Thank You, People :-)

A quickie, because I’m busy knitting. But I wanted to post a wee bit of enthusiasm because there’s a chance that maybe, just maybe, the Yorkshire Skirt will be done by Tuesday’s deadline (if I employ a team of minions to weave in the ends and block it on the back seat of the car on my way north). Look!

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But mostly I’ve come on here to say thank you for all the kind words and suggestions for my sore, knit-weary hand, and also for the encouragement. You’re kinder than I deserve, and I appreciate your words very much. I’ve been following your suggestions too, hunting around online for exercises to preserve hands that knit too much, as well as popping into town to buy a stylus for the iPad. I’m trying to take breaks from the needles. And my hand is a lot better for now, although it keeps sending little warning twinges. Actually taking breaks isn’t too difficult when the Toddler Twinnage are around, because we have to do things like go and say hello to the day-old lambs at the farm down the road:-

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“I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. Oh, hang on, actually I was.”

…in this sort of weather:-

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For those of you not in the UK, it’s suddenly insanely warm and sunny here, and it feels as though the whole population, not to mention the blossom and spring flowers, are emerging, blinking, into the light. It’s so sudden, it almost feels confusing. You mean I don’t need scarf and hat and mittens and a waterproof coat? Nah… you’re going to have to explain that one to me again…

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One final bit of excitement. I’ve swiped the image below from Facebook, ahead of my Yorkshire trip. :-) Six days from now I’ll be co-judging the Stylecraft competition and spending an entire day discussing delicious yarn shades. If you’ve entered the competition, good luck. I’ll bring back some photos of the mill to show you. (As for the photo below, I’m bottom right: it’s the worst shot of me ever taken. I seem to remember it was taken after being up pretty much all night with the Toddler Twinnage.)

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SIX DAYS?!!!! Excuse me, I’ve got some knitting to do….

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In Which Life Conspires Against Knitting

My first thought when I woke up this morning was… “Ow.

My second thought was, “Owwwwwwwwww. Ow.

The over-ambitious design-and-knit-a-stranded-skirt-in-10-days insanity plan just got even more unfeasible. Lately I’ve been having problems with the knuckles of my right hand two littlest fingers hurting if I, (i) knit/crochet too much, and (ii) surf the net on the iPad continuously and insomniacly from 2am to 5am, and (iii) spend too many nocturnal hours indulging the Toddler Twinnage’s wish to sleep with their heads resting on my outstretched hands. I suspect I’ve been doing too much of all of these things recently.

So now I have a (trivial) problem that’s quite hurty. I don’t mind knitting on pain (a lass has to suffer for her art, darling), but I do mind the risk that this could escalate to a scenario where someone with relevant qualifications frowns at a scan image and says, “DO NOT KNIT.” Especially as the knitting has just landed me a magazine column. That would be timing on the wrong side of wrong.

Writing seems to be OK (I’m drafting this with pen and paper, as I always do before typing it up.) So whilst I can still scrawl, shall I show you my meagre progress on the skirt?

This skirt is quite short

This skirt is quite short

Now as I said in my last post, beginning again and changing the colour scheme of the skirt meant buying more yarn, on a timescale that precluded online ordering. So on Saturday, I bundled the poor Toddler Twinnage into my Stink-Wagon car, and headed off to Oxford to hand over some serious cash at a couple of yarn shops. <Waves to Oxford Yarn Store. :-) > I even managed to find a sneaky parking space for the Stink-Wagon. (Sneaky parking for free in Oxford is an art that’s taken me years to perfect.) Score= life: 0, knitting: 1.

All The Yarn. It's Rowan Felted Tweed DK, By The Way.

All The Yarn. It’s Rowan Felted Tweed DK, By The Way.

But it seemed kinda unfair to drag the Toddler Twinnage all that way just for yarn, so we popped into Oxford University’s Natural History Museum, to nod a hello to the dinosaurs. The Twinnage LOVE dinosaurs. (One day, I’ll tell you about the dinosaur I once found.) It was a beautiful day to drift about in a beautiful building – it’s like a cathedral to the natural world, and I’ve always loved it, ever since I arrived as a nervous undergraduate student in 1991.

oxford natural history museum

The Twinnage were predictably impressed by the dinosaurs:-

Don't Mess With Mr T-Rex

Don’t Mess With Mr T-Rex

The other fossils were pretty cool, too, including this ammonite:-

Twin Included For Scale.

Twin Included for Scale

But the clock was ticking, and there was no knitting. Score= life: 1, knitting: 1.

