Springtime Eye Candy!

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I'm knitting again! Hurray! I've not had much neck, arm or hand pain for about two weeks now, so I'm knitting away. I do stop about every half hour, get up, walk around, and stretch, and so far that seems to be doing the trick. Um... not to mention the physical therapy and the muscle relaxants!

My "Sallie June Faroese," which is a take-off on the "Springtime" pattern from Marianne Kinzel, is coming along slowly but surely. But it still doesn't make a very good photo in its unblocked state, just a wad of knitting.

I found two blogs from knitters who have finished "Springtime" this year and taken photos, so I thought I'd share with everyone. At least there's fun stuff to look at!

Lucie, of Appalucie Fiber Arts also turned her "Springtime into a shawl." Check out her blog. Her shawl is bright blue.

And Lorna Beck, of Lorna's Creative Cottage, finished her tea-cloth sized "Springtime" in October.

This is such a gorgeous pattern, and I'm thrilled to see other lace knitters working on it!

Enjoy!

Listening to: A Monstrous Regiment of Women, by Laurie R. King, read by Jenny Sterlin. I'm very nearly finished, and I'll be sorry to see this one go.

A shawl in progress is pretty much a "wad"

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I would hate to disappoint my loyal fans (hee)! So here's a progress report, at long last. I've been happily knitting away on my "Sallie June" Faroese shawl, or at least I was knitting away on it until about a week ago (more on that below). Here's a photo of the shawl in progress:

A wad of shawl

It's amazing to me how undistinguished lace looks while it's being knitted. Compared to how it looks once blocked (or dressed), that is. It's almost like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the difference the dressing makes.

I decided that I wanted to go ahead and finish my earlier pink prototype shawl so that I could see if there were any problems with the edging charts. I also wanted to free up my 60" Addi turbo needle so that the "Sallie June" can make that leap when it needs to.

So I began figuring out the crochet loop bind-off (this is an element straight from the Kinzel book). This shawl is bound off like a lot of doilies, after being knit to the end (in other words, the edging is part of the shawl, not knitted sideways and joined to the shawl). After doing some practice loops, I decided that the loops as written were too long (too loopy?) in this yarn, and that 5 chains instead of 9 chains between each three-stitch bind-off would work better. So I swatched, and blocked, and I think I was right. I don't know how much you can tell from the photo. I can also see that I need to block the leaves more vertically so that they don't spread out quite so much width wise.

Some experimenting with the edging from Kinzel's Springtime pattern

Another detail, here is photo of the mesh that compromises an entire diamond right before the leaves of the edging, and also forms the bottom portion of each of the diamonds in the regular pattern. Kinzel calls this pattern "ladybird" mesh, though I haven't been able to find either that name or the mesh itself in any of my other stitch books. At least not so far.

Mesh from Kinzel's Springtime pattern

I have gotten most of my lace books out and have been having a high old time going through them. This always gives me lots of new ideas, which can become problematic. But at the moment I've needed other things to think about. I have a pinched nerve in my neck, and it radiates into my left shoulder and arm. Because I do so much of the control of my stitches with my left thumb and forefinger, I've not been letting myself knit on this shawl while I've been under the weather. It would be SO easy to have my hand slip and pull a dozen or so stitches off the needle. I have to be careful of that anyway, and I've recovered from a small accident or two already.

So while I rest (and take too many pain pills), I have been knitting on some socks and missing my lace! I'm slowly feeling better, and I hope that by the weekend, I can be knitting on my shawl again!

Listening to: The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R. King, read by Jenny Sterlin. I am SO enjoying this, having just discovered the series!

And now... the "Real Thing!"

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It's a little amazing to be knitting on my actual shawl! All this fuss and bother with the chart, and the pattern, and the prototype, and hey, this is the real thing! (I had to laugh, Theresa, because I was already calling it that before I read your comment).

I spent about an hour and a half getting the shawl back on the needles after a goof-up (I wasn't paying attention, and knit about six rows past where I had intended to end my "darts" so I had to rip back, and I didn't have a life-line). It wasn't pretty, but you can frog lace, get the stitches back on the needles, and live to tell about it! I did feel a little like emulating Elizabeth Zimmermann's famous quote, that after cutting a steek, one should drink a nice glass of wine and go have a lie down in a dark room.

