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

December 26, 2006

A Christmas Carol

Dear Ann,

'Twas two nights before Christmas, and the Cratchits were in the Newark Airport, hoping to get on a plane to Omaha at some point in their lives. Mrs. Cratchit and Bob aka Hubby Cratchit were getting a mite testy with each other, seeing as how Bob worked later than he was supposed to that afternoon. If you must know, Mrs. Cratchit thinks Scrooge & Marley takes up a bit too much of Bob's family time, but Bob has a soft spot in his heart for old Scrooge, who he insists on referring to as 'my client'.

Anyway, Mrs. Cratchit was feeling decidedly NOT Dickensian. One loses the Christmas spirit, somehow, when one's little children are made to take off their sneakers in the security line. God Bless Us Every One, including the TSA, but the TSA could be a little less .... crabby. Couldn't they? So bossy! One TSA guy had obviously had enough with those who are not well-versed in their Imperial Units of Measure. As the little Cratchits struggled to load their backpacks into gray plastic bins, he shouted out, to no one in particular, "Three-point-four ounces, people! Ziploc bag! This rule is older than my GRANDMOTHER!"

"Dear me," thought Mrs. Cratchit, and hoped that his grandmother was not nearby.

Once through the security line, Mrs. Cratchit began wandering Concourse C, raggedy offspring trailing. Among her many items of hand luggage, she clutched a plastic bag from the Fairway grocery store, stuffed with all of the Cratchits' holiday greeting cards. She had meant to mail them in New York, but the day's chores of packing and yelling at the little Cratchits had prevented her from leaving the house. She had remembered, very distinctly, that there was a mailbox in Terminal C at the Newark airport. She spied an off-duty TSA agent, and asked him where the mailbox was. 'Oh, there's a mailbox all right, but it's on the other side of the security line.'

At this news, Mrs. Cratchit nearly thought to herself, 'BLAST!' But she said thank you and tried not to notice that the Fairway bag was getting holes in it. The Fairway bag was going to have to make it to Omaha.

It was then that another TSA agent, who was the minimum age one could possibly be and still be a TSA agent (he looked about 16), having overheard Mrs. Cratchit's request, approached her.

"Ma'am, I am getting off duty just now. If you can wait for me to sign out, I will come back and get your cards and mail them for you."

Mrs. Cratchit stood there blinking. Perhaps she was in the wrong movie. Maybe this was It's a Wonderful Life, and this TSA agent was an angel. Which would explain his beautiful skin.

A few minutes later, the TSAngel returned. He gently took the Fairway bag. He told Mrs. Cratchit she could follow him if she liked, and watch him mail the cards on the other side of the security line. Mrs. Cratchit said, no, thank you very much. That won't be necessary.

(I know you think I'm lying, but this really happened. If it was all a scheme to get a sackful of Gee's Bend Quilt Stamps, so be it. But it really did happen.)

Angel The Second

Miraculously, given the news reports of people camping out in Newark for days while waiting for their flights, the Cratchits' plane soared westward. Mrs. Cratchit was seated next to Tiny Joseph, who was angelically playing his Gameboy. It was a small regional jet staffed with only one flight attendant, the beauteous Suzanna Duran. Mrs. Cratchit was not in the habit of learning the Christian names of flight attendants, but she made it a point to learn Suzanna's, for reasons that will be clear in, like, a minute.

Suzanna is one of those smiling flight attendants. In the Day, she would have worked for Braniff Airlines and worn a very short skirt. Foxy! Kindly! Foxy AND Kindly! Suzanna was making her way to the front of the plane, serving soft drinks and pretzels. She made a point of asking Tiny Joseph for his order without going through Mrs. Cratchit. She gave Tiny Joseph a full can of Sprite and allowed him to open it himself. She proceeded to the next passenger. It was then that Tiny Joseph looked up at Mrs. Cratchit and said, 'I feel a little sick.'

Dear reader, you know what happened next. It happened with a vengeance. A barf fest that has not been seen on this knitting blog since Tiny Clif had that problem in the middle of the night a few weeks ago.

Mrs. Cratchit managed to catch Barfs 3 and 4 in the bag that says 'Occupied'. Suzanna returned and started opening up Moist Towelettes for Mrs. Cratchit. The Moist Towelettes are mighty, but they were no match for the situation in seats 5B and C.

What happened next, I am pretty sure I dreamed. Suzanna zipped open a special kit that had been stowed aft. In a twinkling, she had donned a full-body white hazmat apron (with sleeves), a mask, and gloves. Still smiling behind her mask (I'm sure of it), she chirped, "Can you believe, I've worked here for 3 years and I've never gotten to do this!" Mrs. Cratchit and Tiny Joseph vacated their seats and limped miserably to the back of the plane.

But everybody was nice to them! One guy said confidentially to Tiny Joseph, 'It was like a roller coaster there for a minute buddy; I nearly threw up myself." Tiny Joseph continued to look at the floor, but was cheered nonetheless. Many well-dressed ladies nodded as if to say, 'I hate when this happens, you poor things.' Not a single person sighed. (Parents who have flown with children: you know what I am talking about when I say, 'The Sigh'.)

Five minutes later, Mrs. Cratchit and Tiny Joseph were back in their seats. Tiny Joseph asked if there was anything to eat. He was feeling much better.

This is how Suzanna looked in her hazmat suit.

Have fun in London, and say hi to the Ghost of Christmas Present for me.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:43 PM | Comments (72)

December 24, 2006

Glories Stream from Heaven Afar


Dear Kay,

It's Christmas Eve here, a brilliant bright morning, and I am so filled with nostalgia that you would just PYUKE to be having coffee with me this morning.

I break out into "The First Noel" with NO NOTICE. I've already sneaked an early reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. At the rate I'm going, I may bring out the figgy pudding. RUN AWAY!

The Barber Shop Closes

I can tell you when this nostalgic mood started. Yesterday, the Belle Meade Barber Shop had its last day in its legendary location. This is the sort of monumental loss to Nashville that ranks up there with the closing of the soda shop Vandyland, the bulldozing of the Jacksonian apartments, and the loss of Steve McNair to the Baltimore Ravens.


