Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Final Productive Moments of 2006

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The completed hat for Noah, modeled by the ever-patient Earle. You may remember that Noah dyed all this yarn (and much more) with mushrooms he had collected in the wild. I gave the hat to Noah today, and he loved it! I am so glad this is finished.

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And here's something that's progressing much more rapidly. I bought this yarn at Emily's Midnight Madness sale on December 16th of this year. It's a gorgeous 50/50 silk/wool worsted weight, Charmant from Berger du Nord. I cast on with it on Christmas Eve, December 24th, and today, December 31st, I've just completed the back of this shell. It's the tank from Joan Forgione's Thorn and Thistle Twinset in the Summer 2006 Interweave Knits. It helps that it's 20 stitches in 4 inches; it helped even more that I spent Wednesday through Friday of this week visiting my parents, so I got lots of knitting done. In fact, a surprising amount of knitting, considered it took me nine - nine! frigging! hours! - hours to drive there on Wednesday and seven hours back on Friday, plus, of course, the time spent visiting three yarn shops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. So maybe I've knitted up three or four hundred yards of yarn this week, while acquiring, oh, maybe several thousand yards of new yarn. Something is wrong with this scenario. Evidently I have to stop sleeping and start knitting all, and I mean ALL, the time.

Not likely.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Making Out Like a Bandit

Christmas was very good to the Linnet this year. No, that's not quite correct - Earle was very good to the Linnet this year. Look at all this!

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A Golding drop spindle, with a cherry butterfly whorl.

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A Bosworth drop spindle, lighter weight than the Golding. The whorl is canarywood.

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Camel and yak roving, both incredibly soft. Earle has spent a little time in the Mideast and he says camels really are that soft.

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Two gorgeous colorways of roving from Spunky Eclectic - Sherbert (top) and Walking on the Sun.

Plus the latest Knitscene magazine and a 'kit' for making an itsy-bitsy knitted wreath ornament. Earle is definitely a pearl.

In other news, I'm taking a quick trip to visit my parents outside Philly over the next three days. I intend to stop in a yarn and spinning store in New Jersey on the way down, maybe Woolbearers, and my mom is game for making a trek to New Hope to Twist Knitting & Spinning. Here's hoping they're open this week! [I think I'll email and find out.]

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Tale for Christmas Eve

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far away in the mists, the Linnet learned to knit.

Then I forgot.

But I must have learned as child, because when I went to learn to knit as an adult, 15 years ago or so, I already knew the motions. Like riding a bike, and all that.

Now as an adult I took to knitting like a swallow to the air and promptly got addicted, to the point that for Christmas that year, when Mom asked what I wanted, I asked for a set of those interchangeable needles - you know, like these.

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Well, lo, on Christmas morn, I did not find that set under my tree, nor any like it. Instead, I found this. A somewhat battered Christmas tin and a rolled-up bit of fabric with ribbons.

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Inside, I found these, plus the ones that live in my knitting bag now.

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And these.

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And these, plus lots and lots more circs I couldn't arrange nicely. These are only the very large and the very small.

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And this card. Which reads:

Dear Lynn,
Your present this year is not new - not old enough to be an antique - but not new. However you mustn't think of it as second-hand, but rather as an effort by the village elders to pass on the ancient tribal "arts and misteries".

One case was given to Dot Haviland [my mom's good friend] by her mother about 50 years ago. Since neither of her girls have expressed any interest, she has passed it on to you. Out of respect for its incredible purchase price ($28), Dot has never tied the ribbons [unlike me, of a badly behaved generation, who tied the ribbons immediately], but kept it closed with rubber bands. You will have to make your own personal and private decision - to-tie-or-not-to-tie.

The other "case" came with Christmas cookies from Grandma many years ago and has been my personal receptacle since then.

The contents of both cases are a collection from various "elders" of my acquaintance, my collection, and even a few new ones. Although it may seem an all inclusive collection, I'm afraid you will find that you never have the one you need. [True, so true.] At least, that has been my experience - but, perhaps a certain cynicism or fatalism comes with graying hair.

Mom & Dad

P.S. The check is for gorgeous wool or something for the boat!

Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope you enjoy your presents as much as I've enjoyed this one!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Won't Keep You in Suspense Any Longer

Why, yes, come to think of it, I did buy yarn Saturday night at Emily's Midnight Madness sale. I thought I could distract you over the past two days with pretty pictures of scarves and ornaments and such, but some of you want to know about the sale. So, OK, here goes:

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I did buy yarn. I bought enough cabled blue Heirloom 12-Ply to make Norah Gaughan's Nantucket Jacket from the recent winter Interweave Knits. I bought enough off-white 110% Perendale wool from Chuckanut Bay to make myself an Irish fisherman's sweater (I haven't decided on exactly which pattern yet, maybe something classic like this). Those two I had planned on buying; apparently I'm in a cable sort of mood right now.

I resisted the pinky mohairy stuff; it was too pinky, too deep toothpasty, if you catch my drift. I had thought about knitting myself a little wisp of a scarf out of it, but the color was too much for me.

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But that pale mint green - now that yarn I wasn't planning on buying, but I couldn't resist. It's Berger du Nord's Charmant, 50% silk, 50% wool, really, really, lovely (unlike these photos, which are lousy; sorry). I bought the 8 balls remaining in stock, which gives me a little over a thousand yards. At 20 sts/4 inches, I think I might be able to squeeze a 3/4-sleeve, V-necked, fitted sweater out of this for me, particularly if I get around to losing the 30 pounds or so that I ought to. Or maybe something without sleeves. We'll see.

