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

February 29, 2004

The Envelope, Please

Dear Ann,

I think it's fitting that tonight is Oscar night and tomorrow is Kid Classic Drawing Day. I have to say that I, for one, am more excited about the latter. The mail arrives in late afternoon, if we're lucky. I know you can't wait, so I'll post results in the evening.

I know you love eye candy, but have you tried eye cookies?

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Our Thursday Night Babysitter (God Bless Him!), Alex, is a graduate student in creative writing. He wrote an article about Eleni's Cookies, which turns out witty pictorial cookies. They gave him, and he gave me, these cookies inspired by the nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress. Eleni has an artist draw the likenesses, which are then printed out using edible ink and pasted on cookies. Even more amazing, these cookies are really, really good. Buttery. Sugary. Just the thing to accompany a glass of bubbly on Oscar Night, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Happy Oscar Night!

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 06:10 PM | Comments (11)

February 28, 2004

Our Lady of Intarsia

Dear Kay,

On the way to making my second square for the Afghanalong, I think I may have committed intarsia.

intarsiasquare.jpg

The whole thing started with the idea of orange and gray. I love orange with gray. I thought I'd cook up a quick square bordered in Jo Sharp DK Greggplant (OK I made that up; it's gray/eggplant), filled with Rowan Kid Classic Juicy. A smooth/fuzzy texture combo. Of course, when I got started, I realized I was going to have to do the unthinkable and add a second ball of Greggplant in order to make the border go up both sides of the square.

Ah, whatever. About halfway through I thought, in my most Kaffeish moment to date, There's too much Juicy here, so I added some Jo Sharp DK in Greeny Greggplant. Well, that meant not only the Greeny Greggplant but also a second ball of Juicy to make the Juicy fill out the left side of the background, and before you could say Pat Clack* I had five balls of yarn going on this one little square.

I'm exhausted. I need a mojito. But what a hoot to try something different. I have had a pathological fear of intarsia knitting, but now that I'm through this little experiment, I've got that evangelical fervor to convert everybody to the Church of Multicolor Knitting. Jump on in, y'all!

Love,
Ann

P.S. No discontinued Rowan Lightweight DK was harmed in the making of this square. You'll be happy to know that every bit of this yarn is guaranteed 100% leftover from some other project.

P.S.S. The compulsive blocker in me must point out that I haven't blocked this square, in case you were wondering. Which you weren't.

*Pat Clack: Notoriously prolific Rowan knitter of elaborate intarsias. Has created the entire cast of Sesame Street in multicolor knitted sweater form. She knits intarsia the way I eat Girl Scout Thin Mints: fast and often.

Posted by Ann at 02:01 PM | Comments (15)

February 25, 2004

The Most Coolest Sign Ever

Dear Ann:

A quick note to share a very special gift from our reader, Teep:

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Teep emailed to say that she had knit up some squares for the Afghanalong, which were drying on the blocking board (a huge yoo-hoo for blocking!) but would be ready for the postman soon. As a by-the-way, she mentioned that she lived near the real Mason-Dixon Line, and would I like her to send a picture of it? You bet I did! She went right out and took this fabulous picture and sent it to me in no time.

Gaze upon this beautiful sign. Note the curlicues. That is just so us, isn't it? As a Southerner, do you have any idea what the symbol in the middle is? Purely decorative, rich in historical meaning, or what?

Thanks so much, Teep. We have a sign or two up here, but nothing that comes close to this.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 07:02 PM | Comments (11)

February 24, 2004

Speaking of Barbie Cardis

Dear Ann,

In honor of your birthday yesterday, I dug up this little memento:

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This is a pullover from Nicki Epstein's Knitting for Barbie book, which I made back when we had a Barbie or two around here. This was before my daughter decided that Barbie, in all her forms, especially the disturbing Life Size Barbie Beauty Salon Head, was to be banished from our land. (I add this to allay the concerns of those who interpreted my earlier reference to our Barbie-Free Zone as a sign of cruel and unusual parenting.)

The sweater is misshapen because (1) it's in Rowan's Linen Droop, which I did not split into plies, (2) since Barbie was sent Away, many a Beanie Baby has been squeezed into it, and (3) I didn't do such a great job on it in the first place (hello! sleeve seams?). But, you know, we knit something, and we move on. We knit something else.

For example: what fun I had freestyling my own toy doggy sweater. I hasten to add that I had an actual day job when I made this thing. Call me a slacker, but I am not, as a general rule, sitting around designing fringed apparel (with handmade Dorset buttons, for crying out loud) for stuffed animals. This was a special commission, for Carrie's beloved Sophie Jr. Sadly, Sophie Jr. disappeared several years ago, sans sweater. We move on. We knit something else.

