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

March 30, 2011

The Joke's On You, Narrowminded Cur!

Dear Ann,

How did we miss this?

Book 'em, Brontes!

Love,
Kay

P.S. Status report on El Blanki Magnifico: All but 2 squares joined into wholeness; those 2 blocks need their 2 half-blocks before they can be united with the others. Down to 3 yards of #269, spit-felted from 2 pieces. RUGGED! Waiting for a ball of #269 to drop from the sky (a pony would also be nice). Seriously, I have reason to believe that Yarn. Is on. The Way. This would be a good opportunity to finish up Joseph's sweater. Also a good time to cast on the first Rowan Denim block for my second Mitered Crosses Blanket. Not that I needed to tell anybody that I was going to make a Rowan Denim version. Tantalizingly close to being able to send another $2500 to Mercy Corps. Oh! Here's the button in case you need it:


Posted by Kay at 08:06 AM | Comments (33)

March 29, 2011

Yay (It Ain't Sew)

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Dear Ann,

Riding high on the early-morning reverse jet lag energy, I'm (over)excited to be joining the Mitered Crosses Blanket sample. If you have ever sewn up a bunch of knitted squares into a blanket (and I know you have), you understand. I am a decent hand at sewing up. I know my way around mattress stitch, and I am not ashamed of my whip stitch, neither. It's just so much more fun, for a knitter, to knit things together than to sew them together. There is a stitch-to-stitch, mechanical precision about it that is extremely satisfying. Everything works out right, and the tension and flexibility of the seams match the knitted pieces--because it's all knitted.

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(The pile.)

It was not a stretch to finish the remaining 8 of the 10 mitered cross blocks while I was away for a week. It was delightful to have a truly portable knitting project in my purse for train rides in and out of Paris, on the buses of the western Parisian suburbs, and of course on two long plane rides.

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(Yes, this is a square-in-progress, hanging on the Eiffel Tower. Yes the kids were kind of embarrassed.)

Take It Or Leave It Tip Department

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I wove in all the ends on each square, except the last one.

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Laziness? Procrastination? Yes and yes, and also another reason: when I am joining the squares and strips together, I undo the fastening-off and pick up a stitch in that last stitch.

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(You could also just not fasten it off, and leave a marker in the last stitch. Me, I can't keep track of markers, so I just fasten off loosely and undo it when I'm ready to knit into it.)

I also do this with the last stitch of each of the 4 miters, so that when I am picking up for the log cabin strips, I can undo the last stitch of the miter and knit into the live stitch instead of picking up in the knot. I don't like knots. I don't say it's necessary to do this small thing, but it appeals to my sense of knitterly elegance to eliminate those little fastening-off bumps as I join the pieces.

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Here's the first strip I've joined. While I was knitting the half-blocks in plain garter onto the ends, I thought of other ways they could be done. They could be true half-blocks, exactly half of the cross shape, with exactly half of the log cabin strips. This would economize on yardage of the background color, which would be handy since I am still one ball short of Ol' 269. They could also be true half-cross blocks knitted entirely in the background color, which would be a bit more fun to knit than plain garter, and visually interesting. But, fighting every inclination in my scofflaw soul, I kept to the pattern. It seems kind of basic that the sample in the photographs match the dang pattern, am I right? And I got a reward for good behavior, because I really like the way, by knitting straight rows of garter, Noro's genius striping of pales shows itself. I really, really like it. (Now if only Mr. Noro would un-discontinue Silk Garden Shade 269. Please? Pleasepleaseplease?)

OK, now I must get some exercise. And by exercise I mean walking the city in search of a ball of Silk Garden 269.

Thanks to everyone who has bought the pattern and especially to the 69 valiant souls who have started knitting it. It is a thrill to see actual, real-life blankets blooming on Ravelry.com, in all their knitterly diversity. (I would be remiss as a fundraiser if I did not take this opportunity to display the Buy Now button: )

Signed Your Name On My Heart With an X-O

I leave you with a different kind of love letter to Japan, a Black Eyed Peas video that was filmed there a week before the earthquake/tsunami.


(I'll take self-striping over auto-tuning any day, but it's all good.)


Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:51 AM | Comments (28)

March 24, 2011

Color Me Joyeuse

Dear Ann,

It happens to be my birthday today, so I treated myself to the thrill of pushing the Send Money button on PayPal again. I sent $2750.00 US American Smackeroonies to MercyCorps for its Japan relief efforts. This makes a total of $5000.00, a figure that is stunning to me. (I made sure to add a note crediting the generous knitters of the world.)

