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April 30, 2005


Truth be told, my needles were never disorganized. I kept the circular ones in one big make-up bag, and the straight ones (double-pointed and single-pointed) in another big (and long) make-up bag. But I wanted more.

Lots of really attractive and functional knitting needle cases are available: Circular and Double Point Solutions are quite popular (although these clearly fall into the “functional” category only), The Organized Knitter makes very cute cases for both types of needles, and once Google gets involved, the sky is the limit.

I still wanted more.

I wanted something attractive, and I wanted something cheap, and I wanted the cases to be exactly to my specifications. So I obviously I had to sew my own.

The goal was set, the adventure began. First, I acquired a sewing machine for “Christmas.” I’m not sure how I pulled that one off, considering my family is not Christian, but lo and behold, Santa brought me a gift. I decided to make my cases out of placemats and dinner napkins because they are cheap, sturdy, easily available, and come in a variety of colors and textures. In addition to some placemats and dinner napkins, I bought a pair of good fabric scissors (I heart my Ginghers), and fabric chalk.

I measured and re-measured, and cut, then cut some more, and sewed and ripped (I heart my seam ripper), and the first few needle case incarnations didn’t work out for me. Reason being that of course I wanted the fancy shmancy placemats, with the sequins and the silk and the shedding and the melting under the iron and the getting stuck in the sewing machine and the gray hair and the grinding of the teeth and the stomping of the feet.

Things were not helped along by my complete idiocy when it comes to the sewing machine. I still need the manual to thread it, and I don’t know why, but I always have to take the bobbin thing apart because all the threads get caught in there. Don’t ask me to explain, because obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about. If you’re like me when it comes to the sewing machine, I have two pieces of advice: (1) if you press the “reverse” button the machine will sew in the other direction, and (2) don’t forget to raise the needle and the presser foot if you want to retrieve your fabric – yanking it as is will rip your fabric and break your needle, and then you will have to replace the needle, and that involves the manual which you “misplaced” two months ago into the recycling pile, so just raise the freakin’ presser foot and the needle.

So once I was clued into the kind of fabric that was good and bad for making needle cases, I bought one Isaac Mizrahi table runner, and one package of “restaurant quality” dinner napkins, because only the best cheap crap will do for my needle cases :-D.

Straight needle case


And now you get a full look at my needle stash, too! I decided to keep my straight needles in their original cases and cardboard holders, because that’s just how I operate: I even keep my perfumes in their original (although completely tattered) boxes. So, I made the pockets a little bigger, and layered them on top of each other to provide plenty of space for future needle acquisitions. To unfold, I undo the ribbons wrapped around the big buttons, unfold the case once, unfold the little flap that keeps things contained, then unfold again. Voila!

Circular needle case

As much as I would have loved to keep my circular needles in their original little bags, we all know taking them out and letting them breathe is the only road to sanity. In designing my bag I imitated the Circular Solution. Why didn’t I just buy the Circular Solution in the first place? I’m cheap. I’m stubborn. I knew I could do better. I wasn’t crazy about how open their design is, with needles hanging out everywhere and potentially getting dusty and rubbing against my clothes; I wanted more containment. To unfold this case, I undo the ribbons wrapped around the big buttons, and unfold the case cover. The needles are arranged by size in little pockets just like the Circular Solution.

The labels on the pockets are completely removable and customizable: it’s just a strip of sheet protector plastic sewn into place, and pieces of paper stuck inside (I think I might have a thing for using sheet protectors for unintended purposes). This is a great feature because now I’m not wasting six pockets for larger-sized needles (I have only three pairs) as the Circular Solution would make me do with its pre-labeled pockets. If I ever make one of these things for a friend, or give this one away, the recipient can customize the labels however he or she wants (size 6 bamboo, size 6 metal, whatever).

In addition to the case cover providing containment, there’s a little pocket at the bottom of the case to keep needle tips inside. I decided not to attach it permanently, but rather use snaps, because it seemed to me fishing out the needles might be easier if the whole thing is open.

Although I have no intention of hanging my circular needle case in the closet, I can see the advantage of having gravity work in my favor when it comes to straightening the cords. So, it has not escaped my attention that the table runner is the precise width of a standard clothes hanger, and that a clothes hanger can be easily looped through:

Now you can see the functionality of that little containment pocket at the bottom!

That’s it! Those are my DIY knitting needle cases. What is the cost of this project? I want to know, and you might want to know. For the two of them:

table runner - $15.29 (sale!)
napkins - $4.99
4 buttons - $2.59 (student discount!)
2 snaps - $0.40 (student discount!)
I think the orange ribbon is from a bouquet of flowers I received last year – free!

There were also some other expenditures which I typically do not count in the cost of a project: placemats and napkins which didn’t work out, matching thread, fabric marker, industrial-size seam ripper, package of bobbins, Fray Check (I don’t even want to go into what happened to my old bottle. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing it was in a double Ziploc bag with only a few ribbons).

And of course the most expensive thing of all: time. Making these needle cases priceless.

As a closing thought (this blog entry is so loooong), for those of you who are considering embarking on your own needle case adventure, I have one recommendation: it really helps if you have a healthy dose of frugality. Self-acquired is okay, but the kind you inherit from mom or dad is really the gold standard. Because there will be times, especially when the sewing machine isn’t cooperating, when frugality will be the only thing keeping you going.

Posted by Kathy at 09:35 AM | Comments (21)

April 27, 2005

How much goodness can I squeeze in?

Look at this new scarf I started, I'm very excited about it:

This will be a gift for my friend Beth, her birthday is sometime in June. I would tell you the exact date, but it would involve finding my Palm Pilot :). She wears a lot of neutral colors - khaki, olive, light brown and cream - and I think the calm rose will go well with her wardrobe. The yarn is the Jaeger Matchmaker I rejected for my Fibo. I think this might be a one-skein scarf... perhaps a two-skein scarf at most. And even if it's a four-skein scarf, I don't really care, it's for my friend :).

Once I tell you about the pattern, I hope you'll agree how perfect it is for me right now. It's a very simple 2-stitch, 4-row repeat, with rows 3 and 4 being just like 1 and 2, offset by one stitch. So, we might as well call it a 2-stitch, 2-row pattern. BUT, this measly repeat, which I committed to memory almost instantaneously, uses all of the following stitches: knit, purl, yarn over, slip stitch, drop stitch, pass slipped stitch over. Wow, how is all that goodness squeezed in? It's like a nice challenge for the fingers, but not for the brain, just what I need!

