FO: fringe and friends top-down KAL

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This past week’s Slow Fashion October theme is HANDMADE, and for whatever reason I’m not finding myself in the right headspace to write about it. Maybe it’s because I feel like my style is in flux at the moment – I wrote about how moving to northern Norway and breaking my shoulder in March have both had an effect on my wardrobe. I make clothes by hand because at this point, I don’t know how to not make things by hand. There is an element of habit and compulsion that I’m in the process of reflecting on. So I’m still working on how to acquire new materials thoughtfully and with purpose; meditating on how to avoid buying too much, or things I don’t need. And while my stash doesn’t feel like a burden the way it did two years ago, there’s still a lot of it.

So I suppose when it comes to handmade, my priorities are a work in progress. Karen also brought attention to the handmade vs. homemade distinction, which I think is really interesting. For me, sometimes handmade is homemade (by me), but I’m also perfectly willing to invest in handmade clothes made by someone else for commercial production. I love small batch producers of ethical clothing. And since my forays back into sewing in the past few years have left me feeling a little frustrated (and I also no longer own a sewing machine), clothing handmade by small brands has real value to me. I am much less prone to excess when I’m spending a lot of money on a Jennifer Glasgow dress or a Curator top (or even a home-sewn dress from a vintage boutique). I’m forced to really think about how that piece will fit into my existing wardrobe or whether I’m buying a second version of something I already own, in a way that doesn’t always happen when I’m casting on for a new project. I find that a useful exercise. But all this starts pushing into next week’s topic, which is known origins, so let’s get back to handmade for the moment…

I already wrote that I jumped in on this year’s Fringe and Friends KAL almost on impulse after getting an idea for a stripe sequence that would use a buch of stash yarn. Just over two weeks ago I finally finished weaving in all the stripey ends and got that sweater blocked and seamed, and I’m so pleased with it that it’s hard not to just wear it every day.

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So here’s my Improv (I used Karen’s top-down tutorial on the Fringe blog). It’s really interesting to write about this sweater this week, with this handmade theme for Slow Fashion October. Part of why I went ahead and cast on for this sweater when I had planned to stick to WIPs was because it was something that could be made entirely with stash yarn – I mean, how many of us have stashes full of single skeins (or perhaps pairs of skeins) of yarns we fell in love with and bought without a plan? Most of us don’t have sweater quantities of single yarns in one color sitting around in our stashes. So a sweater entirely from stash – that felt like an exciting challenge. And sometimes the best time to jump in and start something is when you feel that spark. So I did! (And for the record, I’ve been doing pretty well at not casting on new things and working my way through those WIPs, so I’m giving myself a little pat on the back.)

I’ve written before that the idea for the stripe sequence was able to emerge in my head largely because I’ve started cataloguing stash on Ravelry – I’d handled these yarns in the recent past, I’d weighed them to note the amounts I had, and I’d photographed them. I’d also noticed that some of the colors went really well together. So once I got the idea, I was able to determine pretty quickly that I had more than enough yarn for a sweater. Looking at the exact amounts allowed me to finalize the stripe sequence – I had remainders of single skeins of three colors, and I had about two skeins each of two colors. Technically, these were all leftovers from other projects, though in some cases I overbought for the initial projects (or the original plan changed), leaving an unusual amount of yarn leftover.

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These are all worsted weight yarns – three of them are Berroco Ultra Alpaca (in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix), and two are Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce). I wasn’t too concerned about mixing these bases even though one is a wool/alpaca blend and one is 100% merino, and since the vast majority is the Ultra Alpaca, it really didn’t matter in the end. Because I had the largest quantities of the Charcoal Mix and Heathered Olive, I worked stripes of both of those colors between each contrasting stripe. The distinction isn’t one you really see from far away, but up close the subtle effect reveals itself and I love what it does for this sweater.

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The finished sweater very closely resembles my original vision. There’s some subtle decreasing on the sleeves, but the body has no shaping. The bottom features a split hem. The one compromise I had to make in the end was the neck – when I imagined this sweater initially, I pictured a wide sort of foldover turtleneck (think Birch Bay), which seemed both posh and cozy and felt really inviting. But it became apparent really quickly as I worked my way through the sweater that it was very unlikely I’d have that much charcoal yarn leftover. I spent awhile thinking about whether to simply finish the neckline with the yarn I had or if it would be better to stay faithful to my initial vision and buy an extra skein of the charcoal to make the generous neck happen. (I also asked for your advice on Instagram at that point, and thank you all so much for your helpful feedback!) In the end I decided that I would rather not buy extra yarn – so much more satisfying for it to be entirely stash! – and just see how far the yarn I still had would get me. I also had the realization that practically, a simple open neck would be much more useful in my daily life than an oversized cowl/turtleneck, since I wanted to be able to wear this sweater inside, and I overheat really easily. And now that it’s done? I’m really, really happy with the neck of this sweater. It truly does fit seamlessly into my existing wardrobe. And I definitely knocked back my stash a little bit. The photo at the top shows the leftovers of each color – from left to right there’s Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix, and then Shepherd’s Wool in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce.

