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

October 31, 2005

Can I Boro Your Jeans?

Dear Ann,

Ever since your fan-pfaffing-tastic post featuring boro textiles, it's been all boro, all the time around here. Anything that is getting a little scruffy, I feel like I ought to put a patch on. Trouble is, it's a quick slide back to my personal 1970s, with 'patchwork' print fabric (polyester double-knit being the medium of choice), hippy embroidery on dirty jeans ("Um, Kay, the blue eyeshadow and hot-rollered hair? Not so Janis Joplin."), and the dreaded iron-on fake denim patches that never faded, but slowly peeled off your pants, leaving you utterly humiliated.

I exSPECIALLY like the idea of knitted denim patches. (Is there anyone who didn't see that coming?)

Joseph has a pair of Original Fit jeans from the Gap. Size 6, so skinny they could make you cry. One knee is kaflooey and the other one has a white spot that is going to blow any minute. They are the perfect length, just grazing the tops of his sneakers. Since his ankles surely will be peeking out by Thanksgiving, I didn't want to buy another pair in this size. I had no choice, really, but to knit up two denim patches.


Installation was easy, since I have a million yards of 2-ply Texere denim, which makes tough sewing thread.

I sewed the cable patch on the inside, to preserve the cool-looking hole.

Joseph put them on and wore them for about 12 hours before he noticed anything different. When he asked, I told him, in my best la-la-la-there-is-nothing-wrong-here tone of voice, that they were patches to cover the holes in his jeans.

As you have pointed out, boys can be quite linear in their reasoning. Joseph now insists that the cable patch be removed and put on the outside, to better serve my stated purpose of covering the hole. The hole still shows. Who can argue with that?

The inside cable patch looks so cute when he bends his knees. I am going to try to wait him out. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

And not for nothing, but even Lilly Pulitzer is jumping on the boro bandwagon:

Bless her heart, this girl had to cut up all her capris to make a pair of jeans! Seriously, I think this concept would be way cuter on a little girl whose mom has a righteous stash of Amy Butler fabric, for example.

Three Hours to Buy a Witch Costume

My kids used to wear handmade Halloween costumes that were months in the planning and shipped all the way from Nebraska by my best-friend-since-second-grade, who cares truly, madly and deeply about Halloween costumes and the hand-making thereof. Those days are gone. These days we go to Ricky's and buy cheesy costumes like everybody else. A dubious 'vampire' dress, a wig-hat, and a makeup kit, and you're good to go. One match and you'd melt into a puddle of polymer, but you're plenty scary:

The key is finding the right stoop to stand in front of.

But most New Yorkers don't really have to dress up for Halloween.

(Aw just kiddin' Jane and Leslie! MUCH hair and makeup was required to make you look like horrible crones. SO MUCH!)

Have a great trick or treat,

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:23 AM | Comments (23)

October 28, 2005

Perfect Sweater: Rubber Hits the Road

Dear Kay, and the Perfect Handknitterz,

So distracted! I was just fixing my eyebrows. OK so my eyebrow stylist was just fixing my eyebrows. She comes by every morning to check them out and make sure I'm good to go. Really, the experience of you reading that KnitLit piece at Coliseum Books has changed my life so utterly. People have such expectations now. The phone calls, the endorsement offers. I'm off shortly for a Pepto-Bismol photo shoot. It was so weird--when the Pepto people called, I just had to laugh--I mean, I ALREADY USE THEIR PRODUCTS! I love that stuff!

But Enough About Moi!

The Future Search is almost done, folks. We are basically THERE, in a disorganized way.

The last quick poll answered the burning question of how long we should futz over the issue of the neckline.

What should we do next?

Move on and land this lunar module! Tom Hanks is looking kind of pasty.
64.1% 294

Vote on the neckline until we get a majority. We need a majority!
35.9% 165

total votes: 459

Power to the people! We move on!

At this point we have a sweater on the cusp of greatness, yet there remain lingering cavils, gripes, worries, concerns, issues, and whines.

There has been some question (Kay and KT) about the issue of executive authority and whether somebody (me) can simply "abort the V-neck" or say "People, suck it up, we are making THIS kind of neckline." Man, would I ever like to exert some executive override here, but then I'd be Karl Rove or Barbra Streisand or Alice Starmore, right? I hasten to remind you that my role in this Future Search is simply to facilitate this process--I map the minds that make the whole world sing, I make the blogpolls about tedious things. This Future Search is about the Us-ness of it all.

Gwen and Natalie get the Erin Brockovich Whistleblower Award for noticing that I somehow hijacked the whole deal by saying that the Perfect Sweater is a cardigan when in fact the vote was for a pattern could be either a pullover OR a cardigan. How'd that happen? Glad SOMEbody was paying attention. Like this situation needs to be any more convoluted than it already is. Glad they don't have me over in Baghdad counting ballots.

Solution-oriented Thoughts

Sarahfish: "Maybe someone could offer a re-write of the pattern for those who want to futz with the neckline or adjust from cardi to pullover."

Susan M.: "Since we've come so far, and found a consensus on so much, could we maybe have a flexible neckline plan? I mean, the Perfect Sweater To Date seems to be the kind of thing that will fit-and-flatter just about anyone: set-in sleeves, a little shaping. Maybe the neckline is where those of us who like to fiddle around with a pattern can focus our fiddling? Personally, I like a neckline that's a little squared off; or maybe has a little collar added."

Anne Margaret: "Let's remember that a truly Perfect sweater is one that is DONE! So let's get to the knittin'!

Next Steps: The Long and Winding Road

At this final stage of a Future Search, everybody commits to what their next actions will be after the Future Search ends. This usually involves a lot of affirmation ("I just want to thank Susie for organizing all the great snacks" and "Why can't we just do this EVERY year?" and "Glad Bill was out of town this weekend or none of this would have worked out"), and somebody volunteers to raise the money for the new building. For us, it's much more interesting, and cheaper, too.

Here's how it looks from here. We do in fact agree on a lot: cardigan OR pullover, long sleeves, set-in sleeves, slightly shaped waist, row of buttons up the front for the cardigan. Using Cascade 220 yarn.

The V-neck got the biggest vote, but not a majority. Who cares? I think we can crank a pattern that includes all the above elements, then work out a series of variations which Give The People What They Want: the collar of their dreams.

Now. This is the fun part. You have the chance to be a part of history, to help design the Perfect Sweater. Think of it! I will cook up the basic pattern, a pullover with a jewel collar because that's the one I wanted, in a size Small because it's easier to add stitches for larger sizes than to subtract them.

You, as a loyal and stalwart member of the Future Search team, will adapt this basic pattern for one of the other necklines that were nominated: V neck, crewneck, shawl collar, two-point collar, and funnel cake (which Liz will have to design because she's the one who seems to want it the most). I have not included turtleneck because I'm having trouble imagining how to make it a cardigan, but if somebody's jonesing for a turtleneck, have at it. And that goes for any other neckline style you prefer--boatneck, square neck. If you want it, here's your chance to GET it.

Once we have these patterns set--a pullover with varied collar styles--then we'll figure out how to adapt a cardigan pattern from that pullover pattern. And we'll add different sizes once we get all this set.

