I Am Jack’s Decorative Throw Pillow

Can we talk for a second about Chuck Palahniuk?

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My infatuation with his work started sort of atypically for me, but not for the rest of the world, with the fact that the first inkling I ever had of him was the movie Fight Club. For once, I didn’t read the book before the movie. I didn’t even know there was a book before the movie. I was 17 and not yet shaped into the devour-er of bizarre dystopian fiction that blogs before you.

That movie blew my damn mind.

Initially, the only reason I wanted to see it was because I had a massive crush on Edward Norton and wanted to see every single thing he was in. (The crush is still sort of there, especially Primal Fear-era Norton. Oh man.) I left the theatre feeling like I had just seen something that I shouldn’t have, and my consequential deep-dive into all things Palahniuk only reinforced that.

I made my mom buy me (in addition to being the awkward person next to me in that movie theatre, poor Mom…actually, to her credit, she’s a surprising fan of this type of stuff and subsequently made it through awkward viewings of Pi and Trainspotting as well during this formative period in my life…) the novel of Fight Club, which I read in one day on my way to NYU for college interviews. Then came Invisible Monsters, and I was completely hooked. Then Survivor. Then Choke, which is still and will always be my favorite. Then he couldn’t even write books fast enough for me to read them.

You could say I was a fan.

I have still maintained my fandom over the years, faithfully reading each new work as it comes out and adding most of them to my permanent collection. I still reread Choke and Diary every couple of years just for fun and to cleanse my palate between the Jodi Picoult guilty-pleasure novels I find myself into now. (Seriously, can there be two authors more different from each other? I have no idea why my brain works this way.) When I saw that Mr. Palahniuk was going to be coming to New Orleans for a book-signing this month, I realized that I had to add him to the increasingly-long list of admired people, especially authors, who receive a handknit gift from me.

But what to make? The answer came almost instantly. A throw pillow, emblazoned with an anti-capitalist message, of course!

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Say hello to I Am Jack’s Decorative Throw Pillow. (Easily downloadable and printable PDF pattern right here, plus the chart you’ll need to embroider Tyler Durden’s anti-establishment message on your pillow. And your heart.)

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Some notes on the making of this here pillow, so it’s easier to make your own:

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The knitting here is ridiculously easy.

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The duplicate stitching is a beast.

If you’ve never tried duplicate stitching before (or you’re not as obsessed with it as I am), it might be good to practice a little on a swatch (maybe your gauge swatch that you’ve diligently knitted, right?) before you move on to the finished project. Here’s a great tutorial from Purl Soho to review if you’ve never tried it before (be sure to follow the “V” stitch portion for our particular pattern).

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To perform a duplicate stitch, you insert a yarn needle threaded with your desired yarn into the base of the stitch you’d like to embroider over, from back to front. Then, you thread the needle underneath the “V” of the stitch above the one you’re working on, pull the yarn snugly, and then bring the needle back down into the base of the stitch where you came up. You’re basically following the yarn through the stitch as it loops up and down, but only doing it one stitch at a time.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your tension consistent. You don’t want your embroidered stitches to be too loose and floppy because then you’ll be able to see the knitted fabric underneath, and everything will just be a mess. If your stitches are too tight, there will be all kinds of puckering and strangeness, which will be near-impossible to block out. Just practice for a bit on some no-stakes stockinette swatches, and you’ll be good to go.

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You don’t want to make your working yarn too long, or you’ll end up tangled all the time. Make sure, as you’re moving from area to area, that you leave enough slack on the back of your work that the fabric doesn’t pucker, but not enough that you’re getting tangled up and catching on loops back there all the time. The way that I do this is to put 2-3 fingers against the back of the fabric and under the slack as I’m pulling the yarn across and making my first stitch, keeping things loose, but not sloppy. Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to look at the back of crazy embroidery? All knitters love that stuff.

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You’re going to wet-block your pillow before sewing it up, just to give those letters a chance to even and flatten out, plus to get your edges straight, which makes things so much easier.

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Mattress stitch everything up almost all the way, leaving the stuffing until the very end. Afterwards, I gave mine another good hit with the steam iron, just to make sure that everything was fluffed and puffed and perfect.

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I feel like someone was watching me.

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—–

One other important moment before we get to the main event.

I went to get all of my Chuck Palahniuk books, just to make a super-cute picture (and it worked, right?), and I decided to look up the page in Fight Club where our famous quote resides.

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Hmmmm. Turns out that the internet steered me oh-so-wrong. I, like probably 99% of the people on the planet, had completely forgotten that the bar scene in which Tyler states, “The things you own end up owning you,” is completely invented for the movie. In the book, the narrator, musing to himself before he has any idea that his apartment is no more, states, “Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”

As much as I love the phrase “lovely nest,” that sentence is a little too long to put on a throw pillow. I was mortified that I remembered it wrong, but then Chuck ended up agreeing with me, saying that it didn’t matter and he thought that it was great. Yeah, that was awesome.

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I’m getting ahead of myself.  When I got to the book-signing, I patiently waited my turn, sitting almost entirely in a plant with pillow in tow, chatting with some lovely people who traveled 900 miles to see him. That’s some dedication.

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The book-signing was to celebrate the release of Fight Club 2, the graphic novel continuation of the original novel, which is stunningly gorgeous to me already, and I was only flipping through the first few pages. From what I gather, there’s some 4th-wall-crossing mind-bending author-acknowledgment stuff going on, a la Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park, and I am always on board for that. I am so excited to dig in.

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The moment to present my gift was nearly here, and the wonderful people at the Garden District Book Shop caught me looking very coy, wearing my Hamilton shirt in honor of the 212th anniversary of his duel with Burr. Yes, I can’t just geek out about one thing at a time, apparently.

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Can we talk about this man? What a gem.

Not only was he doing the entire event in his bare feet, but he proclaimed the pillow beautiful and asked me all kinds of questions, for which I had extremely short and insufficient answers. Maybe because my brain was overloading with awe.

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He posed me with the pillow so that he could take a picture of it! How freaking cute is that?

He asked me how long I had been knitting (16 years!), and what made me start knitting in the first place. I was honest with my ridiculously lame answer and stated that I saw a friend knitting during a lecture my first semester in college and decided that that was something I needed to learn how to do. No awesome family-heritage-based or raw talent story. Just boredom. If only I knew how much it would come to define me as a person today…

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He personalized our books with the most wonderful messages!

And then…

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…oh yeah.

