The Best Rainbow Sweater

I have no idea how 29 days have passed since the triumphant return of my WIP Wednesday posts. I blinked and a month disappeared! Not ok, Universe, not ok. I originally wanted to write this post after I had measured the finished object so I could report the juicy knitterly details but let’s be real: if we wait for that, we’ll be waiting forever. Plus, we just took some family portraits for our little Hatchling’s 6 month milestone, and the sweater played a supporting role, so I have to show it off. With no further ado, I give you The Best Rainbow Sweater Ever Made.

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That’s his “Oooh, shiny object, can I have it?!” face.

LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL THING, AMIRIGHT? The sweater’s nice, too. 😉 I used the Babycakes pattern designed by Laura Aylor. I modified the length of the arms and body a bit to make the stripes work out how I wanted, but otherwise followed the pattern for the 6 month size. It fit well when my kid turned 4 months old, and is still wearable now, although I find myself wishing that the armholes were just a little deeper as he’s getting bigger. Warning: if you decide to stripe like I did, you will have 42 ends to weave in. FORTY-TWO. It’s worth it, though, because he’s worn this thing all over the place.

The pattern is simple but customizable and I really like the square neckline and asymmetrical fronts. I opted against the scalloped edge and added buttonholes. The buttons are adorable little turtles from Katrinkles. I think I tried 4 different ways of embroidering them before Katy herself suggested doubling up the embroidery floss and doing a simple backstitch at knit night. Doubling up the floss made the pattern stand out much better.

The yarn is a DK-weight pastel rainbow gradient from Play at Life Fiber Arts, with a some deep green Cephalopod Yarns Traveller used for the edging. This is a great weight for baby sweaters, especially if you use them for outerwear as we do (puffy jackets + car seat = no no). It is substantial and keeps him plenty warm but it’s not so thick that it looks tight or uncomfortable. In short, I love the sweater to bits, and will be so sad when he grows out of it. Also, how did my baby get to be six months old already?!?! I am flabbergasted.

What is your favorite baby sweater? I’m thinking of knitting another Newborn Vertebrae in DK-weight yarn and larger needles to upsize it, but would love to hear other suggestions.

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Planning (Way) Ahead

You know what I realized the other day? Rhinebeck is only 4 months away. FOUR MONTHS! That might sound like a whole lot of time, and not even the most dedicated knitter is wishing for fall so soon into summer, but if I want to actually finish a garment before the festival, I need to start plotting now.

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Twisted, colorway Grimm Green

I have three skeins of BMFA Twisted, about 1680 yards of worsted/aran weight wool yarn, waiting to become a sweater. This is the same yarn I used for my Overdyed Cypress vest and I know it will make a delightful garment. I’m picturing a button-up cardigan with cables or texture and a thick, cozy shawl collar. However, that vest took me 6 months start-to-finish, so I need to get crackin’ sooner than later. Here are the three patterns on my short list.

Dark & Stormy:

Photo copyright Caro Sheridan. Click for pattern page.

Thea Coleman’s Dark and Stormy cardigan has such a gorgeous cable panel on the back, doesn’t it? It also features a generous shawl collar (which you can see in other photos on the pattern page). The stockinette will likely make the knitting go a little faster. I think this is knit top down with raglan sleeve shaping. My concern is that raglan shaping might not be the most flattering for my larger bust, and I’m wary of getting creative with modifications so early in my garment-knitting career.

Chocolate Stout:

Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

Another lovely pattern by Thea Coleman (that woman is a wizard with cables) is Chocolate Stout. This one looks deliciously grandpa-ish, with it  deep pockets, cuffs, and overall texture. It is knit bottom up with a drop shoulder sleeve treatment. Drop shoulders are the same as those on the vest I’ve already made and they were simple enough to work.

Little Wave:

Photo copyright Jared Flood, click for pattern page.

I’m also very much in love with the Little Wave cardi, designed by Gudrun Johnston. I really love the little zig zag/texture stitch and the garter stitch details. It has a less cushy shawl collar than I was picturing, but it still has the same spirit. This one is knit bottom up with a saddle shoulder. I have no idea what my opinion on saddle shoulders might be.