Now, I know some of you are saying, Hey, Barry Manilow, I didn't sign up to write a sweater pattern! I'm here for the drinks!

To which I respond, I know, neither did I. I kind of hoped it would fall out of the sky like a pony at Christmas. But I have no doubt that we can do this. With basic math, a few Googles, and enough beverages, we can write these patterns together. If you've never designed a thing in your life, but secretly kind of wish you had, this is for you. Writing a pattern is like cracking the human genome, or being first in line for recess--so exhilarating!

So. If you're game, please leave a Comment about which neckline you want to tackle. If several people want to do the same neckline, we'll figure that out. I will say that no preference will be given to bloggers over non-bloggers. (We blog for the blogless here at MDK.) But if you'd like to chronicle your design process on your blog, we would love to watch.

I'll work on the basic pullover pattern as fast as I can. I'll even resist my urge to steek in the name of the Perfect Sweater.

Finally, let me thank everybody for all the great drinks. And I wish we did this EVERY year.


Posted by Ann at 02:28 PM | Comments (40)

October 27, 2005

You Were There (Sort Of)

Dear Ann,

I know you're dying for a report on how the reading for KnitLit the Third went last night. Who are we kidding--that's why we talked on the phone for an hour after I got home. But here's the photo of the assembled readers, all of whom were authors except for the one on the far right, wearing actual lipstick (I wanted you, and my mom, to be proud of me).


From left, we have:

Nilda Mesa, a sister 'recovering lawyer' and author of 'You Owe Me';

Editor Linda Roghaar in her justly-famous yellow cardi, glowing that 'new grandma' glow;

Sandra Hurtes ("What's a Yarn Store Without a Yenta?");

Jenny Feldon ("The Scarlet K"; rated PG 13 for extramarital hat-knitting);

Cathy Cooper ("Pound of Love");

Jenny Frost ("The Fabric of Time");

Me: ("In Which It Is Discovered That I Am Not Ann Patchett", reader not writer).

Now, as your Personal Reader, I will take questions from the audience:

Q: MISS GARDINER! MISS GARDINER! Is it weird to read something when you didn't write it?

A: Yes!

Q: Are you less nervous when you stand up in front of people and read something you didn't write?

A: Are you kidding me---NO!

Q: But don't you feel like, if they don't laugh at the funny parts, it will not be your fault, seeing as how you didn't write the thing to begin with?

A: Well, you make a good point. Wish I had thought of that.

Aw, just kidding Ann. They did laugh at the funny parts (especially the revelation that you actually ARE superfakeynice--people seem to want to know about that), and it was swell being there, knitting, reading, and (ah...) being read to.

See those windows behind us? They face onto 42nd Street, which as you may know is one of our major thoroughfares here in Gotham. The audience, contentedly knitting, faced these windows. You would not believe how many pedestrians stopped, for long minutes, to gawp in at us, talking to their companions, pointing and gesticulating as if it were a one-way mirror and we could not see them. Now you would think, with all the freaks patrolling the streets of New York, that New Yorkers would not stop talking on their cell phones to stare at the mere act of Group Knitting. But they did. Most amusing.

And in answer to the burning question: Those Socks That Rock, do they really rock?


Cara's brand-new Rockstar socks make their first public appearance. Cara wants you to know that she shaved her legs in case anybody took a picture. What can I say? The evening was Pure Class.

I still think you might be Ann Patchett. Bring me Ann Patchett!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:03 AM | Comments (14)

October 26, 2005

The Perfect Dadknit

Dear Ann,

Ms. Gardiner For the Defendant, Your Honor

As a preliminary order of business, I have to defend your honor as a so-called guru, seeing as how you're my idol and everything. A Gentle Reader has expressed Astonishment that in all your born days, you have never Kitchenered. I think the answer to this mystery lies in the fact that a person could knit 1000 Rowan sweaters (and you're getting close to that figure, aren't you? only halfway, you say? count again! and remember you're under oath!) without ever steeking OR grafting.

Rowanettes like to knit things flat, in as many pieces as possible, and then backstitch those puppies together. (Then we go out on the misty moors in our underwear and model them with sulky expressions.) It's our 3-part training: knit flat, sew up pieces, model in underwear. (Then start another sweater.)

The Perfect Dadknit

You know me: quietly industrious. I've been quietly, industriously knitting on the Portly Dad Vintage 70s Cowboy-Hat Country Gentleman Raglan-Sleeved Cardi. I have finished all the pieces:


Aren't they lovely? Don't they look just like something Fred MacMurray would cozy up in right before lighting his pipe and solving a problem for one of his Three Sons? I love the garter rib pattern, inside and out. It reminds me of thermal underwear aka Long Johns, another leitmotif of Dad's Personal Style.

Using Hubby as a model, I feel pretty confident that the length of the body and sleeves is Just Right. Now is the time to join the raglans and knit the front bands and shawl collar, and then sew the side seams. Why haven't I done this? Procrastination again? Still? No! I haven't done this because I'm not sure the cardi will be big enough around to fit Dad and Dad's flannel shirt. Since he'll be wearing it as a jacket, I want it to be roomy. I can't be sure it will fit until I can try it on Dad, and I won't be seeing Dad until at least Thanksgiving.

What will I do if it's too small? I have the perfect answer!!!!!!! The answer is:

GUSSETS!!!!!!! I'll insert panels in the sides in just the perfect width to make the sweater fit Just So. Since the gussets will make the armhole bigger, I'll add a mini-gusset to the top of the sleeve, and decrease it down to a point so it fits into the sleeve without making the wrist too baggy. I've been thinking about gussets all the time, wondering whether to do them in a finer gauge, less tweedy wool (but still coordinating) so that I can run a lovely cable up the center, or whether I should just do them in a quiet, sturdy moss stitch in the same wool (of which I have SIX full skeins left).


I need some suggestions on that. Should Dad's gussets ROCK or should they simply BE?

These are the things I like to think about, while others chop up their knitting.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 08:55 AM | Comments (41)

October 25, 2005

Report from Fair Isle

Dear Kay,

I have so much to tell ye. I have new skills to report.

There comes a time in circular knitting where you've done enough tube. It's time to stop the tube. In the case of this Fair Isle project (which I hasten to remind you is in fact my first attempt at this sort of thing), I may have overtubed. This thing is so long that it may actually be a dress. Remember how I was making big fun of sweater dresses and the '80s and all that? Well, I think I may have just committed a sweater dress.

Skill Number One: Kitchener Stitch

When you've cranked enough tube, or too much tube, it's time to make shoulders. The designer of my sweater, the feisty Alice Starmore, says, "Graft the shoulders together." I say YEEOWKS where's my Principles of Knitting book?

Having never made a sock, where there always seems to be a lot of excitement in the area of kitchenering, I was woefully ill prepared. I understood the concept of grafting--you sew the tops of the shoulders' loops together to make a row that looks like you knitted it. But learning the little kitchener trick was All New To Me.


Front: Knit, drop the stitch. Purl. Back: Purl, drop the stitch. Knit. It really does work, by jinky. You're taking the yarn on a little trip through all the loops in the correct order, but you're using a sewing needle instead of knitting.


Which leaves you with an awesome scratchy wool pillowcase.