I had to go with choking, of course, being that Choke is my favorite of his novels, but all I can see when I look at this picture is how genuinely happy Dan looks to be abused by a famous author. I don’t even know how he managed this winning smile because my facial expression is only 30% pretend here. I don’t know if it was the height difference or what (or the fact that he was standing on a cooler behind us), but Chuck Palahniuk actually managed to take my breath away a little bit. More than a little bit. That man’s got some arms.

We strode out of there on top of the world. I’m still smiling, sitting here the next day. I can’t wait to read my book and dive once again into Mr. Palahniuk’s twisted world, knowing that he now knows how much he’s shaped mine.

Seriously, Chuck, thank you. You’re one of the good ones, and you deserve all of the decorative throw pillows life can give you.

Knitting Updates, but not the ones you’re looking for, probably. (Comfort for Critters Blanket and Spectacular Single Skein Scarf)

I’m going to show you some lovely pictures of yarn and gorgeous new needles to distract you from the fact that I don’t have any Hamilton hat updates yet.

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I KNOW.

(Yarn is Malabrigo Rios and needles are the new Knit Picks Majestic set, by the by, but we’ll get back to that in a second.)

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First things first, I made a very loopy and squishy blanket for Comfort for Critters, a charity that works to provide comfort blankets for animals in shelters waiting to be adopted, all over the US. They not only help to make and distribute blankets, but they also provide free yarn for people willing to volunteer and make pet blankets, which is just awesome. I have the feeling that when I am a little old lady, I’ll still be sitting around and knitting as long as I can, making little blankets for Comfort for Critters and Project Linus, since everyone else around me will be completely sick of handknit socks by then.

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I knitted this up out of some mystery acrylic bouclé that my friend Rebecca gave to me an eternity ago. My cats bee-lined for it every single time that they illegally invaded my office and yarn stash, so I figured it would make a really great comfortable blanket, perfect for kneading.

This squishy wonder is headed off to Friends Underwriting Rescues, the only Louisiana-based shelter affiliated with Comfort for Critters, which surprised me, frankly. We need more of these types of things.

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Second thing second, I made this gloriously textured single-row scarf for Dan’s mom, and it’s on its way to her in New Hampshire today, just in time for it to be waaaay too warm for her to wear it. I got the new Knit Picks Majestic interchangeable set as a special present for myself this Christmas, and this was the first project that I broke them out for.

People…these needles are so smooth and silky that it kind of makes me mad. The joins are nearly seamless. The cables are bouncy and flexible. The perfect glossy finish makes everything slide so nicely. I was angry that I waited so long to buy any of these interchangeable sets and really was upset when the scarf was finished because I wanted to keep going forever.

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Also, pairing these dark purple needles up with dark purple yarn? Dumb. But fun.

We all know that I am a big fan of Malabrigo Rios (see it knitted up into my Stone Molly hat), and this color Purpuras is an almost identical match for the Cascade Pacific Chunky that I used to make mukluks for Dan’s mom a few years ago. She’s a big purple fan, and you can’t get much more purple than this.

(My medical/nursing brain has a little bit of a problem with the name of the color, being that in medical-speak purpura describes the purple/red spots made when you bleed under your skin, but I’m imagining that in Spanish this isn’t the immediate association, right?)

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The pattern is the extremely clever Spectacular Single Skein Scarf by Jo Haward. I’m not normally a fan of single-row projects, but this one for some reason shows off the color variation so beautifully. It almost functions like a slip stitch, breaking up each row without obliterating the ombré effect. If you stretched it out when blocking, you’d see that it’s a net-mesh-lace thing in the execution.

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Collapsed on itself, it’s a really plush and squishy texture, inexplicably tilting in the same direction on both sides.

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I’m also a big fan of the slip stitch borders that make everything so tidy and wonderful.

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This is probably the most true-to-color picture, because dark purple is a problematic color to photograph. I have an extra skein left over, since this only took one skein of Rios to make a decently long scarf, and I’m seriously considering making a second one just for myself. It’s that good.

Hopefully by the time I collect my thoughts enough for a New York round-up, I’ll have some sort of update on the Hamilton hats, especially since Mr. Miranda is leaving the show soon.  Let’s all hope that they got them and that they aren’t sitting in the trash right now.  Fingers crossed.

Mr. Miranda, I Made You a Whole Bunch of Hats

28 hats, to be specific.

Maybe I should explain.

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Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, if I can be frank and weirdly honest, I have decided, for some reason, that part of my mission in life is to create handmade (and often hand-designed) knitted objects for people that inspire me. I made David Sedaris an owl. I made Eddie Izzard a squirrel. (Whether he ever received it is another issue entirely.) An eggroll cat toy for Joy the Baker. A Reading Rainbow scarf for LeVar Burton. And then, most recently, some really aggressively patriotic hats for Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell.

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I can’t really explain why the urge to do this initially took hold, but I’ve come to feel like this is my way to express how much something that someone has done/is doing moves me. While experiencing the creative works of others, I often have some strange feelings of ineffectualness mixed in with my enjoyment and awe. Almost like, it’s impossible for me to love things deeply without being somehow slightly saddened that I didn’t get to be a part of them. So, making something heartfelt with my own fingers helps me to feel creative and part of the process, while also covering people who deserve it in handknit love. Make sense?

Probably not.

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Anyway. I started out my professional life with a degree in theatrical lighting and scenic design from Carnegie Mellon University (proud alma mater of two of your castmates, the always amazing Leslie Odom, Jr. and Rory O’Malley [they graduated the year before me, actually]), and I thought that theatre was always going to be a part of my life. And it was, for a while. I worked in corporate theatre. I was the designer for a very small theatre company in Colorado that has since gone on to have quite a bit of success without me. It didn’t work out the way I thought it would, and I moved back home fairly aimless until I found nursing.

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I work as a pediatric nurse in a very busy hospital, helping children with kidney problems, cardiac issues, and traumatic brain injuries. I work night shift and exhaust myself all the time, but I really do love my job. That is, unless I’m thinking about the life that I somehow missed in theatre, despite my fancy degree and head full of big ideas. The creative outlet that didn’t pan out somehow.

And instead, I knit.

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I cover people that I love and admire with stitches formed over countless hours that would otherwise be wasted sitting around and eating crackers and watching The Wonder Years on Netflix. (Who am I kidding? That show is awesome. I watched nearly the entire thing while making these hats, plus lots of Top of the Lake and Amadeus.)

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117,015 stitches, to be exact. That’s how many stitches it takes to make enough hats to cover not just your head, but the heads of everyone in the cast of your brilliant show Hamilton (at least according to the list inside the soundtrack, but if you need more, just let me know!) to show you guys how much I care about what you do. I love musical theatre, and particularly your show, so much that it makes me ache inside a little. I scream-sing in the car, simultaneously loving the wordplay and feeling that twinge in my gut because I couldn’t be a part of it.

