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My Cheating Ways

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More confessions of a fibre strumpet I’m afraid ;-)

I do love the word strumpet by the way, what word(s) do you like the most?

I digress.

Sorry.

A couple of weeks ago now, I spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon enjoying myself in the sun with some of the lovely ladies from the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild playing with indigo dye in Bunmahon on the beautiful Copper Coast.

Most of us will no doubt, have something in our wardrobe dyed using indigo (probably in it’s synthetic form) as it’s the dye of choice for most denim fabric as it’s extremely resistant to fading.  My husbands 12 year old favourite pair of jeans are still very blue, they’re just falling apart, proof if ever it were needed.

Indigo for those of you that are interested, is an ancient plant dye, with evidence of it’s use going back to the 3rd millennium BC and it’s still being used all over the world today.  Dyeing with natural indigo can be quite labour intensive and although using synthetic indigo still requires a lot of steps, it’s much easier and quicker to get going and we only had the day after all.

The synthetic indigo powder came from George Weil and we followed the instructions given by Vivien Prideaux in her book – A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing.  Once mixed and ready the dye bath requires constant, steady heating for an hour or so before you can add your fibre or cloth, which provided the ideal opportunity to indulge in a little lunch of salad, home made hummus and rolls, followed by Irish strawberries and ice cream :-)

Each of us had made up mini skeins of different yarns (about 20g each), so we could have fun observing how different fibres reacted to the dye.

My yarns were all commercially manufactured yarns, which can sometimes mean they’ve been bleached and may not take the dye, but I was under pressure and it was touch and go whether I’d actually make it on the day.  Happily, all of the ones I’d picked took some of the dye and the result is a range of beautiful, blue hues.

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From left to right the fibres are Ramsdale pure wool, merino, merino/cashmere/synthetic blend and lastly a bamboo/cotton blend (2 of them as I’ll probably use it as a warp thread).

I love the way the different yarns have reacted to the indigo.  The Ramsdale, which is probably my favourite, was a mid grey to begin with, whilst the other three yarns were off white/cream before dyeing.  All of my samples have had a couple of rinses, but I’m not sure if the bamboo/cotton blend would actually remain blue if I was to rinse it again.

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I’m thinking of weaving a little wall hanging, or maybe even knitting it in linen stitch so it resembles weaving.  For now I’m just enjoying steeling glances at the jar of mini blue hanks sitting on my desk.  It’ll be interesting to see how the other guild members use their samples, perhaps they might let me take a photo or two and if so I’ll be sure to post them here.

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As is so often the case when you’re enjoying yourself, the day drew to a close all too quickly and we were soon off and on our way home.  With the sun still high in the sky, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull in near a little pebbled cove, where I found a bum size rock to sit on and took my shoes off to let the heat from the warmed stones radiate through my feet.

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I even found some lovely driftwood branches, bleached white from the sea and sun, which I intend to use in a wind chime project sometime soon.

 

If you want to know more about indigo dyeing, the history, how to and where to purchase it, these are the websites I’ve found useful.  I’d also recommend Vivien’s book that I’ve mentioned above.

George Weil

Wild Colours 

Instructables

Happy Knitting!

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I’ve Been Unfaithful

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It’s true I’m afraid, I’ve been having an affair…

Tempestuous, tumultuous, impassioned and at the same time harmonious, equable and calm, all the things you want from a great romance.  Don’t be mistaken though, I shan’t be running away any time soon and shifting my allegiance, it’s just a 💕 dalliance💕  I’m sure

My husband?  No we’re fine, never better actually.

Thanks for asking.

So what am I referring to?

Why, knitting of course 😊

I’ve been neglecting it a little you see, becoming slightly enamoured with my sewing again, as myself and my sewing machine become reacquainted.

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I’d spotted this top/dress on Instagram from someone who was posting daily photos for #MadeinMay.  (The idea being that for every day of May, you’d try to wear something you’ve made yourself.)

So…. I went off in search of the pattern – as you do ;-)

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The top is called the Wiksten Tank designed by Jenny Gordy and is available as a downloadable pdf via the Wiksten website here It costs $10 so it was a bit of a gamble, but as I had the material already, it wasn’t going to be too bad.  Mind you, I did use to make clothes for Dina and Durahn when they were smaller and I was forever ‘upcycling’ jumble sale and charity shop finds.  It wasn’t really upcycling, just what you do when your disposable income doesn’t stretch as far as you’d like it too, or your short with big boobs.

