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

May 25, 2010

Mighty Knitters of Babylon

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Dear Ann,

Remember that great Bob Marley/Jimmy Cliff song? How did it go?

Mighty knitters of Babylon
Where we sat down
And there we wept
And did the tubular cast-on

Something like that, anyway. I cannot get this song out of my head since last Monday, when little Meli, Cara and I went day-tripping all the way to the Village of Babylon, Long Island, to finally spend some quality time at Other Ann's super darling, ultra adorable, mega cozy yarn shop.

This shop is not, despite my sincere--and repeated-- urging, called Mighty Knitters of Babylon. Even though I am sure this name would be a sure-fire magnet for every rasta knittah in a 100 mile radius. Sigh. You try to help people, you know?

The shop is in fact called The Village Knitter. Which I will admit is a good name. The Village Knitter is cute as a button and stuffed with yarn. There is also an excellent diner just steps away! The turkey burger with sweet potato fries was most excellent.

The revelation of the day, though, was the Clover Pom Pom maker machine. Imagine: a gadget that is as cute as a pom pom. Apart from cuteness, it is a marvel of engineering. You get a perfect sphere of yarn tufts, with no trimming. There are decades of science in this thing.

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Would you buy a used pom-pom maker from this woman?

I got all 4 sizes. In case I should be struck with a sudden case of pom pom fever. You can't do much with just one or two sizes of pom pom. Go big or stay home.

I also got a batch of the elusive Ty Dy yarn in the greeny blue colorway called Meadow, which does not look at all like Meadow Soprano (disappointingly). Olive chewed the labels off of all 4 skeins the minute I got home, and we had to rewind them to restore ball integrity. (The sign of a real good yarn: tastes like chicken.) I have wanted to make something with this yarn ever since I saw the Oat Couture curlicue blanket Other Ann made with it for Meli's baby shower, way back when.

My favorite thing about any yarn shop is the shop samples. Interesting shop samples are a yarn store's secret weapon. The shops that just have droopy, manhandled swatches, or only have the samples the yarn companies sent in 1988, lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Fear not: at The Village Knitter, the je ne sais quoi flows like wine. There is a whole rack of qu-est-ce que c'est, plus a baby dress in Isager wool that will cause you make a baby dress whether you need one or not. It's a real public service to display a shop sample like this.

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Friendly service at the cash register.

Next time you're in town, we'll crank up the bass on the stereo and head to Babylon so you can stir it up, little darling, and check it out.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 06:55 PM | Comments (44)

May 24, 2010

Making a Difference, Brian Williams Style

Dear Kay,

Aw, just had to share this NBC report on the volunteers of Nashville. I'm loving that the Millwood Manor apartments are featured (scene of Heather's sleeping-bag-a-rama I described here).

You still see colossal piles of dead house innards around town. When you see one of the giant claw-armed trash trucks go by, you get a little thrill that somewhere, somebody's colossal pile of dead house innards will soon be gone.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:05 PM | Comments (9)

May 22, 2010

Randy Mogul, Restless Assistant

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Dear Kay,

Our book group is currently in the process of choosing books for next year. The theme is "Water." It was selected four days after the flood. It's an impressionable group.

The thing is, I have no brilliant idea for this theme.

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They totally made fun of me when I suggested Churlish Sea Captain, Temporary Wife. So I'd welcome any ideas you might have.

I'm also curious what everybody's reading this summer--what are you enjoying?

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 01:22 PM | Comments (220)

May 21, 2010

Morticia Addams, But In a Good Way

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Dear Ann,

I'm running out the door to Boston, but I must fulfill my mission of encouraging the knitting of many more Volts. Look at Ravelry--there are only 16 documented Volts! That is an insufficient number of Volts, given what a satisfying, gorgeous, intriguingly-constructed knit it is.

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I will admit that in my chosen colorway of greys, black and acid green, this might be Charles Addams' (or Tim Burton's, or Wes Craven's) favorite shawl. There is something about it that shrieks, "Morticia"! But it shrieks, "Morticia, you look FABULOUS." (And not for nothing, but I am in no danger of being mistaken for Anjelica Huston as I go about my daily routine.)

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Get a load of the wingspan on this baby.

I highly recommend the upgrade to cashmere. It's pricey, of course, but you are going to be knitting on this for quite a while, and you are going to own it for the rest of your natural life, and you are going to be very, very happy at every stage that it's cashmere. Also, you are going to have lots of little cashmere nuggets left over for future fabulous knitting.

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While knitting Volt, with the piece bunched up on a circular the whole time, I had an inner conversation going about how I am no waifish knitwear model and it wasn't going to be big enough to truly wrap my hulking bulk in. This was, like most negative self-talk, nonsense. Volt blocked out to an extravagant amplitude. It's a wearable blanket. Light as a feather, wide as the sky.

