A Treat for Mom

majordomo wrote this mid-morning:

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Sunday is for celebrating mom. Or mum. Or mama. Or that super silly, yet endearing word you call her that means I Love You. Forever. No matter what.

To me, Mom is

LOVe

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unconditional love that bonds you no matter

Hazard

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or Squall

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she is always there to

Comfort

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and Squeeze.

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To celebrate moms, here’s a little gift – take $5 off Passion club with code 464F53CF (use by May 11). I know my mom’s heart would leap with a knitting club membership! Get the club skinny here and buy her a gift membership here. Want more ideas that would be a perfect last minute gift? Here’s a few…

Bay Leaf and Lime kit

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Ivar kit

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Wasp and Rose kit

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Polartorte Kit

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Fringetree kit

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or there are loads of more kits here, or you can B.Y.O.K. (Build Your Own KIt). You know mom best, so you can pick out a pattern from the shop and pair it with yarn from our Bare Naked Wools line. Here’s a couple ideas to get you started…

Pick a color of Breakfast Blend Fingering

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and pair it with

Hazeline

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Scotty

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Cyclone

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or choose any of these yarns and pair it with one of many shawls here and hats here.

If you have knitting time the next couple days, you could definitely get any of the following done by Sunday brunch with a little stash yarn.

Elm Leaves takes about 140 yards of lace weight

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Cabled Keyhole Scarf takes about 130 yards of DK weight and would be nice in a summer blend

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Bittersweet Vines – the whole set only takes 180 yards of worsted weight

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and for a new mom, Barrel o’ Monkey knits up in a flash

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and so does Sky Cap in a bit of of luxury yarn. I presented my new nephew with this lil hat in a Yarn Hollow cashmere/silk blend and it was a hit!

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Or you could treat mom to a pattern eBook of our clubs – BNK or FIFC – here and she can peruse her stash for the perfect pairing. Each eBook contains up to 17 patterns!

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Mom might also enjoy the gift of a new knitting skill with an Anne Hanson class! She’s teaching at upcoming events here. Or you could gift her a Craftsy class, or help her block handknits professionally with Anne’s DVD here. And if you just can’t seem to find the right gift, you can always send mom on a shopping spree with a Knitspot gift certificate!

Whatever you choose for mom I know she will enjoy it and I hope lots of you get to spend time with your mom, grandma, or extra time with your kids. Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I know I’ll be enjoying these guys on Sunday!

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tiny miracles

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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apple blossoms are out, yay. with morning temps that are still dipping into the mid-30s some days, they are coming in ever so slowly, but coming in they are.

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in fact, after several false starts and retreats, the whole garden is beginning to make its groggy way to life . . . finally. hosts are poking up

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and just just when i thought this would be the year we wouldn’t see may apple by the first of may

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there they were the little devils, right on may day.

and boy have they done a good job making up for lost time over the last couple of days

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they have begun to forest the back garden, creating a low canopy that keeps the weeds down a bit. i like them.


it’s the same all over the garden—where the fiddleheads were still locked up tight in their shells on sunday, today, some of them have sprung into their upward climb toward the sky.

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after a full week of rainy, overcast weather, we have lots of bright green around us now.

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broken up with flashes of magenta, pink, white, and purple—plus all the other colors of perennials in bloom.

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funny fritillaria

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lady’s mantle

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and climbing hydrangea. it makes my heart jump for joy to see so many sunny colors—so much so that i was inspired to let it decide my choice of nail color today at the salon.

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i love them! now i can look at them when i have to be inside working or knitting and feel a little spring in my fingers, haha. (and in case you need to know, here is it: vinylux #170 lush tropics)

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speaking of being inside working or knitting, there has been a LOT of knitting and yarn activity around here. let’s talk about the yarn stuff first.

we got another small shipment of the chebris fine wool and mohair lace yarn that shipped to our BNK club in april (click here and here to see the projects we are knitting with this soft and springy artisan blend). this yarn has been trending  on the ravelry top ten list for a couple of weeks and our clubbies have been going nuts over its almost-handspun character and beautiful drape, not to mention its light, sparkly halo. this is a lace yarn with lots of body that can be knit on needles up to size 6US (4.0 mm) or even a little bigger, with a generous 700 yards per skein.

