Archive for June, 2009

Spiral Sweater KAL Assignment One

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Hi, everyone!

There’s been enough interest in a knit-along for the spiral sweater that I’m going to go ahead and try to get this thing off the ground. The first thing you’ll have to do if you want to knit a sweater is pick out the yarn. If you spin, you can spin your own crazy color scheme the way I did, or you can search your stash, or you can buy something fresh and new.

I’m going to use some stash yarn this time around – I bought a big pile of Kauni during the crazy rush after the two-color cardigan ran around the blogs. I actually bought enough for two different sweaters, and I’m going to keep the rainbow one in stash.

I think this sweater could be very nice in a solid color yarn, but I do think the long-changing colors make a bigger impact. I know I have more than enough here for a single-layer sweater. After all, when I bought the yarn, I was planning a stranded two-color knit. I’ve got four 140-gram skeins, adding up to about 2240 meters. I’ll have plenty for the sweater, plus some swatches, and even probably enough to start the sleeves at the same point in the colorway.

Now, how much will *you* need? Oh, the variables. There are some great charts out there giving yardage estimates. This one has some pretty good numbers on it. It depends on what weight yarn you choose, and it depends on what size sweater you want, and it depends on how much swatching you’ll want to do. I’ll tell you this – we probably won’t need much swatching yarn, as the very beginning of the sweater counts as a swatch, and we’ll be using it that way. Lace patterns stretch the yarn out a bit – you’ll need slightly less for each hole left open. It’s a v-neck, which cuts a little triangle of fabric out of the total yarn necessary as well.

I like to buy a little more than I think I’ll need just for peace of mind. Most local yarn shops are pretty good about taking unused skeins back in good condition and with a receipt within a reasonable amount of time. We can discuss this further if you’re in doubt of have questions. More about that in a minute.

Now on to which yarn you might want to dig out of your stash or buy… Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden are somewhat obvious choices. A few others come to my mind. Berroco Jasper is lovely, soft merino and beautiful colors, but the price is a bit dear. Nashua’s Wooly Stripes is also very soft merino, with slightly longer stripes than Jasper. Crystal Palace Yarns just came out with Mochi Plus, which just came into the Yarnery. Those three are all fairly similar.

There are a bunch of other lovely variegated yarns out there. A worsted-weight will knit up fairly quickly. If you’ve always wanted to buy an entire bag of a stripey sock yarn, now would be your chance for that too. I can’t wait to hear what you all choose!

Now, on to the organizational part for a moment. I think we need a group and forum on Ravelry for this discussion. I’m going to continue posting assignments on the blog here, but I think it would be easier for people to keep track of ongoing discussions over on Ravelry, not to mention posting links to pictures and yarns. I’ll go and set the group up – my first time doing that! But I do need some help with the Ravelry user names to include in the invites. Would you please either e-mail me or post a comment with your user name, and I’ll send you an invite if you want one?

Oh, and I want to respond to a couple of comments on the sweater. First, thanks again for the amazingly positive response! Second, I love all the ideas of how you might tweak the concept in your own knit. That’s definitely encouraged.

One commenter asked if this could be converted to a cardigan. Well, I have to say that it’s probably possible in some way, but I don’t think I’d recommend it. At least not in its current form. It really is meant to be knit kind of in the round, and splitting it down the front would sort of ruin the lines. I’m a huge fan of cardigans myself, and tend to knit them before pullovers. This design just wouldn’t get out of my head, though, so I stuck with it. I think if I were going to knit something like this as a cardigan, I would skip the spiral bit and just knit the main body in one piece side-to-side, all the panels at once. you could then pick up stitches and knit the yoke just like I did and get a similar effect. If you want to do that and join the knit-along, fine by me! We can talk about it more, and I can draw a little schematic.

Another commenter said that she wished I’d kept the spiral theme going in the arms instead of just running the design up the sleeves. I considered that option, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying it if they wanted to. I chose to do the sleeves the standard way for a couple of reasons.

I wasn’t sure how the spiraling seams would bend and flex in a sleeve situation, and I didn’t want to have an uncomfortable line of solid fabric where the elbow stretches. Having knit one up, I’m not sure that’d be such a huge problem, but the added bulk at the underarm might be.

