Archive for the ‘lace/shawls’ Category

lacy days

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

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I will fully admit that my own relationship with lace is a bit shaky. It’s not a technical problem — I can follow the charts, make all the stitches, and read the directions. I know where to place my stitch markers and how to be careful with a double yarn over. Even the delicate weight of the yarn, the small needles and blocking aren’t my issue. So why, whenever I cast on a lace project, do I find myself hopelessly muddled, or plodding along happily only to find that my counts come out all wrong?

Some part of it for me is definitely related to patience. Primarily a sweater knitter, I tend to prefer large swathes of endless stockinette, broken up by interesting construction — the turn of a collar, the quick development of a sleeve in comparison. I like to be able to put on a movie and knit for an hour or two without thinking too hard. Lace doesn’t always allow you to do that. Lace patterns require more attention, a more intimate relationship with your project and materials. There’s something special about that. You gather up your pattern, your tools (highlighter, stitch markers, pencil, row counter.) You sit down and read through, then begin to follow the directions. It’s meditative, and absorbing, and at the end, your finished piece is a show-stopper. I can’t think of too many things that are potentially more rewarding than a beautiful piece of lace.

For some knitters, the frustration of lace is related to the materials — tiny needles and tiny yarn. If this is a common problem for you, give the same pattern a try with a more comfortable weight of yarn. Most lace patterns scale up easily (especially scarves, shawls, and stoles.) This makes another common challenge — wrong-side lace knitting — a little easier to tackle, too.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little lost when it comes to the concentration and attentiveness portion of lace knitting, and that’s okay. I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret “secret” — practice is key. Luckily, we’re not alone in needing practice, either, and the Ongoing Lace KAL in our Ravelry group might be just the place — and the pace — you need to get going on your next lace project. To make your selection simple, we’ve gathered up all of Anne’s amazing lace patterns into one bundle. Join us with your projects in this group and on Instagram, and tackle something new along with your sweater knitting this Fall. Even better, knit lace in it’s most beautiful format with some of our favorite lace yarns from Bare Naked Wools. The colors are beautiful, timeless, and it’s easy to follow a pattern in a natural neutral that doesn’t make your head hurt.

I’ll see you there!

taming the beast

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

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i love a nice black, white, and green combination, don’t you?

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we’ve been so fortunate this year to have a garden that just keeps giving; no need to shop at the store when we can take a look out the back door and decide what’s for dinner.

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lots of greens and squash and peppers? let’s do stir fry!

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five pounds of cavalo nero (black italian kale) just from trimming the plants a bit?

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sounds like big pot of ribollita is in order.

i like the rogers gray recipe which appears in the river cafe cookbook, and the one i linked to is very similar, but uses canned beans (i am an epic fail at cooking my own beans). i recommend reading the first comment under the “most helpful” tab and going with the advice of that reader. black kale is the essential ingredient in this soup; it has a velvety texture and sweet flavor (unlike other kales) that tolerates long cooking without getting sulphur-y or metallic.

i also agree that a dish like this is best cooked ahead and allowed to “mature” for a day before serving. my grandma liked to get her cooking done first thing in the morning and let it sit to develop a rich, full flavor by supper time. she also liked that having dinner cooked early meant that she could knit the rest of the day if she wanted . . .

oops, i digress. yes it’s been quite a foodie summer.

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a little before i left for alaska, david pulled all the garlic and again we had a really nice harvest—i think we’ve finally got the garlic thing down. last year we had nearly the same number of bulbs but each head had only four or five large cloves—which meant that we used it up very quickly.

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between the ginormous bulbs we unearthed and the large number of cloves in each one, it feels like we harvested twice as much this year. now dried and trimmed, they are tucked away in loosely woven sacks in the basement. we use those zippered burlap bags that basmati rice comes in—they allow for hanging up off the floor.

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i’ve already used some of our garlic when i roasted the first of our tomatoes for a pasta dinner last week—yum, yum. with sautéed fresh squash and peppers, it was quick, light, and delicious way to welcome myself home; lavish as the food on the cruise could be, i’d missed our way of eating.

