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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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