The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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The footnote, and the flax that brought us here

There is a footnote to my last post on the Wm MacDonald Saxony spinning wheel.  Since posting she continued to impress me through 4 bobbins of BFL/silk top.

BFL wool/silk handspun yarn by irieknit on antique Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William MacDonald

Four bobbins’ worth from the antique MacDonald wheel

As she ran, I cleaned and oiled and spoke to the twitter.  A wool lock shim came to the front maiden & I had an eye out for any signs of trouble.  Towards the end of the fourth bobbin, I felt a slight shift.  All of a sudden, I discovered an old repair to the right of the front treadle support – and not in a good way.

R. Needles, “Wheelwright” from London, Ontario spoke at the 2013 Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  He writes succinctly in his paper for the seminar:

Function matters if you’re going to use it.

This named wheel functions beautifully, and is an important historical artifact.  We are going to seek professional assistance to restore this old fix.  It’s actually still holding because I recognized the change in feel, applied a non-invasive brace (hello, leather tag from that purse!), and caught it before real damage happened.  As a solid piece it can take glue you know from a pro.

More than anything else there is a simple fact.  I love this wheel.  So, stick a pin – we’ll get to that 5th bobbin spun yet!

Blame the flax

This tipping point from “wheels” to “wheel collection” is all because of flax.  Yes, that’s right, I blame the flax.

A lot of line flax spread for my distaff

Pennsylvania flax

You should watch out for this sneaky fibre called flax.  It wants you to have specialized wheels, and takes its own sweet time to whisper sweet nothings in your ear as you go.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on small distaff for spinning

My glorified stick distaff

See the twisted fingers of flax to the lower left of the distaff?  This is the finest from the antique Pennsylvania flax that I combed last October. I brought it out last month for a group fibre study on Ravelry.com.

Flax boon waste during handspinning on denim but it's antique!

Flax boon fallen away from the fibre in spinning

Even after last fall’s hackling, the best of this flax has a ton of boon & straw!  Out came a bandana, in fact.  It was that much dust as I drafted from the distaff.  The flax varied wildly.  One minute I had soft, fine lengths, and the next I was waving the straw along!  I just went with the texture, and kept up with wet spinning to smooth it all over.

My jeans were soaked.  I looked a sight.  Still there I was, hooked all over again on the linen.  Having a virtual spin-along was also really cool.

About the wet spinning – it wasn’t plain water this time.  I gave a lot of flax seeds a generous splash of boiling water.  Steeping & stirring happened but I was really halfway to the wheel before long.  There was a good difference.  In the future, I’ll boil the seeds, and use the flax-slurry.

Book - Reflections from a Flaxen Past by Kati Reeder Meek and handspun linen single yarns

Learning the linen

This fibre varied from fine to feeling almost like tow flax.  I hope there was enough twist in this linen yarn.  It was spun wet, and felt fairly textured when I wound it from my drying tin (holes are punched in the sides of the tin) to the rolls for storage.

Alongside my singles is a birthday present – Kati Reeder Meek’s, “Reflections from a Flaxen Past for love of Lithuanian Weaving.”  A fantastic first flax reference for my shelves!  It was Camilla Valley’s last copy, and is blowing me away.  The Lithuanian linen tradition far more complex than I ever dreamed.  Most of all, I am thrilled to have a spinners’ insights on making linen weaving yarn.  It is so well reasoned, and accessible.

Handwoven linen Swedish lace sample by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

Handwoven lace samples in linen by Jette Vandermeiden

Also inspiring this push is the samples of handwoven linen lace that Jette Vandermeiden brought for our guild class last month.

Handwoven lace samples by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

More samples from Jette’s class

All of the samples were interesting but I was so drawn to Jette’s discussion of the linen laces in particular.  My goal is to practice weaving first, and build my skills but with an eye towards learning to weave my own linen textiles.

First year bloom on Clematis vine

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians near & far!  Like the Clematis, this is my first year with roots in the Canadian soil for this day, and that means something!

