Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Knitting and Nerves

During the World Series, I knit the front, back, and 1/3 of a sleeve of a new sweater. If the Red Sox hadn't swept my beloved Colorado Rockies and they'd played all seven games, I think I could have finished the sweater. This picture is of the sleeve so far. I hate how awful these things look before they're blocked, but trust me, it will look better.

Which goes to show, I knit faster when I'm stressed. Yet knitting makes me feel much calmer, one more reason I love it. People have different ways of relieving tension, but after a tough day I really look forward to sitting down with my knitting. I can feel myself relaxing as I knit and purl.

And to show that not everyone in the family was uptight about the games, here's a shot of my dog, Snoopy, relaxing in his new favorite spot, the Guest Bed.

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Knitting awards?

I was thinking about my pit crew trophy and the fact that until we won it I didn't know they gave trophies for that particular skill. So I was wondering about trophies for knitting. Is there such a thing?

Back in my childhood in West Virginia I remember touring a building at the West Virginia State Fair where they had exhibits of things like "Best Hay Bale" and "Best Rhubarb Pie", although the one I liked the best was "Best Floral Arrangement in a Coke Bottle". I can also vaguely recall displays of little knitted baby jackets with blue, red, and yellow award ribbons attached to them. (Evidently, I was wasn't as enthused about needle projects in those days.) However, that's the only time I've seen knitting judged and awarded a prize.

Does anyone here know if there are contests for knitters? (Not that I plan to enter one but it seems to me there should be such a thing for people who are really, really good at this because it is truly both a skill and an art.) Has anyone ever won one?


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Four More Winners and My Filatura di Crisis

Yes, we have four more winners.

#25 LJ from The Bead Knitter

#26 Ellie Lewis

#27 The one and only Georg

#28 Sharon Hurlbut

I'll need your snail mail addresses ASAP so I can send out your sock yarn. You can email me here or here. Your choice.

Now about my Filatura di Crisis.

First let me tell you that I've fallen head-over-heels in love with knitting cashmere. The yarn is so soft, so plush, so . . . okay, I'm gonna say it: cashmere is voluptuous. Take a look. What other word could describe that lush roundness better than voluptuous? I can't come up with one. Cashmere is the Sophia Loren of handknitting yarn.

Anyway, I managed to score some Filatura di Crosa 100% cashmere (which apparently has been discontinued) in a gorgeous rich purple and decided to knit it up in the Kata Scarf pattern from Tara Jon Manning's wonderful Mindful Knitting. (Knitting may be the only activity in which I even come close to anywhere close to an understanding of Zen. I am way too much of this world, far too connected to people and things to comprehend the art of letting go.) (Or the wisdom of it, for that matter. I want to hang on for as long as I can to all the things I love.)

Anyway, this isn't about Zen. It's about that damn FdiC which went wonky on me. You see, I got too smart for my own britches. One of the things that I didn't care for in the Kata pattern was the way the cast on edge didn't match the bind off edge. Or at least they didn't match close enough for my taste. When you wear a scarf the one thing you can be sure of is that the cast on and bind off edges will be on view, most of the time right up close to each other. I'm not a matchy-matchy type but this drove me crazy enough that I decided to knit the purple FdiC scarf in two sections then Kitchener them together which would, in my demented dreamstate, lead me to The Perfect Solution.

Hah! I forgot the other thing thing that drove me crazy about the scarf: the two edges were different. Not different enough that it would bother you in the wearing, but different enough to bug you as a knitter. Especially if you happened to be somewhat spatially dyslexic knitter who forgot to factor in the reality that when I joined my two sections of scarf I would in essence be joining Side A to Side B and Side B2 to SideA2.

ACK. I was not a happy girl. The scarf looks great on but the joining point (even though I did my Kitchener stitches proud) rows were offset as a result. What to do? What to do? I finally decided to do embroider a row of lazy daisy stitches (looking for all the world like duplicate stitches) at the join to provide a visual break that makes the difference more acceptable. At least I hope it does. I'm also thinking about popping in some beads hither and yon. Also beads at the cast on/bind off edges a la Dawn Brocco's wonderful beaded scarves.