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The sewing machine and I aren’t firm friends yet, it wouldn’t behave as well as I would have liked, but I did manage to make my Wiksten Tank and I’m so very  ♥happy♥ with it, that I’ve already bought some material to make another one.  I’ve gone for somewhere between top and dress length, so I can wear it more like a tunic over a tee-shirt and jeans.  The fit is good and whilst I could tweak it with the odd dart here and there and maybe nip it in a bit under the arms, but why bother when it’s fully serviceable as it is :-)

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In the meantime I guess I should get on with some of my many ongoing projects.

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Whilst unpacking all my project bags from my lager knitting bag, I discovered that I’ve left the crochet blanket I’ve been working on too,  at home in the living room.  I realised we have loads of duvets at home, but very few blankets.  Something I can at least, start to work on rectifying.  This is proving to be a little addictive though, my mantra has become ‘just one more round’, fine when it was smaller, but now i could loose an hour or so.

Whilst typing this post, it occurs to me that it presents an ideal opportunity to also tell you about Zebrino, the latest offering from Adriafil.

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Zebrino is a self patterning yarn with 125 metres/136.70 yards approximately  to each 50 gram ball.  It’s made from  a blend of 53% wool 47% acrylic and is a worsted/aran weight.

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For now I’ve only gone with 4 of the above shades just to see what the yarn is like.  The colours in stock are shades 61, 62, 64 and 67 and I’m itching to have a go at knitting with it, but as the pile of projects in the photo above shows, I should probably control the urge for a while longer.  I’m thinking a big, oversized jumper though and maybe a scarf or two as Christmas presents.

Happy Knitting!

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Book Review – Centenary Stitches

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After spotting a write up on Centenary Stitches in issue 83 of The Knitter, I knew I’d have to add a copy to my library.

Centenary Stitches is a beautiful book of vintage knitting and crochet patterns, re-worked from traditional garments and patterns for the feature film Tell Them Of Us, a film based on World War One solider Robert Crowder who died whilst serving in the army in 1917.  The film tells the story from the point of those he left behind in the small village of Thimbleby in Lincolnshire.

Despite many of the records from WW1 being lost or damaged, Robert’s family had held his memory dear and kept a remarkable archive of unpublished material, enough to make a film with.  The film goes some way towards exploring the shocking reality of living ‘normal’ every day life then being thrown into the terror and torment of war.

Elizabeth Lovick, volunteered her services when Pauline Loven, the costumer for the film put out a request on Ravelry to find help re-creating a knitted jacket as worn by the original Grace Crowder(Robert’s sister) and which was typical of the period.

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Elizabeth in case you don’t know, is a knitwear designer specialising in traditional Shetland Lace designs.  Her book The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting provides a beautiful reference for anyone interested in lace stitches and the beautiful pieces that can be made using them.

From this single design, sprang over 70 garments for the film and subsequent book of patterns, which was a collaboration of over a hundred knitters from across the UK and USA.  The patterns are for children and adults, garments and accessories.  There’s even a dog coat and a set of baby reins (I know some people frown on the use of these, we’ll save that for another day).

In addition to the fabulous patterns, there is a lovely description of the village of Thimbeleby written by Pauline Loven, who also talks about the WAG film making group and what’s involved in being their costumier.  Elizabeth Lovick has included a brief history of knitting in WW1 and the challenges faced in translating vintage knitting patterns.

Most importantly, there is a little history of Robert Crowder written by his Great Nephew – Robert Holland, including excerpts from letters written by Robert’s brother William Crowder, to the historian Peter Liddle about his war experiences and some much cherished family photos.

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Of the 70 or so patterns it’s difficult to chose ‘favourites’ as I’m actually quite smitten with lots of them. If pressed, I’d have to go with Cosy Cat by Alison Casserly which is a short crochet waistcoat, worked in aran weight yarn.

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The Rough & Ready Cardigan by Judith Brodnicki is an extremely versatile aran weight cardigan for both children and adults.

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Judith is also the designer of William’s Waistcoat, which is a great aran weight knit, that I know my hubby would love (Christmas maybe?).

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The Mersey Wrap translated from a Fleicher’s Knitting & Crochet Manual by Tina Kinnar and knitted in double knit yarn is simplicity at it’s best.

