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

May 31, 2005


Dear Ann,

Since I frequently force you to listen to me whine about things that don't go right in my knitting world, it is only fair that I give equal time to things that go pretty dang right. I give you Poppy the Pullover:

Here is Baby Rose (who is almost 4 so we are going to have to drop the 'Baby' sometime soon), modelling her Poppy pullover. Note all the lovely things about it.

Chief Lovely Thing: It fits. It fits right now, mere weeks after I made it. Meanwhile other things I made for Baby Rose are still too big for her. But this one fit right away.

Another Lovely Thing: My modifications were true improvements. To my way of thinking, anyway. Note how the open seams at the sides and wrists make it so much easier to sink a basketball shot while standing on a chair that has a seat that leans backwards:
Clearly these are desirable attributes in a pullover.

Yet Another Lovely Thing: Doesn't this pullover just suit Rosie right down to the ground? It captures Le Style Rose to a tee. Stylin' with the baggies and the mini-Merrells and the wristwatch borrowed from a Big Kid.

While Rose was visiting, I got to view a video of her wearing the Poppy pullover over a purple dress while singing This Little Light of Mine in her school's Spring Sing. Needless to say, it was a Kvell-a-thon.


In my mail today, I was delighted to receive my Back-Tack Pack.

A lovely anonymous package all the way from Hawaii. All the items coordinate and would make a touching needle-roll homage to Lilly Pulitzer AND the Beach Boys. I'm in a dilemma now, because using these materials is optional under the Back Tack rules, and I've already made one needle roll from stash. Do I have two needle rolls in me? Do I want to share these lovely goodies? Thanks, anonymous tasteful donor!

Knitting Front

I've been clearing my decks for the Tennessee State Fair and my upcoming trip to --SHRIEK--England! You know how I was so enthused about Belinda's fabulous denim mitered-square blanket, that I was going to make one for myself as my Beach Knitting 2005? Well, I might still make one, but as I was knitting the first few miters and trying to find some kind of Jedi way of making a blanket that is Exactly Like Belinda's while at the same time, Certainly Not a Copy of Belinda's, I started getting the urge to do crazy things like not stripe the miters, or to add in non-denim colors. Then I remembered a baby boy in dire need of a Summer Blanket. So I've come up with an alternate plan, involving 6 blocks/24 miters, and some fancy sashing and mini-blocks. Here's one corner:


And another spot:


I don't even want to tell you how many times I've washed and ironed these squares to get them to look a bit older and wabi-sabi-er. If nothing else, I'm entertaining myself. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have all the squares joined together.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:50 PM | Comments (15)

May 30, 2005

State Fair Knitting Update

Dear Kay,

First of all, my son Clif came home from the last day of school with a blue ribbon. Who's giving out blue ribbons to preschoolers? What would Dr. Montessori say about that? Rudolf Steiner is rolling in his eurhythmic grave.

The thing is, Clif won't tell me what it's for. "I'm not saying," is all he says.

All you State Fair Knitters out there, I hope you're figuring out what to enter in your state fair. The Tennessee State Fair has its 94-page catalog posted in PDF form here, so you can figure out what you want to make. And you can decide whether to enter the Biscuit Competition.

The Knitting categories are: afghan, sweater, holiday sweater, children's sweater, knitted accessory, suit or dress, poncho, first garment, jacket or coat, household item, cable sweater, socks, and "professional." Personally, I feel that anybody knitting a suit should get a blue ribbon for chutzpah. And the "first garment" category leaves it wide open for all the new knitters who are finishing those first projects.

Infant/Toddler/Children Knitting categories: afghan, "sacque, cap and booties" (how's the sacque knitting going these days, y'all?), mittens, sweater or garment, "multicolored."

Let me know how it's going, and I'll share your links and updates. Email me or leave a comment.

For all you international types who have always meant to enter the Tennessee State Fair, I'll be glad to enter your beautimous handiwork for you. I'll even spot you the $2 entry fee as a gesture of international good will. We already have the tragically blogless Brit Sarah W. working on a fabulous Butterfly (the foxy camisole on the cover of the current Rowan 37). And our man in Denmark, Thomas. Well, he's off to the races with a lace shawl that is downright epic. A worldwide lace-off looks to be in the works.

My State Fair Knitting?

I don't think I've ever been in such a whiz: the perfection of the unmade project is so delicious that I may never actually knit anything else. I'll become a conceptual knitter, like those conceptual architects who just sit around and think about their never-to-be-built buildings.

I'm going to need a lot of advice, so please jump in with your thoughts. My goal is to make something unique, slightly complicated, and state fair worthy. I know--I could enter a Butter Cow, but melty was not one of my criteria.

So many decisions:

1. Yarn. I decided to use stash if at all possible, in keeping with the State Fair's implicit respect for frugality and making do with what you have. I thought about the yarn I love most, and the yarn I've used least, and they happen to be the same thing: Shetland wool. The yarn of kings! OK, The Yarn of Crofters in the Outer Hebrides! It comes in more shades than any other yarn I know. I have a wad of it.

2. The category. I'm aiming for the Infant/Toddler/Children's category, seeing as how I want to actually finish this thing on time. It's looking like the category "multicolor" is for me, what with all the Shetland yarns around here.

