Randomly on a Thursday

1.

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Two days ago Joe and I got on a plane and flew to New York City for a little bite of the Big Apple

2.

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He had work and me too, but we still had the time to make the most of it. We went to the park, and the Met, and the Guggenheim. (I have no idea why those pictures are blurry, they aren’t before I upload them but I don’t have time to figure it out.)

3.

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I knit all of those places because I’m me.  Nobody minded.  As a matter of fact I wasn’t even the only knitter at the Met wandering around with a sock in hand.  (I think it was a sock.)

4. They were on their way to Rhinebeck, which I am not.

5. I know. I’m bummed about it too, but this year I had a conflict, and I’ll be at Knit East.  It will be the first time in more than a decade that I won’t be with my usual crew, but duty calls, and Knit East is awesome, and there will be a whole bunch of amazing knitters there too. Life is long.  Next year will be Rhinebeck, with my wool as my witness.

6. The only problem remains that I usually buy a years worth of soap there, so I’m going to need a solution. (Makes note to self, arranging cross-border soap mule.)

7.

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I’m on my way home now, with a quick turnaround to St. John in the morning. I’m literally putting down one suitcase, sleeping, and picking up one I pre-packed before I left.

8.

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I almost went to a yarn store in NYC, but it was closed for a class. (One knitting teacher to another – I’d never interrupt your class. Not for anything.)

10.

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I ate at Dirt Candy. It was amazing. I had a tiny grilled pea taco. (And a lot of other stuff too.)

Fibre in your diet

Socktober is still a thing over here. I had a brief dalliance with the beginnings of a shawl at Knit City, but it didn’t quite take hold, though it might have stood a chance but for Megan. My mum loved clothes shopping and did heaps of it for all of us, so I was trying to be a good grandmother, and asked her what Elliot needed. She answered that he could use a sleeper or two, and that she likes the ones with feet. I went shopping, and had trouble finding footed ones that would fit him. (Being of average weight for his age but of a rather diminutive stature, our wee lad is a bit of a square.) I bought the one footed one I could find, and two that didn’t have feet, and forked them over to Meg. When I did, she mentioned that the reason she likes the footed ones is because his little feet get so cold at night and then she said maybe he needed more booties or socks or something like that and I felt a feeling that must be exactly like the way sharks feel when they pour the buckets of chum in the water.

I went the knitter equivalent of bananas. It was all I could think of. Babies are enough to set me off, but the thought of a cold baby who could only be saved by knitting? Lunatic. I was a lunatic with wool. My grandson had cold feet and I was unstoppable. Hours later:

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One pair with ribbed cuffs and a stockinette foot, and another pair where I kept the ribbing going on the top of the sock, and gave way to stockinette on only the bottom. (No pattern, though you can find lots on Ravelry if you look – wait, I did it for you. These ones by Kate Atherley look perfect.) The good news is that not only are his feet warm, they fit just fine:

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Maybe a little big, but he’s growing fast, and they are apparently delicious.

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The green ones especially.

Vegetables are important

Thanksgiving came and went this weekend, and we all magically got through it. Our first holiday without her, and there were moments that were just fine, and moments that were awful and we missed mum so much our hearts were fit to break. I’m finding this grief like that. Everything will be completely okay or completely horrible, and then something swings it the other way, and there’s no predicting what it will be. I’ll be standing there, and I’ll see Elliot learning to sit, and think my Mum would love that was happening and then cry for her so desperately, or realize my mum would like something else and then laugh out loud thinking of how she’d enjoy it.

Do you know, that in as much as my mother was a completely reasonable person and frighteningly bright, for some insane reason, she would never, ever put out more than a single can of corn for 14 people at a family diner.   A few years ago I told her that it was time for the unreasonable and inexplicable corn rationing to stop. Perhaps when we were little, a single can cut it -but now we’re all grown and she has grandchildren and I pointed out that corn is cheap and Erin really likes it and that Erin could eat practically a can herself, and that the single can system was being mocked pretty openly.  “Loosen up mum, buy more corn” I told her, and she did. Mum very reluctantly bought two cans, doubling the number of kernels each person could have to a whopping nine or so, and nothing on this earth would convince her to so much as consider a three can solution. Things were already pretty out of control, to her way of thinking. Three can’s would have been MADNESS.