I love the texture of the scarf just as it is, but this is actually a lace motif from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury which will look significantly different if/when blocked:

I say if because I'm not sure if I want to block it anymore - I love this texture! Can you believe the potential metamorphosis?!? I'm not sure what to do... I picked the pattern because I love the triangular look the fabric will (supposedly) acquire once blocked, but it means the texture will be flattened. Any thoughts?

AV status: I dreamed about it last night. I had completed the stockinette portion of the front (so, yes, I was knitting it in two pieces) and had just started the cabling. My sweater was knit from fingering weight medium-blue textured cotton. The cables were really tiny and you could only see them if you stretched the fabric out. I was showing this to my mom who thought it was pretty cool. She was working on (my mom doesn't knit in awake life) an orange hand-painted worsted-weight wool sweater, and apparently having some difficulty with it because this was the sweater's fourth reincarnation. She was getting help at my nearest LYS for free because that's where she apparently purchased the yarn.

Oh wait, we're talking about the AV in awake life!

I frogged the offending 10 rows, then correctly re-knit them, all 2000 stitches, placing myself squarely where I previously stopped. Then I put the sweater and the pattern in a bag, and the bag into the closet. I'll let you know if/when the AV sweater will appear in my awake life again.

Posted by Kathy at 07:02 PM | Comments (7)

April 26, 2005

Two thousand stitches

Just when I thought I had finished knitting the lower third of the AV sweater, I noticed I missed a SSK 10 rows back. I'm a perfectionist, so yes, it had to be fixed. I dropped some stitches, made the SSK, and picked 'em back up. Here's what it looks like now:


Yeah, I'm not happy with it. I have two options: I undo 10 rows, about 200 stitches each. Two thousand stitches, people, two thousand stitches! OR, I undo the whole thing and knit it in two pieces to keep my interest. I miss purling :(. No matter what I decide, I will never knit a stockinette sweater in the round ever again.

What a terrible day. Faced with undoing so much mindless knitting just to re-knit it, mindlessly. And a Grumperina first at work today, too: yep, I spent a good two hours today sobbing at my desk. So much stress. Thank God I'm not an emotional eater, just an emotional knitter. I'm starting a scarf.

Posted by Kathy at 11:36 PM | Comments (9)

April 25, 2005

Anything but

Some of you may have noticed lack of Adrienne Vittadini content. There could be two explanations: I'm either almost done, and therefore saving all pictures for the final reveal, or my progress is so miniscule that I'm avoiding all talk of the sweater.


Clearly (clearly!) it's explanation number two: embarrassingly miniscule progress. Here's what I've got:

The reason for this is the unpredictable nature of the pattern. You see I'm knitting the sweater in the round until the armholes. The first round, I knit 206 stitches. And then for the second round, I knit 206 stitches. The third round was a tricky one because I was expecting a yarn over, but nooooo, I had to knit 206 stitches. Then I knit a few more rounds, and I really started to expect something exciting, like a PSSO, but you know it, I had to knit 206 stitches. It's just so hard because I keep expecting, you know, at least a purl or something, but the pattern is just "knit till the cows come home."

In the meantime, I've been finding excuses to work on anything but the AV sweater. For starters, I reorganized my yarn stash along with other contents of my closet. Previously, I was using these big bins from my former apartment, and they were totally not working for me to the point where I kept them completely empty. So, I took a trip to Target and bought 9 drawer-style bins, which are already working out so much better. Here's what my yarn "stash" looks like now:

There's no "before" picture because it was very sad and pathetic and unorganized.

The conclusion is that I have just a ton of sock yarn, I think probably ten pairs' worth. And it's all for grandma, don't you know, because I can't wear wool socks. Otherwise, I have very little yarn. This is a very dangerous thing to think, and a very dangerous thing to write down. Next thing you know, I'll be like Jenifer, avoiding SABLE status only because I'm in my 20s and probably have another 50-60 years to knit. Kids, let this be a lesson to you: don't reorganize your yarn stash, the outcome is bad no matter what: you either realize you have way too much yarn and feel overwhelmed at all the knitting that you must do to exhaust your supply, or you realize that you have way too little and start thinking of where you can obtain more.

I've also been working on my homemade needle cases. It's a project I haven't mentioned here, but one I've been working on for months now. So far I've had a series of setbacks because I was buying the wrong type of placemats. That's right, I'm making my needle cases out of placemats: I don't have a lot of money for cases like this or this, but plenty of "$5 off a $15 purchase" coupons at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Until now I was buying the really pretty placemats, the ones which shed when you cut them, and ruin your iron, and have sequins which get stuck in the sewing machine. Speaking of, needle case progress has also been slowed by my incompetence when it comes to the sewing machine. I especially have a hard time with the thing that holds the little spool of thread at the bottom, and the things which keep the fabric moving, especially if I forget that I have the backwards sewing thing pressed and can't figure out why the fabric is going in the wrong direction, and the foot thing when I want to round the corner and turn the fabric, and the manual I keep misplacing which tells me how to thread the damned thing. I'm clueless, and the machine hates me for it.

However, despite all these setbacks, I'm at a point where I just need to buy some tangerine ribbon and some snaps or grommets or whatever they're called to be officially "finished". Stay tuned for pictures!

Posted by Kathy at 11:45 PM | Comments (7)

April 24, 2005

The gods were observing me carefully

This could only mean one thing: I've started the second Pretty Comfy Sock! The Second Sock Syndrome gods were watching me very carefully, probably winking to each other and having good belly laughs, but I had no excuse: I finished the first at the very beginning of my Sunday Stitch 'n Bitch, so I grafted the toe, wove in the ends, and had to start the second.

I'm very happy with how the first turned out:

I like how it fits my little feet (tee hee), and I like the short-row heel, and I like the stretchy cotton yarn. I'm excited to finish the second one!

Posted by Kathy at 11:06 PM | Comments (5)

April 23, 2005

Lace and cables and Lexington

News: My knitting webpage now features a cabling without a cable needle tutorial! That's right, the same insomniacs who brought you the make your own clothing labels, the learn how to knit Continentally by watching my videos, and the convert patterns into Combined knitting tutorials have now spent another sleepless night taking pictures of knitting. I was inspired to put this tutorial together because the ones currently available on the web just instruct you to transpose the cable stitches. I think there's a better way, although any way is better than using a cable needle :).

