Rainbow Ripple Love

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I don’t really have very much clever to say. Just look at this beautiful thing that I made for a minute.

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Just…

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…it’s so pretty. So pretty that I was honestly surprised when I was done that it was something that my fingers actually made.

Anybody else ever get that feeling? Some sort of crafting-based imposter syndrome? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, this lovely thing was made for my friend and coworker KB, who just gave birth a day or two ago to her first baby. There’s been a bit of baby-craziness around work lately, with 6 different ladies having babies within the last 6 months, and that’s just on our floor. And there’s still more to go, so I’m not quite done posting baby blankets yet for this year. With so many tiny babies popping up, it was inevitable that some of them would get covered in my handmade love, yes?

KB and I went through Ravelry for quite a long time, looking for the exact perfect blanket. She didn’t want to know the gender of the baby ahead of time, and she was definitely game to go for something bright and fun and colorful. She was also really into the more classic vintage look of crochet, rather than knitting. She’s a good person and a good friend, so I was willing to suffer through the pain that crochet puts my fingers through for her.

When we got to the project page for Celeste Young‘s stunning Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket, we both fell in love. What a gorgeous pattern, full of opportunities to be creative and make all kinds of different crazy beautiful starbursts. However, it’s hard to get much better than the original pastel rainbow, and that’s what KB wanted. I got as close as possible by sourcing the Berroco Comfort through a few different places (mostly through the good, good folks at LoveKnitting.com), but I could not find a skein of Limone to save my life, probably because it’s discontinued. Instead, I subbed in Buttercup, and I don’t think anyone would have known if I hadn’t mentioned it. Whoops.

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Want the full color list? Grape Fizz (9708), Boy Blue (9707), Robin’s Egg Blue (9714) (which is actually the most lovely greenish-gray teal), Buttercup (9712), Peach (9704), Pretty Pink (9705), and Chalk (9700).

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Working on this was also a really great experience, despite the finger pain involved. Am I holding the crochet hook weird or something? I get cramping and soreness in my middle and ring fingers on my right hand, no matter the project or the yarn or the tension involved, every single time I crochet. This doesn’t happen with knitting, unless I’ve been working on something for hours. It might also have been worse this time due to the crazy amount of handwritten SOAP notes and scholarly hand-typed nonsense that I have had to produce this semester, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the cause.

Enough complaining. This thing was a joy to create. I’m always a sucker for simple design that turns into something really elegant, and those perfectly lined-up double crochets in those chevrons really do it for me.

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I didn’t even get freaked out about all of the ends I had to weave in. It was nothing but love.

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The only thing that I changed about the pattern was adding an extra “double” row of the white at the end, just to make the final border look more…final.

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Rainbow in the sink!

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Blocking this was a bit of a challenge, due to the fact that once the whole thing was done, it was larger than my blocking mats, so some creative pinning had to take place. I guess this means I need to send out into the ether a wish for some more awesome Knit Picks interlocking blocking mats to magically appear on my doorstep. However, that means that this blanket is big enough for all kinds of tummy time and snuggling for a good long time.

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It was worth it. Such good chevron starburst action.

I had quite a bit left over of all of the wonderful Comfort colors, so I knew that I needed to make a special friend for the new baby to go with the blanket.

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Enter Frank. I was so into the Robin’s Egg Blue, that I knew I wanted to feature it, and I had the most leftovers of the Grape Fizz. It’s lucky that they work so well together in Deja Joy‘s Tessa the Turtle Amigurumi pattern.

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I literally squealed when I realized that the crochet stitches made a little “ridge” between the top and bottom shells. You have to love those little details.

The only thing that I changed about the pattern on this one was using my standard felt muppet-y eyes, firmly stitched in place, rather than plastic doll eyes. I think he looks a little bewildered, but friendly, perfect traits for a first soft friend.

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As for the name Frank, when I finished him up and presented him to Dan, I said, “What do you think this guy’s name should be?” I fully expected turtle puns or T-related alliteration. Dan turned towards me, glanced at the turtle, and said, “Frank,” and then went back to watching Nascar.

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Frank, it is.

Both KB and baby are still in the hospital after a little bit of a rough entry into the world, so let’s all send them some good vibes. Hopefully they’ll both be home soon, safe and warm and wrapped in rainbow love.

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Hurricane Helix Socks

Hey everybody! Remember when I used to be a blogger?

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Oh hahahaaaa, she’s hilarious. Self-deprecating humor is just the best.

