March 2004 Archives

Back on Board the Red Line

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A big thanks to everyone who left nice comments about those crazy pants. I wore them a few times over the weekend and must say that I like them a lot. Gravity is having a small effect on them, but not much, which is surprising to me given their weight. I can't wait to see all the different pairs that will be springing up around and beyond the ring. I hope everyone has as much fun with the project as I did!

During the weekend a lot of projects passed through my fingers. I had been hoping to get a spring project started, but both of my swatching adventures led to the realization that I didn't have any US size 7 AddiTurbos. A quick "trip" to KnitPicks fixed that problem, but left me wondering where I was going to go next.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't spend all my time on my lace jacket. It takes too much concentration -- I can do 6 rows (105 stitches/row) in about an hour. I like my needlepoint "cushion" (that will become a wall hanging), but I'm enjoying working on that a little at a time as I come home from work. I've got a pair of socks that is a carry along project, but with spring coming, I'm not in a wool sock mood.

So it seemed like a good time to return to the Red Line version of my Chicago bag. I'd set it aside for a while, and put the pattern out of my mind so that I could try to knit it "fresh" and be critical of the pattern instructions.

Here's the colors I am going to put together:

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Cascade 220 in 9324 and 9336

The blue yarn (it really is more blue than green) has purplish highlights that I think will look lovely with the light purple when the bag is felted. The nice thing about Red Line is that it really is a quick project.

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Another Red Line Begins

I finished up the base of the bag in a couple of hours and I am just about to switch to the contrasting color. I may not have the bag finished by tomorrow, but it will definitely be done by Saturday, when I'll be making another trip to Columbus, Indiana

Just a Little Bag

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Everything But the Handles and the Flap

I had hoped to get this bag finished tonight, but it just wasn't to be. No matter, I wouldn't have had time to felt it tonight anyway. But I am eager to see how the colors look when they are felted. I find myself very into this shade of purple, and I am hoping it felts up well.

So far I am pleased with my first draft of the pattern. I haven't found any obvious mistakes, and my counting seems to be correct. If all goes well, this pattern will be available by the end of the week.

Since I find myself without anything more to add here, I leave you with a picture of my Beezle, who can't resist anything that looks like luggage:

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Alternative Uses for a Laptop Bag

Yes, I know, he looks peaceful... but he is really a dangerous yarn terrorist in disguise. But he does have the right idea I think. Time for a nap!

Return Trip on the Red Line

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I didn't time it this way, but Red Line's second debut coincides with my 300th post. Certainly a good mile marker, as far as I'm concerned!

I finished the knitting for the bag tonight. Here's a shot before she hits the bath:

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Red Line Prepares for a Swim

Before felting, this bag is 13.5" wide by 5" deep at the base and 9.5" tall with an 18" strap. The flap is 6".

Here she is after a couple of trips through the wash:

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From the Front

After felting the bag is 8.5" wide by 3.5" deep and 5" tall. The strap is about 13" and the flap is about 4-1/4". This is a small bag --a wallet, keys and a small cell phone are about it's capacity.

I decided to stick with the longer flap, although the pattern will include instructions for a shorter wider flap if that makes you happier (I kind of like the more elongated flap, and the extra length helps hold the flap down so that you don't need a closure if you don't want one. I also modified the flap shaping so that the edges are much smoother. I think it looks much better than the flap on my green model.

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In Profile

I'll be taking more pictures in the daylight because the swatch picture (below) really doesn't do these colors justice. The blue color is a beautiful combination of blue and green and purple that looks stunning in person and goes well with the heathered lavender.

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The Swatch

I was pretty pleased with the instructions I put together. I found a few small changes that I want to make, but otherwise, it's almost ready to go. The pattern will be for sale sometime later this week.

And almost on cue, my All Seasons Cotton for Rogue arrived at my door... as soon as my 4.5 mm AddiTurbos show up I'll be ready to roll with Rogue!

P.S. This little bag is going to live in Columbus... and I am pleased to say that I am going to get to hand deliver her this weekend. Julie and Bonne Marie and I are going to hit the open road and meet up with the ThreadBears and a good friend of mine. I can hardly wait!

Red Line Is Boarding!

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Not much knitting tonight as I spent most of the evening eating well (Saussy on Grand Avenue... just two words... pesto gnocchi) and finishing up the pattern for Red Line. Inspired by all your kind comments, I put everything together. If you scroll down you'll see that just below Blue Line I've added a button for ordering Red Line.

Maggi asked about the difference in dimensions for the bags... here they are:

WidthDepthHeightStrap Length
Blue Line11.5"5.5"4.5"18-30"
Red Line9"3.5"5"13-16"

Blue Line is wider and shallower, Red Line is taller and narrower.

Claudia asked about whether the shape could be scaled up. Most definitely! It just requires a little graph paper and a compass. However, felt is a lot less stiff than leather so you'd need to re-inforce the bottom if you didn't want it to get sack like when you carry things around in it.

Wanna see what I got in the mail today?

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Pretty Knitting Visitor Bowl

Inspired by an idea in Melanie Fallick's Weekend Knitting, I wanted to have a knitting bowl in my living room. The idea is to put some needles and pretty yarn in a bowl where guests can get to it. When knitting friends visit, they can select a yarn they like and add to a small scarfy project. Over time it grows into a long chain of knitted memories. I asked my dad if he could turn me such a special bowl... and you can see the result. (That lovely dark blue/black yarn is a new arrival from Melissa who kindly shared the Peace Fleece she had left over from her Banff. I'd never been able to lay my hands on Peace Fleece before. It's really lovely! Thanks, Melissa!)

Here's a look at the inside...

