The Great White yet again

I have a feeling that the blog is going to have titles like that for a little while. (I keep wanting to title it “Call me Ishmael” but I worry I’m the only one who’s going to get the joke.) I’m almost embarrassed to show you my progress. Rows are slow now, and I’m feeling triumphant beyond words if I manage my allotted two rows a day. It is seventeen days until shawl deadline, and I have 25 rows (and a really, really long cast-off) to go.

tbigwhite 2016-05-31

I like my odds right now, but how intense the thing is – well, it’s making me a little neurotic. I have a black cat – and while Millie is normally a perfect knitters cat, uninterested in yarn, likes to lie beside me while I knit, rather than on my lap… in recent days she has become a creature possessed. She’s long haired, and it’s spring, so she’s shedding what seems like an amount of black hair that should have long ago left her bald,  and her only mission in life right now (beyond her regular patrol of the front windows, hissing at squirrels) is to get. On. That. Big. White. Thing. Maybe hook a claw in it. Perhaps chew a little at the edge. Anything. Just a taste.

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When I leave the room now, if I put down the great white, it has to go in a cat free zone, or go with me, and right this minute it is resting in a largish ziplock bag. Millie is enraged, but vigilant. We both know that eventually I’m going to make a mistake, and that cat is waiting.

I’m just going to have to be more alert than that cat.

Big. White. More beads.

The big white thing (with more beads) has really started to get to me – and I’m sure it’s starting to get to you… I have here photographed it in different place than I did all of last week to try and drive the excitement up, but no matter what I do, it is still big and white and I’d say it was unending, but I know it has to have an end.

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This thing has to be done by Meg’s wedding day, which is June the 20th. Yes, I know exactly how soon that is, and yes, I am freaking out. About a million important things have to happen between then and now, including important appointments, dinners, family commitments, training for the rally, working on the committee, keeping the house clean enough that the cat doesn’t get stuck to the floor (I am keeping the bar so low there) the Strung Along June Retreat, writing, somewhere in there I think I’d like to speak to Joe, remember Father’s Day and celebrate six family Birthdays and without fail, I have to finish this shawl.

I am just starting the border, which means that I have 46 rows to go.

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The wedding is in 28 days, but the shawl needs to be done at least 3 days before the wedding for the purposes of blocking. and that means that I have 25 days. That should mean that as long as I do two rows a day, I’ll be just fine. Here’s the thing – two rows a day doesn’t sound like much – but the rows are really freaking long right now (and they’re only getting longer – I add four stitches every right side row, so more than 100 more are in the offing) and those rows are slow going, with all the beads and whatnot. Not only that, but with the beads and the chart and frankly, how white it all is, this isn’t exactly the sort of project I can do on the subway or as I’m walking down the street – not only am I really sure I can’t manage the beads on the go, I’m pretty sure that’s how you end up drunk and sobbing in a corner because there’s gum stuck to a wedding shawl or you snagged the thing on an escalator.  I have to sit still and knit, and it’s not my best thing. I’m better at knitting in restaurants, meetings and on buses. I knit a lot in a day, but it’s a bit here and a bit there and this shawl simply has more set-up and takedown than a sock. (By the way I am almost finished another pair of socks.)

This is all a rather fussy way of saying that I think two rows a day is going to be really hard, and maybe unrealistic, and… I’m freaking out a little. Two rows. I just need to knit two rows. Or Four. Four would be better.

I’m just going to go cancel my dentist appointment.

(PS. Spit Splice. That’s how I joined.  I pulled about 5cm of one ply of yarn out of each end of the two ply to reduce the bulk, and overlapped those two single plies. Then I applied a little “moisture” and then rubbed them together until they felted, and then gave it a little tug to be sure.  The join is imperceptible. Even I can’t find it now that I’m a few rows past. It worked really well. I didn’t just overlap because I hate the double-thick spot that always shows – especially in lace, and I didn’t do the Russian join because I felt like the yarn didn’t have appropriate ply twist for it, and it would have still been bulky. So there you have it, spit splice to the rescue.)

Maybe if there was a pony

I can see now that in terms of blog material, this shawl is going to be a problem. There’s precious little I can do to make it interesting, short of it catching fire or me making a huge mistake (both totally possible, but haven’t happened yet – at least to this project) and all I can really say about it is white. Bigger. More beads.

