Category Archives: Knit Alongs

Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips and Tricks for Sleeves

I feel like I’ve thrown a LOT of information at you over the course of the blog series thus far so I’m hoping this post won’t be quite as overwhelming as the rest and hopefully not as wordy!  There are a few little things about knitting sleeves that I wanted to mention and didn’t want the information to get lost in some of the longer posts about modifying sweaters.

Picking up stitches at the underarm: If you’ve knit mittens, you might know where I’m going with this. Sometimes when you pick up the number of stitches that the pattern specifies (at the underarm of a sweater to begin the sleeves, or for a thumb on a mitten), you end up with a little hole on either side of the picked up stitches. It looks a little like this:

Real sweater WIP complete with little holes under the arm.

There are a couple of ways you can deal with this. The first being to leave a decent sized yarn tail when you pick up your stitches and use the tail to close up the holes. The other thing you can do is pick up a couple of extra stitches and then get rid of them on the next round by using K2TOG (knit two together). You can even knit those stitches together through the back loop to tighten them up a bit more.

Modifying Shaping: We talked about this a bit in our previous post, and I just want to reiterate that you’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if you take the time to shape your sweaters to fit your body. If you’ll be shortening the sleeves or lengthening them, you’ll want to think about if you want to put your decreases (or increases if you’re knitting bottom up!) closer or father apart. Don’t be afraid to change the sleeve length of the pattern! If you prefer 3/4 length sleeves…go for it! Want to change a short-sleeved or 3/4 length sleeve to full length? Add a couple of more decreases and keep knitting!

Working in the Round: I’m going to be completely honest, here. I loathe knitting sleeves on double-pointed needles. This is the number one reason I taught myself Magic Loop (knitting in the round on one long circular needle). I highly recommend doing magic loop for sweater sleeves. I find that with dpns, you end up moving your entire sweater each time you reach the end of your needle. There are plenty of people out there who don’t mind using dpns for sleeves, so give it a try if you really love using dpns! If you’re interested in learning magic loop, we have a couple of great resources at the shop: The Magic Loop Booklet and the Circular Knitting Workshop book.

Consider Knitting Your Sleeves Before Finishing the Body: Never in a million years would I have thought to do this for a top-down sweater, but it makes complete sense. Jasmin from The Knitmore Girls Podcast mentioned that this is how she knits her top-down sweaters, and I think it’s brilliant. Like I mentioned above, when you are knitting sleeves you are constantly rearranging/twisting your sweater. This method has you knitting the sleeves right after the sleeve split, so that instead of an entire sweater sitting on your lap you just have the top portion of the sweater. You might want to knit an inch or two of the body first to make sure that you’re on track with the fit just in case you need to rip back! I haven’t actually tried this yet…but I’m hoping to do it for my next top-down sweater to see if it helps my dislike of sleeve knitting. The only reason I can see NOT to do this would be if you are worried about running out of yarn. In that case, I’d knit the body first and split your remaining yarn in half using a kitchen scale so that your sleeves will be the same length.

I think that’s all for sleeves! Next week we’ll have our final 2 posts in the series and then it will be time to start our sweaters!!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Making Adjustments on the Fly

The biggest appeal of seamless sweater patterns is that you can try them on as you go and make adjustments to fit your body. It’s a little more difficult to do with bottom-up sweaters, but it can certainly be done! Top-down sweaters are perfect for making adjustments as you go!

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you don’t need to follow the pattern exactly. You’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if the smallest part of the waist lines up with your waist, the hem hits you in a flattering spot, and the sleeves are the correct length.

Let’s use the Bayside Pullover from Coastal Knits as an example. Below is the schematic from the pattern. We’ll start at the top of the sweater and work our way down.

We’re not going to talk about every single measurement and change you can make to your sweater, but I’d like to hit the big ones: Yoke depth, sleeve circumference, chest, waist, and hem.

