Swapping out Shaping

One of the benefits of the interstate move I mentioned is that I now live just a few doors down from my best friend. Obviously this is awesome for about a million every day reasons, but since this is a knitting blog let’s talk about the knitting-related ones. Beth was an occasional knitter for about a year, and she’s certainly kicked things into high gear since we moved.

In fact, she’s now knitting her first sweater!

One of the great things about that is that I’m getting to see, first-hand, in a context where I can pester her with questions, what it’s like to approach sweater knitting as a relative newbie. (Because let’s face it, it’s been a long time since I (or any other designer you’re likely to meet) were in that stage of our sweater-knitting journey.)

I’m fascinated by the fresh slate with which she approaches patterns themselves. I had no understanding of how much context and custom we (pattern writers) assume on the part of the knitter – she’s mentioned several times how vague knitting patterns are. In most cases when a pattern is vague, there’s a reason – different choices exist that you can make entirely based on your own taste, and will probably want to make differently for different sweaters.

So today, I’m starting a series of posts on the options and freedoms you have when you’re knitting any sweater pattern. Things you can do this way, or that way, and still get a great sweater. The first topic is edge shaping.

When shaping on an edge, you have a variety of options that will all produce different looks.

The actual pattern instructions for edge shaping often look something like this:

“Decrease 1 st at each edge every RS row 7 times.”

And as long as you’ve gotten rid of those 14 stitches over the 14 rows specified, you’re pretty much good. So what are your options, and what look will they produce? There are two different parts to how you’ll work your shaping, and they’re independent of each other. So let’s break things down that way.

The first thing to decide is where you’ll work your shaping.

Shaping Placement

Edge shaping should typically be carried out within the 4 or 5 stitches at the edge of the piece, but you can work the shaping wherever you want within that range: Either right at the edge, one stitch in, or more than one stitch in.

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Shaping at the edge means that the shaping itself is going to be hidden within the finishing you’ll do – whether you’re going to be seaming that edge, or picking up stitches within it.

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Shaping one stitch in means that the shaping will be just outside the seam of whatever finishing you’ll do. It will be visible, but fairly unobtrusive.

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Shaping more than one stitch in from the edge means that the shaping itself will become a visual element in the piece. This is sometimes called “fully fashioned shaping”.

Shaping Slant

Wherever your performing the shaping, you can either choose to have it slant with the edge being shaped, or slant against the edge being shaped. All of the images above have shaping that slants with the edge being shaped:

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Slanting the shaping with the edge, for example using left-leaning decreases on the right edge and right-leaning decreases on the left edge of the armholes of a sweater back, will make the shaping slightly less eye-catching.

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Slanting the shaping against the edge, for example using right-leaning decreases on the right edge and left-leaning decreases on the left edge of the same armholes, will make the shaping slightly more eye-catching.

Putting them together

Putting them together, you’ve got a range of shaping options from completely unobtrusive (shaped at the edge itself, slanting with the edge being shaped):

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To fashionably eye-catching (shaped 3 stitches away from the edge, slanting against the edge being shaped):

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Which should you choose?

Truly, it’s up to you.

I personally prefer a clean look on sleeve caps most of the time, and on necklines when the yarn itself is somewhat busy, and fully fashioned shaping on neck edges when the yarn and design are more plain – as seen in the new CustomFit Basics sweater Firth:

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…but really, truly, it’s a matter of taste. What look do you like, given the rest of what’s going on in the sweater?

We have a winner – and a new KAL!

You all did such a wonderful job commenting in the contest to win Knit Wear Love – thank you!!! I always love reading comments, but this time especially I had such a great time hearing about your style challenges and loves. Thank you for such an excellent and thought-provoking group of observations.

I was glad to have the random number generator to help me choose a winner, for sure! And out of 402 comments, it chose Deb’s:

I love cables, textures and color knits with a scoop or vneck or henley and i like raglan. comfort is the key. I love textures that evoke nature. I really love a sweater with a beautiful lace pattern as well.

Deb and everyone, thanks again for commenting! As soon as my own copies of the book arrive, one will be on its way to you.

*****

Even though it’s tough to tell from today’s weather, winter is winding down, and with the warmer (?!) temperatures comes the end of the Deep Winter KAL.

As I mentioned when we kicked it off, Deep Winter is my favorite sweater time. And I’ve been heartily enjoying my favorite of the 6 sweaters I knit during this KAL:

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…but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a hint of spring fever around here. And let’s be honest, those of us in the Northeast still have a couple-three months of wool-weather before we pack it away until fall.