Okay, so the scan is weird and filled with ends that need to be woven in. The scarf also needs to be blocked which will open it up and smooth it out. I'm showing it to you in this imperfect state in the interest of full disclosure.

But here's the real reason the FdiC made me nuts: fragility. I had two pristine skeins complete with bands. #1 knitted up beautifully. #2 lost easily 8 feet to random breaks and perilously thin sections that occurred with no warning at the beginning of the skein and intermittently around the mid-point. I'm almost afraid to say it but the M-word came to mind more than once. You know the M-word: it usually has wings and a voracious appetite for fiber. I know I don't have m-m-moths . . . or at least I didn't have until the FdiC came to live. I didn't see any larvae. I didn't see any insects. But I'm wondering if the thin spots and random breakage was the result of previous infestation.

I really don't like the word "infestation," do you?

So there's that. I'm also working on the Vintage Velvet scarf from my old favorite book Scarf Style (hi, Nancy!) and it's been pure pleasure. Of course what's not to like about knitting with Muench's Touch Me in a gorgeous forest green? Again, that's a scan so I didn't get it all smoothed down on the right side the way I should have. And again again it really doesn't matter because when this is done the scarf gets tossed into the washer for some mild felting action then (OMG!) tossed into the dryer to complete the transition from fluffy, pouffy cableknit scarf to antique-y velvety gorgeous scarf.

Fingers crossed.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Amazing Lace

I installed Picasa on the Vista laptop (figuring why not be a total glutton for punishment) and some surprises leaped out of my hard drive and onto the screen. This lacy pink baby blanket, for instance. I remember the baby. I remember her grandmother. But I don't remember knitting it. Isn't that weird? Where did I get the pattern from? Why does the last repeat look so weird? Is it the photo? The knitter? The pattern? What? I'm sure it must have been my tried-and-true Baby Clouds yarn but the rest is a blur. Why oh why didn't I keep my knitting journal up to date??
And how about the white alpaca scarf that never made it past the point you see right there? It was a Knitty pattern, an oddly appealing four-legged scarf that intrigued me right up until I started to make real progress on it and discovered I really don't like four-legged scarves all that much.
And there's a lacy scarf mid-blocking. I think that was my girly take on a seaman's scarf, if I remember right. Circa Christmas 2004. Berroco Mohair (discontinued) in ivory with ruffly edging.
Thank God for digital cameras. They remember what my brain apparently chose not to.
And no, I haven't forgotten: Filatura di Crisis tomorrow . . . and more winners. (Winners are on a different computer and you know me and computers . . . )

Sweater and New Website

As I explained on Nancy's "trophy post," I had to stop knitting my self-designed sweater for a while because my right hand cramped up on me and sent needles of the nerve-y kind shooting up my arm. But here's a photo of where I had to stop. And where I can pick up soon again ... I hope!

The big wings sticking out to the sides are the sleeves and the skinny pieces running up and down are the body. I'll triple-needle-bind-off the back when it's time and then finish the neck and the side/sleeve seams. No more pics until it's done.

Besides "writing" my new book by using Dragon Speak, I've also been consulting on a new website for Delphi Books. Please check it out at and let me know what you think.

And speaking of books ... isn't Barbara's new one going to be terrific?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blockers: I need your opinions

This is the opening to the book in progress. Knitters, especially lace knitters, I ask you this: does my experience with blocking ring true to you? Personally, the thought of blocking and/or ever sewing another sleeve into a sweater makes me break out in a cold sweat.

But I digress. Here's the snippet:

Sugar Maple, Vermont

At the moment when it all began I was down on my knees, muttering ancient curses under my breath as I tugged, pulled, and tried to convince five and a half feet of knitted lace that it would be much happier stretched out to six plus.

If there were any magic spells out there to help a girl block a shawl, I hadn't found them and believe me, I'd looked. Blocking, like life, seemed to be equal parts intuition, brute strength, and dumb luck.

(Just in case you were wondering, I usually don't mention the dumb luck part when I give a workshop.)

TIA for your help!

Three More Winners

#22 - Liz Brown
#23 - Deb Greenberger
#24 - Cristina Hawkins

Congrats, hooray, happy knitting!

