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.

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Early Birthday Musings, with bonus further Owl Updates! (In short, David Sedaris is the goddamn man.)

“It is sad because you would like to believe that everyone is unique and then they disappoint you every time by being exactly the same, asking for the same things, reciting the exact same lines as though they have been handed a script…All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.”

– David Sedaris, from “The Santaland Diaries,” Holidays on Ice


I turn 31 tomorrow. 31 isn’t really an exciting age to turn, unless you’re like me and constantly think about ice cream and realize that 31 is the Baskin & Robbins flavor number.

In my 30th year, my main challenge has been facing the task of my first year of nursing school, balancing work and school and clinicals and attempting to uphold the sanity of the boyfriend, friends, coworkers, and cats surrounding me. And I’m pretty sure that even though I may have developed some deep-seated anger problems during the process, I kicked some major ass. Like all up and down the street.

We kept ourselves safe during a crazy hurricane and ate a ridiculous amount of Swedish Fish. I baked countless cakes and pies, learned how to make ice cream, and held my own during numerous Scrabble games. I wrote thousands of words about Jean Watson’s caring theory, spontaneous pneumothorax, and necrotizing fasciitis. I wore all white all day for several days, tempting the gods to make me spill coffee all over myself. We rode our bikes all over the goddamn place until they got stolen out of our backyard. (I know, right? Bunch of savages in this town.) I dressed up like Moaning Myrtle, a Storm Trooper groupie, and a girly teenage vampire with pink hair, all for the sake of the little children.

For once the universe was listening, and it granted me some birthday gifts a little early.

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Dan and I got to go camping at the beach for a weekend, and even though Florida was actively trying to murder us with its heat, aggressive sunlight, thrashing surf, and angry mosquitoes, we had a fantastic time.

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St. George Island State Park made us feel like we were on our own abandoned desert island, which was a welcome respite from my usual overly-stimulated-but-still-yet-somehow-phenomenally-humdrum life. There was tons of sand, lots of playing with glow sticks in the pitch-blackness outside of our tent, and the eventual triumph of primitive camping skills when we finally had ourselves a fire to make s’mores. My first ever fireside-camping-type s’mores. Hooray!

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It was freaking great, totally worth our souvenirs of strategically-placed uncomfortable sunburns and mosquito bites.

Shortly before leaving on this weekend adventure, another early birthday present made its way to my mailbox.

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Oh yes, my friends. It is what you think it is.

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And it is hilarious and adorable, everything it needed to be. As I opened the mailbox and saw that owl looking up at me, I executed a spontaneous happy dance on the curb outside my house (accompanied by involuntary squealing), and basically skipped back into the house to show Dan that David Sedaris kept his promise.

That is such a crazy sentence that I never thought I’d be able to think, much less write down, in this lifetime. David Sedaris kept his promise to me.

A famous grown man living in this world picked out the perfect postcard (although I think my owl was slightly cuter, yes?), put pen to cardstock to deliver a real sentiment, and then put a stamp on it and stuck it in a mailbox. This is something that, myself included, has suddenly become very hard for us as humans to do in our current world, for no really good reason that I can surmise. Mr. Sedaris proved himself wrong (from his quote up there, obviously) by showing himself to be a refreshing change from the flaky, ridiculous, empty-promise people that we have all become. He is unique now in his sincerity. What a refreshing change.

People will probably think that I am reading much, much too far into this, but I don’t care one bit. I am inspired. I am going to take this 31st year and use it to hang out with friends. To make more presents for people. To work on my own sincerity. To make my word mean something. To not let the conflicts of school and work and the need for sleeping turn me into an angry person. To calm down and face the world with grace.

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To just be better.

Here’s hoping.

365 Project – Week 18

I am sitting here right now in my office, dressed as a children’s book character (no giant head this time, though), experiencing severe hair anxiety. I have never learned how to put my hair in pigtails and have anything resembling a straight part back there. I’m sure no one else ever notices or cares, but this will probably plague me all day.

Onto the week!

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I felt as though I couldn’t truly embark on my new embroidery project without finishing up the old one. The orchids are getting their stems and leaves, which is some super exciting stuff.

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French toast with syrup, whipped cream, and cinnamon is an amazing thing. UH-mazing.

