Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

This little heart-knitting gnome is pretty famous on the internet, I think. I have seen him used in knitting and non-knitting contexts, and pretty much never with credit to the artist responsible for the kntting and the animation.

The other day I learned that Anna Hrachovec is the artist behind this little gem and so many others. Her website is mochimochiland.com. She has patterns and tutorials and a blog and links to more animation and all of her social media accounts.

She is teaching a class in the fall as part of a program called KnitStars (there is a link on her website), so you can check it out, too.

Me, I am going to watch the little gnome knit hearts a while longer.

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Felicity “Felix” Ford is one of my knitting heroes.

She started out by connecting sound with wool. Well, that may not be where she started at the very beginning, but it is the first endeavor of hers that I found. She recorded the sounds of sheep grazing, and captured a landscape. She went to a mill and recorded the sounds of the machines. After collecting sounds, she put them together in a podcast. (There is another sound-related project she has been working on where she translates the punch cards from music boxes into knitting patterns, but I am not sure of the status.)

When it comes to knitting, her design aesthetic, her artistic approach, her attention to detail, and her seemingly limitless patience are incredibly inspiring. She breaks down and explains her processes with an enthusiasm which is completely infectious. She finds beauty, creativity, and inspiration in the details of the mundane and everyday, and she translates those details into colorwork knitting patterns. Not only has she published the patterns, but her methodology as well so that you can make your own observations and design your own patterns using the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and the Stranded Colourwork Playbook.

Colorwork and fair isle knitting are techniques which continue to intimidate me. I have made a couple of hats and one sweater involving stranded knitting. They turned out fairly well, especially the sweater, but the process of knitting stiches in different colors on the same row is a slow and tedious process for me. I love the results because they look like complicated magic even though every stitch is knit. What I really need to do is practice, and I could probably do with some encouragement and feedback along the way.

Also, trying to go from image to inspiration to pattern to project can be a daunting undertaking, making it feel like another project which was bigger than the time and energy it deserves. I could tackle it in the increments of which I have become so fond (which I may still try) … or I could sign up for the new pattern club and workshop put together by Felix and three of her friends.

In a nutshell, the Colour to Knit e-Book and Club Membership guides knitters through playing with color (or colour) and provides pattern templates for designs that you color in with pencils or pens (whatever your preference). Et voila! A stranded colorwork pattern! Four different designers means four different approaches and four different patterns which appear in your inbox from May until August. In addition there is an online group and there will be several hour-long video sessions.

From the detail page: “The four projects are ordered by complexity. The eBook begins with the easiest and most accessible project and concludes with the most ambitious. As a collection, these projects take you through different creative approaches, building your skills and confidence as you go. Each design is accompanied by enabling worksheets and colouring-in pages for you to print and recolour as many times as you like.”

That paragraph says to me: lots of opportunities to try ideas, see what works and what doesn’t, learning as you go, always with the option to go back and try again. No pressure.

Sign-ups close on April 30th, so there are only a few more days to sign up for the full club, but if you miss out, the book will be published and available in August.

I’m in for sure. (I couldn’t sign up fast enough.) Anyone else up for a knitting adventure?

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As previously mentioned, sock knitting is my happy place, and I tend to do more knitting than finishing. So far this year I have cast off eight pairs of socks. I have completely finished — woven in the ends and washed — one pair. Last year I think I got to thirteen pairs before I did any finishing.

Finishing almost happened this weekend, but the opposite of finishing — startitis — kicked in instead. I don’t know that I can really blame this urge to start many new projects on spring because it can happen (and has happened) at any time of year. I think that there was one December where I cast on a new project pretty much every single day.

The cause varies, but this time around I am pretty sure that I can credit casting off a couple of pairs of socks in March and making significant progress on a third pair which inspired me to keep up the momentum, ignoring the fact that there are plenty of partially finished projects to which I could apply that momentum. Another cause is that while the projects which have already been started are not terribly complex, they do require some amount of focus, and it is nice to have a few projects which are simply meditative and soothing and can be knit while listening to music or watching a video.

I cast off one pair of socks made from Noro Silk Garden sock, and I have one more skein left, so I wanted to start another pair right away. I cast on a pattern called If You Know Where to Go (link goes to Ravelry).

