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Upcoming Changes to Tinking Turtle Services

As Jennifer mentioned last week, the past several months (has it been that long?) have been very busy for us. Both with Little Turtle becoming more and more active and energetic as well as welcoming a future new addition to the family. All of this change has meant that we have been needing to take a more in-depth look at the level we are able to provide all of Tinking Turtle’s customer services.

Prior to Little Turtle’s arrival, we spent some time exploring maternity leave and how it could impact small fiber arts businesses. Learning from our own experiences, we are going to be making a few changes to Tinking Turtle’s services going into the Holiday season and New Year:

Effective November 1st, we will no longer be accepting standard turnaround service for finishing projects. Our goal is to ensure that we have everything with the business buttoned up prior to Turtle II’s arrival, and in order to do that we will need wo work through the projects that have already been committed.

A crib with blankets waits for a new arrival

Awaiting a new arrival

We will still accept finishing projects through December 1st with Expedited turnaround time pricing for a 6 week turnaround, and then through January 1st for Rush turnaround time.

Afterthose deadlines, or if you do not desire to have your project expedited, you can use our Contact Form to sign up for our Finishing and Repair wait list.

We are going to look at providing a longer block of leave this time around, with an anticipated return to business operations mid to late summer 2018.

While we may be a bit slow to respond to inquiries after the New Year as we focus on growing our new family, our hope is to be able to continue to providing our exceptional service and balancing that quality with family obligations over the next many months.

Important Updates and News

Balloon LogoMuch has been going on behind the scenes of Tinking Turtle recently, but it’s left me with precious little time to update the blog!  I’m going to be endeavoring to fix this oversight in the next few days with a series of updates, since some exciting things are happening this fall.

But the biggest news that Mr. Turtle and I would like to share is that we will be adding another small member to our family in late February – a second girl.  We’re very excited to share this news with you!

How will this affect the running of Tinking Turtle?  Well, following the end of the year I’ll be starting to wind things down in anticipation of going on maternity leave.  What we discovered last time was that I didn’t give myself enough time to wrap things up before Little Turtle’s birth, and it left me having to tie up the ends of a few projects after she was born.  We’re trying to avoid that situation this year.  There’ll be the normal holiday pricing for finishing and repairs, and we’ll have a waiting list for people interested in my services after I finish my maternity leave.  Going into the New Year, I’ll be cutting back my teaching obligations too.  I’ll keep you posted with more updates as we get closer to February!

Thank you so much for supporting Tinking Turtle and our growing family.

Make Do and Mend: Recent Repair Projects

I’ve been working and plugging away at a number of repair projects, and while I’ve been posting them to Instagram, I thought I’d highlight a few here.  We’ve got one crochet piece and one knit piece.

The knit piece features a stocking that was hung over the fireplace with care – but was hung a little too close to the flames!

a christmas stocking with a hole burned through it

a christmas stocking with a hole burned through it

Not only did the warmth of the fire burn through the stocking, but it melted one of the stocking stuffers to the fabric, causing the bottle to leak all over the fibers.  It was a mess!

A side note: this is a really good reason to use wool when making anything that will get anywhere near heat – wool does not melt or burn like acrylic or cotton.

repaired christmas stocking ready to go back to its owners

repaired christmas stocking ready to go back to its owners

This stocking needed an overhaul – I pulled things out at the ankle and re-knit the foot.  I’m pretty pleases with the color matching – not perfect, but pretty close!


 

The other project I wrapped up was a crochet afghan that had developed a hole.  It was a nice diversion, since the last few repairs I’ve done of crochet afghans have been plain single crochet.

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The first step was isolating the crochet stitches that were in danger of unraveling.  Because this pattern is a gathered stitch, things are a little more tricky – there isn’t a one-to-one ratio of stitches.

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Then there’s the process of re-crocheting the area. I had a choice here: I didn’t have any of the blanket yarn I could harvest, so I could either use a closely matching yarn (which is tough to find with cream colored things), or I could crochet the piece in a slightly tighter gauge so I would have enough yarn to do the repairs (and weave in ends).

