Finally, a sweater!

Spring is finally here, and with it some beautiful color in my yard.

I’ve joked over the years that I’ve had a sinus headache since I was 19. It’s a pretty weak joke, because I have had chronic sinus and allergy issues over the years and frankly, it’s exhausting. So while I don’t love my allergies at this time of year, seeing the explosion of color makes me happy.

I’m struggling with my depression and anxiety lately. It usually starts to become more manageable at this time of year, but for some reason it’s hanging in a little longer than usual. It’s a shitty cycle, too – I’m tired all the time, my legs and back ache, I’m irritable and angry at nothing and everything… and yet, anxious that I’m not doing enough to stay afloat and that everything will go wrong at the same time, that everything will just spin right out of control with no way for me to stop it. Having a headache all the time certainly doesn’t help. I try to grab the good moments when I can, stay somewhat reasonable, and force myself to do things that I know are good for me when I can but it’s hard to do sometimes.

So the bright colors of spring are always welcome, and especially so this year. Bright colors always lift my spirits.

Kind of like the fun aqua color of this modified Flax baby sweater that I finally finished. What I worried would happen did happen: I wore myself out on the project and completely lost interest in working on it. I knew for a week and a half that I only had to do one sleeve to finish the sweater.

One small sleeve. That’s all. And yet, every time I thought about picking it up I made a face and groaned to myself.

I finally forced myself to work on it and wrap it up. I can see some areas that can use improvement (I bet y’all can see them, too). But, y’know, there’s nothing to do but work on that for the next one because I sure ain’t going back and fixing anything at this point.

In other news, I have all of next week off for vacation. I know you’re not supposed to wish your life away, but if offered a trade I’d give up the rest of this week for vacation to arrive sooner. Between now and then, I plan to get ahead of as much as I can at work, study for my Spanish class (I’ve been kinda slack lately; we’re learning irregular verbs and there is so much vocabulary), work on some crafts, snuggle with Rocco, and just keep moving forward.

And maybe listen to more Kylie Minogue, since she’s been in the background as I write this blog post and makes me happy, too.

Until next time,
-Tommy

Tell me something good!

A while back, I texted a friend (who happens to own my favorite bar) an idea for a party theme once we’re able to gather in groups and socialize without fear again: Tell Me Something Good. There should be a giant sheet of paper on the wall with markers available. On this paper, we’ll write all the good things that’ve happened while we’ve lived through the pandemic.

Two things stand out for me: turning 40 and finishing up my MBA. I’d planned to have a fundraising birthday party for my fortieth birthday with the proceeds benefiting my favorite charities, but by the time my birthday arrived in June it was clear that couldn’t happen. When I officially finished up my MBA in September, I celebrated quietly with my husband.

But through this party, we could capture the collective good that happened despite a tough year. We could document the highs during the low and be reminded that we find happiness in many forms.

But here’s what’s currently good.

I got my first vaccine shot! Kudos to Atrium Health for their well organized mass vaccination event at Bank of America stadium in uptown Charlotte. The most difficult part of the whole experience was waiting in traffic to turn into the parking deck. Other than a sore arm later that day and the next, I had no problems. I’ve mostly adapted to the radio signals I’m now picking up from space, too.

All. These. Needles.

I also got a tiny bit of a start on the sleeve of this baby sweater. I’d planned to finish it over the weekend because I need to finish it soon, but got distracted and didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped.

And… I got my latest quilt back from being quilted! I asked my friend Susan to quilt it for me on a long arm machine, because at 96″ square it’s too big for me to quilt here at home. She did a fantastic job! Now I just need to bind it (ugh) and snap some pictures to share of the finished product!

So, there are my little bits of good for the day. I’ll have to remember to look for some more tomorrow.

Until next time,
– Tommy

WTDN?

Outside of work, I spent most of this week trying to relax. I made an intentional decision to not work on craft projects. Sure, I have some new interchangeable needles I want to play with and considered making a quick dishcloth, but decided against starting it.

Sometimes, you just need a break and that’s okay.