I'm also in the process of filming some videos of Continental ribbing. It never occurred to me, but apparently new knitters, or knitters new to the Continental way of holding yarn, sometimes have trouble visualizing how the yarn moves back and forth between knit and purl stitches. I have one video already up, but I'm not super happy with the lighting and will probably redo it.

I came across a drop-dead gorgeous shawl on Lou's Ends blog (get it? hehe, clever title), and I had to post a link. Why, oh why am I not able to knit lace? I've tried, friends, I've tried... it just hasn't happened for me yet.

And now that I'm done with the "housekeeping" announcements, the fun part.

I was going pretty nutty trying to find yarn for the Fibo. As you might remember, my two picks (Jaeger Matchmaker and Lang Jawoll) were a sore disappointment. As I was answering an e-mail to Colleen, the perfect yarn occurred to me: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock! Oooo, how I love Lorna's Laces. The wool is so soft, and the tiny bit of nylon gives the yarn such a nice sheen and drape. And check out some of the colors I could've used:

So, running to my stash I went, where I had a little bit of LL left over from a pair of socks for my grandma. The colorway is all wrong, of course, but I just wanted to get a feel. And yes, it is nice stuff. And it just got nicer after I blocked it. I called my local LL dealer and told her, pretty much, that I was going to come on Saturday and look at the LL color cards to place an order.

And then it occurred to me: I am thinking of knitting an entire sweater at a gauge of 32 sts/48 rows per 4" square on size US 1 needles. That's right, an entire sweater at a gauge of 32 sts/4" on US 1 needles. So then I made the cabling without a cable needle tutorial in utter frustration.

After relaxing in this way, I Googled the yarn the beaded sweater pattern calls for: Rowan Botany 4 ply. Rowan discontinues yarn quicker than they can package the same yarn under a different name, so the yarn is now called Rowan Soft 4 ply. And it looked quite lovely (the Rowan 4 ply Cashsoft, which someone mentioned in the comments, has great yardage and is even a bit cheaper. I imagine it's quite soft. However, the colors didn't terribly appeal to me). I took an afternoon trip to the LYS closest to me, where they got snippy with me for a second, but didn't have the Rowan Soft 4 ply. The color card looked promising, but I really wanted to get my hands on a ball of that stuff. I started calling around to other LYSs, and figured out that a not-so-L YS in Lexington (Wild & Woolly Studios) had a sizeable stock, and would be able to order more for me, if I wanted. I also figured out that no place online had Rowan Soft 4 ply significantly cheaper than retail.

I don't know what it is about me, but I must scream "poor graduate student, with (boomed in one of those ominous voices) the notebook of knowledge in her bag, full of information about all yarns: content, yardage, colors, prices, and availability" when I walk into a yarn shop. I even took a shower and put on a little make-up! I went to the trouble of making sure my pants were clean! I even unsurfaced my gray hair, usually hidden in the depths of my mane, and slicked it to the top - I never do that! At first the three LYS workers (I think two were between 50 and 60, and one was about 75) were afraid to come within 15 feet of me, and spoke to me from afar. Eventually two things became apparent: (1) I was very serious about dropping one hundred bucks then and there and (2) I knit the intricate Backyard Leaves scarf I was wearing myself. Well, then, it was like we were best buds all of a sudden!

Two colors of Rowan 4 ply caught my attention: sooty, a deep, dark charcoal, and rain cloud, a silverish gray with blue undertones (very reminiscent of the Louet I used to make these socks for grandma). Both were fully in stock, and I had a hard time deciding. Eventually I settled on the rain cloud, which is very similar to the color used in the original beaded sweater pattern. I bought one skein, and excused myself to the basement to swatch. Yes, I was a smart shopper and didn't buy an entire bag of yarn until I was sure this is what I wanted :). (Sidenote: one great thing about this store is that all the novelty yarns are banished to one corner of the basement; out of sight, out of mind, I like that!)

Working with this yarn is absolutely wonderful. It has the softness, the drape, the feel, the sheen, the texture I desire. I used the recommended needle size and got the exact stitch and row gauge that the label lists. Those Rowan folk know what they're talking about. I went back to the main floor and bought an entire bag of yarn at retail price. Unheard of for a Maven like me, but listen, I already wasted $15 on the Jaeger and Jawoll for swatching, and once I saw the right thing, I had to make my move: getting to Lexington is a huge ordeal, especially on Saturday when the buses come only every 1.5 hours, so I couldn't go home and think about it.

The dropping of the one hundred bucks was of course followed by even more praise for my Backyard Leaves scarf, and the amazement that I haven't been knitting that long, and the taking of my name to be placed on the mailing list, and the offer of the Wild & Woolly Wild Card (which I bought). I still had 40 minutes to kill before the bus came, and I wanted to shop for some needles that aren't otherwise carried at my more-L YSs. This warranted an introduction to the three workers (Mary, Pat, and Linda), and being called by my first name. The way I get treated, my one gray hair and all, after spending one hundred bucks is amazing.

P.S. Tara, check out Lana Grossa Cool Wool Merino 2000, in color 411 for your VYC. 50 grams, 175 yd, 24 sts/34 rows on US 3-4 (I don't know why that website lists a different gauge; I got my numbers from the ball band and it looked sportweight). I saw the ball, the yellow color, the whole thing with my own two eyes. This is very close to perfect, I would knit a VPC out of the pink version, no doubt.

Posted by Kathy at 03:54 PM | Comments (12)

April 21, 2005

Not fabulous

This entry is a difficult one for me to write, and probably for you to fully understand, because I'll be talking about tactile things. Sometimes I wish there was another dimension to this blogging thing :).

I swatched for my Fibo, and it was not fabulous. Here's the breakdown:

Lang Jawoll, 75% wool, 18% polyamid, 7% acrylic, teal:

  • Working with this yarn was awful! My one and only thought during the knitting process was, "There's no way I'm knitting an entire sweater with this stuff."

  • The yarn felt stiff, like plastic, and split very easily. I suppose all worsted yarns have some tendency to split, but Jawoll didn't want to snap back into shape at all.

  • At the gauge I'm aiming for, 28 sts/4 inches, the fabric is too loose and holey. This yarn has a semblance of normalcy when knit tighter, at 30 sts or more, but if I'm going to stoop down to that gauge, I might as well use the fabulous Baby Ull (I'm sorry, Betsy, I know you hate it).