 


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December weaving and more

It has been a very busy month.  With the 1st level of weaving classes ending, I signed-up for the winter session and tried to get as much loom time as possible.  My oh-so-fun twill sampler needed attention.

Weaving Twill cotton sampler

2/2 Herringbone Twill section of satisfaction

It has 6 twill structures in the 2 blues.  Even as someone who would skip sampling whenever she can get away with it, I found this to be an excellent exercise.  Just having the dark/light warp threads alternate in the middle gave each structure such a radically different look.  It’s not something I would have understood without doing.

Weaving Twill cotton sampler underside

Twill sampler, underside

Going to the studio in daytime was very cool.  The lighting is great, and whenever guild members were around they were friendly & engaging.

Weaving loom Guild studio view

Easy on the eyes, Burlington Guild’s classroom

The beauty of this class is that we didn’t stop at samplers.  We had a first project choice of tea towels or scarves.  After Beth convincingly said, “Go for it!” I chose the plaid windowpane towels that one of our instructors, MargaretJane Wallace designed.  Beth has seen some of these pictures already but that’s 5 colours plus 2 wound together!  

Cotton weaving warp on loom

First tea towels warp finally beamed!

Both winding the warp-of-many colours, and beaming gave me many lessons in yarn management.  MargaretJane helped me work past the tension issues.  It amazed me how well-behaved the darks were when the yellow & white warp threads barely co-operated.  There was tangling due to pills, sagging, and the left side was just fine.

Cotton warp threading counter-balance loom

Threading the loom

Around this period of taking real care to get things going in an orderly way, MargaretJane scared the wits out of me.  Says, MJ,:

I like what you have done there, Lara.  It’s going to make for lively towels.

What?!  She had spotted the sequence a mile away – I only had one warp stripe in light blue.  It’s true, you can see it too.  My towels won’t have the precise symmetry within a left-side only plaid’s asymmetry.  Oops!  We all laughed together, and it’s not a big deal.

Cotton tea towel handweaving

Testing, testing

The first step after threading was to experiment with weft colour, and twill structures for this plaid counterpane deal.

Detail experiment for plaid counterpane handwoven tea towels

Possibilities!

With so many colour-changes ahead, I decided on a straight 2/2 twill.  A warp-faced twill was tempting but I didn’t want to fight the counter-balance loom’s action.

Handweaving cotton tea towel counterbalance loom

Deep thoughts were thought

Back at home, I was pouring over a set of new weaving books for insight on plaid, twill, and everything weaving.  After much thought, I went with a white ground for the 1st (of 4) towel.  It wasn’t long before I decided to play with the counterpane, and framed the plaid with the poor, neglected light blue.

Handwoven plaid tea towel weaving

Lively plaid, white weft ground

This is much different to the knitting process but somehow it feels right.  I am reading, watching videos on loom maintenance & weaving well, and generally stretching myself.  What cut a lot of the effort short was the late fall weather.

You may have heard about our late fall weather?

First there was a massive snowstorm on December 14th.  Much shoveling ensued.

December snow storm

Still fall? Really?

Toby seemed happy for his hand-spun  4-ply Coopworth wool sweater.  It kept snow off his big-dog chest.

Papillon dog sweater handmade Coopworth wool

Toby, The Knit Knack blog’s mascot

Such was the snow that I used my new hand-spun (from fleece! spindles!) tam.  There is a maker’s story behind this but for now, I will just say 1 thing: ears are covered!

Warm enough, I promise.

All that snow was really just a chance to knit (more later when pics are taken).  Trouble hit with the ice storm a week later.  As in the weekend before Christmas.

Norway maple Ice Storm 2013

As the ice storm weighed in

It was my first experience of freezing rain, and an ice storm.  By mid-morning we heard a tearing crash, bang as our Norway Maple’s heavy side fell under ice & hit the fence.

Ice Storm 2013 Norway Maple damage

It pains me to see

We are still waiting for the arborist to arrive.  This Norway Maple tree dominates the backyard in all seasons.  She is in so many of my pictures for The Knit Knack’s posts.  It’s a wrenching sight, and impossible to avoid seeing.