In other happy birthday to me headlines, I am beyond thrilled to be confirmed in my vague, hopeful belief that there is indeed a vanilla stripe shade of Noro Kureyon, which you helpfully point out is Shade 211. This will work PERFECTLY. As a bonus Kureyon is cheaper than Silk Garden and also blooms and softens with a wash and block. I was feeling badly that I had not known Ole 269 was discontinued.

I am going to round out my birthday indulgences with the more traditional Kir Royale, pate de fruits and chocolats. My last birthday in France was my 40th. I was preggers at the time and therefore had to forego the Kirs, royale or normal. So I plan to rectify that this year.

THANK YOU KNITTERS. Ann, I question the Taiyo. I really do. But you know your own heart.

LOVE!

Kay

P.S. I have completed 6 of the 10 squares for the sample blanket. Actually did 7, but one turned out yucky, color-wise, so it has been ripped. More Noro knitting for my Noro dollar!

P.S.2 Here is the fabulous Buy Now button. This is the button that makes the Send Money button work right:

Posted by Kay at 05:56 AM | Comments (97)

March 23, 2011

Mitered Crosses Blanketyness

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Dear Kay,

OK I have to admit it: I wanted to be the one to buy the 1,000th pattern. I wanted to get mine at some delightful milestone in the life of Kay's pattern. I thought about being #100, but that came and went too fast. Even #500 slipped past me in the night. It turns out that rascally Elizabeth K. beat me to #1,000, so I settled for #1,001. I had no idea that 999 other knitters would be so generous. THANK YOU, everyone, for pitching in for Japan. And congrats to Elizabeth K. for being #1,000 (she said bitterly).

(Here's the button. Can't believe I just said that. It's obviously a button. CLEARLY a button.)

Thanks also to everyone who is spreading the word about the Mitered Crosses blanket pattern. Loving the good energy coming from our knitting community. Can't get enough of this pattern-buying for Japan? Wendy Johnson over at Wendy Knits has a beautimous shawl pattern, the Japanese Garden Shawl, with net proceeds going to the Red Cross through the end of April.

In fact, if you really want to dovetail your generosity with your inability to resist a "Buy Now" button, this Ravelry thread lists a bunch of cool Japan-related pattern offerings.

This morning's radio story about the residents of the House of Blessings and Longevity, a nursing home in Japan's Iwatu prefecture, reminded me of some of the catastrophe's most vulnerable victims.

Yarn Hunting

I was out yesterday hunting Noro, because I am fixated on this being an all-Noro blanket. Feeling very literal about this. Some of you have noticed the unpleasant fact that the background color, the creamy neutral known as Ol' 269, is discontinued, which is a massive and colossal bummer. Noro Silk Garden is one of the yarn world's glories, and this neutral is the only unstripey Silk Garden color. O Mr. Noro! Please restore this most helpful of shades! It is such a friend to all your crazy colorways. It is the vanilla ice cream of Noro. We all know the mighty power of vanilla ice cream.

Color Experiments

I was curious to see what would happen if you made the neutral background a dark neutral. So I got a skein of Noro Cash Iroha, shade 120 (silk/lambswool/cashmere/nylon) and a skein of Noro Taiyo, shade 9 (cotton/silk/wool/nylon).

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Result:

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This lush dark gray, high on my list of grays that I like, is too much for the light 'n' airy Taiyo. A lighter shade of gray would probably work, but there isn't one in Cash Iroha. I would like this to be a cheerful sort of blanket. I duplicated the square to see what a whole blanket of gray would look like. (Imagine varied colors of crosses. And, uh, focus.)

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I am a charter member of the Gray League of America, but even I think this would be a lot of gray.

Onward!

Noro Kureyon, that all-wool workhorse yarn, does have the neutral shade that has disappeared from the Silk Garden world. It's shade 211. I'm going with this for the moment, along with another shade of Taiyo that makes me really happy, #21:

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Obviously I am going to report on how this one goes. I honestly don't think I'm going to settle on any combination for a while, at the rate I'm going. Such fun.

Again, mille grazie to everyone who bought the pattern. Please post your efforts on Ravelry so we can all see!

Love,

Ann

PS I went to Rome with la famiglia last week! Will post some choice Rome moments. Reentry to Nashville has been . . . difficulto . . . I carry my can of Sant' Eustachio caffe around with me like it's a beloved baby. It smells so incredible, I wish I could smell-0-vision it to you right now.

PSS (Up top, I just discovered that my cat is Noro Kureyon shade 211.)