Three gorgeous sweaters with very similar looks, but different constructions. Which would you choose? Why?

Halted

After the previous post featuring my latest FO* and summarizing my First Quarter Plan progress, I was committed to finishing up my Cypress vest before the end of March, and was all set to do so… until I lifted my arms overhead to fold a blanket and my rib popped out of place.

Halted | Woolen Diversions

Close but no cigar… yet.

That sounds far more gruesome than it actually is, but the pain is highly inconvenient. It’s a pretty common occurrence since the lower ribs are flexible (in order to expand and contract with breath) and sometimes the ligaments holding the ribs in place get loose or what have you and POP — one gets out of place. A couple of years ago I had a back spasm for about a week, which is the first time this particular spot gave me trouble, and it popped out again back in November, as well.  Sharp pain, discomfort sitting and standing, no lifting possible, and difficulty breathing are the oh-so-fun things I got to experience all day yesterday instead of quality knitting time.

Halted | Woolen Diversions

Wee sleeves!

Before that point, however, I had managed to knit both wee sleeves and finish them  with a tubular bind off. This was my first time doing a tubular bind off and boy was it fiddly but I kind of enjoyed it as I have a strange affection for kitchener stitch. It also looks nice and neat. I have just about an inch of knitting left on the neckline before the bindoff and then this vest will be done, done, done. Since my rib/back is currently in the ‘dull ache’ vs the ‘sharp pain’ stage of things, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get to it sooner than later.

One thing I did manage to do this weekend is update some out of stock Sweet Sheep lotion bar scents, including Crisp Pear, Lemon Cake, Turkish Mocha, Sweet Almond, Champagne Fizz, and Honey Beeswax (a spring-time favorite!).

*The socks, btw, do actually fit the Fiasco. His words: “They fit like a glove made for Tyrion Lannister” which means either they’re made of gold, or they’re a tad too snug. But no matter, he’s still wearing them!

So Close, Yet…

… still so far. Folks, I did my darnedest, but this vest is just not going to be complete by tomorrow.

The shoulders and sides are seamed, but the armhole and neckline edgings still remain. While that’s not really a lot of knitting, it is an awful lot of fiddly knitting involving 3 different needle sizes, tubular bind-offs, and copious amounts of kitechener stitch. That’s all well-and-good for a quiet evening at home, but not so great for traveling or for when a bunch of your out-of-state friends are about to come visit. I was a bit of a madwoman last night filling orders for Sweet Sheep, seaming up the sweater, and writing and printing knitting instructions to use when I teach some Girl Scouts how to knit tonight. (Thanks for your helpful suggestions, I ended up putting together my own little booklet with text hat I wrote and with illustrations borrowed from the TechKnitter’s blog. She’s amazing, btw.) I’m glad I was able to get the vest more-or-less assembled, but I’m accepting that it just won’t be ready to wear in time.

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Swatches for teaching.

I also had to do a little swatching to demonstrate to the kiddos their two Harry Potter scarf options: garter stitch or 1×1 rib. I’m really looking forward to my evening of teaching, I just wish it didn’t coincide with this particularly busy weekend and a host of other things I need to be doing. Ah well, deadlines wait for no one, am I right? That reminds me of one of my favorite (and ever-relevant) quotes:

European-Paper-Company-Douglas-Adams-Whooshing-Deadlines

Yes.

 

Douglas Adams totally gets me, man.

WIPWed #79: Blocking and Plotting

For me, certain projects require a bit of a push. There’s almost always one all-out, late-night, knit-fest to get through some part of a project. Last night was the endurance portion of my Overdyed Cypress vest knitting, but it paid off.

WIPWed #79: Blocking and Plotting | Woolen Diversions

On the blocking boards! Click for project page.

The back and front of my vest are complete, similarly-shaped (the back is purposefully narrower than the front), and vaguely garment-like. Once they dry, I will seam them up and then it’ll be just a matter of adding armhole and neckline trim before Saturday. I’m a little worried that the pieces are too long (I didn’t make row gauge and tried to compensate for that) but we’ll just have to wait and see about the fit. Sometimes, staying up into the wee hours to power through shoulder shaping sections is totally worth it.