It was such a nice day that the Stoic Spouse (who happened to be in Oxford too) came and joined us at this point, and we had lunch at the Head Of The River pub in the sunshine. Score= life: 2, knitting: 1.

Round the back of the Head Of The River is a place where you can hire row-boats and punts. I am so over the whole punting malarkey after one too many drunken, soggy, raucous experiences in my youth, so we paid for an hour in a rowing boat, because we thought it would be a fun new experience for the Toddler Twinnage. Amazingly, given how scared of everything they are, they loved it. Score= life: 3, knitting: 1.

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The Stoic Spouse Rows. Stoically.

And just in case you think I didn’t pull my weight. (Excuse greasy hair and no makeup.):-

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I was carrying my knitting with me the whole time, in the desperate hope that I could squeeze in a few rounds when the Stoic Spouse wasn’t looking, but it just wasn’t happening, and I realized after a while that my poor yarn was sitting in a fat puddle at the bottom of the boat. There’s no photo of this event: it’s too depressing.

Score= life: 4, knitting: 1.

Sigh. I’m not going to make it in time for next Tuesday, am I?

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This Is Crazy, No? NO?

I know you’ve all been there: the three more pairs of gift socks still to be knitted and it’s 10pm on Christmas Eve. Or the exquisite, fit-through-a-wedding-ring bridal shawl that the bride really needs like, erm, tomorrow, for her wedding, and you’re only half way through the working the lace. OK, I made up these exact scenarios, but to a knitter/crocheter, they’re normal and completely understandable, right?

But I think I might have over-stretched myself this time. The knitting in question isn’t for someone else so it’s not that important, but I’ve got a deadline in my head that won’t go away, however much cold reason I fling at it. Cold reason such as, “Y’know, you probably ought to consider feeding your children at some point over the next week, and that’s definitely going to eat into your knitting time.” You see, on the 21st April – that’s a mere nine days away – I’ll be heading up, a long way up, to a mill in west Yorkshire to co-judge the Stylecraft yarn shade competition with Lucy of Attic24 and the editor of Let’s Knit. And given that the occasion will be all about the yarn, I’ve got it into my stoopid head that what I really (really) need is to design a new fairisle knitted skirt and a crocheted bag for the occasion. Well the bag is done and the skirt was underway, but…

Note the use of the word ‘was’.

The thing is, I wasn’t so much designing this skirt as distractedly doodling in semi-random shades as I went along, and the result was increasingly looking like a cacophony of ill-matched stripes of pattern and shades. I kept wondering whether to rip back and begin again, but the proximity of the deadline reminded me that I’d be mad to start again at this late stage. But the more I progressed, the more I thought, “No: this really isn’t getting any better, is it?”

Nope. Just wrong.

Nope. Just wrong.

I’m pleased with the fancy pattern in the middle of the photo above, though, because that’s the bit I actually put some time and careful thought into designing. This skirt really has been a lesson in taking the time to work and re-work design elements properly. So I decided to rip back to the start, and knit a skirt with a plain background, and several bands of that fancy fairisle stripe with the hearts and curls. Easy, no? Well no, actually, because I hadn’t got enough of the right colours if that was to be the plan, and delivery of more yarn would take a few days, especially as it’s the weekend. Aaargh! And all the while that these thought processes are going on, life and the Toddler Twinnage are pulling at my sleeve going “Mummy-Mummy-Mummy-Mummy-Mummy”, and my head’s all over the place, and I’m trying to figure out the timing to start my IVF drugs.

Anyway, a decision was made. Yesterday. Whilst there were still 10 days until Y-Day (Yarn Day). I was going to start again. Deep breath.

I began to unravel the skirt. Except I didn’t, because the Rowan Felted Tweed DK I’m using does like to get down and cuddle itself tightly once it’s been knitted, and it’s far far far far far too prone to breaking, so frogging this stuff just yields an unholy shredded tangle. So I sighed. And I clenched my teeth. And I picked up some of the remaining yarn that I did have, and began, again, to knit.

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Cast on 200 stitches using Old Norwegian cast on with 3mm needles. Work 10 rows garter stitch. Work another 6 rows stockinette, increasing (with kfb’s) on the last row to 203 stitches. Begin pattern. Here we go….

Do you think I’ve got any chance at all of making it? There’s plenty more I could tell you, in this very twisted yarn, but I’ll save it for the next post, because right now I really need to do some knitting. Suffice to say that my chances of getting this thing done have already been seriously hampered by a large river and some dinosaurs.