3. The project. The workshop with Sasha Kagan got me thinking about woodland things, and a weekend in the mountains got me thinking about the incredible ferns coming up in the woods, and so I've found myself imagining a small coat that says "that child looks exactly like a forest on the Cumberland plateau."

4. The name. Anybody who's read Charlotte's Web can see where this is headed. We'll call this little coat Fern in honor of the heroine of the E. B. White book.

Next time I'll show you the swatch I've made.


Posted by Ann at 03:06 PM | Comments (17)

May 27, 2005

But Enough About Me

Dear Ann,

You know me: difficult and uncooperative. I never want to take those Quizilla quizzes to find out what kind of knitting needles I am or what flavor of Crystal Light I am. I'm okay with not knowing. Same for the 'memes'. I'm so apathetic that I don't even know if the word "meme" is pronounced like 'Mimi' or if it rhymes with 'scream', or if it's short for something. I'm lazy and unorganized and I can't muster the concentration to determine what song is really my favorite song and what are the last 10 books I've read. So, as much as I greedily devour other people's answers to all of these questions, I don't play. But recently in my ramblings, I ran across one where you answer the questions with images. Hanging around at Google's image search site seemed like such an excellent way to waste time that I am now going to answer it, even though nobody asked me to answer it.

I can't remember where I found this meme, but it was credited to a poetry/photography blog called Moonshine Highways. Well worth a visit despite the tragic absence of knitting content.

Here are my answers. Anybody else who wants to do this meme, put a link to your answers in the comments and we'll all go traipsing over to find out your granny's name!

The place I grew up:
(I was not actually reared in the stockyards. But in my childhood, the Omaha stockyards, which no longer exist, were a big deal. They remain a strong olfactory (ol' factory!) memory.)

The place I live now:

My name:
(My friends just call me Kay.)

My grandmothers' names:



(Who had better-named grandmas than me? I know you're dying for more info, so I'll share that my grandpas were Frank and Virgil.)

My favorite food:


My favorite drink:


I know you thought I was going to say:


And what would we do without:

....Perrier? After all, Perrier C'est Fou! Insane, crazy, mad bubbly water! (I used to babysit a little girl in France who called it 'l'eau qui pique'--the water that stings.)

Okay, let's move out of the beverage category. I like the liquids; we could be here all day.

My favorite song:


The single most difficult category. I have a Funeral Playlist. This song is among the top ten on that list. But then there's:


Again, we could be here all day. I can't even get started with Elvis Costello, early Bruce, Dylan, Patsy Cline, Iris deMent, John Prine. I mean, really. Nobody should have to choose, even for the sake of meme disclosure.

My favorite smell:

I know this is weird, but it's probably true.

My favorite shoes:

I don't have a favorite shoe. Sorry. I know this offends our bedrock value system. But I do enjoy a flip-flop. I like what flip-flops represent.

I think flip-flops are an appropriate note to end on, seeing as how it's the start of our nation's Memorial Day Weekend. Enjoy!



Posted by Kay at 01:26 AM | Comments (37)

May 24, 2005

Squirrel Quilting

Dear Ann,

Here I was, fixin' to lay down one of those 'My Trip To Omaha (Director's Cut)' posts that I know you SO relish every tedious morsel of, when the postman arrived.

Stop the presses!

Our top story today is "HOLY ACORNS BATMAN!!!! LOOK WHAT CRISTINA SENT ME!!!!!!!!"

Courtesy of Herr Pfaff and, I think, a pair of curtains Cristina scored at IKEA, here is:

...the Log Cabin Needle Roll!

Here's the inside, with patented Cristina Self-Flapping Flap. I love the stripes, which remind me of those French canvas stripes Martha was so into a couple of summers ago.

Please: observe the workmanship.

I even have a favorite strip (well, of course I do! how could one not have a favorite strip?). Cristina could not have known that I most adored this detail--using the printing on the selvedge--in one of the Japanese patchwork books I recently acquired (for no good reason).

Free Art With Your Gift

Here's the best part. Can you guess? Oh yes: I scored another Shrinky Dink. (Remember my first Quilt-Themed Shrinky Dink from Cristina?).

Here's the new addition to my Gallery of Shrinky Dinks:


The card says, "Don't Quilt On Me!" This is a reference to a remark I made last week at Cristina's, about the difficulty of quilting 'squirrels'. Meaning to say swirls of course, but slurring my speech in the excitement of having my foot on the pedal of a Pfaff. If anyone can quilt a squirrel, it's Cristina.

Oh, and Omaha

Let's get this out of the way at the outset: I didn't make it to Personal Threads, so I didn't pick up that gigantic rope of handpaint yarn you regret not buying last time you were there. Sorry. Just too much Graduation going on.

In my few spare minutes, I did indulge in one of my favorite Omaha pastimes: stealing old pictures. I was basking in the rare experience of all four Gardiner Ex-Kids being together in the same place at the same time, so this was my Must-Swipe Polaroid for this trip:

Judging by my braces and Van (the little one in the bow tie) looking like he is about 4 years old, I'm dating this Christmas 1975. Who knows where we were going all decked out like that; hopefully not outside the house.

Would you care to fast forward 30 years, to this past Sunday? Why the hell not:

(I did not shrink. They grew. And the little one has traded in his bow tie for a Live Strong bracelet. Plus ca change, ya know?)

