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.

Free Pattern :: Charlevoix Mitts

I don’t know how it is where you are, but where I am, it is very cold and there is more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground and I am NOT COMPLAINING. Because I am a knitter. Which means I am happy for any excuse to: a) sit inside and knit, and b) haul out all my woolens and wear them all at once. I’ve been told that the reason I think a cold, snowy winter is so lovely is because I’m not the one that digs our cars out of the snow after it’s all over. And this is true. Because not only am I a knitter, but apparently I am also a princess. A princess who is happy to sit inside in her handknit socks with a cup of hot tea by her side and needles in her hands.

Sometimes those hands need warming up, even when I stay inside. Some people find fingerless mitts to be utterly useless; I find them to be indispensable. Especially if they are the kind that I can also pull up over my fingers while I read. Because wearing mittens inside while reading is ridiculous, but wearing fingerless mitts pulled up over your fists is not ridiculous, it is brilliant.

For Christmas, I wanted to make a special pair of fingerless mitts for my stepson’s girlfriend. She’s a massage therapist with a magical touch (she is SO GOOD, y’all), and her hands deserved something extra-special. So I spun up some prized fiber – a gorgeous silky cashmerino from FLUFF, an amazing but not currently in-business independent dyer. The fiber started like this:

FLUFF Silky Cashmerino in "Artifact"

And then I spun it into this:

light worsted 2-ply

The blues evoked for me the gorgeous Great Lakes, and the silvery browns called to mind the Petoskey stones (fossilized coral from more than 350 million years ago – and our state rock!) that can be found along the lakeshore. Lindsay is a true Michigan girl who loves the lakes and their landscape. I’m calling this simple design “Charlevoix,” after the town where she has spent a lot of happy time beach-going and rock-hunting.

Charlevoix Mitts

I never got a single picture that truly captured the yummy colors and texture of this yarn or these mitts. But as you can probably imagine, the silky cashmerino has a delicious look and feel to it. The mitts are smooth, lightweight, and slightly nubbly.

They are also the most basic possible knit – you just make a tube, as long or as short as you wish – and embellish it with a baby cable as you go.

A baby cable is the simplest cable in the world to make, and you certainly don’t need a cable needle to do it. It’s made over two stitches – every third round, you knit the two stitches together but leave them on the lefthand needle, then knit into the first stitch on the lefthand needle, then slip both stitches off. Offset by a purl stitch on either side, it’s just a sweet, simple little detail. I love baby cables!

These took about half the yarn I spun – so roughly 150 yards of light worsted – which means I have enough yarn leftover for another pair (or a matching accessory). They were extremely fast to make, too, making them perfect gift-knitting (or perfect in-between-big-project-knitting).

I’m sure you could figure out how to make these just from the pictures and my description – knit a tube, make a baby cable along one edge of it – but in case not, I’ve put together a one-page pdf explanation, which includes three sizes. You can find it for free in my Ravelry store: download now

January is for Mittens

Scrolling through my Instagram feed in early November, a pair of handknit mittens caught my eye. They were colorwork mittens, with a contrast hem, and a tree motif – swoon – designed and knit by the inimitable Kirsten Kapur. I was totally captivated and immediately obsessed. Turned out, it was a soon-to-be-released design, and Kirsten was looking for test knitters. I was thrilled to get to test this pattern.

I had some green handspun in my stash (I believe I spun it up three, maybe four, years ago) that was just begging to become trees in this mitten pattern. And who am I to stand in the way of yarn fulfilling its destiny?

Handspun Metasequoia Mittens. LOVE these mittens. Another @throughtheloops winner! #handspun #handknit #mittens

This was a truly delightful knit, from beginning to end. Watching the trees grow out of the cuff, especially in the subtle shades of this handspun, was nothing but joy.

Metasequoia Mittens

Metasequoia Mittens

I also learned how to be more mindful with my colorwork. I had tension issues early on, which resulted in my having to knit back an entire half mitten and try again.

These beauties were worth it.

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The pattern is well-written, clear, and easy to follow, as is always the case with Kirsten’s patterns. If you are new to colorwork, this would be a perfect first colorwork design for you to try.

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The end result is totally cozy and completely charming. The contrast hem inside the cuff is a sweet little detail (I didn’t manage to get good pictures of mine, but it’s done in a rich brown). (The non-handspun yarns I used for the white background and the brown hem were both Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Worsted – have I mentioned it’s made in Michigan?).