There's not a whole lot to see at this point (I'm about 22 rows into the knitting in the photo), but without further ado, I present "the real thing"

First view of real Sallie June Faroese

The shawl is white (no variegations in the yarn), and it's photographed here on a crinkly turquoise shopping bag that came from my yarn shop (don't ask what I was doing buying more yarn!) Although I'm knitting with the same 3.25mm needles as I used for the prototype, this yarn is significantly finer, and I have to pay fairly close attention to keep from losing stitches. This pattern is not one I would categorize as "easy," but it also has a pretty intuitive flow.

I'm calling this shawl the "Sallie June." There seems to be a long tradition of naming shawls (at least Faroese shawls) with a woman's name, and since I'm knitting this shawl for my mother, I had to name it after her. "Sallie June" isn't her actual legal name, and the story of her name is quite "Rocky Racoon"-esque ("Her name was McGill, and she called herself 'Lil,' but everyone knew her as Nancy!") Beatles' references aside, "Sallie June" seems like the right name for the shawl, so "Sallie June" it is!

And I'm really knitting it! The real shawl! Whee!

Listening to: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale (I read the book as soon as it came out, but I love listening to Jim Dale!)

Um... okay... so now what?

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After my last blog entry where I said I was just too impatient to take my shawl prototype off the needles to block and see what was going on, I realized that what I was really feeling was a touch of fear. I wasn't sure how it was going to come out, and I was avoiding finding out. So I metaphorically "bit the bullet," threaded the shawl onto a thread and off the needles, got it wet, and blocked it. And first I'll just say that's it truly lovely lace! I am just as enamored with this pattern as I was when I first encountered it.


Back View of Sallie June Prototype


That's the back panel. So far, so good! But, um... here are the fronts, merrily crossing over one another. Holy Toledo, Batman, I believe I went too far with my additional rays! I do like the way the shawl is approaching a circular shape, without too much additional length in the back. That's pretty neat. (Although it may also be an artifact of blocking it with the "wings" curving around the front. If I had blocked it more like a standard Faroese shawl, with the wings outstretched, it would be different. I'm just not sure how different!)


Full View of Sallie June Prototype


Here is just one front, photographed without the cross-over, allowing you to see how far the additional fabric extends past the center front line. Because of the angle of the photo, I think it appears a little less dramatic than it actually is.


Front Wing View of Sallie June Prototype

Even seeing the blocked layout, I couldn't be sure until I tried on the shawl how it would hang. Unfortunately I can't manage to photograph myself very well, but I turned this way and that in front of the mirror. There is definitely too much fabric, and it ripples around my shoulders. Not a bad look, but not the look I wanted on this shawlette as I want the lace to show as clearly as possible. I found myself folding back the excess into lapels, and laughing to myself. This is why I started with a prototype, after all!

At this point, I have several options. I could go back to the "standard" two diamond start, or I could only do one vertical repeat before closing off the "rays" (see discussion here about rays and darts). I went as far in the direction of additional fabric as I could in this prototype (i.e. I used three diamonds to begin, and I ended my darts after two vertical repeats). That gives me a total of 6 lace diamonds after the first vertical repeat, and a total of 7 diamonds after the second repeat.

I made a little chart and determined that there are several possible ways to configure this.

If you start with 2 diamonds (Myrna's "standard" shawl configuration), and end the rays after one vertical repeat, you end up with 2/3/4 diamonds on the first three rows. Starting with two diamonds, and ending the rays after two vertical repeats, you have 2/4/5 diamonds on the first three rows.

If you start with 3 diamonds (the theory I was testing), and end the rays after one vertical repeat, you have 3/4/5 diamonds (the same as 2 diamonds, two vertical repeats, except for the extra diamond on the first row). You could end the front ray after the first vertical repeat, but continue the back ray until after the second repeat). That staggered plan would give you 3/5/6. Or you could do what I did, and max it out at 3/6/7. (I truly hope that might make sense to someone besides me!)

