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I recently had an idea that I want to host a Knitalong in my Ravelry group. I couldn’t decide what or how to do it, so I used Ravelry’s polling feature and asked my Crafty Diversions group members to vote. The final tally at the time of the poll’s closing: 31 votes for a mystery KAL, 35 votes for a non-mystery KAL. For garment type, the top 2 choices were 21 votes for a shawl, 13 votes for a sweater.

The KAL will be free for group members and participants will have opportunities to win prizes donated by our KAL sponsors. After the KAL is over, the pattern will be available for sale in my pattern shop.

Since I always get asked by aspiring designers, friends and people who like my work how my design process works, how I come up with ideas, etc., I thought it’d be interesting to share the process with you from beginning to end…

The adventure begins!

Once the votes started leaning more heavily towards a non-mystery shawl knitalong, I started thinking about possibilities for designs. I think about shapes, size, color, theme, etc.

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My kitchen table is quite cluttered with various design tools and inspiration. Click on photo to see notes on the various items on the table in Flickr.

My brainstorming process consists of looking various sources of inspiration — home & architecture magazines, fashion magazines, old books, knitting stitch dictionaries, a scenic horizon, a tree, a  door handle, etc.  Sometimes everything swims around in my head for a little bit. Then I start doing some rough sketching my mini sketch pad (but when a sketch pad is not handy when a moment of brillance strikes,  a napkin or a scratch piece of paper will do!) to work out certain things like construction and fit details.

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Even a buffet table of delectable fruit tarts can be a source of inspiration. (I ate several of these during afternoon tea at Huntington Gardens.)

Rough sketch turns into a plan

If I have a particular idea that won’t let go of me, the only way to keep it from plaguing me all day and night is to work out the details, such as drawing up the bits and pieces on the computer, or creating and manipulating several charts. Below is an example of one of the designs I am considering for the KAL:

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I'm figuring out how I can alter and fit various stitch patterns (and variations thereof) together and how to create smooth transitions.

Some preplanning and working things out as I did above is a great way of identifying potential problems, especially when I’m trying to match up a stitch pattern into the stitch count or transitioning from one pattern to another.  This type of preplanning and charting is also important for me to visualize and see how the patterning will work in different sizes of a garment. For example, will I be able to use the same stitch pattern for all the sleeves in all the sizes of a garment or will I have to modify the stitch pattern for some of the sizes?

Yarn Selection: Fun and Important

One of the really fun parts of designing a project is thinking about all the yummy yarns! I go through a mental checklists of yarns that I like, fondle my stash, review my color cards, search manufacturer websites, and check Ravelry. (One of my tasks when I went to Stitches West was to look for yarn options for this project. The plethora of lovely options and my limited spare time at Stitches did not make the process easy.)

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Part of my yarn stash.

Other than looking at pretty yarn, I have to think about the resulting garment, fabric, shape and wearability. In knitting, I consider yarn weight (how thick the yarn is), fiber content (how the fibers in the yarn work for the project), drape and texture (how the stitch pattern, design and the yarn’s fiber content properties affect the garment), color (how a color might affect the design), feasibility (for example, considering whether knitters would be willing to work a coat in fingering weight yarn) and cost (while many yarn companies can provide me yarn support, it’s not really realistic to design a sweater requiring 8 balls of a $40/ball yarn. Instead, it’s probably better to design an accessory requiring only 2 balls of that luxury yarn. Thinking about the cost helps knitters with a special and relatively affordable splurge and helps the yarn company sell yarn.).

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A light fingering yarn (40% cashmere, 60% merino) yarn that I dyed a couple of years ago.