So it’s time to come full-circle in the Year of Sweaters KAL, and once again get a little punchy with the thought of wearing sweaters-as-outerwear:

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So many beautiful sweaters were finished during the first Cardipalooza that we kicked off a whole series of Year of Sweaters KALs. Let’s do it again! The rules are as usual for these KALs – knit a cardigan, and finish it before May 31 for a chance to win a prize (beyond your fab sweater, of course!).

Want to play along? There are a number of ways:

  • Our CustomFit Ravelry group is a great place for inspiration and sweater-y chatter.
  • Use the hashtag #cardipalooza on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest so that we can all keep in touch. As usual, we’ll set up inspiration boards and share our own cardi progress with you.
  • Comment here on the blog! We always love to see and hear about what you’re knitting.

We’ll be setting up an FO thread for the Deep Winter KAL in our Ravelry group early this week to choose the Deep Winter winner, and I’ll be kicking Cardipalooza off with a bang early next week with a brand-spanking-new cardi pattern.

Until then, grab some yarn you love, see if any of CustomFit’s cardigans strike your fancy, and stay warm!

Catching up: The book (and a chance to win it!)

So in addition to an inter-state move, running my own small business for the first full year, many many teaching trips, and trying to spend as much time with my family as possible…

…I wrote a book in 2014.

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And I haven’t really had much time to tell you about it yet! Knit Wear Love has an official release date of March 17, so you’ll be hearing and seeing more about it as the month goes on, but I didn’t want to get too much further without at least introducing it – and giving you a chance to win a copy!

Knit Wear Love grew out of the same place that birthed CustomFit:

I want to help you use your knitting skill to make your own favorite clothes.

Wearing garments that are made for us is such an amazing feeling. It’s something we hardly ever get to experience anymore, in this quick-fashion, ready-to-wear world. And it’s an amazing enough feeling that I want to help make the whole shebang as easy as possible for you. The first step is knowing what kind of silhouette you like on your own fabulous self. That’s what Knit to Flatter was all about.

But even once you’ve got the silhouette down, how do you create a sweater that matches your life? That looks good with the clothes you already have? That’s practical for the things you need to do each day?

As a designer, I’ve got dozens of sweaters that fit me well, with flattering silhouette. Why do I wear 4 of them, and leave the rest on the shelf?

Knit Wear Love answers those questions. This book, CustomFit, and Knit to Flatter work together to give you a great set of sweater resources:

  1. Knit to Flatter tells you what kinds of silhouettes you are most likely to love.
  2. Knit Wear Love tells you what kinds of materials and flair you’d like to add to that basic shape.
  3. CustomFit creates a pattern where all the numbers match your gauge and body.

In addition to having patterns (I’ll write more about those later), I wanted Knit Wear Love to be a great reference book for the kinds of changes and alterations you should feel empowered to make to a pattern so that the sweater is uniquely you. So there’s a whole chapter on things like how to swap out stitch patterning, yarn choice, and basic silhouette pieces to create a look that’s very you, rather than one that’s like the model.

Want a sneak peek at some of the samples?


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(24 sweaters is a lot of knitting!)

Giveaway time!

I’ve got a series of posts planned that will give you an inside look at the choices behind some of the samples I created for Knit Wear Love, and a few more about technical sweater topics – but I wanted to take few minutes for a quick introduction, first. Knit Wear Love forms the backbone of what I’m thinking, designing, and teaching right now. It informs the way I use and design for CustomFit, it gave rise to some of my most favorite classes, and I’m so tremendously pleased with the way STC’s wonderful team brought the whole thing together.

I hope you like it as much as I do. I’ll have more giveaways as release time gets closer, but since books are such special things, I’d love to kick off this introduction with one too. Knit Wear Love starts off with a question:

What’s your personal style?

So, for a chance to win a signed copy of the book, tell me something about your style. It can be anything: What kinds of colors, materials, fabrics, or shapes do you like to wear? What’s your very favorite piece of clothing? What thing have you made that you wear all the time, or that goes with nothing in your closet?

I’ll take comments until midnight EDT on Thursday, March 12, and choose a winner randomly on Friday morning. I can’t wait to read your comments!

CustomFit Basics: Winter/Spring 2015 Collection.

I’ve always felt that our knitting should be worn.

One of my great passions in life is to change the fact that sweaters suffer from the “closet curse” more than any other kind of knitting. That’s why I created CustomFit — to help all knitters make sweaters they love to knit and to wear. This fall, my inner restlessness and focus on great clothes combined into a somewhat-obsessive desire to re-imagine our “Classic” CustomFit silhouettes into something less static. Through the process, I kept coming back to this concept of basic wardrobe fundamentals.

