January 2005 Archives

Spa Treatment

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Margot Unwound

My poor Shimmer 5! Look how stressed out and kinky she looks after being ripped out of Margot. It's only the best of everything for the yarn chez Keyboard Biologist, so I figured my Shimmer 5 needed a full spa treatment before moving on to Cerys.

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Spa Tub, Candles and Lavender Eucalan

What yarn can remain kinked up when a spa tub, lavender Eucalan, warm water and candle light are provided? I decided to opt for tub instead of sink treatment so that all the yarn could enjoy the same soothing experience at the same time.

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Treatment for Stressed Out Yarn

I actually invited the last skein that I had from the lot to join in, even though it hadn't been put through the stress of becoming Margot. I wanted it to have the same treatment in the event that spa therapy created any subtle changes in the attitude of my Shimmer 5.

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Shimmer 5 After a Long Warm Soak

After a reasonable soak, my Shimmer 5 did loosen up and come back to its calm, relaxed, unkinky self. I think it looks quite happy soaking in all that wonderful warm water and Eucalan. Certainly it released a warm wooly smell into the air.

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A Sauna Before Winding

Finally, sauna treatment. After a bit of toweling off in a soft cotton towel the Shimmer 5 was subjected to a bit of gravity treatment (she's a bit of a heavy yarn, so I decided that no extra weights were needed to promote that final elongation of the spine). She'll also get a little bit of sauna action as the drying process proceeds. Once dry, she'll be ready for her next adventure: a sweater with full fashion shaping and a gravity resisting zipper, Cerys.

For anyone who might be interested in where my therapy preparation info came from, I'd like to recommend this page as well as the recommendations found in the big Vogue Knitting book, one of my constant and favorite knitting companions.

Holiday Break

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With a whole week and a half without having to do much related to my day job, you would have thought that I could have gotten a good deal of knitting accomplished. I could have finished up Fitzgerald. I could have turned my Shimmer 5 from Margot into Cerys. Maybe I could finish up one of the lingering pairs of socks in my side bar.

Heh. The answer to all of that would be, uh, no. Although I bought Neverwinter Nights almost 2 years ago when it first came out, I never got around to finishing it. Guess what this role playing junkie was spending most of her past week doing?*

Well, I actually did a few other things. With my whole family in town, I couldn't just spend the entire week in front of my computer. In addition to heading out to the Spice House (just three words for you: Lavendar Vanilla Sugar), I also got one small knitting project started and finished up: my scarf in the Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk that I bought from Knitting Workshop a while back.

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The Sum Total of my Holiday Knitting

Two skeins gets you about 5 feet by 4 inches in the K3 P2 rib that makes up the Lace Rib Pattern. I pulled the pattern stitch out of Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, but after knitting a few rows, it occurred to me that I had seen this stitch pattern somewhere before.

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Lace Rib Pattern Stitch

I think it's a little easier to see the actual pattern in the Alpaca Silk than it was in the Bergamo. It's certainly a nice way to spice up a little ribbing without making it to challenging.

The Alpaca Silk is very easy and pleasant to knit with and I did very nicely on the US Size 10.5 needles that I chose. It think it has lovely stitch definition and it has that little bit of shine that gives the scarf a little something special. Unfortunately, the alpaca also gives it a little something itchy... a great disappointment for me. I suspect that this would not be a problem for most other people. I'm just very sensitive to that sort of thing.

So in the spirit of my role playing computer game holiday**, I created a little picture of me and the scarf (my usual photographer is fighting off a bit of a flu bug).

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Level 5 Knitting Magic User casts "Remove Itching" on Alpaca Silk Scarf

Unforutnately, the scarf made it's saving throw and I'm all out of scrolls for that spell. Looks like this scarf is going to require a turtleneck. Guess I'll just have to get out my +5 Needles of Scarf Knitting and start something new.***

*Not only that, but I actually sent my husband out on an errand to find the expansion packs for the game while he was out shopping for New Year's day dinner... the old D&D junkie is back...

**Whenever I play these games, I usually play magic users of some kind. My current character is a half-elf sorcerer.

***Apologies to those for whom this makes no sense. My insanity will only be temporary. To those of you for whom it does make sense, you can share your special knitting weapons, armor and spells in the comments if you want to play along.

A big thank you to whomever out there nominated me for this. I don't expect to win anything, but it means a lot to me that someone out there took the time to nominate me. Y'all are very nice folks!

Bridging the Gap

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She's Going the Distance

Ah, the man sweater. Man sweaters are such a bittersweet experience. On one hand, I look forward, with great longing, to the day when I will finish a sweater for John that he will wear more than once a year. On the other hand, even plentiful stripey-ness that does not involve the weaving in of many little ends has a hard time making up for seemingly endless miles of stockinette. But I'm closing in on a sweater, my friends. I'm about 14 inches up the front of Fitzgerald -- only a little more than 2 inches before I get to start the armhole shaping and move onto the exciting V-neck part.

I think it was a stroke of genius on my part to finish the sleeves before working on the front piece. Now, even though it is a huge piece of fabric, I don't have the daunting thought of two identical large pieces of fabric to construct. Just the front and a collar, which, fortunately, is not of Butterfly-esque proportions.

Good thing for me there are whole bunch of "What Not to Wear"s (both TLC and BBC... I find myself strangely fascinated by this show -- it's something about the crossing of a train wreck with a Cinderella story that keeps me coming back, especially with the guys they find) recorded on my genuine imitation Comcast Tivo -- 'cause I'm really beginning to look foward to seeing my sweetie in his finished sweater. Which, hopefully, will not require any magic spells to bring it to a most fabulous and functional state.