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the extras from our first batch got snapped up overnight right after the chapter went live, and then we all had to sit tight and wait for the rest of the run to arrive. we finally got the last hundred skeins the other day and david has listed them in our online shop, available to anyone who wants them. we loved making this yarn so much that we will definitely be doing it again; we made a great friend in working with the mohair producer and we all want to repeat our collaboration.

we also have a sport weight in the same blend, which will be lovely for lightweight blankets, medium weight sweaters, and soft accessories. this version just started arriving yesterday, so fortunately, we’ll be well stocked with it for a little while anyway.

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then there is this new yarn we are working on that is a wonderful blend for more temperate weather and climates. we’ve had a test batch spun and we love the results; we’ll probably make a few tweaks and do a second test batch before going into full production with it.

barb and i have been playing with it and while i was swatching away and trying different stitch pattern out, she went home and knit a whole twig and leaf shawl in a few days.

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she must have told me ten times how much she loves this yarn and we all agree with her. it’s bright white color, soft hand, and beautiful resulting fabric cannot be argued with—it’s a gem.

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it blocks out a treat and hold its shape just beautifully—just look at those sculpted lace motifs, WOW. we cannot wait to share this yarn offering with you! now, i have to come up with something terrific to showcase it; i’m thinking a cute little cardigan will be just the thing.

and if that wasn’t enough excitement, we’ve also got two new shades of kent DK to list—but david doesn’t have those quite ready so i’m going to keep my lips zipped about it and let erica tell you what they are later on.

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in addition to the two sweaters i finished last week and the pattern for arts and anne that is now in production, i’ve got a bunch of projects going on the needles. some of them are secret (sorry!), but i have  my share of public projects, too.

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once i got the sea pearl sweater pattern off to tana, our tech editor, i couldn’t help myself—i HAD to celebrate by starting a new one that i’ve been itching to get on the needles, this time in our worsted weight confection (the color i’m knitting with is the dark chocolate).

this is another sweater that goes back a ways; i first knit one for christmas 2009 in briar rose sonoma to give to david.

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i never wrote up the pattern, but always wanted to—i’d love this sweater for myself. then when we got the confection in and later the kent worsted, i knew the time for this sweater had come. between our yarns and chris’s yarns, this would be a go-to design for lots of us.

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just to be sure, i played around with the photos a bit in photoShop to see how it would look in a more neutral tone. yeah, this is going to be stunning in natural color yarns.

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plus, i have a special catch of gray-green sonoma that chris gifted me as well, for a color version.

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and holy cow is this thing knitting up fast. i remember i made the original one in less than a week (you know me and my christmas brainstorms!) and now i see how—it practically knits itself in worsted weight stockinette; i knit one sleeve each night over the weekend.

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and last night i started the bottom ribbing for the body, which is knit in one piece to the underarms, then joined with the sleeves to knit the yoke in one piece also. this is the kind of project i end up knitting on all through the night, promising myself that i will go to bed after the next row, then the next repeat, then the next pattern landmark, til all of a sudden, i’ve completed another piece.

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and what’s wrong with a little instant gratification once in a while, i ask you? especially when there is always plenty of lace this and fingering that on the menu . . .

needless to say, i am having a blast barreling through this one and already looking forward to knitting up the color version. i know i should have made the dark one for david, but at the time i started i just wanted it for myself. and hey, he can knit his OWN sweater now—he’s good enough to do it.

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in fact, as long as we’re up in the library looking at my current project, let’s snoop around at his end of the sofa and see what’s going on in his rat’s nest organizer. don’t you just love that he can mix weather stripping compound, playstation consoles, iPhone covers, and some kind of memory card in with his other knitting tools and be totally ok with it? it was all i could do not to divide the box into completely separate areas for knitting, gaming equipment, and uh, miscellaneous, placing each item in the group where it “belonged” and where—heaven forbid—it was not touching even an edge of the knitting stuff. but that’s me . . .