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While I was knitting this sweater, I had dreams of photographing it in front of the beautiful golden birches, but by the time I got all the ends woven in, I’d kind of missed my window in Tromsø. The closest I got was this progress shot (above) during our trip in Nordland, when I was working my way through sleeve number two. (We’ll just have to use our imaginations. But you can see that it would’ve been great, right?!)

I learned a lot making this sweater. I learned about finding creative ways to use my stash to supplement my wardrobe. I learned a lot about why you might want to knit a sweater top-down (I’m still a steadfast bottom-up devotee, but now it’s easier for me to see which cases might call for top-down). And I learned that my original vision may not always be the best fit for my wardrobe, and that taking time to reflect on that will probably help me knit pieces that become staples (and don’t get frogged down the road). You can check out my Ravelry project page here, and I highly recommend taking a spin through the whole #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed to see everyone’s beautiful sweaters. They are all so different and all so special – thanks to everyone else for sharing along the way!

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project updates

Since the whole idea of my queue check of sorts from a few weeks back was to hold myself accountable to my plan, I figured I’d post a follow up! I’ll start with the good news:

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I finished the Hugin and Munin mittens! As I mentioned in the earlier post, these only needed thumbs, so once I had time to sit down and chart them out, the knitting itself was pretty quick. I’m so pleased with how these turned out, and even more pleased that they’re finally done! The Rauma Finullgarn is so fantastic for mittens, and since these are knit at a fine gauge (on US 1 / 2.25mm needles) they’ll be very warm.

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I also powered through and finished my Inglis Mitts in time to wear them this year before it’s too cold! Already I’m wearing them without the top folded down a majority of the time, so they’re extra long. My project page now also incredibly has an absurd number of faves on Ravelry, since Sarah featured my mitts in a community eye candy post on the Ravelry blog (thanks Sarah!). And if you’ve been eyeing the Inglis Mitts but didn’t get the Edinburgh Yarn Fest magazine in which they were originally published, I’m really happy to be able to let you know that they’re now available as an individual pattern on Ravelry.

I’ve also made some progress on my Dunaway scarf, though I have yet to finish it. I think that’s probably top of the priority list now.

The neutral news: I haven’t touched my Sandneskofte since I last posted about it, but I still have plenty of time to finish it before the Oslo Knitting Festival, so I’m not too worried about that.

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The curve ball: many of you probably saw on Instagram that I did end up casting on something new after all. It was one of those times where you get an idea in your head and it just takes hold – I tried to push it to the back of my mind for later, but this was one was stubborn. I got an idea for a stripe sequence that would use up a bunch of worsted weight yarn in my stash and I couldn’t get it out of my head. After a couple of days of trying not to think about it, I gave in and decided to work up a little swatch to test the sequence of stripes to see if it would work out in real life the way it was working out in my head. And oh, it did. I wrote last time about how satisfying it is to find a happy marriage of stash yarn and pattern, and once I saw that this stripe sequence would work, imagining the sweater I could use it on was the easiest thing imaginable. And so I threw caution to the wind. I decided to join in on this year’s Fringe and friends KAL with my stripes, so I’m working my way through an improvised top-down pullover. To make it go quickly so as not to disrupt my existing project plans too much, I’ve worked the whole thing seamlessly in the round, with purl columns on the sides of the body in case I want to seam the sides. Stockinette in the round is my speediest knitting, and on US 8 / 5mm needles it is flying along. It’s ready for the sleeves, but I think I’ll knit those flat.

I’d like to wrap this up soon, but I think I should finish the Dunaway scarf first! And so that’s my planned weekend knitting. What will you be working on this weekend?

currently

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The daylight walks continue to be lovely. On clear days, the colors are unreal. The photo above was taken from Telegrafbukta, the park on the southwest side of Tromsøya. It continues to be one of my favorite places, and at this time of year it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset. (I also finally saw the sun again on Friday! Momentous. Glorious. The days are growing longer at a fast clip now – this is the fun part.)