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See? White. Bigger. More beads. In the next 24 hours I’ll bust out the second ball of yarn and have to make a decision about how to join it in – I suppose I can try to make that exciting. Russian join? Spit splice? The drama! The intrigue! Which will I choose! Tune in Monday to see how I did it. (Yeah. I know. I didn’t excite me either.)  Well, here. Let me show you something big and purple to distract you from something big and white.

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Voila. The worlds top knitwear model came home long enough to hoist my finished Purless.

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In the end it turned out that I wasn’t two skeins sad about Prince, but I was about 1.5 skeins of bereft. (The yarn was Shalimar Yarn’s Breathless in Byzantium, and it was delicious) I embiggened the pattern a little bit, doing one more repeat of the fetching triangles before (more or less) going back to the pattern as Romi wrote it. (Towards the end I sort of did my own thing when it came to the short rows, because I had my own unique number of stitches, but It looks like hers.)

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It’s soft and so cozy and now that it’s blocked and photographed, the weather has finally warmed up here in Toronto, and there’s absolutely no need for it what so ever. (My apologies to the rest of the city, I forgot that’s how it worked. I would have finished it ages ago if I thought it could have done something about the snow.) I’ll tuck it away for the fall, or maybe even for Christmas, since now that I’m over the terrible shock of Prince’s death, I remember that I don’t really wear purple. (The world’s top knitwear model looks great in it though. Thanks Sam.)

Thanks too for your warm welcome to fundraising season over here… the lot of you are amazing, as always, and Team Knit is well on its way. Let’s celebrate early, with the first round of Karmic Balancing Gifts- there’s so many I’m going to have to really stay on it. (Don’t know how it works? Well, you can read yesterdays post, and that should help. Essentially, you help Team Knit (That’s me, Ken, Pato and Cameron – with honourable mention to Val and Heather) reach our goals for PWA, and then the other knitters send you a present maybe, because you’re awesome and so are they.) Ready to start with the presents? Sure you are.

Melissa is generously sending out four sets of snagless stitch markers from Prairie Dye Studio. One set each for Debra, Jennifer K, Helen G and Andrea D, and they’ll each be allowed to chose from all her beauties.

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Ann has a wonderful gift that will be going from her stash to Leanne W’s.

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It’s three skeins of Tilli Tomas Fil de la Mer yarn.  It’s DK weight, 70% silk 30% plant fiber, 140 yards/ 50 gram skein.  The colorway is Gloximia – a perfect present for spring. Thanks for parting with it Ann.

Jaala from Knitcircus has Over the Rainbow Gradient Stripes! Each “matching socks set” includes two cakes dyed to match exactly – down to the stitch. Her gift  includes a Medium Matching Socks Set (300yds total) in Greatest of Ease fingering, 75% Superwash Merino wool, 25% nylon, and she’s including Amy’s Favorite Top-Down Socks pattern pdf.

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Jaala will be sending that to the very lucky Sue G.  (I almost ordered everything when I clicked on that link. Careful.)
Dani, longtime friend of the show and proprietress over at KSC Designs has two beautiful pieces. A box bag that will be making its way to Tracey H.

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and a beautiful needle roll that I really hope Chris I loves.

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There we go – eight gifts, I’ve emailed all the lucky knitters,  and we’re just getting started. Please take a few moments over the weekend to think of us. Team Knit will be out in force – Cameron and I are the assigned sweeps for the Sunday ride. Wish us fair weather and a tailwind. We could use it.

It’s on again

We had a thunderstorm last week, and our internet went down – Our box was struck by lightning. (Just ours. It was a pretty personal move by mother nature.)  I’ve been reduced to working in coffeeshops and pubs with wifi, and today (six days without internet) it finally got fixed but let me tell you – you wouldn’t believe how much knitting time you have if your internet goes down.

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The big white shawl proceeds apace. I’m through the 14 repeats of the first chart, and I’ve done the transition chart now – I’m making Aeolian.  (Megan, don’t click.) There’s several more charts to go – and I’ve used most of one skein of yarn (I have three) and 2.5 vials of beads. (I have 6.)

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So far, so good, though it’s slow going, putting down the knitting every few stitches to affix another bead with a tiny crochet hook. The last row of the transition chart also introduces nupps, and no matter how loosely I try to create them, purling seven stitches together on the  following row is a little …tricky – if you understand that I am using the word tricky here to stand in for language less becoming to a knitter of my age and station. Moving on.

