Flax and a Finish

I’m happy to report that I’ve held true to my word to put down the phone and pick up the knitting more often, and lo and behold, we have progress!

First, I finished Pussyhat #3 that I’ve had basically done for quite a long time. It was languishing because winter was over, but I recently participated in a swap on Ravelry and I realized my swap receiver would be the perfect recipient so I stuck a Nasty Woman button on there (from Katrinkles), took a quick pic in bad lighting, and off it went to my swap receiver.

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It is the 8th month of the year, and that is my 5th finished object of 2017, and the 3rd Pussyhat. That should tell you something about the rate of knitting around here!

From my swap giver, I received many amazing project bags and gifts that are right up my marine-bio-loving alley, along with some lovely maroon-ish BFL fiber to spin. It was Hatchling-approved.

And finally, I have actually been knitting (even swatching)! This is my Summer Flax sweater for my little guy in a new-to-me colorway of Malabrigo Rios: Hojas. It’s such a great green! I was indecisive about the size, he wears 24 month clothes right now at 14 months old, and the pattern had either 1-2 years or 2-4 years for size choices. When I swatched, I liked the fabric I got with one needle size down and slightly tighter gauge, so I decided to go with the larger size, hoping that my firmer gauge will help snug it up a bit, and if it doesn’t, he’ll grow into it eventually. Length probably matters more than width at this point, so I’ll have to do some trying on when the time comes to make decisions.

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Spindle Happy

Goodness knows I have an abundance of spindles. (Remember that time I thought I’d clear all my spindle spinning projects off in the few months I had before the baby was born? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, I’m so funny.) But when I learned that Journey Wheel (a.k.a. the makers of Bosworth spindles) were going to be at the Knitting Weekend market, I knew without a doubt that I’d be adding to my collection.

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My new friends.

Bosworth drop spindles are among the best of the best. They’re prized by some of the most prominent spindle spinners in the business, and for good reason. They’re beautiful, perfectly balanced, and have a long, smooth spin. I’ve been wanting one for a long time but have been reluctant to order online because I didn’t know how to tell which one I wanted based just on a description of the size and type of wood. I really needed to see them in person and actually try a few out. Some I liked the look of didn’t spin as nicely as I wanted. One of my spinner friends was right when she said you have to find one that clicks for you.

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Blurry pic of the Midi spindle and Rag Hill Fiber batt.

I first clicked with a Midi size spindle made from Monkeywood. (I admit, I half picked it on name alone.) I purchased a batt from Rag Hill Farm(we’ve vended with them a few times, they’re lovely people!) and started spinning then and there. I’ve been using this batt to practice plying on the fly, and it’s been a lot of fun turn fiber into 3-ply yarn at once, instead of spinning it all into singles, winding it all off, then plying it in a separate step. (Google it, there are lots of videos out there.) Then I came home with a second spindle the next day (a Mini in Heart Pine reclaimed from the roof of an 18th century cabin) because how am I expected to hang around the pretty spindles and chat with the friendly and kind Bosworth couple without buying another?

All in all, it was an excellent show, preceded by a flurry of activity to prepare for it (and to meet some work deadlines) so I’m looking forward to spending my birthday (today!) going out to dinner and relaxing with my Fiasco. My parents are visiting this coming weekend, which should be fun, and I’m planning to spin with my new pretties every second that my hands are baby-free thanks to grandparent occupation.

(Have no fear, all the leftover product from the show will be updated to the shop over the next few days. Just not tonight!)

All The Pretty Fiber

The RI Fiber Festival and Craft Fair was this past weekend and it was a lovely time! The weather held out (chilly but no rain) and there were more vendors present than in previous years. Even though we didn’t have time to prep as much as we would’ve liked, Sweet Sheep had a pretty great show, thanks to everyone who stopped by!

There were sheep being shorn and fuzzy bunnies to admire (but not touch, sadly).

I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to squish my face into those baby bunnies… *ahem* Anyhow, I made it out of the festival with only two purchases, which showed some serious restraint on my part.

