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

January 31, 2013

The Gaping Maw, Or, Freaky Steeky


Dear Kay,

It's Steek-cutting Thursday! Come on and enjoy the thrill of chopping a hole in your knitting. It just never gets old to me.


This is the left shoulder of the Donegal sweater. This sweater is knit in the round. Whenever there needs to be a hole in the sweater (neck opening, sleeve holes), you work a batch of checkerboard stitches that will not be visible in the finished sweater. Makes it easy to work Fair Isle when you don't have to go back and forth, front side to back side.

You can't add a sleeve until you cut a hole for it.

I'm so literal about this Alice Starmore pattern that when she says (circa 1994, before removable stitch markers had been invented, apparently) to mark the bottom of the sleeve with a safety pin, I use a safety pin . . .


I worked this part of the sweater before I remembered that spit-splicing is the way to avoid a mess like this.


I had to trim down the ends in order to see what the heck was going on in there. Note also the dark blue backstitching along what will soon be the raw edge of the sleeve hole. A little insurance policy against unraveling. Which is just not going to happen, but still. WHAT ALICE SAYS, WE DO.


Ready, aim, chop!


DONE AND DONE! Sleeve Number Two, here we come.



Posted by Ann at 10:30 AM | Comments (22)

January 30, 2013

Les Shrugs Du Temps Perdu


Dear Ann,

So, Seanna had to go and mention the One Skein Wonder in the comments. Would you believe that for a minute I couldn't even remember what the One Skein Wonder was? The One Skein Wonder was the Honey Cowl, before the Honey Cowl. I knit a lot of them. But I couldn't remember any of them, so I went rummaging in the archives.

And found this.

Where are those little girls? They were so crazy! We hardly knew ye! Now you're all big and beautiful and stuff. Which is great. But I miss those little girls.


Anyway. Had to share my wonderment at the ordinary fact of time passing. Maybe another One Skein Wonder, for old times' sake?


Posted by Kay at 04:26 PM | Comments (20)

I See Honey Cowls

Dear Ann:

Reader Gale Zucker writes in our comments: "Have you pushed through the Honey Cowl time warp and can just, like, make them appear? That particular color just kills me."

Gale, I'm glad you asked. Yes, I close my eyes, visualize a Honey Cowl, lay my hands on 400 yards of hand-dyed merino, and when I open my eyes I am standing over the kitchen sink inhaling Soak fumes.

Seriously, here is the current Honey Cowl. Knitting it old-school, like the mortals do. No wiggling of my nose or anything. Darren doesn't like that.


Yarn: Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Worsted. Can't find the label for the shade. I believe it's named after a street or square in Baltimore. (This may not narrow it down, the company is in Baltimore.) Greys, bluish cast. Love it. (Edited to add: I am informed that the shade is called Thomas Circle.)

The new Rowan is here! The new Rowan is here!


Rowan 53 revisits the oversized florals of our youth. I still recall how cushion-like I felt in oversized florals, so I'll probably abstain. But it takes all kinds to make a world. These blasts of color will look supercute on people who look supercute in that sort of thing, and you know who you are. WERQ.

What I personally am drawn to in moth-flame fashion is the issue's modernist graphic collection, Ikon. Lookie:


Just love it, every piece.

To whet the knitterly appetite for modernist graphics, there is also a wonderful illustrated article on fashion and textile designer Sonia Delaunay, written by Kate Davies. I'm guessing Sonia D was the icon for whom the Ikon collection was named. Sonia had it going on. I've seen a lot of her work in person (at the Cooper-Hewitt a couple of years ago), and I'm not sure I could have borne it if I were a knitwear designer myself. She was too damn good. You could knit forever from her designs.

You should all run out and buy Rowan magazine issue 53, or better yet, subscribe. Another glorious triumph from Yorkshire. To anybody who whines about it, I will say what I always say: remember, we didn't always have Rowan. Do you want to go back to that desolate lunar landscape? Well, OK then, hush up.


Posted by Kay at 09:23 AM | Comments (25)

January 29, 2013

Fill Out This Form

Dear Ann,

I'm so pressed for time today that I'm going to have to fill out a 15-minute form.

1. Have you finished any knitting? If so, please describe.


Honey Cowl (self-explanatory). This one is for my knitting pal, and fellow founding member of the New York City chapter of the Alabama Chanin Sewing Society (which should be a thing), Rosanne. The yarn is Madelinetosh DK in the shade Brothers Grimm, which is an emerald-to-forest green overdyed with black. It reminds me of greasy leather work boots, Hell's Angels, and rock and roll, and will look great with auburn hair.

2. Have you started any new knitting? If so, please describe.

Honey Cowl (self-explanatory), this one a request from Carrie for a cowl-less friend. Got wild and crazy--this one is not Madelinetosh, but some great Neighborhood Fiber Co. that I scored at Vogue Knitting Live (it barely made a ripple in the stash before it was cast on--that's my new theory of Stash Management: skipping stones/skeins). More later.

3. Are you making any progress on long-term projects that have seemed to take forever? If so, elaborate.


Delia's Lair--my Bowling Avenue tribute blanket--is finished. Finished: as in, i-cord is on, ends are woven, and it's ready for a Soak soak and a block. The pattern is nearly ready to send to the tech editor. BELIEVE.

4. Do you have any cool knitting news to share? If so, link please.


a. This one is from Finland. (And also, it's crochet.)

b. This one is from the Netherlands.

c. This one is from Scotland.


January 28, 2013

Monday Morning Weigh In: No Pain, No Gain


Dear Kay,

Progress on the Alice Starmore Donegal extravaganza continues. This is absolutely the least efficient means of manufacturing a sleeve that I have encountered.

These Rowan Donegal Lambswool yarns continues to amaze and amuse. At night it's so dim that Bramble and Pickle are indistinguishable. Elderberry and Roseberry might as well be the same color.

But in the light of day, it's pretty dazzling to see.


One sleeve to go, a neckline to futz around with, and some final weaving. Piece of cake: should have this done by 2016 no problem.


The pattern is 28 stitches wide, 27 rows long. I find it impossible to memorize, in any way, so it has a real paint-by-numbers feel to it. This is one of those projects that really tests our MDK Rule: No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.

I crave, I crave! Hurts so good!


