Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New WIP & Handy Tip!

I've finished several long-term projects lately, so I allowed myself to cast on a new project from this book I got for Christmas:

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I chose the Simple Sideways Mitts using several of the yarns leftover from my very-recently-completed Fade (it's still in the blocking process, but look for finished Fade photos sometime next week!). I have no idea why I'm trying to cram it on these DPNs....apparently I just like the challenge?!

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Rather than seaming a cast on and bound off edge, I opted for a crocheted provisional cast on so that I can graft each end together when I'm finished knitting. This is my favorite provisional cast on because you just make a single crochet chain that's a little longer than the amount of stitches you need, and then you pick up and knit into the bumps underneath the crochet chain like. I made a (hopefully helpful) mini-tutorial for anyone who wants to give it a try:
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My current destash woven scarf is now past the halfway point, so my goal is to get it off the loom this coming weekend so that I can put on a few warp for the week ahead; it looks more or less like it did last week (lots of blue, gray and green yarn, only longer), so I won't bore you with another photo. I'm also working on a few new designs that I can't share just yet, but I did finally resurrect this sweater in Cascade Eco:

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The only other active project I have on the needles the never-ending striped laceweight scarf/cowl thing I've been knitting since last August....it's baaaarely past the halfway point, but I've been slowly chipping away here and there - no photo since it looks more or less the same as it did the last time I shared it here on this blog (I like to think it's much longer, but who am I kidding?!).

I know it's a little weird, but having lots of WIPs, especially long-term, stresses me out - so it's felt amazing to finally move some projects into the final finishing stages (weaving in ends, washing and blocking, etc). I look forward to sharing some of these recent FOs with you soon, starting with this coming Friday!


Friday, April 21, 2017

FO Friday: Lhasa Wilderness Woven Scarf

I finished my third woven project! Carl at Bijou Basin Ranch asked me to weave a sample to be displayed in their booth at the Intermountain Weaving Conference in July, and I couldn't resist the change to try weaving with this luxurious yarn!

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Since I'm still a total novice, we agreed upon a very simple scarf using two skeins of Lhasa Wilderness in one of my favorite new colorways, Joseph. I'm still really nervous to have my weaving work on display for Real Weavers to look at (gulp!), but at least I won't be there to hear them remark on my still-figuring-it-out selvedges. This is what I tell myself, anyway!

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I loved weaving with this yarn - it's a yak/bamboo blend that is a bit slippery, so it did take some getting used to. In my sample, you can totally see where I started to get the hang of it:

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Thankfully, my finished scarf looks a lot better than the above swatch. If you want to try weaving this scarf project, I've shared my calcs and supply list below. Happy weaving!

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Lhasa Wilderness Scarf
Totally Mathematical: 
Width of Project: 8 inches
Total Width on Loom: 9 inches (10% shrinkage)

Project Length: 68 inches (not including fringe)
Warp Length: 93 inches

Number of Warp Ends: 90

Stuff You'll Need: 
Yarn: 2 skeins of Lhasa Wilderness in Joseph
Heddle: 10 Dent
Loom: Rigid Heddle Loom (I used a 20" Schacht Flip)
Stick Shuttle
Scissors
Measuring Tape

New to weaving? So am I, but I made this scarf with the help of Angela Tong's awesome Craftsy class, Rigid Heddle Weaving. Click here for my full review!

You may like to know: I am a Craftsy affiliate & receive a commission for purchases made on Craftsy when affiliate links are clicked. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Back to WIPs

Over the last few weeks, my crafting time was focused mainly on a few deadline projects that I couldn't share publicly. Now that they are done, I can get back to my regular WIPs, a few of which seem close to the finish line!

The waterlilies socks are getting closer to the finish line - last night I started the toe shaping on the second sock!

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But the big news is that I'm on the FINAL color of Find Your Fade; how did that happen?!

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I picked up the crocheted handspun blanket last weekend and discovered that it was just a few rows away from being done - so now the crocheting is complete, but I do have ALL of these glorious ends to weave in:

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Most of the yarn is big and fluffy, so I was excited to give these darning needles from Knitter's Pride a try - they've made the process so much easier since I don't have to struggle to thread each yarn end through a narrow needle eye!

