Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn Crawl is on through Sunday, September 25.

Alert The Media

Dear Ann,
Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. Recently I found myself in the unaccustomed position of having Finished Something. A sweater, no less. Small, to be sure, but a sweater.
I have had completion problems lately. (Perhaps you’ve noticed that, while waiting almost a year for that wonderfully morose Olive cardi I’m meant to be finishing up for you. You can wear it on overcast days that are a touch too chilly for your fab—and I note, FINISHED—new jacket from Habu Textiles.)
But babies will be born, and they must be knit for. This is Scamp, from Rowan’s Pipsqueaks book. It is for the first grandchild of a dear friend in North Carolina (let’s just pass over the fact that I HAVE A FRIEND WHO IS NOT THAT MUCH OLDER THAN ME WHO IS A GRANDMOTHER–shriek!). This baby arrived in July 2003. He has been biding his time, sweater-wise. Growing into that perfect sweater age.
Scamp has a tortured history. Which I will reveal to you now.
Textured knit-and-purl stitch patterns were meant for Rowan Denim. After a few washings, the higher terrain gets whiter than the lowlands, to beautiful effect (an effect that I have great difficulty capturing on the KayCam).
For some reason, I have a horrendous time with these simple, charted patterns. They cannot really be memorized. A purl is either one stitch to the right or the left of where the purl was on the row below, and there is no way of telling except by looking at the chart. In this particular pattern, in the center of every row, the zigs and zags suddenly reverse direction, for a mirror-image effect. (Oy! Like I needed THAT?) Of course, I don’t need to tell you (but I WANT to tell you) that on the wrong side all the knits are purls and all the purls are knits. This is easy to understand, but for me, hard to execute. Especially hard to execute in dim light while watching a reunion of folksingers on PBS that was exactly like the film A Mighty Wind, except they weren’t, you know, kidding. (The Smothers Brothers! Glenn Yarbrough! Green, green, it’s green they say…)
What is the solution to this difficulty? For me, there are two options: quit, or cheat. On Scamp, I did both. I put it aside for months after starting it, and then when I finally finished it, I cheated. Do I have to spell it out for you? When I finally arrived, exhausted, at the little sleeves, I subtracted the zig-zags and just did the furrows of moss stitch. Hey–the kid is a year old. He’s gonna notice?
See how the pocket flap has 4 buttons, instead of the 2 shown on the pattern? I did that on purpose, because I didn’t like the pattern’s use of velcro to keep the pocket from gaping open. (I think I deserve extra credit for making twice as many button holes.) And see how the pocket flap is the dark ‘Nashville’ shade of Rowan Denim, and the rest of the sweater is the softer ‘Memphis’ shade? That was on purpose, too. Just ’cause I felt like it.
I had to sew the buttons on twice. The first time around, I used a shiny blue, vintage set from Grandma Mabel’s Great Depression Button Box. They faded to murky yellow-gray when I (compulsively) washed the sweater one last time.
This turned out to be good news, because I found perfect, pre-faded blue ones at the sewing/notions department at Hildreth’s, America’s Oldest Department Store of the Founding Fathers on Main Street (where else) in Southampton, New York. I sewed them on, threw Scamp in a box with a ‘Congratulations on Your (Sort of) New Baby’ card, and ran to the post office. Goodbye! Get out of here! Go wear yourself out getting drooled on!
I promise you I am almost done getting the Sew-Up Afghans ready for their close-up.
Love, Kay




  1. oh, how i wish i had a photo to send you of ‘my’ Scamp! just like you, I struggled with the thing for many months, for exactly the same reasons, except on a much larger scale. infact, as you know already, such a larger scale that the final product is unwearable by the recipient for the next 4-5 years!!!!
    and just like you, i cheated, but not with the stitch pattern, with the whole thing, as i skipped the pocket/flap thingy!
    yours is beautiful, i love the 2 color denim combination, the buttons and the fact that it will be worn and adored by the recipient and his mother!
    well done!
    ps: when do i get to see you with your new denim skirt?

  2. I saw that PBS thing, and I can understand how hard it must have been to concentrate. It was EXACTLY like The Mighty Wind only with lots of long fund-raising breaks. I can’t remember exactly the point where I fell asleep, knitting in hand… I have trouble with the wrong side of charts too, they’re backwards! I’ve been doing Rosa Reef from Rowan for the kid, and I am swearing here in front of these witnesses that I Will Never Do Intarsia Again.

