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

September 30, 2005

Perfect Project: Let's Have a Mandate!

Dear Kay, and the Tastemakers,

No, no, it's not like a date with a man, y'all. It's just that 328 of us agree on ANYthing. Ah, the smell of it!

The tally:

My perfect project is

a sweater. 60.4% 328
a shawl. 16.2% 88
socks. 12.5% 68
a scarf. 6.8% 37
an afghan. 3.3% 18
a sweater dress. 0.7% 4

Sweater Dress Backlash

I feel rilly sorry for the sweater dress.

Julia: "I actually owned two sweater dresses in the '80s, so it with firm conviction that I vote against the sweater dress now."

Gina (who by the way provided a very fine link on her blog): "I am strongly opposed to knitting any garments on which I might sit. Purl imprints itself painfully and unattractively on tender hindflesh."

Even the stalwarts who voted for the sweater dress just aren't that committed. Amy: "OK, I voted for the sweater dress, and according to the stats, there are three others out there who agree with the fringe (oh, a sweater dress with fringe?) elements of the party. If this is a primary vote, I'll be happy to sell my vote on the next round for consideration of needle size or buttons."

What Now?

We have a yarn, and we have a project. It would be very easy at this point to say, "Go nuts, everybody! Go make something!" But why would we stop now? Perfection is so very, tantalizingly near. The Perfect Sweater pattern may already exist. But it may very well not. Do we design the whole thing ourselves? Or do we unearth a pattern that suits everyone's elaborate fantasies of the perfect sweater?

While we ponder that issue, as well as the question of whether the continental breakfast this morning was kind of gross, please vote now for whether you'd like the sweater to be a cardigan, a pullover, or a pattern that can be made as either a cardigan OR pullover.

Please vote by Sunday, October 2, 1:15 am CDT.

(By the way, I have started using Blogpolls here at home: "My perfect dinner is . . . a) chicken lumps. b) chicken lumps with cream corn. c) cream corn. d) Spaghetti-Os. e) Spaghetti-Os with Little Meatballs. f) air. g) nothing made by Mom.")

Homework for the Weekend

We've already had a lot of input on the details of this sweater--if you look at the mind map from Wednesday, it's a regular spiderweb of ideas. What we need now is to show each other what we're talking about.

Your Mission: Provide a link to exactly one sweater which most closely captures your idea of the Perfect Sweater. Please explain your choice.

We'll have a fashion show on Monday. Remember: the sweater you show does not necessarily have to have a pattern already written for it. It's the look, dahlink, that we're pondering.


Posted by Ann at 09:57 AM | Comments (70)

September 29, 2005

Sur le Pont d'Avignon

Dear Ann,

Color me proud:


Look what Sara has done! From looking at the Taro Blankie, she has made her own, inspired version. Check out her substitute for the original wacky bleached denim square:

--the Gee's Bendiest piece of knitting ever! Go over to Sara's and read all about it.

That's it--I had a powerful need to kvell. I came, I kvelled, I'm done.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 01:32 AM | Comments (10)

September 28, 2005

Congratulations, Darlings

Dear Kay,

While everybody's voting for the Perfect Project (if you haven't voted, scroll down to find the ballot), here is some news that we should file under "Justice, Blue Ribbon."

Item 1: Monster in Texas


Remember this cute little guy? Back in July, Susan told us she was entering this felted monster--her own design--in the Texas State Fair. Well, by jinky, he took the blue ribbon in the "Original Stuffed Toy" category. And--get this--Susan's coworker took the blue ribbon for peach jam. Can you imagine? The best peach jam in Texas? The best felted monster in Texas? It's rarefied air they're breathing down there.

Justice, Part 2

We have finally figured out why Mary B. of Richmond, Virginia, remains tragically unblogged. It's because she's too busy collecting blue ribbons at the Virginia State Fair. Consider, please, the following report:


Great news: There was no need for me to follow through on my threatened temper tantrum at the Fair: My quilt did, in fact, get a ribbon!

In fact, I did pretty well.

My "Elsbeth Lavold" vest, from an old Knitter's Magazine, took Second Place in the "Vest" category. (There was another vest from the same pattern which did not win a ribbon; I thought it looked like a good job, so I don't know why mine won, unless it was the way-cool buttons in the shape of Celtic knots I found for mine.)

My quilt, about which I promised a complete meltdown if it were ignored, won First Place in the "Quilts not intended for a bed" category. Pretty pleased with that! The winner of the Bed Quilt category, which also won "Best in Section" for quilts, was a hand-appliqued, hand-quilted beauty in a traditional design . . . as is generally the case at the State Fair. Mine was contemporary, art-y, and, frankly, rather "odd," so I was happy with my blue ribbon. I think it's possible my work gives headaches to the State Fair Quilt Judge Ladies.


And my Charlotte's Web, which I "ponchified" per instruction from Stephannie Roy won First Place in "Lace: Amateur," which is defined as lace made by someone who has only been making lace for two years. But it also won Best in Section for Lace, which means it was better than the winner in the Lace: Expert category! That really knocked my socks off.

So I'm a happy State Fair attendee today. I smell like a farmyard, my fingers have been nibbled by adorable goats, and I've eaten a Jumbo Sweet Potato with Everything, more than one bag of Kettle Korn, and half -- only half! -- an order of deep-fried Oreos. Really, they should be illegal.

NEXT year I shall enter the World's Perfect Handknit. I promise.

Mary, that quilt is fantastic--the little words floating across the curves (mellifluous, whimsical) must have given the judges fits. "Louise, I think she's being artistic or something. Give her the ribbon!"

And one question: were the deep-fried Oreos batter dipped, or do they just dump them in a vat of boiling oil straightaway?

And in Ohio . . .

Jeez, I thought I'd lost the link to Natalie's You Are There report from the Hamilton County Fair: Journey with Natalie. It's a regular Profiles in Courage tale for a new knitter.

Congratulations, you guys. So relieved you don't live in Tennessee--you'd wreck the competition here.


Posted by Ann at 10:38 AM | Comments (15)

September 27, 2005

Perfect Project: An Interlude, then a VOTE!

Dear Kay, and Everybody Seeking the Perfect Handknizizzle,

You think I've been just sitting around with the markers, drinking heavily and making mind maps of my grocery list. Well, let me tell you--your recent decision to revisit the cardigan for Dennis Weaver/your dad rekindled in me the desire to finish up some achingly undone projects. Not only will I relieve the crushing guilt of having promised sister Buffy a handknit in 2003, it fulfills part of my new year's resolution (the nine-month-old one) to complete unfinished objects by year's end.

Maybe it's that late September time-to-atone feeling--and I'm not even very Jewish!



I'll be brief. Sister Buffy picked the yarn and the pattern: Rowan Kid Classic in a heathered blue that reminds me of . . . denim . . . and the Woo pattern from Rowan 30. I shortened the length and shortened the collar because we all know that Kid Classic has the insulating properties of a good fiberglass.

The whole projeck was a quick cranker until I screeched to a halt, in 2003, because of Nubbin Dread. The little fringey nubbin deals I'd met before, when I made another Rowan nubbin-based sweater, Splash:


To make a nubbin, you cast on stitches then cast them right back off. Sounds fun? Let's just say this is the end of an era over here at the Shayne Piecework Factory.

Dude, where's my collar?

Dude, why are my nubbins so hazy?

Dude, what a passel of seams just for a hazy nubbin cuff.

Dude, what a wacky decorative raglan seam. Six purl stitches down in there. Makes it all, like, dimensional and stuff.


Dude, I hope my sister appreciates this.

Dude, she's probably so disgusted at this point that she's forgotten that she asked for any stinkin' nubbins.

As far as I'm concerned, the perfect project is a DONE project.

Speaking of which . . .


[click for the big picture]

Here's how the nominations for Perfect Project shook out. Very interesting. Conclusions to draw from this incredible foment of ideas:

We will never resolve the beverage issue.

I'm not sure what hesseweisen is but it sure sounds tasty.

The Perfect Handknit will include, somehow, lime.

There are factions agitating for socks, for shawls, for afghans and scarves and the sweater dress. [We pause to consider the sweater dress.]

