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

October 30, 2008

Two-Timing, and an Exhortation


Dear Wind Beneath My Wings,

Ferocious knitting mojo down here right now--I don't know what has come over me, but really, I've been knitting like . . . well, like you. Give me five minutes sitting still--waiting for the pasta water to boil, waiting for a parent-teacher conference--and I'm cranking a few rows. And this new project is pretty much perfect for this sort of thing.

It's Mary Neal Meador's Margaret sweater from our book. In a really slutty moment, I cast on for this before I had finished sewing up Yank. I try to be serially monogamous about garment-knitting, but my resolve pretty much failed once I wound up a skein of the Harrisville Highland that I bought in Portland at the home of the Northwest's Fastest Knitter, Knit Knot Studio. I was swatching at first, but it grew . . . you know . . .

Turns out I had to go up two needle sizes to get gauge--the pattern calls for size 5, but I ended up at size 7 to get 18 stitches/4". Somehow the psychological crutch of a larger needle makes the whole project seem easier.

I think this yarn is one of the greats. There's a sturdiness to it that makes me crazy--it's not lush and soft, it's resolute and unrepentantly traditional in its texture. I know it will soften up when I wash it, which is nice, but I love working with this even in its scrurchy state.

An Exhortation for the Invisible Cast On


Now. This project begins with a provisional cast on, because you're knitting the bodice first in three pieces, then picking up the stitches along the bottom and knitting the skirt down from the waist.

I know a lot of people are fond of the provisional cast on that uses a crochet chain of stitches, but I am here to encourage you to try another provisional cast on method that is, in my opinion, easier, faster, and does not require the step of cranking a chain of crochet at all. No crochet hook required. Just your working yarn, a piece of waste yarn, the knitting needles that God gave you, and a flip of the wrist are all you need. The result is shown in the photo above: a set of loops ready to be knitted, with a thread of waste yarn through each one.

I learned this from Eunny Jang's blog, the sadly dormant See Eunny Knit. I know she's all busy editing Interweave Knits and all, but honestly, her blog was a thing of beauty and wonderment. Her archives live on!

About this lovely invisible cast on, she writes: "My favorite invisible cast-on is ridiculously simple--it amounts to making a series of yarn overs in a figure-eight around both the needle and a 'holder,' usually a bit of waste string. Using a smooth, fairly thick waste yarn for the foundation will go a long way towards keeping the stitches from twisting around the needle, and eventually make picking up the stitches much easier.

Here's the how-to. Scroll down to Invisible Cast On for her instructions.

I found a video that shows this cast-on in action, with in the same elegant result, but the motions are a little different from Eunny's. Here's the video--scroll down to Invisible (Provisional) Cast-On.

This is the sort of stuff that makes me happy.

The Wings Above Your Wind

Posted by Ann at 11:49 AM | Comments (20)

October 29, 2008

So High You Almost Touch the Sky

Dear Ann,

Back in law school, they taught us about something called "long-arm jurisdiction". It means that if you have minimum contacts with a state--such as for example, Tennessee--such that you go there a lot (for example, to make music videos about knitting), and you have an impact on the economy there (for example, renting costumes and buying extra large wigs and pretty much propping up the local Pimiento Cheese industry), well then, you are considered to be "doing business" there, and you can be sued there.

So apparently I can get my ass sued in Tennessee, but I am ineligible to be honored as somebody's co-Knitting Wit of Nashville.

I'm not bitter--no, no-- but at times like these, times of deep, mixed emotions (you KNOW how much I LOVE a certificate)..... I do have a tendency to break into song.

Anthem-type songs.

Songs with a key change near the end.

So Ann, I dedicate this song to you.

It's pretty dang cold here in your shadow.
I never have sunlight on my face,
I am content to let you shine (that's my way).
I always walk a step behind.

So you are the one with all the glory,
while I am the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name (for so long).
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that I'm your hero,
and everything you would like to be?
You can fly higher than an eagle,
'cause I am the wind beneath your wings.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it:
You would be nothing without meeeeeee.

Did you ever know that I'm your hero,
and everything you would like to be?
You can fly higher than an eagle,
'cause I am the wind beneath your wings.

Did I ever tell you I'm your hero?
I'm everything, everything you wish you could be.
Oh, and you, you could fly higher than an eagle,
'cause I am the wind beneath your wings,
'cause I am the wind beneath your wings.


Oh, the wind beneath your wings.
I, I, I, I, am the wind beneath your wings.
Fly, fly, fly away. I let you fly so high.
Oh, I, I, I, the wind beneath your wings.
Oh, I, I, I, the wind beneath your wings.

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky,
so high you almost touch the sky.
Thank me! thank me!
thank God for me, the wind beneath your wings.

Congrats, doll! I pity the fool who tries to pry your claws offa this title next year.


Posted by Kay at 02:54 PM | Comments (26)

Ahoy! It's a Yank!

Dear Kay,

So we voted yesterday with only one moment at the voting machine where the boys were fighting over who got to push the button. I jumped in, fearing voter fraud if a nine-year-old were caught casting my vote.

I still can't quite believe all those electronic votes are going to get counted right. Can't you, like, spill yogurt on the thing or what if some six year old drags a magnet around the room? Wouldn't a paper ballot be sort of analog in a good way?

(Please vote! Had to say that!)

Done done and DONE

I have finished sewing on the buttons for Yank after a VERY satisfying sojourn at the Textile Fabric Store on Eighth Avenue. They have enough buttons for me. I was there long enough for many other customers to consider fabric, have fabric cut, pay for it, and complete a child's Halloween costume in the time I spent staring at buttons.


These are made out of horn. I wish they were 1/8" wider, but the chocolatelike look of these won the day.

Now. I have said many times how quick n EZ a knit this Yank is. I am not lyin'. Maybe it's because I've done so much small-needle knitting in the past year, but this size 9 needle stuff is the WAY TO GO. Forget all those socks, y'all. This is PRODUCTIVE!


I wish my photographer were around so we could go climb around on an aircraft carrier or get all Patrick O'Brianish to capture the nautical vibe that this coat gives me when I'm wearing it. But Hubbo seems to have some sort of day job that is cutting most grievously into his music producing and art direction work.