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i honestly think that the end of the cruise was purposely timed to align with the advancing tsunami of tomatoes that was about to hit us. when i returned home, we were picking at most, a few each day. but i could see the writing on the wall—the plants were loaded with green fruit that was turning yellowish. like giant bunches of grapes they hung, waiting to ripen. and i’m not talking about just this dish of innocent looking cherry tomatoes—those we can handle.

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i’m talking about this—a couple dozen 1.5 pounders each day . . . and more. good thing i have a large arsenal of italian recipes to draw on!

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and you can’t help but love them when they offer you this .  .

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this tomato reminds me of my brothers when they were kids, haha. they would never pass up the opportunity to exploit it for all it’s worth. me, i texted pictures to kat and kim (who are forever young, haha), then passed the fruit on to a friend who i knew would appreciate it.

we had a minor setback last weekend when i had planned to buy a crate of peaches and a few dozen corn to freeze—on a trip to the basement friday evening, david discovered that the freezer was not working.

fortunately he was able to locate one in stock at lowe’s of the size we need AND he was able to negotiate a match for a sale price at another store that didn’t even have it in stock (THANK you lowe’s!). he did have to bring it home himself and get it into the basement, but he managed and we had a working freezer within 24 hours. crisis averted, phew!

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so, on my first day free of meetings or classes, i got out early and came home with the peaches and corn. boy are they good this year. i put up 23 bags of fruit with a few left over for eating and i’m already wanting more for pies and snacking.

and now we also have plenty of corn put away for winter use.

you may have noticed that something is conspicuously missing in this picture . . .

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weirdly, our green beans are just not themselves this year. the plants (which it took two sowings to germinate) are gorgeous and healthy, but very slow in flowering and maturing. which probably suits my schedule better anyway. it’s possible that we won’t even have any for freezing, but i still have tons down there from last year that we didn’t even eat). also possible that they just need some rain or fertilizer (on david’s list for this week). i wasn’t able to get seeds for the variety i usually grow; i’m hoping it was a fluke this year and they will be available again in the future.

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still enjoying beautiful greens as often as we wish, too—the other day i sautéed this chard with many mushrooms, oil, and garlic and served with pasta. oh my.

now, i’m making it sound as if i’m too busy cooking to get any knitting done, but actually i’ve been working a lot and have plenty to show for it, too.

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um, not actual knitting but UN knitting—after i returned home and finished up the back piece of the twill pullover, i remembered that i needed to fix the sleeves so that the cuff ribbing matched what i had on the body pieces.

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during our saturday morning class last weekend, i snipped one strand of yarn and picked out a row of stitches to detach the old cuff, then picked up the loops from underneath the pattern sts and reknit the cuff downward in the preferred rib.

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that job was actually really quick and i had both sleeves fixed by that evening, but the pieces sat around til yesterday when i finally had time to block them.

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we’ve been doing a nice class on saturday mornings where participants knit their first sweater, using the whitfield shorty kid’s jacket pattern so they could work through it quickly. this segued naturally into a finishing class which we are progressing through now, so i’ve been finishing along with them. above, paula steam blocks her jacket pieces in preparation for seaming (i’m using her work as an example because she’s keeping up so well).

hilary still has some knitting to do before finishing can get started, but she’s working on it.

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last week paula stitched her first seams—the shoulders—and got started on joining the sleeve caps to the body.

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a difficult seam for sure, but she’s handling it well and has learned how important that stockinette seam stitch really is (she forgot to do  it in a few places and is finding it much harder to seam without).

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i worked right along on the twill pullover that i’ve been knitting in kent DK (in the rich, dark gray mussel shell shade), which hilary and paula have been drooling over when they come in for saturday classes. having worked short row shoulders, i joined them with a three-needle bind off this morning and then picked up for the neck finish. paula continued with her sleeve caps seams and also did the pickup for the collar of her jacket today.

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after class i stayed on to watch the shop because erica has an out-of-town babysitting gig/vacation for the next week. in between customers i finished up the neckband of the sweater and started on my own sleeve cap seams.