The one thing I would do differently, next time, is to do the i-cord edging to match the colors on the edge, instead of in the contrast color. With i-cord, it's ridiculously easy to change color at exactly the right spot, and it's no trouble to hide the ends, and I think an "edgeless edge" would be a lovely refinement, like a painting without a frame or a quilt with no borders. Needless to say, I did not feel strongly enough about this to re-do the edging. Never! A done edging is, by definition, a perfectly fine edging.

Boston-area knitters, please come see me this weekend!

When I get back on Sunday night, I want to see at least 20 Volts on Ravelry. Fail not at your peril.*

Love,
Kay

*This phrase was at the end of every subpoena I ever issued. I believe the technical term for it is an empty threat.

Posted by Kay at 12:19 PM | Comments (33)

May 18, 2010

Lettuce Harvest

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Dear Kay,

Judy called yesterday, announcing that she really needed to harvest the lettuce from her garden to take over to Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a nonprofit nearby that has been making hundreds and thousands of meals for flooded-out folks and the people helping them.

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Judy's garden looks like one of those fake gardens you see in Martha Stewart Living. She claims that she has had little time for her garden this spring. I can't really imagine what her garden would look like with a lot of effort. The beds are edged in wine bottles, bottom up, all the way around. (See the photo below.) You want to sit down and examine the broccoli. It's dense with things to eat.

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Here are Judy and Lou Ann at work in the all-spin zone. The amazing Corabel was quality control manager. I was apprentice stem-snapper and bagger.

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The harvest was about 20 gallons of lettuces, chard, and beet tops all tidied up and ready to go.

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We didn't even get to the spinach. I felt so lucky to get to spend time in this gorgeous place with these funny women.

The scene over at Mobile Loaves and Fishes really is amazing. The program director, Tallu Schuyler, took us out behind the house to show us a garden they've just set out. This summer, groups of at-risk kids will be coming to tend the vegetables, learn to cook, and eat what they've harvested and made together. A very cool idea, don't you think?

The need for lunch-making food and supplies will continue indefinitely. Volunteers are welcome, too, in this cheerful place. So if you're in Nashville, email Tallu to see what their latest needs are. Today: sturdy fruit. Grapes, it seems, are tricky.

Love,
Ann

PS Thanks, Gale, for your Hipstamatic iPhone app idea. It makes my iPhone pix so dreamy!

PSS Edited to add: Judy sent along a photo of her wine bottle border. She would want you to know that many friends contributed bottles to her border. That she didn't drink all this wine herself. Or anything.

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Posted by Ann at 01:18 PM | Comments (14)

May 17, 2010

Where to Knit in......NYC

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Dear Ann,

Once in a while I discover a great new place to knit in public, and I gotta share:

Bull Moose Dog Run,
Theodore Roosevelt Park,
New York, New York

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What it has going for it (apart from the hilarious name): Sunny but also shady; dappled light makes for great stitch definition. Ample benches for ample knitters, and also for knitting bags and any equipment you're hauling from Little League. The gravel may get stuck in your toes, but it's a far superior surface to the packed dirt at other dog runs. You'd almost think you were in the Jardin des Tuileries, cherie!

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It's so exciting!

If it gets to be too much fun....

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Cower!

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Recommended knitting for Bull Moose Dog Run: Courthouse Steps. I had a yen to make one of these again. I've changed up the pattern by doing the non-ticking "steps" in different colors. Perfect for Bull Moose or Little League, and so far it's a good size for the subway.

NOTE ABOUT EXCITING EVENT: This afternoon, from 4-6, CAT BORDHI !!! is going to be meeting and greeting and signing books at Knitty City, 79th & Amsterdam. It's Cat's first visit to the city ever, so New York knittahs--represent! I'm not going to miss it.

Happy Monday!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:45 PM | Comments (16)

Unanswered Questions, Answered

Dear Kay,

So many loose ends to tie up. For everyone here for flood relief coverage, well, sometimes we talk about unwieldy DVD-mailing projects, sleep issues, even knitting when we really run low on topics.

1. Singing Revolution. This Mason-Dixon Around-The-World DVD project is limping along, though some of you (I won't mention anybody except for the person who lives on the Upper West Side of a major metropolitan city) have been caught SITTING ON THE DVD and not QUICKLY SENDING IT to the next person on the list. At this point this fascinating DVD has made about 20 stops, which is great. But the thing left my house in October, and there are 104 people on this list, and by my calculation this DVD will take longer to make its rounds than the actual Estonian revolution that is the subject of this DVD. Snap SNAP, people! If you have recently viewed this DVD, please let me know that you have sent it so I can update the Google Map that tracks the DVD's progress just the way we track Santy Claus on Christmas Eve.


