WIPWed #111: No Knitting

I have not knit a single stitch around here in days. But, the move went well and the cleanup of the old apartment is done and unpacking is in progress and work deadlines are becoming more manageable, so things are looking up compared to my last post.

In lieu of knitting, I’ll write about my current real-life-WIP: the new apartment we’re renting. Please excuse the crummy nighttime cell phone photos, they are all I have.

After painting the living room sage green (instead of poop brown), it was vastly improved. It’s a cozy pace that is a bit too small for the big bookshelf we have in there, so that will probably be moved in order for me to have a spinning corner again. The bathroom required no work, the benefits of moving in to an apartment that somebody owned (versus a complex) is that if they had excellent taste in fancy fixtures, you get to have nice sinks and shelves and counters and things.

The kitchen was a major attraction in this place. Lots of counter space, everything is new and pretty, and it is nice and open, in fact it’s centrally located to all of the rest of the rooms. The main drawback is that the tile floor is COLD! I am not used to tile flooring or a lack of carpets, and my poor freezing feet are suffering. I will need to invest in additional slippers this winter for sure. Not pictured is a little sun room / mud room off the kitchen that will serve as my office / Sweet Sheep headquarters. In one of the pictures, you can see into the second bedroom a bit, which is currently serving as the Fiasco’s Gaming Den.

The main bedroom is one we really like. It’s a good size and the owners had this crazy intense custom closet situation put in that takes an entire wall. That closet is great, but it is the only real closet in the place, besides a tiny coat closet that is also in the main bedroom. Thank goodness we have access to the basement or we’d never have space for all of our accumulated stuff. In fact, I’m still not quite happy that most of my yarn will have to live in the basement, I’m afraid of it getting damp/musty down there. We’ll have to see what we can manage.

And that’s the new place! There’s a backyard with a nice patio, too, that we’ll make good use of during the warmer months. Cold floors and tighter spaces and all, we’re happy to have moved. It feels much homier than our previous place and we’re hoping to settle in there for a good long while.

While I haven’t been knitting, I have been reading up a storm during my spare moments. I finished the first book in the Lord John sub-series of Outlander, but couldn’t access the rest from the library due to moving frenzy, so decided instead to re-read The Hunger Games series which I did in an alarmingly quick 5 or 6 days. Those books are still fantastic. Pickings were slim on my kindle so I read About A Boy, which was a marshmallow fluff of a story that probably makes a better movie. And now I’ve started A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens because it’s there and I’ve never read it. I have to hit up the library soon…

Hope you all are having good weeks! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

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Exhaustion Doesn’t Cut It

The past couple of weeks have utterly worn me out. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend was fun but busy with lots of traveling. Then the following week was non-stop work for a very large deadline that is still somewhat looming over my head. Then this weekend we moved. Packing, moving, and unpacking rate very highly on my list of least favorite things, but my Fiasco is a magnificently talented moving master, so it all went smoothly. He and his brother and mom really put the hustle on and made moving as painless as possible. They’re wonderful and skilled in ways that I am not. In fact, my dear Fiasco single-handedly painted the new walls (who thought poop-brown was a good wall color?!) and painted over our old walls (goodbye teal, yellow, green) and cleaned the old place up without a finger lifted from me, as I’m still working on that damn deadline.

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Sage green is SO MUCH NICER than poop brown.

I know, I’m lucky.

Needless to say, my knitting has suffered. I have yet to cast on the mittens I talked about 12 days ago, and the only thing I’ve done is a bit of ribbing for a Sockhead Hat:

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This is the only project of which I’m currently certain of its whereabouts, since it lives in my purse. Everything else is in Tower of Boxes Limbo Land. It’s not a super interesting knit but I am really loving the yarn (a mediumweight Socks That Rock mill end) and it’s going to coordinate perfectly with my favorite bright blue fleece.