School is already busy, but that’s no shocker. In my downtime I’m managing to get a bit of knitting done. I finished my Toatie Hottie (no photos yet, though) and I’ve been working on several other projects, but most of those are the kind I can’t show you yet (aka future patterns). So in lieu of that, here’s some things I’d love to be joining in on if I had the time:

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Bang Out a Sweater over at Mason Dixon Knitting – Kay and Ann are leading a KAL of Mary Jane Mucklestone‘s Stopover, a beautiful lopapeysa. Cast on is tomorrow (February 1st), and it’s probably a good thing I don’t have time to join in, because I don’t think “new lopapeysa” is really one of my pressing needs at the moment.

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I’d also love to join in on the Anna Vest KAL hosted by Fringe, starting February 15th. This is one of my favorite patterns from Farm to Needle and while I’m not sure a vest/waistcoat like this would be a perfect fit for my wardrobe, I’d still love to knit it someday (perhaps I could add sleeves, since I am in need of cardigans?). I’m really looking forward to the versions that come out of this knitalong – I’m expecting to see some cool yarn and color choices and I’ll definitely be following along on social media.

Both the Stopover and Anna Vest photos are by Kathy Cadigan.

september bits

September second marked one month in Tromsø for me. It also seems to be a seasonal milestone: in the past week there’s been a noticeable change in the weather, almost like someone’s flipped a switch. The air outside feels fresh and brisk. A few of the eager birches are starting to turn golden yellow, and the colors on the mountainsides have (just barely) started shifting from green to bronze. I turned on the heat in my apartment for the first time this week. As someone who grew up in North Carolina, where it always felt like it took aaages for fall to come around (especially since people started talking about it in August), I have to admit I’m enjoying the early shift. I’m already looking forward to snow appearing on the mountains nearby, and I’m very curious to see when the first snow in the city will be this year. We shall see!

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In an attempt to bottle up some of the remaining arctic summer, I made red currant jelly this week. I got the idea from Unlikely Pairing and then loosely followed the instructions on this blog. Highly recommended. Otherwise I’ve still been working on settling into the new apartment (we finally got some of the art up on the walls) and focusing on school. I’ve been scoping out study spots and I’m pretty sure I’ve found my favorite on campus.

For those who are curious about what it is I’m doing in school, I wanted to point you toward this bit on BBC Radio 4 (streamable online through the end of the month). It’s an episode of Fry’s English Delight – and I love Stephen Fry – called English Plus One, all about bilingualism. The area I’m planning to focus on for my thesis is bilingual language acquisition in children, which is one of the topics that comes up. It’s a half hour segment and interesting stuff for anyone who’s interested in language.

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Finally, I’ve actually been able to start knitting again regularly! Some days it’s a few minutes and others it could be an hour or two, but it’s been so nice to be able to unwind with knitting again. The change in weather has certainly helped encourage me to pick it up this week.

And speaking of knitting, some pieces of knitting news:

– Karen has highlighted some of the creative mods knitters have made to Laurus over on the Fringe blog. You know I love mods, so I loved this post!

– If you’ve ever wanted to knit yourself a Sundottir but you’ve been putting it off for whatever reason, you might want to join in on Fern Fiber’s Sundottir KAL! Cast-on date is September 23rd and you can get the pattern for 10% off if you’re joining in. Fern Fiber is a natural dye company run by Maria and Nikki (who you’ve probably heard before if you listen to the Woolful podcast – they’re frequent Man on the Street contributors) and they’ll also offering a limited number of yarn kits in the colors of your choice for the KAL. You can read up on the KAL details in their Ravelry group and check out the listing for the naturally dyed yarn kits on Etsy.  Fern Fiber hail from North Carolina (my home state!) and I’m so excited they’ve put this KAL together. It makes me wish I had time to take part (or that I needed another Sundottir).

– Have you heard that Kate Davies has developed a yarn? I’m ecstatic about this news! It’s called Buchaille and you can read all about it on her blog in a series of posts – everything from how they sourced the fiber (all Scottish), where is was scoured and prepped for spinning (with a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility), what kinds of colors will be included in the line, and more. There will, of course, be a collection of patterns to accompany the release of the yarn.

fringe hatalong

I was hoping to get this post up last week, but it’s been so busy with the semester start I’m only just getting it up!

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I love the Fringe Hatalong series Karen is running this year, so when she got in touch with me to design pattern #4, I was thrilled! Let me introduce you to Laurus:

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Laurus is a free pattern available as a PDF download from the Fringe website right here. Most of the pertinent info is included in the Fringe blog post, including some info about swatching, knitting from a colorwork chart, and our featured charity for this pattern, Hats and More for War-Torn Syria. I don’t want to overlap too much with Karen’s post, but I did want to share some more about this pattern and how we arrived at it.