Afghanalong note: The Barbie sweater is resting on a perfect 9-patch square contributed by Maggi, who has just posted photos of the historic hand-off on her blog. The pix include one of her darling dad, who regaled us with Amstel Lites (as you know, my preferred brand of Diet Knitting Water) in a swanky hotel bar. I love a man who can sit there smiling and making agreeable remarks while the womenfolk yak nonstop about knitting, baby girls, and what to knit for baby girls. It is pretty much a lost art, as far as I can tell.

I don't mean to lord it over you, honey, but New York does enjoy a steady stream of wonderful knitting visitors.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:33 PM | Comments (4)

February 23, 2004

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Dear Kay,

As you know, today is my BIRTHDAY.

My four-year-old darling Clif came up to me and said, "You know what I'm getting you for your birthday? Yarn."

You know what Hubbo's family got me for my birthday? Yarn. Kay, you know how I've been rattling on about She of the Hebrides, Ms. Alice Starmore? Well, get a load of this:

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To make this:

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A great whackin' pile of Alice Starmore Hebridean 2 ply with which to make Glenesk, a Fair Isle pattern by Jade Starmore. It's spoze to look like a shipwreck on the shore, where only the boiler of the ship remains in the sand with waves crashing around it. Wowee! Whatever! I'm looking forward to finishing this in time for my sixtieth birthday party, nineteen years from now.

As I photographed this fantastic batch of colors, I realized that this sweater uses all the shades of my favorite old rug, which you can see at the edges. Remember: There are no coincidences.

When my brother-in-law David handed me that box, the one all covered with superexotic and therefore intoxicating postal stamps, he said, "If this thing gives you a giant headache, blame Kay."

I do believe you gave him an assist on selecting this pattern, you sly minx, so I thank you for giving me a project that you will get to hear about for a nice, long time.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 12:30 PM | Comments (40)

February 20, 2004

Weekend Updates

Dear Ann,

I could wallow in my 1960s Barbie memories forever (you know I'm not kidding), but I must break away to update you on several important matters.

The Afghanalong Update

SQUARE ONE HAS LANDED. Repeat: SQUARE ONE HAS LANDED.

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(Square One, landing.)

My sweet friend Lis, who prides herself on not being a pushy and competitive New Yorker, nevertheless wanted to be the first to present us with a square for the Afghanalong for Afghans. So we met for lunch (those are chopsticks, not knitting needles!), and she handed over a delectable orange square in Cascade 220, in a popcorn pattern Lis wanted to try from the 365 Knitting Stitches A Year Perpetual Calendar. It's a gem. Bright and bubbly, like Lis herself.

Which raises a couple of points about the Afghanalong.

First, you will note that Lis did not do a garter-stitch border. Several people have asked me whether the garter-stitch borders are mandatory, whether there is any penalty for submitting an otherwise conforming square which is lacking garter-stitch borders, and if so, what is the penalty and can it be waived (some of these people were lawyers, obviously).

After convening an all-night session of the Supreme Afghanalong Rules Committee, we (meaning, I) have decided that garter-stitch borders are not necessary. They are nice, but not necessary. As long as the edges will lie flat and not curl and are reasonably even, there is no problem, no penalty, no temporary restraining order--just a big Thank You So Much. The whole purpose of the garter-stitch-border rule was not to oppress or bore people, but simply to make the squares easy to sew up. Bear that in mind, and knit away to your heart's content.

The other point Lis's square raises is, what a great idea it is to use the Afghanalong as an opportunity to try new stitch patterns.

Thanks to everyone who has written to say they're joining in!

The Log Cabin Update

I stopped into my favorite LYS, Downtown Yarns (which finally has a website!) today, and Rita showed me a little booklet called 'The Log Cabin Afghan Revisited', which is put out by Carol A. Anderson in Carpenter, Iowa (504-426-0070). This homely little booklet contains very detailed directions for making a knitted blanket that is very close to the traditional Log Cabin quilt in its design and layout. I got the booklet for my archives, in case I ever reform my convention-busting log cabin ways.

Carol's construction method is, to my mind, futzier than the one I've been preaching, but if you can't abide all that casting-off and picking-up for each strip, you might want to try it. Carol's method is to put the last row of stitches for each strip on a holder until you come around again to knit the next strip. Personally I'd rather cast off and pick up than fiddle with stitchholders or extra needles, and I think the cast-off rows look more like quilt piecing, and add some needed structural oomph (Carol's method results in multi-directional intarsia stripes). But the stitch-holder method does give the advantage of being able to knit the squares together with a 3-needle bind-off instead of having to seam them together.