I considered several favorites yarnies and several that were new to me. While there were many that were at the top of my list, they were whittled down as I considered the following criteria: (1) I want to support a indie dyer; (2) Yarnie has to have quality yarn bases; (3) Yarnie has to have great colors; (4) KAL participants will need to be able to buy from Yarnie at least online since participants are likely quite internet savvy and are international; (5) Yarnie has to have the ability to have a variety of inventory from which to choose; (6) I was very open to working with a Yarnie that was previously unfamiliar to me

Yarn Chef Creme Brulee Fingering in Rosy Outlook (50% merino wool/ 50% silk, 650yd/5.3oz, 594m/150g)

After several emails with a few candidates, one candidate stood out and met all the criteria: Yarn Chef.  She advertised in my group last month and I could not get her yarns out of my head. Head chef Katy and I discussed her yarns, my needs and some other things. I am excited to be working with her on this project and that she will be the primary sponsor of our KAL. For the project, I will be using her Creme Brulee Fingering yarn, which is a light fingering/heavy lace at  122.87 yards per oz/ 4.33 yards per gram. Katy has already ordered extra yarn in anticipation of this KAL and will be dyeing them up as soon as she receives the yarn shipment in a couple of days.

Yarn Chef Bouillabaisse in Fern Valley (100% superwash merino, 540yd/4oz, 494m/113g)

Yarn Chef Creme Brulee Lace in Gothic Rose (50% merino wool 50% tussah silk , 620yd/2oz, 567m/60g)

I’m in as much anticipation about all this as y’all are and can’t wait to see what Katy cooks up. She will be restocking her shop soon and will also be donating a couple of prizes for KAL participants.

Add this blog to RSS feed if you haven’t already son you don’t miss my chronicles of this KAL, the design process and any other updates.

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Remember when I was talking and tweeting about Operation: Two-Day Shawl back in September?

Well, I decided to reworked and redesign it. Only this time, I was not crazy enough to knit it up in less than 48 hours. I didn’t want to name it “Two-Day Shawl” because well, it’s a bit intimidating and not a very good name, IMO.  I asked my friends for suggestions and my friend Lydia came up with “Weekend Shawl,” which I thought was perfect.

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I released it on Ravelry on Monday and after some technical difficulties, also managed to list it on my website. Look for its Ravelry pattern page here and its page on my website here.  To celebrate its release, I’m offering it at a highly discounted price of $3.50 for just 1 week, until March 7. The regular price for the shawl will be $6.25.

Shawl Specs:

  • Pattern sizes: 6 sizes, 2 yarn weights (lace and fingering)
  • Pattern format: Written, tech edited, laid out nicely; Has lace chart but chart is also written out for those that don’t like charts.
  • Yarn used in sample: Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Fingering in Sundogs (red); Yummy Yarn Studio Alpaca Silk Lace in Indian Ocean (bluish-turquoise)
  • Samples: Fingering (red): I knitted it in approximately 3.5 weeks; Lace (blue): My sample knitter Denise Wilkinson knitted it in about 5 weeks.
  • Changes/differences from the original Operation: Two-Day Shawl:
    • The #1 difference: I didn’t try to do it within 48 hours at all!
    • I changed the increases to lifted increases instead of yarn overs because it flows much more nicely into the patterning
    • The second lace pattern (Sunday lace) was entirely reworked and changed.
    • I changed the background to Stockinette stitch instead of garter
    • The ratio/porportion of the Stockinette body and the lace sections were altered so that the lace, especially the Saturday lace was wider.
    • And of course, I knew not to use stash yarn and yarn that was too highly variegated for this. With Operation: 2-day shawl, I didn’t really have many options given the wackadoodle time line I gave myself.
    • There were also a couple of minor things that don’t affect the design.
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Sample of all the pages of the pattern.

I actually finished the fingering version very early because I had planned to wear and release it in January for TNNA (Needlearts trade show). However, I later decided that I’d offer additional sizing and options with a laceweight yarn. Thus, I had my sample knitter and friend make up a sample since I was busy working on 3 secret projects at the time. When I did wear the red one to both TNNA and Stitches West, I received lots of positive comments form people, including people who waved me down from afar to ask about it. Those sort of things always warm my heart and make me so proud for both my work and the yarnies that make the gorgeous yarns.

