Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


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Six awkward things about knitting (for someone who sews)

I’ve sewn since I was a kid. I’m not entirely sure exactly when I first learned to sew, in the same way that I can’t remember I time when I couldn’t read. But I started to knit only a few years ago. I came to realise that I wanted to make all my clothes; it was a natural progression in creating my me-made wardrobe.

But knitting is not sewing and sewing is not knitting. They are different skills, of course, but it is more than that – the language of knitting is different, the tools are different, and even the online communities are different.

I suppose it is stupid to say, but sometimes I just wish knitting was more like sewing. That’s the equivalent of saying I wish the French language was more like the English language. It might make it easier to understand, but much of the charm of French would be lost.

1) Knitting is slow

You would think that sewing my own wardrobe would make me more patient. It isn’t as if I can go shopping and in an hour have a new outfit. It takes days, even weeks to accomplish this. But with knitting it takes so much longer. A sweater can even take a year. That needs a lot of patience! It’s possible that with time I could knit faster, but I suspect I need to embrace the long wait for a finished garment.

A very long scarf

2) Knitting requires fitting too

Sometimes you want an oversized jumper, sometimes you want something fitted, but there is little guidance (beyond getting the gauge right) in knitting patterns. Yes, like fitting knit fabrics, fit isn’t so crucial, but it’s still something that needs to be considered. Perhaps, because I am more into sewing, fit is something that I obsess over. Should I stop obsessing? Embrace patterns knitted in the round? Or should I keep to those “worked flat” patterns? Patterns worked flat at least give you an idea that you are on the right track. I can measure the first piece (the back) against myself, before I carry on with the front and sleeves.

Untangling Knots – Crumb Knitting Pattern (example of close fitting knitwear)

3) Knitting patterns may not help with choosing a yarn

As a beginner I find it really difficult to gauge what to buy for a project. There are loads of great patterns out there, but do I really want to buy the exact wool that the person used for the pattern? Why can’t a knitting pattern just give general guidance. Here’s typical guidance from a sewing pattern envelope:

“Cotton and cotton blends, gingham, laundered cottons, chambray, poplin, shantung, taffeta, linen and linen blends, embroidered fabrics. Allow extra fabric for matching plaids and stripes.”

It’s general, but there is still plenty of guidance.

Meanwhile from a knitting pattern:

“18 (19) (20) balls Robin bri-nylon, tricel-nylon, vogue, crepe or specklespun double-knitting”

Admittedly this guidance is from a vintage knitting pattern (1970s), but even with patterns a few years old the yarn no longer exists. Although it mentions double-knitting, which helps, but how on earth do I know how much 18 balls of yarn is, when there is no weight mentioned? What useless information!

I’ve often seen that people buy kits, pattern and yarn combined. That seems like an ideal way to start. But it seems expensive. My first sweater was partially made with wool from a charity shop, but I admit that it felt risky because I needed to find a yarn that coordinated with it to complete my make.

Why can’t knitting patterns just advise on the yarn used, what properties should it have? It’s fine to also show the exact yarn a sample was made with. And for goodness sake show the length of yarn used so it is possible to calculate how much wool to buy? (Ravelry can sometimes help here_ After all, should be the reasonably accurate if you use the same gauge? Of course, I’m sure much of this problem is exarcerbated by my beginner status, but who wants to buy expensive wool and probably too much wool for a project that makes them nervous?

4) Knitting is full of mysteries that I am yet to fully understand

English vs Continental knitting, knitted flat vs knitted in-the-round, cables, intarsia and lace. Knitting is as big a discipline as sewing, and from my vantage point it’s difficult to work out what I want to try. I want to knit adult garments, but all the beginner’s projects tend to focus on accessories. I could make a lovely scarf, but how many of those do I actually need?

Sure, some of the techniques are about aesthetics or where you wish to direct your energies. I couldn’t see myself making baby clothes, as all of the children in my family are too old. It’s hard picking up a new skill from scratch, I can’t stop comparing my inferior knowledge of knitting with my much vaster expertise at sewing.

Viking Knits – Adventurous knitting for me to try?

