picturesque romping in snowdrifts! Mohair is her favorite fiber (next to Number 2 pencils)! I can make trivets out of the leftovers! Still, not a very satisfying conclusion. When you're knitting a dog sweater, you want to know that early on.

Moving on.

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Red Scarf 2009, done and blocked (using aforesaid washing machine, prior to The Mishap). I highly recommend not skipping the blocking stage for a mistake rib scarf like this. It really opens up and looks a lot more interesting when it's blocked. Off it goes, with a gifty or 2, to the Red Scarf Project. (If it's getting too late for you to knit a scarf by December 15, it's not too late to send them a giftcard, or other collegiate goodies, to tuck in their care packages for college students who have aged out of foster care.)

Random Photos

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On a quick round-trip to Washington, D.C. last week, my knitting matched the pavement as I waited for the Bolt Bus back to New York. (This is the Noro log cabin I started in a fever last summer. I'm still knitting on it. God's perfect bus knitting, just not very newsworthy.)

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Looked up from my knitting to see this.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 04:01 PM | Comments (49)

December 04, 2009

Always (Always always always) Wash It

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Dear Ann,

So, wa-la! Here is my Lacy Scarf, made from a kit I got as a gift for subscribing to Rowan International for another fabby year of fantastically over-the-top exquisite knitting from the Yorkshire dales or moors or whatever you call their moody, suitable-for-sparkly-vampires landscape.


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All that has been done to this FO is a simple soak in a tepid bath with a little fancy shampoo, followed by squeezing of excess water and an overnight rest on a ping pong table to dry. (It took up the entire length of the ping-pong table. This was impressive to the children who were playing ping-pong the next morning.)

But what a transformation. Since I don't knit wool as often as I knit the plant-based yarns, I always forget that washing makes such a change. Wool seems so nice and stitchy and springy as you're knitting it, that you can't imagine that it is going to be improved by washing. But it relaxes and softens and looks 100 percent nicer after washing. So remember that, OK?

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Fans of this pattern will notice that I freelanced buttonholes and buttonbands onto the ends. The design as written calls for a three-needle bindoff of the beginning and the end together, to get a long continuous loop o' scarf. I felt this construction would limit the ways to wear it, so I did the buttonholes. This had a lot to do with the fact that I had some perfect buttons I wanted to use, but I didn't probably need to tell anybody that. Now the wearer has Options. Button it into a continuous Rowanesque loop, or don't button it and it's a regular scarf.

I should also point out that I switched all the SSK decreases to K2together-through-back-loops. I believe this saved me MINUTES of time. I felt like the SSKs were messing with my rhythm. I wasn't in the mood for that. It looks just fine to me.

Now I am at the moment of truth. I have a lovely natural dye kit (thanks Meg!) containing logwood and some kind of red powder, and a little baggie containing a Harry Potterish-sounding "mordant" of alum. I am ready to brew this scarf into a color that is less Band-Aidish (even though it photographed beautifully in southern sunset light, one really can't limit a scarf's wear to southern sunsets, you know?), but I hesitate at the edge of the cauldron. Should I go with the red dye, which might yield a deep salmon? Or the logwood, which will yield grey-ish or blue-ish tones? Or should I keep looking for the chestnutty brown color I was thinking of originally? Will coffee really get the color deep enough? Bueller?

I have questions. You have opinions. Please share.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:37 PM | Comments (78)

December 03, 2009

Pale, Pale, PALE!

Dear Kay,

I guess at some point I have to come out from behind the turkey carcass. It was so warm back there, so tryptophantastic.

I am here to announce that, once again, I have hit the wall on my Alice Starmore Donegal Fair Isle sweater. I'm not worried about this. I don't doubt that I will be dragging the thing out of its hole again. But at the three-quarter mark on sleeve one, I found that the ever-decreasing tube of inside-out two-handed knitting had become something akin to braiding cat's hair, to aligning grains of rice end to end, to cutting the grass, blade by blade. BLEEHAGHGGGHGH! Fiddly fiddly FIDDLY! YIKES! Godalmighty! RELEASE ME! SET ME FREE!

In an act of supreme mercy, my ten-year-old skaterboy announced that he wants a hat with earflaps and dangly pompoms. So if anyone has cranked one of these--and it has to be dark gray and red, I'm told--please feel free to suggest a good pattern. I'm going to use some worsted weight wool, I think. Or bigger. Just some big-ass yarn so I can finish the thing in a day.

Triumph of the Pallor

I think I mentioned last week that one highlight of the family visit (other than the way the house feels so occupied, so chockablock) was the prospect of going to see the new Twilight movie, New Moon. Well, it ended up being four of us, and we snuck in past the "No Adults Allowed Over the Age of 18" sign. It was a late-night screening that included a SHOCKING proportion of MEN. One distinguished-looking couple had to be at least seventy-five years old. It was a Twilight FREAK SHOW, I'm telling you.