Posted by Ann at 07:49 AM | Comments (32)

March 21, 2011

That Felt Great

Dear Ann qnd everybody,

Checking in on the fly to thank everyone who has purchased the Mitered Crosses blanket pattern for Japan. This morning I pushed the old PayPal "SEND MONEY" button (one of my favorite buttons) to send $2,250.00 to [email protected] A princely sum for a humble garter stitch blanket that is not even finished yet (two more squares done, though).

I could get used to this feeling.

Ciao and bisoux from la belle France,

Kay

PS Here's where you can buy a downloadable copy of the Mitered Crosses blanket pattern:


Posted by Kay at 06:53 AM | Comments (44)

March 19, 2011

Did I Cast on the Noro? Reader, I Did

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Dear Ann,

I miss you when you're away!

In my last post, I whimpered about the pull of temptation to cast on a new log cabin blanket in Noro Silk Garden before doing my duty and finishing the last sleeve on a child's overdue pullover. A few days later, this comment came in from (our vast readership in) Qatar:

I was going to say just give in to the call of the Noro, but it's been several days, so you must have already.

--Tracy in Qatar

I am so busted. Was it that obvious?

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Truth be told, I didn't even last an hour after publishing the post. Watching the dreadful news reports from Japan this past week, I felt such a strong personal connection to a country in which I have no actual personal connections. Then I realized.

Yoshiko Jinzenji
Naomi Ito
Yoko Saito
Hello Kitty
Eisaku Noro
Amigurumi
Wabi sabi
Boro
Indigo
Kinokuniya
Tokyo International Quilt Festival
Kimono
Sashiko
Shibori
Origami
Stationery Products in Charmingly Wacky English

The list goes on and on. For handworkers worldwide, the connection to Japanese craftspeople, techniques, aesthetics, and materials is profound, and it feels personal.

So, with barely a frisson of maternal guilt, I cast aside the boy sweater and cast on my Noro Silk Garden, thinking about Eisaku Noro (who is reported to be all right, thank goodness). Clearly, the 4 skeins that had been tempting me were not going to be enough. I started in on a log cabin blanket inspired by the Modern Crosses Quilt in Susan Beal's book, Modern Log Cabin Quilting.

After I had 2 blocks done and 2 more started with my original block construction (don't even think about the state of my personal grooming by this point), Cara called. She called to tell me she had been obsessing about the Modern Crosses Quilt, and how to knit it. We started talking real fast and in a flash I knew that I had to go back to square one (ahem) with my block construction. Whee! Only 10 hours of knitting down the tubes, and there will be some fiddly ripping out before reknitting. (I had already woven in the ends! What possessed me?)

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(So these lovely pieces are now out-takes. I had to take a picture, though.)

Another few hours of knitting while watching CNN ensued, and pattern writing, and reading tweets from and about Japan, and bugging Cara to make PhotoShop illustrations in the middle of the night, and bugging Belinda who is on vacation, and bugging YOU who are on vacation, I am pleased and proud to present:

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The Mitered Crosses Blanket. My first Ravelry download! All proceeds from download sales will be donated to Mercy Corps to aid its emergency relief work in Japan. So go forth and download, blanket knitters of the world! Tweet your heads off about it if you are so inclined! Activate the social media of your choice!

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Look! We even have a "Buy Now" button, for people who don't want to haul themselves all the way over to Ravelry.com:

Careful observers will notice that the photos are of single blocks; that's because the sample blanket is not finished yet. What with all the research and development, I'm only two blocks in. But I'm off on a week-long trip that will involve many hours there and back on a plane, and lots more prime knitting time. And if anybody can finish a 12 block blanket in a couple of weeks, it is me. I am strong for this sort of thing. (Born This Way.)

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I'm going to git.r.done, and bring 'er back, and post a gajillion pictures of it in early April. Meanwhile, I will try to post photos of the individual blocks from vacation.

(I will finish the boy sweater, too. It's a top-down. He can keep growing for a couple more skeins, while I finish this blanket.)

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 10:40 AM | Comments (73)

March 12, 2011

Saturday Morning Book Find

Dear Ann,

Our lovely publisher sent me a copy of a new quilting book. (Isn't that considerate? Do you think it has anything to do with how many times I've said, "By the way, I quilt, too!" [stage wink]) This one is right up my alley. It arrived yesterday and I've already given it a thorough going-over.

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Modern Log Cabin Quilting, by Susan Beal.

Quick review: Beginner quilters sometimes ask me to recommend a starter book, and this is the book I am going to recommend from now on. The basic quilting instructions at the beginning of the book are clear. Everything you need is covered, with great tips. The tips are neatly tucked into boxes, so a new quilter will not be overwhelmed with advice that is not yet needed, but an intermediate quilter who is skimming the stuff she already knows can find the tips easily. (I loved the detailed how-to on machine-tying a quilt; a small thing, I know, but if one is self-taught, one cherishes such nuggets.)