  • This yarn hurt my left elbow :(. I'm really freaked out by this... So far I've had no indication that my knitting is hurting my body in any way. Until now. I felt a nagging pain in my left elbow during and after knitting the Jawoll swatch. And it's now been 2 days since the swatching and the elbow still hurts, when I'm knitting and when I'm not!

  • Oh, and did I mention the yarn is not colorfast? Evidence: the sink during blocking, filled with ice-cold water, and the now-ruined towel I used for swatch-drying. Sigh.


Jaeger Matchmaker 4-ply , 100% wool, strawberry:

  • Working with this yarn was pretty good, I can see myself knitting an entire sweater out of it.

  • Same as Jawoll, the fabric is too loose and holey at 28 sts/4 inches.

  • A bigger problem is that the resulting fabric is stiff and has no drape.. If I hold the swatch by one corner, it just floats there, does not flop over, all stiff and stuff.

  • I think this yarn will be too itchy for me, especially for the Fibo, which will have to be worn right next to the body.

  • At least this yarn is colorfast! For the record, here's a picture of the swatch:

And so, the search for the perfect Fibo yarn continues. For the record, the pattern is written for a basic Rowan 4-ply wool. I can't imagine buying any yarn which I haven't touched myself, and seen the color card with my own two eyes. Yes, I'm being very picky, but I don't think I'm unreasonable because I also swatched with a fingering weight wool/alpaca blend that I have in my stash, and although the gauge is off (30 sts/4 inches), and the color is totally wrong (oatmeal), I did learn that the drape I desire is achievable. So, my mental list of Fibo yarn requirements is as follows:

  • Fabulous, saturated colors.

  • Gauge between 26-28 sts/4 inches.

  • Excellent drape. If the yarn is 100% wool, it will need to be a heavier wool to basically buckle under its own weight. Most likely the Fibo yarn will need to contain some silk, alpaca, tencel, or other manmade fiber to achieve proper drape.

  • Cotton blends are fine, and welcome, but 100% cotton is out because my left elbow said so.

  • No mohair and no angora content.

  • No doubling of lace-weight yarn because stringing beads onto one strand is painful enough.

I'm dealing with this roadblock by furiously knitting away my AV sweater. I'll post a picture next time.

Posted by Kathy at 06:40 PM | Comments (5)

April 19, 2005

Let's talk about KnitPicks

Do I like KnitPicks yarns? Yeah! I even wrote a review of some of their basic yarns a while back (and so did Clara from Knitter's Review). Despite an increase in popularity, KnitPicks still offers free shipping on orders over $30, and continues to carry a nice selection of knitting books at reasonable prices.

But KnitPicks has also undergone some changes - first, they now sell only their own line of yarns. In order to familiarize the buyer with these yarns, KnitPicks showcases their yarns in projects from books and patterns they also carry. To this I give two thumbs up, because even if I'm not going to buy the yarn and pattern combo they feature, the info is useful to get the creative juices flowing.

Another change is that KnitPicks has introduced some new yarns: Palisade (bulky alpaca/wool), Crayon (DK cotton), Radiance Wave (worsted alpaca/silk), and Shine & Shine Twist (sportweight cotton/modal). Which brings us to Diana, the same Diana responsible for the beads (June, you were right, I should listen to everything she says). Did you know I'm sensitive to wool? I wouldn't say allergic, but I itch when I wear it. Alpaca is the next offender, which I find slightly more itchy than wool. The worst offenders are mohair and angora - the former feels like fiberglass to me, and the latter makes me sneeze uncontrollably. Diana said I should banish "all of that" out of my house and try non-animal fibers. Hmm... okay, before I dispose of my wool stash, maybe I should try some cotton. And that takes us back to KnitPicks.

What's wrong with these pictures?


This is the same yarn photographed in a skein and close-up! Why is the cotton so silky and smooth in the skein, but so fuzzy in the close-up pic? Has anyone ordered this stuff? What's going on?

A small aside. Speaking of knitting books, are you still doing most of your knitting book shopping on Amazon? I have to tell you, I know of some places where you can get a better deal. First, Overstock.com has great prices and an unexpected selection of knitting books. Their shipping charges are not bad at all, and even when you add the $1.40 to the book cost, often it's still cheaper to shop there than Amazon. Second, my favorite online store buy.com always has great prices for books, and an impressive selection of knitting books in particular. They used to have free shipping on orders over $25, just like Amazon, but they did away with that recently. Now certain titles are shipped for free, no matter how cheap they are! As a bonus, if you live around Boston and if your buy.com book is shipped from the Massachusetts warehouse, you'll get it in about 2 days. No kidding!

Posted by Kathy at 06:33 PM | Comments (13)

We're moving on...

People, people. Wow. I never imagined my VPC would receive so many compliments! Thank you, everyone, I really appreciate all this positive energy. It motivates me to think, to knit, to create. I send you all huge air-smooches - mwah!

A few comments: Thank you so much for complimenting my sweater's fit. Then again, why sholdn't it fit? I am in charge of my own knitting. You are in charge of your own knitting. Have a slender figure, large hips, long arms, narrow shoulders? Adjust your pattern to accommodate your unique body. This isn't a trivial task, I know, and my 13 pages of notes while making the VPC prove it, but it's SO worth the trouble.

In my case, I knew the way the pattern was written would never work. I have curves, and the pattern didn't include any shaping. It was a matter of measuring myself (done best behind closed doors), and measuring sweaters I already own. Then there was some screaming, running around like a crazy person, stomping feet on the ground (but I don't wanna!), wildly punching numbers into the calculator, measuring gauge every few inches... did I mention it really helps to have OCD and insomnia and a limit-less supply of diet Coke? If you're thinking of adjusting your pattern(s), there's a great article in the most recent Knitty to get you started. The best advice in that article is to examine your wardrobe and knit what you'll wear. So I already have a good 12 pink sweaters (wearing one right now), even more reason to not hesitate in making another one!

