For a Little Fashionista (Handspun In Threes Cardi)

Earlier this year, I did what is for me a nearly unprecedented thing – I finished a handknit present a whole six weeks before the gift-giving occasion. This feat was made even more remarkable by the fact that I also spun the yarn up first. I then made up for this extraordinary punctuality by waiting more than half a year to blog about it.

I think I did show you the yarn last spring, but just in case not, here ’tis:

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This is Southern Cross Fibre “Dragon Fruit” on Bond/Silk, the February 2015 Club Offering (my first SCF club!). I spun it up as soon as I received it, and it was a dream. I ended up with 252 yards DK 2-ply, perfect for a toddler cardigan.

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This picture doesn’t do justice to those juicy colors. Oh YUM, I love them.

The knitting was fast and easy, and one week later, I was done:

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This is the In Three Cardigan, and it was a very sweet knit. After finishing up, I had enough yarn to crochet this precious Flower Accent, perfect for embellishing the sweater or attaching to a headband. I found some gorgeous green bakelite buttons from Sewing Vineyard on Etsy.

The sweater was for my great-niece, on the occasion of her first birthday. I made the 12-month size but with a slightly bigger gauge, figuring it would fit for fall.

And it did…

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Oh mercy, y’all. She is KILLING ME with the cute! And those grey boots!!! With those jeans! There may be nothing I love more than seeing someone I love wearing something I made for them. And when one of them looks this good in it, it just makes my heart explode.

raveled

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Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

Thank you so much for your very kind, very tender words on my last post. Losing my mom (and so unexpectedly) has been the most painful, most disorienting experience I’ve ever gone through, but the kind words and support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers has truly made a difference for me. Some of you shared in the comments on my last post your own experiences with grief or depression, and I feel very honored that you would do that. It makes me feel less alone.

One of the weird things for me has been that, professionally, I deal with grief quite a lot. From a professional/academic standpoint, I feel like I know a fair amount about what’s “normal” and what’s “expected.” But none of my knowledge or experience makes any difference for my own grief. No matter how “normal” this is – how I feel does not feel normal. No matter how much I expect grief not to move in linear stages, it is still always a surprise to me to find myself back in the middle of feeling shocked. I can go for two or three days of feeling like the absence of my mom is the new reality, and I’m adjusting to it; and then, I’ll suddenly have a day where it will feel like a total surprise (of the worst kind), and something that cannot possibly be real. Knowing this is how grief works hasn’t made it any more comprehensible, or reasonable, or manageable.

I realized several days ago that the addiction recovery movement has something to teach me about grief recovery: one day at a time. You know this. I thought I knew this. But I’m knowing it in a new way now. When I think too far ahead – how can we celebrate Christmas without my mom? – I’m sunk. But if I can just think – today, I’m not going to have a chance to talk to my mom, and that can be okay, because there have been plenty of days like that in my life, and those days were okay – if I can just think like that, and approach each day as a single day, and just get through that one day without her, then I do all right, and I think that maybe I can keep being all right.

In other words: grief has a lot in common with knitting.

As you and I both know, the only way to knit a sweater is one stitch at a time. Not even a single round or row at a time – a single, tiny stitch. If you just keep doing that, you will have a sweater in your hands eventually. It may take longer than you’d hoped, it may involve ripping back and redoing some portions, it may involve tears, anger, frustration, and discouragement, you may have to set it totally aside from time-to-time. But in the end, the only way to move forward is to knit the next stitch.

Of course this analogy is imperfect because I don’t expect I’ll ever be “done” with my grief the way I expect to eventually be done with a knitting project. Still, for now, it’s helpful to keep in mind that all I have to do is the next tiny thing.

For me lately, that has finally meant picking the knitting needles back up. It’s not with the same zest and energy I typically have, and it hasn’t been every day. But I am making the time to make some stitches, and it feels good.

handspun Laurie pullover

handspun Laurie pullover

Wooly stitches offer a kind of familiar solace that I’m cherishing now (handspan wooly stitches even more so!). This is supposed to be my Rhinebeck sweater, and with a cuff and a sleeve left, I’m still not sure I’ll get it finished in time. I have ten days to get ‘er done, so we’ll see.

I’m also, at last, back at the wheel e-spinner, and that, too, feels so good. If the grief process is like a spiral, then I suppose it has something in common not only with knitting but also with spinning.

Over the last few days, I took this:

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino,

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

And did this:

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and this:

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And I ended up with this:

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

And I love it very much.

Squoosh!

Squoosh!

And I guess this is one more thing I’m trying to learn from my knitting and spinning. If I just keep going – stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn – eventually, something beautiful might be created. I do believe this – I do believe that out of great sorrow, something new and beautiful and good can come. Pain can be a good teacher, if we let it be, and loss can shape us in ways that make us stronger and truer than we were before. I have seen the tiniest flashes of how this might become true for me – ways my mother’s legacy suddenly burns brighter in my life – and I trust that a new strength will grow and deepen in me if I can open my heart to my own grief.

In the meantime, I knit on.

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!

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!

 

 

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.

photo 1-10

photo 3-6

photo 2-10

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.”

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.

 

Once more, with feeling :: Handspun Norie Hat

I made my mother-in-law a handspun hat for Christmas, at her request. It turned out great, except for the sad fact that it was way too big. So Christmas night, I frogged it and started over. I didn’t really mind knitting this thing twice, because handspun is just too much of a pleasure to begrudge any extra knitting. Next thing I knew, I was done (again).

Handspun Norie

Handspun Norie

I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and I especially love how the color transitions match up with the garter ridges so well.

20140204-084019.jpgAlmost like I manipulated it to come out that way (I confess – I did, in a couple of places).

My mother-in-law is very pleased with the hat. I haven’t yet gotten a picture of her wearing it, but it looks a little like the first version did:

20131227-110416.jpgExcept this time, it fits.

Raveled.