Monthly Archives: November 2011

Chilly Podsters

[Note from the future: The most current pattern file version is as of February 28/2012. Please feel free to re-download as needed! Enjoy!]

Knitters, I promised you a free pattern this month, and since I am alarmed to discover that it is very soon going to be next month and not this month (ahahahahhaha let’s not even talk about how much I haven’t started planning for Christmas), I had better get cracking and do a proper introduction between you and these Chilly Podsters!

In the process of giving my regular Podster mitts a refresher earlier this fall, I said to myself, “self, these need to be warmer. These need a sister in worsted weight.” And my self agreed, and wouldn’t you know it, less than a week later I had a pair of these. I give you the Chilly Podsters, available for free in my Ravelry store, or here as a PDF download.

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This pattern is everything the original Podsters are – convertible, flip-top mitten/gloves, with a modified thumb that allows you to sneak your own thumb in and out, for access to your iPod or cell phone or camera buttons, or anything else you might want easier access to without having to rip the whole mitten off your hand to do it – but in worsted weight instead of fingering weight. True story. They also come in 2 sizes.

I used some of my remaining Ultra Alpaca to make mine, so that I’d have a matching pair of mitts to go with my Gateway Scarf, but these are essentially knittable in almost any worsted or DK yarn you’ve got stashed. They are knitted at a relatively snug 6 sts/inch, which means they will be nice and warm. The small size will use 1 skein of Ultra Alpaca or similar 100g worsteds like Cascade 220 or Plymouth Galway, and the larger skein uses just slightly more than 1 skein (I could tell you it’s a 1 skein project for both sizes, but your mileage may vary and it’s just too close to call. If you buy 2 skeins and don’t use most of the 2nd one…well, didn’t you need to make yourself a matching hat, anyway?)

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Enjoy, my knitter friends! I daresay these would make a practical knit for you and a few Christmas gift recipients. A word to the wise, though – take a pause between pairs. The only downside of knitting at a snug gauge is that it does add some strain to your hands, so be kind to them.

And happy knitting this fine (or rainy, if you’re where I am) Tuesday.

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Filed under accessories, design, free pattern

From the field

Last Saturday I grabbed some knitting friends for some knitting photography over in Toronto. It was tres fun. I put a couple of upcoming designs on Emily (you’ll see ‘em in the new year, I’m already impatient) who willingly modelled, and Jane snapped the pictures. Then Emily grabbed a few of her own sweaters that she’d finished for a while and needed project photos of, and just then a Segway tour rolled up in the background. It was fantastic.

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So now, the best part of all of this is that now Emily has these great Finished Object photos on her Ravelry project page with this attentive tour group in the background. You just can’t make this up.

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And then we bought some chocolate. The end.

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Happy knitting today!

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Filed under photography, real life miscellaney

Edgewater Cardigan

I can’t tell you how happy I am that it is finally cold enough to not only wear hand-knits, but to enjoy wearing hand-knits. I admit I am not at all the sort of person who rejoices over +17C temperatures in November. I’m a knitter, darn it, and I like being able to snuggle down into the yarny results of my labours. With that said, I’m pleased to have been wearing this sweater the last week – the sweater which I am happy to show off to you today as a new design. It’s what I wore on the Saturday at Rhinebeck this year and it’s a cozy cardigan for sure. Edgewater is available on Patternfish and my Ravelry store, and debuts at a slight sale price for the month of November.

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This is a sweater that I designed as I went along, starting with some deliciously soft wool (Manos Maxima – very similar to Malabrigo Worsted), and a wide looping cable running up along the sleeves. By the time I got to the body I had the rest of it figured out – the cables repeat up the back, and are joined by some tinier cable twists up alongside the edge of the button-band. I also threw on some pockets, which I think may well be my favourite detail of the whole thing. I like having that little extra spot to hide things I’m carrying with me – or even just to slide in my iPod while sitting at the cafe.

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The sweater is worked from the bottom-up, and the sleeves and body are joined in one piece for raglan shaping at the yoke. There is shaping at the waist, and a slight shawl collar for just a touch more comfort – however, in the instructions I note that a plain button-band could easily be worked and the shawl collar omitted. Because this is worked on a field of ‘reverse stockinette’ – i.e. the purl side of the stockinette shows on the Right Side of the work – all of the decreases on the body are worked on the Wrong Side, or the knit side. I’d much rather ask you to do k2tog and ssk than p2tog and ssp. Those ssp decreases can be fiddly, and I have no shame in admitting I like to avoid them if I can.

