Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Folkcat’s Knitting Basket – an Overview of Projects

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:09 pm on Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Having gotten past the Olympics, I thought it was high time to re-evaluate the list of knitting projects. Some things have left the list as finished objects; some still dwell as items on the needles, taking turns for my active knitting attention; others are still in the “someday” category.

Knitting to Work On:

1. * Ruana to replace UCP
2. Felted laptop bag
3. Felted knitting tote
4. Flap for felted entre-lac bag
5. One Skein Wonder
6. Burgundy sweater vest for Gryphon
7. Felted potholders
8. Socks with CTH Supersock
9. *Lace shawl with Kool-Aid dyed yarn
10. *The Pirate Project
11. *The Sock Project
12. Something for a baby
13. Wearable Hug #14

#9, the lace shawl, is the Kiri I chose to do for the Olympics. That’s going to move along slowly, but it will move. It just won’t look like anything different until I bind off and block. Right now, it’s one endless repeat after another of the same all-over pattern. Pretty, and I love how it’s coming out, but it’s reached a stage of boring to talk about on the blog.

#1, the ruana, has been placed in a holding pattern. There’s an accent yarn in the mix of fibers from my stash that I am running too short of. No, I don’t need a lot, but I’ll guarantee you I won’t find this yarn anywhere. It’s been in my stash for over 20 years, and the ball bands are long vanished into the ether.

It’s a novelty yarn, composed of a loosely spun single plied with a satiny ribbon in the same color. Since it’s only an accent yarn in the ruana, however (never knit more than one row at a time, and separated by many rows), what I’m going to do is shop for a substitute that matches in color, without worrying about texture or weight. (I’m working in bulky-weight yarns, so if I find something lighter than that I’ll just use multiple strands together.)

#’s 10 & 11, both listed as vague “Projects”, are partial secrets of one kind or another. The Pirate Project is for the Booty Swap that I just joined, and I’ll probably release the pattern as a freebie after the swap is over. The Sock Project is my ongoing development of my variation on yoga socks. That’s a semi-secret because I actually hope to sell that pattern when it’s completed. Technically, #8 should be folded into the Sock Project, since I’ll be knitting samples for that from my Cherry Tree Hill yarn when the time comes.

#13, Wearable Hug #14…I almost always have the next Wearable Hug on the needles. Wearable Hug #13 was recently gifted, and gratefull received, as I’ve been told. I’d probably have cast on for the next one already, except that I have no more Homespun yarn in stash. And then there’s the matter of list Item #12, which has been making noises at me…

As for #12, Something for a baby – no, I don’t know anyone having a baby. But I keep getting thrown signs that I should knit something for one. A kit for a baby bonnet and booties on extreme sale at Target. A gift of several skeins of yarn that would make a perfect baby sweater, or mixed with yarn from stash, a blankie. Some sort of baby-needs energy is building up around me, and I know to answer those calls.

Other items on the list are in the category of perpetual wants…the sort of thing that I’ll pick up and start work on when the right confluence of yarns, desire, pattern, and time come together. Some of them may drop off the list if the interest fades…we’ll just have to wait and see.

Besides actual knitting, I still have several pattern projects I’m working on:

Patterns to Work On:

1. Catnip mouse pattern
2. Top-down hat pattern
3. The Pirate Project
4. The Sock Project

It seems to be all too easy to forget about the patterns I’m designing when I have actual yarn on actual needles. I’m making an effort not to forget these, though, as they have potential interest to others.

The first two items on this list I have promised on this blog before, and seriously, I do intend to someday get them worked into a form I’m happy with and post them as freebies. Really, I do. I even opened up the catnip mouse pattern the other day and did some editing on it.

The mouse, though, I need to knit some new samples of so I can take some in-progress pictures, and so I’ll have finished models to photograph, too. (All the originals went to cats of friends and family.) The hat pattern is simple enough, but I don’t have it actually written out except in very primitive form in an old blog post somewhere. So I need to dig it out and format it.