The designs are fresh and beautiful. There is not a lot of variety in the blocks or the layouts--no new ground is broken. But to a journeyman quilter like me, who wants books to give solid instruction and a blast of inspiration and then leave me to it, this book is Just Right.

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The author's taste is wonderful. This is the first album/scrapbook type quilt I've seen, that I would want to make.

And of course, for me, this is a knitting book. I am in love with the "crosses" quilt on the cover; the construction of a knitted version sprang into my head immediately and won't let me go. I'm trying--really trying--to finish the second sleeve on Joseph's Mr. Boy sweater, which has been a WIP for over a year now and is in serious danger of being outgrown, before I start it. But 4 skeins of crisp new Noro Silk Garden are calling to me from the windowsill.

Help. Me.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:39 AM | Comments (25)

March 07, 2011

Contest Winner Plus Factory Report

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Dear Ann,

I feel like the guy in the New York Lotto commercials. The winner of a minty fresh copy of Michelle Edwards' new book, The Knitter's Home Companion.... IS.......Zoe, who left the following recipe suggestion:

I am a big fan of Soulemama's broccoli soup. It makes a ton so it is good for quick dinners or lunches all week. I like to put some grated Parmesan on top, my husband likes cheddar (and yet we continue to live in harmony!).
There is a lot of chopping, but then it just cooks all on its own. I calculate 4 pointsplusTM (not including your cheese of choice).

It is even better if you make some Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day to go with it.

Zoe, your book is on the way. Everyone else, thanks for sharing your fave recipes. There is enough creative crock-potting in there to keep us all busy for a good long time.

Meanwhile Back At The Scarf Factory

I'm proud/not proud to report that I've made 4 1/2 Gaptastic Cowls, in the handy scarf-size version. Mostly proud. Although I generally don't knit to order, I do love to please the young-uns. After they get to a certain age, opportunities to do so with knitting are rare, the young-uns being mysterious and picky in their tastes. So, when there was a universally envious eighth-grade reaction to Carrie's Gaptastic, I cast on a few more for chums.

First, though, I had to make a second one for Carrie due to...

[SENSITIVE PERSONS: avert your eyes; everybody else, throw salt over left shoulder, followed by keening and/or ululating and/or symbolically throwing yourself into a washing machine]

...the tragic accidental felting of the first.

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I know, this one looks the same as the first. But it's not.

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See? Soft, drapey new one on the left. Boardy, felty old one on the right. (There are coasters in my future. Can always use more coasters.)

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Moving on. Here's another one, modeled by its recipient, Danielle, who has been this stylish since at least age 5, when I first laid eyes on her. Malabrigo again, in a colorway of browns with pale pink. "Bosquet" something.

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(Ignore--if you can-- the cuteness in the background; it shall be discussed in an upcoming post.)

Here's the fourth, which has yet to make it to its recipient for a photo shoot. Again in Malabrigo, but superwash this time. Chosen because the recipient requested purple, it's a dark and dusty plum with a denimy slate blue breaking through. I love the color, but making this scarf reinforced my distaste for the feel of superwash. It feels like it has a coating on it. It has a wrongness to it, especially when applied to a kettle-dyed yarn. (I realize it's kind of funny that I should be so critical of a process that could have saved Gaptastic the First from its untimely passage to the recycled craft supplies pile. But that's how I feel.)

The half scarf is, I believe, in Nashville. I guess if you leave a half-finished Madeline Tosh scarf on the needles at a knitter's abode, it's foolish to think you'll see it again. It's a great colorway for you (being a brownish, purplish, no-name color--Rowan would call it "contusion"). It didn't have anybody else's name on it. I barely remember it. Enjoy!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:30 PM | Comments (37)

Can't Believe I Missed This

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Dear Ann,

Hey! I just learned that my very own LYS was featured in the New York Times. A fun story about learning to knit from Maxine Levinson, Knitty City's teacher-in-residence, complete with slide show, complete with Lenny the Knitty City Dog.

Happy Monday! Contest winner announcement soon!

Love,
Kay

P.S. You know how I love the public teevee, but why do we have to endure so much quackery and decrepit doo-wopping during fundraising season? Why? (OK, I will concede that the 25th anniversary show for Les Miz was pretty awesome. Four Jean Valjeans singing, "This Song's Too High"--blew my mind. Needed Carrie to point out to me that Marius was Nick Jonas.)

