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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Open Office

Yesterday PogKnits requested that I review Open Office, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Disclaimer:  this probably isn't going to be much of a "real" review, but I'll let you know how it's worked out for me.

Open Office is a word processing, spreadsheet, and other things type of program that you download free from the Internet and it works on either Macs or PC's.  (I've only messed with the word processing and spreadsheets part of it so I can't remember what other things it does, but they are all very businessey and I'm sure very helpful if you need them.)  I grew up using Word Perfect as a word processor and then switched to Microsoft Works which has a word processor, spread sheet and other types of helpful things if you use them.  Microsoft Works is different from Microsoft Word, but Works has always been free on whatever PC we had, so that's what I used.  When I made the decision to switch from our family's PC to a Pink Lemon Mac, I decided that putting Microsoft programs on it would probably defeat the purpose of the switch and decided not to get Microsoft Office for Mac.  I realize if you work for an actual company that uses Microsoft programs for their TPS reports or what have you (bonus points for knowing the movie "TPS reports" comes from), you will have to run Microsoft Office even if you use a Mac.  I am my business, so I get to make these kinds of decisions for myself.  There are also Mac word processing programs out there, but they aren't free like Open Office is, so I decided to start with Open Office and see how it worked and if I needed to make changes, I'd go from there.

It's very easy to download and install Open Office (I did it on the PC right before I got the Mac, so I've done it on both systems).  As far as working with the word processing program part of it, some of the symbols are different from what I'm used to and while nothing was really difficult to use, there was a learning curve to using it due to switching from one word processing program to another.  The thing that really threw me for a loop was that I would be typing a word and Open Office kept trying to finish the word for me.  Unfortunately, Open Office had no real idea what word I was planning on using so it kept guessing wrong and it really got on my nerves.  I was able to turn this "feature" off, but for the life of me, I can't remember how I did it.  (I just went into Open Office to try to find where I went to disable this but it's not in preferences and it's not really showing me anything that looks like what I used to turn it off.  I think it's called word completion or finishing something or other - hey, I warned you this was going to be a squirrelly review.)  Adding pictures was different from anything I'd used before (the resizing is tricky and it seems to add all pics at full size).  I had to go into the Format menu to resize the pictures, but there is a box you can check to keep the ratio the same so you can make the picture smaller without distorting the image.  Also, if you purchased Flamenco, you can see in the Footer that the weblink for Pink Lemon Twist is blue.  I wanted it to be black, but I haven't found where to fix that yet - I'm pretty sure it's doable though.  Finally, I prefer for the Footers to start on Page 2 (I realized I messed this up on Atlantis for some reason, and I should have caught it then), and I can't figure out how to get them skip the first page and start on the second.  It might be something I need to set, or I might just have to live with Footers starting on Page 1 now.

Overall, Open Office is pretty similar to the other word processing programs I've used - when you get down to it, there just aren't that many different ways to do a word processing program.  It just takes a little bit of playing around to get used to the different menus and symbols.  One really nice thing in Open Office is that it publishes directly to pdf format (the format I use for my pattern files).  Lots of computers come with pdf converters and all Macs have them, but our family PC did not have one and I was using a freebie downloaded from the Internet (Cute PDF).  It worked just fine, but that was one more thing I had to download to the PC in order to write a pattern.  With Open Office, it's already in there.

As to the spreadsheet part of Open Office, I really have no idea how to use a spreadsheet other than they are really important in real businesses and can do calculations.  I use them to chart knitting patterns, which I don't need calculated so I really can't comment on how great a spreadsheet program Open Office has.  I also really can't comment on how it is to draw knitting charts in the Open Office spreadsheet because I drew the charts in the Microsoft Works spreadsheet thingy and then transferred them into Open Office.  I edited a few things on the chart, but clicking a square on the chart and changing a / to a \ and adding a YO really didn't tell me much.  

