And Then I Ran Out of Time

After knitting six pairs of handknit socks in a row, I wasn’t quite ready to stop with the foot accessories. Ever since early last fall, I’d been dreaming of a pair of handspun Mukluks to keep in my office at work. I even spun up some bulky 2-ply yarn to make a pair, but then I decided I wanted to save that yarn for another (yet-to-be-made) project.

So in early February, I pulled out some delicious Hello Yarn fiber:

Fairytale

Fairytale

This is “Fairytale” on Falkland – one of my favorite fibers in a palette a little outside my usual. Spinning it up was a total dream:

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I spun it fat, fast, and lofty, making it into 122 yards (out of 4 ounces) of bulky 2-ply.

I immediately cast on for a pair of Mukluks:

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And then, it was time for me to leave for Nicaragua on a 10-day trip, to help install water filters in a remote rural village. I knew better than to think I would work on a pair of bulky wool slippers while traveling through the countryside. And by the time I got back, earlier this month, I had other things I needed to focus on. So the slippers have been set aside, perhaps till next fall. In fact, I think my sock-making days are on a hiatus now, too, as I turn my attention to more spring-like knits. The handspun sock-knitting gig was a fun run while it lasted!

So Guess What I Made Next…

After completing five pairs of handspun handknit socks in a row (with a brief break to make a baby sweater), what do you suppose I made next?

If you guessed more handspun handknit socks, you’d be correct.

My Old Man’s son had a birthday in February, and it had been awhile since I made him anything (he believes that I now direct all my gift-making energy towards his girlfriend, and he may be right). Around the time I was completing my second pair of socks for myself, I realized that the yarn I had on the wheel at the moment would be perfect for socks for him.

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This is Hello Yarn Targhee in “Bracken and Gorse,” the November 2014 fiber club, which I spun up as 280 yards of light worsted weight 2-ply. I had initially been thinking to weave with it, but my recent handspun sock obsession shifted my thinking.

As soon as I was done with my Munhacke Campfire Socks, I cast on:

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to marvel again at how quickly worsted-ish socks grow:

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They grow so fast!

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Of course I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, this time with no afterthought heel or anything unusual at all, other than throwing in my beloved 3×1 garter rib for the leg. If you want to do ribbing for a sock but want it to be as fast and easy as possible, go with garter rib. Though if you are like me, you will forget that’s what you were doing and accidentally switch to regular rib for the second sock. I did this for two of my last three pairs of garter rib socks.

But this pair, I got just right.

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I will admit that, once I tried them on, I really kind of wanted to keep them for my own self.

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They are so soft and cozy! But since I had just made two pairs for myself already, I managed to give them away as planned.

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The recipient seemed pleased!

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And the fit seemed pretty spot on.

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I am very, very happy with how this pair turned out.

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

raveled

After I was done, I still had roughly 90 yards of the yarn left. I briefly experimented with turning into more socks, striped with some Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool:

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But I wasn’t loving it, and I soon came up with another idea of something I want to save it for. More details on that another day, but – believe it or not – it’s not socks.

More Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Sat in the Snow in the Dark and Created Something I Love but Failed to Take Any Notes.

Immediately after finishing a pair of handspun knee-high-ish socks for myself, I cast on for another pair, using my handspun Hello Yarn Superwash BFL in Mochi, the first yarn I finished in 2014:

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, "Mochi"

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, “Mochi”

I adore those bright, warm colors, which I spun up as another chain-ply (205 yards light worsted, out of 4 ounces). When I originally spun this up, I was thinking mittens, but lately I’ve been all about the socks, so that’s what I went with.

I decided to do the toe on this pair differently:

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Basically, I pretended I was making a wee top-down hat. While I love the figure-eight cast-on I usually use to start a pair of toe-up socks, this cast-on was the simplest, fastest start I’ve ever had. Plus, I love the look of the toes. And the fit is perfect:

sock toes

sock toes

Next, I decided to do some arch shaping, to accommodate my high, narrow arch. I’ve done this once before and was very pleased with the results. That was a few years back, but fortunately I made some notes on my Ravelry page that helped me get an idea of what I wanted to do.

arch shaping

arch shaping

Because I’m in love with an afterthought heel, that’s what I did for these socks. I knitted in a line of waste yarn where I wanted the heel to go, and then I just kept knitting a tube. Good grief that’s such an easy and fast way to make a sock. I put some of the brown parts of the yarn aside for the contrast heel, and then just kept knitting my tube.