You know the kind I mean, right? Those sweaters you wear all the time. That you want in 17 different colors. That go with everything in your wardrobe. That feel current, but that you also know you’ll wear for years to come.

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I thought about what those sweaters have in common. And decided that our “classic” CustomFit sweaters needed to be an evolving series of the most versatile things that will ever fly off your needles. I sketched, and chose sweater yarns that I believe in on a number of different levels, and I swatched. Then, the knitting began…

…and today, I’m presenting the first in a line of CustomFit Basics collections: twice-yearly presentations of the classics of our time. Those fundamental, wear-every-day sweaters we can’t wait to throw on. Ready for you to interpret – in your own materials, for your own wardrobe.

For Winter/Spring 2015, our inaugural collection, we’re presenting a mix of timeless, tried-and-trues and updated interpretations of the garments we wear every day.

CustomFit will create them in your own gauge, and your own size. So think about what you’d like to wear, grab your favorite yarn, and play around. See where your hands take you while you look through the collection.


And then, share with us! What styles appeal to you? What materials? What three things in your closet would you want to wear with your new sweater? When you’re ready, click here to get started on your very own wardrobe fundamentals.

Catching up: The Talcott Cardigan

It’s a week of catching up on sweaters here, and today I’d like to talk about a sweater I worked up as an exclusive design for the new website Kitterly.

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Do you know about Kitterly yet? It’s a website that helps you find a project that matches your tastes and skill level, and then packages up everything you need for that project, in one easy bundle. (I spent a fun time over coffee last week, clicking through all of the buttons on their project match tool.) Some months ago now, they were reaching out to designers to collaborate on exclusive kit designs.

I was super happy to be invited to play along, and then even happier when they sent me one of my very favorite yarns to work with – Rowan Felted Tweed Aran. I love this yarn – it’s delightful to knit with, it wears well over time, it comes in a wonderful selection of wearable colors, and it shows stitch patterning beautifully. I’ve worked with it many times over the years, and always enjoy designing for it.

This time, I knew I wanted to work it up into something cabled and cozy, but with a nod to more modern sensibilities. That, and a doodle of Jacob’s, was how Talcott started. I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and I hope you are too!

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Want one of your own? For now, it’s available exclusively through Kitterly. You can find out more details, and get your own, there. Happy knitting!

Catching up: Harrisville

Well, hello there! Long time, no see…

2015 has been incredible in many ways, but not so much on the sitting-in-front-of-the-computer front. Between my travel, the snow days you’re almost certainly sick of hearing about (or experiencing, depending on where you live!), and school vacations, this is one of the first days I’ve been able to just… work… in forever. So there’s lots of catching up to do! For instance, I don’t think we’ve talked about any of these things:

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And I think I’ve knit 5 sweaters during the current KAL, none of which I’ve talked about…

…but first, let’s start with a few more sweaters I’ve been knitting that I don’t think I’ve mentioned. I want to start by talking about my design partnership with Harrisville Designs.

My own journey with Harrisville actually started when I was a kid – we mostly worked with the absolute least-expensive (acrylic) yarn that could be found when I was young. But my mom always had a little savings fund going for “the really good wool”, and every so often would make a very special garment out of it. Harrisville projects were my favorites of that smaller collection of items. While I think they’re gorgeous in the hank too, the true beauty of these yarns doesn’t fully come through until the items made with them are worn, day after day, and year after year.

Over time, the things you’ll make from these yarns will soften, bloom, meld, and relax, the way a really good pair of shoes will. (You know the ones I mean.) Except that unlike the shoes, they’ll continue to look just as good – if not better – than the day they were knit. Of all of the sweaters in the giant set I bring to my classes, Acorn Trail (out of Highland) gets the most love. It still looks as good as the pattern photo, and it feels even better.

So needless to say, when Harrisville first approached me to design for them I was thrilled.

I’ve done 3 sweaters with them now, the latest of which was released just last week. Can I show them to you? (By the way, Caro Sheridan gets the credit for all of these incredible photos.)

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Leatherleaf (here’s a Ravelry link, too) was released in Harrisville’s “Spring Thaw 2014″ collection. It’s a flirty little thing, knit out of their Silk and Wool blend, a wonderful, nubby yarn that I’ve used several times now. (I like it sooo much.)

While I originally intended for the sweater to be worn with a couple of inches of positive ease, I think it looks great when worn more fitted, too. It’s a fairly quick and simple knit, and I keep meaning to knit one for myself – it’s a nice blend of the classic and sporty styles I’m personally most comfortable in. I can imagine it with several of the skirts hanging in my closet that are just waiting for warmer weather.