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I also warped my loom for another destash scarf project, though I was intending it to be a wrap - unfortunately, I misjudged the amount of yarn I had for my warp, oops! I ended up adding a second color to either side on the loom, which makes it way off-center. While I'm sure that's not the end of the world, it is a little annoying from an OCD standpoint, and tensioning the warp evenly was a bit more challenging (but not the disaster I feared it would be).

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Don't get me wrong, I would definitely prefer to have a centered warp for those reasons just listed, but I'm totally ok with going with the flow and having a project that's fairly loosey-goosey. I'm sure more experienced weavers have compelling reasons why I would want a centered warp (feel free to share in the comments!), but I'm chalking this one up to learning curve and forging ahead!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Fun, Inaugural Edition

I know I haven't been blogging as much as I used to, but I don't want to get out of the habit since it's something I've always enjoyed doing. I've been working on a lot of long-term projects (some of which are secret) and haven't had an FO in quite some time, so that made it easy to skip Friday posts...and then I didn't want to keep posting the same projects with very little noticeable progress each Wednesday - basically, it was a slippery slope.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to start sharing what's new/interesting/noteworthy, especially when I don't have a finished project to share. For example, here's what's been tickling my fancy lately:

Enamel Pins
Has anyone else noticed the enamel pin craze? I've been following this trend for a while (mostly on Instgram) but only recently hopped on the bandwagon. I was super excited when one of my clients, Bijou Basin Ranch, came out with a cute Yak Knitting enamel pin earlier this month (it's the first in the series!). It's joined my small but growing pin collection:

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3D Printing
Here's another trend I've been following, and quite honestly, I am surprised that this hasn't found more of an audience in the knitting world. Turtlemade's 3D printed Turkish spindles have been quite popular for a few years now, but I figured that someone would be selling 3D printed knitting needles or hooks by now (if you know of someone, let me know in the comments!). Anyway, my friend Julie sent me this link about a 3D printed sweater and I thought it was rather interesting. Perhaps this is the perfect answer to the constant question we're always asked as crafters (that is, if they reach their Kickstarter goal).
Image via Kniterate

Amazing Billboards
I can't imagine how much this cost, but one clever artist has been replacing ads on billboards with photos of the landscape they're blocking. It's genius! I would absolutely love to see one when driving down the highway.
Image via DesertX.org.
Rally Cats
I am delighted whenever animals run on the field during a sporting event, and secretly hope it will happen at one I am watching. The closest I got was last year's Rally Mantis for the Royals, which was fun, but not as fun as this cat that ran on the field during a Marlins game earlier this week! He looks just like a tiny Robin, and the commentators' play-by-play makes it even funnier to me - and I love how the Marlins social media team handled it in the Twitterverse:

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I'd love to hear about what's inspiring you this week, too!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Knitter Goes to a Quilting Show....

Last Friday afternoon, I took a few hours to check out the International Quilt Festival at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. It had been a very long and somewhat stressful week at work, and to be honest, I didn't feel like I could spare those few hours...but I was SO glad I went anyway. It ended up being a much needed break from spending too much time at the computer, and I came home feeling refreshed and ready to return to work (which can be hard after you've left the house to do something fun). I ended up crossing off everything on my to-do list, even some of the things that had been eluding me all week.

The show was smaller than I was expecting, but it was probably for the best because each booth was stuffed with colorful fabrics, notions, sewing machines, and gadjets. I thought that 2pm on Friday would be slow, and it probably was,  relatively speaking. Considering that there was quite a crowd and walking the floor was an exercise in patience at times, Saturday and Sunday must have been bonkers with wall-to-wall people.

Half of the space was dedicated to exhibition quilts, which were positioned at the entrance so that you had to walk through at least a portion of them. A friend had mentioned that this was her favorite part of the show, so I made sure to check out as many quilts as I could; it was truly awe-inspiring! This piece was the first thing you saw when entering the show:

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Northwood Awakening by Ann and Steve; this piece is 25 feet wide and didn't fit in frame!
As a non-quilter, this show was worth the $10 admission for the eye candy alone, and the marketplace was surprisingly varied. Obviously, the focus was on quilting-related products, but I saw several booths that had materials for other crafts - and I even spotted some yarn! I was tempted by a quilted pillow pattern with cute alpacas on it and the plush toy sewing patterns I spotted in several booths; I had to firmly remind myself that I don't have enough sewing skills (or time!) to make them, otherwise I'm pretty sure they would have come home with me.