There was some talk of "the sisters," including "your endowments look mighty fetching in that there sweater". Thanks, Julia! I see them as a welcome challenge. I will knit all my sweaters to look good on my body - bring it on! There was also talk of grumpiness. I know I have a smile in that picture, and in various other ones if you glance at my archives. This is no indication of lack of grumpiness. One can be happy and grumpy at the same time. I'm happy about my sweater, I'm grumpy about a million other things. Not mutually-exclusive sentiments :). Furthermore, a few of you know me in real life, and a few of you know me in real life really well, and can attest to the spontaneous outbursts of grumpiness, especially considering Manos, handpaintedyarn.com, superwash, Koigu, Continental, Combined, and English knitting, the shit hitting the fan at work, and the lack of date-able men in Boston. Please, let's not go there today, the grump will come out.

On to bigger and better things, because they're here, and need to be discussed.

Remember this bad boy?

I've cast on!

I'm using KnitPicks' Merino Style in Hollyberry and I'm modifying everything.

I haven't forgotten about the Fibo, either. At my Sunday S 'n B the folks evaluated the two possible yarn and unanimously agreed that the teal was more sophisticated. I'm taking June's warning very seriously and swatching first for sure (she had said she wasn't pleased with the yarn when she used it). In the meantime, I've found a retailer online for Matchmaker 4 ply, the rose-colored yarn, and her prices are very reasonable. I might buy a sweater's worth because... I want to. If the teal Jawoll falls through, it will be for the Fibo. If the teal Jawoll is good, it will be for another sweater.

P.S. Betsy, the Kyoto was an uphill battle from the onset. I am so proud that you've finished it, and I think it looks great, especially the ribbon embroidery. There's no reason to diminish your accomplishment.

P.P.S. Kristina, you were my biggest supporter throughout the whole VPC process. If it weren't for you, I would have knit the AV sweater first! Thank you for your compliments!

P.P.P.S. I forgot to include some other vital measurements in my previous post, so I'm going to re-edit it. Sorry if it shows up as a new entry on your blog aggregator.

Posted by Kathy at 12:03 AM | Comments (6)

April 18, 2005

I'm a brave woman for putting a hot iron to my wool

Let me tell you, the first time you're faced with a nearly square armhole opening, and a very rounded sleeve cap, there is a clear sense of panic. This is supposed to fit into that? Did I follow the instructions correctly? Then you squint one eye, make the other one itch by repetitive rubbing, and by touch and instinct only make it fit.

Pattern: Vintage Pink Cardigan by Norah Gaughan. Interweave Knits, Spring 2005.
Yarn: Louet Gems 100% superwash Merino, Opal (sportweight), color: Pink Panther (rarrrr!). Total of 5 skeins, 100 grams each ($54). This is all that remains:

Weight: 0.49 kg (makes sense, 5 x 100 g skeins). I mention this because this sweater is really heavy! My store-bought 100% wool sweaters, with even more fabric and coverage (longer sleeves, longer length, cowl-neck, etc.), of similar thickness, weigh only 0.30-0.35 kg! Why is that?
Needles: Cheapo Boye I got second-hand from eBay, US 3 and US 5. Needles are not everything.
Size: Hips: 33.5", waist: 32", bust: 37". Length to shoulder: 20.5".
Modifications: 13 pages of notes. 'Nuff said.
Time to finish: 7 weeks.

Genuine mother-of-pearl, antique buttons were purchased from Windsor Button. They are truly gorgeous.

Here's a more 'head on' shot to see the buttons:

How about the bust increases and the two sisters?

Whomp, there they are, securely contained! Did you know that this is the first cardigan that I own? I usually bust out of them, but I'm so happy with the way this one turned out. It definitely helps that the buttons are so close together, but the extra fabric in the bust area does most of the work, I think.

Finishing: I blocked the pieces individually by soaking them in cold water, rolling them in a few thirsty bath towels, then pinning them to my couch or my bed and letting them dry. I seamed them, then following Erin's suggestion, ironed the seams through a wet pillowcase to flatten them. It was very scary to put my iron to this wool, but it made all the difference. The seams are totally invisible on the outside now! And because I know knitters are reading this, and because I know what they really want to see, I have no fear showing you a close up of the seams, inside and out:


So, my friends, this is my first adult-sized sweater. What do you think? I'm very happy with how it turned out. Would I change anything? Not really. Maybe next time I'd try a different technique for the bust shaping to see how it compares.

Last, I'm completely freaked out. I wash my hands with soap before touching the sweater in any way, and I'm not sure how I can be convinced to wear it outside of the house.

Posted by Kathy at 01:37 AM | Comments (41)

April 16, 2005

VPC gets VBs

Geez, I'm starting to sounds like a cell-signalling textbook with all the abbreviations!

Ladies and gentlemen, I spy with my little eye two sleeves which are blocking:

And when sleeves are blocking, the end is so near, I can smell it... and it smells like wet wool! I trip to Windsor Button was in order, where I picked up some genuine vintage buttons (VBs)!

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted as far as VPC buttons: domed, with a shank (looks like a mushroom, can't see the thread on the public side), slightly translucent, with a pearly glow, any color between white, cream, and very light pink. The owner suggested these authentic mother-of-pearl vintage buttons - the store bought them from some lady who had kept them in her attic for at least 20 years! Aren't they gorgeous?!? I only compromised on the domed aspect, but I got a piece of art in the process. Each one is slightly different, and I bought two extra because these will be impossible to replicate. Although the exact buttons, but slightly bigger were also available and fit through the buttonholes, I decided to buy the tiny baby ones. I don't want to distract too much from the cabled buttonband. I may have to tighten my buttonholes with sewing thread, but when I've put so many hours into making a sweater, the extra effort is totally worthwhile if it helps me achieve my overall "vision." Here's what it will look like:

And when one sweater is being completed, another one must be started. I am going to swatch for my long-awaited Adrienne Vittadini sweater tonight. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about Fibo, I'm just being very picky about the yarn I'm going to use. Here are two candidates I picked up tonight:

The deep teal is a gorgeous color, and the yarn is called Lang Jawoll superwash. It's a sock yarn, how do you like that? I've noticed it at the LYS before: it's soft, and the colors are saturated and not too bright at the same time. The colors on this website seem to match what I have in front of my eyes the best (monitors vary, thought). Of course I also like color 0084 (burgundy), but I need someone (yes, you) to slap my wrist before I get weak in the knees and buy more bungundy yarn. Good thing that particular color wasn't at the LYS!

