Handmade gifts for Chanukah 2020

It was a strange Chanukah in 2020, though of course we all did our best to feel celebratory! I made little gifts for my parents–we couldn’t have a party or light the Chanukiot together, but we could meet for a walk outside. For my mom, I made a Parisian Twist Headband.

I used one skein of superwash Cascade 220. In addition to being washable, I find that superwash are softer–I assume it’s because the microscopic scales (that would cause the yarn to felt) have been stripped off. Anyway, this is my third time making this pattern (one of my previous iterations is here), and it’s pleasure to make; the pattern is simple and with worsted-weight yarn held double, it goes fast! In terms of sizing, I find that the small size still needs to be reduced in length, so I shortened the two overlap by an inch, which gave it a snug but comfortable fit.

For the button, I used this tutorial to weave a button-cover, because I didn’t have any dark blue buttons handy. It was time-consuming but satisfying–definitely something I’d do again. You use a stiff paper template, wrap the yarn around it to make spokes, and then weave around the spokes until you have a tight little circle that cinches around an existing button. I used a metal button leftover from my Carbeth Cardigan, which has a different style of yarn-covered buttons.

For my dad, I candied some orange peel. It was easy, but time consuming–I cut strips of orange peel from five oranges, scraped off most of the pith, boiled them twice to make them less bitter, simmered them in sugar syrup, drained them, let them dry, and then tossed them with sugar. Still, though, it was only an evening of work–when I think of it, it probably took less time than the headband. I don’t have many photos, but oh my goodness, homemade candied orange peel is spectacular–sweet and slightly chewy, with a gorgeously strong orange flavour, and just ever-so-slightly bitter. Definitely worth the fuss! This is what they look like after simmering in the syrup: shiny and translucent.

In Summary:
Materials: one skein of Cascade 220 bought at my local yarn store for about $14. I nipped out to get it the day before the store was due to close for lockdown–me and about forty elderly ladies waiting in line around the block for the chance to go in the store one-by-one and stock up.
The oranges required five navel oranges to make about two cups of peel, plus five cups of sugar. It was a LOT of sugar. I used this Martha Stewart recipe, and if I do it again, I’ll let the peel dry overnight instead of only 30 minutes.
These were two successful gifts! I daresay the recipients were both happy and surprised.


A Woven-Dot Granville

My friends, this shirt was a triumph. I was in a terrible mood when I got started; I’d had four projects in a row fail–two of which are irredeemably bad and will have to be cut up into masks. Boo. So I had a sulky, grumpy heart when I yanked out this cotton and cut out a Granville shirt. But I’ve made this pattern before and I know that I like it; as step after step went smoothly, my grumbly spirit was soothed.

The fabric is one of my favourite pieces. The dot pattern is woven, rather than printed, so it’s got a good weight while still being drapey. It also frays A LOT. I opted finish the seams by hand-sewing bias tape because my serger is out of commission and also because I’ve been watching way too much a perfectly reasonable amount of Bernadette Banner videos–she of hand-stitching fame. I did all the hems by hand, too. I’ve always found hand-sewing calming so it was good that this project had a lot of it!

For the undercollar and back yoke, I used scraps of rayon/spandex knit and interfaced them, instead of braving the garment district to buy a quarter-meter of black woven cotton–this was back when we weren’t in full lockdown. And the buttons were from my stash–I bought them in a bag of buttons at a thrift store a few years ago. As it turns out, I’m not too fond of them, so I’ll replace them with black ones at some point.

Because I was kind of in a MOOD when I was cutting this out, I didn’t bother to trying to cut that neatly. Overall, I don’t think it matters much. The only places it’s bothersome are the back yoke and the button band, because I didn’t cut those perfectly on-grain. For the button band, I opted to overlap the sides right-over-left, instead of the instructed left-over-right, so that it would be less obvious.

Overall, I’m really, really pleased with this. My work wardrobe is basically non-existent; I graduated into the pandemic, so I’ve just been wearing scrubs all the time. Mostly, it works out, but I do virtual care one day a week, so I need to look professional…on the top half, at least!

