Daughter’s Favorite Afghan Needed Help

Katy L from New Jersey texted to ask if I did repairs on afghans. Her daughter’s much-loved granny square afghan, done in pale yellow, baby pink, mint green, and periwinkle blue, needed some TLC.

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square out

My first challenge was to find matching worsted weight acrylics for the job. For some squares, I could harvest the yarn and re-crochet with it, which is the way to keep the color as consistent as possible. I do this when the yarn is in good enough shape, but not when it is old, brittle, fuzzy, etc.

Actually, I had *this* much that I removed as I pulled out areas that had been destroyed/come loose/needed redoing:

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I did have to shop for more yarn, though, and had trouble finding the same shades as were originally used. Ventured out to several stores (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and a few yarn shops) before I found what I deemed satisfactory.

So the crocheting began. And yes, I’m left-handed, so it’s backwards to what you’re probably used to seeing:

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Had to make up several squares–I forget how many–but I know I crocheted at least eight. At one point, I sat at my 94-year-old Aunt Dot’s house, with Mom and my husband, and worked away while discussing the family history. My aunt used to produce the most lovely hand stitching—beautiful crewel work pillows,  cloth dolls whose seams and clothes were lovingly stitches by hand. Oh, she could work a sewing machine, but like me, she preferred the more tactile approach, cloth against the palm of one hand, needle gripped between forefinger and thumb.  I must’ve inherited the gene from that side of the family. Recently, I saw on an ancestry.com census that a great great aunt was listed as “Seamstress” for her occupation.  Oh, and while we sat that day in my aunt’s all-Victorian-furnished sitting room, I asked her for the one thing I really, really wanted to inherit from her: the set of chair covers that she had embroidered. She got right up and went to get them, saying she was happy that I wanted them. I knew where she kept them. I watched her go slowly over to that chest in the corner, where she’d shown them to me a few years ago. Her back is hunched now, her Collins blue eyes blurry now from macular degeneration.

Would you like to see what I wanted to remember her by, one day?

Let me run take some photos!

And here are my treasures:

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Aren’t they great? They’re Erica Wilson’s designs on linen. I don’t have them on chairs yet. I don’t even own chairs to put them on. One day, I’ll buy some, though, just for these. Or I’ll frame them, I haven’t decided yet. I just know when I look at them, I’ll picture Aunt Dot sitting there, looking down at her needle going in and out of that linen, over and over. And I’ll remember her handing them to me, and telling me, as I thanked her, that she was happy I wanted them.

I really digressed! But to bring it back to my customer’s repair, let’s just say that the crewel I inserted in here illustrates just why I have customers in the first place: needlework means something to people. It means someone cared enough to create something and pass it on.

And so, I work to complete the repair on Katy’s afghan. Once I’ve completed new squares, I sew them in:

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This picture below shows *a few* squares out at that time. There were others.

afghan with damaged square out

Not a bad match! My stitching is newer, so it appears not as, soft? as the rest, but it’ll all even out over time.

And once we’re all seamed up again, as I often do, I tuck in some loose ends. This takes a while, but it’s well worth the time and the expenditure. When yarn or thread has been cut too short when it’s tied off, as is often the case, that knot can pull loose SO much more easily then when the original crocheter leaves long ends. So I pull the knots out, take it back out of stitches, add yarn or thread, and then re-knot and re-stitch or replace within a seam. I hope that makes sense! Here is what I’m talking about. I did a LOT of these. Like, 40, maybe? Many were pulled out, pulled back, added to, and recrocheted. You get your money’s worth with me. Seriously.

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And finally, finished!

completed repair

Apologies for the dark photo. This was off my iPhone.