David, 1996.


David, 2006.

Paul--fabulous trivia king Paul--gave both of my fellas their first haircut. Everybody in the family has used the Belle Meade Barber Shop for years: Hubbo, my dad, Hubbo's dad.

I loved going to the barber shop, because it was an environment completely untouched by any female. This barber shop is what the world would be like if women were not allowed a hand in decorating.


This set of numbers has stayed in this exact arrangement, always. I have never seen a tag not on its hook.


This eight-track tape deck has always been in this location.


Haircuts were $10 when we started coming. I think the price for "Tonic" is still a dollar because nobody knows what "Tonic" means anymore.

A young barber, Shane, has bought the business from the beloved Ralph, who has been a barber for 46 years. He's retiring, cheerfully. We saw a stream of congressmen, long-term customers ("You've cut my hair for 25/16/17/10 years"), and unruly children come through. The good men of the Belle Meade Barber Shop thanked everybody right back. The barber shop will move to Bellevue, and we'll keep going, but it will be different.

And yes, the wives of customers brought tray after tray of baked goods, which the barbers stacked in empty barber chairs, mystified about how to arrange them.

See You Next Year!

We're heading to London on the 26th. How is it that somebody so very pale and who likes a cloudy day so much has never managed to get to England? Maybe it's because I suspect I'll never want to come back. Anyway, I'm hoping to visit the epicenter of the knitting universe, Liberty, on Thursday night, the 28th. If you're a Londoner, and you'd like to come knit, please email me.

Wishing everybody a long winter's nap!


PS The staggering total over at Stephanie's is wonderful. Please go take a peek.

Posted by Ann at 11:13 AM | Comments (30)

December 20, 2006

This, That, and the Other


Dear Kay,

Well, nobody can say I haven't heard a hundred tubas playing at the same time.

Tuba Christmas!

Audience reaction was mixed. I loved it--imagine an ocean liner--or ten ocean liners--playing "The First Noel," and you'll have the idea.

After having our bones shaken by this group (which included at least one tuba from Bismarck, North Dakota), we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame down the street. Next time you're in town, I have to take you to the SoBro Grill there, because they had a sandwich that . . . well . . . Imagine a BLT: bacon, lettuce, and tomato. But imagine that the T is green and fried. A fried green tomato BLT, with some wicked mayo concoction and a little fresh mozzarella to bind it all together. I had to lie down. I thought I was literally going to die. It was hardcore.

Interlude with Robin


Our favorite second grade teacher came over yesterday for a little coffee and conversation. (The fellas kept wandering in, suspiciously eyeing A Teacher From Their School who had somehow infiltrated their home.) Robin gave me this scarf ("There are two weeks of the year when you can wear this color," she said, ha!), which has a twirly line of Schaefer something or other needle-felted all the way across. Cool, eh? I have GOT to get one of wicked-looking tools.

I Am Starting to Sound Like You


The serial knitting of the same damn thing continues. I've decided to make Perfect Sweaters to match every piece of furniture in the house.

OK, so this will be my final go at this pattern for a while--it's for the fellas' tennis coach, who really is the sort of person who deserves a sweater. Lise picked her color, Shade 2425, called Provence, which really is a fine, quiet orange with its slight halo of yellow.

Chronic pattern knitting. Surely there's some medication I could take to wean me off this.

Advice for a Knitter

Jane in Apple Valley, Minnesota wrote seeking advice for a knitting problem which I think, like the pain and itch of hemorrhoidal tissues, is all too common. She says that her stockinette is inconsistent--purl rows are tighter than knit rows. I wrote her my two cents as follows but wonder if you guys have any other advice for her. She has tried using one smaller needle, without success.

Dear Jane in Apple Valley, MN,

Tension is a really weird thing. When I started knitting, my purl rows were always LOOSER than my knit rows, and I had the same problem you did.

If you think about it, each stitch you make is the result of several factors:

1.) How tightly you wrap (or throw, or however you get the yarn around the left needle).

2.) What happens after you wrap that stitch, and you pull it off your left needle. Are you a tugger? Does your finger kind of yank the yarn a little? Do you do nothing?

3.) The way you hold your yarn. I wrap it around my right pinky one time, then sort of throw with my index finger up near the tip of the needle. Everybody has her own way of doing this. I did find that once I started wrapping yarn around my right pinky, the yarn moved more smoothly, and it was easier for me to knit my knit rows a little looser, and my purl rows a little tighter.

It's so subtle, though--the slightest change can make a huge difference. It can be like trying to think about breathing--impossible!

At this point I seem to be able to crank a smooth stockinette, but I really did spend some time a while ago trying to fix this problem. It sounds like you've found all the fixes that people usually suggest. Maybe you could give yourself a little home seminar in Perfecting Stockinette. Really watch what you're doing, be aware of all the things you do when you make a stitch, and see if you can pin down why some stitches are tighter than others.

All I Want for Christmas is a Jelly Injector . . .



Posted by Ann at 10:11 AM | Comments (50)

December 19, 2006

Intro to Public Speaking

Dear Ann,

Sometimes I wish my college days hadn't been so much Politburo (google it, youngstas!) and not so much with the Communication Arts. I am venturing, in a scaredy-cat, just-this-once way, into the world of teaching other people something about knitting. My only cause for optimism about this adventure is that I so enjoy teaching people things when they didn't ask me. They are just shopping for yarn and saying something to their friend, and I am that lady in the bleached denim sweater and foxy gym pants who butts in with her two cents. A Volunteer Teacher-at-Large, roaming the city in search of knitters in search of my opinion. But this time, somebody actually asked me.

On December 29, from 10-1, in Omaha, Nebraska, I will be presiding benevolently over a Log Cabin Workshop at String of Purls, where they treated us so nicely on our book tour back in May. (To jog your memory, this was the multi-Becky stop on our sweep through the Midwest. Two stores is TOO a sweep.) Omaha is rich in Beckies.

