Starry Night at the Ritz

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I am more of a process knitter than a product knitter. I want to try every technique all the time, but I don’t necessarily want to keep everything that I make. I just want my hands to stay busy. That’s why it’s a blessing in disguise that I have somehow become surrounded by a whole bunch of pregnant ladies at all times.

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HOWEVER. If anyone tries to ask me for this shawl, they are going to have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I am in love with this scrap of fiddly lace-and-beads nonsense, hence all of the goofy faces in these pictures.

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I bought this skein of Dream in Color Starry Silver in Starless Sky (tragically discontinued!) a very long time ago, not having any idea what on earth I would do with it. Sparkly socks are quite tempting, but I figured that this gorgeous stuff should be out on display, not hidden under shoes and pants. Sparkles need to be in the sunlight to achieve their true potential, yes? Yes.

But what shawl pattern could possibly be worth it? Well, when you’re zooming along on Ravelry, looking at shawl patterns, and one pops up that states that it contains 650 individually-placed beads, you get stoked. Glitz at the Ritz is a thing of such complicated, fiddly beauty that I couldn’t resist.

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As soon as I started the first lace pattern, I just knew that this pattern and this yarn was simply a match made in heaven. As for the beads? Toho Japanese glass beads, the clear glass with the silver foil inner lining, size 6/0 E.

I am particularly enamored of the way the large sparkly beads are picked out against the more subtle shimmer of the background yarn. It’s reminiscent of a fiber-optic star curtain, a reference that no one else will probably understand, but that made the lighting designers in the audience get real excited.

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In this particular pattern, the beads are individually placed with a tiny crochet hook onto each stitch right before knitting it, rather than having them strung onto the working yarn. This is really the best way to do it, in my opinion, for many reasons. Not only do you not have to be dealing with stringing a bajillion beads onto your fancy yarn and constantly moving them around and scraping up your delicate mylar threads, but you also get to feel like a mad scientist with your knitting needles in both hands and somehow also a crochet hook the size of a sewing needle balanced precariously within, attempting to not drop the bead or let your stitches drop off the needle (both of which might have happened to me several times).

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I mean, look at that bead action. It’s all worth it, even though when I try to vacuum between the cushions on my couch later, I’m sure I’ll find an awful lot of tiny glass beads that slipped from my grasp. Hopefully the cats didn’t eat any.

The best part of the knitting (although all of it was great, and I sincerely didn’t want it to end) was the bind-off row, hands-down.

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When you’re reading the pattern for that part, it seems insane. As you move along and knit it, you feel like you’re knitting each stitch 5 times over, but you’re really making the most adorable alternating picot bundles with beads placed in the ditches between. It’s utterly unnecessary and ridiculous and yet just a lovely and perfect finish to the whole thing.

As much as knitting it was a joy, pinning it out was even better. My blocking wires took care of the curved top, and as I stretched out each tiny picot edge bundle and pinned it, I just fell in love all over again.

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Dan said, when he saw it all pinned out, that it looked like falcon wings. He’s not wrong.

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Taking pictures of it was a bit of a challenge, due to the fact that the dark blues and purples shift color wildly in different light.

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Sometimes it’s purple.

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Sometimes it’s blue.

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Sometimes it’s lurking in the window, looking all shadowy and fancy.

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No matter what, it’ll make you feel like a goddamn knitting master.

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And a pretty, pretty princess.

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So get out there and get yourself some sparkly sock yarn, some beads, the tiniest crochet hook you’ve ever seen, and some never-ending patience so you can make your own. When you’re spinning around in the park feeling awesome with your new shawl, you’ll be glad you did.

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Summer of Socks, vol. 3 – Barbecue Casual & Pool Socks, the exciting finale

Hooray!

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If you’ve made it all the way here, you’ve done an amazing feat! You’ve read through an unprecedented three-day-long streak of blog posts all about…socks.

Woo!