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I am extremely grateful to Melissa Jaarsma, who took the beautiful modelled shots you see here, while we were at Rhinebeck. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, and she went snap-snap-snap and before you knew it we had these lovely pictures you see here. I think this might be the most I’ve ever liked myself in photos. I also owe a note of thanks to Jaya Purswani for the technical editing on this pattern. Thank you, ladies, for your helpful work!

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I’ll offer one last note on the yarn selection for this pattern, for any eager would-be knitters! Manos Maxima (and Malabrigo Worsted, the nearest substitute for this) are wonderfully soft and a joy to work with. They are single-spun ultra-fine merino that is pretty much like knitting with kittens. However, when a yarn gives so much in comfort and softness, it tends to neglect sturdiness and hard wearing. So, feel free to choose accordingly and go with a plied yarn or hardier wool, if that would serve you better! This is worked at a pattern gauge of 18 sts/4 ins, so a variety of worsted or Aran yarns would be suitable.

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And if you are a sweater knitter or no, I wish you a happy Monday (that’s also known as Happy Castle Day, if you’re me), with possibly a refreshing beverage also. I’ll catch up with you again later in the week, with more knitting to be done.
Happy knitting!

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Filed under cables, design, finished object: sweater, sweaters

Letters

Dear Chapters-Indigo John and Richmond location

It’s really sort of cute that this is all the number of chairs you thought we would need for a book signing for something written about knitting. But since the fact that more than twice this many people actually showed up seemed to be genuinely stressing out you and your carefully arranged velvet ropes, and since Stephanie was fun to listen to as per normal, I will tolerate your dumbness.

Maybe bring out a few more seats next time.

Love and kisses,
Me.

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Dear Big Freaking Metal Deer Stationed All Throughout The Eaton Centre Shopping Mall

Hi.

Thanks for scaring me into realizing that there are only 5 more weeks until Christmas. I fold. I’ll just buy gifts this year.

Shiny tentative metal hugs,
Me.

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Dear knitters

I have a new sweater pattern to properly show off to you, and I’ll totally do that on Monday.
Have an awesome weekend!

Glenna

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Postcards from the Stash

My name is Glenna, and I have a yarn stash. It’s of a reasonable size – the sort of size one might expect from a knitter who has been actively stashing yarn probably since she made her very first novelty scarf at the beginning of the ‘aughts, and bought an extra skein of purple feathered acrylic/poly blend “just in case,” and who is never without multiple Works in Progress or ideas for what to knit “next.” In the intervening years since I started knitting, I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of stashing yarns a bit nicer than purple novelty eyelash yarn (remember when those scarves were the thing?), and every so often I do a bit of a sort and cull and pass on some of it to other knitters who I know are more likely to use those bits than I am in the next year.

But mostly, I like having a stash. I was chatting with a guy in Peterborough last year who was a new knitter at the time (hi Kevin!) who was genuinely curious about the whole stash thing, and I said that for my own purposes I considered it in the same category as having a library of books in your house. I like reading, read often, but I don’t always know what I’m going to want to read at a given time, so I collect books based on my interest so I’ll have them around to read and consult when the mood strikes. I have books on my shelves that aren’t being actively read, and one day they may get transferred to the sort-and-cull pile and passed on, but for all I know I could be reading them tomorrow. This is by and large how I think about my yarn. Some yarns I buy knowing I’m going to use them right away, in the same way that I know I’ll immediately read the latest mystery paperback in a favourite series. Others are there waiting, just like that copy of Wuthering Heights that I know I want to read at some point except that the classic lit part of my brain is currently being taken up by Anna Karenina, and so I just have to maybe wait on that. I’ll totally read Wuthering Heights/start that green Cascade 220 pullover next month. TOTALLY.

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So, yes, I have a yarn stash. It’s the collection I choose to cultivate and outside of clothes, books, and dvds, probably the only thing I regularly spend money on. I like it. I thought I’d show you a glimpse of it, and share with you some of my stashing idiosyncrasies that are part of my knitterly process. I will point out that the majority of my stash is wool or wool-blends. I live in a 4-season part of the world with cold winters, and wool makes practical sense. It’s also a very comfortable fibre to work with, I like the way it feels on my hands to use, and it behaves well under hand-washing and blocking. Occasionally I’ll go for something in the plant-fibre area, for the summer, but it’s just not my preference – it may well be yours, though, and that’s all cool.

