An Aran Obsession

The Wash Sweater is coming along nicely. I’ve finished the first pattern repeat of the back, and now just have to work another 66 rows of it, do a bit of shaping for the shoulders and I’m halfway done with the body! It’s also awakened this urge to knit lots of fancypants cabled sweaters. Now, I’m no stranger to this urge. It’s no secret that I’ve got something of an addictive personality. I can’t just knit a pair of socks, I have to knit six pairs. I can’t just make one veggie-themed ornament, I have to produce (ba-dum-ching!) a whole set. And of course there was that time with the mittens. I’m not as bad as some other knitters I could name, and there are whole episodes involving honey cowls and French Press Slippers and Felted Clogs I could point at.

Not that I’ve ever had an episode like that; I knit way too slow for these urges to come to anything. I’ll knit one of something, get hooked on it and queue up fifty bazillion patterns to make more of that thing, and then by the time I finished the first thing it’s been long enough that the urge has passed and I can make other things instead. I’m guessing this is going to be more like that. Especially since sweaters take so darn long.

But in the meantime I’m embracing the cabled sweater mania. I took out several books from the library and spent a nice amount of time this evening leafing through them and browsing the patterns. Two of them are Alice Starmore books. Now, Alice Starmore has been on my bucket list for quite a while; her patterns are absolutely gorgeous and engagingly complex. In particular, I’ve got my eye on St. Brigid as a jumping in sweater, although Cromarty, Na Craga, and Irish Moss have also made my list. (See? Obessive.) Anyhow, I’ve wanted to knit a Starmore sweater pretty much since I started knitting but I’ve always felt that they were beyond my abilities.

Well, flipping through these patterns tonight, it hit me like a bludger to the head. These aren’t beyond my abilities at all. I’m knitting this Wash Sweater and it’s a walk in the park. A very long walk in the park, mind you, but a walk nonetheless. I’m knitting this with complete and utter confidence and loving every minute of it. (Please, universe, I know this is the part where you usually smack me down for my hubris, but I’d take it as a kindness if you’d skip that this time.) The designs in Aran Knitting are more complex, sure, but they aren’t really so much more difficult. To continue my park-walking metaphor, “difficult” would be if someone plunked down a mountain in the middle of the path, complete with sheer rock faces to climb and dizzying chasms spanned  by those flimsy rope bridges that are so popular in movies. “Complicated” is just a walk, only with more steps and a windier path. Nothing to be afraid of there. But for the longest tiem I equated “complicated” and “difficult” and it’s only just now struck me that it’s not true.

It’s absolutely liberating.

Which, yeah, I can admit is sort of silly considering that it’s just sticks and string, but it’s a nice feeling and I embrace it wholeheartedly.

And now, it’s Friday night. There’s snow and biting cold outside, I’ve got my knitting and a movie in here. Life is pretty darn good.

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It’s Good to be a Knitter

There are times when I am just so happy to be a knitter. Long waits, for example. Stressful situations where it’s soothing to keep my hands occupied. But the time when I am most happy of my chosen hobby is weeks like this. The temperatures this week have been bitterly cold, with highs in the teens and lows down in the single digits. Windchill is something I’m pretending that if I ignore then it might go away. And I’ll admit, I felt pretty darn smug as I bundled up this morning to go outside, donning a bulky wool hat and scarf and gloves, with my feet tucked snugly away in a pair of wooly socks.

I still froze my ass off, mind you, but I like to think I did so slower and with a bit more panache than non-knitterly people in their storebought winter garb.

This cold weather is also great for my knitty motivation. I’ve got the first of my Froot Loop socks down to the toe, and have yet to cast on for the second.

I’m so in love with these socks. They’re so fantastically bright and comfy. The Bearfoot Sock has knit up into a nice cushy fabric at 8 stitches to the inch.

I’ve also continued on my Wash Sweater. I’m at 13 inches of the back, and 13 hours. So, yep, an inch an hour. Though to be fair that’s while watching tv and not counting all the little “hey let me just look at this thing on the internet real quick!” and usually while trying to fend off at least one cat who’s parked herself on my lap. But it’s coming along well. I’ve had to tink back a few times, and there was one rather frustrating event where one of my traveling cables went wandering off in totally the wrong direction, but no major froggings, knock on wood.