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the first half seam is always the slowest as i figure out exactly what proportion of fabric goes where along the curvilinear seam; some parts of the cap need to be eased slightly into the armscye and some parts of the armscye need to be eased into the sleeve cap, depending on where i am on the road to the underarm. i love this particular job—it’s so satisfying once i get it right, when i end up with a that seam lays smooth and fits the shoulder perfectly. now it just needs some steaming to look its best. one down and three to go . . .and then the side and underarm seams and i’m done. hopefully tonight.

which reminds me, i still need to decide on a name for this pullover . . .

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meanwhile, i’m making pretty good progress on the dock and cabin cardigan, which, in stone soup fingering yarn goes a little more slowly than the DK sweater fabric. when i got home from my trip i was nearly done with the first front piece and finished that up quickly one night this past week.

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this design has something different in its construction—the cable panel which runs up the center front alongside the button band extends over the shoulder and around to the center back, where it is grafted to the one from the opposite side to form a little yoke. it must be shaped with short rows that are concealed in the cable, but it’s a fun component to work and creates a really nice detail for the back shoulder area. once it is seamed in, a twisted rib is worked along the top edge, around to the front neck and down the center to form the button band. as with all interesting details, finding the right words to write the instructions will be the challenge in putting together this pattern, haha.

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we had steam-blocked the first sleeve during our blocking class on the cruise and you can see what a difference a little steam can make in the fabric—just wait til it’s washed and really has a chance to bloom. i just love the incredible stitch definition that i get in SSF, a soft yarn with a firm twist—the best of both worlds. the sleeve cap in this sweater is very shallow because it fits into a dropped shoulder. many dropped shoulder sweaters have no sleeve cap, but i didn’t like the way this one hung without some shaping, so i added just a couple of inches of slope at the top.

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i started the second front during this last week, in between a pile of swatching duties. while there isn’t a lot of fussy shaping in this design—it has a casual, oversized fit—it is longer and wider and has cabling, so there is a lot of knitting involved. but SO worth it; my original sweater is nearly twenty five years old and just starting to give out.

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oh, i have so much more knitting from this week to share, but dinner and produce are calling me to the kitchen—gotta stay on top of it or i may get lost in the tide. i’ll be back in a day or two to show you the newest swatches and projects.

continuing

Friday, August 12th, 2016

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there were two more stops on our alaska journey—the first was skagway, our northernmost port. it was a really dreary day when we pulled in but i was excited because we had plans to meet up with kim3’s son rex, who is working there for the summer. we had set a time and place to meet during his lunch break and to kill some time beforehand, barb and i strolled around the main drag which was filled with tourist traffic.

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but we found a tiny gallery to duck into out of the fray and discovered a cache of buttons and other objects made from caribou antlers. i was excited to see a couple of sets of small ones, which i tend to use a lot; it’s unusual to find antler buttons in this size. a few sets of buttons later and a few more gifts taken care of, we headed over to the corner to meet rex.

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when we got there we laughed out loud and complimented him on his wily assessment of our main interest in the region. we amused ourselves at aurora yarns until he was free to leave work and had a nice chat with jean, who works there and gave us a tour of their hand-dyed quiviuk options.

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jean lives in minnesota during the winter and remembered taking a class from me a couple of years ago during yarn over; what a coincidence, haha. the shop is teeny tiny, but has a lovely selection of hand-dyed yarns, including quiviuk and quiviuk blends.

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they also have plenty of other knitting supplies that traveling knitters end up needing (someone whose initials are BARB would consider this a must, haha). she found a beautiful set of large antler buttons with a green-tinged circle in the middle that will be perfect on the oculus coat she is knitting in chebris worsted.

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while sitting on a bench to wait for rex, we flagged down our ship mates rene and alajah, who were looking around onshore as well—a good opportunity for a photo. rene organized our tour and traveled with her family; alajah is a new knitter but working on it and we enjoyed the times she joined us in the classroom.