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i will admit that the chaotic environment of the knitting box does not seem to influence the outcome of the squish me hat, one way or the other—it’s beautiful in breakfast blend DK, color morning smoke. he’s almost done; he would be done if he hadn’t had to rip back—once when he had the top decreases done but realized the hat was not as long as he’d like (to put his hair into) and once after he restarted but then read the chart in the wrong direction for several rows.

now he’s smooth sailing again and i would bet that he might even finish this up tonight. it’s funny, he and sarah are both going through a little bump in the road; it’s something that occurs when a new knitter starts getting better and knowing what they are doing. they are intuitive enough now to not have to pay such close attention, but because they’re not, they goof up here and there. i’m sure we can all relate, haha.

ok, one last beautiful knitted thing before i close—are you ready?

look what cherie knit for us to use as a booth sample—isn’t that just the bees knees??

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this design is based on the blanket that we made for kim’s wedding, which i showed you about a month ago. one of the options in the pattern will be for a version knit in strips like this—one strip in each shade of our stone soup DK, kent DK, Breakfast Blend DK, or confection worsted yarn.

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we chose to do a dark-to-light ombré sequence, but you could alternate just two or three shades. for a larger size blanket you could add a fifth strip as well. we plan to publish a booklet later in the summer with several blanket options, as the central focus for a free-form blanket club/blanket KAL. we will keep everyone updated on the details of that as the time approaches. all the big work on this is done, but the project needs some teaching and cleanup which has to wait just a bit til i get some other projects squared away.

but if you want to see this and several other gorgeous samples in person, come meet us in lexington at the kentucky sheep and fiber festival next weekend, may 16 through may 18; i’ll be teaching classes on friday and saturday while susan, barb, and erica run our popup shop—come say hello and see all of our gorgeous natural yarns for yourself.

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and if you can’t make that show, then please do take a trip to the great lakes fiber show in wooster, ohio on memorial day weekend! it’s our local fiber show and we are so thrilled to be included as vendors for the first time. every single one of the knitspot team will be there and mister knitspot will be selling kisses for a dollar.

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(david says one of these days i’ll be sorry if i don’t stop teasing people)

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let’s talk about purple

anne wrote this in the early afternoon:

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erica has been urging me to write about the background to the new purple knitting club we’re offering and i merrily agreed; a week ago, it sounded like great blog fodder. but i have to admit that over the last two days, i’ve had a hard time coming up with anything to say—i mean, the idea pretty much speaks for itself, haha!

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purple is a color that i like and that i wear well—these days, it makes the most of my gray/white hair color and pale olive skin tones. but i’m not really a purple fanatic—i have an even deeper affection for greens and gold, which used to be “my colors” when my hair was brown.

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i was, however, quickly schooled by (some of) my knitspot family that purple was indeed not a color at all, but a concept, an obsession, a  lifestyle. people who love purple are well, passionate. ok actually, there isn’t a word to describe the grandness of scale that a person’s love for purple can achieve, but it’s big.

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it was obvious that the most popular chapters in our fall in full color clubs were those that revoked around purple—the first being echo of bells, which we knit with a mink/cashmere yarn blend back in december, 2011. the leftover yarn skeins got sold in the blink of an eye, leaving many clubbies clamoring for more. i jokingly said to david and erica, “ha, we should do a purple-only club!”.

david nodded sagely and erica said, “you wouldn’t”. of course it’s beyond my control to walk away from a dare, so the only answer to that was, “i would. and i will“.

(and in my mind i said, and i ain’t stopping at purple neither.)

yes, it’s no secret that knitters love purple—ask any dyer you know; it’s the most popular yarn color. so why not have a club that indulges that passion! we know dyers—lots of them. let’s ask some of our favorites to pull out all the stops and show us their best purples. what’s not to love??

just for fun, i went through my photo archives to pull out all the purple yarn photos i have on hand; i thought you’d enjoy a little pre-club excitement.

these are examples of yarns i’ve been sent over the years by the wonderful hand dyers i’ve had the good fortune to work with—some of them have been knit into designs and projects and some are still waiting their turn. if they inspire you as they do me, you can see an even bigger set of luscious purple yarn photos in the flicker album i made—take a walk down a purple memory lane.

of course not everyone is so single minded about color; many of us have a more temperate attraction to purple, among other colors we enjoy and this club is for each and every one of us. have no fear that this club is parade of royal, radiant, vivid purples—no way. we will explore the gamut from gunmetal to plum to heather to lavender, with some mixes and some real surprises.

