Been Dyeing to See You!

September 19, 2016

I’m supposed to be hiking the tallest peak in Maine right now, but a forecast of three days of >60% chance of rain forced me to change my plans. The likelihood that my hiking companions and I would be able to reach the summit were pretty slim and the chance of an 11.5 hour round-trip drive and two nights in a lean-to were 100%. There’s always next year….

With a “free” Sunday, I decided to visit the Stitch House, a nearby yarn store that I’d been meaning to get to for ages. Yesterday was also the final day of the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl, which means special events and sales. I found both.

When I arrived, Shelley, founder of the wonderful Sheep Ahoy Knitters Cruise, and Diane of Lady Dye Yarns were at a back table with white yarn, cups, water, gloves, and loads of little bottles of dye.

dyeing-dip

Shelley was creating an Irish flag-themed skein as Diane demonstrated the finer points of dipping and stirring.

dyeing

Shelley’s a quick study. Her next skein was speckled, not dipped. (I have no idea if “speckled” is the proper term, but it works for me.)

dyeing-speckled

As befitting a local yarn store, the Stitch House sells lots of locally-made yarns — some from Boston (like Diane’s) and others from around the Northeast US. Check out this worsted from Molly Girl.

mollygirl-rockstar

Sister-friend Cathie is a big fan of purple and pink, so I had to take a photo for her. The Rockstar colorways are named after songs. This one is named “Dancing Queen” and get this…

mollygirl-lyrics

…the lyrics are printed on the label!

I couldn’t resist a skein of Lady Dye’s worsted in Luna. I don’t know what it will become, but it’s ready to go when inspiration strikes.

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Back to (Knitting) Class

September 15, 2016

No matter how old I am, September will always be back-to-school time (at least, here in the Northern Hemisphere). Regular readers will know how much I love to teach knitting since I’ve mentioned it now and again (and again…).

fall-classes

My new fall classes are enrolling now here in lovely Newton, MA. Care to join?

Would you like to learn to knit? Do you know the basics but are ready to move beyond a scarf?

Or have you finished a couple of projects and are ready to learn some new techniques and become more confident — what I call a Fearless Knitter!

Now enrolling for two knitting classes, beginning in late-September.

Tuesday evenings, beginning September 27
7:00pm – 9:00pm

Wednesday mornings, beginning September 28
10:00am – 12:00pm

Beginners will develop a strong foundation of skills so that they can continue knitting many different types of projects. You’ll learn how to: cast on, knit, purl, create a border, read a pattern, identify and fix common mistakes, and bind off. When you’re done your “starter project,” you’ll select one of your choice — a chunky, soft circular scarf, a colorful hat, whatever!

If you know how to knit and are working on a project of your own and/or are ready to challenge yourself with cables, lace knitting, chart reading, socks, or other knitting skills, this is the class for you.

Cost is $75 for a five-class pass. Class size limited to 8.

Interested? Email me for details. 


Shed a Little Light

September 12, 2016

This is my first real candle jar cover, but I can say with confidence that it won’t be my last. A great way to use up extra bits of yarn — this is fingering weight — and to try new lace patterns.

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In my home, we light candles at dinner every night. In my opinion, you can never have too much candlelight — inside or outside.

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Project for a Dark & Stormy Night

September 9, 2016

Since finishing the striped shawl, I’ve been in a bit of a knitting rut. To be candid, it mirrors my present state of mind — preoccupied with challenges that leave me mentally jumping from one thing to another. But I believe I’ve found a remedy of sorts, in the form of a small, relatively quick project perfect for gift-giving and for using up small amounts of leftover yarn.

May I present a candle jar cover:

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This first one is pretty wonky, the result of my not paying attention to the pattern. Funny how that works. I decided that lighter weight yarn would be preferable and dug out some fingering weight that the marvelous Ann Weaver gave me on my first Sheep Ahoy Knitting Cruise. Yes, it’s more than three years ago. Don’t tell me that I’m the only knitter with three-year old yarn in her stash.