I realize that you have just read the most helpful and thorough review you've ever read.  (Yeah, I know, sorry about that, but I did warn you.)  Anyway, I'd say if you've been thinking about using Open Office, go ahead and download it and give it a whirl.  If you hate it, delete it and go on with your life.  For myself, it works pretty well and the few issues I have with it, I should be able to reset somehow, it's just a matter of figuring out where to fix them.  If I can't reset or fix it, I think I'll be able to work around them or just live with them - having a weblink in black instead of blue in the Footer just isn't enough of an issue for me to go out and purchase some other software.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taking some time

I spent the weekend relaxing after finishing up Flamenco last week.  Thanks so much for all the comments and complements on my new design!  Finishing the pattern turned out to be a bit of a battle since I started it on the PC, then moved it to the Mac and I was working in Open Office which I've never used before.  Then there was a moment Friday morning where I couldn't get the file uploaded to the file delivery service, but my tech help stepped in and saved the day.  The next pattern will be written exclusively on the Mac, but I've just purchased Knit Visualizer software, so I'll be learning that.  

One thing I think this new software does is translate from charts to written out directions.  This means that even though I design and think in charts, those of you who can't or don't like charts will be able to work future designs because they'll be written out also.  Fingers are crossed that I can actually learn how to use the new software.

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I haven't done very much knitting over the past few days, but I did get back to spinning on my second bobbin of merino and silk.  I'm probably 2/3 of the way through this bobbin.  Caleb finishes Second Grade next week so we're all running around here like chickens with our heads cut off.  I'm bouncing back and forth to his school for all the end of year activities and trying to get a few things taken care of on my own before summer starts so he doesn't have to come with me.  This has meant that my knitting time is random, scattered, or non existent so I'm only going to be blogging sporadically this week and next.  There's just no way I can keep up with blog fodder at the moment.  Once he's out of school, things will settle down a bit and I'll resume my normal blogging.

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In the meantime, I give you a breakfast miracle - Finn and Ramius eating together.  Finn has a big dog feeder so he doesn't have to smush himself into his shoulders to eat off the floor and we've put Ramius' food and water underneath it.  It took some training to get to this point because Ramius has food out 24/7 and one of the first things we taught Finn when he came home with us was not to eat Ramius' food.  When he was about a year and a half we put Ramius' food and water underneath the big dog feeder and Finn was so concerned about going near Ramius' food that he wouldn't get a drink out of his own bowl.  We taught him that it was OK for him to mess with the bowls on top of the feeder as long as he didn't mess with Ramius' stuff underneath the feeder.  (Finn only has food in his bowl at breakfast and dinner.)  Since Finn came to live with us at 9 weeks old, he's only eaten Ramius' food 2 or 3 times total!  (Pretty impressive as he thinks with his stomach.)  The other morning Ramius came in and started eating just as I was about to feed Finn.  We have trained Finn to lie down and stay at feeding time so we don't have the typical bouncy, bouncy, crazy dog routine that most dogs do when they're being fed or Ramius would have run off.  Once the food is in Finn's bowl and he has relaxed, then we release him from the "Stay" and he gobbles down his meal.  This particular time, Ramius stuck around while Finn slurped up his breakfast and I realized I should get the camera.  Enjoy my two fuzzies together - it doesn't happen often!  I'll blog again when I have something to share.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flamenco

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Flamenco is a type of music known for intricate and rapid passages as well as a dance style characterized by audible footwork. It originated in the Andalusian region of Spain as a folk dance but it incorporates elements of Moorish, Sephardic and Gypsy cultures with the native Andalusian dance steps.
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The Flamenco wrap curves around the wearer's shoulders in an intricate lace embrace, finished with a flirty, sweeping ruffle reminiscent of the dancer's ruffled gowns. Lace patterns echo the complex steps and swirling movements while beads catch the light and accent the overall design. Worn like a traditional rectangular stole, the crescent shaping actually makes it fit the shoulders better, making for a wrap that stays on when you wear it.
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The Flamenco wrap is knit from the neck edge down to the hem of the ruffle in fingering weight yarn. Yardage amounts are given in the pattern for working the design with an alternate contrasting ruffle. (As an aside, I think it would be lovely using a smooth yarn for the main body of the wrap and working the ruffle in a fingering weight brushed mohair such as Kid Silk Haze.)
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The pattern is clearly written with large, easy to read charts. The main body of the wrap is in charted form only, not in written out, line by line instructions. There are notes for enlarging the wrap if you need to.