But I do have one problem.
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I love these mittens so much that I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually wear them. They are just too precious and I’m afraid of ruining them!

But mittens are made to be worn, so I will wear them, I promise, once I get done admiring them.

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Thanks, Kirsten, for another perfect pattern!

The rest of you need to knit these. You won’t be sorry! You can get your own copy of the pattern here.

A Bit of Cheer in the Off-Season :: Crackerjack, Completed

It’s been a little more than three months since my beloved Detroit Tigers flamed out in the postseason. I was pretty sad, of course, (and all the more so when the Tigers chose not to sign Torii Hunter for one more season), but there’s no crying in baseball. Now a new season is on the horizon and hope springs eternal. Precisely one month from today, the pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

In the meantime, I have something cheerful and warm to wear:

Crackerjack!

Crackerjack!

It’s about time I finally showed you my completed Crackerjack!

As you may recall, this was a conceptual knitting project. Using a worksheet I created, I determined how many stitches to cast on, and then I knit two rounds per game. Blue for home wins, white for home losses, grey for road wins, and orange for road losses.

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single loop

 

The finished product was a long infinity loop, the perfect size for wearing loose or wrapping double.

doubled up

doubled up

I knit mine in Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (a Michigan yarn) (yes, I know I point that out every time I mention this yarn – it makes me happy!), on size 6 needles. Due to diligent swatching and calculating, it came out exactly the size I’d wanted (will wonders never cease?). It is 6 inches wide (12″ circumference, since it’s actually a tube) and 49 inches long.

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It is soft, cozy, warm, and cheerful. I’m so happy with it!

winning!

winning!

Even though the Tigers didn’t make it to the World Series, they and a fantastic, winning season, and I am so thrilled to have my own wearable document of it. And now I have something to wear not only in the off-season, but to one of their early season games, when it’s bound to still be chilly.

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future’s so bright, gotta wear my shades

While the rest of the sports world is getting hype for the Super Bowl, I’m busy making plans for a different sort of Crackerjack for the 2015 MLB season. THIS IS GOING TO BE THE YEAR OF THE TIGER. Or at least the year I get another new Tigers-themed knit done.

 

Or, Perhaps the Opposite Will Happen

 

So yesterday I did a bunch of math to figure out whether to rip back and add a few rounds to my shawl, and, if so, how many rounds to add, and I determined that yes, I did have enough yarn for that, and the answer was three rounds, and that was what I would do.

And then I proceeded to do the opposite, which was to move forward by intuition instead of math and keep doing the border I was already doing.

What happened was this. First, John pointed out that adding a second picot crochet cast-off border might be a nice idea. I experimented with how that would look and decided that it looked very nice indeed and that this was exactly what I wanted to do.

And then secondly, Annika and Kelly-Ann both commented on my post yesterday, pointing out that of course the picot crochet bind-off was eating a lot more yarn than a regular bind-off. Which is, in fact, extremely true. And my calculations didn’t take that into consideration at all. I mean, I knew it was taking more and yet I had no idea how much, so I didn’t know how to calculate for that. But I decided it would be unwise to add additional knit rounds without knowing the true amount of yarn this cast-off is consuming.

So I decided to just keep doing the border as I’ve been doing, and to weigh the ball of yarn when I’m done to calculate how many yards I have left.

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Then I began to get concerned – what if this bind-off is taking up so much yarn that I will run out before I even finish? Ack. So late last night, without a little less than three-quarters of the bind-off done, I weighed the ball of yarn. It was 3 grams. Three grams! That’s not very much! I calculated that at maybe 20 yards.

But then this morning, I did some more binding off. I worked and worked and worked. And then I weighed the ball of yarn – 3 grams! Hmm. I guess with this light yarn (laceweight-ish), it’s not going to register at less than that for awhile. So I’m just going to keep moving and hope I can out-crochet the yarn. And then, when I’m done with this bind-off, if I do have yarn left (and currently my intuition tells me I will), I will go back and add a double set of picots here and there at various places around the shawl. That sounds pretty, right? Don’t tell me if you don’t think it sounds pretty because I’m very excited about it!

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Right now the shawl looks like an indistinct blog with a curling border. I can’t wait to see it transformed by blocking. SOON!

 

Adventures in Mathletic Knitting: Calculating the Completion of My Pi Shawl

I’m interrupting my parade of last year’s projects to bring you actual up-to-the-date knitting news!