Is anybody still awake?

The Me Update

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I got a fantastic package in the mail yesterday, from, of all places, Norway. Sissel is a Rowanette who knits amazing Norwegian sweaters and virtually every pattern for Rowan Summer Tweed. For fun, she knit Old Tile from Rowan 34. (Brandon Mably reportedly fainted dead away when he learned that somebody had actually knit the thing. He said, 'Blimey! I was just foolin' with y'all!'). (OK I made that up. I sometimes converse with Brandon in my mind--you gotta problem with that? By the way, Brandon says hi and he hopes everybody realizes that except when speaking to me telepathically, he doesn't ever use Blimey and Y'all in the same sentence.)

I give you this background so that you will know that this Sissel is the Sissel with whom I am doing a fun international yarn exchange. Here's what Sissel sent:

norskdelight.jpg
Wow!

Needless to say, I experienced Extreme Fiber Delight! 'Sumatra' mercerized cotton in a gorgeous shade of deep blue (same gauge as All Seasons Cotton, but suaver and drapier)! The 'River Jeans' rendition of denim yarn! Skeins of 2 fine-gauge white cottons suitable for traditional christening gowns! Not to mention the chocolate, which needed no translation.

Sissel also included booklets with amazing Sandnesgarn patterns (one page is pictured above). I would love to knit one of the little dirndls for Baby Rose. It may surprise you to learn that Baby Rose is a Norwegian American. Yes, Rose's mom Diana is a Norsky, and she will jump into the freezing ocean to prove it to you. Diana plans to instill Viking Pride in her daughter through a program of vigorous outdoor activity, second helpings of pickled herring, and clopping around in clogs from an early age. At this stage of my Knitting Journey, Norwegian dirndls are Fantasy Camp Knitting. But if I ever get the chance to meet Sissel in person, I hope to learn the technique from her.

Have a happy weekend, and don't forget to go to the DMV and renew your
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license plates!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:20 PM | Comments (15)

February 18, 2004

In the Land of Tarty Barbies

Dear Kay,

OK, y'all, we are now going to talk about Barbie.

When I was growing up, I loved Barbie. I didn't have a thousand Barbies like the Barbies of today. There was no Wizard of Oz Barbie, no Audrey Hepburn Barbie; there was just Barbie, in a swimsuit, with high-heel pink shoes. You bought outfits for your one, or two, or three Barbies if you were kind of spoiled. Maybe your sister had a Barbie that you would play with, but if your sister was like mine, her Barbie had chopped-off hair, tempera-painted makeup, and the permanently high-heel arched feet had the toes snipped off. I felt kind of sorry for my sister's pathetic Barbie. I still have my two Barbies, with their friend Malibu Ken with Plastic Hair, along with their wardrobes, circa 1971.

On Presidents' Day (this past Monday to our friends abroad), I had an emergency holiday playgroup which at one point involved seven minivans, eighteen children, a group of desperate mothers, and three pots of coffee. Included in this group were a bunch of little girls, and when it became apparent that a house with two boys meant no toys for girls, I brought out my Barbies.

Off the girls went to the playroom, where they put together many different outfits for Barbie: Hooker Barbie, with see-through negligee and thigh-high silver lame boots. Pam Am Stewardess Barbie, complete with Bonne Marie Bucket o' Chic hat. Gigolo Ken, with a blue satin tuxedo jacket worthy of any 1972 prom.

Any mom who worries that the new Bratz dolls are kind of slutty needs to come see my Barbies.

As I cleaned up, at the bottom of the pile of Barbie clothes I found this:

barbiecardigan.jpg

A raglan-sleeve sweater my mother knitted for Barbie. I want to show you this for several reasons: a) It's so teeny and cute. b) It proves once and for all that my neverending love of bland color is genetic. And c) It makes me laugh to think of my mom seeing my boxful of tarty Barbie clothes and thinking, What that doll needs is a cardigan.

My mother, who died twenty years ago, was a sucker for anything crafty: knitting, needlepoint, watercolor, embroidery, sewing, macrame, quilling, furniture refinishing, upholstery, decoupage, photography, graphic arts. I would go to sleep and wake up to find that she had finished the dress she had just been starting when I went to bed. She figured out (as I have) that late nights are often a delicious time for making something, after everybody else has gone to bed.