Skill Number Two: Cutting a Steek

I think you know how long I have wondered about cutting steeks. The idea that you could make an armhole by whacking a hole in your perfectly good piece of knitting seemed barbaric, or at the least sort of unsophisticated. Shyeah, while we're at it why don't we just staple the sleeves onto the thing?

But it's actually very elegant, this steek stuff. If you're a resident of Fair Isle, and you're making sweaters as fast as you can, you want to make the finishing as simple as possible. You like the tube part; you don't like the set-in-sleeve gently-noodged-into-place part. You, as a Fair Islander, understand your wool's ability to cling to itself like Velcro, and you know that your stitches hold together if they've been knitted in a checkerboard pattern. So you figure out a way to make three-tube sweaters: body, sleeve, sleeve.


You dislike finishing so much that you would rather chop up your knitting than sew seams of any kind. Here's the armhole, ready to be snipped.

Glad Nobody Saw the Scene Here on Sunday Morning

After a late night of kitchener fever, I had my overtubed pillowcase all done. I had been planning to seek out a group of sympathetic knitters to hold my hand as I shakily took scissors to steek. But the fact is, I was so curious, soooooo curious, so superultracurious that I couldn't stand that Pandora's Box pillowcase just sitting there unchopped.

Very early on Sunday morning, I checked Fair Isle Weather Web Cam. (Forecast: 24 hours: SCATTERED SHOWERS. Days 2-5: RAIN OR SHOWERS, WINDY. Days 6-10: UNSETTLED.) Just like Nashville! It helped that the weather had taken a turn for the grim: rainy, low forties, no hint of the sun. It was clammy. I still had my PJs on, as well as a sweater, a shawl, and my superugly bedroom slippers. People dress like this on Fair Isle, right? I hunkered down in a corner, chugged a cup of coffee, and did this:


A maw! A gaping maw! Run for your lives!


The stitches did great.


What surprised me was that I'm not supposed to finish off the steek--to trim the edge down to two stitches and whipstitch all along the seam to secure the stitches--until AFTER I knit the sleeve. The untrimmed edge just SITS THERE until later.


Just sits there. Hanging out. Doing nothing.


Sleeve tubes crank much faster than big tubes. Merciful, that.

If I can't move to Fair Isle, I'll just make my own little island of scratchy wool knitting right here. Please come by, and don't forget your PJ/sweater/shawl/uglyslipper combo.


Posted by Ann at 11:12 AM | Comments (33)

October 24, 2005

Perfect Sweater: So Much Depends

Dear Kay, and Beloved Future Searchahs,

I hope your time away from the Future Search has given you the opportunity to reflect, to think back on the sweaters of your life--oh WHATever, let's get to the bone and gristle of this exercise: the facts.

For those of you just joining us, we are currently in a wobbly orbit, attempting to land on Planet Perfect Sweater. The retro rockets aren't firing quite right, the Astronaut Ice Cream is no longer a treat, and Tom Hanks is rigging up a repair using a cardboard box and a leftover Tang packet. But we are going to land this spaceship, people. WE WILL NOT FAIL. If we all breathe shallowly, we can conserve enough oxygen to complete this mission.

Our last votes were a neck-off and a sleeve-off, to resolve tight initial votes regarding neckline and sleeve construction issues. The results:

The neckline should be

v-neck 43.8% 268
a jewel collar (round w/no significant edging) 23.4% 143
crewneck (an inch or so of edging) 17% 104
shawl collar 15.8% 97

total votes: 612

If you chose sleeves, what sort of construction would you like them to have?

Set-in 60.2% 359
Raglan 39.8% 237

total votes: 596

To refresh your memory of the heated debate, please refer to the Comments posted on the 10/13 entry. The Comments registered during this vote were passionate, heartfelt, and included, for the first time ever on Mason-Dixon Knitting, the words "hotsy-totsy kickass gorgeous bitchin' bod," "nice rack," and "no rack whatsoever."

So here, after at least six weeks of Searching, we have arrived here:

the Perfect Handknit is a sweater

a cardigan

with long sleeves

which are set in.

it has a slightly shaped waist and

buttons up the front and

a V neck.

It all seems so simple, right? Looks like a freakin' William Carlos Williams poem, don't it? Will somebody please parse this thing for me, and suggest what we should do next?

I am concerned that the neckline neck-off did not result in a majority--only 43.8% are for a V-neck.

Quick vote:

Please vote by Monday, 9:59 pm CDT.



Posted by Ann at 10:09 AM | Comments (27)

October 22, 2005

Weekend Shrug Report

Dear Ann,

Well, I don't know what is wrong with me. I often hear knitters say they never knit the same thing twice, even if they really enjoyed it the first time and it turned out great. Me? I rarely knit something just the once. I like to roll up my sleeves and knit a dozen of something, especially if it's small and memorizable and if I can play with it a little, making harmless tweaks for my own amusement. I like to go deep into a pattern. Really get it down, you know?

After the Summer of 30 (or so) Dishrags, this autumn I'm moving up the food chain by knitting, at last count, 7 One Skein Wonders, girl-sized. For one thing, there is a real public demand for this item. The girls love 'em. The mothers of girls request 'em. I like to knit 'em. Everybody's happy; there is a rare harmonic convergence of knitter and knittee. For another thing, the One Skein Wonder, although small, undeniably qualifies as a garment. Garments get a respect that even the most tasteful and exquisite dishrag cannot command.

I thought I was over the One-Skein Wonders, but no. I have 3 more finished ones in inventory. Since I know we like to spend our weekday blog time on High-minded Pursuits (like discovering that the Perfect Sweater needs to have--- pockets!), I am blogging about my little cottage industry/OCD on a Saturday. Hope nobody minds. If you can't stand another shrug photo, please, feel free to hit the back button. I won't be offended. I know I'm boring. I'm okay with boring.

Here is Shrug No. 5.

Sized for a petite 4 year old who recently had a birthday. Noro Lily, a skein and a half. Those who are not fast asleep will notice immediately that this shrug is Different. I made the sleeves longer. This was easy to do. I just decreased a few times, then knit to the desired length, working flat because the sleeves are small and I didn't have any dpns with me on the subway, which was when I decided to add the sleeves. The chief challenge was remembering how to do the same thing on the second sleeve. I also added a curved edge to the back, to make it a little longer, and then did the edging in the round as per the pattern.

I love to accessorize for the little ones. I made the shrug first, but look what I found in the local Gap that matches perfectly, but not TOO perfectly:

Finding the little brown cords was a primo Auntie Kay Moment. Very satisfying.

One of the rules of the experienced trial lawyer is Quit When You're Ahead. You learn this by asking One Question Too Many. In the crafting world, this translates as One Craft Too Many. For example, when you are so drunk with krafty karma after knitting a darling shrug and finding a tiny outfit to match, that you cannot restrain yourself from:

....needle-felting a hanger. Oh well. Someday, very soon, the youngsters will be mocking ole Auntie Kay and the wacky crafts she produced. But it was fun.