The toe of a handknit sock resting on a cake of yarn.  The sock is knit with the magic loop method in striping yarn.
If You Know Where to Go in Noro Silk Garden Sock

This is one of those patterns which is not difficult — knits and purls — but the pattern is a 14-row repeat, so you do have to keep track of which row you just knit and which row to knit next. As I said, not difficult, and having a slightly more involved pattern can make the knitting feel as if it moves along more quickly than, say, knitting every row. The color changes in the Noro yarn as motivating, too. Right now, I am in a dark section of the yarn, so the pattern doesn’t show up too well. It will in other parts, and even if it didn’t, the process is still enjoyable.

Deciding that I needed something even simpler (and that I could knit on a slightly larger needle), I then cast on Seedy Ribbed Socks (Ravelry link). This pattern is a two-row repeat — much easier to keep track of. No notes or row counting required. I just have to read the stitches of the previous row to know that I need to knit the other row next. Also, for some reason this yarn just called to me and insisted on being knit right away (nevermind that it has been in my stash for about six years). Its time had come.

The toe of a handknit sock resting on a cake of yarn.  The sock is knit with the magic loop method in variegated blue, black, and coral colored yarn.

I am only two rows past the toe, so there is really nothing to see here but pretty colors.

Those two really should have been enough to keep me occupied for a while, but my mind wandered to some leftovers from previous projects, and for some reason it made sense that if I were starting projects with new, unused skeins of yarn, I should also make sure that the leftovers didn’t get left too far behind. Is it a good justification? Probably not, but it is what I have. Plus I had all of these empty needles just waiting for projects.

Before I knew it, I had cast on Vanilla Latte (Ravelry link) socks and Crunkled Socks (Ravelry link). I am knitting both patterns with double-stranded yarn on size two needles.

The toe of a handknit sock resting on two messy cakes of yarn -- one is blue and the other olive green.  The sock is knit with the magic loop method.
Vanilla Latte Socks in Samite and Noro Silk Garden Sock
The toe of a handknit sock leaning against two cakes of yarn.  The sock is knit with the magic loop method and has a black toe.  The foot is a marl of orange and green.
Crunkled Socks knit with leftovers from a cowl project

There had been a brief shining moment when I was focused on finishing existing sock projects. I had cast off a pair of socks which I started about five years ago, and I had been making progress on another pair which had been started at least three years ago but possibly four. Great! I could just keep going and get some other the other projects finished.

Alas, it was not to be, and I am once again awash in a sea of in progress sock projects. Do I regret it? No, no I do not. Having a variety of colors, patterns, and yarns from which to choose when I sit down to knit makes for a happy knitter.

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My knitting for at least the last year and a half has been almost exclusively socks and sweaters. I discovered what I call my magic formula for socks in terms of yarn weight, needle size, and stitch count, and I can just knit at will. The great thing about it is that the stitch count is 48, which is divisible by lots of numbers, so it works with lots of different stitch patterns. I have lots of choices. Knitting socks has been relaxing.

Knitting sweaters is generally relaxing as well, but they have a lot more stitches and take longer to knit, so my output isn’t as prolific. They do use up more yarn which is good when I am motivated to knit down the stash.

One exception has been a corner-to-corner blanket pattern. I would cast on a few stitches, increase until I had used up half of the yarn, and then decrease. It’s fun, meditative, and uses up a pile of yarn. The slight drawback, which isn’t really a drawback, is that they all turn out as squares, and for some reason my brain wasn’t realizing what I needed to do to make a rectangle.

Enter Purl Soho, specifically the Colorful Corner Blanket. The version I initially came across was made in worsted weight cotton. That link goes to a bulky version. That is the beauty of a pattern this simple. You can use any weight of yarn you want with a needle that gives you a fabric you like.

The increase and decrease sections use a slightly different technique than I used on my square blankets, but what I needed was the addition of the bias section in between the increase and decrease sections. It was obvious once I read the pattern. I have knit shawls and scarves on the bias. It is a delightfully simple technique. You just have to increase a stitch on one end of the row and decrease a stitch on the other end of the row.

