Stash flash – the spinning fiber edition

This was going to be a four-part inventory series for my own notes when I started it 2ish years ago – the first was commercial yarn, the second would be the handspun, the third spinning fiber, and the fourth the “froggers” (sweaters waiting to be unraveled). But my handspun has always been a small collection and recently on the needles pretty quickly, and the froggers get a regular toss to see if I can sell one or two whole, and my spinning fiber also kept itself to a couple of tubs and boxes. But I’d like to restrict it to a smaller space, and I’ve finally amassed enough to make some decent yardage. Though I do need to spin/knit up some mittens and slipper-like things, I’m not feeling the random 4 ounce braid these days – my scarf/shawls need to be in the 8 ounce range – and I don’t really need another hat at the moment. So a few of my 4 ouncers will be combined with random bits and larger bobs to become garment quantities of yarn.

Everything is still in decent condition with the exception of a few lavender sachet explosions, so I’ve introduced even more vegetable matter to some of it… And is there a shelf-life to wool? That shit survives on dead people in peat bogs and whatnot, so I’m not concerned with not spinning it up immediately, but I did wonder if some of my raw fleece was slightly more brittle* than before…

I started an inventory of weights and colors and fiber types, but it wasn’t really necessary – I’ve only got a few large collections and the rest are random bits. Most of the large amounts were acquired when I’d just barely learned to spin (and had more disposable income), and I’ve since mildly regretted buying some of it – I was mildly screwed/slightly taken advantage of, or the seller was just as much of a novice as me in a few instances and I’ve got some unspinnable stuff – or I’ve found that I don’t much like something after all.

The large collections consist of several pounds of mostly bright-colored Lamb’s Pride roving:

That raspberry colored stuff has come up here a few times, and I’ve still got around 12 ounces left. And this is a good example of too much enthusiasm as a newbie – I found a good price for it and bought as much as I could reasonably justify – and… I don’t love spinning it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lamb’s Pride – it’s domestic wool, comes in great colors, and the yarn is strong and sheepy. But my color choices for the roving were limited, making my love for it slightly lessened just because of that, and I also just like spinning less-processed, more rustic roving more. (However, a good portion of this is also superwash, so it has to be very processed to be so, so I will buy it again as I spin down what I have since most of my gift knitting needs to be superwash.) And I need to figure out which is which! I saved the receipts (somewhere) for this purpose, and I’m pretty sure I had all of it separated in its own box, but that organization has been lost.

My aunt (thank you M!) sent me a few pounds/four large balls of llama a couple (three?!?!?!) years ago, and I was originally going to mix them with other things, but I’m going to spin them as one and make a throw blanket – I need to decide about stripes vs. gradients vs. random blends, but I hope to get it on the wheel this winter – it is currently third in line in my spinning queue, but it could be next…

And the raw fleece is the biggest collection with the most problems. I’m not going to buy raw fleece again. I’m probably not going to buy raw fleece again. I will only buy raw fleece in small amounts if it’s the only way to try a new breed, or is a pity purchase at a festival. Or maybe a little alpaca if it’s really clean. That six pounds of Romney was a bit of a scam – the seller put the cleanest, longest locks at the top of the bag; the bottom contained literal shit and short second cuts and very brittle, sunburned tips – I should have known better and they should have said it wasn’t skirted, or whatever… Lesson learned.

And there’s the lovely Nestor the llama I still have to finish – he was going to be my reward for finishing the never-ending Romney.

And then there’s the damned raw alpaca – I bought three bags (light, medium, and dark) of the stuff very early on – back when I still dreamed of being an alpaca farmer. I don’t think I even had a spinning wheel at that point… but I was in camelid love and had a festival fever and the price was good and the lady selling it was nice. And I got whomped again (this was actually the first time).

The light is almost all ridiculously short cuts underneath the thinnest layer of acceptable ones. I’m considering sending this out to be made into felt, or use it for stuffing, or make the felt myself… but this is the kind of situation that makes me hang on to something far too long because I know it is useful for something, just not my original intention…

But thankfully, the other two bags are mostly fine. I’ve been wanting to have a mostly black handspun shawl/scarf and this alpaca might be right for it – it’s got some sun faded tips, so it might spin up on the brown end, so I’ll have to run a test first (otherwise I’ve got a pound and a half of pure black Lamb’s Pride).