Also, I think that the spiral around the arms might have kind of fought with the spiral around the body. There is a lot going on in this here sweater, and keeping the sleeves a little more simple seemed right to me.

Oh, and I really wanted to run that line of patterning right up over the shoulder to the neckline, and it wouldn’t have worked out that way with a spiral up the sleeve.

Plus, honestly, after knitting that spiral body, I was ready to knit around and around without turning to purl for a while on the sleeves. It made them less mindful and a little more portable.

Finally, I think there probably is a fancier/different/perhaps better way to do the yoke. I had a slightly different idea in mind at the beginning, but it was half-assed and I still haven’t figured out a way to implement it without going insane, despite an ongoing conversation with one of the master knitters at the store where I work, and constant back-of-my-mind pondering. I would love to hear your ideas on that one too!

I’m sitting on my couch surrounded by stitch pattern books once more, and I hope to have the original stitch pattern charted out for you and a couple more recommended options to choose from by early next week. You should feel free to flip through your own pattern books and think about patterns that appeal to you.

Silly Sunday Parade

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

This was the scene in the back yard as I was leaving to shop for
groceries just moments ago. My girls are nothing if not creative in
re-purposing their toys.

Hopefully, I'll have a post up tonight ramping up the sweater-along.

Good News Bad News

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Good News: I still love my bike. I took the girls for a ride to the park
and back this morning. One of them whined almost constantly that she was
hot and uncomfortable, but I still manage to enjoy myself (despite my
own purple, sweaty face) in the knowledge that I was getting a little
exercise and doing a teeny tiny bit for the environment by skipping a
car ride.

Bad News: Both of the giant elm trees in our backyard are marked for
destruction. We knew this was coming, but the reality is sinking in, and
they'll be gone by the end of summer. No more backyard shade for us.
We're doing our best to enjoy them while we can, even though they're
dropping leaves like it's October.

Hot off the Needles

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I finished the spiral sweater this afternoon, and the moment the last stitch was cast off, I glanced out the window and saw that my friendly knitting neighbor was outside with her son. So of course I tossed it on (despite the mid-80’s hot, humid, sticky weather) and ran outside with my girls and the camera.

These photos are obviously not “styled”, and in fact I still haven’t woven in the last couple of ends or even taken the last stitch marker off the hem.

Also, the sweater needs a good blocking, which will smooth out the decrease lines on the shoulders and make the whole thing look a lot more put-together.

But – I am quite happy with the results of this little experiment. I think another spiral sweater may be in my relatively near future. I want to refine the shaping a bit, experiment with a different stitch pattern. I also want to think about how to explain this process a bit better. I do want to write this one up, but not in the normal expected way. This is more of a recipe than a pattern, and it is not the kind of recipe with exact measurements, but the kind of recipe where you add ingredients till it looks, feels, or tastes right. This is the kind of pattern that can be adapted to any shape or size of person, any weight of yarn the knitter desires with relative ease. I don’t want to limit it to a specific set of exact directions.

I want to write it up in a way that even knitters who are afraid of math, have little to no confidence in their own imagination or ability to improvise, can succeed at it. This is truly an advanced-beginner project for anyone who is willing to simply follow the directions. Even the lace – it is a simple, single repeat knit with only 20-some stitches per row, which makes fixing mistakes easy as pie.

I’ve proven the concept. Next time around, I want some company to knit along with me. I’ll use a fine-gauge yarn and knit it in my own size. You’ll have plenty of time to keep up, and we’ll do the math together. C’mon! You know you want to!

Darn Sweater!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I’ve been spending most of my free time since my last post working on my spiral sweater project. Well, actually, most of my fiber-related free time.

Last weekend Joe and I spent a couple of hours cleaning all of our windows, and it crossed my mind a few times that I was risking my lazy-housekeeping credentials. Honestly, though, I actually enjoyed the chore. I got to spend a couple of hours hanging out with my husband doing something together, with immediately gratifying results. The girls followed us around for most of that time, watching the goings-on and playing wherever we were. Luckily, our house came with awesome windows that fold down to the inside for cleaning, so we were able to do the entire project, with the exception of the bay window, from the inside. We dirtied almost every single one of our now-raggedy cloth diapers on the project, and they worked quite well. I felt so *green* getting the extra use out of them (and then washing them and drying them on the line outside.