But if this mind map tells us anything, it tells us that the sweater is what we are thinking about the most.

So many questions will remain unanswered. Did the choice of Cascade 220 lead us in this direction? If we'd begun with the project first, would our yarn have ended up being something different? I feel like General Robert E. Lee, people, I really do, right when he stood on the steps of the courthouse at Appomattox wondering what might have happened if his troops had reached that supply train in time. You think it's easy to facilitate a situation like this? The hard decisions!

Now, I know you're itching to get going. Let's have a quick vote here, then we get down to the real knitty gritty.


PS--I know you're wondering, so I'll just tell you: the mind map of my grocery list reveals an unholy concentration of carbohydrates and a large branch labeled "Frozen."

Posted by Ann at 11:19 AM | Comments (26)

September 26, 2005

Road Trip! aka Load of Random Pictures

Dear Ann,

Friday morning dawned overcast and undercaffeinated. I rose at the ungodly hour of 5:45 a.m. and noticed the distinct lack of a benevolent deity. I grabbed a batch of handknits and a swig of coffee and cabbed it down to the HQ of Our #1 Favorite Publisher to meet up with Shawna and other Sweet Young Publishing Types.

Why did I grab handknits? Because of our destination: Stitches East, in Atlantic City. Everybody needs a handknit for Stitches. So people can take your picture.

Exhibit A: Shawna in the Sassy cardigan you made for me. I think you will recall that Shawna is a pixie, yet the Sassy fits her perfectly, which explains the kielbasa-like feeling I get when I try it on. (Note the poignant way Shawna is gripping her caffeine. She would need it. As it turns out, we took the Scenic Route to Atlantic City. I mean, we passed a rodeo. And a ranch. In New Jersey.)

But we got there. I hadn't signed up for anything in advance, so while the SYPTs went off to learn Dyeing, and Crochet for Knitters, and other stuff that is a lot less interesting, if you ask me, than Buying Yarn for Kay, I stayed in the market. I had never seen so much yarn before, all in one place. Or so many knitting books, all in one place. Or so many nuts like me, all in one place.

My day started in the lobby with a Celebrity Sighting. I'm not linking. I'm going to make you guess. Let's just say it was a person whom I was pleased to see was YES wearing clothes and NO not coated in congealed shampoo. That was the last blogger I saw all day. The blogging, it is not the hobby of the Friday crowd at the Stitches of the East. Super Fantastic! Now on with the show!

I hope you didn't get the impression that I had to bring handknits for everybody. This is Lauren. Lauren is a Publishing Executive of Great Eminence. She designed and knit this little Euroflax top. The just-right-size center cable, the mini-boatneck, the cap sleeves-- Super Fantastic! I asked Lauren if she had written down the pattern as she went. She refused to answer, on the grounds that she didn't do that even though she knew she probably ought to.

Amazing store with vintage buttons and ribbons. The beautiful Swiss and Japanese woven ribbons, the bakelite buttons and buckles, the old buttons still on perfect cards.

All of it arranged so beautifully you could cry. No, I don't remember the name of the shop, but she doesn't have a real shop or do mail order, so it's just as well I don't tease.

Strings of laceweight merino/silk pinned to the wall.

What do you make with a string of laceweight merino/silk? A mini-granny square afghan. That is a 3 x 5 card, for scale. (My thought was 'log cabin'.)

The Weavette shop turned out to be kind of a rabbit hole. I had seen those 'weave in the palm of your hand' ads many times in Interweave publications, and remained unmoved. In person, though, the weaving just floored me.

You thread the loom with your fingers, and then use a long steel needle to make exquisite flat-weave squares. There are 2 sizes of squares and rectangles available, and there is a triangle and a bias-square loom in the works. The 2 x 2 square takes 2 yards of yarn. I'm kind of drunk with the possibilities.

Hold on! Another Knitting Celebrity Sighting!

Louisa Harding, who is just as nice as she looks. She was there to show her new line of lovely multi-color yarns. One of them is a sari silk ribbon shot through with gold; I have never seen anything quite so glam. I outed myself as a Miss Bea-besotted Rowanette, and she instantly asked me if I knew Kristine. Well, of course! Louisa deserves much success with the new yarns; the designs are Super Fantastic, chic and young but not gimmicky.

I was quite taken with this hunka hunka pink plastic.



....evening. This scarf took under 15 minutes of kid-cranking.

One thing I ask myself about the Machine Scarf: Does it have to be ugly? Apparently it does. I worked a sample using Euroflax instead of Horrific Orange Styrofoam Crap, and the Euroflax looked kind of violated. But so strong is my passion for knitting on a pink plastic machine, that I will keep trying until I come up with a Non Ugly Alternative Yarn that works. Pink Plastic Knitters: watch this space.


Posted by Kay at 10:34 AM | Comments (30)

September 23, 2005

Perfect Handknit: Too Proud to Live, Too Sorry to Die

Dear Kay, and the Future Searchers,

[For those just joining us, a quick review: We are deep into a group quest for the Perfect Handknit. If we were MSNBC, we'd have a graphic in the corner that ticks off the days: "Perfect Handknit: Day 23." It's not a hostage situation, exactly, although we may have lost a few participants to grief at the wrong yarn being named the perfect yarn, confusion about why we are doing this, and general claustrophobia. We try to take stretching breaks every hour, but people don't want to put down their knitting.]

Now. I have been ever so busy digesting the Prouds and Sorries. So proud! So sorry! We are one proud, sorry group.

Let's take a look at the themes that emerged from everyone's comments. (Thank you all, by the way, for sharing what had to be painful memories.) We'll examine Sorries first. Let's just get that out of the way.

Knitters of Constant Sorrow

Our first mind map reveals a regular wagon wheel of woe:


[click on image for supersize version]

Big areas where things went wrong:

Style: A lot energy was given to this area. Problem styles included garments that were wide, cropped, heavy, too "out there" to wear in public, had cabley epauletlike shoulders, and tank tops made in chunky yarns. Sweater that "reaches knees" was a problem.

Fit: One of the main problems is that people ended up looking like things they didn't want to look like:

"Makes me look fat"
"Looks like body armor"
"Look like a box"
"Look like ready to pop stuffed cartoon brick house"
"Look like Sasquatch"
"Look like Klingon"

Other fit problems: too small, too big, tight neck opening, sleeves too short, "early" hats that did not fit the heads of the recipients.

Materials: The wrong yarn doomed many a project. Anything scratchy, itchy, hot, shedding, wirelike was trouble. Not to name names, but . . . acrylic, eyelash, Rowan R2 paper, lopi, Lion Brand Homespun and Woolease. Special fury was rained on acrylic chenille: wormed, shed, biased, was "slubbed yuk." Oy! Sounds like the Katrina cleanup.

Gauge: A constant cause of Sorries. Gauge fluctuated during knitting, swatches had to be reswatched 12 times. And many Sorries resulted from failure to swatch at all.

Difficulty: Problems happened when a pattern was a first attempt at something, indeed the first attempt at a sweater.

Pattern: Trouble came when when knitters changed the stitch pattern, tried to resize it, fell victim to bad math, didn't fix a mistake, forgot the lace pattern, "I didn't know what I was doing."

End Result: Sorries often happened at the end of the day. The knitter didn't like the final product, the recipient didn't like it, it smelled bad.

Places Sorries are Kept: Weirdly, Sorries don't necessarily go away. They live on in "the drawer of shame," "a big plastic Hefty bag under the bed," "his closet," and "on our hippy teddy bear waiting for a 'Dead' tour."

In sum, the hard lessons learned here can guide us away from the itchy, the boxy, the ill-gauged, the sweater that makes us look like a Klingon.

Prouds: Blue Ribbons All Around


[click on map for supersize version]

Everybody has that project that hit the sweet spot: yarn, pattern, difficulty. A great yarn, a well-written pattern, a bit (or a ton) of difficulty--put those together, and that's what makes us happy.

