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Dear Ann,

This is a core memory for me: At a long-ago Q & A session at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, after a slide show bristling with needlepoint wing chairs, mosaic walls, paintings, and giant intarsia coats, someone asked the prolific multimedia artist Kaffe Fassett, “How do you manage to make all these things? How do you produce so much?” And what I recall him saying, almost with a laugh, is something like, “Well, you know, you get up and start working, and you keep working on it until it’s done.”

Kaffe’s advice, as commonplace as it may sound, stuck with me, I suppose because of the authority and surefootedness that Kaffe represents for me and so many other makers. Once in a while, I even follow that advice!

And boy, is it powerful.

On April 23, I was high on the creative atmosphere of Florence, Alabama, where you and I were attending a symposium at Alabama Chanin’s headquarters. While in this elevated state, I fell in love with a Cropped Car Jacket we saw there, at The School of Making. The jacket was stitched in three appliqué styles that transition over the fabric. By April 26, I had the kit for this jacket in my hands, the stencils on the fabric barely dry, and I had a notion that I could finish the jacket in time to wear to a wedding in early June.

I started working—and I kept working on it until it was done, on May 31. I did other things, too: eat, sleep, knit during zoom calls, and type sentences into Google docs. But mainly my life for those five weeks could be summed up in three words: Cropped Car Jacket.

I loved this project at every stage, through every one of the nearly 8 spools of thread it took. There were no snags, no doldrums. Very near the finish line, when it came time to attach the collar and facings, I did have a sobering realization: I didn’t know how to do this part, and I couldn’t make sense of the instructions.

But I was so close to the end, and how many ways can there be to attach a collar and facings, and how could any of them be wrong ways? The imaginary Kaffe in my head whispered in my ear to keep going.  (My inner Voice of Ann Shayne also had a suggestion: “Glue?” Thanks Ann.) The point here: if I kept going, my jacket would have a collar and facings on it, and all would be well.

And all was well. But the next time I’m in Florence, you can bet I will be putting on the white cotton gloves and giving the Cropped Car Jacket sample’s collar and facings a full forensic examination.

I know this is a knitting site, and that my Cropped Car Jacket is not knitting. But sewing a garment by hand hits the same resonant notes for me as knitting does. I know most knitters have other creative pursuits. The knitting feeds the painting, or the quilting, or the sewing, and vice versa, a virtuous circle of staying inspired to do handwork of all kinds. I’d love to hear what other crafts knitters do, passionately, besides knitting.

It’s all of a piece, from potholders, to paper flowers, to a floor loom that needs its own room.

Just start working, and keep working until it’s done. No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.

Dishcloth Knitalong Ahead!

Readers had a wildly enthusiastic response to the idea of a quick & clean summer dishcloth knitalong—thank you. We’re going to do it! The official kickoff date will be July 15, and we’ll spend 2 weeks knitting and crocheting all the dishcloths. No dishcloth is too simple, too homespun, or too whimsical: make the ones you like the most, and share pattern ideas with all of your fellow dishrag-heads.

Look for my post next Thursday, June 23, for details, ideas, and inspiration. But in the meantime, if you’re in the mood to make dishcloths, go ahead and pregame this party!  All photos posted to the Instagram hashtag #MDKdishclothKAL, or to the MDK Lounge, will be eligible for good clean prizes, regardless of when you made them.




  • I am smitten with that jacket!!!

    • Fabulous jacket! I love handsewn projects, although mostly I knit. Or read. Or play music. But lately I’ve gotten into recycling clothes by turning them into other things. I had a pair of wrap around pants that never quite worked, but I loved the fabric sooo much. They morphed into a simple tunic. Then my husband discarded a bunch of jeans that were too holey or paint spattered for his taste…one pair generally yields a garden apron with 3 pockets, a project bag (thus feeding my knitting habit at the same time)and a small over-the-shoulder bag, with zippers & scraps left over for future projects. Hand sewing is soothing & meditative for me, much as knitting is. Oddly, ripping the seams out as I deconstruct the clothes is satisfying in a way that frogging and tinking are not…possibly because it’s not my own work I’m undoing…

    • Beautiful work, Kay! Glad you got the jacket finished in time for the wedding.