WIPWed #78: Blocking and Plotting

Garnet Tonic, click for project page.

Meanwhile, the cowl that I’m so in love with is progressing, slowly but surely. I’ve forgotten how much I like working a simple lace pattern back and forth on straight needles. No shaping to fret about, it doesn’t get longer any as you go, and there’s no annoying circular needle join to contend with. Pure pleasure.

WIPWed #78: Blocking and Plotting | Woolen Diversions

Lendrum Falkland wool, click for handspun page.

I’m still chugging away on the never-ending-pound of Falkland wool that I used for my ply experiment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a delightful fiber and a joy to spin, I’m just itching to make some big fluffy colorful singles yarns, and this flow of fine white fiber is not abating.

On an entirely different note, does anyone have any good teaching resources for brand new knitters? I’ve volunteered to teach a bunch of middle-to-high-school-aged girls how to knit this Friday, and I haven’t had a chance to do much searching for materials yet. We’re going to be making Harry Potter scarves, in either striped garter stitch or 1×1 rib (their choice) and I’ll have some samples to show, but it would be great to have some illustrations and written directions that they could take home with them on a handout. If anyone knows of some good resources, please let me know!

Still Here, Still Knitting!

I’m not sure where this week has gone, but it has just whizzed right by. I’d meant to post nearly every day, but between work and appointments and trying to get to bed earlier and not wanting to sit down at the computer more after a full work day of sitting at the computer… I just didn’t. And while I missed blogging, this busy week did afford me an opportunity to put my January word intention to use: enough. When I’d done enough for the day, I stopped, and resisted the urge to do more. I think that was a good thing.

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Overdyed Cypress, click for project page.

I’ve remained faithful to my first quarter knitting plans, as well. A number of people remarked that my plans were rather ambitious. Have no fear, I approach such lists with a sense of flexibility and full knowledge that I won’t complete everything. They’re really just a way for me to focus my attention, rather than strict goals I  must accomplish or else wallow in despair. They’re also there to help prevent me from casting on all the things which is what I’m tempted to do on a daily basis. This week, I’ve been more-or-less focused on my Cypress vest and am now 3/4 of the way through the knit. The back is done and the front has reached the neckline shaping. Once that is finished there will be blocking, seaming, and then ribbing (which I’m telling myself will be super quick). I’m still harboring hope that I will finish this by my 30th birthday (in <10 days). We shall see, I suppose.

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Swatch for Ecclefechan Mitts. Click for pattern page.

 

I also swatched for the Scottish-themed colorwork mitts that I raved about in my yak-yarn-inspired post last Saturday. While the swatch is quite pretty and the pattern is clear, I don’t adore the fabric and know that knitting these mitts would take me forever. I’m inexperienced with colorwork and I’m a thrower, so that means I put down each strand and pick up the next for each different colored stitch. It’s annoying and while the fabric is soft and cushy, it has very little stretch. I don’t like my mitts to be too constricting, so I decided to try my hand at designing a cowl after all.

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Indecisive swatch within a swatch.

This yarn really wants to be something lacy and drapey, and I’m picturing lace panels interspersed with some two-color texture. Except I’ve changed my mind about the nature of that texture about a dozen times! The above photo shows some two-color moss stitch with a bit of slipped garter stitch patterning above… I just can’t seem to decide. While I liked the look of the moss stitch just fine, it (again) wasn’t enjoyable for me to knit. I’m doing enough knit/purl alternating on my vest thankyouverymuch and I feel like a bit of a change. This is exactly why I cannot fathom designing something without knitting it myself. My designs have to not only be something beautiful and functional, but they absolutely have to be fun to knit. Making sure both the pattern and actual knitting flow in logical, pleasurable ways is part of the challenge for me. “Fun to knit” means different things to different people, so it’s perhaps not the best design goal, but it’s the closest thing I have to an ‘aesthetic’ at this point so I’m rolling with it.