Proud projects: Hat: Chemo caps. Socks: Broadripple, Go with the Flow, with Lorna's Laces Flame. Scarf: DNA. Blanket: Cableknit. Baby. Purse: Multicolored. Shawl: Leaf lace, Lady Eleanor Wrap from Scarf Style, Birch from Rowan, Kiri, own handspun cashmere laceweight shawl, cashmere lace shawl. Dress: Butterfly lace dress from Rowan 37. Tank: Shapely Tank. Animal: mint green elephant. Purple felted monster. Tea Set: Annie Modesitt's Fiesta Ware.

The most Prouds had to do with sweaters: beautiful, beautiful sweaters. For men, babies, friends. Intarsia, Fair Isle, cabled, striped. Designs by Kaffe Fassett, Alice Starmore, 1984 Phildar patterns, Rowan, Interweave, Bonne Marie Burns.

Prouds, Sorries, HAPPIES: The Perfect Beverage


[click for 40-ounce Schlitz Malt Liquor version]

It's a miracle any of us finishes anything.

Nominations Are Open

Taking to heart all of the above, please nominate the sort of project you think constitutes the Perfect Project. No need to get specific about the details of pattern. I'm talking hat, shawl, sweater, socks--a general category. We'll have a vote once all the nominations are in. Deadline: Saturday, September 24, 11:43 pm CDT.

I hereby declare it Happy Hour. Two-for-ones until seven o'clock.


Posted by Ann at 10:39 AM | Comments (115)

September 21, 2005

The Sansabelt Cardi

Dear Ann,

From the sidelines, I've been watching all this Yarn Democracy in Action and I must say I'm amazed. People get quite excited, don't they? Not me. To quote a country song:

I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
To knit Denim although it's not the tops
In popu-lariteeeee!

Oh---it doesn't say that last part? Well, what good is it? (I voted for Wool Cotton. Does it surprise you that I didn't vote for Calmer? Hey--I'm not a 100% cotton radical extremist, ya know. The Wool Cotton is simply delish -- a dream of stitch definition and good behavior. )

The Secret's In The Sideburns

What's new with me? Much shrugging has occurred, but I think I've gotten it out of my system for the moment. I've moved on. Lately, my Conscience has been haunting me. Would you care to see my Conscience?

(A boat tote, carrying My Conscience.)

A couple of Christmases ago, my dad shocked the life out of me when he asked me to knit a cardi for him (well, okay, he didn't say 'cardi'; I think he said, 'one of those sweaters, that you button'). I was further dumbfounded when he specified that he would like raglan sleeves and marled wool, 'like the overcoats we used to wear in the 50s'. I had no idea that Dad, who gets up every morning and puts on a fresh shirt and Sansabelt slacks that my mother has laid out on the bed for him, knew the word 'raglan'. (For our overseas friends, and those who think I'm kidding about Dad wearing Sansabelts, here's proof. Let's just say that in Sansabelt Nation, Maroon is reserved for the nobility. )

So you would think that I would jump right on this project, and I did! I put out a worldwide May-Day call to the Rowanettes for Portly Dad raglan cardi patterns. Yvonne, who seems to run a mini-Yesterknits museum in her home, quickly found just the thing, a 1970s pattern in archives, and lobbed it across the Atlantic.


Isn't it the cutest? So gentlemanly! Just the thing to set off Dad's signature Cowboy Hat (the Akubra or the Stetson, depending on whether Dad is having a Taupe day or a Charcoal day).

(Point of Information: Dad is one of 6 men on the planet who looks Right in a cowboy hat. When John Wayne was alive, there were 7.)

(Fun fact: When Dad visits New York, he is sometimes mistaken for McCloud.)

Dad will wear this cardi as his only article of outerwear in Nebraska's below-zero winters, occasionally swapping it with the Ancient Paternal and Unlined Leather Jacket. Yes, a leather jacket will freeze brittle just walking across the parking lot, but a man's got to do what a man's got to do. It's the Code of the Cowboy-Hat Guys:

1. Never shiver.
2. Toothpick as accessory.
3. Sideburns, now and forever.

After Yvonne stepped up with the pattern, it was a simple matter of shopping for yarn. The suave Reynolds Andean Alpaca was a contender, and in fact it made the Swatch Finals, but ultimately I feared it would be too hot. At the end, I went with Rowanspun Aran in a Classic Dad Shade, Shark, otherwise known as "1950s Raglan Overcoat". I ordered it all the way from England, paid pounds for it and everything.

But Life got in the way. Entire blankets appeared from my needles, but the Rowanspun languished. Once in a while, Dad would inquire 'how's my sweater?' and I would feel a filial pang, but there was always a new baby or high humidity or some other excuse not to start a great honkin' cardi in thick wool.

Then one day our wise Valentina gently reminded me that one should do for one's father if one is lucky enough to have a father to do for. Way to ratchet the pressure, Valentina---you're the best!

So, at long last, I'm casting on. The wool is so rough it's positively medieval. Everytime I look at the pattern, I get 8-Track Flashbacks like you wouldn't believe. I'm cranking the Johnny Cash AND the stockinette, and hopefully dad will have his raglan cardi before the snow flies. You, my little co-bloggette, have many murky pictures to look forward to.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:06 AM | Comments (36)

September 20, 2005

We Interrupt This Madness

[Enters Magellan Suite without permission because participants are so busy yakking they didn't hear pounding at the door.]

Um, hello? It's me, Kay? I, um, live here?

People? Please put down your martinis for a minute? I would like to say that I'm sorry for the interruption, but I am proud to invite New York area knitters to my house next Monday night, September 26, from 6:30 to 9-ish (it's a school night after all), to hang out and do sash-and-block borders for the Carolyn Afghan, which will be auctioned to benefit Afghans for Afghans.

Email me for details!

Please, go back to your beverages, I mean your bickering, I mean your Future Search.

[leaves without anyone noticing that she has said anything; door hits ass]

Posted by Kay at 12:38 PM | Comments (11)

Perfect Handknit: The Hard Part Begins

Dear Kay, and the Committee of Semi-Defeated Yet Stalwart Handknitters,

Never mind the irregularities at the polls--the blue-fingered agitators, the accusations of nefarious alphabetization, the excessive consumption of Screech Rum drunk in protest--we have all weighed in.

I find this very interesting. The fact is, for many and various reasons, few of us are totally happy with the results. We all feel a little uncomfortable, a little steered down a path toward something we didn't quite want, a little compromised. "Our" yarn didn't "win." "Their" yarn "sucks." Well, in the world of Future Search, this is considered a HUGE SUCCESS! This is fantastic! When we all compromise, we're all miserable. TOGETHER!

[15-minute break to hug, adjust nametags, return to banquet room]

The results are fascinating:

Total votes: 507

Cascade 220 (Peruvian wool) 20.7% 105

Koigu Painter's Palette Pure Merino variegated (merino wool) 17.6% 89

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky or Aran (merino/microfiber/cashmere) 10.5% 53

Karabella Aurora 8 merino (merino wool) 9.9% 50

Rowan Wool Cotton (merino/cotton) 8.5% 43

Rowan Calmer (cotton) 7.3% 37

Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool (wool/silk) 6.9% 35

Patons Classic Merino (merino wool) 5.9% 30

Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (merino/microfiber/cashmere) 5.7% 29

Rowan Kidsilk Haze (mohair/silk) 4.5% 23

Yarn recycled from sweater bought at thrift shop 2.6% 13


A majority voted for yarn with merino in it.
A near majority voted for DK weight.
A quarter voted for aran weight.

The yarn we ended up selecting, Cascade 220, is actually a remarkable fit if you consider that it is DK weight; available in 155 colors including solids, heathers, and tweeds; is available in a machine washable version as well as a handwash; is relatively inexpensive (around $7 for 220 yards); is good for felting. Go take a peek at the shade card--it's an insane variety of colors. For the disenfranchised members of the UnWoolly Activities Committee, DK weight cotton exists in many forms. For freaks who can't stand anything except merino, there are numerous DK-weight merino wools. For Kidsilk Haze supporters, I got nothin'. Really sorry about that. If you triple it, maybe it kind of works?

Y'all, it could have been worse.