The two “Projects”, I talked about above. They’re in progress, but may take a while before you actually see the results.

Who Cares?

Probably no one but me cares about these detailed reviews of my work list, but it does help me focus my efforts. You know how it is – you’ve got so many things in your head that you are knitting, want to knit, or should knit, that you lose track of what’s going on. Projects risk being forgotten when reality gets like that, so it pays to try to nail down a snapshot of it now and then.

Rest assured that I’ll be working on all of this, and that you’ll likely be the first to know when something’s done!

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Arrrr! There Be Pirates Here, Mateys!

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 8:30 pm on Monday, February 27, 2006

booty_01_copy.jpg

nipper has come up with a fun idea – a Booty Swap! Deliberately designed to be small and limited in scope – and sounding like fun besides – this is the first online swap I’ve decided to actually sign up for.

The concept is simple. Here are the rules as presented at nipperknits:

sign ups begin now and end March 1st. I’ll make the match ups and send them out the first weekend in March. It’s kind of like a Secret Pal, but with more specifications… Booty will be shipped to your Booty Pal-yes, I said Booty Pal. I’m having so much fun with this. Anyway, booty will be shipped to your Booty Pal on March 31. It needs to include:

1. Something made.
2. Something stash-y.
3. Somehthing to eat.
4. Something bought specifically with your person in mind.
5. And of course, something piratical.

There don’t need to be 5 things in the box, you can mix it up if you want. Make some pirate cookies and tick three items off your list. But if you want to put 5 things in the that’s fine, too. “They’re more guidelines, than rules.” Open to anyone, you don’t have to be knitter to join! Also remember, this is The Swap of Small Treasures-you want to give things that you treasure and that they will treasure. It’s about a connection… you know, with your Booty Pal.

If you think you might be interested, hurry on over and drop her an e-mail – the deadline is the day after tomorrow!

My thanks to nipper for putting this one together. I’ve been watching news about Secret Pal swaps and the like during the past year as I read blogs, and have felt a bit out of the loop. The financial level most of those are conducted at puts them out of reach for me. And the time commitment – many of them go on for months – seemed too much to take on.

This Booty Swap, however…that’s different! This is a swap that can be done with a limited budget, and that is limited to a single month. Creativity will count here, and I have that in abundance. I’m very good at finding and making “small treasures”!

So, I e-mailed nipper a short while ago, and now I just have to wait and see who I get matched up with. Which, I assume, will need to be a secret until the swap is over.

This is going to be fun! I’ve already got an idea for something piratical to knit…it may wind up being a new free pattern to offer, too…Arrrr!

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99:99 Monday: Baby Steps Get Bigger

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 3:43 pm on Monday, February 27, 2006

Last week, the goal for my 99:99 plan was to complete 6 sessions of marching in place for five minutes: one each on five days, and an extra one on Wednesday.

After Wednesday’s second session, I felt good enough that I did two sessions each day on Friday and Saturday, too. That’s a total of 10 minutes (and two sessions) more than goal for the week.

I guess that having gotten my foot in the door, so to speak, with exercising, I’m ready to take bigger steps now. So this week’s goal is going to be even more ambitious – each of the five days I exercise will include one ten minute session, and one five minute. That’s 15 minutes of exercise, five days – half of the ultimate goal of 30 minutes per day.

Besides exercising, I used the 99:99 plan last week to help me regulate my knitting, keeping it to small doses so that my hands could recover from the over-use of the week before. Instead of knitting all day long, on my worst days I allowed only a maximum of 99 minutes, 99 seconds – for the entire day. Most days I didn’t even knit that much, as I also required myself to put the knitting down when my hands hurt, creating rest time that I counted towards the total knitting allotment for the day.

Today, my hands are feeling much better, though still not 100%. I am requiring myself to wear the Thera-gloves for all knitting, and I’m not allowing two 99:99’s in a row that are both knitting activity, which gives the hands a chance to rest. I’m sticking to lightweight knitting projects, too – Kiri, socks, and the like – as they are easier on the hands.