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A small handspun diversion…

Finally, I became a wee bit distracted from my knitting goals when I finished spinning some yarn and decided to conduct a little ply experiment. I will post full details tomorrow, but the short story is I took a bunch of Falkland wool singles and plied them in three slightly different ways, knit three similar swatches from the samples, and analyzed their differences. Stay tuned for results!

 

 

WIPWed #77: Counting Down!

The holidays are creeping ever closer, aren’t they? Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate it, and there’s only just about a week left until Christmas! Even though I’m not knitting many presents this year, I was still up into the wee hours putting together gifts.

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Photo project!

With all the digital photography these days, I forget how much I like to play around with actual printed photos. Back in high school, I worked in a CVS photo lab and made piles and piles of carefully curated albums of my friends and family. While digital photos are fun in their own right, I don’t get the same pleasure from scrolling on a screen as I do from flipping through a book. (Although I have been known to spend an ungodly amount of hours putting together digital photo albums. Blurb is awesome for that, btw.) While making some wedding photo collages, I was reminded that I should print pictures more often… you know, when I have spare time (hah!). Onto the WIPs!

Overdyed Cypress:

Woolen Diversions

Motoring along on my vest. Click for project page.

I found some time to work on my Cypress vest again! I have revised my original goal (finishing by the end of November) to finishing by my birthday, near the end of January. I’m determined to wear a handknit garment when I turn 30. I think I can do it!

Big Purple Cowl:

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Malabrigo Mecha, colorway Whales Road. No project page as of yet.

After several days of waffling over a few bulky cowl patterns for my fashionable, pre-teen Christmas giftee, I started a completely different one than the others I had listed: Millwater. I really adore this pattern, and have knit it before, but I think it might be better suited to thinner yarns like the DK for which it was written. It’s simple enough that it should work in any yarn, but the scale of things gets thrown off with bigger yarn and needles. For instance, in the bit I started above, I modified the garter stitch counts and changed the cable from 24 stitches of *k2,p2* rib to 16 stitches of *k1,p1* rib to make it less gigantic. While that’s fine, I’m feeling like it’s missing a bit of oomph and the garter is a little denser and less smooth than I think this yarn wants to be. Back to the drawing board…

Petrol BFL:

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Countess Ablaze BFL/firestar/silk in Petrol.

I am this close to finishing the singles for this spin. I cannot wait for it to be over. While the Babe is a perfectly serviceable wheel, after spinning on my new Lendrum it just feels clunky and somewhat coarse, instead of smooth and relaxing. Nearly there, though, nearly there. That bit of fiber is all I have left, and the plying should go quickly enough.

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Review & Giveaway!

 

Finally, check out the Knitting Sarah blog for a wonderful review of my Sweet Sheep lotion bars. Sarah is hosting a giveaway you can enter through the comments (winner will be picked on Monday) and there’s a special coupon code for readers of her blog! Thanks for the lovely review, Sarah!

P.S. This is my 500th blog post! That sounds insane! Apparently, I’m quite verbose. Thanks for reading, friends!

WIPWed #75: New Wheel In The House

After a mildly soul-crushing shipping mishap last Wednesday which resulted in a delivery of whatever this thing is, instead of my wheel:

Nobody wants you, squirrel cage swift thing!

I finally received my brand new Lendrum DT! (Previous posts in my search for a new wheel are here and here.) As evidenced in the photos below, I didn’t even remove my knitwear after walking in the door before sitting down to spin on it. Guys, it’s so lovely to work with.

The treadles are extremely comfortable, it was simple to put together and seems easy to maintain (I’ve only oiled the flyer shaft, everything else is contained), the wood is gorgeous in person and it is spinning up my free pound of Falkland wool nice and smoothly. I’m unreasonably excited to try out all the different drive ratios the complete package came with (the regular flyer, fast flyer, and jumbo flyer each have 3) and I’m kind of enthralled with the little sliding hook mechanism (rather than individual hooks on the flyer). The Majacraft Pioneer I tried had a slidey bit and was lovely to treadle as well, but I couldn’t get over the delta orifice on that wheel, and much prefer the wood used in the Lendrum anyway.