One of Grandma Mabel's top ten Motivational Speeches For Children, which she would spiel verbatim at the first sign of bickering, was titled, 'When You're Grown Up Your Brothers and Sister Will Be The Dearest People In The World To You'. Sometimes it takes 30 years (20 of them after you've popped your clogs) to be proven right, but I'm sure it makes the vindication all the more satisfying. This past weekend I could hear her oh-yesing and mm-hmmming away, although I think she was a bit put out when we were being dear to each other at the Liquid Lounge.

Oh, there's knitting news all right. For later.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:45 PM | Comments (13)

May 22, 2005

My Worst Piece of Knitting, Ever

Dear Kay,

Because you so bravely showed us the sleeves of your Ol' Forty-Niner Miner Baby Denim Henley-Necked Pullover--the sleeves that didn't please you--I thought I'd join the stream of knitting penitents. Here's the swatch I started in Sasha Kagan's workshop. (If you have one of those welder's masks with the little tiny window of dark glass, go ahead and put it on now.)


Blindingly Bad Intarsia!

I know, everybody has to start somewhere. (Michelangelo did the Sistine Closet before he got to the Chapel, right?) But even its mother can't love this warbly piece of handwork. Oh sure, you're all "Gee Ann it's really not all that bad." I'm all "OK let's go for a close-up."


Don't get any closer or the fumes will knock you out. The giant poppy (aka Three Orange Dogs Chasing Each Other) shows all too well what happens when you a) forget to twist yarns; b) yank too hard while doing the Whoopsydoodle Maneuver; c) fail to Whoopsydoodle; and d) cuss too much while knitting.

There's a reason they call it tension, people.

Oh, I'll get over this. Someday. Now that I actually understand Sasha Kagan's intarsia technique, I may fiddle around with the greens of Grundy County.

Speaking of Hot Tweedy Controversy . . .

The yucky swatch did give me a little quality time with Rowan's Harris Yarn, a yarn that seems to be under ATTACK. Fellow Harris Yarn freak Ann HB sent me this link to the site of Alice Starmore, everybody's favorite color genius/knitting litigator. Alice reports on a recent legal action by the Harris Tweed Authority.

Now, I don't really know much about all this, but as best I can tell, the Harris Tweed Authority is a group in the Outer Hebrides whose mission in life is to preserve the cachet of the phrase "Harris Tweed." If it ain't made in a certain way, in a certain place, it ain't Harris Tweed. The Authority is fiercely protective of the integrity of its beautiful tweeds and the cottage industry that produces them. And who can blame 'em? If they weren't vigilant, Target would be selling Harris Tweed bathmats in orange and purple rayon chenille.

Now, it appears that the Harris Tweed Authority has decided that Rowan, and the Outer Hebridean mill that produces the Harris yarn that Rowan has just started selling, is diluting the Harris Tweed brand.

I'm all about preserving a trademark, and not diluting a brand. (Kay, if you bring up Mason-Dixon Macrame one more time, I'm outta here.) But seems to me that Rowan has been nothing but respectful of the Harris Tweed tradition--indeed, Rowan's new yarn is making people aware of the Harris Tweed brand who have never heard of it before.

Maybe Rowan didn't check with the Authority before it started making its yarn? I dunno. What do you think? Is Rowan ruining the Harris Tweed brand by introducing its Harris Yarn?

I'd love to hear more about this story, if anybody over yonder has any information about it.

My bottom-line fear, of course, is that they'll stop making this yarn. Must run--I need to corner the market before Ann HB gets there first.


Posted by Ann at 07:16 AM | Comments (22)

May 18, 2005

Denim Report

Dear Ann,

It's hard keeping up with the Denim News these days. In knitting (and all areas of life), I go in fits and starts. Felting frenzy has (finally) passed for the season, and I have moved on to full-blown denimania. The denim knitting is so hot and heavy that stuff gets started and finished before I even have time to Document For Posterity.

I didn't show you one of the things on my sew-up pile a couple weeks ago, because I was waiting for the US Postal Service to deliver it to the young recipient, and for the young recipient's mother to take a photo (was it obnoxious to request 'natural light please'? oh well, I do apologize) and email it back to me.

Here is the Museum Sweater from Little Badger, one of my all-time favorite books of kids' knits (remember the Square Neck Cardigan?). First the Glorious Baby Photo, featuring Elio. This pic almost moved me to tears, so natural was the light and so sweet the backdrop, not to mention the kissable ears, the downy head, and, of course, the denim:


Enough sweetness and light and cute baby. We are knitters here. We must discuss What Is Wrong With The Sweater. For this we need a Flat Shot Cropped to Highlight Flaws:


1. Neck opening: kind of tight. If I do this sweater again for an infant, I would put an opening on the shoulder, or something. It did fit Elio, but I'm not sure it was fun wrestling it over his head.

2. Armhole openings: really tight. Cristina (Elio's mother and staff photographer) reports that she had to stretch them to fit. Length and widthwise, the sweater would fit Elio until he's 2, but the armholes are not going to make it that long. Please note that I actually measured and placed the armholes EGGZACKLY where the pattern says to place them. The sweater would look less museum-y with larger armhole openings, but the baby would wear it longer, and that's more important to me (it's all about AGING THE DENIM, people, and a toddler is the finest denim-aging device known to man).