I made time for pug snuggles, spent time with my husband, saw my parents, and even managed to get in some exercise. The City of Charlotte opened greenway access down the street from my house last year and I finally made time to go for a walk. I recruited Sister Mary Hubert, of course, because she’s a good exercise buddy.

It’s a little early for things to be in bloom, but I bet this’ll be a fantastic trail once the world is green again. Assuming, of course, that I can still move my legs tomorrow.

It sure doesn’t mean that mentally, I haven’t been thinking about next steps. For instance, I have on my current project list: a Crazy Quilt (a long-term project), my Hexie Quilt (a long-term project), and the aqua baby sweater. Totally manageable, right? I’ll finish off the baby sweater over the weekend. But I also have a list of possible future projects.

I’d planned to start on the Activities Cap/Headband designed by my friend Joe of DoublePointed Designs. I even finally succumbed to the 1,437 ads I’ve seen on social media from Hobbii and found a nice cotton/merino blend to try at a very reasonable price. It took 12 days for the yarn to arrive, and I found it ironic that the yarn I ordered from Denmark was Mayflower brand considering the importance of the Mayflower name to American history.

It’s pretty, right? It has a great feel to it and even came with some free stitch markers! But alas, I’ve decided to hold off on another knit project just now. For one thing, it was 78 degrees here today so there is exactly zero rush for a hat. But also, I need a knitting break.

BUT OMG WTDN? What To Do Next?

Well, chickens, I’ll tell you: CROCHET! I might try my hand at a crocheted cardigan to wear around the house – though I live in North Carolina and it’ll soon be hotter than the armpits of a sinner in the seventh circle of hell in September. If common sense prevails, I’ll consider searching the depths of Ravelry for a smaller, more lightweight project. I can also come up with a new scarf pattern because (fun fact about TommTomm): I have never once followed a crochet pattern for a scarf. It’s much more fun to get started and see what pattern develops! If I had any sense, I’d write them down and publish the damn things.

And, of course, there are two quilts I’m excited to start – one of which I am considering publishing as a pattern if it works out like I expect. We’ll see how that goes when I muster the motivation to start on it.

Until next time,
– Tommy

Hello, carbs!

After I quit smoking, I gained a lot of weight. I then gained more because I ate too much, wasn’t managing my depression well, and wasn’t exercising. So, I started doing keto. I’ve lost a little over 30 pounds and I need to lose a good bit more – I can literally lose 49 lbs and still be considered overweight.

But I’m going to L.A. the first week of April and don’t want to worry about carbs when I go. I haven’t been on a trip in a while and just want to enjoy time with friends. Buying keto-friendly snacks and lugging them around or stressing over keto-friendly restaurant meal options just doesn’t sound like a fun vacation to me. So yesterday, I decided to take the plunge and go off keto.

And let’s be honest: I wanted beer.

So for our semi-weekly Zoom Virtual Happy Hour, I had beer. I also had approximately three quarters of a pepperoni and pineapple pizza. I have exactly zero regrets. God, that pizza was delicious. And today, I had falafel from one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants, Yafo Kitchen. God, that falafel was delicious. I’ll have the leftovers for dinner.

But I need to be mindful of calorie counts and since spring is just around the corner, I might just get out and walk some. The city recently opened up greenway access about a block from my house, so it’s a great place to start. My bff, Sister Mary Hubert of the Ghetteaux Fabulous Sissy Bitches, will likely be recruited to walk with me.

I’d planned to finish my aqua baby sweater, but spent yesterday evening/last night on Zoom with friends. I did manage to finish one sleeve since Wednesday, and will start/finish the second sleeve over the weekend. I can still see some ladders in some areas of the sleeve, but I don’t think they’ll be noticeable once the sweater is washed. If nothing else, I’ll consider buying some 8″ or 9″ circulars for future baby sweaters.

We have no plans for this weekend, so I might finally get a start on my next quilt. I might not. We’ll just have to see how motivated I’m feeling when tomorrow rolls around.

Until next time,
-Tommy

Good morning, AI Overlords.

I’ve adapted pretty well to the “new normal” of life in a pandemic: masks, social distancing, lack of social interaction, work from home, etc. Going back to an “old normal” sure is strange.