The smallest largish collection is just under a pound of Jacob fleece and roving – the roving from Jenny Jump Farm is crazy lovely – it is a tricolor that was easily separated by color, then there’s a few ounces of just dark roving from another farm, and then there’s a bag of raw tricolor that looked clean and claimed to be 4 ounces but… you guessed it! It’s under 2 ounces and got a decent amount of scurf (sheepy dandruff) – I’m using most of it anyway since I have the least amount of the medium brown – and this was a fairly recent purchase, so luckily I only lost a few bucks and I now know which farms to avoid (if they’re even still in business by the time the next festival rolls around).

I started spinning the lightest portion and still haven’t decided on leaving it as a single or chain-plying it – either way it will be a gradient. And I’m pretty sure it will turn into a poncho. I’ve had ponchos on the brain for myself and the dude, and I’ve got many thoughts on their functionality, but perhaps those thoughts are for another day…

And then I’ve grouped together a sweater quantity for the next or third in line spin – most of this is local, or at least mid-Atlantic wool – some Gotland, more Jacob, some unique unregistered breeds, a bit of dyed stuff – Romney usually, and a few little bits dyed or not – one is an angora blend. And this is what I’m most excited about and/or have decided on as my collection policy: naturally colored wool, and a bit of dyed non-white wool – I want a murky depth of semi-muted colors.

I chucked a few other things that would go well together in bags and boxes – a sweater quantity of a couple of colors of superwash that compliment a lovely Pigeonroof braid, a sweater quantity of grab bag scrap fibers in warm colors with some natural brown roving, and a few experiments – I’d like to do a short spin with dangling Lincoln locks, and I have some fake flowers and whatnot to make some “art” yarn, but I’m not really feeling that now.

I will always buy from small fiber farmers – in fact, that is who I buy from nearly exclusively now since going mostly cold-sheep – I hesitate to even complain about occasional unsavory products when I’m guessing my disappointing purchases were also disappointing to the farmer – I get that – sheep have bad years, not all shearers are good, your scale goes on the fritz, you’re just starting out and don’t know better, etc., and yet you’ve still got to sell something. I’m not going to out those who I suspect might be a bit unscrupulous, but I am going to reach into the bottom of the bag and talk to the seller a bit more – and stick with the farmers I trust, even if I’m only able to buy a few ounces from them here and there.

*Wool could get more brittle if it’s stored in a highly acidic enclosure like cardboard or a cedar chest unless there’s a barrier between it…

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Can do vs want to

Last year’s spring was a bit rough – job woes, future angst, and a new dog who was a bigger challenge than I was ready for – and then to top it off, I did a cement-surface face plant and broke my glasses.

(The dog was somewhat involved in the accident, though it wasn’t his fault).

(I was so bummed at the time, I forgot to shoot the gnarliest stage of the black eye…)

I bought the glasses only a year or so before – they were a special-order, handmade in the USA, souped-up lenses (my vision is pretty bad) pair, and were a bit over my budget, but I figured on having them around at least 5 years. I’ve broken glasses before as a kid (when the glass was actually glass) but never to the extent I couldn’t repair myself as an adult. It was oddly devastating. And it was the only pair of glasses (apart from sunnies) that I had – in my better financial years I had two daily pairs to choose between, usually black frames and a brown or green – so it was the icing on the shitcake that my one and only was no more.

Wearing the broken pair was pathetic, and the second arm is really quite necessary for functionality, so I had to get a new pair immediately. I went to the local place figuring on needing to return at least once for a better fitting and not wanting to have to schlep to the crazy congested places if I didn’t need to. The local optometrist insisted on a different prescription than what the local ophthalmologist had given me – I’m sure it had to do with a small-town ocular feud of sorts because I still can’t see as well as I’d like, though it’s too vague to figure out. And then I wanted the boring black pair of frames but the sales guy insisted that I needed something more interesting and I hated that I couldn’t get both, because I like to be boring at times and wanted a choice, but out of fuck-it frustration, I got the colorful pair.

And in an attempt to cheer myself up over the whole deal, I bought a sewing kit for a dress that seemed simple enough and okay for my shape. It was on sale to the extent that the pattern and fabric were cheaper than if I’d bought the fabric alone.