Spending 10 or 15 minutes rummaging around in my yarn stash yielded three potential projects. I started with this pile of yarn:

Two shades of green, one mutli-colored yarn, and one shade of brown (not visible)

I am quite a bit further along than what is pictured, but I haven’t taken a more recent picture, and it is too dark right now to get a good one. There was a stitch count issue once I got to the bias section, so I had to pull out a bunch of rows and reknit them, but otherwise, it is going swimmingly.

The only problem is that I keep thinking about other color and yarn combinations in my stash, and I also keep thinking that I want to make one on a bigger needle and hold the yarn double so that the blanket is extra squishy and cozy. Yesterday, I finally gave in and started a second blanket.

Double-stranded yarn and a big needle make for quick work. I am completely hooked on this project. Since I am using up some odds and ends as well as different yarns with slightly different weights and yardages, I am figuring out the striping sequence and widths as I go along. I am also weighing each ball of yarn and keeping track of stitch counts at the end of each section so that I can figure out how much I need to reserve to work the decrease section at the end.

It is so much fun!! You can use leftovers or a bunch of single skeins or a combination. I keep eyeing the stash of fingering weight yarn, mentally trying out triple-strand combinations. That could put a serious dent in the stash.

The only dilemma is what to do with the blankets once they are finished. I will have to see if I can find some of them good homes. Who doesn’t need a nice, snuggly blanket, right?

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One of the things I love about knitting is the wondrous variety you can achieve with a handful of basic techniques, and so often — especially when using beautiful, high quality yarn — the simple can look elaborate and complicated. Come to think of it, the same principle applies to weaving. Plain weave can look stunning with beautiful yarn, and with a little planning, you can create all sorts of pretty patterns. Plan those pretty plain weave patterns. (This alliterative moment brought to you by the letter ‘p.’)

There are a couple of patterns in knitting which mimic the look and texture of weaving. Linen stich is the most common. It creates a smooth, flat fabric which does not curl the way that stockinette does. A similar technique which uses only knit stitches and slipped stitches (no purl stitches) also has a woven look to it, but is more textured. I have made several Noro Slip Stitch Stripe Scarf and love them. (You don’t have to use Noro. I have one on the needles using two solid colors, and it looks almost like houndstooth.) Here’s one example:

I promise that it looks more complicated that it is. It could easily be the second project a knitter every makes.

One of the most popular woven patterns, if not the most popular, is plaid. It is iconic, world famous, and offers endless opportunity to play with color. Replicating it in knitting can be complicated … or so I thought.

Enter Franklin Habit, fiber artist and teacher formerly of Chicago, Illinois, and currently residing in Paris, France. If you want to see delightful pictures of Paris and surrounding areas, often with a fiber and textile theme, follow him on Instagram. I support him on Patreon and have therefore been receiving a series of lessons on color theory. The most recent installment features one of his older patterns Princess Franklin Plaid Collar. The link takes to you the pattern, which is free and includes a delightful story of the process that went into creating it (another example of the “behind the scenes” information I love).

A close-up of the pattern from the Knitty site

The short version is that you knit garter stitch (knit every stitch of every row, so once again, no purling) stripes, and once the knitting is done, you weave strands across the surface of the fabric to create the plaid detailing!

Another picture from the Knitty site

Is it a bit fiddly in that you have to pay attention to what you are doing when you are weaving? Yes. Are there a bunch of ends to weave in from all of the stripes? Yes. But, come on, garter stitch stripes and a few extra strands to make gorgeous plaid fabric? Sign. Me. Up.

I am definitely adding this project to the list. Will I get to it anytime soon? Probably not because I am still all about socks and sweaters, although I have added a blanket to the mix which I need to post about. Also, I want to make a nice long scarf rather than a cowl, so I will need to do a bit of stash rummaging and planning. Once I get going, I will be sure to report back here.

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Well, trying to catch up at any rate. There’s a bit of feeling that the faster I go, the behinder I get. I made that observation to someone years ago, and he wisely responded, “Then slow down.”