When I got to where I thought I would need it, I started some calf shaping. And then before I knew it, I was done with the first sock, and I finished off with some brown for the cuff. I cast on for the second sock immediately, and when I was done with both tubes, I went back and added in the heels with the brown yarn.

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I took this project with me on a winter campout with a Boy Scout troop my son is thinking of joining. I’ve got to say, sitting outside in the snow, watching the sun set, and knitting a sock is an experience I’d never had before. And I liked it!

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It was a cold and snowy weekend, and we spent most of the afternoon and evening outside, around a campfire. Knitting a sock with an afterthought heel was basically the perfect project for this, because I was just knitting a simple tube. I continued knitting on into the night, because I didn’t really need to see what I was doing.

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The thing is, I had intended to release this as a free pattern. And sitting outside in the cold, in the snow, in the dark, with the scouts, I totally failed to make notes about what I was doing. And now, more than a month later, I don’t know if I can remember exactly what I did. So at some point, I will need to study the sock and/or make another pair.

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The truth is, I want to tweak the heel just a bit (this is another hat/bullseye heel like in the pair I showed you yesterday). So knitting another pair is probably the way to go anyway.

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In the meantime, I have very happy feet (though I do need to back and close up that little gap at the heel on the right sock). (Also, I know more now about how to prevent that from happening in the first place, so I want to incorporate that knowledge in my next pair.)

sock blocking

sock blocking

I should add that this pair is cat-approved as well.

As with the pair I showed you yesterday, I managed to magically make a mostly matching set of stripes from one sock to the other:

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That comes, I think, from how I spun the yarn. I split it as evenly as I could, straight down the middle, and then spun each half from the same end, and then chain-plied. I ended up with one skein of 101 yards and one skein of 104 yards, as close a matching set as I have ever managed to spin.

Maybe no one but me is interested in making handspun, toe-up, hat-toe, arch-shaped, afterthought heel, hat-heel, knee-high-ish socks. But they are fun to knit and a delight to wear, I assure you!

raveled

Handspun, Handknit Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Got Through Winter.

I like winter a lot. Even really cold ones, like the one we just had. But that could be because I know the secret to staying warm and cozy. (My husband says my other secret is that I’m never the one who shovels the snow….)

Last month, I showed you the handspun socks I made for my menfolk for Christmas. As I made those socks for my guys in December, I promised myself a little reward if I could get them all done – the next pair of handspun socks would be for me.

So in January, I made good on my promise. For starters, I pulled out one of my loveliest yarns:

spun :: Hello Yarn Finn
This is 240 yards of light worsted chain-plied Hello Yarn Finn in “Winter Storage” (September 2009 Fiber Club), a fiber I loved from the word “go.” When I first received this fiber, I knew I wanted to chain-ply it, but I had only been spinning for a few months at that point, and I didn’t feel very skilled in chain-plying. So I waited until I felt confident I could get it the way I wanted, which turned out to be a few years (I’m slow I guess). And at last, in 2013, I pulled out this fiber and managed to get it exactly the way I had in mind:
spun :: Hello Yarn Finn

I knew from the beginning that this was destined for socks. What I didn’t know was that it was destined to become knee socks. What a happy surprise!

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As usual, I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, my go-to for handspun socks. With my worsted gauge and my narrow feet, not only did the socks knit up very quickly, but they turned out a lot taller than I’d anticipated.

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It might be a bit of an overstatement to call them knee socks – they don’t actually go all the way to the knee. But they are pretty long socks, and very cozy, and extremely happy-making.

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I’m still kind of in awe of how well the stripes matched up between the two socks. With handspun, I just assume that fraternal socks will be my default. But look at that matchy!

With this pair of socks, I did an afterthought heel, which is one of my favorite ways to make socks these days. It keeps the stripes of the sock continuous, and it allows me to more easily plan for a contrast heel. This time, I decided to do a heel I’ve never made before – a “hat” heel or “bulls-eye” heel. Basically, I decreased for the heel the same way I would if I were making a brim-up hat. And this might just be my new favorite thing:

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I love the fit, and I love the look.