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So, I’ll be at the matinee show on Saturday, June 11th with these hats, knit with nothing but love and affection for you and all that you do, trying not to be too awkward, if you’ll have them. I’ve been told that giving them to the house manager is probably the best way to make sure you’ll get them. Let’s hope that’s true.

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Thank you, Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, for making a piece of art so lovely that it makes stitches leap from my fingers. I hope that these small tokens return part of the favor.

—–

Knitters? Want to know the specifics here? I bet you do!

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These Hamilton hats were knit up using my very own Oh Captain, My Captain hat pattern, cleverly tweaked (if I do say so myself) to resemble the Hamilton logo. This version is knit up in Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted, in the colors Pepper and Goldenrod.

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I think Steve might be a little jealous that these came out even cooler than he and Bucky’s colorways. Almost looks like…bumblebee roller derby? That sounded cooler in my head.

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I got so freaking good at knitting these hats that I was averaging slightly less than 6 hours per hat, the last one clocking in at 4.5 hours on the dot. It’s safe to say, I really don’t want to knit any more hats ever again.

At least for about a week. My fingers are really tired.

Drachenschwingen is the greatest name for a pattern. Maybe ever.

Seriously, if you are knitting something called “Drachenschwingen,” all you want is for people to ask you what you are making so that you get to say “Drachenschwingen” as many times as possible.

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I don’t know why I didn’t end up taking German in high school, because German and German-sounding words are the most fun to say, especially when they are completely out of context. (Everyone remember extra strapazierfähig? How could we forget?)

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These awesome dragon-y socks first made an appearance on the blog waaaay back in July as my plane-knitting project as I made my way to Los Angeles to be super fancy, meet LeVar Burton, and go to the Emmys. I know, I know, but trust me, my life is not normally that exciting. Usually I am sitting on the couch knitting while watching Gilmore Girls and eating crackers.

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Pictured: knitting and Gilmore Girls in the background (the episode in season 2 where Rory tries to win Dean back, btw). Not pictured: crackers, but trust me, they are there.

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Do your best and try not to fall in love with those awesome tiny finicky one-stitch cabled loops! You won’t be able to. All of Scarlet Plume‘s amazing sock patterns are stunning, and she’s definitely a huge fan of the twisted one-stitch cable. I think that she and Cookie A. would be fast friends.

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Part of the charm of knitting these socks lies in the sheer joy of using Pagewood Farm‘s Denali to make them. Every single skein of everything Pagewood Farm makes is so gorgeous that I have to take a breath and compose myself when I’m trying to make a decision. Denali in particular is a superwash merino and nylon blend that’s perfect for hard-wearing socks and making those tiny little twisted stitches pop.

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And the color! My knees get weak.

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From far away (and in the in-progress pictures taken in my extremely dark hobbit-hole living room), the colors in the Woodsey colorway blend together into a sort of greenish-olive-goldish-brown, but up close…little bits of blue, purple, white, emerald…heck, there’s even some little hints of pink in there. I can’t think of a better color to evoke the glittery iridescence of dragon scales. That is, if dragons were real, as we all wish they were.

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Quick side story:  Once at the B&N, a woman was browsing the kids’ science and nature section with a frown on her face for several minutes. I went up to her and asked her if she needed any help, and she told me that she couldn’t find any books on dragons. I directed her over to some picture books and the folklore and mythology section, and she looked at me like I was a crazy person and asked me why none of the books had any photographs of dragons. That was the day that I had to explain to a grown person that dragons weren’t real.

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Back to the socks. My very favorite part of the cable pattern on these socks is how the twisted stitches on the sides sort of “peel off” in layers to travel and form the loops in the center. Really beautiful stuff.

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There is one thing that threw me off a little bit about this pattern, and I’m not sure if it comes from a difference in pattern-writing conventions in different countries, but there’s a little bit of weirdness in the decreasing for the gusset area that might make things difficult for those new to knitting socks. Most patterns start the rows in the middle of the bottom of the foot, keeping the decreases together in one round. This pattern starts each round at the beginning of the cable-patterned top of the foot, giving each round a decrease rather than alternating plain and decrease rows. After I figured out what was going on, it totally made sense. However, if I came across something like that again, I’d probably rewrite the rows for the section, just to spare myself the mental gymnastics.

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That said, I am so excited to have finally finished these so that I can wear them around. I need to get myself a pair of those clear Chuck Taylors so that everyone can ask me about them. Then I’ll get to say “Drachenschwingen” over and over again and delight in these socks all over again.

Showered with Love – the Moderne Baby Blanket

“The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. You know, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice, and yet you spend more time with them then you do your friends or your family. But probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for 8 hours a day. And so, obviously, when someone comes in who you… you have a connection with… yeah.” – Tim Canterbury, The Office

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Now, I know that quote up there is about a man finding the love of his life, but really, I think it applies for all of those wonderful work relationships that everyone experiences, but are hard to describe.

There are people who you would have otherwise never would have met, and once you’re put together with them, particularly in the stressful field in which I work, find it very difficult to imagine your work, hell, your life without them.

My lovely friend Christina is one of these people.

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I knew from the day that we met, in a class where we had to qualify for our PALS certification (that’s right, I’m all kinds of responsible for the lives of children now, it’s crazy), that she was going to be one of the people that made my new job a good place to be. We work night shift together on the 6th floor, where we take care of lots of different high-acuity patients, children with brain injuries, kidney diseases, and heart defects, and even though it’s night shift, it can be extremely hectic and demanding, due to how much care our kids need and how busy our hospital is.

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Christina is always there for me to bond with over our shared pediatrics experience. She’s kind to a fault, knowing exactly the right way to talk to children and parents to put them at ease, and I know several kids that we see frequently who ask for her to be their nurse every time they come. Even when she’s got a ridiculous amount to accomplish in a shift, she’s always got a smile for anyone who comes up to her. She is always down to help with any small task or enormous disaster (usually involving inordinate amounts of bodily fluids) that occurs, no matter what.

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When Christina found herself suddenly, and really unexpectedly, about to have a baby, I knew that I had to make her something to show her how much I appreciate having her in my life, no matter how randomly we were brought together (and also because I feel like love is best shown through gestures like these, not just how we sit off to the side of the nurses’ station and talk about our pets).

