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

April 28, 2011

Royally Crazy!

Dear Kay,

Royal Wedding tomorrow--have you heard? I can't believe how poorly I have followed this whole thing. But last night, a cheery email made my day and sent me into Royal Fever, just in time.

Librarian Kim Payne in Everett, Washington, writes:

I had to show what seven crazy coworking knitters can accomplish in 3 weeks when they set their minds to something. Lots of laughter, puzzlement over the patterns, and "Why are we doing this again?" When we saw the book by Fiona Goble, Knit Your Own Royal Wedding, we had to try.

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You can read more about these 100%-my-kind-of-people librarians here. And also here.

I saw this book at the top of the bestseller list, and I thought, I could go for a Corgi, or an archbishop, but the whole thing? Well done to this group:

Kim Payne - Kate (now Catherine) Middleton, Queen Elizabeth, and a Corgi
Kathy Moen-Harrower - Prince William and Camilla
Darlene Tanis - Prince Charles and two Corgis
Sue Combelic-Ghaly - The Archbishop of Canterbury
Leslie Minor - The Footman, a Corgi, Camilla's face and William's hair - That takes talent!
Linda Stover - Prince Harry and Prince Phillip
Chris Cooper - Embroiderer extraordinaire! Prince Charles's uniform and medals, sewer, and doodad placer
Kevin Duncan - Balcony carpenter

Here's hoping Catherine goes for a big ol' poofy gown. I do think it is the one occasion in the world where you can't really overdo on the dress. She could launch doves from the bustle, and that would be fine with me.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 08:36 AM | Comments (49)

April 26, 2011

Quilting Eff Oh

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Dear Ann,

The Etsy quilt, she is finished.

Let's review.
1. Purchased "vintage feedsack quilt top" on Etsy.com, intending to send to machine quilter for insta-quilt.
2. When it arrived, discovered that it was actual vintage feedsacks, lovingly pieced by hand. Tiny running stitches. Some squares pieced from smaller bits. (That killed me a little.)
3. After consultation with a purist of pristine taste (you), decided to back it with plain muslin, for archival integrity. (I think the way you put it was, "Don't ruin it." Thank you, seriously. It was the right answer.)
4. Sent to most excellent machine quilter, Tillie Studio, for basting instead of quilting, as I could not deal with the bias stretch of all those squares on point.
5. Quilted by hand, inside the lines of the blocks, for a diamond grid effect. (Sorry I didn't take a picture of the whole back. It's nicely, but not densely, quilted.)
6. Endured two holiday weekends when I could not escape to the sewing machine long enough to piece and attach the double-fold binding.
7. Finally attached the binding in April, and spent a few blissful evenings on the sofa, blind-stitching it down by hand.
8. It is done. I washed it after these pictures were taken, and it puckered gently, with very little fading.

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Though I say so myself: I do a nice corner. Pretty sure I sewed bindings on quilts in a prior life. It's like scratching an itch.

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A little of the back showing here. Possibly did some hand quilting in that same prior life. In handquilting, everything works out just fine. I get a thrill from popping the knots through the top to bury them between the layers. Genius.

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The thing I'm most pleased about is that a project that an unknown quilter put aside, possibly as long ago as the 1940s, has been finished, in tidy and respectful fashion, and it's in use. In a perfect world, every project would get finished, sometime. We wouldn't worry about how many unfinished projects we have, confident that in 2070-something, somebody will get around to it.

Love,
Kay

P.S. Speaking of Unfinished Objects:

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I've fallen and I can't get up.

Posted by Kay at 10:35 PM | Comments (62)

April 18, 2011

Rough Winds Do Shake the Darling Buds of April

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Dear Kay,

We have a winner in our And-I-Shall-Have-Some-Peace-There Best-Gardening-Tip Contest.

I have to say that I am totally knocked out by all those gardening tips. Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas. If you haven't had a chance, go take a look, because the advice ranges from the practical (eggshells, coffee grounds, banana peels, teabags, newspaper) to the profound (hire somebody).

In fact, our winner, Lisa H., who posted on April 14, 2011 07:14 PM, weighed in with what is a fine piece of advice for gardening--or anything at all:

"Enjoy the process," she writes.

Love,
Ann

PS Lisa H. (whose winning entry was #76 as generated by random.org), please email me, and we'll send along your copy of Margaret Roach's And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road.

Posted by Ann at 10:45 AM | Comments (17)

April 14, 2011

Garden Fever Has Hit, and a Little Contest

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Dear Kay,

Surely this must go down as one of Nashville's most glorious spring days ever. Such a day! Never has there been such temperate perfection. The dogwoods are insane. The bees are lying around drunk.