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the yarns will also range in weight from lace to heavy DK and we’ll knit projects from them that are designed to make the most of both the color and the character of the fiber. designs will include a range of seasonal accessories that might make great gifts, if you didn’t want to keep them all for yourself. of course, smart clubbies go with the double-dip yarn option or yarn add-on so they can have their purple cake and eat it too (triple dippers will have to make special arrangements with david, but i’m sure as always, he’ll be happy to accommodate whatever level of desire will suit you).

as i said earlier, i like to wear purple because it looks  good with my coloring, so in the process of putting this post together, i began to wonder how that fact influenced my choices in design samples—did my portfolio have a crazy-big representation of purples?

 

when we combed through and came up with a list, i found that while i did indeed have some lovely hand knits in the purple family, they only represent about ten percent of the entire portfolio i have knit up—just about the percentage one single color family should have, if you kept things even-steven among all the secondary colors and some neutrals.

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woodcutters toque

curious to know more or to get a bit of a preview of what a knitspot club is like? click here for FAQs about the club or here to sign up for a membership. that’s also the link you can share with anyone who asks what you want for mothers day, wink; we now have a handy gift membership option that makes it super easy.

you are very welcome to visit our ravelry knitspot in full color clubhouse any time to hang out with clubbies and take a peek at the discussion threads. they are the best—welcoming, fun, and warm, you will find yourself right at home there.

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caïssa

and i hope you’ll join us for a fun foray into a total one-color experience—yes, it’s a different sort of club and bound to be fun times.

are you sitting down?

anne wrote this mid-afternoon:

you know how sometimes someone talks about something often, but doesn’t really seem to make headway with it? they promise over and over that it’s almost done, almost resolved, almost there—if only we can hang on a little bit longer, we’ll see results.

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yeah, that would be me, knitting my sea pearl sweater. hmm, i was under the impression that this sweater has been on the needles for a good two years, but when i checked just now, my blog history tells me that actually, i cast on less than one year ago, around june 5th, 2013, right in the midst of our kitchen demo what the heck was i thinking??).

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talk about a long year—i can’t even remember the time before then . . .

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anyway, i worked very quickly through that first part—which is kind of hilarious because that is the very widest part of the sweater, encompassing the body and the sleeves at once. just goes to show you how powerful an effect the enthusiasm for a new project can have on momentum.

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by the 16th of june, i had already split the sleeve from the yoke to begin the body section, so i was rocking’ it for a while at least.

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by mid-july i had started the more complex patterning of the lower body and gaining slowly but steadily on it. i had also chosen a name by then—artus & anne—after a husband/wife team of craftsman potters.

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in early august it was looking a to more like a sweater and though it was going a bit slowly, it was still progressing.

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and a week later it was quite a bit longer!

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i seem to have weekly updates all the way through the late summer and early fall, in fact—near the end of september the body was off the needles and i had started a sleeve. i had also ordered buttons from moving mud

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why then, do i remember myself as such a slacker?

oh, right—because after that, i don’t know what happened but things slowed down a lot. i do remember that between renovations, training of new employees, and ambitious project deadlines, my concentration took a big hit. the quiet time needed for working on complex projects has been a gift, enjoyed only sporadically over the last half year.

all i know is that i halted at this spot some time in the late fall and stayed there til spring.

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the sleeves—especially that first one—were the death of me. sleeves knit in the round are my own personal second sock syndrome; i like to call it “sleeve island”. you know—where you’re stuck on a desert island with only your sleeves to knit and you feel like you’re never going to get off?