It fits pretty much perfectly--Bonne Marie Burns once again laid it all out in this pattern so that it came together without one single hitch. This is a size large, and I did make the sleeves one inch shorter than the pattern called for. But otherwise I just sat down beside the captain and let her steer the ship for me.

I do like how it feels unbuttoned, I have to say. A little less close-fitting. And in Nashville, that's usually what the weather calls for. A coat, but don't get too worried about it.

I think Bonne Marie is going to be cooking up a shorter version of this, which I'm curious to see. Be sure to watch her space for that project in the coming weeks.


The yarn, Cascade Pastaza, is half llama, half wool. It is blankety cozy, and it definitely leaves a souvenir when you're working with it. I think I'll just vacuum it or something. This shade, 6003, has all sorts of crazy-colored fibers in it, giving it a depth that I really lurve.

Sometimes I look at a picture like that, with stitches going all over the place, fitting together, and I think: How the hell did that happen? It's one of the great things about knitting.


You'll be seeing me in this a lot. Thanks, Bonne Marie, for a boatload of fun.

And the Winner Is . . .

I have won an award that I will cherish my whole entire life, something that nobody can take away from me until, I reckon, 2009.


Yes. It's true. Somehow--in a city that is chockablock with knitting wit luminaries, a place renowned for its knitterly humorists and Dorothy Parkers of the knitting circle--I can hardly imagine how I, who barely leaves the house except to find costumes for YouTube videos, could have ever found myself in contention for such an honor.

I'm sharing this award here, Kay, because--frankly--I'm going to tell you about every single certificate I ever receive, and that includes my termite inspection results. I'm proud of this stuff; you're going to hear about it!

You can read the details of this honor here, if you scroll down, and keep scrolling, past Best New Puppet Troupe, Best Improved Film Programming, Best Use of Unorthodox Materials, and Best Exploding Whale.


Posted by Ann at 09:56 AM | Comments (62)

October 28, 2008

Puff Daddy is in the House!


Dear Ann,

Remember Mariko and the crazy puff scarflet she found in her dad's closet and how we all squee'd at the cuteness and eggzamined it very carefully to see how it was made? And how we suffered 70s Acrylic Flashbacks and speculated how terrific this accessory would be, if knitted up in Good Yarn, by which we mean a free-range natural fiber preferably of a high-altitude ruminant?

The original has yielded up its secrets, and Puff Daddy is now a free pattern that everybody can download over at Super Eggplant (which is usually a blog about cupcakes and Japanese gel pens but whatever).

Important Feature: This is a bi-species knit. Here we see it on a human waif:


Over at Mariko's you can see it on Deedle and Mariko. It knits up in less than an hour (including Puff Construction). There are 288 stitches in the adult (human) size. (Yes, I counted.) I presume there are fewer stitches in the adult (Basenji) size, and even fewer stitches in the wristlet size.

We used a super luxe yarn because, as I mentioned:


Everybody Puff now!


Posted by Kay at 10:18 PM | Comments (26)

October 27, 2008

Life on the Mezzanine


Dear Kay,

Most Saturday mornings, this is where you'll find me.


This is the Grownup Holding Area of the Sixth Avenue Skatepark.


I figure that, having spent about fifty Saturdays in this place, I am good and ready for the apocalypse. Don't you think the apocalypse will have busted-out sofas?


The first time Clif persuaded me to take him to this place, I was deeply skeptical. He was still a novice skateboarder, working on landing his ollie, trying to do a pop shove it, with no HOPE of dropping in or working a manual. Not only did I think he would never make it down one of these ramps, I assumed I would never survive the soundtrack of this place, which averages about 125 decibels when somebody gets hold of the volume knob.

But when I looked up as we entered this mom-free zone, I saw a banner that was a clue:


Any skatepark with Johnny Cash looking down benevolently can't be all creepy.

In fact, at this point, I look forward to sitting on my unupholstered wooden chair and listening to the music that gets into my bones. I think they play a geezer mix on Saturday mornings, because that's when the young kids get to skate and the Grownup Holding Area is hopping. A lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan.

Some parents bring their own fold-up chairs like they're at their kid's flag football game, so worrisome is the sofa situation.

Occasionally, the music turns into a murky contemporary Christian rock thing, because the place is run by contemporary Christians, but I only figure this out when I hear a loud, wailing, "Salvaaaaaaaaaation" in some song that sounds like a U2 knockoff.


I have done a lot of knitting in this place, and I was so productive this past Saturday that I seamed up my whole Yank coat and was left with setting in the sleeves. I had planned to set in the sleeves back at home, because I like to do a lot of pinning and futzing when I'm setting in a sleeve. But the spirit took hold of me, and I stitched them in freehand, no pins, no nothing--and I even landed them in place with the right side out.

Clif landed an axle stall at just about the same time. You should see the guy these days: a small Tony Hawk, flying around, launching himself with glee.

"We've got a pretty good deal going, don't we?" he said as we headed home. "You knit, I skate."


Posted by Ann at 11:07 AM | Comments (44)

October 24, 2008

Sights, Sounds, 'n' Smells


Dear Kay,

Kay, you have done strong work in chronicling hi-lites from our trip, but I have more tidbits for the scrapbook.


Strolling along a street in downtown Portland, we came across a felted Thanksgiving by LeBrie Rich.


We came across this, too:


An unfelted cornmeal pancake. With unfelted butter. Delicious.

A Portland movie:

A Seattle movie:

Seattle Restaurant Moment


A late, unexpected supper at Lark. It should be noted that one of the proprietors of this beautiful restaurant, JM, is a knitter. JM's husband, John, was so welcoming and such a fine chef that I considered the idea of hiding under the table and just waiting until they reopened the next day. I think I ended up with gout after this meal, but it was a good kind of gout.

Cross-country Knitting

Sometimes, the weirdest knitting can be the most satisfying. I was one skein shy of finishing my Yank coat, so one goal during this trip was to track down that final bit of Cascade Pastaza so I could make the collar and back belt.


Weirdly delightful to finish up these bits n bobs. Done and DONE! The Yarnery in St. Paul had just the skein I needed, and needles, too.

Once I finished that, it was time to finish up Veronik Avery's Ribbon Lace Scarf that has been rumbling around since this summer. This is Hand Maiden Flaxen (50% silk, 50% linen/100% uniquely crunchysoft), colorway mysterious to me at this point as I look at the shade card. Glacier? Who cares? It's gorgeous, twine-like yarn no matter what you call it. A tender souvenir of Cat Bordhi's sock workshop last March.