In Summary:
Materials: 1.5 m woven cotton, bought at Fabricland for about $18. I watched this stuff for about two years before I caught the end of the bolt on sale! Scraps of leftover knit and interfacing. Buttons from a thrift store grab-bag. Bias tape that I made from an old pillowcase over the summer.
Pattern: Granville Shirt
Overall, I’m very pleased with this shirt. I wish I had made it earlier! The cotton is thick but drapes well, and it’s very comfortable. A success all around!


Masks Masks Masks

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This summer, like everyone else who can sew, I made some masks. I used three layers of fabric: one delightful layer of Canadiana quilting cotton, and two inner layers of tightly-woven scrap cotton.

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The pattern is easy enough to follow. It’s really the ironing of something so small that’s challenging!

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For the elastic, I initially found it more comfortable to have one long piece of elastic that loops  around the back of the head, compared to around each ear. After wearing the masks for a few months, though, I find that on some days, the elastic has the amazing ability to instantly give me a headache. Next time I make masks I’ll probably put behind-the-ear loops.

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After a few months of wear, they’re a little lumpy-looking (and there’s a fourth one that seems to have escaped) but these turned out great! I’m pleased with the animal placement. You can’t really pattern-match over the tight curve of the centre seam, but I managed to avoid, like, a moose butt on one side and half a tree on the other. I don’t know how long we’ll all be wearing masks for, but at least these make me smile!

Carbeth Cardigan in Cream

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While I mostly concern myself with the many boxes of stash fabric under the bed, I occasionally turn my eye towards tackling my pile(s) of yarn. I had this cream-coloured wool/cashmere/acrylic blend that I’d been carting around for AGES, and I’m so glad to see it transformed into a Carbeth Cardigan.

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See, I spent the better part of a decade trying to make a light, lacy shawl-cardigan before finally admitting to myself that I’m just not someone who knits lace. I can do it, I like the idea of doing, but I don’t actually enjoy it.

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Some of the wheat stalks are a little wonky, but on the whole I think it’s a beautiful pattern.

After years of sporadic work, I was barely a third done, and I just…froze, undecided. I’d never really enjoyed knitting it; why should I push myself to continue? But I’d already invested so much time and the lace was so pretty; how could unravel it? Sunk cost fallacies, my friends. I had a stern talk with myself, stopped overthinking it, and bought the Carbeth Cardigan pattern.

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It’s open at the front in this photo, but when closed the back fits a bit more smoothly.

Kate Davies has written a fantastic pattern. I couldn’t get gauge exactly, but the fit is so generous that being an inch off here or there doesn’t matter. The shaping is a neat touch; I love how the raglan-like lines form a point below the neck. And what a neck! It’s folded over and oh-so-squishy.

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The buttons were a bit of a challenge. I didn’t have any that were big enough and didn’t feel like wandering the (sweltering, crowded) garment district to shop. Instead, I knitted a long strip with my 2mm sock needles, fused it to a piece of knit interfacing, cut circles, and used a covered button kit to make six 1-inch covered buttons. Except, the “fabric” was really bulky, so I wound up employing the help of a glue gun. This was, as you might imagine, a ridiculous amount of work. I think they’re cute, though!

I also didn’t manage to space the buttonholes evenly, despite trying really hard to get it right. I think it’s a sign of personal growth that this drove me crazy for a single day and now I don’t really care.

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In summary:

Yarn: 1481 metres of Loops and Threads Charming (60% wool, 30% acrylic, 10% cashmere), bought for approx. $30 CAD in 2011-ish. The sweater was knit with the yarn held double.

Buttons: I used a covered button kit that I got in a mixed bag at a thrift store ages ago, scraps of interfacing, and leftover yarn.

Pattern: Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies, bought for approx. $11 CAD.

Cost: $41 CAD, roughly in total, but $11 in outlay for the pattern.

Closing thoughts: I am so, so glad to have used up this yarn! I’ve really been trying to use what I have instead of buying more materials, and every time I finish a project that’s been lingering for years and years, I feel a sense of relief, even if the finished item’s not what I initially planned. Carrying around unfinished projects that don’t make me happy…doesn’t make me happy. Shocking, I know. The more I wear this sweater, the more happy I am with it.

How do you solve a problem like Meira?

