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Stitch Shape and Bristol Fashion

Crafting in the West Country

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knitting

Briswool!

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Despite the name of this blog, I haven’t actually posted much, if anything, about this wonderful city in which I live! Well, that’s all changing today. Yesterday I went to an exhibition at the M Shed, which is all about Bristol. Unfortunately this exhibition is closing today, but it was amazing! Briswool! Bristol recreated through knitting and crochet with a few other techniques thrown it. So I’m going to take you on a whistle stop tour of my city represented through yarn.

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First up is potentially the most iconic Bristol landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel is often credited with designing it, but it was completed after his death and the original plans were reworked by other people. There has also been a lot of press locally that a woman actually played a big part in the design process. Something in the back of my mind is telling me that it’s the oldest suspension bridge in the world. But honestly, I wouldn’t trust 18 year old memories of our local history project at school.

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This is Bristol Children’s Hospital, and I think for anyone of my age who grew up in Bristol, it’s a very significant building. Nearly half of the funds used to build it were donations from the public! We are talking about millions of pounds being raised. And I was a part of that. The campaign used Wallace and Gromit as it’s poster boys (notice Shaun the Sheep on the roof), and Aardman Animations are still helping the fundraising campaign to provide the best possible experience for the children who are receiving care there.

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Stokes Croft is its very own subculture in Bristol. Not so long ago it was a pretty rough area with some good music venues. Now it’s a buzzing hive of creativity, good eats and still has the music vibe. There’s an early Banksy down there, on the wall next to an office block my dad used to work in, which has been turned into a community cafe called The Canteen. You may have heard a few years ago about the riots over a new Tescos opening there, because the area is full of local businesses, and it should stay that way. This particular building has been empty for as long as I can remember (although there have been squatters in there) and the facade is now used as a gallery for street art, constantly changing and providing something new to look at.

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The International Balloon Fiesta is a staple of the Bristolian Summer. I can’t go this year because it clashes with my camping weekend. Boo! But I’d defiantly recommend it if you want to plan a trip here around an event. It’s free entry! There’s a fun fair food, shows from The Red Arrows and if the weather’s good, you can watch all the balloons take off. It’s really magical.

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I’ve run up to my word count. Boo!

See you next week!

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Sun, Sea and Stitches

This time next week I’ll be on a boat on an adventure around the sunny north Mediterranean coast! I haven’t been on holiday in 8 years and I’ve been trying to work out what to take to keep me occupied between ports. I’ve got a few things planned, so let us have a look on what I’m hoping will work craft wise on holiday.

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First time I’ve treated myself to prescription sunnies!

Part 1, the knitting.

You may remember me mentioning a few posts back that I’m planning to knit myself an octopus costume. With the ocean waves around me and 6 days at sea over the 2 weeks, what better time to make a start? It needs to be done by August, along with a couple of other costumes, so tentacles at the ready! The disadvantage to this is volume of the wool I will require. I’ve decided to take 3 balls with me (I have one per arm) and hope I’ve paced it right.

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Green Octopus. Because why not?

Part 2, the sewing.

Much smaller and more portable, cross stitch seems like an excellent idea. The debate was whether to take a kit or not, and in this case I decided not. But what shall I cross stitch? I’m going to take a piece of Aida, a selection of colours and turn it into a diary! Every day I’ll add it it to represent what I’ve done that day, something I’ve seen, something I’ve done… Currently, I’m thinking about what colours to take and how best to record which part represents the day/place. But I’m hoping to keep it fairly organic and let it grow as one image.

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So many colours, how will I choose?

Part 3, the sketching.

This week I came up with a 5 year plan. A big part of it is broadening my repertoire within art. I need to build up a skills set of working in various media and will be taking a whole bunch of classes and workshops when I get back. In the mean time, a good place to start would be warming up my sketching muscles. I bought a sketch book and a set of pencils and plan to record the beautiful cities of Europe in graphite. I’m not planning on recreating the Renaissance, just get myself going after a long break from pencil and paper.

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Warming up by doodling some shoes.

Part 4, the photography.