With that in mind, my first thought was that I should have stopped my "rays" after that first repeat. So I folded the shawlette strategically, and sure enough, the folding drew those front "wings" into a more reasonable line:


Front Wing View of Sallie June Prototype

As I folded and tried on, it seemed to me that the two best options are the 2/4/5 and 3/4/5 ones. Since they're very close to the same result, I don't know that it matters a whole lot which I choose. I do like the look of the third set of leaf motifs at the shoulder. The diamonds seem to curve very gracefully in that configuration, so I think I'll go with the 3/4/5 option. I held my blocked swatch in the Merino Fine (the yarn I'm knitting the real shawl in) up to the blocked Jaggerspun Zephyr of the prototype, and the Merino Fine is the same width, but less deep.

I would love to distract myself, and play with another two or three prototypes to test out these theories, but I'm pretty sure I now have the information I need. I can always come back to this question later. I think I will eventually go ahead and finish this shawlette without frogging. I've already done the bulk of the knitting, and it can serve as a concrete illustration of an experiment I tried that wasn't entirely successful.

So there's nothing stopping me from picking up my needles and casting on my "Sallie June" Faroese shawl! Except for winding the yarn into a ball:


Skein of white Merino Fine from Skacel on swift ready for winding


Listening to: Silas Marner by George Eliot, read by Margaret Hilton.

More good questions

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Thanks to Theresa for more good questions! I do have a knitting font, one that I've been tinkering with for some time. Ages back, I purchased a knitting symbol font from XRX., Inc. (the folks who publish Knitter's Magazine). You can find them at The Knitting Universe. I don't know if the font is still available. I wasn't entirely happy with the font the way it was presented, as it had little boxes drawn around each symbol. I feel I have much more control with just the symbols themselves, inserted in the cells of an Excel worksheet (btw, I have my Excel row height set at 0.14" and my column width set at 0.15").

I have a program called Macromedia Fontographer (macintosh version), that I can use to tinker with fonts. I've done that, and come up with a font that has most of the symbols I need. I've cobbled it together from various symbol fonts, and it's still a work-in-progress. But it definitely is most helpful for lace charting.

Regarding my "shawlette-in-progress," I'm hoping to know the answers to Theresa's questions fairly soon. I've started on the lower border sections of the shawl, which include a 24-row section and a 20-row section. I'm at about row 20 of the first border section. At this point a pattern row and its return row (all purl except for the seed stitch borders) is taking about 45-50 minutes. So progress isn't speedy, but it's coming along!

And yes, Theresa, your question makes perfect sense, and is the very one I'm anxiously awaiting being able to answer for myself. I think the shawl may ripple around the shoulders, and it may not. With it on the needle, I can't quite tell yet. I was planning to put it on a thread and go ahead and block it, and then I got impatient and decided to just plunge ahead and see how it comes out!

Thanks to everyone who has said such nice things about the project. I don't really know if I'll manage to get the pattern ready for sale. I have a sock pattern I've been trying to write up for months now, and I'm not really sure pattern writing is my thing. But we'll see.

Listening to: When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin.

Ahhhh.... Charting!

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Theresa asked a week or so back why I was recharting the lace from the Marianne Kinzel book to do my shawl. When I first started thinking about this shawl, one of my goals was to learn to chart lace on the computer (I don't much like working with a pencil and graph paper, I'd much rather type!) I knew also that I was going to need to do some re-arranging of elements in the charts, and it seemed like re-charting the existing charts would be a good way to get familiar with those elements, and learn more about lace charting in the process.

The "Springtime" cloth by Marianne Kinzel is in the First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, published by Dover Publications ©1972. (ISBN is 0-486-22904-1) Marianne Kinzel is a marvelous lace designer, and I've never heard of anyone finding an error in one of these charts, which is more or less unheard of in later lace books. Bless Dover for keeping these books available! (They also publish Kinzel's Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting.)

As much as I appreciate the patterns and the accuracy of the charts, I'm not wild about knitting directly from the Kinzel charts. I find the charts very visually "busy." There's a lot of information presented in any lace chart, but to my mind there are more and less pleasing ways to present that information.