Happy weekend,


Posted by Kay at 12:45 PM | Comments (24)

October 21, 2005

Girls Gone Mild

Dear Kay,

Apparently the National Trust for Scotland has received 1,000 applications from people who want to move to Fair Isle. The vast majority are from people living in the U.S. Our woman in London, Belinda (bless her!), sends this latest report from the BBC4 program "You and Yours" aka "Those Americans Are Nuts." Click on the "Listen Again" button. The Fair Isle report starts at 10:58 into the show.

I have unearthed a transcript of the first meeting as the culling process began:

Mr. McDonough: Gentlemen, we have a large task on our hands. When have we ever had a thousand people wanting to move here? Not since the shipwreck of the Armada flagship El Gran Griffon in 1588 have we had this much media attention. We must choose carefully.

Mr. McHugh: Och aye, Duncan. So many people. So many Americans. What are they thinking?

Mr. McGregor: What does this mean? [sounds of paper rustling] "If I don't get out of this place, I'm going postal."

Mr. McHugh: DEFINITELY call her. Lachlan has been dreadful about getting the mail on the ferry in time.

Mr. McGregor: Here' a knitter. She's asking if we have wi fi. [hoots of laughter] We've barely got fi, missy.

Mr. McDaniel: This one wants to start a yarn shop. [more hoots] As IF we need any more of THAT around here. Shall we all agree straight off that the whole knitting thing has got to stop, and stop now?

[sounds of assent, one "hellyeah" and one "enough with the freakin' stranded handknits"]

Mr. McKelvin: This one keeps going on about Virginia Woolf and a room of one's own and how she thinks Fair Isle represents some sort of Camelot for overwhelmed women.

Mr. McOwen: Bleh! Can't stand that pretentious b.s. Chuck that one.

Mr. McFraser: What about this? It's a group of some kind--are they dancers? Have you seen this video they sent? "Girls Gone Wild--Spring Break Cancun"? These are finalists, if you ask me.

Mr. McLeod: We've got but two houses to let, man. That's at least two dozen lassies there.

Mr. McHugh: Right you are. We move on.

An EVENT in Manhattan!

You are all cordially exhorted to attend a knit-in/read-in/loiter-in next week. A group of contributors to KnitLit the Third is going to be reading their pieces at Coliseum Books, 11 West 42nd St., on Wednesday, Oct. 26. from 6:30-8 pm. Among the talented folks scheduled to appear, Kay is going to be reading the piece about us. Hope you can all come.

Future Search

In a minute, in a minute! Right this second, I have a gaggle of knitters headed toward the house in 24 minutes, and let's just say that the twelve pounds of Star Wars Legos need to find a new home other than the floor of the den. Must preserve that illusion that our floor is toy free at all times.


Posted by Ann at 09:36 AM | Comments (15)

October 19, 2005

Seeing John Malkovich

Dear Kay,

While you and the entire blogiverse have been in Rhinebeck blissing out on wacky new crafts and carrying on like a bunch of Kappa Deltas during rush week at the University of Alabama, I have been on the MOVE.

Stop One: Tailgate Antiques Show

If it's October, you know where to find me: out in the parking lot of the Fiddler's Inn across the street from the Opryland Hotel. I am utterly addicted to the Tailgate Antiques Show: a strip motel becomes ye olde curiosity shoppe once hundreds of dealers fill up the rooms with Stuff To Sell. What more could a person want? I know, I know: less potpourri. But still.

There were the usual heads, shoes, stuffed mountain lions in repose on Persian carpets, and oil portraits of dogs who have gone on to a better place. But I knew it was going to be an auspicious day when my traditional stop at Gwen LaFevre's textiles room netted me a new addition to my collection of mending and darning samplers.


I have a strict rule that I have to buy anything that has my initials on it. This sampler is so subtle that I can't get a picture of it--it's just a series of seams some European girl named A.S. was practicing in 1913. But the seams! So straight! So teeny! So NOT something that girls are practicing anymore!

We turned a corner, and hanging from the balcony was this:

The price tag says $2,250.

This is a boro textile, I have now discovered. It came from Japan, early 20th century probably, and was a futon cover or some sort of bedding. These textiles show the extreme frugality of the poor Japanese--the patches sometimes have patches, and even tiny scraps of fabric are not wasted.

Take a look at these boro textiles I found after googling "indigo patch Japanese." Scroll down. Remind you of something?

You can read more here about a boro textiles show in San Francisco last year. Did anybody happen to see it?

Frannie and I spent a good long while pondering this piece, as well as this coat made in the same way:


The dealer asked hopefully, "Do you work for Ralph Lauren?" When we chortled at the likelihood of that, he said that the Ralph Lauren folks had been through, taking ideas from these boro textiles.

It's Gee's Bend of the Far East. I was so wiped out after this discovery that the mood indigo tinted everything else I saw:



You would have been proud of me, loving the indigo and all.

Free bonus: What's this? Yet another one of Ann's weirdo pictures of human hair?


Naw, it's actually flax, aka Your Favorite Yarn in its natural state. I would have bet money that this was hair. Creepy enough for ya?

Stop Two: Chicago

This past weekend, there was no yarn. There was precious little knitting. There was no chance to go in search of famous Chicagoans like Evelyn or the Knitting Biologist or Bonne Marie or Cristina's family or any midwestern knitter at all.

It was all about the kids. ALL about the kids. It was a quick inspection visit to see my frere Clif, the sister-in-law Mary Neal, and nephew Wilson, who have just moved to the big city from a small town not far from . . . Rhinebeck.

Amid the Nazi U-boats, beluga whales, and burning cheese, there was a moment at breakfast when I looked up and thought, That looks just like John Malkovich. It was. He was looking awfully dapper in his joli-laid way, wearing as he surely was clothes of his own design.

Stop Three: The Perfect Sweater

We return tomorrow to our Future Search. Destiny is just around the corner. Maybe John Malkovich could help us design the perfect sweater. Somebody call the guy, please?


Posted by Ann at 11:48 AM | Comments (22)

October 17, 2005

Cara's Pictures

Dear Ann,

Here are some selections from the pictures I elbowed Cara into taking at Rhinebeck on Saturday.

Me and my travelling companion and publicist. ("She wrote a book. Are you going to buy it?") (Sorry Ann, she's not selling your half of the book. Put your own kids to work.) Carrie is wearing Old Whitby in black denim, a gift from Belinda in London. Kay is wearing Unknown Denim Cardi No. 2 (v-neck and shawl-collared, I might add), a recent eBay score. ($40, the picture was lousy so I just took a chance that the yarn would really be denim and that I could recycle it. Not only is it really denim, it's beautifully made and fits perfectly. I heart eBay.)

The Shirret Booth. Now you see why I had to go in, and why, once in, I was a goner. Look at those fluffy things hanging from the ceiling, all vintagey and raggedy and recycled. No way was I leaving without my Genuine Shirret Hook and all the requisite tools and materials.

This is Lady McCrady, granddaughter of the woman who invented Shirret and daughter of the woman who first taught it to crafters. Her name really is Lady! She's wonderfully enthusiastic. She makes wonderful things. Her teenage son was trying to explain to me how it works. You can guess how that went, but how adorable of him for trying! Watch this space for more Shirret. I gots to have one of those giant polka dot rugs. Do or die.