As Emily and her helpers ran up my purchases at 11:06 PM last Saturday night, I was, of course, feeling guilty about buying yet more yarn. So I made Emily a rash vow: She was not to allow me to buy any yarn at next year's Midnight Madness sale, unless I was wearing a sweater I knit from this year's sale. A finished sweater, mind you, none of this just-barely-cast-on stuff. Emily agreed to hold me to it.

Gulp. I better cast on now, don't you think?

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's a Christmas Miracle!

Miracles really do happen! I've finished all my Christmas knitting one week early! Let us admire each and every one, shall we? Earle was kind enough to model the scarves, although he was rolling his eyes throughout and he told me to tell you that he had no pants on (that part wasn't true). And remember, I spun the yarn for all of these (yes, I'm full of myself tonight; just deal, OK?).

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So, in order of completion, to the best of my memory .... here's Mom's scarf, knit in the classic feather and fan pattern. The yarn was spun from a Grafton Fibers Corriedale Cross batt, plied with commercial Zephyr.

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My brother Dave's scarf, standard mistake rib. This was spun from Ashland Bay navy merino/silk.

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A Madge-lace scarf, for my friend Pat. A Grafton Fibers batt for one ply; the other was from the Sheep Shed.

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Dad's scarf, basketweave pattern, in Ashland Bay alpaca/silk.

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Sue's scarf, in a pattern from One Skein, spun from Louet Gaywool merino/silk.

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Earle's hat, not modeled by Earle, obviously - it's a surprise! - spun from Bartlett pencil roving; my first successful handspun yarn. I like the way the light from the lamp shows the structure of the hat. In reality, this hat is a light sheepy gray.

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And here's the pile of scarves on the back of a chair. I really enjoyed spinning and knitting every one of these immensely; it was a pleasure to watch the yarn emerge and the pattern develop. I hope the recipients enjoy them as much as I did.

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Furthermore, I finished all this knitting despite spending five - that's FIVE, people! - hours Sunday afternoon putting up the Christmas tree with Earle. It's amazing how long it takes to put up a tree. The decorating doesn't take so long; it's all the associated upheaval that takes so long. In our case, that upheaval included:
  • cleaning a spot in the back room to put the wing chair from the living room;
  • putting away the debris in the path the wing chair will take from the living room to the back room (five doorways; the entire length of the house);
  • vacuuming the spot in the living room where the tree goes;
  • trimming away the dead leaves from the plants in the window behind where the tree goes;
  • watering said plants, before the tree blocks easy access for a week or two;
  • wrestling the boxes of ornaments down from the attic;
  • trimming the tree trunk outside;
  • putting the stand on the tree outside, and discovering the tree four inches above the cut is too wide to go all the way down into the stand (this becomes important in the story later, hint, hint);
  • wrestling the tree inside and attempting to stand it upright;
  • screwing the four bolts into the tree trunk;
  • discovering that the tree will not stand upright in the stand, unless the bottom of the trunk is securely seated into the bottom of the stand, which we have already established it is not (see above);
  • filling the stand with water anyway, because the tree is sort of standing upright;
  • finding a plate to put under the stand, to catch the water that sfrom the stand, while attempting to keep the tree upright;
  • wiring the tree to the nearby window, which involves Earle rooting around in the cellar for 15 minutes looking for wire, while I hold the tree upright;
  • Lynn going directly to the spool of narrow-gauge wire lying right there in plain sight on a shelf in the cellar, after Earle can only come up with what looks distinctly like TV antenna wire, ahem;
  • winding the lights around the tree, and then around the perimeter of the nearby bay window, after the tree takes only 1.25 strings of lights;
  • winding the garlands;
  • hanging the ornaments...
  • PAUSE IN THE ACTION, while Lynn goes to the nearest store for a new tree stand and Earle hovers near the tree, which quite clearly is determined to fall over despite our best efforts;
  • Lynn returns with new stand, Earle lifts the half-decorated tree, still attached to the window by the light string, Lynn slides under the new stand, Earle lowers the tree, Lynn tightens eight bolts; and
  • ACTION RESUMES: hanging the ornaments, till they are all hung, and the white dove is perched on the top;
  • tinsel is forgone this year (enough is enough);
  • watering the tree, to overflowing of course; and
  • turning out the lights in the room, so as to admire the gorgeous tree, followed by the inevitable
  • Vacuuming up of the damn needles.

No wonder it took so long! Here are a couple close-ups of ornaments, just because....

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Why do I do This?

It is 7 PM on a Saturday evening. I've spent the last twelve hours participating in the 38th annual Athol Christmas Bird Count. Earle and I saw 22 species in our section of the whole 15-mile-diameter count circle here, the best birds being the four Wood Ducks Earle spooked up out of Tully Brook early this morning. The best sighting for me was not of birds, but of four otters cavorting with each other along the edge of the ice on Tully Pond. All together, 66 bird species were spotted today on this Christmas Count, which is probably a new record high for number of species on this count.

But my day is not done. Today - actually, tonight - is the annual Midnight Madness Sale here in the small town of Athol, Massachusetts. As I write, Emily at Emily's Needlework is selling all her yarn at 10% off. I believe at 9:01 PM, that discount goes to 20% off. Step up to the cash register at 10:01 PM tonight, and your discount is 30% off. That's 30% off Noro Kureyon and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock and Manos, glorious soft Manos, and even that pinky, halo'ed yarn with the sheen and the name I can't remember, but, oh, yes, I do remember that yarn all right and in three hours, they will all be 30% off.

And at 11:01 PM, the discount is 40% off. For real, people, 40% off all yarn - that's almost half price. I should buy bags and bags of the stuff. But there's an extra cost involved [there's always an extra cost, isn't there?].