Dude! People have SIGNED UP FOR IT. There is a fee for materials because you get to go home with a running start on the log cabin of your dreams, in Nebraska's own yummy yarn, Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, and enough yarn to finish a project. You get to pick your own colors and everything. Call the store if you're interested.

Anyone who is fortunate enough to be in Omaha at Christmastime, come on over. Even if you don't want to learn the Ultra Secrets of Log Cabinning, drop in and say hi.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:02 PM | Comments (22)

December 18, 2006

Hanukkah: The Blogumentary


Dear Ann,

My knitting continues in a scarfcentric drone, meaning I've made another one, but even I am sick of blogging about scarves. Aw, I'm lying. In truth, today the light is not good enough to capture the FRESH WONDER of my latest scarf tribute. I will hold back nothing. You shall see my new scarf and rejoice, 'She scarfs yet!'

Meanwhile, we have been celebrating Hanukkah these past three nights, mostly with our friend Orna and family. We had the first night at Orna's sister Aliza's, in a HanukkahSurround environment so rich and dense that it would make my mom (mayor of Lill's Fabulous ChristmastownTM) salute. Last night, when we arrived at Orna's and I said, 'Hi, it's us again, here for another party,' she said, 'It's the same party. It moves around but it keeps going for 8 days.' Which is true. Orna takes breaks from having people over so she can make more food for people to come over again, or she goes someplace else to make food there.

What Is Hanukkah: Let's Google Shall We

From Judaism 101. (The URL-- 'Jew FAQ'--cracks me up.)

From Wikipedia, which we know is never wrong about anything.

From Adam Sandler. If you don't want to sing it yourself (despite the helpful notation of guitar chords), go ahead and watch it:

My work is done here. Yet I persist. Now come the photos of our Hanukkah Nights 1 and 3. (I'm cutting you a break because I didn't take any photos on Night 2.)

First Night: World Tour of Menorahs

Aliza has a lot of menorahs. These are just a few.

I was so relieved to see the Menorah lineup at Aliza's. Over the years, I have collected quite a few menorahs. I like to light them all up in a blaze of glory. Some of them are person-specific menorahs (Carrie's, Joseph's, mine, Hubby's), and others joined the parade en route (the Wedding Present Menorah, the Portable, the Modular, the This One Is So Cool, the Ugly One That Needs Really Big Candles and Looks Like It Belongs in a Bank Lobby, the One That Looks Like It's From The 1400s But Actually I Got It At Costco). As a longtime student of Judaism: How It's Done, I had noticed that some families seemed to be getting by with just one or two menorahs. I started to fret that I was Christmassing up Hanukkah, engaging in what is called (affectionately I hope), goyishe nonsense. But Aliza is the real deal, and I will henceforth refer to her all who mock the Lutheran Girl Who Is Doing Her Best.

Here we have The Frying. Stage One: The Latkes. Latkes are mysterious. It is hard to get them to stick together. (See above, Lutheran Girl Doing Her Best.) It it is easy to be tempted by Tater Tots, which stick together so wonderfully on their own, seeing as how they're frozen. Aliza and Orna will have none of this nonsense.

(From The Sayings of Orna, Book 1.)

The Frying: Stage Two: Jelly Donuts. It is traditional to allow children to participate in the highly dangerous Frying of the Donuts. Hey--why do you think they are called small fry? If we want to preserve the Way of Frying unto future generations, we must teach the young.

Did you think I was kidding about Aliza being the Hanukkah Queen? Would you be convinced if I told you that she has special tools to inject jelly into jelly donuts?

This was the highlight of the evening for the young. Forget the songs. Forget the presents. They were CRAZY to get a turn with the Jelly Injector.

But don't forget to light the candles.

Third Night

Last night was a subdued affair. No Jelly Injecting. A reduction in the menorah count, but higher candle power (you light an additional candle each night). Raucous singing and dedicated eating and drinking. Very dedicated, considering it was a School Night.


So that was my weekend. That, and the scarf-knitting.

The Return of the Light

Didja see Harlot is at it again, cheerleading the knit-blog world on to ever greater heights of philanthropy? My humble prediction: we are going to knock the chaussettes off Medecins Sans Frontieres. Bill and Melinda: meet Stephanie. Go get 'em, knitters! Light the lights (on the tote board)!


Love, Kay

Edited to add: P.S. I do apologize for the tempting photos of fried foods. For those craving a latke, or a potato pancake, you probably cannot beat this recipe from the excellent Joan Nathan.

Posted by Kay at 08:33 AM | Comments (37)

December 15, 2006

On the Brink


Dear Kay,

First things first. This is our Christmas tree. The day after we put the thing up, it took on what can only be described as a lean--a slant, a slope. See what I mean?

It's not at all clear to me that straightening the tree will fix this problem. One touch, and the whole thing goes. It might as well be Wile E. Coyote standing on a boulder on the edge of the canyon.

I walk by this tree maybe 35 times a day, and every time I see it, I go, Enh. It could fall at any time. Our tree stand is bolted to a big square of plywood (my father is prone to screwing plywood onto just about anything), so maybe it'll hold up. But I'm telling you: if this tree falls over, and our little glass ornaments shatter into smithereens, I truly believe that my reaction will be Yay! I don't have to take off the lights! I can just chuck the whole thing!

Second Item: Another Free Mini-Tutorial

As I finish up my Perfect Sweater, V-Neck Edition, I have discovered a cul-de-sac of complexity that I didn't realize existed inside this pattern. My conscience requires that I describe it for anybody out there planning to do a Perfect Sweater, V-Neck Edition.


OK, hardcore mini-tutorialists, I'm talking about the hemmed version of the V-neck.


This is the result. Mine is not perfect, but honestly, I am not in the mood to fix it. The juncture of the V is wacky, and as with the crummy grade I got in that Beowulf class, I know what I did wrong and won't do it again I rilly promise.