Thanks, sweet Cara, for the professional photography. Next time I'll remember to bring the ol' point and shoot.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 09:58 PM | Comments (23)

Been to Canaan

Dear Ann,

First let me relieve your mind. I spent 3 full hours at Rhinebeck on Saturday, amongst the fleeces and tops, the wheels and the show sheep coiffed to look like standard poodles. Yet somehow I came away without having spent my Pfaff Pfund on an Ashford wheel. I have reached an age of deep self-knowledge. That Pfaff is going to be a workhorse, a companion, a ticket to productive endeavor. The Ashford would be...furniture. I'm just sayin'.

OK, I did get a small drop-spindle. But again, think 'decorative accessory'. I like tools. I like wood. I found Mr. Wood Chuck, who loves to turn wood the way I love to knit dishrags. So I bought a few tools from him:


The red thing on the right is a Nostepinne: a hand-held ballwinder. Cristina has one, and she winds perfect center-pull balls on it. When I got home I made my first ball, of Noro Lily:


Okay, so it's not lovely, but it is a functional center-pull ball. I'll get better with practice. (By which I mean I'll watch Cristina do it next time.) It will be handy to be able to wind neat balls off of my cones of Peaches & Creme and Texere denim.

The stripey thing (center) is an exquisite case to hold yarn needles. See the wooden yarn needles Mr. Chuck makes? I cried unto him, "Why O why do you not make Knitting Needles, verily I would buy them all offa you?" He replied, 'In a word, Brittany'. Brittany makes turned needles and sells them so cheaply, he thinks knitters would not pay what he would have to charge. I laughed ruefully. Poor, dear man, he may be a genius at turning wood but he doesn't know nothin' 'bout knitters.

I also got some of the famous Socks That Rock. This may have had something to do with the fact that my guide and muse, Cara, has a rather heartbreaking Socks That Rock addiction. I got there 5 minutes before the closing, facing a wall of sock yarn. (They said, 'Oh hi again Cara.') Cara said there were 'no colors left'. Somehow I managed to find a couple of semi-rocking skeins. Some easy-listening, Lite FM socks. They rock quietly.

I didn't take any pictures because I put the KayCam in the wrong kid's backpack. I did, however, constantly pester Cara to take pictures with the giant camera she carries around, so at some point you will see some of the sights of Saturday, better than I could have snapped them.

I had a grand time. As with Stitches, though, it was stunning to realize how few fiber nuts have found the talking cure therapy of blogging. Don't get me wrong: there were plenty of lovely bloggers to meet. Bloggers blocked the entrances to many shops, making a spectacle of themselves with their hugging and kissing, their weird names ('Oh--it's Purling Swine!'), and their Amy Butler bags. One of my favorite conversations was a 30-second exchange with Norma, which went something like this:

Norma/Kay (talking at same time, into each other's shoulders): OhI'msohappytomeetyou, whatdidyoubuyhowwasyourdrive.

Kay: Hubby says I have to go home soon, I suppose you all are partying all night?

Norma: Well, you know, I'm tired. We're too old for all this partying. (With her eyebrows, she includes me in this 'we' that is 'too old'.) So we're going back to the room for champagne and left over cake.

Kay: Champagne sounds good.

Norma: And then after that we'll see if we feel like going out.

I would really like to have known Norma in younger, peppier times. It was sad to see her in this weakened state, struggling to keep up.

Regrets, I have a few: I didn't get to eat an Artichoke French. I hear they're tasty.

I did discover yet another Alt Craft from Days of Yore, but more about that later.

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:25 AM | Comments (22)

October 14, 2005

Random Stuff I've Been Meaning To Say If I Ever Got a Word In

Dear Ann,

So, anybody interested in the Perfect, um, Shrug? I know you thought I might, just possibly might, in a sane world, be finished knitting shrugs. Well, yes, I am finished, for the moment. I prefer to think that I have merely pushed the snooze button on the shrug clock radio. But there are shrugs that have been knitted, yet remain undocumented. I need to fix that.

Here is Julia, modelling her shrug in the Standard Pose, which studies have shown is the pose that shows the One Skein Wonder to best advantage and greatest wonderment.


Aaahh. Look at Julia. The very model of American Girlhood. So demure, so exceedingly well-behaved. Here she is, on Rosh Hashana, prim as all get-out in a shrug made of Blue Heron beaded cotton. But wait--there's more good behavior:

It's a double dose of primness! Would butter melt in their mouths? We think not.

Wait a minute--what have we here? Is it a....



...of decorum?....

I believe the technical term for this is Whack Rabbit Dancing.

Nova Scotia: Birthplace of Lox and Hooked Rugs

Been meaning to show you this lovely thing:


My sister-in-law, aka Aunt Kathy, bought this last summer in Nova Scotia. Rug hooking was, until quite recently, a subsistence craft there, practiced by men and boys as well as women and girls. This beauty was hooked by a man. He made the 'patches' replicate the patterns woven into the cloth he used. The plaids are particularly cool. While in Nova Scotia, Aunt Kathy found a wonderful rug hooking shop in Mahone Bay. You root around in old clothes to pick your fabrics, which the proprietress then turns into balls of strips while you wait.

It's so easy and satisfying that kids willingly do it. Both Maggie and Paul have projects of their own design on the go. In case anyone is wondering why a boy in the Bronx is dedicating a rug to the glory of David Beckham, here is a glimpse of Paul's bed. (To our friends in the British Isles: That is the only 'football' content you will see here for a good long while.) I love that this rug-hooking skill is so easily picked up, and that even a beginner can design their own project and get such good results. Must take it up in my spare time.

Note: Last paragraph was edited to provide link to Spruce Top, the rug hooking shop in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia where Aunt Kathy got the rug and the makings of Maggie and Paul's projects. The man who made Aunt Kathy's rug is Raymond E. McMahon, who happens to be the featured artist on Spruce Top's website right now. Hey! He's from Queens, New York! (P.S. For those concerned, Paul does know that Beckham has changed teams. However, Paul's own soccer coach, who hails from Ireland, has imbued his young charges with great devotion to Manchester United, hence Paul's decorative, um, flourishes.)

Despite the nonstop drenching rain, we've had a wonderful time over the Jewish holidays. Yesterday, on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), I fully enjoyed the 45 minutes I spent in front of the smoked fish counter at Zabar's. Hemmed in on all sides by people like myself, who had been tasked, while other family members prayed, to get provisions for the 'Break Fast' meal (traditionally, a suppertime 'breakfast' of bagels and lox), I got to watch New York at its best. People were making nice--aw!--it's so cute when New Yorkers are nice to each other. Makes you think they're from out of town.

A dozen expert slicers manned (and I do mean manned) the long cutting board; I heard Russian, Spanish, Chinese and several accents of good old Noo Yawkese spoken while I waited. A Chinese slicer wished a customer 'Happy New Year', and he responded, 'Thanks, and to you, too!' Another customer, dressed in a dark suit and tie-- like someone who might just have come from synagogue? -- let several numbers go ahead of him while he waited for his 'regular' counterman. When the man was free, the customer ordered his pound of 'Novie' (lox lingo for 'Nova Scotia salmon'). The counterman held out a sliver to taste (this is VIP treatment, lemme tellya--the customer/counterguy bond has to be rock-solid) The customer blushed and said, 'No taste today.' Ahem. I guess he was fasting. Anyway, this parade of lovable, appetizing-crazed humanity kept me entertained until it was time to go stand in the rain on the sidewalk in front of H & H Bagels. (C'mon, where else you gonna get your bagels on such an auspicious day? Gristedes? Feh!)

