Archive for the ‘designing’ Category

eyes (and hands) in the city

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

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taking pictures out the car window on the way from the laguardia to brooklyn, we passed a series of cemeteries along jackie robinson drive. a peek into such a dense gathering of souls really drives home the sheer number of people who inhabit the city or whose life has passed through it.

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i love cemeteries anyway, but then one that has the NYC skyline as its infinity point? wow.

to back up a bit, i opted for my early morning travel knitting to work on the languishing reversible crescent shawl i took along.

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small, lean, and light in color—i’m knitting with our own better breakfast fingering yarn in (ironically) the daybreak shade.  it was the perfect project to knit while waiting to board and later, in the pre-dawn light of the poorly lit plane cabin.

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considering that my rows are somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred stitches, i got a very good amount done—about ten rows (the flight is only fifty minutes). which is enough to make it feel like there is some substance to the knitted piece. for me, this is always a milestone at the start; with something to grab onto and act as ballast for my needles, my knitting speeds up a bit and a rhythm develops.

i arrived my friend nancy’s place by 8 am and had a lunch meeting set up, so i decided to squeeze in a park run to acclimate myself. it was colder than i expected, but not as cold as it has been at home; i was looking forward it.

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well, running sure does have its rewards.
on my second turn around prospect park drive yesterday, i spotted clumps of snowdrops dotting the floor of the woods close to the road. and once i noticed one, i realized there was, if not a carpet of them, a definite stepping-stone pattern to their presence. and so lushly flowered.

how i missed them on the first time around eludes me; is it possible they weren’t open yet for the day?

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i started out on the west side which is darker and more heavily wooded, especially when the sun is hiding as it was yesterday morning. i tried to get photos of the forsythia buds which are but a haze along the branches in this chillier area.

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here and there i also located tiny sprouts of daffodils, poking out the thinnest of blades to push off their leafy blanket.

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round about on the east however, the daffs held a much bolder stance and were even showing signs of thick bud.

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it was the same for the forsythia—with more access to open sky and light, they were breaking out in bloom.

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after my second turn i headed back for a quick shower and then off to a lunch meeting close by. wow, every time i visit park slope i can’t get over how it’s changed. this one of the things i love about the city in general—how it regenerates itself constantly.

after lunch my energy was flagging a bit so i decided to go back to the apartment to check email, knit, and maybe nap for a while. well, i got a little bit of knitting and email done, but my 1 am bed time followed by a 3:30 am waking time had definitely caught up with me and i was soon down for the count.

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after a refreshing nap, the afternoon had begun to fade and as much as i wanted to work on my triticum sweater, i was having trouble seeing what i was doing so i switched to the mister’s design. no trouble seeing that in the dark! and isn’t it beautiful with the morning light catching each edge?

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because i fell asleep fairly early for me, i was up at the crack of dawn and able to take some photos as the sun rose.

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i love the view from nancy’s study, where i spent the night. looking east, out into the vast expanse of brooklyn it’s a shifting light show all night long and into dawn.

then the sun tips up over the horizon for real and the whole apartment fills with extraordinary light. talk about joyful—this yarn totally lives up to its current environment, haha.

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last night i cast on the big back piece and have worked almost all of its hem; a few more rows and i’ll be on to the body—my favorite part because i LOVE knitting that houndstooth texture pattern.

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SO much fun.

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speaking of morning sun, now THAT is the time to work on a dark blue sweater, which is just what i did while chatting with nancy over coffee before she left for the day.

i finished the hem and got far enough to establish the body pattern—the back piece has a central panel which echoes the cable and lace pattern down the center front. that will help define the back waist area and provide a central focal point, similar to my leaving sweater design.

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another yarn that simply glows from within. tayet is dyed on a 100 percent BFL base, so it’s totally made up of luster fiber, which works complete magic in deep blue when dyed by the masterful jen.