Ice Storm 2013 Lilac bush

Ice-encased lilac

For that sadness we did not loose power as others did, and the house is intact.  The dangerous beauty has thankfully melted at last.  It could have been so much worse.

Ice Storm burning bush

Hearing the wind in the icicles was so very eerie.  It was perfectly quiet except for the chak-chak of the trees.

Norway Maple branch Ice Storm 2013

Sunrise on the night’s ice accumulation

Three days later on Christmas the world was still bent under the ice.

Ice Storm 2013 willow tree

Willow bowed down to the sidewalk

Rose of Sharon bush Ice Storm 2013

Rose of Sharon, iced

 

But still, a holiday was had with the boys

There were knitted gifts for others but this tweet was N happily modeling his newly felted wool slippers:

Melvin really liked my new batts from Enting Fibercraft.  We had to talk quietly about how cats are allowed to look but not touch even pretty fibre.

Ent Batts with Cat

He is a lover that Melvin

Friends & family have surprised us with baskets of treats – each wonderful in its own right.  This was the first through the door.

Fruit basket Christmas

Something for everyone (cat & dog, excepted)

We are still in stay-cation mode with a house guest.  Although a wheel would cramp everyone’s space, I am spinning up a storm on my drop spindles.

Wensleydale wool on Jenkins Delight carob Turkish spindle

Happy New Year when it comes, y’all!

 


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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

A quick post before we get ready for a family celebration on the other side of the GTA.  These are a few of my favorite work and home things that I am grateful for, today.

Kilim gracing the studio wall

With much elbow grease and time, I used linen warp yarn to sew velcro strips across the top of my Christmas gift kilim.  Such a warm addition to the studio!  It’s just behind my Mighty Wolf loom. Tomorrow, I have my 4th weaving class in the fall term.

Many thanks in material form

A new commission has jumped off the wheel (Watson, Martha) and onto my needles.  It’s for someone special, and is making me ridiculously happy.

Mini-skeins of good memories

Clearing a bunch of singles.  Each was once a sample that came from a fibre event or with a spindle.  As a bonus, I got to practice the Andean plying trick while reliving good times.

Spinning cotton

Mahatma Gandhi was absolutely correct.  You do want to spin cotton each day.

I feel that the spinning wheel has all the virtues needed to make one’s life truthful, pure and peaceful and fill it with the spirit of service. I, therefore, beg of you all to give half an hour’s labour daily in the form of spinning.

Speech to students, Dinajpur, May 21, 1925

Prepping California Variegated Mutant wool

This is my start of the 4th round of singles for my CVM wool project.  I use the Louet flick card for each lock before charging the Schacht cotton hand cards.  The waste for 5 rolags is in the container on the left.

In this round, I am retiring the Tabachek top whorl spindles, and have introduced my now cleared Andina low whorls.  My hope is that using 4 low whorl spindles will even out the spinning phase.

Happy first trip to WEBS

I am blessed to be able to make visits to stores like WEBS, and to know that a Moosie and her tulipwood shaft are making their way to our home as we speak.  This article bounced out of my Twitter feed, today.  Reading reminds me again that each of these unwaged activities has as much value as my previous waged work.  As boneheaded as this lifestyle strikes many in my sphere of reference, I have tremendous support from my family unit.


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From our Yard

There are 2 things to know when you land in Kingston, Jamaica:  the entire plane claps the pilot; and you step out into the fresh harbour air.

Kingston Harbour.  It’s the 7th deepest natural harbour in the world.  Beautiful as seen from a sandbar called, Maiden Cay.

A rather soused me had the sense to take a few pics.

I was on a food break from the rest of the BYOB-to-Maiden-Cay party.

Adult beverage marketing, Caribbean style.

Best plying ever – St. Mary, Jamaica

Lest you think it was all vodka-Tings, I did spin and ply in glorious comfort.

The few days in the country were wonderful.  We might have high-fived at the tv reports of a snowstorm back in Canada.

This kind of “cold front” was way more satisfactory.

The windy weather did make finishing DH’s socks less of a hassle.

