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

November 25, 2008

It's Classic! It's Elite! It's a Contest!


Hey Ann,

So. I was "cleaning out" my stash. Meaning I was digging through the skeins and cakes and balls and tangles, ripping out, liberating many sets of knitting needles, and then....deciding I needed to keep it all. But there was one large and juicy bag of particularly nice yarn: Classic Elite Pebbles. The lovely people at Classic Elite had sent me a bag of each of 3 colors to swatch and sample for the Emma Peel dress-in-progress. (Yes, this was a while back.) I swatched, I made the sample....and I still had a bunch of untouched yarn. Late at night, it would call to me, in a muffled sort of way, "Kaaaaaay......I am not your yaaaaarn.....send me hooooooooome......"

I did what any right-thinking person would do (eventually): I contacted Classic Elite and asked them if I could send it back. They said, why don't you give it away so people can make the dress? And why don't we send you a couple of other color combos, because we really like choosing color combos?

That's how I ended up with 5 Emma Peel dress kits to give away, just in time for holiday dress-up season. The five color combos are shown in the picture up top. Each kit has 7 skeins, enough for the smallest (size 2) to the largest (size 8) size given in the pattern. (If a person knit one of the smaller sizes, they could get a Jane Austen Shrug out of the leftovers, just saying.)

So, in the hopes of a good night's sleep without zip-loc bags nagging at me, we're having this contest NOW. It's easy to enter: leave a comment to this post with the first name of the girl for whom you'd like to make the Emma Peel Dress, and if she has any pets, their species and name(s).

The deadline for entries is 11 p.m., New York time, on Sunday, November 30. We will choose 5 winners using a random number generator and announce them next week.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


P.S. If you have any doubts that your little girl can work an Emma Peel dress into her wardrobe, here is how Rosie accessorized hers for the first day of school:


Posted by Kay at 02:08 PM | Comments (1169)

November 24, 2008

The Not So Sophisticated Kitchen

Dear Ann,

At about this time last year, I shared my ultra-secret fambly recipe for Corn Souffle aka Corn Casserole aka Scalloped Corn. This was well received by the people. It has a stick of butter in it--what could be bad?

This year I am sharing yet another fambly fave. This one is also raved about by young and old, and in particular, people who hate cottage cheese, because you could never tell that it has cottage cheese in it. Not only does this "casserole bread" have the perfect savory flavor for the Thanksgiving meal (it tastes more of onion than dill), the next day it makes the most delectable toast EVER. Yummy and crumbly, and with butter melting on top it just about kills you with the deliciousness. I say this as a person who cherishes the institution of Toast: Dilly Bread makes the best toast. So make sure you make enough for toast. Although it is a yeast bread, it's a pretty quick stir-and-rise operation, with no kneading and no blasting flour all over the kitchen.

(Photo from Pillsbury.com, which has an almost identical version of the recipe, which was a prize-winner in the 1960 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Who knew?)

Dilly Bread

Yield: One loaf, approximately 12 slices
(In other words, if you don't double or triple the recipe, you run the risk of No Toast.)

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup cottage cheese, heated to lukewarm (ick! stay with me!)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant/dried minced onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons dill seed (which is hard to find, so I use 3 teaspoons of dill weed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 unbeaten egg
2 1/4 cup - 2 1/2 cups of flour

Soften the yeast in the warm water and combine this mixture in a mixing bowl with the cottage cheese, sugar, onion, butter, dill, salt, baking soda, and egg. Beat it up really good. Add flour gradually to form a stiff dough, beating well.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Punch down and turn into a well greased round 1 1/2 - 2 quart casserole dish. Let it rise until doubled.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes, when it is brown on top and gives a hollow sound when tapped.

Brush the top with extra melted butter if you are a member of my family. Serve warm; it reheats well.

I'm making mine on Tuesday night and freezing it until Thursday so that nobody eats it before then.


Posted by Kay at 03:34 PM | Comments (53)

November 22, 2008

What I Am Talking About


Dear Ann,

It seems that perhaps I was a bit unclear in my fevered description of how I was planning to make the Gap-inspired Runcible Sleeve Scarf, which I'm also calling the Foxy Bob Cratchit Scarf. (I don't think a project can have too many whimsical names, do you?) Several people left comments saying, basically, "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" I'm happy to explain myself. But first I have to clear up one other thing.