So what DOES a non-quilter buy at a Quilt Show?

My first purchase was a rotary cutter, which I've been meaning to get for a while because I'd heard it was an efficient way to trim fringe evenly on woven projects. This ergonomic cutter from mynotions.com was a steal at just $7!

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I also bought some handmade buttons for a top-secret project I just finished (I can't share it on here til later this summer, though!) - they are tiny ceramic birds that are handmade in South Africa, sourced through Fair Trade Federation guidelines via a company called Akonye Kena.
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My final purchase was two sets of small wool circles for a project I hope to weave soon, inspired by this booth display:
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I'm planning to weave black or gray fabric to make a pillow to sew the circles onto. I'm not sure if I will mix and match the color families, so I'll either make two smaller pillows (one with each set) or blend them together to  make a large 20" square pillow, which might be overly ambitious. Then again, I do love biting off more than I can chew when it comes to weaving!

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I'm hoping to attend more sewing-related shows in the next year; if you know of any good ones in the midwest that need to be on my calendar, let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 3, 2017

YarnCon Recap

Last weekend was one of my favorite yarny events of the season, YarnCon! I love this show because it focuses solely on independent makers, and this year's was the biggest and best yet. Vendor booths spilled out into the hallway and up into the balcony of the venue, and I think that this was the most varied and interesting collection of vendors yet. There were a lot more hand dyers this year, and all of them really brought their A games: unique yarns, gorgeous colorways, and LOTS to choose from.

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It was great to see so many returning vendors (Why Knot, Brew City Yarns, & Yarn Geek come to mind), but I would say that more than half were new to me, which made exploring the show floor really exciting. It really seemed like there was something for everyone, with each vendor bringing something unique to the mix. I did see a lot of the speckled yarns and gradients which are still really popular, and there were even more mini skeins for sale than I think I've ever seen at the show.

What really caught my eye were some of the custom blends of yarns or spinning fiber. There were many breed-specific options, and also some unusual fiber blends. It's clear the indie dyers are getting the message that developing their own unique yarn bases is the way to set themselves apart from the thousands of dyers who are using the standards MCN/Superwash Merino/BFL sock yarns. I really hope this is a trend that continues!

I'm no stranger to yak yarn, but this is the first time I've seen a Merino/Yak/Nylon blend - perhaps MYN is the new MCN?? At any rate, I couldn't resist this skein of Khalessi Sock (70% Merino, 20% Yak, 10% Nylon) in Sun Kissed in the Grinning Gargoyle booth....and I didn't realize it at the time, but it coordinates perfectly with the handsewn needle keeper I bought from my pal Emonie from Hopkins Studio:

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I couldn't resist this Bonkers Dusky TnM (20% Tencel, 80% Merino) in Green Williwaw - I really love it when there are darker fibers mixed in with the natural fibers before being dyed. The black fibers are actually the Tencel!

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Also, they win the award for the best display mannequins in a booth - how fun are these?!

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There was also a cute sheep on the other side of the booth:

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Every year, I love seeing what Rita from Yarn Hollow has in her booth, and this year a pretty Foxy Batt came home with me:

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Apparently, blended spinning fibers are my new favorite thing, because I couldn't resist this custom mix of colorful 100% Merino fiber from CJ Kopec Creations, and this colorway's name is Cat's Eye!

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Would you believe me if I told you that I've never purchased a set of mini skeins? It's true! These lovely squishy skeains from Little Patch Alpacas were calling to me....they've a blend of Alpaca, New Zealand Polwarth & Merino in sport weight yarn. I think I'll be knitting a cowl with them very soon!

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I didn't buy this Chicago-themed/BMO project bag at the show, but it's the perfect way to show off my new YarnCon enamel pin. I think I'll be adding more fun enamel pins to it in the very near future!

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Did you go to YarnCon this year? I'd love to know what caught your eye and came home with you this year!