It starts out straightforwardly enough. The idea is that you're making a cute little hem around the neckline. I like! Very nice! Suzanne, who designed this neckline, knocked herself out. It's a tidy neckline, don't you think? (By the way, Suzanne is having moth problems, so if you have any advice, go help her out.)


You pick up stitches around the neckline. (One cool thing is the way this yarn changes color all the time. It's an Everlasting Gobstopper, this sweater.)

You do a bit of stockinette, knit a purl row, then knit a few more rows of stockinette.

The tricky part comes once you've knitted this little flappy bit. You fold the flappy bit in half and "whipstitch" the live stitches to the backside of the sweater. I have never done such a thing, and it frankly didn't sound all that tough. But it was late, and I was tired, and I yanked a bunch of stitches off the needle, thinking I could simply stitch them down. But (of course) it all starts to fall apart once you have stitches just sitting there, uncontained. I finally realized that a person could hold the live stitches on a needle while sewing them, one at a time, to the back of the sweater.


That's my tip for the day: do your whipstitching one stitch at a time, holding the live stitches on the needle until you need them.

That's all I have to say.

The instructions in the pattern are completely correct. But it does make me realize that there's always room for human error. Always.


Posted by Ann at 11:15 AM | Comments (30)

December 14, 2006

My So-Called Mini-Tutorial


Dear Ann,

Hi there. Presumably you're stuck (a) in a long line at Target (b) trying not to watch as kids touch baked goods with their bare hands at a holiday bake sale (c) getting your highlights done to look your best for upcoming seasonal festivities or (d) something equally worthwhile that I am too lazy to be doing and will soon regret not doing. While you're away, I thought I'd answer a question from the comments from Cynthia, who writes:

I love the look of the stitch in My So-Called Scarf, but I just don't get how to do it based on the directions. Any chance you could be coaxed into showing some pictures of the stitches in progress?

This we know: I can be coaxed into almost anything. When I first read through these instructions myself, they didn't make complete sense to me. The thing is, when you actually cast on and try to do it, there will not be many alternatives that present themselves, so try it before sitting through my mini-tutorial. Because sometimes we need a mini-tutorial, but we never really WANT a mini-tutorial. At least that's the way I am. Reckless and under-tutored.

So here are the instructions and here is how I do it. If I'm doing it wrong, I'm not sure I want to know, because I'm done with the scarf and it looks JUST GREAT to me.

Row 1 instructs us to " K1, *sl 1, K1, psso but before dropping the slipped stitch from the left needle, knit into the back of it* repeat until there is one stitch left, K1."

Let's do it! Knit 1, slip 1 (purlwise), then knit 1. We are all okay so far, right?

Here, we watch as Kay starts to pass that slipped stitch over, but wait!

Before she lets the slipped stitch drop, she wraps another loop around the right needle.

And now--only NOW--she lets that ol' slipped stitch go. She has 2 new stitches on the right needle, wrapped up in the slipped stitch like a neat little bundle.

That's all I've got to say about Row 1. Try it. If you do it on the subway, and you do it kind of fast (because now you know how to do it), even people who know how to knit will watch you very....carefully...to figure out what you're doing and why the fabric doesn't look like regular knitting.



The instructions for Row 2 are: *P2tog, do not slip stitches off the needle, purl the first stitch again, slip both stitches off needle

Here we see Kay purling 2 stitches together (damn she's good), but she is not slipping them off the left needle. No she's not! Not just yet, because...

She is going back into the first stitch. (Silence, please. This maneuver is a bit twisty.)

Edited to add: By 'first stitch' I mean the first stitch from the LEFT. The other stitch would work okay also, though.

She is pulling a loop through that first stitch, purlwise. Now Kay has TWO LOOPS on her right needle, and she pulls both stitches off the left needle. Sa-weet!

Go crazy, you so-called nuts!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:51 PM | Comments (54)

December 13, 2006

Viral Knits

Dear Ann,

Foolish mortal, I attempted to appease the great goddess KastOnn by throwing scarf after scarf into her voracious maw. Yet she remains unsatisfied and unimpressed. She demands, I'm guessing, a sweater.

What can I do? Surely the Christmas shopping can wait another day. And Hanukkah's not until (gulp) Friday, right? I have a full 48 hours to locate a menorah in this apartment. I know there must be one somewhere, in a home inhabited by Jews for 60 years. Maybe it's in the closet, behind the 1959 Vap-O-Rizer (in original packaging) and the I Wuv You THIS Much statuette. And remember: the great thing about Hanukkah is that you start with just 2 candles. Cast on I must.

This project should shut up old KastOnn. I am casting on:


Ariann is raging throughout Blog Nation like chicken pox in pre-K. Look at the knitalong: it looks great on everybody. It's lacy, but not by any means too lacy. Even Our Lady of Subdued Grey Habit, Ann Curry, recently wore a lacy cardi on TV. (Black, but still, I swear I saw a yarnover in that thing.)

I caught Ariannfluenza from Cara, who caught it from Margene. With these two spreading the contagion, there is little hope for humanity. Don't be one of the sad sacks who waits until 2007 to get their Ariann on. We will mock you behind your non-lacy, non-shapely back.

My chosen Ariann yarn is very Special To Me:


Yes, that is a Liberty Sale Sticker [represses sob].

Long ago, Polly scored me two sealed bags of Jaeger Aqua in olive green. (I don't like to think about what she had to do to get it. What happens at the Liberty Sale stays at the Liberty Sale.) I've been hoarding it, waiting for the perfect project which, given the yardage here, needs to be either a Bea Arthur cocoon monstrosity or a shower curtain. I'm not sure I will get gauge for Ariann with Aqua, but if I do, I may need to make 2 Arianns. Or Ariann: the Chasuble. Or Ariann: the Room Divider. You get the idea. There are going to be leftovers.

I'm going in. Cover me.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:42 AM | Comments (26)

December 12, 2006

Nashville Skyline

Dear Kay,

Aw hell, we were knitting at the library yesterday. We ran out of chairs. Next month we're just going to take over the lobby.