Posted by Ann at 09:55 AM | Comments (47)

January 26, 2013

Icelandic Redux

Dear Ann,

As I headed into the scrum of Vogue Knitting Live last weekend, I knew one thing: Védis Jónsdóttir was going to be there, and I was going to find her.

Let's review: Védis Jónsdóttir is the designer of Riddari, the sweater pattern I picked out for Carrie when we were in Iceland last June, which I finished at the end of 2012 to great fanfare (in my mind). A smashing sweater and a smashing success. In the Siberian conditions of New York City this past week, I have even had the rare pleasure of seeing a child wearing a handknit unprompted, without me standing by with a camera and giving directions. (It's either that nice of a sweater, or that cold--actually it's a perfect storm of nice sweater + cold.)

Védis Jónsdóttir is also the author of the newly released book, Knitting With Icelandic Wool..

Although I entered the Marriott Marquis without a fixed expectation of what Védis Jónsdóttir would be like, I did have a notion. Something along these lines:


Or these:


Or heck, she might even look like this:


Here she is, real-life Védis Jónsdóttir:


Despite the lack of either horse or headdress, she's lovely. We had a nice chat while people waited for her to sign copies of her book. I hope I run into her again.

I wouldn't fault anyone for doubting that I have my finger on the pulse of what's hot in the world of international fashion and design. But by knitting an Icelandic sweater at this particular moment, I landed smack in the middle of the zeitgeist. As proof, I commend everyone to read this fun article--illustrated with amazing photographs--on Icelandic sweaters. Not only do I recognize every one of the shops mentioned from my own explorations of Reykjavik, I actually recognized some of the people.

GO TO ICELAND. That's my message.


Posted by Kay at 01:55 PM | Comments (28)

January 25, 2013

The Remembrance of Knits Past, Or, WHAT WAS I THINKING?


Dear Kay,

Moving ON. Powerful urge to plow ahead into the future, into knits unknown, horizons yet to be seen. The shock of the new.

More like the shock of the OLD.

After the long-haul pleasures of that Thorn shawl (thank you all for your supportive comments, and my apologies for offending Chicago Bears fans), I craved some color that I knew I would love.

At the foot of my desk, for many months now, has been a plastic bag filled with a knitting project that I started in 2008.

Alice Starmore's Donegal pattern, from her earth-shattering 1994 classic, The Celtic Collection.

I dumped out the contents of the plastic bag and wept like a baby for about an hour, for a couple of reasons. 1.) The colors of these yarns are so breathtaking. 2.) I had no memory of any aspect of this project. I knew I had a large piece of knitting in front of me, with three uncut steeks, a half-done sleeve, and many small balls of yarn. I had a chart with two red lines drawn down the middle, and a truly OCD index card with yarns threaded through punch holes and labeled to match the chart.

Who did this? Who is so compulsive that she writes yarn quantities on a card?

Wellllllll, apparently it all started in 2008. Just in time for the weekend, I invite you to turn back the hands of time and enjoy the odyssey that is this Donegal sweater. This was back in the days of four-hour blogging, complete with all kinds of time-consuming attention to detail. Solid-gold tips in here. And at least one reference to 3,700 pieces of bacon.

A Naive and Cheerful Start.

Tracking Down Discontinued Yarns, or, The Kindness of Knitters.

[Long and bleak interval from May 2008-November 2009]

Cutting a Steek at a Skatepark.

A Lot of Information about Spit-Splicing.

Tips for Finer Fair Isle.

Another Re-start, This One Almost Exactly Expressing the Feelings I Am Having Right Now.

To be clear, we're in January 2013, a good five years into this. Once again, I find myself all wound up about this thing. Obsession/dread/avoidance/obsession. It's the circle of life!


Posted by Ann at 10:29 AM | Comments (39)

January 23, 2013

Thorny Thoughts: A Finished Object


Dear Kay,

Fresh off the blocking wires is the Thorn shawl, first finished object of the new year. I have been wearing it constantly, collecting compliments from Green Bay Packers fans at coffee bars (not really but at least I'm ready for next season), and thinking about my experience with this project.


This project is an excellent lesson for me. A perfect yarn and a perfect pattern do not always combine to create a perfect finished object. I say this a little nervously, because I don't want you to think for a second that I have anything but the deepest admiration for both this yarn and pattern. They are splendid. It's MY choice to combine them that was the problem.

I knew shortly after I started this that the yarn was not the right choice for this pattern. Pretty soon I knew that the shifty color was going to compete with the stitch pattern, and not in a way that would let the cleverness of the pattern shine. Thorn is beautiful because of the interesting thing that happens as the increases make the shawl grow in an irregular and pretty way. It's a pattern that works best with a solid color. Take a peek here if you'd like to see a Thorn in its pure glory. Beautiful work, butterfly67!

In fact, if you look at all of butterfly67's projects right here, you will see my fantasy of a lifetime of gorgeous knitting.

Isn't that a breathtaking pile of projects? I'm seeing a 5:1 ratio of gray projects to color. That's about right.

Such unity of aesthetic!



I loved this yarn, this Alisha Goes Around Zeal of Zebra, and I liked watching the color shifting with each stitch. I guess it's a measure of how gone I am as a knitter that I would finish a shawl that uses the wrong yarn.

Once the second skein revealed its flashes of light and increased the light/dark variegation even more, I knew for sure that this was going to be a star-crossed project. I was surprised, actually, that I kept knitting when in the past I would have probably freaked out, ditched, and done something else.


But this merino/silk yarn, this elegant pattern--they were enough for me.


The redemptive and mighty power of blocking cannot be overstated. If anybody out there craves a moment of delightful transformation, knit a shawl, then block it.


(The blocking wire wounds are still healing!)

The lesson here: A perfect yarn may not be THE perfect yarn for a pattern.

Special thanks to staff photographer David Shayne for documenting shawl on human.


PS I'm now obsessed with looking at Ravelry project pages, seeing how a knitter's taste shapes what s/he chooses to make. Would welcome links to knitters who are making interesting choices.

Posted by Ann at 08:00 AM | Comments (74)

January 22, 2013

sequin aran

Cannot wait for the sequin aran pullover from True Brit Knits. The ultimate statement piece, and if it ever goes out of style (which it WON'T), it will be a kickass Christmas sweater.

Posted by Kay at 11:13 AM | Comments (8)

Small Haul from the Big Yarn Mall

Dear Ann,

I ended up spending time at Vogue Knitting Live on both Saturday and Sunday, and had a ball.