When I arrived at Erin’s on Sunday, she hustled me into the kitchen, lifted the lid off a very large pot, and proudly showed me a veritable vat of corn. “Holy Cats” I breathed, rather awestruck. “Eight cans” she said, and her face shone.  “Mum’s gone. We can stop the madness now. Everyone can have all the corn they want.”  At the end of the night (and despite having 16 people for dinner) the leftover were corn, corn, some corn and about three more or less incinerated Brussels sprouts.

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(Photo emailed to the family the next morning as the reality of how much corn Erin had began to sink in.)

We stood there – looking at all that corn, and agreed that while mum hadn’t been right, we guessed we weren’t either. We still don’t have the magic number. It’s somewhere between two and eight cans though, and I can’t tell you how much Mum would love that.*

*Truly, I’ve been the model of restraint, because I have not emailed my sister 47 recipes that use corn, or started a pinterest board called “Too much corn” and sent her a link, and neither have I suggested several craft projects using laminated or dehydrated leftover corn – although really… That’s what mum would have done.

I think I joined up

You know, unless they’re darned fancy, I never really think of socks as a “project.” I mean, they’re sort of peripherally always there, and I work on them when I’m walking, talking, waiting, flying, taking the bus, waiting for the subway… and they just… get done. I think of them like they sort of fall off me. I’ll turn around and whoops, there’s another pair. This last weekend I went to Knit City (what a lovely event, and such a gentle re-entry to the world of the working) and I had lots of time that I was travelling, walking, listening, waiting, and the very first three minutes I was on my way there I had one pair of socks all done…

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Pattern: I faked it. Yarn: Must Stash, in the fab colourway “Happy Snowman”. Needles 2.25mm.

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and turned my attention to the next pair. I knit the first one on the plane,

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On the bus,

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when I took myself out to dinner. (I ate in three really good vegetarian restaurants this time)

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I started the second while I was walking.

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On the flight home…

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when I was walking downtown,

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and voila. Another pair fell right off me.

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Pattern: I faked it again. Yarn: String Theory in “Trifolium.” Needles: 2.25mm

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I just started another pair, and I suddenly feel like I’ve properly signed up for Socktober without even thinking about it. Let’s see… shall we?

one heel

I would have predicted that yesterday would have been okay.

Most of the days have been okay, or okay-ish. I have been going to the gym, and I have been sort of talking to my friends and doing my work, and I have been… okay. I went to a bike rally thing, and I answered some of my email, and I have been knitting this pair of socks, and all they need is a heel.  It’s an afterthought heel. All I have to do is snip a thread, pull out the stitches in half a row, pick them up and knit a heel. It’s easy.

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Then yesterday morning, Joe left for a business trip. That’s cool. I mean, we have to have a real life – one where we go to work and earn money and pay bills and take care of the family, and Joe’s been so great at that. I’ve been sort of a mess, and Joe has given me the great gift of being steady. It’s such a good word for what he’s done over the last few weeks. He’s been steady. I’ve cried and cleaned things with a toothbrush and been as wild as a goat, and Joe has made sure that there has been food and orderly things and been so sweet to our kids – and they’ve been great too. I feel so bad calling them “the girls” or “the kids” because they’ve been so grown-up, and so beautiful, and so terrifically, fantastically sweet. Their amazing grandmother is gone, and I know they are all gutted, but there hasn’t been a word of that to me. I’ve tried to have room to feel for their loss, but I’m not sure I’ve been great at it.  They have held me so lovingly, and turned to each other as friends and sisters, and not one of them has put their grief ahead of mine, and sometimes, as I cling to the life-raft that is everyone who loves me, I cannot believe how strong and beautiful they are.

Then yesterday morning, Joe got on a plane and left, and I was going to get up, and read email, and organize things and catch up with all of it and that’s not what happened. Instead, I got up and realized that usually when Joe’s out of town I hang with my mum, and I actually reached for the phone to call her and then some rogue grief train came out of the darkness with its goddamn lights blazing and I couldn’t get off the tracks fast enough and it hit me. Just like that.

I staggered through. I went to dinner with a friend and pretended everything was mostly  fine. I spoke with my sister and somehow managed to hold her sadness in me and hear it and know it and not lose myself entirely while I said things that I hope helped. I called the tax people and found out how much our bill is, and when I have to pay it (turns out it’s last week) and I bought toilet paper and tried to figure out why the hose in the backyard that’s supposed to be on some auto-thingie that Joe set up isn’t working right and I texted a friend who didn’t text me back and called a friend who didn’t have any time, and the whole time I worked at being a grownup and punctuated it with wild private sobs, and inconvenient jags of crying during which I held that damn sock and tried to knit one stinking heel onto the thing.