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This is a strategy that works well over a small area – in this case, this one pinwheel (marked by the teal thread). Over larger areas this would cause the area to pucker.


And that is most of what I’ve been working on!  What projects have you gotten off the needles/hook?

Mastering the Master Hand Knitter Program

IMG_20170517_154215159_HDRI’ve been considering doing the Master Knitter program for a while now.  Rather halfheartedly, because I wasn’t really sure where I would find the time, and I wasn’t sure of the benefit the designation would give me.  However, after Unwind, Mr. Turtle decided it was time to give me the push and sign me up for the Master Hand Knitter program.  Then I’d be committed.  The theory being, is that even at 30 years of age (with a child now!) I’m often still perceived as being younger and thus less experienced. (Ageism, anyone?)  The Master Hand Knitter certification would be a way for me to have outside validation that I know my stuff – and hopefully open more doors for teaching and other opportunities.

So I’ve been working on the swatches and reports for the first level, and it’s an interesting process.  Let me be clear before I write the next part: I have the utmost respect for the TKGA Master Hand Knitter Program.

Saying that, I’m finding doing the swatches and the work utterly boring and frustrating and counter-intuitive to my personality. Hint: I’m not that great a rule-following, and I tend to think I know better than the directions.

Part of this may improve with time as I get to the more difficult levels.  But part of me wishes that there was a way to “test out” of the lower levels – these swatches of garter stitch, stockinette, and basic lace are driving me BONKERS.  I understand that you need to follow the directions exactly – so that they can tell that you can follow directions, so that you can demonstrate that you can do various skills like yarn-overs and decreases without twisting stitches.

The whole thing is terribly tedious.

Then, I need to write reports about various techniques, citing sources and answering questions.  I need to be able to write directions on how to do the various skills to demonstrate that I can explain things clearly.

And the whole time I feel like this work is pulling me away from things I would rather do with my leisure or work time.  I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize – that big shiny pin and the proof that I’m able to do this work.  But… I’m finding it hard.  Part of it is I’m not entirely convinced that the time I spend on the Master Hand Knitter Certification will actually have any affect on my marketability.  And part of it is I feel like my accomplishments should be able to speak for themselves, instead of doing what feels like busywork.

But!  Continuing education is a good thing.  And who knows, maybe I’ll get my ego checked a little bit, and find things that I need to improve on.

Anyone else looked at or done the Master Hand Knitters Program?  What were your thoughts?

Restoring Harmony to a Household with a Crochet Repair

I had a client get in touch with me a couple of weeks ago.  In my client’s words the situation was this:

I got your name from the local yarn store.  I have a blanket my wife made for my daughter.  My daughter’s dog put a hole in it (see photos) and now I need a repair to restore peace and civility to my family.  Is this something you could do (I hope)?

Clearly I had to help!

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The hole was oriented across two of the different colors in the blanket, spanning 5-6 rows, depending on how you want to count it.  On a big plus, the person who crocheted the blanket had kept all the yarn that was leftover, giving me plenty to work with when making the repairs – a true luxury! I was able to dive into the repairs right away.

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In most cases it’s better to make the hole bigger to make the repair, as long as you have a good amount of yarn to work with.  This way you aren’t working into damaged yarn, and you have enough of the ends to weave in.  Here, I’ve already worked the first row of the repair.  I like to pin my ends out of the way using locking stitch markers.  Because this was worked in rows and turned, I flip the entire blanket each time I repair a row, to work it in the direction of the repairs.  Re-crocheting each row isn’t the tricky part.  The tricky part is the last row when you have to connect the old rows with the new.  You’ll see I’m using stitch markers to hold the base of each of the half-double crochets that have been worked.

 

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After working a couple of rows normally, it’s time to close up the hole and reconnect the old stitches to the new.  This takes some real patience, as each row you need to crochet a stitch, then take a needle and sew together the newly created stitch through the one above it.  I’m finding that the final row sometimes takes as much time as the entire rest of the repair, depending on how big the hole is!