The wrap measures 17 inches from the top of the center back neck to the lower edge of the ruffle. The wrap is 48 inches around the curve of the neck edge and measures 126 inches around the lower edge, measured just above the ruffle. This outer edge measurement sounds a bit intimidating, but since the wrap is crescent shaped instead of rectangular, it fits to the body better and doesn't end up draping all over the floor the way a 126 inch long rectangular stole would. In the first picture above, you can see the scale of the draping ends in relation to a standard sized padded hanger.
Requirements:
1000 yds/914 m fingering weight yarn (shown in Fleece Artist Suri Blue in Wine)
Approx. 450 size 6 seed beads (shown in Beadwrangler color 533)
Size 7 US (4.5 mm) circular needle
Size US 13/14 (0.9 mm) Crochet hook to place beads
stitch markers

If you purchased this pattern before June 9, 2009, Step 4 of the Instructions should read: K2, sl m, P 133, sl m, K2. I apologize for any confusion this might have caused.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Behind This Door...

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Behind this door, Pattern 15 is blocking!  I will be spending today proofreading, editing, checking and double checking, measuring, taking pictures and putting the finishing touches on the pattern because tomorrow...

...Pattern 15 will make its debut (complete with a much better name).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Rosebud Pink Wrap

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I've been moving along on the Rosebud Pink Wrap.  Since this is filling the gap that sock knitting usually fills, this is what's been going with me to pick Caleb up in the afternoon.  I've been getting at least 3 rows done while I wait each day, which adds about 3/4 inch.  Of course that doesn't count any work I get done later in front of the TV (although I've been ruffling on Pattern 15 lately).  

What's been surprising to me is that while I really liked the look of this wrap and I knew it would make great portable and brainless knitting, I'm not getting bored while I'm knitting it.  It's not as exciting as lace or cables of course, but there's something soothing and rhythmic about it that keeps it from becoming monotonous.  

I tried to get a better picture of the different shades of light pink in the yarn this time and I'm not sure if I succeeded or not.  The edge you see here is the shorter of the two long sides (remember, it's knit on the bias like a giant dishcloth) and now it's about 8-9 inches.  The other long side is much longer, but I'm not at the halfway point yet (I'm supposed to go to 72 inches long on the longer, long side - I know, it's a bit confusing to write about, but trust me - I think.)

Finn and I have been going on nature walks while Caleb is at school and we've seen some really pretty wildflowers.  (We've also seen a wooly worm, which I had to prevent Finn from eating.  We're still working on the idea of Nature Walk versus Nature Buffet.)  I'm going to try to take my camera today and see if we can get some pictures to show you.  Finn likes the looking for squirrels part of the nature walk.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A stand off

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This was the scene on the stairs this morning.

I'm happy to say it did end peacefully and Ramius walked down the stairs and past Finn with as much condescension as is possible in each and every molecule of his being (he's a cat - he's a professional).  Finn did not chase him but ducked his head in acknowledgement of his own shortcomings and did his doggy best to apologize for not being born a cat.  (He's Ok now, he's sprawled out on the floor with his legs in the air as only a dog can do.)