Sheepy Happiness

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My post is late today for a variety of reasons, mostly to do with having to make sure that my brother made it to my house after a late night arrival into O'hare (it wasn't supposed to be a late night arrival, but snow has a way of making these things happens), but a little bit to do with being a bit under the weater and also a little bit to do with having to make an unexpected trip to northern Michigan tomorrow and not being able to have a real post for Friday. So a mid-Thursday post seemed the best option given the circumstances.

I haven't shown off the goodies I got for Christmas. One in particular deserves special attention because it is just so special and smile-inducing. Here's the newest addition to my growing collection of sheep:

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It's Hard Not to Smile When You See this Sheepy Face

He is supposed to be a baby sheep on his back (he's a little over 6 inches), which is why he's photographed in that way. When Mom gave him to me, I just couldn't put him down. Not only does he make me smile, but he feels absolutely wonderful. I am waiting for mom to give me the name of the woman who made him, but apparently he is derived almost entirely from products from this woman's own sheep -- sheep that live a mile or so away from my parents in Ann Arbor. His little fleecy coat is locks from a real sheep. His soft hooves, face and ears are made from felt that come from the fleece one of these sheep as well.

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Hand Crafted Sheep Face

I thought the felting details really deserved closer inspection, as the sewing and sculpting really is lovely and makes him feel so whimsical and wonderful. I think he may sit by my computer desk and be my sheepy blogging muse.

See y'all on Monday!

Good-bye, Grandma

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I hadn't really expected to be blogging about what I was doing last Friday. Some events are really just about family, and, while important, not something I choose to talk about. If you've come looking for knitting, this post will be decidedly light on that subject.

Early this week I found out that my grandmother on my mother's side had passed away. If she had lived another month, she would have been 85 years old. To say that I have mixed feelings about my grandmother is an understatement. I have not seen her in many years, she did not come to my wedding, in spite of my mother's best attempts. She was not an easy person to be with or to love. She had a tendency to push people away, and, probably not to my credit, I kept my distance. I do believe that people make their own decisions about what they want their lives to be about. Hers did not always encourage her family to gather around her.

But to be fair, not all in her life was easy. She was born in 1920 and grew up in the Great Depression. She married her first husband in the early 40's, just before the US entered the war, I think. My mother was born in 1943. His plane was shot down over the English Channel (I think some time in 1944, but I don't know the exact date). He did not come home. She married again and had my uncle 8 years after my mom, and then my aunt 2 years later. Her second husband died before my mother was married to my dad in 1964. She spent much of her life as a single mother working as a housekeeper, which can't have been an easy thing to do at the time.

My grandmother wasn't an easy person to get to know. To be honest, I couldn't tell you much about her that would help me give you a good picture of her. She loved her garden, enjoyed reading Ann McCaffery, and watching basketball. She was a diabetic and she probably smoked too much. She was frugal and kept her home neat. When I was little, there were always cookies in the cookie jar on her counter, and a set of well-used Lincoln Logs to play with and some ancient Archie comic books in the bottom drawer of her desk. When I got older, I can remember her going through an old trunk, showing me the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor that had been awarded to my mother's father.

As I got older, the distance grew. I won't explain the reasons here, but just as she wasn't an easy person to know, she wasn't an easy person to like.

Recently, she moved from her home to housing where she would have better access to medical attention and she had to pare down much of what she had carried with her through life, and make decisions about what had enough value to her to take with her. My mother and her brother and sister went through her belongings before my brother and I arrived on Friday for the funeral. My mother gave me these:

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I had never known she did any needlework, she'd always complained of bad arthritis even when I was little. Yet these hooks and needles were important enough to her to keep, even when she cast many other things aside. They must have meant something to her. In spite of what I had thought, she and I did have something in common.

I wonder now if she and I might have had something to talk about. What if I had gone up to Northern Michigan with my parents and pulled out a knitting project? Or knit her a scarf for Christmas? Would it have made a connection? Given me a chance to see her in a different, more sympathetic light? No doubt, it wouldn't have changed everything. I guess I'll never know the answer now.

Goodbye, Grandma. May the next world or your next life treat you better than this one did. And if we should ever meet again, hopefully I'll have remembered to bring my knitting.

Fitz-y Details

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Thank you to everyone for your kind words yesterday. I'm trying to respond to everyone who left a comment personally, but it's taking me a little while. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts.

I'm trying to bring a couple of my bigger projects to completion. The first being Fitzgerald.

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The Front of Fitzgerald Finished

Yeah, I know, just another big piece of fabric. But when it comes to man sweaters, that seems to be how they run. I've also finished some of the assembly and knitted on the collar.

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The Collar and Neckline Detail

Unfortunately, the little garter stitch edging doesn't show up very well, but it does make for a nice, masculine neckline. I'm going to have to block the edges to be a bit straighter, just to make the finished product look a little more sophisticated.

Tomorrow... the finished piece.

Puttin' on the Fitz

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John Putting on His Fitz

Is this boy cute, or what? He cooks, too. And keeps my computer happy. A girl can't get much better than that.*

And he's wearing Fitzgerald. Is there any sight more fabulous than one's handsome husband dressed in a handmade sweater? A handmade striped sweater with more than two colors? (Okay, okay... he looks great in a tuxedo as well, but I have a much better chance of seeing him in a sweater on a semi-regular basis than I do of seeing him in a tux.) It was in this picture that I realize that a very magical knitting event had occurred with the sleeves and the front -- across the middle, the stripes actually match! Not sure how that happened, good karma perhaps, but I'm very pleased. (And no, this picture wasn't taken around Christmas, we just haven't taken down our tree yet... it's such a lovely tree and I'm not quite ready to part with it yet).