She was a funny kind of person. At one point she would spend mornings in our neighbor's weird Japanese garden, painting watercolors. I remember coming home one day to find her curled up with a ball of impossibly thin thread; she decided she wanted to figure out tatting, a dreadfully tiny kind of lace.

I have a massive urge to make a tiny raglan-sleeve cardigan for a Barbie.

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 12:22 PM | Comments (27)

February 15, 2004

This Old Log Cabin

hammock.jpg

Dear Ann,

Much as I would hate to inhibit anybody's journey of log cabin discovery with a tedious how-to lecture, I have spent too much time scanning swatches NOT to post a tedious how-to lecture. The subtitle to this letter should be "Another Long-Ass Post By Kay". But like many long-ass things one has to endure in life, this one is Educational.

The basic Log Cabin method is to start with a central patch, and attach strips around it in concentric layers. After you've done a few layers, a pattern emerges that resembles the construction of a log cabin, in which the logs are notched so that they interlock at the corners. Once you get the hang of it, you can vary the order in which you attach the strips. Some traditional variations are called Courthouse Steps or Housetop. (Important note: I know next to nothing about traditional quilt patterns, so let's just save this discussion for an upcoming MDK Design Workshop.)

The short-cut way to learn how to log cabin (I hereby declare that on this blog, 'to log cabin' is an intransitive verb) is to look at this picture:

logcabin2.jpg

See the taupe/brown patch in the middle? That's the center patch. After casting off that patch, I picked up stitches in the row ends along its right side and knit the turquoise strip. After I cast off the turquoise strip, I turned the work again, and picked up stitches along the row ends of the turquoise strip and the cast-on edge of the taupe patch, and knit the slate blue strip. Then I cast off, turned the work, and in the same manner picked up row ends and stitches for the burgundy strip. And so forth, until the strips got too darn long and I decided I was done. For this basic pattern, the thing to remember is to keep turning in the same direction. Each strip is a bit longer than the previous strip, and no two strips are the same length.

Here's a step-by-step breakdown in case the short-cut leaves too much out. (Click on the images to make them bigger.) Needless to say, all of the measurements could be varied to get the effect you're looking for. In addition, here, I do all of my picking-up on the right side, which leaves a smooth seam. If you pick up on the wrong side, you get a cool, ticking-like effect where you see a dotted line of the new color. This is why it's fun. Once you know how to do it, you can do it your way.

Make the center patch.
logcabstart.jpg

In the example, I made a 4 x 6 inch rectangle (I cast on 20 stitches and knit 29 garter ridges).

One rule throughout: Always cast off on a right side row, leaving one stitch in the upper left corner of your patch, as shown.

Pick up for the first strip.
logcabpickup1.jpg

With the right side of your center patch facing you, turn the patch to the right, so that the top of the piece has the single stitch on the far right, and the row ends along the top. Pick up one stitch in each horizontal loop between the garter ridges. (You will have 29 or 30 stitches, but the beauty of log cabinning is that you don't have to count stitches.)

Now make the first strip. Knit 9 garter ridges, and then cast off on a right side row and turn the work to the right.

Pick up for the second strip.
logcabpickup2.jpg

The interesting thing here is that you first pick up stitches between the 9 garter ridges (the row ends) of the first strip, and then you continue picking up across the cast-on edge of your center patch.

Now knit the second strip. 9 garter ridges, cast off on a right side row.

Here's the second strip:
logcabstrip2.jpg

The third strip.
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If you were going to continue with this blanket, your next step would be to complete the enclosure of the center patch. You would turn the pink strip to the right, pick up between the garter ridges of the pink strip, pick up along the cast-off edge of the center patch, and pick up between the garter ridges of the slate blue strip. (I didn't continue because this patch is 8 x 8 inches, and I am making a bunch of these for afghan squares. Note: If you want to do a four-sided log cabin patch, start with a 4 x 4 inch center patch and do strips on all four sides; it should work out to 8 x 8 if your strips are 2 inches thick.)

Now it's clear sailing, nothing but zen, zen, zen. Every time you finish a strip, you do the same things:

1. Turn the work to the right.
2. Pick up between the garter ridges.
3. Pick up along the cast-off edge of the adjoining strip.
4. Pick up between the garter ridges of the adjoining strip.
5. Knit a new strip.
6. Do this until you run out of colors, or yarn, or energy, or surfaces to cover with glorious log cabin textiles.