I Don't Knit All The Time

One thing people say to me, and about me, is that I surely must knit all day long. I think they say this because my projects are so large, and fairly frequent. When I hear this, I think about it and ask myself, "Do I knit too much? Am I neglecting the more, shall we say, ACTIVE, or VITAL parts of life, in favor of cranking a few more feet of knitting?" And if I'm not knitting all the time, how can we explain the quantities produced?

I don't knit all the time. During the 8-10 hours that people with office jobs are in their offices, I rarely knit at all. I have other stuff to do, and most of the time I am happy to do it instead of knitting.

But I think I do knit more than other people, and it's because of my overarching worldview. I look at the world and say, "Could I be knitting during this?" And life serves up so many YES answers to this question.

Let's take yesterday, for example. Here is a snapshot of Friday, November 21, 2008:

The yarn is Noro Silk Garden in shades 269 (white/natural) and 267 (taupe/black).

Now, granted that Friday is my Big TV Day. A non-Friday usually yields only a late-night hour of Stewart and Colbert. (Joseph has forbidden me to knit while he does homework, which is UNFAIR WORKING CONDITIONS in any civilized nation, but I comply.) And yesterday was unusually larded with sit n' wait type of activities such as getting the tires rotated on the car and the metal rotated in a child's mouth. But since I had my knitting with me, I managed to get through almost two skeins of the second half of the Runcible Sleeve Scarf. I was so far ahead of the game that--please sit down for this--I got tired of knitting, and stopped. Yes, I did. I stopped knitting before I even got to EastEnders at midnight. I had just plain had enough knitting yesterday.

Runcible Sleeve Scarf Explanation

So, the picture above is of the second half of the Runcible Sleeve Scarf. This scarf concept comes from Mrs. Lear, who had the idea of knitting a big sleeve with cuffs at both ends. The reason the sleeve is being knit in 2 separate parts, instead of as a single piece in the round, is that the inspiration Gap scarf has different stripe patterns that crash into each other on the side of the scarf that shows. You can't do this easily if you are knitting in the round, as far as I can figure. So I am knitting the scarf in 2 pieces, which will be seamed together down both edges. I want that seam to appear in the middle of the scarf, so that the "crashing stripes" are visible. But a cylinder shape in stockinette has a tendency to twist. It would be hard to keep it lying flat against the wearer's neck, and it would be hard to keep the seams in the center of the front and back of the scarf.

Enter Elizabeth Zimmermann's celebrated Phony Seam technique. The phony seam is a way of creating a fold in a knitted fabric. Because it's structural, it stays put. I figured that if I put a phony seam down the center of each of the 2 pieces that form the "sleeve", it would stay neatly folded. Here's how to do it.

On the last row of the piece, knit to the center stitch (stitch 21), then drop this stitch. (Due to the felty/sticky properties of Noro Silk Garden, I had to help the stitch drop by picking it out with a knitting needle at each row.)

Here we are, at the bottom of the piece. The next step is to pick this stitch back up, all the way back to the top. Doesn't that sound tedious and futile? Well, it's tedious but it's not at all futile. You don't pick it up the ordinary way, one stitch per row. Instead, using a spare knitting needle or a crochet hook, you pick up one "ladder", then 2 ladders together, repeating this sequence until you have picked up all the ladders and placed the dropped stitch back on the left needle. In this case, the 2-row stripes help you keep track of all the ladders so that you don't miss one.

It works so great it's almost unbelievable. That fold is there to stay, all by itself. It looks lovely, too. Damn clever thing, the Phony Seam. Thank you, Mrs. Z!

Now I just have to finish the second half, do a phony seam down its center stitch, sew the two halves together, knit the cuffs onto both ends (in the round, using great yarn I just thought of), and wala: Foxy Bob Cratchit Scarf!


Posted by Kay at 03:37 PM | Comments (49)

November 20, 2008

Quilting Gazette: Doll Quilt Swap


Dear Ann,

It was only a matter of time before I signed up for one of those doll quilt swaps. I'm a proud, if terrified, participant in Doll Quilt Swap 5. So many talented, experienced, skilled quilters--and me. The deadline is in early December. A full month ahead, the anxiety began. I found it so hard to choose a concept, a pattern, or fabrics, for someone about whom I know so little. In my mind, I built up my recipient into a formidable, persnickety paragon of quilting virtue, who necessarily will be dismissive of my scrappy, folksy, blast-o-fabric style, not to mention the "charming" imprecision in my piecing and handquilting. (I'm sure she's not any of these things. This is an anxiety response, pure and simple.)