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She and her boyfriend didn’t want to find out whether the baby is a boy or a girl ahead of time, so I figured that the silly amount of yarn I had left over from Squares and Squares and Squares would be best served in making a green-and-brown woodsy, squishy blanket for a teeny, tiny baby-to-be that will be very much loved by his or her entire adopted nursing family.

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Time to talk shop. The pattern here is the Moderne Baby Blanket by the glorious ladies behind Mason-Dixon Knitting, baby cousin to the Modern Log Cabin Blanket, which I made in 2009 with Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool and remains a prized possession in my home, only allowed to be used in my office where there are no cats allowed. I can’t blame them, that squishy garter stitch is really, really tempting to stick your claws in and get in some good kneading.

Wanna see that one?

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Hell yeah, that’s a big blanket.

This Modern Baby Blanket is quite a bit smaller, and full of little tweaks to accommodate the fact that I was using yarn from another project. First things first, I was dealing with seven colors here, as opposed to four, so I had to be strategic about not letting colors that were too similar stack up on each other, as well as constantly checking to make sure that I was using up each color as much as possible, judging each new rectangle by its placement and what size it would be before choosing which color to go with next.

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That sounds so much more complicated than it actually was.

Go ahead and click on the link for Squares and Squares and Squares above in order to see which colors of Knit Picks Brava Worsted I used (it’s all of them except for Mulberry), in case you want to make your own. The only other thing that I changed was the size of the blocks around the outside edges. Because I was using the leftovers from another large blanket, all I had to work with was slightly less than a skein of each color. Because of this, I worked with each color as long as I possibly could, and then recalculated how many stitches to pick up on the subsequent crossing blocks.

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Again, that sounds way more complicated that it was. Part of what’s wonderful about this pattern is how easy it is to customize. I’ve seen fantastic adaptations where people make long gradients of one color family, where they knit in extra borders between blocks, where they go crazy with multicolored yarn…it’s all awesome.

The Brava makes for a wonderfully squishy, hefty knit, perfect for softening up a floor to let a baby hang out and get some tummy time, while also being really easy to wash and care for.

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After finishing up, this precious bundle made its way to a super-stylish baby shower (Seriously, look at all that gray and green! I want to redecorate my house to look like this future baby’s possessions now.), in our conference room on our hospital floor, because sometimes work can wait while people eat fruit tarts and open presents.

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There’s Christina there, reading out her cards and looking radiant and teary-eyed, not realizing just how much we all love her and are willing to shower her with that love.

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This baby is going to be so spoiled and adored. There’s just no way around it. And no other person who deserves it more.

Oh Captain, My Captain (or, Mr. Evans, Ms. Atwell, I made you some hats.)

I just can’t stop making nerdy knitted gifts for famous people.

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There are worse problems to have, I guess.

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Wizard World Comic Con came to New Orleans this past weekend, and I was so ridiculously excited to go and meet Captain America himself, Mr. Chris Evans, that I was practically vibrating. The Captain America franchise is, hands-down, the greatest part of the already great Marvel universe, at least to me, and I wanted to make sure that I showed my love in knitted form to Chris Evans.

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There were some mis-steps at first.

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But eventually I came up with something that I felt was ridiculously nerdy, yet classy enough to wear out in public like a normal person. Simply, wearing the Captain’s shield right up on top of your head.

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While staring down lovingly at your tiny Captain America Pop figurine, of course. No, it’s not creepy.

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See, he’s okay with it.

As the date neared, I realized that not only was this going to be a chance to meet Chris Evans, but that Ms. Hayley Atwell would also be there (In addition to nearly the entire Civil War cast, but I can only knit so many hats.) It was clear that my friend Bailee and I really needed to take advantage of this.

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So now, we needed 4 hats, and I decided that a Winter Soldier/Bucky colorway would be a great idea, too, just so that I could sneak around in the open and wear my fandom a little more subtly.

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I’ve decided to call this original hat design “Oh Captain, My Captain,” because, oh man, I’d follow that guy to the end of the line. Want the pattern? Yeah, you do, especially in an easily printable PDF, right? Here you go!

—–

Some notes about the pattern:

For the white section of the Captain America colorway, I had to use Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted since the LYS where I bought the rest of the yarn was unfortunately out of the white in Lamb’s Pride Worsted. Feel free to use whatever fantastic worsted-weight wool blend you’d like.

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The “Star Crown” section combines fair-isle and decreasing at the same time, just to make things extra spicy. The easiest way to ensure that your fair-isle floats don’t get pulled too tight in all that decreasing? Flip your work inside and let the floats run around the outside of the hat. Just don’t pay much attention to the shape of the star in that picture, it’s from an earlier version where the star looked way too much like a flower. Lovely, but not what I was going for.

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Check that float action. Nice.

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If you’re using Lamb’s Pride, or anything other super-saturated wool blend, make sure that you add vinegar to your blocking water to prevent color bleeding in those red/white stripey spots. Otherwise, you’ll be rocking a red, pink, and blue flag up there on your noggin. Lamb’s Pride gives you great suggestions on how to do this on their label, so do give it a look.

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—–

So. On the day of the con, we were so excited to get into the Captain America: Civil War panel that we lined up 3 hours early. It was worth it.

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Pretty good seats, right?

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It was hard to even handle how much awesomeness was up there. The Russo brothers, Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Jeremy Renner, and My Captain. I mean, Chris Evans.

And honestly, I know I’m being very silly and fangirly about Mr. Evans, but I really do admire the man. He’s a huge supporter of Children’s Hospitals, and you all know how much that means to me as a pediatric RN. He has been really up-front about his problems with anxiety, and powers through media events like this one because of how much he enjoys his fans. He has helped a lot of people with their own anxiety issues (including myself) just by being honest and giving people permission to talk about it, which is pretty remarkable, considering that he’s in some of the most highly publicized movies ever made. What a gentleman. He really does deserve to be a superhero.

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He also looks really nice in a grandpa cardigan. Just saying.

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Anthony Mackie, a New Orleans native (who received a ridiculous amount of applause on this fact alone) was the most charming man in the world.

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Hayley Atwell gave thoughtful and impassioned responses to questions, and we all fell in love with her all over again. And Jeremy Renner was a grumpy old man, in the best possible way.

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Bailee got an autograph with Hayley, and I wasn’t supposed to be taking pictures, but it was hard to resist.

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She was just so lovely! She and Bailee had an awesome chat about sharks while her assistant made angry eyes at me as I continued to ignore her.

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We got so much fun merch stuff, and now I have a Captain America pin, shirt, and poster to go along with my nerdy hat. I bought some Steve and Bucky Lego figures, too, while we were getting ourselves ready to meet Chris Evans. So freaking cute, even with that tiny machine gun.