Have fun! Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 10:33 AM | Comments (37)

February 14, 2004

And a Valentine Square, Too

Dear Kay,

A square! I made a square. It's not square, but maybe it'll block into something other than a semi-trapezoid-roundish thingie.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! Remember: Let your inner square run free.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:26 PM | Comments (5)

February 13, 2004

Vertical Valentine

Happy Valentine's Weekend from:

Ann in Nashville....

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Kay in New York.....

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and all of us here at

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(Wait a minute, that was all of us.)

And don't forget to

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Love, Ann and Kay

(Thank you, Purling Swine, for steering us to Acme's Heartmaker.)

Posted by Kay at 03:16 PM

February 10, 2004

Afghanalong for Afghans!

Dear Readers,

Thought I'd take a break from writing my latest novella about hat felting, to bring you this Important Public Service Announcement.

(Read on! At some point, Free Yarn will be involved, as well as Snacks and face-to-face interaction with Real Live Knitters.)

Ann and I are mighty pleased to announce the first-ever Mason-Dixon Knitting Community Project. We would be thrilled if you would join us in making knitted patchwork afghans for people who need them in Afghanistan. Click this link to find out more about Afghans for Afghans, the organization to which we will donate our finished blankets.

Here's the plan, subject to addition or correction if we discover something we didn't think of:

1. We are putting out the call for handknit 8-inch squares with garter-stitch borders. Cotton, wool or blends of cotton and/or wool with synthetics. The knitter chooses the yarn and the color; raid your leftovers and odd balls! Only one restriction as to design: no figurative representations of faces or animals. Flowers and plants are fine, as are stripe, geometric, cable, or fair isle designs. Plain old garter stitch is fine too. Only one restriction as to yarn: no novelties or delicate fibers please. If the yarn is very fine or lightweight, try using it doubled. Here are my first two squares:

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I did these with leftovers that were wasting away in my stash. Finally, the handpainted merino from my ghastly first sweater has a chance to redeem itself!

2. For each square we receive, we will place one entry in our monthly drawing for fabulous Rowan and Jaeger Yarns we got in the Liberty's sale . (Note to all you colonials out there: think of the provenance! We're talking Liberty of London! Second only to Holmfirth in the hearts of Rowanettes!) For the next six months, on the first of each month, we will do a drawing from the names of those who sent in squares during the previous month. Then we will toss out the old names and start collecting names for the next month's drawing. The more squares you send in, the more entries you get.

Our first drawing will be on March 1. The winner will receive:
A bag of 10 skeins of Rowan Kid Classic in Shade 830, "Bewitch", a lovely, heathery lavender. Enough to make a "Windfall" shawl, an "Emmeline" cardi, a "Steffi" pullover, or 5 (five!) "Hottie" hot-water bottle covers. (All of these patterns are in Rowan 28.)

BUT WAIT! There's more!!

3. How are we going to put these afghans together, you ask? An old-timey Sew-Up Bee! We are hoping to host not one, but two old-timey Sew-Up Bees, one in Nashville and one in Manhattan, to be held on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in late summer/early fall 2004. We will give at least a month's notice of the date so that anybody who can get themselves within range of either city can make it. It would be nice to have some help sewing up the blankets, but the real purpose of these gatherings is just to be able to do some real-time yakking and socializing with knitting pals.

4. BUT WAIT! There's more! At the Sew-Up Bees, there will be tasty treats.

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We may even run out to greet you, wearing handknit shawls and hats and bearing giant mushrooms!

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But don't count on that last part.

Ladies and Dudes: Start your needles. Or your swifts or whatever. If you're lucky enough to have a Fiber Arts Boy or Girl nearby, get them knitting too. Think of all the squares we can knit during March Madness alone! (Note to Brits and others who may be unfamiliar with our more peculiar native customs: March Madness is an endlessly televised college basketball tournament. It is no coincidence that I took up knitting again as a newlywed in March 1992, when the harsh reality -- Marriage Means Watching College Basketball -- finally sank in.) When you're ready to send in squares, email Ann or me and we will give you the mailing address.

Thanks for reading this, and considering this project.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:52 AM | Comments (50)

February 08, 2004

Punchy

Dear Kay,

Enough rambling through parking lots looking for mysterious wierd stuff. I actually finished something a few days ago, and just now got up the steam to have Hubbo document it.

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Here in all its glory is Punch, stitched up and ready to meet its destiny in California with my sister-in-law Abby. I was going to wimp out and take a picture of it on a picturesque hanger, but ah heck, here I am so you can see how it looks on a person.

It is SO DELIGHTFUL to finish a sweater, even a straight-ahead pullover.