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Both yarns were a delight to work with (while I didn’t knit the lace weight sample, I handled the yarn quite a but and knitted up a swatch). I love the volume, sheen and softness of Gaia Fingering and loved every stitch of my knitting. I am so glad that Sanguine Gryphon was kind enough to offer me yarn support for this project, as I had been drooling over it and their colors for several seasons now (I’ve done some tech editing for them on their pattern collections and just couldn’t stop thinking about their yarns!) When I get the chance, I think I’d like to knit another one using Gaia Lace in a green-gray or a rich medium/navy blue.

As for Yummy Yarn Studios, Sam is a newer dyer based out of Canada and she obviously has nice colors as well, but in her own style. Another great example of her yarn is in the pair of socks she knitted for me!! I was saying how I don’t own any hand-knitted socks on Twitter and was about to hire someone to do it for me. I’m such a lucky girl!

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The socks that Sam made me is a pattern she designed called “Kisses” and can be found here. You can see the photo I took of me wearing them here. I love the lovely purple colors. I think the pattern will also work really well a nice honey color. I’ve already worn them several times around the house. I’m not wearing them now because I need to wash them.

And seriously, the Weekend Shawl… it’s only going to be $3.50 for a few more days so get it quick before it goes to its regular price. I’ve already received lots of sales on it since its release, so don’t be left out! And from the bottom of my heart, thanks to those of you who have already purchased it.

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keep austin weird I’ve always had a fondness for Austin, and it’s not just that I lived there for several years and attended UT-Austin. There’s something very special about this town. As with the world, nothing is static and today’s Austin is quite different from the Austin I knew. However, there’s still a fundamental element that is very Austin-like, much like the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan.

Thus, when I found out that there would be a Ravelry event at The Knitting Nest in Austin through my friend Sarah, and she invited me to tag along, I decided to make an impromptu weekend rendezvous that involved 3 very loved things on my list: knitting/yarn, friends and Austin!

Sarah, her hubby and her cute son were kind enough to put up with me and give me a ride to/from Austin. I wasn’t sure how transportation would work out while I was in Austin, but I did have a car rental planned. In the end, my dear friend Tedd insisted on driving me around whenever I needed/wanted.

The Knitting Nest, Princesses of Ravelry & American Cancer Society

The event at The Knitting Nest was to honor the “Princesses of Ravelry,” Mary-Heather (rainydaygood) and Sarah (onestitchshort) and a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society via a silent auction with items donated by yarn companies, designers and local Austin businesses.

I donated two $25 gift coupons for Crafty Diversions patterns and a copy of my Liberation book. All of the donated items found great homes and I can’t wait to see the knitted items by the winners of the silent auction!

Overall, I had a great time hanging out at the shop, bidding on the silent auction and meeting lots of new knitters/crocheters!

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L – R:  (1) Mary-Heather and Sarah, the Princesses of Ravelry wearing the most awesome personalized crocheted crowns by the very sweet and talented Allison of CraftyisCool; (2) local spinner doing a demo and selling her handspun Buena Suerte yarn; (3) very cool wall in The Knitting Nest illustrated by Franklin Habit

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L-R: (1) Stacey (owner) and Sarah having a nice chat; (2) shoppers checking out the silent auction items; (3) yummy chocolate princess cupcakes

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L-R: (1) Lots of Longhorn yarn (Cascade 220, Lorna’s Laces and Cacade Luna) for future gifts for my UT fan friends; (2) Hank, one of the 2 adorable Knitting Nest mascots; (3) Shoppers checking out the knick-knacks at the checkout desk

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Clockwise: (1) Silent auction table featuring my donated items; (2) Shoppers checking out my section of the silent auction; (3) Super fabulous knitter Debra won the silent auction for the Liberation e-book showing off the yarn she bought to make Alice Paul for her lucky niece.