Then, the moment of truth. We waited in line for about 30 minutes for our photo op, and once it started moving, I started panicking. The line was moving waaaaay too fast. It became clear that we would only be getting about 10 seconds in our picture, not nearly enough time to hand these wonderful people some hats and tell them how much they both mean to me.

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Luckily, I had the presence of mind to put the blog address inside all of the hats, so I basically could just throw them to them, which is sort of what ended up happening.

It was our turn, Bailee and I were both adorably wearing our Bucky versions of the hat, and I walked up and said, “I made you guys some hats!”

Chris Evans said, “Oh, cool!”

Hayley Atwell said, “Oh, I’m definitely going to wear this,” and tried to figure out how to get it on properly, but then the photographer was yelling at us to turn and smile.

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And then it was over. If you look way over in the far right-hand edge of the picture, you can see that Chris Evans is holding the hat, but unfortunately, not wearing it for the picture. Oh, and that hand holding the hat was definitely around my shoulders, and I don’t know if I’ve fully recovered from that quite yet.

We were smiling from ear to ear for at least an hour afterwards, rehashing the same 10 seconds over and over. Or maybe that was just me. If anything, I hope that the both of them take a little bit of time to click over here and see how much they are appreciated. To realize that someone enjoys their work so much that they are willing to speed-knit fair-isle with five-point decreasing just to show their love.

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Handknit love is the best kind of love, and I’ll never stop handing it out to those I appreciate and admire. Never.

Thankful for Pie (somehow pie-less, yet still awesome) 2015 Edition

I guess this recurring post is just the year in review now, instead of a declaration of love for pie, due to the fact that I can’t get my act together around Thanksgiving anymore. (Want to see previous years? 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.) Nevertheless, you can be thankful for things anytime during the year, right? Right.

Also, even though I know for a fact that Dan and I ate a whole ton of pie this year, there are absolutely zero pictures of pie! I know, right, but my crust game was just seriously lacking this year. Have no fear, no matter what, pie is always right up there on the list of things that I am most grateful for.

Here we go.

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January was a bit of a blur, as I was starting my last semester of nursing school. Pancakes and beignets were enjoyed at every available opportunity.

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Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day nearly collided in February. Let me tell you, if you want to see some really unflattering pictures, look through about 100 pictures of me screaming at a parade. I get so serious about absolutely needing some useless pieces of plastic, and I look completely deranged. Anyway, Endymion is one of my favorite parades, so it was great to take some out-of-town friends and act like a maniac just to get a frisbee.

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Ha! I lied! Of course, there has to be pie for Pi Day in March! (Seriously, I completely forgot about this amazing pie until just this moment. Bad, bad baker.) My friend Amanda came up with possibly the greatest pie name ever, Chocolate and Cream and Berries? Oh My! Any pie that has punctuation in its title automatically has my vote.

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April brought with it a lovely scarf with beautiful silver beads, of which I still have approximately 8000 and no ideas for how to use them.

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Also, my last nursing school exam! I had a much-needed old fashioned at the St. Roch Market and resisted the urge to run around dancing in the streets.

May? Oh man, May was busy.

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Graduation Day!

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Valedictorian!

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Party planning!

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Rumchata Ribbon Ice Cream! Let’s be honest. The ice cream was the most important. That, and that lemon and blueberry bundt cake up there was pretty amazing, too.

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I designed and made a pretty cowl, Cowl Before the Storm, and it might just actually be cool enough to wear it today when I go see Star Wars.

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We went to see the Rentals! I got to chat with Matt Sharpe a little bit after the show, and I told him that I played through my cassette tape of Return of the Rentals so many times since age 13 that the ribbon snapped.

Yes, that is a Stay-Puft marshmallow man dancing up there during the show. It’s best left unexplained.

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Also, I dressed up like Fox in Socks at some point. Bright red scrub pants are the bomb.

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Dan and I tried to take June as easy as possible.

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I came home from work after midnight on my birthday to find a chocolate cake surprise from my love, plus new vinyl records!

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We did all kinds of coloring. (Yes, I am aware it is super trendy. No, I do not care. Coloring is awesome.)

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I made these awesome alcohol-drenched cupcakes.

In July, I started my new real-world job.

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I never would have predicted that I could simultaneously experience so many different emotions at one job, in even one hour at one job. My previous job life has been mostly retail and management-type stuff, and the feelings range from frustration to accomplishment, but mostly you just want to hurry up and finish things so you can go home.

Working with these kids has been so different and so eye-opening for me. I get to celebrate their victories, sing along to their favorite movies, comfort them and dry their tears, make crazy faces and make them laugh, be the bad guy with the medicine so that their parents can continue to be their heroes…in the short time that I’ve been there, I’ve experienced profound loss and unmitigated joy side-by-side with these children and their families, and even though I come home from night shift exhausted and generally don’t have any idea what time it is anymore, I can definitely say that I made the right decision to work in pediatrics.

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Plus, the hospital is close to my very favorite snoball stand, so that’s a plus. There are no shortcuts to quality.

At the end of July, my grandmother passed away. I actually found out about this the day before I took my NCLEX nursing license test while simultaneously battling terrible food poisoning brought about by Chinese food shrimp. There was a big mess in my brain for a fairly long time.

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She loved Christmas, and I felt her absence from our table this year strongly.

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Making pretty scarves helps you get through these things, even though it’s August and way too hot outside.

September?

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A trip to Los Angeles to deliver a very special scarf

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…to a very special person.

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I met the love of my life at the wax museum. It was hard to let go.

And then, the Emmys? What?

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I was just as surprised as you, Jamie Lee.

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Such a crazy trip, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law, who seem to have created a habit of making opportunities for me to get to go do amazing things. You guys are great.

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In October, my baby Bowie had his 8th birthday. Here are some more adorable cat pictures, just because.

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Dang, those cats are cute.

November started with more alcoholic cupcakes.

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There’s still a lot of winter left to make your own RumChata cupcakes, so you should get on that.

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In December, so much blanket knitting (which you all just read about yesterday, right?), plus carouselfies…

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…more beignets and coffee…

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…and a large pack of angry cranes that followed Dan for about 10 minutes, thinking he would share his beignets.

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Plus, super secret work on a super secret project that I am terrible at keeping secrets about. Let’s just say, it involves a certain Avenger with a propensity for wearing patriotic colors, plus his troubled half-robotic-armed friend. That’s pretty vague, right?

