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

February 28, 2013

Things Done and Undone: Sleeve Update


Dear Kay,

Oh for pity's SAKE I finished the second sleeve of this thing.


The problem isn't that it's hard. The problem is that it's not portable. You have sit right there with the thing, with the chart and your snack bar of tiny balls of yarns, with your steam up and your Internet off. You need your good light, because after sunset, Pickle = Bark and Bramble = Roseberry. You need things to align like the sunbeams on a Mayan temple, and for me, that just doesn't happen often enough.

But it's done.

Despite excellent advice on how best to address the line of incorrect Pickle, midway down on the right sleeve, I decided to let it be. Any backward motion on this thing would likely result in another four-year furlough. My soul can't handle that!

Of course, it's not really done. The moment I cast off that last bit of Rowan Donegal Lambswool Rainforest (such a perfectly dank shade), I turned the thing inside out only to discover, quickly, this:


Like turning over a mossy rock. Yech!

The neckline.

Which appears to need work.


PS We're supposed to go to a Downton Abbey party on Saturday, so I've been dreaming at dresses online. As if I could get hold of a 1922 party dress . . . or fit in one . . . Here's a little wallow for you: 1920s dresses in the Met's Costume Institute. Like this one. Or this incredible color study. Pro tip: you can zoom into these, up close n personal. Wow.

Also: Kimi Pryor's Pinterest of dresses. Delicious!

Posted by Ann at 09:30 AM | Comments (41)

February 22, 2013

Piece of Cake


Dear Kay,

I have 29 rows left to go on my Donegal sleeve. GROAN!


PS In cheerfuller news, I wanted to show you my new sofa, which is the suburban matron's midlife crisis as expressed via upholstery.


Its main function is as a display zone for my favorite thing you ever gave me, years ago. (Please keep trying to top this gift, but honestly I don't think you can.)


This is a Richard Saja altered toile pillow. I can't tell you how many times it has made me laugh.

Here's a little profile of this wonderful artist (NYT registration required.) And here's a batch of Pinteresting Sajacity. This is what God made Pinterest for!

Posted by Ann at 02:52 PM | Comments (36)

February 21, 2013

A Knitting Reality Show: Survivor for the Rest of Us


Dear Kay,

Well, here it is: the thing we have been waiting for, dreaming about, training for, all these years: a hardcore, high-stakes, full-on knitting reality show.

The Fiber Factor.

This is going to be great. It will be happening completely online, with a dozen contestants battling it out for the grand prize: a trip to Germany and a tour of the Addi knitting needle factory.

AHHHHH! I HAVE NEVER TOURED A KNITTING NEEDLE FACTORY. It's the knitter's equivalent of a week on a beach in Waikiki!

Here are the basic rules, from the Fiber Factor website:

12 contestants will be selected to compete in The Fiber Factor™ design contest.

Applications will be accepted starting February 6, 2013 and running through March 24, 2013.

The 12 chosen contestants will be announced April 6, 2013 and posted online by April 8, 2013.

A series of 6 challenges will be presented to the contestants, with challenges ranging in length from 2 weeks to 4 weeks, depending on the complexity of the challenge.

These first 6 challenges will run from April 2013 through October 2013.

The first challenge will be presented on April 8, 2013!

The 3 contestants with the highest overall total scores after the first 6 challenges will then be announced and given several months to complete the final challenge.

From these top 3 contestants, the grand prize winner of The Fiber Factor™ will be selected and announced in January 2014!

A $500 cash prize will be awarded to the winner of each challenge, and the overall winner of The Fiber Factor™ will receive a 5 day, all-expense paid trip to Germany to tour yarn production facilities and the addi needle factory!

Videos and/or photos of the contestants, the contestants’ completing the challenges, the contestants’ finished pieces, and the judging of the competitions will be posted regularly on www.TheFiberFactor.com website.

All fiber and knitting enthusiasts can actively participate in the competition by voting for their favorite design submission to each challenge and by submitting their own designs to each challenge!

The judges are going to have their hands full. The back-room bribery, the backstabbing, the secret tying of knots in fine-gauge yarn--can't wait.

Not since Teeny Project Runway has there been such juicy knitting intrigue. Will you swatch or will you watch?


