“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

That Thing We Do

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Dear Ann,
Remember how we used to do that thing with the sticks and the yarn? Gosh that was fun.
Do you ever think about taste? About how it’s so specific, and everybody’s is different? And how it matters so much even though it has nothing to do with function or craftsmanship?
Last week, when I realized, sadly, that I had knitted up every miter for the No Sew Mitered Blanket, and that I had reknitted all of the icky ones that I didn’t like any more even though I liked them the week before when I was knitting them, I needed to start another Road Knitting project. I mean, I am not going to be riding around in a car NOT KNITTING–that would be NUTS. Because I would be riding with you, and therefore talking at you without pity, the project would have to be easy. Babies are being born all the time, and I am way behind in my handknit baby gifts. At Angel Hair, I saw Charisse knitting on her version of the Baby Moderne blanket in Rowan Calmer. I was gobsmacked by how her change of the apple green to pale blue — just one of the four colors used in the version in the book–changed the whole look. Suddenly the sage green went more sage than green, the cream was whiter, the teal was grayer. I wanted to cook up a new colorway for the Baby Moderne. I also wanted to try some of the Araucania Nature Cotton I picked up; it’s a wonderful yarn, so light for its gauge, so soft for thick cotton. Chenille-like.
The thing that was really exciting me was that to make the same size blanket in this yarn, I could downsize the number of stitches and rows by one-third. And the fabric is really soft and drapey, very baby-blankety.
So I set to work, in colors that I really liked when I picked them out. (Ominous music here–’when I picked them out’ being the key phrase.)
Right from the get-go, I was not loving the way the colors went together. But I thought, maybe when I add another block, it’ll come together. Then another block, and another. Then, and this was what did me in, the word ‘beachball’ came to mind.
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I can’t stand it. I picked out these colors. I like these colors. I like this yarn. But I really, really don’t like this blanket.
I started thinking about bleaching it to give it more fade and more mottle.
I started thinking about overdyeing it.
But I kept knitting. Hoping, I suppose, for that pony of yours to drop from the sky. Maybe when I got the BORDER on it, I’d like it. Right.
Hey, by the way, hon. Most of the time I was knitting on this, you were driving the car in which I was the sole passenger. Certainly the sole knitting passenger. Didja not look at this thing I was knitting, and wonder a little? Didja not think, this thing does not look like something Kay would like?
Mind you, I can’t think of anything really wrong with it. I could find a tiny bathing suit to accessorize it, call it a ‘baby beach blanket’, and send it off to that baby girl in New Hampshire, who surely needs a beach blanket. It’s, um, cheerful.
But that’s the thing about taste. It’s hardheaded. It will not be reasoned with. I really couldn’t stand sending this blanket out into the world with my name on it (not actually ON it, but people saying, “Kay made this here….beachball shmatta”).
Then the answer hit me. It hit me in a yarn store. The answer is that schoolyard favorite, the Do Over.
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Now. Isn’t that better?
The beachball schmatta? It’s going to get bleached and start its new life as an ultra-cozy bath mat. The baby in New Hampshire? She’s going to be styling in a sophisticated blankie that does not look at all like a beachball.
Love, Kay
P.S. Stay tuned for Adventures in Not Sewing:
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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Well, Kay ‘n Ann, here’s the linen report. Washing definitely makes the yarn softer to knit with, and it does diminish the lintiness. But it’s a pain in the *** to untangle if even two little strands (much less, say, a third of the strands in the skein) get themselves intertwined during the washing process. Despite tieing the skein up in about ten additional places before washing. Suddenly that unwashed Euroflax doesn’t seem nearly as eye-itchy to me as it did last week! Maybe it has something to do with the humidity in the air. Probably, I’m just a lot more tolerant than before. As for me and my house, we won’t pre-wash again.
    It was so great having y’all at Knit Nouveau. Come back and see us sometime! Am looking forward to Adventures in Not Sewing.
    Jane (Kathryn’s in Ireland this week, poor thing)

  2. Wow. You used gobsmacked in a sentence. I’ve never seen anyone do that before. I didn’t know it could be done! By the way, love the new colors. Cheers!

  3. It doesn’t scream beachball at me but I do like the new color assortment better.

  4. yeah I like the new arrangement better too. I thought that I was the only certifiable one, but looks like I have company. ;-)
    all that knitting and it just ain’t good enough.. sigh!

  5. I can sorta see your point here. I’d blame the turquoise, but it’d be blah without the turquoise. Hmm, tough. New colours look better.

  6. I love all the colors individually; I love the blanket–it looks so soft and perfect; I do not adore all the colors together and I do blame, tho it hurts me to say it, the turquoise, or maybe it’s the turquoise with the brickishness of the red? Poor turq.
    I was wondering about the Euroflax and washing! I’m glad to read about it here!
    My local knitting store lady loved seeing the book and is waiting for her order to come in. After setting me up with some interesting yarns to make the scribble scarf (because I need more yarn), she resolved to call the pub co and bark at them in hopes of getting her copies sooner.