It’s interesting to see the split in bloggers’ attitudes towards the upcoming holidays. Some are in full-on confident gift knitting mode, aiming to knit a bajillion-and-0ne-things over the next month. Others are approaching the beginnings of panic mode, realizing that there are only so many hours in day. And still others express surprise that Christmas is less than 3 weeks away. I fall into the latter group, with a heap of ‘bah humbug!’ added in for good measure. I am probably just tired, but with all the running around recently, I can’t even fathom decorating or buying stuff for gifts. I swear, there’s nothing like moving and subsequently having to put away every single item in your possession to make you really, really sick of stuff. Bah humbug, indeed.

So I’m listening to a holiday playlist while I work in the hopes of turning my mood around and I’m actively trying to avoid scoffing at capitalist greed whenever I see/hear/read holiday ads. It’s part of why I didn’t participate in Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or BuyStuffSunday (I’m sure Sunday is called something) or Cyber Monday with Sweet Sheep. It all just felt too… contrived. Meaningless, and pushy, and not-the-point.

What do you do when you’re just not feeling the spirit?

 

 

WIPWed #110: A WIP-to-Be

I was not able to take pictures of my current WIPs this week, which is really fine because they look exactly the same as last week. I did, however, snap a quick pic of some new yarn that arrived that I’m absolutely itching to cast on.

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Ancient Arts Big Squeeze, colorway Cherry Blossom

The yarn is a brand new bulky weight superwash Merino from Ancient Arts Fibres. They’ve kindly sent me the yarn to review and I’m super excited to work with it. I love chunky weight yarns, and this one manages to be both thick AND lofty. Big Squeeze is a totally appropriate name. I can’t wait to wind this sucker up this evening and bring it with me on my holiday travels.

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Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

My first thought was that I’d like to knit a bulky weight hat, like Mint Schnappes by Thea Colman. There’s something so satisfying about hat knitting, and the bright color would be a nice cheerful way to top off my ‘winter look’ (= ‘I’m cold’).

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Photo copyright Trelly Hernandez. Click for pattern page.

Another lace-involved bulky weight hat I really like is Galicia by Trelly Hernández. The lace is simple but charming in its geometric shape. I really like it.

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Photo copyright TinCanKnits. Click for pattern page.

However, a few chilly mornings in a row have reminded me that winter is coming and I freaking hate cold fingers. I have one pair of quick, bulky weight mittens that I knit three years ago, but I feel like it’s time for an update and I adored the cable on the Antler Mittens when I knit my dad’s Antler Hat, so this one might be the winner. It’s written for aran weight yarn, but it’s on the same size needles that I knit my last bulky pair, so I think I can work out some size finagling.

What would you knit with about 130 yards of super-squishy bulky weight wool?

As for reading, I’m now listening to The Shoemaker’s Wife and after a slow-ish start, I’m really enjoying it. I’m also reading the Lord John Gray sub-series from Outlander, because you can never get too much of reading about scandalous Scotsmen.

To all who are traveling for Thanksgiving, safe travels and happy holiday!

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

 

Places I Knit

I’m going to be completely honest here. The majority of places I knit are entirely boring as 90% of the time I’m knitting on my couch, the passenger seat of a car, or work meetings. But I totally support knitting everywhere-and-anywhere (well, maybe not everywhere) and would love to hear about some of the more interesting places you’ve knit.

One of my favorite atypical places to knit is the beach:

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I don’t mind a little sand in my yarn. The most interesting place I’ve knit was on the porch of our honeymoon casita in Costa Rica:

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And perhaps the prettiest/strangest place I’ve knit was in the garden where we were married!

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Needless to say, yarn comes with me everywhere. I should probably work on knitting in some more exciting places, though.

This post was inspired by Where We Knit,  the very first Indie Untangled yarn club.

Beer photo by Jay R. Brooks

Indie yarn + pattern + surprise treat inspired by the different places we knit will be shipped out every quarter in 2016: Drops of Honey (nothing cozier than tea + knitting), Two Rivers (based on the Mississippi and the Hudson), At the Brewery, and the Beach in Fall. Sign ups are open now and run through December 20th. A lotion bar by Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe in a special fragrance inspired by the theme will be the surprise treat in one of shipments, too! See more details on the Indie Untangled blog.