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Getting to the end with all the tools I use in play.  A smaller crochet hook for maneuvering things right where I want them, and the larger crochet hook so I can match gauge.

At this point Mr. Turtle wanders through and asks what I’m doing.  “I’m restoring peace and civility to a client’s home,” was my response.

 

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Finally finished weaving things together!  I was so pleased with how the repairs came out!

 

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Now it’s time to finish weaving in the ends and this piece can go back to its owner.

 

Coming to Fruition

Shamrocks and St. Patrick's dayNearly a year ago, in preparation for Little Turtle’s arrival, I made a dress.  Based off of my Rosemary and Bay pattern, this version was for my own child,much anticipated at that point.  I made the dress with a Shamrock and a bit of a St. Patrick’s day flair, since part of my family is Boston Irish, and I love the green shamrock motif.  It seemed lucky to make a dress for my future daughter with a shamrock on it.  Last week I got to put her in it, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the fit.

First of all, it’s taken me nearly 10 months to realize if I kept the sticker on the paper, I could get Rebecca to hold it in a way that looks like she is holding up a sign… doh!

But let me get back to the dress!

I’ve written about this dress before, HERE.  But I didn’t share the details.  The greenish yarn is from Mountain Colors, and is their Twizzle.  I’d originally gotten enough to make myself a vest, but then decided instead to use it to make a slouchy hat (which Michael then washed and accidentally felted so…).  This is made from some of the scraps.  The yoke, hem and waistband area ll made in Mountain Colors Twizzle.  The body is knit in cream, and is from Willow.  It’s Willow Yarns Attire Light.  This yarn had some faults in it, so there were more ends to weave in than usual.

When I made the dress, I accidentally reversed the directions halfway through, so the “seam” is smack dab in the middle of the dress, underneath the shamrock.  I’m not too pleased with it, but I’m not going to rip it all out so… I doubt anyone really notices when it is on Rebecca.

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Classes with Tinking Turtle

Golly, we’ve got a lot going on at the Turtle-Wrangling Ranch!  It must be spring, as my class schedule is picking up as I teach at Fiber Festivals and local venues.  Check out some of the highlights:


wp-1489607241853.jpegDances With Wool is located southwest of Richmond, VA in Midlothian.  I’ve got a bunch of classes I’ll be teaching there in the next few weeks:

  • Ravelry 101 (March 18) – Learn how to use the ever popular Ravelry website!
  • Stripes Three Ways (March 18) – We’ll cover three different types of colorwork, with a fun little twist!
  • Finishing Essentials (March 18) – This class is a must-take if you’re looking to learn to put a crochet or knit object together.

wp-1489607231169.pngFibre Space is one of my all-time favorite stores to teach in (partially because I love all the places to eat lunch in Alexandria… shhh!).

  • Padded Crochet (March 19) – I don’t teach this skill or this class often, so take it while it’s available!
  • Bind Offs (March 19) – We had such a great response to our Cast-Ons class, this one covers finishing your projects with intentional bind offs!

wp-1489607224330.jpegNext weekend I’ll be in North Carolina for the Carolina Fiber Fest. This’ll be my second time teaching at this fiber festival, and it’s at a new location!  I’ll be teaching:

  • Duct Tape Dress Forms – The first time I’ll be teaching it since my maternity leave – it was too hard on my body while pregnant.
  • Hairpin Lace Scarf in a Day – this crochet technique is great for quick projects!
  • Stripes Three Ways – This class is popular, and you’ll see why – it teaches some great colorwork techniques.

 

Unique Sweater Pillows Tutorial

Lately I’ve been able to dig my teeth into some interesting projects like the hobbyhorse blanket I repaired a couple of weeks ago. Today I wanted to share with you another project I’m working on.  I was approached by a client interested in having six sweaters turned into pillows.  A dear friend of hers had passed away, and she wanted to take her friend’s distinctive sweaters and turn them into pieces she could treasure.