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Zucchini everywhere! We’ve had to do an awful lot of intervening with this one, doing the pollinating ourselves extremely early in the morning. Hopefully, these little guys will come through and find themselves in our pasta.

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This is how Bowie helps me read.

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The birds decided to hang out on the porch while the rain poured down, which struck me as quite amusing. Our recent bird feeder experiments have resulted in more birds and squirrels than we ever imagined. It’s like Snow White out there.

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Bubble tea! Greatest stuff ever. Especially coconut.

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I call this Bowie’s “quicksand” pose. He’s quite comfortable, really, but chooses to look like he’s in distress.

Let’s see how easily I can pass the day in knee socks, a belt, and complete hair anxiety – three things which I usually try to avoid. Just keep reminding yourself that it’s all for the kiddos.

365 Project – Week 17

I know I’m a little bit late this week with the 365 update, but it’s been a crazy weekend of bird-watching, garden-watering, and Tekken-playing. Because we’re awesome, that’s why.

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Pay no attention to the fact that the top name up there bears a striking resemblance to #2, which is a thinly-veiled attempt by my friend Jonathan to psych me out. The true situation remains that I beat him by over 10,000 points on In Bloom in Rock Band, and no amount of fiddling with the high score display will change that.

I also totally killed it on Blitzbrieg Bop on expert bass mode, much to our mutual surprise.

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Sometimes work days are a little slow on the creativity, but Dan came out punching with the smoothie-making right before I left. Yum!

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Bowie found a new place to nap in my office. Now he can track my every move in here from someplace other than my lap or the back of my chair.

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Breakfast for dinner! Scrambled eggs, sausage, and spinach is our go-to thing to make when nothing else sounds worth the effort. Delicious!

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Dan and I gussied up a bird feeder that had been languishing under our patio and put it out in the open where the birds could enjoy. Since then, it’s been crazy bird times out there. I predict that when we get to our 60s, we’ll be out in the woods with binoculars, counting warblers while wearing funny hats.

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A new kitchen experiment, created by Dan. A neighbor gave us a big bag full of hot peppers from his garden, and we filled them with homemade mashed potatoes and bits of ham and then baked them, turning them into tiny little twice-baked potato pepper bombs.

Dan enjoyed them, but I was physically unable to eat more than two before being forced to hold in a mouthful of milk for several minutes to quench the burning. Oh, the burning.

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Our library opened! This significance of this event is probably not immediately obvious, but New Orleans East has been without a proper library since Hurricane Katrina. Nearly seven years with just a little mobile-home-trailer Bookmobile sitting in an empty parking lot, but now it’s a real place with lots of great brand new stuff. I intend to be a loyal patron.

SUPER-BONUS-PICTURE-BECAUSE-I-WAS-LATE-TO-POST-THIS-WEEK:

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Baby possum! Opossum? Possum! This little guy likes to cut through our yard every afternoon for some reason, and the first time he was spotted, he trotted into the garage and seemed to make himself at home. He is adorable and probably vicious. I hope he figures out a new route if he chooses to become less skittish and unfriendly. Right now, he’s just big-eared and cute.

365 Project – Week 15

I’m a bit late to post these this week, so I’m just going to get right to it, in all its leafy, fruity, crafty glory.

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Getting the dough prepped for my Dutch Apple Pie for our Easter picnic. Lovely stuff.

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My view while resting on a picnic table bench at the park during our lovely Easter picnic. I didn’t realize how much I missed Spanish moss while living in Colorado.

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Cucumber plants are just plain delightful.

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My cabbage is ready to explode out of the ground and into my kitchen. I’m so ready. I have my cole slaw recipe all picked out. (Sam’s Coleslaw: a Rough Recipe from A Sweet Spoonful for you curious types.)

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Working in a bookstore and having friends who do as well has its perks. I’m set for reading for the next little while. I wish I didn’t tear through the young reader stuff so fast.

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Dan and I took my mom out for some much deserved yogurt. Of course, this was only after we realized the marble slab ice cream place we originally wanted to go to was all closed up. I’ll stop pretending that this was an actual problem.

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I have more fun than I should when we make crafts with the kids at work. This is my totally awesome kite from last night, as should be self-explanatory, as modeled by the lovely Maria.

In other news, I totally wore a Curious George costume and pretended to, among other things, start a campfire, get sprayed by a skunk, and run up a tree. I do it all for the kids, guys. Seriously.