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Fitzgerald from Another Angle

I hope this picture conveys one very important thing about this sweater -- it's a big sweater. This sweater is a medium and it is 50" around (supposedly for a guy with 40" shoulders). John's big in the shoulders, but not so big at the waist. I think the picture in the book is a little deceiving... I suspect that the sweater is clipped on the model see this post for a picture to make it seem a little more form fitting because even if the model is wearing a small, there's no way he's anywhere near 49" around. If John could change anything about he sweater, it would be to make it a little narrower around the middle. And to have each side of the neck opening match. (If you want to see a full on back perspective, click here for Fitzgerald from the Back).

From a pattern perspective, I didn't run into any problems at all from a technical perspective. But this is a pretty straight-foward drop-sleeve sweater. And I didn't need more than the specified amount of yarn. The thing that makes it special is the yarn (Noro Shinano, colorway #9) and the nice wide ribbed collar and neck opening. And the fact that a man will wear it.

I don't have much of a "what did I learn" for Fitzgerald, but here's what I did get out of this project:

  • If you're going to knit a sweater for a guy, let him pick out the pattern and the yarn. Listen to him about what he wants. If he wants the stripes on the sleeves to match, make sure they do. Don't expect him to go beyond the color palette he's comfortable with. If it isn't a positive experience for him, he won't wear it. And worse, he probably won't want you to knit him another sweater ever again.
  • Don't fuss over him too much and tell him how great it looks. Recognize that as the sweater maker your opinion doesn't count. The real test is the guys at work. The last thing he wants to hear from them is "Hey, did your wife make you that?" accompanied by that "you poor bastard" look. He just wants the sweater to pass for a normal (store bought) sweater.
  • I have a lovely and patient husband.
  • Shinano, like a lot of Noro yarns, does better after a bit of soaking. In this case, just cold blocking. It softened the pieces up a great deal. I like this yarn a lot more now that I am finished with the project than I did when I started with it.
  • The edges of ribbed collars need to be blocked, otherwise they want to curve a little bit.

Like Butterfly, this is another great sweater if you're early on in your knitting career. Lots of stockinette, the collar is simple to pick up and knit and the assembly process is straightforward. This sweater could be made in almost any worsted weight yarn.

I have to leave you with one last picture of John and his sweater. Click here for a little different perspective on John. They just all like to be tough guys.

Now if only I could get him into multi-colored striped socks....

* it should also be noted that John is incredibly smart, funny, caring and good with people and animals, just so you don't all think I like him only for his superficial attributes. He's the real deal all around.

Shimmer 5 Sweater Re-incarnation

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John appreciated all the nice comments you left about him and the sweater. It went to work today, and aside from it being a little warmer today than he would have liked, it was a pretty good experience. Score one for the knitting biologist.

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A New Beginning for My Shimmer 5

Now that John has his sweater, I can feel good about getting my recycled and relaxed Shimmer 5 into a new garment. The pattern for Cerys is from the Colinette Wayfarer book. Cerys is a bit shorter than Margot and has deeper armholes, but has very similar dimensions otherwise.

I'm looking forward to a quick knit and my first zipper experience. And hopefully having a good final result for my Shimmer 5.

Thursday Night Serenade

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In spite of it not being a weekend day and not a day that involves a date with my husband, Thursday is one of my favorite days. It's a day that reminds me that a little break is just around the corner, a night when we almost never plan anything and I can just park myself in front of the projector (one of the very much appreciated man-introduced items in the house, on my own I couldn't even figure out how to convince it to talk to the cable box -- and there's nothing quite like watching Alton Brown or CSI on my own personal "silver screen") and knit or do whatever else feel like.

I made good progress on Cerys tonight, but yesterday something arrived in the mail that is more deserving of "last post of the week" billing.

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Plassard Creole and Some Yummy French Treats

This lovely little package from a certain kind blogger in Lyon, France lit up my living room when I opened it -- almost literally. This yarn has a silky sheen and is very reflective in a good way. And I had to chase my husband out of the very yummy taffy like treats that came along for the ride. To be honest, I had to chase myself out of them too so that I would have a few left to photograph tonight.

Becky apparently knows of my love for ladder-style yarns. (I love the way they look when knit up and even though I've knit way too many garter stitch scarves out of the stuff, I can't help myself and buy more). I know -- it doesn't look like a ladder yarn, it looks like a boucle. But the yarn is lying to you! Sneaky sophisticated stuff. Take a look at the Creole up close:

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Creole Unmasked

A ladder yarn if I ever saw one. But a delightful, classy and playful one that I'm looking forward to turning into a soft and shimmery scarf.

But I'm going to finish Cerys first.

Oh yeah. Right. Like anyone believes that...

But Cerys-ly

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So many bad puns to make on sweater names, so little time..

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Cerys in Pieces

By early Saturday afternoon all of Cerys' peices were flattened out on my blocking board, just waiting to become part of a sweater. While the pieces dried, I headed out to Fishman's Fabrics to see if I could find a zipper or two that might meet my needs. I had forgotten how fun it is to wander through Fishman's. Great fabrics everywhere. And even a few zippers. And some cotton-poly thread.

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Cerys Gets a Collar

I thought one of the benefits of working Cerys from "recycled" Shimmer 5 would be that I would be able to keep that overwhelming pink action from happening because I was working with some smaller balls of yarn. No such luck, I guess, as you can see here. I'm just going to consider it to be part of the character of the sweater. Who knows, maybe it will turn out like Margot, and once the sweater is assembled completely I won't even notice.

The collar looks a little awkward and floppy, but there's a reason for that -- it's going to be doubled over on itself after the zipper is added to provide a more substantial fabric.

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Cerys Awaits a Zipper

Before I went to bed on Saturday night, I had a pretty good idea of what Cerys final form was going to be like. Only a zipper now remains to be added, and a collar folded to complete Cerys. In spite of my desire to get Cerys finished, I decided that starting something complex like setting in a zipper for the first time called for a clear head and a survey of my knitting books.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a dicussion of my zipper adventure!