I'm sure you'd prefer that I take this extraneous, neither neck- nor sleeve-related blather to the lounge (I can tell by the way you're fiddling with your laser-pointer and rolling your eyes). I'm off to Rhinebeck tomorrow for a few glorious hours of mud, muck, and matted sheep! Woo-hoo! Look for me! I'm shy! Yes I am!

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:45 PM | Comments (24)

October 13, 2005

Perfect Sweater: Runoff Time!

Dear Kay, and Tout le Monde,

Is it just me, or does it seem like we're on the verge of something? At this point in the Future Search for the Perfect Handknit, I think we can all agree that we have made remarkable progress. Remember where we started?

[pause for reflection]

But there is one small element of the group that we need to address: the Retire to the Lounge people. I know, I know how these things work: there is always a small contingent who travel to the beat of a different drum, who blow in the wind, who are going sit on the dock of the bay. To them I say, "Has it come to this? Can we not compete with 2-for-1 Miller Lites? Is it that bad?" I ask you Loungers to participate in this small exercise, which I think will prove helpful:

If you voted "Retire to the Lounge," and wanted to stop this Future Search for the Perfect Handknit, please answer this question: You are a vegetable. Tell us which one, and why.

Our fervent hope is that your reflection on this question will give you the chance to think about your role in this quest. Yes, you do have a role.

[facilitator sniffs, bites lower lip, recalls Future Searches of days gone by]

Meanwhile, Some Verrrrry Interesting Results

I keep forgetting to put deadlines on the voting. Rest assured that I will make sure there are no last-minute rallies that change the following results. CHECKITOUT:

This garment has . . .

long sleeves. 70.5% 492
3/4-length sleeves. 28.2% 197
short sleeves. 0.7% 5
no sleeves. 0.6% 4

total votes: 698

If you chose sleeves, what sort of construction would you like them to have?

Set-in 44.7% 286
Raglan 34.8% 223
Yoke knitted in the round 6.9% 44
Modified drop 5.9% 38
Drop 4.2% 27
Saddle shoulder 3.4% 22

total votes: 640

The waist is . . .

shaped slightly. 72.4% 490
shaped to be very form fitting. 14.5% 98
straight. 13.1% 89

total votes: 677

The front of the cardigan should be fastened with . . .

a row of buttons. 52.8% 350
one artfully placed button. 20.8% 138
a zipper. 16.6% 110
a tie or sash. 5.4% 36
nothing at all--no fastener. 4.4% 29
total votes: 663

The neckline should be . . .

v-neck 30.1% 193
a jewel collar (round w/no significant edging) 20.4% 131
crewneck (an inch or so of edging) 18.4% 118
shawl collar 16.5% 106
funnel cake (whoops, got off track there) 5.9% 38
two-point collar 5.3% 34
turtleneck 1.7% 11
funnel neck 1.7% 11

total votes: 642

Winnowing Time

So. This robust vote tells us that we have clear majorities in certain areas:

Long sleeves.
A slightly shaped waist.
A row of buttons down the front.

The other areas are not quite clear yet, so we'll have a


and a Sleeve-Construction-Off.

Now, there are a lot of folks who did not vote for set-in or raglan sleeves. If you are an avid supporter of either set-in or raglan, now would be a good time to make your case to the people who are going to be voting for them for the first time. I'm not advocating vote-buying, but a good Ride to the Polls program might not be a bad idea. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

By the way, the 38 knuckleheads who voted for a funnel cake collar are going to get their wish. As a special breakout group, you are hereby deputized to engineer a collar that either a) resembles a funnel cake or b) actually is a funnel cake.

Please vote in the Neck-Off and Sleeve-Construction-Off by Friday, 6:02 pm CDT.


Posted by Ann at 08:58 AM | Comments (56)

October 11, 2005

Perfect Sweater: Lightning Round

Dear Kay, and the Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free,

Here we go. We are voting on the elements of the perfect sweater, a perfect sweater, one perfect sweater--some kind of sweater, OK? We voted to have a pattern that could be either a cardigan or a pullover, so keep that in mind as you ponder the following.

Please note that the crucial issue of top-down construction versus bottom-up comes after this vote, once we see what the collective will of the people dictates.

The question has been raised whether the Retire to the Loungers are allowed to vote even though they have succumbed to their feelings of "fatigue" and "tedium" about the whole thing. The answer is heckyeah! Vote through the pain, people! As Jim Morrison put it so well, Break on through to the other side!


Posted by Ann at 12:46 PM | Comments (30)

October 10, 2005

Perfect Handknit: Onward!

Dear Kay, and the Style Council,

My apologies for the delay in corresponding, but between the submarine-style blog disaster and the shocking realization that they didn't put glasses on those cowgirls on the book cover, well. I've been a little shaky. I mean, we are myopic, have been myopic, and shall forevermore be myopic. The lie! The utter deceit of it all. I can hardly look at the thing.

A Brief Knitting Moment

Before we return to the Future Search, I've got to report some serious Lost Weekend knitting. On Sunday, the fellas burned stuff in the fireplace for three hours while I occasionally offered Smokey the Bear advice along the lines of "No you can't burn all the catalogs like you did last time." As every twig and stick in the yard turned to ash, I knitted and knitted, around and around and around.


The way I see it, this sort of knitting became popular on the North Atlantic island of Fair Isle because it is so fiercely addictive that people don't notice that the sun has not shone for 29 days, that there are no trees, that there are only 64 other people on the island. It just doesn't matter.

For those just joining us, this is Keava, one of Alice Starmore's least-popular patterns, from In the Hebrides, a book published in 1995. Keava has been scorned for its lack of technical complexity and for its insane colourway. Those are, of course, are the very reasons I chose to start it back in 2004 when I was trying to overcome an all-gray knitting habit. What better way to learn how to Fair Isle than by doing a measly 18-stitch repeat, and by doing it in the loudest colors possible?


This is a steek. It's how those Fair Islanders figured out how to continue knitting their kooky patterns in the round while making a place for armholes. The checkerboard of 8 stitches will be cut right down the middle, four stitches on each side. The Velcro-like Shetland yarns really will cling together and it'll be just a piece of cake to chop into the stitches. (She said in a high, nervous voice.) Once the shoulders are sewn together, the armhole stitches will be picked up, and off goes another tube of Fair Isle for the sleeves. You trim down and overstitch the steeks, and there you go: seam-free knitting.


This is the even weirder neckhole steek. It's hard to see what the deal is, but basically the stitches off the needle are the front of the neckhole. By making this 8-stitch steek above those stitches, it's possible to continue knitting in the round to make the left and right front shoulders. This will be a two-inch or so steek, with decreases on either side of the steek. Snip snip and the neckhole opens up, with shaping along the front of the neck. I find this very amazing. See what happens when you have 29 days of clouds, no trees, and only 64 people to talk to?