Posted by Ann at 09:55 AM | Comments (19)

February 19, 2013

A Provisional Cast-On and a Memorable Send-Off


Dear Kay,

Since last I wrote, I've been to Greenville, Alabama, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was a week to gather with family and friends to remember Uncle Dan, my dad's only brother. Solemn and hilarious, heavy and light, dark and bright. Why does so much of life parse into such even measures? I heard "Danny Boy" on a bagpipe, witnessed deviled eggs that stood on their ends like little egg-white Jefferson cups. I had barbecue from a hut beside a Shell station, and I heard an extraordinary eulogy from Dan's son Dan.

"Amazing Grace," "Ode to Joy," "Morning Has Broken," "Shall We Gather at the River." Cousins from all over. Siblings from all over.

Just before we left Charlottesville, we made a trip up to Monticello--Dad, brother Aubrey, and sister-in-law Celine. In the light snow I thought about how Jefferson's life of the mind resembled my uncle's. Restless, curious. Complicated.

At one point, I was about a foot from this Gilbert Stuart portrait:


That empty, green background makes the portrait sing, doesn't it?

The travel was a complete tragicomedy on the way home: a failed de-icing that felt like a recent Carnival cruise, an overnight in Charlotte, and an extra leg through DC. At one point, we sat in a packed bus, way out on a bleak tarmac, parked for an hour in front of an airplane with a closed door and no sign of activity. An excellent exercise in letting go.

It gave my dad and me plenty of time to cogitate on the state of the universe.

At least I had a simple project that kept me distracted.


London Cowling, with Blue Sky Alpaca Silk, one of the great yarns, in Oyster.


Posted by Ann at 09:20 AM | Comments (29)

February 18, 2013

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle

Dear Ann,

You are the Prophet of Block-it in America, and I am your devoted acolyte. Blocking is the way to true handknit salvation. It makes the nicest, most even garter stitch plump up and look even nicer and more even. It takes the scratch out of Noro Silk Garden. It straightens all wobbly lines. It is a chiropractor for biased stockinette.

But blocking wrecked my State Street Cowl.

Here we see the State Street Cowl, pre-blocking. Note the lovely texture.


(Aside: this was a super quick, super fun knit. The yarn is Soul Wool Bauhaus in Bat Gray, as described in the post below. Took me approximately 4 hours in front of the TV over two evenings.)

Here we see the State Street Cowl after a short soak-and-squeeze. Flattened. Stretched all to hell.


Before y'all chime in and tell me I stretched it out too far--listen. I stretched nothing. The yarn absorbed the water and stretched itself right on out, with no encouragement from me whatsoever.

Do I still like it? Yes. Do I like it as much as I liked it before blocking? No. Will niece Maggie still wear it? I do not know, but that will not likely depend on whether I blocked it or not.

On the plus side: it now has a beautiful drape.

Next time I knit with an unspun, unstructured yarn like this--the Bauhaus is pretty much pencil roving--I will use steam instead of the full immersion method, and see if that tidies things up without all the stretching. This did NOT happen with the Twinkle Chunky Baby I used in my last Very Bulky Cowl. So maybe it's just this yarn, or just this day.


In other news of Things Not Working Out All That Great, I knit the first sleeve for my second Riddari pullover, using the same size needle as I'd used on the body to get spot-on gauge of 4 1/2 stitches to the inch. Same SIZE needle, but different type of needle (wooden, short circ instead of metal, long circ). Fleetingly thought it was knitting up a little looser; brushed aside this thought while watching Argo at the cinema.

Measured gauge. It's 4 1/4 stitches to the inch. This really does make a difference to the fabric. I think it's possible that after washing and blocking, the gauge on the sleeve and body would equalize (my first Riddari really grew and plumped up), but I'm not feeling lucky with the blocking right now. It's just a sleeve. Stop whining and re-knit the thing.


Here we go again, with a smaller needle. Will check it a bit earlier this time.



Posted by Kay at 10:33 AM | Comments (34)

February 15, 2013

Shabbat Shalom, Baby Girl

Dear Ann,

So, yesterday I packed Carrie off to Israel with a bunch of other teenagers and a few brave and generous leadership-type souls.