I cast on while having dinner by myself before a ferry crossing 10 days ago. I’d ordered a Dark & Stormy in memory of dear Barb (and because I like the taste) and was enjoying the sunset and nearby table conversations.

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A friend commented later how nicely the color of the yarn matched the beverage, and that’s when I knew that this project would be named the Dark & Stormy Candle Jar Wrap. What better for a dark and stormy night than a candle shining bright and safely protected in a glass jar?

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Not done yet. Check back soon though because I’m on a roll.


Circular Needle Wrangling

August 13, 2016

I use circular needles for almost all my knitting. The only exception is double-pointed needles (DPNs) for socks.

Circulars are less cumbersome than straight needles. I can’t drop one of them — unless I drop an entire project. (It’s happened.) And circulars make projects easier to stuff into a bag.

But, as you can see, I’ve yet to find a successful solution for storing the needles themselves.  

Until yesterday, when my latest knitting toy arrived courtesy of the good folks at Webs. And thanks to the Christmas gift card from my sweet husband.  

This nifty hanging organizer, made by della Q, allows me to sort needles by size into labelled sleeves. No more guessing at sizes, which I’m horrible at, or poking needle after needle into a gauge before finding the correct size. Or discovering that I’ve got three size 5s but not one set of the needed size 6. 

Thanks, dear Patrick!


Self-Striping Magic

August 10, 2016

Self-striping yarn amazes me. Actually, the dyers who create self-striping yarn amaze me. How do they do that? How do they figure out how much yarn to dye in each color, and, more importantly, how do they actually dye it?

I know I could look it up on the Interwebs and find some videos, but I rather enjoy the state of amazement and wonder.

Which brings me to the wonderful folks at Caterpillargreen, who’ve created a small line of exquisitely striping yarns. Despite my being in New England and them in British Columbia, my skein of fingering “Concrete Remix” arrived only a week after my online order. Using Caterpillargreen’s free pattern as a starting point, I quickly cast on.

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The yarn is designed for a triangle shawl started from the top-center (the back of the wearer’s neck) outward to the edges (tips of the fingers). And here’s the wonder of the coloring: the initial stripes take much less yarn than the final ones, so the yarn is dyed accordingly so you end up with stripes of the same width.

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I modified the pattern a bit, knitting the bright colors in seed stitch. Three stitch markers remind me where to add stitches (yo at edge of garter stitch edging and M1 on either side of the center line). The pattern is straightforward, so I can knit pretty much anywhere — watching TV, riding in a car/bus/train/ferry, or even while a spectator at a beer pong game.

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Knitting House Call

August 9, 2016

On a recent evening, Marcia — neighbor, friend, and knitting student (among other talents) — dropped by for a house call. She had a couple of skeins of lovely yarn that needed winding, and she needed a scarf-in-progress that was in need of rescue.

Like me, Marcia often visits local yarn stores when she travels, bringing home a souvenir of sorts with which she makes a new creation. This summer, her travels took her to London (England, not Ontario) where she bought a yummy skein of I Knit or Dye’s “At Last” silk 4 ply. It’ll probably be a shawl the next time you see it.

I Knit or Dye yarn "At Last" in Swizzel

She’s also picked up some “Extra” from Blue Sky Fibers (here in Ocean Deep), which will become a soft, cozy sweater. Stay tuned for that, too.

skein of Blue Sky Fiber's Extra yarn

Never one to shy away from a knitting challenge, Marcia had modified a cabled scarf pattern by adding an addition “twist” to her latest project. As an accountant, she’s very adept — and particular about — numbers, a very useful skill for a Fearless Knitter especially when it comes to rewriting a pattern.

However, while airplane flights are often fabulous knitting opportunities, Marcia discovered that they’re less-than-fabulous is the knitter has taken a muscle relaxant because of back spasms. It was no surprise that she got her cables in a bit of a twist!