The knits that occupy a lot of my imagination are socks, and sweaters. Unsurprisingly, then, I tend to stash quantities of yarn in amounts appropriate for these items. With socks, that’s pretty easy – most “sock yarn” or yarn intended for socks comes in a sock-sized quantity, where 1-2 skeins is all you need to get going. Sweater quantities are a bit more personal, and actually if we’re getting down to it I recommend taking a few minutes out of your day one day, and familiarizing yourself with an approximate yardage number for your own sweater size and preference – of DK, worsted, and bulky. (If you happen upon a yarn sale tomorrow, you might not have time to look up whether you need 7 skeins of Malabrigo Bulky or 8. Just sayin’.)

I like worsted weight yarn for sweaters, and Cascade 220 heathers and Berroco Ultra Alpaca (pictured above) are two of my favourites. The Cascade 220 heathers have a nice textured look that appeals to me over the solids, and come in sooooo many colours. It’s hard for me to resist a Cascade 220 display, especially when it’s on sale (there are some Romni Wools summer sales I could mention), and I like that it’s versatile enough for cables, stockinette, or even colour-work. I’ve worked with it enough that I can estimate my gauge with it pretty easily. I like Ultra Alpaca for many of the same reasons, but also because its 50% wool/50% alpaca blend makes it SO warm, and so drapey. I’ve knitted sweaters, hats, gloves, mitts, and scarves with this stuff. It’s awesome. The alpaca factor does make it behave a bit differently than 100% wool, though, which means I always need to pay a bit more attention to swatches and sag than otherwise.

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Sock yarn is extremely comfortable in my stash. Its real estate has achieved a relatively firm status, and this is partly because I mentally place sock yarn in different categories of sock knitting. First, there is the Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. I have no shame in admitting this is 99% because I like this yarn for knitting Jaywalkers. It’s just…something I started doing. Shamefully, I have only had 1 new LL jaywalkers pair in 2011, and one could possibly surmise that maybe that means I have more LL sock than I need. (None of those people are HERE, though, right?) But it’s sort of like the library. The next time I start a new pair of Jaywalkers, I don’t know what colour I’m going to want to knit with, so I like having the options. Maybe I’ll want them to be flaming pink, maybe I’ll want them to be sedately dark green. Who knows. That’s the joy of it.

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The rest of my sock yarn stash falls into more or less one of two categories – “things to knit 3×1 ribbed socks with,” and “things that I could knit anything I want with.” The first category tends to get the variegated or multi-coloured ones, and for that I love Socks That Rock, but also sometimes tonals like Tanis Fiber Arts sock. Usually if I’m keeping the sock plain and repetitive, I’ll make room for colour. The second cateogry, though, tends to lean towards solids and semi-solids, which are my preference. Madelinetosh tosh sock has become one of my stash pals there – I look for it in yarn shops when I’m out and about since not everyone has it, and try to always have a few skeins of different shades. If I’m trying out a new sock design with cables or a complex stitch pattern, it’s an enjoyable place for me to start. Indigodragonfly Merino Sock is in a pretty similar spot ofr me there, and I’m always open for more finds that fit here.

After that, a bunch of my stash falls into the realm of “I know I can make a project of some kind with this, I just don’t know what, yet, but I’m pretty sure I love this yarn enough not to worry about when that’ll happen.” Like, I know I’m not likely (though someone else might be) to cast on a laceweight shawl every single month, but I know that I like knitting them sometimes, so when that eventuality occurs it doesn’t hurt to be ready with a few skeins that are 1000+ yards. (I don’t want to be caught short. Them laceweight shawls is big, sometimes.) Here I’ve got a Madelinetosh skein of laceweight that was one of the few left on the shelf at Knitty City the last time I was in New York, and some Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight. Then there are things like Noro Silk Garden that are unpredictable. I like the colours. I can make a pair of Maine Morning Mitts with one skein, or a sweater with ten, or a striped scarf with 4. I can mix and match two colourways at once, or stick with one. It’s ready and waiting.

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Lastly (for now at least), there is the “stuff that was super cool that I picked up at a festival or shop somewhere that was so pretty I had to have it and it’s going to be something awesome…just you wait.” My Miss Babs Yowza Whatta Skein purchase from this year, my Green Mountain Spinnery worsted and Fiber Optic sock from last year’s Rhinebeck, and a skein of Fleece Artist seconds that I found in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago.