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then suddenly rex was there; i like this quick selfie i took for kim.

and sitting here sweltering at home, i can hardly look at myself bundled up in a jacket and scarf! but it was definitely chilly enough that day . . .

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rex drives jeep and hummer tours up through the mountains, woods, and into the yukon north of skagway. while he didn’t have a lot of time between gigs that day, his boss graciously lent him a vehicle to drive us up to an overlook above town where we could get a better feel for the woods that ring the harbor and the scenery below, sans humans.

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once i saw what was up there (and all the cyclists going up and down the mountains), i wished i had more time to spend onshore. i would have LOVED to go biking during our trip.

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isn’t the color palette just incredible? who cares if it was rainy—in such unspoiled environments, all weather reveals a beautiful side.

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seeing layers and layers of all different greens and green-blues makes me wonder how anyone can not want to keep it just the way it is. but that’s me; i know everyone doesn’t have the same feelings.

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after rex went on to his afternoon schedule of tours, we headed back to the boat; we were both ready for some knitting. on the way we met this beautiful alaskan dog with those eerie pale eyes, who couldn’t care less about us, haha.

with a day and a half at sea ahead of us before hitting our last port, our knitting group had some nice long stretches of time with which to establish themselves further in their bee shawl projects and to do a few more skill-based exercises. over the next two days, we practiced a knitted-on edging, talk about various kinds of lace fabric and yarn, and how different types of laceweight yarn will produce different results in the final fabric.

we had a blocking session scheduled for the last day and with that in mind, barb was intent on finishing her club project, the frisée triangle so she could block it in class.

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she pulled it out, completing the graft just before dinner on thursday evening.

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she was pretty proud of it and rightly so—it looked great! barb made a pattern change (because you can!) and knit the entire upper shoulder area in the mesh pattern, which i liked a lot.

you might have noticed from that photo that as we sailed south, the weather grew considerably brighter—we were even able to go out on deck without jackets on. by the time we woke up the next day, the sun was shining brilliantly into our room—something we hadn’t seen in a week and i almost didn’t recognize it.

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the next day we all pitched in to pin out the shawl; it’s always amazing how much a wet piece of lace can be stretched and how it transforms the fabric, opening up the motifs so they are completely new to the eye. the hem pattern alone grows to at least twice its unblocked size.

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barb stood over it, not working, but making sure everyone else was doing it right, haha!

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this was a half day of class because that afternoon we were due to dock in victoria, BC for a visit. we took the wet shawl back to our room, still pinned to the blocking squares; kind of like a flat stanley, haha. it survived the trip beautifully and we set it out on the deck to dry for a while, then laid it on while we went ashore. barb wanted to be sure the shawl was ready to wear to dinner that evening.

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victoria was sunny, warm, a city of cool neighborhoods that were perfect for walking—which we needed after being at sea for two days.

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we walked several miles along the bay road to the beacon hill park, where we enjoyed strolling through the gardens for an hour or so before heading downtown.

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victoria is called the city of flowers and when you are there, it’s easy to see why. the temperate climate and humidity make it a good environment for happy plants.

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as well as trees—these sequoias were fascinating to us because they don’t grow anywhere near where we live. it wasn’t the buchart gardens, but we still saw plenty of plant and tree specimens that were novel to us and at the same time, surrounded by lots of people having fun in the sun; it was a good choice for an self-guided excursion.

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after the park we headed toward the busier part of town and found ourselves suddenly on the grounds of the royal british columbia museum.

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unfortunately it had just closed when we arrived, but we were delighted by the forest of totems interspersed with the trees throughout the grounds, part of the first peoples collections held by the museum.

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it was worth every step of our seven-mile walk that afternoon!

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we wandered about for a while, taking them in from every perspective, a little sorry to have missed whatever treasures were inside. they were really awesome as a group , the kind of siting that made us feel like it couldn’t be topped. after that, the rest of downtown sort of paled by comparison, having become busy with rush hour traffic. so we made our way back to the boat for a shower and an early dinner.

