testing, 1…2…3…

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Is this thing on? tap tap tap

Sorry about the blogging silence, folks! But never fear, I’ve got fun knitting to show from the past few weeks to make up for it! In the meantime, I hope that everyone has been enjoying these early summer days and that there is plenty of sunshine and warmth in your forecast to make up for what seemed like a never-ending winter. Keep your fingers crossed for my first foray into vegetable gardening: a cherry-tomato-plant-for-idiots growing on my patio.

So, anyway..…the fun knitting! It was inspired by wonderful recent events: I’ve got two brand new nieces! (They are each gorgeous and adorable and perfect and unique. I’m not biased.)

When I found out that my nieces would be born around the same time, give or take, I thought it would be fun to create a sweater design for each of them with a unifying theme, but then with very different design details. My first thought was: make them both sweaters with circular yokes! I don’t know why this was my first idea, but it was and that’s what I went with.

One of the sweaters came together in my mind more quickly, as I envisioned a classically sweet little cardigan, so I started with that idea. I swatched a bunch of different yarns, and I’m so glad I did. As you’ll see, this early fiddling stage made a big difference.

Knowing that I wanted to make roughly a 6-9 month size in each sweater (which would put them into fall-winter wear/usage), I initially thought that an all-wool DK- or worsted-weight yarn would be great. Below, my first attempt in Madelinetosh Tosh DK (100% merino) in the “Molly Ringwald” colorway on size US 7 needles. I find that the roundness of this yarn definitely makes it knit up more like a worsted:

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As you’ll see, I was experimenting with a traditional daisy stitch, whose texture I knew would pop in an all-wool yarn. And while the texture did indeed pop (and I liked the color), I ended up feeling as though the texture wasn’t delicate/small enough for what I had envisioned. Perhaps this gauge would work better on a larger child’s sweater, but not here.

So I changed course, and dove into my stash again, this time coming up with my favorite Madelinetosh Pashmina, the sport-weight blend of merino, cashmere, and silk in the Rose colorway on size US 5 needles:

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Almost immediately, I knew this was a better choice. The daisy stitch still pops from the background, thanks to the wool content, but the cashmere and silk lend the overall fabric more drape and softness. The smaller gauge also means that the texture is a bit more delicate. I just love this dusty purply-pink shade, too. Here’s a side-by-side comparison between the two yarns to give you a better idea of their different effects:

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Interesting, right? I’m convinced that you can actually see the difference in drape just from this picture (although maybe I’ve been staring at it too long). Not to mention the impact of the gauge. This is why swatching is critical! It can really take you by surprise.

Just to be sure that I was satisfied with the pashmina choice, I decided to try one last yarn in approximately the same gauge, but with a different fiber content. Enter stage left: my third swatch in Madelinetosh Tosh Sport in the colorway “Porcelain,” a barely-there pink. (Yes, there’s a theme to the yarns. It’s all Madelinetosh. This is barely the tip of the stash iceberg…) I don’t remember the needle size, but it was comparable to my pashmina swatch. Again, it was a worthwhile exercise:

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While I achieved the delicacy that I wanted in the pattern, the texture was stiffened again thanks to the 100% merino in the Tosh Sport. So even with a smaller gauge, the all-wool yarn really wasn’t giving me the fabric/feel I had envisioned. Not to mention, the Porcelain colorway, while beautiful, was not at all the right choice for this project: too neutral.

Here are all three swatches side by side:

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Not the best picture, admittedly, but hopefully it still communicates the message: no matter how many years you’ve been knitting or how many projects you’ve made, be sure to swatch out your ideas to make sure they’re the right fit with the yarn!

Next time: the sweater design that came out of all of this experimenting, in all of its wee cuteness.
xoxo Danielle

“mad” for may, again!

