The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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Great American Aran Afghan – and a Spector Pic

Posted by thedarwinexception on January 5, 2009


So, I finally ordered “The Great American Aran Afghan” from Joann’s. Only because they had free shipping on top of a “50% off all knitting books” sale. So I got the book for like $7.00. That I can live with, cheap as I am. 

And now comes the fun part – the part I am the absolute *worse* at. Choosing yarn and color. So, I need input here. Bottom line – should the afghan be the traditional “Aran white” color? Or should I go for a soft green or soft blue or some sort of cranberry? Remember this afghan is going to be placed in the fair for judging. Do you think the old lady judges will just want to see a traditional aran afghan in aran white – or will they appreciate a subtle hint of color in it? And should I use some sort of wool yarn – or stick with a cheap acrylic? I’m not keeping the afghan when I’m done, I’m thinking of just having everyone here who would be interested in having it just put their names out there and then I’ll have Val’s little boy pick a name from a hat or something. So, since you are ultimately going to be the recipient of the afghan, speak up.

I’m thinking of using “Pound of Love” yarn – it’s the right gauge, it’s cheap and it’s really soft, nice yarn. I’ll have to order it from somewhere, though, they don’t carry it in the Joann’s store here. Although it *is* acrylic. And sometimes acrylics don’t “hold” the pattern well, the cables won’t be as 3 dimensional as they could be with a wool blend yarn. So, I don’t know. I may try the Pound of Love and then switch to something else if it seems that the squares aren’t “holding” the way I want them to.

I can use Paton’s or Cascade, but then we are talking $$$$$$. The afghan is large – I’d need a LOT of yarn. And I’m cheap.

So, I don’t know. You all can weigh in. I’m easily convinced.

Here are some pictures of squares done in different colors, just to help you see what might look best.





In other news and stories, a reader of the blog sent me an interesting picture. It’s of Phil Spector’s “castle”. He took the picture this past weekend and noted the “Obama” sign on the fence above the (empty) dog pen. I hope the reader who sent it doesn’t mind that I share it with all of you. (I don’t think he’ll mind).

Great Picture!

In other, other news. I’m sick. Getting the flu, I think. Sucks. I hate that achy, sick, fuzzy headed shit. And I got it all – with chills. So, today I am going to knit, watch the last Disc of my “Lost” DVD’s and do the general “vegging on the couch” thing. Hope you all have a better day.


35 Responses to “Great American Aran Afghan – and a Spector Pic”

  1. anygirl said

    Kim…please take it easy and rest…

    Now to the yarn, being the old fashioned girl with the new fangled ideas that I am, I love a few of the dark yarns. Third from the bottom and the eggplant colored yarn are my favorites.

    The sign on the Spector faux castle..hope it is not a sign of what is to come to our country…all crumpled and barely there..but more a little look into what lies ahead for PS this next month or two…beaten and seen it’s last days in Alhambra.

  2. Malone Leslie said

    I say a light sagey green and you can give it to me….I’ll cherish it!

  3. Mary Beth said

    How about Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn? It’s not expensive & they carry it Joann’s. As for the color choice I like: Picture #1, #8, #9, & #12. That’s a lot of help, isn’t it?

    Hope you get feeling better, soon!

  4. redfear said

    Lion Brand Wool East or perhaps Knit Picks Wool of the Andes might be good alternatives. Most of the little old lady judges I’ve come across are weird about fiber choices…. but then, who knows???!!! I’m loving the green and the eggplanty, and the greyish. Actually, all of them! But those are my top three faves. Wow, you’re good!

  5. kathy said

    Number One. What about Alpaca yarn?

  6. sue said

    I like the third one and the last one. I love your blog; I check it often. You usually brighten my day with your Malone sagas!

  7. Caroline said


    First, have Paul or one of your buddies race down to the drug store and purchase some Zicam cold remedy gelswabs. They really really work! I have thwarted off the cold/flu 2 times this winter. You just put the swab in each nostril every 4 hours. There are a bunch of swabs in each box so you will be prepared for any illness in the future. I have a compromised immune system so when I get the flu or a cold I get very sick. I was not convinced they’d work until I woke up with an incredibly awful sore throat and the achy feeling, started on Zycam for a couple of days and it went away!! It is all homopathic so you don’t have to worry about drug interaction. Good luck!

    Now about that beautiful afgan. I think you should most definitly use a really good woolen yarn, it will show the detail the best and will provide the weight and will turn out like a true work of art. The workmanship you are going to put into it deserves a quality woolen yarn. Here’s how you can handle the cost: have everyone who is interested in entering a raffle for the eventual “winning” of the quilt contribute $5.00 to defray the cost of the yarn. I would most certainly “buy” a raffle ticket for this gorgeous piece of art. I think that by using a beautiful wool you are automatically elevating piece to a first class piece of art. I happen to like the eggplant or classic Aran cream color. I KNOW you will do a beautiful job!