  7. I can’t wait to see your no-sewing. I’m staring at a pile of 63 squares (and counting. I’ve sewn up five blocks so far. There’s a loooooooong way to go.

  8. Just when I thought your blog couldn’t get any better, it is totally enhanced by you two gently snarking at each other just like two people who love each other but have spent a lot of time together under duress in close quarters. Book tours are starting to sound like marriage!
    Jane – I thought I was a moron because I only tied my euroflax in one place before I washed the skein. There’s a certain grim satisfaction in knowing that doing a better job of securing it wouldn’t have made any difference.

  9. Cold refreshing sugary watery drink anyone?

  10. Boy, these internets are so small. Out of the above 8 or so comments, one of them is Jane, THE Knit Nouveau Jane of the Euroflax. I’m so glad, Jane, that you test drove that pre-warshing thing for us. I was wondering how that would turn out. Another common-tater is Heels, with whom we dined in B’ham. Love ya, Heels! Great blog! And then there’s my old pal, Martha in Mobile. She’s a faithful commen-tater on my own blog and obviously has good taste to be hanging out here with you guys.
    I’m starting to feel like I did my junior year in college, when the parties started to get really fun because I knew who could get me the quickest refill at the keg and who’d let us play our favorite tunes.
    Kay, personally, I thought all the colors were beautiful, but I know you heart the eye-popping brightness of the primaries. Still, cut yourself some slack. Anyone would be pleased to have such gorgeous handknits.

  11. A few months ago when I heard your book was coming out, I went online and put my name down to take it out of the library as soon as they get it. While I am sure you would rather I purchased your book, I am a liberal studies major and have spent all my book money on things like food and car insurance. Anyway – The book is here today, and there are 13 people waiting after me to check it out. Not 13 people who saw the book in the library somewhere, but 13 people who knew about it in advance and requested it. Well, if it were me I would want to know ; )

  12. I came back by to say that I am attempting to cast on a scribble scarf under my desk at work using size 17 circs, weightless silver nylon berroco quest (winding it into a ball–again ‘neath the desk–was hilariously slippy) and kid seta mohair silk in pale pale periwinkle blue and I feel like I am trying to [secretly] knit with two slippy, hairy cloud strands. Row 1 = funny.

  13. I can appreciate thinking that the project is going to look great and then after making it you change your mind. I just finished a knitted toy for my housemate. I loved all the colors I used, but once I put the whole toy together, though, it was a different story. He is cute, just cute in an ugly as sin sort of way. :)

  14. Dude. You must have a machine. Right? That’s a lot of knitting to crank out so quickly.

  15. HEY. I actually liked those colors together. They’re very gardenish, organic-y, naturale. Maybe they just need another project to bring out their vull potential.

  16. Ye gods, you’re not unravelling it are you? To re-knit???? If you are then you’re a better person than me. Can you not just chalk it down to experience and give it to someone who you (perhaps) just think you should be knitting for instead of someone who you really want to be knitting for? There. Now the whole damn world knows just how fake I am! (Neil has just peered over my shoulder and said, ‘oooh, the coral and blue jar a bit’. Design critic in London here…). Back to the point, am I the only person who has those distinctions between people to knit for? I have friends who I would knit anything for (well, perhaps not fairisle, but you have to draw the line somewhere) and then others who, well, so long as it’s something that’s knitted and that they like and it’s not really taken me too long…. well…. I can (just) suspend my own taste. If pushed. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt, but it hurts less than unravelling a whole blanket-worth of garter stitch.

  17. ps – I do like the second lot of colours better. What were you thinking of?!!!!

  18. So nice to meet you both the other night at Threaded Bliss. And also so weird so see “computer faces” in real life.
    It’s a shame that “beach” was not what you were aiming for, because once you labeled it as such I would have to say it’s very “beach-y”. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a summery look for a baby and I would have loved a blanket like that for instead of all the pale baby pink and baby blue ones I received over the years with my three kids. But, its all about taste and what your vision for the project was. I have scraped many a thing that no one else thought was “off”. It takes bravery to do it, but you’ll never be satisfied otherwise.

  19. My experience with the Araucania (sp?) Nature Cotton was that it was nice to knit with, although it did dye your hands, but that the colors were very inconsistent, so I used 2 skeins to balance it out. Although on the Moderne Blanket it wouldn’t be that mega (here’s a new english slang term for you to incorporate) if the colors were varied.
    Now I expect you to use “mega” in a sentence if you are a true anglophile.

  20. Surely one of the Dulaan (however you spell it) babies wouldn’t mind a beachy blanket. I agree with the others. I ripped out 2/3 of a blanket recently and it nearly killed me. Good thing I had a glass of knitting water handy.
    I’m sewing up a baby blanket these days for a new wee one and I look forward to trying no-sew for the next one.