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It’s May again! Does that finally mean no more winter (although it does seem to mean buckets of rain)? fingers crossed

So just like last year, I’m having a sale to celebrate the annual Madelinetosh May party over on Ravelry! You know how much I love Madelinetosh yarns, as I have a bunch of designs that feature the beautiful stuff, including:

Augusta

Zuni

Avian

Shipshape

and Sugarplums

Use the coupon code MadMay in my Ravelry Pattern Store and get 20% off any of my self-published patterns through Thursday, the 15th, at midnight EDT!

Happy Knitting!
xoxo Danielle

friday freebie: reversible baby hat pattern!

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TGIF, folks! And to celebrate the impending weekend, how about a quick free pattern that I whipped up recently?

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Perfect for that variegated skein of sock yarn that we all have in our stashes, this hat is quick, simple, and reversible thanks to its ribbed brim and garter stitch texture. I used less than one skein of a favorite fingering-weight yarn, Koigu KPPPM because I love its color saturation, woolliness, and tight twist, but any warm and stretchy sock yarn will work well.

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One of the great little tricks that I used to make this hat has to do with the brim, and is courtesy of the Tech Knitter. By knitting a few rows in the round on larger needles, then switching to your intended needles to work the ribbing, you get a super-stretchy and rolled edge to your brim that is very durable and not at all binding on the head. This is a brilliant and easy tip that has wide applicability to any edging (think sleeve and neck cuffs)!

Because the body of the hat is worked in garter stitch in the round, you will get a faux seam along the line where you begin a new round, but if you’re like me, that’s nothing to worry about. Just full disclosure, really!

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And to keep the knitting speedy, the crown decreases are concentrated in the very last rounds at the top of the hat to create a gathered effect. Easy and comfy for baby!

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The instructions, including the sizing, gauge, and materials are all below. Enjoy!
xoxo Danielle

Reversible Garter-Stitch Baby Hat

To fit: Infant
Finished Head Circumference: approximately 14.75″ [37.5 cm], unstretched
Note: Hat is designed to be worn with anywhere from no ease (for a loose fit) up to a couple of inches of negative ease (for a snug fit)

Materials:
130 yards of fingering-weight yarn; shown in Koigu KPPPM (100% merino; 175 yd/160 m per 50 g/1.75 oz), colorway P470X: one skein.
US 3 [3.25mm] needles: 16″ circular needle and double-pointed needles (DPNs), or size needed to obtain gauge
US 5 [3.75mm] needles: 16″ circular needle (note: these extra needles are only for the rolled brim technique. You may omit these needles if you skip this step.)
One marker
Tapestry needle

Gauge
26 sts and 56 rows = 4″ [10 cm] in garter stitch, blocked

Instructions
Brim
With larger needles, CO 96 sts. Join in the round, being careful not to twist CO.
Knit three rounds.
Note: The above rounds are optional. If you’d just like to start the brim with ribbing, then CO 96 sts loosely with the smaller circular needle and proceed with the ribbing as described below.

Switching to smaller circular needle, work ribbing as follows:
Rnd 1: *k2, p2; rep from * to end of round.
Rep Rnd 1 until ribbing measures approximately 3/4″ [2 cm].

Body
Work garter stitch as follows:
Rnd 1: knit.
Rnd 2: purl.
Rep last 2 rounds until hat measures approximately 6″ [15.25 cm] from CO edge, ending with Rnd 2.

Crown
Note: switch to DPNs when there are too few stitches to fit comfortably on the circular needle.
Work decreases as follows:
Dec Rnd 1: *k2, k2tog; rep from * to end of round. 72 sts.
Next rnd: purl.
Dec Rnd 2: *k1, k2tog; rep from * to end of round. 48 sts.
Next rnd: purl.
Dec Rnd 3: *k2tog; rep from * to end of round. 24 sts.
Dec Rnd 4: *p2tog; rep from * to end of round. 12 sts.
Dec Rnd 5: Rep Dec Rnd 3. 6 sts.

Finishing
Break yarn with 6″ [15.25 cm] tail, and using tapestry needle, pull tail tightly through remaining 6 sts and send tail through center top of crown. Weave in loose ends and block, if desired.