I didn’t get it done.  I didn’t manage a thing. The hose is still broken. The bill is unpaid. My bedroom closet is a disaster, and I realized that I am not sure that I am ready to be without my people, and still, here I am. It’s Tuesday. Joe’s gone for a few more days, and I’m getting on a plane before that, and I’m here by myself – and it’s so weird to be at loose ends, because usually I really like this – being alone and rattling around our house by myself, and I can’t tell you how embarrassed and surprised I am that this late into my forties I cannot cope without my mother, and dammit, I really just want to finish this sock.

It’s one stinking heel. I’m going to try again tonight.

 

And lo, such a thing exists

As much as I thought it might not, time is starting to assume its normal course.  The days are starting to be the length that I expect them to be, not stretching out in front of me like a desert I didn’t bring enough water to get across.  For a while there I had to be so busy just to fill those days up. Walking, riding, swimming, cleaning, organizing… if I stopped too long and tried to do something like write or knit then I had too many of those pesky feelings all at once and had to clean out another damn closet. Now I’m mostly okay as long as I don’t think about how Thanksgiving is in two and a half weeks and I really don’t know how to manage that holiday if I can’t have it with my mother and where do we have dinner now for all the holidays and really I’m going to have to move because my dining room can’t hold everyone and… see. There it goes.  I’ll worry about that next week when it might not result in having to clean all the grout in the house with an old toothbrush after jogging 3km.

The point, before I started worrying again, was that things are okay enough now (oh man who is going to make the pies) that as long as I stay sorted, I can knit, and it feels like it helps a lot, and what’s really interesting is that this idea, that once the shock passes, that knitting is going to be a really useful way through grief… It’s not just me who thinks it. My inbox (thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful notes and letters and thoughts, I am reading them all, even if I can’t answer) is chock full (okay there are five) people who have written to me not just to suggest that knitting would be helpful (because there are a lot more than five of you who think that) but to call the kind of knitting they think would be helpful “Grief Knitting.”  These charming knitters have even gone so far as to cite the specific projects that they think would be the most helpful, and you know what’s interesting? They have a lot in common.

All the projects are challenging – challenging from the perspective of that particular knitter, for sure, but challenging none the less. They were kinda tricky for the knitter to complete, and they took up some of that scary mental energy that comes with grief. (Oh no mum always makes the turnips too.) All the projects are things that sparked a tremendous amount of joy and pride – the knitters think what they made was beautiful, and feel that they did a good job… and finally (here’s where it gets weird.) All of the projects but for one, were for babies.

Think about that. It’s a pretty compelling bit of information, and it makes me feel better that the two things I’ve knit since my mum died are both tiny things.  First the little hat, and now Elliot is bedecked in a matching sweater.

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It’s beautiful to be sure – the yarn is Northampton, but with a bit of a twist. It was the natural colour, but I gave it to Judith to dye at the last Strung Along retreat, and it went for a swim in her indigo pot.  It’s a beautiful blue now, and reminds me of her when I look at it, which is really quite nice, and it suits Elliot pretty well.

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The pattern is Gus, and here’s where it didn’t quite fit the bill to be Grief Knitting, it was pretty easy.  The pattern’s well written – so I didn’t struggle with anything at all.  I’ll have to try something from a less competent designer next.

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I tell you this, even unfinished (which it technically is, I’m waiting for the buttons) it does spark a tremendous amount of Joy.  Part of it is that little face, and the other part?  It is the pockets. I can’t tell you how much I love pockets on a baby sweater. It gives me an unreasonable amount of happiness to think of two perfect, tiny pockets, in a proper, handy spot… all for someone who has absolutely nothing to put in them.

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Delightful.

Well that’s just unfair

Yesterday I finally shook my head clear of the fog it’s been in, and decided that it was time to get myself in gear.  I went to the grocery store. I planned a good dinner. I cooked that dinner, and I fed it to people I love.  I managed to say something vaguely supportive to a friend, and when the lady in the queue ahead of me in the shop was annoyed about how many bruises were on the apples she’d chosen, I somehow magnificently managed not to say anything that even remotely suggested that her problems were totally ridiculous to me (and should be to her) unless they involved a dead mother.