I have to stay awake for another four hours. What's that? I should go take a nap? Well, yes, maybe I should, maybe I could, maybe I can't stop myself, in fact, but then... The Others Would Get All the Good Yarn. And you know who you are out there, so don't deny it. Right now I bet there are Serious Knitters in Emily's, circling the shelves, counting up balls of yarn and calculating total yardage in each dyelot and comparing that with the lists of Yarns Desired Sorted by Gauge clutched in their hands and then squirreling away the yarn they intend to buy, safely away in those capacious bags Emily so graciously starts distributing at, oh, 7:30 or 8, you know. By 10:30 PM, just over three hours from now, All the Good Yarn will be gone, tucked away in those roomy bags, three or four sweaters' worth per knitter, ready to be checked out starting at 11:01 PM. I know this because I, too, am a Serious Knitter and I, too, have participated in this heart-warming holiday event here in Athol in years past.

And if I can just manage to stay awake for another 4 hours, I will join in again this year. I think I've been doing Christmas Bird Counts every year for a quarter-century or more; I ought to aim for the quarter-century mark at Emily's Midnight Madness too, don't you think?

You in the back there - did you have a question? What do you mean, what happened to the Midnight Madness yarn from last year? I still have it, of course, it's Meaningful Yarn for me, you know, I think it might still be in the capacious Emily's Needlework bags, in fact. Whatever did you expect me to do with it?

Yes, another question? My vow to reduce my stash? Did I hear you correctly, sir? Oops, I'm sorry, I'm late, I really have to go now; it's Midnight Madness here in town tonight, I have to go participate in this important community-building, village-enhancing, small-fiber-farm-continuing event. Now. I have to go now, or They will get All the Good Yarn.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Do Good Work

I am feeling good. The Massachusetts Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, a great deal of the 750+ pages of which I wrote over the course of the past two years, has just been approved by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. We did good. Here, for your reading pleasure, is part of that Strategy, a part that I wrote, a part that I feel very strongly about. Tomorrow, we shall knit again tomorrow; today we live in the real world.

"A. Proactive Habitat Protection
For almost every species and habitat in greatest need of conservation in Massachusetts, this Strategy recommends that appropriate areas be protected from development and managed for the long-term conservation of these species and habitats. However, about one-sixth of Massachusetts – about one million acres – is already protected by a conservation entity (state, Federal, municipal, or private non-profit). Further, it is clear that the opportunities to protect suitable habitat and the funding with which to protect land are both dwindling rapidly in this state. Thus, to protect our species in greatest need of conservation, the challenge is that of making the difficult and wrenching decisions about which lands have the highest priority for acquisition in the very near future.

The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program of the MDFW [Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife] recently completed the BioMap and Living Waters projects. The BioMap is a statewide map of the areas, called Core Habitats, which if protected will conserve viable populations of rare species and exemplary natural communities for the future. The Living Waters project also produced a statewide map, but the Core Habitats shown on this map are the actual waterbodies supporting rare aquatic species and aquatic natural communities. Areas buffering and draining these aquatic Core Habitats, called Critical Supporting Watersheds, are areas which are appropriate for protection, if undeveloped, or for implementation of Best Management Practices to improve run-off water quality, if already developed.

Together, the BioMap and Living Waters Core Habitats cover about one-quarter of Massachusetts. About 40% of these Core Habitats are already protected, but 60%, or some 710,000 acres, are not protected from development or other destructive actions. It will be almost impossible for all the conservation groups in Massachusetts, not just MDFW, to protect all of this land, plus those areas of Critical Supporting Watershed that are recommended for protection. In addition, the data used by the BioMap and Living Waters projects are now up to five years old and, in some cases, already out of date. Some areas of BioMap Core Habitat have already been developed and have thus been lost as conservation possibilities. Some species thought to be rare at the time of these projects have proved to be more common than thought and thus do not need the level of conservation attention directed at the truly rare species. As time goes on, our knowledge of the species in greatest need of conservation will change, as will the inventory of land available for protection. There should be an on-going process to analyze and prioritize land in the Commonwealth for conservation purposes. The steps below build on the BioMap and Living Waters project and outline this on-going process.

To make and implement this prioritization for land protection, the following elements are necessary:

1. Knowledge of what land is protected in the Commonwealth, by whom, and for what purpose. Massachusetts has a very good state GIS system, MassGIS, which constantly updates their data on protected open space, including ownership and purposes. However, due to understaffing, the MassGIS program is often six months to a year behind in adding new state-owned conservation lands to their database. It has no systematic way to update newly protected lands acquired by municipalities or private non-profits. Both of these issues should be addressed. Since development is one of the greatest threats to wildlife in Massachusetts, more up to date landuse maps are needed. Without an accurate and relatively up-to-date database of what is already protected, we cannot plan for future acquisitions effectively and efficiently.

2. Knowledge of the biological resources of the state, particularly of the species and habitats in greatest need of conservation. Our knowledge of the statewide distribution of these species and habitats is uneven. For some species (for example, Federally listed species and fish species in general), there have been recent or on-going statewide surveys of all suitable habitat and, thus, our knowledge of their distribution and abundance in the state is relatively complete. MDFW has a comprehensive database of fish distribution and abundance for the fish species listed as in Greatest Need of Conservation. On the other hand, some state-listed species (for example, some aquatic macroinvertebrates) are just now receiving the kind of survey effort that will clarify their distribution and abundance; thus, we do not yet have sufficient knowledge of even all of the state-listed species. For non-listed species in greatest need of conservation, whether globally rare, game animals, or associated with early successional habitats, our state of knowledge is particularly insufficient. Likewise, for some habitats of concern – coastal plain ponds, bogs – we have recent field surveys, targeted at the best examples as identified by aerial photo-interpretation. For other habitats – large, unfragmented natural landscape mosaics – we are just beginning to realize the need for conservation and, frankly, have a difficult time identifying these habitats on the ground. Marine and estuarine habitats have been under-surveyed in general; however, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management has recently begun several initiatives aimed at mapping these habitats. Elsewhere in this Strategy, the details of these survey and inventory needs are covered; here it needs only be noted that this knowledge is absolutely essential for conservation of our biodiversity.