After a few months of being camera-less and having to rely on my phone/iPod to see my through, I have finally got a new camera, and I love it and I’m so excited to use it. While taking pictures might seem like standard holiday making, I’ve decided to set myself some boundaries. Looking at old family albums, they’re so much more interesting to look at than photo’s on Facebook, because when you were limited to 32 exposures on a roll of film, you took 32 different pictures. So, I’m limiting myself. 10 pictures a day of culture and 5 a day of selfies and the like. No deleting pictures to make a space for another, I make my choice and I stick to it.

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My new baby!

See you next week!

Mal-knit-ficent

This week I’m going in a slightly different direction and talking you through how I made my latest creation. I had this idea a while ago and after finally seeing the film and forgiving Angelina Jolie for breaking up Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pit, I decided to have a stab at a Maleficent headdress. It’s still not quite finished, but it’s not far off.

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Isn’t she stunning!

Stage one is breaking the design down into individual elements, studying them and working out how best to recreate each of them in a knitted form. So, looking at it, we have a hat and two horns.

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Turban’d!

After looking at the hat structure for a while, which has an almost ‘widows peak’, turban style hats seemed to be the way forwards, with a deep V shape at the front that an extra piece of knitting could be used to turn it into more of an M shape. It also needed to have a ribbed texture and cover the ears. After a snoop through ravelry, I decided upon this pattern, and knitted it up with no issues.

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With only my phone to take pictures, correctly exposing everything is a bit of a challenge…

So, the insertion to make the M shaped brim! It was a small piece of knitting, created thus.

CO 3 stitches

Row 1: K

Row 2: P

Row 3: K1, M1, K to last stitch, M1, K1 (5 stitches)

Row 4: P

Rep last two rows until you have 9 stitches, ending with a P row.

Next Row: K

Next Row: P

Next Row: K1, SSK, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1

Next Row: P

Rep last two rows until 5 stitches remain

Next Row: K1, S1, K2tog, PSSO, K1

Next Row: P

Next Row: S1, K2tog, PSSO

And it just seams nicely in place! You can play with the proportions if you want, my first attempt was bigger and much much too big.

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Nose warmer!

Now, the really tricky bit. The horns! The first attempt I made, I decided were far too large for Jolie’s Maleficent, but would be quite good for the animated version.

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Round 1: too big!

To make them I used my trusty old Clanger pattern as a guide, and I’ll talk you through how I adapted it. The pattern can be found here for free.

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Round 2: There we go!

I knitted it in DK on 4mm needles. you start out by following the instructions as given on the pattern. except you work in the round. Follow the pattern until you have 30 stitches and then work one more row as given in the pattern. Work 12 rounds stocking stitch. Remove marker, knit 15 stitches, replace marker. Repeat the shape back of head instructions as you used them before, but without making any stitches. Knit in stocking stitch for 12 rounds. [P1 round, K1 round] 3 times and cast off.

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Long Horn? Mooooo!

I still need to work out how to make the horns stay upright and a few other bits, but I’d say I’m not far off a finished piece. I’ll follow that up on another blog and will also document the creation of a complete costume over the coming months. See you next week!

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Black stuffing is a must me thinks…

Fantastic Knits and Where to Find Them

Privet Drive
I knocked, but no one let me in.

Guess what I did yesterday? Harry Potter Studio Tours! There are so many amazing costumes, let’s have a little look at some people may have missed for inspiration.

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An alternative Hogwarts scarf

This is a pretty cool scarf. People normally try to represent their house pride, but this one incorporates all 4, so if you’re unsorted, fancy something a bit different or don’t identify as just one house, this could be a fun little challenge. It’s a simple sticking stitch job with tassels and I’m sure it’s not too hard to get hold of a crest to emblazon it with.

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You can almost smell the incense

How much fun could you have putting together a costume for Professor Trelawny? Layers and textures and scarfs and everything. Film Trelawny was no where near how I’d imagined her (I had a history teacher in school I based my image off) and that’s what’s so fun about her. She’s a character you can interpret in so many ways with so many influences.

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Not so much sheik, just plain shabby

Ron Weasley’s dress robes made me giggle when I pictured them in the book. and these are pretty close to what I had in my head, but pushed further. How fun would it be to find all the most ridiculous trimmings possible and create an ensemble akin to this? It wouldn’t require a huge amount of skill either. Find some old clothes in a charity shop and just add frills! You don’t even need to sew them on, glue would be fine, and it’s almost a case of the worse it’s done, the better!