View The Singing Revolution in a larger map

2. The 2010 Sleep Challenge. Back in January, I joined in Arianna Huffington's Sleep Challenge, where we were all spoze to get 7.5 hours of sleep per night, for one month. My conclusion after this relaxing, life-altering experience is this: we should all aim to sleep better. Nobody's good at sleep except knitwear designer Kristi Porter. We would all be more patient, more pleasant, and possibly less pasty-looking. Dewy! Sleep makes you look all dewy! Now, the tragedy is that I am not currently achieving 7.5 hours on a regular basis. Dewy is not the word over here. I grieve whenever the clock passes 11 pm, because I have seen the promised land of enough sleep, but it's way over there, behind my laptop and knitting and six books on my bedside table that I use mostly as a really tall coaster.

3. The Diminishing Rib Cardigan. I finished this cardigan weeks ago! It turned out very pretty, in a furry handspun Padmae-the-sheep and Shadrach-the-goat sort of way. If you recall (and I can barely remember myself), the crucial drama involved the foldy curly neckline. I keep neglecting to get my photographer to shoot me, but he's in the now-dry basement a lot right now working on a thrilling new project. But I will git r done asap so I can show you what happens when I'm wearing it.

Oh hell, I'll be back in a minute. No time like the present.

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Elliott likes it, so that's good enough for me.

The mighty redemptive power of blocking again reveals itself.

Before:

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After:

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However, as I suspected, blocking cannot fix a fundamental design-and-engineering issue. The neckline, attractive though it is, likes to flop.

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The I-cord edging, coming as it does at the edge of stockinette fabric, likes to curl.

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Do I wish these things weren't happening? Well, yeah. But I can't get too steamed up about it these days. A hook and eye will pull the neckline in place. The rolling front edge will roll. I like the basic shape of this sweater, and it's going to be one that I wear a lot.

Love,
Ann

PS Brad Paisley, my new boyfriend, raised $1.7 million last night on teevee for Tennessee flood relief. Donate here. It's the highest irony that his new single is called "Water," all about having fun out at the lake. Oy!

Posted by Ann at 11:10 AM | Comments (26)

May 15, 2010

Road Trip to.....Red Sox Nation!

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Dear Ann,

I've been holding out on you. Next weekend I'm heading north to visit Red Sox cousins, and one of the cousins has kindly arranged for me to knit, chat, and sign books in the following yarn shops:

Saturday, May 22

10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. A Loom With a View in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

1:30 - 3 p.m. The Fiber Loft in Harvard, Massachusetts.

Sunday, May 23

Noon-2p.m. Newbury Yarns, in Boston.

My traveling companion will be a boy in a Yankee hat, wearing a Yankee shirt and, if it's chilly, a Yankee jacket. This is not meant to offend or to inflame local sentiment. It's just that at this time of year he doesn't have any other clothes. I apologize in advance; I'm sure the moms of 11 year old Red Sox fans completely understand and sympathize with my situation.

Hope to be able to put some commenters' names with faces!

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 11:12 AM | Comments (36)

May 14, 2010

Applaud the Goats Gently

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Dear Ann,

As venerable co-bloggettes, you and I are as one on certain of Life's Important Issues and Values. There are countless situations in which I do not have to consult you to know exactly What Would Ann Do. By way of illustration:

Situation #1: Brooch Made of Human Hair, vaguely unsettling in appearance, half price, cash only. BUY. IT.

Situation #2: Come home on Sunday afternoon to faint whiff of earlier pancakes. OPEN THE WINDOWS, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS WELL-ORDERED AND NEATLY KEPT AND TO PRESERVE THE MEMORY OF OUR SAINTED GRANDMOTHERS FROM THE DISHONOR OF OLD PANCAKE SMELL!

Situation #3: Acquaintance rings up and says, "I've got these tickets to a Martha Stewart Show taping and I was wonderrrr......." JUMP UP AND DOWN AND SCREAM, PICK ME PICK ME!

So. Yeah. When my synagogue pal, Kitty, called with her second-hand, friend-of-a-friend tickets, I was all over it, like white on al dente basmati rice.

I had never seen Martha. I have subscribed to Martha since the first year of her magazine. In the days when it was really odd to see a lady with lipstick perched in a canoe (harvesting wild rice if memory serves) on the cover of her eponymous home-perfection magazine. But I had never seen the woman in person.

I had a great time. A smattering of apercus for ya:

Martha is a nice lady. Many be-headsetted young people swirl about her, buzzing and fussing. She stands still, in knife-edged khakis, heels and an impeccable blue shirt, conserving the Martha essence for the start of the show.

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Poignant moment: A few minutes before the show, Martha standing on her mark, stroking the head of Hannah, a goat, who is waiting impatiently to be milked on national TV. There is great sincerity between Martha and Hannah. It is actually touching. Hannah was leaning so far into Martha that she nearly fell off her milking ledge.

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(Hannah with another person she likes, Farmer John.)

Martha is a concentrated, quiet presence. They dial up the volume on her when she speaks.

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The guy who works the crowd, who I assume you know if you watch the show regularly, is hilarious, really laying on the Noo Yawk shtick. To keep the audience (all of us in solid-colored bright tops, as instructed on our tickets --"no grey, no black, no neutrals") clappy, during the commercials he hands out treats from a giant mailbag of swag. (No t-shirt cannon for this crowd; it ain't Nascar.) Goodies included plastic kitty-litter boxes. I didn't get one. I was cool with that.

