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Stitch Shape and Bristol Fashion

Crafting in the West Country

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Mal-knit-ficent

This week I’m going in a slightly different direction and talking you through how I made my latest creation. I had this idea a while ago and after finally seeing the film and forgiving Angelina Jolie for breaking up Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pit, I decided to have a stab at a Maleficent headdress. It’s still not quite finished, but it’s not far off.

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Isn’t she stunning!

Stage one is breaking the design down into individual elements, studying them and working out how best to recreate each of them in a knitted form. So, looking at it, we have a hat and two horns.

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Turban’d!

After looking at the hat structure for a while, which has an almost ‘widows peak’, turban style hats seemed to be the way forwards, with a deep V shape at the front that an extra piece of knitting could be used to turn it into more of an M shape. It also needed to have a ribbed texture and cover the ears. After a snoop through ravelry, I decided upon this pattern, and knitted it up with no issues.

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With only my phone to take pictures, correctly exposing everything is a bit of a challenge…

So, the insertion to make the M shaped brim! It was a small piece of knitting, created thus.

CO 3 stitches

Row 1: K

Row 2: P

Row 3: K1, M1, K to last stitch, M1, K1 (5 stitches)

Row 4: P

Rep last two rows until you have 9 stitches, ending with a P row.

Next Row: K

Next Row: P

Next Row: K1, SSK, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1

Next Row: P

Rep last two rows until 5 stitches remain

Next Row: K1, S1, K2tog, PSSO, K1

Next Row: P

Next Row: S1, K2tog, PSSO

And it just seams nicely in place! You can play with the proportions if you want, my first attempt was bigger and much much too big.

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Nose warmer!

Now, the really tricky bit. The horns! The first attempt I made, I decided were far too large for Jolie’s Maleficent, but would be quite good for the animated version.

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Round 1: too big!

To make them I used my trusty old Clanger pattern as a guide, and I’ll talk you through how I adapted it. The pattern can be found here for free.

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Round 2: There we go!

I knitted it in DK on 4mm needles. you start out by following the instructions as given on the pattern. except you work in the round. Follow the pattern until you have 30 stitches and then work one more row as given in the pattern. Work 12 rounds stocking stitch. Remove marker, knit 15 stitches, replace marker. Repeat the shape back of head instructions as you used them before, but without making any stitches. Knit in stocking stitch for 12 rounds. [P1 round, K1 round] 3 times and cast off.

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Long Horn? Mooooo!

I still need to work out how to make the horns stay upright and a few other bits, but I’d say I’m not far off a finished piece. I’ll follow that up on another blog and will also document the creation of a complete costume over the coming months. See you next week!

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Black stuffing is a must me thinks…
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Fearless Knitting!

First off, apologies for not posting last week, everything’s a bit mad at the moment. I’m writing this whilst perched on a stool and I have never wished for something to support my back more than I am now. Also, no pictures this week because the vast majority of my knitting is currently in storage. This post will be revised when the time is right. Anyway, this week I’m back in action and writing about being fearless.

When I first started knitting I’d say I was pretty fearless in my approach. I never saw a technique as something scary, so much as something to try out, and I think this approach is pretty good, but the longer I’ve used it, the more I’ve put rules in place to make the process balanced.

Firstly, know what you’re trying to make. The second thing I ever knitted was cabled arm warmers. I was just following a pattern pretty blindly and only at the end did I understand how the instructions I was following related to what I was actually making. It was actually a fun way to go with a massive learning curve (I hadn’t even purled before) but I wouldn’t recommend trying it often. My mum bought me the kit, it could easily never have been made at all. If anything would have helped me, it would have been knowing which bit of the instruction related to what outcome. I didn’t even know the word cable.

Budget according to your confidence level. If you want to have a go at a technique and create a huge, show stopping object out of that super expensive yarn you’ve had your eye on for ages, work out the technique on a smaller test item first. Last year my birthday present from mama sheep was the yarn to create an object of my choosing. I’d had to Totoro adaptation of Paper Dolls ear marked for a while, and while I’m not disappointed with it, I really should have researched fair isle and maybe done a few tests before jumping into such a large and expensive piece.

Recognize your skill level and challenge yourself accordingly. Never tried intersia or increases before? Sure you can try them both at once so long as at least one of them is used in a simple form. In general I would recommend just trying one new thing at a time, but if a second technique you haven’t tried is used in small quantities or in entirely separate rows to the one you’re really excited about, why not give them both a go at once?