—–

It’s been a year of ups and downs, that’s for sure, and as I looked through all of my pictures, I was struck by how much I didn’t really document things much this year. It just felt like a whirlwind to finally finish school and start a new life in nursing, or perhaps I am also lazy and attracted more to sleep than to putting my life back together again after school.

Now that life is starting to reassemble around my new job, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of making things. Hopefully, 2016 will be full of pies (and I’ll actually remember to take pictures of them), knitting, hugs, and love, not just for me but for all of you out there. I’m just itching to get out there and make things already, and I can’t wait to show you when I do.

Squares and Squares and Squares

Or maybe, more properly, Rectangles and Rectangles and Rectangles.

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Now, I have knitted a number of projects in the past with finicky finishing work. A Dale of Norway ski sweater, complete with terrifying steeks and zippers. Tiny toys, with hand-stitched felt eyes and itty-bitty ears. Duplicate stitched snowflakes for days on end. I could go on and on.

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However, now that I have completed a Warm Up America! Afghan…I feel as though I have summited some sort of insane mountain of mattress-stitch achievement.

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Let me step back and explain.

My brother got married back in September of last year, and in proper fashion, I told him and his wife that I would be happy to make them a new afghan for their house and their new life together. Knowing that my sister-in-law is partial to purple, I decided to go with something patchworky with greens and browns, too, to match their decor. However, all of this planning in my mind for the perfect blanket for them had to go on the back burner while I finished nursing school and then got a real-life job. What I originally thought would end up being a first anniversary present instead ended up being a Christmas present, a fact that I know is making all of the knitters nod their head in solidarity.

Projects like this seem so simple at first. You get pulled in to the allure of the patchwork square. It’s the same seductive pull that makes you start working on something that involves thousands of granny squares, not even thinking about how all of those squares are going to put themselves together.

You start thinking about what would be the perfect afghan and think back on the beautiful one you saw in the fantastic book Knitting for Peace, the Warm Up America! Afghan…8 different types of squares with simple stitch patterns, perfect for beginners or for some mindless knitting while you watch Jessica Jones on Netflix.

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You see all of those little squares and think, “Oh, it’ll take no time at all to make one of those! And they’ll be small, and portable! I can knit those anywhere! Gosh darn it, I am so smart. There’s no way this will backfire.”

You order up a whole boatload of Knit Picks Brava Worsted so that you can get started. You figure, “Oh, acrylic will be such a good choice for this. Easy to wash and take care of, tons of color options. Yes, this will be fantastic.” (Note: Knit Picks Brava is pretty fantastic, don’t get me wrong. However, acrylic will come back to bite you in the ass later, don’t you worry.)

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You start cranking out squares like it’s going out of style. (I know some people want to know the colors, so here we go: Alfalfa, Almond, Brindle, Cream, Dublin, Mulberry, Peapod, and Sienna, 3 skeins each.)

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You knit squares (rectangles, actually) at every opportunity, and since you are now working as a night-shift pediatric RN, you have lots of weird time alone at night to get to know these squares since you can’t force the entire house of Dan and cats to get onto your new bizarro schedule.

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The cats try their best to help. They are unsuccessful.

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You realize quickly that every single “square” of this pattern is completely different in terms of gauge, especially row gauge (which is something that knitters really don’t end up having to think about or compensate much for, which made it even more crazy-making), and that you have to do a fair amount of math to get each square to come out to roughly the same length.

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You take the time out of making squares to procrastinate a little and make a little chart to figure out just how many more squares you need to make after you are done procrastinating. You start kicking yourself for deciding that you were going to make the blanket a little bit larger than the pattern originally called for, mostly because when they provide 8 different stitch patterns but tell you to only make 49 squares, your brain explodes a little bit. 64 squares is much more pleasing to your psyche in terms of a finished project, but when you realize how many more squares you have left to go…you start to hate squares.

All of those beautiful patchwork blankets in your head start to taunt you and mock you for your hubris. You keep knitting until you just can’t knit any more, slogging your way through stupid, stupid, lovely garter stitch in the name of love for your family.

And when you finally finish…

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There is absolutely no relief at all. Now you have to join those squares together. Those squares whose sizes have seemingly absolutely nothing at all to do with one another, no matter how good your math or tension was.

That stack of lovely squares right there is a bit deceiving. The squares come of the needles looking a lot more like this:

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Now, if this was wool or cotton, our blocking situation would just be washing and laying things out, or perhaps a light iron. However, acrylic makes you work hard for the kind of squariness you desire. You dutifully haul out the steam iron and blocking wires and T-pins.

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Every square needs to be pinned out to match the 7″x9″ dimensions needed, some adopting this position easier than others. Then, (and don’t freak out), you use your steam iron to intentionally ruin your fabric.

It’s called “killing” acrylic, and usually it’s a terrible thing to accidentally do to a beloved article of clothing, melting the plastic in the yarn. However, in a controlled environment, the right amount of heat (as little as possible to make steam and staying away from actually touching the fabric) and dedication will coax those squares into flattening out their edges, opening up their stitch patterns, and fitting themselves into the straight edges and corners you need to sew them up without wanting to gouge your eyes out.

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You do this, 3 squares at a time, until everything is perfect and lovely and you are so done.

But, you are definitely nowhere near done. Now…the sewing.

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You lay out all of those squares, trying to make things pleasantly random, taking care not to let 2 of the same color or stitch patterns touch each other. (I did originally try to make each row and column have only one of each color or pattern, but it turned into an endless unwinnable sudoku game because I absolutely did not want to do diagonal stripes. I settled for each row having only 1 of each color, and then let the chips fall where they may for everything else, just to save my sanity.) You put off the inevitable sewing process just a little longer by taking moody, artful pictures of your little squares all lined up.

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Mattress stitching is your stitch of choice, of course, because you want everything to line up as nicely as possible. (You must go here and learn its ways right this second, if you don’t already know.) The pattern gives you very, very little guidance here, but joining the squares into columns actually goes really fast and easy, due to all of the squares being either 35 or 36 stitches wide. Sewing things up when they are actually the same exact size is quick and satisfying.

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Zipping up those seams feels pretty good.

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The vertical seams are not the same cakewalk. First things first, you have to pin out the seam between squares.

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Then, you sew up the sides using the ladders between the first and second stitches from the edge of the row, zig-zagging between the squares.

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But, as you remember from earlier, every single stitch pattern is a completely different length in terms of number of rows, so you’ve got to do some creative stitching.

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You watch your pins carefully, and try to see if they are leaning in one direction or another. In the above picture, the pin is leaning to the left, meaning that there’s more fabric up there to be incorporated into the seam. Therefore, you need to fit more of those rows into a smaller amount of rows on the bottom (picking up 2 ladders on the top and just 1 on the bottom) to ease everything in.

