After three weeks in flip-flops, I am back, all in one piece. A chipped, snaggly piece, but whole. Fear not, Ann, I will tidy up the hoof-sprouting extremities before Sunday.
And while I was away, there you went breaking the sacred rules of our blog. For example, remember what we agreed about Burt Bacharach? How we were only going to speak of him with reverence and awe, and never ever make fun of anything he was wearing in the 70s or early 80s, even if it was an especially girly Patricia Roberts sweater? Consider yourself t.v.-grounded for two weeks. No more That 70s Show for you, Missy.
Some things went wrong in the world while I was out. Julia Child died. Like many of her devotees I’m sure, I had the strange experience of mourning someone I didn’t actually know. I thought about her a lot, and made her fabulous Stovetop Anna that Saturday night. (Not an original impulse on my part: I read in the New York Times that grocery stores in New York were running out of potatoes.) Here’s a great thing about Julia Child, though: We never have to wonder What Would Julia Do, because she’s told us, in painstaking and clear detail. Follow instructions, people! Taste and adjust seasoning! Cut little x’s on the bottom of onions for no reason I could ever understand! It’s going to be OK!
Welcome To The Coven
One of the highlights of my summer vacation was watching my 8-year-old niece Maggie knit her little heart out. At one point, while swimming, she asked her mom, ‘Can I get out now….and knit?’ My heart skipped a beat. Come to me, my pretty! I made her a tannis root milkshake and we were off to the races.
Naturally, I plied the girl with yarn. Quicker than she could say ‘poncho’, I dug out the Classic Elite Weekend Cotton, and taught Maggie how to do a drop-stitch row. Two days later we sewed a seam, and wala:
It’s a bit droopy at the shoulder, but that is not such a big problem. Maggie also designed a baby sweater with yarn she got on a trip to Nova Scotia. Her next project is a waffley ‘dishrag’ rug to match her bedroom decor (the kid watches HGTV and TLC almost as much as you do). No kidding! Go Maggie!
As a former synchronized swimmer myself (making the team, and becoming a member of the Tribe of the Green Hair was my only athletic achievement in junior high school, or come to think of it, ever), naturally I watched the Olympics with great interest. So many sports, so little time. All that sweating and striving inspired me to finally get motivated on my daring plan to make a border for my mitered-square blanket using Debbie New’s labyrinth knitting technique.
Here’s the blanket, awaiting 3 long seams and a death-defying border:
Here’s the basic recipe for labyrinth knitting. You cast on a lot of stitches. Thousands of them. You put markers in two colors. One color tells you to increase one stitch on either side of it. The other color tells you to decrease on either side of it. This robotic action creates miters that turn the strip of knitting this way and that. Debbie New, being a mad genius, has made puzzle sweaters that consist of a single strip of labyrinth knitting. When you lay it out properly, it looks like a sweater, and all you have to do is sew up all the little seams. (“ALL” you have to do?) A very Debbie Newish sweater: boxy but ever so interesting to figure out.
If Evel Knievel were a knitter, he’d be making labyrinth sweaters. When you have to special-order a circular to get enough cable, that’s stunt knitting. Jumping over school buses on your mo-ped is a fair comparison.
I had something much more simple in mind. I wanted to make a strip of labyrinth knitting that looked like a Greek Key pattern. Meaning, it went in and out, and had delicious nooks and crannies, but maintained an even width — so it could be used to border a blanket. A nice, straight line. Newish, but Kayish.
First I tried the Mock Apple Pie of labyrinth knitting; I tried to create the same effect by knitting single miters, and then picking up stitches along the edges and adding more miters in other directions to create the labyrinth effect. This was a total failure. See?
The problem is, you can’t pick up the stitches on the side you need to. And even if you could, you create so many dangling ends and wobbly pick-ups that you finally mutter something rude and just cast on the dang 2000 stitches. I gave in. I figured out where to put my increases and decreases to get the thing to do a Greek Key, cast on a modest 396 stitches, and whaddaya know–it worked!
Here’s how it looks on the needles:
At the cast-off (you’re such a voyeur!):
And after it was pushed and prodded into a 27-inch strip of border:
It was fiddly as hell, but easy! Only 9 rows, but there’s no counting or fussing once you’ve figured out where to put the markers. It came out perfectly the first time. I could make 2 or 3 of these for each side of the blanket, and fill it in with some stripes.
The problem is: I think it looks bad. Too busy (I know, Cristina! You were right!). So I’m going to do a striped border, garter stitch, with 4 mitered corners, and be done with it. I’ll save my new-found labyrinth technique for another project. The effort was not wasted, because I feel like such a stud to have knit anything from Debbie New’s book.
And with that, I’ve used up my word allotment for who knows how long.
See you on Sunday!