After a weekend that involved an obnoxious amount of verbal and quantitative reasoning questions (yay GREs!), staying-up-until-3am-statement-of-purpose-essay-writing, copious grad school application activities, and general brain fatigue, I’m really looking forward to spending some free time chillaxin’ with my new spinning buddy. (I’m barely resisting giving a name to this new spinning buddy. I’ve always thought that naming wheels and spindles was sort of odd, but for some reason I’m feeling the urge. Please stop me.) Due to all of the craziness around here lately and a yoga-induced strained back muscle (really!), I haven’t been doing much knitting, but I’ll document the little WIP progress I did manage to make this week anyway.

Overdyed Cypress:

Woolen Diversions

Blurry pic, sorry! Click for project page.

Just a couple more rows added to my (former) #NaKniSweMo sweater. I’ll get there, eventually! Slow and steady with this one.

Chai Tea Latte:

Woolen Diversions

Foxfire Fibre Upland Wool & Alpaca. Click for project page.

The texture of this cowl reminds me of a nice, frothy chai tea latte drink. I started this on Thanksgiving so I’d have something smaller than a sweater to carry with me on our holiday travels. The yarn is a natural tan wool, spun woolen for optimal loft and fuzziness. It reminds me of an even airier Malabrigo worsted, it is a thick yet lightweight singles yarn. My skein is untagged, but I purchased it at my knitting guild when Barbara from Foxfire Fiber & Designs (who wrote an excellent book, Adventures in Yarn Farming) came to give a talk. I believe this yarn is her Upland Wool & Alpaca blend, technically a DK weight but I’m knitting it on size 9’s for a loftier fabric. I’m designing as I go, using a variation of the stitch I explored in the baby hat I finished last week. We’ll see how it turns out!

Petrol BFL:

Woolen Dirersions

Countess Ablaze Pertrol BFL. Click for handspun page.

Just because I have a new wheel, doesn’t mean I’m going to completely ignore my old one! The Babe is still great for spinning longwools, plying, and any art yarns that require strong pull or special techniques. Besides, I intend to use a bunch of random skeins of BFL handspun in one project, so I should probably continue to use the same tool when spinning them up.

Tropical Merino:

Woolen Diversions

Wooldancer 19.5 Micron Merino. Click for handspun page.

I finished the little sample skein I was spinning on my Jenkins Finch (pics later, I forgot!) and started this shockingly pink braid of ultra fine Merino wool. I’m surprised by how much I love this wee spindle and this unabashedly pink fiber. It’s so far outside my normal color palette, but it’s really gorgeous in person. Since the singles are very thin, I split the braid into four equal bits and am planning to spin a 4-ply. Since the colors are not distinct and will undoubtedly jumble up with plying, I’m picturing the finished yarn to have a nicely heathered effect.

What have you been working on lately? Am I the only one in the middle of crazy deadlines? I’m hoping they let up soon so I can actually relax a little and get in the holiday spirit before Christmas comes!

WIPWed #74: Feeling Thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US, and despite all the busy and the crazy and the deadlines swirling around my life right now, I’m feeling really thankful for everything this year has brought. At this time last year, we had just learned about my mom’s cancer diagnosis, and several surgeries and treatments later, she’s doing quite well and we are optimistic about her recovery. This time last year, I was still a fiancée, and now I have a husband who always knows the perfect thing to say to make me feel better when things get rough (such as, “C’mon, Alicia, what would Katniss do?”). This time last year, I weighed about 60 pounds more than I do now, and I’m hopeful that I will continue to make progress along this (stupidaly hard) path to better health. This time last year, I had never traveled outside the country, and I now have wonderful memories of sloths and howler monkeys and palm trees and Costa Rican rain drumming on tin roofs to soothe me when I need it (note to self: finish those recap blog posts!). And finally, this time last year my Sweet Sheep lotion bars were a mere twinkle in my mind’s eye, and now I’ve filled over 125 Etsy sales, received over 70 5-star reviews, and have over 390 ‘likes’ on Facebook. It’s been a rollercoaster of a productive and somewhat frenzied year, and when I feel ‘stuck’ or like I’m not making any progress, it’s incredibly beneficial and kind of amazing to pause and look back on it all with a sense of gratitude and appreciation.

