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June 2011
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August 2011

Hello, I'm not feeling very clever today

I dropped my car for an oil change this morning and walked over to the farmer's market while the deed was done. On the way, I passed this old building downtown -- 111 years old, in fact -- not as old as The Hardware Store, but just about as cool -- and noticed this metal hardware around most of the window and door openings on the back side. I can only imagine that they were used for shutters.

It's interesting, to me, that the colors used to paint the trim on the storefront are almost exactly the same colors I chose to paint our house. See how dirty the window?

It's been empty for quite some time. It makes me so sad that there are so many empty buildings downtown, especially on the south side (we have a north and a south, separated by the river). I'd love to open something in one of them... in this one, I could even live upstairs! It would be easy if I didn't have to worry about making an income. Heh. Meanwhile, I continue to dream and scheme...

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On Thursday, I went to Door County with Kate, Al, and my mom for the antique show held annually in Fish Creek. I believe the four of us went last year, too! That doesn't happen every year, but it's a good excuse for a trip to the Door -- my third time already this year! We drove up to Sister Bay to have lunch at Mission Grille, then back down to Egg Harbor to visit Olde Orchard Antique Mall. Mom and I used to have a booth there many years ago, and then I managed her antique mall in Appleton for a while, so we still recognize many dealers there, and in other area malls, by their merchandise, dealer code, etc., even though we maybe haven't actually seen them in years. I'd wondered aloud about a particular dealer that had booths in both our mall and Olde Orchard, and it was fun to see him face-to-face almost immediately upon entering! We're all a little older and showing a few more wrinkles... except, I guess, for my mom.

Before heading home, we backtracked just a bit to Wood Orchard Market for fresh cherries (both sweet & tart), raspberries, blueberries... oh yum! That's what I had for supper on Thursday night, with dark chocolate-covered dried cherries for dessert!

* * * * *

Stripe Study is off the needles and blocking as we speak!! I'm about to wind the "blue" yarn for my July Project Spectrum project -- which should go pretty quickly. I have another scarf in mind to start. And I'm also awaiting the start of Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL (that's Knit-Along) 2011 beginning August 1st; I may be lagging behind the pack on that one, even though I can't wait to start!

How'd you do that?

Deirdre left a comment on yesterday's post:

I've been loving all your hand-dyed yarns, and am wondering how you're dyeing them? Big vats of colour? Squirt bottles?

Excited by what I learned at the dyeing workshop that Kate, Ali and I took at Old Maiden Aunt Yarns in Scotland, I was completely energized by the girls' enthusiasm! Project Spectrum came along at exactly the right time, providing both direction and focus for my ongoing exploration.

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At this point, it's mostly all fun and games. I am having a blast playing around and experimenting with color and fiber. That said, I've been trying hard to document and record while playing -- not something I've ever been good at -- because at the heart of it, I'm also learning. 

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Right now, given my current set-up and equipment, immersion techniques work best. (The lapse in my documentation is evident right >< here in that the most useful photos of my red-dyed yarn are not readily available... and I'm just going to trust that I took them in the first place, and can find them... I'm 99% sure.) All of the reds I dyed in May were dyed using this method; some were over-dyed and/or tie-dyed.

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A pot full of dye is hard to resist! I put a rubberband around a skein of white yarn and threw it in to see what would happen...

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And put some more rubber bands on a hank of already-red yarn and threw that in, too!

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 Naturally, since I'm mostly set up for immersion dyeing, I was hand-painting by June!

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Mostly, these were done by pour-and-smoosh. My test skeins are small, but I believe I had a couple of these sort of draped in and out of containers each with a different concentration of dye.

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For hank above, I laid it out on some large pieces of plastic wrap. I poured and smooshed chartreuse on one end, emerald on the other; orange along one side; navy along the other. It was all wrapped up in plastic wrap and then steamed on the stovetop. The steaming could also be done in a dye-dedicated microwave or crockpot, but I don't have either.

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I continued the pour-smoosh-and-steam method for the blue test skeins, playing a bit with value and hue.

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I reverted to immersion, time, and over-dye techniques for the "blue" finish skein. I also continued to play with value and hue, resulting in a failure in the "blue" department but pretty much a winner in every other way! For this hank, I threw the whole thing into a bath of burgundy-tinted orange; after a few minutes, I pulled out one end, leaving the rest in the pot. I mixed "a little" black with navy blue (this might have worked better had I used sky blue) and then over-dyed half the hank in this solution.

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Because this is all rather seat-of-the-pants and sometimes my idea changes in the time it takes to pick up the yarn and put it in the pot... There was more navy-black dye than required for the amount of fiber, and that's when I threw in a skein of green Galway to soak up the rest.