Already well worn!  It’s my basic sock knit in The Painted Tiger‘s “Bands of Autumn” colourway.  430 yards of her Safari base – 75% superwash Corriedale; 25% nylon.

I loved knitting them and he loves wearing them!

In other Knit Unto Others Good Karma news

Mom, and you have heard me say this before, is a huge supporter.  She now has a handknit shawl.  It’s the Shoulder Shawl in Cherry Leaf pattern from Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby.

The size is great (and I’ll give the caveat in a sec) – it’s Handmaiden Sea Silk.  The body is knit on 4.5mm needles, and the point border on 3.75 needles.  It also has a Japanese seed bead for each leaf, and point.

Everyone is happy.  But smug I am not!  That gauge killed my skein of yarn.  You might have followed my live tweet freak-out?  Yea – 1.5 points short on the right edge.  Brilliant.

That’s a GIZZADA to you, friends.

Not unlike this gizzada.  Yum even if the label is not technically correct.


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Words with thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!  We spent the Canadian holiday hosting a young cousin from the States.  Irony of ironies his visit happened at the same time as another procedure for me.

We managed to keep that which is personal private, and be hospitable.  What got lost in the crisis was a formal Thanksgiving.

An awesome friend hand-stitched this for me.  She makes bookmarks while watching her daughter play soccer.  In our last conversation she listened, and said:

It’s okay to complain.  What you are going through is difficult.

Her gentle words said in kindness pushed out all the “I shoulds” with the bravery.

It’s been a beautiful fall, rich for creativity and walks with Sir Toby.  These are my favourites.  You know, as opposed to What I Should be Telling You.

I finished my 1st handspun sweater.  This is the Redhook Tunic by Jared Flood, started during the Summer Olympics.

Clearly, I am a little pleased!  It was finished in time for my classes with Deb Robson at the end of September, and gets its fair share of wear.

The shawl collar is double-width.  It still feels a shade short, so I don’t use the top button.  My favourite part is the colour sequencing through the upper body & collar.  It took some juggling & weighing but was so sweet to work.

That’s an Also-Ran for a 1st hand-spun top…  The yarn is my Icelandic dyed with red lac powder.

One fitting proved the waist was not working.  It had no definition, and the shaping was all wrong.  Also, the tog & thel Icelandic?  I could feel it through the under-garments, and not in a good way.

Hard to frog but easy to know what it really wanted to be – a warm Icelandic shawl.  Or in other words, I went back to Plan A.

It is Evelyn A. Clark’s Sigridur Shawl pattern with a modified border.  It’s one Dayflower repeat for the border – I charted the instructions from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury.

It was finished in time, and went up for our Guild’s summer display at the Queen Elizabeth Park Community Center.

What I now have back home is my warmest shawl for its weight.  The 60″ wingspan is perfect for cool mornings, and dashes outside.

Yet again, socks have been my go-to project for the stress.  Mandie’s Iron Man colourway kept my interest, and I finished them in just over 2 months.

In mid-September, I started to ply my Bronzed Chai spindle project.

Awful lighting but I have approx. 980 yds with an extra singles ball to spare!

It’s a goal met:  I am also worthy of my spindle-spun laceweight yarn in this quantity.  From 4 ounces.

It’s what I am looking forward to for this season – a cove on the coast of Negril, Jamaica… and All the People/Places/Things.

Right now we still have time left for talking, spinning, knitting and Thanksgiving.

 


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Easter cheer

Happy Easter!

The long weekend got off on the right foot with these 2 deliveries from N’s Mum.  There I was spring cleaning in the basement Thursday afternoon when the doorbell rang.

The lilies were closed until this morning.  Perfect timing!  Also brightening the holiday,

It’s on the kitchen table until I plant it out with the other hydrangea from Easters past.  My contribution to the family dinner was this Smartie-festooned from-scratch cake.

It’s the Joy of Cooking Devil’s Food Cockaigne, and fit my uncle’s bill for 100% chocolate.  The dinner was wonderful – Jamaican baked ham, plantain, rice & pigeon peas all had their places at the table, and it was just plain good to be with family this time of year.