Anyway, grad school has eaten away a large portion of my life this fall, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been making things. In fact, a good knitting and/or crochet project has been by my side the entire semester, keeping me sane when the cavalcade of school and work and school and work is ready to bury me.

After the “Summer of Socks” wound down (and no, I still can’t divulge any details about it yet), I had an awful lot of extra odds and ends of sock yarn lying around. For years now, I’ve been using these scraps to make tiny squares for a project that Dan and I dubbed FutureBlanket. When we still thought that we maybe might have kids one day, we thought all those tiny squares might become a baby blanket.

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However, as years have gone by and we realized that we like our family just the way it is, I’ve just been knitting tons of tiny little colorful squares out of leftover sock yarn to make a blanket big enough for us both to share. One day I’ll lay them all out and see just how big it’s gotten. It’ll be the most beautiful, chaotic, colorful thing I’ve ever made, that’s for sure.

Anyway, my adventures in sock yarn this summer left me with more leftovers than I was used to, either due to the fact that I have a penchant for anklets, or maybe because I got some weird giant skeins. I had way too much beautiful stuff left just to relegate it to tiny squares, but probably not enough to make another pair of socks out of any of them.

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Also, although each skein was beautiful in their own right, they really looked weird together. Each one was its own weird mix of blues and greens, but in much different color temperatures and tones. I thought, there’s surely no way these things could look good together, right?

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HOT DAMN.

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You all know of my love for Grumperina, knitter extraordinaire, and I’ve already waxed poetic about her helical knitting sock pattern in my Triple Helix hat pattern. However, I had never yet taken the plunge and made a pair of helical socks of my very own, using her genius sock recipe.

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I’m not sure what took me so long. Maybe I was afraid of short-row heels? No need, not when you have Laura Chau’s amazing short row heel tutorial to guide the way.

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I mean, just look at those stripes. Knitters dream of achieving this type of random goodness. There are random stripe generators and flipping a coin, and all kinds of other methods, but apparently helical knitting with 3 different disparate colorways, plus one really beautiful solid, is the trick. The yarns that I used here are Prism Saki in Woodlands, last seen in my Woodland Gyllis scarf, Invictus Yarns Beyond in Tranquility, Lorna’s Laces Solemate in Bayou McNeedles (both of which are in super secret projects you haven’t seen yet), and Valley Yarns Huntington in Grey.

Well, I guess I can let you see a little sneak peek of those super secret socks, right?

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Really pretty, right? But you’d never, ever imagine they’d look so good together.

I used the Huntington for the tops, heels, and toes, and I think that’s really the trick to getting all of the colors to mesh together, selecting something that’s just contrast-y enough to let all of those blues and whites pop without muddying up the mix.

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The slight bluish cast to the gray really ties the room together, I think.  These beauties have been named Hurricane Helix due to the fact that I finished the majority of the knitting on the night when the entire city of New Orleans went on lockdown, waiting for the ravages of Hurricane Nate, which never really came.

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If you’d like to make your own the same as mine, I cast on 64 stitches for a women’s large size and knitted 12 rows of 2×2 ribbing at the top before getting going on the stripes. I made sure that the gray was the first color in the stripe rotation so that it always ended up at the beginning of needle 4 at the end of each set of 4 stripes, which ensured it was always in the right place to start the heels and toes. This probably makes no sense now, but it will when you’re knitting the socks, I promise.

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I also used a flat toe construction because that’s my preferred style, but short-row or star toes or whatever else you like would work, too.

So grab your ugliest sock yarn scraps, put them all together with a gorgeous dark solid color, and make yourself some helix socks. You’ll be glad you did.

Austin Recap, plus the Good, Good Dice Bags pattern!

First things first, I know that everyone was chomping at the bit to get the pattern for these good, good dice bags, and I did not want to disappoint, so here it is! (At least, I’m hoping that a few people wanted it, right?)

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Click right here for the dice bag pattern in an easily-printable PDF format, and then go here for your very own LOTR-inspired monogram letter to stitch on the front.

I did some extensive reverse-image-searching to find out the designer of this gorgeous Hobbit-y font, and found out that it’s the free font Hobbiton Brushhand designed by Nancy Lorenz, and you can download it right here if you want everything on your computer to look like Bilbo wrote it.

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After the image search, I went ahead and hand charted all of the letters out for you guys for no other reason than that I love you. And that I want you to have such wonderful dice bags.

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Please go knit some and get your duplicate stitch on.

Now, let’s get down to the Austin recap. Last time you joined us here at jingersnaps, we were getting ready to head out to Austin to see the freaking McElroy brothers perform The Adventure Zone and My Brother, My Brother, and Me live.

