"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 30, 2012

On Knitting Badly


Dear Kay,

I hesitate to write this, because I worry that it's going to send knitters running away from Fair Isle knitting with their hands over their heads. I'm going to lay it all out for you anyway, because sometimes, you just have to own it when something doesn't go well. This is not a pretty tale.

A number of weeks ago, my knitting mojo departed, swiftly and completely. Is that my knitting mojo walking down my driveway? Gone? Just like that?

I can put my finger on the moment that it left. I was right in the middle of a beautiful project (Kate Davies's Boreal) using a beautiful yarn (Tess' Designer Yarns Grand Manan, which still sounds like an island in the Caribbean to me). But I'd had the miserable experience of a too-small sausage sleeve, the humbling re-do with larger, beloathed double-point needles:


And I had just arrived at the moment when the sleeves join the body of the sweater for the thrilling final ascent up the yoke.


I managed to get the sleeves to join, but I just . . . couldn't . . . go on. The prospect of all those snowflakes, all those single-stitch moments of Fair Isle where gauge is your taskmaster, where knitting Fair Isle on a big needle feels strange when I'm used to Fair Isle on small needles . . . I knit one row, then put the thing down.


I didn't start anything new. I just stopped.

Now, I think of myself as a competent knitter -- hell, I wrote a chapter in a book about how to knit Fair Isle. Yet I couldn't get over the fact that I'd knit such misshapen, lumpy snowflakes. Despite the fact that Boreal is the cleverest pattern I've seen in a very long time, a perfect mash-up of traditional technique and modern design, I could not make it look right. I had done all the things I know to do: turn the work inside out. Watch your floats. Spread your stitches. Carry the background color in your right hand. Knit slowly. Get all Zen about it. Stop worrying. Relax.

Boreal has stayed out, in my bedroom, for weeks, waiting. For some reason, I could not put it away. I'd straighten the room, yet leave all the charts and yarn and needles exactly where they'd been. It was a shrine to incompletion. I got pissed that I was pissed. I was ignoring one of my fundamental beliefs about knitting: Knitting is a land of solvable problems. Unlike real life, knitting can be fixed. You can redo it as often as you like. Nothing is ruined forever, in knitting.

Maybe it's that belief that kept me from stuffing this project into the back of my closet.

Sure enough, last week I was so irritated with a component of my everyday life that I instinctively sat down in the chair that was surrounded by all the Boreal makings, and started to knit. The yoke took very little time, really, a few nights. It's big yarn, big needles, and it is the perfect project for a DVR wallow in a program such as, say, Deadliest Catch, or as I call it, The Crab Show. Now THERE's a show with some unsolvable problems: crab fishing in the Bering Sea. What if you don't actually catch any crabs?


My snowflakes still look bad, but in the same way you can make yourself feel better at poolside simply by taking a look around at your fellow swimsuit models, I took a spin through the Ravelry photos of other folks' Boreals. They all look like mine! Nobody can make a great-looking snowflake! It doesn't matter!


This is before blocking. We all know the mighty redemptive power of blocking, so stay tuned. The cat seems to have camped out on top of my wet sweater. I can't decide if fifteen pounds of warm cat is going to help things or not. Can't hurt, I guess.


PS Now that we're including a photo of Jack White in every entry, here's today's Jack White:


Civil War Jack White! A tintype made when he appeared in the superdepressing film Cold Mountain.

Jack White is the Barbie of the music world. You can dress him up all kinds of ways!

Posted by Ann at 01:29 PM | Comments (56)

May 29, 2012

Why I Love Blogging, Chapter 1,312


Dear Ann,

We've "amen"-ed each other many times on this principle, but it bears repeating: the best thing about blogging is the comments. You never know exactly what you are going to get, but after 9 years, you know you are going to get some good ones. With thanks to Naomi for making my day, I reprint the following two comments in their entirety.


Hmm - Jack White...

I'm not sure I really believe this of myself, but I just bought a ticket for Jack White's 8:00pm performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre here in Vancouver, BC Canada this evening.

And further, I am not really too sure how this came about except for a serendipitous series of events and just pure determination. It has taken me a bit to kind of figure out what those events were and to put the pieces together - I'm a little slow. But once I had, I was determined to see his concert.

I saw Jack White's pic on your blog and read the story of him being on your plane and thought, that's cool - hmm interesting, never heard of him, wonder who he is, kind of thing. That was a couple of days ago. Then yesterday on my way home from my amazing Saturday job at Maiwa.com where I sell fibre arts supplies including lots of yarny goodness, I noticed our local entertainment paper, the Georgia Straight in a paper box as I alighted from the bus. It had a full page photo of guess who? Why Jack White of course. Wow, who is this guy? Didn't I just see his pic a few days ago? Right, I did, on Mason Dixon Knitting. My arms were full of bags and packages and a huge bouquet of peonies. I momentarily thought to grab the Straight, but did not have enough hands. I simply went home.