I on the other hand have been ruffling on Pattern 15.  I will continue to ruffle.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Show and Tell

It has been forever since I participated in a swap - the last one was probably Sockapalooza IV (or maybe 3 - I've done two of them, but I don't remember which two I've done).  When I saw that there was a swap on the Think Pink group in Ravelry, I decided to jump in.  I got my package yesterday and it was so much fun, I had to share it with you all!
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This is from KnottyNCrotchety on Ravelry and she really made this package more of a pink lemon swap than just a plain pink swap!  Starting from the back right and going clockwise,  she sent a giant box of Lemonheads and a stick of pink rock candy crystal to snack on.  She also sent a really pretty handknit dishcloth in pink and yellow that will never be used to wipe down my counters ever - it's just too pretty!  (I might have to frame it for my sewing room.)  She said the dishcloth is the Circle Cloth design by Hakucho - I am definitely going to try one of these because I'm not sure exactly how it's made - there are yellow knit stitches over pink knit stitches and you can stick your finger through and wave at yourself, but then the next few rows are yellow stitches only and just looking at it is making me confused and a bit woozy, so I'm totally going to check out the directions on this.  There is a little pad of sticky notes that say, "Happiness is a Habit - Cultivate It", and then there were two skeins of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece which is one of my favorite cotton type yarns because it has wool in it too so it's much easier on your hands than straight cotton is.  One skein is Banana and the other is Pink-A-Boo.  The lemon fabric everything is sitting on is what the whole package was wrapped in, inside the box!
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Lest you think this was all, let me assure you, there were wee little things that wouldn't show up in the photo above (yes, I was spoiled).  She also sent an enameled button - in shades of pink and yellow with white - this will be perfect for a one button cardi, won't it?  And finally, there were cute little lemon stitch markers from Wee Ones on Etsy.  Can you see how they look like lemons that were halved and then made into stitch markers?  Perfect for a Pink Lemon!

This swap was definitely one of the best I've ever participated in and I will have to keep my eyes open for a summer swap in this group!  I've got to get the box of goodies I've got for my "Swapee" packed up and sent out later today.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yesterday

Yesterday I got to go on Caleb's second field trip of the year to Casa Manana to see A Year With Frog and Toad.  I knew it was coming yesterday and I knew I'd be gone all day, but for some reason, I didn't put two and two together and realize that I needed to blog ahead of time.  With Blogger, I can go ahead and write a blog entry and post date it to launch later if I have a hectic schedule.  I've used this feature several times and it's really pretty handy for days like yesterday.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I dropped the ball on this, so no blog entry yesterday.
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I do have the Rosebud Pink Wrap to show you again though.  If you look closely, you can see that I've actually turned the corner and I'm now knitting down the length of it (on bias of course).  I was supposed to increase stitches until I got to 210, but I stopped at 175.  It felt like a good width and it was definitely at least 24 inches wide.  I'm now supposed to keep going until the long side (the side in the bottom of the picture) measures 72 inches.  Since I'm already past two feet on this side, I feel like it's not an impossible knit.  It's been perfect for random knitting moments and knitting in front of the TV, so it's doing it's job well.  (Here's a link to the pattern page on Ravelry if you're looking for some "comfort food" knitting that isn't socks.)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spin, Span, Spun

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I finally finished the first bobbin of singles of this Merino and Silk!  The sad part is, I had less than one hour of spinning left to finish it up, but it won't get spun when I don't sit down at the spinning wheel (funny how that works).  I have started spinning the second bobbin of singles and I'm going to really try to get it done faster than the first bobbin.  

In non fiber news, we went to see the new Start Trek movie on Friday.  Mickael and I really enjoyed it and even Caleb, who isn't really familiar with Star Trek (don't worry, we're going to rectify that ASAP), seemed to enjoy it and had no trouble following the plot (although he didn't understand all the jokes and references).