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Insdide the Pretty Knitting Bowl

The inside is so smooth and beautiful it's almost a shame to cover it up with yarn. I'm just in love with this bowl! Thank you so much, Dad! I can't wait to set it out in my living room with a complement of pretty yarn to welcome knitting visitors.

P.S... I just realized that I put the wrong info in the form submission code for Red Line (when you tried to add it to your cart it told you it had added Blue Line instead). It's fixed now. Sorry to anyone this may have been confusing for.

It Sounds Like an Old Joke...

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What has a back, an arm and a front?

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The Right Front of Lo Tech

Why, my Dad's Lo Tech Sweat, of course! Poor Lo Tech, it seems like I only work on it when I'm waiting for something else to happen. For instance, right now I am waiting for US size 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbos to show up at my door so that I can work on Rogue and Audrey.

My brand new bowl, however, inspired me to get the right front panel of Lo Tech finished. Lo Tech isn't going to be the most glamorous project, I'm afraid. When I first got the yarn, I was disappointed to find that even though all the skeins were from the same dyelot, they weren't all the same color. Elann very conscientiously refunded my money and let me keep the yarn. What to do with 18 skeins of yarn that might not match? Use it for the project I had originally intended -- a jogging sweater for my Dad. My mom reminded me that it's most important quality was that it be a warm sweater that could take a lot of love. That most of the time it would be under a windbreaker, unseen, but not unloved.

So I persevered, just slowly, because even though I know that the sweater is meant to be functional, it still bothers me that it won't be as perfect as it could be. (Not to fear, I have another beautiful project waiting in the wings for Dad that I will probably start on when I get tired of summer cottons).

In amusing fibery news, check this out -- the world's finest bale of wool (11.9 microns in diameter), under lock and key in Australia. Apparently the very special sheep that produced this bale stay at the "Wooldorf Astoria". Baa!

ThreadBear Road Trip

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I love spring. As soon as the weather warms up, it seems like an invitation to bring more color back into my life. And there's no better way to bathe in color than to go visit Rob and Matt in Columbus.

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More Color than You Can Shake A Stick At

It was definitely a whirlwind kind of day. We (Julie, Bonne Marie and I) left for ThreadBear around 10 AM CST and didn't return until about 3 AM CST. Once we got there it was hard to stop moving because there was just so much to see and so many wonderful people to talk to -- especially my old knitting buddy Judy who drove in from Cincinatti to meet us.

Once again, I should have taken more pictures (I took a total of 4, and never got a picture of Judy's incredible Alice Starmore Fair Isle, which I regret since it's a stunning accomplishment). But the great wall of Koigu Kersti and Rhumba is pretty representative of the color that is splashed all over the store. It's hard not to feel like a new season is in the air when you're surrounded by color and positive energy.

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Matt, Helen, Julie and a Spinning Wheel

Towards the end of the afternoon, things started to slow down a little bit and I got a chance to work on a small sock project and learn a little about spinning. I don't think I am going to be picking up a new hobby any time soon, but there was something incredibly peaceful about watching Matt turn a roving into yarn. I also got a chance to talk to "Low Helen" about Manos -- she was involved in the color selection process for my Banff sweater. Thanks again, Helen, for helping to steer that sweater in the right color direction.

And speaking of Manos...I have my own version of "Monday Morning Mirth" today. I bet you didn't know that it was so multifunctional.

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Bonne Marie Antoinette: Let Them Knit with Manos

Not only does it make excellent sweaters, you can also use it for French Revolution costuming.

After dinner we got a chance to just hang out at the table in the back and talk and knit. And then all of a sudden it was midnight. Time must just go by faster in Columbus!

Now, before you think that I left without doing a little stash enhancement...

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From the left... Squiggle and a Katia ribbon yarn, Cascade 220 to felt with, America's Alpaca Suri Lace in "Raiku", Butterfly Super 10 and Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb in "Latte"

The only thing I had planned on getting for myself during this trip was the Butterfly Super 10 -- a mercerized cotton yarn that is destined to be the Polka Purl Dot top from the current IK. Its bright and its happy and I can't wait to swatch it up! The Cascade 220 is for testing out some spring felted bag ideas I have. The Suri Lace Weight Alpaca was an unexpected find that will be turned into a lacy cardigan sweater. Can you believe that there are 875 yards of yarn on each one of those skeins? Also in the category of unexpected finds was the Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb, a silk and wool blend. I loved the colorway when Rob introduced it on his blog, and was so disappointed to find out that it was too hard to reproduce for Lorna's to keep making it. So I was pleasantly surprised when I found a skein of Lion and Lamb in Latte.

And I think I have discovered the new "Pet Rock" for knitters... Crystal Palace Squiggle. I don't know whether to knit with it or just enjoy it as an objet d'art.

There was more, but it is destined for other knitter's needles, so I will let them reveal it if they so desire.

Needless to say, I'm very psyched to get knitting for spring. A big thanks to Rob and Matt for making our visit so wonderful!

Of Socks and Swatches

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Opal 3705 meets Rowan All Seasons Cotton

Poor sock! I have been working slowly on it for what seems like forever. I took it with me to Columbus and knit a whopping four or five rounds. I do like working with Opal, though. You can check out the German manufacturer's site here to see what's current. PT Yarn distributes Opal in the US and you can check out their site for all the wonderful colors and patterns that you can currently buy state side. The colorway I am using here is 3705, and it's part of the Southwestern collection. I'm way into the chocolate browns and purples in these socks.

I'm trying something new with this pair -- an afterthought heel. Carolyn brought them up at our last KIP, and it seemed like a good idea since I am always wearing through toes and heels in my socks and this technique is supposed to make it a lot easier to replace them when they wear out. I'm working from some information I found at the SockKnitters site. I'm working my socks top down instead of toe-up, but I don't think it matters so much for the construction of this heel. The dark black yarn in my sock is where I'll be putting in the heel. I knit the black yarn across the back of the sock and then purled back so that I could keep knitting on with the main yarn without breaking it off.