Cerys* and Cashmere

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When we last left the Carys story I was about to face off against a mighty zipper. The stage was set.

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YYK Zipper Meets Cerys

Looks ominous, eh? And, intially my plan was to spend a lot of time and pictures describing the whole process. But take the fact that the whole point is for the thread and zipper not to show up agains the sweater, combine with a sweater made of a somewhat shiny yarn that violently reflects my flash, and you get a lot of boring photos that don't really demonstrate anything.

Instead, I'll just try to provide a brief summary and then cut to the good stuff.

Since I didn't think my sewing machine would deal well with the uneven Shimmer 5 fabric (and because I am secretly afraid of the lovely old Singer that lives in my basement closet) I decided that I would sew the zipper in by hand. Once again, my old VK book came to my rescue. Here's the process I followed:

  • pin the zipper to the edge of the sweater front with the fabric just moving over the zipper teeth.
  • baste the zipper in place with a contrasting color thread, remove the pins.
  • with the wrong side facing, whip stitch the edge of the zipper to the sweater.
  • with the front side facing, back stitch the zipper into place
  • repeat for the second side

I had to repeat those first few steps twice before I realized what I had to do make the zipper look the way I wanted to, but sewing the zipper in by hand definitely helped me understand the process better.

The finished product?

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Cerys and a Cashmere Assistant**

Ski trip in the Alps, anyone?

After inserting the zipper, the collar is flipped over the ends of the zipper to give it a little more structure. I helped the collar out a little more by tacking it down on the inside (Want to get a better look at the waist shaping on the sweater?Just click here.)

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Cerys in Profile...

I like the sleeves -- long enough to be fashionable and fun (and warm) but not long enough to get in the way or need to be rolled up.

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...and from the Back

Perhaps the only flaw with this sweater is that right below the shoulder blades on either side there is a little more fabric than I would like to have there. This could have to do with the fact that I blocked this area a little wider than it should have been blocked, or it could just be a necessity in a bulky sweater to make sure that you can actually move your arms when the thing is zipped up.

I would never have even noticed if it hadn't been for John.

John: Hmm, not bad, I like that on you. Turn around so that I can see it from the back.

Me: Turns around. Thinking, how cool is that? A husband who actually wants to see the back of the sweater. He must actually be interested.

John: Well, it's nice except for that funny baggy thing it does near your arms. It's so well shaped in the front. Too bad it isn't as nice in the back.

Me: Sigh. Thinking: Nothing like a mixed blessing, is there? Out loud: But I think the zipper came out well, don't you?

John: Yeah, that turned out pretty well. Maybe you can put one in a sweater for me someday. But not all the way down. Just at the neck.

John is right about the issues with the back. And I was pretty disappointed Sunday night. But after putting Cerys back on and looking at the pictures from my photo shoot, I'm not really bothered by it as much. Maybe that's as a result of being overwhelmed by successful zipper insertion euphoria. Or surprise that John actually thought that I put a zipper into a sweater well enough that he might let me do it on a sweater made for him. Or just the fact that I love the front and that collar. But now I am pleased and looking forward to giving Cerys her first outing to work tomorrow.

In spite of being a big bulky sweater, there was a whole lotta learning going on in this project.

What did I learn?

  • Zippers aren't so bad, and putting one in by hand isn't all that hard or time consuming. It probably took me less than 3 hours to put this one in, and that included re-doing the first side.
  • The Shimmer 5 needs to be at a little tighter gauge than I knit it at. I knitted to gauge, but I must not be picking up enough of the slack between the stitches (I found it difficult to knit on 15 mm straight needles and maintain a tight gauge) because the fabric is a lot more open than I see in the Shimmer 5 and Point 5 garments that I see made up in Colinette's books. That, and I didn't have as much yarn left over as I would have expected.
  • The folks at Colinette like short armholes. 8-1/4" depth just isn't enough when you figure that you're going to lose 2 of those stitches to the seam and 2 stitches = roughly 1 inch. Next sweater I'm going to change the arm hole depth just a little bit if I am working in a bulky yarn.
  • Ripping and re-cycling can be a good thing. If I'd left my Shimmer 5 as Margot, I hardly ever would have worn this sweater. As a zippy Cerys, I don't think I am going to want to take this sweater off.
  • The Shimmer 5 passes the low itch test. After I first go the sweater seamed up, I tried it on over a tank top and did not go into a major itching fit.

The only question that remains for me now is the "how well will this sweater wear" test. I have high hopes for the Shimmer 5 because of the viscose content of the yarn. Tomorrow Cerys will get her first real test.

*Thanks to Amy, I now know how Cerys is really supposed to be pronounced (see the comments for yesterday's post). Don't think that will keep me from from bad puns, however -- in fact, now I have one that even more appropriate: "Pre Cerys-ly".

**the cashmere turtleneck fortuitously arrived on my doorstep today just in time for the photo shoot -- I think it was meant to be Cerys partner in crime, although it wasn't ordered for that purpose. I got it on sale from Casual Corner (online) for $20 (!) And it was my husband who pointed the good deal out to me...and helped to fuel my obsession with all things cashmere this year.

Gift Scarves

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It should probably come as no surprise to anyone that any woman who still has not taken down her Christmas tree (although her husband has unplugged the timer that turns on the lights every night, thus rendering it far less a holiday object and bringing it closer to the giant scratching post that my cats imagine it to be) is still working on a few last holiday presents.

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Gift Scarves

These two scarves are gifts for my aunt (who helped bring the Beezle into our life) and my grandmother on my dad's side. My mom and dad come from Ludington, Michigan. While we were there for the funeral, I got to see my other grandma and realized that I wanted to do something nice for her.