Pleased to Repair Another Crocheted Bedspread

Fran B had a dilemma on her hands with her cotton crocheted bedspread. I think I first heard from her by phone when she told me that her bedspread had gotten stained and her “fix” had not worked. Well, the trouble was, she’d tried painting over the stain with white acrylic paint. Oddly enough, I’d heard of a needlework piece that’d had a similar fate to Fran’s just a few weeks earlier when another customer had phoned from NY to say her mother had crocheted a large Lord’s prayer and given it to a church. It’d gotten dirty, and someone had painted it white to try to get the clean look back. Hm. Paint is hard, hard, hard to get off once it’s on fabric. Doesn’t make for a good reversal, and it’s always a plus if whatever you do to a piece of needlework can be taken back out.

This repair took quite a while to complete. First it went to the textile cleaner, but we still had issues. Though she got most of the spread snowy white, she had to hand clean the rather large paint stain, and as she tried to get the paint out, she spread it and it turned from a white paint stain to a set-in yellowish color. Yikes! Fran had her send the spread back to me to see if I could remove the affected area, as it was extra long and we could still get it to fit her bed.

I began this repair while at the beach on a trip to Florida to help a friend work on her rental condo. My work goes on most getaways with me, as I always seem to be working! I am blessed to be able to do any sort of needlework in the car while my husband drives, and there is *nothing* better for a stitcher than a long trip on which to sew in wonderful daylight!

I don’t have photos of the paint still on the squares, but I do have photos of areas that still had spots on them after the textile cleaner sent it back to me. I suspect that she stopped working on smaller spots once she couldn’t get the paint out. These stains were the “rusty” types that are often found on vintage textiles:

Fran bedspread rusty stain

First job was to remove any square that had any sort of stain. This photo shows the removal of just the painted area taken out:

Fran bedspread center removed

Next, I took other pieces out around the open area, then filled in the missing squares with clean ones, thus shortening the bedspread:

Fran bedspread pieces to be stitched inFran bedspread pinned pieces

These replaced squares were whip-stitched into place:

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Once the bedspread was whole again, it looked very good. Sorry, this is a dark photo:

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But…the tassels were all twisted up on each other, so I needed to untwist them:

This is a task that seems easy and fast, but it’s actually extremely time-consuming. Plus, I ended up untwisting these tassels—there must’ve been 200 on this luxuriously-endowed spread—more than once because I kept tackling a few tiny stains, trying to get it perfect, which meant wetting down different areas in order to get the stain remover out of the thread. That would lead to moving the piece around, and tassels bunched up again. Anyway, the photos below show my straightening job finished. However, the bottom right photo shows the fringe *before* I sprayed it with water and smoothed it. Water smoothing really makes it look great:

And here I am, untwisting and untwisting! I also snipped off very tiny tips of the fringe, to even it out:

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Once I had it all clean and bright, with no paint remaining, all stitched up and the fringe straight, I was ready to ship it back to Fran. But first, a few more close-up shots of where I’m tucking in some thread ends that were out in various areas of the spread:

And now it’s really ready to return home:

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My customer said:

Hi Melissa:

Attached are 2 pictures.  It looks stupendous! I am so very pleased. It was well worth the wait as all your efforts paid off. I can’t believe how tedious it must have been to straighten all those tassels. And, I couldn’t find any stains. It’s unbelievable! I know my mom is pleased too.

As you can see the spread fits the bed very well; shortening it worked fine since it has a baseboard. Your talents are very much appreciated. I will recommend you to anyone in need of such help.

And here are her pictures (with such a wonderful bed for it):

Fran's bedspread on her bed 1       Fran's bedspread on her bed 2

Crocheted Bedspread Repair

Jon M phoned to ask if I could clean and repair a white cotton spread he had purchased at an estate sale. He said it looked just like one he’d seen here on my site—and amazingly it was the same crochet pattern as my customer, Kay’s. When he brought it over, I couldn’t see it very well in the den lighting, but once I got it into my sunny, well-lit crafting room, I saw that it had a lot of yellowing. This was probably due to having been stored in plastic for many years. Plastic is not a good thing to store fabrics in. It prevents air circulation and can actually trap dampness in there with the fabric. Here is some advice directly from the Smithsonian (online) about textile storage:

“Textiles should have no direct contact with wood, blue tissue, regular tissue, or other wrapping paper. Most paper tends to be acidic; acid is especially damaging to textiles. Instead, textiles can be wrapped in clean, white cotton cloth, such as an old sheet or pillowcase, or in muslin. Because textile fibers need to be in an environment where there is some air movement, fabrics should not be sealed in air-tight plastic bags or containers to prevent damage from moisture condensation. Also, because some plastics give off fumes as they decompose with age, they should not come in direct contact with antique textiles. After wrapping the textiles in cotton muslin or sheeting, they can be loosely encased in an unsealed plastic wrapping. The best place to store antique fabrics is on top in a drawer. Storing them at the bottom of a drawer under heavy items can cause sharp folds, which may be difficult to remove and which may cause splits in the cloth.”

Jon’s repair job involved tucking in all the loose ends of thread that for some reason the bedspread maker hadn’t sewn in, or maybe they’d come out in washing? Not sure, but there were a LOT of them left out. Also, the store-bought tassel trim was loose where it had been whip-stitched around the finished crocheted spread for its border. And finally, there were a few (very few) places where I caught some stitching that had come loose.

Here are some photos showing where the border has loosened from the bedspread:

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And here is the bedspread: I tucked in about 125 knotted thread ends, which took over 4 hours:

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My only thing that didn’t make me totally happy involved the washing of Jon’s spread. I took it to the textile cleaner I use, and she washed it white as snow. Only problem was, once she got it white, she saw that it wasn’t *all* white. In other words, someone had made some squares white and others with an ecru or off-white thread. It was nearly half and half, and randomly stitched in. You could not see the difference really well, and especially if it were in a not-super-sunny bedroom. However, I hate it that we (the cleaner and I) had no way of knowing before it was cleaned that it wasn’t all made from the same color of thread. Yellowing can make such differences imperceptible. But as they say, “everything comes out in the wash” and the thread difference was revealed.

I know why the person who crocheted the spread may have used different threads. I’ve been making my own crocheted bedspread off and on for 10 years. It’s painstakingly slow, this labor of love. And the thing is, when you go and buy individual spools of cotton at Michael’s or Hancock’s or wherever she may have purchased it back then, you get a bunch of spools that all look the same and say “no dye lot.” Well, that “no dye lot” means there can be variations in the color! I’ve had the same problem with my 155 spools of Aunt Lydia’s Fast Five, which isn’t even made anymore. I picked up spools every time I could, and as I’ve been making my 40+ squares for my knitted spread, I’ve done some that had a yellow tinge to the ecru and some that had a gray tinge.

It’s hard to get around this issue if you’re buying a textile you don’t know the history on, as in Jon’s case. Because my textile cleaner won’t clean a piece until after I’ve done the repairs. She doesn’t want the liability of splits turning into more splits, stitches coming apart more, etc,…which makes total sense.

Things I made over Christmas 2011

I managed to make one ornament. I usually knit or crochet something for the tree. This year, I made one from a shared online freebie pattern:

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Pine cone! I love how it turned out. I would say it was easy, but it wasn’t! Oh, well. It also hurt my hands, making it with the thread and a small hook. I think it was a size 7 hook, and 10 cotton. This cotton was given to me by a nice customer, Gayle. Thanks!

Then I made my friend a sewing basket. Well, I thrifted the basket. I wanted on that had handles so she could tote it around her house. We often do Friday sewing days, and she carries her sewing from the basement up to the kitchen. Everything was made from free online tutorials, etc,… However, I had a *bear* of a time with the basket liner, so it’s more of an “on my own” thing. I followed two tutorials, and they didn’t work for my shape of basket, so ended up taking little tucks in the sides and it fit just right. Third time was a charm! Whew!