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Wash Sweater, Take 2

Quite a while ago, nearly a year in fact, you may recall that I had a hankering to knit up a cabled sweater. Of course I got this urge right as the weather began to warm up, but I didn’t let that stop me. I just called it “planning” and “forethought” and other such things with which I am only modestly acquainted. I ordered myself four skeins of Cascade Eco+ and set about knitting up a Wash Sweater for Jason.

This is a pattern that had been lurking in my queue for a while. It’s warm and stylish and cozy and nerdy and something Jason has said he’ll actually wear. What’s not to love about that? Anyhow, with high hopes I set about knitting it. (Well, not quite right away… the yarn unfortunately smelled odd when I got it, and so it all needed a bath before I could stand to knit with it. That set me back a little.) I did it properly, knitting up a little 4″x4″ gauge swatch and washing that and remeasuring and everything. I was just flying along on it, until I had blood drawn and my elbow got so bruised that I couldn’t knit for about a week and a half.

While I was incapacitated, I figured it was as good a time as any to take the beginnings of the Wash Sweater off the needles, give it a wash, and measure it to make sure that it was coming out the correct size. Because we all know that gauge swatches are lying liars who lie like rugs. They are, and mine did, and the stupid sweater was coming out four inches too small. Me, being me, swore at it for a while, then proceeded to stuff it into a bag and ignore it for the next six months.

During the fall I knit lots and lots of socks, and as winter set in I was again struck with the urge to knit up a cabled sweater. And what luck, thought I, that I’ve got one right here, with all the supplies ready to go, the yarn already balled up, and eight inches of the back to use as my swatch. I liked the fabric I was getting on 10.5s so I didn’t want to change needle sizes. (Plus, that would have involved knitting another gauge swatch and that was something I wanted to avoid because that probably would have lied to me too.) I ended up adding an extra four stitches to each of the double moss sections, then an extra stitch in between the double moss sections and the simple cables. This should give me the extra inches I need, provided I did my math right. Me and math don’t exactly have the best track record, but I’m choosing to believe that this sweater has already used up all its bad juju in its previous carnation.

For funsies, I’m keeping track of how long it takes to knit this sucker. Nine hours looks like this:

Um, not so impressive. The stupid 1×1 twisted rib took me half of that. (Have I mentioned lately that I knit slow as fuck?)

I can’t wait to get this done. We’ll see if I can manage that before the weather warms up…

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DIY Sock Club

I’m taking another page from the book of the Yarn Harlot. A while ago, maybe two years or so?, she blogged about making her own sock club to get motivation for knitting up some of the sock yarn and patterns she’d meant to get around to and just hadn’t. I’ve always wanted to join an actual sock club, but haven’t because I just can’t justify the expense of it when, A) I already have lots of sock yarn and B) I already have so many sock patterns queued up that I want to make and C) I’m really really truly awful at keeping up my motivation for these things so really I’d just end up with 12 new skeins of sock yarn in The Stash and 12 new patterns in my queue.

But doing one myself? I’ve already got the yarn and I’ve already got the patterns, and if I completely fail at it, well, it didn’t cost me anything to begin with. So I got out my pattern books and my yarn and pulled out 12 skeins that have been floating around for a while and matched them up with patterns I thought I’d like to make. Then I put them in ziplock bags with a sticky note to remind me what pattern I’d picked for what yarn, and numbered them all one through twelve.

I knew I wanted to pick a new one randomly at the start of each month, but didn’t have any bags that weren’t transparent. So how to get around this? Because I’m a geek, my solution was to roll a d12. It came up 9, which is the number assigned to this lovely skein of yarn:

This is Mountain Colors Bearfoot Sock in the colorway Summertime. I matched it up with the sock pattern Froot Loop, because the color reminds me of the cereal. Even though I haven’t eaten Froot Loops in about twenty years, I still remember sitting at the kitchen table and munching on a bowl of them before going off to kindergarten so they’ve got nice memories. Best of all, this pattern gives me an excuse to bust out the fancypants new sock needles I got for Christmas — a set of Signature Needle Arts 3mm DPNS. And the sock is practically flying off it, even patterned. I’m quite a but further along than this, just past the gusset decreases now, and I love everything about this yarn and this pattern.