Eventually, though, deadline pressure pushed me into git 'r done mode, and I pieced a small quilt of humbleness. Size-wise, it's at the outside limits for the swap at 24" x 24". The design was inspired by a version of the old-time "schoolhouse" block that I saw in a couple of Japanese quilting books. The recipient likes warm colors, so I made the houses orange.

Here it is, freshly pieced and pressed, batted and backed, and taped to Orna's dining room table. (What? You don't drop by a friend's house, ask for masking tape, and baste up a quilt sandwich? Orna did not think anything about it.)

Here it is again, in the end stages of handquilting. (Note to the Quilting Police: It was basted very thoroughly to begin with, but I love to pull the basting threads out as soon as they are no longer needed.) My quilting stitches are reasonably even and small now, but my refusal to mark the quilt top means that sometimes my lines are pretty wavery. Late in the process, it occurred to me that if I did not pull the thread all the way through after every little 3-5 stitch section (I use the "rocker" method), I could save that time and work more quickly. Doing it this way, all of a sudden my lines became much straighter, too. This is yet another reason for me to get myself into a quilting class. In two seconds, someone could have taught me this, several hundred thousand hand stitches ago! There is a limit to the virtue of being self-taught.

Anyway, I'm about to put a navy blue linen binding on it (also Japanese), then wash it up and send it off to meet its recipient. I'll show it again, and include the back, which shows the concentric squares of the quilting stitches. This wee quilt is well made in the sense that it's not going to fall apart, but it lacks the finesse I aspire to. (I'm not looking for reassurance; I'm just saying!)


Posted by Kay at 04:49 PM | Comments (53)

November 19, 2008

That Runcible Woman


Dear Ann,

Oh, that runcible woman, that Mrs. Lear! How heedlessly she tosses out blithe and beautiful ideas. Ideas that come to her every minute of every day, and that bump me out of orbit faster than you can say "Jason Bateman." While Mrs. Lear gaily moves on to fermenting kitchen wine, re-weaving rope seats for Swedish chairs, or creating bespoke children's coats, I'm left 6 ideas behind, knitting 8-10 skeins of yarn into a fabulous Frankenstein scarf. Which one can buy, in a lesser, non-handknit, but perfectly acceptable version, at the Gap, but that's not how I roll.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this. As soon as I saw it, I got that Puff Daddy tingle. That Make.It.Now frisson.

This sweet slide of self-deception was made that much easier by telling myself what a "fabulous stash-buster" this scarf would be. Here you can see that I have started off virtuous as hell, striping a long-neglected skein of Noro Cash Iroha in lime green with a forlorn and forgotten skein of Noro Silk Garden, which is usually self-striping, but in this case is self-pitying. Shade #252 has mournful gradations of midnight blue, charcoal, and black, with one little wisp of lime at the end, when I started striping it with a leftover skein of Rowan Magpie in Berry.

Observant observers will note that I used a provisional cast-on. This is just one side of the scarf. When I'm done with the second skein of Noro Silk Garden striped with the Magpie, I'll work an Elizabeth Zimmermann Phony Seam down the middle stitch of this piece, and leave the live stitches on a holder. Then, provided that Runcible woman hasn't got me painting the living room floor by then, I'll knit a second stripey piece, in different yarns (still from stash--yeah right) and in a different stripe pattern. Again with the provisional cast-on, again with the Phony Seam, and again with leaving the stitches live. THEN, the 2 pieces are seamed together. Two seams, down the middle of the front and back of the scarf. Now I will knit, in yet MORE stash yarns (cough)(hey, if you just bought it, it's in your stash NOW, am I right?), ribbed "cuffs" down from the live stitches at the end of the 2 pieces. These will be knitted in the round. Then, unzip the provisional cast-ons at the other end, knit another "cuff" in the round. Anybody still with me? Is this a worthwhile thing to do? Too Gap-like? Only wearable by Jason Bateman?

For now, I'm calling it the Runcible Sleeve Scarf. I have in mind to give it to a dashing pal who is not afraid to be stylish or eccentric or handmade in his attire. I hope he is reading and wondering if it is he. (I promise he will not look like this.)


Posted by Kay at 01:13 PM | Comments (48)

November 13, 2008

Twist and Shout

Dear Ann,

Hey, guess what! The winter edition of Twist Collective is up! It's so beautiful I can hardly believe it.