I haven’t worked a full day in the office in 354 days. Today, I needed to be on site for the whole day to provide auditors with any gift documentation they might need. I set my alarm for 7:45 a.m. and was awake before it went off (thanks, dear husband and elderly dog). I showered, applied my deodorant and moisturizer, got dressed, made coffee, walked the dogs, and was out the door a few minutes early.

And then the weirdest thing happened. I started my car, connected my phone to the lightning cable, and my iTunes started playing. But Apple Maps didn’t pop up with a route recommendation and estimated time of arrival at work.

My phone no longer recognizes going to work as a normal routine.

I know that technically, it is no longer my norm. Nowadays, my typical morning routine is to roll out of bed around 8:50… ish, grab a cup of coffee, then schlepp back upstairs to work in my craft/office space until coffee or lunch beckons. But c’mon, our phones are telling tech companies everything we do. Wasn’t our AI Overlord paying attention when I told my husband I’d be gone all day? Am I so boring and routine that I no longer interest the bots? Dang.

Craft Updates

Sadly, I don’t have a lot of updates today. I added three more hexagons to my EPP hexie quilt – not even enough to bother photographing.

I’ve made no more blocks for my crazy quilt, because I’m lazy. I considered it, but… nah.

I did finish the body of the baby sweater I’m knitting. If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen this already:

I actually have one arm finished (minus the cuff), but it feels like entirely too much work to get my knitting bag out of the car just to take a photograph. I am loving the aqua color, though – it’s not a color that springs to mind when I think of a baby sweater, but I love that it’s bright and fun, as well as being pretty gender neutral.

By Friday, I’ll do my best to have the sweater finished so I have something to show for myself.

Until next time,
-Tommy

I am a knitting bad ass.

Ok, fine, not really. In fact, I’m a pretty apprehensive knitter. I don’t always know how to fix my mistakes so I get frustrated if something goes wrong. More often than not, I’ll simply scrap the whole thing and start again. I often look on in awe at my friends’ projects because I can’t even manage to knit a scarf without messing up somehow. As a result, I don’t knit nearly as often as I crochet, I don’t always enjoy it, and I don’t undertake large projects.

But I did something big.

Something major for me.

I hope you’re sitting down for this.

I KNIT A WHOLE DANG BABY SWEATER!

It ain’t fancy, but I’m proud of it anyway! The Flax sweater in Red Heart Super Saver acrylic yarn. Color: Frosty Green.

Before I committed to this, I used the almighty power of the Googles to do some homework. I wanted a baby sweater pattern that was beginner friendly, would work with the worsted weight acrylic yarn I already had, and something with a good bit of chatter about it online. My thinking for the last part (which thankfully was correct) was that there’d be ample documentation and helpful resources if I needed them. I finally decided on the Flax sweater from Tin Can Knits, which seemed to be a very popular pattern (with good reason). Besides a fantastic blog post on the Tin Can Knits site walking through the pattern step by step, there are a lot of videos and posts from other knitters about the construction of this sweater.

Is my sweater perfect? Not even close! The areas where I picked up stitches under the sleeves aren’t as tidy as I’d like, my tension isn’t always even, and there’s a slight jog alongside the garter stitch section on the sleeves (though I don’t actually know whether it’s from my own tension issues or working with double pointed needles).

It’s perfectly imperfect, and that in itself is perfect.

But you know what? I sure as heck don’t care. I knit a sweater, I’m learning from it, and I feel like a knitting rock star. Sweaters are useful, practical, and comfortable. I actually wear sweaters on a regular basis, and so I might get some use out of my own dang knitting now.

In fact, I felt so good about it that I started another baby sweater in aqua.

And I don’t know about y’all, but I personally feel prepared to help solve the problem of topless babies if it ever becomes an issue. That’s a definite win.

Until next time,
-TommTomm the Great

Crochet! Knitting! Laziness!

I think we can all agree that I’ll never be a famous blogger. Famous bloggers post more than every few months and I’m just not meeting that expectation one bit. This is fine with me – I’ll just get started on my long procrastinated Great American Gay Novel. There’s such a thing, right? 