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alright now, the day is in full swing and beckoning me to come out—time for a run and then later, a trip to the met. we’re meeting cathy, agnes, and donna for dinner tonight, too—SO looking forward to seeing them all!

a sweater with four sleeves

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

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while the sun and sky have turned stunningly beautiful for the most part, we continue to be stuck in an arctic vortex temperature-wise, scratching and biting our way to anything above the freezing point; temperatures remain solidly ensconced in the 20s with wind chills in the mid-teens.

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in fact, it actually snowed all day on thursday—lightly, but persistently.

for the last two days solid, our windows have been  an expressionist’s interpretation of spring, etched across with large, irregular crystal patches, glowing with inner light and the bluest of blues.

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SO beautiful, but c’mon spring, let’s boogie. i want a flower or two to show our friends here . . .

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the day it snowed, it was so dark that when i got up i reached for some creamy test yarns i’ve been wanting to swatch with, to see how they work out as alternates for my triticum sweater design.

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we have some chebris lace yarn coming in alternate shades and then a couple of sample batches of a summery, animal/vegetable fiber blend that we’ve been working on.

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i also suspect that our fresh lace in silk/linen will work for this design, so i’ll be swatching with that in the next round.

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after a nice soak to wash and plump the fiber, i squeezed out the moisture and gave the swatches a few shakes, then laid them out to dry.

i like to pin down the corners til they are partly dry, give them another shake and allow them to dry and shrink on their own, if that’s what they are going to do. both yarns look like good candidates, though i might have to go with a different needle size to get the exact gauge. i’m going to try the chebris on a larger needle and the summer blend on a smaller needle, just to see what happens.

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food for thought . . . what’s gong to be hard is which one i will knit for myself. i’ve been craving to add a couple of lightweight sweaters in plant fiber to my sweater drawer for summer (i don’t think there is a month of the year when i don’t wear SOME kind of sweater .  . . i just like the way they feel). i would love one in each of these yarns, PLUS one in our pura bella cotton.

but not all the same style—i’m going to have to design at least one or two more little summer cardigans. or knit myself another sprössling (that would actually be very nice to have).

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anyway, back to what i currently have on my plate . . . you know that snazzy new pullover i finished last week and finally got around to blocking and banding? well i WAS all done, but there were a few nagging issues with the sleeves (long story; they were streaky and just a little long, i think—all my own fault). well, i was about to stitch them in, but when push came to shove, i decided that i really should just bite the bullet and reknit them to be perfect.

i couldn’t live with barb’s disapproval—i’m just not strong enough to withstand her looking askance at my streaky sleeves, knowing all the time that she would have reknit them, “but that’s just her”.

they actually go really fast—i started one very late on friday night and got the cuff done before bed, then knit on and off all day yesterday in between cooking, exercising, and some computer work. i managed to finished it well before the evening was over and started knit the second cuff last night.

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so yeah, now i have four sleeves—or i will by tonight. this is what being a designer is—harassed by one’s own perfectionist streak. i can’t just can’t let things go in my own work, though i’m completely blind to and forgiving of almost anything anyone else does.

if i can get the knitting all done before i go away tomorrow, i will be a very happy camper. i can block the sleeves and seam it up when i get home next week, hopefully in time to take some photos.

yup, i’m heading out at the crack of dawn for NYC; i’m so excited! i’ve been gathering my stuff throughout today and i realized that it’s been a very long time since i went away on a trip unrelated to work. WOW does that cut down on the stuff i have to take! all i really need are running clothes, sweatpants, a pair of jeans, and a few tops i think. well, yeah—socks and underwear but honestly, much, much less than i usually travel with.

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i think i’m putting more work and thought into which knitting i’ll take. even that feels simplified with two sweater projects at the top of the list, what else would i really need?

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(this skein of gray chebris lace is not going; it’s just there to catch the triticum vibe, to see if they really love each other as much as i think they will. gray chebris coming soon to our online shop).