I love the look, though. It reminds me of the California miners, standing in creeks in Levis, when Levis were new, in dirty undershirts. I love the Henley neckline, and the waffle-weave ribbing at the top. It's an easy knit, and so plain that an actual boy will actually not mind wearing it. I'm going to up-size it for Joseph and maybe even for Hubby. ( I'll do it either this round of denimania, or my next cycle, or my next lifetime.)

That's all. I was going to tell you about the Perils of Plying Laceweight Texere Denim On Cones, but I'll save that for the hard-core denim heads. (Child labor is involved.)

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:06 PM | Comments (28)

May 17, 2005

Sewing Lessons


Dear Ann,

As you know, I hold a grudge against German appliances. I know it's not fair to hate the entire industrial output of a country because of one INCREDIBLY STUPID WASHING MACHINE, but that's me: narrow-minded. Let that be a lesson to you: if you dye my kitchen floor blue, I shall be extremely wary, not only of you, but of everything that comes from where you come from.

But that's all over now. Yesterday, I met a charming German appliance. A purring, rational, user-friendly little guy: Cristina's sewing machine, Herr Pfaff. Cristina made a Coolpix movie of me and Herr Pfaff getting to know one another in a special way, but the file was too big to upload. You will just have to trust me on this: the Pfaff is a sweetheart.

Why did I drive all the way to Philly to use a sewing machine? First of all, it's always a pleasure to see see Cristina and eat what she's cooking and hang out in CristinaLand. But I also needed her help. A few weeks ago, in a moment of Angela-induced insanity, I signed up for Back-Tack. Back-Tack is one of those bloggy secret-pal thingies, but it's for people who--unlike me--know how to sew. The idea is, you send a package of fun fabric to one person, and you get one from another person. Using these goodies (or not), you make a clever notions pouch, stuff it with sewing-geek treats, and send it to someone else. Everybody gets cool surprises, and the Post Office makes out like a bandit.

Here's the part that got me: if the recipient is a knitter, you can make them a needle case instead of a notions pouch. I have always wanted to make one of these. I have been stashing fat quarters of Kaffe Fassett fabric for years, in the hopes of someday acquiring Miraculous Sewing Knowledge and being able to use it for something. I signed up, requesting a knitter to sew for.

Mind you, I haven't had my foot on the pedal of a sewing machine since 7th Grade Home Economics Class. (Just for fun, here is a picture of me in the skirt I made, with Mom's help, for Maxi Day when I was in 6th Grade. Scary, yes? I think the belt is macrame!)

Seeing that I was in desperate straits, Cristina volunteered her Pfaff and a clipping of a Martha Stewart Living article on how to make a tool roll out of a placemat. Hey, it's a Good Thing: how hard could it be?

Not hard at all, and REALLY FUN. Get this: Sewing is faster than knitting. A lot faster.

When sewing, you get to do one of my most favorite things in the world:

Handle a massive and powerful steam iron. (Also German, as it happens.) (Since I know you'll be impressed, I'll also share that Cristina has one of those double-wide ironing boards; more of an ironing table, really. You could do surgery on that thing. Strictly for the Seriously Crafty.)

After an afternoon of lunching and sewing and admiring baby Elio and brother Bruno with Cristina and another Philly pal, Cheryl, here is what we had to show.

Mach 1: Cristina's Trial-Run Needle Roll.

Small (Cristina favors circs so only has a few straight needles to corral), flap-less, green. If it were a car, it would be a VW Beetle: easy to park, but still stylin'.

Mach 2: The Dee-luxe Back-Tack Stretch Limo of Needle Rolls.
(The perfect knitterly touch--Cristina's idea-- i-cord ties!)

An inside flap adds extra cushion, but in truth it's just a vehicle for More Fabby Kaffe Fabric.

The Needle Roll, loaded. (The pocket is suave wool felt from Cristina's stash.)

I had a real swell time, and yes, I'm in the market for a Pfaff of my own. Wait'll Hubby sees THAT on the dining room table.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:13 PM | Comments (21)

May 16, 2005

Sasha Kagan Spotted at Noshville


Dear Kay,

So. Yesterday, the birdlike, funny Sasha Kagan materialized at Angel Hair Yarn Co. for an afternoon, and it was one of those great times when you get to peek behind the curtain.

She has been in the knitwear design business for 30 years. I look at her drifts of pullovers and cardigans and waistcoats and swatches, and my head pretty much spins. How many times have I pondered Sasha Kagan's designs, in Rowan magazines? Flowers and vines and leaves--all lovely, complex work. But yesterday, when Sasha showed us pictures of her beautiful home, I understood in a snap what's egging her on. It's her yard, people. Sasha's got this 15-acre piece of heaven in Wales that would provide anybody with enough inspiration for a lifetime. She's got the bracken, and the rose hips, and the delphinium and lavender and roses and pansies and leaves and vines and crikey--the woman has no choice! It's a freakin' arboretum out her back door.