The Problem Ladies are in it, blabbing away to the trusting souls who sent us questions in the good-faith belief that we would not make fun of them or give them goofy aliases. (Wrong! Sorree!)


Posted by Kay at 10:37 PM | Comments (23)

November 12, 2008

Mason-Dixon Knitting Rule Number Whatever: Keep Driving


Dear Ann, Kiki and Mariko,

My Kiki Mariko rug is done! Although I cast on more stitches (total of 154) with the intention of getting a more square-ish shape, I ended up so besotted with the color changes that I knitted extra rows and got a shape that is still rectangular, just a bit bigger. I'm real happy with it. It is one of those projecks that people come into your house and notice immediately and think you're all clever and stuff.

I have some notes on felting the Kiki Mariko. It felts in like, no kidding, 10 minutes in warm water. Since I had mixed Manos del Uruguay wool in with the Lamb's Pride Bulky, I was worried about a difference in how these 2 yarns felted. This was justified: there is a slight difference in the width of the areas that are all-Manos. In Do Over Land, I would make sure to always use one strand of Lamb's Pride whenever I am using Manos. But a little blocking (by "blocking" I mean flattening and pulling at the edges like crazy while the rug was still damp) evened things out to my satisfaction.

I'm not gonna lie to you. There was one Big Scary Moment when I pulled Kiki Mariko out of the washer.

Surprisingly enough, cutting my first steek was not the Big Scary Moment:


There is really nothing scary--or even particularly exciting, darn it-- about cutting wool that is already felted, and the pattern leaves plenty of room for Errors in Cutting. You have a wide steek and you can cut it down to nothing if you like, or leave a little of the checkerboard for decorative purposes. (Initially I waited for the rug to dry, but then I cut away all but a centimeter of the checkerboard, which I then covered up with whip stitches.)

The Big Scary Moment involved epic ruffling of the ends of the knitted tube:


Now. This is an attractive ruffle, as ruffles go. It's just that I was not foreseeing a ruffle on my rug. A ruffle was not part of the vision. Gazing at the ruffle, I felt a little surge of what-am-I-gonna-do-now panic.


Then I remembered something I learned 35 years ago. The scene: Summer 1974, Omaha, Nebraska. Driver's Education class. My teacher: a drill-sergeant type, mid-30s, complete with crew cut. Despite this guy's rather dictatorial teaching style, I was thrilled to (a) be learning to drive and (b) be learning to drive in a Volkswagen Beetle, one of the cutest autos ever devised. I hung on his every word. To this day, my hands on the wheel are always at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock; there is none of this namby-pamby one-handed cruising, or the underhanded turning grip. Mr. Crew Cut was very clear about this.

But on this particular morning, Mr. Crew Cut was talking to us about Accidents. And what he said made me so mad that I never forgot it. He said, "When a collision is about to happen, girls and boys react totally differently. A girl screams and closes her eyes and lets the crash happen. A boy keeps driving. And that's what you want to do: keep driving. If you keep steering, you can possibly avoid the collision, or make the impact less direct or less severe. So KEEP DRIVING." I resolved then and there, for the rest of my life, to prove Crew Cut wrong about girls, and to keep driving through all catastrophes, until the car would go no further. (I would try to get in touch with Crew Cut and tell him how well he taught me, but I'm still mad at him. Had he been in every crash with every girl and every boy? Was there any science backing up this theory of his? I think not. Sexist pig!)

So. Back to my ruffle situation. I had to keep driving. What to do? I could think of nothing in my past felting experience to guide me in dealing with this ruffle. All I could think to do, initially, was to cut it off. This is not a terrible idea. It would work, since you can cut felt. But dang it, I had knitted those rows, and I had knitted them brown so that the rug would be brown on both ends, and I did not want to give them up without a fight.

That's when little old me, eyes open and hands on the wheel (and OK, screaming, but only in my head), pushed Felting Technology one step forward. I filled up the washing machine (a top loader) with warm water again. I folded the rug in half. I dipped the two ruffled ends of the rug about 4 inches into the warm water. I leaned over the open washing machine, using my body weight to keep the rest of the rug from getting pulled into the tub. And then we agitated. I did not make eye contact with any members of the household passing by rolling their eyes at the sight of Mommy physically stuck to the side of the washing machine. I let the washer run through the whole wash cycle, 10 or 12 minutes, and I kept checking to see if the ruffle was shrinking up and de-ruffling. And it was! And it did!