The recommended yarn is Quince & Co. Lark, one of my very favorites. I love the Quince & Co. concept, since their wools (and their new cotton yarn, Willet) are all grown and produced domestically in the United States, with an emphasis on sustainable practices. Lark is a worsted weight 100% wool yarn available in 55 different colors (at current count). I chose Lark for the pattern not just because I love it (though I do), but also because I find the built in “compare” tool on the Quince website particularly useful when choosing yarns for a colorwork project. On any of the yarn pages on the Quince site if you click “compare colors” underneath the large photo at left, you’re able to view up to five colorways side by side. Genius!

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One of the things I strive to do as a designer and a teacher is to emphasize the creative possibilities of modifications and the differences our creative decisions can make for our finished object. Since many folks knitting this hat for the hatalong may be doing colorwork for the first time (or have limited experience with colorwork), I suggested to Karen that we work up the hat in two different versions – but both versions would use the same two colorways, and simply swap the main color and contrasting color. I think this completely changes the feel of the hat, even though both samples use the same two colors.

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I wanted to illustrate that color placement within a project makes a huge difference – and that’s something you may not be able to visualize when looking at two skeins of yarn side by side. Swatching is a great way to work out what two colors might look like for your chosen pattern, but colored pencils and graph paper can also be a useful visualization tool.

We released the pattern last Thursday, but several speedy knitters have already worked up their hats! I’ve seen a version that omits the stripes and I’ve also seen a version that takes the Laurus chart and uses it on a Moon Sprites hat instead – both clever and creative, two things I enjoy the most when browsing FOs! I love watching the projects progress, and you can share (or just browse) Fringe hatalong projects everywhere with the tag #fringehatalong.

I encourage you to give this hat a try even if you’ve never done colorwork – this pattern’s a great starting point with only 7 rounds of colorwork and it’s a simpler and more repetitive motif than it appears to be at first glance. I’ll be on hand to answer any questions I see popping up as well. I can’t wait to see your hats!

All photos by Kathy Cadigan.

around the net

I’m super excited about a couple of things popping up on the Internet today. Firstly, the pattern for the next Fringe Hatalong has been posted, and it’s a worsted weight version of Gudrun Johnston’s Hermaness! The original pattern is written for fingering weight, and calls for Brooklyn Tweed Loft; this new version is worsted and calls for Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. I think they’re both pretty dreamy, which is great, because you can knit either version for the hatalong. Hop on over to the Fringe blog to download the free PDF (and I should note that only the worsted weight version is available for free; the fingering weight version is part of Gudrun’s gorgeous book The Shetland Trader Book Two or you can purchase it individually on Ravelry).

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I think this hat is so lovely with its simple Shetland lace, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to knit one during the hatalong with the amount of deadline knitting on my plate at the moment (not to mention I have a second L’Arbre Hat I need to finish). I can’t wait to watch everyone else’s hats taking shape, though! One of my favorite things about the Fringe Hatalong series is that it aims to help knitters develop their skills in small and manageable increments: the first hat was just a knit/purl pattern, the second hat featured knits, purls, and that fun stranded technique that created the motif in L’Arbre, and now we have a hat with a very simple lace repeat. It’s the perfect introduction to reading a lace chart, if you’ve never been a chart reader: the repeat is simple and short, and the only technique we’re adding to our repertoire is yarnover increases (since all of the hats have featured decreasing already). There’s a guide to knitting from a chart in the Hatalong blog post over at Fringe, as well as several other great tips if you’re new to lace or charts.

If you join in, remember to use the hashtag #fringehatalong when sharing!

The other thing I’m super excited about today is the launch of Twig & Horn, a new sister company from Quince & Co. I’m kind of a Quince & Co. / Pam Allen devotee at this point, so I was eagerly awaiting today’s launch after the announcement earlier this week. Twig & Horn is a needlearts accessories company – in other words, a sister company producing tools for knitters, crocheters, and other fiber artists. Just look at this beautiful homepage:

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There are three products available at this point: the beautiful wool soap pictured on the home page above (unscented as well as three scented options), a handy gauge ruler, and a simple and beautiful wool project tote, pictured below (available in four colors, though both the blue and green appear to be sold out already). I wish I needed one of those totes right now, but I really don’t – if you do, make sure to grab one quickly! I doubt this batch will last much longer.

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I can’t wait to see what else Twig & Horn brings us. To stay up to date on their news, you can sign up for their mailing list at the website, or follow them on Twitter or Instagram.

some recent FOs

I haven’t shared any knit FOs for a little while, so while I’m working away on projects for fall that I can’t show you just yet, I thought I’d share a few! (I’m using the term “recent” a bit loosely, here, since these stretch back to March, but let’s just roll with it).