These things knit like a dream. The tips are super pointy and slick enough that I even enjoyed knitting the ribbing on these babies. And once I got into the patterned section? The stiletto points make even the most awkward stitches a breeze. In fact, I did a few k3togs just because I could, all the while lamenting where were these needles while I was slogging through the Vilai socks I knit for Sarah? Cookie A’s patterns no longer hold any fear for me! Cables, lace, whatever, bring it on! And a good thing, too, since all of the patterns I’ve picked out of my DIY Sock Club are patterned and I’ll need all the help I can get there.

I’m also knitting a Bandana Cowl, using up more of my KnitPicks City Tweed HW in Lemon Curd. You may recall that I bought a bunch of it to make a cropped sweater and vastly overestimated how much I’d need. I knit a hat to try to use up more of it, but still had a ton left. Now I’m knitting this kerchief, and I started out hopeful that it’d use up most of the rest. Well, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. So, I guess I can knit some mittens and have an actual matching set of winter things? I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. Normally I just throw on a random assortment of knitted things and I’m afraid the effect is me looking like I got dressed in the dark. A dark place filled with lots of lovely knitted things that all look nice on their own but none of which match anything else.

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And In With the New

And just like that, it’s 2013. I slept in this morning and haven’t changed out of my pjs. I sat around, talked to my parents, knit some, and watched Star Trek: TNG with Jason while two of the three cats snoozed on my lap. It was a lovely, slow, lazy day and I loved every minute of it. Tomorrow, we both go back to work and life goes on, but today was a nice little island of quiet.

I just added up my knitted yardage for the year, and the grand total is… 28 finished projects for a total of 8,359 yds. Much better than last year, so yay! My favorite finished object of the year is a toss-up between my TARDIS socks and the socks I knit for Sarah.

As far as resolutions go, I did okay. Not great, but not awful.

  • I wanted to cook more at home, which I did. Not as much as I’d have liked to, but much better than I’ve done before. Improvement was made, and I am satisfied.
  • I wanted to exercise more, which I pretty much failed at. Guess that’s going back on the list this year.
  • I wanted to practice the piano for at least 20 minutes per day. Another great big fail.
  • Resolutions about The Stash included not buying new yarn for January and February, which I did, and to knit more, which I also did by a comfortable 1,800 yds.

Next year, my resolutions are basically the same.

  1. Exercise more. We recently invested in a contraption that converts a regular bike into an exercise bike. Ideally, I’d like to be using it at least 3-4 times a week when the weather is crappy, and use running when the weather gets nicer this summer.
  2. Continue to cook more. I’m doing better, but I feel there’s more room for improvement here.
  3. Practice the piano more. Let’s see if we can make better of that next year.
  4. I’ll be going cold-sheep in the second half of the year. I have a few big projects planned out so I’m not imposing any yarn restrictions on the first half of the year.
  5. Keep the house more in order. I’m sitting here looking at a collection of clutter on the coffeetable, and more on the diningroom table, and more by the door. I don’t like it, so next year it’s going to go away.
  6. Blog more!

As for Goals, I think I did equally mediocre.

  • Last year, I wanted to get through March with no new yarn purchases. Check!
  • I’d wanted to knit more socks. I’d say I carried that one off as well.
  • More socks for Jason was a fail, but I did buy yarn for socks for him, so that’s a step in the right direction I guess.
  • I’d wanted to read 120 books. I read 84. Close, but no cigar.
  • I’d wanted to write more. That didn’t happen.

This year, I’d like to,

  • Read more classic books. I’m setting my goal at 25, and will be putting together a list of classic literature that I really should have already read at this point in my life.
  • I want to do more knitting for Jason. He really does deserve it.
  • I want to learn to read temperature in centigrade. I’ve already switched over the weather app on my phone and have started trying to adjust. It’s hard.
  • Knit more sweaters. I love sweaters, I love knitting. This should happen.
  • Do another big bike ride. Tentatively, we’re planning on the GAP again, just more of it. Maybe late this summer. We’ll see. This falls in nicely with my goal of exercising more. I’ll certainly need to train for it!

Theres some other stuff floating around in my brain, but I’ll just save that for another post.