Take that, Crew Cut!


Posted by Kay at 08:22 AM | Comments (78)

November 11, 2008

Skirting the Issue


Dear Kay,

Well, I know you never thought it would happen, that I'd lose my mojo and veer off into spinning or animal husbandry, but I'm here to tell you: I finished the skirt for this Margaret sweater. I cannot be stopped. I'm a maniac. You'd have to be a maniac to get this thing done. Mania is helpful in a project like this.

The beauty of this beskirted sweatercoatjacketthingy is that the bottom part swells out in a graceful set of gently widening pleats. Beautiful to see, lovely to see, but like a mysterious man, filled with secrets and perfidy. You start up at the waist with a k4, p2 rib pattern. You're knitting downward. After a while, you add another knit stitch. Then a purl. And another, and another, all nice and quiet and incremental-like, to the point that all of a sudden you discover that you haven't finished a row in about two days, and you realize you're cranking 300 stitches per row.

By the time I arrived at the multi-hundred-stitch-per-row moment, I decided to rethink my approach to this sweater. If I think of it as a sweater, it seems like a lotta knitting. But if I think of it as a BLANKET, hell, it's a piece of cake. It's a TINY blanket. It's practically nothin.


I reached my peak of OCD at the skatepark on Saturday, where Clif wheeled around in his own cloud of mania as I cast off the 360 stitches. About halfway across this edge from hell, I realized that I didn't like the way my cast off was looking. So I unzipped it, in a totally abject way, and did it again. If I hadn't been so jacked up on Diet Mountain Dew, I might not have done it.


I don't know what to do with myself now. I've started the sleeves, but they seem so small, so manageable. Maybe I'll knit four or five more while I'm at it.


Posted by Ann at 10:48 AM | Comments (30)

November 09, 2008

It's Like Bronx Beat, sort of

Dear everyone who still reads our blog, and I hope that includes you, Kay,

Quick note that we're going to be on Martha Stewart Radio Monday morning, 8 am eastern time, on XM Sirius satellite radio channel 112. We'll be talking with Betsy and Kim, the hosts of "Morning Living." I think they have call ins, so please say hi if you're feeling chatty.



Posted by Ann at 07:08 PM | Comments (31)

November 06, 2008

The Old Tyme Fiber Arts Festival of the Upper West Side


Dear Ann,

There is no other way to say this except to just come right out with it: I've ditched knitting for rug hooking and quilting. Right now, right this very minute, I am having a very serious and perhaps life-changing debate with myself on these questions:

Should I get a rug hooking frame? Which I could also use for hand quilting? And I would put this thing where, exactly? (Perhaps next to the churn, and the washboard I tote down to the Hudson to do the laundry?) Have I gone too far? Is it too late to turn back?

Those who hook rugs and quilt, please weigh in with your recommendations. I'm not sure I'm ready to step up to this new level of Equipage, but I'm giving it deep and constant thought.

Introducing: My First Rug

Trying to start out with good habits, I followed instructions in Wool Rug Hooking by Tara Darr, to finish this little rug (10 inches across) with a whipstitched edge all round. (You roll the trimmed edge of the base fabric around a piece of cotton cord and whip stitch it down. Then you cover the rolled-up edge with close whip stitches of wool yarn. This line cracked me up: "Many yarns can be found at your local rug hooking, needlepoint and knitting shops." Or in my case, within arm's reach of the bed.)

I even labeled it for posterity. I like the way the back looks almost as well as the front.

It has its flaws, but it's mine. And it works. I use it as a big coaster.

The Joys of Hairlessness

You know how I love Big Hair. But as I was googling around about rug hooking, I kept seeing mentions of "hairless linen" for use as a foundation fabric. Tara Darr writes about the many possible foundations for rug hooking, including the burlap I was using from my Cat's Paw kit, but she pretty much raves about the linen. "Hooking a 1/2 inch-wide strip of wool on linen is like pulling wool through butter..."
A kind, enabling reader sent me a generous sample of hairless linen. (Thanks, Camilla!) Longing for the Butter Experience, I "cast on" for a new rug immediately.

It's like BUTTAH! Totally different experience from pulling loops through hairy, splitty burlap! I'm kind of mad that I ever had to hook through burlap. (Those were hard times, the Burlap Times.)


Once you go hairless linen, you never go back.