My migraine is no more. The writing is returning. The knitting is --

Well, check in later and I'll tell you about my Filatura di Crisis.

Shameless bragging but not about knitting

See that giant, shiny trophy? My roadies won it at Saturday's marching band competition! We got "Best Pit Crew" (another term for the folks who get all the props and percussion instruments on and off the field in three minutes flat) out of a total of 13 bands! I am so proud of my roadies! They work hard and give up alot of time on weekends to help the kids.

The kids were so excited; they gave us a huge cheer. That's what makes it all worthwhile: knowing our children appreciate our efforts.

Oh, and I did get one more stripe completed on my Noni Blob.

What's everyone else working on these days? I'll knit vicariously through you guys.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lots of Winners!

I didn't forget about you. I was trapped (again) behind the Great Wall of Vista. (We went to CostCo a few weeks ago for a rotisserie chicken and our flu shots. [Did you ever think you'd read a sentence like that?] To hell with being inoculated against disease: I should have been inoculated against this #*@(!( operating system.)

Stop, Bretton. Take a deep breath. Think happy thoughts.

Sock yarn! Winners! Winners of sock yarn! Okay, I feel better now.

And in the interest of making you feel better too, here are the latest winners:

#16: Anne Kennedy whose blog is wonderful

#17: Rose Paul

#18: Karen V, whose blog is also a delight

#19: Saren Johnson

#20: Linda Doggett

#21: BellaMama whose blog is yet another gem

(What's with knitting blogs anyway? Some of the best writing on the web is tucked in between increases, decreases, and yarnovers.)

Anne and Rose, your yarn is on its way. Everyone else, watch your inbox for email from me. Or just zap me your mailing address at wickedsplitty and I'll do the rest.

Gotta go now. I'm on day 3 of the migraine from hell. I call it the Vista Headache.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

As promised: Noni bag picture

That's my Noni Blob, I mean, Bag with 14 stripes completed. That leaves 6 stripes to go. I haven't made much progress beyond that because...'s marching band season. I'm Head Roadie for my daughter's high school band so I spend a lot of time loading and unloading trucks, repairing worn props and cheering on the band. We had a great competition on Sunday: we won FIRST place in our size group! It's especially impressive because we're the smallest band in the group. Wahoo!

If you're interested in why I do this, I have a piece about it on my website at .

Does anyone else have children in a marching band? Or were you in a marching band yourself?

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Winners and Losers

How about the winners first? (No, I didn't forget about you this weekend. I've been trapped behind the Electronic Wall of Hell.)

#12: Tonia, aka Mrs. Knitter
#13: Nephele
#14: Lisa S
#15: Tanya I

I've sent emails to everyone but just in case I'm trapped behind your spam filter, here's what I said: all you need to do is email me your mailing address and I'll do the rest. Hooray for Sock Yarn!

And I was the big loser all weekend. Why, you ask? Windows Vista which STINKS.

I hate it. I loathe it. I despise it. My laptop hates it. My parrots hate it. And you wanna bet Bill Gates and his missus have Macs hidden away in their home offices?

Let me post this before Vista realizes I'm trying to communicate with the outside world and slaps a gag order on me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Noni Bag Countdown

Sixteen stripes done. Four stripes to go.


On writing, conferences, and Sock Yarnapalooza winners

First the fun stuff: we have us some winners.

Winner #8: Debi of FluffyKnitterDeb (and P-Man) fame!

Winner #9: Cheryl Strange

Winner #10: Jill Swanson

Winner #11: Sara W

Send your mailing addresses to me at wickedsplitty and I'll zip out your sock yarn ASAP with thanks for making this blog so much fun.