A few other little projects have also gotten in the way. Last night, I spent the evening filling an electronic photo frame with choice family photos as Joe’s Father’s Day gift. I think it was a successful one, and I topped it off this morning with a breakfast specially catered to my man, including bacon (which is one of his favorite foods but which we almost never have), biscuits, and country gravy (which I despise but which he seems to enjoy), among other things.

Still, I have spent many hours on this sweater, enough so that it should be well done and blocked by now, but that is not the case. I’m a little frustrated, but I’m taking it in stride as one must do when designing a sweater on the needles. Let’s back up a bit and start where we left off.

Last I mentioned, I was halfway through knitting the second sleeve. It didn’t take long to finish the one and while I was finishing it, block the first to double-check gauge and fit. So then I had three parts that lined up like this:

It was time to join them all together. I started by picking up and knitting stitches all around the top of the main body. I started by picking up one stitch in every chain link of the slip-stitch selvedge…

And then I went back around, knitting that first row of stitches and also knitting an extra stitch into every-other purl-looking bump left at the back of the fabric by the first round of picked up stitches.

I know, clear as mud. I am not in any way claiming that this was the *best* way of going about things, but I started the process late and night, and it did work out okay. I ended up with the right ratio of stitches to rows, or close enough to it.

The next day, I found myself in a lawn chair in the back yard, watching the girls play. Which gave me a chance to do a little math and preparation for getting down to business. Here’s what I had with me:

The pink book is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s posthumous The Opinionated Knitter, which contains some great instructions on saddle-shoulder sweater shaping, which wasn’t exactly my original half-assed plan, but which I thought would suit my purpose well enough. Except that I didn’t exactly follow her directions because I had my own special reasons. Still, the base steps before joining it all together are about the same regardless of the shaping to follow.

First you need to put some of the stitches from the body and some of the stitches from the sleeves on hold to serve as the underarms. Elizabeth says 8-10%, and I agree. I multiplied out 8% and rounded up, which gave me 16 stitches to place on hold in each spot. I have never in my life owned any of those giant-safety-pin stitch holders, and have no desire to get them now. I like using waste yarn to hold my stitches because it is lighter and more flexible, which means that it stays out of my way and also doesn’t stretch out my stitches unnecessarily.

Lately, I’ve been using bits off this skein of crochet cotton and loving it. It was dirt cheap from Michael’s, it’s white and non-shedding, so it’s not going to leave funny colors on my project, it’s smooth and strong so it’s not going to break while holding my stitches, and it will come out easily when I want them back on the needles. What’s not to love?

I took the following picture to remind myself to point out that it’s a very good idea to leave rather long tails of yarn on the sleeves, and to end the knitting at one of the points where the underarm stitches start. I use this end to graft the underarms together once everything is joined. In the mean time, I wind the end into a little mini-skein blob to help it stay out of the way while it’s waiting.

Since I had my darning needle out, I went ahead and wove in the ends on the sleeve cuffs. See the pretty moss stitch there? Much nicer than those nasty i-cords I tried on the sweater bottom before. Once the top business is all finished off, I’ll go back and add some pretty moss stitch to the bottom of the sweater and (hopefully) all will be well with the world.

So here we are wtih the underarm stitches all on hold…

And the body of the sweater is all ready to go, with Elizabeth keeping an eye on me in the background…

I have no idea what I was trying to show with this picture…maybe that the center front is right where the spiral join left off? No clue.

True to form, I had several late-night trying-on sessions. At this point I was thinking “Okay, it’s going to work out fine. I know I’m not following EZ’s directions, but knitting is flexible. It’ll fit!”

Well, you can tell from the way I’ve been talking that the top did not end up working out the way I’d hoped, but at least you can see from the picture that the sweater is going to look pretty cool once I do iron out the issues.

Daisy says “This looks like a great place for a cat butt.”

And this is the sweater, almost done, right before I ripped the top back to the sleeves. The collar turned out way too wide, and the whole top was way too big, which in turn made the sleeves too long. Blech.

That was days ago. It’s been ripped, and I’m well into try number two. We’re going with a raglan shaping this time.

Meanwhile, I joined my first spin-in yesterday. The group of ladies that meets at the Black Bear pavillion by Como Lake in St. Paul were nice and welcoming. I was a little flustered and very late when I got there because traffic had been a nightmare. 94 was down to one lane because of construction and then there was some crazy auto show at the State Fairgrounds, backing traffic up worse than the actual State Fair does.