It's a good thing we ended up in New York back at your apartment when we did. It was the first time in my travel experience that my guest room amenities included a set of blocking wires. Always thinking of the niceties, aren't you?



After the delicious moment of unpinning that scarf, I immediately went into Hand Maiden withdrawal and beelined it for the Hand Maiden Replacement Yarn that I had bought in Seattle at Tricoter. This yarn is called Great Big Sea (50% silk/30% merino/20% seacell/100% addictive), and it is the most delightful murky yarn I've ever used. This shade is Midnight. I can't even begin to capture it in a photo. It's much darker in real life, which is so great.


The pattern is Jo Sharp's Misty Garden from Scarf Style, a straight-up feather and fan stitch. (Go see 580 of these on Ravelry if you want to see what fun different yarns can be.)


At this point, I have unpacked my things but not all my thoughts about our voyage. I still can't get over all the knitters we met. It was an amazing, amazing trip, filled with amazing people. I can't even think up a joke about it! Just amazing.



Posted by Ann at 12:03 PM | Comments (29)

October 23, 2008

Hooking (Insert Double Entendre Cliche Here)


Dear Ann,

Raising my head after all that bookish kerfuffle, I find myself in a sea of WIPs in various stages of incompleteness, important school newsletters about events that have already occurred, mail both opened (containing tiny hats) and unopened (not containing tiny hats), and taxi receipts. Even more than usual. So how am I spending my afternoon?


I am all about the hooking. My rug is only about 8 inches in diameter, but it is My First Rug. I am starting to suspect that I have cut my strips too wide. I don't care. I have ordered a book about rug hooking to see if I can get some guidance, but I am content with my too-fat, slightly buckling rug. I really like the freeform nature of it, and can see how one would get better at it pretty quickly with practice. Don't get me wrong--it's not KNITTING, and it's not quilting. But it's fun.

For those who were nice enough to ask, I got my lovely Cat's Paw (aka Kaffe's Persian Poppies) kit from J. Conner Hooked Rugs. Janet, whom I met at Rhinebeck, hand-dyes the vintage and non-vintage wools for her kits. Some of the wools are quite felted and some seem not so felted, but I have liked every wool in my kit. One overdyed reddish pink has kid mohair in it, I'm sure; it glides through the burlap holes.

While I tremble at the thought of acquiring a Third Stash (knitting, quilting and now RUGGING stashes), I'd really like to make a full-size rug. Just the one. Thinking on it.


Posted by Kay at 04:11 PM | Comments (43)

October 20, 2008

Tour Bus Omnibus

Dear Ann,

I'm having that end-of-semester-and-I-haven't-started-my-term-paper feeling. So much bloggage, unblogged. Think of this barrage of photos as a big stack of 3x5 cards about the Politburo, copied one after the other on my portable Smith-Corona typewriter with the burnt orange keys and the bad habit of spontaneously shifting into capitals. A term paper overflowing with random disconnected tidbits from the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.

Seattle. We Were In Seattle.

I feel quite certain that we were in Seattle. About 8 years ago.

This handknit graffito was right in front of our parking space when we visited Stitch, a sweet shop that evokes ye olde General Dry Goods stores. It has an eclectic, up-to-date selection of quilting and sewing fabrics, and also yarn! And also friendliness!

Guerilla Knitting Tip

If you're planning to tag a No Parking sign yourself, take note of the plastic ties used to hold that knitting ON.

Our event at the University Bookstore was attended by Seattle's most fun knitters, including Esteban, Jaci's entry in Teeny Project Runway. (I am starting to hold out hope that someone will show up with one of our Taxidermy Division finalists.)

We managed to squeeze in a quick and dangerous stop at the celebrated shop Tricoter, represented here by a part of its button selection. The trunk show from Gina Wilde's beautiful book, Shibori Knits, happened to be in residence, which meant that I got into a bit of trouble with the Alchemy Haiku. I think you lost a fight with some Handmaiden (sea-something).

New York Minutes

Thursday night found us blinking our sleepy eyes in my very own LYS, Knitty City. Surrounded by pals old and new.

Naomi brought her Project Runway entry, which was a hen (of course) toting a condom amulet (of course).

Here's Omar, stopping in to get a book signed for his sis Zen. We try to document acts of loving kindness from siblings, spouses and children of knitters who can't make it to an event. I get all choked up thinking about devoted non-knitters sitting through a juicy, lengthy chat about Fair Isle and top-down, just to be nice to their knitter.

Lunchtime in the Winter Garden

On Friday, knitter and teacher extraordinaire Ina Braun invited us to sit 'n knit with a group of charity knitters at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.


The In The Loop group couldn't have been nicer. Everyone was knitting socks, hats and mittens for Christmas at Sea, a charity for merchant seamen. The charities vary, but the group meets regularly and always knits for a cause. If you're in the area, sign up for their newsletter here. Ina teaches techniques that relate to the projects, currently focusing on socks.


Josephina (Ina's contribution to Teeny Project Runway) was there. We admired her in every detail, from entrelac cardi to perfectly fitted fingerless mitts. I also learned a neat trick from Ina. I was trying to knit triple stranded yarn according to a quick & thick hat pattern that called for #19 needles, but I only had #10 needles. After 10 rows or so, I could see that I was not anywhere near gauge, and my fabric was stiff as a board (big surprise). I ripped it out and went back to my non-charity knitting, thinking I had no choice. Ina told me that I could easily solve my problem by working a yarnover between every stitch on the RS, and then dropping the YOs on the WS, thus enlarging the stitches to somewhere near the gauge I would have gotten on those #19s. DUH! It seemed so obvious once she pointed it out to me, but I never would have figured it out. There is good reason to knit with others. It's educational.

Purl Soho

Friday evening found us at Purl Soho, a mini-mecca. A dozen people, maximum, fit inside Purl, heightening the religious experience of being there. The trick was to keep everyone circulating. (I may have circulated myself a few doors down to Purl's patchwork store. Just to make sure everything was all right in there.)

This guy came in, all sweet-like, to get his mom a book. We fell over ourselves congratulating him on his consideration and kindness and what a good--and by the way, handsome--son he was. "She called me 3 times to remind me," he said. Way to follow instructions! Still excellent, son-wise! Purl girls Leah and Fay are lovely hostesses and we had a fab time.