  8. Cathy said

    Caroline, great idea!

    Kim, this afghan is going to be so much work, you want it perfect. Heavy wool is best (Kathy’s idea of alpaca yarn is intriguing too). And as much as I like the colors, I’m betting the old lady judges go for the traditional white, the pale green center top is quite striking too, as is the eggplant.

    Anygirl, I thought the same thing about the Obama sign at the “Castle.” And I hope the same thing for Harvey … bologna sandwiches and box lunches for lunch for the remainder of his miserable life!

  9. Tess said

    Ok, I haven’t posted in awhile, but, for this I will voice my opinion. I agree that with all the workmanship involved, a quality yarn is needed. I agree with Caroline’s idea of helping you to defray the cost. I would gladly buy a ticket.
    As for color, hmmm, traditional color is always a winner, but, that being said, could there be a touch of sage or a touch of a pale other color?

  10. Tim in California said

    Glad you shared the photo. Along with the weathered sign, there is a foreboding, hope-abandoned quality to the place. The foliage is all over-grown and a ladder lies rusting in the bushes. Quite a contrast to the neighborhood: neatly-kept modest homes of working class folk. The empty dog cage just underlined things: ‘show’s over.’

  11. PatAZ said

    The cream color looks richer. I say this as an older lady, even though I am not a fair judge. All the colors are pretty and I would be happy to buy a ticket and possibly win.

  12. Sean said

    I think that a light earthtone or perhaps honey color would be best.

  13. sandy said

    Love the patterns. They all remind me of Irish afghans. I’d choose the first color or even a lighter one, given the Irish vision from my side.

    And yes, JoAnns has a mixed acrylic/wool which would work well.

    Of course I want DO NOT want you to have any illness on top of everything else. You may have caught this from New Years and hope the baby is okay too.

    The pic of the castle reminds me of the interior shots once posted. I can’t imagine living in that hovel, the smell of old and what was. Guess a bit of “crazy brain” helps with both of them. Wonder if her mother still living with them.

  14. Stacey said

    I like the first and last. The tan and the brown.

  15. Chrissycat said


    Zicam gelswabs are awesome! Yes, you have to swab Zicam gel into your nostrils…yes, it feels sort of like you are putting cold snot back INTO your nose…and, it isn’t something you want anyone to WATCH while you are doing it…but! IT WORKS!!

    Now, let’s talk afgan!
    I LOVE the natural-looking colors. The very first picture looks so incredibly beautiful and vintage. That is my vote. With your talent, I’m sure any color you choose will be the perfect choice.

    By the way…I agree with Caroline, $5.00 to enter a raffle for a piece of your work is a steal. Just let me know where to send the $$$. USE THE GOOD STUFF!

    Happy knitting and I hope you feel much better soon.

  16. HT said

    Here’s my chime:

    Use good yarn and stick with traditional cream.

    Raffle is a good idea or silent auction of some sort like ebay.


  17. Kelly said

    Hi Kim –

    Oh that afghan is going to be beautiful. As someone else commented, my Irish is pulling me to the natural color of Aran.

    Regardless of what you decide, it will be a work of art.

    I agree about the raffle, I would certainly enter that.

    Happy New Year!!!!

  18. Tazzie said

    Wow! The afghan is going to be beautiful. I like the green color the best and second, the Aran, if that is the name of the color in the first picture. (Not a yarn or color expert here) I would also be happy to buy a $5 raffle ticket to help with the cost of the yarn. I have no idea how much enough yarn to make it will cost, but I agree that you’re going to put so much work into it that it has to be as good as possible. Let us help. Good luck with best of show with it this year. (I hope I win it!!!!)

  19. Veronique said

    Aran white, as is traditional, and wool. And you can put my name in the pot.


  20. Veronique said

    Also, I’ll happily add my raffle ticket purchase to everyone’s (hey, can be buy more than one?)


  21. bunnymama said

    Hi Kim,

    I love your blog, don’t ever stop.

    If you’re going to go with cream colored, look into either Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool. Which is 100% wool and quite inexpensive. OR buying a cone of undyed wool meant for dying (very good prices especially if you can find it wholesale. I know you are on Ravelry… put the word out there and you’ll get a bunch of leads. There is even a group called Yarn sales.

    If you are going for a color I like the idea of Lion Wool-Ease, and would also suggest Cascade’s Ecological Wool. It’s a little more expensive per skein but the skeins are HUGE (they only sell natural colors though). As much as I LOVE alpaca, I don’t think it would work very well for this project, as it’s soft and won’t show cables well or hold blocking.