Note: All instructions and pictures are © 2014 Danielle Chalson.  Please do not use either without my permission.  Thank you!

cookie jar, take two

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Remember those Biscotti Bites I told you about last time? Well, it didn’t take us long to gobble up the first batch and make up the second batch with a delicious spin…..

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Behold the lime-and-white-chocolate variation! They are so so so so so so so delicious, it should be illegal.

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Before I had even baked this batch, I had already noticed how much “sunnier” this version was. By that, I mean that this flavor combination is lighter and brighter and generally more suited for a summer dessert (not to mention sweeter than the darker version).

As you can see, the white chocolate doesn’t interrupt the yellow-tinged batter the way the dark chocolate did in the original combination. Not that that’s a bad thing – don’t get me wrong. I covet chocolate in all of its forms. And yes, I dipped their bottoms in white chocolate, too ;)

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Similarly, the lime flavor is less dominant than the orange flavor was. Again – not a bad thing – but an altogether wonderful substitution.

Just look at that texture……

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The fact that both of these flavor combos work so well tells me that this is just a GREAT cookie recipe that’s versatile enough to hold up to many more creative substitutions. So if I didn’t convince you last time to try them, I hope I have now!
xoxo Danielle

one for the cookie jar

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Just a quick post to share a new cookie recipe that I came across and can’t get enough of! What you see above are “Biscotti Bites,” from a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living. And they are ingenious!

The cookies make very clever use of equal parts flour and cornmeal to achieve that twice-baked crispiness of traditional biscotti without the need for (a) two trips through the oven; or (b) a perilous slicing episode in-between (or at least perilous if you know me and knives…) You can see the effect that the cornmeal has on the crunchy texture of the cookie better here:

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Of course, because I’m me, I can’t follow the recipe as written. So I did the following:

–substituted orange zest for grapefruit zest because I loooove orange and chocolate together;

–made the cookies using a tablespoon-sized scoop instead of a teaspoon-sized scoop because if I’m going to have a cookie, I’m going to have a cookie! (This leads to about 40-45 cookies instead of the 100 that the original recipe quotes, and increases the baking time to about 22-25 minutes instead); and

–reduced and changed the amount of chocolate called for the recipe. “11 ozs” is not a very convenient amount when chocolate usually comes in 4-oz bar increments. So for the cookie dough itself, I used 4 oz (1 bar) of bittersweet chocolate and for the chocolate dip at the end, I used 4 oz (1 bar) of semisweet chocolate because that’s what I had available. This proved to be sufficient amounts for both steps of the recipe – they are plenty chocolate-y!

I can’t rave about these cookies enough. The texture is both crisp and chewy (thanks to the coconut) and the combination of flavors from the chocolate, orange, coconut, as well as the cornmeal, make these unique. Just be sure to abide by the directions to refrigerate the dough/cookies at each step – it really does make a difference in the final product.

Andrew and I have already been brainstorming different combinations…lime with white chocolate and coconut? I told you I couldn’t leave the recipe alone!

new tricks

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[An aside to start: Today is my 3-year blogiversary, yippee! Time: she flies.]

Ahhh, February, I hardly knew ye……Sorry for all of the radio silence! February was hectic, to say the least, but our thoughts and energy here at MWD are now turning to warmer days and spring weather and, hopefully, a new leaf in general.

A good chunk of last month was devoted to a lovely, but secret, behind-the-scenes knitting project that I can’t show you just yet. I’m very pleased with how it came out and will be very excited to share it once I’m allowed, so hang tight until then!