  • We would like to see the whole jacket

    • I am so excited – I have wanted to make your dishcloths for so long
      And then something else comes along and I say to myself it is just a dishcloth – do it later
      LATER is now here ! Hooray

    • YES!!!

  • Sewing on the side; intend to make my first quilt this year (lap size). Fascinated by the hand sewing done for AC clothing and curious about the three appliqué styles, how you learned to do it, more post in future please about hand sewing as it’s of interest.

  • I am a quilter, that was my first passion and have many large bins of fabric. My fabric stash is quickly becoming eclipsed by my yarn stash! Knitting has now become my obsession, so portable and calming. Ready for dishrags but would like early heads-up on yarn I will need.

    Next sewing adventure is repurposing our old jeans and pillows into a foot stool for my son’s first apt.

    Happy crafting to all and thank you Kay for stoking all of our craft pursuits!

  • The WHY is a tale too big to tell, but the “…until it’s done…” message hit the mark for me this morning. Thanks for putting the words out where I could find them blindfolded. Have a great day.

    • I agree, finish “. . . until it’s done . . . “,! My motivation to finish is what my dear mother once told me, many, many moons ago ~ “finish what you started.” This phrase has been ringing in my ears for a long long time. I finally got the message, lol , I now finish what I’ve started and it is glorious to finish a project before starting a new.

  • Your jacket is beautiful! I’m just finishing my first ever hand sewn shirt, I just need to stitch on the pocket. This was my fourth Zoom hand sewing class (thank you, Tatter!) and I feel like I’ve finally got it down to the point that I have some faith that my stitching will hold up more than 5 minutes. It’s much more simple than AC, but very much my style, and a good pattern for home woven fabric, which is my ultimate goal – hand woven, hand stitched….

    • Kay, thank you for sharing your other crafts! I learned about AC from your website and have fallen in love. I have many many of her garments that get constant wear! I always have wanted to thank you for the introduction.

  • I always have to have multiple projects. Knitting – throws single piece and segments, something fair isle, something regular, socks, dishcloths; I quilt baby quilts, high school graduation quilts, wedding present quilts.

  • Fine job, Kaye! I love it! I fell down that rabbit hole in Florence about ten years ago. I made shirts for our three girls. I wonder if they still wear them? They are still in the height of fashion!

  • The jacket is absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing it with us. I am a knitter and a reader. I used to be a quilter but the tiny stitches are too much for my hands now. Also, knitting is much more portable.

  • My other creative work is physical. I love to garden. Moving plants from less successful sites to better placements. Pruning shaping small trees and shrubs. Weeding , deadheading. Watching for the results. It’s long range planning and slow payback but a flourishing plant makes my heart sing.

  • Sewist here. Scream for help!

    One day I will make one of these beauties – there is such joy and relaxation in hand sewing, whether for work or pleasure.

  • Plants. That’s my other (main) pursuit. Inside houseplants and plants in my yard. I find myself thinking about them at random moments throughout the day…just like knitting. I find myself scouring the internet for some new gorgeous bush or tree or perennial (or yarn) at least 5 days out of 7.

  • I’m so IN for dishcloth KAL!! Does this mean Dishcloths will finally have it’s own topic in the Lounge? I’ve posted a few pics there myself when I was on a dishcloth kick. I gave all mine away 😉

  • Congrats on that great finish, Kay! I have heard that the directions for the facing & collar are challenging, but I won’t need to worry about that for a while.

    • I just kept pinning it this way and that until it sort of looked right, and sewed it all down. I kept thinking there ought to be an easier way, but it really looked good in the end. Can’t wait to see yours, Vicki! The beading takes it to a whole other level.

  • I am an art quilter, and my operating principle is “Just Do The Work”! it’s gotten me through a lot of commissions this past year, but knitting things is my “last thing in the evening to relax” thing. And, I’d really like to see that jacket!!!