Still, it was a nice day, there were lots of pretty wheels and fiber to see, and the ladies made me feel at home. Thanks!

Spun: A Pound of Alpaca Lace!

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Anyone remember this giant bag of alpaca roving I bought at Shepherd’s Harvest last month? It’s so funny saying that. I was catching up with a spinning acquaintance yesterday, and I mentioned that I’d finished spinning a pound of alpaca from Shepherd’s Harvest, and she just about spit out the drink she was sipping. She definitely did a double-take, and that made me realize that it really is a bit crazy having spun up this crazy pile in less than a month.

And then I mentioned that I spun it into two-ply laceweight, and my friend was really impressed. Really impressed with how incredibly obsessive-compulsive I must be to spin that much in one month.

A total of 1958 yards of two-ply laceweight alpaca yarn.

It is so soft, so fuzzy, so naturally lovely, lovely, lovely.

The really cool thing about this project was that I learned something new, something that I’d been really curious about since I started spinning, something that intimidated the hell out of me and seemed almost impossible that I’d actually learn to do myself. And it happened kind of by accident.

For the first half-bobbin’s worth of singles, I sat there struggling with my normal worsted inch-worm approach to drafting out the roving. And then, magically, I don’t know how, I sort of accidentally started spinning woolen. The twist ran into the fluff, and continued to stretch. I was getting great consistently thin yar

This sweetness is about 19 or 20 wpi, and I spun it mostly on my Rose. I did about half a bobbins’ worth on the Earl, but Rose just works better for skinny, skinny yarns with the higher ratios.

I’ve been wanting to knit something out of Knitted Lace of Estonia since it came out. Maybe this will finally be the yarn for the project.

Meanwhile, back in real life…the girls and I were headed out to run an errand this afternoon, and Sophie stopped to glance at the cocoon that’s been sitting in our garage since last September when the giant caterpillar we brought home from the State Fair wrapped itself up and went nappy-nappy for the winter. Hello, giant moth!

We’ve been waiting for so long, glancing at the container just about every day and wondering if and when it would come out, and what it would be like when it did.

And then there it was, all of a sudden. Look at those crazy-fuzzy antenna! It was still flapping its wings to dry them fully, and I was hoping it would sit on the girls’ hands for a few moments before it flew away…

They were pretty excited about it, but the experience was over pretty quickly.

We stood and watched it for a few minutes, and I was just about to suggest that we leave it be and continue on our way to buy shoes (and oh, my gosh, didn’t we just buy new sneakers and now they’ve grown again?!?) when the moth fluttered its wings and flew off out of sight.

I blocked the first sleeve and finished knitting the second on that sweater, so now I have to face the reality of knitting up my half-assed idea of how the top is going to work. More on that next time.

Shelly’s Spiral Sweater

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

As promised, here comes the dish on my new sweater project. New in the sense that I haven’t told you all much about it yet, not exactly new in that I’ve been working on it for a few weeks now and have already finished the main part of the body and one and a half sleeves. To be honest, I’ve been dithering about whether to put this sweater up on the blog at all, and if so, how to do it.

I really want to do a tutorial on this sweater, as I think it’s going to be a pretty awesome design, something that I think is a fairly new concept of my own (although with a little subconscious influence from Nora Gaughn – here’s a Ravelry link to the pattern in question – not even a sweater but a poncho, and I’m making a bit of a leap here.) And the thing about this design is that it can easily be modified to any size and any weight of yarn, and changed by switching out lace or other texture motifs as you’ll see in a moment.

The only reason why I hesitate to to this is because of a tiny bit of negative experience with the Blankie. I wrote a post about it a while back when a woman started claiming that the blankie was her creation and teaching classes on it without crediting me for the design. Turns out, the same woman did it with the February Lady sweater, as have many other shops. It really does make me sick to think about people capitalizing on my idea, which I gave away freely as a way to say thank you to my readers who sent me their yarn.

Well, I’ve decided that the knitting terrorists have won if I let that hold me back from sharing this idea with all of you, and maybe just maybe someone else will decide that it’s a fun idea and knit it along with me. The prototype sweater isn’t finished yet, so you might want to wait and see the final result before casting on, but I want to go ahead and start the tutorial process while it’s all fresh in my mind.