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Free shipping for the holiday weekend!

To celebrate the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — oh my!) in one small way, I’m offering free shipping on all orders from today through December 1st. Use the coupon code “THANKS2014′ at checkout to receive free shipping on all domestic and international orders! Thanks for all your support, and consider shopping indie this holiday season. 🙂

And I cannot forget all my knitting and spinning in the list of things-for-which-I’m-grateful!

Baby Kalamazoo:

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CY Traveller, colorway Kalamazoo. Click for project page.

I knit this project in about 2 seconds flat (ok, 2 days) for a coworker who is having a little girl and going out on maternity leave today. I’m really happy with how the hat turned out. There are very subtle 2-stitch faux cables throughout the body which make for interesting texture without being overtly cabled. I’m thinking of incorporating this fabric into a larger design. And I just love the little i-cord loop at the top of the hat!

Overdyed Cypress:

Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, overdyed by me. Click for project page.

My #NaKniSweMo sweater is nowhere near done, and definitely won’t be finished by the 30th, but I’m super proud of the fact that the back is finished and I’ve made good headway on the front. This is one garment that I’m actually going to complete, and that is exciting in and of itself.

Petrol BFL:

Woolen Diversions

Countess Ablaze BFL/silk/firestar. Click for handspun page.

To occupy myself while I wait for my new wheel to arrive, I started a braid of Countess Ablaze BFL/firestar/silk on my Babe. I intend to spin this as my ‘default’ yarn: a thin single that I then n-ply into a DK-worsted-weight yarn. I have two such handspun skeins in stash already, and have vague notions of spinning a bunch of color-coordinated BFL in this way and using them together in a larger project. I’m using this spin to take part in the Indie Untangled Knit/Spin/Crochet/Weave-along, come join us, there are prizes!

Finch Test:

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Abstract Fibers sample. Click for handspun page.

Finally, I’ve been spinning a bit on my new Jenkins Finch spindle. That photo shows all of the little sample it came with spun up, and later on I will ply a wee skein!

I hope you’re prepping for a wonderful holiday and enjoying all your WIPs this week! Check out other WIPs at Stitch Along Wednesday with Gracey.

WIPWed #72: Steady On

Magical things are happening around here: after just 5 days of dedicated knitting, I have about 20% of my #NaKniSweMo sweater finished already!

Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, overdyed. Click for project page.

Guys, if I’d known that sweater knitting could feel so effortless, I would’ve jumped in ages ago! I had always viewed sweaters as these huge, complex undertakings that would seem like never-ending endeavors. And perhaps some sweaters do feel that way, but not this one, and I think these are some reasons why:

  • It’s knit in pieces, just a back and a front, so rows are relatively short.
  • There’s no waist shaping, so once you get going you can power through without worry until the armholes.
  • There is minimal armhole shaping: some increasing, some more knitting, and then some binding off (I think, haven’t gotten that far yet).
  • The stitch pattern is supremely simple, but still interesting, switching between stockinette and 1×1 rib every couple of rows.

In short, this little vest-y pullover is ticking all my buttons right now, and I’m loving it.

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VG Zaftig, colorways Russian Sage and Kiss of Cabernet. Click for project page.

My Lucy Hat is off the needles and in the process of blocking, and I already adore it. Ends need to be woven in and the brim needs to be turned up, but those will just take a few moments once dry. Hopefully I can get some modeled shots for Friday, the hat is super cute on.

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Inglenook Batts. Click for handspun project page.

The only thing I’ve done besides the sweater (and sneaking in the finish of the Lucy Hat) is spin a bit on my Russian spindle. I’m still loving the way these batts are working up. I hope you like looking at that photo above because this project is going to look very similar for quite some time (support spindling makes for very fine singles = very long spinning projects).

What have you been up to this week? Do you find that sweater or accessory patterns with certain characteristics work better for you than others?