Yoke Depth: As a fairly short person, I find that the yoke depth on many knitting patterns are a touch longer than I’d like. But some of you taller folks may find that it’s not quite long enough. Take a tape measure and start measuring from the top of your shoulder. Look at where the yoke depth as written will hit you. If you follow the directions, this is where the sleeves will be split off from your sweater. Does it reach where you’d like the underarm of your sweater to begin? Is it going to be saggy in the armpits if you knit that length? Figure out your ideal length. After you’ve done your raglan increases you can keep knitting without increasing until you reach this measurement. You can also “try on” your sweater to figure this part out. It’s a little tricky, but put your sweater on some waste yarn, drape it over your shoulders and pinch the sleeve stitches around your upper arm/shoulder. You can then decide if you’d like to make the yoke a bit longer or split for the sleeves.

Let’s take a minute to look at what your stitches on your needle will look like if you are knitting a top-down sweater:

If you are knitting a cardigan, the front stitches won’t be connected and you might be adding a button band afterwards, so don’t freak out if you try on your cardigan without the button band and it seems too small! The stitch markers mark the raglan increases. There will always be 4, and you will be increasing on BOTH sides of the markers. This will result in a total of 8 stitches being increased during each raglan increase round. 

Chest Circumference: If you’ve decided that you’d like your sweater to be an in-between size for the chest measurements, you can either do more or less raglan increases to get your desired size. For example, if you wanted a sweater (using the Bayside Pullover from above) that measured 34″, you could follow the directions for the size 32″ and do a few extra sets of increases. Now, you probably want to know how many sets of increases. Well…the gauge for the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches which equals 6 sts/inch. Since you want TWO extra inches you’d want 12 extra stitches. You’ll be adding 4 body stitches during each increase round. See Diagram Above. So, to achieve 12 extra stitches you’ll want to do THREE extra raglan increases on the BODY ONLY.

If you want your sweater to be a little bit SMALLER, just leave out an increase or two using your gauge to figure out how many increases to leave out.

Arm Circumference: The idea of altering the circumference of the upper arms is exactly the same as the chest circumference. If you’d like them a bit larger than the schematic, add an extra increase or two on the SLEEVES ONLY (see diagram above for placement of these stitches) and if you want them smaller leave out an increase or two. Of course, this would be a bit more complicated if you were doing a pattern that had cables or lace and required a specific number of stitches.

If you’d like your entire sweater (sleeves and body) larger/smaller, do more/less increases on both the body and sleeves.

Waist: Ideally you want the smallest part of your sweater to match up with the smallest part of your waist. The best way to achieve this is to measure how far it is from just below your full bust to just before the smallest part of your waist. You’ll need to look at the pattern and decide if the pattern as written will work, or if you want to do your waist decreases closer together or farther apart. Instead of doing decreases every “X” number or rows (this will likely be how the pattern has the decreases written), take the measurement from above and divide it by the number of decreases the pattern calls for. This will tell you how often to do your decreases. Let’s say that you measure and get 6 inches and the pattern has 4 waist decreases…you’ll want to do your decreases 1.5″ apart.  You can also look at the waist measurement and decide if you want to do more or less decreases. Is the waist measurement smaller than you’d like? Skip a decrease. Too big? Do an extra decrease!

Make sure you don’t begin your decreases until you’ve knit far enough to reach your full bust. You don’t want to start getting rid of stitches (and inches) before the fullest part of your bust. If the pattern says to start the waist decreases after you’ve knit an inch from the sleeve split, but your full bust isn’t until 2 inches past…wait until 2 inches.

The waist shaping is where being able to try on your sweater comes in handy:

To try your sweater on, either put it on 2 really long circular needles or thread a piece of waste yarn through all of your stitches and pull your needle out. If you use 2 circular needles make sure that the total circumference will be able to fit over your shoulders…you don’t want to drop stitches while trying on your sweater! Trust me, it’s not fun to have to pick them back up.

After your waist decreases you want to knit straight for a couple of inches to where your waist starts increasing to your hips.

