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

August 29, 2011

Viva Los Libros!

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Dear Ann,

I had a great Hurricane Irene. Not as great as the clever Mrs. Levin, who used her time in front of el television to come up with @ElBloombito on Twitter, but a pretty fine time. (Listen here to how the Mayor really sounds speaking Spanish. Que loco, no? One suspects that he does it because it's so darn cute. One almost forgives that whole "let's forget about term limits, 'cause hey guys, it's ME" thing. Even El BBC is taking notice.)

We hunkered down in New York, on high ground, and stayed close to the TV, the Twitter machine, the snacks and the Words With Friends. We kept all vessels filled with water and all devices charged, and because we did this, we never lost water or power. This morning I saw a tree in Central Park, in the 75-100 year old age range, that had just laid itself down on the ground. Roots in the air. Looked like it had just gotten tired. Glad I heeded the instruction to "Please exit the Pock!" on Saturday afternoon.

Now I'm heading East to see what has decided to lie down out there. Trying to get a little vacay, if there is a break in the natural disasters. (Did I mention the earthquake last week? Old news. We are OVER the earthquake. Barely a tremor where we were. I only knew it had happened because Joseph texted me.)

Before I go, I want to give away a couple of copies of the latest and greatest knitting books, just for fun. I have studied them thoroughly (Lord knows I've had the time), and they are both, in the words of our Mayor Miguelito, los libros fantathticos.

First up is Wendy Knits Lace. The title of the book is not breaking news for the tribe of Wendy's faithful blog readers. (I would have titled it, Wendy Knits Lace: A Buttload of Lace.)

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The book is delightful. Through Wendy's serial knitting of lace projects, she has learned the ins and outs by heart, and she shares it all in clear instructions and illustrations of lace techniques, and then again in a varied assortment of well-written patterns. The designs are beautiful, the yarns are beautiful, and the photographs are beautiful. As far as I'm concerned, this is THE book for knitters who are new to lace, or knitters who have found the whole subject of lace, with its charts and its yarnovers and yarn forwards--not to mention the dreaded yarnover-after-a-purl (I hate that one!)-- to be a bit intimidating. Lace has lost its power to intimidate. Wendy has straightened lace out and sent it to whimper helplessly in the corner. What will Wendy wrestle into submission next? Stay tuned. I don't know, but I'm sure there's something! She's been knitting a lot of wordy mittens lately, just saying.

And Now For Something Completely.... Different

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Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi.

Squeeee! Squeeee! Squeee! If you don't go "squee" when you see Anna Hrachovic's tiny knitted amigurumi, your squeee-er is busted. This book is a gas. Anna's mind is amazing. You have to see for yourself. (I follow Anna on Twitter just because it's fun to read tweets like, "Casting on the toilet now.") But apart from the exhilarating wacked-outness, there are practical aspects to knitting tiny things like this. If you have kids around, be they big or little, ironic or dead serious in their pursuit of the cute, they will see the point of knitting stuff like this: joie de squeee. The gratification is instant, and the yarn requirements are miniscule. It's perfect knitting for hard times and short attention spans. And this is a beautifully designed book in its own right.

The Giveaway Part

SO. Our Wonderful Publisher has sent me two copies of each of these books to give away. Leave a comment to this post, one to a customer. If you can't think of anything to say, just squeee, or tell me what you did while Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Pain in the Ass Irene swept through. I'll draw a name randomly, let the winner choose which book, draw another one, let that winner choose, and so forth until there is only one choice left.

The deadline for entries is Friday night at 10 p.m. in New York, and I'll announce the day after Labor Day.

And now, I'm away. Dry out, amigos!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:00 AM | Comments (1256)

August 25, 2011

No Pointless Surfing

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Dear Kay,

I've been sucked into a low-pressure system of Low Ambition Knitting. I'd call it a tropical depression except that I actually am feeling kind of low, so let's just say we're in a cone of uncertainty.

I've been reading patterns endlessly these days, looking for that perfect thing to make, but nothing has grabbed me. I think I'm letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I dipped into Debbie New's unsurpassed Unexpected Knitting. Her chapter "Free Form Knitting" grabbed me by the ear and whacked me on the shoulder. She writes, "People sometimes feel that one has to be very adventurous to try free form knitting. Actually you don't need nearly as much courage to start a free form project as to start a traditional one. Think of the bravery of casting on 150 stitches and following a pattern for many inches before you know if you are going to like the result."

