Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Monday Minimalism

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:18 pm on Monday, February 20, 2006

My head is in strange space, thinking about a lot of things today, so I’m going to just give some quickie updates.

  • I am much more relaxed now that I’ve decided to alter my Olympic aspirations. I am knitting more, on more different projects. And most important, I am enjoying it a lot more. I continue to work on Kiri, but I have also made progress on some socks and my Ruana.
  • Wearable Hug #13 is finished, and will be given tomorrow to the person who will pass it to its final recipient. Turns out I was never going to be the one to realize where to send this one – Gryphon was the one who uncovered the need this time, so he had to be the one to have the Aha! moment.
  • The 99:99 plan continues to work, though it saw some slight hiccups last week. On Friday, my schedule was disrupted when my inability to trust local power was shaken, and I wound up spending most of the day at Panera. Still, I managed to fit in my five minutes of marching that evening after getting home. This week, I’ll march five minutes on five days, and I’ll add an additional five minute session on Wednesday.

I think I’m going to leave it there for now. It’s not a lot, I know, but those are the things at the front of my mind at the moment. I hope to have more interesting reading for you later this week…as I mentioned the other day, there was Knitting Around over the weekend!

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Knitting Olympics, Day 9: A Change of Focus

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 6:35 pm on Saturday, February 18, 2006

Uncle

Folks, I’ve given it a good try, but one week after discovering the rookie mistake I made in calculating the scope of my Olympic challenge, I am forced to acknowledge that this Kiri shawl will never be done to my satisfaction (i.e., to an adequate size) in time for the closing ceremonies next weekend.

The mistake I made – thinking that I could estimate how many rows I’d have to knit from the number that the original designer did, even though they used a heavier weight yarn and much larger needles – was a rookie error. No, even a rookie should have seen that laceweight yarn on size 1 Addi’s would be hugely different in gauge than a DK-weight yarn on size 7’s. Duh.

I had thought I’d go ahead and just make Kiri as big as I could, settling for a smaller shawl if necessary. But the truth is, the pressure of deadlines and Minimum Daily Knitting Requirements is getting to me, and I wouldn’t be happy with a shawl I can’t wrap adequately around my shoulders.

Rather than completely disassociate myself from the Olympics, however, I have decided to switch my allegiance to Margene‘s Eddie Along. I will continue to work on Kiri, but I will go ahead and make her the size I want her to be, and I will enjoy the process without requiring myself to knit a minimum portion every day.

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I will even allow myself to work on other neglected projects as I desire. And I get to leave the house for casual, non-knitting outings, too! <g>

Already Better

This decision was made this morning. To kick-start the new phase of my reality, Gryphon and I went on an outing today, shopping at local bead and yarn shops, having lunch at a classic diner, and generally enjoying the sunny – if windy – New England day.*

It didn’t take long for me to feel more refreshed and relaxed than I have been all week. I couldn’t entirely resist taking knitting with me. But it was a neglected sock that was put aside for the Olympics that got the knitterly love, while Kiri sat home cooling her needles.

No Regrets

Other than making that initial mis-calculation, that is. If I’d made a proper estimate, I would have selected a different project for my Olympic challenge. But, although I won’t qualify for the gold medal this time, I am glad that I made this attempt. I’ve been sitting on that laceweight yarn since last August, saying “I’m going to knit a lace shawl, really I am”.

And look at me – I’m knitting a lace shawl!

*More about today’s outing later this week – there were a few Knitting Around stops!

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Knitting Olympics, Day Eight: Technical Difficulties

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 3:03 pm on Friday, February 17, 2006

Special Announcement: Today’s heat of the Team NH Lace Team has been moved to a new arena. Technical difficulties at the original location – the home of the Wilton, NH team member – have forced the move to a location with a more stable power source, where our knit-thlete, Folkcat, will be able to work without interruption due to short power outages.

Panera - a change of venue
Change of Venue – let the games continue!

Okay, bottom line – with the high gusts of wind today and the generally unstable power grid in southern NH, we kept having brief failures that were just long enough to reset every piece of electrical equipment in the house. Including my Tivo, which I was using to occupy my mind while I knit; the network hub connecting my laptop to the Internet so I could read blogs; and more.

All of this instability meant I couldn’t trust the equipment to let me work uninterrupted. Very distracting, that. So after the third time, I declared “Enough!” Even though it was only 2 p.m., and tonight’s knit gathering at Panera isn’t until 5:30 p.m., I decided I had to go just to maintain my sanity and allow me to get some practical work done. Like posting this blog entry.