For the hip increases, use the same method as for figuring out the waist decreases. Your waist decreases and hip increases may not be spaced out the same depending on your body type. For example, I typically spread out my decreases farther than patterns call for, but put my hip increases closer together. Measure on your body where you’d like your increases to start and end. Divide this number by the number of increases you want to do to figure out how many inches apart to place them. There is no reason you need to do the same number of waist decreases and hip increases (unless you need a certain number of stitches for a cable or lace pattern). Tailor it to your body measurements. 

For sweaters that don’t have any waist shaping, such as the Rocky Coast Cardigan or the Schoodic Cardigan, you’ll just need to worry about hem length and the sleeves.

Hem Length: The beauty of a hand knit sweater is that you can make it as short or long as you’d like! Something to keep in mind: if you use wool, your sweater will likely grow a little bit. Err on the side of a little short (you can block it longer or add length later) instead of too long. Trying your sweater on is a great way to decide exactly when to bind-off!

A few words about bust darts: I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about bust darts as I am about many other aspects of sweater knitting. I’ve done horizontal bust darts in one knitted top so far, and it worked out beautifully. I’ll probably start doing them more often, but I can’t really give good instructions yet! If you have a cup-size larger than a C, it’s worth considering doing bust darts so that the front of your sweater doesn’t ride up. Horizontal bust darts give you a little extra room in the bust area without making the entire sweater larger. The bust darts are done by using short rows across the front of the sweater. Custom Knits 2 (which we have at the shop) has a section on adding bust darts by using short rows. Little Red in the City (also at the shop!), has a great section on shaping and horizontal bust darts. Ysolda tells you how to calculate how many short rows to do and gives tips on figuring out where to place them. Little Red is chock full of other great sweater-knitting information as well.

Come on back on Friday for Tips and Tricks for Sleeves!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-Dyed Yarn

As you know, we’re big fans of hand-dyed yarn here at Stash and they certainly help with that “Wow” factor in our finished projects. Since every skein of hand-dyed yarn is a little bit different, it can be a bit challenging to use in larger projects. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you’re happy with your finished sweater!

Here’s what you probably don’t want your sweater to look like:

No woman wants a line directly across the chest area! Needless to say, this sweater ended up in the frog pond.

There are a few things that went wrong here. The first being that my skeins didn’t match as closely as they should have. I also alternated the darkest two skeins instead of using all three at once.

So, how can you avoid a sweater with a big, obvious line when you change skeins?

1. When you’re shopping for yarn, choose the skeins that look the most alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when they’re twisted in their skeins, so it’s often a good idea to un-skein them and lay them next to each other. Like this:

2. Alternate Skeins while you knit. There are a few different ways to do this that we’ll discuss in just a minute.

3. If you’re knitting a top-down sweater, Save some yarn from the top to use when you go back and knit the sleeves. TRUST ME on this one (I speak from experience). It doesn’t need to be a lot, but I’d suggest phasing the skein you’re using when you split for the sleeves out and putting it aside to be used later. When you get ready to knit the sleeves, pull this skein out and use 1/2 for the top of each sleeve.

4. If you have skeins in your stash that you’re using and one skein is a bit different than the rest, use the different skein for things like trim, button bands, hems, and neckbands.

Alternating Skeins – to alternate skeins, work from two balls of yarn. Switch yarns every 2 rows (you can do 3 or 4 if you’re knitting in the round) by picking up the second strand of yarn from underneath the strand you’re working with. Make sure not to pull too tight when you pick up the new strand. 

If your skeins match really well, you can just alternate as you get close to the end of your ball to transition to the next one. It will look like this on the inside of your knitting:

When you knit a cardigan with button bands (or just front bands/collar) that are knit on afterwards, such as the Calligraphy Cardigan, you can alternate right at the edge of your knitting every 2 rows. Easy peasy.

If you’re knitting a pullover from the top town, alternate starting at the back raglan and after you split for the sleeves, alternate at the side seam. If the sweater is knit from the bottom up, you would alternate at the side seam and then transition to the back raglan.