5) Knitting needs an online community too

One of the things that is so great about the sewing community is how much they share online.  The number one reason is for inspiration. I love a good Instagram scroll for throwing up a queue-jumping make. And then, before I buy a pattern I do online research to find out what other sewists think about it, how easy it was to make, any interesting hacks.

On not such a positive note, good research can help me avoid a real dog, the patterns where a seam doesn’t line up, there aren’t any notches or the instructions are incomprehensible.

Of course, for knitting there is Ravelry, which is invaluable. However, correct me if I’ve missed something here, but I haven’t found the same number and quality of knitting blogs and resources online. My first sweater ended up as a marathon mostly because there were mistakes in the pattern. Could I have avoided this if there had been more information out there? Only one other person mentioned the problem on Ravelry.

Another thing I find invaluable is viewing a Youtube video for help with a tricky technique. Sadly, there aren’t so many resources for knitters. I found only a couple of videos that helped with my v-neck neckline in English.

6) Knitting is relaxing????

Is it? Truly? I haven’t actually noticed! As Master Steely has frequently told me, it seems more “strong language and adult themes” when I pick up a pair of knitting needles! How do people manage to watch television whilst knitting? I need silence and concentration! With practice will I find knitting relaxing or am I destined to knit only in anger?


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#MakeNine2019 – Knitting Project: More photos of the Toasty Slipover

Now that the weather has calmed down a bit, I have managed to get outside for photo-taking. I particularly wanted to take photos of the ensemble I’m wearing today. Firstly, I wanted to show my latest knitting project modelled, rather than photographed flat and secondly, I wanted to show how I envisage wearing it.

The shirt in the pictures below, is made from white linen crepe. It’s a beautiful fabric, but I have scarcely worn it. It’s a very versatile shirt, I could pretty much wear it with anything. But I have just been too scared to wear it, lest I spill some horrendously staining food item down it. It has stayed in the wardrobe since it was made, which is rather sad. I’ve now found that this shirt is absolutely perfect with my new sweater. I’m hiding most of the white and in particular the spill-prone just-below-chin areas!

Worn in the photos:

Toasty Sweater modelled with my white linen shirt

Toasty Sweater modelled with my white linen shirt

The whole outfit is a bit of a departure from my usual style, so I think some more road-testing for both the shirt and the jumper are required in combination with other items from my wardorbe. I think that perhaps this wide-legged beige pair of trousers will also work with these two items. I also have a blue denim shirt in my wardrobe that I think might also work with the jumper. The denim shirt is an old (could probably be called vintage) item that hangs around in the wardrobe, and again hasn’t been worn much.

 

I’m trying to think if I have a skirt that would also work with the shirt and jumper, but I’m not convinced there is. Perhaps that could be a possible future make.

Toasty slipover

I was convinced there was an end that I hadn’t woven in somewhere under my arm, but couldn’t find it….hence the pose……


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#MakeNine2019 – Knitting Project: The Toasty Slipover

You read that right – this is one of my Make Nine 2019 makes, not 2020 makes, but I am exceptionally proud that I have now finished this, even though I didn’t cross the finishing line before the end of the year. I class myself as a beginner knitter and this is my first jumper, so it’s a major achievement!

I’ll start with the positive things: Some of the wool was from a charity shop. I spotted three and a half balls of dark drown 100% wool yarn and snapped it up. Of course, I realised that I would need some other wool to supplement this find, but at least this meant that my first jumper wouldn’t be so expensive to make. It would have been so much harder to commit to making a jumper if I’d bought all the wool as new. Plus, I like the fact that I have successfully recycled some wool. The two shades of blue wool are Lettlopi Icelandic wool.

I’ve learned a huge amount during this project. I’ve learned a serious number of new techniques – how to seam knits, how to knit neck and armhole bands and how to work decreases for necklines and armholes. This will stand me in good stead for future projects.

Toasty Slipover (Rowan)

It’s finished – yay!

But, I have to go into some detail about all the difficulties I had. Most of the problems were unintentional consequences of decisions I made. Let me say this again, I’m a beginner at knitting, and at some point you just have to put in the necessary experiences good and bad to improve your skills. I was prepared for that, however, I got far more than I bargained for with this pattern.