Things I noticed along the way:

Sleeves. The sleeves that I worried were fatally long are actually only distressingly long. Those raglan sleeves eat up a long of length, even more than I anticipated. These hit below my wrist by a good inch or so, but I don't think it's a problem that needs fixing. My row gauge was clearly off, because I was substituting yarns.

Raglans. I've never done raglan sleeves before, and I have to say, I like 'em. I did all my decreases three stitches in from the edge, which created a six-stitch-wide stripe of sorts along the seam. Punch in the Rowan book did the decreases right at the edges, I'm guessing, because there's no such stripe. I kind of like the stripe on this otherwise plain sweater.

Yarn substitution. I think this would be ultradelicious in Wool Cotton: softer and drapier. But this Jo Sharp DK, a 100% wool, is a joy because it's so smooth and well behaved.

For posterity, and to try to be like Polly, here are the stats:

Punch is from Rowan 27.
Jo Sharp DK yarn instead of Rowan Wool Cotton.
Gauge 22 stitches = 4"
How long did this take? About five weeks, including numerous frolics into dishcloths, scarves, and swatchfever.

Onward! Next up is a present for my sister Buffy. Warning: Next Project May Involve Fringe.

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 05:49 PM | Comments (25)

God Save Our Royal Mail

Dear Ann,

Saturdays can be a bit of a blur around here. I would hate for somebody to drop in unannounced around 2 o'clock and find the family zonked out in front of Cartoon Network (alas, Joseph now corrects me when I call it Cartoon Edward), in a living room littered with the New York Times, coffee cups, and jigsaw puzzles in various stages of abandonment. We try not to move a muscle until 45 minutes before somebody has to be at a birthday party or something.

Today the fog cleared unexpectedly, with the arrival of the mail. I know that you have experienced the giddiness that overtakes one when one's trembling hand is holding a brown paper parcel covered with 'SMALL PACKET' stamps. The joy of seeing a friendly return address, whence delicious surprises have come in the past. But can you imagine the rapture, upon reading this Customs Declaration, specifically the words: 'Knitted Socks'?????

For no reason except friendliness, Emma sent me these beautiful socks:

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(I know this is a strictly-enforced no-no in the Mason-Dixon Stylebook, but I could not resist a live-action sock-on-foot picture. So I guess we're even now for that Kitty pic you posted a while back. )

Believe it or not, this is the first pair of handknit socks I have ever had, in my entire, bleak and deprived existence. Finally, I know what all the fuss is about. They fit perfectly, and I believe they even have the mysterious Eye of Partridge stitch on the heel. Emma has never met me, but she made me a pair of socks that is a perfect fit. Perhaps she has spies.

Emma also sent me some lovely stitch markers that she made. Another un-dreamt of luxury; my knitting career has witnessed a cheerless parade of orange and green plastic stitch markers. Emma's glass-bead creations are so nice that I put one on my charm bracelet. But Emma wrote 'USE THEM', so I will, very happily.

Thanks, Emma!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:42 AM | Comments (10)

February 04, 2004

What the Heck Is That Thingie?

[Warning: Bandwidth Buster!]

Dear Kay,

It's been a nippy morning out in the parking lots of Opryland today, as I made my semi-annual pilgrimage to the Tailgate Antiques Show. Come on! So much to report.

Queen of American Country Style Mary Emmerling was there with her posse (including one dude with a shoulder bag from which dangled two raccoon tails—but more taxidermy later). She was gloating mightily about fellow lifestylist Martha Stewart's dreadful day in court yesterday—oh, just kidding. Mary was wearing, among many things, heavily embroidered blue jeans, a belt buckle worthy of the World Wrestling Federation, a shearling coat the size of my sofa, and a knitted (!) red ski cap with a Swiss cross on the front. And a bunch of chunky jewelry that looked kind of like an entire jewelry store strung onto one chain. And don't forget the Ugg boots. She had just returned from the Paris and New York gift shows, and the word she brings for us is: COLOR! Color is IT! Color is EVERYwhere, so get with it.

But you're already with it, you of the 430 shades of Handknit DK cotton. I hope you feel vindicated by Ms. Emmerling's proclamation, which she made in the booth of a quiet little lady selling strange, uncolorful candleholders from 1680.

I found lots of color to get excited about myself, including this strange and spectacular quilt from 1890:

catquilt.jpg

There are so many quilts at this show that it takes something pretty unusual to stand out. This one uses animals cut from print fabric, then appliqued onto squares. Throw in a key pattern border, and it's totally wacky. Covetous moment number 1.