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The garment that started all of this – Grace’s Jacket by Elizabeth Lovick,is truly beautiful.  Elegant, whilst utilitarian and  Knitted in double knit yarn, I can’t wait to find some time to get working on it.

Definitely a book worth having, you can purchase it in traditional ‘paper’ format or as a digital download.  To have a look at all of the designs included in the book, follow the link here for the Ravelry patterns page.

Happy Knitting!

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Let’s Talk Money

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There are times in our lives when we’ve probably all had to have one of those uncomfortable talks.  You know the ones – money, religion, parenting, politics, family, etc, etc, etc.

This for me, is one of those times……

Having received new price lists now from several of my suppliers it’s become apparent that a change is under way, one that knowing the way these things go, is rather unlikely to be reversed.

Many of the yarn brands we’ve come to know and love here in Ireland, are actually UK based companies.  Most, of these sell their wares in Sterling to their UK based shops whilst the likes of me in Ireland, purchases in Euros.  It makes it easier all round in terms of banking, recommended retail pricing and in the main, produces a ‘fairer’ system for the shops and end consumer alike.

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However, it’s probably not escaped your notice that the Euro has been performing extremely badly against the pound and as a result of the Pounds increasing strength, the UK based yarn companies have pretty much all increased their prices.

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Increases of between 6 – 10% from what I’ve seen so far, seem to be the rate most of the yarn companies have rolled out.  Which translates to quite a jump in the price of some of our yarns.  For example a ball of Sirdar Snuggly Double Knit will be increasing in price from €3.90 to €4.20 a ball (sorry).

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I’m going to have to ponder on what these increases will mean to us continuing to stock some ranges.  There are some yarns that I personally, just don’t think represent value for money at the new increased price and I shall begin to phase these out.  Others, some of which are favourites of yours and mine, will either stay or I’ll try and find alternatives, more reasonably priced alternatives.

Many of the more popular yarns are manufactured for several different companies and perhaps a little investigating is what’s needed now?  Not wanting to be too cynical, my fear is that once increased, the yarn companies will be slow to implement any reductions in price if the Euro regains some strength.

I could have just implemented the price increases across the board and hoped no one noticed, but I’d prefer to be upfront and tell you all what’s happened and why.

Hopefully, we won’t all be too much poorer, as the price increases will I imagine, be rolled out on many of the things we buy :-(

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Happy Knitting!