New to the show this year (I believe, unless I missed her last year) was Amanda from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I had just recently purchased a batt from her Etsy shop but still couldn’t resist the brightly-dyed braid of Polwarth in the Snow Cabbages colorway #noregrets. And I knew as soon as I touched the pretty pale blue gradient of Superwash Merino/Cashmere/Nylon in Chrystee’s booth (Play At Life Fiber Arts) that it was coming home with me. Concrete Sky is going to be the next thing on my wheel, for sure. SO SOFT OMG.

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O-Wool skeins for Hatchling’s Sky Blanket.

This wasn’t a festival purchase, but I recently wrote about Knit The Sky and the sky-themed blanket I’ve been inspired to make over Hatchling’s first year of life. I debated yarn choices for a while until I remembered that O-Wool sells gorgeous superwash fingering weight yarn at a great price, and I already had two grey skeins stashed that would be perfect for cloudy days. Snagging a skein of the white, yellow, pale blue, and dark blue to round out the sky possibilities was a no-brainer. I appreciate all the suggestions on my previous post of how to go about knitting this blanket. I’m feeling anti-mitered squares at the moment since I’ve had a mitered square blanket on the needles for years and I feel weird about starting more than one of those monsters at a time. Audry had a helpful suggestion of coloring in squares on graph paper to remember what days each individual square represented so I could join them appropriately, which was a concern of mine. I think I’ll do a little swatching and measuring soon so I can get a sense of whether I want to go with joined squares or stripey garter stitch.

All told, my stash is very happy about its fluffy new members and I’m feeling inspired to get on with new projects!

Soft or Scratchy?

I am highly amused by the different ways with which the Fiasco and I perceive fiber.

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Brooklyn Tweed Quarry in Moonstone

I recently acquired a skein of the relatively new BT Quarry so I could re-knit my failed Fidra hat attempt. This yarn is bulky weight but light-as-air, more like pencil roving than yarn since it contains very little twist and can be pulled apart with ease. I’m completely loving its airiness and am enjoying my re-knit so far.

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Fidra hat in progress.

My husband, on the other hand, took one touch and declared it “scratchy”. He says the same thing about my Kelp-y Kelpie shawl, knit with BT Loft. Clearly, the Fiasco is not a fan of Targhee-Columbia woolen-spun wool. What my fingers feel as fluffy, air-filled fuzziness, his feel as prickly, un-smooth scratchiness. It’s fascinating. (To be fair, he said the same thing about a superfine Merino wool yarn once, and declares that only the finest baby alpaca is suitable for his skin, so… grain of salt?)

Have you worked with Brooklyn Tweed yarns before? Do you like their ‘rustic’ hand?

TdF Already?!

Somehow, it’s July already, and Tour de Fleece is upon us. For those who aren’t familiar, Tour de Fleece is a friendly spinning event hosted on Ravelry that aims to spin every day that the Tour de France rides (July 4 – July 26th). The point is to challenge yourself, have fun, and share your spinning with others. It’s more relaxed than Spinzilla and teams are less competitive. Sarah wrote a lovely post about the Cloudlover team on her blog, which encouraged me to think about what I might like to spin. Once I saw that two of my favorite indie fiber dyers were hosting teams (and offering prizes!) I was sucked in.

First up, is the BeeMiceElf team. I am currently in the middle of a BeeMiceElf spin so joining this team makes good sense! I intend to spin up the second braid of Eggplant in Ashes (BFL/silk) into a singles yarn. Since I’ll be traveling when the tour starts, I plan to tackle that pretty hot pink/grey braid on a spindle (Mind Bullets, Merino wool). If all goes well, I’d like to get into those Space Odyssey gradient braids (superwash BFL), maybe even spin them into a 2-ply sock yarn. I’m resisting the urge to order some of the other great gradients Laurs has in her shop right now as I think I’ll have plenty to keep me busy for 3 weeks… (but it’s hard!).