There is still lots of ground to gain, but the 99:99 concept is definitely proving to be a winner. Having that timer beep every 100 minutes is forcing me to break my days up into more activities, keeping me from being a completely immobile, chair-squatting, television-watching knitter for the entire day, as I was once prone to doing.

The evidence is clear. This may be an eccentric concept, but it works for me, and it’s no weirder than eating grapefruit all day. And the only expense was $10 for a digital timer. In fact, it would be even cheaper now – I just noticed yesterday that Target has price-cut the same timer down to $8.99!

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Knitting Olympics, Day 16: Lessons Learned

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 12:29 pm on Sunday, February 26, 2006

Kiri detail, unblocked
Detail look at Kiri, unblocked

1. If time matters, then so does gauge.

When I chose to knit Kiri and tried to get an idea of how big to make her, I based my assumptions on the original designer’s own Kiri, using the same number of rows and repeats as she did. The error? Her shawl used a DK-weight yarn and size 7 needles, mine uses laceweight and size 1. As I’ve said before, that’s a dumber than rookie mistake. But I made it because, well, it’s a shawl. My thinking was that gauge doesn’t much matter, since I’ll just keep going until it’s big enough.

But since I was knitting this for the Olympics, I had a deadline. I should have paid more attention to the gauge, and realized that to make a shawl of reasonable size at my gauge would be impossible in the time allotted. I set myself up for failure by not realizing that how much I was going to have to knit mattered enough to check my gauge and do the math.

The Lesson: If you have a deadline, check your gauge, and calculate how much you’ll actually be knitting to complete the project. Even for projects where gauge doesn’t normally matter.

2. Your hands always matter, and have priority over everything else. Don’t wait until you feel the pain to take action – the damage has already happened.

I knit flat out on Kiri for the first week, especially after figuring out my gauge mistake. With no outside job, no kids, and no pets demanding my attention, I had hours a day to devote to my Olympic competition – and I did just that.

My hands seemed fine. Until a few days after I dropped out of the competition and started working on other projects. The lightweight, small gauge needles and shawl hadn’t posed a strain, but apparently the constant repetitive motion did. And it was one that wasn’t apparent until I did some work on heavy-gauge projects, like a shawl in Homespun yarn on size 11 needles.

Adding the extra weight highlighted the stress that I had put on my hands the previous week – stress that happened almost invisibly to me while I knit rabidly with laceweight on size 1’s. The day after completing the size 11 shawl, my hands felt thick, clumsy, and a little numb when I tried to knit. Since then, I’ve had to take a knitting break, allowing only the shortest of sessions with lightweight projects. I’ve been wearing Thera-Gloves frequently to support the aching hands, and trying to limit computer time, since mousing aggravates the same areas.

The Lesson: Take care of your hands – they are your one irreplaceable and indispensable artist’s tool. Take frequent breaks. Learn some stretches and exercises for your hands. Alternate between knitting sessions and activities that use the hands in a different way. And if you feel pain, STOP!

3. Goals are more important than deadlines.

I was able to make peace with the decision to drop out of the Olympic competition by recognizing that, even if I wouldn’t be finishing in the gold, I’d attained what I wanted from the effort. I had started a Kiri shawl with my own Kool-Aid dyed yarn. That was my goal when I joined, and I actually did achieve it.

So, even though Kiri is only 37% done, I consider my Olympic try to be a success. (I am no longer in Gold contention, though, because my declared competition at the official list was to complete a Kiri shawl.)

The Lesson: Know what is essential about any project, and recognize what your personal conditions for “success” are. Don’t let some outside force decide that for you – you are the person who must determine if you derived satisfaction from the work you have created.