I was so sleepy that I still can't really remember what happened at the end except that I started confusing Michael Sheen's role as the head Volturi vampire with his Tony Blair performance in The Queen. I kept wishing the werewolf guys would put their damn shirts on again--you can catch a chill, fellas, even if your normal temperature is 108. Too much with the deltoids! And I really, really wondered whether everybody's favorite tortured 109-year-old vampire Robert Pattinson I mean Edward Cullen was ever going to show up in the movie again, if he was going to be pale enough.

So pale! None more pale! Fabulously pale! And he sparkled so much better than in the first movie. I'm delighted to hear that pale makeup sales are up as a result of Twilight. HIGH FIVE! FINALLY! Blue is IN! Maybe I AM a vampire after all!

I've also heard that there's a lot of knitting among the women on the Twilight set. Surely there's a Ravelry Twilight group. Off to go investigate THAT. They're gonna need help when that two-part Breaking Dawn shoot begins.

Meanwhile, if you're stuck in Twilight limbo until the next movie lands in June--if you have incredibly NOT SEEN THE FIRST MOVIE--here's Twilight in ten minutes for ya, Mystery Science Theater 3000 style:

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 02:07 PM | Comments (70)

December 02, 2009

(Predominantly) Red Scarf Project

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Dear Ann,

Yoo-hoo! Just a short shout to show off my 2009 contribution to the Red Scarf Project. The deadline is approaching (December 15), and I almost didn't get it together this year. But this is such a good cause, so positive and life-affirming, so we-all-been-there-or-somewhere-like-it.

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So it seemed like fate when our charity-minded London pal Juliet lobbed me, out of the blue and across the Atlantic, a lovely hank of Scrumptious DK by Fyberspates, a beautiful glowy-red silk and merino blend. It goes just great (or so I think) when combined in 2-row stripes with some chunks of Noro Silk Garden I already had.

Now, the folks at Red Scarf have tightened up their requirements this year, and I'm worried that some of us are a little discouraged by that. I understand and applaud the idea that we knitters should knit what is needed, and not view charity knitting campaigns as a dump-ortunity for yarn that nobody has loved since the Great Eyelash Yarn Craze of 1996. (I think Ken Burns is doing a documentary on that era, by the way.) But the guidelines actually are making me nervous about my ability to hit all the marks for a sufficiently hi-kwalidy scarf. For example, I think I might get into trouble on that requirement about not using colors that the "general public" might not like. (I think I pretty much ONLY use colors that the general public is not crazy about. I mean, this is sort of what I like about knitting!) I also wonder why they are so strict about not using heavier yarns. [Edited to add: I have been EDUCATED in the comments--there is a very good reason having to do with the size of the box they have to fit in.] I had 4 hanks of Misti Alpaca Chunky, in a perfect, unisex wine-red, but I was scared to use it! When I see all the chunky scarves in the windows of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, I don't get why it would be so bad to knit a scarf with a chunky yarn, especially something as yummy-yummy-yummy-I-got-love-in-my-tummy as Misti Alpaca. But I understand that I am not driving this bus, and I want to do what is wanted and needed for this great project. So I'll think of something else for the fat-gauge Misti. Bless my heart, you know? Just trying to matter!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:44 AM | Comments (29)

December 01, 2009

Salty Dog

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Dear Ann,

Let me quash this rumor right now. (What rumor? The one I'm starting!) Hear me now and hear me good: I am NOT involved in any kind of Dog Sweater War with Norma. It is pure coincidence that we each are in the throes of tiny terrier love, a love which dare not speak its name and can be expressed in only one way: the knitting of tiny terrier togs.

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I am NOT trying to escalate the Sweater Count between me and Norma. I merely note, in a spirit of love and accurate blog-keeping, that Norma and I currently are tied at two (2) adorable dog sweaters each. (Edited to add: OK, that was a lie. What can I say, arms races are full of deception and mind games. Satellite surveillance reveals that Norma has made Mr. Jefferies 4 sweaters, including one that was destroyed via felting.)

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Here we see Olive cavorting on the beach (her first trip to the beach, where things smell Different, it seems) in another fab sweater (the "Irish Fisherdog") from Kristi Porter's fab book, Knitting for Dogs. At this point, my copy is well-used but not yet dog-eared (har har); there are many others I still want to knit for Olive. She is not well trained in any other aspect of her young life, but she is a good, solid sweater-tolerator (more than I can say for the children).

The yarn: a ball and a half of Rowan Denim in the palest shade, Tennessee, knitted more tightly than usual, on US 4 needles (in case of squalls). Olive is growing so fast in body length that it turned out to be more of a tankini than a traditional fisherdog's jumper. But Olive is not complaining. She is a dog; she only complains if she is stranded alone on a piece of furniture for 5 seconds or more.

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Fun fact: this pattern did not have an opening on the back for the leash connection, and I thought of it too late to make one, but it turns out that the hole that forms where the center cable twists is just big enough for the D-ring on Olive's harness.

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"War is not the answer/only love can conquer hate." (Call me, Mr. Jefferies!)

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:30 AM | Comments (40)
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