Randomly, on a Tuesday

1. Today is our wedding anniversary.  Remember that? Joe and I totally snuck that up on the blog, and now eight years have snuck up on us.  We’re as happy as ever (or at least I am, and if Joe’s not he’s really good at faking it) and still think that it was a brilliant decision.

2. We should really get around to taking that honeymoon.

3. I thought that I’d spend today playing catch-up. This place is trashed, and my inbox is exploding, and I’m getting ready for a trip to Vancouver this weekend, and Edmonton in a few weeks. I’m giving a talk (or doing knitting stand-up, depending on how you look at it) Friday October 24th.  There’s info in that link, but I don’t get out that way often, so I hope you’ll come out if you live near there.

4. I am all about the socks these last few weeks. I was aiming for a pair every 28 days, so I’d have several pairs in the pile for Christmas, and the two pairs I’ve made in the last little bit make pairs number nine and ten, and it’s October tomorrow, and that’s the tenth month, and I feel pretty awesome about that.

samtablesocks2 2014-09-30

(Yarn is Lang Yarns Jawoll “Aktion” I’ve forgotten the colour number, pattern is my basic one from Knitting Rules, and needles were 2mm.)

samtablesocks 2014-09-30

A nice big pair, men’s large, ready to be tucked away. I make all these socks with people in mind – I know who they’re for while I’m making them. When I’m done, I write the name on a slip of paper, and put them away in a ziplock so that when I pull these out for the holidays I can remember what my plan was.

stripes2 2014-09-30

(Yarn: Desert Vista Dyeworks Viso, in “Convo me” Pattern, I started with a picot hem, did a short row heel, and finished with my standard toe. I didn’t pick up the wraps on the wrap-and-turn short row heel. Nothing bad has happened. Needles: 2.25mm.)

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Together with my current sock, it’s an impressive pile for just a few weeks.  I’m cool with it.

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5. I have got to quit with the socks though, because the deadline for the baby sweater I’m making is coming up, and I don’t want it to end all in a rush. Like it always does.

6. Did you notice that everyone’s favourite sock model is here today?

sammodel 2014-09-30

That’s because yesterday, my sweetie-girl Sam came home to her mother, just where she belongs. (She’s going to just love that I said that.)  It takes a brave person to move out into their first apartment. It takes an even braver one to admit that she wasn’t ready, and high-tail it straight back home to re-group and re-plan.  That’s what this place (and your parents) are for.  I’m so happy she’s here, and I think she is too, and there’s just one thing that we didn’t bargain for.

7. She came back with a hedgehog.

8. While I am not completely thrilled with living with an extremely grumpy African Pygmy Hegehog named Marty, Joe points out that out of all the living things she could have acquired and brought home to us, a hedgehog isn’t that bad.

martysam 2014-09-30

9. That’s the attitude that’s kept us married.

Another one bites the dust

Hello, Hello, from the other side of the wedding chaos – and chaos is a great way to describe it.  It was a fantastic three day event, with a family dinner on Friday where we met Winston’s family, and welcomed them to ours, and then the wedding day itself, and then a family brunch yesterday to wind things up.  Today we’re looking at pictures, resting, laughing and remembering, because it really was a wonderful day.  The weather was spectacular – completely out of character for the end of September in Toronto. Warm and sunny, hot even – and it was the perfect makings for a wedding by the lake. So many parts of the day were wonderful, but three parts stand out for me. First- Erin’s shawl was as perfect with her dress as I’d hoped- pictures are forthcoming – for reasons that will be clear in a minute, I didn’t have time to take them myself on Saturday. Then there was Hank, walking his mother down the aisle in a suit and looking like the wonderful young man he is, and then finally, there was my gift to them.