It is a credit to my father's love for his mother and his own crafy nature that he didn't object too much when I dragged him over to Ludington's LYS and asked him to help me pick out some yarn to make into a scarf for her. (It is one of those remarkable and pleasant twists of fate that Ludington just happens to have a very well stocked and friendly yarn store, Nautical Yarn -- the selection in this store rivals most of the stores we have in Chicago and they also have an excellent assortment of books and tools). Dad selected the Diakeito Diamusee in color 41, a 100% wool yarn with color progressions like a Noro yarn but much much softer than any straight Noro wool. Like buttah this stuff is. Perfect for a scarf. A Multidirectional Scarf, on 5 mm needles, in fact. I also picked up the lovely short Brittany needles there as well. (I probably shouldn't admit this, but I do think I like straight needles a little better for scarf projects than I do my circulars... it seems like it keeps the tension more even for me).

The grey scarf for my aunt doesn't look like much, but it's quite lovely in person. The yarn is a very lovely DK weight organic Alpaca. My aunt sent along an organic dinner for the holidays for my family and I, so this organic Peruvian alpaca yarn from Cottage Industry seemed like the perfect thing.

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Cottage Industry PureLuxury Organic Peruvian Alpaca

This yarn, which I purchased from Nina's, is really hard to do justice to in a photo. (As an aside, I have to say it's very nice to be a very short distance from a well stocked yarn store. Every time I go in there I find something else that I hadn't seen before anywhere else. When I was in buying the alpaca she also had a very lovely paper yarn from Habu textiles... as soon as I can think of something worthwhile to do with it, some of it will be coming home with me). It only comes in three natural alpaca colors -- white, brown and grey. It is also really hard to find a stitch that makes this yarn happy. The grey marl color makes almost every texture just disappear into the yarn. I must have swatched this stuff 5 or 6 times before opting for a mistake rib stitch on 4.5 mm needles. I chose bigger needles than I normally would have for the yarn weight in the hopes of adding some drapey-ness to the final product, which I will block out a bit so that the texture does get a little more sunshine.

Finally, thanks for all the compliments on Cerys. They are much appreciated! Chery asked what project I'll be tackling next. And to be honest I don't really have a good answer for that one. A part of me wants to tackle another sweater that I can wear a bit before it gets too warm (hard to imagine that now given the current weather in Chicago). And I'm actually getting itchy to design my own sweater from start to finish using something that's been residing in my stash for awhile. The other part of me wants to dive into a bunch of little things. After seeing Becky's nifty opera glove-length arm warmers I totally want a pair of those. And it seems like I have a thousand wonderful skeins of yarn waiting to become a thousand wonderful scarves. And a girl can never have enough socks... or maybe it's time to do some felting again...

Got Stripes?

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The stripes are just bustin' out all over on this blog and in my knitting basket where the man of the house is concerned. Not only did he select stripey (non-grey) yarn for a sweater, he made a pretty radical selection for his next pair of socks.

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Trekking XXL (Color 90) Sock Toe

Many of you may know that I hunt far and wide to find John the widest selection of grey and black sock yarn anywhere on the planet to select from. Since socks are the one knitted item that I am almost guaranteed to get appreciation for, I want to make sure that he never lacks for good choices in his favorite colorways. On my last trip to ThreadBear Fiber Arts I got a little wild and crazy and picked out the yarn you see in the picture above. Brown, orange and green stripes. But I figured if he didn't like it, I liked the stuff and it wouldn't go to waste.

So after I finished John's last pair of socks, I got all the manly sock yarn out of my stash and laid it out in front of him. And out of that pile of grey and black John selected the one skein that I thought he would be the most skeptical of: the Trekking with the brown orange and green stripes.

Since I enjoyed knitting Mariko's sock swap socks in Lucy Neatby's Bosnian toe-up sock pattern so much, I decided that I would use the same pattern for John's next pair of socks, minus the crenelated edges (something tells me that they wouldn't go over well on a manly sock). I haven't gotten as far as I would have liked on them (I have just finished the increase that gets me to 72 stitches around -- they're on size 0's and I'm getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 stitches/inch), I do like the striping pattern that I am seeing. I've asked John about forty-two times whether or not he will actually wear the stripes, and not only does he put up with my over-concern, he actually maintains that he likes the stripes and will definitely wear the socks.

I now have this secret hope that he might actually consider wearing them at the same time as he is wearing Fitzgerald.

I know, I know -- that's probably way too much to ask. And there is no doubt that such an event would likely cause the earth to start spinning in the opposite direction on it's axis. But a girl's gotta have dreams!

Meme-ingful

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This has been doing the rounds a bit, and as usual I am a little late to the party. I believe the originator can be found at Nake-id Knits

Grooming Products

  • Shampoo: Modern Organic Products Lemongrass and Chamomile for Fine Hair
  • Moisturizer: Origins Balanced Diet (supplemented with a number of other Origins white tea products)
  • Perfume: Most of the time, none. But when I do use, my current bottle is Fresia-scented cologne from Fragonard
  • Razor: Venus
  • Toothpaste: Crest Whitening (when you're a coffee drinker you need all the help you can get)

Electronics

  • Cell phone: Kyocera 7135 -- If it doesn't have a Palm OS on it, don't even bother to show it to me.
  • Computer: Chuckle. Which one? My laptop is a Gateway m505 widescreen that every now and again gets confused with an Apple PowerBook
  • Television: Dukane D-ILA projector and movie screen. Not my doing, but I enjoy it. How did we live before HDTV?
  • Stereo: my iPod and my laptop provide most of my stereo. But we also have a mix of nice components to go with the projector

Home

  • Sheets: In the winter, flannel. In the summer, jersey or cotton. I have very little color or print preference, but I do tend to find what I like best at Eddie Bauer and Pottery Barn
  • Coffee-maker: Saeco Magic Deluxe. The one device that my husband knows better than to mess with. The one device that will leave my house only over my cold, dead body.
  • Car: 1999 Mercury Cougar in a forest green color (the sporty little coupe, not the big behemoth). Fully loaded and with a manual transmission. (As my dad would say, if you don't have a stick, you're not driving, just steering. I'm definitely a stick girl.
  • Stationery: A little from Cranes, the rest eclectic. And most definitely electronic paper.