This morning Finn had a bit of excitement:  there was a bunny on our back patio.  I'm hoping the bunny was checking out the lima bean plants that Caleb brought home from school.  None of them have actual beans yet, but one of them is fixing to bloom, so I have high hopes for bunny chow soon.  Finn thought the bunny looked fun and when he went to a closer window to get a better look, the bunny ran off.  That means Finn could have chased him if he was outside and that's SUPER fun for Finn.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fishy Friday

As Finn explained yesterday (somewhere in all his discussion of eating things), I have a current lack of blog fodder.  If I show you the Rosebud Pink Wrap, even though it's bigger, it will look the same because I'm still working increases.  Once I get it to it's full width, it will start looking different.  I haven't spun anything lately (need to get on that), and I'm really trying to finish up Pattern 15 before I show it again.  Clearly, I need to get my act together this weekend so I've got some fodder for you.

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In the meantime, I realized I had introduced you to Balto's new tank and his new friends, The Bobs, but you hadn't met his other friends - The Zippys.  The Zippys are Cory Cats, Green Cory Cats to be exact, and we have 6 (again, to avoid fin nipping, 6 are recommended so the cats will play amongst themselves).  They are bottom feeders so they keep the tank cleaner for us by picking up the food that floats to the bottom from Balto and The Bobs.  They are also super fast, when they want to be (ironically, they spend quite a bit of time sitting like lumps on the bottom of the tank too).  This is why Caleb named them The Zippys.  Move in day for The Zippys wasn't as smooth as move in day for The Bobs.  One of the Zippys injured or lost an eye, but he's healed up and is doing fine now, and Balto got his dorsal fin nipped - also healed up and doing fine now.  Balto had a very agressive attitude towards everyone on Zippy moving day, but I'm not sure if that came about before or after he got his fin nipped.  The Bobs schooled tightly for about 48 hours after we added The Zippys, and The Zippys would freak out if they saw Balto (except for one time when Balto cornered a Zippy and the Zippy sat very, very still and Balto sat on top of the Zippy for a bit).  After the first couple of days though, everyone had settled down, Balto wasn't sitting on anyone else, the Zippys were happily cleaning up everyone's crumbs and The Bobs had loosened up their group and gone back to being huge pigs at feeding time.  We won't be adding any more fish to the tank - you're supposed to have 1 inch of fish per gallon of water and we're 1 inch over right now (I don't count Balto's overly dramatic tail in the measurements).  They've all lived together for about a month now and except for the drama when we added The Zippys, they've all played well together.  Balto has realized he's the biggest, but he doesn't use this power unless he feels The Bobs or The Zippys are crowding him.  The Bobs and The Zippys mostly ignore each other and everyone seems to be happy - in a fish kind of way.

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Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Fireside Chat with Finn

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Mommy has a problem.  

She realized that the only thing she has on the needles right now is the Rosebud wrap she showed you yesterday, the spinning she hasn't been working on, and Pattern 15.  She made the decision last week not to show Pattern 15 again until she launches the official pattern (and she can call it by it's real name which is much better than Pattern 15 if you ask me).  

Now I make decisions all the time and then change my mind and I pointed this out to her.  Just yesterday I decided not to eat strange things in the yard, but this morning, it just seemed like a silly decision to make and I really wanted to eat something or other (I'm a dog, I'll try anything once, or twice), so I just changed my mind, right there in the yard and ate it.  I'm OK with that.  I'm not going to beat myself up over it.  I might throw up later, but I'm OK with that too (I'll kind of act embarrassed, but really, it's not like I have to clean it up or anything).

Mommy didn't really understand my argument about changing your mind even though you've made a decision, and to be honest, I'm not really sure she listened to me.  The whole time I was trying to explain this to her, she was prying open my jaws and looking around in my mouth - as if I hadn't already swallowed it!  So, since she's not going to change her mind about showing you Pattern 15 again until it's all finished, she told me I had to blog today.

I hope you enjoyed this discussion, and remember - even though you told yourself  you wouldn't eat anything weird in the yard, doesn't mean you have to stick with that decision - after all, it's like a giant salad bar out there (except there's no bacon bits - we need a bacon bit tree).