Posted by Kay at 01:00 AM | Comments (33)

March 04, 2011

A Friday Night Video Plus Giveaway

Dear Ann,

This one is for the book lovers, and also for the people who crave organization in their lives. It came to me via Twitter, the gift that keeps giving (while taking away all my free time and a fair amount of my time that is committed elsewhere). (By the way, my tweety handle is @KayGardiner, would it kill ya to follow me?)


Knitting: Now With More Cozy!

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Speaking of books, I recently received a copy of a new knitting book that is simply charming, The Knitter's Home Companion by Michelle Edwards. Michelle, whose day job is illustrating and writing children's books, has hit on a cozy combination of knitting stories, illustrations, knitting patterns, and recipes. The publisher is Stewart, Tabori & Chang, always a source of achingly exquisite book design and photography. With a copy of this book on the bedside table, we just might make it to Spring in North America.

And not for nothing, but I believe this is the only book ever to be blurbed by both Jane Smiley and Vanna White.

The publisher has given me a minty fresh copy to give away. Inspired by Michelle, I'd also like to re-stock my store of tried and true weeknight recipes. Lately I'm enamored of the one-pot dish--soupy and/or stewy things--that you make in massive quantity and reheat for days afterward.

SO, to enter the drawing, please post a comment with a link to a favorite weeknight recipe that you can vouch for. If you don't have a link, go ahead and type out the recipe! Get cooking America, go Bittman, go Pollan, and all that!

To get things started, here's Foodie With Family's tasty, simple, quick, healthy and cheap recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. (Only one onion to chop, and the rest of it is combining pantry basics like tomatoes, beans and stock.) I've been eating it all week, very happily. (For those on The Program, I'm calling a bowl of this 5 Weight Watchers PointsPlusTM, before garnishes. My garnishes are extra lime juice, a dollop of sour cream because hey I've got to live, and a crinkling of cracked-up tortilla chips.)

Comments will close on Sunday, March 6, at 11:59 p.m. New York time. I will random-draw a winner and announce who it is on Monday.

Happy weekend, all!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:38 PM | Comments (194)

March 03, 2011

Simon & Garfunkel, Step Aside . . .

Dear Kay,

Everybody's favorite financial crooner (and certainly MY favorite financial crooner) Merle Hazard has a new song out over at the PBS NewsHour website. Here's the story behind "Feelin' Lousy."

Feel good/feel bad song of the week!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:56 PM | Comments (17)

March 01, 2011

Catskills Postcards

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Dear Ann,

For the extended Presidents Day weekend (in the case of one child it extended across two weekends, with a whole week in between -- oy!), the kids and I joined three other families for four nights in a rented farmhouse that was 40 long and winding minutes from a ski mountain. Also known as a knitting mountain, because that's mostly what I did while helping to oversee the equipment and feeding issues involved with taking a bunch of kids (eight! ocho! huit! children!) skiing in freezing weather.

On the Third Day, Mom skied. For two hours. Whee! Must do that again.

No matter whose GPS was calling the shots, we traveled back roads on our morning and twilight drives to and from the ski lodge. (It's not clear that there were any front roads.) On these daily trips I saw enough artfully (but artlessly artfully) peeling clapboards to inspire a lifetime of quilts and blankets. A few decades of declining population do wonders for the wabi sabi aesthetics of an area. One thing is clear: when times are hard, housepainting is the first thing to go. As the layers of pigment wear away unevenly, the house's history sometimes appears, for some reason, in stripes. Mr. Noro would have a field day up there. The color that most surprised me was peach. You don't think of farmers or village shopkeepers painting their houses peach, but there is evidence that some of them did. Also, much poignant gingerbread. (Collective sigh.)

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This freshly painted barn/shed was an exception to the reign of decay. The color reminded me of your aubergine shed in Monteagle, a bit greyer but with a mulberry undertone. I still haven't painted anything aubergine. Must do better!

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The general store in Medusa, New York 12120. For reals. We saw many small post offices in the hamlets we passed through, but this was the only one too small for a Government-issue sign.

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All this architecture was the perfect accompaniment to knitting on my blissfully immense Albers Shawl. I am grooving on this project so hard I almost can't stand it. People keep asking me what it is and I don't know what to tell them. Can't they see that it's the sort of thing you make for the sake of making it?

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Back home, in the land of overheated apartments.

Love,
Kay

P.S. You May Be a Child of Mine If:

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....you take pictures of the books in a rental house. Found this on the camera when we got back.

Posted by Kay at 03:58 PM | Comments (20)
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