4. If deadlines must happen, they must be met realistically.

It is essential for any knitter who has accepted a deadline to be realistic about it. A beginning knitter who decides that they must knit a lace shawl for their sister’s wedding in two months may be taking on a bit too much. Perhaps a lace handkerchief for the bride to carry would be more possible. Just found out a long-lost friend is having a baby – next week? Unless you’re a super-speedy knitter, a full baby blanket may be unlikely – how about booties instead? Or a cute bonnet?

The Lesson: Know your skills and limitations, and choose projects accordingly. Success comes from a good match of skill level, project size, and time available.

Conclusions

Would I do something like the Olympics again? I’m not sure. I didn’t like the knitting to a deadline aspect, not when the deadline was so short. But maybe, with the lessons I’ve learned this time, I’ll do a better job of evaluating what would make a realistic challenge. Setting a more appropriate challenge level will keep me from feeling the ticking of the clock as intensely as I did this time.

Do I regret having tried the Olympics? Not a bit! Yes, I experienced stress and strain that I would prefer to have avoided. But as witnessed above, I have also learned a good deal about myself as a knitter, and about how to plan appropriately for projects. The minor strains to the hands will repair themselves with proper care, and the lessons, hopefully, will stick, and help me avoid problems in the future.

And at the end of the day, anything you come away from with no permanent damage, and a better understanding of your world, is a good thing.

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Commentary Reply

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 4:32 pm on Friday, February 24, 2006

artystitches asked in comments about pictures of my beaded stitch markers for knitting. I wrote about these extensively on this blog back in August of last year, beginning with Beading For Knitting. That post, and several in subsequent days, have extensive photographs of the stitch markers I’ve been making and selling. So if you’re curious about what my stitch markers look like, that’s the place to start!

Thank you, artystitches, for reading my little blog.

BTW, any of my readers who are in the UK might want to check out Operation Eldery Charity Stitchers, a group that artystitches runs that crafts lap quilts and blankets to give to elderly residents of nursing homes in the UK. What a caring thing to do – brava, artystitches!

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Winding Down at Panera

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:18 pm on Friday, February 24, 2006

Thursday night is always knitting night at Panera. I actually tried not to knit too much, since my hands were still hurting, but I took along a small, lightweight project and I worked only very slowly.

Thanks to Bea, however, I had other things to try out that helped save my hands a bit. Bea recently purchased a Nifty Swift and a yarn winder, and we spent a couple of hours learning how they work – and putting them to good use.

Bea Winds a Skein
Bea Winds a Skein of Her Hand-dyed Yarn

Both of us had our handpainted food color-dyed yarn to convert from skeins to balls, and I had a pair of skeins of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock as well.

Both of us having been without these tools at all, we are well-versed in how to hand-wind a center-pull ball of yarn. But we’re also well aware of how long it takes to do that.

So we were amazed and delighted when, a mere two hours after starting, we had this:

Six Wound Balls
Six Balls of Well-Wound Goodness

The two on the left are Bea’s Peacock Feather colorway. In the middle is my Folkcat’s Fuchsias yarn. And on the right is the two skeins of CTH. We figure we’d have been half a week trying to wind these by hand.

As you can imagine, we were quite the floor show at Panera, with the swift spinning away and the balls of yarn growing larger and larger on the winder. And I tell you, the process is addictive – I could easily see a fiber artist going through everything in their stash, whether it needs winding or not, just because it’s so much fun to do!

The Hand Update

My hands still ache, though they may be getting a little better. There are still occasional twinges when I pick up something heavy, or grasp something large. The overall aching and numbness, though, aren’t quite as constant.

I think one of the culprits may have been an abrupt and intense workout knitting on size 11 needles to complete a Wearable Hug on Sunday and Monday. I read another blogger yesterday complaining how working a project on large needles aggravated her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and I remembered that, in the midst of weeks of lace and sock sized work, I’d done that big piece. Gotta wonder, don’tcha, since the pain started the next day.