Revelation: As Knitters, We Suck

What is there to say about the alternate universe called Rhinebeck aka the New York Sheep and Wool Festival? It's sensory overload. It's realizing that (a) you are among your people, (b) your people knit a TON, and (c) your people knit really, really well. As much as you think you knit? They knit more. One resolves to knit more, and wear more handknits, and generally try harder to earn one's place among them.

This is a day to cast aside the notion of "too many" handknits. Wear 'em all. Wear 'em proud. Wear 'em loud. (This refreshing handknit cocktail brought to you by Jenn.)

Bringing a loved one? Well...OK...but make sure he's got a handknit on. Jeez, do we have to spell it out for you?

Ideally, you should be a sea of your favorite color, as Chante demonstrates.

The Belinda Wrap Twins tried to hide themselves, ashamed of their low handknit density. "We're hideous! We're hideous!" (I would like to give special recognition to the knitter who saw my wrap and said, "Trance! And Jelly!" Trance and Jelly are the shades of Rowan Kid Silk Haze in the Belinda Wrap I was wearing.)

Sometimes you'd come across someone standing in the crowd, knitting. Just to take the edge off, I suppose.

Sign of the times.

I bought no yarn. Zero. Zip. Nada. My economic stimulus package involved Fiber Arts, Other.

So far, the rug hooking is going a lot better for me than a past year's sashay into Shirret. (I tried but failed to Shirret. Maybe it was the Shiraz.) I could get seriously addicted to the simple, homely craft of hooking rugs. My first project is a ruglet in the cat's paw pattern, which reminds me of Kaffe Fassett's Persian Poppies. I don't know what one does with a ruglet. I don't really care. I'm a process rugger.

Final observation: Wasn't it crushing, when we stopped at a rest stop on the way home, and suddenly noticed that people were wearing polar fleece instead of handknits? The movie of life went from color to black & white. Why can't the real world be more like Rhinebeck? Look at the pictures. There's your proof: handknits make people happier and more attractive.

Ann, feel free to chime in with your photos. I'm going to go collapse in a heap now. And maybe hook a little.


Posted by Kay at 05:38 PM | Comments (63)

October 17, 2008

A Biblical Book Tour Break

Dear Ann,

A reading from the Book of Baseball:

And the woman ka-Ay spake unto the boy Jo-seph, saying come, my son, and eat of the Eggo which hath been toasted and set before you.

And the child did inquire urgently of the crone, hath the Rays won last night as I slept, and smote the Sox of Bo?

Verily, my son, they did not. For the 7-run lead passed away as smoke from a burning bush, and in the 9th inning, 2 were out and 2 were on, and lo, the warrior Drew hath swatted a hit that knockethed in a run. Thy father writhed in anguish before the tele-Vision, and the Nation passed alive unto the swamps of Tampa.

O people of el-Bronx: thou rootest for thy team, and it is Good. For it is meet and right that the Bronxites shall cleave unto the Bombers howeversomuch they be reviled in Beantown, for their stripes are pleasing to the Lord, and also their haircuts.

But to root against thy rival is an abomination. Thou delightest that they be laid low by the tribe named after a minor fish of the sea, which meriteth the weeping and gnashing which now thou sufferest, selah.

Go and sin no more (and if thou not jinxeth it, the Rays might still win).

(All in fun, Redsox people. All in fun.)


PS Today at noon we'll be knitting in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center with our friend Ina's charity-knitting group. This will be about the happiest thing happening at the World Financial Center these days, so if you're nearby, bring your knitting and join us.

Posted by Kay at 07:58 AM | Comments (40)

October 16, 2008

Dateline: Portland, Oregon

am nowrthwest.jpg

Dear Kay,

As Loretta Lynn and Jack White put it, "Portland, Oregon, and sloe gin fizz/If that ain't love, then tell me what is . . ."

After winging west from Nashville, we landed in Portland, Oregon, and immediately got our groom on:


We did all these things, with the result that Kay's poodle cut was really working for her:


Good morning, Portland! With your host, Kay Gardiner.

One conclusion so far is that there is nothing more like a Fellini film than early morning local television. On Portland's institution AM Northwest with Helen and Dave, we held forth on the thing we love along with other people who were there to talk about the thing they love or otherwise feel the need to promote very early in the morning: extreme fitness, relationship repair, playing the guitar.


We didn't get to hear his segment, but we wish this guy well and I hope he casts on for a sweater soon.

In scrolling down the juicy video archives of AM Northwest (we're in there if you dig hard enough), I found an interview with Sarah Vowell, the author of a new book about Puritans (The Wordy Shipmates) and famed as the voice of Violet in The Incredibles. It's a classic AM Northwest moment: Sarah Vowell sitting in the kitchen set with Helen and Dave, with the kitcheny doodads behind them, busting Puritan jokes and talking about animated movie voices.

Yarn Crawl

We didn't manage to visit every single yarn shop in Portland because apparently that would take a week or so, but we did do some economic stimulus work of which we are proud.


We had an impromptu edging seminar with Elizabeth Prusiewicz, proprietress of KnitKnot Studio. Brilliant energy in this lady; she has claimed the mantle of Fastest Knitter in the Northwest, and let me tell you, you can't beat her.

We managed to wedge our way into Close Knit despite the fact that it's closed on Mondays. The proprietress there, Sally Palin, opened the door, and that was that. We left with Rio de la Plata sock yarn and Blue Sky Organic Cotton. We were weak. Her shop is just a glory of good stuff.

And of course, Yarn Garden was a beautiful encyclopedia of yarns. Room after room. Everything, it seemed. If there's no yarn left, it's because it was absorbed by Yarn Garden.


mariko neckthingy.jpg

La Super Eggplant Mariko, who inspired the Kiki Mariko Rug in the new book, among many other inspirations, was wearing another sweater that really ought to become a rug, too. She demonstrated a mysterious knitted object she unearthed while cleaning out her father's things. We predict these pompom neck thingies are going to be The Next Big Thing. Or at least The Next Big Pompom Necky Thingie Thing.

We caught sight of the Angry Chicken, too, but like all rare and ephermeral things, we didn't get a picture. She moves fast, the chicken does.