Beverages

  • Bottled water: I have no religion with bottled water, but will tend to pick Evian if given the choice.
  • Coffee: Peet's, Major Dickasons's Blend or Intelligensia's Flo Blend (a blend they make for my favorite local restaurant).
  • Vodka: Yes. Stoli if possible.
  • Beer: Microbrewed ales. Goose Island's IPA is one of my all time favorites. I'm also partial to a well poured Guiness

Clothes

  • Jeans: Gap, Long and Lean if I can get 'em.
  • T-shirt: Gap, Eddie Bauer, J. Jill, whatever I can find at CostCo
  • Briefcase or tote: I have an awesome backpack from Eddie Bauer for my laptop and my current favorite tote is a blue suede number that I bought from Levenger.
  • Sneakers: None, if I can avoid them, I think they make my feet look strange.
  • Watch: When I wear one, which is much less than I used to, the Movado my husband got me for Christmas the year before we were married.

Favorite Places: my home; Chicago; Sydney, Australia; the John Muir Forest; the big island of Hawai'i; Seattle

Extravagances: Food and dining out, tech toys and computer games, yarn (I suppose that goes without saying), books

The Fix Is In

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Alison's gone and done it again -- come up with another great knit-a-long idea that is going to make a positive impact on my knitwear and on my closet.

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I think it's just one of those rules of knitting: the more you knit, the more you complete, the more stuff you're going to have that just didn't come out quite the way you planned it or just isn't getting worn as much as you thought it would. Yet it's something that is made out of good yarn that deserves being knit up into something that will be worn and loved.

Alison is one of my daily reads and she definitely has a knack for coming up with the righ knit-a-long ideas at the right time. When she started talking about fixing knits in February it got me to thinking about what in my closets and drawers needing fixing in order to enter into regular rotation in my wardrobe. And of course, that lead me to thinking about what things were in my closets and drawers that no amount of fixing would help. Yes, not only will there be fixing, but there will also be ripping and recycling.

Here's my goals for fixing and ripping for February:

The Fixing:

Audrey. Oh most definitely Audrey. There's a reason I haven't been able to bring myself to move her into my gallery and claim true victory on the Audrey blog. The neckline just wasn't right. So with thoughts of warmer spring weather in my head, I'm going to rip out the neck lace edging, remove one or more of the lace intervals and sew the lace back in place. Hopefuly there will be victory dancing all around. And I can stop feeling so guilty about not completing my own knit-a-long!

The Ripping:

Goddess Capelet
. It doesn't fit me, it doesn't fit my mom and it was just an all around poor design choice for me. The yarn is lovely and soft and beautiful and deserves a better fate. I have no idea what that fate might turn out to be yet. But anything has to be better than sitting on the floor of my yarn closet.

Banff. Put this one in the category of wrong yarn, wrong pattern as well. Why do I say this, since the results in my archive don't make it look that way? Well, first off, while I love Manos, Manos is a yarn with very loosely spun regions. This means that those regions are going to pill and fuzz like crazy if long lengths are exposed to surfaces that rest on other surfaces. In order to make the Manos work for Banff, it has to be knitted at too loose a gauge and there are just too many of those loosely spun areas on surfaces that rub against each other (i.e. under the arms) or against my desk at work. Secondly, this design is just too short for me. It hits just at the top of the hips and the ribbing falls at a place an inch or two under my boobal area. The overall effect is to make me look even shorter on top than I already am. Finally, the combination of big collar and my neck being very sensitive to wool, means that there is no way I can wear Banff without a turtleneck underneath. Overall, Banff just isn't a good design for me or for the Manos*. This yarn needs to be reclaimed and knit at a smaller gauge into a design that makes me feel good about wearing it.

So now I've got my fixin list out in the open. Let the games begin!

P.S. It looks like Alison is not the only one to encourage people to recycle their unhappy garments. Check out the ReKAL project for another place to go to find friends to rip and re-knit with.

* This is not to suggest that Banff is not a good design, nor that it can't be knit in Manos. It is to suggest, however, that I made a poor choice of yarn and design when I chose to knit this sweater for myself, given my lifestyle, skin sensitivities and body shape.

Absolutely Audrey

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I am both pleased and embarrassed to finally introduce Audrey.

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Audrey from Rowan #35, in NightSky

Pleased, because I think she is a lovely top that I will want to wear on a regular basis. Pleased, because I think she fits well and I am happy with my technical execution. Embarrassed, because she sat in my armoire for three months because I was too lazy to remove the lace edging, take out one repeat and re-attach the edging -- a process that only too a couple of hours when I actually sat down and did it. I'm not sure why I thought it was going to be such a painful repair. Knitting those repetitive lace units must have softened up my brain.

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Audrey in Profile

These shots aren't intentionally artsy -- the best light in the house just happened to be near our sliding glass door. I would have gone outside, but a whole bunch of snow and low temperatures kept me on the warm side of the window. Fortunately, most of you already know what Audrey is supposed to look like, and my Audrey is no exception. I did the increases and decreases that create the darts exactly as described in the pattern with no alterations. I'm a bit surprised at how much those darts seem to - er - augment certain portions of my anatomy. No wonder this sweater went over well when I introduced her to John.