Many lace charts (including the Kinzel charts) use a vertical line (l) for a knit stitch. I prefer an empty box for the knit stitch symbol. The Kinzel charts use an empty box for "no stitch," meaning that you simply ignore that box entirely. It's there only as a placeholder so that the real stitches line up better, making the chart look more like the lace that will be knit from it ("No stitch" symbols are necessary only when stitch counts change from row to row). Since I used an empty box to indicate a knit stitch, I shaded boxes with gray to indicate "no stitch."

Here is a scan of one of the original "Springtime" charts from Marianne Kinzel (used with permission from Dover Publications):

Scanned chart from Marianne Kinzel

Here is a photo of my re-charting of this same pattern block, for comparison:

Shelda's chart of same pattern area

The colored symbol blocks were my attempt to differentiate between two symbols that I found tricky to distinguish on the Kinzel charts.

I find my own charts significantly easier on my eyes, but I want to emphasize that all of this is entirely a personal preference issue! When you're knitting lace, anything that makes the knitting flow more smoothly seems like a good plan, whether that's stitch markers at critical junctures in the knitting, a "life line" so that you feel more secure (this is a thread drawn through a row of knitting that will hold the stitches if you make a later mistake and have to rip back), or a system of counting rows and keeping track of your position in the chart. If it works for you, go for it!

I have had fun playing with lace charting (I have aspirations to one day design my own lace), and I've found Microsoft Excel a handy tool for the task. I've heard lots of recommendations for Adobe Illustrator for charting lace, but I haven't yet mastered it so I can't comment. Excel was easily at hand, so I started there.

Listening to: In the Moon of Red Ponies, by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton.

Weekend Progress! Whee!

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I can't even tell you how psyched I am about this shawlette! I'm knitting away, and everything seems to be working.

Here's the latest progress photo:

Sallie June Double-ray Faroese after two repeats

The full diamond, starting with the leaves at the top, and ending with a bottom half of mesh, is 48 rows deep. I'm about 6 rows into the second full repeat. When I measured my swatch, a full diamond is about 8.5" deep. So after I get to the end of my current 24-row section (half of a diamond), I need to start on the border! Amazing.

I measured several of my shoulder shawls (or "shawlettes"), and I can see that 16-18" deep is about right for me. This is going to be done remarkably quickly, looks like. There is a good bit of fabric, so it may be a very flowing shawl, I can't quite tell yet. I think I'll just go ahead and finish it "as is," then block and re-assess whether I might make my "rays" shorter.

Here's a close-up of the back panel:

Back Panel Detail, Sallie June Double-ray Faroese

The top of the panel angles out, following the lines of the outside leaf of each pair. Then the panel goes straight down, with mesh half-diamonds at each side, instead of a split leaf. Make sense?

Ah, wait... how's this?

Back Panel Detail, with lines indicating panel, Sallie June Double-ray Faroese

It just dawned on me that I could draw lines to illustrate the point in Photoshop. I love Photoshop!

So I'll keep knitting, and I'll reconcile counts for the borders as well. I'll post more about charting lace soon. Theresa's questions (August 20, 2005 entry) deserve a complete answer, and I like to talk about the charting process. Part of my original goal for this project was to more fully learn to chart (and thereby understand) lace, and I've definitely made progress towards that end.

I'll do screen shots of the worksheets that I used to get from point A to point B, and hope they'll be useful to others as obsessed with lace as I am!

Still listening to Eleven on Top, but I only have one CD left to go!

A funny looking lil' critter!

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When these photos were taken (Monday, August 22nd), I had just finished one repeat of the pattern, and had moved the shawlette onto a longer needle so that I could spread it out and see how it was going. The needle cable is very springy, with the shawl coiling and folding over here and there. It almost feels alive! I played with it a little, and was very amused (hence my title). Here's a first look, with it all nicely smoothed out:

Sallie June Faroese, after one repeat

As I think you can see, the extra "ray" of the shawl is beginning to create a "more than circular" shape (more on the "ray" idea below). I'm very anxious to get more repeats knit and block the shawl to see how well it fits. I definitely have hope that it's going to work!