I can't believe it's going to be August on Monday!!! We'll be in the pink, which I'm sort of dreading, but I'm going to MAKE IT WORK!


Black and blue, beep-beep

Beep-beep first. This week's Ten on Tuesday is 10 Best Bumper Stickers You've Ever Seen. Ahem. Well, bumper stickers stick better to bumpers than then they do to my brain! I'm not good at remembering jokes, either. I like clever and eye-catching art and graphics, helpful and hopeful messages reminding us to be green and love thy neighbor and let there be peace on earth -- the symbolic COEXIST epitomizes that, pretty much and is definitely one of the best I've ever seen. And humor is always good.

There is one bumper sticker (of many) that Katie had on her first Saab (way back when she was still in high school!) that a) I will never forget and b) I still often quote:


* * * * *

Let's look at some yarn.

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Last time it was an ant, this time a flying bug -- I don't know why they're always wanting to be in the yarn photos.

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Darn it. This is supposed to be blue and orange. Do you see any hint of blue? Neither do I!

Perhaps the lesson might be learned now?

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I rather love it, and I'm sure I'll use it, it's just not what it was supposed to be. I shall try again.

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Meanwhile, I had a hank of green Galway worsted that I threw in at the end to soak up the remainders of the "dark blue" and I love the subtle change.


Logging the miles

On Saturday night, we were pretty sure that we weren't going to go biking on Sunday -- that the entry fee for the 25th Annual Best Friends Gourmet Bike Tour would be a straight-up donation. The weather wasn't looking too promising... and I have come to realize that I am definitely a fair-weather athlete! Sure enough, I listened to an early morning thunderstorm roll through and thought that pretty much sealed the deal. The sky was blue when I woke up, though, and... could it be? When I opened the bedroom window the air felt cool and refreshing! So nice. I got on the horn, we gathered our stuff and loaded up bikes, and off we went.

For the second year in a row, Katie and I rode the 25-mile route (which was the same as last year). We started a little bit later this year, so were behind the main group of 25-mile riders -- which was great! It was a more relaxing ride, not constantly passing or being passed, and we made even better time this year. Familiarity with the route helped, I'm sure, but I think we're both better riders. Even though I haven't been riding as much lately, I can still feel improvement in stamina and endurance, plus there's been another year of breathing fresh air into my lungs and I've made some improvements to my diet. I had to get off and walk my bike a little ways up some hills. It's funny, I don't even have to walk all the way up -- it's like it gets to a point where my legs have HAD IT with that and after walking for a bit, I jump back on and pedal like nobody's business. Haha, well, sort of -- somewhat refreshed and ready to go again, anyway.

Random roadside cornfield photo; probably somewhere in the Town of Clayton... or maybe Neenah. What you don't see in this photo is an airplane... which is rare because there were LOTS of planes in the air, flying in for today's official start of EAA AirVenture 2011. This week li'l old Oshkosh, b'gosh, is among the busiest airports in the world!

Rusty was putting the finishing touches on the bathroom paint job when I got home!! It looks wonderful! I checked out all the light fixtures on Saturday and had to run and make an exchange, but I think the fixtures will be next. Or maybe the plumbing stuff. Then the floor? Reset the toilet again (the catalyst for this whole project), finish the trim, make new curtains, figure out decor (out with the old? some? all?), and call it!

I took a quick, cool shower followed by a short, helpful nap and then took off with Rusty to "meet the artist" -- a good friend we've already "met" a million times -- Pat Filzen and her Perk O Ladies 2: Strong Women Who Brewed Change show at The Flying Pig. I was sorry to have missed POL 1, so this was a must. Susan Murtaugh's My Old Flame, in an adjoining room, was fascinating as well!

We gathered afterwards with Pat and other friends to share food and wine and the gift of gab. Never one to pass an opportunity for a walk on the beach -- any beach -- Rusty stopped in Algoma on the way home. I wasn't wearing appropriate shoes (I threw my old tennies away in Wales, and really need to replace them!), so I knit for a bit while Rusty walked.

It was a pretty good weekend! Oh, I dyed some yarn, too! It's "blue." Heh.

It's slow goin'

You'd think, without three little kids underfoot, that we'd make better (and quicker) progress on the home improvement projects around here. I guess maybe it's not so exciting the second, third, fourth time that we're doing something in the bathroom... it seems more like a chore than a fun project. I'm hoping that the excitement builds.

Maybe it's time to move.

(I can't believe I just said that!)

There are too many things vying for our time, and I guess that's a good thing.