The Marketplace at Vogue Knitting Live is not for the faint of heart. If you are a new knitter, or unaccustomed to having a large selection of beautiful yarn right there in front of you, it's overwhelming. There is something panic-inducing about wandering the booths that crowd the overstimulating ballroom carpet at the Marriott Marquis. If you go outside for a gulp of oxygen, you're in Times Square. Rhinebeck it ain't.

Perhaps because I'm a veteran of the Stash Wars, in such situations I retreat to a position of LCCV (least credit card vulnerability). I've been known to leave a weekend at Rhinebeck with a single hank of yarn and a bag of wooden spoons (c'mon--the wooden spoon guy is irresistible). Another strategy that works for me is to limit purchases to books, or to yarn for a pattern I am already committed to knit. No "just because it's beautiful" purchases--that way lies Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

I did pretty well at Vogue Knitting Live. As they were announcing the closing of the Marketplace in 5 minutes, this is what I had to show:


Books and gifts. The Visa was about to exhale.

Then I ran up to the 6th floor and plunked it down for the last hank of this:


Meet Tessa. Tessa is 250 grams of DK/light worsted cashmere. As you know, I don't usually go in for the handpaint, and my bout of viral cashmere illness was way back in 2011. But they had an amazing sample. It's a very unusual dye job. A neutral plus not-neutral combo, with no repeats, that I just loved. And my birthday's coming up...sometime this year. So: spa-lurge.

Anyway, it was fun. The best part was hanging out with friends who do things like this.


Sunday's catchphrase: "I knit my panties." I cannot acknowledge the source without risking consequences. SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT IT ON A T-SHIRT. Or at the very lease a wristband.

The icing on the cake: I met Védis. But time's up. More later.


The Japanese book's ISBN is 978-4-579-11414-6. I bought it at the Kinokuniya bookstore booth.

The grey yarn is from Neighborhood Fiber Company, dyed by the fair hand of Karida Collins, in Baltimore. Karida is featured on the cover of Ann Weaver's Cityscapes book of accessories. The other Ann Weaver book is Twentieth Century Graphic. (I am a collector of All Things Ann Weaver.)
If you don't know about Soakboxes, I worry about you. Mine is called Clark Cable; it comes with beautiful Lorna's Laces yarn to knit up a pair of gauntlets/fingerless mitts to match a certain teen girl's fingernails.


Posted by Kay at 09:51 AM | Comments (27)

January 21, 2013



Dear Kay,

That's Thorn up there, at the thrilling moment when the sail-shaped body of this shawl was complete, and the 5,498,309 stitches at the edge had to be put onto holder yarn in anticipation of the attached garter-stitch border that awaited. The 10,309,495 stitches to pick up! The shift to the four-foot-long size 4 circular--unsurprisingly, there was one of those in my pile of circular needles. I don't have a problem with a long-haul border, ever. The expectations are so straightforward. I picked up and I knitted.

But one immutable reality was harshing my mellow. When Bristol Ivy writes a pattern and calls for 1,075 yards of yarn, SHE IS NOT JOKING. She did not write "1,000 yards," so as I made my way toward the nine garter ridges that she prescribed, I was pretty sure the gas was going to run out. I couldn't tell when, though. When you have 600 stitches on your needle, one row can contain an entire relationship. Babies are born during a 600-stitch row. Political alliances can come and go; you can gain ten pounds, lose your religion, and get it back during a 600-stitch row.

It took me a while to decide exactly how bad the yarn situation was. I could have squeezed seven garter stitch rows out of the yarn but decided to stick to six. I had three options: a) quit knitting, bind off, find peace with a border with an odd proportion; b) seek out more Alisha Goes Around Zeal of Zebra fingering weight yarn; or c) dive into the yarny archives.

I went with c.


I realize this is a controversial choice. But the whole project was getting so earnest and literal that I felt the overwhelming need to blow it up a little.

Honestly, I have no idea how I could have half a ball of neon Koigu in my stash. But there it was, and it was irresistible.

Time's up! Off to go stare at this thing that is now blocking on the floor of the den.


Posted by Ann at 09:01 AM | Comments (44)

January 20, 2013

Small Shawl on a Wall

Dear Ann,

I'm going to try to make this a 5 minute post. Earlier today I Instagrammed a picture of a small shawl on a wall in somebody's booth at Vogue Knitting Live, after one of my companions pointed it out. We oohed. We aahed. We mentally queued it. Lauren said she'd seen it in the Winter 2012 issue of Knitscene.

My twitter feed promptly exploded with tweeps wanting to know, needing to know, begging to know, demanding to know the pattern. OK OK OK. The pattern is: Merging Ripple Shawl by Kyoko Nakayoshi.


There are 61 Merging Ripple beautiful projects on Ravelry. It looks like a pleasantly challenging pattern. Short rows, y'all. Hidden wraps. Knock yourself out. It also looks like one of those accessories that you don't take off. You know what to do.

While snooping around on Ravelry, I noticed another Kyoko Nakayoshi pattern in a similar vein, from the same issue of Knitscene: Sideway Shawls:


FYI, there is a digital edition of Knitscene Winter 2012 available here.

These are just cool. I'm seeing one in white and indigo linen. I'll tell you that right now. Summer will return, and I will have a blue and white optical illusion of a scarfy wrappy accessory and everybody will be all jealous and stuff. If the short rows don't kill me.

(Fun fact: Kyoko Nakayoshi is co-responsible, with Jen Arnall-Culliford, for the Cloudy Apples collection I blogged about a few weeks ago. Coinkidink!)

Much cool stuff and fun, and friendly people, at Vogue Knitting Live this year. Tomorrow I'm going back for more. I will try not to tweet anything that makes people go crazy, but you never know what will set the knitters off. (Except you sort of do.)


Posted by Kay at 01:18 AM | Comments (21)

January 18, 2013

When Worlds Collide

Dear Ann,

So, in the Small World Department, this is not like having THERESA REBECK IN MY HOUSE or anything, but it's all I got. (By the way, that "having people in my house" thing is something you do with such elan, whereas I freak out and run around plumping cushions in terror if the neighbor rings the doorbell to borrow some printer paper. What is your secret? I always think, we'll have a party in this apartment real soon. Maybe after the NEXT renovation. The renovation after I'm dead and gone at a great old age and a cute young couple buys the apartment.)