Anyway, the past few months have gone well. I’m slowly adjusting to Boston. Did you know that there is an entire city outside my apartment? And did you know that I can, in fact, drive around the city without feeling as though my heart is going to stop? Amazing. 

My days right now are spent job hunting (I need full-time work, folks), crafting, occasionally doing housework, and playing with Rocco and Perry.  

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The summer weather has been pretty nice here in Boston. I’ve been enjoying it while I can, because I know that it won’t be long before Fall arrives. I’ve managed to get out and see some of the city with friends, plus Jose and I took a day trip to Ogunquit, Maine, last month that was pretty fun. We’ve also traveled to Charlotte to visit family, and though it was a fun nine days, it was good to get home. 

While we were in Charlotte, in fact, I finished up a throw I was making for my friend’s new little brother (assuming, of course, that my friend isn’t too lazy to deliver it!). It turned out great!

Helms Blanket 2I did have to block the blanket, though, because I made the fatal error of assuming that I had enough yarn. Well, I didn’t. So I went to the Stitch House in Dorchester, MA, and they were super friendly and helpful! They helped me pick out some yarn that would work well with the Red Heart that I’d started with. It was a slightly lighter weight (3-ply versus 4-ply), but the stitches worked up just fine and the blanket turned out well. 

I also managed to finally (FINALLY!!) finish the scarf for my friend, Diana. She had wanted to learn crochet and I’d wanted to learn to knit, so we made a deal that we’d make scarves for each other using our new crafts. I received mine months ago, but kept putting hers down and coming back to it. 

Big mistake, folks. Eventually, I lost track of what seemed to be a simple pattern and it was a mess! I finally unraveled it earlier this week and just started from scratch with a basic garter stitch. It’s not fancy, but it’s wearable! 

Stahl scarf

So, now I have numerous projects in the works: 

Beverly’s blanket

photo 3 This will be my version of an aran blanket. I hate crocheted cables, though, so we’re just getting some interesting textures (basket weave, bobbles, etc.) using some really awesome yarn we picked out at Hobby Lobby. 

 

 

 


Shari’s Blanket

photo 4 My sister Shari picked out the yarn and when I tried crocheting it, I just did not like the way it was working. I picked up some size 15 bamboo circular needles and went to town! Loving it – and it’s working up fairly quickly, which always makes me happy! 

 

 


Jason’s Stashbuster Blanket 

Benfield blanket I have four skeins of this green yarn. I also have no idea why I have so much of it! When tidying up my stash, though, Jason said he liked the color so I figured I’d use it to make a throw for him. I’m doing a center panel all in one pattern and then I’ll work around the edges to make it larger and add some decorative stitching. It should be nice and cozy, although this yarn seems really stiff to me. 

 


Anna’s Knit Shawl

photo 2Since I’m working on so many blankets, I wanted some smaller projects I could work on to break up the monotony of the blanket patterns. My lovely cousin Anna will be the recipient of my first ever shawl – and to top that, it’s my first ever KNIT shawl! So far, it’s coming along okay. I selected a black and gray variegated yarn from Caron that’s surprisingly soft and (as requested) neutral. Because I’m still getting a grip on knitting needles, it’s all garter stitch but I think that works well with the color variations in the yarn. 

I also have to say that it is the easiest possible shawl pattern that may exist. Start with a slip knot and basically add one stitch at the start of every row. Magical, I tell you, magical! 

Jose’s 2014 Winter Scarf

photo 3Last year I made a faux knit scarf for my partner using the tunisian knit stitch. It turned out very well, but since I do have some yarn to use and cold weather will be here before we know it, I decided to knit him another scarf. To challenge my newbie knitting skills, I figured out a basic cable and will use it in the scarf. 

 I confess that I’m unreasonably proud of myself for managing to make something that’s not in garter stitch that looks somewhat decent. We’ll see how this turns out, though!  

So those are my current projects. Although working part-time from home is terminally boring, at least it affords plenty of craft time! Best of all, there’s an A.C. Moore about 30 minutes from me that’s closing down at the end of the year and I got some killer deals on yarns: 

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Now, let’s be honest: I didn’t need those yarns. But they were all 40 percent off! I spent $44.36 but saved $34.32 in the process. Deal enough for me! There’s also two sets of knitting needles in there – also 40 percent off. Paying rent is so overrated, but seeing this makes my heart fill with joy: 

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Combined with the yarn that’s stored in the drawers underneath, I’m starting to feel pretty proud of my stash!  

