moving right along . . .

Posted on 12 CommentsPosted in designing, patterns, projects

wheatenFront03_10

i am so glad to be home—believe it or not, there is a part of me that hates being away from home, no matter how cold and dreary ohio can be. first of all, i miss david. but also, i miss the quiet, absorbing work of calculating figures and putting together the pieces that build each pattern i write.

as much as the knitting itself, i love this part of my work; writing instructions that make sense and result in beautiful objects, figuring out the best way to say each step so that anyone else could knit the thing that i’m knitting—i think of this as another art form, one that i enjoy very much.

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as i work, i think of how you would read this or that line and which way to word it so that it makes the most sense to the most knitters (of course, there will alway be outliers—instructions for which there is no best way to state an action).

so i hope you don’t mind that i took a few days after my trip to sink into the pile of pattern work that awaited me, communing back and forth with anne marie, tana, anne, and katharine about proofreading, tech editing, and test knitting. and at the same time, continuing work on my own sweater knitting projects, like this dressy little cardigan where i am incorporating the lace and cable motif from the wheaten patterns. i have finished the first sleeve and started one of the fronts; when it is complete, i should have plenty of data to write up the first draft of the pattern.

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for this project i’m working with a new yarn from spirit trail fiberworks—tayet, 100% BFL fingering yarn—which is not available yet, but will debut at maryland sheep and wool. i just love this yarn; it is beautifully constructed, with a polished surface that is neither too round or too stiff—just a gorgeous, soft hand and sheen that knits up into a light, soft fabric with lovely drape.

this design will also be luscious in better breakfast fingering yarn, which is on the recommended yarn list (one of us will be knitting that as a test knit once the pattern is sized). it offers a similar hand and drape with a light halo instead of sheen.

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of course, all that pattern work means i haven’t had as much time to knit since i got home, but i’m making the most of what time i have to devote to it. i’m off to a good start on the last piece of my natty pullover in better breakfast DK and i’m looking forward to the finish. though the frozen backbone of winter has seemingly been broken, i’m sure there is still time to wear it this year.

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speaking of the natty pullover, on sunday i wet blocked the sleeves because i was dying to assess the performance of the washed fabric and see what the final texture would look like (just like many other knitters, i sometimes worry that a subtle texture will get lost when i wash the fabric, even though I’ve never had it happen, haha).

i really prefer to steam block my pieces before stitching them together, but that doesn’t give me the same results and, as a person who teaches about yarn, fabric, and the uses of blocking, i get curious now and then to experiment with practices that others use frequently, but which i use rarely. there is always something to learn and it helps me understand the questions people have.

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anyway, one of the reasons i like to save the wet blocking until my garment is completely sewn up, is that the untethered pieces have so much more leeway for growing and becoming distorted—which then requires (what feels like) more work at corralling them back to the right size and shape. for some reason i find this fiddly in wet blocking, but not for steam blocking, though it takes about the same amount of time.

immediately out of the rinse water, i rolled them in a towel and squeezed like crazy to get every drop of excess moisture out. them i subjected them to my “encouragement process” to bring some of the body back into the yarn and straighten the plies (see my craftsy finishing class or my interweave blocking DVD for more on that).

this encourages the yarn to take up air and improves the loft of the fabric. i pinned all the edges to the measurements in the sleeve schematic. i’ve got both sleeves pinned one right on top of the other to make sure they turn out the same size. as you can see, the wet fabric wants to be bigger than it’s supposed to be. don’t let this fool you into thinking it must remain that way—it doesn’t have to. with very wet pieces, it’s a mistake to allow them to be whatever size and shape they came out of the water.

watch this:

actually, if you pin them down and periodically go back to fluff, smooth, and ease them back into shape, they will regain the size they are supposed to be.

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if given enough space, “encouragement”, and plenty of air to breathe, the fibers will coil up and pull in as they dry, gaining back much of their spring. the fabric will show improved loft, density, and the stitch definition you desire.