Anyway. I noticed on the Internets that there is a brand-new book out about my new favorite subject: Icelandic knitting. It's called Knitting with Icelandic Wool. The author is Védis Jónsdóttir.


Védis Jónsdóttir, Védis Jónsdóttir. Why does that name sound familiar?

Because Védis Jónsdóttir designed Riddari, the one and only Icelandic sweater I've knit! From a back issue of the Lopi knitting magazine (no. 28).

So, I'm wondering, who is this Védis Jónsdóttir? I look at the back cover of the book for an author photo or bio. "Védis Jónsdóttir grew up on a farm on the west coast of Iceland....blah blah....head designer at Ístex...et cetera...Védis chooses the yarn colors for Ístex....hmmm...she lives in Manhattan."


Védis. Call me. Come on over. I'll plump the cushions.

Anyway, it's a great book. Satisfies a lot of my curiosity about Icelandic wool and knitting, and the famous lopapeysa--which only dates back to the 1950s, who knew?--while at the same time, feeding the fire. A big treasury of old and new Icelandic knitting patterns. I can tell we're going to be friends.


P.S. This may be the first lightning blog that I actually did in 15 minutes. With the crazy Icelandic accent marks on the Os and everything.

Posted by Kay at 11:09 AM | Comments (38)

January 17, 2013

A Golden Globes Knitter Inside My Home

Dear Kay,

Tuesday night's fun was a reception here at the Knitting Palace for the Tennessee Repertory Theatre playwright in residence. The looming ice storm (which did not materialize, at all) (of course) gave the evening that cheerful we're-surviving-a-blizzard-together vibe.

So this playwright comes in, Theresa Rebeck, and I don't know much about her except that she was late to town because she'd been to the Golden Globes for her nomination for Smash, the TV series about Broadway. She invented it. A Rep person introduces us and announces that Theresa is a knitter. "I love knitting," I say. So I show her my teevee cozy, aka a mitered square blanket I threw over the TV in order to make the teevee not so BLACK, and she tells me all this stuff about how knitting is central to her existence. I say something along the lines of "I'm kind of an obsessed knitter," and we chat in a vague way about how great knitting is. She disappears, then comes back and says, "Beth Curley just told me who you are. I have both your books; they are the only books I have knit multiple things out of." She made two Big Dotty blankets for a friend who was having twins.

Well, you can imagine how that made my day/week/month/year.

Other knitters emerged out of the group, including TWO of the playwrights she's in town to teach, and I drag out the Big Dotty sample so she can show this other woman what she was talking about, and it was all very jolly. If they'd had knitting with them, we would have ended up knitting.


Beth Curley, Theresa Rebeck, etc. (Hat tip to Tennessee Rep for capturing this historic moment.) (Come with me to see the Rep's Cabaret next month--it is going to be incredible.)

You would have loved it: knitting conquers all. Theresa even wrote a play about knitting, Loose Knit. Has anyone seen it?

This is the sort of thing that makes life worth living, you know? Knitting lets people put down their guard. It's such a secret handshake. If you're knitting, you have something to talk about.

In the course all the yammering, yarn was a topic. We were talking about favorite yarns, and my instant wish was that I could put this question to the knitters I know out in cyberspace. So, everybody, what is your favorite yarn? Don't overthink it--just lay it out there.

Time's UP!


Posted by Ann at 09:16 AM | Comments (186)

January 16, 2013

Afternoon Delight

Dear Ann,

OK, the title of this post sent me into Salacious Seventies Snickers from my high school days, when this song was on the radio. There was a period when Afternoon Delight (the top selling single of 1976--you see the problem with my generation, right there) was in constant rotation on Omaha's WOW with a half dozen songs including Sister Golden Hair Surprise, and other silky silliness that I flat-out adored. The happiness of those memories, of singing along to girly boy voices, with Sun In spritzed, feathered tresses flying out the window of my trusty 1975 Maverick, keeps me biting my tongue about One Direction and its ilk. (Yes, there is an ilk. If you have a teenage girl you hear 1D, and you hear the ilk, and you despair.)


Ahem. This post IS about: Annie Modesitt. HULK VERY FOND OF ANNIE! HULK HOLD ANNIE VERY GENTLY IN HULK'S MASSIVE PAWLIKE PALM! (Be patient. This Hulk thing, too, shall pass.)


Today on Twitter I learned about Annie's delightful video on how to make a Lovely Left-Leaning Decrease. Watch and learn, and laugh with delight at the cleverness: the video is here.

If you liked that one, here's another one, with hilarious animation. ("The stitch is terrified." Help. Me. Can't. Breathe.)

Annie Modesitt and Cat Bordhi both have the gift of seeing ordinary knitting techniques--tiny things we don't think about, we just DO-- in an extraordinary way, and sharing them with us, thereby blowing our minds. Seriously, did you ever notice that thing about how the decrease will lean in the direction of the working needle? I could knit for 100 years and not notice that on my own; hell, I had to think for a minute about what "the working needle" even means--aren't they both working? (NO. One is just holding the stitches from the last row. The other one is knitting them. Wake up and smell the wool!)

These teachable moments make me feel like a Bear of Small Brain. In a good way. To continue with yesterday's theme: humility is good. It's good when it's justified, and it's even better when it's not as obviously justified.

OK, time's up. Enjoy Annie. She's the bomb-diggity.


Posted by Kay at 02:50 PM | Comments (42)

January 15, 2013

You Want Lightning? I'll Show you Lightning!

Dear Ann:

Having just posted 20 minutes ago, I am refreshed and energized and ready to post again! BLOGGING MAKE HULK STRONG! HULK HAVE OPINIONS! HULK SMASH HONEY COWL HERESIES!

Really, it's just that somebody just asked a question in our comments on the previous post, about the Honey Cowl. If you think I am opinionated about Lance Armstrong, it's nothing compared to my opinionatedness on the Honey Cowl. Here is the question:

"Oh Kay, guru of all that is the honey cowl, I seek your advice. After seeing your beautiful speciments. I want (need) to make one of my own, but I've read on Rav that some people are troubled by a faux-seam that is created by the pattern. I come to you for wise words on how to prevent a honey-cowl tragedy. --mellenknits"

I've been asked this question quite a few times, and I think there is some material on the issue on Ravelry, which unfortunately our lightning blog rulebook does not permit me to spend the afternoon finding.