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Y’all, this was the fastest, most fun pair of socks.

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So here is my secret for a happy winter: handspun, toe-up, afterthought hat heel, knee-high-ish socks. Both the making and the wearing. If you can wear a pair while making more, even better.

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 raveled

Reporting for Duty Today :: Pitchers, Catchers, and Yarn

Today in Ann Arbor, we are under a severe weather alert because of the wind chill. When I woke up this morning, it was 6 degrees below zero, with a windchill of -15. Baby, that’s COLD. Of course you know I am not complaining, because:

  1. I am a knitter. Therefore, I am covered in wool.
  2. I am a knitter. Therefore, I am happy to be “forced” to stay inside and knit.
  3. Spring is officially in sight as of today, because today the Detroit Tigers pitchers and catchers report for spring training. HECK YEAH!

That means this yarn is also reporting for training:

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Hazel Knits Artisan Sock

 

And by training, I mean swatching. I will soon be swatching for my next Crackerjack conceptual knitting project.

My yarn this time is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, in “Nekkid,” “Nickel,” “Collegiate,” and “Carnelian.” To create this set, I actually bought a Seattle Seahawks-themed kit (this was right after the Super Bowl) – it had all the colors I needed minus the orange, in the smaller quantities I think I’ll need for a pair of socks. Then I bought a full skein of the orange to complete my set. Now I have a sweet small skein of “Hawkeye” (lime green) leftover for some other fun use. It’s been awhile since I’ve knit with Hazel Knits, and I’m really looking forward to it. The yarn has a great feel, and the hand-painted semi-solids are just perfect.

This time around, I’m going to be making… SOCKS. For anyone who has been following my Instagram feed, this should come as no surprise, as I am apparently all about knitting socks lately. It’s funny, I’ve never really considered myself a sock-knitter (though, in truth, I’ve knit my share of socks), but some kind of switch has been flipped in my brain, and all of a sudden, all I want to make it socks. Also, every time I go to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play, I wish for some Tigers socks, and the souvenir shops have every imaginable thing for sale – except socks. So I’ll just make my own, with stripes keyed to the Tigers wins and losses. I am really excited about this project!

I’ll be putting together a worksheet in advance of Opening Day, for anyone who would like to play along, with your team colors. Spring is coming, y’all!

 

To Welcome Baby Girl #2

Last summer, after eight boys born in the span of nine years, our family welcomed the ninth baby – the first girl in 32 years, born to our niece and her husband. She is a complete delight! I made her a wee cardigan, as well as a handspun dress. I love knitting for little boys, but I have to confess that getting to make tiny feminine items takes things up a notch.

And right before the new year, I got one more reason to do so: our nephew and his wife welcomed their own baby girl into the world. For her sweater, I tried a pattern I hadn’t made before, Scrap Sweater for the Small Ones. Y’all, this pattern is so sweet! (and fast) It comes in sizes from newborn to 8 years old, and can be made with either a heart motif or an hourglass motif (or substitute your own). I went with the hearts, and I only used two colors (the pattern calls for four), to keep the color scheme soft and simple:

baby pullover

I made this in one of my favorite yarns for baby knits – Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport (a superwash wool) in “whisper” and “natural.” It hardly seemed to use any yarn at all, but came out a nice newborn size. The colorwork is extremely simple and would be a great introduction to stranded knitting for anyone who might be a bit hesitant to give it a go.

The sweater itself was soooo quick to make. But then I pulled my usual trick of waiting a few weeks to get a button sewn on. But I finally found the right button, got it sewn on, made the little crochet tab, and shipped it off just in time for Valentine’s Day (like, literally, it was scheduled to arrive on Valentine’s Day).

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Pretty cute, right?

Welcome to the world, baby girl! We love you already.

 

A Look Back :: 2014, in Knits and Spins

Yes, I realize it’s a bit ridiculous to do a retrospective in mid-February, but apparently that’s what happens when you are still logging your Christmas knits well into the new year. I always like to take stock of what I’ve accomplished each year with knitting and spinning, so here we go.