Out and About

I spent my evenings hanging out with my good friend Tedd, who knows how much I love to eat! One evening, we ate at the trailer at The Liberty Bar. All I can say is NOM! (Tedd and I met the summer after my freshman year at college. Even though we don’t see each other or get to talk much, I still regard him as one of my best friends and as much closer than even the brother I never had. Tedd is a musician/former and best DJ ever/graphic designer, and he and his wife are the artists behind Lucid Eyes.)

The rest of my time with Tedd involved catching up and lots of drinking and staying up until 6AM, though I cannot hold my liquor the way I used to, nor can my body handle the staying up all night thing well anymore either. I also was able to meet up with my second cousin Elena, who I had not seen in over 10 years! Right before I left Austin, I was able to lunch with another good old friend, Eric, who is the lead singer behind his indie band Johnny Hi-Fi. (I really love their newest LP: Love Sold Me Out. One of the songs in the album was written for and used in his gf’s documentary on domestic violence, Recovering Irma.)

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L-R: (1) Super yummy food from the trailer in the yard of The Liberty Bar. I forgot the names of all the dishes, but they were all yum!; (2) Tedd and me; (3) With my cousin Elena, vet extraordinaire

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L-R: (1) Enjoying a Chocolate-Espresso martini at Halcyon bar in downtown Austin; (2) Later that night, we went to some club where Tedd’s friend bought me a very strong apple martini and made me do a shot of Crown Royale. Notice the drinking theme?; (3) With Eric, photo taken 1 month ago when his band played at The Key Club in L.A.

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Tedd, Elena and I took a bicycle ricksaw from one venue to the next. I was amazed our bicyle-driver managed to pedal the 3 of us in one cart up a mini hill!

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After a few failed submissions, I finally made it into Twist Collective, and I couldn’t be happier! Yes folks, I had tried to submit to Twist 2-3 times prior, but unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for me at the time.

I finally achieved my goal with Issara, which was published recently in the Fall 2010 issue. What made this even more exciting for me is the fact that Issara is the cover for my particular storyline, Roxham Farm. I was already a fan of Twist Collective and of the artistry and designs in each issue. Now that I’ve experienced a small taste of what it’s like to be a designer in Twist, especially with the multiple layers of review that goes into each pattern, I am even more impressed.

Named after a good friend’s daughter (a Laotian name), Issara is a snuggly coat worked in bulky yarn with simple lines. The WOW factor lies within the back pleat and the oversized reversible cable collar that can be worn up, down, or somewhere in between.

The Idea & Design Process

Usually, when I design, I like to incorporate a feature element and/or versatility.  And since I’ve been on a reversible cables kick lately, I really wanted a garment with a dramatic reversible collar. Thus, Issara was conceived. While I had a clear idea of what I wanted, some of the key elements in the concept required some tweaking and experimentation during the actual pattern-writing and design process.

Collar

In order for the collar to lay nicely on the shoulders when worn down, it needed to flare a little – I really didn’t want a straight funnel collar. To make a nice flare, I knew that I would have to work increases into the actual cable pattern instead of bunching it all into the beginning or set up section of the collar. I experimented with a few types of increases into the cable pattern. Lifted increases won over other types of increases because it met 3 main criteria: (1) increases had to be as invisible as possible, (2) they had to compliment and work with the stitch pattern, and (3) they had to look good on both sides.

Waistline

Initially, I had intended the waistline to be a true empire waist. However, as I was working with it, I realized that the weight of the yarn in the skirt of the coat (especially with the pleat) may pull the waistline in a less than desirable way if I raised it to a true empire.  So, I change the plan a little and worked the waistline roughly about 1.5″ above a natural waistline so that there is still an elongated silhouette, but without having to carry the extra weight if it was set much higher.

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Issara sketch

Pleat

Because the coat is worked in a bulky yarn, Twist editor Kate Gilbert and I had some concerns that the pleat might be a little too thick and cumbersome in the back with all the layers. I really wanted to keep the pleat because I think it gives a nice balance to the dramatic and slightly flared collar; thus, I was determined to make it work. I experimented a little and I figured out a way to thin out some of the bulk in the pleat folding process: I bound off every other stitch in the center panel of each side of the pleat 2 rows prior the pleat fold. The photos below show the differences (click to enlarge) between a regular pleat fold and my thinned out version.