And the fabric matched my new eyeglasses.

I’m not sure how I feel about kits and online classes and such – it’s good that they exist, but mostly not for me – YouTube has been my knitting tutor at times, but I need real people and things for real schoolin’. I’m also not a fan of trendy anything, so I was hesitant about getting a fabric pattern that had shown itself on social media a bit and was now “outdated.”

But of course, I didn’t get around to sewing it – last year was what, busy? My head and/or heart wasn’t up for it? (Not that I need “passion” to sew, I just needed to not have a coronary).

But this summer I wished I had a cottony dress or two, and I’ve got some other great fabric (that doesn’t match my glasses) in my stash that’s been waiting for years (decade?) to become a couple of dresses and skirts.

I had a weekend to myself mid-summer and spent an early morning tracing out this pattern and printing and cutting out a couple of skirt patterns. And I was lazy or stupid to do it on the living room floor rather than the freshly-cleared-for-this-purpose library table in the basement, so things might be a bit wonky from tracing on the plush rug and all tape has dog hair stuck to it – he was not helpful at all during the process…

And then I waffled passed golden to nearly burnt on whether to make a muslin out of well, muslin, or stash fabric I didn’t like, or the fabric that came in the kit that I decided I didn’t like that much after all (it’s pretty thin). I figured if it ended up fitting – in the sense that it wasn’t too small and covered my body, it could at least be a bathing suit cover up.

So I decided to go with the kit fabric as a wearable muslin and cut a size that seemed slightly more, but not too much, more than my actual measurements,* and gave myself another couple of inches of length at the bodice, then dutifully serged all of the raw edges.

Then I sewed the bust dart.

Then I ripped out the bust dart.**

Then it was a messy heap on my tiny fiber room floor for a couple of weeks.

I know I am a weird size, and I always have a hard time finding clothes – SO OF COURSE that means patterns will make clothes that don’t fit well either. And this is the reason I need to be able to make my own clothes, because everything in my closet could be near perfect-fitting if I made them with my own customizations, but on one hand I don’t know how to tweak stuff in the right way, and on the other I can’t be bothered to.

For me, making clothes is the equivalent (sorta) of tiling a bathroom – I can do it, but certain circumstances (the measuring) stresses me the fuck out, and then I don’t want to do it, and then I really don’t want to do it, then I loose sleep thinking about doing it, and then there is a trigger/siren/smack of utter necessity that makes me finally do it, and it’s fine – sometimes pretty good – but so far always good enough and well worth the few hundreds/thousands in savings.

But I don’t need that stress over a dress – I should go back to making a couple of skirts – from the pattern I’ve made before, not a new one.

(And the dress pieces are off the floor, and I’ve forgotten where I’ve stashed them already, and my now year and 1/2ish old glasses are pretty scratched up…)

*My usual mistake is to sew something way too big and then spend more time taking it in.

**I can probably still save it to a degree – the pattern is made for neat, top-shelf titties, and mine are bottom of the barrel, lying on the barroom floor – but the bodice is still too short – and yes, I read all about full bust adjustments online, but it just doesn’t stick…

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Small and easy status report

I still haven’t settled on the next new big knitting project, though vests and ponchos and cabled sweaters are in the queue – part of it is my insistence on finishing up a sweater that I’ve procrastinated on for months, but most of it is that I don’t have, or don’t know when I’ll have some good chunks of daylight knitting time to get over the humps of understanding and executing a new-to-me pattern’s fiddly bits.

A new Rosa’s Caponcho was on my needles for a couple of evenings, but the yarn didn’t have enough drape – I think – I may put on another row or two before frogging it, but I’m pretty sure I want to start it again with some as-yet-to-be-spun yarn, or unraveled stuff (or yet-to-be-unraveled stuff). There are a few things in the stash that might be good as well, but the one with the best drape seems pretty sheddy and light colored, so that would probably be a mistake in the end…

So I’ve been putting rows on the small and easy traveling projects while at home here and there instead.

An eight-hour flight delay turned the mesh test scarf into a thing that is now the circumference of my neck.