The insides are so cool, so woven looking, that I may just wear the thing inside out.

Future Search: Days of Awe

When last we polled, the question was how to proceed. Do we continue voting our way to a perfect pattern, with consensus all the way? Do we use an existing pattern and simply modify it on our own--keeping ourselves busy? Do we simply pick a rilly pretty sweater, the Serene Highness of handknits, and call it a day? Do we call it a day, period, and retire to the lounge? The results:

At this point, the option I like best is the

Consensus All the Way Option. 44% 188
Keep Ourselves Busy Option. 24.1% 103
Retire to the Lounge Option. 15.9% 68
Serene Highness Option. 14.3% 61
Other [leave a comment with your idea] 1.6% 7

total votes: 427

So, the consensus is . . . consensus. With a healthy dose of agreeing to disagree, live and let live, and Can We Just Call It a Day?

I think I see a via media, as our Episcopalian friends say, a middle road that may allow us to keep the Keep Ourselves Busy folks happy. (I'm not worried about the Retire to the Lounge folks; they're already happy.) Ponder this: It may be that the Consensus sweater ends up being something that the Keep Ourselves Busyists will then be able to modify.

Whoa. It might just work out?

At this point we have a welter of small votes to make, having to do with the details of sweater construction. In order to keep this process efficient, and to have a conclusion before 2008, I'm going to provide a bunch of polls, based on this mind map:


[click for the big picture]

We may end up with some inconsistences, but we'll worry about that later. I personally would like to make a cableknit Fair Isle short-sleeved coat and plan to vote that way.

Finally, Words to Ponder

Honest moment of the week comes from Mary Neal: "This is about stretching ourselves for collective joy instead of selfish pleasure. I'm not good at that, but I'll try." See, Mary Neal? Didn't that feel good?

Mary B: "Maybe the title needs to be changed. Maybe instead of 'The Perfect Handknit,' we agree to agree on 'One Perfect Sweater,' given that in the universe there can be many perfect sweaters."

Kymm has learned how to kvell, which is going to serve her well the rest of her life.

Laura: "I'm going to rebel and make a shawl."

Come back tomorrow--there's work to do.


Posted by Ann at 10:08 AM | Comments (29)

October 08, 2005

Make Me a Poster of An Old Rodeo

Dear Ann,

We may not be


We may not be


And we certainly are not


But believe it or not, our humble heads have been cut in wood by the venerable Nashville establishment of Hatch Show Print, printers of the first Elvis posters and pretty much everybody who ever played at the Grand Ole Opry. Lookie:


I nearly fainted when I saw this on Amazon. I was all, Ann looks cute but who is the chick with the bandana and the bad highlights?

I think it's safe to say that now we can die happy. And I promise, next time you'll get to wear the cowboy hat.


Posted by Kay at 12:56 PM | Comments (62)

October 06, 2005

Desperate Underwater Moment

Dear Kay,

If you're wondering what that clanging sound is, that's our webhost Becky down in the bottom of the submarine, whacking on the pipes with a wrench. She managed, in a performance worthy of Das Boot, to get our blog software running again and--most important--to make our Comments button work again. Without Comments, we are dust.

Becky, Becky, BECKY! When we get shore leave, we're buying you all the schnapps and heffeweisen you can handle.


Posted by Ann at 03:29 PM | Comments (10)

October 04, 2005

Perfect Sweater: Squirrel Hits Transformer


Dear Kay, and the Needleworkers on the Verge of Breakdown,

The thing that gets me is how tenuous it is, this Internet. Kick the plug out of the wall, and it vanishes. Take for example, last night. At 7:08 pm, we heard one of those distant, muffled BOOMs that means a squirrel somewhere made a wrong turn on a power line and blew out a transformer. Lights out; Future Search for Perfect Handknit vanishes into the ether. I had been carefully styling URLs for our Perfect Handknit fashion show, then poof! I'm digging up candles and worrying about the freezer. No, Hubbo did not climb on the roof and spray paint HELP US, but the word generator was said. Not, mind you, by me.

We did have some tender low-tech moments. The fellas fought a ferocious battle of Stratego, and I got to indulge my We Move to Fair Isle fantasy: yes, that's Keava there in the gloaming, my first try at Fair Isle knitting and my latest effort to finish the unfinished before the year ends. (More on that later. Let's just say that I am flat goofy about that project, just loving it.)

At midnight the cosmic joke was complete when ALL THE LIGHTS and STUFF came back on. Right as we were dozing off.

Happily, all those URLs were snoozing safely on our server out in California or something.

So, Consider These Sweaters

Grab a beverage, and take a look at these. To my eye, this is pretty much a Sweater Hall of Fame. (And apologies if I somehow mangled your link.)

Cristina: Lush

Ryan: Welcome Back Old Friend

Amanda: Pierrotucci cardigan/$1200 twinset!


Maggi: Ribby Cardi

Susan: Anthropologie--a versatile shape.

Lorraine: Tweedie

Susan: this but chunkier Girlshop

Tish: Kepler


Karlie: Rogue

Kristel: Eris

Ma Hatfield: patternworks

Kim: cardigan

Stephy: Molly Ann Sweater Jacket

Debbie Bliss

Anne: Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts

Lauren P: scoop neck Noro cardigan

Audrey cardigan

Danielle: cardigan
NOT the perfect sweater Not perfect!
perfect beverage: perfect beverage

Beth R: pretty feminine and lacy

Amy: Sand dollar

Jenna: Debbie Bliss Lara

jnovgirl: Pam from Rowan 30

Julia FC: cardigan/pullover

Jenny: cardigan and cardigan

Susan M: Samus from Knitty

Therese: Norah Gaughan's Vintage Pink Cardigan

Melinda: Neck Down Shaped Cardigan

Jill: Chicknits Twist--go to Gallery.

Karin: LL Bean cardigan

Bex: Leigh Radford keyhole stripes

Laura: Everyday cardigan

Sam: Audrey

Thomas: Sunday Best" (while technically Denim, it would look good in a true Guernsey wool too).

Jo: Debbie Bliss really lovely bolero

Rise: like the shaping of this
perfect cardi

KT: (Photo is in the September 9th entry) Zoe Mellor Tartan Jacket

Kyla: Phildar Phildar

Sarah: Poetry in Stitches (can be knit as a jumper)

Sharon: hoodie sweater

The Road Less Traveled? More Traveled? A Road at All? How About a Zipline? What If We All Carpool? Does Anybody Have the Bus Schedule? Can I Have a Pony?

Now. Please know that there has been no end of discussion about how to proceed from here. Out in the lobby, during the buffet supper last night, all the talk was about what happens next. Obviously, we have some strong feelings: the cable fans are outspoken, but no more outspoken than the cable avoiders. The shaped contingent is as vocal as the unshaped. But it goes beyond that: there are issues of girliness, of professorialness, of style, of comfort, of zippers and buttons and lace and texture and hoods, such a welter of options and details that we MAY have hit capacity on the number of things that can be resolved by a blogpoll before the year 2012.

The squirrel has hit the transformer, people.

The time has come where each of us has to search our heart and decide what we need to do. The original intent of the Future Search was to end up designing a handknit that we all would love. All 4,390,212 of us. I ask you now [cue dramatic scary-sounding music], Is that possible?