You learn a lot about people when you sit around and knit together. I can't possibly capture it all, and I probably shouldn't even try. Here are a few tidbits:


First egg cozy I've seen all year. (This is the famous Weekend Knitting egg cozy. I hate to say it, but it kind of looks like a small sweater to me. Most eggs don't have arms, just sayin. Please don't say anything to Cheryl about this.)

Cheryl had a lot to show this month--not only does this librarian organize this knitting group, she makes stuff like crazy.


Cheryl is on the verge of some seriously coordinated apron/dishcloth work.

Cheryl reminded us about a great place online to buy last-minute gifts: Thistle Farms, maker of delicious-smelling balms and scents. The women who run the company are part of Magdalene, a residential program in Nashville for recovering prostitutes. An extraordinary program.


Meg, who is a chef in town, was finishing up a pair of mittens for her four-year-old Henry. She felted a thrift-store sweater, traced Boy's hands, stitched up the mittens, and as we watched, she added a ribbed cuff. They look like Warner Brothers cartoon mittens.

In the course of discussing mittens, the state of the restaurant business, and why it can be sort of tricky to write a knitting book while also writing a knitting blog, it came out that Meg's husband is Paul Burch, a country/roots/bluegrassy/pop/modern musician. This was news to me--I have a lot of trouble keeping up, you know. Right this minute I'm listening to Paul singing "Little Glass of Wine" with Ralph Stanley, the bluegrass deity whose "O Death" was a big moment in the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Paul's newest album is East to West--recorded in Mark Knopfler's London studio, which is cool. Highly recommended.


This trio was a total crack-up. Peggy, the one who's knitting, gets the distance award this month. She's in town visiting from Thomaston, Georgia (about an hour from Opelika, Alabama, to pin it down for you). Peggy's daughters deposited mom at the library, told us all sorts of snarky/lovey things about their mom, then ditched out as fast as was polite. Peggy told us that she had a 50% success rate in teaching her children to knit. As far as I could tell, she had a 100% success rate in raising fine daughters.


Somebody, please provide provenance for this yarn. Cheryl had it and forgot what it is. It's sock weight, and it's gargeous. Isn't it great?


Jennifer whipped out this inventory of knitting needles. She travels, always, with them. Her tote bag (which some might call a satchel, or valise, or suitcase, or portable warehouse the size of a large dog) is definitely apocalypse-ready. I think she has a bunch of Meals Ready to Eat in there.

Idle thought: we had a pair of midwives in our midst. Marecha and Lindsey-with-an-E need to start a midwifery blog, seeing as how they just finished their masters at Vanderbilt. I am fascinated by midwives.

Go ahead and mark your calendar for Monday, January 8, when we'll be gathering at the downtown library again. We will be celebrating Elvis Presley's birthday by reading whatever poems about Elvis we can dig up.


Posted by Ann at 09:50 AM | Comments (40)

December 11, 2006

Scarf It Up


Dear Ann,

This past weekend witnessed continued high levels of scarfing. I haven't even started a Red Scarf yet, but my Will To Scarf is intense. I have no fear that once the teachers are all accounted for, the Red Scarf Project will get its due. I am strong for it.

Inquiring Minds

When one is making an Attractive Neckwear Item in a very public way, people have Questions. They would like to know about the yarn, the source of the yarn, the fiber of the yarn, the gauge of the yarn, and also, WHAT IS THE FREAKIN' YARN?

The short answer to this question is: whatever I've got laying around. Scarves are the perfect vehicle for those one-ball indiscretions, the binge purchases of what Weight WatchersTM would call a 'Trigger Food' (i.e., Noro Silk Garden aka "I'm allergic to it and I don't care"). Scarves are also good for sweater leftovers and workhorse yarns that are kind of boring so you want them to go away. Begone, brown heather Brown Sheep! Get out there and be a scarf, willya?

I shall tell all. I live to help others.

The Carol


If this one looks familiar, it's because it's another Midwest Moonlight in Hand Maiden Sea Silk. Yes, I knit this one right after I finished the first one, and I didn't say a word about it. Can't help myself. Every night I say a little prayer: Deliver us from Sea Silk. I have one more skein from my Sea Silk bender a couple months ago, and I'm not promising I'll switch the pattern for it. Midwest Moonlight is really good for the Sea Silk. Carol wears a lot of dark colors so I think this indigo hand-dye is perfect for her. (I adore the flashes of greeny-yellow that are the signature of home-dyed indigo. The color of a bad bruise, this yarn. But beautiful.)

The Jo-Ann

The Jo-Ann began with a One-Ball Indiscretion. Something I had absolutely no plausible need or even use for, but could not leave on the shelf. Usually a One-Ball Indiscretion is something rare, fine, and/or shiny, and for me (let's review), something that I'm allergic to.

In this case, Buckwheat Bridge. Hand-dyed. 80 percent American kid mohair and 20 percent Cormo wool. The yarn comes from animals raised by the makers, and if I'm not mistaken, the shades are named after the individual goats and sheep (aw!). (My shade is called 'Uvalde'. Hi, Uvalde! You little crazy-eyed sweetie!) The depth of color is incredible, and the yarn shines without any of that vulgar sparkling of which I have spoken. Eagle-Eye Rita had it at Downtown Yarns. It's special. (The price is a bit special, too, but little Uvalde's got to eat!)

I wanted to fluff up this nearly-laceweight yarn, so I carried along a strand of rose-colored Rowan Kid Silk Haze that was sticking out of a plastic bag under my nightstand. (For a really long time, which makes it free.) After washing the finished scarf, I realized that Rita was right: the Buckwheat Bridge blooms. No need to fuzz the lily. Still, I like the haze of the KSH. After knitting the scarf, I also used the Kid Silk Haze to work a cro-Kay edging (pick up 2 stitches, *BO 1, pick up 1 st, repeat from * until you're done, or if you're clever, just crochet it like a normal person). I did this on all four sides, but it doesn't really show. Although the edging is invisible, it makes the scarf look more finished and tailored. This one is for Joseph's teacher Jo-Ann. Jo-Ann always wears a shawl on Old-Fashioned School Day. Obviously she is a candidate for something lacy.