Plus, I am so over summer right now. The extreme heat has passed but that doesn't mean it's not still hot, and the humidity is even harder (for me) to handle. It stifling, and just saps all the energy and will to do anything.

I'm supposed to participate in a charity bike ride tomorrow! Fifty miles was the initial goal, 25 miles seems more reasonable given the lack of ANY bike riding around here lately. I dunno. We'll see. Thunderstorms are also in the forecast.

So, I'm mostly responsible for growing the bathroom project -- if we're going to do This (the toilet) then when should do That (the floor) and, really, That Other Thing (painting) needs to be done, too. Rusty realized that one of Those Other Things is some plumbing pipes that should be replaced. And we may as well replace the light fixtures. I'm going to make new window coverings, too, and repurpose the fabric from the ones that were screwed up last year.

I think that's it. I know it's dated, but I'm still kind of sorry to see that stencil go. I can't wait 'til it's all finished!

* * * * *

Me: "Do you like this color combo?"

Almost everyone I ask: "I won't know until it's finished!"

Gah! I can't believe this. Sometimes I hate it, sometimes I love it -- and that keeps me going. The "meh" I felt about the earlier combo was the intolerable feeling.

So, I won't know for sure until it's finished!! I'm closing in on the striping, so it shouldn't be too much longer.

* * * * *

I may have my Project Spectrum project figured out for July:Blue and it will involve sewing! I've actually been gearing up for some of that -- looking at patterns, buying some fabric and a new iron, and working on a place to set up other than the kitchen table.


Garden blues

I might have landed in a little hot water for volunteering my mother's garden as a possible candidate for a future garden walk. I told her that she can always say "NO," that they can't force her to participate.

Just beginning

Can they?

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One of the problems is that her garden -- the show piece being a wildflower garden that fills the ravine -- looks best in spring, not in mid-July. Wildflowers are early bloomers!

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I had the July=Blue of Project Spectrum in mind on this year's tour. There's no arguing the true blue hue of Virginia Bluebells and Forget-Me-Nots (some of those early spring-blooming wildflowers), or even some lovely Morning Glories, but it's decidedly more of the "violets are blue" hue in the garden at this time of year.

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There were a variety of gardens, from wooded and sprawling rural-ish, to orderly and subdued suburban, to compact and effervescent urban. I found some unusual items growing in the garden...

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...of the whimsy variety!

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I want a yellow chair! This simple, colorful grouping was one of my favorites! I just love all the color.

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Time's up! That's all for now.

Blue on blue

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Blue on blue...

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Heartache on heartache...

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Blue on blue, now that we are through...

I still haven't decided on my Project Spectrum July:Blue project, which also means that I haven't dyed the yarn, but I've knit up the fingering weight dye sample skeins for the Project Spectrum Square Project.

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One of these days I'll lay them all out in some sort of order to photograph. I know what I'm going to do with them in the end, but haven't taken thee time to figure out the nitty-gritty details yet. I have time.

There was a Garden Walk in the area on Saturday. There was a heat wave moving in and it was hot, but not as bad as Sunday -- this whole week is going to be steamy! I took lots of photos, with a special focus on blue.

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More to come. Stay cool!

Oh frap!

Since Ali took over the coffee shop two-and-a-half years ago, I stop every morning on my way to work. I believe I've failed in this only once in all that time -- and I called to check in and waved (Hi Frank!) as I drove by. I used to see only Ali every morning, then sometimes Maddy, and now it is often Abbey or Morgan, too. This morning, it was Morgan and Maddy was on the my side of the counter, on her way to her other summer job!

I never get coffee in the morning -- that has been part of my at-home routine and has remained unchanged -- I need coffee well before that time of the morning, anyway! We buy our bulk coffee there now, though, instead of the grocery store, and have it nicely (and finely) ground.

Ali gave me a fabulous insulated lunch bag and Thermos bottle for Christmas, and I've used them almost everyday since. In the winter, I'd have the bottle filled with hot soup in the morning. Most of the time, I saved it for a mid-afternoon snack, not cracking it open again until about 3:00, and the soup was still piping hot!

I'm not so much into soup right now, especially as I ponder how hot it's going to be around here for the next week without even trying! Ugh. So, lately, I've been having my bottle filled with fresh-fruit smoothies -- usually with an added handful of spinach and some added flax seed -- sometimes strawberry, other times blueberry. I'd say the Thermos is better at keep things piping hot than it is at keeping things cold -- or at least not FREEZING cold. The smoothie is plenty "cold" when I open it mid-afternoon, but the slushy edge is gone. If I keep it in the fridge, though, it's near-perfect!