[Nonknitters, just skip this paragraph. We'll be done soon.] Sasha has an intarsia technique I'd never seen, one which is a bit like Fair Isle and which makes all those delicate tiny intarsia flowers hang together better. In short, she weaves the background color behind all the tiny bits, not starting a new ball every single time the background color appears. There's a two-stitch technique for the weaving. Very efficient, but it does create a double thickness of fabric. I'd always thought intarsia was all about creating a single-weight fabric; shows what I know. Sasha likes the dimensional quality this technique gives to her flowers and leaves. I'd explain the Whoopsydoodle Maneuver to you, but I've forgotten how Sasha explained it and so I'd have to use my explanation: put the picture color first, upsy, over, offsy, knit. See? It makes it so easy!


So many swatches. One of the reasons I have always been so intarsia resistant is that it seems so fiddly, so start-and-stop. The Whoopsydoodle Maneuver makes it a bit more rhythmic, but I still find myself with a tangle of yarns, which I ignore until the situation becomes dire. Sasha kept chirping about how it all turns into a smooth little rhythm. I'll keep plugging away at my swatch. We'll. See.

The idea of knitted plaid is always funny. One textile recreated as another.

Quintessential Sasha: autumn leaves.

Why, it's a pair of flowery waistcoat-wearin' gals, just standing around waiting for the line dancing to start at the Wildhorse Saloon.

This sweater (I'm practicing my curtsy) is a festival of four-ply, my favorite weight of wool. This is just a headbanger of a pattern.

The workshop was too short for us to explore our own ideas--we were all too busy figuring out how to whoopsydoodle. I'd come to the workshop straight from a weekend in the mountains of Grundy County, and the color of the week up there is GREEN. I have a batch of green yarns that look just like the forest floor. It would be fun to see whether intarsia is worth it when the colors are close cousins of each other. Would all that fiddling result in something worth having? Or would it be too indistinct? The drama is killing me.

A great group, a welter of ideas, and excellent celebrity knitter spotting. We need to go on one of those Baltic knitting cruises or something. Or have a Grundy County Knitting Symposium.


Posted by Ann at 09:36 AM | Comments (11)

May 13, 2005

Oy, My Intarsia Is Killing Me

Dear Kay,

I hate to interrupt the reduce/recycle/reuse festival of denim going on up there, but I have breaking news. (This will be brief. This is the scene out my window this minute: five guys waiting until ten o'clock to begin replacing a utility pole that serves exactly one house--mine--and which I told the guy they couldn't start until ten o'clock because I had a rilly important thing I needed to finish on the computer. Your utility dollars at work.)

Anyhoo, I'm afraid I'm in for a bout of intarsia. I can feel it coming on just the way my bursitis tells me when the barometric pressure is dropping.

I'm starting to do weird things: I pull out the Box of Alice Starmore Scottish Campion I adopted from a nice lady in Baltimore last year. Somehow, graph paper shows up. I think about bobbins.

I know how this is going to end: I'm going to pile it all in the Mom Bomb, drive down Hillsboro and end up at Angel Hair Yarn Co., wishing and hoping some famous intarsia expert will just show up and tell me what to do with all this stuff.

Hey wait--some famous intarsia expert IS showing up. Get a load of this: Sasha Kagan is coming to Nashville. Can you believe it?

She WILL tell me what to do with all this stuff. She WILL be full of ideas. If anybody can get me to try intarsia, it has to be Sasha Kagan.

If anybody has colorwork questions they've always wanted to ask Sasha Kagan, lemme know, and I'll ask the Queen of Intarsia for you.

Who Knit the Book of Love?

As a little warm-up for the workshop, and in celebration of Fifteen Years of Wedded Bliss, and because eventually making books and knitting would somehow collide in my life, I made


an anniversary book for Hubbo. What does it say? That's for me to know and Hubbo to find out . . .

Carry on. Continue discussion of recycled denim, rules for the Iowa State Fair (Iowans only? OutRAGEous!), and the like.


PS (After the new utility pole has been installed--and it's a beauty.) OK, since you asked, here's a peek inside of the Book of Love, which was concocted in a fever and will be much cooler when anniversary no. 20 rolls around:

Inside there's note paper trimmed on the scary rotary paper cutter. The binding is embroidery floss sewn through the paper in the ancient tradition of the monks of St. Denis (OK not really). If I did it again I'd extend the stitching to the top and bottom of the paper. I winged it on attaching the paper to the cover. I've got book fever now.

Posted by Ann at 09:09 AM | Comments (20)

May 12, 2005

We Interrupt This Program

Dear Ann,

I know y'all are in a serious lather about the State Fairs, their rules and regulations and our diplomatic ties with Denmark, but can I get a word in on my favorite topic?

Yes, it's another info-mercial about.....Indigo-Dyed Denim Yarn, which I refer to as Rowan Denim even though, whenever possible, I buy it cheaper, elsewhere, or elsewhere.

No, they don't pay me. I willingly preach the good news of indigo-dyed cotton yarn, to all who have open hearts to listen.

Quite recently, I experienced a Blessed Denim Event. Although I have learned that it is usually best, for me, not to buy yarn on eBay (as a public service to knitters, I am not linking to eBay--if you go, go on your own steam), I still have a 'Rowan' search that I run once in a while. (This practice is what is known as Looking For Trouble.) A couple of weeks ago, aimlessly scrolling through the entries, I came across the Find of Finds. The Holy Grail, the Promised Land, insert-your-metaphor-here. It was a used, handknit cardigan in Rowan Denim. One with some AGE on it. A large size (meaning lots of YARN in it). Pre-washed, many times. Ready for rippin' and recyclin'!