Know if you’re in the mood and have the patience. I often have a couple of different projects on the go at once and which one I’ll work on will depend on how much concentration I want to give my knitting. There are projects were you can be mostly focused on the TV, projects where you’re half watching the TV and projects where the TV might as well not be on at all.

Well, see you next week. Promise this time.

Oodles of Doodles

Some days you just can’t think of anything you want to make. Other days you have ideas coming out faster than you can say ‘What time does the craft shop close?’  You can use one problem to combat the other. Write down all the ideas you have as you have them, and when you get stuck in a dry spell, you have somewhere to go get inspired.

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Check out that cover! Patchworking win.

Mama Sheep had an idea. An idea of a perfect patchworking notebook. But she could never find anything that would quite fit the bill. The Concept was to have pages with squares, but they would alternate between different sized squares, depending on what kind of detail she wanted out of it. Frustrated by her inability to source one, she eventually made herself one. It has provided her with several years of design recording and she’s never looked back.

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Working through one idea, two different sized squares are WONDERFUL!

Making a book for yourself isn’t as tricky as you might think, especially if you’ve already got crafting skills. It doesn’t have to be of exceptional quality, just sturdy. She included two different sizes of squared and plain paper with a patchwork cover. There’s plenty of tutorials online to provide you with different ways of binding your own book, so if you can’t quite find something to fit the bill, do it yourself!

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Yes, I drew out pokemon knitting charts in case to mood ever strikes me. I am not a bad person.

While trying to get an amazon purchase to a high enough value to get free shipping, I came across a squared paper for knitting charts notebook by chance and it was just about the price I needed. What so special about this paper I hear you ask. Well, it’s not quite squared. Knitting stitches are a little wider than they are tall, so if you’re charting out a fair isle design on properly squared paper, it will be slightly distorted when it comes to the knit. I’m not completely happy with the paper in this particular book, I feel the lines are a little bulkier than I would like, but I am glad I’ve bought it and will invest in some from a different supplier again in the future.

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I have my reasons for wanting to make an octopus costume. If you keep reading, one day you’ll find out what they are!

Have a notebook just for general ideas. I have a ton of them! Each idea gets one double page. Any ideas I have relating to that project prior to construction go in that book, but once construction has started it’s for reference only. Some pages only have a title, others have calculations, small sketches, different ways of trying to make the idea work. They don’t have to be good sketches, just represent what I want out of it.

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The notebook of minty freshness and blogging joy!

I also have a whole notebook just for this blog! Ideas for posts, lists of things that could go in them, ticked out, scribbled off, regrouped into another in a similar line. I’m also having ideas about other stuff to make constantly while writing this, so making sure I highlight any new ideas while I’m writing so I know where there’s something else to be made!

Have a great week guys!

Health and Saftey in the Stitchspace

People think that crafting is a sweet little hobby that couldn’t possibly cause any harm, on the whole it is, but it’s important to remember that you can still injure yourself badly working with sharp objects.

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A High Vis jacket probably isn’t required… Probably…

Pins can be dangerous business. Last year, my mum started telling every crafter she came into contact with about this story, where a member of a wardrobe department accidentally inhaled a pin, resulting in her having surgery. Anyone who uses pins will keep them in their mouths and my mother is now quite adamant that we shouldn’t. While I haven’t stopped doing it, I am much more wary now, and ensure I keep my tongue firmly against their heads if they are in my mouth.

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It’s hard to make pins in your mouth look good. That’s probably for the best.

Repetitive strain injury preventing me from knitting is something I live in fear of since it’s halted my mothers pursuit of the hobby. For me, there are three things that help when I do start getting twinges in the wrists. Firstly, make sure you have as much of the weight of what you’re making on your lap as possible. When you are knitting, the weight of it rests on your wrists and puts them under strain. A useful tip I read to combat this is that working on circular needles, even when not knitting in the round helps to keep the weight elsewhere.

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Could be a poor man’s Jolly Roger

Overloading your needles is a bad move. When you have too many stitches on them and you’re fighting to stop them slipping off the ends all the time, guess where the strain goes? Yup, once again, it’s your wrists doing all the work. Using circular needles helps to combat this also, as there tends to be more room on them than a straight set, but you don’t have two rods sticking out which can be annoying.

