Recently in Shawls Category

Unchained Melody

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You'll have to pardon the bad pun. I couldn't resist given that the Melody shawl I have been working on (and working on, and working on, and working on) is knit in the round and cut open to create a fringed rectangle. Melody gets unchained both as she is bound off and as she is snipped open. Unchained my Melody now is.

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Morehouse Merino Melody in the Breeze

This project is from a very simple Morehouse Merino pattern, the Melody Shawl. It's knit from a quad skein of Morehouse Merino Variagated Lace weigh yarn. The color I picked is called "Aquarius" -- eminently appropriate for me, since I am an Aquarian. I worked it on a US size 10 AddiTurbo needle, but size isn't all that important for this garment. It just needs to be open and lacy.

While the work on this shawl is so monotonous as to almost make it not even fun mindless television knitting, there's one clever trick in the pattern that helps create the fringe. This is also the part that involves both unravelling stitches and cutting. Which was entertaining enough to make most of the monotony worthwhile, as I know feel that I have another nifty knitting spell in my knitting spell book "Create Fringe For Scarf Knit in the Round" (pardon me again, my RPG side is showing).

My final measurements, after wet blocking (since I've discussed Morehouse yarn and how much it relaxes up on blocking before, I won't go into great detail with pictures to demonstrate this point this time), were 75" x 24.5". The pattern predicts 80" x 16" so I'm figuring that I got a few more rows in at the expense of a somewhat smaller stitch gauge relative to the original garment. No problem as far as I am concerned, it is still long enough to do what it is supposed to do, and when you're dealing with a shawl, a little extra width doesn't hurt anything.

I only have one word of advice to anyone who is going to do this project, when the pattern says "cast on very loosely" you should read that as "cast on VERY LOOSELY". I would recommend casting loosely onto a needle a couple sizes larger than the one you will use for the main project. I did not cast on quite loosely enough and as I was stretching out the cast on edge a bit I actually broke the edge yarn strand. This is NOT a good thing to do unless you really like fixing damaged cast on edges. So learn from my mistake and take the cast on loosely thing seriously.

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Melody As Shawl

Melody can be worn in a couple of ways. The first way is just as a simple shawl/stole. Since the project is so lightweight (it's like a fluffy cloud) this could easily be something that you wear on a cool summer evening over a tank top or something to add a little bit of warmth in a cool house in the spring. This yarn is very "against the skin friendly" (you find occasional pieces of VM every now and again, but those are easily removed while knitting) so it makes a nice cover for bare shoulders or arms. (Not shown in this picture because last Saturday it was still pretty chilly here in Chicago, even if it was nice and sunny).

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Melody As Scarf

Melody also works well in her scarf incarnation. This is likely how I will wear Melody most often as I find that shawls don't work very well for me in my work environment and the whole stole thing doesn't work very well if you are walking a mile up Damen Avenue on a cool summer evening in search of a hamburger and a beer. However, I love to wear scarves with jackets and cardigans, and long scarves are my favorite. When worn as a scarf, you get lots of nice airy layers which trap warmth, which is perfect for this time of year.

One final comment about the yarn in this project... it pools a bit, but not very much in this project. I do like the watercolor brush strokes of color that seem to dance across it.

So here's another FO I can cross off my WIP list. I feel like I'm beginning to make some progress

Gradual Progress

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The only problem I can see with having both knitting and spinning as hobbies is that they are more or less mutually exclusive. When I am spinning, I cannot be knitting. When I am knitting, I cannot be spinning. If someone out there actually knows how to do this, please don't share it with me. I'm sure that it wouldn't be healthy for me, all that activity at once! Thus, when I embark on any one or more long projects in either of these categories, the result is that at times I end up with not too much to play show and tell with that is actually interesting. Would you like to see that 1 full bobbin if the natural colored wool/silk noile? Probably not. How about the first 4 inches of the second toe-up sock for my husband? Still not enthusiastic, eh? Oh, well, I can understand. But it's hard for me to have a post without a picture. So, I decided, boring or not, I would take a picture of a project that hasn't been seen in a while (not since November 3rd!) so that there would be proof that I actually am still working on it: the Melody Shawl.

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The Current State of Melody's Shawl

This is one of those projects that I know will reward me with something I enjoy, but it is also one of those projects that reminds me that I am more of a product knitter than a process knitter. The sheer process of knitting forever in the round (and a very big round at that!) on big needles with laceweight yarn does not actually thrill me. It must be done, but, because it is pretty uninspiring, I save it for when I am parked in our home theatre, and when I a sock is too challenging to deal with. I am finally getting to the point where the size of the yarn ball does not seem so ominous any more. But given the fineness of the yarn, I know that there is still an appreciable amount to go.