The second team I’ve joined is the Three Waters Farm team because Mary Ann’s fibers are really incredible, too. I have several braids in stash to choose from but I think I’ll try tackling the braid of Greens at Dusk (Falkland wool) first and make a 3-ply yarn to coordinate with some undyed Falkland I spun earlier in the year. If I still have time (hah!) I’ll work on some undyed Wensleydale fiber, to coordinate with a BeeMiceElf Wensleydale gradient I spun during Spinzilla last year.

For those of you keeping track, I’m attempting to spin this list of fibers in 3 weeks:

  • BeeMiceElf BFL/silk – Eggplant in Ashes – singles yarn (4 oz)
  • BeeMiceElf Merino – Mind Bullets – 2 ply on spindle (4 oz)
  • BeeMiceElf superwash BFL – Space Odyssey 2 – 2-ply sock yarn (8 oz)
  • Three Waters Farm Falkland – Greens at Dusk – 3-ply worsted-ish (4 oz)
  • Three Waters Farm Wensleydale – undyed – 2-ply DK-ish (8 oz)

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA ooooooh, my “plans” crack me up, but they would put a nice dent in my fiber stash. This list is incredibly hilarious considering I work a full time job and I’ll be off camping for the first few days of the tour celebrating that this happened a year ago:

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(Can you believe it’s been a year??!?!)

Are you joining Tour de Fleece? Share your (unrealistic) plans with me, so I don’t feel so alone! 🙂

Singles or 2-ply? I’m biased.

After (finally) finishing my Malabrigo Nube yarn last Friday, my wheel was taunting me with its alluringly empty bobbins. “C’mon, what are you going to spin next? I’m ready!” Not counting all the new stuff in the Spinzilla pack from Louet, my fiber stash has somehow blossomed to about 60 lots of fiber… I was overwhelmed by choice.

Single or 2-ply? I'm Biased. | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes.

I eventually settled on some fiber from Bee Mice Elf that was part of the co-op custom order organized on the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary spinning board last year. I have two 4 oz. braids of the lovely stuff and wanted to spin something special… but what?

Singles in progress

Singles in progress

My first thought for this fiber was a lovely, thick, fluffy singles yarn. I chose the largest whorl of the regular flyer and got going. The single wasn’t very thick at all, it was about a light fingering weight thickness, so I plied it into a 2-ply to compare.

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

In truth, I loved the look and feel of the 2-ply a bit better, but  I always gravitate towards thick cushy yarns and have plenty of that in stash already. Many people on Instagram voted for the singles so I decided to swatch to get a better feel for the yarns.

I cast on with size US 6 needles (16 sts for 2-ply, 20 for singles) and knit small stockinette swatches for both yarns. A charming thing happened with the unblocked singles swatch: it biased! This happens in stockinette fabric when there is too much twist in the yarn (it has something to do with the physics of all knit stitches on one side and all purl stitches on the other). To balance an overtwisted yarn, one could:

  • ply the yarn
  • run it back through the wheel in the opposite direction to remove some twist
  • knit a balanced stitch pattern (like garter, ribbing, or seed stitch)
  • block the dickens out of the finished piece to even things out

Or, one could embrace the bias and use it as a design element, as in the new Bias Stripe Wrap pattern from Purl Soho:

Photo copyright Purl Soho. Click for pattern page.

This wrap alternates sections of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch to highlight the bias in an overtwisted yarn and create the interesting chevron effect with very simple knitting. So now I’m tempted to spin the rest of my singles up in this overtwisted fashion and knit a simple, striking wrap. What would you do?

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet

As you might recall, on Wednesday I mentioned that I came home to a giant box of fiber-y goodies from Louet*. Want to hear more about that? Of course you do!

Woolen Diversions

Thanks, Louet!

Louet is putting together super cool, heavily-discounted fiber bundles to help us all prepare our stashes for Spinzilla, the week-long spinning marathon that happens in October. There will be a different fiber pack each month leading up to the event. The May pack contains $160 worth of yummy fibers to play with, and retails for less than half that price. After sampling some of the fibers included in the pack, I can’t deny that it is an absolute steal.