Also featured in the above photo is my second swatch for Rogue in Rowan All Seasons Cotton. On 5.0 mm needles (US 8) I get the right row gauge (6 stitches/inch) but too few stitches per inch on my stitch gauge (4 stitches/inch). On 4.5 mm (US 7) needles I get the right stitch gauge (4.5 stitches/inch) but too many rows for the row gauge (6.5 rows/inch instead of 6). I tried doing a gauge swatch in the round on 4.5 mm and and it was much tighter than required (in both dimensions), so now I have to try another one on the 5.0 mm needles and hope for the best. I like the ASC a great deal -- it knit's up like a dream and is so soft -- so I am going to make this work. Fortunately, this pattern isn't an all over cable thing, and I have plenty of yarn (2 bags!) so if need be, I can modify it to accomodate the All Seasons.

I think though, that this is a sign -- my 5.0 mm AddiTurbo is currently working on my Dad's sweater. Maybe the knitting goddesses are telling me that I need to finish that sweater before Rogue will work out. So watch out Lo Tech, here I come!

Watercolors

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The Mahjong Cushion/Wall Hanging Continues

It's funny to me how taking a picture of something can change my perspective on something I have sitting right in front of me. As I folded Mahjong up for the evening I thought, "wow, I still have a ways to go". When I pulled it back out to take a picture and pulled that picture up in PhotoShop, I thought "gosh, I'm almost done with the border."

I'm having fun with this project, although I suspect that I am not using correct needlepoint technique (I did google a bit for some, but only came up with the About.com links... anyone have any favorite needlepointing sites?). When I was doing cross-stitch, there was always this sense that truly good work was as neat on the back as on the front. By that standard, this poor piece is being poorly served. But I figure no one looks at the back of a wall hanging or a pillow.

I'm hoping that Emma will start hers soon so that I can see the second colorway come to life. I love the deep reds and blues in the Giotto in her kit. I still haven't decided which one I will do next. I'm leaning towards Chequers in the Travertine colorway. If you'd like to peek at them, you can find them here.

Meanwhile, I also plugged away a little bit at right front of dad's Lo Tech. It's almost there, but not quite there enough for pictures.

A Pair of Fronts

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The Front of LoTech

I feel like I finally have some momentum going with LoTech. With the addition of the right front, I now have the back, both fronts, and one sleeve finished. Only one more sleeve, a hood and two pockets remain. I'll cast on for the last sleeve tomorrow night at our KIP. I would have tonight, but couldn't remember where I'd put my 4.0 mm needle, and was too lazy to go find it And I wanted to swatch this:

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Calmer NightSky Swatches

I really do love Calmer. It's almost hard to believe that it is a cotton yarn. It is incredibly soft and has a lot of elasticity. I did my first Calmer swatch at the last KIP and the gauge wasn't quite on target for the 5.0 mm needles called for. So I stepped down to 4.5 mm needles.

Can anyone tell the difference? Just looking at the photo, I can't (the one on the left was knit with the 4.5 mm needles). So now I've knit two swatches on two different sized needles and I more or less get 20 stitches/4 inches instead of 21 stitches/4 inches (my row gauge is fine). Ugh! First the All Seasons Cotton, now the Calmer. Suggestions anyone? Should I try going down yet another needle size? Or should I just not worry about it because Audrey is mostly ribbing and that extra 1/2 inch of stitches (in the width of the garment) will just get sucked into the ribbing? Hmmm... decisions... decisions... Good thing I still have a wonking big sleeve to knit for LoTech.

P.S. Tonight is the Wicker Park KIP. Come meet up with us at Letizia's between 7 and 9 pm!

Lace Up

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Continued Progress on the Back of the Lace Jacket

This is the one project that I am working on that doesn't travel. I'm getting better with the lace pattern, but I still can't concentrate on it for more than 6 rows (1/2 pattern interval). I've now completed 4.5 intervals. I get to bind off for the armholes at 5.5 intervals. So I am getting close to a little milestone.

It's difficult to take pictures of this project. The light colored lace doesn't lend itself very well to photos on my desk. Hence the dark blue photo album. It still doesn't look like much, but it's getting there. It's amazing to me how light this garment is going to be. It is definitely a featherweight. The knitting is getting a little easier though, as it has gained enough weight to hold the fabric down as I knit.

We had a lovely KIP tonight -- although not at our regularly scheduled location. Letizia's was renovating, so we ended up in a lovely little tea house across the street. The very kind owner of the place kept it open a little later than normal so that we could knit together. There were several special treats tonight. First, we got to meet Kerrie, visiting from London on business. It is so neat to meet someone from the far away blogging world in person! I also got to meet Lynette and Monica for the first time (you both definitely have to come sit with us more often!). It's pretty neat to meet wonderful local people, too! And the scones and tea weren't bad either.

But right now, what I am most psyched about is that it is Friday and I have no plans for the weekend. It will be filled with knitting and getting caught up on some missing sleep.

Straight Laced

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I hit my groove with the Filigree Lace Jacket this weekend. On Saturday, enjoying the sunshine pouring in from the window in front of my desk, the lace suddenly became not so bad. Probably this is because I slept well and I was working in natural light. I was just so close to the bind off for the armholes and something just kept driving me forward on this project.

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The Back of the Filigree Lace Jacket in Natural Light

This is the back of the jacket on Sunday afternoon. Natural light does a lot better by this sweater than the light by my desk at night. I did finish the back Sunday evening the proof is here. The color of the Kidsilk Haze is much to close to that of my blocking board, so almost all of the interesting detail is lost -- but you can check out the popup if you want proof that I finished it.