This isn’t a pullover, but it has a decent shot of the back of the sweater so you can see where to alternate.

For a cardigan that has you knit the front bands as you go, you can either alternate at the sideseam/back raglan as in the previous example or you can alternate where the body meets the front band.

For Sleeves: alternate at the underarm, which will be the beginning of your round for each sleeve.

I know alternating skeins sounds a bit tedious, but it’s really worth it when knitting with hand-dyed yarn. I’ve never been sorry that I’ve alternated skeins, but several times that I haven’t I’ve regretted it (see: frogged sweater at the top of the post!).

Let us know if we can help you pick out well matching skeins at the shop or help you decide the best place to alternate skeins!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size

Before we talk about the washed swatch, let’s talk about choosing the right size for your sweater. The first thing you’re going to want to do is take your measurements. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on taking measurements, but there are some fantastic resources out there. Amy Herzog has a great post in the Fit to Flatter series about taking your measurements. There’s even a printable PDF to keep track of all the information you collect. If you have Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague, you can take a look there for tips on taking measurements and she also provides a sheet to record all of your numbers.

EASE:

Now that you have your measurements, you’ll need to decide how much ease you’d like in your sweater. There are three types of ease: Positive, Negative, and Zero. Positive Ease means that your finished sweater measurements are larger than your body measurements. Negative Ease is when your sweater measurements are smaller than your body measurements and Zero Ease means that your sweater and your body measurements are the same.

Take out a favorite store-bought sweater and take it’s measurements. This is usually a good place to start to figure out how much ease you’d like. I think one of the biggest mistakes that new sweater knitters make is choosing a size that is too large. I like to use my high bust measurement instead of full bust to choose my size. This will give you a good fit through top of the sweater, a bit of negative ease at full bust, and a good fit through the waist. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with a close fitting sweater and it really depends on your comfort level, the pattern, and the yarn.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

This sweater was knit with zero ease at the full bust. I knew I’d want to wear a t-shirt underneath it, and I didn’t want the cables to pull at the bust.

This sweater was knit with about 2 inches of negative ease at the full bust (so zero ease at high bust). It was knit in a bulky yarn, and let’s be honest- none of us want to look more bulky, right?!

Choosing a Size from the Pattern:

After you’ve decided how much ease you’d like in your sweater, take a look at the pattern schematic. This will tell you the Finished Measurements of the sweater. Is there a size that is close to what you’d like for your finished sweater? Don’t get too caught up in inspecting every single measurement right off the bat. Focus on the finished chest measurement. You can make some really easy changes later on to adjust the sleeves, waist, and hem if you’d like them to be different than the pattern measurements.

Now…measure the gauge on your washed swatch. Don’t worry too much about row gauge, focus on the stitches per inch.

If your gauge matches the pattern gauge, great! You can cast-on for your sweater !

If not, you can do 1 of 2 things. You can either do another swatch with a different sized needle to try and get an exact match or you can do a little math and do the sweater with the needle size that you swatched with.

Why is gauge so important? For smaller projects, being off by a stitch or two over 4 inches doesn’t always matter too much. However, when you’re talking about hundreds of stitches for the circumference of a sweater, those stitches add up fast. If the pattern gauge is 20 sts/4 inches and you are getting 18 sts/4 inches your sweater will be 22% larger if you don’t adjust for the difference. So, if you wanted your sweater to be 34″ it would actually end up being 41″! Take the time to adjust your gauge or do the math! 

Doing the Math:

You only want to go this route if you’re not too far off on your gauge. One or two stitches over 4 inches is fine…but if you are way off, go back and swatch again. Take a deep breath, this isn’t as complicated as it seems and I’d be more than happy to help you figure out the math over in our Ravelry Group (or at the shop!) if you aren’t sure about it.

Let’s use the Featherweight Cardigan as an example. The gauge in the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches. Say your gauge is 22 sts/4 inches. Less stitches per inch mean that your sweater will be larger than the schematic measurements. 