Pineapple Crochet Project: a Tablecloth

Gayle K, a repeat customer, had a beautifully-worked round tablecloth in the familiar pineapple pattern. This pattern is really a lot of crochet chain, single, double and treble stitching. It’s just the sheer volume of work that makes it a long project. The pattern booklet Gayle sent with the project looked as if it came from the 1940’s. This is it in the photo to the left, I believe. I’ve already sent it back to Gayle. She also sent plenty of thread, and I used the ball that was attached:

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The pattern was pretty easy to follow. Took me a while to see where the original needle-worker had left off, and I definitely had to get to working on it before I realized how much time was involved in covering one round! The piece was probably about 70 inches already, but it wasn’t blocked. So just going the rounds I did on it pulled it out and then I did a lace finish on it. Here is how the tablecloth looked as received:

Very nice! And then the work began, and here are the first 2 (believe it or not) trips around:

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They don’t look like much but due to the pattern and large circumference took hours and hours! Each little circling of that hole you see at the hem is 24 double treble crochets all the way around (I think 22 of them) + the pineapple chains in between, x 2 rows!

So, for each double treble stitch (one row= 24×22 double trebles) here are the instructions:


  1. Yarn over hook three times, then insert hook into next stitch.
  2. Yarn over hook and draw yarn through stitch (there are five loops on the hook).
  3. Loop yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now four loops remaining on the hook).
  4. Yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now three loops remaining on the hook).
  5. Yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now two loops remaining on the hook).
  6. Again, loop yarn over hook and draw through the last two loops on the hook (there is now one loop remaining.)
  7. This completes one double treble crochet.

Double treble is a fun stitch that adds the needed fan appearance on top of each pineapple. But since adding whole pineapples at that point would’ve involved *far* too much time/hourly expense, Gayle and I opted for a nice finish that was a little lace border. Here is more of it, but then a final finishing row pulled the pineapple tips down a little more, which you see below in the last photos:

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Once the hand work is done, it’s time to clean the piece. I enzyme-washed the cloth and then block stretched it to shape it. It dried overnight. I actually blocked it twice because after the first time, I was not happy with the level of lightening on some of the dark brown “rust” stains so I spot-treated them to get them lighter and lighter, carefully using various stain removing agents. If you attempt this at home, I would suggest you do your research first, as there are plenty of times I won’t clean an item and instead will refer people to a textile cleaner I know. Too much room for error, in my opinion.Below are the dark spotted areas. Overall, because the cloth was stored in plastic, there was a lot of yellowing that would come out in the wash:

And now for the finish! Here are the results! Nice and white-clean, and with a little border that looks feminine. It fits on a round 4-seater table or I’ve shown it on a little parlor table.

Irish Lace Pincushion

This is a pincushion that I saw online, a free pattern, and really wanted to make for myself. I’ve been doing it in my (lack of) spare time. I like to do small projects in between client ones and/or my long, involved personal projects. This one was a *bear* to do! It is made with a tiny steel crochet hook (size 10) and thread that is more like string. I think the thread was size 30, which makes for very delicate lace.

Here is the finished project:

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It’s only 4”x4” but so involved!

And here are some of the parts of it, close-up so you can see the stitches:

Whew! Glad I did it, but what was I thinking?! Definitely not for beginners, but I’ve been left-handedly crocheting since I was 10 years old, so I guess I’m experienced enough. Still, I re-did those leaves about 5 times, and on the fifth attempt I had to sketch out the rows before I understood what she meant in her directions. Sometimes you have to see it, apart from the “whole” in the photo, in order to understand the pattern writer’s method.

One Mother, Two Beautiful Bedspreads

After I had repaired Bob of CO’s crocheted spread (see previous post) I was very happy when his sister Kay from CA contacted me. She, too, had a beautiful bedspread their mom had made for her about 75 years ago. Hers was in need of repairs as well.