There she goes. They were rushing to get to Jerusalem by sundown for shabbat. Having never been in Jerusalem for shabbat, or even an ordinary sunset, I am a little envious. Stones are only stones, but as Reb Jack White and the Raconteurs have pointed out, some stones will shout.


By more or less coincidence, this afternoon I cast on the State Street Cowl. I'm using Bauhaus by Soul Wool, a bulky wool that is hand spun and hand dyed in Israel. (I found it at the revitalized Yarn Company on Broadway and 81st Street in NYC). The color is Bat Grey. Bat as in the animal, I'm sure, but perhaps also as in "bat mitzvah." ANYHOO. Insert maudlin maternal thoughts here. Why is it that the minute they are out the door, one's innards turn to mush?

Back to the State Street Cowl. Based on its cuteness and rave reviews, I'm auditioning it for a back-up go-to cowl pattern. I love the Honey Cowl, but I'd like something a little chunkier. I still have lots of necks to be-cowl, and I'm hopeful about the State Street Cowl because it has a texture pattern that has a nice groove to it while you're knitting. Easily memorized because it makes sense. Stylish without being precious or fancy.


I knit what you see here, which is about a third of the cowl, in an hour. (US 11 needles + rhythmic knit and purl pattern = speedy.)

I want to knit one in the suggested yarn, Quince & Co.'s Puffin. But here's the thing. I'm lazy about ordering yarn online. I do my impulse shopping in yarn stores, which don't, as yet anyway, carry Quince & Co.. I'll get around to it, as I've heard all the good things about Quince & Co.'s lush yarns, but I am just saying: I am old. I like to buy yarn in yarn stores. Retailers take note; we still exist.


And here's a bit of a meh project. Flush with the success of the Chevron Scarf from Scarves, Shrugs & Shawls by Sarah Hatton, and eager to bust my stash of single balls of Rowan Kid Silk Haze, I cast on for the Bold Stripe Scarf. As you can see, I'm in the early stages. It's fine mindless subway knitting, but I'm already beginning to think about how long it's going to get, and worry that it's going to be a dank, snaky coil of mohair around my neck when it's finished. Is it worth all the round-and-round? It's just a tube. Even with my high tolerance--affection, even--for soothingly simple knitting, is this too boring? Is the FO going to be worth it? Don't know yet.

Happy holiday weekend to those in the US and everybody else, enjoy a regular-sized weekend.


Posted by Kay at 03:35 PM | Comments (42)

February 12, 2013

Eyeballs on His Hipbones, or, Jack White at the Grammys


Dear Kay,

Deb is wondering what we thought of Jack White's performance at the Grammys.

Great. Compulsively over the top--if you've got two bands, you're going to use them. But great.

I mostly spent my time thinking about Jack White's amazing suit with rhinestone peacock feathers all over it. Paris may have Chanel, but here in Nashville the greatest couturier is Manuel, who has been outfitting musicians in handmade craziness for decades.

I cannot confirm who made that suit, but if it's not Manuel, a) I would be shocked, and b) that suit owes its existence to Manuel and to Nudie Cohn, the grandaddy of rhinestone-suit design. Scroll through to see the Louvin Brothers in their Christmas Nudie suits. And much, much more. You can get a sense of what Manuel is up to here.

Maybe it's the fact that it's the first suit I've seen with eyes staring out from the hipbones.


Eileen Fisher, take note.

Time's up!


PS In knitting news, I am not saying that battle fatigue is starting to kick in on this Donegal Fair Isle sweater, but I am saying that the euphoria has morphed, as euphoria does, into something more . . . tempered.

More along the lines of What's The Rush?

Or I Have All The Time In The World.

Or It's Not Like It Has Feet And Can Run Away From Me.


So close, yet so far. By my calculation, I'm 54 rounds from glory. It's a race to the bottom.

Posted by Ann at 08:49 AM | Comments (26)

February 11, 2013

Ready for the Soak Pot


Dear Ann,

Here in Manhattan, last Friday/Saturday's snowstorm was really just a very nice snowstorm. We enjoyed it a lot, while suffering none of the treacherousness endured by those to the north and east. Olive particularly enjoys a nice snowfall. She hates things that are cold and/or wet, but she loves snow. Our Olive contains multitudes. After a single walk in the snow, she sleeps for a minimum of 5 hours, out cold and snoring delicate terrier snores.