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Bennington (here’s that Rav link) was my chance to design for Harrisville’s Autumn collection, using their glorious WATERshed yarn. WATERshed is a light, medium-twist woolenspun yarn, similar to Shelter but more structured and durable. I found it to be a joy to work with, and for an Autumn collection, knew that I wanted to work with some deliciously cabled pattern. The front of this cardi is quite plain, and intended to be worn open. (Be sure to choose a size that’s large enough to let the cardigan fronts hang nicely!)

In fact, Harrisville is running a KAL for Bennington – and I can’t wait to see the sweaters! (It’s okay to be dreaming of autumn before winter is even done, right?)

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And finally, there’s Hemingway, which has just been released as part of Harrisville’s winter collection. (Here’s a Ravelry link.) I can’t say enough good things about FLYwheel, the yarn I used for this cardigan. It’s a completely exquisite yarn – a sport-weight relative of WATERshed, except that description can’t convey how perfect a sweater yarn this is. It’s warm, it’s light, it’s the perfect size and tweediness for stitch patterns.

And so, I designed a sweater that I wanted to wear (badly). Cabled, relaxed, comfortable, with just a bit of shaping. The kind of thing that will work with my jeans, my cord skirts, my fall dresses. With boots, with clogs, with an old pair of converse. Know what I mean?

I hope you like it. I’m ridiculously excited about it.

Want to see another picture for good measure?

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(And is that sweet dog not the most adorable thing ever?) So that’s that – another stop in the line of pinch-me-experiences I’ve had since leaving my day job to pursue the fiber arts full-time. What’s on your needles these days – and what sweaters are you looking forward to making this year?

CustomFit at Stitches West 2015

Looking for a little CustomFit motivation and encouragement?

Lauren will be at Stitches West to spread some CustomFit cheer – so come say hi!

With BIG thanks to the generosity of our buddies at The Yarnover Truck for letting us borrow a corner in their booth for a few hours, I (Lauren!) will be offering both a limited number of measurement appointments, and an informal CustomFit Q + A / show-off session.

So if you want to get started with CustomFit, or if your first CustomFit sweater didn’t turn out as you’d hoped, or you just want to come and talk to the source, this is a great chance.

Here’s a quick run-down of my schedule for the weekend:

Saturday, Feb. 21st

  • Measurements 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
  • Measurements 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • CustomFit Q + A – 4:30 – 6:00 pm

Sunday, Feb. 22nd

  • Measurements 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Want more details?

CustomFit Q + A

If you have questions about how to get started or where your sweater went wrong, or just want to talk CustomFit, come by the Yarnover Truck in booth 1048 between 4:30 – 6:00 pm on Saturday. This is an informal session — no set schedule. If you have trouble with your gauge changing, bring some swatches! Not sure about your armhole depth? Show me a sweater. Just need to understand how CustomFit works? Not to worry, I’ll have my iPad with me and I can show you. Most of all, I’m excited to see (and Instagram!) your finished CustomFit sweaters.

Measurements

Measurements cost $20 and require pre-registration/pre-payment. Each session will last 10 minutes, so please be on time! You can register right here. You’ll immediately receive a confirmation email, and then I’ll get in touch later this week with more details and an appointment time.

We’d love to measure everyone, but I’m going solo at Stitches this year (Amy’s travel schedule is crazy this spring, and Jackie’s got a little one coming soon!), so we have just a few slots. If you’ve been measured by us before, please note that in your registration so we can give priority to those who’ve never been measured.

Football update

We’ve also crowned a winner from our Super Bowl Giveaway! As the sad loser, I’ve picked out a sweater quantity of Rowan Felted Tweed in a lovely purple, to send to our lucky winner Anne:

I’ll take a stab and say Patriots will win. While I may or may not be watching, I’ll be finishing up an overdue test knit for Laura Aylor.

Anne, I’ve emailed you, and I hope you finished your sweater! For a consolation prize, I’ll also be sending a CustomFit gift certificate to a Seahawks fan. Next year is our year, I just know it. Kathy, I hope you wear the sweater you worked on this year for next year’s game!

I’m finishing the custom Featherweight I started before Christmas ( and which got interrupted by the holidays (should be done tonight or tomorrow at the latest). I love the Quince & Co. yarn.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Where did January go? (a little giveaway!)