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In our first installment, we saw socks for my mom and dad. In the second, for my brother and sister-in-law. Now? Well, no Christmas would be complete without a secret surprise gift for my boyfriend, Dan, plus an extra pair of socks for myself (because I couldn’t let everyone have warm feet without me).

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The truth is, this whole project started with this little skein of yarn. This beautiful yarn cake is Satchel from Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play (the most hilariously weirdly named yarn company ever, which also happens to make some truly stunning stuff, please do check them out), in the colorway Rueppell’s Griffon. Dan and I noticed it when we were browsing in McNeedles, a not-so-local LYS that we enjoy, and the staff there told me that the colorway was meant to be a dupe for the Lorna’s Laces colorway named “Zombie BBQ.”

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We were delighted. If you thought that they had to say anything else to get me to buy that skein of sock yarn, you would be mistaken. However, I knew that if I bought it in front of Dan, he would put it together rather quickly that a secret pair of socks was in his future, so I instead headed out to Lacombe, a 40-ish minute drive from here, by myself while he was working in order to buy it later and hid it away, biding my time for the perfect secret sock moment.

That moment came this summer, when Dan went out of town for a few days for his sister’s wedding, and I was already deep into the Summer of Socks. He was only gone for a few days, which meant that I had to knit and block the pair in that short amount of time. At this point, I had already knit 4 pairs of socks in quick succession, so my fingers were up to the task.

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But what pattern would do this glorious yarn justice? Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee was an utter joy to knit. I had no problem flying through it, even though it involved cabling and a bit of fussiness, due to the fact that it is so incredibly well-written and clear. Other sock pattern writers should take notes, because it’s that good.

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Also, those tiny delicate lattice cable crosses kill me. They just look so good.

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That’s it really. I tried to find a more clever way to say it, but that’s all. They just look so good. Especially how they peel off from the ribbing on the cuff.

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I just really like looking at them, guys.

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I wasn’t the only one.

Both socks were knitted up quickly, and I had such a good time with them that I was kind of sad that they were over so fast. However, there was a strict deadline here, so blocking commenced and the socks stayed hidden away and secret for 4 more months while I waited for Christmas.

With the combination of yarn and pattern coming together so perfectly here, I knew that there was only thing that I could call them: Barbecue Casual. When I presented them to Dan, wrapped up inside a very silly elephant mug (he’s a fan of elephants and silly mugs, so double-bonus), he was so happy.  It’s going to be so hard to not steal them.

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For my socks, I used another treasure that I had squirreled away from McNeedles for a while. This is Lorna’s Laces Solemate, which is a very cool blend of superwash merino, nylon, and Outlast, a proprietary blend of microfiber that helps keep your socks from making your feet get too hot. It’s pretty interesting stuff that results in a sort of silky-soft, light sock that stays nice and warm without horrible sweaty toes.

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I got it in the colorway Bayou McNeedles, the special colorway created especially for and only available at McNeedles. It looks like really cheerful school colors to me, or a painting of a calm pool of water with plants and greenery around it. Hence the name, Pool Socks. I know, it’s not super great, but I can’t be expected to be clever all the time.

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Again, I went with the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I just wanted some simple and plain anklets to show off those colors, and I knew that there was high potential for flashing in a space-dyed yarn like this, which could ruin any all over stitch patterns.

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Normally, I am not a fan of flashing, but that big blue zag across the whole thing really did it for me this time. If it’s in the right colors and the right place, flashing can be quite an interesting thing.

And there we have it, the exciting conclusion to….the Suuuuuuummmmmmmer of Sooooooooocks. In reality, it just looked like me knitting something small while listening to my Advanced Assessment class online lectures or watching Midsomer Murders on Netflix…so just like I normally look, with perhaps a bit more urgency. I just hope that everyone enjoys their new socks.

And I hope that all of you have warm feet throughout the winter and into the new year. If not, just let me know. I’ll make you some socks.

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.

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.)

—–

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.