Issara Swatch1 - front Issara Swatch3 - back

Close-Ups

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Photos above, clockwise from top left (click photos to enlarge): (1) work-in-progress shot of the skirt shaping; (2) the finished pleat from the private side (WS); (3) collar detail from the public side (RS); (4) collar detail from the private side (WS); (5) waist line and back pleat; (6) back view of coat with collar worn down

Overall, I found the sample a relatively fast knit. Seriously. I’m not just saying that because I’m the designer or as a fast knitter. It goes much faster than one anticipates because it’s worked in a bulky yarn. The slowest part of it, IMO, was the blocking, which took forever and a day to dry.  Next post: Tips/notes on modifications, blocking, etc.

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Swatching with BBR yarn with my supervisor checking my process. Swatch shown is a test swatch for Mahika.

In addition to Mera, I designed two other patterns for Bijou Basin Ranch — differently styled color work hats: Mahika and Spectacle.  It just absolutely delightful contributing so many designs to their Fall 2010 collections, which debuted at The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) trade show in Columbus this past June. And of course, I surely can’t complain about having to play with such luscious and delectable yarn. All of BBR’s yarns have yak down in it! I’d like a bed made out of yak down, baby llama, superfine baby alpaca, cashmere and qiviut fibers. A girl can dream, right?

Mahika

The color work pattern in Mahika is based on inspiration I found in some of the traditional hand-painted tile work on ancient and historical buildings I’ve seen in my travels. In selecting a name for this design, I wanted to something that embodies the design and its inspiration. I scoured several sources and finally came across “Mahika,” which means earth in Sanskrit. It’s also a Nepalese name, where yak-herding is a trade. Rather appropriate, I think.

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Photos in the top row used by permission from, and are © Copyright of Bijou Basin Ranch.

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The beanie is worked using the stranded color work technique from the brim to the crown. It uses Lhasa Wilderness, a very quality bamboo and yak blend yarn. The printed pattern is available at your local yarn store. For PDF downloadable patterns, they are currently available through the Bijou Basin Ranch site. If you are on Ravelry and would like to favorite or queue the pattern, click here.

Spectacle

From the more traditional inspiration in Mahika, I moved towards something a little more modern in the patterning for Spectacle. For this beret, I took inspiration from mid-century modern furniture and design. Rather appropriate, I think.

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Photos in the top row used by permission from, and are © Copyright of Bijou Basin Ranch.

The beret is worked using the stranded color work technique from the corrugated rib brim to the crown. It uses Himalayan Trails, a merino and yak blend yarn. The printed pattern is available at your local yarn store. For PDF downloadable patterns, they are currently available through the Bijou Basin Ranch site. If you are on Ravelry and would like to favorite or queue the pattern, click here.

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(Images above courtesy of and copyrighted by Bijou Basin Ranch)

Right before TNNA, I had to contend with 5 top secret projects. One of them was Mera, which I designed for Bijou Basin Ranch using their Bliss yarn (50% yak down, 50% cormo). OMG, the yarn is absolutely delicious and the smell of it is absolute crack for fiberistas! Aptly named, the yarn has a buttery soft feel in your hands and it has a subtle thick+think texture that gives it a very organic feel. I really wanted to show of some of the yarn’s natural texture, so the body of the garment is worked in a lightly looser gauge (plus, the yarn is very warm; the yak down has great insulating properties).

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If you are familiar with my work and my style, you’ll know that I really like to design garments that are contemporary but yet will remain stylish over time. Furthermore, I really like to design garments with options and versatility.
With Mera, I wanted to give the wearer the option to style and shape it as she wishes. Thus, I incorporated a reversible cable in the edging and cuffs.  (I’ve been on a reversible cable kick lately.) The reversible cable is not a symmetrical one — meaning it has a different design on each side of the fabric.
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Mera can be worn with the collar up or down. You can have 3/4 sleeves or fold up the cuffs for 1/2 sleeves. You can even easily adapt the pattern and knit the sleeves to full length, then when you fold the cuffs, you’d get 3/4 sleeves.