OK, what is mellenknits talking about? What is this GODAWFUL SEAM that is deterring people from knitting the Honey Cowl? (Look away if you're feeling delicate.)


YES. There is a line. This line is formed thus: the Honey Cowl stitch pattern is a two row pattern. One round is a plain knit round. On the other round, every other stitch is a purl, and between the purls, you slip a stitch purlwise with the yarn in front. At the beginning of each round, you switch between the knit row and the purl row, moving the yarn from back to front and from front to back. A tidy line forms at the precise spot where you do this.

Complaining, worrying, or fussing about this line, IN MY OPINION, is like complaining about the grout between mosaic tiles, the seams on a dress, the stitches in a boot, the nailholes in a piece of fine furniture, the staples in a book binding--AND OTHER NATURALLY OCCURRING MARKS OF HUMAN WORKMANSHIP.

I have seen only one piece of advice on how to eliminate this hideous seam. It involved not slipping the first or last stitch of the purl round. I tried that in my head (hey--I'm busy), and it didn't seem to me like it would do anything but make the seam look different--it would still be visible. So why bother. Again, MY OPINION. If anyone has a perfectly seamless Honey Cowl to show me, I'd love to see it.

Friends, if you think about it, pretty much all of your clothing has seams in it. This is not a reason to avoid the Honey Cowl. IN MY OPINION.

Thank you, mellenknits for your fun question, which enabled me to indulge in all-capsing, which I quite enjoy. Please, dear readers, send more questions to make me yell.

EDITED TO ADD: OK. Maybe I was hasty. Maybe my 20 Honey Cowls have an unnecessary seam.

Deb says (in comments to the previous post) that I should cast on 1 extra stitch, and the seam melts away.

I'm going to try it. But I'm leaving this post up because (a) I had fun and (b) if it's chastening I deserve, it's chastening I'll get. Speaking of humility and all that.


Posted by Kay at 03:29 PM | Comments (47)

How Green was my Knitting

Dear Ann,

We are both on a green journey.


This is the latest output of my Honey Cowl cottage industry. I used two skeins of Hiwassee Creek DK Weight which I scored at the Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza in December. The dyeing style of this yarn reminds me of Madelinetosh: it's basically a solid color, but there are lighter and darker shadings of the color, a few speckles of its close relations (here, a dark blue-green), and the occasionally flash of the white yarn underneath. (The photo is brighter and shows more variation than in real life; in real life, it's a forest green.) I love this style. It avoids the perfect consistency that can make industrially dyed solid colors look flat, but also avoids jangling up a bunch of colors together for a finished item that screams LOOK AT ME I'M HANDMADE. (I look forward to your letters.) (Sometimes, I, too, want my knits to shout their handmade-ness from the rooftops, but not always. Especially gifts. This is a gift for Colleen. Colleens, in general, look great in green.)


(Note: this is not a black & white photo.) Breaking: I managed to finish up a stranded Thorpe hat to send to Afghans for Afghans, for their January campaign for teens in Afghanistan. Confession: after knitting the delightfully intuitive patterned yoke on my Icelandic sweater, Thorpe's 2-color chart had me stopping and starting. I had to keep looking at the chart; the pattern wasn't intuitive. It wasn't a problem, it just wasn't a joy.)


If the yarn looks familiar, it's because it's leftovers from my recent lopapeysa. Two close shades of grey Lett Lopi. (Icelanders: feel free to insert your own diacritical marks.)

I have no opinions on the Golden Globes because I am too busy watching the final episodes of Season 1 of Friday Night Lights on my newfangled Netflix machine. I am seriously crushing on a fictional football coach. These are not words I ever expected to type. Go Panthers!

Here's a thought for the day: I have zero interest in what Lance Armstrong has to say. There are decent things to do after such an epic, self-engineered fall from grace. Talking to Oprah is not one of them. I would suggest firing the publicist, and handing over the charity to others more capable of honesty. Am I bitter because It's Not About the Bike was once a form of armor in a time of need, in my house? You betcha. Trying to be grateful for the courage it gave, and letting the rest of it go.

That's all I got, sister.


Posted by Kay at 12:07 PM | Comments (31)

January 14, 2013

Golden Globes Tidbits

Dear Kay,

My favorite local clotheshorse Taylor Swift was wearing a shade of Donna Karan eggplant that shall live on forever in my memory. Aubergine! Yes!

Cathy Horyn at the NYT (google this!) was complaining that the women looked vulnerable and trapped in their gowns. Whatever! It's the RED CARPET! This is what these women do, and they're not idiots. Kristen Stewart takes off her shoes mid-premiere. I think most actors are game for it all. If they're really miserable about it, they stay home.

Cannot possibly link to all the magnificent wardrobe moments, but just go to people.com and wallow in the beautiful discomfort of it all.

I thought Jodie Foster was very moving, once I caught the current she was riding. A mix of confident and nervous. I loved her boys so much.

Lena Dunham. I am still on the fence about Lena Dunham. I watched the first season of Girls, back to back, in a flu-enhanced fog, and I was left with the feeling that I'd seen a lot of flesh that I didn't really want to see. I understand what she's doing, and I respect it, and a lot of the time it's really, really funny. She is unusually honest in just about every way. But I think she goes to the flesh option too often. It's too easy to do, gets such an instant reaction. You can explore the awkwardness and unpleasantness of sex without illustrating it.

Also, and I know this is deeply controversial, but it comes from a person whose pain threshold and general wimpiness mean she doesn't have pierced ears or contact lenses: I don't like her ink. I know it's illustrations from children's books, but I can't tell which ones. AT LEAST FOOTNOTE YOUR TATTOOS, LENA! NEED A BIBLIOGRAPHY OVER HERE.

If I were going to ink myself, I'd go for a pattern. Something in here. You don't want to get too literal with the ink--it's human wallpaper that I'd want. Decorate thyself!

Finally, I did yeoman's work on my Thorn shawl. For those wondering how the second skein of yarn is looking--the one with the flashes of chartreuse?


In the olden days, I'd photoshop a red line halfway down this photo to show you where the second skein starts. Imagine one! But you can see clearly where the light blips are showing up. I am not necessarily loving this, but I am finding it very authentic, and maybe on the day after the Golden Globes, when Jodie Foster was reminding us about the need for keepin' it real, that's enough.