Let me tell you about this last weekend. I was scheduled to show up for a training ride – 54 kilometres, and the weather looked bad. Terrible, actually. It was cold, it was rainy – they were calling for snow, and I lay there in bed thinking about how I could get out of it. There had to be a way, I thought. Something.  I could text and say that I was sick. (I wasn’t.) I could say that I was just too tired. (I sort of was.) I could say that I was frankly, too clever to show up and ride my bike really far in the SNOW when the alternative was tea, knitting, and an audiobook.  I even thought about trying to explain about the nupps, and how I didn’t really think that it was in the shawl’s best interest for me to turn up.  Then I got up, put on as many layers of spandex as I could, and went and did the thing – and I knew it was going to be bad, and I had a tummy ache I was so nervous.

I wish this was one of those stories where I tell you that I was a lunatic, and it was fine, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  It’s not. It did snow.  It also hailed, and rained, and there was a headwind. (I always say it, the one good thing about riding in the rain is that nobody can see you cry.) I compensated for as much of the misery as I could with a positive attitude. I was deliberately kind with the (few) other riders who were insensible enough to show up, and they were kind with me. We smiled. We rode. We got it done, and we joked afterwards about how it was (probably) going to be the last time that we had to do it in the snow. It triggered a lot of feelings for a bunch of us. A lot of the group that gathered for a pint afterwards have been doing The Rally for years, most of us have taken on leadership roles, and donate no small amount of our time and energy to the cause.
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Later that day, a friend asked why I’d bothered to go in the snow.  Actually, they sort of wondered why I take the whole thing so seriously. I’m on the Steering Committee again this year, I’m a Team Leader again… it’s not just riding in the snow. It’s a lot of time over the course of a year – then you start training, and all so that you can ride your bike more than 600 km (It’s about 400 miles). Surely, she posited, surely you can miss a single snowy ride, and she’s right, I could have, but the thing is and I didn’t say this to her – It felt hokey and sentimental and I was afraid she’d think I was silly… but that feeling’s since worn off… The people that PWA serves, they don’t get to opt out of bad days. No matter how hard a day might be, no matter how hard facing the thing they have to do is, people with HIV/AIDS don’t get to opt out and knit a shawl while listening to an audiobook.  There’s no days off if you’re sick or struggling, and the commitment I’ve made to try and make that a little bit better for those people doesn’t seem like it counts for much if I only do it when it’s easy.  You know what I mean? It’s hard to explain.  That’s why I do it, that’s why it’s not optional when it sucks. That’s not how AIDS works – so that’s not how fundraising works. If I’m in, I’m all in, and this year I’m going to ask for your help again.

This summer (in nine weeks and three days) I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team of knitters,  as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and my darling friend who roped me into this in the first place, has volunteered to be a Team Lead this year, and in the interest of the Rally, we split up to manage two teams. There’s Pato, the worlds nicest 24 year old, and Cameron – our friend and my Co-Lead on the Steering Committee. Knitters all.


This year we’re also giving honourable mention to two other knitters on the rally – Heather’s part of this blog, and was so compelled by the cause that she’s giving it a go this year, and Val – she’s a local Toronto knitter, and this will be her second time on the rally. Maybe think about giving them a little nudge towards their goals, eh? They’re good eggs.
meval 2016-05-18

(That’s Val and I there. She’s one of the few riders who turned up for the hard ride on Sunday. We’re smiling because it’s the before part.  So few riders turned up that for a while there we were saying it was going to be 50% knitter.)

Once again, I’m asking for your help. The decision to ride your bike to Montreal helps nobody, not without you.  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and like last year, I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do things the same way as last year, because knitters, you were amazing.  We’re going to do Karmic Balancing gifts again. Once a week (or so- maybe a little more or less) between now and the Rally, I’ll choose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  Also staying the same, who sends their name along to me.

It’s going to be all about the Karma – just like last year. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little family team (or Val, or Heather) then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.

Now, we know not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, that counts.  Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift – maybe you can forward the email to people in your family who might give…  There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did. No money needed. (Of course, money is always good too.)

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are, like they always do?  Ken, Pato, Cameron and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. We keep telling you that they’re awesome.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easy -It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions –  I’ll keep track.) I’ll try to get through them all, though it can be overwhelming. Thank you!