downtheaisle 2014-09-29

I don’t know if you remember, but two summers ago, when Kate and Carlos married, I pulled together a musical surprise for them.  It was awesome – and at the time, Erin said to me that if she ever got married, she wanted a wedding flashmob too.  I agreed, because frankly – I didn’t think it was going to come up. There was nobody on the horizon, and I felt pretty safe. Enter Winston, and suddenly here we are, and I realize that she’s actually going to marry him, and I’m actually going to need to come up with something and I started planning. I decided on one of Erin’s favourite songs, I hacked her invite list, I made contact with her planner, and I set the wheels in motion. An email went out to everyone attending the wedding, asking anyone who knew how to play an instrument to step up, and pretty soon the replies were flooding my inbox.  This person could play the guitar, that person could play the piccolo (really) and so on, and so forth and with some work, I had a plan.

practice 2014-09-29

We held a secret rehearsal on Thursday night – and to get Hank out of the house, Joe and I pretended to take him sailing. I asked him if he would have trouble lying to his mum, and he said it was “no issue”.  (I am a nice aunt, so I didn’t ask how much practice he’s had, but after the fact I did let Erin know he was pretty smooth, for a 14 year old, and she might want to keep any eye on him.) We picked him up, drove him across town to the marina, whacked a lifejacket on the kid, motored out of our berth, took 89 pictures of him, texted them to Erin, and then parked the boat and drove back across town in time for the rehearsal at Ken’s.

hankboat 2014-09-29

We had it down by the end of the rehearsal, but I was still nervous. Only about 20 people made it to practice, and there was more than 100 people coming to the wedding, and that’s a lot of wild cards. Would it come together? I had no idea – and I was worrying that someone would tell Erin – when this many people are in on a surprise it’s hard to keep quiet.  By this time I was lying to Erin about every 15 seconds about why I was busy, I’d developed an intimate relationship with half of Winston’s family by way of email, we had an unreasonable number of Kazoos and Joe was spending all his time practising on the guitar.

I sent out reassuring emails to everyone involved assuring them that it was all going to be okay – that this thing would be more about enthusiasm than skill, that we weren’t trying to do the song perfectly, and that it was about how it would make Erin feel, not how we sounded.  “Stay chill” I told people.  “Relax into it.”  Then I would quietly, and by myself, have another stroke.

kazoos 2014-09-29 (1)

The day of the wedding arrived, and we began to execute our plan. I went to my mum’s to be with Erin while she got ready, then split so I got to the wedding early (thus missing my opportunity to photograph the shawl, but I think the photographer got some.) There I met up with incredibly sneaky wedding planner, and we started hiding instruments with the musicians.  The plan was this:

Erin and Winston would have a beautiful ceremony, as it ended, their recessional music would start, then stop suddenly.

erinwinston 2014-09-29

As they grew more confused, Sam’s boyfriend Matt would pull out his ukulele and start to play. My girls (Erin’s nieces) and a few helpers would start to sing. Then Hank and Winston’s kids Edi and Zoe would start to sing. A few bars later the family would join in, then everyone, with musicians coming on board as they were able to grab their gear.

Here’s what actually happened.

(You have to click to watch.)

All you need is love

It isn’t perfect, I know, but it was totally perfect for Erin, and she sobbed ecstatically through the entire thing. (As one of her friends said, we know she was surprised because she was ugly crying.) You can hear her losing it through almost the entire video. I know for a fact they loved it (which is always a gamble- once you start screwing with wedding plans) not because it was musically profound, but because it was what we all wanted for them – a chance to show them we love them, and we want only their happiness.

erinwinston1 2014-09-29 (2)

Their whole community came together to hijack their wedding and make it a special, special day. Not a dry eye in the place.

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Special thanks to the musicians for doing what they could with over a hundred rookies, and great big thanks to Hank, Edi and Zoe. They really stepped up to show their parents that they love them.

Congratulations Erin and Winston.

PS. I totally earned myself the sister-of-the-year award. You might think that would be an simple thing to nail, considering that I’m Erin’s only sister, but truthfully, she likes to mostly bestow that upon herself, and she’s pretty awesome, so the competition is tough.

meanderin 2014-09-29


Why isn’t there a guardrail on this thing

My sister Erin is getting married on Saturday, and just back from two back to back trips, with a bike rally meeting looming in front of me, and all the things I have to do before the big day making a very, very long list… I think I might just go over the edge on this one.