2014 Knitting

Less than I’ve knit in some years, but more than I might’ve, given how much was going on for me in 2014. Here’s the tally:

cowls: 2
baby: 4
adult sweaters: 1
kid sweaters: 2
mittens: 1
mitts: 2
socks: 5
hats: 1
toys: 3 sets
boot toppers: 1
blankets: 1
handspun: 7
my own design: 5
for others: 18

I think that last total is a record for me (a self-proclaimed selfish knitter). Out of 23 items knit, 18 of them were for other people. I also clearly majored in accessories in 2014, with almost a record number of socks. Another record for me: nearly a quarter of my knits were ones I designed myself. Nearly a third of my knits were handspun. Notably missing from the round-up: shawls. I almost finished one in the spring but then ran out of yarn during the bind-off and still haven’t gotten that sorted out. I also cast on for two shawls in 2014 that I didn’t finish in the same year (one, cast on in June, is hibernating; another, cast-on in November, was finished in early 2015). In 2014, I also accomplished a long-standing goal of mine, of knitting sweaters for each of my kids in the same season. I didn’t manage to finish until sweater season was almost over last spring, but it has been a true joy to see both boys wearing their sweaters this season.

My most-worn knit of 2014 is my Spy vs. Spy, a handspun infinity cowl that I lovelovelove. My most fun-to-knit knit was my Detroit Tigers Crackerjack, which kept me company all through baseball season. And my favorite knit of 2014 was the one adult sweater I made, my Autumn Reis.

Goals for knitting in 2015 include: more knitting with handspun, a new version of Crackerjack, and at least one more sweater for me (ideally, more than one, as I have several partially-completed ones hibernating that I would love to finish up).

Here’s the spinning round-up for 2014:

2014 spinning

That’s a sad number of spins, isn’t it? I have struggled with my new wheel, and it took some of the joy out of spinning. When I gave myself permission to pull out my old wheel, I got a lot more spinning done (70% of these yarns were made on my Ladybug, in the last 4-5 months of 2014). Even though I would’ve loved more production, I am very happy with the yarns I did make (70% of which are Hello Yarn). I’ve already knit up half of these yarns, and as I noted above, one of my hopes in 2015 is to do even more with my handspun.

A new thing that will include this year: weaving. I got a new loom for Christmas (a Schacht 20″ Flip) and I have had so much fun with it so far. I’m envisioning lots of handspun handwoven goodies.

Also, apparently I’m going to be knitting lots more handspun socks this year, because I’ve discovered I can’t quite get enough of them.

So! That’s a look back at 2014 and a look ahead at (what’s left of) 2015. Thanks for indulging me! For my next trick, I’m actually going to show you something I made this year!

 

 

Something for My One-Sock Wonder

Yes, it’s more handspun socks. I had a goal in December – to make a pair of handspun socks for each of my three guys. I finished a pair for Tiny Dancer. I finished a pair for My Old Man. And I finished one sock for Little Buddha.

That’s right, just one sock. With the other two sock projects, I was using handspun that I already had in my stash. For Little Buddha, I had to acquire fiber in the colors I knew he would like and then hurry up and convert it into yarn. So, with four days left till Christmas, I spun this up:
"City Park" on Polwarth, by a thing for string fiberworks. 2oz, 104yds worsted chain-ply, for kid socks. Still spinning the other half of the fiber while igo ahead and cast on this half. #handspun #spinningyarn #yarn

This is “City Park” on Polwarth from a thing for string fiberworks. Polwarth wouldn’t be my first choice for socks, but these are so his colors and I couldn’t resist.

So I spun up the first two ounces and made a single sock.

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And I washed it and blocked it and let it dry and then the next day was Christmas. So I gave him the sock.

The funny thing is, we have been calling him “One-Sock Wonder” since he was little, because ever since he was a toddler, he has had a tendency to go around the house in just one sock. At some point we realized it was because his twin brother was always yanking one of his socks off. Eventually, it just became his preference. And now at the age of 10 now, it’s just his thing. So I didn’t feel too bad about giving him just the one.

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another blurry shot!

Actually, I gave him a sock and a half. The first two ounces made more than just the one sock, but I couldn’t quite eke out two whole socks from it.

At any rate, the day after Christmas, I packed up my wheel and hauled it the 800 miles to Georgia, so I could spin up the rest of the fiber on vacation. I accidentally spun it slightly bulkier than the first two ounces, so the cuff of the second sock fits a bit more loosely than the first. But whatever, I finally finished my Christmas knitting.