With some careful tinking [to tink (knit spelled backwards) = to unknit, stitch by stitch) and picking up of stitches, we were able to put the scarf back on track.

cabled scarf close up

She can’t recall the name of this natural handspun yarn, but I can assure you that it is lusciously soft and squishy.

 


Hope There’s Nothing But Cashmere in Heaven

July 27, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t made many new, close friends in my 50s. I’m blessed to have quite a few Sister-Friends, those phenomenal women with whom I share strong bonds of trust, love, and shared experience. Most of them I’ve known for many years.

Imagine my delight several years ago when I met and made two Sister-Friends in the matter of a week, over the course of my first (their second) Sheep Ahoy Knitters’ Cruise. Cathie and Barb had been work colleagues, close friends, and stash-enabling knitting buddies for 25 years, and they welcomed me with open arms.

Barb brought us all tiaras for “formal night” in the sheep’s ship’s dining room. Of course.

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Cathie shared a story that illustrates Barb’s obsession with love of yarn and her sense of humor perfectly:

“One time, we went to a yarn fare in Kitchener, arriving when the doors opened. In the first 15 minutes, we had each spent several hundred dollars and had to make a trip to the car.  I said ‘this could be a problem – we’ve only been here 15 minutes.’  Barbie said, ‘I know, I’m worried there won’t be enough room in my trunk!’

The three of us snorted with laughter on a regular basis whenever we were together. I’m quite sure none of us has been able to look at almond milk without giggling. We emailed, occasionally talked on the phone, went on another Sheep Ahoy cruise, this time to Canada and Maine. Love, laughter, and knitting abounded whenever we were together and even when we weren’t.

And then tragedy struck. Last week, Barb died of advanced lung cancer that she, who never smoked, had been diagnosed with in April.

In May, Cathie and I took a road trip (me from Boston, her from Vancouver) for a weekend visit to Barb’s home in Ontario. As always, love, laughter, and knitting were in plentiful supply — along with delicious food and yarn shopping at Barb’s local yarn store, The Little Red Mitten.

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I’m trying to focus on the positive and be grateful for having been blessed with such a wonderful friend. And I am, truly. But sometimes the sadness and unfairness of it all tightens my throat and squeezes tears from my eyes.

I’ll remember her this way — with an armful of yarn, a sparkle in her eyes, and a smile on her face, giddy with the optimism and possibility of what would come next.

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Quick Cotton Dishcloth

July 24, 2016

There are times when a quick, basic project is needed. That time for me usually involves the completion of one project and some indecision on what to make next.

My go-to “palette cleanser” projects are baby hats and cotton dishcloths or washcloths (depending on the size).

Last week it was a dishcloth. Not just any dishcloth though; Mason Dixon Knitting’s Ballband Dishcloth, a simple, clever, and quick design. Lily Sugar’n Cream in Indigo and Hot Green (although I think of it as Green Apple).

Even though I’ve started a new project (stay tuned for next post or get a sneak preview on Twitter @SaltwtrHillKnit), I’ve started a smaller version, which will be a wash cloth for a lovely niece who’s heading off to two weeks of overnight camp.

What’s your go-to quick-and-easy knitting project?


Tiny Treasures

July 23, 2016

On my daily morning run or walk, my mind shifts from internal – making lists, praying, solving the problems of the world — to external, noticing the sights and sounds around me. I’ve started to pause for a quick photo to record something that captivates me, usually something natural like a sunrise, plants, clouds, wild turkeys (which are simultaneously disgusting and fascinating).

My brother Luke, a talented blogger (go check him out), regularly posts a photo under the “Beauty All Around Me” category. He says that looking for beauty in the world, no matter where he may be, helps him to see the beauty in the world. A helpful exercise any time but especially when life seems dark.