The idea for this sweater came along as I was finishing the spinning for this yarn:

which I documented in full detail here. I sat there thinking that this yarn was going to make some lovely, slowly-shifting stripes somewhat similar to Noro type yarns, only with the added interest of barber-poling effect of three plies. I love those slowly striping yarns, and have brainstormed many times about how to use them to their best effect. I think my brain was in that special creative place (theta?) that activities like spinning and knitting help us find, which led me down a train of thought that included the fact that narrower strips do a better job of showing off the stripes, that I sure would like to do something more than plain stockinette, and hadn’t I seen something knit semi-modularly with kind of a spiral shape somewhere in the past?

At some point not too long after that brainstorming-while-spinning session, I sketched out a little picture that looks almost just like the one below on the upper left. This isn’t the same one, because it was before I’d decided on a stitch pattern, and the original sketch was a little sloppier and on a post-it note which is now long gone after having been scribbled on by one of my kids.

Between that original sketch and the notes you see above, several things took place. First, I dug out a huge stack of stitch dictionaries and spent a couple of evenings paging through them and marking every single pattern that caught my eye as a potential match for the picture in my mind. I wanted something kind of leafy, or maybe reminicent of something floral. But I had a couple other criteria in mind at that point too. I wanted something on a stockinette background, and without too much ribbing-type texture. It needed to make a nice not-too-wide panel, and I wanted it to be something fairly easy to remember. After my first pass, I had about twenty pages marked, but my second pass narrowed it down to a single favorite pretty quickly. I’d really like to try this concept with a cabled design next time, though.

And then I wound off some yarn and knit up a quick swatch, which as it turned out was also the beginning of the sweater. This, to me, is a huge advantage to this design. I love it that you can jump in and start knitting, knowing that if you like the way your blocked swatch looks, then it will very likely make a great start to your project. Same as the blankie. Shown here is my swatch after it had a bath and a very gentle blocking.

I measured that sucker up and down and sideways, getting both stitches and rows per inch as well as repeats of the lace pattern per inch and a good idea of the strip width total. One lesson that I’ve learned in my knitting years is to take good notes. I’m still learning it, actually. Always write down more than you think you’ll need to know later, even if you think you’ll remember it. I always forget little details about what I did unless I write them down, and every time I race along without stopping to document them, they come back to bite me.

Next, I pulled out a sweater that fits me well, that is shaped generally the same way that this sweater will be, and knit in a similar weight of yarn. In this case, I used my Ingenue sweater, which is a tiny bit longer than I’m planning to knit and has some waist shaping in it. I knew I was safe using the bust measurements, though, because this new sweater isn’t going to be long enough to need more width for the hips.

I layed the model sweater out and measured chest diameter, length to underarm, length of arms, and diameter of arms both at wrist and at underarm. I noted all these measurements on the sketch pictured above – not all the measurements are listed in the version shown, but that’s because when I took the picture I was still focused on starting the sweater body. My little brain prefers math in small chunks!

In the mean time, I knit my strip longer and longer. I’d started with just a couple of stitches, then increased by making one after slipping the first stich on every right side row until I had enough stitches to start my lace pattern at the center of my swatch. I continued increasing until I had a nice little margin of stockinette stitches on either side of the lace pane. In retrospect, I think I would omit a few columns of knit stitches next time to make the stripes a little longer and to increase the lace in the overall effect, and also it would have added room for an additional spiral on the body. You’ll see what I’m talking about in a minute. Also, I think I would change the initial increases to every other right-side row, to create a more gradual slope. Still, this concept is fairly forgiving, and I like it enough that I’ll be taking a second try once this sweater is done.

Alright, once the length of my strip measured the diameter I wanted for the body of my sweater (and I measured this by adding the post-blocking length of the non-patterned part to the number of pattern repeats multiplied by the repeats-per-inch I’d noted from the post-blocked swatch) I joined the thing into the round.

But not in the normal way, even though I was still careful not to twist. I joined them together by working across a right-side row, then picking up a stitch from the nice slip-stitch selvedge edge. Then, I turned my work, slipped that newly picked up stitch, worked my way across the back. I worked my way across the front again, until I reached the last two stitches – the last stitch of the strip and the newly picked-up stitch, and I worked them together by (and don’t ask me why I did this or where I got the idea from – it just seemed right at the time) slipping the first stitch as if to knit and inserting my right-hand needle through the back of the newly-picked up stitch, wrapping the yarn and bringing it through both loops. It makes a surprisingly nice, flat, non-bulky join. Oh, and then before turning, I picked up another stitch in the next selvedge chain.