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Audrey from the Back

I always like it when a sweater looks as going as coming. There's definitely no odd rippling or gapping here!

What did I learn from Audrey?

  • I like Calmer. It's a great yarn that knits up well and feels lovely against the skin and heavy enough for three season wear. It can split a little bit, however, if you're not paying attention to it when you knit with it. I think it would make a very man-friendly garment.
  • Kim Hargreaves is still my favorite designer for Rowan. This top has a lovely classic shape. And as long as I don't change shape too much, I'll be able to wear this top for years to come.
  • In spite of everyone's concerns, the increases and decreases as written in the pattern work just fine -- at least to my eye.
  • Knitting a sweater in K2 P2 ribbing was not as painful as I thought it would be, but I won't be searching out another one anytime soon.
  • Attention to detail makes all the difference in the world. By elimating one of the lace repeats in the collar, I made a significant impact in how the collar lays on my shoulders. With 19 repeats: big gaps, collar did not lay flat. With 18 repeats, no gapping, collar lays the way it was meant to.

My first February fix is in and I now have an Audrey I'm happy with. For anyone interested in making Audrey, I'd say that she's an intermediate level project. There is a little thinking involved in getting the increases and decreases correct and attaching the collar to the body of the garment requires patience and a little basic math. For more detail, you can check out the Audrey project blog where a lot of other Audreys and helpful details have been described -- and where I'll have posted more details about what I did to get the collar tacked down gracefully.

A New Blocking Board

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First off, I'm just overwhelmed by all the nice comments about Audrey and my hair cut. Both make me pretty happy. And it shouldn't have taken me so long to get to both of them either!

....

One of the things I've been struggling with lately is how to block scarves. This isn't a conceptual problem for me, but a spatial one. I just don't have that many surfaces long enough to mount something 6 foot long onto. And the ones that I do, such as beds, need to be undressed and covered in plastic to be used and to be protected from the damp.

Up until now, I'd mostly dealt with this problem simply by not blocking scarves. But then I blocked my Alpaca Silk scarf, which was short enough to block along the diagonal axis of my blocking board and saw that the result was good indeed. Thus, scarf finishing in my house was destined never to be the same again.

So I took an (html) page out of Bonne Marie's book and invested in an inexpensive carpet runner that I found on clearance at the Home Depot.

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My New Mohawk Blockng Board

This particular piece of carpet is handy for a variety of reasons. First of all, it already has relatively straight lines drawn into it, giving something that a scarf edge can easily be lined up against.

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Blocking the Organic Alpaca Scarf

See how nicely that works? It's also just over 7 feet long, so almost any scarf that I make (I don't think it's possible for me to knit 7 foot of anything in the same pattern without dying of boredom) will have plenty of room to stretch out and get comfortable. It's all made out of a synthetic material, so no need to worry about any bleeding from the rug, and it can easily be pinned into (although I have to admit I pinned through it into the carpet below, but that doesn't bother me too much). And finally, when I am done with it, I just need to roll it up and stash it in a corner. So there's no storage problems, either.

It can't beat my SpaceBoard in a fair fight, but it does solve my scarf blocking problem exceptionally well. And, hey, if I ever find a new solution, this rug will actually make an okay runner in my front hallway.

Organic Alpaca Scarf

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You have no idea how hard it is to get a good picture of a grey scarf until you set out to do it. It seems that any amout of flash muddies almost all the detail, making it seem like a fuzzy grey blob, when, in fact, it has a lot more character and visual interest than that.

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Cottage Industry Organic Alpaca Scarf

This scarf, roughly 6" wide and not quite 6' long is entirely mistake stitch rib. I chose alpaca for this scarf because 1) it completely fits my aunt, who actually used to raise llamas many years ago and 2) because I wanted something that would stay where I put it after blocking. Alpaca, like silk and cotton, doesn't have a whole lot of memory. When you block it down, it does what you ask it too. So the blocking process took this scarf from looking like an ugly, poorly knit swatch of K1 P1 ribbing, so something that I think has much more panache and drapieness. Something that can do a little dressed up or a little dressed down and is always warm and snuggly.

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Mistake Stitch Rib, Blocked

This scarf also has some special significance. My aunt sent along some lovely Christmas gifts with my parents when they came to Chicago for Christmas. I hadn't been able to think of anything good to get for her. So when my mom walked in the house with a lovely organic dinner it put the kernel of an idea in my head. And I told my mom we needed to go yarn shopping.

Nina's is conveniently located near the Wicker Park post office. So while taking my sister-in-law to run another errand, mom and poked our heads into Nina's. And there, sitting on the shelf was the organic alpaca yarn. Mom and I decided that the grey would be the nicest and most practical color (the other options were white and brown) and I set off on finding the right pattern and texture for the yarn, which was no mean feat. It resisted every lacy attempt that I came at it with. Finally, while browsing though Barbara Walker's first book, I was reminded of the Mistake Stitch Ribbing. And away I went.

Shortly after buying the yarn, my grandmother passed away and I got that lovely handful of crochet hooks. When I got towards the end of the scarf and started to put on the fringe, I reached into the glass holding the hooks and pulled one out. So now I like to think that multiple generations of women on my mom's side were involve in this simple scarf. Soon I will take this scarf and send it on it's way from the Wicker Park post office (and probably pay Nina another visit, since I am in desperate need of 5.0 mm double points). And the project will have come full circle.

Merry Christmas Aunt Bette!

Call the Fringe Police

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A Little Too Blue Shifted But Still Pretty

Okay. I'm putting my crochet hook down and backing away from the scarf now. I didn't mean for any yarn to get hurt, officer, I just couldn't help myself. This scarf's straight edges were just calling out for a fringe.