In November, I began working on a handspun Pi Shawl:

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

I have absolutely adored working on this project. It’s my in-between knitting, the thing I pick up when I have a gap between binding off and casting on for other projects, or for when I need to knit something that requires little attention. It has made for good knitting in the morning when I’m still waking up…

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… and in the afternoons when I’m waiting for my kids to be done with music lessons and rehearsals…

knitting during kids' piano lessons

knitting during kids’ piano lessons

… and in the car on my many-miles holiday journeys…

with coordinated nail polish

with coordinated nail polish

It has become such a good companion, that it’s been with a bid of sad surprise to realize this week that I was nearly out of yarn and so needed to go ahead and finish the shawl.

I did a couple of rounds of faggotting and then tried out a sideways garter border.

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Though this was great fun, I didn’t like how it was looking, so after a few inches, I ripped back and tried a picot crochet cast-off:

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I like this a lot. Love it, actually. It’s so easy and fun and gives the perfect finish to this particular project. However, I am about a third of the way done with the bind-off and it turns out I still have plenty of yarn left. I hoarded one long stripe of purple yarn to save for the end and I would love to use all of it, if possible.

Time for some math! Let’s take this step-by-step.

  1. I weighed the yarn – .2 ounces. I started with 768 yards out of 4 ounces of this yarn. So .2 ounces is roughly 38 yards.
  2. I measured the radius with my measuring tape – 23 inches, stretched but unblocked.
  3. The diameter is the radius doubled – 46 inches (again, unblocked).
  4. I had to look up how to determine the circumference from the diameter, and then I felt a bit sheepish. Circumference is the diameter times pi. Of course it is! This being the Pi Shawl should have been a nice reminder to me of that basic equation. At any rate, Circumference times Pi is 46×3.14=144.44.
  5. A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much yarn you need for the bind-off is 3 times the amount of knitting you have left. Let’s round the circumference up (I always round up in knitting, to safe-side things). 145×3=435. This is how many inches of yarn I need to bind off.
  6. Let’s put it in terms of yards since that’s usually how we think of yarn. So let’s divide the number of inches of yarn required by 36, to give me the number of yards required. 435/36=12.08. Again, let’s round up to be safe. I only need 13 yards of yarn to bind off the shawl.
  7. I have 38 yards of yarn left, but I’ve already bound off about a third of the shawl. Since the circumference of the shawl is roughly 145 inches, let’s divide that by 3 to see how much I’ve bound off: 145/3=48.33. But then we multiply it by 3 to estimate how much yarn I’ve used to bind this much off: 48.33×3=145. But then we divide that by 36 to see how many yards: 145/36=4.02. Add that to the 38 I have left in the ball, and I have roughly 42 yards of yarn left.

In other words: I’m ripping back. I have 29 yards of yarn I can knit with before I need to begin the bind-off.

I’m thinking I could probably do three more rounds of faggotting before doing the bind-off, what do you think? (I’m doing a generous estimate of needing twice as much yarn as the circumference for each round of faggotting, but this could be way off.) Of course, once I’ve added a few more rounds, the circumference will have grown a bit (probably by nearly an inch), but I think I’ve allowed enough cushion in my figures to make this work.

I do so much of my knitting by intuition, but sometimes it just makes sense to sit down and deal with the numbers. In this case, I’m especially glad that I did, even though it means ripping back. I have loved the process of this shawl so much that spending a little more time with it is pure joy.

Have you begun to see the well-known geometric theory behind what you have been doing? If you are a man, you will have spotted it right away. If you are a woman (sorry, lib), you probably expunged such theories from your memory the minute you finish high school, or even college, to make room for more useful stuff. It’s Pi; the geometry of the circle hinging on the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters’ terms, the distance between the increase rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 round, and so on to 192, 394, 788, 1576 rounds for all I know. Theory is theory, and I have no intention of putting it into practice, as I do not plan to make a lace carpet for a football field.

– Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year

 

 

This Just In: I Made Something a Couple of Months Ago

So when I mentioned two weeks ago that I probably wouldn’t get on to talking about crafty plans for 2015 until February or so, I thought I was making an outrageous joke. But I guess I was being serious, because here it is mid-January, and I still have projects from 2014 to show you! My excuses for being so behind are all good. Since I last wrote, I have traveled from Georgia to Alabama to Michigan to Georgia and back to Michigan again. There were some Big Events in there – throwing a 90th birthday party for my mother-in-law, writing my doctoral project proposal (and getting it approved – woohoo!) – as well as just regular stuff like work and mothering and life.