The problems started with my selection of project. I wanted to do a simple project, but also a pattern that didn’t require huge amounts of knitting (for a jumper). I thought about making a long-sleeved jumper, but then I decided (stupidly), hey, why not do a sleeveless jumper, that will be less knitting? So I settled on “The Toasty Slipover” by Rowan. It looks simple. I thought I could cope with adding the stripes of colour too. I even thought I might enjoy learning a couple of extra things like knitting the neckline……

Toasty Slipover (Rowan)

The back was a doddle to do, but then I hit some real problems on the front. The maths on the pattern was out. Surely it’s me I told myself. I’m a mere beginner. But I checked the reviews on Ravelry and sure enough someone else had encountered some problems, although sadly they didn’t point out the bit that was wrong.

I persevered. I re-wrote the whole of the front pattern again. I think I need a medal for that alone. I completed the front, seamed the jumper and let it sit in a bag for a couple of months. I was savouring the victory thus far, plus I’d run out of wool. After a visit to Wool Bath, I started on the neckline. I watched every Youtube video I could find on v-necks and double-decreases for a mitred neckline and managed to make a good job of the neckline. Really proud how neat that looks. And finally I added the armhole cuffs. Here there was another error in the pattern. Yes, I have enough confidence to say that now! There should have been a complete number of pattern repeats (K2P2) but there weren’t. That was easy to rectify.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I learned loads knitting this. I expected to learn how to do that v-neckline. I wasn’t expecting to re-do the pattern instructions! Anyway, I’ve written it all out in full, should anyone else want to use this pattern complete with a row-by-row for the stripes.

The weather has been stormy with frequent deluges, so outdoor modelling of the jumper is out for the moment. I’ll post some photos later, in the mean time, enjoy the beauty of that mitred v-neck!

Toasty Slipover (Rowan)

V-neck magic!


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#SummerOfBasics Yoga Socks

This is my first make for the #SummerofBasics challenge hosting by Fringe Association. I entered last year, but didn’t quite make my deadline. I realised that knitting (incompetently) in a hurry is not my forte so this year I’ve decided to make my knitted item first.

My “basics” this year are essentially a yoga outfit in a blue/ grey colour scheme. This outfit will include a sweatshirt hoodie, yoga pants (I’m English so perhaps I should say yoga trousers, is that a term people use?) and a pair of yoga socks.

I finished the yoga socks just before the hot weather struck. This is quite fortunate as knitting wool in hot weather is horrible and tricky. The socks I knitted are using a free pattern I found on Ravelry by Patons.

The pattern is quite simple pattern. It uses some ribbing, a pattern using knit and purl stitches and increasing and decreasing. I’m not a confident knitter and the last item I knitted was this hat. The hat was definitely more fancy to make, but this was a make from a Craftsy video which made me far more confident. Any doubts and I could just watch the video again.

In contrast I had just the knitting pattern for these yoga socks, but I found that I was able to understand this. Much that I enjoyed using the Craftsy video, it did make the whole knitting process very long-winded. I was thankful that this project was simple and I could just get on without reference to videos.

The yarn was a 75% wool yarn which came originally from a sock knitting kit in Lidl. I’d picked this kit up years ago with the aim of learning to knit. I’ve finally used it! There’s still some more of the yarn, perhaps I could make a pair of ordinary socks with it? I wish Lidl still sold this kit, as I really like the yarn and it was ridiculously cheap for 75% wool yarn. I would definitely recommend picking up these kits if you see them in the store.

There was one tricky aspect to the project and that was getting the tension even, when knitting in the round on four needles. One sock is slightly wider than the other, but I don’t think it is too noticeable.

I haven’t really used the socks yet at yoga, but I tried them on and they are comfortable and warm. Perfect for my feet, which seem like icicles most of the year. That said I took this photo today (or rather Mr Steely did, as I can’t take photos of my own feet at this angle!) and it is 30 degrees outside. Definitely not the weather to be wearing woollen socks!

Completed Yoga Socks

My next garment will be the hoodie. I have already picked my pattern and ordered my fabric. I made a sweatshirt earlier in the year and enjoyed that sewing experience, so I can’t wait.