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The Bag Lady

The crochet house-bag-thingummy is done! Want to see it? (Please say ‘yes’. Or at least, ‘Oh all right then, if I absolutely must.’)

I began construction of the crochet house around the same time that men in big boots and hard hats arrived round here to build far too many new houses on the periphery of our previously lovely village and buy up all the best sandwiches from the village shop for their lunch each day. And I can now report that building a house takes a couple of months, regardless of whether it’s constructed of yarn or bricks. There’s more swearing involved in the crochet version, though. Trust me on this. The builders would have blushed if they’d heard me.

The bag began life in my head as a pretty cottage, but I feared that something wide might sag in the middle, so it ended up rather more like a Victorian mid-terrace. And its proportions would no doubt offend any serious architects. Sorry about that.

Stitch-swatching aside, it worked up fairly speedily, other than the shoulder strap which I worked round and round and round with ever-decreasing enthusiasm. I wanted this bag to be strong and durable, so that meant doing some sewing. I bought some cotton and lined it with iron-on interfacing.

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First the handle, and then the body of the bag…

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Ably assisted by my sewing-expert parent, Mother Twisted, who increased two dimensions of fabric to three whilst I was busy being distracted outside by the Toddler Twinnage:-

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And then I hand-sewed the lining inside:-

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But you need to see the finished thing, I hope. Here it is!

house 1

And again!

house 2

And again!

house 4

And look, it holds all the things!

house 3

As I’ve said before, I’m planning to make a knitted version too, which was going to be very similar, but Mother Twisted has been dropping heavy hints about a thatched cottage bag.

There will be a pattern for y’all to try if you so wish, but I need a little bit of time to write it up. Watch this space!

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Spring! Don’t Jump Out At Me Like That!

WOAH-there. Spring, where on earth did you, um, ‘spring’ from? That was a bit sudden. A few days ago I was pondering whether our log supplies would last the month at our current rate of huddling in front of the log-burner, and whether I could afford another lorry-load of logs, and whether my stinking head-cold was turning to bubonic plague (being prone to diagnostic melodrama), and now I’m sitting in my parents’ Herefordshire garden, enjoying these colours whilst the Toddler Twinnage rampage around pretending to be stegasauruses and sundry other dinosaurs. I still reckon I’ve got bubonic plague, though. This head-cold is vicious.

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The Parent-Garden

Colours in Herefordshire are always vivid. The distant hills take on a blueish hint, the ample rain keeps the grass ultra-green, and even the soil is a rich red-brown from all the Devonian sandstone underneath.

Speaking of colours, I’m working hard on my crochet house-bag design and my knitted skirt design. Look!

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But the flaw in my otherwise happy plan is of course that many colours mean many, many, manydid I mention many ends to be woven/cajoled/sworn in. Look at the reverse side of the house’s front!

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It’s Not Pretty.

So I sit in the parent-garden and weave in the ends. (Did I perchance mention that they were numerous?) Since it’s suddenly spring, the birdage has all gone a bit bonkers around me, and whilst I work, the only thing I can hear from my parents’ otherwise silent garden is about a thousand feathered friends wanting to get very, well, friendly with each other. I am now in a position to reliably inform you that robins, though normally antisocial avians, woo each other by wiggling their bottoms and shuffling their feet in a little dance that’s not unlike your uncle’s efforts on the dancefloor circa 1975. I’ll never ever tire of the fact that the more you stop and the more you stare, the more nature reveals its little quirks to you.

Now, TheTwistedYarn ain’t very good at seasonal festivities, but I’ve heard a rumour that it’s Easter, and I have something immensely cute to show you. My wonderful, kind, creative friend in both real and virtual life (Selma from EclecticHomeLife) put together thoughtful little gifts for the Toddler Twinnage, and the bags containing each of these were tied with little rabbit motifs that she’d designed and crocheted. How adorable? I’m strugglings slightly because I’m not sure how to repay her. Do you think I can measure her feet (for hand-made socks) without her noticing?

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Of course, spring is a time of change, and there’s plenty of change a-coming here. I’ll soon be showing you the column I’ve got starting in a British knitting magazine. And I’m off to Yorkshire in a fortnight to co-judge the Stylecraft yarn competition. The Twisted Seniors are selling their beautiful Herefordshire barn and heading over to our corner of Oxfordshire. And after some careful discussion with the Stoic Spouse, I would like you to know that we’re about to begin our last ever round of IVF. Sometimes it feels as though the new year doesn’t really get properly going until the springtime, and this year has the potential for much development.