Everything seemed so doable in Colorado.  When I was at The Loopy Ewe’s Spring Fling, I took pictures of the people I talked too (There were a lot of them) and I was light hearted and at ease.

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The wedding seemed far away. All I needed was a dress – and I had so much time, so I just enjoyed the ride.

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I met Claudia from Wollmeise, although that picture is going to be no help identifying her in public (which I think was the goal) my fellow teachers were charming, the students very clever, and the trip, spectacular in general.  I’m so grateful to Sheri for inviting me.

blurry teachers 2014-09-24

(That’s a super blurry picture of me, Ann Budd, Marly Bird and Susan B Anderson. It was at the end of a day of teaching, so I don’t think the problem was with the camera. I think we were all blurry.)

Then I came home, and I only had two days at home and all I had time to do was go to a bike rally meeting and wash my clothes (I literally took them out of my suitcase and put them back in again) and as I left for The Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza, I was starting to feel just a little bit of anxiety.  Just a little voice in the back of my mind that said “Hey, McPhee.  You might want to start thinking about that wedding a bit.”

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I told it to screw off, and I played with the knitters.

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By Saturday, I could feel a knot of concern attempting to wiggle it’s way up into a place where I’d do something about it – but I still didn’t feel like it was a really big deal, so I played with those knitters too, and I took pictures of an ADORABLE baby dressed up as a Cabbage Patch Doll.  (Can you even stand that baby? So cute it hurts. I can’t believe we’re legally allowed to dress them up as anything we want. Fabulous.)

By Sunday, the Extravaganza was over, and it had been fabulous,  and I had a few hours before it was time to leave for the airport, and I drank a cup of coffee, and I thought to myself – Steph, what is that feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Is that pressure? Should I be worrying about this wedding? I spent a few minutes thinking about what I had to do, but I’m an experienced procrastinator, and so it only took me a few minutes to decide that what I should really be doing was walking into Hot Springs to see the Springs and the old Bathhouses. So that’s what I did.

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(By the way: Confirmed. Springs in Hot Springs actually hot. Steaming hot water coming right out of the ground. Extremely cool.)

I knit all the way home, and that night I felt that little tap on my shoulder that is my better self trying to keep me on track, but I had a glass of wine and a little knit, and went off to bed.  The next morning though, I didn’t look away when it was time, and the slight concern I had about getting a dress only took two minutes to be converted into full fledged panic as the to-do list mounted.  I needed a dress. I needed shoes. I needed a lipstick. (I thought there was one here somewhere, but there isn’t, and I’ve been informed by my indomitable mother that I will be wearing lipstick to this event, and frankly, she had a look on her face that I don’t argue with. Even at 46 years of age, I know when I have to comply with my mother, and lipstick isn’t the hill I want to die on. I’ll get one.)

I need to write a toast (everything I write is suddenly not funny. Or inappropriate. Or might be rude.  I can’t tell. By the time I’m done worrying about it all I have is a speech that says “My sister Erin is awesome and congratulations.” I know she was hoping for more. I’ll keep trying.) Mum and I are hosting the Friday evening dinner (crap I’m out of balsamic. I’ll have to get some) and I haven’t checked in with the girls to see if they need maternal support in the shoes/dress department, although truthfully, other than infusions of cash they usually do better than I do.  There’s more, oh, so much more, and all of that is smashed in with cleaning the house for guests, and taking (what rather seems like a lot of) phone calls from my sister, and going to work and there’s totally another Bike Rally meeting tonight and I’m going to lose it. I can feel it. I don’t even know what losing it looks like in this case, but I’m going to slip right over the edge any minute.

Yesterday Mum and I went out and got a dress, so that’s done, and I love it, or I love it as much as it is possible for someone  as hopelessly informal as I am to love formal wear. We went to about five stores, it took three hours and it’s out of the way.  (By the way, did you know that apparently you wear special underwear when you go dress shopping? I didn’t know, but my mum and I had this text conversation, so apparently it’s true.)

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(Also, there’s a chance that conversation disappointed my mother.)