  • Your car jacket is amazing!!! Congratulations on the beautiful finish . There is a small book I have read several times called Do the Work which has helped me get back into a “finish” mode when I find myself lagging on too many projects. I am foremost a quilter, but MDK has helped to skyrocket a growing passion for knitting these past couple of years. My favorite part of a new quilt project is the excitement of pulling fabrics and planning how they will work in the pattern, and then the actual stitching of the top…. But if I hit a section that is difficult or needs to be reworked, I have to fight my tendency to let it sit in a corner in timeout – maybe forever. And I have WAY too many quilts sitting on the To Be Bound shelf!

  • This jacket is all hand sewn? I’ve often wondered about making a top by hand but that’s as far as the idea got. I do not like using a sewing machine but really enjoyed quilting. Maybe there is hope yet….?

  • What a beautiful finish, congratulations! I can’t wait to get started on my T Shirt kit, arriving soon. I love all textile arts, too many done another lifetime ago but the proof are on my shelves and I’m happy to browse them now and again. Forward ho!

  • So – just to get Kaffe into context: 1. the questioner was probably an amateur, whilst Kaffe is a professional = full time job and 2. Kaffe doesn’t have children and ALL that entails. That is not to say I don’t admire him and his work tremendously and have since the late 60s but you know we have ALL accomplished a lot on our lives but it doesn’t look so much beause most of us have been multi-tasking – right?

    • I believe his exact quote was, “Well, you know, you get up and start working, and you keep working on it until it’s done.” so he said it was hard, and he didn’t mean work on it that day until it’s done and give everything else up! But, if you can steal 5 minutes here and there, riding in the car, watching the noodles boil, watching your children play a ball game, then, you keep working on it, “til it’s done”, makes since. No, he doesn’t have responsibilities others have but staying busy with whatever your life has thrown at you keeps you moving, your mind working and keeps you vibrant and young! You always have to take these little “nuggets of wisdom”, cherish that they came to you, and use them to fit your particular situation!

    • Rachel, while I agree with you 100% (I have two teens) I also think that you just make the time. People are always asking how I find time to create so much, read so much, volunteer, and do whatever else I do. Well, I don’t spend a ton of time scrolling through social media feeds or watching TV.

      I’m not on some high horse, I certainly don’t judge those who do, it’s just a matter of priorities. I think most people who are not working multiple jobs just to keep body and soul together (I am guessing most readers of MDK) do have a fair amount of time.

  • Your jacket deserves the full OH MY GOD! exclamation. Maybe considering framing it as wall decor? I love my hands on knitting but still enjoy doing computer graphics for an animal sanctuary I volunteer at. Retirement means do whatever you want-or not.

  • Gorgeous work! My side hobby is needlepoint, in particular Kaffe Fassett patterns. Recently I’ve been doing cushions based on his knitting designs and color ways — intarsia is a lot easier in needlepoint!

  • Really enjoy your – it pushes me forward! Am looking forward to the KAL.

  • I love to garden. This helps to feed my love of cooking and of dyeing things. Dyeing yarn helps to feed my love for learning to weave and my passion for knitting. All interwoven.

  • It’s a work of art. I can’t wait to see you model.

  • I love this jacket. I’m on the verge of making my first AC garment, the bird t-shirt. Less to keep going on that the jacket, but still inspiring and a little terrifying. Over COVID, I started to paint with watercolors. It needs a different kind of attention than my knitting, which mostly accompanies things. It’s a good balance.

  • Kaffe’s advice is word-for-word the same as my Dad’s back in November. I have seen that also propel my Dad through some difficult times and I couldn’t admire him more. ❤️

  • That jacket!

  • Absolutely beautiful jacket Kay.

  • I bet you felt like a million bucks in that masterpiece. Its wow.

    I make soap and weave when not knitting.

  • In my case, the knitting, crochet, drawing, and cross-stitch all fuel each other. I tried a few times but never got the hang of sewing. Kay, your Cropped Car Jacket is gorgeous!

  • Congratulations on the car jacket, Kay…it’s beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever met a craft I didn’t like, as my overstuffed craft room will attest. My favorites are all of the fiber arts plus beading/jewelry making. Thanks to MDK, I’ve been on quite a potholder making journey lately…it’s very rewarding to have a colorful, finished project in 30 minutes!