In the meantime, I’ve been dabbling with another knitting project and a new-to-me technique. I’ve knit many pairs of socks and am a huge fan of doing so – there’s nothing cozier than wool-warmed feet on a cold morning. But I’ve only ever knit them one at a time, from the cuff down to the toe. The “old-fashioned way,” if you will. So it was time to branch out! You also may recall that, some time ago, I went to a workshop with Melissa Morgan-Oakes to learn how to knit both socks at the same time, from the toe up. (Good grief, it was three years ago! Life is going by too fast!!) Melissa has a wonderful book that guides a newbie through the entire process, so I finally decided that it was time to put those workshop skills to use and try the technique.

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Above is my progress thus far – aren’t they fun? In some kind of spurt of semi-athletic feeling, I cast the socks on during the Opening Ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, with Melissa’s book balanced on my lap as I fiddled with the initial cast on and starting of each toe. I must admit: the beginning part of these socks is fiddly. Very fiddly. I’m sure that I feel that way because the technique is new to me and I needed to read each line of the instructions as I proceeded, but getting these socks up and running is certainly more difficult than starting a traditional sock at the cuff. In other words, have plenty of coffee and chocolate to hand when starting this project. :)

That being said, once you’ve got the toes established and have created enough stitches for each sock to make the knitting easier to hold onto, then the process really flies and it’s so, so fun to see both socks evolving at the same time! In other words, if you stick with it and just follow the instructions carefully, you’ll be totally fine. You just have to have faith and patience! (Also, here’s my newbie tip to share, that I haven’t seen mentioned in the book yet: be sure to really tug on your yarn as you switch from one side (e.g., the sole side) of the sock to the other side (e.g., the top side). Otherwise, you will get some serious stitch ladders that disrupt the nice fabric you’re making.)

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Here’s a close-up of the yarn that I’m using, and a more accurate rendering of its true color, which I love. I had heard quite a bit about the fun colorways available from Biscotte & Cie, a yarn company in Montreal, Quebec. They have a wide range of “Felix” yarn, the self-striping fingering-weight yarns that make the perfect socks, in my opinion. (That’s why my socks will just be simple stockinette stitch – to really let the stripes have all the fun.) I’m happy to report that this yarn is great to work with, nice and smooth and tightly spun so that the stitches are even and well-defined. The skeins are also generous on yardage. And of course I love these colors, especially that lime green that brightens up all of the dreary weather we’ve tolerated lately. I purchased this skein and one other at the recent Vogue Knitting Live event in NYC, but I’m sure that Biscotte & Cie yarns are also available online as well.

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The other thing that makes knitting these socks a pleasure is that I splurged on the lace tips for my circular needle. In general, I prefer very sharp tips on my needles, as the sharp tips (a) reduce the chances that you’ll split your yarn plies; and (b) speed up your knitting in general. Knitting the socks at the same time requires a very long circular needle, and this is a 40″ Size 1 needle made by Addi Turbo, one of my favorites.

So that’s it! I’m currently up to the part where I make the heel gussets, so it’ll be interesting to discover the short row shaping/construction for that section, before I head for home with a simple stockinette leg and ribbed cuff. Hey, if I’m lucky, I’ll have these socks finished just in time for the weather to be warm enough to not need socks. ;)

chipotle chili

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Hey all! A quick post here because I’m in the Super Bowl food mood and I thought you might like to share in the fun!

This winter, Andrew and I have enjoyed this chipotle chili more than once. It’s originally a recipe from a lady called The Pioneer Woman, and I found the recipe online when I searched for, you guessed it, chipotle chili. I’ve tinkered with it (I know – what a shock) and have streamlined the ingredients a bit to suit our purposes and tastes. Below, my adaptation and notes. Enjoy!

Chipotle Chili

Olive Oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds meat
1 bottle dark beer (e.g., Mexican beer)
14 oz. can of tomatoes
1-2 tsp. of powdered chipotle peppers
42 oz. beans (e.g., three 14 oz. cans of kidney beans)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground cumin
Salt to taste
1/4 cup Masa Harina
1 Lime

Sautee the shallots and garlic gently in the olive oil until the shallots are translucent. Add the meat and cook until lightly browned. Add 2/3 of the beer (SAVE THE REST) then cook for a couple of minutes to reduce. Add the tomatoes, chipotle powder, beans, chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir to combine, then cover the pot and cook for 1 hour. After the hour is up, mix the masa harina with the rest of the beer and stir to make a paste. Stir this into the chili, along with the lime juice, and cook for 10 more minutes to thicken.