My suggestion for the moment is that we take these results, carry them in our Future Search binders, and return to them a bit later. We have learned a lot (namely, that Mary B discovered that Noro Kureyon actually softens when you wash it), but we're not done. Oh, no. We're just getting started.

Prouds and Sorries

We move on. What is the thing that we are going to knit? What is the perfect project? Our next exercise is called Prouds and Sorries. The Prouds are easy: the projects you loved best. But we learn from our mistakes, too, from our Sorries. We will all need to dig deep for this one, to dislodge what are perhaps your lowest, saddest moments as a knitter.

Your mission: Please leave a comment in which you describe your Prouds and Sorries.

Let's have your Prouds and Sorries in hand by Wednesday, September 21, 6:15 pm.

Beverage nominations remain open, as always.


PS We're having a breakout session in which Future Searchers explore the complex issues that have arisen so far. Talk among yourselves--I have to go on break now.

Bex asks: "Is it possible that the perfect handknit includes more than one yarn? Can there be two perfect yarns? Maybe some solid and variegated of the same weight and fibre? I know it makes the voting more complicated but Ann, you're the gal in charge, right? Couldn't you just make the choice for us? Oh, or maybe we should just elect some officials who could make the decision for us?"

Mary de B: "What worries me here is that we'll have our yarn before we know what we're knitting with it. "

Amy: "Do we need to have breakoff group to discusss diversity issues? Are cotton lovers feeling left out of the process? What about spinners who create their own perfect yarn? Are we marginalizing the already oppressed? Can we appoint an already marginalized person as head of this subcommittee with no power to appease their complaints without having to take them to seriously?"

Emily: "As a stout Calmerian and longtime cardholding member of the Rowan Party I have to object to the alphabetization of the yarns!! I assert that Koigu, Debbie Bliss and Cascade are only in the top three positions because of their alphabetical luck to be placed at the top of the list. I blame the ballot! Its got chads, chads, I tells ya! "

Posted by Ann at 09:21 AM | Comments (72)

September 17, 2005

Perfect Handknit: Al Gore Edition

Dear Kay, and Restless Souls in Search of a Better Way,

I got back from New York last night at 11:39 pm, after enduring a connecting flight through the Washington bus station/airport that I shall ne'er soon forget. As I wandered from tarmac to shed to tarmac, I puzzled over what happened to the Golden Age of air travel. Ingrid Bergman never had to sit in the United Express barn for two hours eating a turkey wrap, right?

Oh, the humanity! I discussed Polish power plant development projects with an engineer from Goodlettsville. I bonded with a Golden Girl from Queens. I found myself at one point surrounded by forty very small people from China who spoke no English other than the word "Sorry." Natalie, a radiation therapist sitting beside me in the partyhearty exit row, became a sort of scavenger hunt--every time she moved, I discovered another tattoo. I wondered, How much ink can human skin absorb? The last leg I shared with the drunkest human being I have ever seen on an airplane--he added a lot of exciting conversational randomness to the ride home. I was relieved when he chose Option B and "napped" rather than Option A which would surely have been to barf.

I'm sorry to have shown up on your doorstep with so little notice, but really. This Future Search has become such a tangled process that I really did need you to help me sort it out.

When the clock struck 9:41 on Thursday night, there we were, breathlessly watching the final vote being cast. It was like sitting around with Al and Tipper Gore in 2000, waiting for destiny to come. Waiting some more. Then realizing that, um, destiny can be sort of complicated.

Tally Ho!

Now, Restless Souls, I really did go to New York on Thursday. Granted, it was because Kay and I had book-related stuff to tend to, but we did manage to examine the results of the vote in a supercareful way. OK, Kay was knitting furiously on Shrug Number 74 and probably not all that focused. But still. We were in the same room, and that's pretty damn rare. Here's the tally:

Total votes cast: 662

Koigu Painter's Palette Pure Merino (variegated) 58
Cascade 220 43
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky or Aran 34
Rowan Calmer cotton 34
Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino 29
Rowan Wool Cotton 29
Karabella Aurora 8 merino 23
Patons Classic Merino 23
Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool 21
Rowan Kidsilk Haze 21
Brown Sheep Worsted 19
Manos del Uruguay 19
Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK or aran 18
Filatura di Crosa Zara merino DK 17
Rowan Denim 17
Rowan Felted Tweed 17
Artyarns Supermerino 16
Noro Kureyon 16
Malabrigo merino 14
Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece 13
Araucania Nature Wool 12
Koigu Pure Merino (solid colors) 12
Lorna’s Laces Lion and Lamb 12
Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport 12
Noro Silk Garden 12
Inca Alpaca 10
Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK 10
Harrisville Shetland 8
Knitpicks Elegance 8
Noro Cash Iroha 8
Jo Sharp DK Wool 7
Tahki Cotton Classic 7
Mountain Colors Bearfoot sock weight 7
Misti Alpaca 6
Rowan Yorkshire Tweed, DK weight 6
Shetland 2 ply 6
Axelle de Sauveterre cashmere aran 5
Southwest Trading Karaoke 5
Handpainted Yarns barely spun wool 4
Jaggerspun Zephyr 4
Colinette Skye 3
Euroflax linen 3
Mountain Colors Weavers Wool 3
Kilcarra tweed 2
Rowan Cotton Glace 2
Berroco Softwist 1
Filatura di Crosa 501 Superwash 1
Handmaiden Lady Godiva 1
Lorna’s Laces Helen's Lace 1
Phildar Licorne cotton 1
Reynolds Odyssey Merino 1
Berroco Chinchilla 0
Colinette One Zero 0
Patons Bluebell wool crepe 0

Our elaborate analysis:

No yarn got more than 8.76% of the total vote. If this were a Nashville Metro Council election, we'd have a runoff and another round of yard signs.

Trust me when I say it's good that we're not the Metro Council. But we are going to have a yarnoff. If a yarn got 20 votes, it's in the yarnoff. If it got 19, that's less than 3% of the vote and, well, Al Gore is available for grief counseling.

Now, here's where I remind us all that this is not actually a Metro Council election, it's a Future Search. Because we are all in this together, we need to look to our left and look to our right. Remember: the expensive/economical divide was almost 50/50--for every person who likes to spend $10 a ball, there's another who doesn't. The aran/DK divide was likewise even. As was easy care vs. handwash. Nobody has a mandate here on these issues, people.

And, in an irregularity that I am sure will come under fierce examination, there is a yarn on the yarnoff list which has not appeared on a single ballot until today: "Yarn Recycled from Sweaters Bought at Thrift Shop." SOMEbody forgot to include it in the earlier balloting, and it is plumb not fair to have a nominated yarn not included. So. Have at it, folks. Please vote by 8:22 pm, Monday, September 19.

After this, we will move to the next topic. Get your Kleenex ready.

These are divisive times. We've got Stephanie holding yarn-ins as she conscientiously objects to the notion of voting for a perfect yarn. While she's singing "Blowing in the Wind," let's answer with the eloquent words of Miss Diana Ross: "Reach out and touch . . . somebody's hand [sway]. . . make this world a better place [sway] . . . if you can." [wipe tear; help Miss Ross exit stage]


PS I hope the members of the Society for the Advancement of Merino as a Superior Fiber to Ordinary Wool have noticed that fully half of the eleven yarnoff yarns do, in fact, include merino wool. You guys have a future as lobbyists.

Posted by Ann at 09:12 PM | Comments (27)

September 14, 2005

Bulletin: A Fair, a Fern, An Infernal Affair

Dear Kay, and the Unruly Mob Currently Voting on Yarn,

If you have not already exercised your rights as a voter for the Perfect Yarn, please scroll down to the previous entry and do so immediately. The polls are open until Thursday night, 9:41 pm CDT. Please ignore the two people who are trying influence your vote by whispering the word merino in your ear.

If you have already cast your vote, well by cracky, pour yerself a margarita/red wine/Long Island ice tea/martini/gin & tonic/NOT a sloe gin fizz and pull up a chair.

Whither Fern?

Hallelujah, the Tennessee State Fair has arrived and not a moment too soon. The fate of my poor Fern sweater has been haunting me like a lost pet. What happened to you, Fern? Did they put you next to some creepy handknit?