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#SummerOfBasics – And finally I have a hat

I’ve now finished the long-awaited hat. I can’t quite believe that a project dubbed as “five hours” has taken about a month! I’m very much a newbie to knitting and therefore I’m a slow knitter. However, I think the thing that really slows the pace of the project down is referring to the Craftsy video for the difficult bits, once I’m underway I did even manage a bit of “TV knitting”, although I expect that may have contributed to some of the dodgy bits in the hat and my inability to follow Victoria on Sunday!

The Craftsy course I used for this hat is the 2016 Fall Knit-along Cable Hat. It is actually a superb course and was perfect for the level I’ve reached with my knitting. It expects you to be able to knit and purl, but nothing else. All other stitches, such as the cable stitches are well explained and if you haven’t tried using circular or double-pointed needles there is help for that too.

The course has three different accessories projects in it; a cowl, a hat and fingerless mittens. I think I may have a go at the mittens at some point in the future, as they use colourwork and that would be a new knitting skill for me.

I thought I would take a photo of the eccentric blocking technique being used – my hat is drying here on a balloon!

Hat Blocking

The most important thing about the hat, for me, is that it actually fits. I do struggle with headgear in general and have a hat that is basically child-sized or freakishly small, if you prefer. The Craftsy cable hat pattern has 13 cables around the hat. Even though I perfected the gauge required, I still took out one of the cables to make sure that the hat was smaller than even the smallest size in the knitting pattern. It was needed – I feel that this hat will sit securely on my head and I will not have to constantly worry that the wind with whip it off.

FInoshed Hat

Next time, the big reveal of my completed Summer of Basics outfit – better late than never!


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#SummerOfBasics – Progress Update

It’s now the middle of August and I’ve made some good progress on my outfit for the Summer of Basics. The only spanner in the works (albeit a lovely spanner) is that I’m going on holiday tomorrow for ten days and this will mean that I have under a week to complete my makes on my return. I’m hoping I can pull this off!

The Cable Hat

I ordered some beautiful yarn from Jamieson and Smith in the silver grey colour. The yarn is 100% Shetland wool and is apparently “perfect for cables”. I’m hoping I’ve made a good choice for my hat, I’m no expert on choosing wool.

The hat I have decided to make for this make is from the Craftsy “Fall” (Autumn for us here in the UK) Knit-Along from last year. Although I have only listened so far to the “preparation” parts of the tutorial, I have been really enjoying the course. Kate Atherley explains everything so well.

The reason I chose this project is that I am desperate to make a hat that fits. I have an extremely small head and I have a hard time finding hats that fit in the shops. As a general rule only children’s hats fit well, but can be a bit prone to pinkness and bows. Kate’s guide to swatching is great and I’m confident that after knitting two swatches I have a needle size that suits the wool and is right for the pattern. This should bring the size of the hat to the size suggested by the pattern. However, I’m still tempted to take out one of the cable repeats to achieve the suggested fit of 5cm less than head size, for a snug fit.

I suspect I’m not going to start my hat until I come back from holiday, but I have all my tools ready – circular knitting needles and a cable needle. I’ve never used either so this will be fun.

The Black Jeans

I think a whole post needs to be devoted to my jeans, but I thought a little update might be useful here. I’m using this Burda pattern to make a pair of skinny black jeans.

Front of jaens (unfinished)

I’ve made the front including the fly and the back. These have now been sewn together at the inner and outer leg seams. This just leaves the waistband, the belt loops and hem. Sadly, I’m not going to get to take these on holiday, although I suspect that a pair of black jeans was never in contention for a holiday in 30 – 40 degree heat!

Back of jeans


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#SummerOfBasics – The Plan

It’s getting to the end of July and I thought I’d review how far I’ve got with my summer sewing. I have managed to make my Hack It outfit for The Monthly Stitch. Here are the more detailed posts for the Moss skirt and the Tonic T-shirt.

My next task is to get to grips with my Summer of Basics outfit. Summer of Basics is a make-along where participants make three basics items for their wardrobes over the three summer months (June, July and August). The garments can be knitted, crocheted, sewn or a combination. They don’t have to be summer clothes as such and the definition of what “basic” means has really been left up to participants. More details can be found on the Fringe Association site.