(curiously, knitting sleeves flat has exactly the opposite effect—i fly through those in mere hours, even the fine gauge ones; what do you suppose that’s all about?).

and suddenly it was mid march and i was pretty sick of myself procrastinating on this sweater project. i threw down the gauntlet at the feet of my loser self and dared her not to finish this sweater (she was teetering; i could see it!).

alright already—i’ll finish it.

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i completed sleeve one and started sleeve two right away. amazingly, they grew much faster when actual knitting was applied.

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once the april club deadline passed and my chapter was out, i was determined to finish it up.

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i know, it’s excruciating isn’t it? like watching a kid eat his lima beans one by one. i don’t think i’ve knit anything this slowly in a long time (ok, well you’re right—there was wasp and rose; that was another slow poke).

honestly, there were moments even last week, when it was almost done, that i felt myself getting distracted.

eventually i bound off the second sleeve and moved on to the neck and button bands, which are among my favorite parts to knit (probably because they signal the end).

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and then finally, finally, the other day i finished. OTN! can you believe it?

now the job of blocking and finishing was at hand—no small feat with a garment that is worked all in one piece. BTW, the following is not intended to be the final word in any way on the subject of blocking—there are many approaches and you should choose the ones that suit you. nor is this really a complete presentation of how i do it—for that, you might want to check out my workshop on blocking handknits, available in DVD from our online shop and in downloadable format from interweave press.

back to the job at hand . . . i could see that this particular sweater had several areas of concern, which could freak out someone who doesn’t have experience with openwork fabric.

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first, as with all sweaters, the fabric appears to be very uneven and doesn’t lay very nicely. this is caused by all the handling that our yarn and fabric is exposed to during construction. it literally gets out of joint over it, haha. blocking will coax the fibers back into their proper alignment so the yarn can regain its intended shape and drape.

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the openwork portions are lumpy, bumpy, and very contracted; again, blocking will allow the fabric to relax and open up so that the full beauty of the lace patterns is revealed and the final blocked measurements are achieved.

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the narrow neck and button bands don’t want to lie as flat or straight as i’d like, curling out in some places and waving back and forth in others.

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lightly steam pressing these areas before wet blocking will allow me to manipulate and tame these quirks in the fabric. i’ll show you what i mean in a second.

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last but not least is the almost horrifically misshapen sleeve, an effect due to the differential between the behavior of the lace fabric and that of the more relaxed eyelet fabric. i know none of you is doubtful at all that i will fix this, but if it happens to you when alone at home, be assured that you are the boss of this situation.

at this stage, do not let the appearance of the sweater allow you to lose momentum—rather, let this be the time to rise to the occasion and throw everything you’ve got at a fine, mad finish.

trust me, you’ll feel like a new person when you’re done.

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i finished my knitting on monday evening, so on tuesday morning i got up early and assembled my tools to get started with the blocking process. mind you, i had not yet tried on the sweater to see if it fit; i wanted to do a preliminary steam blocking to make sure i wasn’t feeling any false tightness, especially in the arms.

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i love steam blocking for the control it offers in the earliest stages of finishing, so the first thing i did was to pin out the neck to steam that back neck band flat.

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careful shaping and administration of  a good shot of steam produced the desired effect. on now to the button bands, which needed to be stretched slightly to the correct length and steamed flat.

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since the sweater is one big tube, i isolated the front closure by placing my sleeve board underneath to lift it away from the sweater back, then pin the button and buttonhole bands parallel to match in length and straightness.

along with my beloved tailor’s ham, my sleeve board is a go-to helper for blocking projects, especially for those knit in the round; you’ll see how it can be cleverly used to assist in even the trickiest blocking maneuvers.

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after steaming the button bands and allowing them to dry in place, i moved on to pinning out the lower body flat to the correct finished measurements. this did not require an intense about of stretching (and shouldn’t or it will likely not keep its shape), but i used pins to keep everything square while i applied the steam.

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i also want to retain the depth and definition in this intricate looking pattern, so i wouldn’t dare stretch it as far as it could go (and it would be far too large if i did).