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I’d be lying to you if I said that’s all there is, but those are the directions I tend to go when I purchase yarn. After a few years of knitting, I can predict some of the things I’m going to want for yarn of a given type, and tend to know my preferences, but that’s not necessarily true all the time. I also tend to stick to the same parts of the colour spectrum, but occasionally remind myself to branch out. It’s an ever-evolving approach, I suppose.

My stash sends greetings to yours! What’s your favourite yarn to look for when you’re in a yarn shop?

Happy Wednesday!

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Looping along

A couple of folks asked last week about a blog tutorial on Magic Loop, since it’s a technique I mention every so often and one that I use happily. So, ta-da! Let’s talk about that, with the aid of some photos.

I will start out with a brief proviso – Magic Loop is the popular name given to the technique of working small circumferences in the round by using a single, long circular needle, in place of a short circular, multiple double-pointed needles, or two circular needles. It is by no means my invention, and in fact I learned this technique through a collection of things – friends showed me, Elizabeth Zimmerman mentions the same basic approach in her books, and of course Bev Galeskas and Sarah Hauschka have what is arguably the most popular publication on the subject. There are likely other resources on the technique. What I’m going to show you here is the essential basics, but as for any technique, I invite you to check out your local resources and advice from other knitters on the subject. I hope this post will spark your interest at the very least!

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So: you’re interested in working in the round for small items (hats, sleeves, socks, gloves, mittens, toys, booties…snake sweaters? Flute cozies? I don’t know, there’s got to be endless options, right?), but aren’t so keen on double-pointed needles (DPNs), or at the very least you’re interested in an alternative. I definitely enjoy the magic loop technique – I still use DPNs frequently, and haven’t tossed them away, but more often I gravitate towards ML as a default.

First: you need a long circular needle, in whatever needle size is desirable for your project, and in a length no shorter than 32″. 40″ circulars are an ideal option for most needle brands, but 32″ is an option if the cord is flexible enough. (The reasons for this will become apparent later on in this post.) I find with products like Signature Needle Arts circulars, Knit Picks fixed circulars/interchangeables, and Addi Lace needles, a 32″ is all I need. With needles like Chiao Goo “red” circulars, classic Addis, and craft-store finds like Unique or Susan Bates, the cords aren’t quite as flexible and a 40″ circular is what you need. There are plenty of other brands that I haven’t managed to spend a lot of time with that are easily in play here as well,  (Dyakraft, Addi interchangeables, Lantern Moon, Hiya Hiya, etc), so if in doubt experiment until you find the ones you prefer the most. I tend to reach for the needles I do because of a combination of preferences – the cord, the materials of the needles, the pointy-ness of the tips, how well the knitting slides (or not) along the needle and cord, and so forth.

(Since I know someone will ask – here I’m using a 32″ circular from Signature Needle Arts, with a 5″ stiletto tip, and a superwash worsted from Neighbourhood Fiber Company that I found at Fibre Space in Alexandria/DC on a trip a while ago.)

Anyway, for magic loop, you’ll need a long circular needle.

The first thing you’ll do, naturally, is cast on all of your stitches as required for the pattern (first photo, above). Next, to get the stitches into working mode, you’ll divide them into two sections, one for each needle, like so:

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It’s most likely you’ll divide them evenly, but you might vary this up slightly depending on pattern. Here I have 2 sections of 22 and 20 sts, because I’m working ribbing in k1tbl, p1 on this mitten cuff, and wanted to keep the ribbing repeat intact. You’ll note that, as one would normally do for working in the round, I have made sure that the round is not ‘twisted’ around the needle, and the yarn will be pulled from the end of the round so that when I make my first stitch, the round will be complete and joined.

This is the position you will start from at the beginning of every round, and at the mid-point of every round. Many knitters refer to this as the “start position.” Your needle tips are lined up, with the work emerging below:

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To start knitting, you will first reach for the needle tip sitting in back…

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…and pull it out along with a portion of the cord.

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Now, you are ready to knit. Just start at the beginning of the round with your two needle tips and proceed as normal according to your pattern.

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When you get to the end of that side, you’ll have the Left Hand needle now sitting loose, drooping at the end of the cord that was looping around the left side.

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So, what you do is flip the work over…

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And pull that formerly droopy needle all the way through the work so that it is lined up at the beginning position just as we had before. Then, keep knitting the other side just like you did the first side.

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You’ll notice that while you work, you’ll have two loops – one on each side of the work, where the sides divide. Managing these two cord loops is, in my humble opinion, the only real difficult part of magic loop, and this is where your needle selection will make the biggest difference. Some needles swivel and twist more than others, others pull and separate at the side join more than others. Try a few kinds and see what works for you.