So that’s a quick and dirty update on my life and crafting. Lots of projects to jump between so that I don’t get bored with any one thing, and hopefully it won’t drive me crazy in the process!  

Until next time…

Be gone, winter blahs!

I started back on my happy pills yesterday.  

I’ve had (as my doctor once said) “a ‘touch’ of chronic depression” for years, made worse by seasonal affective disorder during the winter months.  Most of the year, I don’t even take anti-depressants unless it settles in and just won’t let go.  During the winter, though, I have to or else I wind up a miserable mess.  

One of the big concerns about our moving to Boston was how the winter weather would impact me.  Last winter, the depression was worse than usual and I wound up supplementing my normal anti-depressant with a low dosage of a second antidepressant.  It helped a lot and once spring arrived, I tapered off of them both.  So far, I haven’t felt like the Boston weather has bothered me too much.

I’ve just wrapped up well, shoveled out as needed, and gone about my business.  

But over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few of the telltale signs that it’s time to start back on my medications: sleep patterns awry, general apathy, the occasional misty eye for no reason… 

And, you know, being inside so much because of the weather is only part of it this time.  Working from home has meant a lot of time at home with limited social interaction (and I’m a pretty social person).  When we have gone out, we’ve not met many people or felt the places we went were all that much fun and it’s not encouraged us to bother going out more. Plus, not working full-time has meant a lot of free time and, honestly, I don’t exactly feel useful.  Since that’s impacted my income, I can’t even buy supplies to work on projects around the house.  

But hopefully, I’m starting back on the medications before it becomes too much of a problem.  

So, enough of the gloom and doom.  At least the lack of work gives me plenty of time for some crochet and knitting projects, right? 

I received some yarn as a gift a while back and promptly put it away when I saw “CAMO” on the label, but when I came across it again I realized it has some really pretty colors in it.  I’m not usually a fan of variegated yarns, but this one seemed like it had potential if I could just figure out what to do with it.  I tried a stockinette stitch: 

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(I’m not sure why that’s sideways, but WordPress won’t let me rotate it so we’ll just move right along.

I also spent some time trying different variations of slip stitches, just to see what I’d come up with: 

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My, but that’s some professional looking knitting right there.  Don’t judge – I’m new to this!  

I finally settled on a honeycomb stitch.  Of course, I’ve botched it up already but the combination of variegated yarn and the stitch pattern is pretty forgiving: 

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I also decided around Christmas that I’d crochet an afghan for my mom.  My first thought was granny squares, but I’m feeling indifferent toward the granny squares these days… so I decided to go with hexagons.  Being the stubborn thing that I am, I decided to see if I could come up with a basic hexagon and then make it my own.  Who needs a pattern, right?!?  

So far, I’m kinda so-so about them.  Oh, and take a look at the rather interesting color combination I used: 

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Again, don’t judge.  Orange is my go-to (read, favorite) color, I have a ton of white yarn, and the pink was just handy. The actual colors would be different, but this is something to work with while I figure out what I want to do.  It is rather sad to see someone with marketing and graphic design experience abuse colors in such a way, though. 

So, until next time…

The case for cowls

Do a quick web search for “cowls for men” and you’ll see all kinds of interesting things.  Most interesting to me were the naysayers, who offered up opinions ranging from, “they’re just not manly!” to, “But cowl necks are reserved for women, because the large collar frames the face and flatters the bosom.” 

Bah, I say!  If men can wear scarves, men can wear cowls. 

Gone are the days when scarves were only thick, chunky things only reserved for outdoor treks in the snow. In recent years, men have taken to wearing scarves as accessories quite often.  Scarves made from a variety of materials, in a broad range of colors and patterns, are available just about everywhere you look.  

And I think cowls should be, too.  Let’s look at this two ways: 

1. As a fashion accessory, scarves are typically wound around the neck in a decorative way.  Well, cowls do the same thing (only without the wrapping). 