3. Knowledge of which species and habitats are already protected. As a consequence of completing the two elements above, it will be possible to clarify the level of protection afforded each of the species and habitats in greatest need of protection. Again, this analysis should be completed, not just for state-owned lands, but for all property owned and/or managed for conservation purposes across the Commonwealth. This element involves inventory and assessment of the biological resources supported in whole or in part by each parcel of protected land, to answer such questions as: What percentage of the occurrences of a SGNC [Species in Greatest Need of Conservation] species or habitat are on protected land? Which SGNC species or habitats are least well protected, currently?

4. Prioritization of protection efforts. This element involves making what can only be described as judgment calls. For example, all things being equal, what species should be targeted for immediate protection? It is easy to see that different conservationists might answer differently: protect all the occurrences of the very rare species first; or protect first the most viable populations of those species judged most likely to persist if properly conserved; protect first order streams, or protect wildlife corridors first; or protect large, contiguous landscapes of natural habitats first; or protect first what our human constituency at large wants protected – the glamorous and showy rare species, the beautiful landscapes, and their favorite hunting and fishing spots.

In reality, future conservation efforts will involve numerous organizations and individuals; the MDFW is only one of the partners in the cause. Each organization and each scientist or conservationist will have their own priorities for protection, dictated by organization policies, funding sources, and personal preferences. However, with the BioMap and Living Waters projects, many conservation entities in Massachusetts have proven themselves eager to base their protection efforts on biological data, interpreted by knowledgeable scientists, and disseminated to usable formats.

It is a major goal of this Strategy to develop a consistent and objective prioritization system for habitat protection, aimed at the identified species and habitats in greatest need of conservation, with the input of as broad a spectrum of knowledgeable biologists as is feasible.

5. Identification of land for protection, based on stated priorities. Once priorities for land protection are established, these priorities should be applied to the existing knowledge of the biological resources of the state, to identify precise areas for immediate protection efforts. A map of these areas will be developed, with information attached to each recommended area as to the particular conservation targets therein. It can be expected that, as a result of this step in the process, along with the preceding steps, gaps in our knowledge will be identified, which can then be filled in the next cycle of this whole process.

6. Dissemination of conservation priorities to conservation partners. Providing GIS or paper maps and supporting information to state, Federal, municipal, and private conservation groups is the first step in implementing proactive habitat protection. Beyond that, it is likely that a detailed examination of the map of areas to be protected will reveal which organizations are most suited to protect each area, because of proximity to land already protected, or the particular priorities of the organization, or some other such factor. A list of unprotected areas suitable for protection by each active conservation group should be compiled and distributed, wherever possible in whatever venue is appropriate. Meetings between MDFW staff and staff from these other groups are likely to be particularly fruitful. An agency database of contact/mailing information of all identified conservation partners needs to be developed to aid in mass postal and electronic communications. Currently, lists exist in various forms but not in any centrally organized fashion that is easily accessible.

7. Funding. Admirably, when informed of their land’s conservation value, many landowners choose to donate their property to a conservation group. Many conservationists choose to donate their time and skills to a land trust, for example, to help in the cause of land protection. Not surprisingly, land donations are not financially feasible for many landowners, and most land protection efforts cannot be accomplished by a purely volunteer work force. Funding for land protection in Massachusetts has decreased dramatically in recent years, especially at the state level. The tasks of everyone involved in this Strategy will be to inform others of the importance and immediate need for increased funding from all sources for land acquisition, to use available funding as efficiently as possible to accomplish protection priorities, and to identify and cooperate on funding sources beyond the usual. Re-activating the Massachusetts Teaming With Wildlife Coalition, a group formed for the purpose of providing information about federal legislation that would provide funding for unmet wildlife needs, could be one strategy for advocacy of wildlife funding initiatives on both the state and federal levels.

8. Updates of these protection priorities. In five to ten years time, the information on which this Conservation Strategy is based will be out of date. The very successful BioMap project was based on data through 2000; it is clear just five years later that, while most of the areas recommended for protection are still worthwhile, new data necessitate an update. Further, both BioMap and Living Waters were aimed at conserving state-listed rare species, in general, and many of the species included in this Strategy are not addressed specifically in either BioMap or Living Waters. Throughout the implementation of the seven steps above, gaps in data should be identified and addressed, progress towards protection priorities should be compiled, and conservation partners should be cultivated. This will inform the next round of setting priorities for proactive habitat protection."

Monday, December 11, 2006


Point #1: I've made up my mind. This version of the mushroom hat has got to go. The blue and green are too close in tone, and neither of them has anything to do with the colors in the ribbing. I'll try again.

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Point #2: The scarf I was knitting Sue for Christmas? Bye-bye, all two inches of it. I finished the scarf for my dad out of the same black handspun alpaca/silk, and I have absolutely no desire to knit another five feet or so out of it. My dad's scarf is great, I love it, I'll love it, I know Sue loves that yarn, but if I have to spend another ten days knitting that particular blackness, I'll scream.