It's got me thinking about a book I finished weeks ago, Margaret Roach's memoir, And I Will Have Some Peace There. This weather has me thinking about gardening, now that I'm watching the peonies fatten up, and there's a ton of gardening in this book.

Margaret did the thing that so many of us fantasize about: quitting our jobs and stepping out of the fast lane. Margaret was the editorial director of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, so if you recognize her name, it's because you saw her cheerful face peeking out from the pages of Martha Stewart Living. After many years of Success, Margaret did it: she quit, a single woman in possession of a little house up the river from New York, a passion for gardening, and a quest for meaning.

I read this book about 90 miles an hour. I admit to a certain morbid curiosity: is she going to make this story into a syrupy self-actualization story? Is everything to go swimmingly?

The answer is most certainly no--she's very odd, in the best way: she shares hard truths about herself, she'll talk to a frog, she'll do amazing things with coyote pee in the name of garden preservation. She's not averse to reading a bunch of self-help books. This book is clearly part of her ongoing process of discovery, and I think it will resonate with all women who have wondered what would happen if you stood up, said goodbye to your job, and took off.

The book reads almost as a journal would--it feels stream of consciousness in parts, and I do think she repeats herself sometimes. She was writing this even as she was settling into her new life; I wonder how this memoir would differ had she started it several years after making her break.

But maybe that immediacy is what makes this so compelling: we don't know any better than she does whether this dramatic break is going to end up a good idea.

Her gardens are a main character in the story, so it was like meeting an old friend to see them in this book trailer.

Margaret started a gardening blog, A Way to Garden. Unsurprisingly, it's great reading for armchair gardeners and true dirt diggers. I keep up with her gardens there.

Here's a wee contest, for this gorgeous day: post a comment with your single best gardening tip--and it can't be to water your plants! We'll draw a random winner who will receive a copy of And I Shall Have Some Peace There. Deadline for entries is Sunday, April 16, 6 pm.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 02:47 PM | Comments (283)

April 12, 2011

Recipe Tuesday: How to Make 'Em, Lady

Dear Kay,

Because it's Tuesday, it's time for our Recipe of the Week. This one's for the youngsters.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:20 AM | Comments (51)

April 11, 2011

A Winner! And Bittersweet Last Winter Knits

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Dear Kay,

After a fairly laborious random drawing process, we have a winner in our Cast-On-Your-Blanket Contest:

Kristin of Bend, Oregon, ravname knitonequilttoo.

Congratulations, Kristin!

We welcome everybody who has cast on a Mitered Crosses Blanket--the Mitered Crosses Blanket group on Ravelry is growing fast, and you'll already find a PhD program's worth of insight into the very soul of making miters. Thanks so much to all the hardy souls over there explaining their philosophy of picking up stitches. I find all this wildly compelling.

(Feel free to buy a couple dozen more Mitered Crosses Blanket patterns to benefit Japan--today's aftershocks remind me that this recovery effort is going to take a mighty long time.)

The Last Knits of Winter

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Kay, I love it when you come to Nashville, because you always leave something behind. That black Eileen Fisher t-shirt has given me a lot of pleasure. The test-knit dishcloth works great, five years later, despite the fact that I never wove in the ends. I have continued to feed the child you forgot to take back with you. And most recently, I totally and completely jumped on your almost-done Gaptastic Cowl, which lacked only twenty rows.

That Madeline Tosh DK, doubled, was my first experience with that stuff. Good grief. It's the purply cowl in the photo. It's so gorgeous.

And Jen Geigley's pattern is so satisfying, so absolutely devoid of challenge, that I made another one on our return trip from spring break in Rome. I mean: I made the whole thing. I watched four entire feature-length movies, back to back: we landed, happy to be home and me QUEASY QUEASY after ingesting three skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Bulky (a buttery, brilliant yarn) and too much Russell Crowe, Angelina Jolie, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford. Paul Giamatti, however, could get me through at least two more Gaptastic Cowls. Love him.

Sad that cowl season is behind us, but wait until next fall: double cowls!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 08:21 AM | Comments (13)

April 07, 2011

Endurance. Fidelity. Intelligence. Garter Stitch.

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Dear Ann,

Balto is one of the most beloved statues in Central Park.

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Balto was the lead dog of the last of several teams of mushers and sled dogs who relayed diptheria antitoxin to save children in Nome, Alaska, in the winter of 1925.

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They made the journey with desperate speed and in appalling weather.

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The story of Balto is here. (I like the part about how "the serum was packed in a cylinder, wrapped in an insulating quilt, and then tied up in canvas for further protection." It is always a good idea to have an insulating quilt--or blanket--on hand. Better get busy and make some more.)