Serve with your favorite toppings, which for me, is sour cream. Swoon.

Notes
–The original recipe uses 1 onion, but we like the milder flavor of shallots sometimes, so feel free to use either. The original recipe also called for 4 cloves of garlic, but…well…that’s your decision. :)

–The original recipe called for 2 pounds of cubed chicken breast. I’ve found that both ground turkey and chicken as well as cubed meat work great, including cubed up rotisserie chicken if time is short! I’ve yet to make this with ground beef, but suspect that it would be totally delicious.

–I’ve made this with both light and dark beer – both work fine, but the dark beer really gives punch.

–The original recipe called for 14 ounces each of three kinds of canned beans. We like kidney beans in particular, so I just simplified things, but feel free to go wild here. Same with the can of tomatoes. The original recipe specifies diced, but frankly, I just use whatever is on sale!

–The original recipe called for chipotle peppers in adobo, but I find those to be (a) messy and (b) a bit wasteful for our purposes, because we don’t eat chipotle peppers a lot, and I hate storing the leftovers in the fridge for some irrational reason. So I was able to find powdered chipotle pepper in the spice aisle at the grocery store, and not only does this work just as well, but is much more adjustable to your heat/smoke/spice preferences. Obviously, go light at first. After it’s cooked for an hour, you can always throw in a dash more if you need more heat. I love that smoky flavor yummmmmm.

–I’d never worked with masa harina before, but I love what it does here as a thickener and flavoring agent. Both the masa harina and lime juice make a big difference to the finished flavor and are definitely keepers in this particular chili.

Excuse me while I go dig in!
xoxo Danielle

giveaway winner!

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Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment in this week’s post about the Winesap Mitts! Your comments have been so, so kind and your support means the world to me. :)

Without further ado, and by the power of the Random Number Generator, the winner of the pattern AND the custom skein is: Tiffanie! Congratulations, Tiffanie! I’ll be shooting you an email with your copy of the pattern and Christine will be in touch to make up your very special skein of yarn. We hope this brings lots of happy knitting.

And a happy weekend, all!
xoxo Danielle

winesap mitts

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I’m very happy to unveil my latest design today, and not a moment too soon for the never-ending winter weather. Please meet my Winesap Mitts, a great one-skein project (gift knitting, anyone?) that includes three different sizes to fit older children to adults!

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I loooove a good pair of fingerless mitts. You can wear them indoors (just ask me), you can even wear them under gloves outside. And when I need a pair of mitts, it’s usually because my forearms, as well as my hands, are chilled. So my goal was to design some mitts that were functional and pretty.

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I designed a longer arm that fits snugly, thanks to the ribbing pattern, and also is shaped to narrow toward the wrist. For a bit of whimsy, I designed the arms to be knit flat so that they could be closed with coordinating buttons. Then the knitting is joined in the round to knit the hand and thumb as with traditional mittens/gloves.

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Perhaps my favorite part about the design process behind these mitts was that, as the saying goes, it took a village. Allow me to explain… :)

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The beautiful yarn featured in these cozy mitts was hand-dyed by Christine of Skeinny Dipping in Massachusetts. (Isn’t that a great name for a yarn company?) I first met Christine a few years back at, where else, Rhinebeck. We were both at the Knitspot meet-up, and I noticed that she was wearing gorgeous mitts in a vibrant yellow-green color. They were so great that I had to find out more, and lo and behold, she had knit them up in her own hand-dyed yarn! Christine is a truly gifted dyer (and a wonderful friend to boot). Just look at her nearly-endless palette of color choices here. Swoon! Luckily for me, she dyed up a skein for these mitts in one of my fave colorways: “Evolution of the Maple.”

