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Dear Ann,

So, this was me for a rather large chunk of this past weekend:


I was not in a flow state. I was trying very hard to make significant headway on the huge intarsia flower on the back of my Kaffe Fassett Big Flower Jacket. I told myself, if I can’t get the back done or nearly done this weekend, there is no chance of getting it done for Rhinebeck. I’m ok with not getting it done for Rhinebeck, which is, after all, an annual event, but something in me really did not want to give up just yet. If I put it aside now, I will not be picking it up again until next summer, and then it will be a big puzzle to figure out all over again.


So I sat there on Saturday–a beautiful late summer Saturday I might add, when the entire population of New York City was out walking with their faces to the sun–on the sofa, in front of the mise en place of chart, shade card, notebook and tools, plus 40 balls of yarn.

I started at Row 89, and several hours later, when that picture up top was taken, I was in the low 100s, and I was OVER IT. My brain was fried, my patience for cutting and adding in new lengths of yarn for the background stitches was gone, and I was having a fantastic time.


I wanted it to be over, but I was loving it. It’s hard to explain, but I’m sure you understand. Most of the time I want small, solvable puzzles in my knitting. I want knitting to be soothing, with a few tricks up its sleeve to make me feel clever and competent. I don’t want to feel like it’s slipping from my grasp and I can’t do it. But in this case, using my memory and my wits and my hands to their capacity felt really, really good. Knitting is hard. Knitting is my thing.

The experience reminded me of how I felt years ago, when I was a trial lawyer. Being on trial, for me, was always intensely stressful. I felt, every time, like I was working at the very edge of my abilities, and I was going to screw it up at any moment. But it was the only time I really felt like I was doing law for real. Every little moment of not screwing things up (or surviving screwing things up) made me feel alive. It’s what I would imagine playing a team sport would feel like.


Yesterday I finished Row 120, the top of the Big Flower chart. By the last 20 rows I had finally figured out a way to increase my speed by — don’t laugh, Ann–making a little spreadsheet. It was easier for me to count the stitches, in an invented shorthand, than check and recheck the chart. I then figured out that if I put the background stripe colors for each row onto the spreadsheet, too, I’d be able to look at just one piece of paper, just one time per row.  I felt like the Nobel committee was going to call any minute.

I guess you had to be there.


I still don’t know if I will get this thing done by Rhinebeck. There is still half of the left front, the sleeves, the bands and OH LORD NO ALL THOSE ENDS. It’s a 1970s shag carpet on the wrong side of this thing. But the Big Flower is done, and that is enough for now.




  • WOW!!!!!

    And me these days not even being able to tolerate simultaneous cables, waist shaping, edge changes in a little kid’s vest.

    Go giant intarsia flowers!!!

  • You go!

    We all should probably live on that edge of our abilities a little more often. I know that I use the excuse that because of job stress I like to play it safe with my knitting, but when I push myself I’m always more satisfied with the results.

  • Oh, jolly good! No flowers on the sleeves, are there? You’ll be finished in no time. Go, Kay!!

  • Yay! Knit on!

  • It is looking fantastic. Who knows? Maybe Rhinebeck will be a chilly weekend and having the extra fluff of a million ends not yet sewn in will be your secret weapon against freezing? Cheering for you with my less “edge of my abilities” knitting as company.

    • Srsly. Who says you have to weave in the ends before Rhinebeck?

      • Agreed all around.

      • this! This! I don’t believe Kaffe weaves in his ends.

      • Exactly what I was thinking. Take it with you ends-a-wafting and ask each person who wants you to sign a book to weave in an end in exchange. Done.

        • I love this idea. Community end-weaving.

  • You rock!

  • *Standing ovation!*

  • A W E S O M E!

  • Amazing!

  • Amazing work,Kay! Think of the ends as exposed thrumming and how warm you’ll be!

  • If all else fails lots of those ends on the inside – are just ends on the inside! I once wore a shawl with lots of ends home on a plane from a sunny vacation because it was freezing in Chicago and I needed warmth! My husband thought it was strange but I looked at it like those ends were a design element! And yah to spreadsheets and anything to make your work easier! This is a beautiful, beautiful piece!