  • I love, love, love that jacket!

  • Yeah! Just this past weekend, I got out my cotton yarn and started matching to make a batch of Ball Bands and Over the Waves and Eloominators and Revenge clothes.

  • Every time you post about Alabama Chanin I get intrigued all over again. The jacket is beautiful, and Kaffee’s advice is so very good. I am also a hooker, well, really a puncher. I have some punch needle mug rugs to finish for Christmas presents. Amy Oxford like MDK, is another source of inspiration for me.

  • gorgeous inspiration.thank you for sharing

    • Kay- your daughter is beautiful. I guess I still think of her as the little girl in the first book! Jacket ain’t shabby either.

  • That jacket is absolutely gorgeous and you are too in it. I am glad it was a different post, I don’t knit well but get posts for all your insights. Maybe one day I can knit like you, but until then, I could do this jacket. Where do I find the pattern and information on how to make it?

  • Nothing like a special event deadline for finishing something — and then wearing the item lets you remember the special event! Wonderful project!
    Teaching myself to knit 35 years ago put a crimp on the time I have for bobbin lacemaking (a weaving process, not tatting), and I do hope to get back to my sewing table this summer. Dishrags will be perfect for summer concerts at Tanglewood.

  • I was a basket weaver long before I started knitting and crocheting. It helps me understand how knitting works. Knitting in the round is a lot like making a basket…
    I also do some beadwork and a tiny bit of sewing and weaving. I taught fiber arts to kids for many years.

    That jacket is amazing.

  • Gorgeous!

  • Glue?!? The stapler must have jammed…

    • I worked with a woman who noticed the hem in her pants had come undone in the middle of a meeting and she did indeed staple it up!

  • Your Jacket (capital letter intended) is beautiful! There’s not much crafty wise I don’t do. Spinning & weaving are two not on my list. I crochet & machine knit like a fiend though. I’m also a fairly good seamstress too. I’ve smocked in the past.

  • I so enjoyed following along with your Cropped Car Jacket online and was in awe of how quickly it came together! I love the Kaffe advice. What a treasure, and you look so beautiful wearing it. A special piece for an extra special occasion.

  • WOW Kay, amazing work. I got into the little loomed potholder thing during the winter because I could actually finish one during an episode of Occupied, even with subtitles. You have inspired me… well, maybe when it cools down

  • You look amazing and your girl is also lovely. I agree that focus can accelerate completion. I can see that fun was had while you were in that focus zone, though. Congrats!

  • That’s darling on you!

  • Beautiful jacket and just really cute people!! Hope you had fun!!!

    I now have two granddaughters who have knitted baby blankets, too many knitted hats to count, mittens, scarves, and a couple of sweaters but I think it’s time to dig out the pleater and see if I can remember how to do a Bishop collar or a smocked yoke. Oh and I have a sewing kit from Alabama somewhere for a quick shawl. I better get busy and stay busy until some projects are completed but it’s hot and the pool is calling…poolside is a good place for 100% cotton knitting…maybe a towel rather than a dishcloth.

    Salute to all makers!!! Have fun!!

    Beautiful wedding jacket. Where are you wearing it next?

  • Kay, my wi-fi has been malfunctioning. I just returned to the post and only now see the pictures of you wearing the jacket. It’s gorgeous and looks gorgeous on you! The picture of you and Carrie is just wonderful, too!

  • Aww! You look fantastic! Better than the jacket, which is galacticly wonderful.

  • I crocheted and cross stitched for most of my life until I got the “knitting bug” from my daughter, who is an excellent knitter, around 2008. I also play the piano and read. I try not to let a day go by without doing at least 2 of the 3 of these. I do like gardening and care for my indoor plants. As I’ve aged, working the garden isn’t as appealing especially when it comes to weeding!!

  • That’s a masterpiece and you look so pretty in it. What a lovely place for a wedding! I’ve become so addicted to knitting that I don’t seem able to go back to needlepoint, sewing, painting, or other things I used to do. I smocked all my daughters’ clothes back in the day and saved them for my granddaughter—who wears only her brother’s hand-me-down soccer uniforms. I’m really thrilled to have a garden in NYC, but it’s teeny of course, and buying plants is like buying yarn, plus they get larger, so there’s very little room in it left for humans.