The fiber pack contains 4 bundles of 2 oz each Dyed Merino Top (in Champagne, Dusty Rose, Lupine Lavender, and Tawny Gold), 4 oz of Angora/Lambswool Top, 100 gr of Eri (a.k.a. Peace) Silk,  8 oz of Light Romney Sliver, 8 oz of Dark Romney Sliver, and 8 oz of SWTC Dyed Karaoke (50% soysilk / 50% wool). I wanted to write my review before May was over so I’ve only had time to dabble in half of these fibers thus far, but here we go.

Eri Silk:

I practically attacked this lovely bundle of silk as soon as I had it out of the bag. It’s a beautiful, natural champagne/honey color, a nice light tan. It feels incredible. Since it comes from silkworms that spin open-ended cocoons, the silk is not reeled off in one continuous piece. This makes the fiber a bit fluffier and less sleek than typical mulberry silk (and the critters get to live!), but I like this quality as it makes the silk easier to draft and spin.

Review: Spinzilla May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Eri Silk sample skein

I spun a small amount (7 g) with short forward draw (worsted) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 38.3 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of silk up (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 618 yards of laceweight yarn (2,481 ypp, 24 wpi). I love this little skein and think that the rest of this silk will make an elegant shawl.

Angora/Lambswool:

The next fiber that my fingers couldn’t resist was the 50/50 blend of angora (from bunnies!) and lambswool. This fiber comes undyed in 2 oz bags (2 bags included in fiber pack). As you can imagine, it’s wonderfully fluffy stuff. I tried spinning this worsted but had a bit of trouble (it’s not my favorite drafting style) so I switched to my old standby, spinning from the fold. This allowed me greater control over the short, sleek angora fibers while introducing a nice bit of air into the single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Angora/Lambswool sample skein

I spun a bit up (11 g) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 20.7 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of fiber (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 214 yards of sport/DK weight yarn (856 ypp, 14 wpi). The yarn in this wee skein is thicker and fluffier than the silk but still has a lovely density from the angora and a nice bit of bounce. I imagine any knit fabric will develop an enticing halo over time. The angora and wool fibers were well blended and only a few times did I find myself at the end of my handful of fiber with just bits of angora left loose in my hand.

Carding Dyed Merino Top:

For my last sample skein, I experimented with hand carding the 4 colors of dyed Merino wool top I had received. I carded 4 rolags of each color blend and spun them in the following sequence: champagne alone, champagne/rose, rose alone, rose/lavender, lavender alone, lavender/gold, gold alone, gold/champagne. Since I was spinning from rolags, I used a supported long draw technique to create a woolen-spun single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Dyed Merino Top sample skein

I switched back to the regular flyer and spun 38 g of wool into a single that I then chain plied (10:1 ratio) into a 3-ply yarn. If I continue spinning all 8 oz of wool in this manner, I will ended up with 455 yards of DK/light worsted weight yarn (910 ypp, 11 wpi). I found the wool top easy to card and spin. I did not notice any compacted areas that can sometimes result from the dyeing process and the colors were consistent throughout the top.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

My pretties!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be done with one of these fiber packs. Things I’d still like to try:

  • blending the Eri silk with the dyed Merino top in rolags
  • plying one single of silk with one multicolored single spun from the dyed Merino
  • plying light grey and dark grey Romney singles together for a subtle marled yarn
  • spinning a bulky singles yarn from the variegated soysilk/wool fiber.

In summary, these fiber packs are an instant stash, and a great way to explore different fiber types in a low-risk way. For instance, I’m not in love with the feel of the soysilk/wool blend (even though I adore the color!) and I’m glad I found that out through the discounted fiber pack before purchasing it on its own for a project. Louet’s fibers are well-prepared, easy to work with, reasonably-priced, and offered in relatively large amounts (usually 8 oz at a time) that allow for experimentation and sampling without sacrificing project yardage, which I really appreciate. I’ve had my eye on some of their more ‘exotic’ fibers for a while (yak, anyone? How about camel/silk?) and the fiber pack they’ve put together for June looks intriguing, too!