Adding to the alternate crafts magic, I got to use my new Rhinebeck lucet to make a nice linen cord to finish this little rug.

Here's how it's done, to start with.
You whip stitch the linen over the cord with a strong sewing thread, and then cover it with wool yarn whip stitches. I cannot properly convey to you how satisfying this is. Must hook more!

The Old Bergere She Ain't What She Used To Be

Another fun projeck. I've sent this dilapidated fake French chair (which almost got sent to the curb) to the upholsterer's to redo it for Carrie. She thinks she ought to have a special chair for reading. I have in mind a fabric that's screen-printed with handwriting. Carrie wants to paint the woodwork silver. This is going to be interesting.

Department of Co-Bloggette Affairs

I want to thank you for the last post. Once in a while--and I will admit that this is rare--something happens in the world that actually overshadows knitting for a minute. (It sounds crazy, but it's true!) In a blabby blog like ours, where the line between knitting and life is pretty blurry to begin with, it would be unnatural not to share a point of view on such occasions. That anyone should feel so offended by this that they do not want to hear another word we have to say (even on bipartisan issues as applied i-cord and how to accessorize a Fair Isle sweater with a crinoline and Wellies) is a pretty sad commentary on the state of civility. I think we have more to gain by listening to each other even when we disagree, and keeping communication going on things we share (like knitting), but I don't expect everyone to agree about that, either.

Moving on.


Posted by Kay at 03:18 PM | Comments (85)

Finding the Right Words


Dear Kay,

On Tuesday night, as I worked on this Margaret sweater, I thought about my sister-in-law Mary Neal, who designed this sweater for our book. She was texting me from Grant Park in Chicago, telling us about the crowd and the energy and which Jumbotron she was near, and I thought about the words I'm supposed to be figuring out to chain-stitch on this sweater. I realized that the words were going to come along before too long, and it was going to be a good sweater.

Sorry to be out of touch the past few days, but I've been BIZZY.

Busy talking on the phone to voters in parts of Tennessee I've never visited and having the most incredible conversations that followed the question I was told to ask in my script: "How are you doing today?"

If you ask, people will tell you about their fall-downs, their breakups, and the miserable son-in-law who took off with the car so now she can't go vote. I know a lot about one woman's three jobs all of which she hates and the health insurance that she does not have.

I've been very busy watching TV, and extremely busy zoning out and considering where we are, where we've been, and where we're going.

It's extraordinary, this election of Barack Obama. I think a lot of us who live in the south find it especially gratifying. But as much as I celebrate the fact that our country has managed to elect its first African-American president, I have to say: my elation has more to do with the fact that we've just elected a writer.

I'm no presidential historian--maybe Millard Fillmore was good with a quill, I don't know--but I can say with certainty that we have not had a writer in the Oval Office during my lifetime. Obama has given many speeches in the last two years, but none more elegant, appropriate, and spare than the one he gave on Tuesday night. Anybody who accuses Obama of demagoguery needs to go hear how he addressed his supporters in Grant Park. There's none of that in what he said. It was sober stuff. (Text here.) I think it sets the tone for the months ahead. This is no picnic we're heading toward. There's no easy fix to be found.

This victory alone is not the change we seek -- it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -- in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

I keep thinking about one of the voters I contacted in Hardin County, a rural part of the state that went 71%-28% for McCain. This guy, who sounded about 400 years old, had already voted for Obama, and he was remarkably cheerful. "I'm praying like heck for the guy. We all are. He's what we need."

I also had conversations with McCain supporters, one of whom reminded me that there wasn't an Obama sign to be seen in all of Hardin County.

On the eve of the election, I got an email from Cat Bordhi. She sent along her thoughts about the knitted Moebius and the way it makes a sort of symbolic knitting as we work to overcome our divisions. Here's her meditation. She writes:

The Moebius appears to have two surfaces and two edges--i.e., polarities such as black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, Republican and Democrat--but when you follow the surface around you will run right into your starting point without ever having changed to the other "side." For there isn't one. Everything flows into itself. Polarities are an illusion. What lies beneath the apparent polarities is oneness, beauty, and grace. In a Moebius you can see it, hold it, be awed by it. Once the frenzy dies down, hopefully those with opposing views will slowly rediscover their common humanity.

As I listened on Tuesday night, I heard Obama expressing those same thoughts:

While the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."