In a little “pocket park,” I came across a collection of lovely Fairy Gardens, part of a local Garden Festival. These tiny worlds were just exquisite, each carefully created from natural and human objects. #BeautyAllAroundMe indeed!

fairy garden with tea set

fairy garden umbrellas

fairy garden with tree hut


One Toe Up, One Top Down

July 10, 2016

One of my knitting goals this year was to knit a pair of toe-up socks. I’m half-way there.

A stretchy, soft self-striping yarn in blues and greens was the perfect combination for Kevin. (Plymouth Yarn’s Diversity in Deep Sea) He’s a big fan of handknit socks and those colors, so it was pretty much a no-brainer.

In my excitement to start, I began in my usual top-down way using the YarnHarlot’s Good, Plain Sock Recipe. Only after I’d started to turn the heel did I recall my goal of learning to knit socks from the toe-up. The result was the sock on the right (Kevin’s left) — top down, partridge eye heel flap, gusset heel, and toe grafted via Kitchener stitch.

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Fortified with a toe-up sock book from the library (love, love, love the library!), I started the second sock from the toe. The cast-on and toe shaping took a few extra minutes, but then I was on my way. No seam!

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I wasn’t thrilled with the heel flap — mostly because there wasn’t really a flap. But I carried on. I found a variety of heels in the toe-up book and expect I’ll try a different version next time. Kevin declared them “terrific and cozy,” high praise from a young man who’s pretty particular about his clothing.

KRD_socks2

 

 


Shawl: Dropped & Draped

July 8, 2016

Dropped-stitch shawl hanging out in the shade.

Thanks to Sister-Friend Cathie (she of the knitting cruise and Ontario road trip), here’s a photo of the shawl “in action.” What a wonderful evening we had with my our Mom and our unphotographed husbands!

AGH-MAH-Cathie-shawl

on Instagram: http://ift.tt/29npb97


Tropical Salad Shawl

July 6, 2016

The colors of the Madeline Tosh yarn that I purchased in Ontario grabbed me from the moment I saw it at The Little Red Mitten. Even though they aren’t colors that I wear at all very often — yellow and orange aren’t very flattering on my Celtic looks — I knew I’d buy it. A fruit salad of mango, cantaloupe, honeydew, and papaya: the perfect combination for a rectangular wrap across the shoulders. I usually take a photo of the label so I’ll recall the name and colorway. Alas, no such luck this time!

The drive back from a glorious weekend with two Sister-Friends was the opportunity I needed to bind off.

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Back home, I plopped it into the sink for a good long soak before blocking. I discovered the magic of blocking quite a few years ago and now soak and block every wooly item. Washing is a definite “must” after you’ve carried a project around with you for weeks.

DropStitch_shawl_soak

And once you’ve soaked, squeezed (gently, of course), and rinsed, you might as well block. I was hoping to lengthen this shawl (or is it a wrap?) a couple of inches — both to highlight the lovely dropped-stitch waves but also to ensure that it’d be long enough to really wrap around my shoulders. I’d only bought one skein and wasn’t really following a pattern. Risky, I know, but worth it.

DropStitch_Shawl


Knitting by the Sea

June 2, 2016

I had the great good fortune to spend Memorial Day Weekend on my favorite island, surrounded by the sea, fresh ocean breezes, thick evening fog, and lots of testosterone. Yes, it was me, Patrick, and eight young men, ages 17 – 20.

boys-beach

A wonderful time was had by all. On Saturday morning, Patrick and I pinged back and forth from the library computers, printers, and scanners, and the notary at the bank in order to finalize paperwork for the lease on our sweet girl’s new apartment in NYC.

The library had a display of local items made from scrimshaw, including a swift for winding yarn. In addition to mending ropes, lines, and sails, whalers sometimes knit or did macrame. They also carved gifts for the women back home.

scrimshaw-swift

These scrimshaw bodkins were likely “used to separate threads or punch holes in embroidery designs.”

scrimshaw-bodkins

Naturally, I made time for my own handcrafting. The dropped stitch shawl is coming along nicely.