People really love Martha. (Why did this surprise me?) There was much tender and supportive laughter when Martha said anything gently funny or self-deprecating. The lady next to me said, "Martha loves animals SO MUCH. She really cares about them." If I had said something like, "As long as they're delicious, or lay eggs the right shade of blue," there would have been an honest-to-goodness throwdown of peach and coral shirts in the top row. I am just saying: Do NOT mess with Martha, even if you're just kidding around and you know she loves animals.

Swag we all got: the June 2010 issue of Everyday Food (delicious! easy! full of recipes for the weekly veggie box I start getting on June 1 and am terrified of! Why don't I subscribe to this?); a copy of The Bucolic Plague, the story of a pair of Manhattanites who become gentlemen goat farmers and the stars of the new reality show, "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" (charming! goaty!); and a voucher for 8 pounds of Martha-approved dog food. (Where else would you get free dog food?) Also a tasting of delicious goat cheese from the aforesaid Beekman Boys.

Anyway, it was a hoot and a half. Classic 1950s television, without irony. And while I have previously admired Martha in a nervous way, now I can say that I actually like her. (The show I saw airs on May 26, the last show of the fifth season. That's me in the top row, in the coral top. Next to the lady in the coral top. Next to the lady in the peach top.)

Meanwhile, The Knitting

It took me three weeks to knit Volt, give or take a few tears of impotent rage. It then took me 3 weeks to put the i-cord on, and if I could have procrastinated another 3 weeks before Kitchenering 4 measly stitches of i-cord together, I know that I would have. I would do a few rounds, be struck with a clear vision of the futility of human existence, and find something else to knit on. Or simply fall into a deep, restorative sleep. The only way I finally finished it was by hauling it around and making it my only subway knitting. It is not easy to apply i-cord to a humungous wad of shawl while traveling on public transportation, but if it's the only knitting available, I will do it. I will do it and like it. But it was all very stop n' starty. I finally finished it last night because the weather has been chilly and I can actually wear it.

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(Getting in a few rounds of i-cord while waiting for Martha.)

All you expert, no-nonsense Kitchenaires: respect. I find it fiddly and tangly and Quite Unpleasant and I'm no good at it and furthermore I do not wish to be good at it, so there. "As if to knit and take it off, as if to purl and leave it on"---SHUT UP! I HATE YOU! (As Craig Ferguson says, I look forward to your letters.)

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Lookie--I put it on the blocking wires last night at midnight, and when I awoke this morning it was fresh as a daisy and free of terrier depradations. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat Olive to a swath of cashmere on the floor.

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Well, not actually that early, if Olive has found a sweet unauthorized cushion arrangement.

Volt is a lovely thing. I am grateful to Grace Anna Farrow for this genre-busting pattern. And on a Mother's Day excursion to Purl Soho, I restocked my cashmere, to make another design from The Fine Line, Dawn. Shawls for the un-shawlish. Slanty puzzles to knit.

More photos when the sun comes out and I lose 10 pounds. OK, maybe only one of those things is going to happen.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:24 AM | Comments (50)

May 13, 2010

Toward a Less Productive America

Dear Kay,

Two time-eaters for you today:

1. SMKR. (Alert: spicy language. But you'll probably recognize most of the sentiments.)

2. "Rx from the Cursing Mommy" by the incomparable Ian Frazier in The New Yorker. (Alert: superdy-strong language alert. But it's The New Yorker so it's like classy and stuff.)

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:02 AM | Comments (21)

May 12, 2010

A Watershed Event

Dear Kay,

In flood news, I keep driving past the YMCA in Green Hills, where a batch of ServPro trucks are busy drying out the place. I am pretty sure that all my evil thoughts about the Stairmaster put a whammy on the place. And I'll admit to at least three unchristian thoughts while yanking on that rowing machine thing. But here's wishing it dries out soon so that I can again be filled with self-loathing about not going there enough.

You see the ServPro "Large Loss Response Team" at pretty much any Large institution around town. I love how there are ServPro units from all over the country here.

The thing that gets me about the ServPro trucks is their slogan: "Like It Never Even Happened."

Like it never even happened?

I appreciate the sentiment there, and nobody is going to miss the unmistakable scent of dead wet carpet after five days in the sun. But I'm going to venture a guess that many people won't WANT to forget this event, as terrible as it is.

This is, pardon the pun, a watershed event for Nashville. Nobody ever expected something like this flood to happen, but now that it has, I think many of us are surprised at how easy it is to find ways to help. You can't throw a damp towel without hitting a group of people doing something flood related. Hands on Nashville, a nonprofit that coordinates volunteer efforts, had more than 15,000 new volunteers register in the first days after the flood. In seven days, volunteers logged 39,000 hours--almost 4 1/2 YEARS of time.