The pattern is good old Barbara Walker, Volume 1, Feather & Fan. 36 stitches. Just do as Barbara says, until you're out of yarn. Feather & Fan is one of the ur-patterns of our people. Once started, the fingers do it all by themselves.

The Eric


For the Manly Scarf, I will admit that I used the same stitch pattern as we used for the Baby Genius Burp Cloths. I don't think that's a reference to the youth of Joseph's other teacher, Eric, but I can't be entirely sure. A great thing about this simple stitch pattern is that it's reversible. The vertical ridges are formed by slipping a stitch on the RS rows, and purling it on the WS rows. The slipped stitch floats on top of the garter stitch background on the RS, and it's invisible on the WS. Reversibility is a plus in scarves. Not a necessity, but a nice touch.

The colorful stripes of the Manly Scarf are in Noro Silk Garden. The drab background yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in a brown heather shade, which allows the knitter to rationalize that this is an Econo-Knit. You could make a perfectly long-enough scarf from one skein of each yarn, but I am using 2 skeins of Noro and a skein and a half of the Brown Sheep, because I want the scarf to loop around the neck and still have long ends a-flying in an ironic collegiate/prepster style (no, I absolutely am NOT thinking about this too much). I really like the way the Silk Garden's purples and greens get toned down by the Lamb's Pride.

The Betty

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a My So-Called Scarf on the needles. I bless the day Stacey shared this pattern. The most fascinating woven stitch ever, and it works perfectly with the shifting shades of a kettle-dyed yarn like Sheep Shop Yarn Company.

I am changing colors on the purl rows, which I think makes the striping less distinct (but it might not). This one is for Betty, the science teacher for grades K-2. We heart Betty so much in this household that one of us signed up to be Science Mom last year even though the rules prohibited one from being Science Mom for one's own child's class. I just wanted to hang out with Betty, the K-2 Whisperer, and if I had to haul a backpack loaded with spoons and clipboards to Central Park every week to get my Betty time, so be it. After second grade, you graduate to a different science teacher, who is scarfworthy, I'm sure, in her own right. Since we are on our last second grader, though, it is time to scarf up Betty.

Believe it or not, I've got even more stuff on the needles. Maybe it was the full moon, but I've been very casty-onny lately. Even for me. It's not a disorder if you're enjoying yourself. Is it?

In this weakened state, I really didn't need to see this now! I love just about anything that is inspired by an airstream trailer. But this one is based on squares, and has a Silk Garden version that stripes diagonally. Must to knit!

Happy Monday!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:11 AM | Comments (40)

December 08, 2006

Cute Overload


Dear Kay,

This is just the worst--worse than raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, crisp apple streudels OR schnitzel with noodles. Forget the bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.

Making coffee yesterday morning, I look out the window and see:


Snowflakes on cobwebs. So cute it might as well be a monkey playing with a kitten.


Posted by Ann at 11:11 AM | Comments (50)

December 07, 2006

Self-Portrait, A Little Too Early in the Morning


Dear Kay,

My photographer claimed he had to "go to work" this morning, that he has "a job" or something. So here's the finished Print o' the Wave shawl, from a distance. Slightly blurry.

Here's my post-game wrap-up of this project, including the Top Ten Things I Learned While Making the Print o' the Wave.

It is snowing here! Wandering little clumps, a thin little blizzard, but still. I wish the boys were here so they could go all bananas about it.


Posted by Ann at 09:55 AM | Comments (28)

December 06, 2006

Scarf Road


Dear Ann,

When Robert Frost wrote, 'something there is that doesn't love a wall,' he wasn't talking about me. I love a wall. Truly, I'm something of a wall-watcher. Walls are not what they used to be. Call me a purist, but it seems to me that there is a lot of applied stucco where it doesn't belong. Much adobe, in rainy regions that are not licensed for adobe.


A neighbor is building a Frost-worthy wall down the road from us in Southampton. This is an old-school wall that instantly transports the viewer to Vermont. This wall is not hidden behind a hedge or down a long driveway; it's right out on the road, looking all New Englandy. Looking, actually, like a great place to photograph knitting.


Let me put this right out there: Yes. I was out walking. I saw a wall. It had a yellow stone. I walked back home to get my camera and my knitting. I walked back to the wall, and spent an undisclosed chunk of the afternoon trying to drape knitting over the wall in an arftful way without anybody seeing me. Which somebody probably did. It's probably gotten back to my next-door neighbors already: "Um, Dorothy, Kay's wandered off again. Oh yeah-- she's got her knitting, out in front of my place. You want to bring her home or shall I?"

The wall called to mind this photo:

On the back of Quilt Road, a favorite photo of Kaffe Fassett . (Although it's hard to choose. Dang! Is there any man, anywhere, who can work a floral shirt better than Kaffe?) Here we see only the top of the handsome Kaffe head, but we already know what he looks like. His back looks happy, wearing a quilt, walking by quilts on a wall.

A Knitter's Shame

My kids. Their hats. This morning.

(On the right, crap acrylic. On the left, crap acrylic from a bar.)

O the humanity.

Love, Kay

P.S. Because I know Norma will wonder, the wall scarf is a red scarf, but it's not a Red Scarf. I'm blasting through my last Teacher Present Scarf (red scarf is #2 of 3, and it's all knitted and edged and blocked and everything, and

#3 (aka the Manly Scarf) is on the needles and halfway there). (Photograph in a parenthetical: SNAP!) I'm majorly geared up to knit some excellent Red Scarves for the Red Scarf Project. Stay tuned: Scarf Road is a long road; we have miles to go before we sleep.

Posted by Kay at 05:41 PM | Comments (35)

December 05, 2006

Tit for Tat


Dear Kay,

OK, from here on out, for every dishcloth entry you write, I get one entry on either the topic of A) the musician Jack White or B) dingy, dirt-colored handknits.