The Mothership: Powell's Books


Ah, you hear about it, you hear about it, but like Niagara Falls, you can't believe it until you see it. Huge, huge bookstore, delights everywhere, and a big batch of knitters up in the Gray Room to hang out with. We really loved seeing everybody, were grateful for the company, and want to come back soon. Thank you, Portland!

We'll tell you all about Seattle next. Seattle is, like, fab and everything.

Come Hang Out!

Meanwhile, we're in New York for a few days and hope to see you guys hither and hon. Our schedule:

NEW YORK, NY, Thursday, October 16
6-8 pm, beloved Knitty City on the Upper West Side.

NEW YORK, NY, Friday, October 17
5:30-7 pm, sleek and fabulous Purl Soho. Information here.

RHINEBECK, NY, Sunday, October 19
1:15 pm talk, signing most of the day in the authors' tent, the surreal experience that is the NY Sheep & Wool Festival

NEW YORK, NY, Tuesday, October 21
6:30pm, the beautifully bookish Brooklyn Public Library. 10 Grand Army Plaza, Dweck Auditorium.

See you all soon. Must go caffeinate.



Posted by Ann at 01:00 PM | Comments (27)

October 13, 2008

The World According to the Yarnery

Dear Kay,

I hate to say it, and I'm a little bitter because they did it without the aid of two-story-tall hair, but I think we've been out-YouTubed.

On Sunday, The Yarnery Family Singers just about blew everybody's handknit socks off at the knitting party in St. Paul. For those of you who somehow didn't manage to get to Minnesota (where were ya and we missed ya!), drink it in . . .


Bravo to them all: Eric, Scott, Jess, and the wicked lyricist Angie, in the blue shirt, for finally fixing up Rodgers and Hammerstein the way we knitters want to hear it.

The whole event was crazy, with the door prizes and my balky computer that mysteriously started to work and a big room full of people I wanted to spend the day with. Maura, Julie, Shelley, Maureen, and the whole group pulled off an afternoon that we will always remember. I'm told that Maura has taught classes in hosting knitting events; anybody who can get hundreds of knitters to show up on a beautiful Sunday afternoon ought to be teaching graduate-level courses!


We were moving at warp speed--a day trip from Nashville to St. Paul on the way to Portland, Oregon?--but time slowed down in an amazing way during our visit to this extraordinary place. We'll be back, really. Thank you, o Yarnery, for a mind-blowingly fun day. "Welcome to our local yaaaarn shop" is still stuck in my head . . .

Surprise Guest

The winner of our Teeny Project Runway contest made an appearance:


Jill the Monkey! The lanky seductress who appears on the last page of our new book. Lemme tell you, Jill is absolutely gorgeous in person, and she's just as down-home and real as you'd hope her to be. NOT a diva. And Rhonda Tesch, the designer who put Jill in that fibery, slinky-yet-Minnesota-winter-ready Oscar gown, was so great to bring her along. So funny to look down and see the monkey of my dreams peeking up out of Rhonda's tote bag.

Regional Moment of the Day

Seeing "Al Franken for Senate" signs all over the place.

Delicious Moment of the Day

Lunch at Cafe Latte next door to the Yarnery with Yarneryist Julie. It's a cafeteria, but imagine a cafeteria that serves airy lemon shrimp pasta and roasted vegetables and salads so beautiful even I wanted to have some. Where was the mystery meat???

Thing I Learned about Kay That I Didn't Know Until Now

Kay played the cello in high school.

Next stop: Portland, Oregon! We haven't missed a flight yet! Probably just jinxed THAT!


Posted by Ann at 06:46 PM | Comments (42)

October 11, 2008

The Straight Needle Express

Dear Ann,

I write to you even though you are sitting in the same room, because I like to write to you. I wanted to update you on what you've been doing for the last 24 hours. Driving and talking. More driving then more talking. That about sums it up. Not really! Although exhausted from talking my head off, here are a few snapshots from the road.

First Stop: Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington is all about the equitation. White fences as far as the eye can see. Some very well groomed horses live here. Not that we spent any time at the track. No! We had a mission.

We had a fabulous evening at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a bustling independent bookstore. Knitters came from all over.

We brought samples. And spare hair. For some reason we thought the people might like to see our alter-wigs. They humored us.

Our accommodating hostess, Rachel, who knits as well as models. Here she wears the Daily Sweater.

A Heartbreakingly Cute Moment, Squared. The imperturbable and adorable Baby Iris and Mom Holly.

If your in-laws sit through an hour of knitting chat just to get you a signed book, you have very good in-laws.

The next morning, we were up at dawn for a peek at Lexington's Magpie Yarn and a sit & knit with its owner, Jane. This is an LYS you could settle down in permanently. Cute as a bug and full of the good stuff. Saturday morning classes begin at the ambitious hour of 9 a.m.

Then it was a 4 1/2 hour haul back to Nashville, which you impressively managed to drive in 3 1/2 hours while I sat making slow progress reacclimating to Kid Silk Haze after a long hiatus. I think I have yarn rage. This stuff knits all crazy-like.

The Southern Festival of Books


On our way from your house to the Southern Festival of books, a marching band crossed our path. This seemed like a good omen. (It was not, as it turned out, an omen that your Mac was going to work with the Festival's digital projector for our slideshow, but it was a good omen nonetheless.)

This is where they hold the Southern Festival of Books.

This is where you get to sign books after your chit chat, slides or no slides.

I love the smell of books in the afternoon. Such a well-organized festival. You got your time at the table, then they took your name down, and it was hasta la vista and the next author's turn with the Sharpies.

It was great to see Nashvillians who knitted and test-knitted for the book. Pictured here is one of them, the tireless Mary Sue and her husband Mark. I would like to point out that Mark is a weaver.

The long-distance award goes to a pair from St. Louis. Pictured here is
Tempest in a Pot of Tea.

Ann. We need to talk about the rubber-stamping.

What can I say? This is really fun. For a few short days, it feels like everyone we meet is a knitter.

Because everyone we meet is a knitter.


Posted by Kay at 10:18 PM | Comments (36)

October 09, 2008

The State of the Kiki Mariko

Dear Ann,

I hope everyone in Nashville will be glued to the tee vee tomorrow when you appear on TALK OF THE TOWN. Whatever are you going to do without me interrupting you? Save me a bite of whatever's on the cooking segment.