Amazing that when I posted in November I had hopes of having this done by Thanksgiving! Obviously, I had no real idea at the time how big that yarn ball really was. I'm not going to try to make any additional predictions (which I imagine would end up being wrong), but it would be nice to have this project out of the way while there was still some mildly cool weather to enjoy using it in. At the very least, I'd like to have it done by the beginning of May before I head off to MS&W. I love the Morehouse Merino booth, but it's hard to justify getting more yarn unless I've actually finished off what I got the year before!

Going in Circles

Lately, my projects are leaving me with not so much to write home about, or rather, to write to the blog. The second of two socks progresses and I'm continuing to go around and around on Melody, which I am beginning to think of as the "infinite tube". Even after a bunch of knitting, it still doesn't seem to me like there has been much progress made on the size of that yarn ball.

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Melody in the Round

I figured this picture is justified by two things: 1) showing off the lovely colors in this colorway and 2) the fact that it is almost 70 degrees here in Chicago, and this weather is so unseasonal, that if I didn't take advantage to get one good outdoor knitting picture in, surely I would not be rewarded with any more such weather. So out I went with camera and project in hand.

I love this yarn up close as well, even though the more blue cast in the upper picture is much truer than the greener cast in the closeup.

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Melody, Up Close and Personal

Only a million or so more yards to go. Maybe the next project I start needs to be a little less circular. Hmmm...

Melody's Beginnings

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In what is certainly a remarkable turn of events, I am launching straight into my second knitting post in a row. Since I (finally) finished my fusili pasta-like scarf, I figured I could cast on another scarfy project. So what did I do? I dug out the largest skein of laceweight yarn from last spring's Maryland Sheep and Wool and got started.

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256 Cast On Stitches and a Very Larg Ball of Laceweight Yarn

For some reason, I like to hand wind Morehouse Merino yarns into balls instead of creating a center pull ball with my swift and ball winder. Not sure why I like to do this. Certainly not time efficiency, since it took me over an hour to wind that ball from the quad-skein while watching TV on Friday night. John was impressed by the finished product... my, that's a might nice round ball you have there....

The ball is the prelude to a simple pattern called "Melody's Shawl" which is basically a tube knit in the round and then judiciously cut open to create the edges and the fringe. If you'd like to see another one of these shawls, you can take a look at the one Alison just finished. It can work as a scarf or a shawl. When I first saw it at MS&W it was the drape combined with the simplicity combined with the versitility that got my attention.

I figure it's going to be good TV knitting since I'm pretty good at knitting in circles, even in the dark. I'm just not good at creating them. Shortly after I took that picture and knit about 10 rows around, I discovered that I had twisted it somewhere and created a mobeus strip. Now, it occurs to me that that is unlikely to be fatal with this pattern, but since I found another error in it as well (amazing that I could make 2 mistakes knitting in the round on size 10 needles!) I ripped it all out and cast it on again, this time making sure that I didn't twist anything that wasn't supposed to be twisted. In the end, I think the shawl was protesting being on my Denise needles. Apparenly Morehouse Merino is a little too overly fond of bonding with the cable of the Denise needles making it a not so fun experience to knit it on them, especially not for as much yarn as is in that ball.

This is probably the last you'll see of Melody for a while. I don't imagine she's going to grow quickly (some of it depends on how much TV I expose myself to this fall). But my target is to have a Thanksgiving rollout, especially if we end up in Houston visiting my brother.

added later: you can find the pattern and yarn online here at the Morehouse website, if you want one of your own, or just want to see a better view of the garment.

Versitility

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Lately I have been surprising myself in seeing things differently. I'm a pretty literal girl. I can imagine sweaters in different colors, but it is only recently that I am starting to get better at imagining how that same sweater might look if the collar was altered or a little more shaping was added.

I've also been doing a lot of simple knitting as well... socks, scarves, stoles -- things with simple, but versitile shapes. My most recent simple project for myself is a stole out of Classic Elite Ibis in "Frisky Fern" (otherwise known as color #4772). I was "introduced" to Ibis by Rob a couple of months ago. I bought a couple of skeins of the Fern and the Cordovan thinking that I would make scarves for myself and my mother-in-law, and was pleasantly surprised when the Ibis turned out to be pretty nice to knit with.