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Notes From A Crime Scene

Woe, ’tis a dark day, here at the ‘Yarn. A heinous crime has been committed. I’ve been working on the crochet house-bag (doing the boring stuff; weaving in dozens of ends – an ideal job for when you’ve got a stinking head-cold.) I have to say, it’s going extremely well and I’m rather excited about the finished product. It’s gone from this:-

house in bits

…to a proper 3-d house-bag with shoulder strap, but I’m hanging back from showing you until I can ta-da it properly. Thank you to commenters who endorsed my idea of working up a knitted version too. Patterns to follow.

Anyways, back to the crime scene.

Having sewn/crocheted the bag components, I decided to add a couple of extra rows of tiles to the roof before attaching it. But look!

Who cut my yarn????

Who cut my yarn????

Somebody, somebody, has been a-meddling in my project bag and has cut my yarn. Horrors! But who could it be?

The suspect list is short. I know I’m not guilty. And the Stoic Spouse is a careful sort, not given to random acts of fibrous sabotage. So that leaves the Toddler Twinnage. They’ve been paying an unhealthy degree of attention to my yarn snippers lately, and I bet it was them. But how on earth to determine which one? Interrogation has failed. And there’s no point in taking DNA samples from the crime scene. That’s the problem with identical twins.

True story: many moons ago, there was a heist at a jewellery shop. Detectives managed to get a decent sample of DNA from the crime scene which you might quite reasonably assume would lead to an arrest. But the problem was that the DNA linked back to a pair of identical twins… and nobody could establish which one of them had committed the crime. Being not stupid (the blighters), neither of the twins held up a hand to say, ‘Yeah it was me. How could you possibly accuse such a decent and law-abiding citizen as my brother of such a crime?’ And so nobody was ever convicted.

Do you see what I’m up against?

So I have no idea who cut my yarn. I effected a messy Russian join, thus ending up with a thick and lumpy patch of yarn with which to add more roof tiles to the house-bag. But I have a strong suspicion that the culprit is blonde, less than three feet tall, and obsessively pre-occupied with dinosaurs. Any ideas?

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Crochet Therapy

…And then there are days that don’t quite work. Do you know the feeling?

I think I’m still raw from intense hours with patients’ harrowing stories at work this week. And the Toddler Twinnage were a leeeeetle bit relentless in their Mummy-Mummy-Mummy-Mummy-Mummy all day today. And I possibly ate too many of the choc chip cookies that I baked this morning. And my first attempt at crocheting my bag strap in the round went all Mobius on me and had to be ripped out.

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Yes, yes, I’ve got these micro-problems all in proportion, more so since I lit the fire, poured some wine, and attached my posterior very firmly to the sofa. And crochet is soothing (when it’s not turning into a Mobius mess). The bag is progressing:-

the house bag

And I’m thinking hard about the details of the knitted version that will follow, and the patterns that I’ll write up for y’all.

Also, I’ve been operating outside my comfort zone by sewing. The house-bag needs reinforcement if it’s to hold anything more substantial than the Toddler Twinnage’s feather collection, so I’ve been wielding cotton fabric and interlacing and an over-enthusiastically steamy iron. This is the bag strap innards in progress:-

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And now I’m crocheting round the strap, and feeling the stress melt away:-

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Working the bricks is quite satisfying, probably as satisfying as building a wall for real.

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And whilst I’m busy trying to throw off weary gloom, at least spring is hovering and blossom is ripe, though as I write this a howling gale is roaring down the chimney and annoying the log fire.

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And look at these beauties, too!

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Time to put the crochet down and get some sleep. Anyway, tomorrow is another day….

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House!

T’was a beautiful clear night last night. The sort of night where you amble along in the peaceful blackness gazing up at the starry heavens… and then walk slap bang into a wall.

Who put that stupid wall there, anyway? It’s a ridiculous place for a wall. Only an idiot would build a wall right there.

Given the rate at which they’re building too many new houses in this village, you do have to watch out for sneaky new walls when you’re out and about. Anyway, back to last night. I was on my way out clutching several project bags, heading for the pub where we hold our new-and-growing knit/crochet/gin night.

Stop me if I’ve mentioned this before, but legend has it that there’s an ancient tunnel running from the cellar of our home to the pub, which would be kind of handy for popping to the bar in time for last orders with the baby monitor in my pocket. But since I’ve never found any sign of the tunnel entrance, I have to go outside in the cold night and walk into walls.