Day 8, Doppelganger, was indeed the next color block in the socks, but they still weren’t long enough, so I used Day 9, Piskies, to add one more block. Then I finished with a cuff made from the remaining Circe yarn. Nothing fancy, so it was a bit boring toward the end. I spent most of Saturday viewing (it sounds weird to say attending for a Zoom event) something called the Stylemaker Summit — which really deserves its own post — so I was able to get a good chunk of knitting done. They are off the needles, but they need finishing … as does the first pair. That project has been bumped to tomorrow’s list. We’ll see how that goes.

Day 8 – Doppelganger

Day 9 – Piskies

Fortunately I didn’t need another day’s worth of yarn because Day 10 moved solidly away from purple and brown into yellow and green with Golden Apples.

I did go ahead and introduce outside yarn for the next project. The toes are knit with Golden Apples, and then I introduced some delicious yarn from The Knitting Goddess. It is a sumptuous blend of Bluefaced Leicester, Wensleydale, alpaca, and nylon. All of the natural fibers are grown in the UK, and the fiber is processed and spun there as well. The pattern is Plowlines from Bare Naked Wools. Here’s a messy in progress picture on a messy desk:

I modified the pattern so that I could knit it toe up rather than top down. All I had to do was reverse the order of the stitches which create those little arrow shapes. So far it is going well. It is an actual pattern beyond knitting every stitch, so it requires more focus, but I am finding it meditative and soothing.

Day 11 brings another vibrant color – Will o’ the Wisp. So pretty. Not sure how well it will play with Golden Apples, but I am going to try it out and see what happens.

Mixed into the last couple of days was some reading. I was recently in a bookstore, and the title I was looking for was near Alexander McCall Smith’s books. I had tried reading the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency years ago, and it just didn’t take, but it turns out that he has written a whole slew of other books with titles like My Italian Bulldozer and Portuguese Irregular Verbs. My little local library had quite a few, so I checked out a pile. They have been sitting, waiting patiently to be read, and I finally decided I had better get on with it. My Italian Bulldozer is the sort of book to read on a cold, dreary, February day. Travel to Tuscany with Paul Stuart as he recovers from a wounded heart and finishes his latest book on food and wine. There are adventures and mishaps along the way — none too severe or without resolution — and lots of local color and characters, a few serious moments, and enough humor to make me laugh out loud. It’s a light read without being vapid — a lovely respite from … whatever is causing your grief or stress at the moment. I look forward to reading the sequel: The Second Worst Restaurant in France.

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This whole trying to create and stick to some sort of routine or structure thing is a challenge to be sure. I have managed to stick to the “go for a walk first thing in the morning” plan every morning since I started. Some days are more difficult than others, and one day I was up before the sun and almost got distracted into other things at the beginning of the day. The key continues to be to not think about it too much. Just pull on some clothes and walk out the door.

While I haven’t done a lot of actual writing\novel preparation for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) next month, I am keeping up with the daily prompts for October over on Instagram with the hashtag #InstaWrimo. There is going to be writing in November. Somehow I am going to make it happen this year.

Yesterday I made the choice toward more knitting and less writing. By the time I got to a stopping point on the current Socktober socks, I only had time to either write this post or start the sweaters I want to make in October. I went with the less screen time option and started the sweaters. They don’t look like much yet, but they are started.

Returning to Socktober, Day 6 was the first really solid color of the bunch. Cereberus is a matte charcoal gray, almost black which made my fingers look as if I have been playing with charcoal. The picture implies hints of blue in there as well. It might be the color, and it might be my photography.

I proceeded with my plan to knit the heel, but once I was finished, I decided that I was cutting it closer than I would like to continue past the heel and stripe into the next color. Plus, with a truly solid color, the sock looked a little dull.

I pulled out the heel, knit the other sock to the same point, and waited to see what Day 7 would bring. Day 7 brought the delightfully purple Circe.

Purple and black are always a good combination, so the socks now have purple heels, which allowed for five more rows in Cerberus after the heel and before the next stripes.

The next decision was whether to stripe into the purple and finish it off or wait and see what possibilities Day 8 might offer. Since a significant percentage of the Circe color had been used for the heels, the color block would be a little more than half the size of the previous two blocks. If I finished the sock with the purple, then it would have worked because the block leading to and including the cuff would more or less match the toe, but I want these socks to be longer than the first pair, so I am going to use Day 8 for the next color block and finish with purple cuffs.