Before I got around to my scarf, I was browsing through KnitPicks and came across this free pattern. But I didn't think the fabric was substantial enough or long enough. So I changed it to the following:

CO 40 stitches with US size 15 needle.
Switch to US size 10 needle
Row 1: Knit across
Row 2: (K1 YO2) repeat until 1 stitch remains, K1
Row 3: Knit across

Repeat Rows 1-3 until stole measures 66".
Bind off loosely knitwise with US size 15 needle.

The end product is roughly 66" long and 10" wide. It took 2 skeins an a bit more from a third skein to match my wingspan -- I have quite a bit of the third skein left to play with. You could probably get very close to 60" with only two skeins.

After finishing something for me, I like to stand in front of the mirror and take a look at it. For a sweater, I'm looking to see if the shaping works out, if the sleeves are long enough, if the seams lie the way they should. For a scarfy object I like to look at drape and color and figure out the best way to wear it to show it off. This stole had so many different personalities as I stood in front of the mirror.

First, there's the classic stole/shawl look. Here you get a sense for how the width of the stole widens when the drop stitches are parallel with the ground. I think this configuration would work best if I had a nice pin or clasp to hold it in place.

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Stole as Shawl

Next, if you let the stole wrapping fall, there's the scarf action. I like wearing my scarves this way a lot -- almost like having a vest. I also love the vertical lines created. I think it has a nice, slimming effect.

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Stole as Scarf

While playing with it in scarfy mode, I realized that it also had a lot of shrug potential. The wide scarf ends give almost a bell sleeve effect. I am thinking that it might be quite pretty with some sagey green ribbon woven through the edges under the arms to create "sleeves" that would stay on (although it gripped to my turtleneck pretty well without any extra binding). I was thinking about fringing the thing until the shruggy idea hit.

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Stole as Shrug

This is just a shot to give some idea of the length of the finished stole.

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Wingspan of an Ibis

Suffice it to say, I'm pretty pleased with this simple item. I need to give the humble rectangle a little more credit! I think it's something I can wear to work to give a turtleneck a little zing, or something that could dress up a sleeveless top for a dressier night out. I love the soft, fuzzy quality of the yarn. The fuzz is much more like soft feathers than like fur and the binder strand has some shiny properties to add just a little more sparkle. Ibis is very soft next to the skin, and could easily be used for cuffs, collars or sleeves.

What did I learn?

  • Not all eyelash yarns are evil to knit with. After knitting with the Crystal Palace Splash I almost swore never to go near them again.
  • When working with an in-elastic yarn, to get a starting edge that isn't narrower than the project as a whole, cast on and bind off with a larger needle than the body of the project will be worked in. If I hadn't done this, not only with the thing not look as good, but I also never would have seen the shruggy possibilites.
  • Try not to limit a garment or project to the exact function for which I originally envisioned it.
  • Don't be afraid to modify a pattern to suit my tastes. In this case, it wasn't rocket science to make the changes I made to the simple pattern I found, but it was more the principle of the thing... I just thought about what I wanted and went for it. And it worked (at least for me). That gives me the foundation to go onto more daring changes for other things and believe that my instincts could be okay.

Happy New Year to Everyone! May 2004 bring good things to your doorstep.

Wearing Charlotte

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Just a few quick pics of Charlotte in "going out" mode. I think she looks quite dashing over a black ensemble. For some reason, it's really the fringe that does it for me in terms of wearing her on the town factor. I didn't think of myself as a shawl person, but maybe I just needed to find the right shawl.

Last night I swatched for the project I want to do before I finish up the sweater.
I have to say that for once I am really glad that I swatched. The pattern isn't hard, but it took me a couple of repetitions to figure out some of the ins and outs of it.

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This is the Indian Cross Stitch pattern as modeled in Koigu p201. The project I'm going to do uses p201 and p319 (which is a fabulous purply, orangey, yellowish, olivey mixture). I'm sure you can all guess what it is, but I'm going to remain silent for a few more days. Mom doesn't read my blog too often, but, of course, if I have something she shouldn't see on it, she'll be magically drawn to it. I've gotten through one set of crosses on the big project and all I can say so far is that 264 stitches is a lot of stitches. When I've got both colors worked in effectively, I'll post another shot.

Charlotte's Debut

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Last night I finished the last touches on my Charlotte's Web Shawl. Putting all those tassles on took me a lot longer than I thought it would -- and used up a good portion of the yarn I had remaining from the project. I have some leftovers from the first three colors, but none of the last two.

When I first read the instructions I didn't think to hard about blocking this shawl. I figured my Spaceboard would do the job for me. Not quite. Charlotte has a wingspan of 76" and is 38" deep when blocked (or at least she is supposed to -- mine works out to those dimensions, but only if you include the tassles). The Spaceboard is deep enough but definitely not wide enough.