I’m not sure if this was the best mesh pattern to use – I wanted one with character that stretched and retreated, but I keep seeing other patterns that I wished I’d started that are a more stationary fishnet, but whatever, this one doesn’t have any p3togs or other awkward-for-me maneuvers. However it’s not great for bleary eyes – I managed to catch most of my mistakes, but one made it through so far, and the slick and variegated yarn will make repairs at the end a bit more difficult. And lifelines might be a good idea – I’m too cocky/lazy to do them lately, and I’ve tinked back without drama several times on this one since it’s only a 2 row repeat, but I might be pressing my luck….

I thought I hated mesh – several years ago I slogged through a Midwest Moonlight scarf and it’s been the only knit that I remember actively hating the entire time – I kept being plagued by one dropped or accidentally knitted together stitch, and wouldn’t immediately realize that the whole thing was thrown off until a row or two later. But lifelines saved me in the end, and this was probably the last project I did on straight needles, so I was still figuring shit out.

I still wear it too – the yarn is cotton and wool, so it also sucked to knit for that reason too, but it’s good to wear in the shoulder seasons. And I’d recommend the pattern – it’s very easy, though if I had to do it again, I’d go with a bulkier/chunkier yarn so I wouldn’t have to keep at it as long.

And I have been re-evaluating the rectangular scarf lately – I swore them off for knitting, I don’t wear them as much as my side-to-side triangles, but I what, miss them? They seem to have fallen out of favor, but I’ve been looking at them again. I used to have a fairly intense yoga practice and the instructors were always repeating that the positions you hate now might be the ones you love later. Though I never learned to love the ones that always made my toes pop out of joint, I do feel that I’ve come around to mesh (especially after this) and back to rectangular scarves in a similar way.

And socks, how could I have been so lukewarm about socks a few weeks ago?

When it officially becomes a sock. #sockknitting #socks #sockyarn #foot #dpns

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I love socks.

I do kinda sorta have enough, but fuck it, I should always have a sock on the needles. It’s comfort knitting- it’s mostly brainless, somewhat sightless, and something comes of it relatively quickly, though I have no issue with a pair taking a year or more if only knit on occasionally.

So socks=no stress.

And last, that orange cream cashmere tube…

No new pictures because it is the same only a few inches longer. It’s a blast to knit in an endless meditative spiral slide kind of way-

weeeeeeeee around and around we go…

But suddenly I wanted more pattern.

I also remembered I wanted to make a big mosaic tube, but then I remembered I wanted simple, and while my memories duke it out, that one is sidelined now. (I could mix it up with various patterns, but I’d have to jigger the stitch counts and the stranding or slipping would probably be tighter than the striping, and I wanted something simple and nondescript, right…?)

So perhaps I’ll have some socks by the year’s end, instead of next like I’d originally thought, and hopefully I’ll have that silky mesh thing for spring (unless the long rectangle becomes beastly again…)

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Autumn, outdoors

The going has been slow…

What the dog (and man) brought in… #wildflowers #aster #autumnflowers #fiestawarelove #fiestaware

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The yard has improved significantly this year – we’ll see what overwinters and fills out next – hopefully the new “herb hill” will never need to be mowed/wacked again. We keep picking up coreopsis plants on sale too, so I’m gaining an unintended dye garden as well.

And the redistributed cement crumbles from the former sidewalks to nowhere have oddly fruited!

Stinkhorn! #stinkhorn #fungusamongus

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And N built an enclosure for leaf compost out of the biggest pieces. The dog likes to sit in it too.

The garden is a bit of a mess – I’m out of steam for it this time of year, and yet again, I didn’t get the timing right to keep up with some decent lettuces. The tomatoes never got a second wind from their blight (a couple are okay, but they aren’t the tasty ones). And it’s possible we’ll get a few zucchini and patty pans from the second planting of squash that I was hoping was post-squash vine borer, but wasn’t, but I’m not holding my breath.

But this squash, a Zucchino Rampicante is amazing.

It’s currently hardening off like a butternut, and there’s another almost done. It seems that only one fruit can mature per vine, but the babies are good eating like a summer zucchini. And it’s a good thing because we’ve only got four little butternuts. So these two Rampicantes will make up the difference – I’ll wait for the taste test this winter before giving them the green thumbs up – hopefully they’re good, because they beat the pests and diseases the best, and are a constant source of bawdy amusement.