I suppose an update is in order – I have now knit several more repeats of the main pattern in Kiri than the designer’s original Kiri contained. The size is still nowhere near my desires, though it is large enough already that I feel there is hope I might have a truly wearable small shawl in time to block the piece before the Closing Ceremonies.

Kiri after Day Seven
Kiri after Day Seven

Of course, she’s now reached a size where I can no longer spread her out for a full picture. So this may be the last you see of her until she’s on the blocking board.

So here I sit, prepared to make what progress I can, and to spend a quiet afternoon at Panera with a steady power supply. Not the day I planned, but then, the real world Olympics wind up dealing with unrealized expectations and changes of plans, too!

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D is for Dependable

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 10:00 am on Thursday, February 16, 2006

D is for Difficult

As I’ve been struggling along with these Winter Knitting Olympics, I’ve learned that the competition I set for myself – knitting my first lace shawl from laceweight yarn – is a difficult one.

The test is proving to be one not of complexity, but of endurance. I have mastered the pattern, have readily accomplished the technical finesse needed to assure that each stitch is formed properly and without splitting the yarn or losing a yarn over. But I am knitting at full speed, in every spare moment of the day, and I feel like I’m barely keeping up with the pace I must if I am to finish by the closing ceremonies.

I wouldn’t dream of trying this level of challenge if I had children, or a job outside the home. And I don’t think I’d survive it if I didn’t have someone to depend on.

D is for Dependable

My husband, my rock, my saviour…Gryphon has chosen not to pooh-pooh this Olympics thing as impractical nonsense or a waste of time. He believes that if I believe it’s worth doing, then it is worth doing. And because he believes that, he also believes it’s worth throwing his effort behind me as the crack support team that any world-class athlete needs to have.*

Gryphon the Dependable
Gryphon the Dependable

This is the scene I often see as I sit in my chair, knitting away on my shawl. The view through our kitchen door, watching as Gryphon patiently goes about cleaning, doing laundry, and preparing more meals than we usually allot to him. He has made extra solo trips to the supermarket to do the shopping. He is providing extra support and encouragement when my spirits slump.

He is helping me to remember that I chose this quest because I believed I could do it, and he is making sure I know that he believes it, too.

This Olympic Knitting challenge may be the hardest thing I’ve ever taken on. But, as tired and stressed as I feel at times, Gryphon is giving me the space I need to succeed at it, and is a lifeline to keep me in touch with reality. Because of him, I can continue to see the value in this effort, and to measure its impact on my life realistically.

I can do this. And it’s entirely because I have someone taking care of me, encouraging me, while I do. Making sure I get sufficient rest, have good nourishment, and take care of the muscles I need to perform at my sport.

Thank you, Gryphon. I Love You.

*And believe me, ladies and gentlemen, we are all world-class athletes in this Knitting Olympics. I don’t think anyone of us has entered without the belief that we can achieve gold in our selected competition. Unlike many teams in the real Winter Olympics, who consider themselves lucky to be there at all, and are happy even if they only finish the race no matter what place they take, or if they score even a single point in their game. No, we Knit-thletes have valid reasons to think that each and every one of us can take the top honors!

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Nashua Area Knit Groups, Feb 15 – Feb. 26

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:04 pm on Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Group Report

I’m getting a little tired of snowstorms on Sundays – aren’t you? This past Sunday’s get-together at Panera was a total flop, as nobody could leave their homes! So Gryphon and I tried to carry out the spirit of the SnB-NH get-together in our living room, as I knit on my Olympics entry, and he learned how to hand-wind a center-pull ball of yarn – a skill he’s willing to apply for anyone at any Sunday gathering we get to!

Last Thursday night, Bea and I held the fort at Panera, where we are now well-known enough for the staff to call us by name when we walk in. We also had a surprise visit from a yarn model, and had a pleasant chat with her and her family.

It’s amazing what can happen when you Knit Around consistently in the same place at the same time!

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. 15 –

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. Feb. 16 –

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. Feb. 17 –

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. Feb. 19 –

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

Info – phone: (603) 888-9300

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

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

Folkcat’s Plans?

I will, of course, be at the Knitting Around meetings on both Thursday nights. And even though I’ll just have been there the night before, I’m planning to visit Panera on Friday the 17th a well.You can also expect to find me at Panera on Sunday the 26th.

As an added bonus, I’ll have my Olympic Knitting with me at all these dates – with the possible exception of the 26th. The shawl may be on the blocking board that day, being the last of the Olympics!