I am going to make Friday’s challenge to actually finish the current pair of socks, including weaving in ends and washing, and do the same for the first pair. That means starting new socks on Saturday. I think that the next pair needs a stitch pattern — possibly the ribbing that I forgot to do on this pair or maybe striped, broken seed stitch, alternating colors on each row. Hmmmm ….

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Today’s color is the exquisite Da Duku. As soon as I pulled it out, I couldn’t wait to start knitting with it.

In fact, I got so excited that I forgot that this pair of socks was going to be a 3×1 ribbing pattern and just started knitting away. I was able to work two single round stripes of yesterday’s color, and then I just knit and knit until I ran out of yarn. I will take out two rounds so that I can repeat the striping sequence I used after the toe. That way I won’t have to guess how much yarn I need for the stripes, although I have been guessing pretty well so far about how many rows I can knit with each day’s mini skein.

The pictures don’t really do the color justice. Overall it looks like a lovely, deep, piney green which tends a bit toward teal in it’s lighter shades. Even the lighter gray bits show hints of green. Those little pin stripes above the toe make me happy, too.

Tomorrow’s skein should get me through the heel, hopefully with enough to stripe into the next color. If I use two more skeins after the heel, I should have a nice, mid-calf length sock.

Since today’s knitting didn’t involve paying attention to rows for stripes, starting a toe, or turning a heel, I was able to multi-task to some degree. I am not a big believer in multi-tasking because you can only truly focus on one thing at a time, but if I knitting every stitch until I run out of yarn, I don’t have to look at my hands the whole time, so I can read a bit. It has to be on a screen, however, so that the text is standing upright on it’s own. (I have yet to find a holder which positions a paper book in such a way that I can read while I knit, so usually I alternate between the two.) I stick with articles and book excerpts because I don’t do well reading whole books on a screen.

After watching a video which referenced T.E. Lawrence, I wondered if his letters had been published, and I found myself reading a excerpt from Lawrence of Arabia’s Secret Dispatches During the Arab Revolt 1915-1919. The contents were authored by Lawrence, but Fabrizio Bagatti collected, verified, and organized them for the book. Reading the introduction reminded me how poorly educated I am on the subject of world history.

I have been looking for well-researched, readable history books lately, preferably social history in the context of politics (or political history in the context of society, technology, and economics) so that I am not just reading about men and their wars. I want to learn about the whole picture and not just about the main players and to learn more about those main players. Two books about Queen Victoria are on their way to me courtesy of the fine folks at Discover Books. I discovered (ha!) them through either amazon or abebooks, I think. Whenever I see a third-party seller on a bigger site, I try to purchase directly from the seller’s website. At first I thought it was a single location, but it is a rather large network, although still independent as far as I can tell. (I feel like my favorite companies — audible, woot, Book Depository in the UK — keep getting absorbed into RAMJAC, er, amazon. I remember when amazon was the upstart. Sigh.)

At any rate, I have made several purchases and been nothing but pleased. I would say that their grading is on the conservative side. Several books listed as “good” have turned out the be like new. They do have a lot of former library books, but all have been at least in good condition, if not very good. Prices are generally between three and five dollars. They always seem to have a promotion for 15% off if you buy three or more used books (they have new books, too, often discounted significantly), and the free shipping threshold is $9. The packaging isn’t fancy, and it will take more than a day or two to receive the books, but they do provide tracking numbers.

Based on the graphics at the bottom of the page, they do more to promote reading than sell books.

Why do I mention them? Well, for one, it’s a great deal. For another, buying used books falls into the reduce and reuse categories, which is related to the next point. I have read articles and received newsletters from several independent booksellers urging me to shop early because not only do supply chains continue to be tangled and broken but the increase in online shopping has increased the demand for cardboard and reduced the supply of the wood pulp used to make books.

That’s right. The pandemic is hitting bookshelves. Publication dates are being pushed back, and the new books which are being released will be in shorter supply. Now that’s what I call a crisis!! ***

What is more serious than me not being able to get my hands on every book I might want to read as soon as I find out about it is that the pandemic has been rough on independent bookstores, which were facing plenty of challenges prior to 2020. Again, in the hierarchy of necessities, books rank below food, water, shelter, heat, electricity, and so forth, but booksellers and writers need to pay for those things, too, so support your local (or even not so local) bookstores. There are so many great ones out there, and they work hard to share information, build community, and provide entertainment. Links to my favorite independent booksellers are here.