The ball on the right is Jaeger Matchmaker 4 ply. I love this color (633, strawberry). It is not burgundy, it is not red, it is not pink, it is the exact subdued and mature and dark rose I envisioned as a possibility for this sweater. This website has the colors in decent agreement with what I have here. Jaeger colors are SO me, by the way. I also liked color 744, cloud, which is a very pale blue, but I think a dark color will be better for this sweater.

I also received my order from Spin Blessing.

I got "fake" Addis! Although I like the slippery-ness and the cord flexibility of Addi Turbos, I hate their blunt tips. Hate them! It's like knitting with dowels, as far as I'm concerned. There are many nickel-plated circular needle alternatives out there, and INOX Express have a great flexible cord as an additional advantage. Oh, did I mention they are about a third of the price of Addis? I also got some stitch markers, a set of metal dpns (because knitting socks with slippery needles is the only way to really live!), and two different "knitting thimbles" for learning how to strand with two colors. I tried out the metal spring one, and first, the damned thing goes all the way up my finger and I need to wear three band-aids to keep it at the tip. Second, it will take a lot of practice to use it comfortably. I haven't even tried two colors yet, these are my observations while using just one yarn!

However, you'd think I was a stranded-knitting genius considering all this stuff I picked up at the LYS:

Woolcott & Co., one of my LYSs, is having a great sale on old (anywhere from 1980s to a few years ago) patternbooks - huge bins of them, all $1 each! They have Jaeger, Colinette, Berroco, Katia, Manos, Knitting Pure & Simple, Ann Norling booklets and individual patterns. Wow! I looked through tons of stuff, but the only pattern books which appealed to me were Dale. And many of them use stranded knitting. Apparently I don't care :). (Nor do I care that I picked up three baby knits books while I don't have a lot of babies to knit for). Yay for cheap pattern books!

Posted by Kathy at 05:31 PM | Comments (7)

April 14, 2005

Speaking of knitting in public

Our favorite subway knitter, Colleen, asked her readers to name the best placed to knit in public here in the Boston area, of course. Well, knitting in public can get one into trouble! A few weeks, maybe even months ago we (meaning, my Sunday S 'n B) were knitting away at True Grounds, when a writer for the Somerville News happened to be there. She was intrigued by our massive presence, and after asking a few questions, decided to write a full story. Long story short, we're in the freakin' paper today!!! And when I add those three exclamation points, I mean, there are five (five!) pages of knitting goodness. Look, even a picture:

So they got my name wrong, maybe it's better that way :). However, there are a ton of quotes by me (side note: it's so weird to always be referred to by my last name, but at least it's spelled right, which I can't say for some of the other people mentioned). Some of the things I apparently said:

  • On knitting as a social activity: Some other Somerville knitting groups are more formal, instructing participants on a particular pattern or project at the same time, [Grumperina] said. ... "This group is great because people work on a variety of projects," [the grumpy one] said. "I wouldn't be happy in a group that worked with the same projects and designs. Say you run into a problem", she said. "If you're the only knitter you know, you're stuck. That's why these knitting forums are great."
  • On why knitting has gained so much popularity: At True Grounds, [Grumperina said] that she thought the internet was partially responsible. "The rise of the internet in the 1990s and 2000s makes it easier to come out of houses and into cafes," she said.
  • On the knitting "trend": Still, many knitters said that they picked up the hobby not to be part of the trend, but for a wide variety of personal reasons. "I'm not typically a trend-follower," said Grumperina. "The fact that it's popular now doesn't affect me. Everything I knit is not trendy. I've always chosen old-woman type style." (the actual adjective I used was classic)
  • On how I started to knit: [The grumpy one] said that she was inspired to start knitting by seeing a friend give another friend a beautiful crocheted blanket at a baby shower. "I thought: 'I would like to give such a special gift.'"

And last, but certainly not least, the last sentence of the entire article, my closing quote:

  • "It's a huge part of my life," [the grumpiest-looking knitter of the bunch] said."

Amen to that, ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by Kathy at 12:32 AM | Comments (8)

April 12, 2005

Short rows and pink cardigans

I had a health teacher in 8th grade. She once complimented me on something, and being the shy girl that I was at the time (you'd never think it now), I tried to weasel out of it, "oh, it's nothing, I didn't do that well." She said, "Stop. Always accept a compliment." Believe it or not, that was a defining moment in my life. So, to all of you who complimented my design and my drawing skills, thank you. After receiving so much positive feedback, how can I not make my Fibo (that's what I'm calling it now)?!? This won't be a trivial project for reasons I won't go into right now. Let's just say that I need to pick up some millimeter or blueprint paper from the art store in order to get started.

I feel very blue for this sweater. A subdued, mature blue. Not a baby blue, not a true periwinkle blue. Anything from slate blue to a deep teal, with possible green hints. If I'm not feeling blue (hehe), I feel very dark rose, not burgundy or crimson like my usual obsessions. I am definitely not feeling pink!

As for yarn, I have a few candidates. Jaeger Merino Matchmaker 4 ply is on top of the list. I fondle this yarn lovingly ever time I go into the LYS, and for once I picked a project with the right gauge for it! Elann's Baby Cashmere and Baby Silk are also the right gauge. The colors I'd want to use with those two aren't currently stocked, so I'd have to wait until elann got a new batch. Also, I'm a bit concerned that these two yarns will be too warm (although CatBookMom and Mary Tess assured me that I'd be okay in fingering weight alpaca), and potentially itchy (I'm sensitive to some alpaca). But before I make any crazy moves (watch out for that crazy Grumperina!), I want to check out what else is available at the LYS, in particular fingering weight cotton blends. I'll keep you updated, but for now I've got two projects on my needles!

I took this silly picture of my VPC bodice.

I keep checking, and I think that it will close over my bust without opening! Notice the use of will where previously it was always might :). You see that funny puckering around my waist line? I wish it was as simple as love handles (not that I don't have them, just not that big). That's what happens when you stretch ribbing too much during blocking. Ug. However, I think I will have no problems re-blocking just that problem area (or even taking in a few stitches if necessary). Other than that, it's fitting well. I marked the spots where the buttons will go and plan to visit none other than Windsor Button, which has a huge selection of... buttons! How many does my sweater need? Twelve. How many will I buy? Thirteen. Mwahahahaha!

VPC sleeve progress: so tedious. Those monsters are so big at this point, and they are so hard to maneuver. There are two balls of yarn, and two big pieces of fabric, and I think I'm just about to separate them and continue one at a time. For my own sanity.

Socks: I worked the heel!