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When it goes right, it goes so right and you feel like a finishing genius. When it doesn’t, you think, “Eh, people don’t look at the corners anyway, right? I don’t need to take a picture of that one. Or that one. Or that one back there.”

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What corners? Low-angle photography makes corners not matter, right?

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Finish up the edges with 2 rows of single crochet, just to make those corners nice and neat, and then hit it again with a tiny blast of steam so that everything lays down nice.

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Then, take a breath and weave in all those ends.

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There are a lot, so it would be good for you to take some breaks between and do this as you go along as a relief from the sewing-up frustration.

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Wait. What frustration? It all melts away when you see that final finished project, exactly as you envisioned it in your head.

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Fields of green and brown and purple, looking like farmland from an airplane.

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Those slightly wonky edges and corners just don’t matter anymore, because it’s so perfect all of a sudden.

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You know that your brother and sister-in-law are going to absolutely love it, and all of the work is worth it. The endorphins kick in and shape the experience in such a way that you start to think, you know, I should make another one of those for Dan and I, as soon as I have some more free time.

But maybe in cotton next time.

RumChata Cupcakes!

It’s my friend Brittany’s birthday today, known mostly to you readers as the genius who came up with the RumChata Ice Cream challenge to which I valiantly arose during my graduation party.

That giant bottle of RumChata that I bought to make the ice cream has been hanging out in my refrigerator ever since, just waiting for the opportunity to become some other sort of alcoholic dessert. I’d say that a 30th birthday is a good enough occasion to break it out again, yes? Yes.

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Now, Brittany has a deep appreciation for all things cinnamon, including Fireball and RumChata. Don’t believe me?

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I wasn’t the only one who thought that it would make a good gift.

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Shots of RumChata are a something of a tradition with us.

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She’s also a bit of a cupcake connoisseur, so it seemed like the perfect idea to conjure up some RumChata Cupcakes to bring to the party.

There’s plenty of alcohol in the actual cakes themselves, plus extra brushed on top, and then mixed up into the buttercream frosting, too, as well as a great deal of cinnamon.

RumChata Cupcakes
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Starlight Yellow Cake and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups RumChata liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

RumChata Buttercream Frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2-3 tbsp. RumChata liqueur

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In large bowl, beat all cupcake ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds, and then at high speed for about 3 minutes, until smooth and custardy. I like to start with the sugar and butter first, then the eggs, then everything else, but whatever works best for you.

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Whatever you do, don’t trust the lid on the baking powder, no matter how well it seems to be attached.

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Divide the batter evenly into the 24 cupcake liners, being sure to only fill each between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

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Put your face really, really close to the pan and get in a really good sniff of that cinnamon-y goodness before you have to put it in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes for approximately 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the tops spring back when touched lightly in their centers. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

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While the cakes are cooling, it’s frosting time!

In a medium bowl, beat the powdered sugar and softened butter together on low-medium speed until well-incorporated, then add the vanilla and 1 tbsp. of the RumChata.

Then, gradually add in enough RumChata, by drops, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. I lost track of exactly how much I put in there, but I don’t think that I went more than 4 tbsp. You’ll know when you get there.

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Now, take your cooled cupcakes and poke some holes in the tops with a toothpick.

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Be sure to notice that your cats are up to something over in the corner, and have a balanced, logical discussion with them about how they shouldn’t try to eat cobwebs.

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Then, brush on a generous layer of RumChata and allow it to soak in a little bit.

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If you don’t let them dry a little bit, the tops of the cake will rip right off when you try to put the frosting on, so be patient if possible.

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I did end up having a tiny bit of RumChata left over after brushing all the cakes. You can guess what I did with that.

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If you said drink it straight from the measuring cup, you are correct.

Get a nice heaping scoop of frosting on a flat spatula and smear it on top of your cupcakes in a rustic fashion.

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Or, if you want to get fancy and pipe it on, go right ahead. However, this frosting recipe gives you just barely enough to get the tops done this way, so if you want something more elaborate, you should probably double the recipe.

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Then, with all your pretty little cakes in a row, sprinkle a touch of cinnamon on top of each one.

Pretty!

Now, what do these taste like? Here we have a stop-motion reaction shot, courtesy of the birthday girl.

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When they’re baking, they smell like butter and cinnamon and rum and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, all of the good things in the world. They taste that way, too, let me assure you.

Later on in the night, Brittany told me that they were the best thing that she had ever put in her mouth, and then she reminded me again later on Facebook. I’m not sure if I would go that far, but yes, they are definitely something special. They might be worth buying another giant bottle of RumChata for.

That Time I Went to the Emmys

Oh yeah, that’s right. I went to the Emmys, you guys. Let’s pretend to be cool about it.

So, my trip to Los Angeles started out with a ride in a plane, all by my lonesome since Dan couldn’t come on this trip. I already dislike flying immensely, and doing it alone…no fun at all.

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The only way to get by was with lots of knitting and reading. (Socks! Drachenschwingen by Julia Rotfeder, in Denali by Pagewood Farms, in case anyone wants to know.)

As soon as I touched down at LAX, my first adventure with an Uber driver began. We already know how one of those worked out on this trip, but trust me, this one had much less vomit involved. My first Uber driver was a fashion designer who picked up extra money on the side driving people from the airport on her way home from her studio. Or at least that’s what she told me. Either way, pretty cool.

She brought me to the adorable Tangerine Hotel in Burbank where my brother and sister-in-law were waiting for me, and we wasted no time getting started doing some touristy things.

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Like going to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and going shopping around the Walk of Fame. Humphrey Bogart seems like my kind of guy.

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I made my own chocolate bar at an otherwise disappointing candy store that I will not name here (and let’s all pretend that the name of the store isn’t on that order form or that I wasn’t so lazy that I didn’t edit the picture to remove it). Seriously, if you call yourself the world’s largest candy store, you shouldn’t have more stock in souvenir t-shirts than things that are edible.

But the chocolate bar was downright tasty. I may have missed my calling.

Then we met Lady Gaga.

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Kidding. We went to Madame Tussaud’s and had an awesome time. I will spare you the 50 or so close-up pictures that I have of celebrity faces that are entertaining only to me. I did send Dan a picture of me with Brad Pitt declaring that I was stealing his boyfriend, but he was only fooled for a second.

Who am I kidding anyway? Brad Pitt would run away with Dan in a heartbeat. I also jumped on a bicycle and channeled my best Elliott pedaling away with E.T. These are the things you do when you are a sleep-deprived person forced to get on a plane.