I know that many participants are already posting their updates on their blogs and Instagram. I have made some good progress, but I’ve yet to post anything yet! First of all though, I thought I’d write a little about the selection of my three intended garments. As the challenge is all about basics, my thoughts turned to the types of clothes that I think fit this description. When I think basics, I think of clothes that I will turn to again and again and that complement my existing wardrobe. For this reason I gravitated to patterns that that were casual and relaxed in style, in fact clothes that could be worn every day.

The pattern for my first make comes from the November edition of Burda Style. The top has long sleeves fitted with elastic cuffs. A round neckline with a slit at the front and a long tie that can be fastened at the front, side or at the back, whatever you prefer.

I have found a few versions of this top on line. Allison C has made a beautiful metallic version. There is a stunning red version by Ellen and this lovely version is made from a very stretchy rayon in maroon by Lisette at La Cubanista Cose.

I noticed that a couple of the versions above have missed out the slits where the raglan sleeves join the top at the front, but as Allison C points out in her blog, these just show bra straps and I am inclined to leave these out too.

Burda Top

There is also a sleeveless version of the blouse, which I really like as well. Perhaps I’ll sew that up some day.

Sleeveless Burda blouse

In the magazine the top appears to be made in a jersey, but being a relaxed fit, woven fabrics with drape are also suggested. I bought a beautiful double-gauze for the top at Sewn Bristol. I’ve never sewn double gauze before, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. It is beautifully soft and I’m really looking forward to wearing the top.

Double-gauze

My second make will be a pair of skinny black jeans. Again, I’ve chosen a Burda pattern. No real reason for this other than it is a PDF I bought ages ago and had been knocking around on my account unmade. There isn’t much I can say about this pattern other than it is a classic 5-pocket pair of jeans.

Classic Burda Jeans

I’ve have spent a long time deliberating over fabric for the jeans, because finding denim with a good stretch is not a small task. I found this Super Black stretch denim at Fabric Godmothers. Handily, they detail the percentage stretch which makes it easier to pick out a fabric suitable for skinny jeans. This particular fabric has 40% stretch which is quite high, but should make super skinny jeans.

My last make will be a hat. As the Summer of Basics encourages mixing sewn, knitted or crocheted items for your outfit, I thought I would knit a hat. I’m a very shaky knitter still, and I hope I have chosen an easy make. At the end of last year, Craftsy brought out a free Fall knit-along which included three small knits – a hat, a cowl and a pair of fingerless mittens. I signed up for it in the Autumn, but never started it.

Craftsy Class

Given that the knit will be my first hat, it seemed a safer bet to go with a pattern that has a make-along video with it. The hat pattern is available in two slightly different designs – a beanie hat and a slouchy version. To stretch my knitting skills it has a cable design. To fit in with my other two makes, I’m intending to knit in a dark grey or black. I’ve yet to buy the wool.

Craftsy class

I wouldn’t say my garments are particularly summery, but they are definitely “basics”. All are going to be made in grey or black, which for me are ideal neutrals in my wardrobe. They are also typical of the types of clothes I wear frequently either at home or work; comfortable and practical. They’ll also be ideal for mixing and matching with other items in my wardrobe.


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#1Year1Outfit – Walnut Circular Shrug

I’ve been knitting frantically with my Walnut-dyed wool this month. Sadly, my knitting pace is rather slow. I can totally understand why beginners, like me, rarely choose a jumper over an accessory on only their second knit. But giving myself a challenge has never put me off before!

Walnut Shrug

I’m making a shrug using this Circular Shrug pattern I found on Ravelry (you’ll need a login to view that, but here is photo of it). So, how am I progressing? I’m probably half way through now. I have completed the first ribbed section and I’m well into the mock rib section now. I’ve really got the hang of the two different stitches that are required by this project. However, I do find that I’m not very good at counting to four (K2P2) and I do make the odd mistake. This is good as it has forced me to get familiar with correcting problems – changing a knit stitch to a purl or vice versa.