The pattern is written for a short-row heel, which I've never worked before, so I decided to give it a try. Stariel warned me that the SRH instructions were lousy, and she wasn't kidding. However, I managed to get through them, and I think the heel is looking pretty nice! I won't comment on fit until I have a bit more of the sock done.

Speaking of SRH and short rows in general, Mary Tess alerted me to a most interesting technique discussion on the nonaKnits blog. I may not desire to use fancy Japanese short rows, but I already learned that I've been wrapping wrong differently all these years months! I wish I had the desire to explain how my method is different, but I'm tired, and I don't think it's any better, so I'm just going to poop out at this point.

Good night, everyone.

Edited to add: In case you were wondering, I put that dark green thread right at the start of the heel so that I can rip back with wild abandon if the SRH doesn't work out. I think it's commonly referred to as a "safety line." Lace knitters (a group to which I currently do not belong, but hope to soon) know all about this stuff :).

Edited again to add (because I'm really tired): Am I totally incapable, or does it take everyone 7 (seven) dpns to turn heels using short rows? Maybe I didn't position the needles in the most convenient way or something, because the next thing I know, I've got needles poking in every conceivable direction!

Posted by Kathy at 11:58 PM | Comments (6)

April 11, 2005

Because doing things the easy way is not for me

I borrowed an inspiring book from the library, Vintage Knits by Sarah Dallas. Some of the items aren't my style, but others are truly noteworthy (not that I don't have enough noteworthy projects and noteworthy yarn already). As an added bonus, a lot of the things which caught my attention are knit from fingering and sportweight yarn. Nothing is more exciting than tiny yarn and tiny needles!

I was immediately drawn to this:


What's the appeal? The neckline! And the beads, just a little bit. I've never been too much into beads for myself. Then Diana from the Harvard group asked, why? and I had no good answer! Maybe it's bead time...

To be perfectly honest, I would be happy beyond belief just to knit this sweater exactly as the pattern is written. It so happens that the "large" size (36" bust) would be perfect for me, and I already have a fingering weight (28 sts/4 inches) yarn in mind, and no, it's not Louet Gems Pearl :).

Buuuuut, I don't do things the easy way :). I always have a hard time rationalizing knit sweaters with short sleeves (or sleeveless, or tanks). In what weather do you wear such a thing? If it's cold, I want long sleeves, and if it's warm, I want to be as close to naked as the police will allow :) (I don't tolerate heat well). Then I thought, if I were to give that sweater long sleeves, I wouldn't want the beads anywhere lower than my elbows. First, it may be too much bead. Second, I'm afraid of catching them on stuff and yanking at the yarn. After all, when I wear a sweater, I don't sit on my couch like a doll, all prim and proper. In fact, I wouldn't want beads on my belly either, because I always catch my sweaters there, too.

So I started doodling. And here's what I came up with:

My blue notebook is under the lower left corner.

I am calling it the Fibonacci sweater, since the spacing of the beads follows the Fibonacci numbers. I've given the sweater 3/4 length sleeves, started the beading at bicep level (that number of rows corresponds to right below the boobs on the body), and altered the number of rows in the pattern repeat to squeeze enough beaded rows for interest.

What do you think? Is this good-looking? Or should I just stick with the original cap-sleeved one?

Posted by Kathy at 08:04 PM | Comments (27)

April 10, 2005

Knit-alongs and such

I started the sleeves of the Vintage Pink Cardigan. I'm doing them two at once, as you all suggested, and I'm done with the 4 inches of tedious 2x2 rib. Why is ribbing so tedious? I have no freaking idea. I'm a typical Continental-style knitter, and it's definitely not the transitions between knits and purls, which I would describe as effortless. I think I'll be done fairly quickly because they are only 3/4 length! The body of the sweater is dry, and I've been trying it on (uhm, if prancing around in a half-finished sweater thing, usually complemented with only underpants, can be called that. There will not be pictures.). There is a chance that it will close over my bust! I was sort of freaking out about the armholes, and were I to leave the VPC as a sleeveless tank, yes, the openings are too big. But that's not a reasonable measure of fit, duh! I put it against some of my sweaters, which already have sleeves and everything :), and they look about the right size. Wheew!

Today's Stitch 'n Bitch was fabulous. Maybe it was the fabulous weather, maybe it was that the cafe wasn't terribly crowded, but I had a great time. Lots of chatting, not much knitting. I knit maybe 6 rows of my socks, but realized I missed an entire pattern row, so I had to undo all of my progress. However, since I was taking the sock off the needles, I tried it on, and wow, it's looking great! The pattern is coming together nicely, it fits well, and I will start the heel very soon.

As much as we all rolled our eyes at the new spring Knitty, enough people liked the patterns to form the following Knit-alongs (only 4 days later):
I do
Branching out

Don't you just love Blogger? You can set-up a knit-along quicker than you can drop a stitch! (slight tone of sarcasm present)

Back to today's fabulous Stitch 'n Bitch. I showed a friend how to do some seaming using a blind hem stitch (of all things!), and it felt really good to help her, and to see how nicely this particular seam worked in this case, and to see her finish this project right there before my eyes! I'm not mentioning her name because I will not steal her thunder :). She'll blog soon enough :).

I was thinking of compiling a list of 100 things about me. Reason being, any time anyone has one on their blog, that's the first thing I skim/read. What do you think?

Posted by Kathy at 11:07 PM | Comments (9)

April 08, 2005

Shhhh! I'm blocking!

Be vewy, vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits!

I spot a wabbit on the bed:

Why yes! It's the entire body of the VPC, alternatively called the VPV! I think you can tell from the picture that the sides aren't seamed yet. The fabric was quite curly, so I wanted to block that first. Plus, it's the general standard to seam only what's necessary (like shoulder seams if you add a collar) before blocking.

From trying on this half-garment last night I noticed that, in general, I liked the way it might fit - not too big, not too small, not too long, not too short. The armholes looked too big, though, which is of great concern. Although I fiddled with waist shaping like nobody's business, I knit exactly as the pattern is written from the armhole up... specifically, following the smallest size (I have very small shoulders and look like a football player in almost everything). But still that might be too big. I don't want bat wings. Once the sweater is dry, I'll let you know what I think.