Take the PATTERN gauge divided by YOUR gauge and multiply that number by the finished measurement that is closest to the size you want.

If you want to make the 38.75″ size… 24/22= 1.09 & 1.09 x 35.25 = 38.42, which is pretty darn close to 38.75″.

Now, if your gauge has MORE stitches/inch, it will mean a smaller finished sweater. If your gauge (for the same pattern) is 26 sts/4 inches, this is what the math would look like using the closest larger size.

If you want to make the 38.75″ size….24/26= .92 & .92 x 42 = 38.64, again pretty close to your ideal size! 

I know it can be really tough to wrap your brain around all that math, so don’t feel like you have to “make it work”…keep swatching until you get the correct gauge!

What to do if you are between sizes: If your ideal size is in-between the available sizes, don’t be discouraged! You can use the same math above to knit the sweater at a different gauge, or you can make some adjustments as you are knitting to achieve an in-between size. Most of Hannah Fettig’s patterns are raglan style top-down sweaters. It’s incredibly easy to just leave out a set or two of increases to achieve a smaller size or add a set or two of increases to achieve a larger size. We’ll talk more about this during the “Making adjustments on the fly” segment of the blog series!

I know this post is very wordy and probably confusing after a first read through. Take it in small chunks or come ask questions in the ravelry group! We really want you to have a successful sweater knitting experience!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Choosing a Pattern and Yarn

If you’re going to invest the time and money in knitting yourself a sweater, you want to love the finished product and love how it looks on you, right? Something I’ve learned over the course of knitting ~20 sweaters is which styles look flattering on me and the styles I’m most likely to actually wear. Some of that has been good ol’ trial and error and the rest has been little tid bits I’ve picked up from other knitters via Ravelry,  blogs, and knitting books.

Before choosing a sweater for the KAL, take a look in your closet. Pull out your favorite store bought (or handknit if you’ve knit sweaters before!) sweaters and tops. Is there a style of top that you gravitate towards? A particular cut that makes you feel like a million bucks?

The Calligraphy Cardigan has the potential to be flattering on almost any body type. It would be simple to adapt the pattern to tailor it to your specific body (we’ll talk about that in another post in the blog series!). *Photo from the Ravelry pattern page

If you aren’t sure which styles flatter you the most, Amy Herzog has put together a fantastic series of blog posts called Fit to Flatter (scroll down to the bottom and start with Installment 1). There’s also a Fit to Flatter Ravelry Group to answer any additional questions and see her tutorials in action. She covers everything from determining your body shape to how to choose and adapt knitting patterns to flatter your shape. It’s well worth a read-through even if you’re a seasoned sweater knitter.

If trying to nail down a pattern choice weren’t enough, you’ll also need to find a yarn that will work well with the pattern. Lucky for you, we’ve taken a good hard look at Hannah’s patterns and made a handy dandy spread sheet pairing up patterns and yarn available at the shop! We’ll have a copy of this as the shop as well, so we Stash Enhancers can help you choose the perfect yarn! Hannah Fettig has a number of other designs that aren’t on the spreadsheet, mostly from old issues of Interweave and KnitScene magazines. Of course, we’d be happy to use our special yarn choosing powers to help you pick a great yarn for those patterns, too!

I’ll be knitting the Schoodic Cardigan in some yummy Fibre Co. Acadia (the recommended yarn)! *Photo from the Ravelry pattern page

Of course, these blog posts are supposed to help you with future sweater knitting, too! One of the first things I do when I’m trying to decide which yarn to use for a sweater pattern is to head over to the pattern page on Ravelry.

Once I’ve found the pattern page, I click on the “projects” tab and browse through the finished projects and take note of the yarn substitutions that other knitters have used and how the sweaters look in various yarns.

Ravelry is a fantastic resource to use when trying to substitute yarns for any type of project. You can also look up the yarn in the Ravelry database and take a look through the different types of projects made with that specific yarn.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re working on pairing a sweater pattern and yarn:

1. What are the details of the yarn used in the pattern? Fiber content? Yardage? Gauge? Single ply or multiple plies?

2. Take a look at the stitch pattern in the sweater. Will you want a crisp yarn with good stitch definition? Is the sweater structured or drapey?