Posted by Ann at 09:47 AM | Comments (120)

November 03, 2008

Pardon Me (I'm Sure Your Wig Is Here Somewhere)


Dear Ann,

Gee thanks. I couldn't sleep last night because of that creepy baby-faced kid. As a public service, I'll see your Baby, and raise you one:

Vampire Baby. (I agree, she's not nearly as scary as Creepy Baby. But she's trying.)

What's frightening about this picture is that Ben's skull was made by a real Florentine mask artist. For practicality, the satin ribbons were replaced with a piece of elastic waistband salvaged from God-knows-where and velcro'd to the Work of Art. Going trick-or-treating in this mask is like calling up your friend Edvard Munch and saying, "Hey buddy, is it OK if I poke holes in that "Scream" painting you gave me, 'cause it would make an awesome Halloween outfit?"

A True Halloween ConversationTM

Kay: [Tone: Enthusiastic Grownup Being Supportive] Oooh, very scary--the Grim Reaper!

Ben: [Tone: Patiently Correcting An Idiot] No--actually I'm DEATH.

The Night Of the Living Tiny Hats


Other Halloween Week activities included the mailing to England of the hats collected for the Innocent campaign. (The Innocent people know they are coming, and granted them a guaranteed late check-in.)

I would have loved to document each and every hat knitted by kind readers and donated to the cause, but alas, time did not permit.

Hat Packaging Hi-lites included the clever use of an egg carton. (Note: Finally, a proper use for Fun Fur!)

And this impeccably blocked porkpie arrived in a wee hatbox. (I happen to know that the hat is a repurposed accessory from Knitting at Knoon's Snobuddy family set.)

Thank you, everyone who knitted one (or many!) of our 342 hats. Here is the updated Hat-O-Meter.


That's a lot of hats. If you're in the UK during the holiday season, look for the be-hatted Innocent smoothies--and send pics!


PS Update! Reader Debbie S. just sent me this picture:

100! hats!-- knitted by Debbie and her two young daughters, proving the old adage that the family that knits tiny hats together...knits tiny hats together. These hats are traveling separately to the UK, where they will meet up with their US cousins on the shelves of a Sainsbury's. (I'm relieved that I'm not the only one with the urge to display hats in parade formation; wish I had thought to arrange mine chromatically!)

Posted by Kay at 09:23 AM | Comments (18)

November 02, 2008

I Left My Hair in New York City


Dear Kay,

Somewhere between New York and Nashville is our hair. I don't really know why it isn't in the Suitcase of Luv--that's where I saw it last--but it really put the cramp on my Halloween efforts this year. I was ready to wear both your beehive AND my locks of unholy love, but I don't know where any of it is. Do you think some airport security person made off with it?

I had to fall back on my most comfortable of costumes on hand, the Cat in the Hat, which really is a sort of onesie for the big girl. No foxy policewoman for me, and no attention from anybody over the age of four. A two-year-old Batman liked it. A lot.


From left: Boxman (a YouTube phenomenon I'm not going to link to but you can go there if you're feeling young), Lame Ghost, Baby, Cat in Hat, and Bob Marley.

I found David's friend Baby really disturbing and made him stop looking at me cause he was creeping me out.

Really Big News: Tailgate Antiques Show

The huge development down here is that the Tailgate Antiques Show, formerly housed in a motel out by Opryland, has relocated to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. I can hardly describe how disorienting this was. Instead of motel rooms crammed to the roof with crap galore and also precious treasure, it was all laid out in orderly booths in the many buildings that house gun shows, garden shows, and state fair knitting competitions.

That's right: no more peeking into Room 203 and discovering people eating breakfast amid their Civil War flintlocks. No thrilling hike up to the third floor, where only the aerobically fit dared to go.


This is just not the same. The dealers all seemed pleased not to be hauling pie safes up staircases, but we shoppers missed the piled-up hellhole quality of the old motel.

Which is not to say, of course, that there was a lack of weirdness. They'll never take that away.


You make the call: live or stuffed?


Sublime Moments Amid the Taxidermy

Here's some juicy/blah for ya:


There was a new dealer who specialized in antique sewing stuff. YES: I tried to find a rug hook for you. NO: she did not have one.


This quilt from the 1870s gave me a moment:


Squint at it and you see the light/dark pattern.


So dim! So authentic! So very beautiful!

Finally, here's a five-second movie for ya from the Tailgate.


Posted by Ann at 07:50 PM | Comments (28)
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