2. As a way to beat the cold, they’re great at keeping your neck warm without having to worry about the wind catching them and unraveling them. 

I say all this because I knit a cowl. Not just any cowl, either – a cowl that’s perfect for nearly any guy. The colors are neutral (black/gray), it’s not so long as to be obtrusive, and the stitch pattern provides a little interest without being fussy.  

And, I needed a way to use the 29″ circular needles I’ve been dying to use.  The best way for me to do that was by digging around for ideas other than blankets (which I refuse to knit just yet).  

But I digress!  Yes, yes, I get carried away. Here’s the cowl:

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It hasn’t been blocked, but I think it’s cute enough to wear in the winter months.  For instance, I make a daily trek to my corner bodega and this is perfect to throw on for a quick trip out in the cold.  

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Even wrapped up, it looks cozy and warm and adds just a hint of interest to the neck area. Once it’s blocked, especially, I think it’ll look quite nice. I might just make one in brighter colors, too.  

Of course, talking another guy into it might be a different story, but I’m all for the cowl. In fact, I’m going to knit myself another one.  

Until next time…

Boredom breeds creation

I’m bored.  

There, I said it. 

I’m bored because I’m not working full-time, which is hard on both the checkbook and the soul.  Like everyone else, I fuss about having to work (don’t we all wish we had unlimited money?) but ultimately, I like to work. It keeps me busy and challenges me. I’ve been looking for full-time work, but it’s a process that takes a while.  

In the meantime, I’ve carried on with life!  It does keep moving along, doesn’t it?  

Jose and I traveled to the Carolinas for Christmas, which was great. We had a great time seeing family.  It also gave me time to finish the scarf I was working on for Jose using the Tunisian knit stitch.  If you crochet but haven’t worked with the Tunisian stitches, you should try it!  You can make a variety of thick, warm fabrics that are quite a bit different than what you’ll normally see.  The only downside is that it takes longer, because you work one row back and forth so it takes two passes to finish one row.  The scarf turned out well, though: 

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What’s great about it is that it looks like it was knit but done with only one needle.  And since he picked out the yarn and saw the progress as it happened, I knew he’d like it.  

When we got back, we spent New Year’s Eve with our friends Mike and Carlos.  Jose was, with my styling, quite the figure of festivity: 

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Otherwise, I’ve had a lot of time to work on crochet projects!  For instance, I started working on a throw ages ago.  I made two color changes on it and decided that I didn’t really care for the vintage color combinations.  I finally revisited it, thinking I could maybe work it into a passable scarf by weaving some colors through it.  I personally don’t care for it, but have had so many people say they like it!  

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It just goes to show that you never know what’ll resonate with people.  I’m trying it with some other colors, too: 

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This one I’ll actually wear.  Once I finish it, of course.

And, I found this adorable baby cardigan pattern at Selina Green’s blog (you should visit it here) and decided to give it a shot.  It turned out great, was easy to work up, and is super cute!  

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Otherwise, I’ve taught myself to knit!  It’s slow going and still feels somewhat awkward, but I’m finally making some progress.  If you’re a knitter of just about any experience level, check out Staci Perry’s site at http://www.verypink.com.  Superb tutorials and she’s a great teacher.  

Once I had the basics down, I decided to try making a scarf for Jose using some gorgeous yarn he’d picked out ages ago.  

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Overall, it turned out pretty well, although it’s obvious I’m not an expert knitter!  I did make one huge mistake, though.  I did the entire scarf in stockinette stitch. Of course, the sides rolled up. I did some research online and saw a suggestion for crocheting a border around the edge, which I did using a big ol’ crochet hook.  

It still rolled up!  

So then I did a bad thing. I completely bypassed the yarn label and decided to try steaming it to see if I could get it to lie flat.  Big mistake. One end of the scarf is now flat and shiny, and so the scarf is basically unwearable. It was good practice, though, right?  

So now, it’s on to a few more projects (baby booties, baby dress – provided I can find a decent one that I like – and a granny square afghan).  Oh, and Rocco says hello: 

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‘Till next time…