I even sat down to work for a little bit – to start getting caught up on the chaos that is my work life.  That’s right, my mum’s been dead two weeks, almost to the hour, and I just yesterday managed to acknowledge that I have to earn a living, and contribute meaningfully to the charity I’ve promised my time to, and I did that.  I sat down, thought something like “C’mon Steph, get it together” and moments later, my laptop had a complete seizure and suffered a fatal stroke. I’ve had that beast since 2011, I planned the first Sock Summit on it, that’s how old it is, and now is when it leaves me.  It’s a joke, I tell you. I can only assume that it was depressed by the goings-on around here and decided there was nothing left to hang on for.  (It was wrong. I swear I was pulling my scene together.)  I took it as a sign, a sign that I was supposed to be knitting, and set about making our wee Elliot a hat. (This is Canada. Winter is coming. Winter is always coming.) I’d had my eye on this Garter Ear Flap hat from Purl Soho for ages, and I had some MadelineTosh DK (so aptly called “Happiness”, which is just what I’m looking for) and a little math and whammo – that pattern works just fine.

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It’s sweet as pie, actually, and Meg put it on him after dinner (that’s a lie. I rammed it on his wee head so fast it made his head spin around) and we both agreed it made him look properly like a gnome, and cackled about that for some time.  (There is a very, very great deal to be said about how much a tiny person can lift spirits.)

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Suits him, doesn’t it? He’s so happy and unaffected by all that’s going on around him, and making him little things is such a balm for my heart, and Meg’s too, I think. He’s been nothing but light and sunshine over the last little bit, and for a minute or two I didn’t even mind so much that my mother and my laptop were dead while he smiled at me.

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Today was all about starting him another sweater, because I see now that he’s the secret to sanity over the next bit – and somehow trying to whip my iPad into shape to do at least part of the job of my laptop for a few days before I can figure out how to replace it.  If this entry looks weird, it’s because I’ve worked out a really odd system for getting a post up. I suspect it will be the pictures that are really strange, but screw it. Look at me! I got something done two days in a row.

I honestly never thought I’d be proud of that. See you tomorrow, if nothing else dies.

Through

Three weeks ago today, I went over to my mother’s house after physiotherapy, with the intention of running her over to the doctor because she had a virus. She’d been feeling crappy for about a week. We ended up at the ER instead, and mum never went home. She was admitted that day, and she died ten days later.  It was shocking, it was fast, and I know that I am supposed to be grateful for her sake that it was so swift, but I am having trouble finding gratitude for any part of it. I’ve been asked several times if I’m angry, and I don’t think I am – I just feel sad and shocked and tired. I’ve been trying to ease back into a real life, trying to do proper things, and this morning I went back to physio, and I bought vegetables on the way home, and I managed to do a little work.  This afternoon I’m going to ride my bike.  My current operating theory is that if I do lots of sane, sensible and healthy things, that soon I’ll start to feel sane, sensible and healthy, which I don’t just yet. I feel breakable and sad and I keep thinking that people are being insensitive, but I’m realizing I’m just sensitive right now.

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I’m knitting again too – and yes, that implies I stopped and I mostly did.  The day after mum landed in hospital we were all to leave for week long family vacation to Nova Scotia. Me, Joe, the girls, Alex, the baby, Joe’s parents and siblings and Frankie and Luis, and my little niece Myrie and brand new baby Emmett. All off us heading off to Cape Breton for my niece Savannah‘s wedding. That’s who I was making that shawl for, the last time I wrote to you.  I had big plans to finish it and block it in Cape Breton, and give it to Savannah to wear on her wedding day.  That first day mum was sick, I told Joe and the girls to go ahead, and I’d stay home, get mum sorted (I was sure she just needed an antibiotic or something) and when I got her home I’d follow on a later flight and still make it for the wedding.

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That’s not what happened.  I didn’t make it on a later flight, I did miss the vacation and the wedding, and it was a pretty lonely week. Usually when things are bad my knitting is a good friend to me.  I know you’re probably some of the only people in the world that I could say that to who won’t think I need to be committed immediately, but my knitting makes me less lonely, and keeps me company when things are rough.  You would think that ten rough days in the hospital culminating in the worst day of my life would add up to a lot of knitting, but it didn’t. What was happening was so destructive and so terrible that I couldn’t knit. I couldn’t do something productive in the face of all that, it felt trivial to even try.  Erin and I were at the hospital pretty much all the time, and we slept there for most nights of it, and there I was, holding my knitting all the time like it was some little comfort lovie, but didn’t really knit on it.  I managed a few stitches here and there, but didn’t finish the shawl in time for Sav to have it for her day.