  • Go Kay!!!
    Sew only the ends in that drop below the hem. The rest can wait until after Rheinbeck or they’ve felted together in a nice dreadlocked clump. This naturally involves you never removing the BFJ whilst at Rheinbeck….

  • All-time favorite line that says so much in so few words: “Living on the edge of our abilities.” I love so much when I am on that challenging edge, Kay.

  • Oh, Kay, that Big Flower looks SO LOVELY! Forget the ends. When the time comes to try it on for the first time, I don’t think you will mind having them hanging on the inside. Hey– maybe you could have an ends tying party where a small group of people (your sewing circle? +Clara?) could gather together. Perhaps, one at a time, each could tie 10 ends, and this could be repeated till finished. It would be then (and only then) that you break out the wine…

  • And it is magnificent.

  • Wow!!!
    Know what you mean about trial. The alone time prepping one feels like the main character in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, but when it’s over, you want to do it again, LOL.
    Yep, just like knitting. Knitting intarsia. Alone. In the house, when the rest of the world is out playing. But in the end, you’ve made something. And if you’re really really lucky, you’ve made a difference.
    Great analogy:)!!!

    • I was always bailing out the boat, and the water kept rising. #suchfun

      • LOL:)!!

  • FABULOUS!!!!!!

  • Oh my goodness!
    I wish you could bottle that and give me a swig !

  • Color me impressed!!!

  • Stretch your abilities, not your intarsia. I’ll be looking for that flower at my first Rhinebeck this year. My Rhinebeck sweater is a skirt.

  • You have climbed the mountain and are enjoying the view from the top of the flower. It’s all downhill now! You can do it!!! Stay strong and knit on!

  • It’s beyond fabulous. So is the photo of you.

    • You’ve seen me like this at close range!

  • I think you short change knitting! No trial lawyer ever worked as hard at a trial as you did on the sweater.


  • hooray!! you rock!

  • Have you ever seen the inside of a real Kaffe knit it himself sweater? I have: its all knots and threads. Later he had an assistant (who grew up to be Brandon Mably) to do that for him, and other knitters who knit the samples. You will be able to claim full authenticity if you just tie them off so you dont get holes. BTW: did we mention its beautiful?

  • Four words for ya: RHINEBECK END-SEWING EVENT. Let’s all meet up by the cider donuts and bring our darning needles and we, the people, can help you sew in your ends!

    Building community, one end at a time. Think of how many happy Rhinebeck peeps could help you make short work (no, make that ZERO work!) of that task.

    I’ll be there. Heck, I’ll bring two darning needles and snag a passer-by.

    • I’m going to suggest the artichoke stand instead. That freakin line goes on for HOURS. Ends-B-done!

    • Sold!

      Now can I interest you in picking up stitches for the bands?

      • When i made my suggestion above, I was thinking that a limited number of assistants might be the thing, given the extraordinary amount of work that you have put into this opus project.

      • That’s exactly what I was going to suggest. Have an old fashioned Amish quilting bee, only it’s a New York finishing bee!

        • Better yet, rent a booth and make seeing in the ends of your sweater a Rhinebeck event! It will be better than that year that there was that giant sock (?) everyone knit on.

  • Kinda like “Spread to the edge.”

    • Very much so.

  • Kay, just imagine how warm Big Flower would be if you left all those ends hanging out. You could wear that baby right through Winter Storm Gunhilde, or whatever hits New York this year. FORGET THE ENDS, KAY.

  • You have something beautiful to show for your time. I wish you would teach us that magic spreadsheet trick.

  • Don’t weave in the ends! Then it becomes your reversible jacket when you are feeling the need for some funky fringe outerwear. Might make you feel like you got two for the price (and effort!) of one?? Whatever you decide: impressive and well done! And thanks for reminding me that my knitting muscles need some stretching.

  • Now you know why people do drugs! Same incredible high. my drugs are cashmere and cables. Right now, I am doing them both

  • YOU ROCK!!

    Wow what a project, you deserve an Emmy for that!

    keep going, you can do it!!!

  • What if you lined it in fabric? Ends be gone.

  • I know you said Big Flower Jacket, but that is ONE BIG FLOWER! Madam, I salute you. I will gladly knit a gazillion miles of monochrome stockinette for months, but I will never make something as epic as your BFJ.

