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Dear Kay,

First things first. (Knitting, of course.)

I’m now in a groove on Jeanette Sloan’s gorgeous Dionne Shawl, using Baa Ram Ewe’s Winterburn Aran—the yarn that has been burning a hole in my pocket ever since it landed in the MDK Shop.

Color: Viking. This is not Pumpkin Spice no matter what you may think you’re seeing here.

After knitting the same basic sock pattern for four months, my knitting brain has a powerful urge to cast on 64 stitches and go. That’s not what I’m supposed to do here. This is a sort of painting with stitches. The openwork pattern (it’s so graphic and modern and cool that I hate to pin the “lace” label on it) uses symmetry and (HELLO) asymmetry to arrive at this beautiful design.

Being on the road, I didn’t have stitch markers, which are the thing that saves the day on a pattern like this. And somewhere between Boston and Maine, I lost my one sticky note—that crucial line-keeper for the chart. I am roughing it, Kay. ROUGHING IT. As my mom always said, “With the right tools, you can do anything.” What she meant was, “Without the right tools, you’re totally screwed.”

Anyway. Jeanette’s pattern is written for fingering weight yarn, and Winterburn Aran is (YES) aran weight, so I’m just following the pattern as written. The finished size of the original pattern is 47 inches, using fingering weight. My rough calculation puts mine at 72 inches, which is totally my thing. I’m looking forward to a wrap that will serve as a big, woolly Bluefaced Leicester/Masham comfort item for the coming days.

In the MDK Shop
The blend of ecru and dark brown wool gives all nine Winterburn colors a rich depth.

Meanwhile . . .

It’s been an amazing weekend in Maine, my first visit here and certainly not my last. Son David and his partner in crime Jacob had the premiere of Lewiston, their short documentary at the Camden International Film Festival.

Up top are Maine things I noticed, one being that when you stay at an Air BnB, you often are presented with small mysteries and the feeling of being a fly on the wall or a distant cousin who’s staying over for a bit. I know that that collection of shells was somebody’s project, but was it one delirious week or a decade? Those nine smooth rocks came from someplace meaningful. And whoever tacked that New Yorker cartoon cocktail napkin to the bedroom door did that for a reason.

I do know why that coconut is there, though.

It’s a little face. Wouldn’t anybody hold onto that?

David and Jacob, probably texting each other.

Their film explores the community of Lewiston, Maine, where one-sixth of the population is of Somalian descent. One of the families came to the screening, and it was frankly amazing to get to meet the women I’d been seeing in early versions of the film for months.

Anyway, hats off to the Camden International Film Festival, which is a 15-year-old treasure. It makes you want to look closer at things—a weekend of documentaries is like having x-ray vision into worlds you never knew existed. The black-market baby eel trade in Maine? That’s a thing.




  • A beautiful shawl in the making and a wonderful, interesting weekend in Maine. The stuff that dreams (and a great weekend) are made of!

    • I love that shawl! How can I get a paper pattern so I can make it? I can’t download things and print my own!

      • Go to your library; they could help you print it (there is probably a small charge for printing).

      • Sometimes I think we all get so very caught up in having everything just right, with all the tools and thingies, and whatsits that we forget how to fly. So, stand on the very edge and just flap your wings…the shawl will carry you through to a beautiful conclusion. And the photos of Maine are wonderful, thanks!

  • I love every word of your daring post! Goodness, Woman! No stitch markers? Certainly you can wrangle up a box of paper clips somewhere…..even though it is Maine. And Thank You for telling about the film and the fearless film makers! Congratulations on a beautiful topic; what a gift to give us all. Love the photos; such exquisite young people!

    • You were in Camden and missed The Cashmere Goat, a primo yarn store? They have stititch markers-I know from personal experience! Glad you made it up here, closer to the Artic Circle.

      • I stuck my head into that lovely shop and wished I could have stayed longer!

  • What a beautiful shawl that will be!! And your pictures bring back memories of our Maine visit a few years back. Sigh! Loved it!

  • I don’t know why that cartoon was on your door, but the same cartoon was taped to my daughters refrigeraor door for years!

    Love the shawl, love the color! I have learned over the years that when compelled to knit without the proper “props”, a good knitter will always improvise and carry on ( spoken as one who once replaced a broken sock needle with two toothpicks begged from an airport cocktail bar)

  • Also, no stitch markers! Cut little rings from a straw!

    • Brilliant!

      • Or tie little rings of a contrasting yarn (there are always a few yarn scraps in the bottom of every bag I use to carry knitting around).

  • Hey, there’s a Jameson!!! That’s my son’s name! I’m so glad to see another human with the name, and not a dog….

  • This brought such a wave of homesickness over me! I was born and raised in Maine. My Husband’s job brought us to VA 28 years ago. I’m overdue for a trip back!

    • Memory lane! You gotta go back.

  • Awww. Thanks for the glimpse inside. Aren’t the youngsters amazing? Now I want to learn more about this town.

  • Congratulations to your son and his partner on their film!!! Fun reading your comments about Maine since I live here. Wait til you experience the Common Ground Fair!! Hope to see you there.

    • Thank you, Joan—you live in a very special part of the world. Can’t wait to return.

  • Your Clif reminds me of George Harrison. I’ve been thinking that for years, and it’s time I said it out loud. 🙂

    Congratulations to David and Jacob on their film, and congratulations to you for toughing it out with that shawl! It’s a beauty, and the color is stunning.

    • A Beatle in the family wow! Love it.

    • Jules – OMG – I didn’t see it until you pointed it out but that is exactly who Clif reminds me of too!!!

  • Love addi needles…..the best all around tool for knitting…deb

  • I went to Maine once and loved it. How about plastic bread wrapper tags?