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So I went into my handspun stash and came up with this: merino/silk, sort of gray and turquoise (not nearly as navy as this photo shows). Thank God for the turquoise! And I'm tired of fiddly knitting - this is the last of six scarves and hats I've spun and knit for Christmas, you know - so we're going with a simple, yet effective 4x4 cable to one side, k2p2 ribbing to the other. Pattern from Leigh Radford's One Skein. I like how this is working out. Substantial, yet soft. Straightforward, yet with sensuous curves. And only about 30 or 35 repeats of an 8-row pattern to go.

Point #3: I like Dale's Sisik yarn. It's good wool, aside from the bits of colorful fluff that aren't that well attached. It feels good to knit this. So good, I've already reached the end of the bottom ribbing. Alas, this yarn has been discontinued. If you find it, buy some.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

You're Out There, Aren't You?

There are people reading my blog. Gak! I feel exposed! I feel naked! I feel silly and stupid and found wanting and all that.

Even though [deep adult breath here] I know perfectly well I'm OK. I'm OK. I am a Worthwhile and Lovely Being. [more deep breathing]

How do I know all this? It's all Sue's fault, once again. Her brother Chris and his wife Elaine came down from Portland, Maine, to see Sue over the weekend and Sue thought they'd be thrilled to meet me, since they are both knitters (yes, Chris is a male-type person and he knits, socks even!, and looks quite, ahem, good while doing so. So, you see, children, that myth that real men don't knit is only a myth; find some other legend to believe in) and had heard so much about me (this is the point at which I started feeling queasy).

Chris and Elaine are charming people, sophisticated, funny, worldly. Go read Elaine's blog, if you want to see for yourself. She's a very good knitter, by the way, and quite addicted. And makes a mean cosmopolitan, too. I think she had six, maybe seven, scarves and socks and whatnot in the knitting bag she brought. We all went to Webs, of course (Chris even knew the back way from Sue's house), and I resisted everything except the new Spin Off magazine and the winter Vogue Knitting, which actually had some knittable and wearable garments, surprise, surprise, clearly a [insert winter holiday of choice] miracle.

Get to the point, Linnet.

[deep breath]

They had read my blog. They thought it was funny. OK, I can deal with that. I know Sue; they know Sue - they're relatives even! - I can cope with relatives of friends reading my blog. But then, Elaine said lots of people read my blog.

That's just downright scary.

You out there, you know who I am. At least within my limited ability to convey myself on the digital page. I'm a formerly shy person, you know; having people know who I am is viscerally frightening, despite my best efforts to out-grow that aspect of me/myself/I.

And yet. And yet.

I want to be noticed. I may even need to be noticed. Being the eldest of five kids, the first three born in the first four years of my parents' marriage, left me a little neglected, I think. Just a little. I'm not talking abuse or not being fed and clothed and loved, nothing like that. Just ... a little not noticed.

So having people read this blog is OK for me, maybe good for me. You're all knitters, you're used to the imperfections of human creations, you enjoy hanging out with other knitters.

And given a few events close to home that aren't really mine to talk about, I'm feeling my mortality, feeling the need for people nearby, for laughter together over our knitting, for the joy in our shared obsessions. So thank you for reading. For noticing. For laughing with me now and then.

[cue Barbra singing People who need people...]

Friday, December 08, 2006


I need some mindlessness tonight. More to the point, I am mindlessness tonight. My tummy aches; thus I have no brain. Tonight I cannot even cope with the Row 1: k11, p2, k2, p2, k11 of basketweave, even when I'm close to finishing this scarf for my dad for Christmas.

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Tonight I cannot cope with deciding whether the little blue mushrooms show up well enough against the green background on Noah's hat, much less whether all of that clashes too much with the colors of the ribbing.

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Tonight I need to knit something like this.

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Isn't that a lovely basic sweater? (Appallingly wide, but never mind, never mind, I couldn't possibly be shaped like that in real life.) I've had this sweater for maybe 20 years. No, I didn't knit it; it's a store-bought sweater, out of 85% acrylic/15% wool yarn. It does not pill, it goes through the washing machine with no problems, and nowadays everyone asks me if I knit it. Which I didn't.

But tonight I think I can cope with your basic k2p2 ribbing on a basic medium-sized circular needle, with nice medium-sized yarn from my stash. Like this.

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I think Fridays nights should be for comfort knitting, don't you?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Through Thick and Thin

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This past Sunday I took a spinning class from Jeannine Bakriges at Webs. She taught ten of us how to make thick, thin, and medium yarn, along with teaching us lots of other spinning-related tidbits, and I loved it! The samples above are two- and three-ply yarns I spun last night, just practicing what I learned. I still need to be more consistent - that photo is of the best sections of my various attempts - but that'll come, that'll come. Jenny did tell me that, for a beginner, I was pretty consistent, so that made my day!

Today, however, I'm home with a tummy ache and the mindlessness that comes with not falling asleep till 3 AM. I know there was much more I wanted to say about Jenny's class (I got to meet Etherknitter!), but it's disappeared into my general grogginess.

I do want to say this, though: Every so often, I run into someone like Jenny - the Yarn Harlot and Amy Singer also come to mind - who just exude such competence and joy and creativity that I am left panting after them like a teeny bopper after the latest rock star. I want to be Jenny's groupie.

There, I've said it. Well, almost said it. What I really want is to take that soul-baring plunge into being my own fount of competence and joy and creativity. To knit and spin well enough to express who I am through those media. I have some ideas in my head, but I hold myself back. Like any learning process, though, I need to go through those early stumbles and those first 10,000 mistakes and the imitative creations, through to me. Whoever I am.

But for today, I think I'll just go nap.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Anybody recognize this yarn?

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I can't imagine why you should; the last time you saw this was back in the spring, I think. Which brings us to today's subject: Guilt and the Knitting Thereof.