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Two Girls, Two Knitted Tubes

June 1, 2016

Longtime readers have heard how much I love to teach knitting. This year, I’ve expanded my students to include three marvelous pre-teen girls, each a Fearless Knitter in her own right.

At our most recent class, L finished the garter stitch hat that she’d knitted with a rainbow of Noro. She had declared her previous garter stitch hat “too short” and was determined to make this one longer so that it’d droop in back.The last inch or so was completed and careful seaming commenced.

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The result is a tubular “stove pipe” that is gathered at one end.

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A big green pom pom was the finishing touch.

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I wasn’t surprised when B declared that she wanted to design her own striped leg warmers. Having decided partway through her first garter stitch hat that she’d really prefer to make fingerless gloves, she’s a girl who has an image of a finished product in mind. Leg warmer #1 was seamed, ends woven in (you’ll have to trust us on that since they’re on the inside), and modeled.

Being a dancer, B was particularly proud of her pointed toes in this shot.

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And she thought the sparkly sneakers were a great accompaniment to the leg warmer. Don’t you agree?

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Traveling Shawl

May 19, 2016

It’s graduation season, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to travel for several special occasions. 

Before heading to New Orleans for niece Rachel’s graduation, I cast on a dropped stitch shawl for the journey.   There’s lots of sitting and waiting during commencement exercises, so the shawl grew a bit by the return flights. I must not have been paying careful enough attention because I discovered a dropped stitch. See that green loop standing up there in the middle?

 Yes, I’m aware that it’s a Dropped Stitch Shawl, but this errant stitch wasn’t supposed to be dropped. 

Next up, my dear Hannah’s graduation in New York City. My Mom, Patrick, and I drove to Stamford, CT, parked the car, and hopped on the commuter rail to Grand Central Terminal. Of course, the shawl came along for the ride.   


Knitters’ Road Trip

May 18, 2016

Long-time readers will know of my knitting cruise adventures with my Canadian sister-friends, Barb and Cathie. Recent life circumstances required us to get together for a couple of days in lovely Ontario.

Cathie flew in from Vancouver and I from Boston. With a right-off-the-lot rental car, we headed west to Barb’s home in the countryside. After initial hugs and smiles, we settled in to comfy seats on the sun-lit porch. Before we knew it, several hours had passed. Topics ranged from national politics (Canadian and US), the most recent Ship Ahoy Knitting Cruise (which none of us were able to partake of) hopes for future cruises, updates on our children and Barb’s grandchild, and of course, knitting — stashes, projects (current and future).

Barb’s mother was a home economics teacher for many years, so we had many giggles over some of the recipes in her mid-1960s cook books. Wonder who made Moonbeam Salad Loaf, the ingredients of which were lime gelatin, cottage cheese, and marshmallows (cut into eighths, of course!)?!

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Barb’s dear husband Bill keep us fed and watered with a variety of cheeses, crackers, and white wine. After dinner (courtesy of Cathie and a local caterer), we picked up our needles and watched Murder on the Orient Express. I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to find out “who done it” so it’s still a mystery to me!

The morning was sunny and clear, so the three of us sat outdoors with coffee and knitting, surrounded by birdsong and birds, for a lovely hour or so before breakfast.

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Being a road trip, we were compelled to check out Barb’s LYS, Little Red Mitten in St. Thomas. Fun fact: the shop is across the street from the statue of Jumbo, the town’s most famous 19th century elephant. Curious to know more? Read this.

The Little Red Mitten was fabulous — room after room of scrumptious yarns, patterns, and samples. Who could resist?

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In a feat of perfect timing that must come from 38 years of marriage to a knitter, Bill arrived just as we finished shopping. Hugs, kisses, and perhaps a tear or two were exchanged in the parking lot as we went our separate ways.

Cathie and I headed west to London Yarns — a truly remarkable example of a creative and successful retailer. When she lived in Toronto, Cathie was a frequent customer of London Yarns; based on her descriptions of the many, many projects she made from their afghan and other kits, I’d say she could be considered a part-owner!

