If you’re Rhinebeck-bound, we would love to see youΒ at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night–details here.

Shadowy Thinking, Plus Yarn

Dear Kay,
Ohhhhh . . . it’s . . . spring break . . . and I do not have a Plan.
I now question my decision to let this spring break be a loosey goosey aw-let’s-just-chill kind of spring break with my two boys.
I’ve already overseen the construction of a cement volcano, a trip to Michael’s, and four hours of card-throwing practice. There are playing cards all over the house. There are nine days to go.
Upside Down
We also visited with Leonardo da Vinci yesterday. As Belinda is my witness, I bought the makings of a genuine reproduction Leonardo da Vinci camera obscura back in December, in London. Now THOSE were the days, back when Mother knew how to fill up a week.
I’ve kept the camera obscura makings (or makin’s as we say down here) by my sink, where I’ve eyed them often, wondering when the perfect moment would arrive for putting it together. I knew the camera obscura was some sort of precursor to the camera. But I’d never seen one in action.
Friday was the day. Mostly, cameras obscura get glue all over your floor, and fingers, and your son’s fingers. But the glue disappears after you let it dry for “a few hours.” (By the way, what kind of direction is THAT? I’m sitting here writing knitting directions all day long, and it is just not cool to say “knit a few hours.” Where is the precision, people? Would LEONARDO say to let his camera obscura dry for “a few hours”?)
ANYway, it dried, and despite the fact that Leonardo da Vinci probably didn’t have laser-cut camera obscura makin’s, I felt a moment of great communion with the guy when I got my first peek into the window.
It’s just a box with a lens in one end, and a translucent screen on the other. I flipped this image, because the image in a camera obscura appears upside down. Ghostly. Dreamlike. Very beautiful. Everything you see in a camera obscura looks like a Vermeer painting.
Which may be no coincidence. However vague the directions were, they included a tantalizing comment. Apparently, everybody’s favorite artist, Vermeer, may have used a camera obscura in composing his paintings. Here’s a fascinating piece about a scholar who really wanted to figure out whether this was true.
Scholars are great, aren’t they? Always worryin’ about something. Always thinkin’.
I wish I could see all of life through my camera obscura.
Is Yarn Going Out of Style?
I have been buying yarn like it’s going out of style. I keep seeing new yarns that are truly, truly irresistible. I cain’t hep myself. Right now it’s yarn with a handwritten tag that really makes me nutty. If somebody’s taking out a ballpoint pen and scrawling on a tag–in this day and age where my seven year old can print out NFL team rosters on the computer–it’s special stuff. Etsy.com, as you might imagine, is big trouble for this sort of thing.
For instance, this:
All Spun Up yarn.
Hand dyed, handspun by Kristin of All Spun Up. Made of Bluefaced Leicester wool. “The Bluefaced Leicester should have a broad muzzle, good mouth, a roman nose, bright alert eyes, and long erect ears. The color of the head skin should be dark blue showing through white hair, with no wool on the head or neck.” Just the way I like my men . . .
Consider this pair of guinea pigs:
Sophie’s Toes sock yarn, hand dyed by Emily Parson. Emily is a quilter of some renown–you can see her love of color here. I got to meet Emily at the great Chicago Knit-in of ’05; who knew I would come across her hand-dyed sock yarn purely by chance on Etsy?
And look at these:
Malabrigo Lace 100% Baby Merino Wool. Shades 99 Stone Blue, 102 Sealing Wax, 69 Pearl Ten.
I had never heard of Malabrigo until we had the Future Search for the Perfect Yarn, and people kept talking about Malabrigo. I finally saw some a while back, and I was knocked out by the shifting solid shades. Clearly something good is happening when you dye yarn in a kettle.
And now I discover a laceweight version? 470 yards in a 50 gram hank? For ten bucks? The Uruguayan goodness is too much! I must go lie down now.
By the way, the Malabrigo yarn portraits over at Brooklyn Tweed are practically lewd. Go there to see the worsted weight of this glorious yarn.
Get Your Groan On
And finally, the Slogalong is almost ready to go. If your favorite Winnie-the-Pooh character is Eeyore, this is the knitalong for you. Email me if you’re working on a project that will not end, and you need a little company. A bunch of us are making the Blue Sky Alpaca Silk Shrug, but we welcome anybody trying to finish something that simply will not end.




  1. Dear Ann, I love your camera obscura. If you have never read Girl with a Pearl Earring you should. It is a novel about Vermeer and I found it most interesting.

  2. Malabrigo laceweight!? Must have…
    My kiddo had to make a camera obscura for school this year, and write a marketing brochure for it. Too bad he didn’t throw in the Vermeer-like nature of the images!
    We are just finishing March Break here, and we did the loosey-goosey kind. Somehow in all these days the book report did not get written so mommy must change from loosey-goosey to bossy boots….