Flood fatigue will probably hit before long, and the teams of matching T-shirt volunteers will disperse. But this flood leaves behind something else: a new understanding that helping is contagious, that small acts add up to big things.

Love,
Ann

PS Thank you all for donating to flood relief! Thank you thank you!

PSS Here's my post about visiting Millwood Manor, a place still deeply affected by the flood.

PSSS Today is Jon's and my 20th wedding anniversary. Can you believe it? That's us on our wedding day on the right. CHILDREN! So 1990!

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Posted by Ann at 09:57 AM | Comments (48)

May 11, 2010

Surprise, and Suits and Ties

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Dear Ann,

You: doing your bit in the trenches to help Nashville including the part of Nashville that is your very own basement. Me: knitting and quilting and generally going about my business, several stories above dry land. I wish I were there, keeping you company and following directions. But like everybody else, at least I can give. This is one of those situations where "throwing money at a problem" is not a bad thing. Ready, aim, throw.

I was starting to despair of ever getting my hands on a copy of Jane Brocket's latest book, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking. Such was my despond that I dang near plunked down the shipping charges from the UK. (I know. That shocks you to the core. Me too. I scared myself.) But finally, mere weeks after its UK debut, the US edition is out and my copy is in the house.

Jane did not disappoint. What is more, she surprised.

As a longtime reader of Jane's blogs past and present, I was willing, waiting and wanting to be beaten about the head and shoulders with colour! glorious colour! I was anticipating a trip to a heady world of floral prints of every scale, and inspiration from the garden and candy store. Those signatures are there, to be sure. What I was not ready for:

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Suits and Ties. Despite my devotion to Amish quilts, which often were wool, I have never been able to "see" a wool quilt of my own making. I wanted to see one that I could get excited enough about to make. This is the one. Whether I can actually bring myself to cut up sacred suits and ties....well, I don't have to go there. Get this: according to Jane, they sell suiting fabrics and tie silks, by the yard. No emotional investment required. (Oooh, though. Just had a thought: the linings of suits. I suppose they sell shiny lining fabric by the yard, too.)

I was also blown away by the Ball Gown quilt. (No gasp-spoiling photo here.) I just did not see this one coming, from Jane or anyone else. The top is made with silks, plain and embroidered (!), and the backing is quilting cotton so the quilt won't slip off the bed or sofa. It's stunning. And a bracing wake-up from ordinary quilting fabrics (lovely as they are).

Jane's attitude toward method is one I've adopted myself, out of necessity--just get busy and make a quilt. If you love quilts, and you want to make them, but you wait --for the space to quilt, the time to quilt, the skills to quilt, your knitting UFOs to get finished so you can quilt-- you will not produce the stacks of beautiful, useful quilts you want, quilts that have a story, even if the story is only, "And then I made this quilt." (That is a good story.) Quilts that will hopefully be the first thing grabbed if the water starts rising.

As a how-to book, Jane's instructions are clear and her tips go beyond the strictly technical to tell you stuff you still need to know. The best tip for apartment or ping-pong table quilters: "Lay out and pick up in one day." So yeah--you won't get to revisit your layout day after day, tweaking here, balancing there, as you would if you were Nancy Crow and could stick multiple quilt layouts on the walls of your 3 barn studios. Get over it! You are not Nancy Crow; learn to look faster. You'll make another one, right? Just being told this, while looking at Jane's beautiful quilts made in space borrowed from teenagers, is empowering. The perfect is not the enemy of the good (and the barn studio is not the enemy of the alcove studio).

Second favorite tip: "Do not walk on laid-out quilt pieces in socks." News I can use, people. ("Do not allow terriers in vicinity"--just a suggestion, for the next edition.)

I close with a favorite picture.

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Hymns on the wall, quilt on the table. Amen!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:36 PM | Comments (28)

May 10, 2010

Flood Avoidance Tips and a Haiku

Dear Kay,

A rainy day here, the first since May 2, a date that will go down in infamy as The Day That Really Fracked Up Nashville. Everybody's dodging raindrops, all jumpy. I've checked my gutters about eight times today. You'd think I had some kind of water allergy.

Sleeping Bag Queen Heather and I spent a good long while today chasing down $8.94 sleeping bags and $3 travel pillows for kids. Such an excellent penny pincher Heather is--when you're trying to make the most of money that people have donated, it's amazing how cheap you can become. This hunt for bedding was a maddeningly inefficient thing to do--there is a warehouse somewhere stuffed with these things. But sometimes you have to move fast. Project Sleeping Bag will be finished tomorrow when Heather fires up the truck and takes it all over to the families.

There are longer-term efforts in the works to help these folks, which I'm so glad to see. Immediate needs are one thing, but a real plan is what really matters. For Nashvillians interested in helping out with the Millwood Manor apartments (see previous entry), please contact me. I'll put you in touch with the people coordinating this project.