Travel Knitting: Do's and Don't's


One of the rules I live by: if it needs its own seat, it's probably not a good project for travel knitting. Here we see the current status of my Kiki Mariko rug. Carrie is 4' 11' (ish); the rug tape measures out to 4'6". So I'm closing in on the finish line. I have to look at the pattern again and figure out when I'm sposed to stop.

I have to say that this project was fun and relaxing from the start, but it got a whole lot more fun when I decided I didn't need no stinkin' repeats of the stripe pattern. There is something in me that resists a regular repeat. I really enjoy changing the colors, and those bits where it goes off kilter, like a lot of blue or a lot of orange in one spot? That was on purpose. For the thrill. (I'm not being sarcastic. Those spots are exciting to me.) I am eager to see if I still like it when it's felted. It's a low risk project because it's going to be one of those rugs you walk over on your way in the door and don't really look at. I'm not hanging it on the wall or anything.

To those who have asked how I plan to felt this, given its large size: I plan to use a regular washing machine and a king-size pillercase. I have washed big fat blankets and comforters in the machine; I think this will work fine as long as I take measures to filter the fluff (which is where the pillowcase comes in). Felting this will generate a LOT of stray fluff.

I like to think that if I were knitting Fair Isle in a fine Shetland wool, I would be getting a smoother fabric than I'm getting with Lamb's Pride Bulky and Manos. But I don't know. It's a leap of faith that felting is going to cure all ills. I believe, Miss Ann! I believe!

Quilts Are Everywhere

I've had quilts on the brain, even more than usual.

A very quilty sign, to my eye. I love that this advertisement doesn't say the name of the hospital on it. If you're walking under this sign, you know the name of the hospital. And since they were taking care of Hubby in there, I found the sign very uplifting. (Hubby is home! All is copasetic!)

Another quilty sign. This one inspired me as to both layout and palette. I like things with letters. Wouldn't the Margaret Sweater make an awesome blanket? You could really lay some TEXT on a blanket. (Note to self: Start with dishcloth.)

There is also quilt inspiration in actual quilts. Here is the master's latest annual collection of quilts. Fasten your seatbelts, people: Kaffe is doing the textile version of the Wall of Sound. Layers and layers of overdubbed, drenchy color. Contrast is not really a concern. And there are brilliant contributions from regulars Roberta Horton, Brandon Mably, and Liza Prior Lucy. And remember how I was all excited about the grit & glory combination of rose petals on black asphalt? This photo made me gasp:

Allotment Quilt by our excellent Jane Brocket. Who styled that photo? Wowie. Many more photos, and a wonderful article by Jane on patchwork and gardening, in the book.

There's lots to look at, everywhere.

See you in Lexington!


Posted by Kay at 09:56 PM | Comments (17)

October 08, 2008

Upcoming Excitement: The Amazing Race


Dear Kay,

United at last!

Just had to share this postcard from Laura of Afghans for Afghans, a peek into the basement sorting room of Afghans for Afghans. The sweaters we made for the fall campaign will get seats next to each other on the trip to Afghanistan.


A4A volunteers Laura, Betty, and Ty are waving the gold medals of Ravelympic victory over our sweaters, despite the fact that my sweater crossed the finish line just before the start of the London 2012 Olympics . . .

Upcoming Mayhem

Now. Things are about to get kind of crazy for us. Here's where we'll be in the coming days. Please come pat the handknits, get a book signed, and enjoy the company of fellow knitters. This is going to test our ability to navigate the airports of America. I can't wait.

LEXINGTON, KY, Friday, October 10
7:00pm, fabulous Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Details here.

NASHVILLE, TN, Saturday, October 11
3:00pm, Room 12, Legislative Plaza, at the amazing Southern Festival of Books. Details here

ST. PAUL, MN, Sunday, October 12
1:00pm, William Mitchell College of Law Auditorium with the insanely fabulous Yarnery. Details here. Be sure to pick up a free ticket at the store. And for heaven's sake, buy some yarn while you're at it.

PORTLAND, OR, Monday, October 13
7:30pm, giant and fiercely independent Powell's Books (Burnside). Directions to the mothership here.

SEATTLE, WA, Tuesday, October 14
7:00pm, University Bookstore, U District location. Parking advice, directions, etc here.

We are grateful to all these wonderful stores for providing us all the opportunity to take a break from the crazy real world to spend a little time in the parallel, perfectly sane universe where there's never too much knitting. Can't wait to see everybody!


Posted by Ann at 10:57 AM | Comments (27)

October 07, 2008

O Chicago! Wunnerful Chicago!


Dear Kay,

Reeeeeeeeeeally sorry you weren't in Chicago, because frankly--and I don't mean to rub it in or otherwise make you feel like you missed something special, which it was, and you already knew this--it was a ton of fun.

Here are the few photos I managed to take with my cell phone, due to the Anncam's tragic orthopedic problem. (I just figured out this morning that it works if I poke the lens back in, like a portable drinking cup. Its brain works great; it's just sort of busted on the outside, like most of us.) Fortunately, others have blogged and photoed beautifully, so follow the links below!


Those of us living in landlocked states do dorky things like take pictures of lakes, even if from afar. Lake Michigan! Watery!

A Trip to Loopyville

Many revelations at Loopy Yarns, where I got to hang out during their grand reopening party at their new location.

1. Old train stations make great locations for yarn shops. Owner Vicki Sayre totally nailed it with her move to Dearborn Station: yarn up top, party in the basement. A great space, with smart staff members like Meg, Megan, and Zoe. I really was knocked out by all the people who came to celebrate their new location. The energy and excitement was so great.

2. A huge can of garbanzo beans works great for opening up a Monteagle Bag. Diane can prove it to you right here!

3. Franklin Habit, he of The Panopticon and The 1000 Knitters Project fame, was such a treat to meet. I recognized him immediately and had a tantalizing glimpse of the very first copy of his new book, "It Itches." Please note how carefully that book title is punctuated. It needs that period. I love a guy who thinks about punctuation.

This book is going to be the perfect gift this holiday season: it's funny and portable and elegant. Which is rare indeed for a book of cartoons. I was surprised at how perfectly small it is: a cartoon to a page, just the way you want to digest them. So great.