We follow the will of the people. I don't think this is a winner-take-all kind of vote. It's more of a take-the-temperature-of-everybody kind of vote. A finger in the wind. A gut check. Here are the options as I see them:

Serene Highness Option: We vote on all the nominated sweaters shown in this entry and select one as the Serene Highness of Handknits. We are done. We have declared perfection, which is AWEsome.

Consensus All the Way Option: We continue as we have, nominating the features we like, then voting on them until we arrive at a pattern for one sweater. Ann cranks the pattern instructions and we all make it.

Keep Ourselves Busy Option: As a group we decide on a basic sweater pattern that already exists, one that can be fairly easily modified with cables/details/hoods/lace/texture/zippers. We then modify it on our own in the privacy of our own knitting dungeons.

Retire to the Lounge Option: Stop voting altogether, hug each other, and go make our own perfect sweater, with a light heart and the satisfaction that we have kept the blogpoll people very busy.

Other: In which you leave a comment with some other idea that seems sensible.

Please vote by Wednesday, October 5, 8:55 pm CDT so that I can watch America's Next Top Model.

Remember, this is not a winner-take-all poll. But I think it will be instructive.

Happy New Year to all our Jewish friends!


Posted by Ann at 02:54 PM | Comments (49)

October 03, 2005

Pricked by a Pin! Struck by Lightning!


Dear Kay,

So I'm poking around amazon.com as I do when I'm not watching America's Next Top Model, and I come across what surely is the review of the year. Get a load of this:

Words almost fail me. KnitLit the Third is so good, I'm handing it around to people who don't even care about knitting. This book has stories written about the extraordinary in the ordinary; an adopted child from China, a magical encounter with a ruffed grouse, a mother, a daughter, the loss of children, finding oneself. The KnitLit series started out with an excellent first two volumes, but the third in the series is by far the finest.

This is writing that makes you gasp as if you were pricked by a pin or struck by lightning. Yes, knitting is the thread that links the stories together but it's a lot more than that. If you admire good essay writing, you have to read this.

Right on, Joanna Daneman! Now THAT'S what I call a review.

OK, so I have a piece in KnitLit the Third: "In Which It Is Discovered That I Am Not Ann Patchett." It's not about my magical encounter with a ruffed grouse. But it does shed light on one of the great mysteries of the universe.

And hellyeah, we kick KnitLit One and KnitLit Too's sorry behinds.

Remember, if you buy it from a yarn shop, you get three extra free days in heaven for good behavior. Angel Hair Yarn Co. and Threaded Bliss Yarns are good places to start.


Posted by Ann at 11:12 AM | Comments (12)


Dear Kay,

I had one of those rare, fantastic nights out with the galpals on Friday. You know: two birthdays celebrated, wine, cheese-platters-in-lieu-of-actual-dinner, a waiter so hilariously terrible that he should have his own sitcom. Anyway, on the way home I realized something weird had happened to my throat, and I figured I sprained a tonsil after four straight hours of conversation.

Who knows what happened, but it was definitely tonsil based, and knocked my on my keister for the whole weekend with fevers and chills and pasty invalid moments. Too sick to knit, I developed television poisoning. I watched five straight episodes of America's Next Top Model. I watched Good Will Hunting. I watched the Country Music Television Top 100 Videos of All Time, from #69 to #18. In my delirium on Saturday night I thrashed about in the sheets, worried that somehow Tyra Banks, the host of America's Next Top Model, was going to take over the Perfect Handknit search and we'd all end up making cropped tank tops and practicing our fierce walks.

I'm on the mend now, and I just wanted you to know that we'll be back to normal programming shortly.


Posted by Ann at 09:21 AM | Comments (6)

October 01, 2005

Don't Drink the KoolAid

Dear Ann,

I went to visit Cristina on Wednesday. Cristina lives in Philadelphia. This used to mean that I got to knit for 3 hours each way on NJ Transit and then SEPTA. But that left little time for crafting (i.e., borrowing Cristina's Pfaff), lunching, tea-ing, and yakking--before I had to turn around and get on the train back home. So the last two times, I have driven despite the toll it takes on knitting time.

I do get to listen to NPR and WFUV. All alone. And this time, I not only had sole and compleat power over the radio, but FOUR CDs that I won from Wendy (I can't remember what I did to win the prize; I think I was the someteenth commenter on something). Despite her near-infancy, Wendy knows her way around a country song, and what's more, the girl can rock. She gave me: John Prine's Fair & Square, Iris DeMent's Infamous Angel, Steve Earle's The Revolution Starts Now and one I know you're kinda fond of: Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose. (I think of Van Lear Rose as the Monteagle/Tailgate Soundtrack, October 2004).

Suffice it to say, I was wailin' all the way down I-95 on Wednesday morning. Just twangin' my heart out. I sang 'It's Hotter Than the Hy-Vee in My Heart" and was only a little bit surprised to find out the actual lyric is 'It's Hotter than Mojave In My Heart' (I kinda like my version). When Iris's momma came on, and she warbled a gospel tune about planting her feet on higher ground, the turnpike signs went blurry for a minute, but I kept singing through the moisture.

Then I got to Cristina's. We inspected Weavettes, but we did not Weavette ourselves. We did a little lunching. Then we did some Tea. Then she gave me a hank of her local Hardware Store Yarn, a butter-colored fisherman's wool, and 3 packs of Koolaid. She didn't want to push it on me, but she thought Carrie might enjoy it. So, after some hemming and hawing (not being a wool person OR, since 1976, a KoolAid person), I took it home. (As a kid my dinnertime jobs were: set the table and make the Daily KoolAid. I think KoolAid was its own food group back then. Not for nothing, but it does have Vitamin C.)

So last night Carrie and I dyed some hardware store wool. Here's how it went. Technical note: we did not use vinegar. Cristina said it was not necessary in her experience, and just made a bad smell (barnyardy/hardware store-y wool plus the chemical overtones of KoolAid) worse. So here we go:

Plain wool, badly in need of perking up with artificial colors and artificial flavors.

Put wool in water; bring water to the simmer. "It looks like spagetti, Mommy!" Indeed.

You mix the packets of KoolAid in a cup of water (we mixed them all together, 2 Mango and 1 Cherry).

Pour it in.

Then it looks like Spaghetti Marinara.

We had tied the skein loosely with cotton yarn, and discovered proof that you can't dye cotton with KoolAid.

The wool quickly sucks all the dye out, leaving the water a milky white.

You let it cool, then you squeeze out the water and let it dry.

This morning, we had this lovely peachy-rose wool. It would take quite a lot of KoolAid to get a deep shade, but the colors of KoolAid are lovely.

I'm not complaining, but the wool smells really, really awful. Eau de KoolAid does not improve the scent of fisherman's wool. I'm off to google 'Eucalan stinky KoolAid'. If you know a good remedy for deskunking home-brewed wool, please pass it on.

Love, Kay

P.S. I'm laughing because the 'Eucalan stinky Kool Aid' search turned up a Knitter's Review thread on the question. The cure? Vinegar bath!

Posted by Kay at 12:11 PM | Comments (18)
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