Sitting around got me to the finish line on my Chevron Scarf from Scarves, Shrugs and Shawls. This scarf was a stashbuster supreme, meaning that I only had to buy one skein of a Madelinetosh neutral (French Grey) to use up nearly every yard of leftovers from late, great Honey Cowls I have known. My own Honey Cowl is in there, as is Carrie's, my mom's, Diana's Emma's, Rosanne's and Colleen's. The only nubbin I didn't incorporate was the Artyarns from Rosie's cowl, because its Easter Egg pastel clashed with the gentle murk of the other colors.

The pattern calls for Rowan Felted Tweed, which is a smaller gauge than Madelinetosh DK. I knew that, but did not give it a single thought as I cast on 427 stitches and upscaled my needles to US8.

And so, as surely as God didn't make little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis (in the summertime), the laws of gauge are rigorously logical (bigger yarn + bigger needles + same number of stitches = bigger scarf)-- and the finished scarf is 104 inches long. This may be a Personal Record scarf length for me. It's nearly too much scarf. I may give it to a tall person. It will grow with washing and blocking, but hopefully only in width, as it was knit side-to-side.

427 stitches! The issue with such long rows, especially when you are using leftovers, is whether you are going to make it to the end of a row without running out of a color. In a couple of spots I had to change color. Which makes it, very subtly, a bit raggedy. Nobody but me will notice it, but I do notice it. Isn't that always the way?


It was so much fun to feather & fan!


Posted by Kay at 05:14 PM | Comments (39)

February 07, 2013

Gobsmacked: Your Blizzard Survival Reading


Dear Kay,

Blizzard survival kit for you tonight:

1.) An Australian terrier all jacked up on coffee to keep you from falling asleep in the snow.

And 2.) The Brooklyn Tweed Look Book, Winter 13 edition.

I don't say this often, but here we go: I would like to knit every single thing in this book. All 18 of them.

I'm not going to drag n drop all the gorgeous photos over here, in the interest of time and copyright. But let's just say that Jared Flood and his gang have cooked up their most beautiful, most wearable, and most interesting set of projects yet. It's kind of incredible.

There's a jacket by Michele Wang, Stowe, that you can wear two ways. Mittens by Veronik Avery, Pinion, that make me want to do intarsia, and that NEVER happens. And Fair Isle of a sort that could happen only in the 21st century, in Julie Hoover's Kimmswick scarf.

You were speaking the other day about the importance of photography in knitting books. Here's your proof. Jared Flood's two-day shoot, up the river from your neck of the woods in Hudson, NY, captures so much: the beauty of winter, the grit and charm of a Hudson River town north of Poughkeepsie, and most of all, the faces and projects that are so lovely, so human.

For me, the most stunning part is the fact that these photographs were taken in January. I'm looking at this finished Look Book on February 7. The speed of production on this is awe inspiring. It makes the case for online publishing in a pretty stunning way.

One final blizzard survival tool: the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter shade card. It'll keep you dreaming until the thaw.

Good luck, all you soon-to-be-snowbound folk.


Posted by Ann at 08:02 PM | Comments (32)

February 06, 2013

Bark Where There Ought to Be Pickle, Or, The Error That Dogs Us

Dear Kay,

Well, I just excavated the reason why I stopped working on this sweater in December 2009. Taking a foto this morning to show Proof of Progress, I noticed this:


On Sleeve One, there is Pickle where there should be Bark. I think when I discovered this, back in December 2009, it was the last straw. I wrote:

The ever-decreasing tube of inside-out two-handed knitting has become something akin to braiding cat's hair, to aligning grains of rice end to end, to cutting the grass, blade by blade. BLEEHAGHGGGHGH! Fiddly fiddly FIDDLY! YIKES! Godalmighty! RELEASE ME! SET ME FREE!

A bit wound up. But now, seeing as how I'm a half a sleeve from glory, we are going to call that little stretch of misbegotten Bark "The Artistic Part." I'm feeling pretty sturdy about this final stretch. For the moment.

Tempted to just go with a solid for the last half of the second sleeve.