But now, onward! Or actually, backwards! Let’s go back to November, shall we? Yes, we shall.

Butterfly Hat + Mackinac Mitts

Butterfly Hat + Mackinac Mitts

This is the Butterfly Hat (a free pattern) and my Mackinac Mitts design (available for purchase through my Ravelry store).

For such a small project, this effort has quite a length backstory. Last Thanksgiving (in 2013), my Old Man’s daughter asked if I would make her a set like the one I made my niece last year. At the time, I wasn’t able to make her one before mitt+hat weather was over. The smart thing would have been to go ahead and make the set even once the season was up, and then just hang on to it until the next gift-giving opportunity. But that’s not how I do. How I do is to wait until the last minute and then try to knit like the wind.

So in November this year, a few days before her birthday, in the middle of preparing to host Thanksgiving, I cast on for the hat. I banged the hat out pretty fast, and then I got going on the mitts. The first mitt went great, and I began to think I would have both mitts done in time for her actual birthday. But then disaster struck – I ran out of yarn! And I only had one skein of this yarn in this color (Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Worsted – I have it in lots of other colors, but only this one skein of pink).

This set is supposed to be doable in just one skein. I designed the mitts last year specifically to only use half a skein of the Stonehedge, specifically to go with the Butterfly Hat, which also only requires half a skein of Stonehedge. So why did I not have enough yarn for the second mitt? I finally realized my mistake – I had accidentally knit the hat in needles two sizes up from what I meant to. Whoops! The hat came out fine, but it ate more yarn than I wanted it to. And no matter how fast I knit that second mitt, I couldn’t outknit the yarn!

So I had to give the set only partly finished. And on Thanksgiving night, after the meal was eaten and the dishes were cleared, I sat down to finish the set. I decided to cannabilize yarn from the cuff of the first mitt to make the second mitt, which should have been a fairly straightforward situation. But somehow I dragged it out all night. I ran into some problems – difficulty unpicking the cuff from the cast on, difficulty making the mitts an equal length when i was just knitting by feel at this point (i.e., just trying to fudge the length based on how much yarn I had, without knowing how much yarn each bit of mitt would use), making the thumb from one knit differently than the thumb on the other mitt (I still don’t know how I did that). Bascially, just a bunch of ridiculous issues with a little bit of addle-brained stupidity thrown in for good measure. And I became completely unhinged by this second mitt. I could not let it go, though family members (including the recipient) encouraged me to just wait, get more yarn after Thanksgiving, and finish up later. Apparently, I like to keep my process as wild and edgy as possible, so instead I pushed through. At around 3:00 in the morning, after having cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner a few hours earlier, I finally cast off for the second mitt (as well as for the first, because, as I mentioned, I had to undo the cast-on and take yarn out of it, and then bind it off).

Shortened mitts

Shortened mitts

Have you ever let a project get under your skin like that?

At any rate, I got them done, and the recipient likes them, and all’s well that ends well.

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So there ya go. More than you thought was possible to say about a hat and a pair of mitts.

 

One More Baby Knit for 2014 (Easy Baby Cardi)

I did a very poor job in the second half of this year blogging my finished knits. Which is why, in these last days of December, you are suddenly reading about things I made in July and August. I still have a few more projects to show you from 2014 before I can move forward into 2015. I have exciting plans for the new year, and at this rate, I will be telling you about them in the spring!

For now, though, I have another baby knit to show. In 2010, I had the great joy of officiating at the wedding of one of my online knitting friends, Elspeth aka Wry Punster. Since that time, we have enjoyed such shenanigans as dressing alike at Rhinebeck…

Double Allegheny

Double Allegheny (photo credit: Kirsten Kapur)

… and eating all the fried things while there.

This fall, neither of us were able to make it to Rhinebeck. My excuse was lack of funds and time. Her excuse was much better than that. She was busy having a baby. (The baby didn’t arrive on Rhinebeck weekend, but very close to it!).

If the Yoked Cardigan is my favorite girl baby knit (and it is), the Easy Baby Cardigan is my preferred knit for a baby boy. It had been three years since I’d made it, and I’d almost forgotten how fast and fun it is.