We'll go with B today, seeing as how the only Jack White news I have is that my stepmother called on Saturday night to alert me that she was in a restaurant and was sitting directly across from Jack White. Now, you might think it unlikely that a grown-up lady like my stepmother would actually know what Jack White looks like, but the fact is that she (again with the italics because it's so stunning) she sold her house to Jack White's bandmate Brendan Benson this past summer. And Jack White was with Brendan when he toured the house.

That's all on that topic.

As for the dingy, dirt-colored handknits. You see yet another Perfect Sweater (this one with the V neck so cleverly designed by Suzanne. I see a lovely drift of Cascade 220 The Heathers shade 9459. I see peatmossiness at its most decomposed. It just doesn't get any more composty than this.


I'm almost done with this. Back, front, and two sleeves almost cranked.

Usually I would make this simple little sweater and move on. But I'm going to try a little hand felting on this, because I'm feeling sort of embellishy. Has anybody out there hand felted a sweater? I certainly haven't--not on purpose, anyway--so I'd welcome any advice. My main question is whether the sweater will shrink in the process. I'm not talking about throwing the thing in the washer; I'm curious about the tamer, less wacky sort of felting people did before Maytags were around. Something about rubbing and heat? Please say I don't have to, like, spit on it OK?


PS Middle Tennesseans arise! Knitting at the Library is ON for this coming Monday, December 11. Downtown Nashville library, 615 Church Street, Conference Room 2. Directions here.

Posted by Ann at 11:58 AM | Comments (40)

December 04, 2006

Yo My Dishrag Peeps


To my fellow Earthlings who have an irrepressible urge and an irrational exuberance for knitting dishrags and other sassy items for kitchen and bath,

G R E E T I N G S:

I have News. THE DISHCLOTH CALENDAR IS ON SALE TODAY! THE DISHCLOTH CALENDAR IS ON SALE TODAY! Janet Nogle has organized the first-ever-that-we-know-of calendar with knitting patterns for dishcloths, washcloths, and other spa and kitchen items. I haven't seen it yet, but I am so excited I can barely...do the dishes.

To pre-order a calendar, go here and follow Janet's instructions.

I submitted my humble pattern out of pure stinkin' vanity and the pride of being asked. Recently, though, I learned that those who contributed designs to the calendar are going to be sharing the proceeds of sale. Oh boy! I love a windfall--and I will be donating my share of this found money to Oliver's Fund.. Emma and Allan are still raising money for the expensive lift that will enable them to transport Oliver's heavy electronic wheelchair by car. This added mobility will make the chair--which was purchased with the help of knitting bloggers and blog readers from all over--much more beneficial. Earlier this year, I saw Oliver and his new chair in action. It's amazing what a 7-year-old can do with a little added horsepower.

Dishcloth Knitters, ACTIVATE!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 05:08 PM | Comments (11)


Dear Ann,

I went to the museum with the 4th graders the other day. This was a coveted field trip to chaperone. I had to arm-wrassle a couple of dinkier moms to get the gig. The 4th grade is studing the ancient Egyptians, all year long or at least until rehearsals start for The Fourth Grade Play. (Ancient Egypt is okay, but playing one of the 8 Charlottes or 10 Wilburs in Charlotte's Web is awesome.) At this point, these 9-year-olds know more about ancient Egypt than most PhD Egyptologists have forgotten. This was their second of FOUR trips to the Met's Egyptian collections.

Why the coveting of the chaperone slots? This particular tour was guided by the woman who curated the Hatshepsut exhibit. City kids may have a lot to put up with, in terms of not living in sweet-smelling places like Mayberry RFD and having backyards and such, but when they are studying Egypt, by cracky they are STUDYING EGYPT.

I left my charges unchaperoned for at least 10 minutes when I came across this:

On the left, we have two balls of fine linen yarn, handspun from flax at least 3500 years ago. On the right, we have various flax-working instruments, including a set of KnitPicks Options needles. (Oh just kidding! Everybody knows that 3500 years ago, all they had were Addis.)

This is why we want people to knit their prissy guest towels out of linen. It wears real well. You can't beat it.

Most of the Met's Egyptian artifacts relate to the rituals of death. But in this small, dark room related to the implements of daily life, they had all kinds of stuff to do with making flax into cloth. Making flax into cloth was a big deal.

Spindles. The state of the art has not changed so much.

Now, we've all heard of the affliction known as Stable: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy.

If you've got a ball of Euroflax, you have Stamina: Stash Acquisition Millennia In Advance. Honest to Pete, that's my own ball of Euroflax Originals Sportweight, in the color 'natural'. Which, it turns out, really is natural. Same color it was 3500 years ago. Don't mess with a good, reliable neutral. It looked good on the Egyptians, and it looks great on us today.

To illustrate my point about the kids today: When I was a kid, on our rare trips to the museum they didn't let us draw pictures of what we saw. (All I can remember is marble halls and Conestoga wagons.) Needless to say, they didn't let us lie down on the floor. These kids found a quiet corner, didn't bug a soul, and studied and drew for a blessed half hour while the chaperones took a load off. I had a little pang when I came upon this scene. When I was 9, I would have loved to lie down in the museum and draw a picture.


We've gotten a few emails from people wanting to mail us books to sign and mail back, for themselves or for presents for people who like to get signed books for presents. It occurred to us that this would not be too efficient, given the lines at the Post Office this time of year. So, anybody who would like an ultra-cute signed bookplate, email me or Ann and we'll mail you one and you can stick it in the book. (We don't know what this bookplate looks like yet, but we are sure that it will be ultra-cute. 'Cause if a thing is not ultra-cute, it is not worth doing. )

Happy Monday!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:00 PM | Comments (32)

December 02, 2006

MDK Rule #783: Love Your Gear


Dear Kay,

In the course of making the Print o' the Wave lace shawl, I was plagued by a constant jonesing for the right needle. You really want a pointy needle for the k2togs and the k3togs, but even an Addi Turbo seemed too blunt. I wanted a NEEDLE.