With Kay’s spread, there were quite a few split threads in the cotton, simply from age and use. That doesn’t bother me a bit, since why *have* a bedspread if you don’t use it? There is SO much work involved in crocheting or knitting a bedspread/counterpane. So many hours. When people go to the trouble to make them, they imagine many, many years of gracing someone’s bed. Which reminds me, I once made some felted slippers for a dear friend, and when she opened the package, she said, “You *made* these for me? I’m putting them right up in my closet.” I said, “Um. You’re supposed to wear them.” And she said, “Oh, no way. You made them for me!” I appreciated the thought, but really, when people make you functional items, they intend for them to be used.  Smile

And so the repairs began, on various double crochets, single crochets and chain stitches. (the popcorn stitch (baubles) was all intact):

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Kay3Kay4

 

Kay7 (3)Kay8

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Some are re-weaves and some are crocheted chains where a chain link is missing.

There were many hours involved in this project, as I had to very carefully check each motif area and see if there were any loose threads at all. And there were many. If I had to estimate, I would say there were at least fifty tiny spots that needed some sort of repair. Some of the splits were more evident than others that just needed to be tacked or reinforced. All of the fringe was in good shape, and there were only a few areas at the border that needed to be whip-stitched back in place.

Once my repairs were completed, I put the spread on one of my beds so that Kay could see how it looks now! It’s a really lovely spread. There are small “rust” spots in several places that my textile cleaner partner, June, will remove for my customer. June is a very talented woman who has been cleaning every type of textile imaginable for over thirty years, and she did Bob’s bedspread and he was amazed at how well it came out!

Here’s the spread, repairs completed and before going to June, as displayed on one of my beds:

Cotton Counterpanes–Bedspreads of Yesteryear

My client’s crocheted bedspread repairs are completed, and it’s ready to go to the cleaner’s. Here are a few more steps I took while finishing up my work:

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The above photos show a bad place that needed repair, and the 2nd photo is taken from further away but shows the reweaving/re-crocheting.

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These two photos also show an area that needed repair and was fixed

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This (above) is a shot of the pattern. Shows the lovely popcorn stitching

 

Now everything is coming together in the main counterpane. On to the fringe repair:

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The fringe had several issues. First, parts of the crochet chain stitch to which it was knotted had come undone, so I had to repair that. You can see it in the left photo just above this writing. Once that is repaired, then everything has to be unknotted. See the little fringe hanks that I’ve taken off? They all follow a knotting pattern from the top, down. So you have to un-knot the top ones and take them off. Then un-knot everything else. Re-do the top knots, and then re-tie the other two levels.

And now, here is the bedspread at it looks with all the repairs completed!

 

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This got me to thinking about my own counterpane/bedspread, for which I once accumulated over 150 small balls of Aunt Lydia’s Fast Five cotton thread!! (Yes, it IS in a very large plastic tub in my attic.) This particular counterpane pattern I’m knitting is from Knitting Counterpanes by Mary Walker Phillips, c.1989. I know I began working on mine around 1990. I think I have 24 squares (the quarter units of the big square.)

I’ve pulled it out lately to see my progress. When people ask me how long something takes to complete, it’s really hard to gauge because I do have things I do other than knit or do needlework. However, I’ve noticed that with my busy schedule, when I’m only working on a knitted square for my counterpane, it takes a whole week. Each ball of thread is ONE unit, and each unit is ONE-FOURTH of a complete square for the pattern stitch.

So, here are a few pictures of mine, which Ms. Phillips created based on her sketches and photos from a late 1800’s counterpane she viewed in Larnach Castle, New Zealand:

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This (above) is 4 units (each unit taking 1 week to complete) sewn together into one pattern square

Look how many I’ve done so far:

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Once I complete all my quarter units + sew them into the larger squares, then I have to do a border insert. Once the border insert is completed, then there is a lace edging to be done.

Three thoughts:

1) I am a glutton for punishment, as I always choose ridiculously complicated projects for myself

2) There is a reason why Montgomery Ward, Sears and such began manufacturing bedspreads in the turn of the century

3) Why oh why did I have to do this for the king-size bed and not choose at least to do a full size instead, for the guest room?