In a rare bi-blogging event, Angela and I took a day trip out to the fair. I knew I couldn't face the event without serious support, and it was Angela who seemed best equipped to provide the proper backup should "things" not go "well" regarding Fern, my entry in the fair. Angela is steady. Angela has small children. Angela lets it all wash over her.

Imagine my relief when Angela arrived with not only her two adorables but also her mate, The Husband, who is the nicest guy in the world but also may be fully capable of opening up a can of whupass at the right moment. Was whupass required? Read on.


Angela ought to be working at the the Metropolitan Museum. Her curatorial sense is uncanny, and her laserlike eye misses nothing. It was an education to stroll with her through the Creative Arts Building. (It'll always be the Women's Building to me.) Do not fail to see her reportage of our day. Gems, I tell you. She unearthed pure, solid gold.

At least she had batteries in the AngelaCam. The AnnCam took one crummy photo, then blinked out. With the Blogphone I was able to capture a couple of crucial items.

I know what you guys want to see, so here you go:

Wilburs. Small, potbellied Wilburs. The big Wilburs aren't due at the fair until the weekend.

A log cabin quilt. With the red patch in the middle and everything.

A denim quilt! Why, it's just like what Loretta Pettway would make down there in Gee's Bend, if she had access to a 60-color computer embroidery machine.

The blue ribbon winner in the category of "Croquet Set, Miniature Old."

A simple, unrewarded stockinette scarf done in Kidsilk Haze on size 2s. Almost transparent. Gorgeous. I give it the Blue Ribbon of Quiet Perfection.

And yes, we found Fern, sitting in a chair not too far from the blue ribbon winner for the category "Afghan, Acrylic/Reminiscent of the American Flag."

Second Place, Sweater, Children's Knitted

What, you ask, was the winner of the blue ribbon in the category of "Sweater, Children's Knitted"? Aw, I couldn't even bear to take a picture of it: a Dale of Norway children's Fair Isle sweater that looked like it had been made by a machine.

As it turns out, The Machine won a blue ribbon in this category and at least four others that I saw. She is said to be such an unwavering generator of fabriclike Fair Isle that they changed the rules so that a blue ribbon winner is ineligible to enter in the same category the following year.

Who is The Machine? Why doth she knit so maniacally? Should not a can of whupass be opened upon her?

Nay, methinks not. The Machine has the sort of knitterly ambition that no one can match. She is Tiger Woods; we are Any Other Knitter. She is Lance Armstrong; we are the guys who look at Lance Armstrong's backside. We take our red ribbon with as much goodwill as we can muster, and we sharpen our needles for the next time. One thing I know: she can't enter the "Sweater, Children's Knitted" category next year. So maybe I will.


Angela's two darlings continue to feed carrots to goats whenever they have the chance.

Angela now works as a curator for The American Museum of Truly Useless Stuff.

The Husband has perfected the remote control model airplane so that it can simultaneously fly in the air and launch fireworks.

The Machine has made Dale of Norway Fair Isle sweaters for each survivor of Hurricane Katrina. She is currently at work on her entries for the 2014 Tennessee State Fair.

Fern entered the Witness Protection Program and is living quietly in an undisclosed location.

As for me, well. I'm turning Fern into a pattern that isn't written on six scraps of paper, a ballband, and the back of an envelope. And I have a batch of the yarns I used which, I think, would be enough for another Fern. If anybody wants to give Fern a try, it would be great to have a test knitter. This has been my favorite project, ever.


Posted by Ann at 08:33 PM | Comments (76)

September 12, 2005

The Perfect Yarn: Destiny Begins NOW

Dear Kay, and the Perfect Handknit Task Force,

Thanks for the virtual chicken soup. We're all on the mend, though David managed to eke out an extra day home from school when he said to me, in his pale way, "Mom. I need just one more day . . . to recover . . . "

OK. A couple of notes:

First of all, thanks to all you type-A homework completers. I knew we could count on you.

We had last-minute write-in nominations for the Perfect Yarn, which are OK because somebody moved the Future Search sign in the lobby which meant that a bunch of you ended up at the Middle Tennessee Automotive Repossession Professionals Conference. RepoCon. Very sorry about that. Karlie and Sarahfish are clearly working for Patons, but Patons Classic Merino goes on the list anyway. Stephanie throws in Karaoke by Southwest Trading Co., which we'll add simply because it's 50% soy silk/50% wool and who doesn't love soybean yarn? Finally, Katie wonders where the Berroco Softwist went, and I honestly don't know so we'll stick it right in there.

Annhb uncovered what is possibly a switcheroo regarding a yarn that goes by Kilcarra everywhere but the U.S. and Canada but may well be Tahki Donegal Tweed in the U.S. Troubling at best. I know she'll keep us posted on this.

Thomas points out that many of the nominated yarns are not available in Denmark. This is a grievous situation--everybody please send Thomas at least two skeins of the nominated yarns asap.

Lauren raises the question that haunts me, too: who are these people actually knitting on desert islands, or thinking about it?

Finally, Liz nominates the margarita as the Official Drink of PHDC. Kymm and Gale seconded. Mary deB votes red wine. Nominations will remain open until it gets real late and we forget that we were supposed to be nominating drinks.

And Here We Go

We have come to one of the crossroads in a Future Search: we've shared, had a lot of watery coffee, shared some more, and tried to smile politely when somebody else made a goofy comment. Now we take a big step toward choosing our destiny.

How to vote: Because of the limitations of Blogpoll, only 20 choices can be listed on any single poll. (Please, nobody suggest that I hack into Blogpoll to add more choices--the only hacking I do involves this pesky cough.) So, despite the fact that this looks like a three-question poll, it's just one question. We are all going to vote, on the honor system, for one yarn. Just one. None of this clicking on Koigu AND Euroflax. The purity of the Future Search will be best preserved if we all dig deep, focus, and resist the urge to overvote.

(At first I tried to sort the yarns into fiber categories to make voting easier, but it just got ugly and left Euroflax in its own weird category, and I respect Euroflax too much to treat it that way. So the yarns are listed alphabetically by maker, fiber be damned.)

Please vote by Thursday night, 9:41 pm Central Daylight Time.

This is risky stuff, people. Delicate. People care, OK? After you vote, I want you each to do a Yarn Validation Exercise. Leave a comment in which you a) name the yarn you like the LEAST and b) make a positive comment about that yarn.

Doesn't that feel good?


Posted by Ann at 10:42 PM | Comments (100)

Shrugomatic For the People


Dear Ann,

(Readers please note that beneath this post there is a note from Ann explaining that the dog has eaten her homework for today and she will be back tomorrow with more Future Search. Meanwhile, I will do my best to entertain all 3 people who are into denim, shrugs, and/or denim shrugs.)

Don't get me wrong--I'm loving the Elaborate Search For the Perfect Yarn. But I'm loving it with the smugness of one who has already found her perfect yarn. Yes, denim. Denim made out of cotton, a fiber that is favored by less than 10% of the voters. So I guess I'm some kind of a nut. Which doesn't bother me in the least, tra la. Someday, y'all will catch up to me. For now, we are the few, the proud, the denim lovers. Belinda! Ann HB! Sarah W! Wendy! And Wendy! Heck, the whole Ring of Wendys! Join me in a verse or two of the Denim Solidarity Song! (First verse: Knittin' cotton, Lord, Kumbayaaaaaa! Second verse: Someone's shrinkin', Lord, Kumbayaaaaa!)

Meanwhile, my tendency to find something I like to knit and then just beat it into the ground---continues. I have made 4 more child-sized One Skein Wonders. The One Skein Wonder has been my salvation from the slough of warshrag knitting. Thirty dishcloths into the thing, I was starting to run out of dishcloth cotton (just stop and let the enormity of that sink in, baby: I am RUNNING OUT of DISHCLOTH COTTON), and also getting just the tiniest bit embarrassed at my own plodding repetition. I mean, how long can I call it 'zen' or 'meditative' or 'great car knitting'? The fact is, I needed to break the stranglehold of the dishcloth. And the One Skein Wonder was there for me. But since the only people I know who are poky-shouldered and flat-chested enough to look great in the One Skein Wonder are under the age of 10, I have been making them solely for little girls. If you know a little girl lacking a foxy shrug, send her my way. I'm not even kidding. Little girls look so cute in this thing that it is almost too much to bear.