    Hope that helps! – Laura

  22. Kim (Canada) said

    About the afgan – I really like the dark colors. They seem to “punch” out the pattern a bit more. Of course, since the ol’ lady judges will be analyzing this work, and everyone seems to agree that the lighter shades will win them over, then perhaps you should go with the lighter shade. The sagey/pale green is quite nice.
    And “yes” – I’m in for a raffle ticket.
    Make that “two” – One for Sue!

    As far as the “castle” – I’m with Tim and Sandy!
    Definately signs of what’s to come to this piece of shit man!

    And now YOU – please take care of yourself!
    Gelswabs, and/or anything else that will help fight off the flu are ordered!
    Rest, and of course, fluids!
    Chicken noodle soup usually helps,
    and might I suggest, comfort foods – Like one or two tomato sandwiches!

    Perhaps BANANAS will make you smile, and feel a l’il better too! LOL!
    (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) ;`) Inside joke – For now anyways!
    Anyways, do take it easy, Kim!
    And a good day to all!

    Fonzie :`)

  23. Chris said

    I just can’t WAIT to see the updates of this gorgeous afghan. You’ll have to post pictures of every block as it’s completed so we can ooh and ah. As for color….I definitely prefer the traditional off-white. This is, after all, the ultimate aran afghan pattern, and I just can’t see it in anything but off white.
    I’ve recently gotten back into knitting (my dogs are begging me to stop, by the way) and I like that Lion Brand wool, too. It’s not brutally expensive, and Hobby Lobby has those weekly coupons, too.
    You’ll have to tell the rest of us amateur knitters how difficult the pattern is, because ever since you mentioned it the first time I’ve been lusting after it.
    I think you’ll really enjoy making this masterpiece, and we’ll enjoy you enjoying it.
    So….when are you starting!

  24. Chris said

    P.S. OK….why is this book almost $70 on Amazon?? Can it be the same one you bought for $7?
    Hope you’re feeling better.

  25. tracey said

    Hope you are feeling better.
    I vote for the last two – brown and golden yellow.
    You know a raffle idea would not be bad either. Any profits could go to charity (or gatorade)

  26. Lion Brand Wool East or perhaps Knit Picks Wool of the Andes might be good alternatives.

    You know, this is the best suggestion yet. Why didn’t I think of WOTA??? I order from Knitpicks ALL THE TIME.

    I think Wool of the Andes it shall be – cheap, cheap, cheap, and wonderful yarn.

    OK – now I just have to pick color, but they *do* have a great color called “Mist Heather” or “Heather Mist” that I think would be perfect – close enough to the traditional “aran cream”, but with just a hint of “something else.”


  27. Here’s how you can handle the cost: have everyone who is interested in entering a raffle for the eventual “winning” of the quilt contribute $5.00 to defray the cost of the yarn.

    I don’t know….defraying the cost of the yarn sounds good, but I’d end up having to make EVERYONE an afghan, because I wouldn’t be able to send it to just ONE person when EVERYONE contributed.

    Seems unfair.

    I hate raffles – I never win those things.

    We’ll have to see after I get it done. Maybe it will end up looking like a hot tranny mess and no one will want it.

    I haven’t even gotten the book yet. I keep looking on the tracking site for Fed Ex. Yesterday it said “In your home on the 9th” but now, probably because of the hellacious storms we are having it now says “In your house on the 10th”.

    Tomorrow it will probably say “In your home on the 12th.”


  28. and might I suggest, comfort foods – Like one or two tomato sandwiches!

    HA!! You know me well – guess what I had for supper tonight?? Tomato sammiches!! I made Paul those breaded chicken patty things – you know, the ones where you might as well be eating the box?? And I just had plain old tomato sandwiches with lots of mayo and pepper.

    Perhaps BANANAS will make you smile, and feel a l’il better too! LOL!

    Oh don’t get me going! I swear I’ll never eat bananas again!


  29. You’ll have to post pictures of every block as it’s completed so we can ooh and ah

    Yeah, I’m definitely going to post pics of each of the sqaures – and probably even post pics of the sqaures you can choose from. I think there’s a bunch of squares in the book to choose from and the afghan only uses 20. So I’m sure I’ll need help choosing the 20. There’s a few I know I want -t he tree of life square that’s the first one in the photos I posted in color choices – then there’s a sweater square by the Rainey Sisters that I’m definitely using – the rest are kind of nebulous. I’m not sure.

    I’ve recently gotten back into knitting (my dogs are begging me to stop, by the way) and I like that Lion Brand wool, too. It’s not brutally expensive, and Hobby Lobby has those weekly coupons, too.