Back in March or April, I ran into Noah, an acquaintance of mine, on a field trip to a vernal pool. Noah knows everything about mushrooms, at least those species found hereabouts. So, while we all were tramping about admiring wood frogs and looking at salamander sperm packets (I kid you not), he pointed out various fungi. He also happened to mention that last year he dyed some yarn with different mushrooms and got all sorts of colors. I pounced, of course. "Send me a photo! Bring some yarn to the next time we meet!" that sort of thing.

So he sent me photos. And I oohed and ahhed and said, gee, if I knit you a hat, would you give me some of the yarn? He graciously said yes. Now, our story so far covers several months; there are, after all, other important things in life, particularly in spring, than yarn and the knitting thereof, not that you and I would have any knowledge of such things.

So, maybe in early summer I got the yarn. And there it sat.

And sat.

And sat.

And every so often, I would pull it out and wind a skein into a ball and fuss over it a bit. But no casting-on ensued. Meanwhile, guilt did ensue. It is now at least six months later, you know. Guilt is an awful thing; it eats away at my happiness, it colors my pleasure in knitting and spinning, it takes joy out of my life.

I don't want guilt to rule my life, especially my knitting, so I have cast on for Noah's hat and I hereby solemnly swear that it shall be cast off by January 1st, and that the hat and all the yarn shall be given back to Noah by then. I want to go into the new year with a clean conscience.

And in the future, I shall try to think before I commit to a knitting project, even if it's something for me. I want to begin to make my own designs and, if I knit the lovely and compelling designs of others, I won't have time to make my own. The fact that life is short has been weighing on me recently - I may only have thirty or so years left! - and guilt is an unnecessary weight to drag around.

Of course, then there's Liam's baby blanket, lying there half-finished, occasionally reproaching me. Liam just turned five, I believe.

Nonetheless, onward!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


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I tell you, I'm dedicated to this fiber stuff, all right. I got up an hour early this morning (7 AM, not 8 AM, don't weep too much for me) and I plan to get up an hour early every day, just so I have time to write a short blog every day and to get a little exercise every day.

We'll see how long that resolve lasts.

But I do have lots and lots and lots to tell you, so here's hoping I can at least keep up with the blog-writing part of that resolution, else I be overcome by guilt.

Speaking of guilt, see that pile of boxes and bags? That's all the yarn and books I gave away. Well, I haven't gotten Sue her bag yet, but I'll see her soon, so it counts. Anyway, the boxes were all mailed off last Wednesday - some recipients have gotten theirs already, but the box going to Portugal? That one is going by slow boat, literally apparently, so maybe in the new year...

And I'm thrilled, for lots of reasons. Many people asked me, why don't you sell the yarn you don't want? Well, that would take longer, for one thing, and I don't have the time to waste on eBay, yard sales, negotiations, etc. Besides, as I told one friend, I'm quite serious when I say that I feel like I'm hoarding too much of the world's scarce resources. I'm a biologist, you know, and I can quite clearly see that the world is literally going to hell in an overheated handbasket, and I want to do something about it. I do not need all that yarn. I don't even want all that yarn. Plus, once upon a time, in a lifetime far, far away, I was married to a man who was independently wealthy (no, I did not end up getting half the $$ in the divorce, just to answer that question, because I valued my freedom and sanity more than money. Still do, for that matter). He was (is, I think) rich because his grandfather was in the oil business.

So, you see, my excess of yarn, some of which I bought 15-plus years ago when I was married, is directly derived from the reason why there's global warming, why turtles are going extinct because of being run over by cars, and why human communities, in this country, at least, are no longer really communities. So I feel better having shared as much of it as I can stand to.

And besides, I like giving gifts to people. It makes them happy. The world needs more happiness. So, enjoy!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Exhaustion at the Finish Line

I have no lists and charts and graphs of my fiber stash for you today. I admit it, I'm defeated.

I can tell you I have four fleeces, two white, two black.

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I can tell you I have a total of 1,776 yards of handspun not yet knit up. I did manage to get that counted up.

And I can tell you I brought home 12.5 pounds of fiber from Rhinebeck this year. But as for the rest of the fiber, I confess: I gave up. I have no master list, no total tonnage for you. Instead, I visited with my friend Elizabeth, I did housework (a shocker!), I paid bills, I rounded up boxes in which to send out the yarn I'm giving away (I still need a couple more boxes, just to warn you), and I had pumpkin pie and an apple for dinner. I simply could not face any more turkey.

However (signal the trumpets), I am exceedingly thrilled by the fact that I have given away, especially with the valiant efforts of Sue and Elizabeth this weekend, a grand total of...

--- 14% ---

of that part of my stash whose yardage I can measure. Plus a sweater's worth of red mohair. I am right pleased with myself. Perhaps I should go look at some sale yarn somewhere tomorrow....

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Feeling Pleased With Myself

Back on the 11th of November, when I totaled up all those WIPs hiding in the corners of this house, there were sixteen of the little darlings. As part of my overall stash reduction plan, I vowed to finish six of these by the end of 2007, about 1/5 of the total.

I am very pleased to tell you that in the past two weeks, I have achieved 50% of my goal. And a good thing, too, since those three items happen to be targeted as Christmas presents for this year, 2006.

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So, without further ado, may I present Finished Objects #1 and #2: two handspun scarves, plus the dark handspun mistake rib scarf I had already finished for my brother's present. They're all blocking here and all lying nicely flat, too.

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The red one is for my friend Pat, who had better not be reading this blog. This is my handspun, knitted up in the little lace pattern Jillian Moreno used for her handspun hat pattern, Madge.