Here's the latest entry in my parade of scarves. A Multidirectional Scarf made of Diakeito Diamusee, 5.0 mm Britanny Birch needles were the weapon of choice. This one is also destined for a trip to the post office to become a neck warmer for my grandmother on my dad's side. Hopefully I can get it there before it gets too warm to wear a scarf (those of you who have ever had to get something from me through the mail already know of my somewhat post-office phobic behavior).

There's not too much to say about Multidirectional scarves that hasn't already been said, but I will comment on the Diamusee. For a 100% wool yarn, it's divinely soft. Soft in a "if it came in a solid color I would make a sweater out of it and would try to wear it next to my skin" sort of way. It also has a very cushiony feel in the hand. The vibrant colors are very vibrant (unfortunately, that's hard to tell in this picture where my digital camera seems to have wanted to give everything a little too much blue cast) and the subtle colors are very subtle. It knits up easily, and in the three skeins that I had, I found no knots or unpleasant VM -- which is usually my only beef with Noro yarns like Kureyon and Silk Garden.

Probably the only drawbacks to this yarn are 1) it's not as easy to find as I might like and 2) it's not cheap stuff. A ball of this yarn will probably set you back about $12 and there's only about a 100 yards in the ball. But that was enough to get me a scarf just under 6" long, excluding the fringe.

What's next... well, I haven't quite gotten scarves out of my system yet and I'm also thinking about getting wild and crazy and designing my own sweater. But to be quite honest, I'm just not sure where I want to go. Nothing is just screaming my name right at the moment. But who knows. I have a whole weekend coming up and anything could happen.

Yarn Pageant

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Ladies and Gentlemen, let's have a big round of applause for the fibery finalists competing for a chance to be involved in a brand new sweater design project. These finalists have come from around the world to show off their stuff and demonstrate why they should go from being beautiful skeins of inspiration to the foundation for a creative sweater experience...

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Finalist #1: Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Deep Marine

Contestant #1 Hails from Holmfirth England. This Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Deep Marine is no longer commercially available, but this cotton/microfiber blend is known for it's exceptional stitch definition and durability and three season wear. As versatile as this yarn is durable, this yarn can often be found in both chunky cables and simple lace and can be substituted in almost any pattern calling for worsted weight yarn. Please give it up for the All Seasons Cotton!

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Finalist #2: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in Blue Flannel or Medieval Red

Contestant #2 Comes to us straight from Mitchell, Nebraska. This Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted weight yarn is a beautiful wool/mohair blend that provides exceptional warmth and has a lovely deep sheen. Known for it's value and it's ability to substitute for several yarns originally used by She Who Cannot Be Named this Lamb's Pride this evenly spun yarn excels in both Aran and Gansey stylings and just loves to be found in cold weather gear. Let's hear it for the Lamb's Pride!

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Finalist #3: Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool in Lava

Our Third Finalist just arrived off a slow boat from Italy. This Lava colorway Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool is a soft and luxurious DK weight wool/silk blend. This yarn loves to be worked up into finely detailed Viking cable patterns and has a tweedy texture that adds an extra level of sophistication to almost any garment. The almost 35% wool content ensures that this light-weight yarn will have both a wonderful drape and provide extra warmth to the wearer. Let's give a warm welcome to the Silky Wool!

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Finalist #4: Jaeger Chamonix in Limoges

Finalist #4 also made the long journey from Holmfirth, England. This Jaeger Chamonix in Limoges is as soft and gorgeous as it's color is subtle. A divine blend of angora, merino and microfiber, this yarn goes beyond conventional spinning into cabled strand that makes for plenty of cloud-like softness and warmth when knitted up. An ideal candidate for winter garments which call for a bulky-weight yarn and have simple textural details, this yarn is guaranteed to make any garment a luxurious wardrobe addition. Please show your appreciation for the Jaeger Chamonix!

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Finalist #5: Sweet Grass Wool in Natural

Contestant #5 is a hardy wool from Melville, Montana. This Sweet Grass Wool is unscoured goodness from Targhee sheep and was milled into yarn without the use of harsh chemicals or bleaches. With a touch of lanolin left in its fibery twists, this yarn has a softness that, combined with with a delightful springy-ness makes it hard to put down. This robust and bulky yarn is happy to be the foundation for outerwear and jackets that are meant to keep the wearer warm and protected from the elements but also has suprisingly nice stitch definition that will bring simple design elements to life. Please put you hands together for the Sweet Grass Unscoured Targhee!

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Finalist #6: Noro Cash Iroha, Color #80

Our most exotic entrant has journeyed all the way from Japan to participate in our pageant. This Noro Cash Iroha is a soft and sophsiticated blend of silk, wool, cashmere and nylon and definitely knows how to shine without being flashy. An ideal choice for garments where both light weight and warmth are desired, Cash Iroha's slightly variably spun width means that it can bring texture as well as color and drape to a garment. Almost any worsted weight design that doesn't need a lot of structure would go from delightful to divine in Cash Iroha. It's time to welcome the Noro Cash Iroha!

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Jamieson's Chunky Shetland in Eider Duck and Rosewood

Our last entrant comes from the Shetland Isles and is know for it's rich depth of color and soft, wooly texture. Jamieson's Chunky Shetland is a 100% wool yarn whose colors simply can't be done justice with digital technology. This yarn was born to be included in ganseys, arans, and simple sweaters that need to have a big personality. Definitely not a warm weather yarn, this yarn is almost guaranteed to make the wearer feel warm and happy apres ski! Let's let this Jamieson's Chunky Shetland know we're glad it's here.

Well there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen, all the outstanding entrants in our rich yarn pageant. They represent 3 continents, a spectrum of color, and an incredible array of fibers and textures. Which one will be selected for the highest honor a yarn can know -- inclusion in a destined to be loved sweater? Just stay tuned...

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