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Lace Unit

This is one unit of the lace pattern, up close and personal. The fuzziness of the Kidsilk obscures a lot of the detail (and it was cold and windy outside as I was snapping the pic, so it was hard to get the fabric stretched out). Still, I think you can see what I think of as a "snake skin lattice" on either edge.

I'm still trying to figure out if my gauge is correct. It's very close but it felt a little loose as I was setting the back up to block. I was expecting to have to block the lace out to it's limits (like I did with Charlotte), but that wasn't necessary here. I toyed with it that way, but it didn't look very nice (you lose the ribbing like quality that the lattice areas create), so I'm figuring that it is meant to be a little looser.

This is not going to be a small jacket. I figured that the 34" size (the smallest) would not be very flattering looking since there would be no ease at all for me. The next size up is a 42". From the picture that comes with the pattern (see here, it looks as if there is a lot of ease and drape. The project calls for 7 skeins of Douceur et Soie (an almost exact match for Kidsilk). The back took just a little bit more than one skein, so I'm not running into any yarn shortage fears so far (I have a whole bag of KSH, but I also want to make a Birch, which needs 3 skeins).

So it was a good weekend! Now I have to decide what piece to start next. I am thinking maybe a sleeve so that I don't have two to do in succession -- I don't think I could knit both sleeves together and stay sane. Not sure when the next piece will cast on. This project seems to go better when I have a lot of time and brain power to devote to it and I don't think I am going to have a lot of either this week. Good thing I have the last sleeve for Dad's Lo Tech waiting for me!

Another Obsession

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On the Border with Mahjong

This project really deserves a natural light shot. But I wasn't expecting to have it show up so soon again in my rotation. Over the weekend I beceame pretty obsessed with it. If I wasn't working on the jacket, I was working on this canvas. This kit really goes pretty fast when you focus on it. Now only the center portion remains. Another evening's worth of hours, I think, and it will be ready for a frame. I promise to get a better picture of it then!

This is my third project in Giotto and I am still fascinated by the colors in the ribbon. I'm even more fascinated by how they work together to convince the eye of something they couldn't do if the color was there by itself. Seen as a whole, this project has a very Monet color palette (think Waterlillies), but when you look at the individual components you see greys and pinks (mist), a very spring green (moss), and a yarn with greens and blues and golds and pinks (gauguin) you hardly get the same impression at all. Here's a closeup that tries to prove my point a little bit...

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The Corner of Mahjong Up Close

The flash on the camera makes the canvas reflect more and show up a lot more prominently behind the ribbon than it does when you're just looking at it without a camera.

What else did I do tonight... well... I made the mistake of checking out Elann for their new arrivals. I should really know better than to do this....but there hasn't been much interesting to me in the newsletters lately, so I wasn't expecting to find much. Instead... I ran across Muench Bergamo paired with Veronik Avery's lovely Salt Peanuts from the Spring 2004 IK. Totally not fair -- especially at 60% off. It's probably not too hard to guess what's on it's way to me... in Hyacinth... I really must stop buying yarn... maybe I need to create one of Carolyn's yarn mileage spreadsheets to remind me of how big my stash is growing...

Must... Knit... Faster....!

And Now for a Word from Our Sponsor

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No real post tonight. The "keyboard biologist" part of my life is taking center stage right now. Presentations, customers, and other job-related stuff are going to take precedence over knitting for the next couple of evenings.

Hopefully I'll be back on Thursday night (Friday morning). In the mean time, do be thinking about the Audrey-a-long. We're planning on having this knit-a-long be a very participatory experience. If you haven't already told Morgan or Lis or me that you want to join up, please let one of us know (and if you let me know before, remind me, please!). Be sure you give us your email address so that we can let you know about our little surprise when it's ready to go! (Wait until you see some of the lovely work Becky is doing for the knit-a-long!)

And right now there's some beautiful completed projects to go ogle...

Claudia's Incredible Rogue Cardie (if this isn't inspiration to get Rogue on your needles I don't know what is)

Becky's Gorgeous Chocolately Poncho (is there still time to Poncho-a-long?)

Ann's Sassy Chenille Sweater (Kay is a lucky woman to be getting such a pretty new addition to her spring wardrobe).

Alison's Lovely Yellow Chickadee (I really wish I could wear that color!)

and Marie's Adorable Corgi (not knitted, but very cute).

True Colors

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Mahjong Shows Off It's Real Stuff*

I'm back. Some of the "big things" got taken care of. At least enough for me to justify rewarding myself with a little crafty happiness. Mahjong is now finished. And I actually got a daylight shot of the project (albeit under cloudy skies from which snow had been recently emanating) so the true colors of the cushion/wall hanging can now be seen.

I liked this project. I know, I know, I like most of my projects, but the color in this one makes me particularly happy. It has such a springy feeling about it, and I feel, as if by completing this project, I am doing a little bit of a dance to encourage spring to really Spring.

For anyone else who decided to do one of these, I do think that Emma has exactly the right idea by starting hers in the center and working out. I've done enough counted cross-stitch to know that inside outwards is a good rule to follow (needlepoint seems to me very much like cross stitch only on a bigger canvas), but I just ignored it here. In the end it worked out fine, but I did have to rip out a good portion of the center section and re-do after I miscalculated something. After ripping I worked things out from the center, and the results are what you see below.

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Hitting the Bullseye with Mahjong**

This picture is much more representative of how much the canvas shows through than the previous closeup.

Now I so need another one of these kits. (Actually, I need another project like I need a hole in the head...but that doesn't keep me from wanting another one of these lovely projects). Chequers in Travertine anyone?

*for once, an unretouched photo from the Keyboard Biologist
** can you believe it? a second unretouched photo!