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Easier and more comfortable to put it on a needle that fits!

If you do start getting twinges, take a break. As hard as it can be when you’re in full knit mode, it’s better to take a break and spend a little longer finishing the project than finishing the project more quickly, but never being able to knit again. The thought that sends a chill down my spine. No resting properly when you do discover the problem will worsen it and potentially cause lasting damage.

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I always take a break with my best MUGgle.

Rotary cutters are lethal. My mother recently told me a story about a well known local patchworker who wore her cutting mat out so much that the blade of hers got stuck. When freeing it, she also sliced through the skin on her other arm and had to go to hospital. The surgeon had never seen anything like it and didn’t know what a rotary cutter was. when she explained to him it was a razor blade on a wheel, he couldn’t believe people were allowed them!

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ALWAYS retract the blade after use.

I could bore you with the thing we were told in school, goggles for the sewing machine in case the needle breaks… but these seemed a bit more obscure. See you next week!

A Family Affair

Both my mother and grandmother were knitters My mum stopped because it now gives her RSI and Nana is legally blind. Here, I look at some of their creations we have stashed around the house! (Please excuse the excessive number of selfies. I don’t have a mannequin to model them on.)

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Couldn’t cut Papa Sheep out, just because of his facial expression!

First up we have this amazing batwing creation of my mums! All of her knits on this list are from the 1980s, so why not start with the most 80s of them all?

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Na na na na na na na na BATWING!

She seemed to have been very keen on these kinds of cream colours around then. It was the first thing she knitted on big needles. She got the pattern free in a magazine, but doesn’t remember much more because the 80s was so long ago.

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I know my face looks unimpressed, but I actually love it!

Next up, we have this rockin’ red creation, once again from mama sheep. She actually gave me this one a few years ago, and many people comment on how well it suits me. It’s a little moth eaten, but will probably be quite wearable once I get around to giving it a bit of TLC.

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Close up of yoke

I remember my mum telling me about this independently of showing me. She told me that it was so dull to knit the body, and the feature was the lace yoke.

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Disclaimer, me modeling, not grandpa.

This is my absolute favorite on this list. Once again it needs a little TLC, but is also the most striking and has the most interesting story behind it. Sadly, it is the only creation by Nana Sheep on this list, but I will endeavor to find more of her creations to showcase next time I visit.

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Check out that fair isle!

She made it in the 1950s for my granddad. It was a post war country and resources were scarce. There are elements where the colours change because she ran out of wool and couldn’t source the same shade precisely. It’s amazing, I love it and I wish it didn’t bunch weirdly on me where it was designed for a mans chest.

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I remember Papa Sheep wearing this when I was little and thinking that it was made by sewing lots of squares together.

Another of Mama Sheep’s creations next, made for Papa Sheep. She made it around the time they got married, and from what I gather it was a bit of a dare. He didn’t quite believe she could create such a master piece. Having discovered the pattern book while going through a pile of crafting literature, I decided to make myself the same jumper in different colours. One of my great unfinished projects. (To be fair, I put the pattern away and couldn’t find it again for 6 months.)

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I feel some Back to the Future reference may have worked here.

Finally, we have another gifted to me by my mother. It’s just so 1980s, especially the sleeves. It looks much better once it’s on then you think it will and I know she was disappointed with the neck line, but I reckon I can rock it.

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The buttons on the back are super sweet.

She thinks it was made from a thermal wool, not sure how that works with lace knitting, but hey ho.

There is so much more ‘archived’, I’m I’ll post more.

Kids Characters Costume Show Down

Anyone I know will tell you, I love fancy dress. And the more ridiculous the better. Putting a costume together is so much fun, and I find myself making more and more elements every time. I don’t tend to replicate costumes directly from film and TV, not that there’s anything wrong with this, I just enjoy the design factor as much as I enjoy the creation of the piece. Here are two very different approaches I take when I make a costume.

Alice in Wonderland

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A nice sensible concept sketch

This one’s about planning, planning and planning again. To begin with, I sketched out the basic elements of the design. The concept was to make it look like the part where Alice grew and ended up wearing the house. Rather than create some kind of cardboard house to spend the day wearing, I wanted to create an under the bust corset, which would be easier to wear and more fashion rather than costume.

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More detailed sketch. This was the design element I was most excited about.