Happy Knitting!

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Art vs. Craft – One Opinion

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 3:52 pm on Wednesday, February 15, 2006

With the Knitting Olympics upon me and taking almost all my time, I’ve really done no beadwork in the last week, nor can I expect to do any for at least 10 more days. Rather than neglect this blog completely, however, I thought that this recent post I made to a knitting list I’m on would be of interest.

The debate about Craft vs. Art surely arises periodically anywhere that people who make things gather. Try to assign comparative values to the two concepts, and you’ll find no easy answer. It’s difficult even to come up with simple definitions that satisfy the majority.

The thoughts expressed below explain what the concepts mean to me. They are by no means meant to be universally definitive – in fact, I expect that each of you has your own ideas about the subject. Or maybe you haven’t really thought about it much before, and my humble opinions will provide the spark for you to come to your own conclusions.

Enjoy.

Craft vs. Art….for me, crafting is the manipulation of real-world materials to create something new. It’s more technique and process.

Art, on the other hand, brings an aesthetic component and a personal touch. There is originality of design from the mind of the artist. There is more thought given to the way something looks, the way it feels in the hand, and to how the piece will make a person feel when they view or use it.

All Artists are by their nature crafters. They must manipulate materials to manifest their visions in the real world.

Not all Crafters are artists. This is not to say that they are not talented and skilled. But they may be more often working to a kit, or to someone else’s pattern, without modifying that pattern at all. Nothing wrong with that – there are a lot of very nice patterns out there that are worthy of being made, in all manner of techniques. But it lacks that touch of personal originality.

An Artist sometimes becomes more of a Crafter. This can be a risk of being commercially successful at your art – say you’re a woodcarver with very original designs for wooden spoons that sell well. Over time, you wind up more often creating copies of the same spoons that people buy most often. While the original design is yorus, you are no longer adding new aesthetic concepts to it. You are still an Artist, but in making these spoons, you act more as a Crafter.

Crafters, too, can take on some characteristics of the Artist. As they become more confident in their technique, they begin making changes to design elements in their chosen patterns or kits – a different stitch here, a modified motif there, a new material that they feel interprets the design better.

Art and Craft are intermingled, and neither can live without the other. I admire the Artists who can create new visions and original items, and I admire the Crafters who have skill and technique honed by long practice creating pieces designed by others. I come in contact with many Artists – and Crafters, as well – both online and in the real world. I find that Artists never eschew Craft. In fact, many will turn to simple crafting kits as a form of relaxation – they get to immerse themselves in a process without having to expend mental energy on being original. And Crafters always respect Art. They appreciate trying new designs, they discover favorite Artists’ patterns and kits and come back for more, they hunger for the opportunity to learn new techniques necessary to execute their latest choice of project.

Personally? I consider myself an artist, but I call myself a multi-crafter to give an immediate awareness of the fact that I work in multiple techniques and materials. I frequently create original designs, but I’m just as often found making something to the specifications in someone else’s pattern. And I’m not above taking a pattern or kit and changing it to match my own sense of how the finished product should come together.

Artists and Crafters. They are very often one and the same person. And the skills of each are necessary to keep both Art and Craft alive in the world.

Not opposites, then, but more like symbiotes – partners, neither of which can exist without the other.

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My Valentine Gift to You

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 3:50 pm on Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine’s Day is for Love. We all know that. But something we often forget is to spend a little of that love on ourselves.

Here’s my Valentine’s Day gift to you…an indulgent dose of chocolate-covered cherries, with a touch of heart. And you don’t have to share them with anyone!

Chocolate_for_the_Heart_1600.jpg
Bonus Holiday Wallpaper – Language of Love

As always, my desktop wallpapers are absolutely free for you to download for personal use. You can find all the available images, plus download instructions, at Folkcat’s Free Desktop Wallpaper Gallery. What you won’t find there are instructions for waterproofing your computer keyboard against drool, so use this wallpaper cautiously!

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Knitting Olympics, Day Four: Going Public

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 1:17 pm on Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I took my Olympic Knitting out in public last night. The second Monday of each month is time for the Eats, Knits, & Leaves knitting group at Toadstool Bookshop (Lorden Plaza in Milford).

I knew that being in the midst of a group of knitters talking about their projects, debating yarns, techniques, books, and more, would slow me down. And it did. While at the group, I only managed to knit about 2 1/2 rows.