I know. I had to catch my breath, too.

Bailee and I drove 10 hours from New Orleans, being sure to stop along the way to look at a roadside gas station live tiger.

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Don’t worry, Tony had a lot of toys and space to roam, it seemed. He’s also the source of quite a bit of controversy, as evidenced here. But yes, you’re right, it’s real weird, even for a tiny Louisiana town.

If I broke the whole trip down into timeline-based increments, I think everyone would stop reading right here, so let me just tell you my favorite bits. Austin’s got a lot of really good food, and I’m all kinds of snobby about this stuff.

20170519_220504     20170519_220922Amy’s Ice Creams is a wonderful place. They have quite a surprising photo booth machine that will confuse the crap out of you, but produce some hilarious results.

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Hayley Cakes & Cookies is also a goddamn treasure. They sell cookies on Etsy and ship all over the place!

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I was quite enamored with these chicken and waffles from 24 Diner as well.

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Mother’s Cafe is all vegetarian and fabulous for brunch, especially if you get this ridiculously large slice of chocolate cake to finish. It certainly doesn’t hurt if you meet all kinds of new fandom friends there and they turn out to be the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You guys are awesome.

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Ramen Tatsuya has freaking delicious ramen, plus the funniest bit of bathroom graffiti ever. Bailee made sure to tell me to get in there to see this, and it was definitely worth it.

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Stay classy, Austin.

The other thing that Austin has a lot of is amazing cosplayers.

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The Adventure Zone is a D&D podcast, of course, so we were expecting to see some costumes, of course, but the Austin crowd went big. All of these cosplayer pictures were taken by Bailee, just so you know, because she is much cooler than me and knows better how to talk to equally cool strangers.

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All of those fantastic Taakos and Anguses and Magnuses and Loups…sometimes the only thing we could do was squeal and clap.

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The McElroys themselves also didn’t disappoint. How cute is it that they came out in their character costumes?  And how amazing are our seats?!  Row D!

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The live episode will be out soon, for your listening pleasure. I won’t ruin anything by posting details, but I will tell you that Space Jam is involved.

Another thing Austin has a lot of is McElroy references just out in the real world.

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When we saw these in Toy Joy, we knew we were amongst our people.

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As if things couldn’t get any better, there was a special surprise opening show on the second night by Sawbones! If you’ve never heard it, Sawbones is a medical history podcast that reveals all of the horrible things that “medical professionals” used to do to their patients before anyone had any idea what medicine or science really was, and it’s fantastic. My little nursing heart loves it, and seeing Sydnee and Justin onstage together for this show, talking about gonorrhea, made me so, so happy. That episode’s already out now, so do go listen.

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Bailee got her King Rancho on for the MBMBaM show, and people loved it. We had to run in the rain with giant umbrellas to keep that spider webbing semi-safe, but it was worth it to watch everyone’s faces light up when they saw her.

This live show is already also out, as well, and I just can’t bring myself to listen to it yet because hearing it live the first time made me laugh so much my face hurt. I just don’t understand how three people can be so damn funny in front of so many adoring fans. It’s so, so good, you guys. Go listen.

After the show, we got wrangled into an excessively nonsensical line in order to take pictures and do the fastest meet-and-greet ever. The boys declared that they loved Bailee’s costume (actually Griffin said it was “fresh,” but I could never say that word for real and not sound like an insane person).

Then…

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In my defense, the flash that they yelled at us to put on was super bright, and my face is just horrible. But look at their happy faces!  Griffin is holding his bag!  When I put the dice bags in front of them, Travis and Griffin were just the nicest people ever. Griffin said that he saw them on Twitter, and when I told Travis that I was also the person who made the Candlenights stockings for their kids, I got the warmest response possible (jovial arm punching and quite possibly the best manly handshake in history) when an angry theatre employee is yelling at you to move out of the way. What good guys.

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On our way home, we took Griffin’s advice and stopped at Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery to get some delicious donuts. Listen to the episode, and you’ll find it impossible to resist going there, too, I promise.

What a good trip surrounded by good food, good silliness, and such good, good people. We’ll be back soon, Austin, especially if the McElroys are involved. Keep the donuts warm for us.

Good, Good Dice Bags for Those Good, Good Boys

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I have previously spoken of my love of the McElroy brothers, and if you are new to my special breed of knitting-based insanity, I highly suggest you click that link and read all about it. When I wrote that particular post, I was merely only full of the Candlenights spirit, and had no idea of what was to come the following year.