Our NPR affiliate did a good piece on Millwood Manor here.

OK, here's a donation haiku for you today:

Give give give give give
Bucks bucks bucks bucks and more bucks
Easy greasy: here

Love,
Ann

PS Flood Avoidance Tip of the Day: These are not words you want to see in the name of your street, neighborhood, or subdivision: Creek, River, Water, Riverside, Bend, Ford, or Opryland. You want to look for Hill, Heights, Mountain, Hillside, Mountainside, or Arizona.

Posted by Ann at 08:20 PM | Comments (21)

May 09, 2010

Millwood Manor, Work in Progress

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Dear Kay,

Spent the afternoon today at Millwood Manor, an apartment complex off Murfreesboro Road that only sounds like an estate in a Bronte novel.

Mill Creek winds around Millwood Manor, and apparently wound THROUGH the place last weekend.

It's home to immigrants from Egypt, mostly, so Arabic translators were the most popular people in town as we tried to assess the needs of each family.

Fifty-eight apartments were flooded. There are about 42 brazillion kids running around the place, each one adorable except for one kid who was driving his dad berserkers. We traded a knowing look at one point, the international nod of total and complete irritation.

The language barrier made it tricky for us to understand the subtleties of what the families' needs were, but the piles of dead carpet, dead mattresses, and dead furniture pretty much laid it all out for us. Needs? Beds, fans, food, clothes. Diapers. SO many diapers!

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We got wind of a place not far away where the free diapers were flowing. The cases we brought back were gone in about eight minutes.

We handed out flyers that allegedly explained FEMA aid and cleaning hints. At least, I hope that's what they said.

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As I took a picture, one guy came up to me, waving his hands. "No YouTube!" he said with a huge grin. "No YouTube!"

I pointed to myself and said, "YouTube STAR! YouTube SUPERSTAR!"

He laughed. If only he knew how weird America--OK some Americans--can be. Maybe he does know . . .

My friend Heather had been to Millwood Manor the day before and concluded that sleeping on wet carpet was not so great. So this morning she raised money to buy sleeping bags and air mattresses for the families, who are going to have to move out so that the place can be renovated. I'm not at all persuaded that any renovation is going to be taking place at Millwood Manor anytime soon. As of today, not a single bit of drywall had been ripped out, a week after the flood. My brief experience with all this tells me that water inside walls is a recipe for trouble, in terms of both structural integrity and mold.

And the families are loathe to move out. So this afternoon we went shopping for 100 sleeping bags, pillows, and air mattresses.

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This is 45. Coulda wedged another 30 in there but we cleaned out that particular Walmart.

I'm writing all this down so that I don't forget it, and also to encourage you to donate to flood relief. Millwood Manor is the sort of place where this sort of aid will make a direct difference in people's lives. One family we spoke with has been in Nashville for one month, out of Egypt. As we sat making notes, the lady of the house brought us coffee cups filled with Coca-Cola. We drank them, gratefully.

Love,
Ann

PS I hasten to add that it was Angela and Heather who were leading the charge today--knitters, both of them. Represent! And Chelle, Susie, Mary, and Paul were amazing. And the midwives from Vanderbilt, scouting for pregnant women. And the interpreters. It was a scene.

Posted by Ann at 11:22 PM | Comments (31)

May 07, 2010

Handknit Rescue Squad

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Dear Kay,

My friend Frannie and I spent the day helping at a house at Pennington Bend, a flooded-out neighborhood right by flooded-out Opryland. (There's a photo of Pennington Bend in my previous entry). I learned a few things:

1. There are two kinds of house cleanouts: a) flood-insurance cleanouts and b) non-insured cleanouts. Insured houses mean that you have to be meticulous about keeping a list of ruined contents to give to the insurance company. The house we were helping at was one of the few in the neighborhood with insurance, so we kept a list of every single item in the house that had been ruined by the flood. The previous list-maker included stuff like "1 16 oz. package Kraft Cheese singles." This seemed excessive to me at first, then I thought hey--if a flood had wiped out my cheese, I'd put in for some new cheese. Heckyeah I would. We had a moment about whether "box of saltines" was enough or whether it should be "1 pound box of saltines." We went for specificity--no way were they going to end up with a half-pound box of replacement saltines.

Frannie took home a cast-iron skillet to re-season and return to its owner. I think it has a pretty good chance of making it.

The non-insured cleanout under way next door meant that a huge pile of dead house and contents grew in a completely unsorted way. It looked kind of cathartic over there; no constant stopping to write down "T-shirt, men's, size Large." Just ditch it. The drywall was flying.

2. The churches are HUGE in the cleanup effort here. A shout out to First Baptist Church for the cute retired couple who came by with a wheelbarrow full of granola bars and water. The United Methodists handed out five-gallon buckets loaded with everything from face masks to clothesline and clothespins. Grace Church of the Nazarene is having the neighborhood over Saturday night for spaghetti. The parade of kind people was inspiring.