Afterthoughts

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Well I finally got the first of my Opal Southwestern socks in Color 3705 finished today. This sock is notable for being my first go at afterthought heels.

What is an afterthought heel? Well, basically it's a heel that you construct after you've completed the rest of the sock. To do it, you knit your sock as you normally would (it doesn't matter whether you do toe-up or cuff down -- for my sock I knit cuff-down). When you get to where you would normally make a heel, you just knit a row of scrap yarn and then continue knitting your tube -- either down to the toe or up to the cuff. It's a nice way to proceed if you're like me and don't really like to pick up stitches after making the heel flap.

It also has another distinct advantage -- it's very easy to take out and repair a worn out heel since it is separate from the main body of the sock.

So here's the process as I navigated it (with lots of help from the Socknitters Tips and Tricks and Dawn Brocco's discussion of the topic)

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Removing the Waste Stitches

Before trimming away the waste yarn, I picked up the 32 stitches on either side of the waste yarn. I like to do my socks on 2 circs, so what you see is the cables for my circular needles on either side of my soon-to-be opening. You don't need to do two rows of stitches with the waste yarn, but I found it pretty handy here, since it meant that I could cut yarn at the opening rather than carefully unlacing it. Sort of like steeking my sock. (And yes, I do know that I picked up one set of stitches backward... but that's easy enough to correct later).

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Ready to Get Started

Here's the opening all ready to go. Want to see how the sock fits on my foot? One thing that was a little different about knitting this sock was figuring out how long to knit the foot. Normally I measure from the back of the heel and knit to the length of my foot minus two inches. Without a heel to measure from, I used the same measurement.

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Testing Before Heel Addition

It felt like I had a little room in the toe at this point, but overall my guestimating wasn't too bad.

Once you join the yarn, you knit across the first half of the stitches until you get to the area between the two needles. I picked up three stitches here because it felt right, then knit across the second needle and picked up three more stitches. I think how many stitches you pick up depends on the yarn you are using and your particular preference. Three turned out to work just fine for me.

After that, I proceeded to work the heel just as if I was decreasing for the toe -- K1, SSK, Knit to Last 3 stitches, K2Tog, K1, repeat for the stitches on the second circular needle. Then I knit one row straight without decreasing. I repeated these two row intervals until I had 13 stitches left on each needle. (There are other ways to do this -- I just opted for the simplest way this time -- I'll probably get more daring in the future).

Before I Kitchenered it all together, I figured I should try it on to see how the fit was.

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Testing out the Afterthought Heel

I was surprised to find that this rate of decrease and shaping worked out pretty well for my heel (obviously the proof will be in the wearing, though). If you'd like to see how it lookw up close, click here. Pretty neat, eh?

All that was left for me to do then was to Kitchener the stitches together and give it one final try.

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Afterthought Sock Heel Victory

With the heel completely sealed, it was easier for me to judge the length issue for the foot. Probably for the next one I need to subtract 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 inches from the total length instead of 2, but in the great scheme of things, it really doesn't make all that much difference for me.

So, I have to say that this experiment was a successful one. I'll probably do my second sock the same way -- once I convince myself that I want to cast back onto those itty-bitty size 0 needles.

Top of the Week to You!

More Man Socks

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I'm really surprised by the nice response I got to my little "afterthought" demonstration. I'm looking forward to hearing about other experiments with this heel type. It really is a nice, easy heel -- very suitable for a first time sock experience.

A number of sharp eyed people noticed that I had some yarn in the background of one of the pictures that I didn't introduce properly. (It's Calmer for Audrey and All Seasons Cotton for Rogue...). There was also some yarn that didn't make it into the picture. It showed up Thursday last week and I was just dying to swatch it up.

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Muench Bergamo in Phlox for Salt Peanuts

This is 17 skeins of Muench Bergamo it the "Phlox" color, ordered from Elann to use for "Salt Peanuts" a gorgeous little cardigan designed by Veronik Avery in the current edition (Spring 2004) of Interweave Knits. Isn't it a lovely purply color? Not too dark, not too light, I figured it would be a perfect color for the cardigan since it would show off the lace but still be something that I could wear in non-spring months. Its a very neat yarn... a 100% wool tape with subtle subtle color variagations. If you want a close up of this yarn, you can click here.

I was fondling this yarn with the intention of swatching when my husband looked over at me and asked "What are you doing?"

"Er, well, getting ready to swatch for a sweater..." I pick up the IK and open it to the page with the sweater and show him, "This sweater."

He gets a sad sort of look on his face. "You're going to knit another sweater for you? I thought you were going to knit me another pair of socks..."

Normally, John doesn't ask for too much. The last couple of pairs of socks have been more "if you knit them I might wear them" so I haven't really jumped to make him more (he's not unappreciative, just not that enthusiastic). Also, he's what I would call "color challenged" when it comes to socks. He likes dark, solid colors. The grey stripes in his last pair were pretty radical and he's been resisting all my attempts to convince him to try out some really nifty Koigu. A while back though, Rob sent me some Mountain Colors Bearfoot and promised me that it would be "solid color man sock acceptable". I was skeptical, but figured that if John didn't like it, I could find some worthy recipient who would.

I put the ball of Bergamo I was fondling back into the bag and sealed the tape. How can I resist a man who has actually asked for socks? "Ok, but what color?" I ask, and go to retrieve all the potentially man-friendly sock yarn that I have in my stash. What did he pick? This:

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Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Midnight Sapphire

"Are you sure?" I asked, having visions of an unloved pair of socks sitting in a drawer"There's different colors in that skein...

"I'm sure."

"You're not going to not like them when they're finished... I don't want to make you something you won't wear..."

"I'll wear them."

"Promise?

"Promise."