So we settled ourselves in a comfy corner, and worked happily but not very efficiently on our various projects. I was busy with the crochet house bag.

crochet house bag

Beside me, something wonderful was happening. One of our group, who was a complete beginner herself a few short weeks ago, was busy teaching a newcomer the basics of crochet. How cool is that? Two months ago, she’d scarcely worked her first foundation chain, and now she’s making hats and discussing cables and inspiring newcomers. Happy days.

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Plenty more pictures of the bag are coming. I just need to finish it. The pattern will be available here, and I’ve decided to work a knitted version, too.

Just watch out for those sneaky walls, OK?

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The House Of Crochet.

Hmm, it seems that the house-bag I’m crocheting and the real houses being too numerously built in our village are neck-and-neck in terms of progress. That said, I’m tempted to just whack a roof on what I’ve hooked so far and call it a bungalow. Would you like to see some progress? (Thank you for your lovely comments on my previous post about it, by the way. :-) )

crochet house bag

There’s a long way to go. Upstairs, for starters, and that door needs a handle. And those little balls of red/green Rowan Fine Tweed (leftover from this) are for embroidering roses and window boxes etc. And maybe we need a house number. (Any suggestions?) And being a bag, it needs a shoulder strap and some lining and some sides.

My fine furry friends, do you see that little white fanlight above the door? (Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve decided now it should be grey, not white.) It looks as though I’ve just worked it on top of the brick stitch (doesn’t it?) but no, it’s completely integrated into the pattern. You have no idea how very many hours I spent figuring that blighter out with randomly-coloured spare yarn.

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It’s fun, and at some point I’ll write the pattern up in a form that’s comprehensible to the outside world.

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But meanwhile, I’ll just continue building and building with yarn, and the chaps in the village will keep building and building with bricks. I seem to be working a sort of crochet intarsia, with far too many balls of yarn. Knitted intarsia never was my thing (I’m a stranded/fairisle lass), and all these tangling colours are a tad frustrating.

crochet intarsia

It got more complicated and the blobs of yarn became more numerous after this photo was taken, by the way, but by then I was a little too fraught to fetch the camera. Incidentally, if you’re crazy enough to be doing intarsia of any sort, whether knitted or crocheted, I recommend using hair bobbles or elastic bands to restrain the balls/bobbins/blobs of yarn that you’re currently not using. (Hair bobbles are kinder to the yarn, in the same way that they’re kinder to the hair than elastic bands are.) That way, there is at least a limit of sorts to the degree of yarny snarl-up you’re about to experience.

Now, you might have observed a certain gloomy ambience to the photos in this post. If you’re in the UK you might have guessed why, but given that most of you are from outside the UK, I really ought to show you this picture of the SUN:-

eclipse 2a

…and also this:-

eclipse 1a

…Because whilst I was hooking away, the moon was sneaking in front of the sun and giving us a 90-something percent eclipse. Not as impressive as the 100% dark eclipse I witnessed on the south coast a few years ago, but fun nonetheless. People talk about the birds going quiet when an eclipse peaks, but really what happens is this: (i) the traffic goes quiet, and (ii) social media goes mental. So there you have it, people, characteristics of the eclipse for the modern age. You heard it here first on the ‘Yarn. :-)

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Brick By Brick

How long does it take to construct a house? Roughly the same amount of time regardless of whether the house is built of bricks and mortar or crocheted with yarn, it would appear. There are too many houses going up on the fringes of our village, and their progress pretty much matches that of the house I’m crocheting which is, by the way, going to be a bag.

crochet brick stitch

The front of the house will have all the fancy windows and climbing roses and details and neat roof-tiled shenanigans, whereas the back is plain brick, like this:-

crochet brick stitch for house

So now that I’ve nearly done the back, I get to play with windows. And a door. And a chimney. And rambling roses. I’ve swatched these elements again and again… and again, and I think I’m finally ready to work up the front of the house. It’s going to be proper fun, so it is. :-) My only worry is about the lack of architectural authenticity in my design, given that what works in brick doesn’t necessarily work in double-knit cotton, but maybe I’m taking the project a tiny bit too seriously. The architectural style I’m working towards could best be described as trying-too-hard-eclectic – pretty much like some of the new-builds round here. (Oops, did I type that out loud?)

Anyway, you’ll be the first to see the finished cottage in all its rose-smothered cheeriness, and the first to have the pattern, should you wish to make one too.

Meanwhile, the stranded skirt I’m designing grows steadily:-

designing a stranded skirt

And that project bag it’s living in? This morning’s easy make from some spare curtain material.

(Can you tell that I’ve been off work today? :-) )

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