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Comicon

PicMonkey Collage (10)Yes I do own a yarn shop, but for those of you that know me, you’re probably more than just a little aware of my inner geek and where my inner geek finishes, both of my sons continues (and then some). I share my office with both of them, Durahn has his sewing machine in there and Kye has his XBox One and PC in there too.  It does mean it can be a little noisy at times -Cut to Kye talking to friends on XBox Live, loudly because he has headphones on, whilst listening to Dubstep at full volume, because of the afore mentioned headphones and the sewing machine or overlocker could be going too. On reflection, yes it can be a lot noisy at times, but it’s lovely (most of the time) and at least I can keep an eye on what Kye is getting up to on the internet. It does mean though, that I’m far more aware of characters in games, what’s hot on Youtube and loads of other useless bits of information that I won’t bore you with.  I didn’t need to read the list of top Youtube Stars to hear about the likes of Ray William Johnson (now retired), Smosh or Ireland’s very own Jack Septic Eye as I am literally, bombarded with them on a daily basis. Dare I say it….. I actually enjoy most of it.  Often, I find I’ve completely forgotten what I’m meant to be doing and instead have tuned into something Kye or Du are watching. So it will probably come as no surprise to hear that Kye and I went to  MCM Comicon in London a couple of weeks ago.  Comicon is a massive convention for all things comics, games, sci-fi, fantasy, Youtube, anime, etc. PicMonkey Collage (7) Held in the Excel Centre for three days, it was vast.  There were cult stars from film and the telly, like Sylvester McCoy, Felicia Day and John Noble to name but a few.  Animators, from comics and the screen and just about anything and everything you can think of to purchase, from key rings to a full Stormtrooper outfit at a whopping £500, or gaming computer at the ‘Special Comicon Price’ of £2795. PicMonkey Collage (2) One of the best and in our case, the thing we looked forward to the most, is the Cosplay.  The number of Cosplayers dressed up as their favourite characters was amazing and the sheer work some people put into making their costumes is incredible. All of the Cosplayers were great people, more than happy to ‘strike a pose’ for a photograph or two.  You could just see the confidence wearing a costume gave to everyone and that sense of ‘belonging’ was fantastic to see. PicMonkey Collage (3) I don’t doubt that if we go again we’ll be dressing up, there were whole families and groups of friends, dressed as characters from their favourite shows and films. PicMonkey Collage (1) PicMonkey Collage (4) As you might expect Kye (and I) were blown away and to be honest there was far too much to see in one day.  If we go again we’ll be sure to make a weekend of it. PicMonkey Collage (5) As he loves all things Transformers, Kye was really happy to have the opportunity to meet UK based illustrator Lee Bradley and Joana Lafuente from Portugal. PicMonkey Collage (6) When I asked him what his favourite thing about the day was there was no hesitation =  Meeting Tomska whose a film and video creator, best known for internet creations such as asdfmovie.  The worst was not being able to watch the Mortal Kombat X tournament as he’s too young. PicMonkey Collage (8) We did manage to squeeze a few more things into our whirlwind London trip, but not much after spending the day at Comicon.  We took a trip on the cable cars and then a boat trip up the Thames, before popping up Regent’s Street to pop into Hamley’s and Liberty’s.  On our second day, Bank Holiday Monday, we visited Spitafields Market and stopped off for Rainbow Cake in The Hummingbird Bakery, before heading to The Imperial Warm Museum.  After the museum we jumped on a bus to Sloane Square for a speedy visit to Peter Jones to cast my eye over the yarn, before catching another bus to buy ice cream at Scoop in South Kensington. PicMonkey Collage (9) There was knitting, of course there was, but as our visit was really only for Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, there were no ‘proper’ yarn shops open.  Despite managing to call into Liberty of London, I didn’t make a purchase because the haberdashery department has shrunk and whilst still full of lovely goodies, there was nothing to tempt me.  I’d really only called in to buy a replacement 4mm circular needle after breaking mine on the journey over and was really dissapointed to find they only had metal ones.  I bought them and did try to continue with my latest shawl on them, but gave up after a couple of rows, they’re just not for me anymore. My flying visit to Peter Jones was much more fruitful both for Kye and for me.  He enjoyed the 40 minute bus journey as it gave him a chance to rest and look at all the ‘cool cars’ and me because I found some suitably Comicon inspired sock yarn. I also managed to finish the pair of socks I’d been making whilst sitting on the trains and buses travelling around London.  You might remember I was using the new Cotton Premium sock yarn from Opal?  The socks themselves are lovely and comfy to wear, but I was a little concerned that the cotton in them would make them fall down easily.  To avoid this, I knitted five or six rows of the rib using the yarn and a strand of thin knitting elastic.  It does make the knitting a little more difficult as the thread is rubbery and doesn’t want to slip over your needles easily, but it’s definitely done the trick. As the picture above shows the yarn is fluorescent and will make some rather funky socks.sockscompletely reminiscent of our trip. Happy Knitting!

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Pretty For Summer

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Knitting and crochet were for many years seen as seasonal hobbies, often traded in for gardening during the warmer months.  Fortunately, for us yarn shop owners, this isn’t so much the case any more and there are lots of us out there who see the summer months as a great excuse to sit down with friends on the beech, or by ourselves taking in those Vitamin D producing sun rays with our latest projects.

Copious photographs in previous posts and on Instagram will go to prove that I will knit just about anywhere, having been known to pull my needles out at music festivals, steam rallies, Ardmore Beach and on tour buses to name but a few.  Regardless of the time of year I’ll knit.

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On the back of the trike on our way to Blarney. I can successfully knit if I hold my knitting low down behind my hubby – even at 120kmph ;-)

 

As my ever suffering hubby and children will confirm, Love me, love my knitting.

I would have to confess though, that when selecting a yarn to knit with, cotton wouldn’t usually be my first choice as I tend to find it tough going on my hands, particularly if it’s mercerised.

Mercerisation (if you’re interested?) is where the yarn is given a Sodium Hydroxide bath that is neutralized in acid.  The process  increase the strength of the yarn and is what gives mercerised cotton it’s familiar lustre too.  It’s also said to make the yarn adsorb dye better, which is how such bright colours come to be achieved by the spinning mills and as a ‘by the way’, it results in a yarn that is mildew resistant too.