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I think he’d fiddling with a plug in his pocket, trying to work it out.

Keeping it in the family, Arthur Weasley’s cardigan is pretty sweet. This presents a number of different challenges in terms of construction though. While the first thing you need to do it collect loads of different fabrics in one shade of brown, putting them together could prove tricky. What makes in interesting is looking at woven and knitted and heavy and light fabrics all working together, which is no easy feat. If it was me, I’d look at going down two avenues. Using interfacing, or the final effect being a all encompassing patchwork embellishment enveloping a properly structured garment.

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Just the tiniest bit of me was on the look out for Nagini

I know Professor Umbridge is a pretty popular Halloween costume, but have you ever thought about having a go at Bathilda Bagshot? Layers upon layers of greys and textures along side a gaunt looking face. She is being inhabited by a giant snake as well, could be fun to try and include that idea somehow.

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Matching scarf and everything

Katie Bell’s coat was a revelation. Seeing up close, it was potentially the most surprising object there. A woolen coat with knitted sleeves! I have no idea who one would begin to tackle this, but I plan to have a go one day. If you want to try, the sleeves looked like they were brioche stitch.

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Brb, flying to Hogwarts.

Anywho, don’t think this is all I have to say about Studio Tour, but I’ll have to leave you there today.

Fearless Knitting!

First off, apologies for not posting last week, everything’s a bit mad at the moment. I’m writing this whilst perched on a stool and I have never wished for something to support my back more than I am now. Also, no pictures this week because the vast majority of my knitting is currently in storage. This post will be revised when the time is right. Anyway, this week I’m back in action and writing about being fearless.

When I first started knitting I’d say I was pretty fearless in my approach. I never saw a technique as something scary, so much as something to try out, and I think this approach is pretty good, but the longer I’ve used it, the more I’ve put rules in place to make the process balanced.

Firstly, know what you’re trying to make. The second thing I ever knitted was cabled arm warmers. I was just following a pattern pretty blindly and only at the end did I understand how the instructions I was following related to what I was actually making. It was actually a fun way to go with a massive learning curve (I hadn’t even purled before) but I wouldn’t recommend trying it often. My mum bought me the kit, it could easily never have been made at all. If anything would have helped me, it would have been knowing which bit of the instruction related to what outcome. I didn’t even know the word cable.

Budget according to your confidence level. If you want to have a go at a technique and create a huge, show stopping object out of that super expensive yarn you’ve had your eye on for ages, work out the technique on a smaller test item first. Last year my birthday present from mama sheep was the yarn to create an object of my choosing. I’d had to Totoro adaptation of Paper Dolls ear marked for a while, and while I’m not disappointed with it, I really should have researched fair isle and maybe done a few tests before jumping into such a large and expensive piece.

Recognize your skill level and challenge yourself accordingly. Never tried intersia or increases before? Sure you can try them both at once so long as at least one of them is used in a simple form. In general I would recommend just trying one new thing at a time, but if a second technique you haven’t tried is used in small quantities or in entirely separate rows to the one you’re really excited about, why not give them both a go at once?

Know if you’re in the mood and have the patience. I often have a couple of different projects on the go at once and which one I’ll work on will depend on how much concentration I want to give my knitting. There are projects were you can be mostly focused on the TV, projects where you’re half watching the TV and projects where the TV might as well not be on at all.

Well, see you next week. Promise this time.

Pattern Scavenging

I’m a dirty rotten pattern scavenger and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Making unique objects is a part of the joy of crafting, but, as with anything creative, creating something entirely novel is nigh on impossible. When I have made my own items without using a preexisting pattern as a base, I’ve still looked at quite a few to get my head around it. My rule is credit where credit is due. I will happily use another persons pattern and alter and change it, but at no point do I claim it to be entirely my own work.

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This is my most recent completed project. Pretty cool isn’t it? It’s also a combination of two different patterns I used to create one striking and unique object. I’ve wanted to have a go at the Tree of Gondor chart for quite some time. I love the jumper the person who designed it put it on, but once I looked at the price of that pattern, I thought I’d have a little look to see if I could find something else to create a similar effect. (I don’t mind paying for patterns, but I think the current USD to GBP conversion rate has made some things a touch on the expensive side.) After a trawl through ravelry I found this pattern which was a fantastic match. Cables on both the sleeves, and around the neck which ended up matching nicely to the tops of the branches.