Time's up!


Posted by Ann at 09:14 AM | Comments (36)

January 12, 2013

The Second Skein, or, High Drama

Dear Kay,

Things are very, very scary around here. Late last night I wound the second skein of yarn for my Thorn shawl, and I have to tell you, it was a moment of shocking revelation:


See that? The small ball is the end of Skein 1. The big ball is Skein 2. I don't know if my 15-minute photography skills have captured the full subtlety of this yarn, but something is UP with this second skein. I discovered, upon unwinding the skein, that buried in the depths was a moment of color that can only be called chartreuse, a distinctly springlike moment of an inch or so where the dark piney woods broke into a life-affirming and glorious glade of new grass.

Or something.

People, this changes everything. And it's why I love hand-dyed yarns above all others. The randomness of what will happen when those little chartreuse blips show up is something I can't quite imagine. In a giant yarn factory, this skein would have gone into the bin of Also Rans. But I'm not looking for perfection; maybe I'm looking for the opposite. That's what making stuff is all about, isn't it?

This yarn is by Alisha Goes Around, in what I think is Alisha's first custom blend, a mix of superwash merino, bombyx silk (O! the bombyxness!), and merino. She has SAT-vocabulary names for her yarns (Panoply of Peacocks, Tittering of Magpies), so it's obvious why she would name this Zeal of Zebra.

I had the chance to meet Alisha in Hot Springs last month. Her grays are the most beautiful I've seen, but nothing was as gorgeous and compelling as the eight-month-old baby she was loving on all weekend long as she sold her crazy-named, perfectly imperfect yarns.

Time's up!


Posted by Ann at 10:30 AM | Comments (20)

January 11, 2013

MDK Mailbag

Dear Ann,

A few treats landed in my inbox this morning. My first thought: 15 minute blog fodder!


Emma sent me a link to the kit for this dog coat, based on Kate Davies' wonderful Rams & Yowes blanket. I have to agree that it would look smashing on my earth-toned Olive. It is hard to make much of an impression at our local dog cafe because so many of the dogs are so very well dressed. I think this might be the ticket.


Tammy sent me this knitting-related real estate article in the New York Times. Yes, Tammy, I've met Christine Lavin! "Met," as in "said hello to her one evening when she was singing at my LYS, Knitty City"--of course she was! Christine Lavin wrote the anthem of rueful 1990s single women: Attainable Love. Christine's the best. I'm glad she found an apartment. I've been doing it all wrong, knitting to match my apartment. Next time, I'll look for an apartment that matches my knitting.


Belinda sent this image from Tom Ford's latest collection.


Make a note: pink lopapeysas are going to be all the rage in menswear this spring. Get on it.



Using lopi leftovers, I am whipping up a quick Thorpe hat for Afghans for Afghans' super-fast campaign for teens in Afghanistan. They are looking for warm woollen hats, socks and mittens to fit students age 14-21. They need to receive them before the end of January. I love this organization. I can do a hat. Join me!

Behind the hat is the Bowling Avenue tribute blanket--so, so, so close to the finish. I am grateful for the patience of readers who occasionally check in to see when the pattern will be ready. SOON, I hope. SOON.


Ann. We've been neglecting our duty as Jack White's Foremost Middle Aged Knitter Ambassadors. Breaking news: Conan O'Brien just released a fantastic hour-long conversation with Jack White.

I like the dark, Charlie Rose-style set, in which White appears as a pale, floating head and hands (this may be accurate). Even if an hour's too long for you, watch the first few minutes, for the discussion of White's upholstery career and its influence on his work today. His precise memory of a specific fabric made me smile -- textile people, he's just like us -- and the "three staples" story really resonates. (I have got to eliminate some staples.) Another tip: if you're authentic, you wanna stay away from the word "authenticity."

Happy weekend everybody!


Posted by Kay at 10:17 AM | Comments (33)

January 10, 2013

Thursday Pensées


Dear Kay,

One of the many hazards of 15-minute blogging is that you can get hung up on stuff like DOCUMENTING EVERY GODDANG STITCH of the thing you're knitting. HUGE letting go of that. Here's the Thorn wrap by Bristol Ivy. I hasten to point out that there are some stitches not visible in this photograph. I'm knitting like a fiend on this thing, but it's on size 4 needles, so it's slow to amount to much.

It's a ton of fun, in a hypnotic, watch-out-for-those-increases way. Moving the center marker every other row is the thrilling equivalent of making sure you pay the cable bill on time. DON'T FORGET or your life is screwed.

Here are some Thursday Time Wasters for you. This is the stuff that is on my mind right now:

Number 1: Maria Bamford. We are in awe of Maria Bamford. We worry about her, and hope she is doing OK. So so so brutally funny. Here you go: worthy of your attention.

Number 2: Beck. I have had a thing for Beck for a very long time. I recall driving to the beach one year when the children were toddling, and we listened to "Where It's At" so many times that the three year old was chanting "two turntables and a microphone" like a pro. Here you go, a little "Where It's At" to go with your latte.


The thing on my mind this morning is Beck's new album, which isn't an album at all; it's a batch of sheet music, designed to look like it was made in 1923. The idea is that you have to PLAY IT YOURSELF. There is no Beck performance of any of it.

Exactly like your average downloadable knitting pattern, you know? It's just an idea until you lay your own mitts on it.

Time's UP!


Posted by Ann at 09:25 AM | Comments (19)

January 09, 2013

Greased Lightning

Dear Ann,

Hey, it's a busy day. I'm going for a ten-minute lightning round here.

Speaking of lightning, wonderful Wendy has made it rain! She blogged about her Cornerstone Blanket-in-progress, resulting in a renewed ka-ching sound from donations over at Citymeals-on-Wheels. Go look; I'll even give you the link. Here you go. (And hot off the presses, more pictures here. ) It's a beautiful blue-based version, in Noro Silk Garden. It tickles me to see a knitter of Wendy's black-belt status hunkering down with the garter stitch. But for all her mastery, Wendy is a knitter; she puts on her point protectors one needle at a time. Everybody needs a little garter stitch now and then. Personally, I need a lot. Garter stitch smooths out many of the bumps in my road.

The other thing I wanted to do was show a picture of how the neck on my modified Riddari came out, and explain how I did it.