What’s the craziest place you’ve knit?

WIPWed #109: On the Move (sort of)

SO MANY THINGS are happening at Chez Woolen Diversions and one of those things is moving. UGH. We’re only moving a few towns over (to a nicer place with lower rent… whoa!) but it’s still a gigantic, major pain. So I’ve been keeping the knitting super simple lately. I’ve even sorted through all the yarn and WIPs and separated out anything I think I might need over the next month in case the rest of the stash gets buried under moving boxes. Like these:

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Can you spot Darwin?

Onto less disheartening things, like knitting!

Berrylicious Socks:

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BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Berrylicious. Click for project page.

These socks are chugging along. I’m near the toe on one, mid-foot on the other. Not much else to see here…

Rotted Days:

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Handspun and a singles yarn I bought at a festival. Click for project page.

A combination of a long car ride and seeing everybody working on their Stephen West MKAL projects all over instagram (#thedoodler), is what inspired me to pick up my Dotted Rays shawl again. Now that I’ve got the hang of the short rows and don’t have to refer to the written-out-line-by-line pattern much anymore, I’m enjoying this garter stitch knit. I think it’ll be lovely once it’s done, and I’m still enamored of my yarn combination. Great use for handspun! I’m really liking the look of all those Doodler shawls, too, so I’ll probably cast one on someday. I’m staunchly anti-mystery-knit-along, though, so I’ll be waiting until I see everybody else’s finished products before I commit. Also, can we take a second to boggle over the fact that there are already 2,955 projects for that pattern?! At $6 a pop, and assuming that each shawl was a separate sale, Mr. West made over $17,700 in about a week or so. I think I’d faint with joy if I ever saw that much money flooding in instantaneously. Good for him.

Sweet Sheep news:

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Sweet Sheep goat milk soap in Chamomile Bergamot

I’ve been hard at work filling some wholesale orders and re-stocking the shop. I’ve added Chamomile Bergamot sheep-shaped goat milk soap, as well as a few sold-out lotion bar scents, such as Cinnamon Chai, Winter Gardenia, Orange Rosemary, Lavender, and Lemon Cake (to name a few). I was supposed to vend this weekend at the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market, but unfortunately, I pulled a muscle in my back that is currently spasming like crazy and has had me flat-on-my-back and out of work for a couple of days, so I’m taking the weekend to recover. (Back spasms hurt like whoa guys.) But, Rhode Islanders take solace: you can now check out Sweet Sheep lotion bars and soaps in person at The Mermaid’s Purl, a great little yarn shop in Wickford! Woohoo!

As for reading, I’m working on The Long War, the second book in a series co-written by Terry Pratchett (one of my epic literary loves) and Stephen Baxter. It’s about humans developing the ability to sort of ‘step’ sideways into millions upon millions of similar-but-different Earths. It’s a super cool concept and I love the (completely fantastical, obviously) idea that there are Earths out there that haven’t been ravaged by us, or that experienced different climactic events, or were not hit by asteroids and still have dinosaurs, or for some reason are populated entirely by butterflies. As an ecologist, it’s a fascinating thought experiment.

Anyways, linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday, and now  I’m off to rest this back. Oy.

WIPWed #101: Home and Away Again

We’ve reached that portion of this particular summer where life is crazy busy and time is of the essence! Not surprisingly, my blogging has been intermittent, my knitting erratic, and my spinning nonexistent. I returned from a brief-but-fun vacation in Cape Cod to over 100 work emails needing attention like right now and not one, not two, but three wholesale Sweet Sheep orders to sort out and set up! These are all good things (well, maybe not the work emails) but they do certainly add to the craziness of my brief two days at home before heading off for a week-long conference in Baltimore. (Ecological Society of America meeting, this eco-nerd’s paradise!) I managed to snap a few photos of my knitting before I left for the conference, so I’ll share those with you now. (Note: spoiler alert for July’s BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club colorway near the end of the post!)

Black Tea:

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Plucky Knitter Bello fingering, forgotten colorway. Click for project page.