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Out With the Old

Here we are at New Year’s again. I’ve mentioned before that this is my favorite holiday of the year, but my official New Year’s Post with its reflections and resolutions and end-of-year yardage tallies won’t come until tomorrow when I’ve had time to sit down and put all of that good stuff together. I never do it ahead of time, so it’s become something of a yearly tradition for me. New Year’s Day, I get up and make some tea and then curl up on the sofa with my laptop and spend the first morning of a new year sitting down to reflect on the year that’s gone by and make plans for the year that’s ahead of me. It’s nice.

In the meantime, I’m spending the last of 2012 at home with Jason. We already celebrated in true “us” form: with cheap champagne and Mario Kart. Now he’s playing another game and I’m typing this up. When I finish, I’ll get my knitting and we’ll sit, quietly, as the last minutes slip by and suddenly it’s a new year.

They say that how you spend the New Year and who you spend it with will set the tone for the whole year, and if that’s the case then I’d be really happy. I’m hoping I get a nice quiet year. I’d love a quiet year. 2012 was a year of cancer, and surgery, and illness. It was a year filled with too much worry and too many tears and to much disappointment, and frankly I’m glad to see the back of it. 2013 is already shaping up to be a year of weddings, and I take that as a step in a positive direction.

Now, because it’s been far too long and it is the last day of the year, why not a few pictures I’ve neglected to post earlier to finish out my projects?

Here we have the Candy Socks:

Made from ONLine Supersocke 100, they’re not the softest socks in the world. The yarn is a bit on the scratchy side, but they’re durable as heck and I welcome that.

I also finished my TARDIS socks, and they fit great with my Danskos. I’ve already worn them a few times and I get tons of compliments each time I do.

I also FINALLY finished Sarah’s Extremely Embarrassingly Belated Birthday Socks. They came out just fantastic, and if I hadn’t knit them a half-size too big for me I think there’s a good chance I would have kept them for myself.

And now it’s just 11. That leaves me one hour to get my knitting, to curl up on the sofa with my blanket and my cats and Jason beside me. Together we’ll all bring 2012 to a quiet, peaceful end, and we’ll start 2013 as we mean to go on.

Tomorrow, a new post, a new year.

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An Evening of Stardust

And two more weeks have somehow vanished. I think it’s safe to say that this whole blog-post-every-day-for-a-whole-month thing is a great big fat failure. Can’t say I’m overly surprised, though, and if you are then clearly you’re new around these parts.

I’ve been knitting quite a bit, though. When last you left us (or I left you, rather, but who’s splitting hairs here anyhow?) we had finished one TARDIS sock, and had a teensy bit beyond the cuff of my Candy sock. As it stands now, the TARDIS sock has a mate that’s just beyong its gusset decreases, and the first Candy sock is done, and the second Candy sock is most of the way down its foot. So this means that I just need to finish up both of those, and I’ll have handily achieved my goal of knitting up six pairs of socks in time for winter. (Winter in Yarnia, by the way, begins precisely on the first of December, never mind when the actual date is or the fact that it’s been cold enough for wool socks for a while now.) I’d also meant to be knitting an orange cardigan, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog, and with good reason. The orange cardigan is nonexistent thus far, aside from a paltry five inches of left sleeve and, of course, the grand plans that exist only inside my head.

Now that I’ve got it laid out like this, I’m sort of ashamed that the “quite a bit” of knitting I’ve done turns out to be only a single pair of socks’ worth, given the FIFTEEN DAYS I’ve had to do it in. In my defense, however, I’ve been busy. I worked this past weekend, and before that was Thanksgiving and all the cooking and cleaning in preparation that came along with it. And then before that was a Bayside concert. And then before that…

Before that, dear readers, before that was an Evening of Stardust with Neil Gaiman.

This is the 15th anniversary of the book Stardust, and in celebration Neil Gaiman has done what is essentially a one-stop book tour for it, and Pittsburgh happened to be the lucky city. The tickets were a birthday gift to me from Jason (thank you, darling!) and despite having to wait a whole three and a half months to put them to use, I think it was worth it! Neil Gaiman was pretty much exactly as I’d imagined he would be. He came out on stage, talked a bit about what it’s like to tour and speak about his books, then talked a little more about how he came to write Stardust before reading us a passage from it. He’s such a wonderful speaker to begin with, but when he began to read about Tristran and Victoria and the town of Wall and the falling star… the crowded auditorium fell away and I could just see everything.