  • You are going to be so proud of yourself when you get this done. And we are rooting you on … you go, girl!

    P.S. Love hearing a bit more about your life before MD. One of the things I love about knitting is how it brings together such a variety of humans. This one thing we all love and have in common, is enough to bring us together in a positive way.

  • If you don’t finish it for Rhinebeck, I think you should wear it as a work-in progress. Especially when you’re with Clara.

  • Since there’s no way to “like” comments all just vote with repetition — who says the ends have to be woven in — especially at Rhinebeck — those are your people. Whichever year you wear it 😉

  • I’ll, not all — where did that come from. Guess that’s what I get for commenting first thing in the morning.

  • Mazal Tov!

    and totally worth understand.

  • Way to go, Kay! You can do it! (and, if you don’t, that’s totally okay, too 🙂 ).

  • You get the knitting done, and everyone who wants a celebrity selfie with Kay at Rhinebeck weaves in three ends. FINISH LINE.

  • Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t knit the full-length version? The one that made the model’s a** look like it had its own ZIP code?

    Seriously, hooray for getting through the Big (expletives deleted) Intarsia Flower on the back. Molly R. will be so glad you’ve made such progress on her costume for “Breakfast Club 2”.

    P.S.: Don’t wear the finished jacket when rain is predicted. That chenille looks soooo absorbent…

    • I’m knitting the full length version, but with a hem at the bottom instead of ribbing.

  • Wow! Just wow! You’ve had my respect before but now you’ve got my utmost respect! 😀 It looks really lovely. But your post also reminded me of why I hate intarsia with the burning passion of a thousand suns 😉 Good luck with finishing the sweater. Who needs sewing in ends anyway…

  • If you don’t finish in time you need to bring it to Rhinebeck anyway, thrown over your shoulder like a shawl, needles and all.

  • and, it’s looking fab-u-lous! Keep it going and don’t worry about the ends. Although sorry you had to give up your sunny day, here in San Diego the weather is ….well, use your imagination!

  • It is GLORIOUS. I hope Kaffe gets to see it himself.

  • That is one MAGNIFICENT flower. Kudos! Can’t wait to see the finished garment. A truly epic project.

  • Oh my — I thought that picture showed you r*pping out!! I felt faint.

  • I also think leave the ends (as long as they don’t hang below the hems. If it was good enough for Kaffe not to weave them in…well. I think they would add insulation and probably mat a little on their own. Although the ‘weave-along’ with Kay would be a truly Rhinebeckish event that people would probably pay good money to participate in. lol

  • Brava! (heartfelt applause) That is knitting virtuosity.

  • Wow, you put photographs of your windowsills right up there for all the world to see. Brave woman.

  • They say it is very healthy to vent! Your masterful flower should be framed…..

  • Everything everyone said above! It and you are amazing. Whatever state this gorgeous sweater is in, take it to Rhinebeck and wrap yourself in it! (I do like the ideas of either exchanging signing for weaving or not weaving at all.)

  • Spectacular. I am in awe. And, as a retired litigator, when I read that working on the BFG was comparable to trial work, my stomach flipped. It must have been an intense weekend.

    At least at the end you will have a beautiful jacket. Almost all of my cases settled before the end, leaving you wandering around slightly dissatisfied.

  • I had to look it up – you have almost 4 weeks. If it were me, I’d be shooting for next year. You guys are amazingly productive, though, so you’ll probably finish in time. Good luck!

  • Great work! Who cares about shag carpeting fringe on the wrong side… aren’t the 70s and fringe back?

  • Go, Kay, Go!!!!!

  • Congratulations on completing the Big Flower! And I so agree with your Knitting Philosophy: ” I want knitting to be soothing, with a few tricks up its sleeve to make me feel clever and competent.” In my own personal quest for soothing knitting, I rarely use charts or row counters. I don’t make spreadsheets, but I do make my own simple graphs and lists for things like pattern repeats and decreases.

  • Oh the fabulous, torturous exhilaration of it all! I feel like I am with you on the high wire, advancing step by cautious step. After all that’s what all knitting felt like to me at first, decades ago, and there is something precious about going back to that high-stakes level of (productive) stress.