4) Denise, I should listen to you and just make what I have right now into pillows, but no, see Thought #1 above

5) No dog or cat or grandbaby (way off right now but by the time I complete this project I’ll surely have some) will ever lie, sit, sleep, get a diaper changed, throw up, etc,… on my counterpane!!

Needlework repairs I’m working on for clients plus my own

In recent weeks, I’ve been working on a sampler for a client from DC. This is a family piece with dates and names, very nice work. The job is to repair a few holes in the canvas and brighten up the canvas. This posed a bit of a problem, as a little color lifted from the older yarns, and bled onto the fabric. I’ve done the repairs from that for the most part, and am about to work on the holes in the canvas. This canvas is something I haven’t figured out. It’s rather stiff. When I rinsed it out, it seemed to get nice and soft. But it stiffened again as it dried. It’s not feed sacking. It also doesn’t look like any canvas I’ve seen before.

Here is the canvas in its original shape:

original photo

And the repairs have begun:

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Above, the angel’s face has been re-stitched due to loss of peach-toned stitches from wear and tear.

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Above photos show lightened stain area, and all-over lightened canvas

The canvas has brightened a bit with a cleaning. The writing is sharper. Still shows some stains that will not come out because of their age. You can see the brittleness of the fabric, too, near the staining.

Still need to:

–repair some areas where color lifted

–add scrollwork on sides and between wording

–repair holes with canvas backing

So, back to work!

My own ongoing projects:

Here is a crocheted pin cushion I made myself. It’s a vintage pineapple pin cushion pattern that is shared online:

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Pretty! I’m very happy with it. Don’t relish the idea of sticking pins in it, though! LOL

Hardest part was pleating that dang ribbon! I made the mistake of going with what the pattern called for, which was 5 yards of 1-inch ribbon. But my sections where the loops of ribbon are to be pulled up from were not 1 inch, they were more like 5/8 of an inch. That makes a difference apparently. So after purchasing 5 yards of 1-inch green satin ribbon and having it now work, I decided to try with grosgrain, which is stiffer, and bought 5 more yards of 1-inch. Still had the problem of the little folds and points NOT wanting to stay in place. Showed my crafty neighbor, who said the only thing she noticed different from hers she’d made and mine was, her ribbon fit perfectly in the spaces and mine seemed a little bunched-up. Off I went to buy 5 MORE yards, this time 5/8” per the measurement of the spaces, and lo and behold, it worked! Live and learn!


PROJECT 2:

Two-at-a-time toe-up socks on Magic Loop:

toe up and 2 at a time

The pattern stitch is a mock cable, accomplished each four rows. I like the Magic Loop because I like having it all on one needle. Have made two-at-a-time on two circular needles, but it gets confusing. You need your needles to be different colors, to keep from accidentally picking up the same needle and bang-o, confusion has set in!

First time I’ve used this Lorna’s Laces yarn. At first I LOVED it, loved the soft feel. But now I’m a little upset that I went on Ravelry (knitting network) and discovered though it’s nice and soft, many sock knitters prefer a cheaper, sturdier yarn like good old Paton’s Kroy sock yarn that you get at JoAnn’s Fabrics. I used that the last time, and I must say, I liked it. I can also see that this yarn is fuzzing up a little. Makes me worry that the socks will develop holes faster. That’s what some knitters said happened to their Lorna’s Laces socks, that they don’t wear as well as other yarns.

Also, I do not like the expensive Addi Lace needles. I think the connection between needle tips and cable is terribly hard to push my stitches over. Also I find the cables stiff, so that causes “ladders” or gaps where you go from back of sock to front in each row. I hear the Knit Picks needles are more flexible. I may try those next time.

I will never again make one sock at a time. I don’t like finishing one and then having to turn around and do another. Two at a time means they’re both done at the same time!  Smile with tongue out