Well HELLO DEBBIE NEW, you truth teller! I have a sizeable bin of leftover yarns from this, that, and the other, and the other day I just started knitting from it.

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The Mitered Crosses blanket, which I finished and will show you shortly, gave me the most profound love for combining mitered squares and log cabin.

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It's funny how even this pointless piece of knitting quickly demands rules. After a couple of patches, I realized that I had a lot of rules.

1. Everything has to be worked on a size 9 needle.

2. DK or worsted weight only.

3. No variegated yarns.

4. Heather yarns to be avoided unless they're not too hairy.

5. No white, cream, or black.

6. Miters and log cabin only. No curves. (I'm sorry, Debbie, but I'm feeling pretty angular right now.)

7. Use what is in the bin. No purchasing of yarns allowed.

This little project is 100% addictive. I am getting itchy to make another square, just looking at these pictures. I have no idea how long I'll do this, but I've got at least three seasons left on Friday Night Lights, just saying.

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Of course, you know that Rule Number 7 is about to kill me. Why doesn't that bin have any indigo DK or worsted yarns?

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:42 AM | Comments (49)

August 24, 2011

The Giant Sunflowers of Horton Avenue

Dear Kay,

If you were in Nashville, I would drive you down Music Row to Horton Avenue so you could see what I see every morning on the way to the fellas' school.

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A long row of sunflowers.

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At least ten feet tall when their posture is good.

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So heavy headed, they look sleepy.

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Such a sight to see, every day.

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Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:11 AM | Comments (16)

August 22, 2011

Bro Crafting

Dear Kay,

Alt Crafting Effort No. 2 this summer involved lacrosse.

During my stirring three-day stand at the NCAA Lacrosse Championships in Baltimore with 12-year-old son Clif, it became clear to me that the lax bros put on a good show of being studly and cool and pretty much above it all--but I knew their dark secret.

They are all seriously into macrame.

And now, thanks to Clif's obsession, so am I.

To review: lacrosse used to use bentwood sticks like these:

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These are the equivalent of wooden tennis rackets. Most players today use metal and plastic sticks. However, some lacrosse practitioners like this old school stringing, rather than the uninspired machine-made mesh that is most common.

Clif is old school in just about every way, so it is highly predictable that he would get wind of traditional lacrosse stringing.

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Clif art directed; I was just an apprentice stringer.

His first effort was to dye a white lacrosse stick head in a pot of maroon dye for three days. In the middle of my kitchen. The stripes were hot-glued before dyeing, then peeled off all over the kitchen floor, leaving pristine white squirgles on the head.

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Perfect.

We then spent a lot of time with a YouTube bro from Colorado who explained how to string a lacrosse head in the traditional style. If the guy would HOLD THE STICK IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA, it might help. My nominee, truly, for Worst Crafting YouTube/Sports Equipment Category.

The second head was the more challenging "Pita Pocket" traditional head. We found a tutorial with murky, postage-stamp-sized photos; winged it when the going got tough; and concluded that it would not be hard to surpass current online lacrosse-stick-stringing tutorials.

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I think they call this one a PITA because it is, in fact, a pain in the ass.

This is actually a fun thing to do. There are zillions of ways to string lacrosse heads.

Any minute, Clif is going to want to start bending wood to make a 100% traditional stick. I am ready.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:15 AM | Comments (25)

August 17, 2011

Farewell to All That (Yarn)

Dear Ann,

I have been remiss in blabbing about dishrags this summer. It's the summer of being remiss, apparently.

The Dishcloth Calendar (of blessed memory) is no longer being produced by the lovely Janet Nogle. But when Janet and her dishrag-knitting posse learned that Elmore-Pisgah, the Carolina manufacturere of made-in-the-USA Peaches & Creme dishcloth cotton yarn, was closing up shop, they went into the studio and produced an album of patterns using Peaches & Creme. Kind of like the Last Waltz, only with dishrags. They kindly asked me for a submission, as I am known to be fond of the dishrags.

This was a couple of months ago, at the height of my Mitered Cross Blanket fever. (The wave has crested, but I'm still working on blankets number 2 and 3.) In that frame of mind, it seemed to me that the dishcloth world was lacking....

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....a mitered cross dishcloth.

It's a different scale and finish than the squares for the blanket, but the techniques are the same. I realize that it looks like the Swiss flag. And also like the Red Cross. I did that on purpose. (It's called the Rescue Dishcloth.)