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i will probably still go back into them with some steam to encourage more bloom in the fabric, but they turned out fine, i think—with a smooth and cohesive surface, broken only by plump garter ridges that create the surface motif.

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the fabric drapes in a way that will be lovely on the figure, but has enough enough body to maintain its shape. i’m excited about the way it’s turning out!

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i’m also knitting a cardigan version in this sunshiny orange polwarth sport yarn—so aptly named joyful by briar rose fibers. while this yarn has a bit more spring and slightly firmer twist than the BBDK, i do just love the velvety soft surface and density it offers. i have a feeling that where my pullover will be a comfy, slouchy, “boyfriend” type sweater, the cardigan will offer a more tailored look and feel. in fact, i am adding a bit of side seam shaping to this version as well (which could easily be left out; knitter’s choice).

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speaking of orange and sunshine, i got up early on monday to bake a peach cobbler and i snapped this picture as the sun spilled over the windowsill and into the pan—isn’t it pretty?

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even prettier, the finished cobbler, with cornmeal biscuit topping (gluten free). mmmmm.

i might be a little scarce over the next few days—not only am i burying myself in pattern work, but david and i are traveling on thursday to see my nephew’s family and we are also finalizing the march chapter for the blanket statement club this weekend.

so you might see just brief postcards, but who knows? if the baby has a bad night and no one can sleep, you might get an eyeful of a long car ride worth of knitting progress and random thoughts . . . stay tuned.

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there’s wow and then there’s WOW

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in designing, projects

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we woke on monday to more snow, this time accompanied by much colder temperatures—a foreshadowing of the week to come. i was beginning to feel less optimistic by the minute about gthe long sunny runs i’d been imagining . .  .

after a cozy morning  of knitting, chatting, and talking shop, kim and i met her daughter xanning for lunch and then stopped at the store where kade works to stock up on ingredients for dinner.

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a battalion of bunnies greeted us just inside and we both kind of laughed at the temptation to mess them up just a bit. not that we ever would, mind you . . .

cooking with kim’s kids during my visits is now a time-honored tradition that we all enjoy, both in the preparation and in the eating.

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this is holly, kim’s stepdaughter and a new inductee into the kitchen staff. on monday we made a vegetable curry, with kade supervising the rookie’s work

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she did a marvelous job, passing with flying colors. during my visit, we also made dinners of pasta with vodka sauce and black bean vegan chile with rice.

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after supper, there was cake and more knitting.

for tuesday, we had plans to go to park city; kim wanted to show me the high peaks area, a skier’s paradise. however, when we woke up, it was apparent that nature had other plans for us.

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it was about this time that kim started calling me the snow queen. seriously—not an inch of snow in the whole two months before i arrived. and today i overheard someone say that they’ve gotten more snow these last few days than they had during the holidays.

with more snow in the forecast for the mountains, kim was uncertain about driving, so we decided to postpone our trip another day. but kade had a suggestion

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he alerted us to the fact that the neighborhood park at the end of the street provided some really decent eye candy since the snow.

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so we bundled ourselves onto layers of wool and set out (kim is wearing the squish me hat i knit her a couple of years ago from the original breakfast blend DK).

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i couldn’t agree more—these photos make me want to drag out my oil paints and brushes and set to work; i love the way the snow has caked all over the vegetation here.

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with trails criss-crossing in every direction, you could spend hours traversing this little park and still not see all of it, i’m sure.

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and all this is right outside their door. how jealous are we??

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the temperature was just so that morning that the path stayed thawed enough to be clear but the vegetation was frozen enough to attract snow to every surface—a perfect combination for a cold weather hike.

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i have no idea what drives kade’s thermostat, but it was much, much colder that he makes it look.

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kids today . . .

after our little hike, we warmed up with hot showers and settled in to knit and talk for a while. it was a pretty dreary day outside, so it felt good to snuggle in with our knitting. kim worked on her gift knit; we were all excited at the speed with which she was approaching the finish.