Good thing we have a queen sized bed in our guest room for Charlotte to stretch out on.

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Pinning Charlotte down for blocking felt a lot like mounting a butterfly for a collection. Let me say that it is still remarkable to me what wool will do when exposed to a little strategic watering. When I came downstairs this morning to free Charlotte from her pinning, I half expected her to shrivel up into her pre-stretched state.

Here she is relaxing along my upstairs balcony rail. When I looked at this picture (taken in natural light, no flash) I was surprised at how much the red tones showed up in it.

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And here she is basking in full Chicago morning sun. She's quite a large, dramatic girl, so it was difficult to find places in good light where I could show her off.

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I hope this shot shows off the colorway to a little better advantage. I am so taken by how well all these colors went together. To me, they just seem to flow together. Thanks again to Matt of ThreadBear who spent the time with me to get this "Fall Comes to Northern Michigan" colorway put together.

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Just one last picture before I run off to work... here's an up close look at the lace pattern.

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As my first ever "serious" lace project, Charlotte was a lot of fun. I learned the importance of stitch markers, counting and how to think about the sort of texture that a yarn over creates. Because of all the color in the Koigu, it's also a very forgiving pattern. I made a lot of mistakes that I probably should have corrected, but didn't, early on in the pattern. If you look close you can see them, but most people don't get that close. I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try a big lacework pattern for the first time. The basic pattern is easy to memorize, it only takes 5 skeins of Koigu (making it a not-so-unreasonably priced project) and the result is quite spectacular. Even John, who normally doesn't pay too much attention kept coming over to admire Charlotte.

Of course, now that I have finshed a merino wool shawl, the mercury in Chicago is hovering around the 90 degree mark. It'll be a while before Charlotte sees too much action -- but I'll be ready when the cooler weather comes.

Charlotte in the Home Stretch

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Thank you so much to everyone who left anniversary wishes. John and I both appreciate them. I'm fortunate to have a great husband and to be part of the wonderful Internet blogging community. I wish I could share these with everyone!

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4 Dozen?!?

My mom and dad actually share our anniversary date with us. They came in from Ann Arbor to celebrate with us and to see the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai that is currently in Chicago. (This is a great show, and I would encourage anyone who has a chance to see it to go!)

Of course, Mom and I took a quick trip out to Knitting Workshop. They were having their end of the season sale and a number of summer yarns were discounted between 50% and 70%. I didn't find much of interest because I am pretty done with cotton and cotton-blend yarns for the year, but I did pick up a few things:

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The Trendsetter Fizz was $3/skein and there were three skeins of the lovely Denim color that will be meeting their destiny as a fall scarf for me to wear with jeans. As to the Rowan Plaid book, all I can say is that there will be some Plaid in my future. KW had a whole treasure trove of it and it feels wonderful. I'm particularly taken by the Lavender Mist, but I think I need to do a littl stash decreasing before I order yarn for another project.

Along those lines, I did bring another project close to a close: Charlotte's Web. Here's a picture of my unblocked accomplishment:

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I am so taken by the colors and how they blend together. Matt of ThreadBear fame helped me pick them out and I am even more convinced of his color genius now that I am mostly finished, than I was when I first got the yarn. I'm particularly amazed how you almost can't tell where I am changing colors -- the way these skeins mixed it almost looks like I had 10 skeins instead of 5.

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4th and 5th colors

Here's what the colors look like on the skein, placed next to where they are in my shawl:

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I only have one last thing to sort out with this shawl -- what color will the crochet edge be? I really don't have enough of either of the last two colors to do the edge and still have a little yarn for the tassles. Here's the options I'm left with:

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Right now I'm leaning toward edging it with the color used for the very first "stripe" -- the green/rust/brown skein on the bottom of the picture above. I think it would be both subtle and tie the whole thing together. But then there is a part of me that says I should be more adventurous and use the bright red/orange/yellow skein (the top one in the picture above) -- that this would bring out the rusty colors in the 5th color and make the edge of the shawl look fiery and vivid. There are three crochet chains... I could do one in each color... so many things to think about!

Opinions and comments are welcome!

Omnivorous Knitting

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My slow work with the halter continues. I thought about getting wild and doing another cable interval yesterday, but then my wrists reminded me why that wouldn't be such a good idea. I'm quite enamoured of this simple cable pattern, however. If you want to take a look at a closeup, click here.