I have finally begun the Black Tea hat I’ve been coveting since taking Thea Coleman’s class back in January, and it’s as delightful as I’d imagined. I did do some gauge-and-cast-on macgyvering, though, so we’ll have to wait until after blocking to see how I like the final hat. The cast on was for 120 sts at a gauge of 5 sts/inch, which would make for a 24″ hat, which is too big for me. I changed the ribbing a bit to remove some stitches and knit at a tighter gauge than called for, expecting the high cashmere content of the yarn to still give a nice drape to the fabric. Keep your fingers crossed!

Rotted Days:

WIPWed #101: Home and Away Again | Woolen Diversions

Handspun and festival yarn. Click for project page.

All the road trippin’ lately has lead to some pretty solid progress on my Dotted Rays shawl, designed by Stephen West. Now that I’ve gotten into the rhythm of the short rows (and they’ve gotten quite long) it’s a nice,meditative knit. It’s a little unwieldy, though, so it’s mostly car and couch knitting.

Socks, TBD:

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July shipment of BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club. Lightweight in colorway Berrylicious.

This photo is a lie, as the skein has been wound and socks have been started. I have not been in love with the patterns included in this year’s club offerings, they just haven’t played very well with the variegation in the colorways they’ve been paired with (in my opinion). So I tried this skein as a pair of Smokestack Socks by Tanis Lavallee, but that wasn’t working for me either as the contrast in the yarn was a little too high and the pattern, while generally quite simple and lovely, was more than I wanted to keep track of for appropriate meeting knitting. So now I’ve begun a pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks by Erica Leuder and I’m hoping that’ll work out a bit better.

As for reading, I’m near the end of a really excellent book called A Widow for One Year by John Irving. Please note that by excellent, I do not mean ‘pleasant’ or ‘light-hearted’ or ‘uplifting’. The story is intense, gripping, and written in a really fascinating narrative style. The narration continuously hints at what is coming in the future so it very subtly takes you back and forth in time and weaves together a few different lives in really compelling ways. The characters are not necessarily loveable, but you care about them anyway, and some truly graphic things happen (sex, violence, death), but you don’t want to put it down. This one was a completely random impulse buy at a used book store and I’m so glad I grabbed it, and look forward to reading more by the author (starting perhaps with The World According to Garp).

And that’s about all I’ve had time for! I have a few more days in Baltimore (hoping to hit up the aquarium tomorrow!) and while I miss my Fiasco and my kittens, I’m so enjoying being surrounded by an incredible number of intelligent scientists doing really important, creative work. BRING ON THE ECO-DORKS! (Which honestly pale in comparison to the other kinds of dorks who were at the same convention center last weekend. Ever hear of BronyCon? I witnessed it firsthand, and I have to say, the costumes and level of sheer fandom was amazing.)

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch-Along Wednesday!

Pura Vida! Part 1

As I mentioned previously, I’ll be using the next few Inspiration Saturday posts to re-cap the adventures that the Fiasco and I had on our honeymoon in Costa Rica. Our trip was broken roughly into three parts, the first of which we spent at the Tacacori Ecolodge in Alajuela, the 2nd largest city in CR just outside of the San Jose International Airport (which isn’t actually in San Jose, btw). I’ve created photo galleries so that if you hover over a picture its caption should pop up, and if you click on a picture it will take you to a large-sized version of the photo.

The ecolodge was lovely, it consisted of 3 or 4 casitas (small houses), each with their own porch. There was a nice reception area where we ate breakfast next to Loretta the parrot. The grounds were gorgeously landscaped, with lots of colorful flowers and large trees and palms and shrubs for privacy. The owners were kind and accommodating. We were SO EXCITED to catch our first glimpse of the mountains of Costa Rica from the airplane, we hadn’t realized quite how mountainous the country was until we saw it.