I kept hearing about the Knit Picks Options interchangeable needles. I have some Denise interchangeables, which are good, but nobody's calling them pointy.

Crippled at the daunting possible combinations (do I need a 24-inch cable, or a 32-inch cable, or a burrito AND a chimichanga OR a tamale?), I did what I always do: go with Combo #1 and quit worrying about it.


I love 'em. They're unapologetically pointy, they have a nice heft to them, and the cable join is very smooth. The cable? As flexible as an Addi, and that's pretty flexible.


I had a worried moment when I managed to yank the purple cable out of its socket--are these things up to snuff? But I called the Knit Picks customer service line, and I was told there was a recall on the cables, and two days later I had not one but TWO replacement cables. The busted one is still in use, by the way, thanks to the pioneer-like resourcefulness that made me remember that I had a tube of Super Glue in my desk.

In short: three stars, worth a detour. These are fantastic needles.


Posted by Ann at 11:58 AM | Comments (30)

December 01, 2006

Late-Night Thoughts While Blocking a Shawl


Dear Kay,

I finished the Print o' the Wave stole! Snipsnap in a jiffy I cranked the final foot of the border. Something 18 stitches wide just isn't that much knitting, you know?

This little project has been a revelation--if you do 90% of a project, get disgusted, put it away for eight weeks, then return to it, the whole thing seems like a PRESENT. You mean, if I just do this crummy little border, then I'll get a whole entire SHAWL? For FREE?

So Hubbo was all tucked in for the night, cruising Tivo for some late night TV snackage, and there I was on the floor, in the gloom, lining up this:


It's a testament to the state of the union that Hubbo puts up with this sort of thing. It was also fortunate that there was some tasty fresh Colbert Report in the hopper to distract him while I basically went into a blocking frenzy last night. I couldn't wait until the morning. Not a chance. I was all Rumpelstiltskin on this thing.

You'll note the Bonus Zone I had to add to the blocking board. The Print o' the Wave turned out to be pretty long, but I didn't know how long until I soaked the shawl until it was a blechy pile then laid the creepy wet snake on the floor.


This really is the glory moment of a lace project. If you've never made anything with lace, oh, for heaven's sake, get on it. Just looking at this picture gives me a shivery, tingly, lick-a-9-volt-battery feeling.



I was dreading the moment when the beginning and end of the border met. High Noon was definitely a showdown, and it is basically a mess:


I grafted them together like a blended family and told them not to be ugly to each other. The fact that there are two different dye lots, the fact that I ended up four rows shy of a full repeat . . . if we all keep moving, maybe nobody'll notice how weird it all is.

In the end, I look at the corner of this shawl, and I cannot believe I made that myself. How did the border go around the corner like that? How did the columns of stitches end up swooshing around each other? When I first started knitting, I would look at something like this and shake my head. Having just finished it, I'm still shaking my head. I don't know how I did it.

I'll give it a swishy modeling after I let it dry for a long time.

Thank you, Eunny, for this lurvly pattern.


PS The following is so technical that only the future Print o' the Wave knitters will want to read it. But if you're in that group, this is SOLID GOLD, people.

Top 10 Things I Learned While Making the Print o' the Wave

1. My Specs

Yarn: Blue Heron Mercerized Cotton, laceweight. 1,050 yards, 2 skeins. Really, it was more like 1 skein plus 80 yards of the second skeins, an expensive BUMMER when a skein costs $39.

Size 4 (3.5 mm) needles, including a 100 cm circular for doing the border

Finished size: 27" x 66" (68.5 x 167.5 cm)

2. How Long It Took

The First Era: August 25-October 2, 2006
Slough of Despond: October 2-November 29
The Second Era (aka "The Brief Era Not So Much An Era, Actually"): November 29-December 1

3. Yarn Pensées

The wisdom of using Blue Heron mercerized cotton for a lace shawl has been questioned. OK, it was me questioning myself, but still. Throughout this project I kept thinking of the word gossamer, which Eunny used in her description of her pattern. This shawl will drape, but it won't "shiver and float in a draft." I think this pattern would really shine in the cobwebby yarns she suggests. My next lace project will likely involve something really, truly airy.

4.The Pattern

DO NOT FAIL to print this in color. I printed it on my B & W and did not see the big red box which indicates the pattern repeat. Extremely crabby to discover this many hours later. At least mark the red box if you have a B & W printer. And the bracket under the repeat is not quite wide enough. Eunny writes, "The way the pattern repeat for the body is indicated can be a little confusing. The pattern repeat is outlined in RED -- though the bracket might look a little short depending on how you look at it, and the gridlines on the chart might confuse you, pay attention only to the RED lines for the correct repeat." Having written a few patterns (MUCH less complex than this one, mind you), I have total sympathy with the challenge of writing a pattern.

5. Charts

The two lace patterns are so much easier if you follow the chart. I'm a visual person, so I can't imagine doing a lace pattern without one. IMHO. Just sayin. FWIW. 2 cents.

6. Chart Correction

As written, Chart B for the edging contains an error. The second-to-last stitch of rows 9, 11, 13 and 15 should be marked as a k2tog.

7. The Border

Takes as long as the middle part.

8. Yes, You Have to Do the Border.

9. Grafting the Center Seam

It's a badge of Shetland lace knitting honor to knit the center in two parts, then graft them together so that the pattern flows downward when you wear it. But honestly, I recommend that you dispense with the grafted center seam. The wavy pattern looks pretty in either direction, and I think the seam disrupts the pattern significantly. Also: the supersmart Michelle jooged the pattern a half repeat to make the jog less noticeable--you can see her results at her blog. Brilliant!

10. Blocking is the most fun you can have at 11 o'clock at night while your husband is watching The Colbert Report. Blocking while listening to The Colbert Report is the most fun you can have, period, unless you're up to something else altogether, in which case you probably shouldn't have pins around at all.

Posted by Ann at 11:54 AM | Comments (35)
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