Balto's monument seemed like a good place to hang the Mitered Crosses Blanket for the first --and I must warn you that it is not likely to be the last--of its beauty shots.

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This is not the first FO of this pattern, however. The first finished Mitered Crosses Blanket is... a bag! It was made by Tomoko of Kobe, Japan. Isn't that something? In Tomoko's Ravelry notebook, she named it "Rescue! Rescue!"--making me wish I had thought of such a good name when I was naming the blanket. "Balto" would have been OK, too.

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Love,
Kay

P.S. What Would Balto Do? He'd hit the button to send cash to Mercy Corps for Japan relief:

Posted by Kay at 07:24 PM | Comments (68)

April 06, 2011

Settle Down Now

Dear Ann,

I seem to have caused some freaking out with my reference to putting the finished sample for the Mitered Crosses Blanket in my so-called foreign washing machine. I need to clear this up, stat, before the knitting police haul me away.

1. Why did I refer to my galley-kitchen-sized stacking washing machine as "foreign"? Longtime readers will remember an incident with my prior washing machine, the venerable Herr Miele. Like its predecessor, the current washing machine, Eine Kleine Nacht Miele, is from Deutschland, or at least has relations there. Its ways are strange to me, from its multiple choices of temperature (including both "cold" and the mysterious "no heat", and hots ranging from merely "hot" to "very hot" to "sanitize") to its cycles lasting from 39 minutes to 2 hours and 13 minutes, while using no measurable quantity of water. Hence I call it "foreign." I mean no offense, but I was raised on the kind of machine that takes up half the basement, has a choice of "Hot/Warm/Cold", holds many gallons of good old American H2O, and is operated by pulling the dial out while simulaneously trying not to pull the dial OFF. Right or wrong, to me that is a proper domestic appliance and always will be.

2. Why in the name of all that is sacred did I put a blanket comprised of 18 skeins of rare and mostly discontinued Noro Silk Garden into the---[unearthly howl]--WASHING MACHINE? Here's why and how: EKN Miele has a setting called "handwash." If you saw a human handwashing a garment in the manner of this machine, you would say, "That's not 'washing'; that's 'moistening.'" The handwash cycle on this particular machine is extremely gentle. It is the washing-machine equivalent of a mother spitting on a Kleenex to wipe a spot of schmutz from a beloved child's cheek. I have tested it many times. I am confident that I could wash a living creature on the handwash cycle, with no harm done.

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And in fact, no harm was done.

3. Should people wash their Noro Silk Garden blankets in the washing machine? On the advice of counsel, and as a matter of protecting myself from liability, I say HELL NO. I am sorry to have mentioned it. I am over the age of legal consent, and I have machine washed my blanket as a matter of personal choice, at my own risk and on my own responsibility, in a privately owned and maintained washing machine. I do not advise, counsel, or recommend that anyone else take such action.

It's really all right.

Love,
Kay


Posted by Kay at 04:37 PM | Comments (60)

Blocking Day

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Dear Ann,

I am blogging right now because it seemed like a bad idea, even to me, to stand in front of the little foreign washing machine for 39 minutes. That is not going to get me anywhere. (Back with you in a minute--just going to check. --OK, 28 minutes left.)

Today is Blocking Day!

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Here we see a corner, resplendent in applied i-cord. (No staples, duct tape, or cream cheese was used in the production of this blanket.)

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Here we see a guaranteed unposed, mohair-loving, seat-stealing dog who does not insist on blocking.

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Here we see what the little foreign washing machine saw.

Over in the sidebar: a handy Rav button showing how many projects are open in Ravelry users' notebooks. Still plenty of time to upload a photo and enter the contest. There is also a handy Buy Now button, for those who haven't Bought Yet.

Last night we hit the 2000-purchases mark for the Mitered Crosses Blanket--for Japan. So far we've sent a total of $9000.00 to Mercy Corps for Japan relief, and are homing in on 10 grand, one click of the Buy Now button at a time. Kind of unbelievable! Thank you, knitters!

Note to New Yorkers: if you have an idea for a photo shoot location for this item, please send my way!

And now, back to my washing machine vigil.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:22 AM | Comments (33)

April 05, 2011

You May Be a Winner: Enter Now!

Dear Kay, and potential Mitered Crosses Blanket Makers of the World,

I GOT LUCKY! I mean, I WON SOMETHING.

Last week I was down at lush 'n' lovely Bliss Yarns, foraging for Silk Garden and generally glad to see everybody there. They were having a contest where you guess the number of M & Ms in a sizeable jar. I did my Supersecret Trick* for estimating small things that are put into large containers, and BINGO:

See?

I won! How fun is that? Really fun:

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Two dozen balls of lush, plummy yarn, and beautiful needles, and patterns. Thank you, Bliss! It made my day.