I thought I would last longer

Oh Blog, thank you so much for the warm reception to Megan and Alex’s engagement. The wedding is soon – very soon, and you’re all right, the froth of white wool and beads is indeed for Megan’s wedding shawl and I need to keep a move on it if I’m going to finish in time.  Megan, I tell you, is my stealth child. She has always gone her own way, and done her own thing, under a clever guise of good manners and charm. Even when she was a little wee fierce thing, she knew enough to be dead quiet while she unravelled all your toilet paper, and so it was with the wedding. My stealth child has been planning for quite some time, and a little while ago dropped it on the family as a near perfect fait accompli. I have time, but only enough to knit a shawl and tidy up bits, and not enough for anyone in the family to get in the way of her plan or make her talk about napkins or invitations.   (She is a clever, clever girl – and yeah Meg, I saw what you did there.) This will truly be their wedding, and just the way they want it. (Almost. She didn’t get the stealth gene from nowhere.)

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So, it’s me and the white wool and the beads, and other than a pair of socks in my purse (because really, who can bead on the subway. Even the idea invokes disaster) I had decided to be monogamous and absolutely dedicated to this single cause. It’s a big shawl (but not too big Mum, I know, I know) and I’m not sure how long it will take to knit (forever maybe) and so here I am. Dedicated.  I have knit the first ten of 14 repeats of the first chart (I think it will be 14. There will be decisions made, later today or maybe tonight) and I am starting to come undone a very little bit. As a knitter, I bore easily. (Well, as a person too, but let’s not talk about that.) The first sign that the monogamy was wearing a little thin came yesterday, when on my way to put away some yarn that I bought at the frolic, I accidentally swatched it and got the pattern.

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Whoopsies. It all happened so fast. Luckily, before I could break my vow and screw the whole thing up, I realized the pattern I was thinking of needed a Custom Fit component, and would take more that 3 minutes to pull together, and in that tiny window of time – in that little – itty bitty moment, I pulled myself together, put down the silk, and went back to the beads.

There’s no telling how tomorrow will go. I’m really not that strong.


For Immediate Release

Daughter to Marry – Parents Get Grip

May 9th, 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Following nothing short of a near miss in the raving insanity department, the parents of Megan would like to announce her engagement to Alex.

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From all reports, the initial response of the parents involved was ironically immature. “We almost lost it” remarked her mother, when reached for comment. “I mean, who in their right mind gets behind the marriage of a mere child?”

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Apparently this knee-jerk reaction was followed by a period of reflection, during which the family refrained from the immediate use of the telephone, email or text.  “We had to think about it” they claimed, while clutching a folder of important papers marked MEGAN. “It seemed so crazy that she could consider doing this thing, I mean… she couldn’t possibly be old enough, but she was acting like she was, and she’s usually such a reasonable child. We decided to look into it a little more to try and make sense of it.”  Encouraged by their other daughters who suggested they get “some kind of a freaking grip” the parents consulted Megan’s birth certificate, only to discover – much to their absolute shock, that Megan is actually on the cusp of her 25th Birthday, and while they aren’t sure when the (*&*%^ this happened, it turns out that she’s totally old enough to marry – and that even more unbelievably, they themselves are somehow old enough to have a child who can wed under Canadian law.

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The parents now retract their planned statements of “Get your hands off our little Boo-Baby” and “Stop kissing her you jerk” and regret the tentative plan to have the gentleman in question arrested – mostly because of the birth certificate, but also because he is very nice, they have known him for years, and he has always treated their daughter with dignity, love and the respect she deserves.

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Having gotten the previously mentioned grip on reality, Megan’s parents are now happily planning her wedding. “It turns out she’s totally an adult” said her mother, while replacing the cool, damp cloth on the back of her neck. “We love her, and she’s an amazing person, and we trust her to make great decisions like she always has. Megan is a wonderful baby woman.”

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The family also extends a warm welcome to Alex, a similarly awesome person who will be a great-son-in-law, and reassures him that any previous plan to report him to authorities was a misplaced reaction to the truth about their own shocking mortality and a predictable reluctance to let their sweet girl grow up.



It’s all so sunny right now

Yup, on the move. This big project (I’ll tell you what it is next week, let me sort a thing or two first) is marching along. It’s big, it’s bold and as such, I am taking no chances. I have procured more beads. (I actually procured them from the stash, where it turned out I had two full vials of the exact same beads, purchased long enough ago that they were $1.50 per container instead of the $1.80 the other four cost me last week. Inflation. Clearly.)