Nancy's post got me thinking about writers conferences. I used to attend lots of them. I rarely go to any these days. One of the (many) reasons? I'd rather eat ground glass with a cyanide chaser than ever, EVER be faced with the prospect of pitching an idea face-to-face to anyone/anything but the screen of my laptop. That is a skill I don't have now, didn't have back then, and most likely will never develop. I can write you a story but if you ask me to tell you one--well, it ain't pretty. Or interesting. "Uh, well--it' s like--um, there's this, like, boy with a jagged scar on his forehead and--uh, well, like lots of stuff happens to him and [silence] uh, I write better than I speak. Honest."
This is from my website, a little trip down conference Memory Lane:
The year is 1983. Alexis and Krystle are locking shoulderpads for Blake Carrington's affections. Dynasty is the hottest show on television with Dallas a close second. Viewers tune in each week to watch how the other half lives and loves...and to sigh over the glitzy gowns and power suits worn by our beautiful heroines. It's a time of glamour and opulence and excess. Stocks are soaring and so are spirits as the Roaring Eighties promise to make all of our dreams come true.

Especially our dreams of romance. Love is big business in 1983 and romance novels are the reason. Even the Wall Street Journal agrees. It seems like every time you turn around, a new category romance line is being launched. (More about that next month.) But no matter how many new authors joined the ranks each month, when you said the words "romance novel," everyone immediately thought of Barbara Cartland.

Barbara Cartland with her big black false eyelashes and spun-sugar hair and pink ballgowns and her Pekingese office companions. I'll admit I gnashed my teeth a time or two when it came to Dame Barbara's work habits. (When I lie down on a chaise, I fall asleep; Dame Barbara Cartland gets up with two more chapters under her belt.) And I rolled my eyes over the virginal heroines and chaste love scenes that were definitely not what the rest of us were writing.

But guess what? Even this cynical soul had to stand up and cheer at Romantic Times's Second Annual Booklovers Convention in April 1983 when Barbara Cartland (who was then over eighty years old) spoke to the crowd about love and romance, health foods and megavitamins. She was outspoken, intelligent, multi-faceted and downright fascinating.

Laugh if you will, but Barbara Cartland is still writing and still cashing those royalty checks and I say "More power to you, Dame Barbara!"" We should all be so lucky. [2007 note: Dame Barbara has since passed on but I'll bet she's still writing.]

I took this photograph myself. No, you're not imagining the tiara and the throne. Guess you had to be there to believe it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wearing a writer's hat instead

I have absolutely nothing to say about knitting this week because I spent my weekend at the New Jersey Romance Writer's conference so I'm all fired up about writing. (Although I am making progress on the Rather Huge Noni Bag--14 stripes done, 6 to go!)

I thought some folks on the blog might be interested to know what goes on at a writer's conference. Well, at this one, four hundred published and unpublished writers come together and talk a whole lot about the craft and the business.

There are formal workshops given by authors, agents and/or editors. There are informal roundtable discussions led by published authors. Meals include speeches by famous, best-selling writers such as Karen Robards and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Editors and agents listen to pitches for books written by attendees. (One of the more nerve-racking experiences I have gone through was pitching my book. Have you ever tried to condense a four hundred page manuscript into three snappy sentences?) A goodie room offers bookmarks, excerpt booklets, pens, buttons, etc. free for the taking. Gift baskets are given away (I won a lovely holiday-themed basket). An elegant luncheon honors the booksellers who support all us authors.

(There's also a Saturday night "after-the-conference" party where we sing karaoke and dance the night away. No one even attempts to talk at that. A few of the party-goers are pictured above.)

Mostly though, we meet our fellow writers, share our experiences, and make friends. Being a writer is a solitary existence and I treasure the times I can come together with fellow practitioners of the art, people who don't think I'm a little weird because I hear voices in my head. It reminds me of why I do this crazy thing and reignites my creative fire (coincidentally the theme of this year's conference).

So, anyone want to know anything else about writer's conferences? Has anyone else been to one and would like to share their experiences?

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

SY#7 Winner and a great dish cloth from Monica J

Today's winner is Erin Hartshorn. Happy knitting, Erin!