Have you experimented with any new fibers lately? What have you been itching to try?

*Disclaimer: This fiber pack was sent to me from Louet for review. All opinions are my own and reflect my true impressions, I only support businesses whose products I truly love!

WIPWed #93: Campfire Knitting

I am (reluctantly) back from my camping trip, it was such a lovely time. We didn’t go far, and we weren’t gone for long, but something about spending the entire day outside and sleeping with just a thin nylon wall between you and the night feels wonderful. It was a tad chilly the first couple of nights, but the sun was warm during the day and we got plenty of hiking, biking, and campfire relaxing in.

My favorite way to knit.

I brought three projects with me (of course) but the only one I worked on was my Camelot Monkey sock. I had the wild idea that I’d have so much leisure time I would totally finish the entire pair… which did not happen. I did make my way back through the leg and heel that I had to frog last week, but it turns out that roasting marshmallows and reading to toddlers is way more fun than knitting (*gasp*). Plus, it gets dark early outdoors which doesn’t jive well with my nighttime knitting habits.

However, that kind of project monogamy is coming to a close. I returned home to a giant box of goodies from Louet, including a Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack and a lovely skein of laceweight Colinton mohair yarn (both of which you’ll hear more about soon). I eagerly ripped into the sample fibers and have begun playing with the irresistible Eri silk. So soft! So shiny! It’s also known as ‘peace silk’ because the silk worms are allowed to emerge from their cocoons before the silk is harvested, which does not allow for the silk to be reeled off in a single strand, but does allow the little insect to live.

I strangely didn’t read a thing while camping (I read nearly constantly at home) but I did finish that Mama, PhD book I was reading last week. I am now working my way through a couple of issues of Ply magazine that have been patiently waiting their turn.

Hope you all had lovely weekends and are halfway through a decent week! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

WIPWed #86: #MegaSAL, Here I Come!

Since finishing the Fiasco’s socks and failing to finish my MalMarch projects, I’ve taken embraced sock-knitting-for-me thus far this April.

Tropical Traveler:

I’ve been itching to knit these socks (from the January shipment of the Rockin’ Sock Club) for weeks and it’s been wonderful to pick them back up again, guilt-free. I think my new system of knitting sort-of-two-at-time (by having two pairs of DPNs and alternating between socks as I go) is working rather nicely, for I have not one but two socks that both have heels right now. I wanted to try a different heel out of Lara Neel’s Sock Architecture book, so I went with the square heel for this pair. Flaps and gussets work really well for me (high arches!) and I didn’t want to stray far from what I know already works, but it was fun to change things up a little bit.

Magrat MegaSAL:

WIPWed #86:

Nest superwash Merino, click for handspun page.

Since I couldn’t wait any longer, I just barely began spinning my Nest superwash Merino fiber dyed in the Magrat colorway for the Discworld-themed #MegaSAL that I wrote about previously. Because I clearly never want to finish this yarn, I’ve decided to try spinning it entirely on my Subterranean Woodwork medium Turkish spindle. I am probably the slowest spindle spinner on the planet (I just seem to get so much more done on the wheel) but I really want to challenge myself to make good use of my spindles, and two weeks seems like enough time to give it the ol’ college try. Besides, the spindle is fun to use and the fiber is nearly irresistible to touch (so fluffy!) so I have hope. Are you joining in for this SAL? I’d love to see your projects!

MalMarch Nube:

WIPWed #86: #MegaSAL, Here I Come!

Malabrigo Nube, colorway Persia. Click for handspun page.

Fear not, I haven’t completely forsaken the spinning project I aimed to finish in March. I haven’t sat down at the wheel yet this week because I’m still a little wary of tweaking my back again (damn long draw motions) but I’ve been faithfully carding up the rest of the fiber I have into fluff-tastic rolags. Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to find some time to sit at the wheel.