As it happens, I purchased a new pair of Thera-Gloves on Tuesday – but not until the day after I’d finished the Hug. I’ve been putting them to work since then, however, even when I haven’t been knitting. I think they’re helping. I’m also often popping a wrist warmer on the right hand (the one that’s most affected) to help heat the area for a while now and then. And I’m using the 99:99 plan to allow a little gentle knitting (read: not chunky), but in very limited daily doses.

I expect I’ll be back to normal soon enough. And I hope that all of you reading this will take the lesson to pay attention to what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and for how long. Use proper protective gear if necessary, take frequent breaks, do exercises and switch tasks so you’re not working the same body parts all the time while neglecting others.

Otherwise, you might have to endure an enforced vacation from your crafting, as I’m doing right now.

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Recovery Phase

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 10:51 am on Thursday, February 23, 2006

This is all the blogging you get today, I’m afraid. I had to cut back knitting yesterday – my hands are having a delayed reaction to all the heavy amounts of knitting last week. Even though the pace has slowed since Saturday, I found my hands achey and feeling thick and clumsy when I tried to knit yesterday, so I put down the knitting. They still feel much the same today, so I’m taking a day off from the crafting, and will only do minimal stuff on the computer (mousing affects the hands, too).

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Metamorphosis

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 3:47 pm on Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I’m passing through a significant transitional stage in my crafting life. It’s marked by bouts of start-itis, ill-conceived purchases of supplies that I don’t have immediate plans for, and episodes of aversion to doing any crafting.

The culprit is my knitting. I am not only deriving great pleasure from that right now, but I seem to have potential there for working at a professional level. I have several designs for knitting patterns that I am massaging into presentable form, one of which would be worth selling rather than merely offering for free.

I’ve got people locally who want to learn more about my process for dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid and food colors – a process, mind you, that I am far from perfecting. They want me to teach classes, though I feel a small book or pamphlet that I can sell may be the more practical approach there.

My beaded stitch markers are developing a small following through the one LYS that I’m selling them to. I’ve clearly done a good job of differentiating my selection from the hundreds of other people out there who are making similar products, and if I choose to pursue this, I may be able to market my markers to other shops.

Most of the internal turmoil is coming from the change in how I think about what I do. No matter what, I would be crafting during every waking moment that I had the option to. But now, I find myself thinking about the potential in the projects I select, and sometimes making different choices so that I can further the career goals.

I said career. I am now thinking about what I do not as a job, with its implications of 9-5 drudgery. Nor as a pastime or hobby, meant merely to keep my mind and hands occupied for a portion of the day. No, I now think of what I do as a career.

Part of the shift must come from no longer working on my projects willy-nilly. For the stitch markers, I need to think about how to present myself to potential new customers (other LYS), or how to market them online (eBay? Etsy?).

The patterns require me to change from the “I’ll get around to it one day” attitude to “I should work on this a little bit every day”. I need to write up the instructions, and plan for models of the pieces to photograph. I need to arrange for test knitters to make sure that the instructions are comprehensible, even if it’s going to be a free pattern download.

I need to create a graphic style for patterns and other documentation that is easy to work to, shows a cohesive identity from piece to piece, and presents my work in a professional manner.

Overnight change? Heck, no. I know this is going to take time, and plenty of it. There’s a lot of work to be done just to get me to a point where I can feel the first returns from the effort.

I’ve got no delusions that I’m going to be the next Elizabeth Zimmerman, Alice Starmore, or Lucy Neatby. But it does feel like my modest efforts so far in the knitting world have been well received, and it may be that I can find a little niche to carve out for my very own.

What does this mean for my beading? Well, you’ll notice that beaded stitch markers are part of the plan, so my beadcraft will not be abandoned. And if I can develop this little Folkcat Art thing into a viable business, who’s to say that I won’t ever offer beadwork patterns or kits? Bringing the knitting portion of my career up to those levels will lay the ground work to expand into other crafts, if I desire.

It’s going to be an interesting ride. I hope you’ll follow along!