Treat for me today! I declared it to be Frappe Friday -- Java Chip (mine's without the cream and drizzle and extra sprinkles, but go order one for yourself and it'll look just like this!).

Happy weekend!

Ten on Tuesday: Harry Potter

Ten on Tuesday Thursday! I am no authority, but even I know that it is a big day for Harry Potter fans! I can't let this one pass because, while I've been reading all sorts of lists of awesome things, I can't believe no one (that I've seen) has mentioned Weasley Sweaters or booger-flavored jelly beans. I've never actually read an HP book, and have only seen maybe two of the movies, so maybe my interpretation of...

10 Awesome Things About the Harry Potter Books. Or movies. less literal than some, and more influenced by cultural/commercial interpretations. Heh. No less valid, from my seat. In no particular order:

1. Weasley Sweaters! The Original Harry Potter Sweater! I sent away for The Original kit and knit this modification ("M" for Mack) when he was wee. One of his big brothers was a HUGE fan of Harry Potter, and now Mack is, too!

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2. Jelly Belly Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. These have been in nearly every Christmas stocking and Easter basket I've had to fill since they were invented because they tickle my funny bone.

3. Reading. I can't believe how many times my kids have read some of these books... and how often they had to be at the book store at midnight!

4. Quidditch.

5. The Invisibility Cloak and Many Other Magic Things.

6. Richard Harris as Dumbledore. I adore Richard Harris.

7. Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall. Ditto.

8. Alan Rickman. Ditto.

9. Kenneth Branagh. Ditto.

10. Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters. Perfect casting.

Haha. I'm going to have to read at least one, aren't I? At least two of my kids are going to be at the theater tonight for the midnight show!


Well, if photographs didn't lie -- and I didn't allow myself to be deluded -- it would be a very nice Stripe Study. As it is, that yarn is WAY more green-brown than it is gold and my shawl looked like poop. I started one way, didn't like it, and tore it out... to start it the other way, didn't like it, and tore it out, too.

I've since begun again using some of my Highland Holiday yarn to stripe and I think it like it -- I like it better -- but it might also be starting to hurt my eyes. I love that yarn I dyed in Scotland way too much to waste it on a project that I don't love. So, I might knit a few more rows to make sure, but I might also rip it all out tonight.

And while pondering what color might actually go nicely with the poopy yarn, I may have found my elusive Project Spectrum July=Blue project.


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I dyed on Sunday. The blues are either Sky Blue or Navy Blue, and I played around a little bit with value, adding black -- oOops! You don't need much! I also played just a bit with Pumpkin Orange as a complement -- all in varying strengths and whatnot. I wasn't as inspired this time... it was hot and humid... or there's just way too much going on on my world... or I haven't been as successful as I'd hoped in keeping The Blues confined to the dye pot.

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I shall ponder carefully. I have some extra skeins if further testing is required. On a cooler day. And this time with feeling.

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Silly ant.

The antidote

Stripes, anyone?

Here we have a wound-up hank of Malabrigo Sock in a delicious color called "eggplant" sitting atop a yarn cake of Araucania Ranco in a color that has no name. I've had the Malabrigo for a while because, well, I am weak when faced with anything "eggplant" -- positively helpless with "aubergine" -- take me, I'm yours (it seems to say to me).

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I have been working on and off on Gretel.

Gretel III

Exciting, isn't it?

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Yeah. I know I'll truly love it in the end, but the process... not so much that it's a black stockinette blob but, for me, that it's on circs*... is sooooo sssssllllllloooooooooooooww.

New project

The first self-prescribed antidote to the black stockinette was a colorful lace shawl with which I couldn't be more pleased.

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I've been feeling itchy. It's been quite a while since there's been any garter stripe action around here -- I'm perfectly fine if I never get over it -- so the second self-prescribed antidote is a Stripe Study Shawl.

I took that pattern with me to the UK as a possible project -- for either knitting or acquisition -- so it's been in the back of my mind for a while. One of my two remaining hanks of dye workshop yarn from Scotland came to the LYS with me last night as a contender, too. In the end, though, I decided on this combo; many thanks to Phyllis and Pam at Iris Fine Yarns for their assistance last night!

*I prefer straight needles, so I've begun Stripe Study on straights, and I will continue that way, adding more as required, for as long as I can... maybe even all the way. (I knit Cerasifera entirely on straights.) This works *for me* when it's a project that's knit back-and-forth; my pay-off is comfort... and speed.