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i’ll have plenty to do on my orange cardigan—i’ve decided to call this design “the mister’s“. that was actually the working name for what ended up being my ivar sweater, but it got changed. i still like the original name and this design has the same flavor for me—handsome, but a woman can rock it really well.

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i’m nearly done with the left front; that leaves two sleeves and a back to knit, plus the finishing work. these pieces go fast, so i expect to get a lot done this coming week. i’ll be alternating this project with the remaining pieces of my triticum cardigan.

both of these sweaters need to be done for the maryland sheep and wool show, because the orange one—knit in briar rose joyful—will be featured in chris’s booth and the blue triticum cardigan—knit from spirit trail tayet—will be featured in jen’s booth.

i spent the past week hunkered down at my computer getting the patterns completed and off to the tech editors—now i can knit away and get the samples done.

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oh heck and i’ll probably take this crescent shawl in better breakfast fingering yarn that i’ve been trying to get off the ground for an almost embarrassing length of time.

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i don’t know why it’s taking so long or why my attention keeps getting diverted, but i think i’m actually ready to buckle down on it now.

i am so excited about this trip; i’ve been working nonstop to get ahead on everything so i could clear the decks for a whole week of knitting, running, and inspiration hunting. it’s been a really, REALLY long time since i turned my focus that way which is just wrong for a designer. i need to get out and see things dagnabbit. so me and my camera are heading off to see art, design, and botanicals.

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fortunately, four of the most beautiful things i’m going to see are nancy, cathy, agnes, and donna—i can’t WAIT to hug them tight and laugh with them.

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the only bad thing about this trip is that david decided not to go. but i promise i will have fun enough for both of us! next time i see you will be from the big city, hopefully with a green blade of grass or two.

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well, look at that—a flower after all.

steamy

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

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spotted while running: a carpet of brilliant yellow aconite against dead leaves, dead sticks, dead grass, and bare shrubbery. they look like they’re dancing!

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and i finally saw a crocus in our own yard. yesterday the temps climbed all the way into the 60s in fact, though we’re paying for it today with very dreary weather—cold rain and plummeting temps.

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it’s good in a way; i needed to stay in and get some work done. for one thing, i got the neck finish done on my better breakfast pullover last night just before bed, what do you think? (those buttons are just pinned on because it wasn’t blocked yet; more on that later.)

i’m calling this one “the mister’s” because it looks like something you’d grab from your honey’s closet to throw on and run around the house in (the better to keep it later on, my dear).

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so first thing this morning, before i even put the coffee on, i got on the computer to get some pickup numbers over to one of the tech editors.

i blocked my body pieces yesterday—first the back; i parked my schematic close by to remind me what i was aiming for as i pinned out the pieces.

then the front right on top of that. isn’t it amazing how much better the fabric looks when it’s blocked? you might guess that the textured motif would be flattened if steamed or wet, but actually it really pops when the background is super smooth, even in a fuzzy yarn like better breakfast DK.

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once i had the blocking finished and the pieces dried, i picked up all around the neck for the finishing band. this one is knit in the same pattern as the hems but back and forth in rows. my plan was to have a button detail similar to that at the sides of the hem, with an overlap at the crux of the v-neck.

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this also requires some shaping to make the band lay correctly against the breastbone, which has to be smack in the middle of the button tab to be right. i had to make up as i went along, hoping it’d turned out right. fortunately it did, because i wasn’t really in the mood to fiddle after investing so much extra time on my triticum  sweater this week. i was a little worried that the shaping would look weird, but once you get the buttons on, it’s not distracting at all or even that noticeable, for that matter (see top photo).

of course i couldn’t just walk away from it at this point—i fired up the iron and got down to the work of steaming that neckline into fine shape.

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first i just laid it flat on my pressing surface to go all around, steaming that ditch where the pickup row makes a bump. from here, i like to work on a surface that allows me to shape some curves into the neck and yoke area.