  21. I did two good-sized starts on a log cabin recently, before conceding that my husband (who is always right about these things) was right and there were not enough colors. That yarn is now going to be supplemented with other yarn and become something else entirely. Unknitting is the right thing to do.
    (P.S. — Have you tried washing the Araucania yet? If I remember correctly, a friend of mine did a baby blanket in this yarn and when it emerged from her washing machine, it looked…well, not like she had planned. Lots of pilling and fading. I may be misremembering the exotic sounding cottons, but as long as you had some knit up, seems worth a test wash.)

  22. Kay – good call on the bleach and simplifying the colors on the new blanket. I think the blue and orange together made it look beachy.
    You have a great sense of color! :)

  23. Hi Kay! I just love the mitered squares – the blue and dk green one is killing me! Can’t wait to see it – can’t remember what yarn you used.

  24. i’m blaming the turquoise too, though i can’t figure out why. i like all of those colours, i love turquoise…
    anyway, new arrangement looks lovely, and those mitered squares are mesmerizing!

  25. Don’t bleach! Don’t frog! Send it to me! I love really bold colour mixes I wear this neon peachy colour with fusia. I’m that kinda girl. I loved the old blankie colours, but I can respect the combination of the new making you happier.

  26. Do not frog that blanky or bleach it, Kay! I love the first blanket. Perhaps I am certifiable. But I absolutely love it. It reminds me of the rocking horse I had as a kid and will be saddled with as soon as I have one of my own, which is easily six feet long and four feet high and 2 adults can sit on it and rock along concurrently and where was I… O right. Blanky love. Anyway the horsie has clashing colorations and I picked it out all by myself at 2 years old. And this blanky? Really reminds me of that horsie in a way that makes me cry a bit, because it makes me smile and think of being two and being with my grandfather, who died six months ago.
    (And this would be the time to tell the internets I’m weeping over a Kay blanket at 1:30 am while in bed and you know, supposed to be doing the sleep thing.)
    Love,
    The Rebecca who is now finally cured of her sinus infunktion, thank you.

  27. the bright blanket looks fun. It’s not a calm-the-upset-baby blanket. It’s a wrap-up-that-child and off-we-go kind of blanket. It’s for the parent who can’t face any more baby blue and pale pink.

  28. Kay, I can’t believe you answered my emai(the one about the husband wanting a blanket)with your busy schedule of riding around in cars and knitting…that. I have to agree with you on the color combo. I’m just afraid the husband will pick out something similar. Must not let him see Kay’s post.

  29. Don’t bleach it — bleaching weakens the fibers and your heirloom won’t last nearly as long.
    And I’m with the crowd that *today* I like the new colors better. Or I think I do. While taste is personal, it changes. And it’s driven by fashion trends like anything else. Remember wearing pink and kelly green together and thinking it was great?
    Maybe in a couple of years you’ll love these colors together.
    Or maybe you should just wander around my southwestern neighborhood until you are again convinced the colors work together: cream-colored adobe, terra cotta roof, green or teal trim, and sky that bright turquoisy blue. Or just lie through your teeth and tell the recipient that that’s the feeling you were trying to evoke :)

  30. I love the turquoise and coral together–I could stare at that top photo for hours. The kelly green is the culprit. If you took out those logs and subsituted cream, I’ll bet it would work.

  31. That first blanket doesn’t look beachbally at all to me, it looks southwestern, which if you like southwestern decor and colors would be a wonderful thing. Personally, I don’t care for them (I am the only human being ever to think Taos was ugly), but certainly plenty of people do. So I vote keep the first blanket and give it to someone who loves it. I’m sure you won’t have to look hard.

  32. The new colors are nice together, but I actually liked the first version better. Either way the texture is gorgeous!

  33. I have knit with the Araucania cotton before and loved it. It’s fabulous to knit with. And I have dreamed about making a baby blanket with it except for the fact that the care instructions say dry clean or hand wash. I just can’t see creating a baby blanket that can’t be tossed in the machine. Evelyn brought up the washing, too and I’m curious about how the yarn really holds up in the machine. Does anyone out there have documented results of this? I would love to know.

  34. Hey Kay! Long time no comment, but I just had to mention that that looks like a heck of a lot of not-sewing. I do not envy you. I haven’t attempted another mitered square extravaganza for a while, and a friend of mine is having a baby, but I don’t know if I have the strength.
    Oh, and I got the book, and you guys are my personal knitting gurus. Absolutely love every single project (commonly heard in my house while I was reading it, “I must have this bathmat! I must have this curtain!” etc, etc, ad nauseum.) Hilarious and beautifully photographed. I love it.
    So, when’s the next one coming out? :)

  35. I like both of the “cursed” afghans. Am I on crack or just color blind? Wait, neither. Oh well. I think any baby would be lucky to get them.
    Your adventures in not sewing looks like a pile of quilt blocks I know and love. (Well, love is a stretch at this point, but you get the drift.)

  36. as i’m often fond of reminding those around me;
    there’s no accounting for other people’s taste.
    if the baby’s a boy, you’ve got a shot at red/green color blindness, so that may be a “get around” for ya…..then it’s just nice neutral grays.