Of course, after I cast on and got the cuff and a few rows knitted, I checked again -- I figured he could still back out if he didn't like them. I still got the thumbs up. That'll teach me to ever doubt Rob's convictions about man-friendly sock yarn! So now that Mahjong is done, these socks have become my "relax after work knitting". Here's where I am so far...

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The Start of a Man-Friendly Sock
.

I'm using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts "Dream Socks" pattern from an old IK -- it was one of the free goodies made available to subscribers of IK this month. I've never done a shortrow heel before and I want to try it out... however, the yardage in Bearfoot skeins is a little skimpy for your average guy so I may decide to opt for an afterthought heel just in case...

The picture above makes the color look very subtle and very man-friendly. If you want to get a better idea of what it really looks like, click here. It's still not wild and bright, but it's defintitely doesn't count as a black sock.

Fiber Therapy

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Gosh by golly do I like getting packages from friends in the mail. As always, I am stunned and delighted by the pretty things that Emma found to share with me!

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A Host Of Earthly Delights from Emma

Starting from the top (and working around clockwise) ... two balls of Yorkshire Tweed Aran, one ball in "Wild Plum" and one ball in "Hero", one of Jamieson's wonderful pattern books, a beautiful skein of Artisan NZ Merino Lace Weight yarn in the "Grape" colorway along with a scarf pattern that is making me wish it was still fall! Two skeins of some smashing Opal Royal sock yarn with lovely sparkly bits, and last, but not least, some Colinette Skye in Fresco (a color I couldn't find on the Colinette website, but the picture is pretty true to life!)

The Yorkshire Tweed is much softer to the touch than I ever would have guessed it would be and the colors are very rich. 'Twould be lovely Roguey yarn methinks. And after I finish with my lace jacket, I might not be able to stop myself from knitting up a scarf in the Artisan NZ yarn. I am in love with lace weight yarn these days and this yarn is delightfully soft and deliciously colored. I was so disappointed when it disappeared from KnitPicks before I could get some. Emma must have been reading my mind once again!

I now have quite a wonderful bit of Skye in my collection. I am thinking that it would make the beginnings of a colorful and wonderful swatch afghan.

And speaking of wonderful and colorful... what could be more wonderful and colorful than a Colinette shade card?

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More Color Than You Can Shake a Stick At!

This shade card is like a rainbow explosion on my desk. Rich color every where. It's the sort of thing you want to hang on your wall for inspiration. It also has a sample of the new Enigma yarn. Will I need some of that someday? Oh, yes!

Finally, have a look at this...

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Dreaming of Jamieson's for Fall

It is a gorgeous sweater project from the Jamieson's book. Emma saw it and thought it might work well for me. Lovely cables and an interesting shaped neckline. How could I resist? I'm thinking it could be my first project for fall. Perhaps in green? Hmmmm...

Thank you so much, Emma, for all your thoughtful and lovely selections!

(Now, you'll all have to excuse me while I go off and fondle my new fibery toys... and have dreams of Technicolor sheep)

Lace Jacket Progress

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Progress on the First Sleeve for the Filigree Lace Jacket

All this week I've been plugging away at the first sleeve of my Filigree Lace Jacket in Kidsilk Haze. I've completed 6 of the 7 repeats that need to be done before I can start binding off for the sleeve cap. I'm definitely able to make more progress on this project in a shorter period of time than I was before. Now I can do a full pattern interval before I feel the need to set it down. I think installing something similar to an Ott light has helped my progress as I can see things more clearly and the light is brighter and more natural.

In my last post, Cyndy left a comment asking what needles I was using with my lace project. Crystal Palace bamboos. They have a nice sharp tip and it's pretty easy to navigate the 4 different types of 2 stitch decreases that are found in this lace pattern. I'm not normally a Crystal Palace fan because I'm a tight knitter and usually my yarn gets caught on their joins. But for this kind of knitting, they're perfect. The bamboo grips the yarn and keeps the stitches from sliding away -- I think if I was using my Addis I'd be tearing my hair out by now.

Just goes to show that it's always important to use the right tool for the right job -- one of those very important rules that I learned from my Dad.

And don't forget -- tonight is the KIP at Letizia's Natural Bakery on Division (see my side bar for the location details). I can't wait to see everyone there!

P.S. -- For everyone who noticed that my Bergamo didn't match the color I was calling it -- you're correct, it's Hyacinth and not Phlox. Sorry about that!

Lo Tech Possibilities

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The Sleeves of Dad'd LoTech Sweat

So now I've cleared the hurdle of the sleeves for Dad's sweater. Normally I would breathe a sigh of relief and be thinking about finishing. And then I remembered the hood. And the pockets. Now, the pockets are no big deal, knitting-wise. The hood, on the other hand, is another thing... it's a big stockinette square.

I just don't think I can bear to do any more large, stockinette only pieces of knitting for a while. But this is a gift sweater, and I want it to be good for the wearer. It's not really about whether or not I feel like knitting stockinette.

So I got to thinking about my dad and this sweater and what he might be doing in it. Originally, I had conceived of this sweater as a simple sweater that he could wear while out running, or in his workshop when he's working on a wood working project.

Now, on the surface, a hood would seem fine for both those purposes. But a hoodie only works well for running when it has a drawstring, and even then, it obscures your peripheral vision, which is not a good idea when you're running alongside country roads. And in the workshop, well, Dad makes a lot of sawdust happen. The workshop is heated, so he's not going to be wearing the hood up. Which means that it's going to be collecting saw dust...and he's going to bring that sawdust into the house and get in trouble with my mom. Doesn't seem like it would be very nice to make him a present that gets him into trouble by accident.

So the hood is gone.