CSA Week 3:

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This is the full share -- two quarts of strawberries, about two quarts of sugar pea pods, two bunches of garlic scapes, a bunch of radishes, and a large head of romaine lettuce (somewhat obscured by the styling of the radishes). The strawberries were probably the last we'll receive this season -- they were really yum, too.

I made Strawberry & Feta Salad using some of the romaine and garlic scapes, and with strawberries that I had to buy at the store because the ones from the CSA box sort of disappeared. It was delicious! I used nearly a quart of strawberries in the salad (because I had them, and why not?), and would probably cut the oil at least in half next time.

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We grilled some shrimp on skewers over the weekend and I cut up the left-overs to use in my standby summertime pasta salad (in place of the most-often-used tuna) -- I also used some scapes and some thinly sliced radish. There were more radishes in this week's box (below) and I'll be pickling a la Margene!

CSA Week 4:

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This week there were two bags of spicy mixed greens (not shown because they were in the sink at photo time and I couldn't wait because the light was fading!), some swiss chard, two bunches of radishes, two bags of sugar snap peas, two pints of Michigan blueberries, FOUR more bunches of garlic scapes, a zucchini, and a patty-pan squash.

I think I'm going to try roasting some sugar snap peas... I love roasting stuff! I haven't quite decided about the squash -- I love squash, though, so it'll get eaten even if it's just steamed or sauteed... or roasted. In fact, we roasted some zucchini last night and I have some in my lunch today, along with some of those spicy mixed greens and blueberries.

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Don't they look fabulous?

Speaking of blueberries, Katie made the most amazingly simple, delicious, not-too-sweet dessert the other day -- Scottish Blueberry Dessert with English Custard. I can't stop thinking about it -- how easy it was, how to play around with it, and how it is that my grandmother never made it. It seems so much like something Grandma would have made.

Plum crazy about this thing!

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I'm so happy with this project. I've had in mind a two-tone shawl with this yarn from the moment I unwrapped it nearly a year-and-a-half ago. I've been perusing, pondering, and printing possible patterns ever since...

Within 30 minutes of this shawl appearing on my radar, I'd not only read about and purchased the pattern, but had cast on as well!

  • Cerasifera Shawl by Kirsten Kapur with modification to the ribbed edging *
  • Sundara Hand-dyed 100% Superwash Merino Wool Yarn; approx. 370 yards "Calla Lily" + approx. 250 yards "Ochre Over Lime" *
  • Size US 7 needle (straights throughout, employing a 3rd as needed)
  • Began June 20, 2011 and finished July 4, 2011
  • Dimensions: 55" tip-to-tip wingspan, 22" neck to edge at middle
  • Rav'd here

Kirsten is hosting a Summer Shawl Knit-Along and has a number of beautiful shawl patterns to choose from, should you be so inclined to knit along.

Cast on now and finish by September 23rd -- plenty of time -- and not only have a lovely shawl for fall (or a start on Christmas knitting!) but a chance at prizes in the end.

* Yarn & Edging Details. I began with three balls of yarn -- two in the “Calla Lily” color that were each about 185 yards/50g, and one in the “Ochre Over Lime” that was about 350 yards/100g. (Please note that I did not measure or weigh before I began, so don't know the accuracy of the stated yardage/weight.)

It just happened to work out that I used nearly all of the first ball of “Calla Lily” for the openwork/body part of the shawl and most of the second ball for the Cerasifera lace section. The yarns were the same colorway, but the second ball was a bit darker and I was thrilled that it worked out this way. Measuring the leftovers of both balls, there is a total of 12g left (cautiously translating to about 40 yards total).

I had plenty of the “Ochre Over Lime” colorway when I began the Ribbed Edging section -- enough to play! I loved the ribbed edging -- it's one of the design features that appealed to me most -- and decided to riff on that a bit. It took a couple of tries, but I ended up knitting the K2,P2 edging as written for a few rows and then knitting another increase row, basically doubling the number of stitches, to knit the rest of the edging. I didn't want a crazy ruffle, but the increased number of stitches definitely gives it some movement at the bottom and a lovely softness. This is 36g/approx. 125 yards left, so my rough calculations tell me I used about 225 yards for the edge.



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Not me (not yet).

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In the past, whenever she -- or any of the girls -- said that she wanted to sew something, I always took the scissors and took charge. She brought home my mom's ca. 1962 Singer the other day and for herself.

That's the machine that sewed the likes of these for my sisters and me:

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And now this:

Isn't it gorgeous? You should see it on her (hopefully, I can get her to model over the weekend). It's not the first, nor the last... she's jazzed about sewing and fabrics and patterns!

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The pattern is an Easy McCall's M6347 (View A). Hello summer!