January hit us hard here at Amy Herzog Designs! After we got back from TNNA, I came down with a killer cold that laid me out for nearly a week. I could barely knit, which is the worst kind of sick. And just a few days later, my fiancé and I packed up our apartment and moved to a different neighborhood. Sadly, packing (and then unpacking!) boxes is not conducive to finishing a Deep Winter KAL sweater… but I’m trying my best. photo

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the flu hit Amy’s kids hard. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say there’s been some puking. The one good thing (?) about sitting with sick children is that you get a lot of knitting done… she’s on track for several sweaters this KAL!

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As for Jackie, she’s been working hard to wrap up everything before her little one arrives sometime in the next month or so.

We’re still getting a bit of knitting done, while planning for the next sweater too.

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How’s your Deep Winter KAL Sweater? Have you made good progress? Lots of folks have already posted sweaters in our Ravelry group, and there’s some great in-progress shots under the hashtags #wintersweaterKAL and #makewearlove on Instagram!

Even though January’s got us under the weather, we’re looking forward to February. Want to know why? All of us are big football fans, and there’s a little something going on the first of February …

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To thicken the plot, we’re rooting for opposite teams. Being from New England, Amy and Jackie are die-hard Patriots fans. And you know I live in Seattle — home of the defending champions, the Seahawks, my favorite team since my junior year of college.

We’re upping the stakes! Amy and I have decided to make a bet on the winner of the game — and the winner of our bet will be one of you. Post a comment predicting who will win the Super Bowl, and what you’ll be knitting while you watch it (or while you don’t watch it).

(Hint: the right answer is the Seahawks.)

(Amy would like to note she disagrees!)

We’ll pick a lucky knitter from one of you who chose the winning team, and the loser of our little bet will send the winner a sweater quantity from her stash, plus one coupon for any CustomFit sweater. Let the games begin!

Who’s going to win, and what will you be knitting?

Thanks everyone! Comments are now closed, and we’ll be crowning a winner in the next post.

Deep Winter Travels

I always forget how much back-to-back extended travel weekends trash my productivity in other areas. Email, blog, laundry, the code… all of it falls by the wayside when I’m gone 10 days in a row.

But our travels to TNNA were great (did you see Lauren’s video of me seeing Knit, Wear, Love for the first time?), and I’ve taken my quick one-day laundry/kid-hugs break, and now I’m off again!

This weekend, I’ll be in New York for Vogue Knitting Live NYC, which is one of my absolute favorite events each year. I hope to see you there! In addition to my classes and lecture, I’ll be speaking at a panel on design on Sunday at lunchtime in the marketplace. It should be a blast.

And in addition to a wonderful TNNA, those cross-country flights are great for knitting productivity: I have already finished the knitting for my first Deep Winter KAL sweater.

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(Not shown: Sleeves that have not yet been seamed on.) How are yours coming?

Charlie’s Cardigan

Jackie has said about me, more than once:

“She’s a compulsive designer. She literally cannot stop.”

And it’s true. I can’t touch a hank of yarn without thinking about what it wants to be. I’ve taken three pauses in my work today, just to pull some yarn and needles down and play around with them, and it’s only barely lunchtime. And in all of my design work, I try to be true to what the yarn needs. I strive to make sweaters that are infinitely wearable, and which fit seamlessly into a wardrobe.

…But oftentimes, I’m not actually knitting sweaters that fit comfortably into my wardrobe. I have a pretty strongly-developed style: my outfits tend to be a blend of sporty and preppy, with a few bohemian, modern, and/or romantic touches thrown in now and again for flavor. So as much as I love all of the sweaters I design, I wear them less than you might think.

Which is why, when I decided to use some of the utterly-phenomenal Swans Island All-American yarn for my FFKAL sweater, I decided to stick close to my own wardrobe roots.

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Charlie’s Cardigan is a kinda-sporty, kinda-preppy crew neck cardigan that slips quietly into wardrobe heavy rotation. It looks good with button-downs and a skirt, and is equally at home with a long-sleeved T and your favorite pair of jeans. Its lace chevron pattern is interesting to knit and looks great, but is not so eye-catching that your whole outfit has to be about the sweater.

The Swans Island All-American Worsted is a wonderful partner for the classic lines of Charlie’s Cardigan. It’s a worsted-weight, woolenspun 2-ply blend of soft Rambouillet wool and alpaca, both sourced within the US and blended & spun at a mill in New England. It’s soft (though not smooth), light, warm, and incredibly beautiful. Swans Island’s All American Collection celebrates centuries of American textile tradition, and I’m thrilled to use it for a garment that’s getting so much daily wear already.

The best part? Charlie’s Cardigan is built right into CustomFit, so you can create one in your very own gauge, for your very own self.


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So there you have it – some closure to my FFKAL sweater, and a new design for you, just in time for the Deep Winter KAL.

Stay warm, and happy knitting!