I could be done in a day!


Posted by Ann at 08:44 AM | Comments (70)

February 05, 2013

On Pins & Needles

Dear Ann,

A super-quick, photo-free post to impart two pieces of vital information.

1. Non-knitting discovery: there is a really nice, tiny fabric/quilting/embroidery shop on Lexington Avenue between 74th Street and 75th Street. It's friendly! It has a well-curated selection of fabrics for quilting and making simple clothing. It's called Pins & Needles. I got some lovely quarter-yards of Liberty Tana Lawn for my someday quilt involving either the Union Flag or Old Glory or possibly both. The owner, Rachel, also keeps a lovely blog.

I would never have known about this 2-year-old shop if the Parking Space Fairy hadn't granted me a metered spot right in front of the sandwich board sign at the shop door. It's an upstairs shop, so you have to be looking up to actually see it. I could have passed it by 100 times, and probably did. I'm so excited to be able to stop into this cute little place when I'm in the neighborhood, and see what's new. Size-wise, and in other ways, it reminds me of "Old Purl." New Purl is great, fabulous, wonderful--but sometimes I miss Old Purl. There is something about a tiny shop that makes each item more powerful.

2. Honey Cowl Almanac. In the comments to my previous post, Cookie got a discussion going about how to figure out when you need to stop knitting the Honey Comb stitch pattern on your Honey Cowl, with enough yarn left to knit 3 rows of stockinette edging and bind off--while maximizing the width of your cowl and minimizing your leftover yarn.


Note that this method only works if you are using more than one skein of yarn for your cowl. If you are using one big skein, split it into 2 equal skeins -- by weight is the way I'd do it -- before casting on. Then do as Pam suggests: when you are done with Skein 1, mark your spot with a stitch marker or by weaving in a length of contrasting waste yarn. Then, count how many rounds of the slip-stitch pattern you have up to that point. Let's say it's 20 (which means that you cast on, knit 3 rows of stockinette edging, and then knit 20 repeats of the 2-round pattern). Now you know that with the second (or third, for that matter--the last skein), you can knit 20 repeats of the 2 row pattern, plus 3 rounds of stockinette edging and a bind-off. If you're nervous, knit one fewer repeat of the 2-round pattern to ensure plenty of yarn to finish.

Isn't that clever? Isn't that tidy? A similar methodology can be used in other situations where you are knitting a long distance in a consistent pattern. Basically you are using the skein of yarn as a unit of measure, converting that skein into X amount of edging and X number of rounds.

Sorry for no pictures. I really feel like a post needs a picture. But I have to go to Curriculum Night. Bringing my knitting FOR SURE.


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

February 04, 2013

The Shock of the New


Dear Ann,

I hate football. At a tender age, I watched a lot of midget football practice and could not comprehend why none of the grownups seemed to notice the brutality--physical and spiritual-- that I found so upsetting. That's my version of events and maybe not my brother's, but the memories stuck with me as a permanent aversion. (I love Friday Night Lights. I contain multitudes.) (I look forward to your lettters.)

But I love commercials, so I had the Super Bowl and Twitter on my screens last night. Obviously a knitportunity of a night, if ever there was one. But alas I had just cast off my most recent Honey Cowl. So I cast on the Chevron Scarf from the Scarves, Shrugs & Shawls book that I mentioned in the post below. My yarn: remnants of Madelinetosh Merino DK and other yarns that I'd used for Honey Cowls of the Past.

People want to know: why do I have any remnants? Isn't the Honey Cowl a "knit until you run out of yarn" kind of pattern? Yes it is. But for quite a few of my Honey Cowls, I wanted a thicker wad of wool around the neck, for warmth in the Northeast and also for style. Big woman + little cowl is not as attractive a proportion as big woman + generous cowl. But using all of the third skein seemed like too much of a good thing, so generally I have stopped halfway through a third skein, at around the 500 yard total mark. Leaving me with remnants. Glorious remnants.

Not enough remnants that I didn't have to go back to Knitty City for an extra hank of a Madtosh DK neutral, this time in French Grey. Sometimes you gotta buy yarn to reduce stash.