Refueling Stop


Chic Knits' Bonne Marie Burns on the left, freestyle designer Mary Neal Meador on the right. "Mountain of Onions" in foreground.



Hats off to Sarah and Natalia for organizing this second year of YarnCon. It's a huge undertaking, but it was the sort of event that knitters really love. I had the great good luck to hang out at the Loopy Yarns booth with the very loopy Meg, Megan, and Zoe, at least one of whom wore her knitted barnacle hat with pure elan. The barnacles were so cozy and unthreatening.


It was great to see our samples on humans. This Heartbreakingly Cute Pilot Cap has never had a finer moment.


And it was fun to see knitters already messing around with the patterns in the book. Jen, above, took the idea of the Baby Dotty Blanket and decided to make the dots into Eric Carle fruits n veggies. Here's the background on this fab project. Scroll down to see her solar system sweater that really is supergalactic.

Kate of Stash Haus has a lot of fab pix from the day.

Thanks to everyone who made me feel so welcome in that fabulous city. It really was great. Wish eversomuch that you had been there, too.

By the way, the Tiny Hats are starting to appear--many thanks to all you kuky knitters who take the time to crank these for The Big Knit.


My Yank coat is coming along very fast. I'm done with all the knitting--now it's time for borders, collars, back belts and the delicious joy of button selection. I never pick buttons until I've finished knitting something. It's my little reward.



Posted by Ann at 10:56 AM | Comments (22)

October 06, 2008

Spanning the Globe: Shea Stadium

Dear Ann,

First, a bit of housekeeping. Your house: not functioning because they have shut off the power in your neighborhood today. My house: functioning at subpar because the Hubby di tutti hubbisti is laid up in the hospital with a non-threatening but nevertheless annoying issue. I'm happy to say that he's A-OK, and we are working through any interspousal issues ensuing from (a) the fact that he had Emergency Management Services send a cop to pull me off the plane to Chicago on Friday and (b) his temporary unavailability for 24/7 child care, which made me miss our Chicago events. (But wow, who knew that Emergency Management Services could DO that? Go, Mayor Bloomberg! Get down with your third term-seeking self! 311 rawks!)

I will leave it to you, once Nashville is hooked back into the grid, to tell the world about your FABULOUS TIME IN CHICAGO. I will take this opportunity to catch people up on my fabulous time at Shea Stadium a few days before. The pictures tell it all, really. It is a story of somebody willing to go very far into the Performance Art zone to show her love of fiber arts. And she did it with her own hair on!

Yes, I am speaking of Lily Chin. Who made this banner.

Are you impressed with with Lily's custom Mets jersey? Would you be impressed if I told you it was a handknit?

Lily at the Bat, er giant knitting needle. (Yes, the uniform pants are handknit, too.)

Lily's ball and glove. Crochet. Yes there was a bat, too. Kind of a challenge, the regulation size crochet Louisville Slugger, but Lily was strong for it.

The delightful Nicky Epstein signs a souvenir baseball that was one of the prizes for the evening's drawings. A baseball signed by 9 knitting authors has got to be breaking new ground in collectibles, ya think?

My seatmate in the windy hallway was Wenlan Chia, fashion designer extraordinaire. (Wenlan has a Wiki!) We warmed our hands over greasy french fries and watery hot chocolate. (Both: delicious!) I resisted the urge to steal her hat. (Next to Wenlan was Debbie Stoller, so cheerful about attending a baseball game despite her zero point zero interest in baseball.) (Debbie has a Wiki, too! All the cool kids have Wikis!)

Considering it was such craptastic weather, the event drew a lot of knitters--900 plus. We had fun meeting, chatting and signing. We also had fun watching the non-knitting fans look at us and shrug on their way to the concession stands.

A high point was a young guy who did a double take as he passed our section of the table, which had (you will be gratified to know) a big sign featuring the cover of our book, which as you know says MASON-DIXON KNITTING right on the top in big fat letters. The guy says to his buddy: "DUDE!! My mom reads that $%^&* all the time!" Then he stopped and asked me what we were doing there. Which I really could not explain, but I asked him if I could take his picture and blog him. He said his mom would freak (in a positive way) if I did that. So here he is:

Tyler Charles' mom, come on down! I hope you are reading this $%^& today!

I wish I had taken more pictures of the cheerful Mets-themed handmade hats, which were much in evidence. These were pretty much best of show, though.

When I finally made it out to the stands, the whole section was filled with knitters and knitwear-wearers.

Then it started to rain, and since, as a Yankee fan, I was beginning to feel a little woozy in the blue and orange environment, I made my way to the subway. (Yes I'm a weenie. My punishment was that it turned out to be a very exciting game. Joseph, although also a Yankee fan (through no fault of his own; he was born during the 1998 World Series), could not BELIEVE that I hadn't stayed riveted to my seat.)

But I wasn't alone on the train ride home.

Thank you Stitch & Pitch! Thank you, Mets!


Posted by Kay at 11:17 AM | Comments (24)

October 03, 2008

A Stop 'n' Chat with Bonne Marie Burns


Dear Kay,

SPEAKING OF OUR TRIP tonight to Chicago's Loopy Yarns and YarnCon tomorrow, one highlight will be seeing Bonne Marie Burns, the supergenius-brilliant designer whose coat pattern from our new book, Yank, I'm blasting through right now and would show you had I not dropped my camera, lens open, last night. SO BUSTED.

I had a visit with Bonne Marie the other day. (OK, I was right here in my office and we were still 500 miles apart.) Here's our conversation:

The coat you designed for MDK Outside the Lines, Yank, has some interesting architecture. The front borders, for example, and the collar, are designed to mimic a pea coat. How did you arrive at this silhouette? Were there other sketches you played around with, or did you jump right in with this one?

Well, for a few years, back in the day, I wore to pieces a real Navy Pea Coat I'd gotten from an army surplus store! It was made of very densely woven wool and I remember loving the way it looked both classic and modern ALL AT THE SAME TIME. No matter what I wore it with, it was a success.

When I was developing the YANK design, I wanted to incorporate the Best'O'the Pea: the double-breasted front, the lapels, the little back belt, things that work well in cloth but might be fussy as a knit.

So was born a front panel done in horizontal ribbing, which added stability and form to the front without being too tedious to work; and the texture of the body pattern stitch which made a firm fabric both pleasing to the eye and easy to stitch.