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for this i like to use my tailor’s ham, which is a curvy, ham-shaped piece of equipment that is endlessly useful for steaming and shaping sweater seams, necklines, darts, and armscyes. i did a whole post a while back about using a tailor’s ham for blocking hand knits—click here to check it out. i laid the back neck (which doesn’t lie flat) across the curve that fit best and steam-blocked that area.

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then i lay the whole neck across the top so the ham can act as the “chest” to fill the  space; it has the same, very slightly bowed shape as the human chest. i can lay the neck out to work on it with the iron and team cloth with no fear of pressing in creases that won’t come out.

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a few well-placed pins help the job along.

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next i need to sew in my sleeves, add some buttons, and i’m done. at our company meeting today, we were saying how this would make a nice vest, too—something else to add to the pattern . . .

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i loved how these persian green bone buttons looked on the natty cap that i knit in january from kent DK and which inspired me to start this sweater,

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so i am sticking with them to the finish. i just wish i had it to wear today—it’s going to go back down below freezing tonight and tomorrow morning and that better breakfast DK would feel awfully, awfully lovely on my body instead of in my lap.

in between everything else, i have actually been motoring through the second front for my orange cardigan too, knit in briar rose joyful. this is the matching companion to the the pullover.

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it’s going to look quite different in tone—where the pullover has more of a “boyfriend” fit, looser and slouchier, for the cardigan i added some shaping and made the body a bit shorter (these are all options within the pattern). this fabric is a bit stiffer too, so the look will be more tailored and dressy. i’m on the lookout now for ten or twelve leather buttons in just the right shade of brown with a red or gold highlight. i actually feel like i have those somewhere but i need to track them down.

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i’ve been making headway on my tritium cardigan too, and i think you’ll like today’s progress shot

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right?? i love it too and it will look even better once it’s blocked and its silky sexiness can really shine.

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here’s a shot of that collar extension wrapping around to the back of the neck, where it will eventually meet the one from the other side to get grafted and stitched to the back neck edge.

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once i did get to put some coffee on this morning, i sat down and cast right on for the back piece while the pot perked on the stove. as i knit this piece, i can’t help thinking about the gorgeous lace yarns we’ll be rolling out in a few weeks and how beautiful a couple of them will be for this sweater. one of the nice things about our heavier lace weights is that their loft allows them to be knit at a gauge similar to this fingering yarn.

how wonderful does a laceweight sweater sound to you for summer?

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speaking of summer, if it feels all too far away from us now and you’re itching for some green, signups for our ENVY club open in just a few days on wednesday, april 1 (no foolin’)—mark the date!

if you are a current member of our blanket club on any level—you are eligible for early signups AND a discount—but only through march 31.

kind of obsessed

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

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i’ve been watching every day and finally, i saw my first robin on saturday morning. just one. but then i saw one or two more yesterday, too. though  it’s back to being very cold at night again (like in the teens), they seem to be staying around . . . now that the snow has melted off the garden mounds and the top layer has thawed a bit, i bet they smell worms coming to life out there. mmm.

for the first time in many weeks, i had kind of a normal weekend—longer stretches of quiet working time (harder to come by during the week), saturday yoga class, some cooking, and some running. i’m always grateful for the small stuff—like having time to chop loads of veggies and not having to avoid snowy or otherwise suspicious patches on the pavement.

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several times recently, people have commented that i didn’t seem to be designing anything new lately. then my mom said something to that effect when i spoke with her yesterday (i didn’t know she read my blog, haha). even david keeps asking when i’m going to publish something new.

oh man—i didn’t at all meant to give that impression! i think my current work is all just either tied up in the clubs or projects that take a lot longer to incubate and hatch (to make use of a seasonal metaphor, haha).