We do have a decent amount of spinach, and we might get some carrots, but the beets are becoming hairy carrots instead of beets – at least the greens are still good – the fall beets never do as well as the spring, so I have to read up on that.

Most of the cayennes are drying out.

Most sewing I've done recently. Note to self: don't rub eyes. #chilipeppers #cayenne #organicgardening #picapica

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And the freezer is overflowing with beans – both the bush and pole had bumper crops this year.

I neglected to pick the fennel – it was a new to me variety that made smaller bulbs, so once I noticed them, they were on their way to becoming too tough.

But maybe we’ll get some seeds. And it’s pretty and the caterpillars like it so it will stay until the bitter end.

N trash-picked the perfect glass/plexi door to make a cold frame, but I’m dubious we’ll get to it this year – the priority right now is to clear and prep a garlic bed.

(And fiber things)

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Woolly start to the new season

Feeling uneven from morning dental work, afternoon flu shot, a cold either minor and lingering, or just slowly beginning, catching up from some brief travel, and pressure systems changing from summery to autumny to a little summery again…

I’m usually ready to say goodbye to summer, but slightly less so this year, or maybe as usual, I’m just not willing to loose the daylight.

My favorite (and only one I attend these days) wool festival happened last weekend.

There was some sheep scratching…

Who doesn't love a good chin scratch? #sheep #jacobsheep #chinscratches #gardenstatesheepbreeders

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And oogling…

And of course, time for the dogs…

(Can you see the dog speck right of center near the top acting as gatekeeper?)

I kept to my strict budget of $30 (including parking) and came home with $3 left – again, took the penny candy approach and bought just a little fiber here and there (seen above).

And got it in mind to finally deal with some of the fiber I’ve been sitting on for years – especially this beast of a fleece (6 pounds I think?) that I’ve threatened to send out to be processed or have made into felt, but both cost money I don’t want to spend. So in the last few sunny days of the year, I’ll be picking and fluffing so I can card a little less messily indoors this winter (or just spin from the fluff and call it rustic and make a big blanket out of the mess…?

 

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Starting fresh (small and easy edition)

I love my most recently finished neck thing – one of those things that feel like I’ve already had and loved for longer than I have – and it’s even gotten some legitimate wear with the sudden onset of autumn-like temps around here. Both this and the last started as easy, go everywhere projects, but as they grew, I had to toss a not-very-exciting washcloth knit in my bag for easier transport. So instead of working on a few larger long-suffering works-in-progress, I’ve spent the last week or so casting on a new portable project that should stay small and portable to the end.

Socks have always filled this need for me, and that’s what I started with, but they weren’t quite scratching the itch. The yarn and my vanilla pattern are both tried and true, but I liked the colorway of this yarn better when I saw it online – I love the mustardy bit, but not the red and blue that should have been a little more burgundy and aqua – and what I thought was more charcoal, is brown – so they’re yet another pair that look fine with my casual earthy-toned clothes but don’t really work for my work clothes (that are still relatively casual but made up of more blacks, greys, and greens).

So I don’t hate them, I’m just less than enthused, and my preferred sock knitting method can get a little bulky and very pokey once I’m on to both cuffs at the same time, so it isn’t an ideal portable project – better for knitting somewhere once I’m there, rather than during the getting there part.

Next up was frogging a Hap for Harriet I’d started 3? years ago. I still like the pattern, I just didn’t like the fact that I’d have to pay attention to yardage or weight around the halfway point – I prefer to do that when I have more than one ball/skein of yarn – so there’s a good chance I’ll make it, but not with this yarn.

I actually have a small need for warmer weather neck things – times like now when it feels a little off to wear something less than lightweight and drapey, but more coziness is needed than a woven cotton thing can provide. So I started a 2-row rectangular mesh scarf (I’ve more to say about rectangular scarves, but perhaps not now) and it’s already driving me a bit mad, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I need. – BUT – I’m again fearful of the yardage and thinking I should re-start it with 9 or so fewer stitches, but it’s a little fiddly and slippery and I hate the first few rows of anything and this meager inch is already about 3 knitting sessions…

So to take the stress down yet another notch, I cast on a cashmere tube.

It had been a tank top.

Then it wasn’t.