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She’s smitten (a kinder word than obsessed) with the adorable Top This baby hat kits. And really, who wouldn’t be? Did I mention that London Yarn takes phone orders and will ship to Canada and the US?

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Mindful of my carry-on bag’s size, I limited myself to 2 balls of Drake Duet for a cowl (details in future post) and 2 small balls of neon yarn for a project-to-be-named-later (when I can think of something!)

When asked at US Customs if I had anything to declare, I refrained from blurting out, “I declare that I had a soul-warming visit with two crazy wonderful knitters whom I miss already.”


The Game of “Bind-off Chicken”

May 4, 2016

Anyone who’s been knitting for a while knows the feeling: you’re nearly done your project and you’re nearly out of yarn. Will the yarn last? Or will you be forced to rip out a row or round or make a trip to the yarn in search of one more skein. With each stitch you bind off, you use the force of will (and maybe prayer) to make the yarn last.

Marcia played her first game of “Bind-off Chicken” at knitting class last night.  Eight stitches to bind off and a mere 2.5 inches of yarn remaining. Guess who won?

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She didn’t have another skein of yarn, which she’d bought in the sale bin at a LYS. She didn’t want to rip out a round of the sleeve cuff because it was only four rows and anything shorter just wouldn’t work she felt.

Fortunately, she hadn’t woven in any ends on the entire sweater. When she turned it inside out, she discovered 5 or 6 long strands — a whopping 2 or 3 feet of additional yarn — more than enough to join and finish the bind off. Whew!

Here’s a sneak peek of her sweater. With any luck, I’ll have more photos once it’s finished and blocked.

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Seeking Fearless Knitters for New Class

March 24, 2016

Fearless_knitting

Regular readers know that I’ve been teaching knitting for several years now and absolutely love it. Just click on the tag “teaching” to see examples of the awesome knitters in my classes.

I’m expanding my offerings this spring. So if you’re in the vicinity of Newton and want to learn or expand your skills, join us!

Here’s the scoop from the notice I put in the schools’ Community Notes:

Would you like to learn to knit? Do you know the basics but are ready to move beyond a scarf?

Or have you finished a couple of projects and are ready to learn some new techniques and become more confident?

Register now for an adults-only knitting class taught by an experienced teacher:

Tuesday evenings beginning March 29
7:00pm – 9:00pm
OR
Wednesday mornings beginning March 30
10am – noon

Cost: $75 for a 5-class pass
Location: Instructor’s home

In this class, beginners will develop a strong foundation of skills so that they can continue knitting many different types of projects. You’ll learn how to: cast on, knit, purl, create a border, read a pattern, identify and fix common mistakes, and bind off. More experienced knitters can expand their skills to cables, lace knitting, chart reading, and/or socks.

Leave a comment or email me if you’re interested. maryannhill82 <at> gmail [dot] com


Socks for a Sweet Teen

March 11, 2016

Before I’d ever knit a pair of socks, I wondered what the appeal was and whether anyone in my family would wear them. So naive! Turns out that hand knit socks are blissfully comfortable, as my three kids and sweet husband — and thousands of other people! — can attest.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to figure out my next project, pulling out my stash, looking through patterns, and to be honest, getting a bit overwhelmed by the options. Michael, my 17 year old, was nearby as I muttered, “What am I going to make next?”

“I wouldn’t turn down a new pair of socks, Mom,” he said and glanced up from the basketball game he was watching.

That’s all I needed. The socks traveled with us on a few days of college tours and information sessions — prime knitting opportunities!

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After we got home, I turned the heel, knit the foot, and shaped the toe.   Yesterday morning — after my second cup of coffee and armed with the Kitchener instructions — I grafted the toe.

Michael declared them fabulous and agreed to model.   He even did a little New Sock Shuffle with his happy feet.


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