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How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you find a word that means Meiraaaa? A flibbertigibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

I love The Sound of Music. I always liked the bit about making play clothes out of her curtains.

From here. When I was little, I thought these were SO ELEGANT and could not understand the captain’s objections.

Well, I have two sets of Lenda curtains from Ikea, leftover from my first apartment. In May 2019 (yes, well over a year ago), I bought the Raglan Sleeve Dress pattern from Burda, and whipped up the bodice while watching Good Omens. The bodice has darted raglan sleeves, which curve well over the shoulder. So clever!

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I do apologize for the blurriness! But you see, the shoulder curves well.

I didn’t like the skirt from the pattern–too narrow–so instead I made a box-pleated skirt. On my first try, I approximated the measurements of the skirt instead of actually measuring (BIG MISTAKE), and it wound up comically large. Sigh. And after I’d put in pockets, too! I grumpily shoved the unfinished dress in a corner and left it there until I wasn’t mad about it anymore. Ultimately, I unpicked the pleats, pinned the skirt to the bodice at the side seams, centre-front, and centre-back, and just pleated it to fit.

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It totally worked.

It was really a case of me being too grumpy to do it right! But it wasn’t such a hard thing, really. And the pockets were really non-negotiable, so I’m glad I was able to keep them!

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Ohhhhh the pocketses.

I didn’t have a zipper on hand and by the time I needed one, all the stores were closed.  The dress is loose at the waist, though, so I sewed the back seam closed most of the way, tacked the seam allowances open, and used a hook and eye at the top.

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My serger stopped working partway through, so there’s some serging and some bias-binding, as you can see. At the last minute, I added belt loops, using embroidery thread. I think they came out pretty great for a first attempt!

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This is what it looks like belted, by the way.

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This fabric is so great. Totally doesn’t look like curtains!

I’m really pleased with this dress! I like how full the skirt came out–I can jam quite a bit into my pockets without it distorting the skirt.  All of the materials were from my stash; a stash-busting win! I love that the simple cut and rough-ish cotton of this dress reminds me of the all the charm of The Sound of Music, while still being appropriate in the 21st century. While I do have a few plants and a marvelous view, this is very much not the mountains of Austria!

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The hills are aliiiiiiiiive with the sound of muuuuuuusic (ah-ah-ah-ah)!

 

A Simple Skirt…Kind Of.

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Sorry for the fuzzy photo! Took it quickly on my lunch half-hour.

Ah, this project. It looks so simple, yet was so frustrating. At one point, it looked like this:

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Sigh. So cute. There is not even one picture of me in it because by the time I took the above photo, the dress had already fallen apart. Womp womp.

Hot off of the success of a yet-to-be-written-about dress this dress, I decided to make new one in the same pattern. I was so blithely confident that I forgot to add seam allowances, so all my pattern pieces were too small. I tried to salvage it by using the tiniest seam allowances and overcasting them by hand (which took FOREVER)…

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…but it didn’t work. The fabric frayed at the seams and tore open the first time I wore it.

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There were also lots of splits at the back 😦

I guess the combination of being a bit snug and having minimal seam allowances didn’t work. I resentfully cut off the top, folded over a channel for elastic, hand-sewed it down and made it a simple gathered skirt with a stretchy waistband. I’m not crazy about the way it turned out–next time, I’d machine-sew the waistband and make it narrower, but I’m not going to bother fixing it at this point.

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It’s adequate, which is what we go for around here! The hem is straight, though–I think it was just hitched higher on one side.

The fabric is soft and breezy to wear, and the flowers are so cheery, and frankly I think I did a beautiful job hemming the darn thing, so I just wanted to keep it easy and extract some enjoyment from it!

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Nigh-invisible hand-stitched hem! Also, clearly I did not iron this.

The facts: 1.2 m of embroidered rayon twill, bought for $15 at Fabricland in 2018. Some elastic, of unknown provenance and price.

Even if it’s not what I pictured, I’m still glad to get this fabric out from under the bed and on my body. The Great Stashbust is proceeding at a much slower rate than I planned. I originally thought I’d sew through all my fabric during the six months where I also planned to do rotations in other cities, match to residency, get married, write a licensing exam, and then move–I’ll pause while we all laugh/cry at my naive past self. Oh, well. Slowly and steadily onwards!