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You can probably guess – but I’ll tell you anyway – I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook to make these. Once again, a great fit. (Though from the looks of it, he will be outgrowing these very soon!) (Which is fine, because they also fit me!)

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It felt really good to have a thick cozy stack of socks to give my menfolk for Christmas.

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And it feels even better to see the three of them actually wearing them. There is really no feeling in the world quite like seeing something you’ve made used and loved by someone else.

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Squoosh!

 

Handspun Hurry-up Holiday Socks for Hubby

My husband is one of the most low-maintenance people I’ve ever known. He almost never wants anything more than what he already has, and he rarely feels he needs anything either; he certainly never wants anyone to go to any trouble for him. As someone whose temperament is rather the opposite of this, I find this quality in him admirable. However, it makes gift-giving a huge challenge.

This includes gifts of the handknit variety. In a decade of knitting, I have made him the following: 2 hats, 1 sweater, and 1 vest. The end. That’s it. The only reason he let me make him two hats is that he lost the first one (sometime after I made the second one, he found the first one; he tried to give the second one away, since he didn’t feel he really needed it, but I wouldn’t let him). The sweater, early in my knitting career, was an unmitigated disaster, though he did try to make me feel better by wearing it once or twice.

I wanted to knit him something for Christmas, but the question was what. I didn’t have the time for a sweater, he doesn’t like mittens at all (they are not utilitarian enough for him – he wants basic, functional gloves), and he has less than zero interest in a pair of slippers. When he’s not wearing nice dress socks for work, he prefers to walk around the house barefoot (this is a thing with all three of the guys I live with, and I will never understand it). Regardless, I decided to knit him a pair of socks.

I selected a yarn I spun in 2013, one of the first on my then-new Cherry Matchless.
Tour de Fleece :: Day 1

176 yards chain-plied Pigeonroof Fiber Studios Superwash Merino in “Calico.” I had intended to spin something finer than aran weight, but I was still getting used to spinning in double drive (something I still don’t feel super-comfortable with – I spin almost exclusively in scotch tension).

I dug this yummy yarn out of my stash, made a gauge swatch, and then used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, as I usually do, to determine all my sock numbers. I’ll tell you what, aran weight socks on size 5 needles with 36 stitches are fast. I decided to make them even faster by employing the same technique I used with my son’s socks – I made the cuff 3×1 garter rib. Five days later, BOOM, a pair of socks.

handspun hubby socks
Here they are Christmas morning (hence the Christmas mess in the background). He opened them and immediately began wearing them.

I did that thing again, where every modeled shot I took was either blurry, or had poor lighting, or both.

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But you get the idea.
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I love, love, love the earthy tones of this yarn.
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I was very, very happy with how these socks turned out. I have never gone wrong using David’s sock calculations. The fit of these is absolutely spot-on. And I’m thrilled with how they look.

in situ

And the best part is, he wears them all the time. They have been totally perfect as housesocks during this cold, cold winter. He totally loves them.

We were both a bit surprised by how much he loves these socks. All this time of knitting, and I could’ve been making him socks, but neither of us had any idea he would like them or wear them. So not long ago, I was enthusing over how, now that we know, I can make him handspun, handknit socks all the time. Perhaps I should have expected his low-maintenance response: “Why? I already have a pair.”

A Bit of Sip and Zizzle :: Handspun Kid Socks

Last year, the first yarn off my wheel was this Hello Yarn Southdown, “A Bit of Zip and Sizzle”:

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I chain-plied it with the goal of making socks.  which is what I made with it in December:
handspun kid socks

The fiber was named “A Bit of Zip and Sizzle,” but I always inadvertently thought of it as “A Bit of Sip and Zizzle,” so that’s what I’m calling these socks.

I made these using David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, which is my go-to for all handspun socks. You make a swatch, check your gauge, plug in all your numbers, and you’re ready to go. I made these with garter rib for the cuffs.
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I’m so pleased with how these turned out. I love how they striped up and how well the stripes matched:

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The Southdown (a fiber I hadn’t spun or knit before) is a yummy, sturdy, wooly wool. And worsted weight yarn for smallish feet makes for a very fast knit.

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These socks actually only took half the yarn I made (2 ounces), so I’m thinking I might make a second pair.

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In the meantime, I’m enjoying seeing them on these sweet feet.