In a highly disciplined manner, I figured out how much to bid, based on the assumption that it had 20 balls of denim in it, and that I was willing to go retail for new denim. Then, I entered an eSnipe bid (no! I will not enable people by linking to eSnipe!), and an 8-day wait began.

I got it.

Here it is:


Fresh from the UK. Beautifully made although 'out of style' doesn't quite capture how very, very style-free it is. Remember that big suit David Byrne wore in Stop Making Sense? If it had been trimmed with bell ruffles, it would be this cardi. It is much larger than I had anticipated based on the seller's description. Two of me, pregnant, would fit in it--and you know that's a roomy cardi! But fit does not concern me! I am only in it for the YARN.

Why do I so crave the old, already-knit-up, beat-up denim? Because there is no substitute for it. You can knit new denim and wash it hot and dry it hot and make your little boy roll on the ground in it and it looks really cool. It's fine. But when you unravel the really old denim, the inner parts of the stitches are much darker than the exposed parts, so when you re-knit it, you get this awesome speckled look. See on the left?

Check out the spectrum. The Denim Circle of Life. These are all made with the darkest shade of indigo denim yarn, yet they are all at different stages of wash & wear & age.

On the left is the skirt Benedetta (BLESS HER!) gave me, made with yarn recycled from old denim sweater. On the right is the eBay cardi, which shows some age, but not quite as much. Oh, how I long to rip it and see the innards of the yarn. But I shall beat it on the rocks for yet a while longer. It's been entirely too well cared for up to now.

For those who have no idea what I am babbling about, this picture shows the color of the indigo denim before washing.

The best part of the whole deal, though, was

...the cardi has an old denim label sewn into it. WITH THE COWBOY, PEOPLE!

I could just die of happiness.

Will keep you posted on what gets made out of this treasure.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:04 AM | Comments (31)

May 11, 2005

Don't Miss It, Don't Even Be Late

Dear Kay,

Oh, joy! We're all going to the state fair. This is going to be great. I can smell the funnel cakes already.

General Ginger has already dug into her state fair's rules and has found them thoroughly confusing.

Margaret has unearthed a new duct tape category at the Virginia state fair and is contemplating whether you can knit duct tape. We, of course, encourage this.

Susan has already swooned in a reverie about her 1967 triumph in the categories of Lazy Daisy Cake (need to Google this) and her prize-winning Twiggyesque dress. We will need to see photos of these.

There's a whole group of alumna of the Dupage County Fair in Illinois who make it sound like the Dupage County Fair was a life-altering experience. (Susan M., Ruth, Donna, Carma--can we get some kind of reunion going?)

And The Knitting Doctor Lorette gives us something to chew on with her You Are There coverage of the knitting competition at last year's Puyallup Washington State Fair.

It has been suggested that a button be created in honor of Blue Ribbon Knitting. I'm feeling very tender about Wilbur and Charlotte these days, so here's one:


Anybody wanting to make a Blue Ribbon Knitting button is encouraged to do so. And if you're thinking about knitting for a state fair, lemme know.

Kay, with your Nebraska heritage, I can't wait to see what you're going to make. I'm thinking hard at the moment.


Posted by Ann at 10:51 AM | Comments (12)

May 10, 2005

Blue-Ribbon Knitting!


Our state fair is a great state fair,
Don't miss it, don't even be late.
It's dollars to donuts
That our state fair
Is the best state fair in our state.

--"State Fair" lyrics by Roger Hammerstein

Dear Kay,

I've been trying to figure out why I'm in such a slump. What is WITH me? How many two-ball UFOs can a person have lying around the house? How much unfocused, ill-conceived, misdirected knitting can I stand? At what point do I start selling off the stash on eBay?

I clearly need a little focus. I've been thinking, and it occurs to me that a goal would help. I mean, David has his piano recital. Clif has the climactic end-of-year preschool circus. Hubbo has, uh, work and stuff. If I were more organized, I'd join that Master Knitting thing, but somehow I don't think I could stomach hearing the brutal truth about my knitting skills.

I finally figured it out. I'm going to enter the state fair.

The Tennessee State Fair, like just about any state fair, has pig races, milking demos, funnel cakes, and plenty of mules. It also has a building that was known for many years as the Women's Building, where all the non-cow-related, female-only competitions took place. Canning, baking, needlework. Needlework, you say?

When David was small, I'd take him to the state fair to see the goats. We'd wander through the Women's Building, now called Creative Arts, and there would be pickled okra, jars of tomatoes, and a whole lot of smoked hams. I loved trying to figure out why that one particular apple pie got the blue ribbon.

And needlework: I'd see loads of smocking, sewing, crocheting, and knitting in dusty glass cases. The collective domestic effort of all these women was palpable. I was transported back to 1945.

The deadline for the 100th annual Tennessee State Fair Creative Arts Needlecraft competition is August 30, and the fair ends September 18. I think I can cook something up in time to enter. The rules are totally complicated, and there are tons of categories. I love that.

If anybody would like to return to 1945 with me, let me know. I would love to do some blue-ribbon knitting with other like-minded folks. There are state fairs in every state--even Hawaii, though I'm not sure that every state has needlework competitions. It's a quick Google to find out about your state's fair.