First up: my very own finished Hearth Slippers!

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These are the slippers I designed for Tolt last year. I knit the three sample pairs photographed for the pattern, but those went to Tolt and I was left without a pair of my own. I cast on for my own pair during the joint Hearth Slipper KAL run by Tolt and Fancy Tiger, but it took me awhile to finish them up since I was traveling in December and working on other projects at the beginning of the year. I finally finished these in March, though, and they’ve been worn SO much since then! They’ve only been set aside in the last few weeks, as the weather’s warmed up here in Seattle. I knit the size Large, so that I could wear them over thick tights – I think I’ll be grateful for that once I get to Tromsø – so over my bare feet they’re a little slouchier, which I also like. I took these photos this morning, so this is what they look like after a few months of pretty regular wear. Not bad, right? That Fancy Tiger Heirloom Romney is sturdy stuff. I used Dark Natural for my Color A, Hubbard for my Color B, and Natural for my Color C. I absolutely love the moody, wintry feel of this color combination. My Ravelry project page can be found here.

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shared my yarn choice for the second Fringe Hatalong pattern, but I never shared my finished hat! I ended up putting a pom pom on top (hardly a surprise) and I hope the finished hat will see a lot of use once I get to Tromsø – knit up in Quince & Co. Osprey in the Glacier colorway, it’s incredibly warm and cozy and it just hugs my head. The Osprey’s almost a little heavy for this pattern, and I’d love to try it knit up in Lark, which might suit it even better. This is a super quick knit and I love how easy it is to memorize the four-round repeat. The pattern is the L’Arbre Hat from Cirilia’s beautiful Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads, but the hat (and matching mitts) are available for free in PDF format for the hatalong, thanks to the generosity of Cirilia and her publisher. Be sure to check the errata before you cast on. You can find the Raverly project page for my L’Arbre Hat here.

And keep an eye out on the Fringe blog for info about hatalong pattern #3! I think it might be time for another reveal sometime in the coming weeks, and I know I can’t wait to see what it is.

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Next up: OH, how do I love these socks? Let me count the ways . . . If you’re on Instagram, you’ve surely seen this incredible self-patterning sock yarn pop up in your feed in the past few months. I don’t usually go for self-striping or self-patterning yarns, but even *I* fell for this one. It’s the new line designed by Arne & Carlos for Regia, and it’s fantastic. Traditional Norwegian colorwork motifs provided the inspiration for the patterning, and the palettes for the six different colorways were drawn from different Edvard Munch paintings. Last summer when I was in Norway I had a chance to visit Åsgårdstrand, which was where Munch spent his summers for much of his life. His summer cabin there has been turned into a museum, and it was a really fantastic and idyllic place to visit that gave me a new appreciation for Munch, whose style isn’t really what I usually go for. Needless to say, I love this sock yarn. I’m all about it. And I’m super grateful several of my local stores are carrying it (and it’s going like hot cakes, from what I can tell!). This colorway is far and above my favorite: Summer Night (color number 3657). The best part is that these are the simplest stockinette socks, and simple socks are my favorite to actually wear. I worked them toe-up with an afterthough heel and did a picot bind-off. The contrasting yarn used for the heel and picot edge is Soft Like Kittens Noodle Sock in Cloud Watching. The Raverly project page can be found here.

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Last we have an FO I’m especially excited about. I fell in love with Chuck when Andi Satterlund released it in the fall of 2012, and I’ve wanted to knit myself one ever since. I love the simple but elegant cables and I love the cropped length. I’ve also been trying to make an effort to knit more sweaters that I can wear with my high-waisted dresses and skirts, so I decided it was finally time to give it a go. I picked up five skeins of Quince & Co. Lark in Kittywake at Tolt back in March, and after knitting so many fingering-weight sweaters, a worsted-weight sweater on size 8 needles felt impossibly quick (although this project did do some hibernating for a few months). I worked a tubular bind off for all of the ribbing, but otherwise made no modifications. Andi’s a wonderfully clear pattern-writer, so even though this type of construction isn’t my favorite to knit, I’m already looking forward to casting on for another Andi project (perhaps an Agatha?). The Ravelry project page is here.

Next, I’m trying to see if I can sneak in under the extension deadline for Shannon’s Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL (which ends tomorrow) with my Dubro. I’ve almost finished the body (one or two stripes left) and then all I’ll have left is the sleeves, so it might actually be doable! What’s on your needles at the moment?