In the picture above, we have a weekend's worth of production at the Big Bone Gal Shrug Factory. Top to bottom: Blue Heron rayon/cotton in striated reds and pinks for Julia (age 9), Schachenmayr Nomotta Blue Jeans, a heavyweight indigo-dyed cotton (MORE about that LATER) for Carrie (8.5), and Filatura di Crosa Zara, a DK merino that is so springy and non-itchy it could pass for Rowan Calmer, for Emma of Berkeley (age 9). (More sacrilege! Comparing royal MERINO to peasant COTTON! Where is the lightning bolt and what is taking it so long to smite me?) Since the picture was taken, I have also whipped up a teeny-weeny one in the Zara, for another Julia, age 4.

Why, you ask, are all of the shrugs sitting there on the table without their ribbed edging? Silly, it's because of that flaw in my character. You know the one where I procrastinate seaming? Even if, as in this case, the seams are exactly ONE INCH LONG? I kept finding an excuse to cast on another shrug instead of sewing the seams, picking up stitches, and finishing one. (Like you never do that?)

A confession: until now, I have never knit anything top-down. I've read Barbara Walker's book, Knitting from the Top. I've read Elizabeth Zimmerman. I agree with everything they say about knitting from the top and how it makes it easy to tailor a garment to fit and yadda yadda yadda, but I'm a Rowanette after all, and the habit of making things in pieces is strong in my soul. But KNITTING FROM THE TOP DOWN IS SO COOL. Look:

When you want to see if it's long enough, there is no measuring or guesswork; you just hang it on the nearest available Shrug Model! A few more rows to cover the top edge of Carrie's camisole. (Moment of silence for those who know Carrie personally: Yes, she's wearing a camisole. Later, there will be a bracelet and the universal girly gesture known as Does My Hair Look All Right? At the start of third grade, the world is changing, too fast for me.)

Here's the finished Denim Wonder, front:

And back (note bracelet and fixing-of-hair).

Not Just Schnell But Also Trendy!

Recently the Denim Goddess has rewarded my idolatry with some beautiful gifts. Scenario A: Mary B. of Richmond (who ought to blog but just won't get with the program) supposedly was de-stashing. This was a total lie, of course, as she immediately went over and got some of Norma's de-stashments, but I politely went along with the fiction, seeing as there was something in it for me. Oh no, I said, I promise I will NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES send you ANYTHING back. Never never never. I will take on the huge burden that those 5 skeins of German denim are imposing on your storage capacity. Please, I insist! I said. Let me carry your load, sister! And so I received these tasty items:


This is the same stuff as Rowan Denim, but double the weight. 6 strands instead of 3. 50 yards instead of 95. MMMMmmmmmmm. Just enough of the medium shade for a chunky shrug. And it says, right there on the label, that it is 'schnell und trendy mit wash-out jeanseffekt'! That's so ME--without the wash-out jeanseffekt, I am nothing! How could I not cast on immediately? Thank you Mary B.!


I also received, out of the clear indigo sky, a package from Ruth P. containing Rowan Denim in the light shade (Tennessee), with very old labels displaying my friend the Rowan Cowboy (yes, he's from Yorkshire, but he's a cowboy, dammit! I have it on good authority that the Marlboro Man is from Dorset! Hoss was from from Leeds!). The yarn is wound on spools, which I wish they still did as it is the tidiest thing ever. Until I saw this yarn, I had thought that Tennessee was a new shade introduced only a couple of years ago. In fact, it must have been re-introduced. I'm already knitting it up. (Ruth P., please email me! I wanted to write you but the address on the package seemed incomplete. I promise, no onerous and unbearable stash burdens will result. Thank you so much!)

Okay, now you can carry on, like the Man of La Mancha, dreaming the impossible perfect yarn dream. You go girl! I'm behind you all the way.


Posted by Kay at 10:36 AM | Comments (32)

The Perfect Yarn: Snurfle

Dear Kay, and the Perfect Handknit Think Tank,

Just a quick note to ASSURE you that the Future Search will continue shortly--let's just say a few UNREGISTERED participants showed up and have been disrupting the executive committee planning session in a very uncooperative way.

OK, the fact is that we've all got colds here. I'm going to have another teal blue cordial (OK, Dayquil to you connoisseurs) and fire up the BlogPoll dealie. In the meantime, please share any tender yarn discoveries you may have had over the weekend regarding your homework mission: shopping for yarn. Personally (and facilitators aren't supposed to share), I discovered six new yarns that I now covet.

[Snurf] Love,

Posted by Ann at 10:04 AM | Comments (10)

September 11, 2005



Posted by Kay at 11:55 AM | Comments (4)

September 09, 2005

The Perfect Yarn: The Big Vote

Dear Kay and the Ad-Hoc Committee on Perfect Handknits,

A few housekeeping details, then we're on to the morning session.

1. Will there be festive drinks served at the Perfect Handknits icebreaker party?

Danielle, let's just say that the Future Search budget includes a line item titled "Umbrellas, Tiny Paper--six cases."

2. Will the Perfect Handknit pattern get published (even if published means "posted on the blog at the end of the process")?

Listen--if you're one of the co-designers (and the fact that you left a comment means, hate to say it, that you already are), you'll be listed on the pattern that will, indeed be published--somewhere, somehow, as Debbie Bliss is my witness.

3. The question of stupid team-building exercises has come up. There is interest in having them (Judy) and deep-seated dread of them (Ruth). If we get the sense that there is not the appropriate amount of teamwork and cooperation, Judy will drag everybody out to the Harpeth River for a canoe trip and campout, where Ruth will unhappily sing Kum Ba Ya. And we reserve the right to ask the question: "You're a garden vegetable. Tell the group which one and why."

4. Regarding Poll Question 1 ("Fiber"), The Society For The Advancement Of Merino As A Superior Fiber To Ordinary Wool (aka SAMASFOW aka Julia and Jon) points out that merino wool is not the same as, say, Icelandic wool, thus making the option "wool" not specific enough. My response is simply, Wool is wool. If it came off a sheep, it's going in the "wool" category. The Non-Merino Defense League has contacted us to say that they can't help it if their yarn is kind of scratchy. As this thing progresses, members of wool industry groups will have the chance to stand up for their sheep.

5. Trouble at the polls: Somebody (OK it was Sandra) needed to change one of her answers. And Mary's computer wouldn't let her vote. Don't know what to say here, but puhlease do NOT contact the Florida supreme court about this.

6. Ruth Ann asks: "I would like to submit that superwash yarn has been known (by me) to streeeeeetch in the wash and not shrink back to its proper size. How much monkeying with gauge swatches (measure, wash, measure, recalculate, etc., etc.) is supportable?"

I think this is the sort of issue we must each address individually as we make our final votes for the perfect yarn. Do you like to monkey with gauge swatches? Maybe that's part of your perfect yarn experience?

7. There is some discussion about citric acid and vitamin C and whether sucking on Kool Aid-dyed yarn can prevent scurvy. (Cristina: yes. Beth: no.) I never took Nutrition, so I refer you to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Poll Number One: Results/Analysis/Deep Contemplation

The results are in, sort of. People are still voting, and that's great, but we have a lot of ground to cover before lunch, so if you want the absolute latest tally, go peek at the previous entry.

We did this exercise to focus on the big question of what makes a yarn a great yarn. And definite trends emerge. If you take all the top vote-getters, we have: A soft wool, aran weight, subtly varied in color, luxurious, possibly unkind to silkworms, suitable for moderate climates, with good stitch definition, handwashable, not necessarily a great yarn for use while on a desert island.

The tightest votes are luxurious vs. economical and aran/worsted vs. DK/sport weight. Tough calls in each case.

Here's the summary of the voting, for you statistics freaks. (Scroll down if this stuff makes you sleepy.)