If you don't have a state (you know, if you live in another part of the world), send your stuff to me and I'll enter it in the Tennessee State Fair for you. Nancy (so friendly!) at the State Fair office says anyone can enter, so I see no reason why somebody in, say, Denmark, shouldn't go for a blue ribbon.

Must run--I've got knitting to do!


Posted by Ann at 09:09 AM | Comments (32)

May 07, 2005

Slice of Sloth

Dear Ann,

Julia has invited all the shut-ins who are not at the Maryland Sheep & Wool shindig to post a little slice of life over the weekend. Then the stay-at-homes can visit each other's slices of life and feel.....more depressed that we're not in Maryland, soaking up knitterly bonhomie and ka-chinging away our last dimes.

Here's my slice: It's noon on Saturday. The kids have colds. I don't think I need to tell you that we are in our pajamas. I am knitting--in desultory, couldn't-be-bothered, pick-up-and-put-down fashion--on my Elsebeth Lavold Poppy pullover. To post my slice of life, I had to elbow the kids away from the computer, to which they are glued, watching episode after episode of Amy Winfrey's Making Fiends cartoons.

You don't know about Making Fiends?

They are the best cartoons ever. I won't spoil it for you, but Cristina says they are like South Park without all the gross stuff. They remind me of the Addams Family, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Hayao Miyazaki's films, if you can believe that. I found them during one of the delightfully unproductive hours I've spent dawdling around in Naive Knitting's links when I should've been doing something else. Thar's gold in them thar links.

This is Charlotte. Charlotte reminds me of you. She always expects the best of people.

This is Vendetta. Isn't that just the best name ever? Vendetta's always making fiends.

Mr. Milk, the schoolteacher. He's scared of Vendetta.

A fiend. One of many.

Charlotte's hamster.

That's my Saturday. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Parents magazine to call me up for an interview, but I do plan to feed them at some point.

Slothfully yours,

Posted by Kay at 12:23 PM | Comments (27)

May 05, 2005

Behind Door Number 2


Dear Ann,

Remember Let's Make a Deal? Remember how behind one of the doors of the Big Deal there was always a fantastic, 4-star vacation in an exotic location? And with the trip you'd get a pair of waterskis and even a boat to pull your skis?

Well, if I ever get to the Big Deal, this is what I'd like to be behind the door I selected. An all-expenses-paid trip to fabulous Neenah, Wisconsin, where I could spend the whole weekend listening and knitting at the feet of

That's right---Debbie New!

Susan, who lives in Chicago, recently sent me the tantalizing news that she was going to shirk her maternal responsibilities for two entire days and head to Neenah for a series of workshops with Debbie, the author of Unexpected Knitting. Unexpected Knitting is perhaps my favorite knitting book of all time, and it's certainly my favorite knitting book that I mostly don't understand. Just before bedtime, I often stare at a single page for a very long time, and then fall asleep. Debbie explains things in a way that assumes that the reader is as smart as she is, that all these ideas she has are fairly obvious, and that it's okay to skip over the boring parts. I have a tendency to need to hear about the boring parts. But Debbie's concepts are so exciting that I keep trying to work stuff out. In at least one instance, with a lot of stitch markers and a goodly amount of graph paper and time, I succeeded.

Since Susan is one of the Tragically Blogless who live and knit among us, I will share a few highlights of her Journey to Debbie.

This is not a fishnet with algae hanging on it. This is scribble lace. Don't stare at it for too long. In my humble opinion, this is the first project a would-be Debbie-ite should attempt. It's quite easy once you get used to knitting with sewing thread, or ultra-thin yarn, on gigantic needles. The fabric that is thus created is not only really cool looking, but it magically stretches in both directions. You stretch a length of scribble lace in one direction, and it's a pretty, bobbly scarf. Then, give it a shake, and stretch it in the other direction, and it broadens to become a shawl, light as air on your shoulders, but fairly warm if you use the right yarns.

What else did Susan learn?


This is swirl knitting. You increase, you decrease, it swirls. I think the key skill required is a strong understanding of how to knit a circle. I haven't tried it yet. I keep thinking what a cool blanket or rug could be made of swirls swirling all over the place. One of the things I most admire about Debbie is that she seems to be be fiercely anti-seam. She will knit pieces onto each other no matter how those pieces are shaped, but she will not sew. I love that.


This is freeform knitting. It looks like it is very fun to do (again, no seaming! wheeeee!), but I worry that in less brilliant hands than Debbie's, such as my hands for example, something breathtakingly odd might be created. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. Remember that I came of age in the 70s. I've seen some wall-hangings that should never have been hung.

And here's the best picture, saved for last:


Susan and Debbie. I asked Susan whether Debbie is like a favorite high school teacher, because that's how she looks to me in pictures: so open, so up for it, so kind. Susan said she's exactly like that. Susan is ready to go back for more in October, when Debbie will be in Neenah again. (**Edit: Kay is wrong; Debbie will NOT be in Neenah in October. See Susan's comment about who WILL be there. Not Debbie, but still good, perhaps even 'magical'.)

Personally, I had been thinking how nice it would be, in October, to visit my brother in Milwaukee (did you know I have a brother in Milwaukee? It's quite recent, this brother-in-Milwaukee business). We'll have dinner, we'll do a quick sibling bond, and then, gimme the car keys! I'm off to Neenah!