If I get rid of the hood, I'm going to have to add a collar. I've decided that want it to be something that comes up around the neck and doesn't let too much warmth out. I'm thinking of a simple garterstitch band, doubled over to give it a little "stand up" quality.

Then I got to thinking about the button bands and the buttons. If dad wears this sweater out running, the buttons are going to flop around. If he wears it in the workshop, they could catch in his machinery since the sweater is not going to be extremely tight fitting. Even worse than getting him in trouble with mom would be having him get caught in a piece of euipment. At least from a health perspective.

So the buttons are gone. To be replaced by a zipper. This is a radical move for me, because I am pretty much completely afraid of zippers. But I think a zipper is much more practical for both running and the workshop. But this means I also need to narrow the button band because I don't want to add quite so much width to the sweater. I think perhaps I will make mine in K1P1 rib, but only 1/2 wide.

And what about the pockets? Well, I'm torn about the pockets. On one hand, they are sawdust collectors. On the other hand, they are a useful place to put keys, drill bits, sandpaper and other things that dad might want to keep with him when he's doing his thing. I'm also kind of a sucker for pockets in clothes (I hate it that so much women's clothing is pocketless), and have never made any for knitwear before. So the pockets will probably stay.

So now I have to create a hoodless zip up sweatshirt instead of a hooded button up model. I guess I'll just be "bossing my knitting around" a la Bonne Marie. I should mention that this pattern is an ideal one to work with. It's a very easy to follow template from which you can jump off in a lot of directions.

Just before I headed off to the KIP (which was great fun, as usual ) I found this in my mailbox...

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What Could This Be?

Could my Phil'Onde have touched down on this side of the Atlantic? Could this Keyboard Biologist now have what can only be described as an obscenely wonderful abount of spring yarn? Only the postman knows...

P.S. Be sure to check out Mary's blog -- she's one of our KIP regulars dipping her toes into the blogging pool. It was her lovely Kidsilk Haze sweater that convinced me that I needed to get started on my lacy jacket. Welcome, Mary!

European Accents

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All things considered, it was a pretty nice weekend here in Chicago. The temperatures were reasonable and even though we got a little rain, we also got some sunshine in the mornings that let me take some good color pictures of some lovely new spring yarns that Becky was kind enough to help me find.

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A Lovely Assortment of Yarns with a French Accent... From Left to Right: Phil'Onde in Chlorophylle, Phil Ruban in Cassis, Plassard Louinie in Black and Phildar Relief

It's really too bad that it is so hard to find Phildar yarns in the US. It's hard for me to believe that they aren't distributed because they wouldn't sell. I think the colors and textures are lovely. Since it's hard to get a good look at the Relief, you can see a close up if you click here. I found a similar yarn in a very expensive yarn store (Caroline's Fine Yarns in Winnetka, IL) last summer and thought it would be neat stuff to play with. But passed it up because it was too expensive to play with. The Phil Ruban (click here for a closeup) is a 100% cotton tape yarn with a relatively fine gauge. I'm very taken with the color and think it looks just dandy sitting next to that springy green Phil'Onde. And you know... there just happens to be a springy green colorway in Phil Ruban. You can see it here Chez Silvia nestled with some lovely magenta and white fabric. The Plassard Louinie will get put in a safe place in my stash until it gets cold again, when it will be used as an accent on something special.

But the star of the show, at least for me, right now, is the Phil'Onde. Phil'Onde is a textured cotton blend that actually decreases in color intensity and you knit through the ball, giving the impression of a shading gradient. The yarn itself (as you can hopefully see below) has a rippled texture to it and is actually composed of two strands, one twisted around the other.

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Phil'Onde in Chlorphylle Up Close

Call me an easy mark, but once Bonne Marie started putting her Onde-Along together, I just couldn't resist getting on board. Here, I thought, was the perfect chance to get to do something in a springy green, where the green wouldn't be too close to my face. This green turned out to be even better than in the pictures -- it's got great bluey undertones that I can totally wear near my skin.

It's taking all my will right now not to swatch the stuff!

Actually, there are a lot of things right now that I am fighting the urge to swatch for. Right now I have something of an embarrasement of riches when it comes to my spring summer yarn stash... here's the projects that are on deck for the warmer seasons...

  • Audrey from Rowan #35 in Rowan Calmer in NightSky (want to knit along?)
  • Rogue designed by Jenna in Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Deep Marine
  • Le Pull from Phildar Famille in Phil'Onde Chlorophylle
  • Polka Purl Dots from Spring 2004 IK in Butterfly Super 10 in magenta
  • Salt Peanuts from Spring 2004 IK in Muench Bergamo in Hyacinth (I got my colors wrong in the previous posts).
  • ChicKnits Eyelet Cardi in Lion Brand Cotton Ease in strawberry cream
  • Tank Top from Phildar in Phil Ruban in Cassis
  • Top to Be Determined in Colinette Enigma (color also TBD)

I'm not exactly sure what project will be up after Audrey... but the Phil'Onde pullover is definitely high on my list.

Why Is This Man Smiling?

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Lo Tech Just Before the Zipper

Over the weekend I got Lo Tech most of the way done. All those pieces combined to make a whole sweater. I am always pleasantly surprised when it comes together. This sweater is simple in design and yarn, but that means that there aren't too many places to hide flaws. John kindly agreed to model it so that I could show it off a little bit. He looks good in it, don't you think? If only I could get him to think that cardigans were okay garments. He doesn't really think of them as fashion statements.

Those of you who are familiar with Lo Tech will notice that I have made a few changes. The first change is that I eliminated the hood and replaced it with a K1 P1 collar that matches the ribbing at the cuffs and around the base of the sweater. It's kind of silly, but I'm sort of proud of myself where this collar is concerned. I just picked up the number of stitches that "felt right" -- in this case roughly three out of every four. I know it's not earthshatteringly exciting, but if you would like to, you can see a closeup of the collar here.