To achieve this, I decided to look at all the elements individually. I wanted to make a dress and a corset. All the other elements (underskirt, wig, apron…) I was going to buy. Ebay is an excellent resource for buying bits for costumes. The dress I made straight from a pattern, but for the corset, after doing a bit of research, I decided to draft the pattern myself. I made a toile before cutting into my precious brick print fabric, just to be sure it would all work. The embellishment never ended up happening, but I was pleased with the outcome and I can always add it if I wear it again.

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The final costume. Just wish I’d remembered to take my glasses off for pictures.

The Clanger

I want my own knitted clanger outfit. What sane person has never thought these words? My advice? Do not do it. It’s all fun and games and then you realise what you’ve done. I had no plan as to when I would wear this, and in all honesty, I still don’t have a clue.

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Cute or terrifying? You decide.

The idea crossed my head one day and I was already in possession of this book. As I work dangerously close to a well stocked craft shop, it didn’t take long for me to get going Using the pattern as a guide, I made it up as I went along.

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It was somewhere around here I started questioning my decision to make this.

I used the pattern for the adult clanger for the head using chunky wool. I then kept increasing until it looked a reasonable size to wear as a waistcoat, kept going until it was time to split for the arm holes, added some sparse ribbing and kept increasing gradually until it was a reasonably ridiculous length. Finishing it involved constructing a pink fleece cushion to hold her head proudly above mine in addition to adding the ears and felt embellishments. Before these decorations were added was the lowest point where I was questioning what I’d done, but I kept going or I’d never know how she turned out.

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I’m simultaneously impressed at myself and questioning my sanity.

I have plenty of other costumes to write about, but that shall be for another day.

Technocrafter

While crafting can be a way to find solitude in the 21st century, away from mobile phones and the Twitterati, the Kardashians and selfies, it can also be an incredible tool to help you with your craft, without interfering with the process.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how it helps me monitor my cross stitch progress. This happened by accident. I started out by taking pictures of what I’d done to see if my friends could work out what it was going to be. A really fun game if you’ve never played. It tended to be about one a day and I noticed that I could see what I’d done each day. When do something as focused as cross stitch where you can sometimes get bogged down in not making much progress, it actually really helps.

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The month of Bill Murray.

Having photography as an instant form is useful for so many things really. I often photograph my knitting in case anyone asks me what I’ve been doing. Patchwork has an incredible application for this, arranging your blocks. This is my mums domain, and she’s always done it, even when you had to go and get film developed! (Although a little less frequently then) If you arrange your blocks in different ways and then photograph each of them, you can look at the different arrangements easier and decide which you like best much quicker. Plus, you don’t have to remember how you had them before, and get frustrated when you can’t remember how to recreate it. You have a reference picture!

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Mystery quilt! my mum had no idea how it would turn out. Now property of her mum.

If you’re anything like me, you keep track of where you are in your knitting with endless scraps of paper covered in tally marks. I haven’t completely said goodbye to this method, but I now often use my iPhone to make keep track instead. A well organized note conveniently titled is much harder to loose than that back of an envelope. Bonus feature when you’re making something big you can delete the notes that you’re done with, minimizing any confusion over which set you were using

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Tally Ho!

Last year, my huge Game of Thrones scarf got over 25 likes on Facebook, with a disclaimer it was not going to be knitted again for anyone (still didn’t stop people asking!). IMG_0062The lying down next to it was to demonstrate the scale. Apparently I look dead. Later in the year I reveled this flamingo jumper. This was the second customization of this pattern, which I am completely in love with. The response online? First time I broke 50 likes on Facebook! I don’t think I’d ever got 30 on one post before.

IMG_0061The jumper I finished this week, much less fantastical but got 40! Very grown up knitting by my standards indeed.

IMG_0060I don’t make things for likes or external gratification, I make things because I enjoy the process and out come. But boy, does it feel good for other people to acknowledge the skill, time and process that went into the piece.

Will You Make This For Me? No!

When I first started knitting the answer was simple. No. I didn’t have the speed or the skill level. The problem is, once you can do something beyond the very basic knit/purl abilities, non-knitters think you know it all and assume you will make them anything they ask for.

But how about now? Now my skill level is up and learning new ones isn’t hard. Will I knit something for you now?