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i’ve been knitting up and working out patterns for a whole series of sweater projects—i’ve got six in the works at the moment actually, and probably a seventh to start very soon. it’s actually been kind of a grand central station of sweater projects around here, haha, with patterns revolving constantly between me, tana, renee, and anne marie. which is why it strikes me as hilarious that it appears i’m not working—although now i see that from a different perspective, it makes sense.

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i guess i just though that my sweater progress must be kind of repetitive or boring—oh look, three more inches of sweater back—yay. and here, look how much pattern writing i’ve got done—whoopee! and oooohhhh—blocking—again.

not to mention all the ripping and restarting that a prototype can entail. sigh.

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which is what i have done a few times with this current sweater project. it’s all good now and i can finally talk about it without causing panic, but with some projects, i just goof up over and over.

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it started off well enough last thursday when i blocked my sleeve and had a good portion of the first front piece done. this is one piece that i did not prepare all that well before getting it on the needles—i was too excited to start working with the yarn, so i gave myself a bare skeleton of a pattern. the sleeve went fine, but once i got into the work of knitting the front, i began to think in more detail about the pattern and i realized that i may have goofed something up. but instead of fixing it right then, i stupidly decided to keep going for a little while more (i know; we ALL do that, don’t we?).

so i went back to the computer and my calculations and once i had it laid out in numbers, i could see where some adjustments would need to be made—including that it could be considerable narrowed in the body portion.

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ok, i was actually this far into the armhole shaping by that time, but i definitely wanted it to be right. well, i thought, why don’t i just set this piece aside and start the second front to be sure i won’t want to go back to this one. there were actually several other things i wanted to change by this time so the decision wasn’t hard, but i wasn’t ready to rip out that much work just yet.

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i started the second front and i could see right form the start that now i was on the right track. it would still need some minor adjustments but this was at least 100 percent better.

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all went very well in fact—these lightweight sweaters seem at first to go slowly but surmise—when you sit and knit on them for a decent amount of time, they actually zip along at a pretty good clip. by yesterday at noon i had most of that new front done and was well on my way to the shoulder shaping.

i started my draft pattern and emailed the instructions for the back piece to the test knitter, karolyn, so she could  get started on a second prototype.

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at that point, i went ahead and ripped back the first front—nothing makes me quite as grumpy as noncompliant sweater pieces, sitting around looking ashamed of themselves and pouting over their stupidity. off they go!

by this time i was very confident that i could finish up the draft pattern, so i spent most of saturday night and sunday doing that (i cooked and ran in between because after all, it was the weekend).

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last night in front of the TV i got this piece all the way through the shoulder bind off and started the collar extension, but i had been one stitch off on the shoulder and that was bugging me. i put it down and went to bed and while trying to get to sleep, i thought it out.

i saw right away what the problem was and i wanted to jump up RIGHT then to fix it and email the tech editor. but i didn’t want anyone to think i was crazy . . . oh no—not that! hehe.

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so even though i now couldn’t sleep, i just made myself stay in that bed and then first thing this morning, i fixed it.

and that’s when i did my next stupid thing. by the numbers front shoulder area was now off by three sts, which is a lot. in fact it is an amount for which i would totally rip back many inches to fix, because i am a stickler for a perfectly fitted shoulder and these will be too big if i let that go. however, i failed to remember that my stitch actual count was also smaller due to another adjustment i’d made earlier and was really only one stitch off.

for which i would totally just fudge it.

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but i didn’t realize my confusion until AFTER i’d ripped back eight inches.

well, that’s my punishment for thinking about numbers before i’ve had my coffee; i know better . . .

good thing this beautiful spirit trail tayet is such a pleasure to knit with; i am enjoying every minute of work and rework on this sweater and i truly think that is one of the reasons i’m so willing to do it. wonderful yarn deserves to be the best thing it can become.

anne marie helped me find a name for this cardigan the other day too—we decided it should be called triticum

ok, i’ll be back with more in the next day or two and hopefully, something spicier.