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The blue/green one is my handspun plied with Zephyr, in the classic feather and fan lace pattern, a present for my mom (who doesn't even know I have a blog, I think).

FO #3: Earle's hat, a present for Christmas, which I forgot to take a photo of and, since he's right here, I can't go take a pic now. A basic hat, of my handspun natural light gray wool pencil roving. If this doesn't keep him warm, he'd better move south.

And what of the other 13 WIPs? Well, next I have wisely decided to finish up those three projects which still interest me and which are fairly far along. I'll spare you the photos and detailed descriptions for now; this list is mostly for my own reminding.

WIP #4: A lacy, cabled scarf, about 1/3 done.
WIP #5: The diagonal-striped-block afghan/rug, about 1/3 complete. I was going to felt this into a rug, but I don't like how the illusion of over-and-under weaving is or, more precisely, is not showing up, so I think I'll finish this as an afghan and donate it to Afghans for Afghans.
WIP #6: Voodoo Wrist Warmers, about 1/2 done. One of these is completed, but if I remember correctly, I want to lengthen the cuff on these, so perhaps a certain amount of frogging is in order. Nonetheless, I need these - it's finally getting cold out!

And the rest? Well, here's a brief list, in no particular order:

WIP #7: A blue boucle dolman jacket, about 25% complete.
WIP #8: Lizard Ridge Afghan, 3 blocks done.
WIP #9: Liam's baby blanket, about 1/2 done. Liam is now 5, I think.
WIP #10: Noro cardigan. I made the wrong size, damn it. This needs frogging and redoing.
WIP #11: Ostrich Plume stole, about 10% complete.
WIP #12: A purple summer shell, with a little lace. Maybe 10% complete.
WIP #13: Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, about 10% complete. (I'm beginning to see a pattern here.)
WIP #14: A long-sleeved cotton sweater, about 1/3 done.
WIP #15: Basic socks, about 25% complete. Alas, these are a little big, so I need to frog and start again.
WIP #16: Clapotis, in bamboo, about 10% complete.

In other news, I went to visit my friend Sue in Northampton today. We decided to go for a walk in the beautiful sunshine and, oddly enough, we ended up at WEBS - fancy that! And I must confess that I, um, somehow, er, ended up with not only the new Victorian Lace Today book, but also with a little bit of roving. Ahem. Just 8 ounces, of the same wonderful Louet multi-colored wool top I blogged about a couple of posts ago, but this time in a scrumptious deep red and blue colorway. And I don't feel guilty at all about the book, I never said I was going to hold the line on acquiring any more books and patterns and such. Which may explain why I ended up buying two books at Emily's 30%-off-all-books sale yesterday - Knitting in the Old Way and The Opinionated Knitter: Elizabeth Zimmermann, Newsletters 1958-1968. Plus a Sirdar pamphlet of cabled fishermen sweaters; I have the urge to cable.

Sue also agreed to relieve me of a number of the yarns and books I'm giving away, but fear not - all of you who have written me with requests are getting exactly what you asked for; I just haven't gotten around to writing you back yet. I will, I will, I promise, soon!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Not Tonight, Dear

Yes, I know I vowed to blog every day of this four-day weekend, and tonight I was thinking about writing about the impressive pile of WIPs inhabiting corner B of my room and shelf 3 of the linen closet and maybe somewhere else in the house, too, but, alas, the camera battery died and I had a glass of wine with dinner, so I'm not thinking clearly anyhow, so not tonight, dearest darlings, you'll have to wait till the morrow to hear and see just how long I can resist the guilt-inducing siren call of projects past.

Trust me, you'll survive.

In other news: The rebalancing of the world's yarn mass is proceeding nicely [see yesterday's post], but there's still more yarn here than has been spoken for - tell your knitting buddies, mention my excessive gift-giving in your blog, help me get rid of this stuff, please! Otherwise, I might have to resort to stuffing empty crannies in your boxes with the Casablanca ribbon yarn or that cone of mystery yarn or, heaven forfend, the two-pound cone of ecru cotton.

Having lodged that thought in your brain, I'm going to go knit mindless basketweave for a scarf for my dad for Christmas. That's about all I can handle tonight. Toodles!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We Gather Together

It's Thanksgiving morning, American Thanksgiving that is, and I'm up relatively early, not because I have to bake three pies or clean the entire house before the family comes over or finish knitting the tablecloth in time for turkey gravy and red wine to be spilled on it. Nope, I'm up early because I'm not sleeping well these days and I wanted a cup of tea to settle my tummy. I think the dust mites are gathering in unheard-of numbers in my bedroom, such that when I'm tired and go to bed, my body starts screaming, "Get out of here! You're allergic, remember?" So, I don't sleep well at all. Earle, bless him, cleaned the house yesterday while I was at work (well, maybe not the bedroom all that well), and no one's coming for dinner, I'm only baking one pie, and I'm not that crazy as to attempt a knitted tablecloth. Not this year, at any rate.

Where was I? Not getting enough sleep does that to me. Oh, yes - American Thanksgiving! Under the heading Things I am Thankful For comes the realization that getting as absorbed in knitting and spinning as I have in the past couple years has opened my narrowly focused eyes to the wide, wide world. The fact that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day than Americans do. I knew that before, but now it's part of my at-the-forefront thought. Likewise, I've learned enormous amounts about different breeds of sheep and what librarians really do and how people cope with tragedy in their lives and what different knitters consider a suitable stash and so on and so forth. If I were truly awake, I'd be more eloquent about all this, I hope.

So today I'm celebrating the joy and fun that knitters, of all stripes, have given me - I'm not talking about teaching me to spin or creating nifty patterns or steering me to good sales here, I'm talking about enjoying knitters as people. You are a wonderful bunch. Keep up the good work out there, around the globe.