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The colorway is primarily brown and green, but has lovely undertones of yellow and the occasional flash of purple. Because the colorway is such a complex combination, I focused on finding a stitch pattern to show off its rich variegation. The slip stitch pattern that you see on the hand of the mitts fits that bill nicely, I think, while also giving the mitt an unusual texture. The yarn base used for the mitts, her “Cannonball Sock,” is a lovely blend of merino and nylon, which lends both warmth to the mitts and a hint of sheen and glow to the colorway. I also like having the nylon content to ensure a snug fit and a hard-wearing lifespan for the mitts.

To further play up the variegation of the yarn, I thought it would be fun to draw out some of the accent colors. The best way I thought to do that? With the coordinating buttons I mentioned above! And this is where my Button-Partner-In-Crime comes in: my mom.

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With one completed Winesap Mitt in hand, my mom and I descended upon the button aisle at her local Joann Fabrics store. We must have pored over every single button hanging in that aisle that day, as we clutched and compared different sizes, shapes, and patterns while muttering “almost,” and “not quite,” and my favorite: “well, I don’t hate it.” Then, in a stroke of genius, my mom alighted on the almost-chartreuse buttons you see pictured above. The combination did not hit me at first, but the more we stared at it, the more we loved it. After a few minutes, I was practically giddy. These were the ones! And it only took almost an hour to find them! (Hey, if you’re gonna do it, do it right…) So I hope you agree that these are the perfect fit. :)

Once the mitts were completed, the task fell to Andrew to accurately capture the stitch patterning, the fit, and the unique tones of the yarn in photographs. We discovered that: (a) snow on the ground provides some decent, if finicky, natural light; and (b) hand modeling is HARD hehehe. I think he did a great job, and is becoming quite the knitwear photographer, if I do say so myself…

Of course, I’ve been saving the best part for last. You know I love a giveaway, so let’s do it!

Leave a comment on this post before midnight Eastern time on Friday, January 31st to win not only a copy of the pattern, but also a skein of yarn from Christine to make your very own pair! And here’s the best part: Christine has very generously agreed to CUSTOM dye the skein for the winner!

(I want to enter just to try and get my paws on more of her yarn hahaha).

So there you have it: the Winesap Mitts in all their cozy glory. I hope you love them and find them as versatile, easy to knit, fun to wear, and mood-enhancing as I do. To learn more about the pattern or to purchase the pattern, you can go here on Ravelry or here at MWD. Thanks to everyone in my little village (including my very talented tech editor, Karen) for bringing these mitts to life!

bowled over

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Those who know me know that I love a good pun, and the title of this post will make more sense when you see the subject of the post:

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Surprise: a beautiful handmade yarn bowl designed just for me! Isn’t it gooooorgeous?!?

My husband designed it as a special holidays/birthday gift for me with the help of Leslie, the owner of The Mud Place in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. He contacted Leslie with his idea for a bowl with my business name on it and she helped bring it to life. Leslie creates all sorts of unique, but useful, pottery pieces from her studio in the Pocono Mountains, and her yarn bowls (quite rightly) have been featured in both Vogue Knitting and Knitty.com.

I especially love the yarn bowl detail next to the M. (Yarn bowls are just clever little bowls with channels through which your wound yarn can run so that your yarn stays safely in the bowl and doesn’t get tangled when you pull on it.)

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And here’s a closeup of Leslie’s beautiful carving skills. It’s a bit tough to capture the exact color of the glaze on a grey day like today, but imagine a deep grayish-greenish celadon. I love how the brown of the underlying clay offsets the letters. And if you check out Leslie’s Etsy shop above, you can see other pictures of this pretty green hue.

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Thank you, babe – I LOVE it. :)

PS: I’m knitting on a secret project right now that has plenty of skeins awaiting their turn in the bowl…but my next design is nearly ready for its big reveal, so stay tuned!

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