What is your favorite fiber?
Wool 34.4% 180
Silk/wool 17.6% 92
Alpaca 13.2% 69
Cashmere/wool 10.7% 56
Cotton/wool 9.4% 49
Cashmere 5.7% 30
Cotton 5.4% 28
Mohair/silk 2.3% 12
Linen 0.8% 4
Angora 0.6% 3
total votes: 523

The "feel" of your perfect yarn is
soft/not itchy. 92.9% 455
not focused on whether it's soft or not. 7.1% 35
total votes: 490

Your perfect yarn is available in many shades. If you had to choose one category for your perfect yarn, it would be
subtly varied 39.3% 192
heathered 20.7% 101
solid 18% 88
handpainted 17% 83
bright 2% 10
somber 1.2% 6
sheeny/shiny 1% 5
space dyed 0.8% 4
total votes: 489

Your perfect yarn is
Luxurious. 52.7% 257
Economical. 47.3% 231
total votes: 488

The environmental impact of your perfect yarn (be nice to silkworms, make it attractive to vegan/veggie knitters, involves recycling old yarn from thrift shop sweaters> matters
not much. 52% 244
a little. 36.5% 171
a lot. 11.5% 54
total votes: 469

The gauge of your perfect yarn is
aran/worsted 42.1% 197
DK/sport 41.2% 193
fingering/2 ply/4 ply 11.5% 54
chunky 3.8% 18
laceweight 1.3% 6
total votes: 468

Does it matter whether your perfect yarn is appropriate for actual use on an actual desert island?
No 90.9% 428
Yes 9.1% 43
total votes: 471

The environmental impact of your perfect yarn (be nice to silkworms, make it attractive to vegan/veggie knitters, involves recycling old yarn from thrift shop sweaters) matters
not much. 52% 244
a little. 36.5% 171
a lot. 11.5% 54
total votes: 469

Regarding climate suitability, your perfect yarn is great for
either cold or warm climate--an in-between weight. 78.3% 365
a cold climate. 18.7% 87
a warm climate. 3% 14
total votes: 466

Stitch definition. This issue
matters. 72.4% 326
doesn't matter. 27.6% 124
total votes: 450

Your perfect yarn is
easy to wash. 52.6% 223
special and precious/handwash. 47.4% 201
total votes: 424

Does it matter whether your perfect yarn is versatile--can be doubled, can be felted?
No 64.7% 273
Yes 35.3% 149
total votes: 422

Homework for the Weekend

So, we now have some general thoughts about the Perfect Yarn. It's time now to choose a specific yarn.

The more I think about it, the trickier this vote becomes. I mean, we each know only the yarns we have personally seen. We're voting with an incomplete set of information. Unusual yarns are going to suffer because they're not widely available. If I've learned anything from this (other than how to crank Blogpolls rilly fast), it's that there are greatly beloved yarns that I've never heard of.

That said, we are going to forge ahead anyway. The only solution I can figure is to give us all an assignment this weekend. (I know you're going to hate this, but . . .)

Your Mission: Go to a yarn shop and find some yarns that you've never seen before. Take the list below with you, and see what all the fuss is about.

I have listed below all the yarns that were nominated by name the other day. They're sorted by manufacturer which just about killed me.

My overwhelming impression: WOW. What good taste we have. Notice the yarns that are NOT on this list . . .

Araucania Nature Wool
Artyarns Supermerino
Axelle de Sauveterre cashmere aran (http://www.sauveterredesign.com/)
Berroco Chinchilla
Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece
Brown Sheep Worsted
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky or Aran
Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
Cascade 220
Colinette Zero
Colinette Skye
Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool
Euroflax linen
Handpainted Yarns barely spun wool (www.handpaintedyarn.com)
Filatura di Crosa Zara merino DK
Filatura di Crosa 501 Superwash
Handmaiden Lady Godiva (http://www.fleeceartist.com/)
Harrisville Shetland
Inca Alpaca
Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK or aran
Jaggerspun Zephyr fingering weight
Jo Sharp DK Wool
Karabella Aurora 8 merino
Kilcarra tweedy yarns www.dragonyarnso.co.uk/index.html
Knitpicks Elegance
Koigu Pure Merino (solid colors)
Koigu Painter's Palette Pure Merino (variegated)
Lorna’s Laces Helen's Lace
Lorna’s Laces Lion and Lamb
Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport
Malabrigo merino (http://malabrigoyarn.com/)
Manos del Uruguay
Misti Alpaca
Mountain Colors Bearfoot sock weight wool/mohair/nylon
Mountain Colors Weavers Wool
Noro Cash Iroha
Noro Kureyon
Noro Silk Garden
Patons Bluebell wool crepe
Phildar Licorne cotton
Reynolds Odyssey Merino
Rowan Calmer cotton
Rowan Cotton Glace
Rowan Denim
Rowan Felted Tweed
Rowan Kidsilk Haze
Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK
Rowan Wool Cotton
Rowan Yorkshire Tweed, DK weight
Shetland 2 ply
Tahki Cotton Classic

Over the weekend I'll put up the Blogpolls for voting for the Perfect Yarn. Please vote by the end of day Monday. And do NOT stay up too late in the hotel lounge, people--we have hard work ahead of us.


Posted by Ann at 11:58 AM | Comments (48)

September 07, 2005

The Perfect Yarn: Narrowing It Down

Dear Kay, and the Perfect Handknit Design Committee,

Such input! Such passion! Such utter lack of snarky backbiting and ridicule! Delighted to see our Future Search off to such a congenial start. Let's all take a 15-minute break and congratulate ourselves.

[15-minute break]

OK, could you Koigu people in the back quit sniffing the yarn with those rapturous expressions on yer faces? Kymm, please quit dismantling that old sweater--at least until the lunch break, OK?

It's not quite time to vote on particular yarns, though we'll get to that very soon. At the moment, we're going look at the overall themes that have emerged from the 118 co-designers. Right now, all these issues are equal in importance. But after some voting today, we'll see which issues are most important in determining what constitutes the Perfect Yarn. This will make voting on the exact brand of yarn a bit easier.

A Giant Sheet of Paper!

One of the big activities during a Future Search involves a giant sheet of paper taped to the wall on which the group distills the ideas that have been mentioned. The facilitator gets out six or seven markers and holds them in a distinctive Future Search manner. On the giant sheet of paper, the major themes are written in a graphic manner: a mind map.

To save you guys the agony of watching me write out the mind map, I just did it while listening to Patty Loveless on my iPod. (Nothing like a little hard-bit bluegrass to focus the attention.)

Here's what our mind map for the Perfect Yarn looks like:

[click on it for a slightly larger version]

Freaky, eh? Looks like my brain. Here are the major issues that have emerged regarding the perfect yarn. For each issue, there are different options--see the branches on the mind map?

Fiber: mohair, linen, angora, alpaca, wool, cashmere, wool/cashmere, wool/silk, wool/cotton, cotton

Cost: economical, luxurious

Stitch Definition

Environmental Impact: Be nice to silkworms, can be used by vegan/veggie knitters, recycle old yarn from thrift shop sweaters

"Feel": soft/not itchy, stretchy

Wide Range of Colors Available: subtle variation, solids, heathers, handpaints, space dyed, bright, shiny/sheeny, somber

Washability/Practicality: special and precious/handwash, easy to wash

Versatility: can be doubled, feltable

Gauge: chunky, aran/worsted, sport/DK, fingering/2 ply/4 ply, laceweight

Climate Suitability: heavy for cold climate, medium weight=versatile, works in cold OR hot climate, light for warm climate

Appropriateness for Use on Actual Desert Island: thin yarns mean projects take longer, can make fishing net or hammock from it, warm yarns too hot

So. At this point the Future Searchers are supposed to choose the issues that jump out as most important. This is hard for us to do in the yell-out-from-the-seats way it's usually done. But that's why God made Blogpoll. Here are a set of polls about these issues. You can't vote for more than one answer per poll, so if an issue is not important to you, simply don't vote. If, say, "Fiber" is not something you care about, just skip it. The most important issues will get the most votes.