After getting home, though, I was able to meet my goal for the day*. And I stuck at it long enough to add one more row beyond that.

More important than that is that taking my Kiri out in public proved that I’ve reached a comfort level with it. At the group, I was able to maintain the pattern, and even found I have reached a point where I can read the knitting and know what stitches to do next, without consulting the original text for instructions. I did make one mistake on the first pattern row I knit there, but I now know the benchmarks in the pattern that are supposed to line up. When I was off by a stitch on the next pattern row, I was able to look immediately below that section, find the error (a SK2P – I had S’d and K2’d, but didn’t P), and fix it without having to tink or frog.

All while discussing everything from stitch markers (I sold some last night) to books (we were offered a 20% discount on knitting books bought last night because we’re officially a “book club” at Toadstool) to dyeing yarn (I brought my latest food-color dyed yarn to Show’n’Tell) to Valentine’s cookies (Patty brought great sugar cookies) and charity knitting (Patty is helping to find knitters to make hats for premies, and has kits to offer that include yarn and instructions).

So, while I didn’t knit as much during those two hours as I would have during the same amount of time at home, I did prove that I know the pattern for Kiri well enough now to effectively knit it with multiple distractions.

February Eats, Knits, & Leaves
L. to R.: Patty (back to camera), Beth, Bea (seated), Janice, and Pat

Between knitting Kiri and all the wonderful chit-chat, I nearly forgot to take the monthly picture! Luckily, I remembered before anyone actually left.

The next gathering of Eats, Knits, & Leaves will be on Monday, March 13th, from 7 to 9 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Olympic Progress Shot

Olympic Kiri, Day Four
Kiri after Day Four: a little over 18″ unblocked

Kiri is visibly growing. I don’t know how many more days I’ll be able to get her spread out this much to take a good shot, so enjoy it while you can!

* With my original fixed goal no longer valid, and being now uncertain how big I’ll actually be able to make Kiri by the time the Olympics are over, I am starting each day by evaluating the previous day’s performance, and setting a new potential size and daily goal based on that. If I knit a lot, and I think the amount I knit is possible to sustain each day, I increase the goal size until the row I’m currently at represents progress of 10% for every day since the Olympics began. My new goal for the current day is then set at another 10% of the projected size. No, that doesn’t have to make sense to you – the important thing is it makes sense to me. 🙂

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Knitting Olympics, Day Three: Regroup and Redouble; and, the Weekly 99:99 Report

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 1:29 pm on Monday, February 13, 2006

Encouragement Received and Applied

Thanks to all my readers who have been sending encouraging thoughts and comments in these opening days of the Knitting Olympics challenge. I can say in all honesty that the support does make a difference. I am forging ahead with Kiri and making better progress than ever. If I don’t reply to you all individually, it’s not for lack of appreciation – it’s just that I’m knitting with all cylinders firing.

Yesterday, with the encouragement and my renewed confidence in this project, I redoubled my efforts of the first two days and knit about as much as I had in both days combined. It was hard work, but I did take time to do other things, like eat, sleep, and take a few breaks to blog and play on the computer. If I can keep up that same pace, I think it might not even be outside of possibility that I could still get a full-size shawl in the time allotted.

No pictures today – just imagine a larger size version of the WIP shawl in yesterday’s post, and you’ll have an idea.

The 99:99 Report

Last week’s goal was to march in place for one 5 minute session on each of four days. I intended to do this on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but when Thursday rolled around, I realized there was a hitch in the plan.

Thursday is the day for the weekly Knitting Around at Panera, and I typically make it a major errand day as well (since it’s Gryphon’s payday and the household budget is renewed for the week). I’m out of the house early, and don’t get home until late – sometimes nearly 10:30 p.m. or later.

This makes it difficult to incorporate scheduled exercise sessions on Thursday. So I’ve decided that, for the purposes of the “five days a week” that I’m trying to do this, Thursday won’t count. Instead, I’ll use Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

With that adjustment, I did what I desired for last week – marched in place for five minutes on each of four exercise days, Mon., Tues., Fri., and Sat.

The goal for this week is to up that by one day. So on each of the days indicated, I’ll be doing one 5-minute session of marching in place.

So far, this is working for me. I fit the five minutes in handily, and I don’t resent the time it takes because my other activities continue unbroken around it.

Change is happening, and at a pace I can handle. This is good!