Today, Sunday the 27th of May, I sat and knit for a bit on Janel Laidman's Rivendell socks and then took a snack break. My snack break included rereading Mason Dixon's Knitting blog and again was reminded of Jack White. Curious, I went to Google and You Tube to see who this guy really was. As I was watching one clip, I noticed just below the video, a line that read something like, "Jack White, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, May 27th". What? - oh that was what the Georgia Straight cover was all about. And then the next clip showed a bit of video that I had already seen before. But where? Oh, yes, I started to watch "It Might Get Loud" on Netflix. Good Lord, Jack White had been everywhere and in my face for the past week.

So I did the only normal thing that I could do, I logged onto Ticketmaster to see if I could get a ticket for this evening's performance. Sold out! NO, not possible. I need to go to this concert and the theatre is only 5 blocks from where I live. Determined, I was sure there was a single ticket just for me. I just wasn't feeling sure, I KNEW there was one and that I just had to be patient. So I let it be for a bit and then, guess what? After numerous logins and attempts to search for a seat, a 7th row centre orchestra ticket came up available and it is mine, all MINE.

I AM going to see Jack White perform this evening. I will probably be the only grandmotherly type there. Oh, what the Hell, I am only going to live once in this body, I might as well live.

I'll let you know how it goes later... Loud, I expect!


24 hours later......

Well, all I can really say is Jack White rocks!!! And he did rock with his Peacock all girl band dressed in baby blue sparkly dresses with black accents. Jack was in a baby blue suit with black shirt and blue tie. Oh and, the roadies all wore, the guys that is, black shirt, pants and hats with blue suspenders and ties and the girl roadies wore blue dresses. A colour coordinated affair. Alas, no knits.

Here is the link to the write-up for tonights show. http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Review+Jack+White+digs+deep+Vancouver/6688102/story.html

I am still trying to regain my hearing. It was LOUD, but great. So glad I went.

Thanks to Mason Dixon Knitting for being the catalyst that sent me off to this rock concert. I really think I was the only 60's + grannie that was there, but I rocked with the rest of them!!


Dear Jack White, you owe us one "grandmotherly" seat in the 7th row!


In other news, I finished a quilt top for my goddaughter Rose (who is the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley, hence my verse selection) over the long weekend. It was not a long enough weekend to quite finish the back so that I can send this off to my machine quilter extraordinaire, but I'm nearly there. Also, more dishrags. Summertime, and the knittin' is cottony and absorbent.


Posted by Kay at 11:18 AM | Comments (29)

May 22, 2012



Dear Ann,

So, today is what I call Monday Plus One, and I did the random drawing. The winners of a copy of Wearwithall are Mary (whose email address starts with "goodmary") and Angela (whose email address starts with "matangoconnor"). I've emailed the winners for their mailing addresses.

Congrats and enjoy, Mary and Angela! Everybody else, if you want to show these independent designers some love, you can buy the book here; you can also ask your LYS and your local library to carry it.


The State of Kay's Knitting

The state of my knitting is strong. But so far, 2012 has been a weird year for knitting. I can sum it up in one word: Cowls. Or two words: Honey Cowl.

I have lost track of how many Honey Cowls I've made. Utter failure of knitting accountancy. I have just been cranking them out. Kind of OCD-ish, even for me. I was not handing them out to strangers, exactly, but I did leave a finished Honey Cowl in the seat-back pocket of my flight at the end of February from Nashville to New York. I blame Jack White.


I was trying to stay cool, while giving off a subtle message of Sure I'm Old Enough To Be Your Mom But I Am Not Your Mom OK? Of course I kept knitting. I bound off one Honey Cowl, in Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, crammed it in the seat-back pocket (dum de dum dum), and cast on another Honey Cowl, in MadTosh DK. Not skipping a beat. Not suffering from any palpitations about JACK WHITE ON MY PLANE or anything. It took a few days for me to realize that my Honey Cowl inventory was one Honey Cowl short.

I am still telling people about Jack White being on my plane. It was like seeing Elvis. I tell you what: it was worth the sacrifice of a Honey Cowl. (He was en route to New York for his SNL performance. Most of the people on the plane, a middle-aged commuting bunch, had no clue. Just me and the flight attendant (who was nearly old enough to be MY mom but, like me, exceeded customary coolness-for-age quotients), and she was all "Mr. White" this and "Mr. White" that. He had lovely manners.)


So here are the last two, ready for blocking. Not really in a hurry seeing as how it's MAY and my recipients will not be needing a wool cowl for a while. They are both Madtosh DK, 3 skeins (for extra plushness), in Grasshopper and Thunderstorm. I'm still going to add one more skein to my personal Honey Cowl, in Wheat. Because 2 skeins was just not doing it for me. But again, no rush.


Olive prefers the "Ellis Island" styling option. The youngest of Tevye the Terriye's three daughters, she has run off with a German Shepherd to start a new life in America.