    My tip for projects involving a zillion ends: use the speakerphone option, or Skype on your laptop, to free your hands during long phone calls with loved ones (or others) and tackle the ends then. There is no need to pay attention, it’s the lowest form of multi-tasking and you’ll get a lot done at a time.

  • YOU WILL DO THIS! I love everything you had to say about knitting and about operating on the edge. Wish I was going to Rhinebevk so I could see you in all your big flower glory.

  • How very inspiring! Maybe I should pull out a WIP that’s been abandoned and get to. It would be nothing compared to your project. I love the idea of taking it to Rhinebeck and getting help to weave in the ends. You’d be giving others the chance to touch greatness.

  • If you get it done (ends aside) just put it on and enjoy! Do the ends later. I venture a guess they aren’t going to pull out that easily. Or work on the ends in the car!
    You’ll make it!

  • There’s no substitute that I know of for working at the edge of one’s abilities. The air is just so much clearer, fresher, and more invigorating out there!

  • Wow, wow, and double and triple WOW. That is one beautiful flower

  • That’s the hard part out of the way, right? High five! 🙂

  • Wow! Super congratulations on finishing thus far. That is a fabulous looking flower I might add. I’m sure you have other sweaters to wear at Rhinebeck anyway!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking time out from the BFJ to take pictures and post a blog entry! I am getting a vicarious thrill of victory from this – I’m so happy for you. You might have a lot left, but look how far you’ve come. I think once you get past the flowers, you’ll be truckin’. I agree with the suggestion that, if you don’t get it totally finished, you just wear the WIP to Rhinebeck (no sleeves = long vest). Those colors are fabulous! Go you!

  • You’re a rock star, lady! Just finished a shawl that, although nothing compared to your rose-a-saurous, challenged me every step of the way. Swear I unknit as many rows as I knit in one section. (Some rows multiple times) Happily, we are all in this together.

  • Cool! No one will look at the inside. Tie knots and move on…

  • Congrats!! That is a serious achievement! And unlike a trial you get an AMAZING sweater knit by *you,* at the end. Also, Unlike a trial, many days for years to come you will have That feeling of glorious accomishment, not to mention a wRdrobe statement piece. Mazel Tov!! And thank you for the vicarious knitting accomplishment!

    (In my fantasy world, some day I’ll be 1/2 as good a knitter as you & Ann are. Never mind about productivity comparisons.)

  • Fantastic! I’m with the not-weaving-the-ends-in crowd. If it’s cold enough, you’ll never need to take it off.

  • I’m dying to know what’s up with the center of the flower- was that the original pattern, or did you wing it? It looks great, and I’m not judging at all, just super curious! Watching you solve all the patterns problems is totally exciting, a lot like watching other people play sports . I am literally on the edge of my seat to see if you finish in time for rhinebeck! (Wow is that last sentence the kind of thing you only say to another knitter!)

  • I am in awe!

  • Unless you plan to wear it inside out, you don’t have to have all the ends woven in by Rhinebeck.

  • That’s a beautiful, inspiring sweater. Also, Best Picture Of You Ever. (Also inspiring, in its way.)

  • Loved this paragraph: “The experience reminded me of how I felt years ago, when I was a trial lawyer. Being on trial, for me, was always intensely stressful. I felt, every time, like I was working at the very edge of my abilities, and I was going to screw it up at any moment. But it was the only time I really felt like I was doing law for real. Every little moment of not screwing things up (or surviving screwing things up) made me feel alive. It’s what I would imagine playing a team sport would feel like.”

    My best days teaching feel like that: I deal with a ton of issues, questions, crises, all flying at me at once, but I’ve got it, I’m dealing with everything, and the kids are getting it, and the technology works, and I can see the disasters and avoid them, and I get 518 things done, even the little things like ordering more sticky notes, and when I get home I am exhausted and loopy, but I know that I taught the HELL out of that day.

    And it rocks.

    (The next 45 days are probably much less hyped-up-crazy, but oh well. Those full-speed-ahead days are pretty special.)

  • Well done, I love it and I know just what you mean about the highs and lows of a CHALLENGE!
    I have just finished a dress for myself to my own intarsia pattern, I can’t wait for cooler weather to wear it though I hate winter.

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