From cashmere tank top to creamsicle balls #yarn #recycledyarn #thriftstoresweateryarn

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And yes, once again I’m a tiny bit ambivalent about it. It is utterly unfussy, unpokey, and easy (knit a tube until it’s a good loop/cowl length, unpick the provisional cast-on and graft together, done) but decisions need to be made about stripe sequence or not, other colors or not, and inside-out or right-side out or not. I’m thinking I’ll just do a one-row stripe, but then would it look too machine-made? Like something from the bulls-eye store? And varying stripes would look sporty in a way that I am not? Do I even care since it will be a soft cozy thing?

Maybe I need to keep casting-on…

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Path of totality

I can’t stop repeating that in my head – it sounds like a threat, an end game, a complete takeover – but also a great summation and completion of fragmented parts – it is frightening and reassuring. And I know it’s just the term for the visible swath of an eclipse. But it’s a shitstorm out there and it has been for some time, and we keep breeding and uneducating shitcloud seeders, and there will always be a changeable swath of stupidity and a great joining together to make that path more narrow or wide.

I started this knit this time a year ago – we were on a vacation made stressful by either my still jobless status or anxiety over starting a new one, recently taking on a reactive dog, my foot-dragging acceptance of a body that now hurts more often than not, and the election that seemed far off and the candidate who got inaugurated seemed enough of a joke that even the most dense should get, but I still felt uneasy and dubious it would work out in the end. I grew up in a town with a population of more ignorant folks than not. Folks who hid behind religion and “tradition” and practiced tokenism to prove that they weren’t “bad” people, but folks who also tolerated klansmen as neighbors. None of my family lives in that town anymore and few live in the state – we did what we could when we were there, but the path of totality of intolerance was too scorched and wide.

I’m erroneously remembering that this pattern, Isabell Kramer’s Paris Toujours, was designed in response, or as a memorial to (one of) the Paris attacks. But it looks like it was commemorating a happy weekend (maybe there was a knit-along with this after the attack instead?) Either way, I knit it because it was easy and side to side – just the way I like to make and wear scarf/shawls – I’d clearly confused the designer’s intent and blurred yet another violent act of many so I can’t say I knit this as a statement against ignorance. But this kind of knitting feels like my own little path of totality to keep my fingers calmly and constructively moving through another year of shit, coming out at the other end with something soft and warm – and I won’t say safe, since there are no “safe places,” and let’s face it, a scarf could be quite deadly as a garrote, or a gag, or bindings in the middle of nowhere without access to food and drink (though it would make it at least a cozy slow death).

I was a little surprised that I finished it by my secret deadline, and by the end of the summer. I’d started it in the mountains and planned to work on it in another set of mountains later this year, but I’ll likely be wearing it there instead – it’s already my new favorite even in the muggy dog days.

The yarn was from a thrifted JCrew cardigan, slightly felted, in a wool, cashmere, viscose, and rabbit (I’m assuming angora) blend – and it is mad soft and not at all sneezy, with great drape and enough definition.

I would have liked it to be a bit larger – I was hoping that the last band of garter would be twice as wide as the one before it, and I lost yarn chicken twice at the end and had to unknit a couple of times, but it is large enough.

A couple of heads up about the pattern that are obvious for those in the know, but need to be stated for those who aren’t (me), especially if you deviate from the stripe sequence like I did. The stitch counts will be off unless each section is done in even numbers of the pattern repeat, so after the set up, if you want to keep doing lace, then start with row 3 of the lace pattern. I was often off with this, randomly ending up with 2 (as per pattern) or 3 stitches at the end. It didn’t really matter to me since fudge is good to do and to eat, but I kinda preferred ending in 3 stitches – if I did it again, I’d keep up with the 3 (or more) stitches at the end of the lace since a tiny bit more of garter makes the edge a little more stable. And then I can’t really describe this but the first row of garter after the lace makes a row of stockinette, so the lace sections aren’t symmetrical – again, it didn’t bother me enough to figure out how to fix it (a row of purl somehow?) but I think it could make some itchy.

This (or rather another loose variation thereof) will likely be on my needles again. And I’ve got my eye out for another one of these sweaters – wondering if it came in other colors – not that I don’t love this olive though, it’s among of my favorites. And this finishing up older projects thing has been working for me these days although everything that is left is vastly more complicated – but my path of unfinished totality is pleasantly closing in…

 

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