It was so fun, in fact, that I really want to share this sensation of good luck with somebody out there. I've decided to turn my prize into a door prize for our mighty Mitered Crosses Blanket project.

Here's the deal: now that so many of you have bought this pattern, we would like to encourage you to cast on your blankets, mostly because we hate to knit alone, and we believe that knitting blankets in groups is one of the highest forms of human interaction.

Also: it's so fun to see what yarns everybody is using--already there are 120+ unique projects over there. Check them out.

So, get your pattern here. Head over to Ravelry, create a new Mitered Crosses project in your Notebook, and post a photo of your fledgling Mitered Crosses Blanket. If you don't know how to do this, here's a tutorial on adding a new project to your Ravelry Notebook.

We'll draw a random winner from all the Mitered Crosses Blankets that have been listed as started on Ravelry, including the blankets begun before this contest began.

Deadline for posting your new project on Ravelry: Friday, April 8, 8:08 pm CDT. We'll announce the winner as soon as possible after then.

I am happy to report that Kay just sent off another batch of dollars to Mercy Corps, thanks to all you wonderful knitters who have supported Japan relief efforts by buying the Mitered Crosses Blanket pattern. To date: $8,500 total.

Have fun! Knit often! Remember, all it takes is a square and a dream.

Love,

Ann

*OK, here's my Supersecret Estimating Trick, revealed once and for all. Works every time! Use it in good health!

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where the sum is over the nontrivial zeros of the zeta function and where Π0 is a slightly modified version of Π that replaces its value at its points of discontinuity by the average of its upper and lower limits.

Posted by Ann at 09:04 AM | Comments (51)

April 01, 2011

Best Ways to Join Blanket Squares Together

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Dear Kay,

It's so much fun to see all the Mitered Crosses blanket squares cropping up on Ravelry. It won't be long before people start joining the squares together to make blankets, and O what a glorious day that shall be!

I wanted to share a few ideas for joining the squares into a blanket. People ask me all the time about what techniques work best. I've got several methods, so I'll show you each one. None of these is hard. Personal preference is really what it's all about.

At Your Desktop

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I use a Swingline 500-capacity office stapler, mostly because a heavy-duty staple gun is too powerful. You don't want the staples to blast through the yarn, and you don't want those heavy staples that affect the drape of the fabric.

What you do:

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Position your squares with front sides facing, so that the staples will be hidden on the back of your blanket. It's like mattress stitch, only a heck of a lot faster. What's great here is that you can do a bunch of this during break at work.

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I like the textured effect the staples give. Kind of like quilting.

Duct Tape

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I know a lot of people do this already, and there's a reason why--this goes faster than a stack of Thin Mints on a Friday night watching a boxed set of Colin Firth movies!

Lord knows there are enough decorative duct tapes out there that you can find pretty much any color you need to coordinate duct tape with your blanket's shade of Noro Silk Garden. (Here's an overview of cool duct tapes, especially Japanese ones.)

What you do:

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I went with silver because it looks so cool. And this stuff is the real deal--my contractor left it in the basement after fixing our insulation, and I kind of like that whole reduce/recycle/reuse vibe coming off this. Didn't cost a penny! (Except for that insulation job, I mean.)

This isn't exactly rocket science if you're all literal about it and just slap tape down. Do be tidy in your cuts--a wonky edge really shows up with this stuff.

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There's no end of art to this once you start playing around with pleats and herringbones and alternating colors. Have fun with it, I guess, is the golden rule with duct tape.

Cream Cheese

The secret here is that any old cream cheese will do, as long as it's not flavored.

What you do:

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It's basically the same technique as bathtub caulking or cake decorating. Fill up a plastic bag with cream cheese, moosh it up so that it's nice and soft, clip a corner, and off you go.

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The most important thing is to keep a steady hand, and to make sure you're getting cream cheese down into that first row of stitches.

Let dry away from direct sunlight.

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You will be surprised at how pliable the cream cheese is once it dries. I knew it would stick well; I just wasn't sure how flexible it would be.

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I read in one of Clif's pirate books about how pirates used to make buttons out of old cheese, and I remember being a) mystified by this and b) grossed out. Well, call me a pirate, but this stuff WORKS.

Love,

Ann

PS Kay's ditto machine over at Ravelry is running overtime. If you're looking to get a copy of her fabby Mitered Crosses Blanket pattern for Japan, here you go and thank you!

PSS One other technique I forgot to mention: sewing in ENDS. I can't tell you how often we get this question. Here's probably the best way you can cut your finishing time down to pretty much zero point zero:

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Posted by Ann at 09:51 AM | Comments (102)
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