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by this time i had completed the back piece for my natty pullover. i had actually finished it once already and then realized i made a dumb mistake. i had always intended this to the the back piece, but decided when i got to the armhole shaping that since i was now certain it would be a pullover and not a cardigan, i could go ahead and make it the front piece instead, in order to confirm that the neck shaping i had planned would work.

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sigh. i totally forgot that this piece HAD to be the back because the button tabs i had added to the hem faced only one direction. so i ripped back those front yokes and reknit to make it a back yoke.

then i cast on for the hem of the front piece and that is upstairs as we speak, awaiting my return to work on it later tonight. this is going to be a deliciously soft and slouchy hanging around sweater that i can’t wait to wear.

later in the afternoon we went out to run a few errands and shop for dinner. as we were cruising through salt lake city on the way back, i spied the coolest sign that i needed to photograph.

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i am often asked about how the name for knitspot was decided upon and what the heck is the significance of the olive? back in 2006 (almost exactly nine years ago, actually), when i imagined the blog i wanted to create, i thought of it as hangout for all of us knitters to get together. in the decade i grew up in, this would be akin to a “nightspot”—a social, upbeat place to meet with friends and have a good time. so i called it knitspot and translated the ubiquitous ball of yarn into an olive and the toothpicks into knitting needles. i ringed my logo with an oval that implied the rim of a martini glass—knitting is fun, right?

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and OMG, there was my logo, on a sign at a nightspot, right in salt lake city. plus, the building is painted olive green and red. alright, who is smitten with this sign?? i know we were (ok, and to add the icing to the cake, it was right next to a chocolate shop with to-die-for butternut toffee bars. but i digress . . .)

seriously, i want this sign for our shop. in fact i must have it. i’m pretty sure this place is shut down, so all that would be required would be to find the landlord or owner and inquire, right? anyone know anything about it?

back at kim’s house that afternoon, we cooked up a huge pot of vegan black bean chile and knit. i think we spent the evening watching cooking shows on the food network and everyone went to bed early.

the next morning we got going early on blocking a special project, which i can’t show you for a few days (but i will, once the weekend i over). once that was settled and drying, we got ready to head out for park city, which is about an hour away from where kim lives.

finally we had a gorgeous day, albeit cold—in fact the temperatures stayed pretty chilly all day with a biting wind, but having the sun out made up for all that—just look at the color of the sky!

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the ride out there was beautiful and we talked so much that i totally forgot to take pictures until we stepped out of the car. we walked around town for a couple of hours, poking into galleries and shops. that was very nice, but what was really cool was the ride we took afterward, over the back roads and through the sundance area to home.

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i keep saying this but it’s really true—i have never seen anywhere so beautiful. the mountains here don’t even look real, do they?

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and i know for certain that this isn’t even the MOST beautiful place in that wild west part of this country. no wonder so many western pioneers thought they’d reached the promised land.

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i still haven’t been to idaho, montana, northern nevada, or wyoming (i know; so sad. but i’ll get there, i have plans).

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this next is even cooler—i think these dark, layered peaks are my favorite from the day.

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something about them is both ominous and magnetic to me.

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just look at that patterning—stupendous. this drive literally left me speechless. i can just imagine how breathtaking it would be like on bicycles—in  good way, in a good way.

what a way to end my visit—it was perfect.

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that night the kids had to go out for a while and jeff returned from his business trip, so kim went to pick him up. i wrote up a blog for you to read while i traveled on thursday and when i was done, i got my knitting ready for the trip home. i cast on my second natty sweater, which this time will be a cardigan knit in briar rose joyful—a 3-ply sport/DK weight yarn spun from 100% polwarth wool.

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i told chris i was in the mood for a super-juicy delicious orange and she delivered in spades. this color makes my heart SING. it will be so wonderfully modern with my hair; i already can’t wait to finish and wear it.

the next morning i worked the hem in the airport lounge on my way home, then set that aside to work on a darker colored piece while i had good sun. i had a long day of travel ahead and i figured i could pull the orange back out for my later flights after dark.