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A New Project

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Now that I've finished the Devon socks, I needed a new, portable project that I could work on without needing a chart and that I could pick up and put down easily.  I'm not really in a sock kind of mood right now (possibly because when I wear shoes, I'm wearing flip flops 99% of the time), but I needed something that I could work on in auto pilot, like I do socks.  

A few weeks ago the Classic Elite free pattern of the week was this wrap.  I loved it!  It's the simplest wrap ever (seriously, if you've done a garter stitch square for an afghan or a dishcloth, you can knit this wrap), but I loved the way it draped and the size is nice, and I just loved it!  The yarn used in the original is a laceweight alpaca and silk, held doubled to give fingering weight.  Both alpaca and silk are very drapey with little to no bounce, which I knew would be important for the finished wrap to drape the way I wanted it to.  I didn't want to mess with two strands of laceweight though and decided to find a fingering weight with a similar drape.  What I settled on was Blue Moon Fiber Arts Geisha which is kid mohair and silk with a bit of nylon.  It's fingering weight, it has a bit of shine from the silk and the mohair, and while it isn't a brushed mohair, the more you mess with the yarn, the more the mohair blooms and you get a slight halo.  I had used Geisha in my Atlantis test knit and had enjoyed it, so I figured I'd get some for this wrap.  It took a while to pick a color (have you looked at all the colors on the Blue Moon Fiber Arts website lately?), and while you could easily go with a multicolored hand painted yarn with a wrap this simple, I went with Rosebud.  It's photographing a solid pink, but there are subtle variations in the yarn as it shades from a medium pink to just the pink side of white - just like the petals on a rosebud.  

The whole thing is knit on the bias (think garter stitch dishcloth) and right now I have about 130 stitches on the needle.  I'm supposed to increase to 210 so we'll see how close I get.  (With the simplicity of the pattern, you could easily change yarn weight and needle size and just work your wrap to the size you want.  This pattern is really filling the need for brainless, auto pilot knitting - perfect for TV knitting as well as short bursts of knitting  in those odd times during the day, so if you're looking for something along those lines, take a look at the link above.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Finished Socks and a Sidekick

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Over the weekend I finished up my Devon Socks (this pattern is from Cookie A's book, Sock Innovation).  The yarn I used is Claudia Handpaints sock yarn in Lipstick (purchased from The Loopy Ewe) and I followed the needle size and directions for the sock exactly as they were written in the book.  I'm really happy with the way they came out and I just love the color!

I've started a new portable and brainless project that isn't socks!  You'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it is though.

I won't be needing a project to work on in the pick up loop to get Caleb in the afternoons this week though because the district cancelled school for the week because of the Swine Flu.  There were several cases of Type A flu in a couple of other schools in the district and it takes 7-10 days to find out from the CDC whether or not they're swine flu or not so I guess the district figures it was better to close down than to let the flu tear through the schools while they're waiting for results.  Caleb thinks it's wonderful to have two Spring breaks!  The rumor is (and I haven't heard from the district on this yet, which of course has the final word) that you don't have to make up closures for health reasons, only weather.  So theoretically, we should still finish up the first week of June as originally scheduled.  In the meantime, I have a sidekick this week.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Pattern 15 - again

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I've finished the charted section of Pattern 15 and I'm ready to start the ruffle!  Want to know how many stitches I have?  439!  Of course now I have to increase those to get a ruffle, but I don't think I'm going to do any more stitch counts on this project.  I spread the center of the wrap out a bit to tease you with a little lace.  The part at the top of the picture (on the needles) is actually the lower edge of the wrap and the bottom part of the wrap in the picture is actually the part that will sit by the wearer's neck, so the curve is reversed in the picture to what it will be when the wrap is off the needles and blocked.

Even knowing that I'm fixing to do a LOT of increasing for the ruffle, I feel like I'm on the home stretch for this project now.

Have a great weekend!

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