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Linky:
Additional Pattern Info
Buy PDF Pattern from BBR
Mera Pattern Page on Ravelry

Also, support your LYS and buy the patterns from them. If they don’t carry BBR or BBR patterns, tell them that they should! Of course, you should tell them they should especially carry my patterns. 😉 Info about me/where to get patterns for the LYS can be found on the About page on my site.

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While I’ve been to several TNNA trade shows, I’ve never been to the one in Columbus until now. (For those of you who don’t know, The National Needleart Association (TNNA) holds 4 trade shows a year. As far as knitters, crocheters and the yarn industry is concerned, the 2 big ones to go to is the summer show in Columbus, OH and the winter show held either in Long Beach, CA or San Diego, CA. Columbus is the biggest one.)

When I attend TNNA, I usually go wearing 2 hats: retailer and designer. This time, I went wearing those 2 hats, plus one of an exhibitor since I am now a member of Stitch Cooperative.

I Scream for Ice Cream

One of the first thing everyone who has been to Columbus tells me is “Go to Jeni’s ice cream!” It’s like a mantra. Even non-knitterly folks who’ve been to Columbus tell me to eat at Jeni’s. While I may be quite smare sometimes, I’m not stupid not to heed that kind of advice!

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My virgin Jeni’s experience consisted of Meyer Lemon Blueberry with Gravel Road on a cone. It was actually my second breakfast. I love being an adult! Having ice cream for breakfast really is not bad at all because my selection met all the important food groups: fruit/veggie, protein, grain and dairy.

Stitch Cooperative

Stitch Cooperative is a pattern distribution company comprised of several top indie designers. It’s designer owned and run. Yarn shops can buy hardcopy patterns from Stitch Coop and also get involved with the digital affiliate program (basically, just sign up, add a link and get money when customers buy pdf patterns!).

Stitch Coop members recently decided to add a few new designers and yours truly was included in that new member group. I was floored and so very honored and flattered to have been selected and  invited to join such an esteemed group of designers such as Shannon Okey, Annie Modesitt, Stefanie Japel, Kristi Porter, Miriam Felton, just to name a few!

To help network, brand and just to have fun, Stitch Coop had a party at TNNA. The party was graciously and generously sponsored and supported by Bijou Basin Ranch and Buffalo Gold. The very clever Annie Modesitt had a decorative stamp made with our logo and our sponsors’ logos with which we stamped tables, napkins and gave ourselves and our guests “tattoos.”

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Photos, clockwise: (1) Kristi Porter and Miriam Felton. I love Miriam’s face!; (2) Shannon Okey was the only one daring enough to sampe her chest; (3) me and my arm tattoo; (4) party-goers and invited guests.

While the party was fun, we also had some business to attend to, which involved a meeting we had with Team Ravelry. Of course, you can’t have a decent meeting without a nice little bar, an adorable baby or some bad-ass toenails. I ended up being the de facto photographer, though I think I did a poor job if it (hey, it was a very looong day with little sleep the night before, and I had already drank half of my vodka tonic).

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Photos, clockwise: (1) You really can’t have a decent meeting without a bar, thanks to Annie and Shannon!; (2) a blurry picture of (L-R) Kristen TenDyke, Jess Forbes, Robin Chachula, Stefanie Japel and Mary-Heather Cogar; (3) Shannon enjoying her drink; (4) Miriam Felton, Dora Ohrenstein, Sarah B., and Casey Bobfather Forbes; (5) Mary-Heather, Stefanie with baby Olive (cutest ever!) and Kristi Porter; (6) Shannon and Stefanie found out that they had the same polish colors (unplanned!) when they shared the same ottoman. The other foot is mine.

TO BE CONTINUED….NEXT POST: TNNA-part 2

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