If I was to opt for cotton and i occasionally do,  I’m much more likely to reach for a ‘raw’ cotton (un-mercerized), something very like Classique Cotton from Stylecraft Yarns, which is super soft and comes in a range of beautiful colours and costs €5.95 per ball.  Each 100g contains 184 metres/201 yards of 100% cotton and knits as a true double knit on 4mm needles, with a tension of 22 stitches to 28 rows over a 10cm/4″ square.

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I’ve chosen 15 colours from the range to begin with including (from left to right)

Plum, Poppy, Hot Pink, Shell Pink and Shrimp.

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 Seville, Sunflower, Leaf, Soft Lime and Azure.

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Greek Blue, Lavender, Wisteria, White and Ivory.

Classique Cotton has been a Stylecraft Yarn staple for some time now, so as you might expect there are a good range of patterns available in knitting and crochet, for adults, children, accessories and home wares.

Some of my favourites include.

classique 5Pattern 8745 is a classic round neck, knitted jumper with a deep rib and the added detail of a cable running up the length of the arm.

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Pattern 9133 is a t-shirt style knit with decorative eyelet stripes in sizes 32/34″ to 40/42″.

classique 9134Pattern 9134 is a girls round neck cardigan with a pretty lace detail for sizes 2 – 11 years.

classique 7Pattern 8849 is for crochet mats and storage pot covers.  personally I’d love to decorate a wall in my house with some of the mats fixed to it as they’d add a good splash of colour.

classique 8Lastly, what’s not to love about the spotted crochet tea cozy, complete with a pretty posy of flowers on top from pattern 8853?  The pattern also has instructions for the mug cozy too :-)

 If you enter Classique Cotton into the yarn search bar on Ravelry, you’ll notice the yarn has been used for over 470 projects including everything from dishcloths and bunting to jumpers and blankets.

I imagine by now, there’s every chance you’re wondering what the photograph at the top of the post is all about?  It’s actually the widely anticipated three new shades released by Stylecraft in the Special DK range.  The new shades are (from left to right).

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Storm Blue, Parma Violet and Sage.

Happy Knitting!

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Lilly Pond CAL Clue 4

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I can’t believe it’s been 2 and a bit  weeks already since the last Lilly Pond Blanket Clue was released.  I know I’ve been busy, but I’d struggle to tell you doing what 😕

Moving on…..

This Tuesday did indeed see the release of the Stylecraft/Jane Crowfoot CAL clue 4 and judging by the Facebook Group Page, there were lots of people eager to get started.  Looking again this morning loads, loads of them have already completed all 4 blocks too 💩

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Block 4 as you can see, is called Bobbles and Pin Wheels and the design is meant to represent the ripples of the water with little pink lilies at the waters edge.

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The chart above shows the colours needed if you’re making the block using Stylecraft Life on the left and the alternative shades for the Special DK on the right.

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Not being particularly fluent in crochet, I’ve struggled with this clue the most so far.  I think for me crochet is easiest when I have to make a square (going round and round), rather than working a piece that goes back and forth.  I’ve managed this much so far and now have had to allow my brain time to heal  I’ll be sure to get the rest finished when I’m back from my travels (I’m off to London later today).

Before I go and pack my suitcase, because I’m one of those last minute people (bet you couldn’t have worked that out?) I guess I should really show you my attempts at blocks 2 and 3……

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The Tiny Lilly Block from clue 2 wasn’t really that bad after I’d got the hang of it.  it’s not the best piece of crochet in the world, but it’ll pass.  It is however over 4 centimetres bigger than the reccomended 12cm square size.

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As alluded to by Jane, the blocks are likely to get harder as they go on and I definitely found the third block – Lilly Bud, a little more intense.  Truth be told, at one stage I’d have rather eaten it than continue.

The eagle eyed amongst you, will notice that my 3rd block is again larger than the specified 12cm.  Happily though it’s the same size give or take the odd millimetre to my clue 2 block :-) So I’m hoping everything will work out OK.

File 23-05-2015 07 03 46Yes, I have managed to get through it, but look at all those scary ends that still need to be sewn in.

😱 😱 😱

The next clue, for block 5, is due to be released Tuesday the 2nd of June.

Happy Crochet!

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