Riddari With The Original Neck:


Riddari With Modified Audrey Hepburn Neck:


(Photo is pre-blocking. Sorry but this is lightning blogging.)

The modification was dead simple and as low-math as I could muster. On the last decrease round of the chart, I made only half of the decreases, skipping every other decrease. The chart helpfully had this last decrease placed so that my modification isn't noticeable unless you are looking for it.


See? The light grey motifs alternate in width between 2 stitches and 3 stitches, but the shape remains the same.

I eliminated the 2 x 2 ribbing at the cuffs and neck, opting for a plain roll edge.

I also did something very controversial at the underarms--I did a bind off of the live underarm stitches, instead of grafting the stitches together.


This was a flare of my Kitchener Avoidance Syndrome, yes, but I felt it was justified by the additional ventilation. I have a ski jacket that has underarm zip vents, and I always leave them open. This sweater will never be worn next to the skin. (And I could undo it very easily. But I won't.) I know a lot of people wouldn't make this choice but I hope not to get yelled at about it. I'm not trying to start a trend or anything.

Imma let me finish, but I have one more thing: the Lopi website has wonderful free patterns, including a family of lopapeysas in honor of the Istex company's 20th anniversary, and a PENGUIN LOPAPEYSA which is the cutest thing ever. GO LOOK.


Posted by Kay at 02:54 PM | Comments (31)

January 08, 2013

Icelandic (Sweater) Saga

Dear Ann,

I'm all for this lightning-round blogging idea, but as anyone who's ever tried to have a short conversation with me knows, I'm more of a long-form person. Not sure I can do it, but here goes.

June 2012: We went to Iceland, an extended family party of 9. We tasted many local delights, including the local wool, first glimpsed on the hoof.


Mother and child, from the window of the Ford Expedition With Extra-Big Tires in which we were bounding through the unearthly Icelandic landscape. (Best trip ever, but the lightning form does not permit searching for 6-month-old photos.) (Google it. Iceland. Scenic like you wouldn't believe. Scenic enough to hush teenagers.)

Naturally I wanted to knit with the stuff. And I wanted to knit the proper Icelandic specimen: the world-famous lopapeysa. We saw many lopapeysas on the streets of Reykjavik. In June. On the young and the old, the tall and the small, the red-haired and the--well, there weren't that many people without red hair. Lopapeysas are outerwear or, I suppose in the winter, they are middle-layer wear. Wandering around Reykjavik was like being on a Wes Anderson movie set. So many friendly wonders. So much un-selfconscious quirkiness and joyfulness. So much patterned, heavy gauge woollenwear.

My chosen lopapeysa: Riddari. I bought enough yarn for 4 of them, one for each teenager in our crew. (Not for nothing, but it's an economical yarn; you can knit a lopi sweater for less than you can buy one.) The sentiment here: my dear young relations, as you head out into the largeness of the world, there is but one guarantee. If it gets really cold, or you are cast as an extra in a remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, you will have an appropriate sweater for that. Knitted with all the love in the world.

Exiting our Icelandair flight at JFK, I had two torsos and one sleeve. The plan: finish these two by New Year, so that Carrie and Maggie could model them and I could be Queen of the Internets. The boys, after all, are still growing; their sweaters can wait a twelvemonth. (After a week in Iceland, your English gets old-timey.)

The next step -- I don't need to tell you -- was to leave these sweater parts in a tote bag in the closet for six solid months. I didn't knit a stitch on them, or even think of them again, until I was packing to go to Omaha for Christmas. Then I remembered the beautiful fantasy of pale girls in Icelandic sweaters knit by their beloved mother/aunt/personal knitter. And I thought, of course it's possible to finish these 2 sweaters in one week. I'll be FLYING ON A PLANE. I'll be SITTING ON THE COUCH. NUMBER 9 NEEDLES. All that's left is 3 sleeves and 2 yokes--not a big deal.

This is what happened next. I knit the second sleeve for Riddari the First on the trip from New York to Omaha.

It was fun to join the pieces. I love this style of sweater construction. Bottom-up, in the round. It makes so much sense. All the numbers add up. Bystanders are impressed as hell.

I took off on the yoke, like a bat out of hell. With a sure sense that nothing could possibly go wrong.

It was going really fast. So much fun. Ann: I know you are a knitter, and that you understand Knitting Fun, yet still I must emphasize very strongly how fun this knitting was. I also want to thank you for teaching me, in our second book (even in a lightning blog we have time to link to our books), how to knit Fair Isle with the yarn in two hands.


Then something did possibly go wrong. When the dark grey skein ran out, I accidentally continued with a skein of the similar, but more brownish-grey color from Maggie's sweater, and knit about 10 long yoke rounds before I noticed it.


Time for a rip-out.


And a bonus fitting session. Thanks to your two-handed technique, the floats never tangled, so it was a dream to rip out, if that is possible. I shed maybe one tiny rip-out tear but it was otherwise ok.


The mistake set me back almost a full day, but at least I knew for sure the thing was going to fit.

By Boxing Day I was caught up. Soon it was time for a flight back to New York. Knit knit knit. Unpack unpack unpack. Repack repack repack. Off to Long Island for New Year.


On December 30, at 2:30 a.m., after fiddling slightly with Riddari's final decreases to yield a wider, girlier neck, I bound off, and tweeted a joyful tweet.


On New Year's Day, one girl wore a freshly blocked, perfectly fitting stunner of a lopapeysa on the beach. One did not. In the all-out effort to finish two sweaters, I had finished only one.


But hey: I finished a sweater! My first lopapeysa!


In the midst of it all, I blocked and distributed a modest stack of cowlage. These are all Honey Cowls, and all holiday gifts. I'm still not done with the Honey Cowl. Or it's not done with me.

Happy New Year all! My advice: start the year out with some exhilarating knitting that is out of the ordinary for you. It did me a world of good, that lopapeysa. I start 2013 with a clean slate and a renewed love of KNITTING KNITTING KNITTING.

Knitting is just the greatest thing ever.


P.S. It's possible that I'm having trouble with the lightning-round blogging concept.

Posted by Kay at 05:24 PM | Comments (55)

January 07, 2013

New for 2013: Lightning Round Blogging


Dear Kay,

One of my many, many New Year's resolutions is to blog more often. I've decided that it's very easy to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so I'm going to try something we are going to call LIGHTNING ROUND BLOGGING. STRICT 15-MINUTE TIME LIMIT. When the buzzer goes off, I'm done. Quantity has a quality all its own, right?