There were many repeats of that joining and knitting, during which lots of family life took place. The girls looked super-cute in their matchy-matchy dresses one weekend afternoon, and I got them to pose for me.

That was the same day that we brought home Joe’s new-to-us car. It’s a 2007 Nissan Altima, which will replace the 1993 Honda Civic that he’s been driving since I got the Odyssey and we gave away his old Jetta a couple of years ago. I bought the Civic new and promised myself to drive it into the ground. 16 years is a pretty good record for car ownership, and Joe was not comfortable driving it any more, especially with the rear bumper starting to rust right off the car. Cars are a lot more important to Joe than they are to me, so I was happy that he got to pick out something nicer than my old hail damaged “Red Golfball” as he liked to call it. I just wish we could afford one of the many dream cars he lusts after. Someday, honey!

The flowers have finally been blooming. I love peonies, and our house has some of the first in the neighborhood since ours are planted along the southern exposure right next to the house where they stay warm all day. The irises were pretty too, but they bloomed for only about a week before going all wilty.

Okay, and finally, after all that knitting, I came up with something like this:

That’s the sweater body after I knit it up to the underarms, added a couple of rows of applied i-cord at the bottom to prevent rolling, and then blocked it again in the hopes that the i-cord would somehow look a lot more acceptable than it did pre-blocking. Well, it didn’t. It was thick and heavy compared to the body of the sweater, and as you can see, it also stretched the width out in a way that reminds me of those crazy clown clothes with hula-hoops in the waistbands.

Here’s a not-very-good closeup of the i-cord before I ripped it out.

Part of the fun of designing on the fly like this is knowing that you may have to change things as you go along, and being prepared to hop in the frog pond (rip-it, rip-it!). I have a plan B which I’m confident in, but I decided to try it on the sleeve edging, using that as another gauge-swatch situation, before applying it to the bottom of the sweater.

So, life has continued. The weather here was cold and rainy all weekend, and we all took a little trip to the Science Museum in St. Paul.

Those pink halter dresses have been a big hit with the girls. Julie was looking through a giant crystal ball meant to show something about lenses and light bouncing, and Sophie crawled through a barrel meant to show the size of a plant-eating dinosaur’s belly.

The knitting came along in the car while Joe drove, and as I said, I’m more than halfway across sleeve island. (Who coined that term, anyway?) I’ll share that part of the design with you in the next update. In the mean time, anybody think they might be interested in trying something like this out? Any questions so far?

Next up is a wrap-up post on the yarn I just finished spinning from the alpaca roving I bought at Shepherd’s Harvest. I washed it this morning, and I’ll post the details as soon as it’s dry and I can count the yardage and take some decent pictures.

Helmet Confessions

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I have never been much of a sports enthusiast. I've always been a bit
awkwardly pigeon-toed, gangly and less than fully motivated to get up
and move. As a child, I mostly preferred to spend my summers reading,
and when I did try the sportier activities, I tended to fail pretty

Of course, I want better for my girls. I want them to enjoy exercise and
feel comfortable joining in games. But it's hard, because the best way
to encourage them is to get in there and act like it's fun. I know I
need to suggest regular bike rides and running-around games, but really
I dread them. This summer, I'll be working on my acting skills I guess.

Today I put in a good show, wrangling the girls into a ride around a
couple of our neighborhood blocks. Sophie is big enough to ride her
tricycle with help from me and the mommy-handle in back, and Julie can
ride her two-wheeler with training wheels with only a few extra pushes
from me when she gets stuck.

Still, we do reach the point when we're halfway around the block and one
of them balks, refusing even the possibility that they can go any
farther. By that point, my back is starting to hurt from leaning over
and I get to really exercise my acting chops, remaining cheery and

I know that the more round-the-block trips we make, the easier it will
get. In the mean time, I'm happy sitting here in my shaded lawn chair
while they amuse themselves in the yard.

There's been quite a bit of spinning and knitting going on here – I'm
almost ready to give and update, so stay tuned!