As I've mentioned in the past, I am taking off directly from Myrna Stahman's Stahman's Shawls and Scarves, which is a fabulous book if you're at all interested in the Faroese Shawl shape. Traditional Faroese shawls are knit from the bottom up, and most are in garter stitch lace. Myrna wasn't thrilled with that limitation, and she worked out her own style of shawl using stockinette lace worked from the top down. (Btw, this book is still in print (in fact, it's in it's 3rd edition). It's self-published, but I've found it in yarn shops and in a number of online vendors, including Elann and Needle Arts Book Shop, both of which ship to the US and Canada (and probably other places too). For some reason, Amazon has only incredibly expensive copies listed. In other words, it may take a little effort, but you can find this book!

I knit my Elizabeth shawl from Myrna's instructions, and when I got interested in designing my own shawl, I carefully studied all of the shawls in the book to see how they are put together. So I am now using what I've been able to glean of Myrna's "template," if you will, and just taking off on my own with the lace patterning.

If you're familiar with Myrna's Faroese shaping, each shawl contains a back panel, and triangular left and right side panels. Each of the side panels has a "ray" (or dart) down the center where there is a line of diagonal increasing (much like a raglan shoulder line, but situated differently), so that the shawl gets bigger quickly to accommodate your shoulders. Thus the famous Faroese stay-on-your shoulders shaping. If I was doing a typical "Myrna-style" shawl in the Springtime pattern, my side panel would look like this:

Myrna-style side panel, one ray

(I hope these charts will give you an idea what I'm talking about. They are from captured screen shots in Microsoft Excel™, the program I'm using to chart lace. To get them in this format, I had to view the charts at 25% of their actual size, so you can't see much about the chart itself except for its general structure.)

Recently there has been a lot of discussion on Ample-Knitters about attempts to adapt Faroese shawls for larger bodies. Myrna's advice is to increase the width of the back panel, which a number of us have now tried, and found helpful but not entirely successful. It is also possible to vary the depth of the "ray" for the side panels, and continue those increases further down (this is also important for different weights of yarn: in general, lighter weights have deeper darts, i.e. more vertical repeats in the "ray.")

At a summer meeting of Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp (see Schoolhouse Press), several ample-knitters and others were discussing this issue. After camp, Joan Schrouder reported on the discussion, writing that “Meg and Lois Young, another talented lace and shawl designer, agreed that adding in a second or third 'ray' of increasing, if you're using what I call the shoulder 'dart' (vertical), described in Myrna Stahman's book on Faroese shawls, seems like it should work as the shoulder shaping is there, but less confined to one spot, so should should still fit a variety of bodies.”

I remember staring at my email screen in delight, having an absolute lightbulb flash moment. Ah-hah! More rays! To wit:

Side panel with additional ray

So I've been knitting away with two rays on each side instead of one, and as I mentioned above, I think it's working. Here's a detail photo of one of the shoulders (note: this is approximately half the shawl, split at the center):


Detail of shoulder increases, Sallie June Faroese, after one repeat

In the photo there are four double-leaf patterned diamonds. The one at the top of the photo is part of the back panel, and the other three are the three triangles shown in the chart above, with the "rays" running down between them. Hope that's clear!

My main concern is that in fact all these increases may be working too fast and the shawl may get unwieldy. I decided to have my "rays" be two vertical repeats of the shawl deep. If too much fabric has been created, I could just do one vertical repeat, which would also keep the side panel narrower. Like so:

Side panel with additional ray, but less depth

I've had a very busy week, so I don't have more progress photos yet, but I have knit another repeat. I'm just at the point of closing off my "rays," and plan to knit another repeat, then take the shawl off the needles (on a thread) and see where I am. I did find another tiny problem with my chart (at the row where I finish the "rays") and ended up tinking two full rows of knitting, which is a laborious process (tink is knit spelled backwards, and means literally, unknitting).

All in all, I think doing a prototype was a really good idea, and I am just beside myself thrilled to be so far along with this project! I recently sent my blog url to my Mother (I always let her know when I'm making progress). She read the blog and sent me a note, signed "Lady in Waiting." *tee hee* (The shawl for which this is the prototype is for my Mother, for those just tuning in.)