And did you notice the gorgeous dishcloth? That's courtesy of Monica J, one of the Peaches & Creme winners. Notice how she used some leftover black cotton from Halloween knitting to set off the variegated. Contrast makes all the difference, doesn't it?
I sewed the buttons on Goldisox's top down cardigan today and I'm still underwhelmed. I followed the pattern faithfully and wish I hadn't. There should be an extra button up near the neckline and an extra button at the bottom. I also think pockets would've been a nice touch. And definitely the shawl collar. This collar doesn't want to behave. I'm hoping to convince him to model for me this week so I can take a picture and (maybe, if I have the nerve) share it with you. The stitches are nice and smooth. My work was pretty decent. But the end result is kind of a yawn to me now and I don't know why. I'm just very dissatisfied with it.
Then again I'm dissatisfied with my writing at this moment too. Maybe it's something in the air.

Sock Winner #6

Katura Cleland (of the beautiful name) is winner #6!

I'm in the throes of knitter's remorse right now. Goldisox's sweater is still drying post-blocking and the more I stare at it lying there all flat and dead-looking, the more I hate it. It looks so boxy. The sleeves look like they belong on Seinfeld's Puffy Shirt. I know the point is to make something the recipient actually wants to wear but I can't help thinking the designer's original idea (shawl collar and zip front) was the right one. I'm just not happy.

The buttons took two weeks to get here. I'll spare you the story but now that they've arrived I'm so lukewarm about the whole thing that I'm not sure I can muster up the enthusiasm to sew them on and see what we've got. He still loves it which is really what's important but I seem to be growing pickier about these things with each new project.

BTW my finishing skills truly and honestly stink. I'm writing about a woman who is in the middle of blocking lace and I swear I broke out into a sweat just typing about it. The thought of trying to block an Orenburg shawl is enough to make my head implode. The sheer magnitude of it overwhelms me. Are my fears unfounded, lace knitters, or am I onto something here?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sock Yarnapalooza Winners #4 and #5

I know, I know. I just can't seem to keep all the balls I'm juggling in the air. At least not at the same time.

Winners #4 and #5 have been notified: Suzan in Australia and Jennifer Mason. Congratulations to both of them.

Snowflake Sock #2 is up and running. The cuff is done and I'm 2/3 of the way through the first pattern repeat and loving the experience even more than the first time. Great, great pattern. (Interweave Knits, the current issue.)

I couldn't help myself and ended up making two more Red Scarves. Another red sprinkles like the one I showed you and a crocheted one in burgundy.

I'm in awe of the talent around here. All these great sweaters leaping off the needles. Nancy, your m-i-l's sweater is fantastic. You did an incredible job with it. And Cindi, wow! Your m-i-l is going to be thrilled. (My m-i-l [husband's stepmother] is no longer with us. I don't think she spoke three civil sentences to me in the 30 or so years I knew her.) And Fran, keep us posted with your cuff-to-cuff adventure. My one stab at a toddler's cuff-to-cuff ended up being better suited to a young orangutan than a human child. (Yes, the hanger distorts the shape to a certain degree but trust me, it was more than a little weird on its own!)

More to come. I'm grilling chicken and have to flip it over.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Mother-in-Law sweater

This is the cardigan I made my MIL for Christmas. Not nearly as involved or intimidating (or impressive) as Nancy's. It's knit from the top-down on sizes 9 and 6 circulars, with Elann cotton yarn. You can see the pattern here. (It's number 9725) My favorite thing about it are the buttons. I bought them from the clearance bin at JoAnn Fabrics years ago. I know my MIL will love them.

Right now I'm working on a pair of merino and cashmere socks for my FIL.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Progress Report on the Cuff-to-Cuff

I cast on 40 stitches on size 6 needles, garter-stitched 20 rows, then increased 2 stitches on each sleeve when I changed to size 7 needles. That's also when I began increasing every 4 rows and then every 6 rows. The picture shows the sleeves at 74 stitches. As soon as I hit 90 stitches, I'll increase for the body. I've marked the right sides with a red yarn marker for the right and a blue for the left.

So far, so good.

Winner: YP3

Karen Majors is YP3 winner #3. The trusty Random Number Generator did a particularly good job when it chose Karen. Visit her blog and you'll see what I mean. This woman can knit!

Enjoy, Karen!