This morning I was at the closest shoe store when it opened, and 20 minutes later I had shoes all bought and paid for. (They’re a little tight. The shopgirl said that was good – because they’ll totally loosen up, but I don’t know. They’re no birkenstocks, that’s for sure.)

shoes 2014-09-24

For the rest of today I’m going to clean the house so that someone can stay here without reporting us to that TV show… you know the one.  I think it’s called “Hoarders” – and I’m going to start writing a toast in my head while I do that. Also, I’m going to wear my new shoes while I clean, so that they “loosen up” the way the girl seems confident they will. My Mum is dropping by to critique the shoes and pick up some celery (she’s having a celery crisis that I’ve decided not to question, but merely fork over the greens for) and I’m expecting to take several phone calls from my sister during which I will say only reassuring things, regardless of whether or not I believe them to be true, while not allowing any words to come out of my mouth that imply for even a second that my to-do list is anything but AWESOME because I know hers is longer.

Then I’ll go to my meeting, where I’ll pretend none of this is a strain at all, and act exactly like someone who would never, ever procrastinate like this, and has all the time in the world.  (I’m typing up my meeting notes some time before the meeting, I’ll figure out when that will be after I post this) and then when I get home I’ll make a plan for tomorrow that will include hemming my dress, doing something about my hair (no way to know if that can be helped) my nails (I broke one. Can they fix that?) and shopping for all the cooking on Friday.

It’s going to be cool.  Right? I don’t even have to warp the time-space continuum.  Maybe just bend it.  It’s going to be cool.  I’ve got this.


(PS. The yarn from the pictures on Monday is from Must Stash and is in the colourway “Dark Side of the Moon.” That’s a link that should take you right there, if you’re dying for it, she’s dyeing for it.)

(PPS. The Buffalo Wool Company (I’m a fan) is a finalist in the “American Made” contest. That’s a link that should take you right there if you’re so inclined as to vote for them. I bet they’d like that, and they’re nice people who make good yarn.)


After 7 is more reliable

Look! It’s the Minni sweater. This little sweater is knit from three colours of yarn.  You use a fair bit of the two main colours, and then there’s just a little bit of the third. In my case, that third colour is the pretty green.  It’s for the belt in the back, the edges, the i-cord ties… and you knit the belt and ties first and then set them aside so that you can knit them into the project at the right moments. I did that.  I made a little pile of things, and they’ve been on the coffee table waiting to be added in at all the correct moments.  One side of the wee belt got knit in pretty early on, and one of the ties was added too.
minniback 2014-09-11

The other ties have been waiting until it was their turn.  This morning, I unpicked the provisional cast on from the other end of the belt, and knit it in, and then the next instruction said to add one of the ties. I looked around, and couldn’t find those ties, and then I remembered.

tieinminni 2014-09-11

Yesterday morning, before I cheerfully made my way to The Loopy Ewe, I got up at 4:30am, and added the few things to my luggage that are always last minute – like my computer stuff, and my knitting.  Now, I am not the sort of person that can actually do things at 4:30am.  Maybe you can, but I can’t.  It’s part of the reason that it was important for me to breastfeed my kids.  If I’d have had to get up, go to the kitchen, get something, warm something or make something, it would have ended in some form of disaster. Better for all of us that their food system wasn’t something I could mix up wrong in the night, and could administer while we were both lying down. I try to be effective in the wee hours, but it’s just not who I am – all I can do effectively at 4:30am is drink coffee and weep a little.

I’ve learned to work around it.  When I have to get up then (it’s always for a flight) there’s a system in place to keep me from screwing something up.  Joe puts the coffeemaker on automatic so it’s there the moment I wake (I can drink coffee at 4:30, but not make it.) I set the cab up the night before, and under no circumstances do I leave any important packing to the last. I make no choices at 4:30, and I certainly don’t try to think. I put everything that I’ll need to use in the morning, and then add to a suitcase on the coffee table. This is what I did with the Minni sweater.  When I put it down the night before, I put it down with all the other stuff going to Colorado- and went to bed.   In the morning, I got up, drank coffee and put the stuff from the table into my purse, or – sort of.