    I’m glad you got back into knitting. I know I put it down for a long time when the kids were younger – I love it again now, though. Very relaxing and something to do besides just sewing. I need a break from that every once in a while.

    So….when are you starting!

    The book should be here this week (or next week…) Then I think I’ll see how much yarn they say I should need – I’m thinking 4,000 yards. Ugh. Then I’ll order from KnitPicks – There’s 110 yards per skein of Wool of the Andes – so that’s….ummmm however many skeins that is.

    Then it will be a week or so for the order to come from Knitpicks – then we have to pick out squares.

    Should be a really fun process, actually.

    P.S. OK….why is this book almost $70 on Amazon?? Can it be the same one you bought for $7?

    Yes, it’s the same book. I have no Earthly idea why it is so much on Amazon – I noticed that, too. Someone thinks they have some sort of priceless book, I guess. But in most (sane) places on the web it’s $12.95. I hit the Joanne’s “free shipping” coupon thing and waited until “all knitting books are 40 or 50%off”. The two deals combined got the book down to $7.77.

    Because I’m cheap.

    I never buy anything at “regular retail price”, I swear to God. You know how some people will say “Oh, this was a $300 dress”, or “Oh, i paid $500 for these shoes” as if that will impress you? Well, let me tell ya, I’m MUCH more impressed with people who say “Yeah, this was a $300 dress – I got it for 5 bucks at Goodwill.” I’m a lot more apt to be jealous of a “good buy” than an “expensive buy”.

    Of course, I’m also one of those people you hate – the ones who, when you show them your new dress you paid $100 for, will say “I could have made that for $2.00.”


  30. Chris said

    That “sweater block” with the teeny Aran sweater is my absolute favorite. I wonder if it’s made separately and then attached? Only a knitting genius could think of something like that.

    You inspired me to get back into knitting. I don’t know whether to praise or curse you. I already have this fabric addiction (I’m a quilter, too…and make quilts for my dog rescue group) So now I have this YARN FETISH that must be fed on a regular basis. Since it’s been a long time since I knitted, I am totally fascinated with the types of yarn available now. Oooh, you started me on those “self-striping yarns” and now I’m all about the ladder yarns, and furs, and anything else I can find at Dollar Tree for…well, a dollar. Seriously, all five of my bichons have at least two sweaters each, and they run when they see me coming.

    I have a great cheapo story for you, too. On Christmas Day I wore a festive (read: really ugly and colorful) sweater to my parents’ house. My Mom fell in love with it, until she asked where I got it. “Goodwill,” I replied. “$4.00.”

    “So you’re wearing something that someone else gave away?”

    She simply could not get over it.

    If you’d like to see my quilts (and my dogs!) I have a website. Still has the Christmas quilts on it, but I’m slow and I haven’t started the spring models yet. I’d love to see what you think of them.

    Thanks for being such a wonderful writer, Kim. I feel like I know you and I never miss your blog.

  31. Kay said

    Count me in if you decide to have raffle tickets for the Aran Afghan. The sample blocks you did are all beautiful. The detail work in them makes it look like an Afghan for royalty.

  32. your bro said

    hey, I got a piece of stupid news for your blog, and it’s from right in your own back yard.

    now you’ll have even more evidence for your readers of how retarded most of your neighbors are!

    love ya, your bro

  33. Cathy said

    Oh my, that kid is a genius. **NOT**

    Though technically he’s not a kid, he’s an adult, and despite what the author of the news story said, age 20 is not a “teenager.”

    Maybe he likes the food and television in jail?

    Seriously, I think Malone might make a great case study for an eager 21st century sociologist. Or anthropologist.

  34. Niner said

    I too would like to get in this raffle – or picking names – whichever you decide on!! I love the “Heather mist” color!!

    Hope you’re feeling a lot better Kim!! Would love to ‘see’ pictures of the finished afghan too!!! I’m IN!!!

  35. Sarah Wiley said

    Hello my Dear,
    I have been knitting Aran stuff for around 60 + years. If you are putting this into a competition, I would say stay traditional, and go with the Aran off white color. I personally always use Red Heart Worsted Weight Yarn on Size 8 needles (5.00 mm the same for English or Canadian needles).
    This is a heavy weight Afghan, if you need a lighter weight I would check out some of the other Red Heart Yarns. The reason I use the heavier yarn is because #1 it is machine washable, and #2 people seem to like the warmer afghan. If you need any help with the patterns etc. please do not hesitate to email me. I am presently working on an Aran Sampler Afghan, but not the Great American Afghan, I found a place on the web called St Patricks Afghans where all the patterns are free plus I have one or two of my own.
    Sarah Wiley

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