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Last year, a friend mentioned she wanted a knitted viking helmet after seeing Anna Sui’s on the catwalk. I think she was hoping I’d make her one, but wasn’t expecting one. But I loved the idea, and in the next couple of months produced this for her. Perhaps a little less fashion forwards and a little more Hagar the Horrible, she was none the less over the moon with it. There was a part of me that wanted to keep it for myself. I honestly can’t remember what hat pattern I used, but I chose something in stocking stitch, with a stitch count that was divisible by 10 and 4 in order to work with the cables I had planned. How did I create the horns I hear you ask? Clanger heads knitted in chunky wool. Originally I used the adult pattern, but they were just too big, so I scaled it down and used one of the child clanger heads instead.

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Quite some time ago I came across this gorgeous Totoro adaptation of this pattern. Being a student at the time and finding larger projects somewhat intimidating, I didn’t end up taking it on for roughly another 5 years. The original pattern just lends itself to being redesigned, the designer’s even written about some of her favorites other people have done. I’ve done two of my own versions of it, shamelessly adapting small colour work charts I found on google image searches. I’ve got a few more planned too.

Well, that’s it for today. See you soon!

May The Craft Be With You

Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. Crafting is warm and homely, science fiction is technology driven. But a huge number of crafters find inspiration in the fantastical.

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Anyone got any Jelly Babies?

In a previous post I talked about Dr Who‘s glorious tank top in Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation. However, one of the most iconic pieces of televisual knit wear was Tom Baker’s scarf when he was the fourth doctor. One day I shall start one, which I believe will be an eternal work in progress when I need to get on with something easy. There is endles information on how to create your own, but a particularly good source seems to be this website which even shows different versions of it.

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Incoming message from the big giant head…

Aliens land on earth, what do they do? Infiltrate the government? Take over the planet with their advanced technology? Or live in a small American town for a few years and form a nice comfy  ’90s life style? Well according to 3rd Rock From The Sun, it’s the latter, and boy, do those aliens wear some awesome knitwear. Whilst they all have something to show, the single character who has the most fantastic array is Harry. His collection has even been archived by a fan on tumblr. You should defiantly check it out.

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Any guesses as to the theme?

I am in that frantic point of my current project where I want to finish it so I can get started on the next. There’s a pile of yarn ready to go! I can’t say too much about what I’m making as it’s going to be a surprise gift, but needless to say, I am doing my usual trawl of the internet, finding bits of other patterns to thieve. What inspired this upcoming project was the annual Geek-A-Long mystery blanket run to raise money for Child’s Play Charity. If you’re looking for a fount of colourwork patterns along a geeky theme to get inspired, look no further! A couple of the designs are going into this upcoming project.

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Imagine his expression is his response to me not having seen Firefly.

Confession time guys. I haven’t seen Firefly. Well, not all of it anyway, I watched a couple of episodes and just didn’t get into it. That was a few years ago now, it might be time to try again, especially since I have been binge watching Buffy (another Joss Whedon show). But just because I haven’t experienced the full saga, doesn’t mean I don’t know about a particular hat everyone who loves the show seems to want. If you want to make a stab at reverse engineering for the first time, this seems like it would be a nice place to start, it’s quite a basic hat with ear flaps and a pom pom. All the parts are simple enough and the simple colourwork is what makes it recognizable.

A quick word before I go, everything’s a bit chaotic at home right now, I promise I’ll keep posting every week, it might be a little less interesting for a month or so though.

Live long and prosper!

Money Makes the Yarn Go Around

Having a hobby is great! Having to fund it is not. It would be quite easy to over hear parts of a conversation with a crafter and assume they were talking about drugs, with their stash and hunting for needles, they do go missing a lot… And another similarity that could be drawn is the issue of needing to get the money together. So, what to spend money on and what not to?

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The only reason my house is not full of wool is due to monetary constraints…

Cable needles are a huge waste of money in my opinion. The concept is great, but honestly, you can do the same thing with other needles. For me, I actually find them more annoying than using my own techniques. Its simple, slip the stitches onto a spare needle (it doesn’t even need to be the same size, relatively similar though) hold in front or back, knit your next stitches, slip the stitches back, knit and continue! Occasionally, you do come across a technique where you’ll need to knit off the other end, so dig out your double pointed needles in that case.