Yay! You did it! Stay tuned for the results. Now, we're off to the Perfect Handknits icebreaker party. Don't forget your name tags . . .

x0x0x0 Ann

Posted by Ann at 04:18 PM | Comments (48)

September 05, 2005

A Projeck: In Search of the Perfect Handknit


Dear Kay,

I keep thinking about how awesomely awesome it was to hear everybody's ideas about how to design the Fern sweater. How helpful. How incredible the brain trust is, here on the Internet. How everybody else seems to know so much more than I do. How all that awesome awesomeness could be channeled into a project that would reflect the collective wisdom of all the knitters of the universe.

Or something.

Here's what I propose: We do a Future Search. I mean, now that Fern is done, and the younger Fella has started kindergarten, there's nobody who needs a Future Search more than me.

Our goal: to design the Perfect Handknit.

Future Search is a process designed to build consensus--all sorts of organizations use Future Search in corporate retreats and warmfuzzy weekend workshops. You know, you vote and vote and vote on batches of issues and ideas, narrowing the options until everybody in the whole group agrees: "We should build a new building." That's how the Future Searches I've done have ended up. Always with the new building, and a big group hug, and a skit in there someplace.

Now, this isn't going to work exactly the way Future Search works, because we don't have enough flip charts and styrofoam coffee cups for everybody. But whatever. If somebody wants to put on a skit, go for it.

Over the next week or two or three, we will work our way through all the elements required to make a handknit. The issues will large and small, and it'll take a while to boil it all down to The Pattern. When the Blogpolls are tallied, and the Tribe has spoken, we'll have a pattern that distills the collective wisdom of everybody who votes. With the brainpower of the online knitters of the world, and with the ferocious technology that is the Blogpoll, we may very well end up with . . .

The Perfect Handknit.

By the way. I pledge to manufacture this Perfect Handknit, whatever it turns out to be.

No Time Like the Present: Let's Get Started

We begin with yarn.

Some might argue that necessity is the mother of invention, and it's a need--socks, a hat, some kind of covering--that drives the making of a handknit. Pah! I say. Nobody's knitting for need anymore; it's too pricey! Yarn's fun, so yarn's where we start.

Question Numero Uno

Please leave a comment in which you nominate your favorite yarn--and I mean DESERT ISLAND yarn, the yarn you'd take with you on a four-month boat trip, the yarn that you most adore. Be specific. Feel free to explain your nomination, to show us a link, to tape a sample to your comment.

We'll collate the nominations, then let everybody vote on the perfect yarn. We may need a run-off if it's tight.

I don't know where this will lead, and who knows if it'll actually work. But by jinky we'll end up with something. The perfect knitted vacuum cleaner cover? You never know what's going to happen when a group gets started.


PS I hasten to add that everybody who participates will be considered a co-designer and shall reap the, er, glory when all is said and done.

Posted by Ann at 10:14 PM | Comments (123)

September 04, 2005


Dear Kay,

Quick update: The total over at Give a Little is now at $40,745. Margene and Susan are doing a fantastic job over there. Please go join in, everybody, if you haven't already done so.

You donate to the Red Cross, you're put in the pot for a prize. All kinds of prizes have been donated.

x0x0x0 Love,

Posted by Ann at 12:51 PM | Comments (4)

September 03, 2005

The Awesomely Awesome Power of Small Acts

Dear Kay,

Just a note to point out that Margene and Susan have raised more than $15,000 for hurricane relief--in about two days. You donate, you're put in the pot for a prize. Here's what knitters have donated as prizes so far.

I keep thinking about the power of small acts, repeated over and over. If we all give a little, look what happens.


Posted by Ann at 09:14 AM | Comments (5)

September 02, 2005

Creative Thinking


Dear Kay,

I'm running around like a maniac at 7:49 a.m., trying to locate Clif. We have 11 minutes to get to school. He is supposed to be in the car waiting for me, but when I do a freaked-out flying run through the house--must nevernevernever be late to school--I discover him in the back yard: he is standing like a statue, squirting the garden hose and admiring the way the water makes a fluffy mist.

He looks up and says, "Oh. We need to go--are we late?"

Heart melts, all forgiven, nevermind nevermind as we scramble off to school. I am pathetically grateful that my big worry today is getting to school on time.

Good People

The Katrina refugees in Nashville are starting to get a taste of why Tennessee is called the Volunteer State. A comment yesterday from Angela of Nashville Stitch 'n' Bitch fame: "Hey Ann, I actually did call this late this afternoon and mobilzed my mama group into a Chuckwagon. We've got people going over there for the next 10 days dropping meals (they are moving tomorrow into an apt.). They are making me a list of needs (shampoo etc.) that I have a couple of other people working on as well. She said they were exhausted and confused and blessed and felt guilty all at once. Her husband is on his way up and I even gave him directions over the phone."

Another reader, who probably would like her privacy so I won't name her, wrote all the way from Hawaii that she is working on helping to pay for the family's hotel room.

A group of young Nashville knitters has solved the problem I couldn't figure out: how do you make knitting a part of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts when it's 95 degrees down there? The Hillsboro High School knitters are knitting items for auction on eBay, with proceeds going to relief efforts. I'll post details as soon as I have them.

And Maura sent her favorite recipe, which I provide here for anybody looking to feed Katrina refugees. Maura writes: "Here is one of my favorite all ages, crowd pleaser meals. It can easily be doubled in a large crock pot, just don't double the chicken broth."
2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup salsa
1 can (15 oz) corn, drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 package taco seasoning
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Place chicken in greased 3 1/2 to 5-quart slow cooker. Pour broth, salsa, corn, beans, and taco seasoning over chicken. Cover and cook on low heat 6-8 hrs or on high heat 3-4 hrs [note from kelly: high heat 3 1/2-4 hrs seems to be much better than the longer time]. Remove chicken with slotted spoon and place on serving dish. Stir sour cream and cheese into sauce in slow cooker, then pour over chicken. Makes 3-5 servings. Serve with warm flour tortillas, rice, guacamole.

Between Angela's chuckwagon, our Hawaiian hotel underwriter, the Hillsboro eBayers, and Maura's Creamy Black Bean Salsa Chicken, there's plenty of inspiration to draw. Thank you all for sharing your ideas! Creative thinking will win the day here.


P.S. If you're looking for a respite from all the news, I've been meaning to direct you to a great field trip. Polly is our tour guide to all the loveliness of England in high summer, to England's version of a county fair. All Tangled Up takes us to the Kew Horticultural Society's 61st Show. C'mon! Let's go.

Polly is a regular Edward R. Murrow, I tell you. Vegetable/flower/handknit reportage doesn't get any better than this. And YOU MUST read the whole thing!


Posted by Ann at 09:12 AM | Comments (6)

September 01, 2005

The Refugees Next Door

Dear Kay,

I just learned that there are a bunch of Katrina refugees staying at the Hampton Inn next to the Green Hills Mall. That's less than a mile from my house. Seven kids, two moms, a grandmother, two chihuahuas, and a bird named Roman. I want to take them a casserole or something--any ideas? They think they'll be here for a month. Here's the story on the Bodin family.

When the tsunami hit Indonesia last year, it seemed like a bad dream: a faraway, desperate situation that was hard to understand. Heartbreaking, yet remote. I had to get my globe to find the affected islands. Katrina is different. New Orleans is where everybody has celebrated something--Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazzfest, a quick weekend getaway. Everybody has a story about New Orleans. We spent our tenth wedding anniversary there, our first visit to the city but certainly not our last, we promised ourselves.

It's just not that far away. This nightmare, this unbelievable series of events, is right down the road, seven hours by car. I can't stop watching the coverage, even though I know I should stop. It is as desperate a situation as anybody could imagine; Hollywood wouldn't even conjure a disaster as abject as this. The worst is yet to come, too.

I hope everybody will find a way to support the relief efforts. If you've never been to New Orleans, it was the most foreign-feeling place in the whole country. It was unique and wild and full of life. Maybe, in years to come, it will return. But to look at the pictures today, it's hard to imagine the day when you will be able to hop a streetcar and take a ride down a leafy boulevard, feeling a bit too full from the shrimp etoufee you had for a late lunch.


Posted by Ann at 08:45 AM | Comments (26)
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