As for reading (to link up with Yarnalong), I’ve been tearing through the sixth Outlander book (nearly done!) and have just started to listen to Nation by Terry Pratchett on audiobook. It’s not a Discworld novel, but I enjoy reading/listening to anything he writes. I recently finished the first book in The Long Earth series (co-authored with Stephen Baxter) and it was really fascinating, I can’t wait until the remaining books become available at the library, although I’m afraid they may not have finished the series before Terry passed away. It’s essentially about people who can step from one Earth to another, if you imagine Earth as a deck of cards with our Earth in the middle and multiple copies of the planet that experienced all sorts of different history, events, and evolution expanding out to infinity on either side. This leads to the existence of nifty creatures, societies, and ecosystems that humans could then have access to. (I love scifi, especially biologically-nerdy scifi.) Highly recommend.

And as for life, tomorrow I’m going to see my new favorite band crush in concert and couldn’t be more excited: Walk the Moon. The single they have out on the radio right now, Shut Up & Dance, is basically instant happiness for me. I think Anna Sun is probably my favorite song of theirs,  however, and this is probably my favorite video:

It’s just so dumb and joyful and fun, it brings me right back to my college days. The main dude looks like he is barely 20 years old, so I’m a little bit worried that we’ll be the oldest people in the room but likely not and I suppose, who cares, right? (This is me trying to get ok with being 30 and no longer the target audience of bands like this. * sob *)

She Lives!

It was touch-and-go for a while there (not really, mind you, I’m exaggerating for effect) but I think I might just live. Basically, as soon as my back stopped feeling like there was a hot poker between my ribs, I was plagued by the worst sore throat I’ve had in years. This was followed by a sinus infection of epic proportions, which conveniently (SARCASM!) coincided with a road trip to help my mom recover from a surgery over the long weekend.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

Nest Superwash Merino, colorway Magrat.

I returned home snot-nosed, hoarse-voiced, congested, and emotionally drained… and proceeded to not sleep at all, for an entire night. I laid there staring up at the ceiling straight through to the dawn. I managed to sleep for a few hours this morning, however, and have begun to feel somewhat more human. My mom is recovering well, and despite all that it was a nice visit home, so things are looking up. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of nice fiber-y packages waiting in the mail when I returned, either. (If you don’t wish to be spoiled for the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Sock Club colorway, look away now!)

Pictured above is the one precious bump of Nest Superwash Merino fiber in the Magrat colorway that I managed to grab for the Discworld Mega-SAL being held on Ravelry. I intend to begin spinning it just as soon as I can finish my Malabrigo Nube spin. And pictured below might just be my favorite skein of sock yarn… possibly ever.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Gran’s Kitchen.

The colorway for the March shipment of the RSC is soooooooooooooo up my alley, I adore it. I love the minty aqua, the gentle gray, the streaks of white. Those soft, soothing, breath-of-fresh-air hues are just what I’m craving at the moment. I don’t love either of the patterns that came with this shipment, however, so I’m on the hunt for the perfect pattern for this skein. It has a rather short, stripey color sequence that is prone to pooling, so the pattern will need some bold lines and/or good overall texture to show up well. I’ve narrowed it down to 4 ideas:

  1. Quartzonite by Rose Hiver – An all-over textured lace that angles the fabric in different ways, which would make thin stripes look all cool and wavy.
  2. Louche by Hunter Hammersen – Twisted stitched interspersed with wide swaths of stockinette that should hold up nicely to variegation.
  3. Smokestack Socks by Tanis Lavallee – A nice texture/cable combo with strong vertical lines that should show up well through striping or pooling.
  4. Leyburn Socks by MintyFresh – Slipped stitches create a fun effect in variegated yarns and since someone is already making a pair, I know it’ll look pretty good.

Which would you make?

P.S. I wanted to say a general THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who participated in the product survey for Sweet Sheep! I received 91 responses and some really great feedback, I’m looking forward to many happy hours of analyzing and scheming. The winners of the giveaway have all been notified by e-mail (check your inboxes) but I’ll also say congrats here to Valerie, Victoria, Lisa, Sweta, Stephanie, Annie, Shelley, Erica, Christina, and Kathy! Your input is much appreciated. And to everyone who participated, please remember that your coupon codes are valid through the end of May!