Blocking was no small task. The yarn I'm using, Louet Gems, is superwash, so my "blocking" in the past involved throwing the stuff in the washer, then into the dryer on a low setting. Under such treatment, the size of the item doesn't change. However, hand-washing seems to be a different animal - the back piece, the one with fields and fields of stockinette - just bloomed to be some enormous boat sail size! The front pieces behaved. This is a little odd... so I had to do a lot of creative "patting down the stockinette" of the back to get it to shrink back up and lay flat. Push comes to shove, that baby is going into the washer/dryer where it belongs.

So I guess my current mood is "perplexed and anxious"... because if the armholes are too big... I'm not sure I'm willing to (1) take out the neckband, (2) take out the button-band, (3) take out the shoulder seams, (4) undo to armhole, and (5) redo.

Although now that I write it down, it doesn't seem so bad...

In the meantime, I need some serious motivation to knit the sleeves. One or two at a time?

P.S. I was nervous about blocking right on my bed - I thought I would kick the sweater around while I slept (and it's a good thing that I'm the only one sleeping in my bed at this moment) - but all was good when I woke up in the morning.

Posted by Kathy at 10:34 AM | Comments (9)

April 07, 2005


So now I'm reading the actual Knitty articles, when I come across an interesting quote in this one:

"When you do peruse knitting patterns, try to train yourself to look at the clothes, not the model or the setting. Knitting publications that have bigger production budgets spend more on photography, stylists, and models. This can add up to distracting accessories and unintentionally misleading poses."

I can't help but point out that the cover shot of the issue in question employed a professional model, photographer, and make-up artist. I'm not saying it's a bad thing... maybe I'm just saying it's distracting, something I expect to find in Vogue Knitting, or a bit out of Knitty character. Then again, I no longer understand the character of "Knitty."

However, I do not exclude that the designer of the pattern was responsible for orchestrating this "look," not Knitty itself. Anyone know?

Posted by Kathy at 08:17 PM | Comments (1)

can I just say it?

Well, the new Knitty is out. As someone who's had her pattern rejected from the aforementioned publication, I think I'm entitled to an opinion. Actually, I'm entitled to an opinion no matter what.


First, there are a lot of items with holes (some of them oddly-placed) which my iPod cozy also has. Second, there are a lot of small accessories which take a bit of time and fuss to make (like the steering wheel cover, the lamp shade, and the knit flowers), just like my iPod cozy. So, yeah, blah.

What I like from this issue: Soleil (but it's not for my body shape), Branching out (which I'll never make), Via diagonale (this one is a possibility). That's it!

The real question, and I pose this to all of you, which of the new Knitty patterns will be the next Clapotis, or the next Tempting, or the next Crumpets, Rebecca mohair wrap, etc.? I just want to know from what I should stay away :).

Posted by Kathy at 01:50 PM | Comments (14)


Guess what I'm up to tonight?

Soon, so very soon, I will have a VPV, Vintage Pink Vest!

P.S. Diana, thanks for the centering tip, worked like a charm! I ended up using <div align="center"><img src="http://www.grumperina.com/VPC1.jpg"></div>.

Posted by Kathy at 01:21 AM | Comments (4)

April 05, 2005

On my bookshelf, on my needles

Time to get to business, and my business is science knitting.

Look what I got in the mail!

It's Knitted Toys by Fiona McTague and At Knit's End by my favorite Yarn Harlot (by the way, what's up with Amazon's new look? A little weird, but I think I'll get used to it). Yarn Harlot's book is the cutest little thing. People have been saying it, I know, but I didn't believe it until I held the little baby in my own two hands. I can't wait to read it!

Knitted Toys is a sort of odd purchase for me. Well, here's how it happened. I surfed over to this blog and the author knit a monkey from this very book in question. She gave the monkey a sly little smile (he's a bit more serious in the book), knit him an outfit, and started posing him in all her blog pictures. Too cute! She also has a way cute hamster called Buster who makes an appearance now and again. Buster is probably five times the size of my Axon and Synapse combined, so I don't think they'd make good pals (speaking of the two little devils, there's a stinkathon in their home and I need to clean that as soon as I'm done with this entry). Anyway, I borrowed the book from my library, but had to give it back almost right away (some other knitter must've recalled it), so I figured, eh, let me just buy my own copy.

Now, do I reallly think I'm going to make anything from this book? No. Well, maybe. But most likely no. The project that really caught my attention is this cute little ducky:

So cute! For the record, I do not own, nor plan to own any stuffed animals. I used to be mildly into them, until a boyfriend in college gave me a big stuffed dog. I've had a serious aversion to them ever since. Anyway, I hope I'll get to make a ducky for someone some day. By the way, the knitter from Busternme just knit a ducky, and (in her own words) it "seems to look kinda fat and stupid." Hehe! Here's another project I think is too cute for words:

It's a way cute piglet! And here's a project I don't think is particularly cute, but very interesting:

Is it just me, or is that boy unmistakably Jewish?

There's been little knitting going on, but somehow I'm making progress on my Pretty Comfy socks:


Pictures aren't the best, I know, but I refuse to use the flash (which would reduce the time the shutter is open and make the pictures crisper) because it messes up the colors too much. I think it's coming out really nice!

Three knitters from my Tuesday lunch-time group, Carrie, Jen, and Diana, came to the TrueGrounds S'n'B on Sunday. How exciting! It was nice to have such a full house, literally.

PS: MT blah: How does one center images in MT? I tried both: <p align="center"><img src="http://www.grumperina.com/photo.jpg" /></p> and <img src="http://www.grumperina.com/photo.jpg" align="center">, but it didn't work :(.

Posted by Kathy at 11:01 PM | Comments (7)

April 03, 2005

Welcome to my new home!

Wow, here we are, at grumperina.com. Take a look around. What do you think? Bear with me as I learn the ins and outs of MovableType, but hopefully there will be a lot less bearing than dealing with Blogger's nonsense.

Mandatory knitting content: While at grandma's house I did a lot more blogging, web surfing, and web programming than I expected. Knitting suffered as a result... however, despite all the time I spent staring into a computer, I am happy to say that I'm almost (almost!) done with the body of the VPC. The back is all completely done. The right front (with the fancy edging) just has the short-row shoulder shaping left, and the left front (which is super small because the cardigan isn't symmetric) just needs to be worked from the armhole up. Despite a busy week, I hope to work on it a little bit and post pictures when I'm done with those three pieces.

Have you had a good knitting weekend?

Posted by Kathy at 11:19 PM | Comments (10)