In gratitude, I'm giving away to you, my loyal readers, such components of my stash as I can bear to part with. For you guys, I will sacrifice. Leave me a comment with what you want and your snail mail address (or email me your address at harperlynn At msn Dot com, if you're uncomfortable with posting your address, which is understandable) and I'll send the stuff to you as soon as I can get organized. First come, first served, except I'd like to spread this stuff around as far as possible, so probably just one type of yarn to a person. We'll see how it all works out.

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Giving this away is no sacrifice, however. Here we have a cone of ecru 10/4 cotton, about two pounds, from WEBS, no doubt. It's about sport weight, 2800 yards per pound, so a total of around 5600 yards. I have no idea why I have this, and you can share in that thought if you only ask. Maybe you could knit your very own lacy tablecloth in time for next Thanksgiving. Maybe several tablecloths, in fact.

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Then we have 10 balls of intensely blue mohair-y yarn, Plymouth's Orient Express. Twelve stitches to 4 inches, nylon/acrylic/mohair, a total of 530 yards. Any takers?

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Here are 4 balls of ribbon yarn, by the name of Casablanca. A total of 440 yards, at 22 stitches to 4 inches. Goes nicely with the Orient Express - anybody want a poncho for a nine-year-old girl?

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You the Following Important Message: Earle has awoken. In fact, he is singing, "Happy, happy turkey day, happy, happy turkey day, happy happy..." etc., etc., and is, in fact, beginning to sound remarkably like a turkey gobbling himself. This is my cue to go get dressed; we're going to the local coffee shop - The Daily Grind, really, that's its name - for breakfast. Your Regularly Scheduled Program will resume later today, in among pie-baking and spinach-washing and turkey-staffing activities. Stay tuned.


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OK, we're back. Breakfast has been consumed, the turkey has been stuffed and is beginning to roast, and Athol High is up 24-13 over their arch-rivals, Mahar Regional, in the third quarter of the annual Thanksgiving High school football game next door. All is quiet, at least until I have to bake a pie and such. Therefore, onward with the yarn dispensation!

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Here is one of the mysteries of my stash: a one-pound-plus cone of pale blue-green yarn, something non-wool, a blend of maybe, I don't know, silk/linen/rayon, something like that. Maybe sport weight. One of you needs this desperately.

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And here is a real prize - 11 balls of navy blue Gjestal Naturgarn No. 1, all wool, 13 stitches/4 inches, a total of 1331 yards. You could really make something from this - a heavy winter sweater for you, two or three kids' sweaters, maybe a throw?

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Anybody remember my Sunrise Circle Jacket? Here we have about 2.5 balls of leftover Katia Mexico, wool/acrylic, 17 stitches/4 inches, about 250 yards total, nice stuff . I wear the jacket quite a lot. You know, if I were organized, I would have made myself a matching hat out of this, but I didn't, so you can.

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Anybody like knitting with cotton? (Bitterknitter, are you out there somewhere?) I have no memory whatsoever of why I have two balls each of four colors of Saucy Sport, all cotton, 24 stitches/4 inches, 246 yards of each, a total of 984 yards.

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Cotton socks anyone? Here we have three balls of Cascade Fixation, cotton/elastic, 25-29 stitches/4 inches, a total of 558 yards. Yellow/purple/green - wake up your sock drawer with these!

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More cotton: Filatura di Crosa Dolce Amore (I think it's Amore; every label has the price sticker over the name). Two colorways - six balls of multi-color pastels and five of white with pastel dots. These two colors go well together. Alas, this is not machine washable, or we'd have the makings of a great baby blanket here. 28 stitches to 4 inches, 198 yards per ball, or 1188 of the darker stuff and 990 of the lighter color.

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Two-and-a-half balls or so of Berroco Europa. I knit myself a sweater from this, that I'm wearing it today. Wool/cotton, 20 stitches/4 inches, a total of about 338 yards.

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Soft, soft, soft. Classic Elite Avalon, black, obviously. Angora/baby alpaca/lambswool, 20 stitches/4 inches, about 412 yards total. Winter scarf for your mom, maybe?

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Red, red, red! Mohair - not a solid red, but with some stripes of red-purple, too. Lots of this, but I don't know how much - I'd guess enough for an adult woman's medium sweater, since that's what I started knitting from this. One ball is frogged and rewound, but I did not wash this to get rid of the kinks. (I kinda like the kinks, actually).

A grand total of 12,621 yards to give away, plus a couple pounds of red mohair and pale blue mystery yarn. This makes me feel good - that's more than 10% of the known yardage under this roof. Books! I have three books to give away, too.

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Barbara Abbey's The Complete Book of Knitting. Somehow, I have two copies.

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Lily Chin's Mosaic Magic: Afghans Made Easy.

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Nicky Epstein's Knitting for Your Home: Afghans, Pillows, and Accents.

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Anybody for a little kit for making your own knitting needles? Dowels, sandpaper, polymer clay and instructions.

And patterns! If you want some subset of these - a certain gauge, say, or only the legwarmers - just ask, and it's yours.

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Patterns for adult women.

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Patterns for little kids.

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Woman's Day 101 Needlecraft & Sweater Ideas, Winter, 1991. A number of nice patterns in this.

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Finally, a treasure trove of patterns from the 1970s and 1980s - you need these! How can you pass this up? The 80s are in again! These were given to me by a non-knitting friend. His mother had died and left him, among other belongings, these patterns, so he gave them to me.

Well, look - it's time to go baste the turkey. Help me redistribute all this wealth, send me a note, and there'll be a present in the mail for you soon. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!