Covetous moment number 2 was this dot rug, which for all the world looks like a Kaffe Fassett sweater and is leaning on a beat-to-heck chest that just sold for $12,000:

dotrug.jpg

And covetous moment number 3 was this rug which embodies the essence of bittersweetness: a dirtmossy gray relieved by brilliant stripes. Life itself, right here in one small rag rug:

striperagrug.jpg

And finally, I am a hound for transferware, and love this dish which looks like somebody with a marker edited the thing.

Weird Sewing Tools

In the category of W.S.T. is this giant spool holder which could really help me out once I get into that Alice Starmore mode. Just throw it in the knitting bag, and I'm on my way:

Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe

Along with tons of furniture both beautiful and stinky are little gems such as teeny dragon shoes, benches made from water skis, and maid carts that somebody's going to pay $2,000 for before the day is out.

Finally, it's not the Tailgate without a little stuffed animal action. Something for every price range:


Beaver: $75


Moose head: $800


Hank of hair: $20

Let me know if you're needing any of this.

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 03:22 PM | Comments (17)

February 02, 2004

Return of the Tiny Potholders

Dear Kay,

I know you have been wondering what has happened to Fiber Arts Boy David's array of fluorescent potholders, the potholders that so occupied us last summer. (True, serious readers of Mason-Dixon Knitting will remember this passing fad, the one that came after the giant ball of yarn and before the copious God's eye manufacturing at Christmas. And the five-strand braiding. And basketmaking. And papermaking.)

David's art teacher has the crafty gene, and she now has all the second graders making potholders. Well, David came home today and excavated the following, which he arranged for me to stitch together. At first I tried crocheting these together, but after one square and fourteen cuss words, I got out the darning needle and whipstitched in a frenzy.

potholderrug.jpg

I think his arrangement is kind of artful.

When I returned from my church moms' retreat (see Found Objects for the harrowing story of my survival), there were four giant bags of new potholder loops in the kitchen. Hubbo made a trip to the crafts store over the weekend, so we're set until the next decade. Hubbo hates to run out of stuff.

Love,
Ann


Posted by Ann at 08:54 PM | Comments (3)

Bucket Oy Chic

Dear Ann,

I would have missed you terribly while you were off getting lost in the woods, but I was awfully busy making hats. (Ach, still with the making hats!)

Let's review:

First I had to make a hat for my boy, which I showed you last week. My boy's haid was cold, and he refused to wear anything but the worthless nylon hood attached to his jacket. He refused, I tell you, most unpleasantly. After much futile application of the Good Mommy/Bad Mommy technique, followed by the You Will Not Leave This House Young Man technique, he told me that the reason he would not wear any of his hats was that none of them were...green.

Oh, well then, as long as he had a good reason! Good Mommy and Bad Mommy spoke to Knitting Mommy: one green hat, check.

Niece Maggie, age 7 1/2, requested a felted Noro hat like one I had made for Carrie. No problem. Dig out a skein of fuschia Kureyon and the Yankee Knitter roll-edge hat pattern, make it too big, felt it in the sink, and wa-la: Fabulous Niece Hat. Sort of a hot pink bowler. (This is one of the Undocumented Hats.)

Maggie has a brother, Paul, age 7 1/2 and 18 minutes. Where there is a hat for Maggie, verily there shall be a hat for Paul. Not that Paul likes hats. Paul likes Justice. Paul likes Inter-Sibling Equity. I am a sibling myself. I share these time-honored values. No problem. I made Paul a stevedore-style watch cap like Joseph's, also in Kureyon.

Maggie has a mother, Kathy. You can see where this is going. Kathy also expressed a wish for a felted hat like Carrie's. But I thought, that hat is too much of a kiddie hat for a woman of style and substance such as Kathy. I thought, I can do better than that. Kathy has a lovely little head topped with a haircut reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in "Sabrina". In other words, an excellent Hat Head. Ah-HA! I thought. Here is my opportunity to make a felted version of that ChicKnits Bucket-o-Chic hat everybody in Blogville is making.

I went to the yarn store, got two skeins of Big Kureyon in a subtle and grownup green/brown/gold/red colorway, and set to work making a large floppy object that looked a lot like that cat bed everybody else in Blogville is making. But such was my faith in the Power of Felting that I soldiered on, knitting round after limp and lifeless round, until it became the World's Largest Hat-Shaped Object. A skein and a half of Big Kureyon--a whole lotta wool, done up on Number 10 needles. Not a dainty thing by any means. More oil drum than bucket.

Now before we continue with the dramatic felting of Kathy's hat, I must share with you that Maggie has a father.