Friday, March 31, 2017

June Cashmere Review & Coupon Code For Free Pattern

When it comes to yarn, there are a few things I can't resist: 

1. Cashmere. 
2. A great story.
3. A beautiful shade of grey.

If you're a regular reader (or an instagram follower, for that matter), none of these confessions will surprise you. I am a total luxury yarn junkie, and grey is one of my go-to colors for knitting projects - let's not even try to count the number of gray projects I knit last year!So, when I was given a choice of colors from the absolutely stunning jewel-tone palette for June Cashmere's DK weight yarn, guess what I picked? 
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Yup, I chose Slate grey. Act surprised! 

I was also offered a free knitting pattern, the Journey Mitts, which uses just 1 skein of the DK yarn. More on that in a bit - and how you can score a free pattern for yourself, too. First, I want to share the incredible story behind June Cashmere, which is sourced directly from small family farms in Kyrgyzstan, processed in Europe, and then organically dyed in Maine. It's offered in two weights, lace and DK, in a sophisticated palette which is offered in both weights. 


The June Cashmere story is a pretty cool one, but I think this video tells it far better than I could summarize: 


The story and presentation of the yarn knocked my socks off from the beginning - but I am sure that you are wondering what it was like to actually work with the yarn! A short stapled fiber such as cashmere can sometimes be prone to breakage and pilling, even as you knit with it (and, heaven forbid, should you need to rip back to fix a mistake). However, this yarn is comprised of many plied which seem to have the perfect amount of twist to minimize pills. I had to tink back a few times while knitting the project, and the yarn definitely held up. 

They're perfect for catching Pokemon on a rainy spring day!

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(Full disclosure - the Oddish ran away shortly after taking this photo)
Here they are ready for action on my desk - as you can see, the cables really pop!

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This yarn was so pleasureable to work with! If you would like to give it a try, you can get a free print copy of the Journey Mitts pattern free with purchase of yarn now through April 30. Just enter coupon code stefanie at checkout - click here to choose your yarn color

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How can you say no to that?!

You may like to know: Free product was provided in exchange for a review; all opinions are my own. 



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WIP Wednesday & YarnCon Countdown

It's been a few weeks since I shared what I'm working on, mostly because I've been focusing on a secret sample knitting project that I can't share just yet - which means that most of my WIPs are seeing very little action. In fact, the only project to progress somewhat since this post is my Find Your Fade (although I'm still not even halfway through the second to last color). Obviously, I won't be finishing by the end of this month, which is when the KAL ends, but hopefully I can get it off the needles sometime in April! Meanwhile, my knitting basket is getting a tad crowded.

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That probably wasn't helped by starting another new project over the weekend - even if it is rather small. This cute fair isle mittens ornament kit was gifted to me over the holidays and I've been meaning to break into it ever since. If not now, when*?

*Pro tip: this is how you can justify just about any cast-on.

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I also have a new project on the loom which will be a display piece for Bijou Basin Ranch when they attend the Intermountain Weavers Conference in July. I've been trying to take it slow so that there are fewer mistakes and nicer edges than my first two weaving projects, and so far so good. The idea is to show off this beautiful hand-dyed colorway (Joseph) from MJ Yarns that is dyed on Bijou's yak/bamboo base, Lhasa Wilderness:

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I've always loved knitting with this yarn (see: Molten Metal Cowl), and weaving with it it also pleasurable. It took a little bit of getting used to since it's more slippery than the wool yarns I've been weaving with, but the learning curve was rather mild, and I am loving the results:

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I am definitely planning to weave more projects with this yarn in the near future.

It's the most wonderful time of the year! This weekend, I'll be at YarnCon here in Chicago, which is hands-down my favorite fiber show of the year. If you happen to see me there, come say hello!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Weaving Wednesday: A Successful Scarf!

On Monday, I shared a review on the weaving class I took on Craftsy; today for Weaving Wednesday, I want to share more photos of my class project, a stash-busting scarf using leftover scraps of yarn.

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I got overly ambitious for this project, which is only the second piece of weaving I've created on my Flip loom - but that didn't stop me from trying to be fancy and doing a multicolored warp!

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While I'm pleased with the overall effect, I would definitely take more care to choose yarns that have similar fiber content. Quite honestly, I'm not sure how I pulled this project off, because I was not experienced enough to deal with the wide variance in tension for each yarn in the warp. It was pure luck that it all worked itself out.