(A real post to come. Trees have been dropping like flies around here, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor. And we won't talk about getting my Buick ready for inspection. [It's 22 years old. I'll tell you the story one day. I plan to be buried in that car.] And our power went out Friday evening for many, many hours. And we won't talk about the fact that suddenly the book-in-progress kicked in and I've been floating in the zone for a week now. And wasn't there a full moon in there somewhere??)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy little knitter

That's me! Happy again. I love working on my Noni bag now that I've finished Darth Sweater. The beautiful soft greens are soothing to the eye. The stitches are nice and big so I can see them easily. I'm using Addi Turbos (my favorite). I adore the stripes because it's so easy to see my progress: two stripes done, three strips done, four stripes done, and so forth.

My one mistake: choosing to make a "well-defined edge" around the bottom. I usually like things neat and squared off but in this case I don't like the noticeable line which I created (by following the instructions). I'd rather have a gentle curve. Perhaps the felting will soften the effect somewhat. (Yes, I considered frogging it but decided to leave it due to sheer laziness and hope the felting concealed my blunder.)

Knitting in the round is one of the craft's all-time brilliant inventions. For some reason I can knit much faster and more comfortably than I can purl. Being able to knit constantly and have it come out in stockinette stitch seems nothing short of miraculous to me.

Do other folks here prefer knitting over purling? Or vice versa? Or are you ambi-stitcherous?


Sock Yarnapalooza Winner #2

Oops. I wasn't going to type Y...ooza again, was I?

Anyway, hooray for Shirley (gtwm02) who is winner #2! Shirley, please send me your mailing address ASAP and I'll ship your yarn out to you.

See that gorgeous sock? That's one of Nicole T's Black Watch knitted during last year's Sock Hop. Don't they make you want to cast on?

Monday, October 01, 2007

(U)FO: Darth Sweater

I have returned from the Dark Side: Darth Sweater has been conquered and here it is (ominous music swelling in background):

(I put the paperback there to show you the scale of this black monster. It's huge!)

Yes, my MIL is in proud possession of the world's largest, most evil black sweater ever. She's very happy and I'm even happier! It's done, it's done!!!! It looks great on her because she's very tall and statuesque (yes, I envy her that greatly--on me the sweater looks like a three-man tent.)

Much as I complained about this project (and you had to listen to it), I also learned a lot which I will happily share with you.

1) Zippers are not that hard. I got it in on the first try and I was a zipper virgin. The two tutorials Dallas and Cindi recommended were fantastic. They demystified the process and took me through step-by-step. What would I do without you guys on this blog? Here are the links again:

One thing I will note: I used Claudia's suggestion NOT to baste the two sides of the sweater together before I laid in the zipper, mostly because I wanted the zipper teeth to show since it's sort of part of the sweater's decoration.

The other thing I learned about zippers is that it's difficult to find one over 14 inches that doesn't separate at the bottom. So I had to fudge a bit by sewing up the zipper opening to fit the zipper. (You can see my zipper results below.)

2) My Lovely LYS Lady showed me how to graft the folded down edge of the collar to the inside of the knitting with a sort of modified Kitchener stitch (my first time for that too). This created a nice smooth join (see below). However, I have to admit that it's incredibly tedious to do.

3) Basting with a contrasting color (red in this case) is hugely helpful. I used it for the zipper and for the grafting line of the collar. It's really hard to see stitch lines in black yarn and I needed to keep the collar line even so it met up on the other side exactly in the right place. So I basted a guide line through the black and it kept me on the straight and narrow.

(Below is one of the pretty Italian buttons I chose for the pocket.)

4) Blocking before you sew the pieces of the sweater together makes finishing vastly easier. I made sure to block the sleeves and the front and back even with each other so my seams matched up almost effortlessly.

(Anotther up-close view of D. S.)

Does anyone else have a project they couldn't wait to be done with and give away?

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Sock Yarnapalooza Day #1

Yes, I know you're seeing this on October 2nd. It was written October 1st but I couldn't make Blogger post it. Go figure . . .

Monika L is Sock Yarn winner #1. (I refuse to type the word Yarnapalooza thirty-one times this month. I completely refuse.) (Hmm. I've already typed it twice and the day is still young.)

There's still time to enter if you haven't already done so. Send me an email at wickedsplitty with SOCK YARN in the subject and you're in.

And we welcome photos of FOs but they're not mandatory!