We spent our first afternoon just getting acclimated. We walked to a nearby hotel/resort/spa/restaurant called Xandari, they have a relationship with our ecolodge so we were able to explore their trails and visit their restaurant for dinner. The property was absolutely beautiful and I bet it would be a lovely place to stay. We saw gorgeous flowers, a ton of palm trees, discovered a small waterfall, walked through a huge stand of bamboo, and saw some of the resort’s orchards, which supply the restaurant. Our food was delicious, I had the best drink I’ve ever tasted (they called it pineapple tea) and we discovered how much we love tres leches for dessert!

On our first full day in CR, we ventured to the Poas Volcano National Park to attempt to see the crater. It was completely sunny in the valley but since the elevation is so high, it was completely clouded over near the top of the mountain and we couldn’t see a darned thing. The volcano is technically still active, but its last major ash eruption was in 1910. Today the activity you see is sulfuric smoke rising from fumaroles and sometimes geysers. At almost a mile wide, it’s one of the largest active craters in the world. Even though we couldn’t see the crater, we could still sense its presence by the way the wind blew over the vast space, it was pretty cool. And the surrounding cloud forest was amazing! The above photos are what happens when you take a  nature-starved biologist to a new ecosystem for the first time (so many plants to see!!!!).

After the volcano, we visited the Doka Coffee Estate to learn all about how coffee is made. Since CR is such a small country (the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined!) they aim for quality coffee varieties (Arabica) vs quantity (Robusta) in order to remain competitive. Before this trip, neither the Fiasco nor I were coffee drinkers. I still prefer tea, but now we both love the Peaberry roast. The coffee fruits turn red when ripe and are all picked by hand. They are then sorted for quality using their density in water and the fruit is scraped off the seeds within. The seeds sit in containers and ferment for a few days before they are laid out in the sun to dry for for further time. During that time, they need to be completely raked over every 45 minutes and gathered up every night and whenever it rains. (Labor-intensive!) The beans are then roasted for varying times (from 15 – 20 minutes) to create different flavors. Peaberry coffee comes from randomly-mutated coffee fruits that have only one round bean inside, instead of the usual two beans. Such beans make up only 5% of the harvest and are thought to contain higher quantities of the good stuff in coffee. Not sure if that’s true, but it tastes delicious and is not very acidic at all!

After we learned everything there was to know about coffee, we explored the grounds (yet more gorgeous gardens and beautiful plants) before we returned to Xandari for dinner again, where we got to watch a storm roll through the valley. The next day we packed up our things and prepared for our 4-5 hour drive east towards the Caribbean coast, which I’ll cover next week!

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Of Family & Friends

So much of the past and next few weeks were and will be focused on family and friends. Last month was my bridal shower and bachelorette party.

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Bridal shower silliness with my best ladies: Marianna, Megan, (me), Bridgit, Katy, Rachel. All knitters except for Marianna, by the way. Haven’t gotten my hooks into her just yet…

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My wonderful mom, wearing the Silly Bow Hat.

This month was my little nephew’s first birthday and a much-needed visit with my parents.

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The birthday boy with his nana.

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The ‘rents, at a strawberry festival.

And last but not least, our wedding is in a mere 19 days. The time leading up to it has been filled to the brim with thoughts about our friends and family: how many will be there, what will make them comfortable, from whom we will need help, with whom we can’t wait to celebrate. So much good, happy gathering is coming up. So much work is going into making sure we accommodate everybody’s needs and squeeze as much as we possibly can from the weekend. And things will just be getting busier from here.

Relay

My Relay for Life fundraising page. Click for link.

This Friday night I will be participating for a second year on my company’s team in a local Relay for Life event. Last year I joined on a whim just to be a good sport and hang out with my coworkers. This will be my first year participating in honor of my mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 months ago. For those unfamiliar with the event, Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society which in turn supports cancer research and patient outreach programs. Teams have members walking or running all through the night to symbolize the unending fight against cancer and hope for a cure.

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My beautiful mom.

When I walked last year, I didn’t have any idea how close to home this year’s Relay would hit. Since my mom’s been diagnosed, I’ve been offered so many stories of strong, brave individuals who have been through treatment and come out cancer-free. Such stories and demonstrations of support really, truly help when you are in the thick of things. They provide hope and threads of community and compassion that mean a whole heck of a lot. I’ve also heard many heartbreaking stories of those who lost their struggles with cancer. Such stories give a sense of perspective and remind you to appreciate the NOW and to try to ignore all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘next steps’ and the interminable waiting and the not knowing. Oh, that not knowing is such a bitch.