If you would like to acquire this pattern and many more cozy, kitchen-y, kitschy patterns, go here and look for the "Peaches & Creme Pattern Booklet." The contributing designers have clubbed together to make a thank-you gift to Flo, the wonderful woman who ran Peaches & Creme's promotions on Ravelry and elsewhere, and who had to stay behind when the company moved. My personal commission will be donated to Mercy Corps for Japan relief.

By the way, have I mentioned that thanks to knitters' continuing generosity, since March we've sent a total of $16,500 to Mercy Corps to for Japan relief? I am collecting a gratifying stack of thank-you letters from Mercy Corps. They appreciate our sustained support, and marvel that the source of these ongoing contributions is a little ol' knitting pattern. Thank you all. You keep knitting beautiful blankets (553 projects on Rav, just saying), which gives other knitters a twinkle in their eye for this pattern, and I'll keep sending the proceeds to Mercy Corps. It feels good, don't it?

Love,
Kay

P.S. Stay tuned as I am going to give away the pattern I contributed to the 2011 Dishcloth Calendar. As soon as I can find it. (Remiss, I tell you!) It's a doozy.

Posted by Kay at 09:10 PM | Comments (20)

August 15, 2011

Miracle of the Modern Postal Service

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Dear Kay,

Diane asks what happened to the Different Lines scarf I was making a while back.

I don't know! It's gone! I mailed it to Landy, my friend who lives in North Berwick, outside Edinburgh. I finished the scarf early in the season up in Grundy County, and when I mailed it, I thought: This may well be the first-ever Monteagle-North Berwick parcel.

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I didn't get a good final shot of this peculiarly shaped scarf. Here's what it looked like, midway through:

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This Koigu yarn remains my desert island yarn. Can't be beat.

It's undeniably nautical looking. Landy's husband Matt likes to sail. I'd love to think of them zipping around the Firth of Forth with this scarf flapping madly in the wind.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:44 AM | Comments (19)

August 12, 2011

Flood + Shelter

Dear Kay,

I'm spending a shocking amount of time poking around looking for my next thing to knit. Really, couldn't you just spend all your time in anticipation of knitting?

I just want to observe here that Jared Flood's yarn, Shelter, is the only yarn I've ever seen that I would like to own in every single color.

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Glorious! I'm crazy for it!

It comes from here online.

Here's how this American-made yarn is created. You know me--I love a factory tour.

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And Jared's patterns are as ever, delicious to contemplate. His latest project, Wool People, Vol. 1, brings together great patterns from a variety of designers. What I especially like about these patterns is that they don't have that wackadoodle look that sometimes happens with knitted garments and accessories. Maybe it's just me, but knitting that hovers under the radar can sometimes be the most fun. Not everybody needs to be able to identify that you are wearing five handknits at the same time. It's nice to wear the occasional handknit that is subtle, that is your own private little triumph.

You can't really skid off the blacktop when you're working with a yarn like this. Everything looks beautiful, period.

I love it all. I mean: how great to see all this energy and talent. (And no, I haven't had the chance to meet Jared, and he hasn't paid me!) (Happy to be paid off, of course.) (Can't be bought, but can be rented.) (Paypal works great.) (No Euros at the moment, pls.)

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 03:16 PM | Comments (29)

August 10, 2011

Family Baking Project of the Week

Dear Kay,

This was a summer of alt crafting. I mean, I was knitting steadily, but there were serious detours into other time-consuming and weird fun activities.

"Baking"

My brother Clif and his wife Mary Neal's family arrived en masse at the Assembly just in time for Week 8, also known as The Quiet Week. Which meant there was plenty of time for perusing the Assembly's 29-year-old cookbook.

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I've discussed Porch Party Recipes before. This was the first time we'd tackled anything more ambitious than Sausage Pinwheels. ("Men like these.")

Recipe:

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While Beer Cheese is an obvious and great idea, it was the bottom recipe that seized us. Seized us UP.

Team: Nephews Wilson and James. Filling management by Mary Neal's sisters Liz and Sarah. Ringers: John Henry and Walter, who took a break from their three-day gizzard-braising project to advise on proportion and decoration.

Result:

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The problem here was that their family is filled with serious cooks, who'd stocked the fridge with legit ingredients. My nephew James totally skewed the project by baking bread layers in cake pans, so superior to anything storebought that the whole thing actually tasted sort of . . . OK.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:31 AM | Comments (33)

August 08, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, Part 1

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Dear Kay,

Well, I hardly know where to begin, having been away so long!