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There are several advantages to this technique over others. For one, you are only using one attached circular, and so there is no risk of losing one DPN of your set – both needles are always attached to each other at all times. Additionally, this method has the effect of dividing your work into two surfaces instead of 3 or 4. If you happen to be working a pattern which has an intricate pattern over the “front” and on the “back” (as for some socks – the front of the leg and the back are often identical), working this way allows you to not interrupt either of those surface with the join of a DPN, as would typically be the case for working with a set of either 4 or 5 DPNs. This also reduces the number of potential “laddering” points to two, as opposed to 3 or 4.

The only immediate downside to this is that, if you don’t own them already, you’ll have to go shopping for some long circular needles. (But on the other hand…you get to go shopping. So, still a win? ;) )

I’ve taken the liberty of putting up a short video clip on YouTube (because, uh, maybe the zillion other video clips weren’t enough? Heh), in case you’d like to see a little 3-D action on this.

Nothing like getting your Monday off to a good start with a little learnin’. May your day be as painless as possible, and with knitting waiting for you at home!

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Filed under demo, fearless knitting, teaching, tutorial

Gateway

[ETA]: Gateway is now available on both Patternfish and in my Ravelry store!

This past summer I travelled to San Francisco for several days following Sock Summit – you know, since I was already on the west coast and all. It was a great city to visit and I look forward to going back. One thing that did strike me (as I am sure with all tourists in that city), was how much one does really depend on knitwear even in the summer months. I spent most days with a light commercial-knit sweater, and, most gratefully, my Tibetan Dreams stole. I got used to slinging it around my neck and shoulders and thereafter attempted to achieve that “oh I just threw this elegance together” sort of look that one always wishes for when wearing lacy stoles.

On my second day there, I visited the Exploratorium/Palais de Beaux Arts, then walked all the way across Crissy Fields to the Golden Gate bridge, and back. It was a solid day of walking. (I finished at the Ghiradelli ice cream cafe, and did not care that I was surrounded by tourists doing the same thing. I regret nothing about that peanut butter sundae.) Being on my own as I was, I naturally made many attempts at self-photography in front of the bridge, trying to get a decent shot of myself. The best I came up with was this. (People tell me it’s a good shot. I rather think it was just lucky that the wind was blowing my hair in a way that obscured only half of my face instead of all of it.)

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ANYway, back to the knitting. I liked having that bit of lace to keep comfy with on breezy tourist adventures, and I remembered it long enough to want a similar piece of knitwear to bundle up with in actual cold temperatures – not just a lacy scarf, but a nice practical piece of insulation as well. It gets cold in Ontario, but that doesn’t mean a gal doesn’t want to look a little pretty while she’s getting dressed for it. This scarf pattern is the result. Presenting Gateway, my latest accessory pattern.

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I’ve written this up as a scarf in 2 sizes – a smaller, slimmer, version more typical of simple scarves, and a larger, wider version which is the one I’m modelling here. I reached for Ultra Alpaca, which is one of my favourite yarns for the fall and winter. It’s 50% wool and 50% alpaca, which means that even with a few lacy yarnovers in mix, you’re still getting a pretty warm little knit out of it. However, a variety of worsted weight yarns in wool or wool/alpaca blends – ooh, heck, even wool/silk might be a nice option – would be suitable.

The lacy stitch pattern involves yarnovers and decreases on Right Side rows only, and would be workable enough for a knitter with a little bit of lace experience and chart-reading under their belts. Once you’ve done a few pattern repeats, it’s likely you’ll have started to memorize it. This was certainly my experience! I love how the little swooshy twisted ribs and stockinette angles stack up together, slightly disjointed but also elegant. Even a bit reminiscent of the Golden Gate, one might even say.

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I’ve been wearing this all week while here in Edmonton, where the temperatures have actually been cold. (In Southern Ontario we are only just starting to recall this “cold” of which people speak.) In fact, I am led to believe it is rare for there to not be snow on the ground already by this point in November, so that’s a pretty solid reminder that winter is coming. I think I’m going to have to work up some kind of hat to complement it, so I’ll be fully kitted up in Ultra Alpaca warmth.

In any event, the week marches on as do a few more days of family activity here. I’m continuing to sneak in bits of knitting and internet time while I can, and the pace of things continues one day at a time.

Keep your knitting handy, and stay warm!

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Filed under accessories, design, finished object: accessories