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I  picked up the pieces of the sweater, folded them tidily, and lifted them into my suitcase.  Then I added the extra skeins of yarn, which I’d added so that I can’t  run out while I’m here, and then- then I looked at those ties, sitting there on the table, and I tried to think what I could possibly need them for, why I could have thought I needed to put them in the pile, and I left them right on the table.  I have no explanation for why I did this, especially since I knew that the part where I had to attach them was coming up, and I did have them together with everything else – I just couldn’t see how they were relevant, and there they stayed.

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I can’t explain this. I know better than to attempt thinking that early. I know I can’t be counted upon to think that early, and that’s why I organize myself the night before. I know the rule is that I just put the stuff from the table into the bag, without re-imagining why I need them, and I don’t know why that system fell apart.  It’s not like I forgot the ties – I actively decided not to bring them, all the while knowing what they were for, and why I might want them, and now they’re in Toronto, and I’m in Colorado, and I’m not stopping the knitting.  I’ll have to figure out how to add them later, and apparently, come up with a new system for packing – one that’s foolproof – because despite thinking I’d done that? Apparently I came up with a better fool.

I hit it with a shoe

Just a quickie, as I sit having my coffee in the airport before my flight to Denver. (I’m giving a talk/performance/standup/whatever the hell it is that I do tonight in Loveland, if anybody wants to come. I think it will be superfun.) I’m totally ready for this trip, and I think I actually nailed the packing, except I forgot a pair of shoes.  (Not totally, I mean, I’m wearing shoes, but I forgot to bring shoes that won’t look stupid with the skirt I packed, and now I have to choose between not wearing the skirt, and looking stupid.  I do both of those things all the time, so I’m not super stressed.) I’m looking forward to a nap and knit on the plane, but I wanted to update you on what happened with the wheel.

Wheelparts 2014-09-10

Putting it together, it turns out, was pretty easy.  It was together and almost spinning really quickly. Getting it together right though? That took time – and I’m still not there.

I can spin on the wheel, but not well, and it skips and stalls.  After a long conversation with Judith, I think I’ve solved about half of the problems, but I’ll need some new parts to solve others.  Most of the problems have to do with the spindle.  This works just like a drop spindle does.  The spindle spins, and adds twist to the wool – whammo, you’ve got yarn. The whole wheel part is really just a drive system to keep the spindle spinning.  The spindle is attached to the “mother-of-all” and then the wheels turn it with drive bands.  That little wheel on top is an accelerator head, and I’m happy to have it.

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It used to be that the spindle was attached to the mother of all with strips of leather that were held in place with little wooden plugs in the back.  I didn’t have any leather, so I just tied them there, which didn’t work at all.

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Then I got the brainwave to put buttons on the back so that I could tie them tighter, and that’s working a little better.  The leather’s going to be the thing though.

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The next problem was that the upright that held that whole setup wasn’t right. The drive band was rubbing the spindle, and that can’t happen. On the phone with Judith, texting pictures to her for reference, we pretty much got it licked.  Joe’s dad had lovingly refinished the wheel, stripping off some old paint and cleaning it up, but in the process had removed the wear marks that would tell me how the pieces were put together, and I’d erred on the side of gentleness.  An hour later I was whacking the uprights in a lot tighter, and things were starting to fit better.

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It’s nowhere near ready, and there’s going to be more work yet getting it really going, but I’m super excited about it.  I think I can get this wheel so that it runs really well, and I love the idea of something so old coming back to a useful life.  I haven’t figured out yet where you put a wheel this big in a house this tiny, but right now it’s in the dining room- which is totally not a long term solution, because it’s pretty fragile, and I think Lou is going to have a really hard time keeping his hands off it. I’ll figure it out though.

All right! I’d tell you more, but they’re calling my flight. Next stop, Colorado!

(PS. The November Retreat at Port Ludlow is open for registration.  The theme is “Emergency 911” and we’ll have knitting rescue and repair (that’s me teaching) Spinning rescue and repair (that’s Judith MacKenzie) and knitter/spinner rescue and repair, and that’s Carson Demers. He’s a physiotherapist/knitter/spinner. Amazing guy.) If you’d like to know a little more, you can look at our Facebook page, or email us at Strungalong@yarnharlot.ca. We’d love to tell you about it.)