  3. Malabrigo LACE?! I hadn’t known…definitely need to add to my list of must haves!

  4. Wow, the malabrigo is gorgeous. Good luck with the camera, we can’t wait to see what the boys do with that.

  5. I learned all about camera obscuras earlier this semester so I’m resisting the urge to prattle off bunches of useless knowledge about them πŸ™‚ It’s cool to see one in action…In my class, we wanted to make the whole classroom into a camera obscura but we never got around to it.
    I’m drooling over your new yarn acquistions…The downside to being a college kid is I can’t afford new yarn, so I have to enjoy everyone else’s lovely stashes (which I do, very often πŸ™‚ )

  6. Hey Malabrigo lovers, did you know Handpaintedyarn.com is the same company as Malabrigo? It has bulky, fingering and laceweight yarns….Malabrigo is just their “retail” name…
    I’m not affiliated or anything, just a very happy customer! I knit a sweater out of that Blue Stone color and just love it’s gray Eeyore-ness!

  7. I LOVE me some sophies toes.
    I just finished reading the Memory keeper’s daughter, and one of the main characters is fascinated by photography and talks a lot about the camera obscura.

  8. It’s a good thing that the camera obsura makes things upside down, because then when you are painting the object/person, you get the proportions more accurate. Why? Because we make assumptions about the shape of things when they appear as they do in everyday life. Looking at something upside down makes you more aware of the objects lines and shapes, therefore making you paint/draw it more accurately. When I would paint portraits, I would occasionally flip the painting upside down or gaze at it through a mirror to see if I was painting it correctly. Just a little bit of useless info. πŸ™‚

  9. We just finished a loosey goosey March break. My boys are 10 and 12 and amused themselves with video games and friends. I also made them cook.
    Good luck with yours!

  10. It’s not too late to get on a plane to SOMEWHERE. For real.
    Henceforth I would like to be viewed solely through a camera obscura. The obscura the betta.
    xox Kay

  11. I am making the Blanket Moderne in Lion Brand Homespun. (Fiber Snobs – stop shuddering). I had about 5 skeins of the Homespun that I bought FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. I learned to knit 3 years ago. Anyway, I started it as a throw when we moved to CO last Nov. My husband pointed out that it wouldn’t cover all of us (he and I and our two little guys) so it keeps getting bigger. By the time I’m done, it’ll be able to cover a small bus.

  12. Delurking to say that Leonardo might well have given such glue-drying time directions as time in his era was less rigidly defined not to mention the effect of climate at different times of the year (sort of like a seasonal choice of yarns!) It looks a lovely piece of work – imagine being the person to figure out something like that? Next Spring Break, maybe you and the boys could go to the village of Vinci north of the Arno between Pisa and Firenze???

  13. As a recovering elementary school teacher, I can promise you that you kids’ teachers are singing and dancing and generally celebrating this week. Hang in there.

  14. Thanks for the camera obscura pictures – they are lovely. And the link to the article about Vermeer, fascinating stuff. I think I’m going to have to try and make a camera obscura!

  15. Have you ever visited the San Francisco camera obscura? Very cool in an old-tourism kind of way, its near Seal Rock (at giantcamera dot com).
    The slogalong sounds good, though it might be the knitalong that never ends…

  16. Hey Kay,
    My kids love the picture of the baby on the quilt, especially the rear view, where it looks like he’s climbing some very cool baby thingy.

  17. There was a camera obscura in that book/movie about Vermeer, “Girl with Pearl Earring”, which if you haven’t read or seen it, is highly recommended, if for the Colin Firth content alone. Scarlett Johanssen (sp?) does an admirable job in the movie as well.
    You are such a yarn temptress — now I’m wanting some of that Sophie’s Toes, but her shop is plum out. Good thing — I don’t need anymore sock yarn. Gotta love the Malabrigo, though. I just knit a hat with the worsted, and it is like butter — heavenly. I think I need to buy more….

  18. I feel your pain! Spring break happens next week here, though it starts on Friday for some odd reason. No plans at all yet. I. Am. Doomed.

  19. I love camera stuff! You should check out Holgas, and pinhole cameras – incredible stuff.
    I’ve lusted after Malabrigo before, but the wool was always too itchy. Merino! I could do merino . . . looking at the colors at that link made me lightheaded.

  20. You should rent “Addicted to Love” with Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan. The camera obscura has a very prominent place in the lives of two people trying to win back the “loves of their lives” while spying on them from an abandoned building across the street. Funny, touching, totally a chick-flick.

  21. lovely, eerie camera obscura images.
    my spring break solution was a batch of homemade cookies, almost every day.

  22. ahhhh, yesssss, you have finally fallen into the pit of doom called Malabrigo! :o)
    I must warn you, you may never come out of it fully but you will enjoy being immersed in it!
    anyway, I just got that stone blue colorway and it’s just soooo yummmmy! and the pearl ten? amazing colors in one skein. my friend got some of that to make a sweater. can’t wait to see it knit up!

  23. I’m finishing up my first pair of socks made from All Spun Up’s Blue Faced Leicester and I can tell you that the only thing more delightful than knitting with the yarn is sliding your foot into a cushy sock made out of it.

  24. I love those images. They remind me of the Heinrich Kuhn early color photos. I tried googling up some images for you, but I guess you’ll just have to look them up next time you’re at the Metropolitan. xo, c.

  25. “Henceforth I would like to be viewed solely through a camera obscura. The obscura the betta.”
    Kay, you made my Monday loads better!

  26. How interesting life must have been for those who actually knew Divinci. I would have loved to see his work in action.
    And I love Eeyore. Such a cute little pessimist.


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