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once i settled into my seat i pulled out my little fitted cardigan that i’m knitting in spirit trail tayet, a new yarn the jen is rolling out at the maryland sheep and wool show. she has dyed me a special batch of midnight blue with brighter highlights (deeper than it appears here). i’m designing a little fitted cardigan with lace detailing in everyone’s favorite cable-and-lace pattern—wheaten.

i love this yarn; it’s 100% BFL content lends a gorgeous sheen and a crisp, silky definition to each stitch. the yarn is quite elegant in fact, with a slight halo after washing that adds just the right amount of body to the fabric structure. the final fabric has a very high-end hand and beautiful drape.

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between takeoff on the first flight and late afternoon, i managed to get quite a lot done on the first sleeve. i may take it back a bit though to refigure some of the shaping; looking at it now, i am convince that this sample would be perfect if the sleeves were three-quarter length, with the lace detail extending up to the start of the bicep area (i will be knitting a second, long-sleeved sample in one of our own yarns, either better breakfast fingering yarn or chebris sport). the front is really special looking but too hard to describe in writing, so i’ll wait to show you that as it develops.

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once it got dark and i couldn’t see the deep blue very well any more, i switched back to the orange natty cardigan. i made quite a lot of progress as i flew toward home and david. i am pretty close to the underarm bind off on my left front now, yay.

that was just yesterday in fact; i’ve been home about twenty-four hours already. i spent today unpacking, sorting through a mountain of correspondence, and organizing my work for the next week. it’ always hard to set priorities when i first arrive home—i want to get on top of EVERYTHING right away. but i know if i don’t sort things, i won’t get as much done.

i had a nice break this afternoon when my friend anne C. came over with the prototype for a new sweater project she is knitting.

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several months ago anne announced that her husband bill was demanding a sweater and she couldn’t find a pattern to match what she had in mind for him. she asked if i had any new designs i was tossing around. i was working on the pedal pusher cardigan at the time and when i heard what she wanted, i suggested doing a pullover version of that, with a placket neck and in DK yarn, so as not to be too hot. she liked that idea and so did bill.

she purchased a sweater quantity of stone soup DK in—my very favorite shade—pumice and then patiently waited through the holidays for me to have time to write up the pattern for her.

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my only stipulation was that she would have to knit the prototype, because i was so backlogged with other projects. i finally got the first—and very rough—draft of the pattern to her near the end of january and she got right to work. she’s such a trouper—look at what she’d made in such a short time (it’s a pretty large size; bill has a 46 inch chest).

this sweater is knit in once piece, in the round, right up to the start of the placket, when it is split and worked back and forth in rows. it has cable details and seam lines just like the pedal pusher cardigan, with miles of stockinette in between to keep thing both interesting and moving quickly.

all that’s left to do is knit the collar and then add the button bands, then bill can model it for us.

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the pickup numbers for the neck didn’t seem right so anne came over to have me check it out. yeah, it needed some adjusting for sure, but we got it figured out. boy does the fabric feel nice; substantial yet light, considering the size of this garment. and i know bill likes it—he’s been nagging anne to make it a priority, so he can wear it soon.

and with that, i believe we are all caught up. not that it will last long, the way things are moving around here, haha. and now i am really wanting to get up to our TV room, relax with david, and do some knitting of my own. see you in a couple of days . . .

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wow

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

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what a week it’s been for incredible sights. i am gong home with loads of visual inspiration to revisit in my upstairs study in canton.

but before we spin off on a whirlwind tour of kim’s new home state, i want to tell you some unrelated good news.

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our friend janel laidman has come back from a two-year hiatus with a new edition of the knitterati collection. the collection consists of nine designs—five sock patterns and four shawl patterns—each using one skein of sock yarn. go take a look; many of these would be lovely in bare naked wools fingering yarns.

i’m just so happy janel is publishing again; i have missed talking shop with my friend and colleague.

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speaking of friends, i have been spending the most wonderful week with my friend—and yours—kim and her family. she’s been showing me around her new hometown by day and at night we knit, cook, and hang out with the kids.