  • Thanks for sharing and inspiring but how do you calculate how much yarn it takes to move from fingering to Aran?

    • Our local yarn store sells stitch markers and lots of yarn! The film was great! Congrats to David.

  • Ann, how do you figure the yardage when you’re using a completely different weight of yarn? Is it the same as the fingering weight, just making the shawl proportionately larger?

    • Luckily she goes to work every day in a small yarn warehouse! Ann: do knit this up quickly so you can tell everyone how many skeins it took. I’m curious myself. It looks amazing.

      • Am knitting like the wind, will be done soon!

    • I’m curious too!

      • I’m curious also.

  • What a lovely post Ann. How exciting to see your son’s work on the Big Screen! And Maine is such a beautiful, enchanting place. The shawl is just gorgeous wow!!

  • But what about the baby eels?

    • Let’s just say if you’re a baby eel in Maine, you have a lot to be worried about. The film is called ELVERS, which is the name for the people who fish them. The glass eels sell for $1,200 a pound to brokers who then ship them to Asia where they’re farmed into full-sized eels for that market.

  • You travel without a stash of sticky notes? I have them everywhere, because you never know when you’ll need one!

    Also- have you figured out how much Aran weight is that shawl taking? And how did you figure that out? Thanks!

    • I haven’t actually calculated exactly how much Winterburn Aran this is going to take. There are yardage calculators online, but I just kind of grabbed some skeins and dove in. Will let you know final skein requirement.

  • You couldn’t find stitch markers and sticky notes in Maine?1?1? Those poor, deprived Maine residents! (P.S.: Kermit wants to know if you brought back any lobster for him.)

  • My Mom would have made the same comment…without the right tools you are screwed. She was a fabulous knitter, crewel embroidery maven, and many more intrinsically lovely things. Do post the FO photos; I often thought of just casting on a fingering shawl with a heftier yarn and seeing what magic happens!

    • It is so much fun to see how this shawl is turning out. Sizing up changes the scale in such a cool way.

  • You went to Chase’s Daily… the produce….. the produce!!! We live on it when we are in Maine. Mary in Cincinnati

    • What a completely lovely place. Couldn’t quite believe it was real!

  • My only glance at Maine was in a 100 mile bike ride that I did to raise money for the Leukemia society. I wish so much that I could have slowed down just a second because it was beautiful. Some day

    • It really is spectacular. I want to go back, too.

  • I’d love to see a film about Somali immigrants in Maine – I work with refugee women every day – such a privilege! Any coming soon news about Lewiston?

    • Thank you for your interest, Pam! It’s showing at film festivals at the moment. When it’s streaming online, I’ll share that info.

  • I am excited w your site- I live in Minnesota but born in Maine and have family cottages there. I love to knit and good patterns- not extremely difficult- do socks throws for family and lots more…look forward to news fr Maine!!!

    • Thanks for reading MDK! Something new here every day …

  • Just spent almost a week in Maine, most of it on a schooner cruise out of Camden with knitting friends! It’s a lovely state! And I finished a Dionne earlier this year, with some lovely purple Malabrigo sock yarn.

  • Maine has been striving to be a welcoming place for immigrants for a while, and I was proud of my city for making the national news as a record number of refugee families arrived in Portland this summer to an outpouring of support! Winter, in Maine is close, though and several agencies that serve new Mainers are in need of warm woollies if this story sparks any interest in helping out! One group collecting is Maine Access Immigrant Network

    • As a Mainer myself, I am so glad to here this – that immigrants were welcomed, and to learn about this charity. Thank you!

  • I grew up in Maine, about 30 minutes from Lewiston. I really look forward to seeing this documentary! The coast of Maine, the western hills, farms and mostly defunct paper and woolen mills, the northern reaches on the Canadian border, Acadia national park… it’s like 6 states in one! Vacationland indeed.

  • I love vacation rentals for the same reason. In the house we stayed in this summer, I eventually found 13 muffin tins… I’m still dreaming up stories that could explain it. Others in our group are concerned with things like en suite bathrooms and air conditioning. Who remembers that years later?

  • So cool! Is it possible to see the film someplace? I had an intern last summer who was one of the first Somali kids in his town in Maine, which surprised me because I had no idea there was a Somali population there. (Minnesota has one of the largest in the country.). I’d love to share it with him, although he had moved on to greener and less chilly pastures.

  • Thanks for taking us along on your trip. Love the quote from your mom. 🙂 Agree about staying in Air BnBs — the best of them are beautifully quirky. The last one we stayed in had the wifi password printed on fortune-cookie-size paper, and scattered everywhere. 🙂 Taped over the toilet-paper dispenser. In a decorative carved box. Under a statuette on a book case. 🙂

  • Love that your gorgeous shawl is Aran and will be BIG The best kind. Congratulations to your son! I don’t know the outcome but what is most important is starting a project and seeing it through! Our one AirBnB experience was a large apartment in midtown Manhattan for a very low price. Pure luck. That whole trip was quirky but wonderful.

  • Oh, Ann! You had me at “Maine.” I adore this post, but I must tell you that I am secretly aghast! that you, one of my Knitting Icons, travels anywhere (ANYWHERE!) without proper knitting tools! One must always be prepared to be stranded on a desert island, or Maine. Would you travel to Maine without money, or underwear? I think not. Always have in your purse at least these: twenty stitch markers, a cable needle, a tiny pair of scissors, a tape measure, and a crochet hook. These few small things save so much angst when stranded far from home (or even a few blocks). Avoid panic. It is not a good feeling. Trust me. I know about this.

  • About how much aran yarn did you need to finish this shawl? but I canNOT imagine doing it sans markers. makes me shudder to think.

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