Listening to: Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich, read by Lorelei King (I miss C.J. Critt reading this series.)

It's happening!

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Sallie June Faroese, after about 20 rows

I've been knitting away. The shawlette is still pretty small, but it's going well, and I'm engaged with the knitting. And wonder of wonders, my charts are working! Hurray!

I had to laugh at AmyP's comment. I have been a pretty sporadic blogger, but it does seem to help me stay focused when I've got a project on the needles.

Here's a detail of the back panel of the shawl. I want to redo one row of the chart, but otherwise, I think I'm good to go. And I wouldn't have known that I wanted to redo without the prototype.

Detail of back panel, Sallie June Faroese, after about 20 rows

Observant readers will notice I've switched from my ebony needle to an Addi Turbo. The stitches were getting hung up on the join of the ebony and it was driving me mad. The search for the perfect needle seems to be never ending!

I've started using my "Maine Ring" markers, purchased from www.mainemerino.com. They're little latex slices, brightly colored. You can slip them completely over your stitches, where they stay embedded until you cut them out. I'm finding them quite handy. They give me enough guidance to figure out where I am without having to slip markers around from needle to needle, something I find annoying. I'll get a better detail photo of the markers later.

Listening to: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, read by George Guidall.

Finally, finally starting to knit!

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I've been working on adapting Marianne Kinzel's "Springtime" tablecloth pattern for a Faroese shawl for what seems like nearly forever! This will be a gift for my mother, and I think I started planning this at least four years ago, maybe longer.

I kept putting this project aside for the latest thing to catch my eye, mostly because I tend to avoid things that I don't quite understand, and I set myself quite a task with re-charting and re-imagining this pattern into a very different shape. I had my charts all "mostly" ready to go, but that last 10-20% of the work kept getting put off. And every time I would start working again, I would have to reorient myself to the project.

In late July, I had myself a "talking to," and decided that if I was ever going to knit this shawl, now would be a good time! So I made a promise to myself that I'd work on the project 15 minutes every day. Some days I set a little timer, and worked only 15 minutes; other days I got engaged and worked for two hours. I charted and charted, checked stitch counts, "figgered" and am now (FINALLY!) reasonably sure that I have the charts I need to knit this shawl. Hurray, hurray, hurray! The tortoise really does finish the race eventually!

Because of a recent discussion on my list, Ample-Knitters, I really want to try a shaping experiment, so I've decided to first knit a small shoulder "shawlette" instead of embarking on the full shawl. If it works, I think this shaping idea has potential to make a really well-fitting shawl for larger bodies (me and my mother both qualify). So I think a prototype is not a detour but a smart move. And besides, this way I get to test out my charts before I start the "real" shawl. Good rationalizations, no?

Last night I cast on the band for my shawl, and started knitting! It's very nice to be at this stage. Here's a little photo of my (as yet miniscule) progress:

Little bit of seed stitch band to start shawl, in pink Jaggerspun Zephyr

I'm knitting my prototype in Jaggerspun Zephyr, which is a lace weight 50% merino, 50% silk yarn. I used it for my "Elizabeth" shawl, so it's a familiar yarn. I'm using a 3.25mm Holz & Stein ebony needle, and it feels yummy. The color is "Ladyslipper" which is a kind of old rose pink.

Listening to: Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts.

Recent Comments

  • Lucie: Isn't it a great pattern? I am excited to see read more
  • Shelda: Unfortunately no luck at all finding it. I think they've read more
  • Selena: Hi, Love your knit things. . . I realize you read more
  • su: Love it!! I'm glad to hear of your experience, I"m read more
  • Karen Morehouse: Wow! Nice work...you've inspired me to try one! read more
  • Logan: I love what you're doing with the adaptation of Kinzel's read more
  • Theresa: It was nice to see the shawl progress even though read more
  • Christina: I'm sorry about your pinched nerve. I hope you find read more
  • Colette: The pink shawl is lovely. I always think that dressing/blocking read more
  • Theresa: Shelda, your fans await you! :o) I know you are read more

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