When I dyed the wool I had to split it into two batches as I didn’t have a big enough saucepan. This meant that my two skeins were of slightly different shades. I decided to change from the lighter to the darker shade when I changed stitch. Hopefully this would either make the colour change less noticeable or indeed make it look as if I intended to make the change. I’ll switch back to the lighter shade when I change back to the rib stitch. Is the change noticeable in the photo?

Walnut Shrug

Another thing to mention are my make-shift stitch markers. Last month I took apart some old bras and saved the rings and sliders. They’ll be perfectly usable for bra making. Anyway, they were hanging around on the coffee table and I really needed to keep track of my stitches and decided that the rings could make convenient stitch markers!

Walnut Shrug

I like this knitting pattern a lot; it’s simple to construct, requires only one body measurement and it could be a good project on which to practice new techniques. I’ve looked at quite a few of the Ravelry projects that have used this particular pattern. It seems to be a versatile starting point and there are several knitters that have made interesting variations on the project. They have introduced a cable pattern or a lace pattern instead of the mock rib stitch or even long sleeves have been added.

In other news….

I’m half-way through a sewing project too, but trying to squeeze my intended make out of the fabric is causing some pattern re-design and I’m taking my time with this project.

I’ve been a little preoccupied with knitting this month and have been browsing for recycled yarns. I spotted this Billie Jean Yarn from Wool and the Gang which is made from recycled denim from the textile industry. I then did more hunting and found a yarn from recycled denim textiles from Portugal on the Hooked website and chunky recycled cotton yarn in a wide range of colours from India on the YarnYarn website.

I’ve also been thinking a little about where I’d like to go next with my knitting. I saw these adorable hats on Fringe Association. Not only do they look great, but each hat has uses different techniques so they would be a fantastic way to build me skills at knitting. After doing lots of ribbing on this project, I think that perhaps the Seathwaite hat with cables, or perhaps the Laurus hat using two colours would be a good next step. Too many potential projects, so little time…… I’m sure I’ll be back sewing again soon and dreaming up more projects there.


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#1Year1Outfit – A tentative toe dipped into the world of knitting

I’m sure if you are a follower of Seamwork you will have noticed that the April edition (yes, I’m a month behind here!) includes an article called Finding Local by Nicki from thisismoonlight. It charts Nicki’s journey from initial thoughts (I wonder whether I can make a locally sourced garment?) through to the completion of a complete outfit. It’s amazing what she has achieved without resorting to any recycled components or “cheating” like I did for some of my notions and tailoring supplies. There is also a photo round-up that shows all the participants in all their fantastic outfits (me included!)

The same month’s Seamwork also has information about sourcing naturally and locally with an article about the Fibershed project and Spinning. Both worth a look, if you are considering how to source your yarn and textiles.

Onion Scarf

When I last wrote about #1Year1Outfit I mentioned that I was hoping to take a closer look at wool this year. I have been working my way through the KnitLab Craftsy class. I think I have the basics sussed and I’ve started on some real knitting! The first Craftsy course I looked at was Classic Tailoring: The Blazer by Stefani Lycecum. I very much enjoyed this course and found that it was pitched at just the right level for me. The KnitLab course though has been a little more challenging. I am a complete beginner as a knitter and I really struggled to get the hang of casting-on from the lessons. The video was just too quick (or I’m too slow). The handy “repeat last 30 seconds” feature was getting very heavy use.

I think the problem with watching while replicating, is that you have to look down and by the time you look up again at the video it is too far ahead. As for trying to pause the lesson whilst trying to knit, forget it, that would require three hands! Altogether it took me several days to get off the ground with casting-on and I had to look at some youtube videos too. However, one thing that the course does very well, is to introduce concepts in a sensible sequence, so that by lesson 4 you’re knitting your first garment and you can see your skills growing.

Onion Scarf

So, after a shaky start I have now completed the lace scarf, which is the first garment in the course. I’ve chosen to knit this with the 100% wool from bluefaced.com that I previously dyed with onion skins. I did have to re-knit some bits and it’s a mystery how I got so many stitches cast-on during the lace process (too many according to the pattern). Still overall, I think the scarf is quite acceptable as a first garment. I’ve not decided what to make next, I’ve still scanning Ravelry for ideas, but I’m feeling quite enthusiastic about my new skill.

Onion Scarf