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After the halter, I switched my attention back to Charlotte's Web for the first time in a long time. Probably because I had enough peace and quiet to do the repetitive counting that I need to do to maintain lace patterns. Those of you who are familiar with Charlotte know that the basic pattern is 18 repetitions of the primary lace panel, divided up into 2-repetition stripes, which alternate between a solid color (or as solid as Koigu gets) and alternating stripes of two colors. I'm halfway through the 4th solid color stripe, which means that I am actually starting to come down the home stretch. At this point there are ~220 stitches on my needles. By the time it's done there will be greater than 300 stitches. Fortunately, the lace pattern is fairly easy to memorize, and Koigu is a joy to knit with.

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By around eleven or so, my brain isn't usually functioning well enough to cope with lace patterns so I decided to switch off onto another wooly project, Dad's LoTech Sweat. The perfect knitting to end the day with -- simple but satisfying. I love the way this wool is knitting up. My stitches are even, the fabric is soft and dense, and even the purl side looks great. Just makes me happy, even though it's simple stockinette.

When I was in the lab, I always liked to have several projects moving at once. That way, if I got stalled with one of them, there was always something to do. These three projects work well together, given their yarn and complexity levels.

I took the marquee tags off my works in progress list. Those tags don't seem to be equally compatible with all browsers, plus, I discovered that it was annoying to me to wait to see them come by. Of course, I was surprised to see how big the whole list has gotten.

It's a good thing a lot of the projects I have waiting in the wings are done on size 8 needles... means I have to wait to free up my AddiTurbos, which are fast becoming my only needles. Working with bamboo just seems to slow for me now that I have my Addis.

Haut de Cagne

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Yep, I'm back! I had a wonderful time in France, and would definitely recommend Nice and its surroundings to others thinking about a European vacation spot.

Our trip started out in Haut de Cagne -- one of the medieval "perched villages" that sits on one of the hills above the Mediterranean to the west of Nice (the website link is in French, but you don't need to speak French to enjoy the lovely pictures of the town). We stayed at a bed and breakfast "Les Terrasses du Soleil" and were treated to an extremely pleasant and peaceful start to our vacation.

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The Bougainvillea that you see in this picture was a hallmark of Haut de Cagne. Everywhere we went in this little village we found huge sweeps of vivid magenta and green.

The picture on top of this post is the view we had from the large terrace attached to our room. I got to work on Charlotte's Web, inspired by this view. Here's how far I got on Charlotte while we were there:

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Actually, this is how far I got on Charlotte during the whole trip. Most of the work was done in Haut de Cagne because we did a few long walks and touristy things, but mostly focused on relaxing. For me this meant Charlotte, for John this meant a lot of Civilization III: Play the World.

I'll should probably mention now that that John and I are not very good at remembering to take pictures on our vacations... so if you want to see more of what things looked like where we stayed, check out the links I put in.

But we did do more than knit and play video games. Here's a picture of me (with my wonderful daypack) trying to work out my rudimentary French skills in the Chateau Grimaldi -- a castle/museum that was built ~1300 AD that is the center of Haut de Cagne:

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Here's a link to some 360 degree panarama shots provided by the tourism council (just click the orange button at the top of the page that says "visite virtuelle". Select "Chateau Grimaldi" from the pull down list to see some more interior shots of the castle.

And here's a shot of John sitting on a wall overlooking Cagne-sur-Mer and Le Cros de Cagne next to La Chapelle Notre Dame de Protection, a 14th century church that was literally next door to our bed and breakfast.

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We stayed in Haut de Cagne from the 29th until the 4th and would certainly go back again. There's not a lot of things to see he Haut de Cagne (after you see the castle), but there are a number of good restaurants and the views are spectacular, and you feel like you've walked back into time. I'll put up some of our pictures in Nice and Monaco in tomorrow's post, since we have a lot more of those!

Finally, you migh be wondering what happened with my Brilla tank top. I got it seamed and started doing the crochet edging around the neck and armholes. It's one row of single crochet followed by a row of reverse single crochet. But I found that it didn't really have a nice effect and left off of it to deal with when I got home. Here's a picture of the whole top:

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Which fit me quite well without any edging work. Here's a detail of the top where you can see the crochet edging around the neck (single and reverse single) and one armhole (single crochet only because I really didn't like the way the fabric was pulling and rippling with the single and reverse single together.

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It is not completely obvious, but the crocheted armhole edge is rolling up. I'm thinking I may try to block it to see if I can get it to lay flat. I'm very tempted to rip it out completely, but I am thinking I will probably need something there to support the structure of the garment. Any opinions, comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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