In all honesty the answer is still more often than not, no. And here are my first set of reasons:

  1. I can’t make it. The pattern/picture of whatever you want me to work out how to make is actually crotchet, not knitted. I know a tiny bit of crotchet, but it is a completely different skill to knitting and I do not have the skill level to make that for you. I can probably work out a knitted approximation, but it won’t be what you want.

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    This picture represents the best of my crotchet skills.
  2. You’ve sent me a dull pattern. While the outcome is very stylish and striking, the actual techniques involved are rather unexciting. You need to remember I knit for pleasure, and while the outcome is a part of that, it’s more important that I find the actual process engaging and exciting. Don’t pressure me into doing something that makes my hobby a chore.

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    Stunning, but boring as hell to knit. Took a 4 month break in the middle. (Pattern from Ravelry)
  3. ‘I’ll pay you for it.’ No, no you won’t. This is one of the most common things people say when I say I don’t want to knit that for them. If you have asked me to make something I do want to make, covering the cost of the wool is a pretty nice thing to do. However. If you think you’re going to pay me for my time, you are very much mistaken. Say I manage to knit you a hat in 5 hours. Quite a basic hat. UK minimum wage is £6.70 an hour. That’s £33.50 you would be paying me for my time, not including materials. You probably want it to be made out of something pretty nice, since you’re spending all this money on it, so let’s round that up to £40. And remember this is not, taking into account that what I’m doing is skilled work, and I should be paid more than minimum wage. Do you really want to pay me £40 for a hat? I would much rather give my knitting away than be underpaid for it.
  4. ‘I told my friend you know how to knit and they were wondering if you’d make them a…’ I rarely knit things for people I care about, they’re the people I love knitting for. I’ve still never knitted something for my mum, who has made me two patchwork quilts. I knit things for people who I care about, when I want to knit that particular item. Unless there is a really special reason they really want a hand knitted item, the answer is a resounding no.

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    Rare instance of making something for someone I don’t know, an old bosses Grandbaby.

There are more reasons, but they are for another day. See you next week!

To New Beginings!

Hello dear reader! You seem to have found my very first post.

Today we’re gong to have quite a light post, just to get us going. We’re just entering a New Year, and it’s quite timely to reevaluate what you’re doing in all areas of your life and set yourself some goals. While I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘new year, new me’ thing, working in retail and getting the Christmas season out of the way means a bit of head space and having time to look at what I’m doing. So why not set some craft goals too?

  1. Make things in a different style. I love to make really wacky stuff. I’m currently knitting myself some form of a Clanger costume. It’s completely mad and I love it. But I’m also trying to make some more sensible things. I’m also working on a much more sensible jumper from a book my brother got me for Christmas. While I love the creativity and making it up as I go along, working from a pattern and creating something I could wear in front of my Grandma is actually quite refreshing.

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    Why wouldn’t an adult want to dress like a Clanger?
  2. Try new techniques. I’ve got myself up to a certain level in knitting where I have a wide skill set and don’t often try something new. However, in the jumper I’m making there’s a technique to create a cable I haven’t tried before. Guess what? I love it! I’ve been enjoying knitting this so much and I very rarely knit something from a pattern without changing something. A big part of that is enjoying this new technique. Try something new because you’ll never know if you like it otherwise.

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    Please excuse the fuzziness, but hey, it could be a fuzzy jumper, right?
  3. Make more things to use regularly. In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a big knitter. It’s my absolute favorite craft. For years the only thing I really made and wore regularly were scarfs. Through 2015 I made a couple of jumpers and they’re even more satisfying to wear than scarfs, and I get an even bigger glowing feeling inside when people compliment the garment, unaware it was made by myself.

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    Flamingo jumper. It might be mad and colourful, but so am I.
  4. Make more things for other people. Every now and then I go through a ‘I’m going to cross stitch all the birthday cards’ phase. You can completely customize it to be aimed at them and their interests, and they love that you spent to time on it for them. Maybe this year I’ll do it more consistently. Handing over a scarf you’ve knitted yourself, or something you’ve made and designed based on something they said? Even more gratifying.

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    Birthday Card for a friend who likes a good fiddle!
  5. Revise old techniques. This week, I found a way to make a purl stitch without leaving a big hole in what I’m making. I’m a little bit embarrassed I was living with the way I was doing it and didn’t think to correct myself earlier in all honesty. Just because you already know how to do something doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

Well, that’s about it for today. See you next week!

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