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I had to order a different heddle for this project, and while I waited for it to arrive, I wound a lot of different yarn scraps onto the stick shuttle in the order that I thought I would use them. It worked for a while, but then I started to change my mind as I wove and it became annoying to unwind the yarn I didn't want to use, and then wind on the yarn I did want to use. For my next stash-busting scarf, I will definitely wind yarns onto the shuttle as I use them so that the colors are more spontaneous (and, by the way, is what Angela did in the Craftsy class - so now I know it's for good reason!!).

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Both of these lessons seem like obvious "oh, DUH!" moments, but in my excitement about learning how to weave and my zeal to make this project, I totally lost sight of such important details. Hopefully others can learn from my mistakes and avoid learning these lessons the hard way!

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The finished scarf has tons of imperfections, and yet it turned out 3000% better than I thought it would - I love it! And I can't wait to weave more scrappy scarves to eliminate those leftover bits and bobs in my stash.

If you're curious about weaving, I encourage you to check out my review of the Rigid Heddle Weaving class I took on Craftsy, which is what this project is from. Weaving is super fun, easy and FAST - and if I can do it, anyone can!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Rigid Heddle Weaving with Angela Tong on Craftsy

Not too long ago, Angela Tong asked me if I was interested in taking her Rigid Heddle Weaving Craftsy Class and gifted me enrollment to the class for free. Truthfully, it had been a while since I'd even logged into Craftsy - in that time, the Craftsy website has been redesigned, and they've also created an app for smartphone and tablet users!

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Test driving the app was almost as exciting to me as taking this class (almost!!). I was able to set my iPad up next to my loom to watch the class lessons as I worked on my project, which was super handy. Also, iOS users can download lessons for offline viewing, which would be great for traveling. It was just as easy to make notes on videos as it is on the desktop version, and I notice they added a "30 second repeat" option (or maybe that's always been there and I'm just now noticing?!).

Although it's been a while since I've watched any of my (many) Craftsy classes, I am a huge fan of them; every single class I've taken has been informative and well-produced, and Angela's Rigid Heddle Weaving class was no exception. It featured 8 video lessons which were packed with a ton of great into; I learned so much as I watched each video and worked on my class project, the Scrappy Stashbuster Yarn Scarf. Absolutely everything needed to complete your first project from start to finish was covered here: keeping track of where I am in my project, making neater edges, weaving in ends as I go....and even though I was overly ambitious with my own scarf project, I had some pretty awesome results:

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(I'll be sharing more scarf photos on Weaving Wednesday, for now I want to focus on this review!).

Once students get their first project under their belts, they can try a slightly more advanced project to create two matching tea towels. These lessons cover a lot of interesting material, from winding a warp to creating a decorative hemstitch as an alternative to fringe on your project. I'm not sure that I'm ready to give this project a try just yet (and I am still really obsessed with making stash-busting scarves!), but I'm sure that day will come soon. I still got a lot of great takeaways from watching the videos, so they are worth checking out, even if you don't plan on making that project just yet.

Of the downloadable resources, my absolute favorite is the Calculating Amounts of Yarn worksheet; I have actually printed out multiple copies to use on future projects. Also included are worksheets for winding a warp, along with patterns for both of the class projects. At the end, there is a bonus lesson where Angela shares some different fringes for finishing a woven piece, which I'll definitely be experimenting with on future projects!

I would 100% recommend this class to anyone new to rigid heddle weaving; while the books I have are excellent references, you really can't beat seeing something before your very eyes. And if you can't get to an actual class or workshop, this really is the next best thing. I love that I can continually refer back to the videos when I need a refresher on direct warping my loom or finishing a project.

Click here to sign up for Angela Tong's Rigid Heddle Weaving Craftsy Class!

You may like to know: This class was provided to me for free for the purposes of a review; all opinions are my own. This post uses affiliate links. 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Startitis 1, Stefanie 0

Confession time: not only did I neglect to finish any WIPs over the weekend (act surprised), I started something new!

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This skein of June Cashmere DK has been staring me in the face since last December, so I'm surprised I made it this long without casting on, to be frank. Lately, cashmere is my kryptonite, and so far I am really enjoying this one.

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I'm making the Journey Mitts and will be sharing a full review of this yarn soon (and I might have a special coupon code for my lovely readers, too - wink, wink!).

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Also, check out this adorable sheep-like Pokemon I caught recently - he's too cute not to share!