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My most recent cables and what it was achieved on.

If you have something it’s worth keeping ‘in stock’ because you use it so much, buy it when you see it cheap. My mother is the master of this. She knows she will always use black and white fabric, so if she sees something of a high quality and cheap, she will buy it, even if she’s not going to use it immediately, because she knows she will eventually. Whenever there’s a trip to Ikea, she keeps an eye out for reduced duvet sets, because quilts always need backs. Having a small stock of them also means she can pick one that compliments the front.

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Having a duvet day?

Know your local craft shops. There’s one that’s a national chain near me where everything is sold at the RRP. I know I can get most of these things cheaper elsewhere. However their offers can be pretty good. Their yarn seems to be permanently 3 for 2, so when I’m stocking up for a big project, as I seem to be doing on a monthly basis this year, I know I can get a new jumper for a third cheaper than I might do otherwise, which isn’t a bad saving.

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Wowie! Bowie jumper made with a third off the yarn!

Sometimes a local craft shop just isn’t an option, so it’s time to think outside the box. When I was a student I was living in the outskirts of London and walked everywhere. Unfortunately, I never found a local craft shop, and the price of transport shot up not long after I got there. There was always good old Ebay and such, bringing things straight to my door, but you can’t always trust the quality (or speed). A surprising number of shops do sell cheap crafting supplies, so if you’re not looking for something special made out of mohair, you can do pretty well on the high street. The Works, Wilkinsons and even the pound shop can keep you crafting in desperate times.

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One of my most infamous WIP’s. Knitted on yarn that’s £1 a ball!

See you in a week guys!

Oodles of Doodles

Some days you just can’t think of anything you want to make. Other days you have ideas coming out faster than you can say ‘What time does the craft shop close?’  You can use one problem to combat the other. Write down all the ideas you have as you have them, and when you get stuck in a dry spell, you have somewhere to go get inspired.

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Check out that cover! Patchworking win.

Mama Sheep had an idea. An idea of a perfect patchworking notebook. But she could never find anything that would quite fit the bill. The Concept was to have pages with squares, but they would alternate between different sized squares, depending on what kind of detail she wanted out of it. Frustrated by her inability to source one, she eventually made herself one. It has provided her with several years of design recording and she’s never looked back.

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Working through one idea, two different sized squares are WONDERFUL!

Making a book for yourself isn’t as tricky as you might think, especially if you’ve already got crafting skills. It doesn’t have to be of exceptional quality, just sturdy. She included two different sizes of squared and plain paper with a patchwork cover. There’s plenty of tutorials online to provide you with different ways of binding your own book, so if you can’t quite find something to fit the bill, do it yourself!

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Yes, I drew out pokemon knitting charts in case to mood ever strikes me. I am not a bad person.

While trying to get an amazon purchase to a high enough value to get free shipping, I came across a squared paper for knitting charts notebook by chance and it was just about the price I needed. What so special about this paper I hear you ask. Well, it’s not quite squared. Knitting stitches are a little wider than they are tall, so if you’re charting out a fair isle design on properly squared paper, it will be slightly distorted when it comes to the knit. I’m not completely happy with the paper in this particular book, I feel the lines are a little bulkier than I would like, but I am glad I’ve bought it and will invest in some from a different supplier again in the future.

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I have my reasons for wanting to make an octopus costume. If you keep reading, one day you’ll find out what they are!

Have a notebook just for general ideas. I have a ton of them! Each idea gets one double page. Any ideas I have relating to that project prior to construction go in that book, but once construction has started it’s for reference only. Some pages only have a title, others have calculations, small sketches, different ways of trying to make the idea work. They don’t have to be good sketches, just represent what I want out of it.

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The notebook of minty freshness and blogging joy!

I also have a whole notebook just for this blog! Ideas for posts, lists of things that could go in them, ticked out, scribbled off, regrouped into another in a similar line. I’m also having ideas about other stuff to make constantly while writing this, so making sure I highlight any new ideas while I’m writing so I know where there’s something else to be made!

Have a great week guys!

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