3. Absolute gridlock is possible in a cul-de-sac neighborhood choked with people cleaning up after a flood. At one point we were stuck on a narrow street, front bumper to front bumper with a guy in a Dodge Ram truck, who was laughing, because he had four cars behind him and I had three. We would still be there except for the guy who climbed out of his car and directed us out of the mess like the world's coolest city cop.

4. Flood insurance is not all that expensive. All I can say is that if you live anywhere near a body of water, PLEASE look into it. We heard chilling stories around us of those who will have to rebuild without any insurance money. (Kay, I'm pretty sure that living 12 floors in the air is probably safe.)

5. At one point, the homeowner we were working with got emotional about all the people stopping by asking to help. "It really is incredible," she said, watching a guy head to the house next door. "Kindness of strangers." That's when I got all wobbly. I don't know if she understood how powerful the need is for us to feel like we have something to do.

6. At this point, after loading up two kitchens, I think kitchens are my cleanout specialty. There were occasional stumpers--a Fry Daddy filled with oil is a challenge (list the oil on the insurance form or not?)--but it made my day to unearth this item:

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and put it in a nice, dry box.

Love,

Ann

PS These people are in many cases starting over again from zero. Please make a donation here to aid with flood relief.

Posted by Ann at 05:46 PM | Comments (22)

May 06, 2010

Latest Headlines from Nashville, Sudden Media Darling

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Dear Kay,

Well, CNN's Anderson Cooper is coming to town today. I hope to hell he gets over to the fellas' school in time to cover the middle school talent show.

My prediction for his empathetic cry moment: on the steps of the Country Music Hall of Fame, in waders from Barneys, wiping a semi-tear from his eye with a piece of damp sheet music for a Ferlin Husky song. He'll look into the camera and say, "On the wings of a snow white dove, Music City will rise anew."

Don't get me wrong; we luv ya, Anderson! Get us some more of that FEMA money!

Oh right. The FLOOD. That ironically has caused a major clean-water shortage. That has at least six of us resisting the urge to wash our cars.

Regional Headlines

--Country Star John Rich's House Slides Down Hill; Neighbors Caught Behind Garage Pushing It

--Schermerhorn Symphony Center To Retool As Schermerhorn String Quartet Center

--Antioch Man Urges New Water-Saving Plan; "Go In The Yard" Idea Upsets Neighbors; "Hey, Your Dog Does It Every Day; What's The Problem Here?"

--Opry Mills Pirhanas Still On Prowl; Last Seen In Saks Outlet Behind The Seven For All Mankind Denim Display

--Green Hills "SUV Mom" in Slappy Fight With Belmont Area Sierra Club Member: "He was making fun of my irrigation system, so I just grabbed his stinky Birkenstock and whacked on his damn Prius or whatever the hell that thing is. All high and mighty he was."

--Mayor Karl Dean Suspected Of Flooding Own Basement In Ploy For Sympathy; Denies Running Garden Hose Through Window; "I Was Rigging Up A Siphon, Sort Of"

Watch for me on TV tomorrow! Anderson's gonna want to know about the state of my yarn stash. I just know he'll show up on my doorstep.

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 12:09 AM | Comments (23)

May 04, 2010

The Dampening of Nashville

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Dear Kay,

OK so it turns out that Greg, that guy I talked to on the phone yesterday who was going to suck it all up and dry it all out? Total hallucination. Have not heard a peep from the guy. I bet he's out helping somebody a lot worse off than we were.

The weirdest part of it all--the water in the basement thing--is that yesterday morning we awoke, and it was gone. A half a foot of water, come and gone in a day. The ground was so saturated that the water just came in, up through cracks in the floor like a horror movie. This happened to others around here, I'm hearing. I had no idea we were in a tidal plain.

I was moved to tears to see a 12-gallon Ridgid shopvac show up in our doorway. Friends.

Everywhere you go, somebody is telling a story about what they've seen, what they themselves are dealing with, and the word surreal comes up a lot. We drove out toward Bellevue yesterday, out Harding Road--the road of my childhood, the way into town. How many times have I driven that road?

Here's what it looked like on Saturday:

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Ten, fifteen feet of fast water. The current from the flooded Richland Creek ripped up pavement, floated stacked stone walls, and generally trashed the place. Most heartbreaking is that it took at least two lives--the bodies were found yesterday, a half mile downstream from their stalled car.

It's the photos from the air that really get us. I think about our measly wet basement, look at these images, and my heart gets very heavy.

Because this has been called a 300-year sort of event, a lot of the flooding is in areas that nobody thought would ever flood. Which means that very few people had flood insurance. We have a friend who lives here, near the Opryland Hotel:

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And because she's an extraordinarily careful person, she has flood insurance. But that's cold comfort, you know? She hasn't even been able to get home yet to see what she's dealing with.

Donations to flood relief can be made here.

Love,
Ann

PS I heard a new verb conjugation this morning: "It fled pretty good on us, then it kept coming, I tell you what."