How could I make a hat for everyone else in the family, but not Ron? That would be so bad for his self-esteem. So I got out the new 'Knit It!' magazine, which features a hat modeled by 3 latter-day Beach Boys who look like a knitting magazine's notion of what skateboarders would look like, if they had ever seen any. I had a last spare ball of Noro, in a manly, dadly colourway. I made Ron a hat of impeccable grooviness. A blast from Rowenta and it was done. (Sadly, another Undocumented Tour de Force.)

That pretty much took care of the entire family. All that remained, as I watched 'Another Woman' (one of those movies where all of Woody Allen's friends are standing around talking in airy, book-lined apartments) on Channel 13 late Saturday night, was to felt Kathy's cat bed and/or hat. Instead of venturing into the crypt of our building to unreliable washing machines that may or may not fill up with hot water when you turn the dial to 'Hot Wash/Cold Rinse', I filled the kitchen sink with scalding water and dish soap, plunged the cat bed in, and swished it around with all my (considerable) might. I did this repeatedly, and then I squeezed it out and re-plunged it into a basin of ice-cold water. Swish--Rub--Plunge--Repeat.

All of this while Gena Rowlands struggled with many choices of mid-life lovers. It was steamy, let me tell you.

The result: A smaller, but alas, still technically humungous hat. A head covering that would be none too tight on Mrs. Shrek. To make matters worse, the brim, which I had done in garter stitch to avoid the curling problem others had warned about, was now ruffling. I attributed this effect to the fact that the pattern calls for the brim stitches to be picked up along the row ends of the main band of the hat; the hat felted more in one direction than the other, causing ruffles. Not subtly undulating ruffles that one might flatten out with a few whacks from Rowenta or a couple of hundred pins. Ruffles reminiscent of Betsy Ross's nightcap. Ruffles that make you hum, 'Dear Little Buttercup....'

Hardly the Edgy Big City Look I had in mind to set off Kathy's shearling coat. Fairly disgusted, I plopped the sodden mess on the bottom of an overturned mixing bowl and crawled off to bed.

So (oy! still she carries on with the War and Peace of hat felting!), Sunday evening at our Family Super Bowl Festivities, I passed out hats, saving Kathy's for last. After everybody got done laughing at it, I put it in Kathy's washing machine with a load of blue jeans and some dish soap, cranked it to Hot Wash/Cold Rinse, and let it run. Twice. 'Die, hat, die!' I howled.

And whaddaya know? The dang thing felted, it really did! It felted all the way down to Kathy Head Size!! And it was a super-dense, super-fuzzy, super-fab felt, too. Only one eensy problem remained: Das Ruffle. Although smaller and thicker than before, it was still hanging in her eyes and bringing down the whole hat.

You will be so proud of me, girl. Do you know what I did, in front of God and everybody? With a steady hand and a pair of dull kitchen scissors, I cut the brim off! The felt was so thick and felti-licious that there was no danger of unravelling. Furthermore, brim or no brim, the only direction for this hat to go was UP. All that remained was to figure out a way to finish the raw edge, and perhaps counteract the fez-like appearance of the now-brimless bucket. I took the hat home with me on top of a 3 pound coffee can we found in the basement, with the shorn-off brim in my pocket. To quote Scarlett O'Hara, 'Ah'll think about that....tomorrow!'

This morning, and I know I am going on a bit (a BIT!), but I am so proud, I had the idea of sewing the brim back on, around the bottom edge of the hat, upside down so that the curved outer edge of the brim would hug the hat. To give you an idea of the extent of the Ruffle Problem, I had 8 inches of cut-off brim left over.

bucketoh!.jpg


Can we be brutally honest here? I. Am. A. Genius.

Doesn't this hat look like it was handcrafted by somebody who actually had a clue about what she was doing? Well, maybe not. But I like it anyway. (This gracious model is a fellow school mom.) (I also made the lovely Lis
model it at lunch.)

As I was doing all this, I got to wondering, why didn't I knit this thing in one piece to begin with? Then I wouldn't have had to fuss about picking up stitches (which left little holes, after felting), and the brim would have felted in the same direction as the rest of the hat, eliminating the ruffle problem. I went back to the ChicKnits site, and wouldn't you know it, Bonne Marie has a new Bottoms Up Bucket Hat that is knit in one piece, in the round. All the stitches are headed in the same direction, so everything will felt harmoniously. I know a brilliant idea when I see it. PayPal, ka-ching!

My next felted bucket hat may be better, but it will not give me so many hours of fun fun fun.

I'm done now.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:42 AM | Comments (16)
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