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next, i flattened the upper torso and yoke of the sweater and steamed lightly through both layers without creasing anything. the fabric was starting to look really nice and silky, with a much more even surface.

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at this point i’m not looking for a completely final finish—that will be achieved by wet blocking later on. i just want to coax the garment into a more relaxed state that allows me to make sure nothing needs correcting.

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with that part done, it was time to tackle the sleeve and i will be the first to admit it looked like a daunting task—how the heck do you get that to open up without creasing it somehow?

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have i mentioned my sleeve board?? seriously, it’s my best friend right now.

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mine has two “arms”, one that is very tapered and skinny, one that is all one width and a bit wider. i pulled my sleeve over the wider board which was just the right size.

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i let the cuff hang off the end so it would get blocked out, but if you prefer a looser, non-gripping sleeve end, you could block it straight.

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just look at the difference after some steaming with a wet cloth .  . . wowie. still not relaxed out as much as it will go in the wet blocking, but enough to try it on and that’s all i need for now.

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ok, now i will give in, take a break, and try it on. i’m excited . . . and nervous.

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it fits! in fact, it fits perfectly, even though i was worried that the sleeves would be too long or that the armhole might be too low. it looks very feminine and the fabric in briar rose sea pearl feels absolutely dreamy. sorry about the dark photos; it was a very dreary day and the light was dim throughout.

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i took a few shots on the dress form but it fits differently  that on me. my form is bigger than i am because it was used in the fashion business to construct first samples in the standard sample size (which was a 10 at the time, with a 36-inch bust).

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i basted the front bands closed for easier handling of the wet garment later.

i had to take a break to get a few other things done, but after yoga class that evening, i came home and put my new sweater into a cool, soapy bath. i always wash hand dyed yarns in cool water so as not to encourage dye run.

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a big wet sweater can be an unwieldy thing to wrestle into submission, but as with all finishing work, patience will reward you with good results. i first laid out the garment face up and using the pattern schematic, pulled the fabric in both directions to the correct final measurements (this is what’s known as “shaping to size”).

then i set about shaping the sleeve on our left; you can see that shaping it makes it look a lot more like a real sleeve and not an eel. the right sleeve needs the same treatment.

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i give it a rigorous widthwise stretch from cut to underarm, then a good stretch lengthwise, followed by another widthwise shaping. after a few repeats like this, it starts to look like something meant for a human arm.

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yes, all of this takes some time, but it’s totally, totally worth it.

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not only in terms of it turning out the right size, but this treatment helps condition the fabric and bring its surface to a state of silky cohesiveness that contributes a beautiful drape to the final hand.

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it’s been a rainy, chilly week here and yet the heat doesn’t go on any more, so it took a while for this garment to dry. i turned it a couple of times throughout, taking the opportunity then to give it a shake and a stretch. this encourages the fiber to bloom and the yarn to become lofty again.

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finally it was time to dig out the buttons i had ordered several months back and begin sewing those on. they are little crystal balls with an inclusion of swirled stardust; SO pretty.

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my friend sarina from moving mud made them. i sent her a swatch knit in my project yarn and she designed the perfect ones. my button bands hold eleven buttons (i like my buttonholes placed fairly close for better closure), so keeping an eye on the final weight, i ordered the smallest size.

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i finished sewing them on last night but it was too late to get any nice photos. this morning, anastasia helped me out by taking a few pictures.

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i know—i look like i just rolled out of bed, sorry; i forgot to put lipstick or anything on. and my hair—well, that’s my hair.

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i love how this sweater fits and feels. it’s lovely against the skin. i know i’m going to wear this a ton, so we need to get a photo shoot done this week while it’s brand spanking new, haha.

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i’ve already sent the pattern off to tana for tech editing and sizing. it will probably be in production for the next month or six weeks, between tech editing, formatting, and test knitting. so it will be a nice summer project.i think i’m going to knit another in a new yarn we are working on here—more about that next time.

have a great weekend everyone; i hope you are someplace that’s getting warm, sunny weather (not like here, haha). stay tuned for sunday and tuesday posts coming up.