In between posts, I’ve been knitting and listening to the Hunger Games books.  This FO is going straight to England, tomorrow, and is for baby cuz, Murray.

It’s a stretchy twine-knit number for his new home, Montreal.  I was inspired by Tiny Geek Crafter‘s KAL for endometriosis awareness this month.

Love that twine knitting!  Sooo warm & stretchy.  The yarns are Rowan Pure Wool DK for the yellow, and the lighter Rowan Pure Wool 4-ply in black.

Using the twine technique evened out the yarns.  My idea was based on the Blind Melon bee girl music video from back in the day.  These are the artsy parents, so they should be fine with a quirky hat for Mur-man.

Right at the end of January, I started the Beach House Pullover pattern by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.  After a couple of weeks, I stalled here.

I just needed the right mood for these all-over horseshoe cables.  What mood is that?  The kind that comes after a series of tests and a new diagnosis…   With audio books and podcasts, I am now mid-way through the front & the back is done.

In other words:  I rediscovered soothing repetition.  The calming effect of Cascade 220 yarn is not to be discounted either.

I do have a post to write for spinning exploits but want to share my first skein from the antique flax wheel with you.  Amazingly bouncy lace from a double-drive system!

It’s 369 yds of 2-ply yarn.  One ply is BFL, and the other is a BFL/silk blend.  Handspinning your own gives you these choices!


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Happy Holidays!

All odds were stacked against it but this is our happiest Christmas ever spent in Canada.  It snuck into what’s felt like a very tough year, including my day surgery 3 weeks ago.  As family rallied & recovery progressed, I slowly felt the pull of the season’s spirit.  Things have worked out.  In spite of the big worries.

It’s been a tough year for many of our friends, and probably many of you.  Kane, a friend from knit night pretty much summed it up on her gift tag:

Baaaaaa joins the flock at our house.

I am a sucker for all things sheepy.  Surprised?

There’s a whack of yarn, knitting and other fun stuff that hasn’t quite made it to publication as I navigated the past months.  Instead of being all mea culpa about it, here are my thoughts…

  • May your bobbins always be full.

I will allow that Masham wool is majorly fun to spin.  This is top hand-dyed by Waterloo Wools, and spun this week on my Watson Martha wheel with double drive tension.

  • New spindles always help for the rough spots in life.  Even if you aren’t well enough to use them as much as you would like.

She’s a Hounddesign lace spindle from The Fibre Garden.  Their spin-ins are stash enhancing events.  It is 20 g of Pau Amarillo spinning magnificence wearing a little bombyx silk.  Since I was also put in charge of getting some of my Christmas presents, let’s just say a couple more are in transit!

  • When in doubt, learn a new way to knit.

It’s twined knitting, my new love.  It’s a traditional knitting technique from the Dalarna region in Sweden.  Strands of yarn held in the right hand are knit by ‘throwing’ (English) and twisting around to exchange for the next stitch.  This cozy is the Media Case pattern in Laura Farson’s “New Twists on Twined Knitting” book that I found in October.  I also have a new twined hat that is begging for her picture to be taken.

  • Sometimes (even in Canada) the weather eases up on you at exactly the right moment.

A single bloom from the fragrant viburnum that I planted this year.  It looks as happy as I am about the mild weather.

  • Giving to the Spin-worthy is a good thing.

I got to surprise my friend, Teresa with her lace-weight yarn that I spun on two Ethan Jacob spindles and plied on another Greensleeves, a Katherine’s Cup spindle.  It started life as an Alpaca/ Merino/ Silk blend hand-dyed by Corgi Hill Farm, and is now approx. 1,049 yards.

Teresa is a very talented lace knitter.  If you have seen beautiful shawls modeled gracefully and long, black hair is someplace in the photo, then that is my friend.  She prefers to knit and contribute quietly in our community, and I am very happy to call her my friend.  I really am excited to see what magic she will work with my spun-in-the-other-direction lace.  These are also her colours but not the comfort solids!