The next day, the Reading Rainbow Live! event happened. Go ahead and read all about it if you missed it.

Am I done talking about things that aren’t the Emmys yet?

Yes!

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Now, originally, when my brother had told me about this trip, he merely said that we’d be attending a “special event” on Sunday, and that I needed to buy a nice dress. Later, I found out exactly what the event was, which is a good thing, because I tend to go out of my way to not get dressed up for any reason. Which would have been bad.

As soon as I knew that I needed an awesome dress (and that I didn’t really want to look like I was going to the prom), I knew exactly where to go. Trashy Diva is a fantastic shop here in New Orleans that sells handmade vintage-inspired dresses with a huge range of styles, fabrics, and sizes, and there had been one calling to me for a few weeks that I just needed an excuse to splurge on.

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The Honey Child dress in the Geisha Fans print. Excuse the picture in my front hallway, but it was love at first sight. Who doesn’t want to walk into a black tie event with the most beautiful people in the world wearing a dress covered in origami swans? And I’m not one for meme-speak, but those shoes tho.

The ladies at Trashy Diva were super awesome about helping me pick the right size (which can be difficult for those of us who are just slightly larger than the sizes that stores think women are), the right shoes (with the least amount of risk of breaking my face open), and the right shapewear underneath (my first experience with the wonder that is Spanx). I started out super uncomfortable at the prospect of walking into the event at all, but with their help, I was nothing but excited (although I’m pretty sure that no matter what dress you buy, there’s pretty much no way you can eat while you’re wearing it, right?).

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My brother purchased these tickets for some sort of insane amount of money, but that doesn’t mean that you get to hang out with famous people. Nope, you get your very own red carpet, made from Astroturf, carefully separated from the real red carpet.

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And the weather was pushing 100 degrees that day, so we tried to move it along and stay out of the direct sunlight as best we could.

But, there were gaps in the fabric that separated the two sides from each other, and when I peeked through…

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Stephen Merchant! I tried to point him out to my brother and sister-in-law and the tiny crowd that had formed around us at our hidey-hole, but no one else knew who he was, which is tragic. I hope that they all investigated the Ricky Gervais Podcast, as I suggested.

At the end of our Astroturf carpet, the two red carpets sort of merged together. We were still separated by a line of plants and velvet ropes, but it was the perfect place to watch people walk majestically up and down the red carpet.

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Like Heidi Klum! She came over to the rope to fix her shoe and said hello to everyone.

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And Fred Savage! Who at first looked like he might come and smack the phone out of my hand.

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But then saw someone he knew and resumed looking adorable.

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Retta walked by, and I was in awe of her amazing pink dress. Is it covered in flower petals? Butterflies? I have no idea, but it was so lovely.

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And this dress! Oh my god, I have no idea who this gorgeous girl is (and if anyone knows, please let me know), but that dress is so cool I can’t even stand it. She walked with it held up in front of her and looked like she was gliding everywhere.

It’s moments like that that make you realize that you are probably sweating all the way through and wrinkling what you thought was your fabulous cocktail dress, ending up looking like a wet napkin next to these ridiculous goddess women.

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Speaking of goddesses…Laura Prepon, Jaimie Alexander, Laverne Cox…I felt like a lowly peasant woman. Laverne Cox came right up to us and waved at everyone and thanked them for coming. I was too busy being stunned to get a picture of her that was in focus.

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Tituss Burgess! He had everyone laughing in his interview up on the stairs.

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It was also super awesome when Jamie Lee Curtis came up to us to say hello. Not just wave and walk by, but she stopped and said that she hoped we weren’t melting in the heat (which we were) and that she hoped we were having a good time (which we also were). Her show Scream Queens is filming here in New Orleans, and I might have to keep an eye out for her now. Hers is definitely my favorite picture that I took on the red carpet.

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Taraji P. Henson just looked so incredibly happy and beautiful as she walked by and waved to everyone.

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And to cap it all off, I saw Gwendoline Christie…

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And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau right at the end, very nearly in the same frame. I don’t think my brain would have been able to handle it if I had gotten Brienne and Jaime in the same picture, so it’s good that they spared me. Gwendoline Christie looked like a Greek statue come to life. She is so beautiful that it pains me.

Now, time for some fun Emmy facts. They sell all kinds of snacks and beverages in the theatre, but they don’t let you go to your seat with any of it.

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So I basically slammed down a flute of champagne because I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to hack it in those shoes much longer.

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We were sitting right in the middle of the loge section, which is the second-highest area in the theatre, so even though you could see the people on stage, you couldn’t make out anything in terms of actual facial expressions. No fear, though, there are huge screens on the sides of the stage to help the audience actually see the show.

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This is what it looked like during a commercial break for the most part.

One of the coolest things about the set was where the band was sitting, which, from what I gathered from those who watched it on TV, was tragically not really revealed to them.

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The band was inside of the giant scenic column the entire time, hidden by the rings of video screens. How freaking cool is that? During every commercial break, the band would continue playing long after the lights came up, and then the video screens would display for the audience how long they had before the live broadcast started again. (Oh, and I can’t leave out that before the show started, they had whatever football game was playing on Fox up on those screens. One of the guys behind us said, “They have the game on? This is the best day!”)

Usually the band would stop playing rather abruptly when there was 1-2 minutes left so that they could pick up on the right section when the show started again. Then, the whole audience would hear the stage manager call the time left before the feed picked back up again. There were requests for applause at strategic moments, and we were told to respectfully stay quiet during the “In Memoriam” section.

Also, when you see the show live, you don’t get to see the moments where the winners walk to stage. I imagine this is because if the cameramen caught the video screens on the side in their frame, it would probably loop back and cause one of those infinite loop things that seemed very cool back when I was in my high school television class. You don’t get to hear the announcer lady with the interesting facts about each winner either. You just clap and clap and clap until you can’t clap anymore.

I’m trying to sit and process and pick out my favorite moments from the show for you, but the whole thing just seems like a blur now. I clapped and screamed my heart out for Jeffrey Tambor, Allison Janney, Uzo Aduba, Peter Dinklage, Jon Hamm, and Tracy Morgan — that at least I remember. I delighted in Andy Samberg, just like I normally do. I engaged in a battle of wits with a dude sitting on my left that thought that he needed both armrests at all times so that he could text more efficiently, I guess.

Most of all, I had fun.

Then we made it a point to get back to the hotel as soon as possible, change out of those crazy black tie outfits, and eat a whole bunch of pizza. It was great.