But that's not the only thing that I changed. I also decided to go full steam ahead with the zipper instead of buttons. Initially, I was just going to pick up stitches and create a little ribbed edge. But then I remembered Claudia's use of applied I-cord to create a good zipper mounting edge for her Rogue and started to read about applying I-cord to edges.

With help from instructions at the Knitting-And site, as well as Bonne Marie's Tektalk on Applied I-cord I got to work on applying edges to the front's of Lo Tech. Because I couldn't find any pictoral discussions that gave me a visual "how to get started" I took a bunch of shots along the way with the intention of creating such a resource (mostly, I must admit, for myself, because I am sure I will forget how to do it the next time I want to and will need a reminder). Hopefully I will have that up later in the week. I just didn't have enough time to code it up tonight.

However, I can give you an idea of what it looks like on the sweater. To take a look at the edging at the neck line of the sweater you can click here. To see how it looks near the bottom ribbing, click here.

What's left? Well, first, I need to find the perfect zipper. I bought a couple over the weekend, but I don't think either is really going to work out for this sweater. I'm probably going to be checking out Zipper Stop (just imagine me holding up a sweater arm trying to match the sweater to the zipper color swatch card for a good low tech laugh). I'm also going to try to figure out how to implement the excellent idea that Alison at Quantum Tea recommended. Instead of eliminating the pockets, I want to find a way to attach them to the inside of the sweater -- that way, dad can carry some goodies with him when he's out jogging (keys, MP3 player) but they won't get filled with sawdust when he's working in his workshop. The only problem for me is that I really want the attachment to be invisible. I like the way the sweater looks simple and clean from the outside and don't want any extra seams breaking it up.

Looks like I'll have something to think about while I'm waiting for that zipper to arrive.

Before I did it for Dad's sweater, I had never tried using applied I-cord as an edging. In fact, I didn't really understand what it was. I did some web searching (as I mentioned yesterday) and came up with two places where I got some insight into how it is done. The best information I found was at Knitting-And (here and here) and in Bonne Marie's TekTalk on I-cord

Both of these sites provided lots of good info, but I am an intensely visual aide oriented person when it comes to learning something new related to knitting. If I can't see a picture (or detailed series of pictures), I have a hard time really understanding what I am doing. Most of the time, the hardest thing for me to do is just get started. So with that in mind, I took this series of photos for myself and for anyone else who needs a little help getting the process started.

(As a small aside, if you haven't figured out how to use the macro setting on your camera, it is very worthwhile thing to find -- gives you good closeups when normally you would get blurry photos).

The first thing I needed to do was decide how wide I wanted my I-cord to be. I just wanted a simple edging about 1/2 inch wide. Since the gauge of LoTech is about 4.5 stitches/inch, I decided to do a three stitch I-cord (one stitch gets pulled around to the back, so only two are on the visible edge). In addition to the three stitches for the I-cord, yoo also need an extra stitch -- kind of like a selvedge stitch that goes into the seam when you mattress stitch two pieces of a garment together. Thus, I needed to cast on 4 stitches to get started.

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Step 0: Cast On The Number of Stitches You Want for Your I-Cord + 1)

After you cast on, you want to slip all the stitches toward the working end of the needle and switch the needle to your left hand. (This is simple, but is probably the most confusing thing to me about I-cord since I was used to knitting back and forth).

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Step 1: Setting Up for the First Row -- Sliding the Cast On Stitches to The Working End of the Left Hand Needle

You can use either circular or double pointed needles (you need to be able to knit from both ends of the needle -- Thanks, Michelle for reminding me of this). I wanted the edge to be very firm so that I could attach the zipper to a firm surface (the yarn is merino, and thus is somewhat soft and squishy), so I also chose to do the I-cord edging using the same size needles (two sizes smaller than those I used for the body of the sweater) I used to do the ribbing.

Then you want to knit all the stitches but one onto the right hand needle -- this is the start of the I-cord.

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Step 2: Start the I-cord -- Knit all But One onto the Right Hand Needle

Next, you want to slip the remaining stitch knitwise (as if you were to knit it) from the left needle to the right needle. The orientation of the stitch is important. Once you slip the stitch, it will look kind of elongated compared to the rest of the stitches, but that is okay.

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Step 3: Slip the Remaining Stitch Knitwise from the Left Needle to the Right Needle

Next, you need to pick up the first possible stitch at the base and edge of the garment you want to attach the cord to. Be sure to pick the stitch up so that it has the right orientation on the needle.

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Step 4: Pick Up a Stitch on the Edge of the Garment

Now you're going to knit the stitch you picked up off the left hand needl and onto the right so that you have one more stitch than you started with on the right hand needle.

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Step 5: Knit the Picked Up Stitch Off the Left Needle to the Right Needle

For the last step you are going to pass the slipped stitch over the stitch you just knit.

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Step 6: Pass the Slipped Stitch Over the Last Knit Stitch

Et Voila! You've finished your first row.

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Step 7: Completed First Row of Attached I-cord

Now all you need to do is repeat all the steps except the cast on step until you have worked over the edge you wish to work over. I did not follow any regular rule about the interval of stitches I picked up from the front panel. Instead, I just sort of "read my knitting" and picked up the stitch that was most even with the stitch I was going to slip after I gently tugged the I-cord stitches into place. This worked out fine for me and didn't distort the edge of the garment. An example after I had gotten a little farther:

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The Finished Product

I hope this was useful. I did it mostly so that I could re-trace my steps someday (I am always forgetting how to start things like this). I will eventually move it into the "TechKnit" section of my site. If you have any comments on how I could make it better or more useful, please let me know!

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