The best part of it was that I got to hear the dialogue with all the inflections and subtle implications that Gaiman intended it to have. Wonderful, and now I’m sure when I give it a much-needed reread, I’ll hear it told in his voice. Or, you know, I guess I could just go get the audiobook.

Neil Gaiman also read a bit from his forthcoming book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which won’t be out until next June but I am now very very excited for. It sounds really fantastic, and again, for the part that he read aloud I was just there and now I’m left dying to see what happens next.

Of course then there was a short Q&A session, during which he gave some really fantastic answers to some truly mediocre questions, and then it was over.

An evening of stardust, indeed. Absolutely wonderful and I’m still just thrilled that I was there at all.

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One Down

And just like that I’ve missed a week. Oh, I’ve got my laundry list of excuses at the ready, as usual. Let’s see, there was the election, during which I was glued to the tv as the results rolled in and in my excitement I forgot to type up a post. And then I was sick, and then I was busy, and now I’m finally getting around to posting again.

And what have we missed? Not a whole heck of a lot, to be honest. I’m still knitting socks, and badly at that. So yay for consistency, at least? My Time Traveler socks are awaiting a slight modification. I decreased the heel of one farther than the other, so I need to undo the grafting on it, unravel two rounds and graft it back up. It’ll take me only a few minutes to fix, but for some reason (that reason likely being that all I have done for the past two months is fix sock that I’ve done similarly stupid things to) I just can’t be bothered.

I’ve also managed to complete one of my TARDIS socks, which I’m just over the moon about.

It only took me four days to knit from the colorwork down (that bit took me another couple of days) to make. That’s excluding the wasted day where I knit the textured leg wrong not once but TWICE. The first time I misread the instructions. The second time is because I can’t count to seven reliably. Third time is the charm, apparently, because I got it right after that. The rest of it zipped right along, and thanks to two marathon knitting sessions I found myself sitting down tonight with just a few rounds of the toe left. It only took a little bit to finish it off and graft it shut (a good thing because after yesterday’s marathon of five hours while hanging out with friends and playing Gloom I’m getting little twinges of pain in my left hand.) I plan on casting on for the second TARDIS sock tonight so that I’m not trying to count to 72 during the distractions of Knitting Night so that I can get the pain of 1×1 twisted ribbing over and done with in the company of others. I recall the cuff of the first sock taking me somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and a half, so if I can get that finished tomorrow night I’ll be satisfied. Then I’ll be setting them aside until Friday at the earliest because I’ll be busy the rest of the week and will need something mindless to work on for then.

This should fit the bill nicely, I think.

It’s yet another plain stockinette top-down sock, knit with some of my Germany yarn. This is ONLine Supersocke 150 in the colorway Candy. I think that it was pink and black when I bought it, but after seeing it knit up, it’s more of a pink and really dark green. I like it. I’ve got the cuff done and am safely into the plain stockinette leg so it’s nice and mindless. We’ll see how big a dent I make in this.

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Dull as Dishwater

I feel like the blog has taken a bit of a turn lately. Here I am, blogging about socks, and nearly-3-year-old-sweaters and more socks. But that’s what I’ve been doing, so here we are.

I finished my Time Traveler socks today. I applied all the lessons learned from the Rainbow socks — made the legs a little longer, picked up extra stitches for the heels — and ended up with a pair of socks I really love. This colorway was also not immune to the smudgey red dye, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Rainbow colorway so I’ve chosen to let it go. Plus, Knit Picks also does not appear to carry this colorway any longer, so there’s that as well. One of the socks was smudgier than the other, but it’s not terribly noticeable from a bit of distance. And I sincerely doubt anyone will be crawling on the floor to inspect my handknits so I’m letting that go as well.

You’ll notice that the colorway sequence gets a bit out of order at the toes. Yellow is supposed to come between the beige and red stripes, yet there it is after the purple. That’s because I knit like an idiot. See, when I was approaching the toes I pulled out my Rainbow socks and counted how many stripes to knit before starting my decreases. Well, I miscounted and actually knit the toe, grafted it shut, and knit the heel before realizing that it’s not my imagination that the socks don’t fit right. Of course by then I’d already used the next two strips in the sequence, grey and beige, to knit up the afterthought heel. So I grafted the yarn back together using a Russian Join (I can’t say enough wonderful things about the Russian Join — it’s my favorite way of joining yarn, mostly because it eliminates the need to weave in ends.) I replicated the yellow toes on the other sock, and it almost looks like I meant to do it!