I’ve worked a few times with commercial made sweaters; although more often I’m taking them apart for teaching purposes or using them to practice techniques I’d like to teach.  While this isn’t a tutorial per-se, it’s an outline of my process and some tips and tricks I’ve discovered after working on other smaller projects similar to this.

Stabilizer ironed onto the back of the sweater pieces

Stabilizer ironed onto the back of the sweater pieces

My first step was taking the sweaters apart.  All but one was chain-stitched together, which made disassembling them pretty easy once I got the hidden stitching undone. The last one was sewn together, which was a bit more of a pain to take apart. At least it was done in mattress stitch!

Next I ironed on stabilizer.  The stabilizer gave the knit fabric more woven qualities, which was needed for several reasons:

  1. It made sewing into the fabric infinitely easier.
  2. For colorwork or stranded knitting sweaters, it prevented unraveling.
  3. The stabilizer prevented the fabric from distorting by keeping lines straight and preventing stretching.
  4. For sweaters with button bands or zippers, it prevented them from accidentally opening.  It would allow some of the sweaters button bands to not be sewn, preserving some of the sweater-like qualities.
  5. It allowed the finished pillow to be sturdier.

On the very last piece of sweater I was just shy of covering the entire sweater.  Since I would be trimming most of the edges away, I pieced together a few extra scraps of stabilizer I had to finish it off (you can see this above).

Figuring out the size of the pillow, and making sure all the lines are straight

Figuring out the size of the pillow, and making sure all the lines are straight

After the stabilizer was on, I began to look at each sweater, determining the notable features of the sweater – what made it distinct?  How could I choose a shape that complimented the look of the piece?  Would the pillow look better as a square or rectangular pillow?

Cutting the pieces using a quilter's template and a fresh blade on my roller cutter

Cutting the pieces using a quilter’s template and a fresh blade on my roller cutter

This tall ice-skating Santa would have gotten cut off as a square pillow. I also loved the beading on the edge of this sweater and the beaded snowflakes.  I had to fudge cutting this pillow out to make sure that I caught all the elements that made it interesting.

I cut pieces to preserve the button bands, then had to make sure the button bands were in the center of the pillow

I cut pieces to preserve the button bands, then had to make sure the button bands were in the center of the pillow

I thought it was important to keep the qualities of the sweater above that made it interesting – button bands and ribbing at the edge. This pillow had a really thick button band that was nearly impossible to sew through, needing a lot of hand stitching.

After cutting out all the pieces and making sure I’d gotten them to the correct size, it was time to pin them together.  For most of the pillows I was able to use my sewing machine to sew at least three of the sides.  For two of them I was also able to machine sew part of a fourth side, saving on a lot of time.

A stack of sewed pillows, awaiting stuffing

A stack of sewn pillows, awaiting stuffing

The top pillow above, with the blues and greens, ended up being a favorite. I love the buttons on the button band!

 

Mattress stitch is almost always a perfect solution to having two fabrics come together invisibly

Mattress stitch is almost always a perfect solution to having two fabrics come together invisibly

Next I began hand-sewing the final edge of the pillows. I used #10 crochet thread instead of normal sewing thread. This was becasue I was having to yank at the pillows to get them to look the way I wanted them. This was doubly true when sewing through the button bands, and getting three layers of very thick knit fabric to come together.  Even still, sometimes I wasn’t careful and had the thread break.  Not fun!

Mattress stitch (aka ladder stitch) was my stitch of choice.

Pillow made out of old sweater, button band showing

Pillow made out of old sweater, button band showing

The pillows are coming together now! I wasn’t always able to get the ribbing to come together evenly on the bottom.  It’s a nitpicky detail, and probably something only I could notice. It couldn’t always be helped though. I love here how I could keep the button band unsewn, so it looks like the button band on a normal sweater, with that dimensionality! The thick stabilizer unerneath will prevent stuffing from escaping.

 

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Some close shots of the lovely beadwork on the bottom of the Santa sweater. I just had to keep a detail like this. I’m already wondering how to replicate this in a handknit design.