I've been in Monteagle all summer, back in Realityland now, where the wi-fi flows and the AC works. It's been weeks since I wrote, and there's so much to tell. I'll jump in with the thing I'm working on right this minute.

There's a new baby in the fambly, a snurgly new great-niece. When the news came, I immediately a) stared at her photo for about six hours, then b) looked to the high priestess of baby things, Debbie Bliss. Her Design It, Knit It: Babies is larded up with the most Blissy baby things, simple and pretty. I went for the A-Line Cardigan, stash dove to come up with elementally babyish Rowan Cotton Glace, and scrounged the size 2 and 3 needles.

Here's the thrilling button band moment:

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Shade 800 is what I used, Changeable. Changeable is never the same shade twice when you take a picture of it. So odd!

This was my knitting through the last lectures of the Assembly's season, which included a clarinet quartet, tales of the Cumberland Plateau in the Civil War, three superdepressing-yet-informative talks on global climate change, and a Buddhist. I hope that this new baby absorbs all this stuff, particularly the clarinet quartet. Never heard of such a thing. (Here's a taste.) (Go ahead and Like them here.) (No, I don't know 'em, and no they haven't and probably won't ever pay me!)

This cardigan also includes a shocking amount of knitting related to The Bachelorette, but I wouldn't wish that on any child. (I did discover the world's greatest blog, however--I Hate Green Beans, which provides excellent recaps of Bachelorette episodes.)

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Construction notes: knit five pieces separately from the bottom up, string them onto one needle, then do raglan decreases to the collar. Add button bands, add collar. Sew seams. Origami!

Please note, as ever, the mighty redemptive power of blocking. I had to do a big rip-out when Bachelorette Ashley got into a catfight with her sister and I got all distracted. The good news is that blocking turned all the warbly re-knit stitches into normal stitches. But I can't be sure that Ashley and her sister worked out their problem.

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What have you been up to? I've really missed everybody, missed blogging, but after eight years of viewing all of life as a potential blog entry, it was interesting to take a break. One conclusion: this knitting thing is an excellent hobby!

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 05:08 PM | Comments (31)

August 02, 2011

Made in the USA

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Dear Ann,

(Ignore that picture up there for a second.) HEY HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW ISSUE OF Twist Collective? Best. Issue. Ever. (As always, the Problem Ladies are there, looking over the tops of their half-glasses and trying to give helpful, non-judgmental advice. While sometimes giving unhelpful and/or judgmental advice.)

My knitting of Square Stuff continues apace, and in a not very photogenic way. All manner of squares, imperceptibly getting bigger. I have everything from neat little Subway Squares, in recycled denim (square count: 8.5 out of 9!) to Mega Super Jumbo Miters that actually count as resistance exercise when I turn them after every row of 400-plus stitches. I have also managed to steal a few minutes away from Being A Fun Parent (Beta) to get to the sewing machine. This yielded at least one camera-ready FO:

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Tea Towel Tote Bag. I used the excellent instructions in this wonderful Japanese book. I made French seams, people! This project took me about an hour. Next time I'm going to use webbing straps.

The tea towel is a rare deaccessioning from what I call the Vicky & Al Museum of Contemporary Tea Towels, aka my private collection. What is it about tea towels? I don't know. I just love them (although they have to be The Kind I Like). This one, I believe a souvenir of the anniversary celebration of the Royal Festival Hall in London, or anyway a souvenir of Britain, was a gift of indulgent pals Belinda & Neil. It is rare to find a couple in which both partners combine an astute eye for tea towel aesthetics and a generous and non-judgmental attitude toward collectors of tea towels. Someday, perhaps around my 80th birthday, my collection will be exhibited to the public, cascading from the ceiling of the Park Avenue Armory. Stranger and more wonderful things have happened.

We live in a golden age of tea towels. I am not letting it pass me by.

Love,
Kay

P.S. While we are talking about Bags, here is the Bag That I Most Want To Copy.

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It's Orna's. She got it from a woman in Italy who was selling them in the market in Florence or perhaps Rome. I want to upgrade the straps and hardware (so, it probably wasn't Florence), but basically this is the recycled linen bag of my dreams.

Posted by Kay at 02:08 PM | Comments (27)
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