I know that your yarn choice for Yank, Cascade Pastaza, came after first trying a different yarn. How do you make that call--at what point do you know that an initial yarn choice maybe isn't working?

The yarn talks and you listen. Sometimes, it speaks truthfully right off the bat at the beginning of the project and it's full speed ahead.

Other times, like a bad boyfriend, it won't talk plainly until muchmuch later and the story it tells might be quite surprising (I'm not Good Enough for YOU! I need my Space! I think we should just be Friends! Oops. That was me.)

The initial yarn, which broke my heart to abandon, when made into a large piece (much much larger than even a large swatch) was going to require a more vigorous blocking to ensure a flat fabric that would not misbehave.

There was nothing left to do but open the door and hiss "See Ya!"

Tough. Yarn. Love.

Will Yank work using other yarns? Any suggestions?

Funny you should ask, but here's a Handy Dandy for you!

You began your website, Chic Knits, in 2001. What got into you? Nobody else was doing a knitting blog except Alexander Hamilton and Betsy Ross. You were so ahead of the curve!

Hee. I was crushin' on both writing and knitting and it seemed like just the thing! I could journal up and post on the Web all the fun I was having because I discovered a program called NewsPro (long extinct) were you'd upload your words (and pictures! and links!). It was intriguing and quite compelling and it had an unexpected result, at least for me.

When you blog, you take words (lines and scratches, symbols, punctuation) and record your thoughts and the mental progressions of your creative ideas. If you're lucky, this vaporware becomes a conduit into someone else's reality. And, drumroll please, COMMUNICATION is achieved. You've reached out and touched someone using the most mysterious, ancient art of signing.

Other people were online and they were reading each other's writing.

For me, blogging took my rather solitary experience of creating and pushed it out on the horizon. I've met many wonderful people and have been inspired by their like efforts. Commonality with manners - all of the groups seem like people I'd have over for dinner, with knitting and grappa afterwards, of course...

How has your pattern business evolved in the past seven years?

Well, in addition to being part of the most wonderful Knitting Book EVER, I'm publishing more patterns as brochures. Many people around the country reached out to me and "invited" Chic Knits into their shops, if I had the notion to visit and I just could not resist.

I like the lovely. I like good photography and fine paper and I think beautifully printed books and patterns are always such a treat to use in a way that satisfies the senses so it's my fervent wish to keep that tradition alive.

But since I'm a stone cold geek, I also cannot resist bringing more wardrobe online and there's some stylish and modern pieces coming up soon in the Chic Knits lair...

The online knitting community has evolved so much in the time you've been a part of it. What's the most surprising change you've seen?

The most surprising and wonderful thing was the way the generations of knitters all came together regardless of age and experience and style; there seems to be a utopian element to all of this where even if we can't be perfect, we try and be kind through our common love of the craft. Old and young, beginner and expert, all together in The Land of Lovely.

Miscellanous questions for you . . .

What's your favorite book?

Hands down, Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book. I have one that was published in 1989 (there is a newer version which I need to get my hands on) and it is the bomb. There is even a section on design with a great discussion on sleeve caps, neck bands and lots of buttonholes.

Favorite restaurant in Chicago?

A neighborhood favorite: Smoke Daddy on Division.

Favorite yarn of all time?

I cannot tell a lie: I love ALL YARN.

Favorite pattern you've designed?

I cannot tell a lie: I love ALL MY DESIGNS. (But I wear my 4 CeCe's constantly...)

Do you watch Project Runway? We think you should be ON Project Runway . . .

I don't have cable (SHOCKING!) but I do watch America's Next Top Model. ;p

When I was starting out in the fashion industry a million years ago, I lived in San Francisco and got quite initiated in how to Swim with Sharks.

It is a compelling (and fierce) conglomeration of talent, opportunity and associations which I adore and would thus would love a spin on the Runway! (But knitting takes a lot lot longer to whip up a garment than draping and basting ;p )

If you could have a superpower, what would it be? We were asked this recently, and we think it's something every knitter should consider.

If I had a superpower, it would be the ability to do size grading in my sleep. ZZZzzzzz...

Thanks, Bonne Marie. I never thought a coat pattern would be a fast knit, but I'm telling you, this Yank is coming along like a freight train. A really cozy freight train.



Posted by Ann at 10:18 AM | Comments (13)

The Road To Recovery


Dear Ann,

I'm so glad we got that out of our system. I'm told that after a couple of weeks, one's eyebrows return to a tint that bears some reference to the natural world. Looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, I'm getting something else out of my system: my very own Kiki Mariko rug.


This is not portable knitting, and as you know I have a broad concept of portability in the fiber arts. (Yesterday I was winding a tangled hank of Euroflax on the C train. Nothing to see here, people. Yes, I'm cutting it! Like you wouldn't cut this mess? Please.) After a couple of hours, your Kiki Mariko is the size of a standard poodle. A couple more hours, you've got a St. Bernard on your lap. It's a beast, and I'm only about a quarter of the way in. It's very warm; would make good dogsled knitting.

I made some mods. I cast on more stitches so that I'll end up with a more squarish shape to fit the spot on the floor that I have in mind. And while I started out following an 8-color sequence as in the pattern, I got bored when it started to repeat. (I'm very shallow.) I felt a lack of contrastiness. So I went back to the store and got a few more colors to throw into the mix. I'm not going for "balance" here. I'm going for eye candy, a bit of that off-balance Gee's Bend look. My yarns are a mix of Lamb's Pride Bulky from stash and store, and Manos bits and bobs from here and there. I know Manos is kind of hifalutin' for rug yarn, but I had some, and none of one color, and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

I'm bringing this WIP with me to Chicago, even though it's too big to knit on the plane without calling attention to myself, so that people can (a) see just how big a tube you have to knit if you want to end up with a large luscious chewy felted rug and (b) try it on as a skirt. With any luck it will be a strapless ballgown by Sunday.

TONIGHT, we will be at Loopy Yarns! Tomorrow, all day, we will be at YarnCon! Bring us your tiny hats! Bring us your eyelash-glue removal tips!


Posted by Kay at 07:27 AM | Comments (18)

October 01, 2008

Living the Dream

Dear y'all,


Kay and Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:00 AM | Comments (267)
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