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back in our room, the shawl was dry and barb consented to a few modeling shots—lovely, isn’t it? just the thing to wear to the dining room, where the A/C can be a little too direct.

with our bags all packed and waiting to be picked up for our morning departure, we spent our last evening lounging in our cabin, knitting and watching a movie. it’s always really nice to travel with a friend you feel so comfortable with;  after a week in close quarters, we were still laughing and having fun.

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one final sunrise to see in the harbor and then it was time to leave the ship for good.

our trip home the  next day was thankfully free of any mishaps and we managed to get aisle seats in the exit rows on BOTH flights—almost as good as business class, haha.

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since i got home there has been a lot of everything going on at once around here. most immediately was the overabundance of produce that needed managing. it looks so pretty here but believe me, on some days the quantities reach ugly proportions and i worry that there won’t be enough takers. so far though, we’ve managed to distribute it pretty well.

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second, tons of activity in our “little nothings book” thread in the knitspot mothership group. i owed the test knitters a few new patterns and having swatched for some on the trip, i needed to buckle down and get the rest done.

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plus all the knitting i need to get done for fall/winter ensemble. i finished up the back of the twill pullover as soon as i got home, using it as my re-entry project that weekend. i mistakenly thought i had a class to teach that first morning and when i realized i didn’t after all, i spent the day knitting instead.

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it’s a big sweater and a lot of knitting; i’m really glad the pieces are done now. i have to admit that it’s taken over a week to get them blocked because it’s been so darn hot and sticky here that i hated to turn the iron on, ugh—we are definitely not in alsaka any more.

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i’ll be back in a day or two to fill you in on all the details and show you piles of knitting, class work, good eats, and some surgery . . . see you then!

first course

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Pairings July 2016

We are so excited to finally reveal all of the details around our first shipment of Pairings, the club we’re running through Bare Naked Wools over the next few months. Pairings ships in July, September, November and January, and each shipment is centered around the idea that knitting and eating have a lot in common. These two activities connect us through the process of making to other people around us, and allow us to share skills we’ve developed with those who will best appreciate them.

The first shipment of Pairings is our appetizer course. Shipped out July 17th, this round centered around the perfect summer food – salads. Our partner chef, Katharine Wainwright,  shared the knowledge that a great salad can be built off of a particularly well thought-out dressing. Katharine shared her take on a traditional Green Goddess dressing and gave expert guidance on how to build the salad of your dreams (including a clever chart I will certainly be making use of on a regular basis!)

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A great salad is bright, refreshing, and celebrates the bounty of the season in which it is constructed and devoured. Anne and Erica approached the yarn for this round of club in much the same way. For the Bare Naked Wools selection this round, they used Hempshaugh Fingering, a unique blend of hemp, silk, and just a touch of merino wool. This yarn has a great, lightweight hand, making it perfect for warm weather knitting. In the dappled greys of Buckwheat, this hearty selection paired beautifully with the shine and texture from the featured dyer, Dragonfly Fibers. Endive, a citron shade reminiscent of it’s crisp namesake, is dyed on Dragonfly’s 100% tussah silk base, Rustic Silk.

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Like the best salads, Anne’s pattern cleverly combines seemingly different ingredients — lace, colored stripes, and textured stitches — into a knit that is both captivating and gratifyingly speedy. A slinky pi style shawl with a delicately ruffled edge that mimics the undulating edges of lettuce, this project changes texture every few inches, so you won’t get bored (and before you know it, you’ll be at the bind off edge!) For those of you concerned with finishing projects as they come in, this is a great way to start — several club members have already finished knitting only a few weeks in.

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I am so excited to see what’s in the next round. I think my favorite part about this club is that each shipment is paired with a packet of information — including Anne’s thoughts on design and yarn choice, followed by chef Katharine Wainwright’s delicious recipe and thought process on the cooking portion, a selection of delicious beverage selections and recipes (cocktails, mocktails, wine, beer, or non-alcoholic choices are all included), and then the pattern. Pairings is so much more than a yarn club! To ask questions or see what members are saying about this shipment, be sure to check out our Ravelry group.