 

 

 

 

Business casual, because we won’t be in a lockdown forever…right?

*Dusts off the blog*

Well. That was a bit of a break. To put in briefly, turns out medical school is hard and tiring and I didn’t sew much. Frankly, I was hardly home, what with travelling for electives and the brutal process of CaRMS (whereby medical students are “matched” by an algorithm to where they will go for residency. It’s an intense competition that takes MONTHS and is really quite awful to go through) but, fortunately, things have worked out well. Anyway, now that classroom work is done, my schedule is more flexible and I have more time to sew.

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I’m both packing for a move and studying for a licensing exam, so please accept these hastily-taken photos.

On the first day of Me Made May 2019 (yes, a year ago), I realized that I needed more work clothes. I pulled out a $4 length of grey rayon/spandex to make a Tonic t-shirt, but with some kind of ornamentation to suggest that it’s a business casual t-shirt instead of a plain old casual t-shirt. I settled on a five-stranded braid around the neckline, because it reminds me of my childhood fantasies of what historical clothing was like. I was disappointed to learn that “braid” referred to flat woven ribbons!

Dress Circa 1869-70 Cotton, trimmed with cotton braid Acquired from the collection of the costume designer Shirley Russell. This one-piece dress of white cotton printed with a small black abstract motif, and trimmed with bright blue cotton braid, has a matching separate apron overskirt, a popular new feature of late 1860s and early 1870s fashion.
This dress from 1869 is “trimmed with cotton braid.”

The braid I used was fairly easy to make. I cut five long stripes of fabric and wove them as follows:

  1. Pick up the strand on the left.
  2. Weave it through the other strands, from left to right (so, over, under, over, under), and then release the strand.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, always starting with the left-most strand. You’ll naturally start slanting along a diagonal instead of straight across, which is what’s supposed to happen. If you’re left handed, it’ll be easier to begin with the strand on the right and weave from right to left.

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See? Leftmost strand goes over-under-over-under.

Once that was done, I sewed together the shirt pieces on my serger. I attached the braid by hand, which took a stupidly long time, because I sort of zig-zagged across the width of the braid as well as whip-stitching it around the top.

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Untidy, but effective!

I was concerned that the weight of the braid would cause the neckline to flop forwards if it wasn’t well-anchored, but there has got to be a faster way of doing it.

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Back of the neck.

At the back, to cover where the two sides of the braid joined, I sewed a folded strip of knit fabric…and I did it crooked. ARGH! At least I can’t see it when I’m wearing the shirt. Then I sewed on the sleeves, (which came out stretched and puckery) and the side seams (which came out fine). And then I abandoned the project for a year, because school got intense and I couldn’t find the time and energy to sew. Now, I find myself in social isolation, so, you know, hemming the bottom and sleeves seemed much more achievable. The #lockdownteealong gave me some motivation to get it done and photographed. I used a zigzag stitch on all the hems, because I didn’t feel like bothering with a twin needled and I’ve never been able to get good results from one anyway.

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You can hardly see that the hem is zig-zagged. And frankly, I’m over the idea (rife among sewing bloggers) that my clothes shouldn’t look “home made.” It’s fine! They ARE home made.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how it came out! There are a few small issues, but really, I don’t care. It’ll mostly be worn under a cardigan anyway, since the average temperature of hospitals and clinics seems to be absolutely freezing. Which…well, my cardigans were looking a bit ragged, so I gave them away. Guess I’ll have to make some!

Rag time, gal!

It’s rag time! No, not the kind that involves Scott Joplin, striped jackets with boaters, or barbershop quartets. We’re keeping things literal around here; it’s time to make some rags. My J-cloths seem to have tip-toed out of the apartment while I slept, and I needed replacements for such exciting tasks as polishing my shoes and wiping out the sink. Truly, the scope of my imagination and ambition in sewing dazzles.

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This big pile of leftover partly seersucker plaid has been with me since around 2010. I think I made a failure of a shirt from it, featuring a baggy elastic neckline and giant unflattering raglan sleeves. For washcloths*, I just cut whatever size rectangle or square seemed to fit on the fabric, then serged the edges.

