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.

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.

Complement Anklets – stripes and extra strapazierfähig

I am supposed to be either studying EKG’s in order to quickly identify various types of dysrrhythmias or writing a paper about the safety and transportation concerns in a local neighborhood.

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Instead, I am writing about socks.

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This should come as a shock to no one. Given the chance between taking pictures of and writing about handknit socks or doing pretty much anything else (unless it is take pictures of and write about homemade ice cream), I will choose the socks every time.

To hell with appropriate time management skills. It’s almost the end of summer! (Although you’d never know it from the 90-degree weather today here in New Orleans.) People on the Internet need to know about handknit socks so that they can get ready for fall and the all-important task of parading about the house in their awesome socks, so I am here for them. They might need some super sassy socks to hurry and put on after they do their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in their bare feet, like I stupidly did. I am here for them, too. Anyone with cold feet, really.

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These were stitched up with Lana Grossa’s Meilenweit Fantasy, a yarn that, according to the label, is both “waschmaschinenfest” and “extra strapazierfähig.”

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Great.

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I think these heels and toes are where that extra strapazierfähig is really going to come in handy. (And yes, I know what it means. Do you?)

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This yarn has been in my stash for such a long time that I’m not even sure what prompted me to buy it. I am not the biggest yarn of the checkerboard stripes in a lot of self-striping yarns, but something about these alternating bands of green, blue, and orange really caught my attention.

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Hence the name: Complement Anklets. Get it? Because blue and orange are complementary colors? And because you’ll get lots of compliments when you’re wearing them?

*Cue rimshot, and following crickets*

Anyone else find punny homonym jokes as funny as I do? No? Okay, moving on. Here’s a picture of some fuzzy cat feet along with mine.

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Bowie really wanted in on the modeling. He’s a natural.

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I used the Yarn Harlot‘s Good, Plain Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules. Again. It is seriously the only plain sock pattern you’ll ever need ever again for your whole life.

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Good, plain sock patterns don’t fight with the stripes. They make the stripes front-and-center. They make everyone realize just how important stripes are to you, as a person. They fit just perfect, every single time, and after you make them enough, you don’t even look down at the pattern anymore. You just know what you need to do next and do it, and if knitting socks completely on the fly doesn’t make you feel like a proper knitting badass, nothing else will.

Cold.

Dan and I made an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video. Click right here if you want to hear my high-pitched voice and see Dan torture me by pouring that water way too slowly. You know you do.

And go donate to alsa.org to help fund ALS research. It’s totally worth it.