Maybe if that piece was tighter?

A few days ago, Joe’s parents started cleaning out their storage space. They moved to a smaller home, and some stuff had to go. This process has been pretty awesome for everyone. Tons of furniture moved along, and the youngsters in particular have made some really decent scores – they’re pretty happy, but not as happy as me. Here’s what I got.


(By the way, please forgive me if things look funny. My laptop is in for service and this is coming to you from my ipad. It’s a strange system.) It’s Joe’s dad’s grandmother’s walking wheel, from her house in Newfoundland. It’s about a hundred years old, and was handmade by someone, and Joe’s father has been trucking around and caring for the thing for years and years. The problem?


You guessed it. It’s in parts. I think I have everything it takes to make it work, but I’m not totally sure, so I got two more tools.


That’s Alden Amos spinning book, and a phone that knows Judith MacKenzie’s phone number. I swear that if I can’t get it together and running with those two resources, I probably don’t deserve it.

More tomorrow, after I try and figure out what piece screws into what piece and why it all looks sort of crooked.

Still Terribly True

Thanks so much for the warm welcome for Midge! It’s nice to be at the place where we’re sailing her, instead of fixing her, and let’s hope for fair weather this weekend – while Joe will continue to sail until it’s far to cold to do so, I’m back to travelling next week, and after the next few day’s I’m probably done on the water for this year. (Travelling? Oh, yes.  Next week I’m off to Loveland, then Hot Springs (Arkansas), then Vancouver, then Edmonton. You can see what I’m up to on this page, if you’re in the neighbourhood of any of those places. It feels great to be getting back into what’s more normal for me. All knitters, all the time.

Despite a family birthday dinner yesterday (Pato is 23 today! Three cheers for our gentleman) I got some decent knitting time in, and all be darned if the same thing doesn’t just keep being true. If you actually sit down and knit, knitting gets accomplished.  Yesterday and today I feel like I really made progress on Minni.

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Yesterday I’d knit 2/3 of the back (see that part with the diaper flare, and the wee green belt? That’s the back) and then provisionally added a whack of stitches for the front – then worked short rows there to make the neck slope, then started working all the way back and forth again for the sides. It’s a brilliant, but crazy construction.  All one piece, although it’s the most interesting way there I’ve seen in a while.

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With that done, there was just the side shaping to work, first back and forth on one side, then the other…

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with that accomplished, the next direction was to graft the one big weird piece together at the side, so with I did what knitters do, and put on an audiobook, put my phone on silent, and sat down to do it all in one go.

stillgrafting 2014-09-05

That’s a lie. I stopped once halfway to take that picture.  By the way, my current audiobook is Outlander. I don’t know why I waited so long to get to this series, it’s fabulous. I’m on the second book, and it’s super entertaining, although really, did anybody else notice that there’s really a lot of inappropriately timed sex in strange locations? Those two must really love each other – that or they’re loaded all the time, which, actually isn’t that far off of possible. There’s a lot of brandy and ale.  Anyway, totally worth the listen.

donegraft 2014-09-05

The graft looks good, all done, and now I think I have to decide. Do the one sleeve, or the other front? I’m inclined to go front, because then I’ll just have the sleeves left, and despite getting stuck on the desolate and emotionally barren shores of what Claudia has always called “sleeve island” I think it might be worth it to have the body of the thing done. Although I haven’t checked, I have a feeling this pattern ends with a rousing game of attached i-cord, which I always knit with a fierce hatred. (It’s always worth it though.) It might be nice to have the sleeves as a cool-down after that, a little something simple to take the edge off. The other choice doesn’t seem quite as nice to me, though I might feel differently when I get to the end and there’s a shorter stay on that island. I’m going to spend a little more time patting the thing and admiring what I’ve got so far, and then I’ll decide what to do… or I guess I could simply read the pattern and do what it says.

I know. Just kidding.  I crack me up too. Read the pattern and do what it says. Like people do that.