Also, I stood there in the Marketplace on Saturday and bought the two skeins of laceweight that should be enough for the project, I thought ahead, then ordered another one, just to be sure. (I cannot run out now, and I say that with confidence. That’s an extra 600m, and it has already arrived in the post.)

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Then, I have knit a swatch. That’s right, a proper swatch, with beads and everything, and washed it, and blocked it, and lived with it for a day so to make sure that I can’t tell myself any lies. (You know how sometimes knitters do that. We say swatches lie, we’re so keen to start that we convince ourselves that the thing is perfectly great when it’s actually looser than the old underpants in the back of your drawer.)

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I am not getting the gauge the pattern suggests, but I am getting a gauge that I like better, and I have done the math to make sure that the thing will neither come out the size of a doily, nor a cover for a smallish family car.

In short, there is nothing that can go wrong here, at least, nothing that would be regular, normal or predictable. I suppose that I could be robbed, or there could be a natural disaster, or two great black Cormorant (attracted by the shiny beads) could sweep from the sky, fight me for it in an epic battle at the bus stop, and make off with the shawl and the yarn when the pecking got too intense.

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Other than that, I’m good.

I’ve taken all possible precautions.


Fits and Starts

Last Thursday I had an ill fated trip to Romni Wools for white laceweight. I spent forever in the shop ripping up the shelves and by the end of it, I had a few other people in on the madness.  I needed just about 1200 metres of white laceweight for a shawl to match a dress, and you wouldn’t think that would be a thing that was hard to put your hands on, but it was like I’d gone into a yarn shop and asked for seven live lobsters. There was none.  Up and down the aisles we went. Up and down the ladder the nice lady went. We went into boxes, into bags… they vanished into backrooms, and I even scoured the basement, and if you live in Toronto you know that’s not a small step. There was ivory, there was eggshell, there was off-white.  There was cream, there was buff, some of it was  ecru… but not a single ball or skein of white, not true white.  I’d had a conversation the day before about how this project needs to be actually really white, so after a huge and frustrating search, I thanked everybody as sincerely as I could considering how pissed I was that I’d just spent a morning downtown for no good reason, and  then stomped down the street to the bead store,  and then got on the streetcar, dropping my last token in as I went.

Just a few minutes later, as I was sitting there thinking about how I’d maybe be able to find white at the Knitter’s Frolic this last weekend,  my phone went off in my pocket. I put down my knitting (Purless) and saw that I had a text from the person who had agreed with me on the need for a shawl that was true, bright white.   “FYI – dress not white, more of an off white or eggshell” it said, and I lost it. Romni had that! Lots of that! I could go back.

I stood up on the streetcar, then sat down again, then stood up, then sat down. That had been my last token, I didn’t have any change, I was on my way home and I (I reflected) needed to get a grip. Just because I was ready to start the thing didn’t mean it couldn’t wait a few days, I’d have a search at the Frolic, and if I couldn’t find anything there, I’d give up and go back to Romni (where I know now that they have it.)  It would give me time to finish Purless, and then I’d… be more ready than I was. (This was not true. I was completely ready, and yay verily so sick of knitting that purple thing,  but sometimes you have to think positively and make up a story for yourself when the planet wastes half of a perfectly good Thursday just to make you nuts.)

So, the weekend came, and I have finished Purless, and I did scour the market, and I hunted through every booth, and at the very last minute, and at the very last booth, after That Rachel H convinced me to go back in and look one more time.

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Shelridge Yarns Laceweight – and the beads*, and now I can start.** A pretty white*** lace shawl, with 2500 silver lined beads.  Game on.

*And you know, I might not have bought enough. The pattern says I need 2500 beads, and the store said each one was 16 grams, and that seemed like a lot, but now I think that maybe there’s about 500 in each vial (and yeah, I sort of counted a little bit) and so I think I blew it, but I’m not sure because I lost interest in counting seed beads really, really quickly. There has to be a better way. They’re ridiculous.≠

**After the swatch dries. Too big a project to wing.

***Well. It’s not white. Eggshell. Natural. Cream.  Maybe buff. 

≠Also the process of counting them meant I spilled some and they went down the cool air return and now there’s no way to get them back. Too risky to count again.