Easy Baby Cardi

Easy Baby Cardi

I usually make it in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport, which is a superwash wool, making it easy for new moms unaccustomed to handwashing their knits. But I knew Elspeth could handle a little handwashing, so I made this sweater in my favorite commercially available yarn – Stonehedge Mills Shepherd’s Wool, Worsted (a Michigan-made yarn), in lime-green.

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I always make this sweater without the hood – I just prefer the look of that dapper little collar instead. I also opted this time for seed stitch (instead of garter) for the collar, the button band, and the wrists/waist. I just love the look of seed stitch, and I think it gives it a slightly more polished look than the garter.

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Instead of the ties the pattern calls for, I always crochet a little button tab and add one big button. I just think that is such a fun look, and again, slightly more polished. I thought this matte white button looked pretty sweet with the lime green (though the colors didn’t show up quite right in this photo).

If you’ve never knit with Stonehedge, do yourself a favor and get your hands on some. It is so soft and buttery, and comes in such a gorgeous range of colors. Every shade has so much depth and richness. It also comes in a very generous skein of 250 yards! I first discovered this yarn in my local yarn shop (sadly no longer in existence) years ago, and I think it is finally starting to gain wider notice. With good reason.

I also highly, highly recommend this pattern. It is quick and fun and looks super-cute on both boys and girls. The pattern is graded from newborn to 18 months, so you can make one for any of the babies or toddlers in your life.

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Something Else for Our Princess (Handspun Little Sister Dress)

Back in June, our niece had a baby. Back in July, I made her a sweater. Back in August, I got to meet her.

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And for the occasion, I made her a dress, out of handspun.

Handspun Little Sister Dress

Handspun Little Sister Dress

I’d had my eye on this pattern for awhile. It seemed such a perfect use of handspun – mostly stockinette with a great little A-line shape and a sweet garter neckline. It was a fun, fast knit, which was good because I had to knit it twice – the first time I made it, I’m pretty sure it would’ve fit a three year-old.

neckline

neckline, modified to use just a single button

If I recall, I kind of winged things a little, using the pattern as a suggestion and just working with the gauge I had and the amount of yarn I had. The neckline is clearly a bit modified, and I ended up only needing one button instead of two.

I made the dress using some leftover handspun (Hello Yarn Polwarth in “Troll”), the same yarn I used to make a hat last Christmas for my mother-in-law:

Troll Hat

Troll Hat

I thought it would be special for her and her first great-granddaughter to have something made from the same yarn. Coincidentally, I also had to knit my MIL’s hat twice, since I also made it too big the first time. Apparently, this is how I roll.

At any rate, I could not have been happier with how the dress turned out. And then I got to see the little princess in it, and I almost died.

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ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THE CUTE? Sorry to shout, but COME ON. This just kills me. I mean, this is seriously every knitter’s dream, to have a handmade gift look so perfectly adorable on its recipient. And the fact that my niece chose this dress as one of the outfits for her baby’s 3-month portraits just kicked it all up a notch.

And that neckline I loved so much?

sweetness

sweetness

Well, it looks pretty smashing with those baby blues, amiright? Though honestly, I’m so enchanted with her eyes, it’s hard to even glance at the sweater at all.

This is a great little baby knit, with growing room so that it can convert from dress to tunic. I am so, SO pleased with how it turned out, and with how it looks on this little darling. Perhaps I should hang up the knitting needles now, because I know it will basically never get any better than this.

raveled

My Current Favorite Baby Knit, for My Current Favorite Baby

In June, our niece gave birth to the first baby girl born into our family in 32 years. That would have been exciting enough, but baby girl decided to arrive with high drama – she was born in the car on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. My niece caught her herself, as her husband was running to her side of the car; their 5 year-old and 2 year-old were in the backseat. Basically, our niece is amazing. So is her baby girl.

little princess

little princess

We are all in total love with her.

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I mean, COME ON with the cute.

 

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And after 8 boys born in 8 years, it was pretty exciting to get to knit for a little girl.

 

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So I went with something pink and cute. This is the Yoked Cardigan. I’ve made this pattern once before, a few years ago, and remembered it as a quick knit. And y’all. It is So. Quick.

Yoked Cardigan

Yoked Cardigan

I made it with Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport Solid, in “Whisper,” (about half a skein) and some fun flower buttons from Joann’s.
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Along with some self-promotional propaganda.