Wheeee! It has been a while since I've feathered-and-fanned, and I'm really enjoying it. My one complaint is that if you leave out one k2tog or yo in a row that is 427 stitches long, it takes a while to find it. I am just saying.


That Honey Cowl in the back is made from a single skein of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Worsted, in the shade Thomas Circle. It's slightly on the skinny side, but it's for a slip of a girl, so I'm being consistent in my logic.

Today was a day for watching Mayor Koch's funeral on TV while knitting and pattern-writing. I do love a good funeral. Not to brag on my chosen people, but Jewish funerals are wonderful to me because the ritual component is minimal in comparison to the time devoted to remembering the person who is so much on everyone's mind. It was a good one.

Happy Monday!


Posted by Kay at 02:53 PM | Comments (38)

February 03, 2013

Sunday is for Scarves, Shrugs, Shawls & Stashbusting


Dear Ann,

The 15 minute format is perfect for sharing a new book.

This one is Scarves, Shrugs & Shawls: 22 Knitted Designs with Their Special Techniques, by Sarah Hatton, a member of Rowan's design team. The publisher, St. Martin's Press, sent me an advance copy; the on-sale date is February 26.

Leafing through it, I wasn't wowed at first. I asked myself, why aren't you wowed, Kay? Is your wower busted? Is reduced-wowing yet another one of those tiresome "normal age-related changes" you keep hearing about?

Upon further leafing, I discovered at least two patterns that I want to cast on right away. I also figured out that my issue was with the book's design, not the knitwear. Knitters are spoiled by beautifully designed knitting books these days; the tried and true mid-shot photo against a blank background just isn't visually rich enough for "wow."

On the upside: these are good patterns, a whole wrappy wardrobe of them.


I'm knitting the Bold Stripe Scarf as soon as I can get it cast on. FINALLY, a use for those single balls of Kid Silk Haze that have been slowly compacting themselves into my stash. It's simple, but effective.


And this Chevron Scarf is the faux Missoni (Miss Phony!) I've had in mind for my many Madtosh remnants, left over from Honey Cowls. (Which I'm still knitting.)

My favorite feature of the book, which in my mind makes it well worth owning if you knit a lot of scarves, is the section called "How To Wear." This is the key to all mysteries when it comes to wearing scarves, shawls & shrugs, including the clever convertible ones with buttons, but also covering different ways to tie them so they don't dangle haplessly--they look chic. It's a portable version of the videos they show in Eileen Fisher stores, which I like to think of as "How To Make Your Overpriced Shmatta Look Less Shmattaish." Judging by the number of times I just tie a square knot and hope for the best, I need this.


Posted by Kay at 12:05 PM | Comments (23)

February 02, 2013

A Tribute to the Ten Pound Losers


Dear Kay,

A quick moment to pay tribute to one of the most brave, stalwart, and persistent groups you will ever find--and no, I'm not talking about all you Nashville parents trying to help your kids go sledding in a half inch of snow.

I'm talking, of course, about the Ten Pound Losers group over at Ravelry. Back in September, this group was formed after some amount of wailing on Twitter about the desire to lose ten pounds. Since then, these resourceful, honest, and funny folks have shared their dreams, strategies, and tactics for taking off a little (or a lot of) weight.

After four months, it is downright inspiring to see how everybody's doing over there. But mostly, there are excellent tips and ideas, so come on over if you'd like to lighten your load a bit.

Here's where you'll find us Losers.

Our Lady of Quinoa is the patron saint of the Ten Pound Losers. Here's a tasty recipe to start you off. Not the lowest-cal thing you can eat, but so delicious!


Posted by Ann at 11:20 AM | Comments (10)

February 01, 2013

Cat Trouble


Dear Kay,

I don't even know what to say.

I come into my knitting lair this morning and I find Kermit the 18-pound wonder cat, gnawing on my freakin' yarn.

Total sabotage, right under my nose!

Cat spit all over my precious precious Rowan Donegal Lambswool. Like he's sick of the thing already, wants me to move on.

Hey cat--I don't eat your creepy chicken-flavored cat treats; you don't eat my yarn.


What's that in the background? I do believe Fashion Week is next week . . .

Happy Friday--off to figure out what my anti-Super Bowl movie will be. What about you?


Posted by Ann at 10:10 AM | Comments (46)
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