Maybe it’s the FO-glow talking here, but these might be my favorite socks to date. They’re soft and warm, striped (I have a weakness for striped things) and oh-so-subtley geeky. They’re the type of socks that it seems a shame to cover with jeans and shoes.

The socks I’m working on now, however, are an entirely different story. They’re soft and warm and overtly geeky, and I plan on wearing them almost exclusively with skirts so as to show off their nerdy awesomeness.

Yep, they’re my TARDIS socks. If you’ll stretch your memory back, I purchased the yarn for these babies back in January and have only now gotten around to working on them. I’m using Madeline Tosh Sock yarn for the main part, and I think that the colorway Lapis just the perfect TARDIS blue. I can’t wait to get these finished and on my feet!

And lest you think I’ve forgotten, I’m still working on SEBBS the second. Um, still no photo proof, so you’ll just have to take my word on it that they’re progressing. I’m at the heel now, so I should be picking up speed now that there’s a nice boring stockinette sole to break up the lace. Yeah!

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Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Especially no sunshine since today was the end of Daylight Savings Time. At 5:30 it was already dark, and here we are at just 6PM and night has fully fallen. This means that for the next few months it’s dark when I drive home and by the time I get finished with dinner I feel like the day is over and I have no motivation to do anything else.

It also makes taking pictures of knitting somewhat problematic. Everything looks so much better in natural sunlight. I can try to save my photo shoots for the weekend but because this is Pittsburgh even that’s no guarantee since sunlight in the winter is something of a rarity.

I miss summer already, but we have to get through winter first and my quest for warm feet continues.

Another pair of socks I knit is Take 2 on my Knitpicks Felici Rainbow socks. You may remember them from such adventures as Why the hell are there red splotches all over my knitting? from a few months ago. I wrote Knitpicks about the issue and they cheerfully shipped me two more skeins from a different dyelot.

Except, because I am an idiot, I didn’t check to make sure that they really were from a different dyelot. Hint: they’re not. I’m now in possession of four skeins of yarn from the same bad dyelot.

Luckily, however, only one of the skeins is really really bad, as far as I can tell. So I knit from the least bad of the original skeins, and that took me to halfway down the foot of sock #2 — the advantage of small feet! I used the bad skein to finish the foot, since it’d spend most of its life hidden in a shoe, and on the heels.

Yeah, you can definitely tell which sock came from the bad skein. But I don’t care. They’re stripey and rainbow and I pretty much love them. This was my first try at afterthought heels. I used The Sock Knitter’s Handbook as a guide, and they recommended decreasing the heel down to 20% of the total stitches. That seemed a bit small to me, but I’d wager that Charlene Schurch knows just a teensy bit more about knitting socks than I do, so I obediently decreased down to 12 stitches and tried it on. Too much. I ended up with a little empty flappy bit at the end of the heel. (No picture of that because I was somewhat preoccupied with swearing.) I ripped back to when I had 20 stitches and that seems just right.

The instep is just a bit tight on me, so I think on my next attempt at afterthought heels I’d pick up an extra 2 stitches at each of the corners. I think this would also help eliminate the holes that formed there. It only took a minute to sew them up, but I’d rather not deal with it if I don’t have to.

These socks did inspire some amount of freaking out on my part as I started them…  For some reason, while most of the color stripes made eight rounds, the green and the red make eleven round stripes. But this was consistent across my two skeins and so some of my stripes are just wider than others. I have a second pair started in the colorway Time Traveler, and they also have certain stripes that are wider than the others: the peach and the tan. I feel like I ought to be more bothered by this but at this point I’m so over Felici. It’s soft and I love the colors, but between the smudgey red dye and the uneven stripes I probably won’t be buying it again. I’ll knit up what I’ve got and that will be that.

Shame, because I feel like I could really love this yarn. Super soft, and I love things with stripes. But life is too short for frustrating yarns. There are too many great ones out there to try.

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