This has been a fun project and a unique way to honor a passed friend. In the next few days I’ll wrap up with the final touches – removing lint, straightening edges and getting ready to send these pieces back to my client.

Reweaving a Lace Knit Blanket, Part 2

Today I resume notes on my recent repair, a lace hobbyhorse blanket.  This is the second of the series detailing my thoughts as I worked through this reweaving and repair project.  You can see the first part here.

 

Base of the Hobby horse, stitches on locking stitch marker.

Base of the hobby horse, stitches on locking stitch marker.

When I last left off I’d gotten the piece reworked up to the lacework, and fixed a couple of runs that were below the hobbyhorse.  I’m ready to start working my way up the lace horse.

To review, this is what a whole hobbyhorse looks like (below). You’ll see I’m using stitch markers to visually mark my place – the green stitch marker represented the first line of stitches in a column that were whole and unraveled.

Reference hobbyhorse

Reference hobbyhorse

I got my stitches on a pair of needles and began “knitting” my way up the rows, following and mimicking the other lace horse.  I used a trick I often use with children and beginning knitters – the knitting needles are two different colors so I could easily remember which were right side rows and which were “wrong side” rows.  By that I mean the rows I was working with the lace (which would have been the right side of the pattern) and the rows I was just plain knitting (which would have been the wrong side, or the purl side).

Double pointed needles made it easy to not have to slip the stitches back and forth.

reknitting and reweaving the foot of the lace knit hobbyhorse

Reknitting and reweaving the foot of the lace knit hobbyhorse

At this point I was to the top of the horse’s foot and  began to notice a problem I hadn’t been sure about until that point.  I thought there was a jog in the line of decreases and yarnovers to the left, but I wasn’t quite sure.  As I began working the pattern up the leg of the horse, it became apparent that a couple of mistakes had been made by the origional knitter when knitting the horse.

Note: you’ll also notice that as I was making these repairs I wasn’t paying attention to gauge too much – both because I could go back and “adjust” areas, and also because this repair had a time budget – it was more important to get the repair to a place where it wouldn’t come unraveled.

reknitting and reweaving the leg of the lace knit hobbyhorse

Reknitting and reweaving the leg of the lace knit hobbyhorse

There were three apparent mistakes, but two of them affected the repair – circled below.  You can see the jog in the line of stitches on the bottom circle, and another jog at the line of stitches in the horse’s neck.  The third mistake, the one which may have led to the run in the first place, is right at the top of the dropped stitches.  The mysterious part of all of this was the fact that there wasn’t any broken yarn – the run must have resulted in a dropped stitch that couldn’t get fixed.

At this point I was also starting to suspect that there might have been an extra pair of stitches in the original pattern.  Looking at the horse I began to wonder if perhaps there was a fourth mistake that was lost when the stitches dropped down?  I’d been noticing that even accounting for differences in gauge, the stitches were really loose. This hypothetical fourth mistake would account for an extra row of stitches, and thus the extra yarn hanging out in each row.  I started to suspect that the drop might have resulted from the original knitter trying to fix those mistake; and perhaps losing a stitch in the process?

comparing how the hobbyhorse is supposed to look, vs the horse with the run in it

Comparing how the hobbyhorse is supposed to look, vs the horse with the run in it

By now I worked my way back to where the drop happened. I had to strategize how I was going to finish this repair off.  I had two different choices I could follow:

1.) Cut the yarn to reweave the affected area and then weave in those ends.

2.) Use additional yarn to sew the gap closed.

I discarded the first option for a couple of reasons: time and cost was a factor for this client. I also wouldn’t have much ends to work with when weaving things back together.  Since this is a child’s blanket, I wanted a sturdier option.

Instead, I went with option two.  I found some embroidery floss in as close of color as I could get, and cinched in the stitches.  I then sewed through the area several times, weaving in the ends afterward.