Here we go:

All the yarn I adopted at the Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza is screeching at me. So I decided to start the new year with the Alisha Goes Around fingering weight stuff called Zeal of Zebra (no time to link this stuff, people--just google it ok?), in a color that is one of my favorites: emeraldy colorshifty. It's Superwash merino/Bombyx Silk/Fine Merino (just google it ok?)

I have two skeins, 500 yards or whatever per skein, just a whale of a lot of the stuff. I start poking around the Internet, come across WOOL PEOPLE 4 (google it!) and discover a pattern by Bristol Ivy (this is a person, not a perennial nor a child of Jay Z and Beyonce), and it turns out that this pattern, Thorn (not a commentary on the quality of the pattern, I believe), calls for around 1,000 yards of fingering weight.

BINGO! GIMME A SIZE 4 NEEDLE, a child who has come down with a stomach virus, and I am ON MY WAY. Pillow-fluffing, Gatorade, cast ON. Florence Nightingale has nothing on me.

The thing is, this is one of those patterns that relies on mathy increases and such to create its gently swooping, irregular shape. Bristol Ivy is clearly nuts, because nobody sits down to write a pattern for a wrap with this sort of peculiar sunbeam design. CRAZY.

This is one of those hail-Mary patterns, like one of those Veera Valimaki shawlettes. (Go google it; and no, I got no time for diacritical dots over Veera's name, sorry!) At this point I am on page 2 of a 10-page pattern, and I am drunk with excitement on what will happen when we get to the Part B increases. And Part C. And Part D.

Seriously, this was the perfect pattern to work on while watching Downton Abbey last night. An Easy Row, then a Twisty Row. A lot of through the back loop action. Fantastic.

Time for one link to this cool pattern here. ENJOY!

Wasn't Downton Abbey gratifying last night? The wedding was too short, but then, there has never been a teevee wedding that went on too long for me.


Time's UP!


Posted by Ann at 02:17 PM | Comments (43)

January 01, 2013

Delirious New Year!


Dear Kay,

Well, here we are--into the Mayan apocalypse, over the fiscal cliff, right on into a brand-new year of handknits and whatnot. We are not going to talk about guns today. Anybody who wants to talk about guns can go find one of the many, many websites where you can rattle on all day about them.

Hope everyone had a pleasant New Year's Eve. We laid low last night, with me dragging down the frivolity level 100% due to the flu. At this point I feel like I'm under house arrest. I don't know what all these shoes are for. I sit at the window with the housecats and stare at the birds. It was sunny the other day, and I had to draw the curtains, it was so bright.

Just about the only thing I have accomplished, shockingly, is knitting. I can knit through a mental brownout, it turns out. Let's go to the videotape. Ordinarily I would give you a loving rundown of every impression and thought about these cowls, but I'm on the tail end of my Dayquil so I'll just go until I burn out.

First of all, the thing to notice here is that these are ALL COWLS. The mania started, as manias do, with a Honey Cowl. It was for my friend Frannie's birthday. The minute I finished that one, I momentumed right into another one to use up the leftover Malabrigo that I'd used for Frannie's.


Shade: Aguas or Iguana or whatever.

It's a tapas-sized cowl. A full Honey Cowl is basically a blanket, when you get right down to it. It's housing.

When the Malabrigo ran out, I went straight for Belinda Boaden's London Cowling, which had a nice texture to it and also some MOSS STITCH edging, which I'm always a sucker for.


This used the Hiwaseee Creek Dyeworks yarn I scored in Hot Springs with you. Yarn name was Winter Sky or Dank Glimmer of Hope or some such name for a gray yarn with dim pale blues and greens in there.

(JIMINY WE HAVEN'T EVEN TALKED ABOUT HOT SPRINGS. What a fabbyfantastic trip that was to the Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza. I haven't even unpacked my bag from that trip, literally and philosophically. Those knitters gave me a whole new love of knitting. They reminded me that knitting is a simple thing, and the best thing in almost any situation, and certainly a reasonable excuse to ditch life two weeks before Christmas. It was the highlight of my knitting year, talking with all those yarnmakers and knitters and yarn shop evangelists.)

At certain points in my cowling, I felt tremendous tenderness and love for the designers of the cowl patterns. Oh, BELINDA. Your London Cowling is so textured. So mercifully straightforward.

Hubbo instantly claimed it for his own. That never happens.

Next up was a trip into the mind of Amy Christoffers, a designer whose Savory Knitting is the website I'll visit whenever I'm looking for a classic pattern with brainy twists. Say, for example, another cowl pattern.

Amy, of course, delivered with THREE cowl patterns, Homard Cowls Collection. (She is having a 25% off New Year's sale TODAY, I just noticed. All her patterns are gorgeous.)

I went straight to Cowl à la Provençale (AMY YOUR DIACRITICAL MARKS WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME).

cowl a la russe.jpg

I know you will recognize this yarn as the fluffy product of Henrietta, the sadly departed alpaca owned by the neighbor of Dr. Mel, everybody's favorite Maine vet/knitter/utilikilter.

Henrietta lives on, people, in the form of this feather-and-fan cowl.

I veered from that directly into Amy's next diacritically challenging pattern, Cowl à l'Americaine.

cowl a l'americaine.JPG

This yarn is unspeakably wonderful. It's Lost City Knits, High Country DK. (Another Hot Springs acquisition. The nicest folks you'll ever meet.) It's superwash but very squishy and lush. The shade is Potbelly Stove or Pellet Stove or Stovetop Dressing or whatever. Here's Chris's story of his pot-bellied stove. Yarnmakers are good at telling the stories of their yarns.)

Gray yarn is my favorite yarn, and this shifty gray makes it look like it's shining.

Or maybe that's just the Dayquil talking.

At any rate, the weird thing about this stitch pattern is that it's basically a 4 x 2 rib that shifts every four rows. But it looks like a sort of cable stitch. Or something. I love it. And everybody. The world is a beautiful place. Go look at these Hubble space telescope pictures if you want to think about how gorgeous and immense the universe is.

I can't believe I've lasted this long. Thank you for your everlovin' patience.


Posted by Ann at 12:56 PM | Comments (37)
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