  • I dye yarn for my own use, I spin yarn and I also crochet. I tell myself all the time when looking at how many ends I’m going to have to weave in or how insanely long it’ll take me to spin and knit a blanket that “No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.” I learned that from you and Ann!

  • ooh that jacket!! love it! I have a simple poncho kit that I need to get going on…. and dish cloth KAL? I’m thinking that maybe my runway walk at next year’s getaway could be epic. Unless I find the inflatable dog so I can bring the Francis / Walter swarf…….

  • The jacket is wonderful. Thanks for the encouragement to just keep going til the end. Also, I’m in for the dishcloth knit along. I make the standard Grandma’s Favorite for my women’s group fall craft sale. This might just be what I need to branch out into other patterns.

  • Absolutely gorgeous jacket, Kay! I can’t believe it’s all hand sewn! Super inspirational! I’m all up for a dishrag KAL — it’ll be the antidote to the lace sweater I’m determined to get done this week…or next? My other creative pursuits are cooking and playing the flute, neither of which can be done simultaneously while knitting.

  • Beautiful you! Thank you for sharing your passionate journey! Your jacket is fantastic!

  • Your jacket is amazing and you look wonderful! What an accomplishment!
    And I still love the necklace I saw you wearing years ago and tried to copy but couldn’t get the hang of it.

  • I’ve recently realized (kind of slow on the uptake!) how similar all these “hand crafts” are. Using our hands to soothe our minds and souls and create something while we’re at it is a gift. I’m a recent, passionate knitter but dabble in water color, gardening etc. All use my hands to soothe the soul and feed creativity. Thank you for helping me to clarify the similarities of all these seemingly random activities!

  • I am knitting and writing a novel. These two things do not go together is my first response. But sometimes I will stop writing because I just cannot go on, and knit a few rows to relax. Since I can knit a sock without instructions nearby, I now have a lot of socks and am making them for friends and relatives.

  • I’m also a spinner. (I have a rigid heddle loom too, but I only use it occasionally – maybe two or three projects a year.) I have three sheep in the backyard, and in theory I should be spinning all my beautiful black and brown Shetland wool. In reality, I below to a fiber of the month club where I get a 4oz hand-dyed braid in a different wool every month. Addictive! I’m hoping to substitute my handspun for Dyed in the Wool to make one of Andrew Mowry’s beautiful shawls, once I have enough colors.

    Also, that jacket is stunning!

  • Oh my! Your jacket is so lovely! I first learned to sew, then embroider, then crochet, and finally knitting! Now I mostly knit and sew, though I did pick up an embroidery pattern a few years back that I want to turn into a pillow. I don’t currently have a craft room so when I sew, I give myself permission to take over the kitchen table. This really helps in the “git’er done” and “work on it until it’s finished” categories as I can only stand the mess on the kitchen table for so long… It’s also likely why I knit more. My smaller knitting projects are so much less mess and so much more portable.
    I usually tell people that “I knit things you can wear, and sew things you can use.”, I have yet to venture into sewing clothes – collars, sleeves, and having to make sure it fits when done seem so complicated! And no, I have never knit a sweater. Kind of hoping my LYS might have a sweater class though, then I might be brave and knit a sweater!

  • Wowza!

  • My first passion was sewing, learned when I was 12. Quilting was my passion as an adult, and I mean hand-pieced and hand-quilted all the way! I always said when my eyesight got too bad too see the tiny quilting stitches I would switch to knitting :-). So here I am with my new passion, knitting blankets instead of making quilts. Many thanks for the inspiration you and Ann share with us! I always learn something from your site.

  • The jacket is lovely! Thank you for the encouragement to keep working until it’s done.

  • Kay- I have made 5 alabama chanin skirts and I truly appreciate what went into your car jacket. People stop me all the time to comment on my skirt (whichever on I’m wearing) and of course I have to flip up the hem to show them the inside where the real magic is!

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