One frantic morning, I spent the better part of an hour sitting in front of my computer and cell phone, all hopped up on not yet having slept after a 14-hour night shift, alternating refreshing each screen and texting back and forth with my friend Bailee’s friend Chelsea as we attempted a coordinated strike to obtain precious tickets for two McElroy shows in a row.

Let me back up a little bit. The McElroy brothers, and their charming father Clint, announced that they would be recording two separate live podcasts in Austin at the end of May. Opportunities to see BOTH My Brother, My Brother, and Me and The Adventure Zone, the greatest D&D podcast that I have ever had the honor to listen to, dangled in front of me. (It’s actually the only one I listen to, but when it’s THAT good? You only need one.) My friend Bailee and I knew that we had to get tickets, but the problem was that each show was only being sold separately, and both lots of tickets went on sale at the same time, at about 10am central time when I would normally be sleeping (because night shift makes you a vampire-person) and Bailee would be working as a productive non-vampiric member of society.

What to do?

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You make it wooooooooork. You enlist Chelsea, one of the greatest and most devoted supporters of other people’s silliness (and just freaking awesome person), to purchase TAZ tickets at the exact same time while Jinger is sitting at her computer, still awake after 14 hours of screaming, vomiting children, poised to click as fast as possible to get those good, good MBMBAM tickets.

You join the hundreds (thousands?) of other rabid McElroy fans that have the exact same brilliant plan that you do. And then you crash the damn website.

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That’s right. So many people were ravenous to see these ridiculous podcasters that the ticket website was completely overwhelmed, which resulted in everyone getting “stuck” in the queue for tickets for over an hour while everything stalled. What to do when that happens? Chelsea, that brilliant girl, gets on the phone directly to the theatre, and actually gets through. She bypasses the system and scores orchestra seats! And then you do the same! Miraculously! Much dancing about in your chair occurs, as well as joyous proclaiming of your mutual awesomeness splattered all over Twitter for rational people to ignore. Seriously, Chelsea, you’re my hero.

After all the excitement settles, you’re left with a question. What on earth do you make to give to these wonderful podcasters, especially since they will be the first ones in history to receive two (2!) handknit gifts from you that are not directly related to you? Or Dan?

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Dice bags? Dice bags!

We all know that I hold a special place in my heart for acting-intensive roleplaying games. And every roleplaying person worth their salt needs a good, sturdy dice bag to hold all of their special treasures, right?

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I chose Knit Picks Dishie for these, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Lovely saturated colors (Ash, Eggplant, Navy, and Silver, if you want to know…), a hint of a sheen, great stitch definition, and sturdiness that somehow also remains soft and pliable. Good, good stuff.

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But you can’t just let things be simple, right? Of course not! It’s just not a Jinger-project for famous strangers unless it involves a silly amount of duplicate stitch.

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I sat down with a glass of wine and a screenshot of the Lord of the Rings handwriting font (click here if you’re interested in the exact one, for some weird reason), translating them into knitter’s graph paper to make custom monograms. Like a completely sane person.

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Yep.

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All kidding aside, there are few things I love more than well-executed duplicate stitch. It’s so satisfying to do when you hit a really good stitching rhythm, and it’s really fun to sit down with the graph paper and chart out something lovely, especially when it turns out exactly the way you saw it in your head. These letters, in particular, please me, due to the varying line-weights in the strokes, and how those things actually still come across in the final, embroidered version. It felt really good watching them “develop” right in front of me while I was working on them. When I finish writing up the pattern so that everyone can make one, I’ll be sure to chart out the other letters in the LOTR alphabet style so that you can enjoy it, too.

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It seems like you have a lot of dice until you lay them all out. Maybe some clever cropping?

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Better!

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Do we think Justin, Travis, Griffin, and Clint might like them? I hope so. I hope that they like the new dice that I picked out to go with them, too, because what’s good is a new dice bag if it’s empty?

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I tried to pick colors to coordinate with their bags, and also just ones that were pretty. Because opening up your dice bag should feel like looking at little precious stones. Little precious stones that could make you a triumphant hero. Or they could make you trip on your shield and split your tongue in two so that you have disadvantage on all spell-casting, and you’re a cleric.

I might have a little bit of experience in critical failures, you guys.

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To the McElroys: Wengelbertina Slapdeback, my all-time favorite character I’ve ever played, a holy cleric of Pelor who also looks like a German beermaid who could beat your ass down with her flaming longsword, prays that all your attack rolls are crits with max damage. And I hope you guys don’t get overwhelmed with all of the aggressive nerdiness coming your way this weekend in Austin.

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Amen.

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.

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.