PSS A haunting video by Nashvillian Michael Deppisch:

Posted by Ann at 09:47 AM | Comments (58)

May 03, 2010

Vodka & Clementines

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Dear Ann,

First of all, I hope Greg showed up with his truck-sized wet vac. I hope the waters are subsiding throughout your region, and especially your basement, and the fellas are enjoying their rain day. The family that bails with coffee cans together, stays together. And if you're racking your brains trying to figure out the divine retribution angle, I think you ought to look into Miley and Billy Ray.

Maybe this will cheer you up, if not dry you out:

The Wall Street Journal reports today that my pal Katherine (aka Peppermint Patty) has organized a weekly soccer game for 40- and 50-something moms looking to require the services of dual specialists in sports medicine and gerontology. The Journal seems to find this amusing. What the article doesn't mention is that the reason Katherine did this is because she's so sure that she can play much better than those lazy teenagers whose games she is made to sit through without being allowed to shout anything unsupportive. "No egos on the field"--yeah right. Who are you, and what have you done with my Katherine?

I like the bit about the guys who wanted to take the field away from them. Haven't they heard of perimenopause?

Knit safely, everyone.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:41 AM | Comments (11)

May 02, 2010

Dateline: The Bay of Shayne

Dear Kay,

Thank you to those who have inquired about the flooding here in Nashvillle. It's the nastiest weekend of weather we have ever had. The Cumberland River is 10 feet above flood level. The canoe and bass-boat evacuations are fishing people out of houses and attics all over Bellevue and Antioch. The Harpeth River seems to hate particularly anybody who's living within a mile of it. I-40 and I-24 are both kind of shut down. The boys are going to be home tomorrow on a rain day. A RAIN DAY?

And Naomi Judd's buffaloes have escaped from her farm in Leiper's Fork.

As for us, we now have an indoor wading pool RIGHT HERE in our basement.

It's not volcano ash cloud of doom, or Gulf oil spill the size of Puerto Rico (it actually is, according to CNN), or Nissan Pathfinder with a surprise in the back seat. But MAN does a flooded basement take the starch out of a girl. It hit really fast, within a matter of minutes--I went downstairs, thinking hmnph! those rolled-up towels are just the ticket to keeping our basement dry. When I returned, the rolled-up towels were under water, floating and unrolling.

We just turned the electricity back on after shutting it off this morning to keep us from having something bad happen involving electricity that we don't really understand but are terrified of anyway. The determining factor in pulling the giant house switch back to ON was mostly that the four of us had become so jumpy without the Internet that we were getting ugly with each other.

I was given the phone number of a guy named Greg who says he can suck it all up and get us all dried out. I may have hallucinated that, but maybe it'll happen.

May everyone have a sucked-up, dried-out night . . .

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:43 PM | Comments (26)

Downtown Owls

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Dear Ann,

You would think Avenue A was the ends of the earth, for how rarely I get there. I go up and down the West Side like it's nothing. Is there not an L train? Are there no crosstown buses?

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On Friday I was wandering around the East Village like a tourist, snapping pictures. For a treat, I dropped in to say hi to Rita at Downtown Yarns, and ended up doing something I never do: sitting down and knitting for a couple of hours, enjoying the Avenue A breeze through the screen door and a therapeutic natter with Rita. Plus I bought some yarn. Needless to say. And an owl pattern. (Shut up.)

Brooklyn may have its squirrels, but we have our woodland creeturs in Manhattan, too.

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This window faces east, so it was hard to get a picture. GO THERE. It's worth a visit. A window full of handknit owls, each one different, staring with unblinking vintage button eyes.

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Rita's shop is full of inspiration. Real inspiration, not just buy-yarn-now inspiration (but that too). You feel lifted up and energized. For example, there is now a Knitted Apron in Carrie's future, which is much cooler than it sounds. (I knit Carrie 2 things in January and February, which got a combined wearing of TWO TIMES, both under the duress of maternal insistence. So you would think I'd have learned my lesson. But no. I'm not going to be above telling Carrie that Belinda bought it on the street in London and sent it over--she will basically wear anything that has been bought on the street in London. So mum's the word on her mum's knitting. Plan B is to knit them for her friends, who will of course wear them BECAUSE THEY'RE COOL--and because their mothers didn't make them.)

A DELAY IN OUR PROGRAM

In other news, I am happy to report that Olive's Quilt is all quilted up, the basting pulled out, and a Controversial Embellishment has been accomplished. HOWEVER, I will not be putting the binding on it until I get to the cutting board and sewing machine, so it may be a couple of weeks. STAND DOWN, dog-crafters. I am ON IT.

Here's a hint about the Controversial Embellishment:

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Don't worry, Ann. It's going to be OK.

Love,
Kay

P.S. Ann, this one's for you:

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A redwork sampler--HAND KNIT--in Downtown Yarns.

Posted by Kay at 12:28 PM | Comments (17)
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