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It’s taken three whole weeks to manage what should have been two days worth of knitting, if that.

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It’s coming back now – the urge to knit is creeping in around the edges, as I start trying to feel better, or think that it’s even possible to feel better, as I start thinking about what comes next, or what a world without my mum in it looks like, since I guess that’s the one I have to live in now.  I keep telling my friends that I’m trying to have faith, some of them have lost their mothers, and my mum lost hers, and they all went on to have what looked like happy lives, so it must be that this feeling goes away, or is transformed, or you get used to it. I’m waiting for that to happen, and trying to be confident that it will – and that makes me less frightened.  As I wait and try to make that feeling of the new normal happen, I’m looking forward, and those ideas of building something or something being transformed… those feelings feel like knitting…

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and suddenly Sav’s shawl is finished.

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It’s too late for her wedding, but I’m giving it to her anyway.

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It’s a good time for beautiful things.

Mum

It is with the most profound sadness that I tell you that my darling mother Bonnie died last night.

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I would like nothing more right now than to tell you all everything. To tell you every detail of her, and every amazing thing about her and how her hands were and the incredible things she did with her one wild and precious life, and all that has happened during the brief time she was ill, but it is all too raw. I feel like her death has left me somehow ripped or broken open, and I want to be so careful about what spills out, lest I can never put it back.

A little time. A little space. I’ll be back.

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Rest

I have been taking a few days off. Well, I’ve been sort of taking a few days off – I think they only feel like days off because I’m not riding really far, and putting up a tent and taking it back down again and trying to manage email and doing nine jobs all at once. Instead I’ve been riding my bike a little, to get around town, and to the beach, and to the marina to sail with Joe. The house is a still a disaster, the mountain of neglected work on my desk needs my attention now, but it has felt good to snuggle a baby, come up with a plan of attack, and enjoy the summer a bit. Also – knit. Not little bits of knitting found here and there, not just a plain sock because it’s all I can muster, but real, proper knitting – done in nice chunks, with a fancy pattern and beads and concentration and without worrying that the needles will puncture an air mattress.

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I’m tackling Snow Angel (a little ironic for a summer knit, I know) and it’s lovely. I had about ten million balls of Findley left over after Elliott’s blanket, and it’s such a pleasure to knit with that I’m using it again. (It’s got 730m per ball. I can’t explain the yarn insecurity that led me to buy so much. I’m rather glad I like it, because I’ll be knitting with it for the rest of my life.)

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I’ve still got a pair of socks running in the background, because beaded lace isn’t exactly the sort of knitting that goes well with taking the subway or walking or going to meetings, and also I’m me, so I wouldn’t quite know what to do with myself without a pair of socks in my bag, but I’m mostly knitting on this, and hoping to get it bashed out pretty quickly. The first section went by so fast that I got optimistic about it only taking a few days, but as with all things top-down, that initial thrill’s worn off as the rows get longer.

I’ve got just a little time to knit on it today before I head out for a meeting (and I have to do something about the kitchen. It’s sort of sticky. All of it. I don’t know how cupboards get sticky, but they are.) Maybe I’ll finish the first big chart – but I’m already dreaming of what I’ll make next. Shall I finish the paper/linen Habu thing? Maybe a pair of fancy socks? Perhaps a sweater for one of the littles, or a hat for the Christmas box, or… What are you making?

I promised I’d wrap up the Karmic Balancing gifts when I got back – so here’s a start. (It’s going to take a bit. You’re a generous bunch – I’ll do as many as I can each day.

Mary S found a wonderful way to give this year, she went for a nice long stash dive and came up with five (yup, five) beautiful presents for her fellow knitters. (Doesn’t she seem like a lovely person? Good taste in yarn, too.)

2 balls Suri Merino Luxury Indiecita, 55% suri alpaca, 45% extra fine merino (deliciously soft) for Lori N.
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3 balls Woodland yarn, 65% wool, 35% nettles for Sarah M.
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4 skeins Plymouth Earth Alpaca “Ranch” she’ll be mailing to Ariela G.
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10 balls Libella Ballet, 74% viscose; 26% cotton for Cindy M.
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1 hank Berroco Hip-Hop, 100% Wool for Flannery C who I hope makes a hat. (It would be gorgeous.)
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