P.S. And also, dishrags:


Posted by Kay at 04:21 PM | Comments (1946)

May 18, 2012

Giveaway: "A Truly Useful Book"


Dear Ann:

I'm sitting on a pile of unprocessed knitting and life experience that is about 3 stories high. Every time I open up the "post to blog" page, I stare dumbly at the screen. Where to start? Where to start? How is this happening to a venerable workhorse with 9 years in blog harness?

Well, a giveaway is always nice. Baby steps. And this is a good one.

Remember The Yarnery in St. Paul? Aka The Singing Yarnshop? Well, a group of designers affiliated with the Yarnery has made their own book, Wearwithall: Knits for Your Life.

The concept is brilliant in its simplicity. Knitters gonna knit. But what they gonna knit? The categories of go-to projects are well known: sweaters, baby knits, socks (SOCKS!), wraps, blankets, cold-weather accessories. We knit these items over and over, yet sometimes still find ourselves at a loss, in a world with thousands of patterns literally at our fingertips, to know which thing to knit. We're overwhelmed. You know what would be useful? Truly useful? A small book with a fresh, classic example of each of these favorites, each one easily altered to suit our needs, our whims, and most importantly our stashes. If you had a book like that--an old-school book of modern knitwear staples--it would be a truly useful book. So Mary Lou Egan, Theresa Gaffey, Scott Rohr, Shelly Sheehan, and Sarah K. Walker got together and wrote that book.

And to make sure we'd want to look at it, they got Gale Zucker to wrangle the models, wave her silvery light-deflecting saucers around, and snap the photos.

I've been knitting a long time. As you know. And I want to knit at least half of the 13 items in this book. Not because they're the latest in new & shiny, but because they're very appealing examples of things I always want or need to knit. They are "knits for my life." A few examples:

This one has my name on it. A huge swath of simple knitting, with color play to keep it interesting, and a 100 percent wearable finished product. It's May, and half the women in New York still have something stylish wrapped around their necks. This trend is here to stay. Me want more.

This one has my name on it-- twice. A classic cardi, with no awkwardnesses of construction or fleetingly faddish fronts draping down to the sidewalk. (Are we done with that yet? Eileen Fisher, I'm looking at you. No?) What I've never seen before is that this pattern gives you a choice of 3 yarns that are very different, two of which are (a) in my stash and (2) among my very favorite yarns: Rowan Kid Silk Haze, and Euroflax Originals Sportweight. The pattern gives you options for finishing, and the front bands are neatly mitered. Knitterly, cool. This is going to work out well.

A men's cardi that a man would, you know, wear. But I think I'd like one too. Jacket-y retro goodness. Chic.

Anyway, I like this book a lot. There is also a very cool pieced blanket involving giant triangles, which I'm dying to figure out how to make without sewing. There are cool socks, hats, scarves & mittens, and modern baby and kid knits. The pattern instructions, on a first reading, seem to be models of brevity and clarity.

We have two copies to give away. To enter, leave a comment to this post by 5 p.m. (New York Time) on Sunday, May 20. I'll draw the winners at random and announce them on Monday. Which will get me back on the blog again. Baby steps.

Happy weekend, everybody!


Posted by Kay at 11:54 AM | Comments (791)

May 08, 2012

Palate Cleanser

Dear all,

I can't thank you all enough for your incredibly helpful comments regarding the intervention. So much similar experience--you have all helped put this into perspective for me, and I'm so grateful.

Speaking of perspective, Lori provided me with a link the other day that puts pretty much everything into perspective. If you think that life is getting too tough, just consider this.

As an occasional knitter of clothing for fake chickens, I am a) jealous and b) impressed.


Posted by Ann at 12:50 PM | Comments (28)

May 03, 2012

Undelivered Handknit


Dear everyone,

Thank you all for checking in, wondering where we have been these past couple of weeks.

Kay has blasted off on a mission to the land of Liberty prints, pet rabbits named Iman, and much-needed fun. I am so dead jealous that I surf hotel listings in London. Kay, I am there with you on your travels. (You can see what Kay's seeing in her Twitter feed down in the right-hand column below.)

As for me, I've been on a mission to absolutely nothing.

I'm just going to say it: this has been an awful week. An awful month, actually. I mean: I've never bought a one-way ticket to Florida before, and I've never been involved in an intervention before. I am here to tell you that there are few things in the world more upsetting than having someone you love look you in the eye and choose the bad path.

This has been brewing for a while now, and it came to a head over the weekend, and it didn't work. I mean, it didn't work at all. We weren't starry eyed about the likelihood of success, but we did feel like we had to try to connect. I won't go into the details, though honestly I don't even think this person would care if I put every single detail of it up here on the Internet. But it doesn't really matter. It was predictable in almost every way--if you've ever seen the reality show Intervention (which I haven't, but people keep mentioning it to me), this one was apparently like that.

We are all heartbroken. It's the worst thing ever. I'm glad we went, but I am sorry as hell that it didn't work.

I took her a scarf I made, but I didn't get to give it to her.

I wonder what she's doing right now. Actually, I know what she's doing, and that's what makes it so hard.


Posted by Ann at 10:31 AM | Comments (191)
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