3. Will you be wearing something underneath your sweater? Or does the yarn need to be “next-to-skin” soft?

4. Be realistic about the durability of the yarn. Does the yarn look like it will resist pilling?

5. If there are cables, lace, or some other kind of textured pattern consider your color choices carefully. You don’t want to lose the beautiful details of the sweater by knitting in a color that will hide the reason you picked that pattern in the first place!

If you’d like to delve further into this subject, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes is a wonderful resource. Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague also has a small section devoted to choosing yarns for sweater knitting.

We have some fantastic yarn for sweater knitting here at Stash. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Top Row (L–>R): Imperial Columbia, Knitted Wit DK

Bottom Row (L–>R): Baah! Sonoma, The Fibre Co. Road to China Worsted

On Wednesday, we’ll talk about swatching for your sweater! I know, I know…every knitter’s least favorite thing. But I’ll tell you why I think it’s incredibly important in the sweater knitting process. Stay Tuned, Knitters!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting: Hannah Fettig Sweater KAL

It’s time to start thinking about our next Knit-A-Long, and what says Fall better than a cozy wool sweater?! Instead of choosing one pattern to knit, we’ve decided to highlight designer Hannah Fettig (aka Knitbot). Hannah Fettig is known for her classic sweater designs that are knit in one piece (no seaming!), which is ideal for first-time and veteran sweater knitters alike.

All photos from Hannah Fettig’s pattern pages on ravlery

This KAL is going to have some extra goodies including a series of blog posts with advice on everything sweater knitting! Beginning August 20th, we’ll have 2 blog posts per week to guide you through the sweater knitting process. Be on the lookout for the following blog posts:

  • Choosing a Pattern and Yarn
  • Swatching
  • Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size
  • Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-dyed Yarn
  • Making Adjustments on the Fly
  • Tips and Tricks for Sleeves
  • Seaming – hardly any of Hannah Fettig’s patterns require seaming, but we’ll discuss it anyway!
  • Blocking

Think of these blog posts as a free knitting class on making a well-fitting sweater that you love.

A little leery of making your first sweater? Fear not, Hannah’s patterns are easy to follow and there’s surely something for everyone in her collection of patterns. The Stash Enhancers will be happy to help you pick a pattern that will match your skill level. There are even several pint-sized versions of her designs, most notably the Coastal Kids patterns, for the little ones in your life.

The Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL will run from Wednesday September 19th-Wednesday December 12th to give you plenty of time to complete your sweater! The entire blog post series will be finished the week before the kick-off, so you’ll have the resources you need to cast-on right away!

KAL participants will receive 15% off yarn purchased for the knit-a-long between August 22nd and September 19th! Stop on in, browse through the Hannah Fettig patterns, and choose some gorgeous yarn to inspire your fall knitting!

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Wrap-up of Summer CKAL

It is nearly the end of July which means our summer crochet and knitalong will be ending.  If you are not done with your top, not to worry!  The fun of a CKAL is to have support from others who are knitting the same thing as you are, not to finish by a deadline.  With that said, here is a round up of finished and almost finished Spring Garden Tees (both little girl and adult sizes) knit by us and our customers (photos are by the respective knitter):

Kathy’s lovely chartreuse Tee

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Almost finished child’s tee by Lois  (And then she’s got one more to go for twins!  Go Lois!)

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Liz’s Spring Garden Tee in a beautiful teal

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Knit by Rachel for her daughter, a charming pink version

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And my vibrant fuchsia version, knit for my daughter

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Fantastic job everyone!

For those of you still working away on your tops, don’t give up!  Bring them to knit night and we’ll cheer you on or lend a hand if needed.  Once you’re done, post a photo of your completed top in the Summer KAL thread on Ravelry.  We all want to see them!

Next up:  The Fall KAL.  Stay tuned for details!

~Cinnamon

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