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the knitting theme this week was finishing up a gift knit so that she could launch her blanket statement club project. to keep herself motivated for finishing the gift knit, she periodically treated herself to winding a couple of skeins of kent DK for the big blanket and better breakfast DK for her small blanket (she’s really committed!). me, i just watched and worked on my own knitting, thank you.

well, not completely true—i may have shot a little video so that ALL of you can see her in person, too.

this was a project that began on the day i arrived and continued over several days, with everyone helping out. i’m happy to report that she’s ready to start stripping now . . .

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on sunday, while everyone went to church, i borrowed a car and headed a couple of hours north to visit my cousin ted and his wife kristen. they live in a gorgeous area near the idaho border.

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after chatting for a while over coffee, we headed out back and up into the hills behind their home for an upward climb with their four dogs.

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i love the soft colors of the sage covered hills—so variable once you relax and look long into them.

with the winter being so mild, spring is waking up a little early this year and we saw many examples that made us smile over that (especially me; spring is definitely still dead asleep where i live!).

i saw an almost violently brilliant array of lichen on the rocks as we walked and i couldn’t resist examining their colors up close.

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seeing my cousin ted after so many years and meeting kris for the first time was both fun and a warm reminder that keeping in touch with family is full of unexpected and interesting possibility.

once back in ted and kris’s yard, we noticed even more proof that the seasons are changing in this area, with trees budding out and greens sprouting in the garden.

the day was nothing short of incredible—with temperatures that kissed 70 degrees, it was looking like the five day forecast of sun and warmth was becoming a reality. as we know now that was to prove an all too erroneous assumption, but i enjoyed every minute of it nevertheless.

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i even snuck in a few shots out the car window as i drove away from their place—the fields and mountains were so pretty from the other direction in the light of the setting sun.

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i promise i didn’t take my eyes off the road—it did it all by touch and instinct.

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(don’t tell david—he doesn’t like it when i take photos from behind the wheel.)

just as i was pausing for these photos, kim texted me a photo of everyone sitting down to the dinner i had cooked and left for them to eat

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just the start of a week of fun times in the kitchen with the kids—more on that later.

i have SO many photos from this week; i’m going to save the rest for next time. i can probably put them together while i wait for my flight in the morning. yes, i’m leaving tomorrow; boo-HOO! i know david will be glad to have me home, but i’ll miss kim and her family a LOT.

some day, maybe we can be neighbors. or at least within driving distance of each other.

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oh, and for whoever it was that asked me to take a picture of her white camel yarn—here it is.

two toasty toe warmers

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in patterns

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what better way to celebrate sock madness month than with two terrific pattern options, perfect for sideline knitting.

grille (above) is a unisex option worked in a squishy, knit/purl illusion texture, easy enough for beginners yet entertaining for experienced knitters, too.

twisted little sock (below) has a tiny, allover twist stitch pattern that adds just a touch of texture its sleek surface

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these two socks were featured in the september installment of our passion 2014 club along with yarn hollow nantucket, a corriedale/nylon blend in this gorgeous deep purple and olive mix.

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each has a beautifully fitted flap heel knit in cushy slip-stitch fabric.

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the textures for these socks were chosen for their ability to move the color around and create a bit of an illusion.

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grille has a stout, warm feel that is appreciated by men and women alike; the fabric is a bit more dense with lots of delicious depth.

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while twisted little sock is a bit more feminine and dressy, in a stitch pattern that creates a a more streamlined fabric, though definitely dense enough to wear equally well.

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shown above, twisted little sock is knit in size small from yarn hollow nantucket.

shown below, grille is knit in size large in the same nantucket colorway, purple velvet and golden olive

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the generous yardage included in each skein of nantucket will knit up to a large size sock and for smaller sizes, may provided enough for a small pair of mitts or a pair of cuffs as well.

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erica has created a kit for each design which includes yarn and pattern—click here to choose grille or here to choose twisted little sock.

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patterns for grille or twisted little sock also available in my ravelry pattern shop

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enjoy and please share your sock progress in our ravelry group threads!