Today I went to the Toadstool Bookshop to search for the T.E. Lawrence book, and before I could even run the search, I found out that Kate DiCamillo has a new book out called The Beatryce Prophecy. I might have squeaked with joy. They didn’t have the book I came for, but I think it might only be available from UK sellers, so I wasn’t overly concerned. Besides, Beatryce sounds like more fun.

So many books, so little time, right? I really need to read more, so now that my knitting assignment for the day is complete, that may be my plan for the rest of the evening … now that I have spent more time nattering about books than originally planned. Good night.

*** Please take that last sentence lightly. Very lightly.

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Today’s color, Cupid, is a slightly darker version of yesterday’s color.

There are stripes after the heel, but they aren’t really visible, although they do show up a bit better in the picture. They still need to have the ends woven in and be washed, but they are off the needles, which always feels like a victory.

As I type after the fact, I could have waited for tomorrow’s color, and if it had higher contrast I could have treated Empusa and Cupid as the same color and continued the stripes that way. I suppose that I still could. If that seems like the right choice tomorrow, I can always pull out today’s work, but since I cast off one pair of socks and knit the toes for the next pair, it seems unlikely.

My sweater swatch is dry, and I think I have my sizes selected. For gauge purposes, I should probably go up a needle size for one of the sweaters, but I like the fabric produced by the needle I used for the swatch, so I will stick with it and measure frequently. I also discovered that one sweater has a body length of 19 inches. I usually stop in the range of 16 inches. Three inches of fabric definitely decreases the amount of yarn I need, so I am feeling more confident about my odds of winning at yarn chicken.

I am hoping that the weather improves tomorrow so that I can get some better pictures in natural light, but I think there is at least one more gray, rainy day in the forecast.

At least it is good knitting weather.

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By the time I had finished the knitting for Soctober, Day 3, it was really too dark to take pictures. Who ordered full dark by 6:30 p.m.? I know, I know. It’s only going to get worse, especially after the clock change in November.

The irony, however, is that it is even more gray and rainy today than yesterday, so photography conditions aren’t much improved. Working with what I’ve got, I present progress from yesterday.

Day 3’s color is Empusa. I had to go look up who she is in mythology, and I invite you to do the same if you don’t know who she is. (I should have mentioned at the beginning that the theme of this “advent” box is Greek mythology, but the color names may have already tipped you off.)

I continued the striping sequence and decided to go ahead and use Empusa for the heel rather than waiting for today’s color (which I think is a good plan because, spoiler alert, there isn’t much contrast between the colors for day three and day four). On the second sock I ran out of Medusa one round short of finishing a stripe, but I found a reasonable supplement in my stash — so reasonable, in fact, that you can’t even see the difference.

Two socks, almost alike

There is enough Empusa left for one more stripe after I introduce the color for day four, so today’s decision will be whether to finish this pair as ankle socks or wait and see what day five brings. At the moment I am leaning toward ankle socks. (I know. There’s that suspense again.)

As of the end of day three

Meanwhile, in sweater news, I do have a yarn option which might work for ghosts, but I have this marvelous orange yarn I really want to use, and it is more suited to leaves than ghosts. The leaf option also gives me the opportunity to use some yarn which was purchases for a different project which is never going to happen. I knit a swatch which looks promising. I like the fabric, and I think that the gauge will be close enough. Yardage might be a bit of an issue. Based on the pattern’s numbers, I don’t have enough. Based on my personal sweater knitting experience, I should have enough. I may have to get creative with color usage, but I accept the yarn chicken challenge.

Oh, and I might actually tackle two sweaters. The second one is Witchling from Dragon Hoad Designs (the dyer of the “advent” sets also designs patterns which I love). It’s another yarn chicken challenge based on the numbers on the pattern, but (a) I think I see a part of the pattern which I would make shorter than called for and (b) I found a supplemental skein. Patterns are just guidelines, right? Right.

I’ll be back later to report on Socktober, Day 4.

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