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Knitting Olympics, Day Two: Crisis of Confidence

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 1:03 pm on Sunday, February 12, 2006

Day Two started well. I began knitting early (shortly after 11 a.m.), and worked steadily throughout the day. By 4:30 p.m., I had made enough progress that I felt good about taking a break, so Gryphon and I went out on some small errands.

I continued knitting after we returned home, and around 7:30 p.m. or so, I had made goal for the day. Plenty of time to gain even more ground, so I kept going.

By 11:30 p.m., I had reached the 75th row. Theoretically, according to the shawl percentage calculator, Kiri was now 25% done.

I looked down at what I had on the needles. 25%? That didn’t seem possible. I checked the shawl percentage calculator spreadsheet. Supposedly, I’ve knit half of all the rows that will ever be in this thing, if I knit it as I originally planned. I could only expect to double the current length and width, at best.

Kiri Progress, Day Two
Is This Really a Quarter of a Shawl?

I stretched the knitting to simulate blocking and measured. 8″ down the center of the spine. That means my finished shawl would only be 16″ long! Something was definitely wrong here.

I went back to the original pattern, and studied the instructions. The original Kiri was knit in Rowan Kid Silk Haze, on size 4.5mm needles. They used 3 balls of yarn to achieve around 66″ in width, and 32″ in length, and they got there doing only 12 repeats of Chart 2.

I had based my plan on those numbers, without accounting for the fact that I am using a lace-weight yarn (KSH is listed as a DK-weight), and knitting on Addi Turbo size 1 to get the effect I want – instead of the size 7 originally called for.

Imagine yourself entering a long-distance cross-country ski race at the Olympics, and you think you’ve prepared for it properly, only to find that you’re at the starting line wearing figure skates instead. You might make it to the end of the course, but it’s going to take you much, much, longer than you thought.

I blame lack of proper training. I had done test swatches to determine what size needles I wanted to use, but it never occurred to me to measure them and see how many rows I’d have to knit to reach the size I wanted.

I crunched some numbers, and decided I’d have to go for about 292 rows to make the full-size shawl I desire. Plugging that figure into the shawl percentage calculator, I discovered that my hard-won, didn’t waste any time progress for the first two days had only netted me 6.6% completion on the shawl.

6.6% in two days, knitting full out? If I could expect to only knit about 3 and 1/3rd percent every day, knitting at top speed, this shawl would never be done by the end of the Olympics.

The remainder of the evening was spent agonizing over what to do. I didn’t want to drop out of the Olympics. Personally, though I understand that many are actually jumping events or changing goals as they discover that their original Olympic plans won’t pan out, I didn’t want to do that. My intention when I entered this competition was to knit with lace-weight yarn, and to knit a shawl from the Kiri pattern.

I briefly considered if I should keep to the Kiri pattern portion of my event, and change to another, heavier yarn. Given our finances, it would have to be something from stash. I pulled out the only yarn I had in the right weight range, Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease Sportweight in the discontinued Fuchsia color.

With size 7 needles, I cast on about 11:30 p.m., and in an hour I had completed 25 rows. A full half of the number of rows I had knit on Day One in my laceweight, and so quickly. I realized that changing to the Wool-Ease Sportweight would lower the level of difficulty so much that it would no longer be a challenge.

Vowing to worry more about the problem the next day, I went to my bedroom and puttered at my usual winding-down ritual of small computer games (Insaniquarium, Bejeweled 2 Deluxe, Big Kahuna Reef, Simple Sudoku). My mind, as usual, did not let go of the shawl problem. Rather, it reminded me that the more important part of my Olympic plan was the knitting with laceweight yarn, and that I would feel I’d completely abandoned that plan if I used anything else.

I had already entertained the notion that, no matter what, I was going to finish Kiri in the laceweight, perhaps gifting it to my mother for Mother’s Day. Well, what if I decided to modify my Olympic goal? Stay in the same set of events – knitting Kiri in laceweight – but change from the Marathon to the Mile? I could still knit Kiri, but make a goal of just making it as large as I could in the time allotted.

I wasn’t quite sold on this plan, until I thought more about my mother and how she’s likely to use a shawl. And I realized, she’d probably prefer a smaller shawl that she could tie around her shoulders over a full-size one. And that I think I can manage by the time the torch is snuffed.

And so, today I’m continuing to knit my laceweight Kiri. I’m still using my original spreadsheet to keep track of how many rows I’ve done, but now that I don’t know how many I’m going to knit in total, I can’t be sure what percentage of the final shawl I’m at. Progress tracking will now be very seat of the pants, and I’ll simply try to knit as many as I can each and every day.

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