Edited to add: Mind you, I intend to keep it fun, too. What good is it all if I can’t keep myself flexible enough to make sure I’m enjoying it? So if any portion of it ever starts to feel like too much, I hope I’ll notice and know to back off for a bit, and switch to something else.

And I do plan to work on projects that don’t strictly have profit potential, but are just things I want. Like Clapotis, or my lace shawl.

Cross-posted to both I Knit Around and Confessions of a Chantraphile.

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Nashua Area Knit Groups, Feb 22 – Mar 5

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 11:45 am on Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Group Report

Last week was a big one for groups. There was Eats, Knits, & Leaves at Toadstool on Monday night; Knitting Around at Panera on Thursday; and SnB-NH on Friday night – again at Panera! Besides those gatherings, there would have been an SnB-NH the Sunday before, but for that pesky snowstorm.

Where it may once have felt like famine trying to find people to knit with in the area, we’re clearly living in a time of abundance and feasting now!

Knitting Groups for Wed., Feb. 15 to Sunday, Feb. 26

Remember, you can also view these events (and more) at the SnB-NH calendar at Yahoo! Groups.

Please note: where phone numbers are given for “Info”, that is the contact phone for the location, not the knitters organizing the gathering. Since none of these events are officially coordinated by the host sites, if you reach someone at Panera or Borders by phone and ask them about the knitting group, they might not have any clue what you’re talking about.

Wed. Feb. 22

1) SnB-Chelmsford, MA @ The Java Room, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Ginger Ale Plaza, Rte. 110, 14 Littleton Rd., Chelmsford, MA

Info – phone: (978) 256-0001

2) SnB-Nashua @ Borders Books, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, NH Info – phone: (603) 888-9300

Cancelled due to lack of response

Thurs. Feb. 23 –

Knitting Around, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., Panera Bread, 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – e-mail: fiber AT folkcatart DOT com

Sun. Feb. 26 –

SnB-Nashua @Panera Bread, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – phone: (603) 821-6021

Wed. Mar. 1 –

SnB-Chelmsford, MA @ The Java Room, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Ginger Ale Plaza, Rte. 110, 14 Littleton Rd., Chelmsford, MA

Info – phone: (978) 256-0001

Thurs. Mar. 2 –

Knitting Around, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., Panera Bread, 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – e-mail: fiber AT folkcatart DOT com

Fri. Mar. 3 –

SnB-Nashua @Panera Bread, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – phone: (603) 821-6021

Sun. Mar. 5 –

SnB-Nashua @ Borders Books, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, NH

Info – phone: (603) 888-9300

Folkcat’s Plans?

I will, of course, be at the Knitting Around meetings on both Thursday nights. And I’ll attend all the SnB-NH gatherings that happen at Panera Bread as well.

Happy Knitting!

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D is for Diner

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 2:06 pm on Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Peterboro Diner, that is.

The Peterboro Diner
The Peterboro Diner, 10 Depot St. Peterborough, NH (603) 924-6202

Every now and then, Gryphon and I like to visit Peterborough and spend some time walking around the shops. And while we’re there, our favorite place for lunch is the Peterboro Diner.

Folkcat Knits Around at the Diner
Folkcat Knits Around at the Diner

As you can sort of see behind me, the diner is a true classic. And the fittings are all original, too, from the spinning stools at the counter on through.

Classic-style Jukebox
Classic Music on a Classic-Style Box

While you wait for your food, you can pop a coin in the jukebox and listen to some great music.

Gryphon Enjoys His Patty Melt
Gryphon Enjoys a Patty Melt

The food is high quality, well-prepared, and plentiful. And like everything else, it’s classic diner style.

If you have a hankering for good food and are in the Peterboro area, try the place out! Plenty of parking right outside, lots of colorful shops full of artistic and multi-cultural goodies nearby, and a number of galleries and small museums, too! What more could you ask for?

Peterboro Diner, 10 Depot St., Peterboro, NH. (603) 924-6202. Open 7 days a week, 6 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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