I’d be incredibly grateful if you had a little extra money lying around and were willing to donate it towards my fundraising goal. Be sure to let me know in a comment or an email (alicia at woolendiversions dot com) that you’ve donated, as I’d like to offer one of my lotion bars as a little ‘karmic balancing gift’ (a la the Yarn Harlot) to a randomly-chosen donator after Friday’s event.

Go hug your moms, your dads, anyone in your family– with or without cancer– and just be grateful for them. In the meantime, I’ll be walking.

IS #39: Tin Can Knits Designs

Have you ever done that thing where you favorite pattern after pattern from a designer on Ravelry and never really put together how they are designed by the same person and then you suddenly do? And you think wow, maybe you should follow that designer? I recently had that moment with Tin Can Knits. (The copyright for all photos in this post belongs to Tin Can Knits, and came from the Ravelry pattern page. Click photos for link.)

I think this elegant, laceweight shell (Bonny) was the first TCK pattern that really caught my eye. It’s so simple but so sweet and really makes the most of the floaty, drapey fabric that a laceweight yarn can make.

Then there is Estuary, an asymmetrical shawl/scarf/hybrid that very nicely represents the way an actual estuary is a unique fresh/salt-water hybrid ecosystem. It’s also pretty! I love the flowing, curving lines of lace. This pattern was also offered free on Knitty.

The Rosewater hat makes me wonder why there aren’t more lacey, slouchy hats in my life. Look at those elegantly-incorporated decreases on the crown! Look! Siiiiiiiiiigh.

And this Windswept pullover… well. I don’t want to make any outrageous claims I can’t hold up, but it might just have to be the first sweater I knit for myself. I love the way the lace flows, I love the garter details at the hem and cuffs, and how the garter draws the eye in a vertical line down the front. Lovely, lovely details.

What I think I love the most about TCK designs is how they incorporate lace into everyday garments. They simultaneously make lace unfussy and make everyday items more special. Perfect! Perhaps what I love the most right now is that from now until Sept. 26th they are offering a fabulous buy 1 get 1 free coupon on their blog! This deal includes e-books, too, which is how I’m now the proud owner of both Handmade in the UK (from which I’d like to knit every. single. thing.) and the charming Pacific Knits. Which designs do you like best? Is there a designer who particlularly inspires you?

SPEAKINGS OF LOVELY DESIGNS YOU LIKE BEST: GIVEAWAY WINNER! The winner of the Lit Knits e-book giveaway is teaspoonofmel from pikaknits. Congratulations! Audry will contact you with your prize.

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Blog-warming and Space-clearing

I promised to do a blog-warming giveaway and now’s the time! Please forgive the crummy lighting in these photos, I’ve waited all week to be home at a time when the sun was up and it was just not meant to be.

ImageThese yarn-y goodies represent prizes for 5 lucky winners! The yarns from left to right are:

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I also have a small destash up for grabs on Ravelry. Some Madelinetosh, some Codex, all fairly ‘luxurious’ and many hand-dyed. Seeing as how I need to save lots of money for a wedding next summer and for some unforeseen expenses cropping up, I’m open to offers on items in my regular stash as well (no guarantees, I’m kind of attached,  but can’t hurt to ask). Asking prices are at or below what I paid for the yarns and I cover the cost of shipping within the US.

Anyway, how do you enter this giveaway, you ask? Just leave a comment on this post for one entry. You can earn additional entries by telling me in that comment which of the following social actions you’ve done:

If you’ve already done one of these things, let me know anyway, it still counts! Each entry puts your name in a virtual hat, from which a random number generator will chose a winner for each yarn. Ok! Let’s play, shall we? You can enter through Friday September 6th. I’ll announce winners in the September 7th Inspiration Saturday post. Thanks in advance for playing along!