Thanks Susan, for the virtual road trip! Can you feel the envy heading in your direction from across the Internet?

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:57 PM | Comments (21)

May 04, 2005

How to Travel Through Time

Dear Kay,

I'd like to think that this past weekend was a unique experience for me, but let's face it, a twentieth college reunion has elements that are pretty much identical no matter where you went to school.

To help out all the other 42-year-old knitting bloggers out there who haven't yet chronicled their twentieth college reunions, here's a little template you're free to cut 'n' paste. Add your own captions.


This is a camera guy. He followed the Class of 1985 all weekend. When I arrived at the reunion, I went to hug an old classmate and discovered he was wearing a microphone. I should have figured that at least one person in my class would be participating in a reality show. This classmate is making a documentary: "My Evangelical Sophomore Year in College, Or, Supersize Me, Jesus."


This is my favorite English professor, who is on the verge of publishing his translation (from the Norwegian) of Edvard Munch's journals. Twenty years in the making. Can't wait! He explained to me what "The Scream" was all about. So glad to have that figured out. Clue: Not really all that much to do with knitting.


Here's the knitting part. My senior year I lived in an apartment above a yarn shop. Can you believe it? The fumes from the yarn would waft upstairs just the way the toast aroma from the M&M Soda Shop would torment me. If I had been a knitter back then, I never would have graduated. My roommate Pam and I would sit on the front porch and play Where Did My Lips Go? OK, we didn't really do that, but we loved being off campus in a place where there were maybe three apartments available to students. So sofisterkatid.


My Official Twentieth Reunion Souvenir Yarn Purchase was, of course, Twisted Sisters, which pretty much sums up my friendships at college. I was struck with how well we're all holding up. Remarkably little plastic surgery! Not so much Botox!

During my senior year, this man held my academic destiny in his very coordinated hands. He is the campus photographer, but he also taught juggling as a PE class. He had no requirements about your proficiency as a juggler, but he was a demon about attendance. No show, no credit. I managed to fall one class short of his requirement, and I wasn't going to graduate unless I did something drastic. I made a deal with him: if I juggled in front of major monuments during my senior semester in France, he'd give me my credit. It really did come down to my sending him photos of me juggling in front of the Eiffel Tower.

The Class of 1985. See the camera guy? See me?

I have always wished that I could travel through time. This weekend was as close as I've come: Wow, I thought. Look at all these classmates. They all look, like, twenty years older than me!


Posted by Ann at 03:32 PM | Comments (20)

May 02, 2005

Blind Ambition

Dear Ann,

Last week I decided to get down to business and sew up this pile of stuff:


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

A week later, let's assess progress.


Poor Deco, which was started in March 2002, when Rowan 31 was fresh and new, and so was I. Deco, whose sleeves were re-knit so as to be the perfect length. Deco, the very first sweater that I knit to the correct gauge. Deco, with its amusing twisted-stitch motif and its classy and clever buttonless bands with yarnovers and ribbing and God knows what-all. Here's Deco, after two or three afternoons of tearful struggles involving the setting-in of the sleeves:


Why didn't I sew in the ends yet? What's wrong with Deco?

I don't want to talk about it.

Let's move on.

Next up: Poppy!

Poppy, in a child's size 4, is from Elsebeth Lavold's Book 5, 'The Summer Breeze Collection. I like this book a lot. The adult version of Poppy is the cover sweater, but Lavold helpfully includes a child's version. I started it on the plane home from San Francisco. The original pattern calls for 3 color stripes. For ease of airplane-knitting, I used Tahki Cotton Classic in a variegated colorway that I soon decided was Kind of Loud Even For Me. But Baby Rose, who is now 3 1/2, will look spritely as can be in it:


I made a couple of slight modifications: a roll neck, and open vents at the sides and the sleeve cuffs. Since the edges are garter stitch, it was possible to leave the seams open for a few inches at the bottom, and I thought this added some ease to a sweater that will probably be pulled on and off at the beach and in the cool of the evening.

I must add that I sewed the sleeves on in one go and they came out perfectly. The right amount of ease in the right places. No problems whatsoever.

My favorite part of finishing a sweater for Rose:

Accessorizing! The Baby Rose, with the mini-Merrell Mary Janes, looks superfantastic in the Teeny Capris. The Auntie Kay is never happier than when shopping for the Teeny Capris.

This past weekend, inspired by the success of the Little Rose Poppy, I cast on for


The Big Kay Poppy.

This is 3 shades of Euroflax Sportweight 100% Linen. It's so light and drapey after washing (before washing it's like knitting with kitchen twine, but I don't mind that at all). I needed to knit with linen, as part of my process of reconciliation and healing after Deco (Deco is in Rowan Linen Drape). Get back up on that horse again, ya know?

It's going quickly, despite the US 3 needles I need to get gauge with the linen. My loose gauge always gets even looser when I am knitting with inelastic yarns like linen.

The third item in the sew-up pile? More on that later. It's Rowan Denim; it's small; it's vintagey. And I promise to bare my soul about Deco when I'm feeling less like screaming profanity. When will that be? I couldn't tell ya.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 04:09 PM | Comments (10)
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