Getting ready to sew the run and hole in the hobbyhorse closed

Getting ready to sew the run and hole in the hobbyhorse closed

To get the stitches looking more even, and to test to make sure everything was locked in tight I decided to go with an unconventional approach for blocking. I wet the blanket, maneuvered the stitches so they looked as even as I could get them in a reasonable amount of time, and threw it in the dryer (since the yarn was dryer safe). This fluffed up the yarn, locked the stitches into place, and helped everything even out.

 

And there you have it!  This piece went off to its owner last week, back into the loving arms of a boy that will have it for years to come.

Repairing and Reknitting a Lace Knit Blanket

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on a repair project.  So today I’ve got a post walking you through my thought process as I reknit an unraveled section of the blanket.  I thought this Hobbyhorse Blanket repair project was a good one to talk about my process and how I go about tackling a big repair.

This is going to be a very image-heavy post, so be forewarned.

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This is the blanket right out of the box it was mailed in.  The piece looks to be a cotton and rayon blend?  Not quite sure, and I’m not sure I want to do a burn test on it.  But it’s got a drapey quality, and it is able to be machine washed.  Looking at the piece I was immediately struck by the construction: lovely, lovely edging, and very unique and intricate lace hobbyhorse worked on each of the four corner panels (it’s a 3×3 panel blanket).

knit hobbyhorse

For reference, this is a hobbyhorse, looking how it’s supposed to look.  I’m actually assuming it’s supposed to be a hobbyhorse (based purely on the fact that it’s a crib blanket), I suppose it could also be a dog.  I think it’s a Barbra Walker lace pattern.  I’m actually not quite sure.  Now I’m going to have to go look it up. Anyone looking at this know the pattern? (I’ll update if I get a response)[Update: it IS a hobbyhorse, and WAS a Barbra Walker pattern. Ha!  I knew I’d seen it somewhere. It’s in Barbara’s Third Treasury of Knitting Designs pages 178 and 179].

Hobbyhorse completely unraveled

This is the repair I need to make right.  We’ve got lots and lots of dropped stitches, and it looks like two different pulls – one right above the cream, and one about halfway up, on the righthand side thats a lot smaller.  Right away I’m a little disappointed about the pulls – fixing pulls is so fiddly!  And I didn’t notice these on the photos the client took.

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First step is finding all the dropped stitches, each one captured with its own stitch marker.  At first I thought it was eight dropped stitches, but after taking this picture I found a 9th one on the left-hand side, caught by the remaining safety pin.  looking at things, the first thing I want to do is fix everything until all the cream dropped stitches are done.  That’s just all easy stockinette, so I take my crochet hook and ladder all those suckers up.  In this case, i love that the blanket has been loved and washed so much, those kinks in the yarn make it really easy to space those stitches out.

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Okay, so we’ve gotten everything up to the cream, I want to tackle that massive pulled stitch.IMG_20170213_150454231[1]

This pull is massive.  Nearly 20 stitches affected on the right.

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And another 10 stitches to the left.  Fun fun fun.  Well, lets sort through the strings here for the one that’s pulled to see what I’m working with.

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Well now, that’s a lot of yarn that isn’t where it is supposed to be.

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I decided to pull a bunch of the yarn through to where the end of the pull was, and work backwards, redistributing the yarn along. Again, the kinks in the yarn here are helping me, because when I place things right, the kink lines up and settles into the spot it once was in.

… Lots of time later…

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Okay, we’ve got the yarn redistributed on both sides.  It still looks a little wonky, but that’ll even out over time.  Let’s start tackling the lace pattern.  One of the good things here is I’ve got another hobbyhorse to compare to on the blanket, so I’m using that as a template.

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The first five rows were plain stockinette, so so I knitted those up quickly with my needles.  I’m not worrying so much about gauge right now – I’ll go back and fuss with things when I’m finished.

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This is where I’ve stopped – I have to figure out the lace section for the last bit, and I may have made a mistake.  Since I’d been at things for quite a while, I decided to give things a rest while I think through where I want to go next.

Keep tuned, and I’ll record the rest of the work on this project.