  3. Oops, forgot to say I love Scamp! I need a baby to knit for! Sigh.

  4. Susan, as Benedetta can attest, Scamp comes in Super Size.
    Benedetta, I cannot tell you how much comfort I got when you told me Scamp was driving you crazy, too. I want to petition Rowan for an extra ‘skein of difficulty’ rating for all these knit-&-purl gansey thingies. It wouldn’t make it easier to knit, but I wouldn’t feel like such a ding-dong. (Hmm. It must be because Mom is visiting, because I just used the word, ‘ding-dong’.)
    And in re: that gorgeous denim skirt. I’m walking as fast as I can!!! I’m following all of Thomas’s Lifestyle Change recommendations! I’m going to pour myself into it ANY DAY NOW!!!! For the moment, just gazing in admiration….xoxo Kay

  5. hmmm I kinda liked the yellow buttons… it is also 2 am here and there is no accounting for my taste if I am in a sleep deprived knitting mood 🙂

  6. stinkerbell, I see on your blog that your LYS is the Bon Marche in Paris. I know that Rowan lady! She’s very nice. She went digging for all of their black Rowan denim for me the last time I was there. I got quite a haul of it (not on sale, unfortunately, but the black had disappeared from US shelves so I wanted to get me a pile of it–haven’t knit it up yet, of course not!)
    Lucky you to have such a lovely spot to browse in…..xoxo Kay

  7. Brava Kay! Scamp is very cute, and if brides can claim a one year rule, certainly knitters can. I’m with you on those zigzags. Why are they so hard? Don’t know, but there is a textured sweater for the older son that is like pulling teeth to get me to knit on. Good thing I started it in a big size.
    But yes, even worse than zigzags is intarsia. After an Anti Intarsia discussion with Susan on Sunday I went back through the stash last night and decided there is one project that really needs to morph into something else or be given away, because there is NO WAY I am doing all those Sasha Kagan flowers. (It’s the cover of the fall 2001 Interweave. If anyone out there is dying to put themselves through that, please let me know. I have some lovely yarn you might like!)

  8. I can’t agree more… charts suck. I end up writing them out, and then following my own written instructions.

  9. Hmmm, Kay… while I’m flattered at being used (abused?) as a rolemodel for a die., sorry lifestyle change, I by far refer to use you as a role-model as someone who actually finishes stuff now-and then.

  10. I have the chart-hate too. One of my afgan squares was a charted swatch taken from an Interweave sweater with a kind of K shaped rib pattern. It’s a really lovely pattern but, well I must have tried to do it about 10 times! Kay is now thinking “Did I ever see a square like that?”. Well, um, no actually. I had to chuck it out in the end – nearly wore that wool out trying to make it right!

  11. Lucky baby’ish person to get such a beautiful Scamp ! I strongly approve of the modifications,particularly the different shade flap.Fab !

  12. Oooh, sorry to have missed the folkie reunion. (I am sitting here laughing at A Mighty Wind all over again.)
    I confess that my hopes were briefly if tragically raised at the prospect of your finished object being . . . my . . . Olive . . . sweater. Like a fisherman’s wife sitting patiently by the seawall, I understand my fate. I shall knit on, knowing that someday, perhaps someday, Olive will come home to me.
    I think Scamp is a doll, especially all that extra credit work. That Velcro trick does seem kind of lame, although I can think of at least two collars where I could have used some interlocking loop assistance. JUST VELCRO IT ALREADY. STAPLE IT. SOMETHING.

  13. Kay, guess what? last night i remembered your suggestion, dug Scamp out from the box-of-clothe-to-be-worn-in-a-distant-future-by-my-children, washed it hot and dried hot for a long time. Now Giacomo may hope to wear it in the next couple of years, instead than waiting to his teens! very excited (me, he could not care less)! THANK YOU! your denim expertise is invaluable

  14. kay…. CUTE, CUTE, CUTE, CUTE….. scamp! carrie! joseph! grandma! love instilling the “project mode” concept in children….YOU are the bestest mom! XXXXX

  15. Kay, I can totally relate to your finishing problem. I just finally finished a pair of booties – booties! little booties! – the first of which I made in June. The baby was born over a month ago. Good thing I made the 6 month size. I may steal your line about “Your (Sort Of) New Baby” for the card. Great job on Scamp!


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