It also was a hoot to ring the girl’s doorbell early on Christmas Eve morning, and RUN!   DH and I laughed that only a Canadian wouldn’t look up the street before taking the gift bag inside.  A Jamaican’s first thought would be to catch the culprit!

Her thank you is both the best email ever, and confirmation in writing of her spin-worthiness.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and happy holidays for your own traditions.  With a full heart, and love.


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After Tour

Happy belated Emancipation Day!  We celebrated with a Sunday-worthy dinner of roast chicken, rice & peas & cauliflower au gratin.  Another touch of home is my bougainvillea.  It at least loves this heat.

Teresa may be doubtful about how much post-Tour spinning is happening for her lace yarn.  Still spinning and we are at the pretty bit with the purples.

The spindles are ready for winding off, and then I’ll have plying ball the 5th!  It’s just a stub of a braid now.

One of our LYSs, Main St. Yarns in Milton is closing.  Carolyn hopes to find a purchaser but is busy selling her inventory.  One thing has led to another, and I’m back knitting.  Another top-down cardigan is on my needles – Boogie’s Tappan Zee Cardigan.  This is in the Lavold Silky Wool that I bought for a vest last fall.

It’s been happy knitting but I will admit 2 Things that I do get:

  • Royally bad picture of it; and
  • The yarn won’t say “sophisticate” any time soon.

Sometimes blocking makes a huge difference.  It did for my Fern Gully Hap Shawl that’s been a FO since coughMaycough.  The last that you saw of it was in January, here.  My how it has grown!

And evened out:

The last of the day lilies from Susie made a grand entrance this week.


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Le Tour, day 2

Happy 4th!  Never fails that I remember my Grandmother on the 4th of July.  A New Yorker, born & bred, she married into and loved Jamaican life.  Every year the little American flags came out on this one day, and she was the very soul of celebration.

Day 2’s progress in the Tour de Fleece!  I am in Team Spindlers & Team Suck Less (Friends of Abby’s Yarns or FOAY).  Have been posting in the team threads, and the daily threads like a good weekend warrior.

I could have spun more for those cops but was (happily) getting into the golds in the fibre.  My friend, Teresa, would like roughly even blocks of colour for her lace knitting.  Off it came…

I was super-happy that the spindles had almost equal amounts of singles on them.  The first wind-off had left a good deal over on the spindle to the right.  I eye-balled for evenness, and was right!

So far, this should be in the range of Teresa’s requirements.  I’ll ply them all in one go for consistency in the ply twist.  I would typically just enjoy the spinning process but it’s not for me.

My shoulder is a bit upset with me.  I promised to obey the cardinal rule of spinning – Be Kind to your Body.  Always.


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Out of Jamaica, Part I

The island was lush & beautiful when we were home.  In the short week we stayed in Kingston, visited Port Royal for Gloria’s fried fish, and went to St. Ann for Cuz’s wedding.

In Kingston, we caught the tail-end of the rains:

These old friends in the backyard were a sight for sore eyes.  Mahogany in their own little canopy:

The Lignum Vitae (tree of life) was just coming out of bloom.

And underneath it all, some life.

Port Royal charmed even the King of Snark, a 20-something cousin from the States who was with us.  Parking lot view at the Port Royal police station – left:

And swinging right is the Kingston harbour view:

Since people were getting along, and spirits were high we took King of Snark along to Fort Charles, which got mangled in the 1692 earthquake.  It totally delayed our trip down to the country but there was a rare pause on the snark.  Canons abound, it is a fort:

Well placed sea anchor.  Just as big as I remembered!

Up the ramp, and inside the Fort:

From which, you see:

School trip!  They arrived just as we were heading down to the Giddy House.

Spin around, the Giddy House is sea-ward.

The Giddy House is the old Artillery Store that partially sank in the 1692 earthquake.  Everyone feels giddy walking in there.  Everyone.

An entire Armory went under.

More remnants:

There was a lot of climbing and running on the gun.  Those pics look a little rude, and are being withheld.

And on our way back to Kingston, a Port Royal landmark:

Kingston may not be for everyone but it’s home for me.