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Once I started sewing with it, I realized that the quality of this fabric is pretty bad. It’s loosely woven and very thin. It doesn’t matter much, but all those cloths, which could easily cover half of my bed, amount to a teeny-weeny pile of washcloths.

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See? Teeny-weeny.

I immediately used one to wipe out the microwave, and it performed adequately. No pictures of that, obviously, because nobody needs to see the spillover from when I tried to make rice in the microwave.

Anyway, some more exciting sewing has been happening, so I’ll share that soon!

*What do you call this kind of cloth? To me, “washcloth” refers to small terrycloth squares for washing your face; I’d call these J-cloths, but that’s a brand name. And it’s not really a rag, I think, because the edges are finished. Maybe I should just go Yiddish and call them shmattes…also, how on Earth do you make rice in the microwave without it boiling over? Do enlighten me!

Excessive Optimism and a Sweater in Progress

I was recently on a placement about 140 km north-east of where I live. I brought with me the sweater I was knitting, my sewing machine, a small bag of notions, four cuts of knit fabric, and a pair of pants to hem.

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Unfortunately, the above picture is what it looked like when I left and when I brought it back. I had pictured myself cheerfully sewing in the little house I rented, while the weather raged outside. Well, the weather did rage, but there wasn’t a table that worked with a sewing machine, I didn’t want to disturb my roommates with noise and mess, and there was no full-length mirror. On top of it (and let’s be honest, the real reason), I was exhausted all the time. But you know what can be done while lying on a couch, watching an hour-and-a-half long video essay about why the Hobbit movies weren’t as good as the Lord of the Rings movies*? Knitting. Knitting and then fixing the mistakes I made while engrossed in said video essay.

That was quite the series of mistakes!

I had a pile of pink aran-weight wool that I’d bought in PEI in the summer, and back in December, I started making a sweater. I knew I wanted something 1910s-ish in style, so I went on a historical cardigan research spree (and by “research,” I mean “I spent a lot of time on Pinterest“) and found the following:

A Serviceable Sweater
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Look how cute she is, with her hat and tie! This is a 1918 knitting pattern called “A Serviceable Sweater.” Isn’t it great? From reading the pattern, this sweater is made from worsted or aran weight yarn in a rib stitch, knitted in pieces from the bottom up and then sewn together. It’s completely straight in shape, but some sweaters from this era were a little more flared. The sleeves are inset; I’m not sure when raglan sleeves came into style.

Now, let us jump forward in time, to early 2017, when I knitted a cardigan for my friend’s baby boy.

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Somewhat similar, no? I love the nubbly texture of the body. It’s called “rice stitch.” It’s a simple two-row pattern: one row of alternating knits and purls, and then one row of knit stitches. For the sweater itself, though, I had to come up with the pattern myself, because the above sweater only goes up to age 8, and I am just a wee bit bigger than that!

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Must have pockets, obviously. Maybe a belt, too.

My guide was the truly excellent book Knitting from the Top, by Barbara G. Walker. You have to take some of the suggestions with a grain of salt, because she’s writing from a time when sweaters had strangulating crew necks and enormously loose bodies, but I think it’s an invaluable part of a knitter’s library. Plus, the cover’s funny.

Yeah, that’s totally how I knit. Anyway, my next out of town placement is nearly over, and while the sweater’s coming along, I still haven’t hemmed those pants! One leg is pinned though. That counts as progress, right?

*It’s by Lindsay Ellis and it’s fantastic. I’d recommend it to anyone who misses English class.

A Quick Little Monogram

Every medical student in Canada gets a free backpack when they start their program, all in a single colour per year. They’re high quality bags, with thick padding and extra clips to help distribute the weight of your computer, the charger, your little notebook, your big notebook, your pocket-sized reference book, the smaller bag you carry around with you all day, your stethoscope, your lunch, your dinner, your water bottle, and your travel mug. Some people attach badges or pins to mark theirs as their own, but someone in my class embroidered her name on hers, and it got me thinking.

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The bag in question.

I liked the idea of coming up with a modern-looking monogram. It would be nice to have something to embroider in some of my larger projects, à la JuebeJue.

My initials are symmetrical letters which I think is kind of cool, so I sketched out a quick doodle, cut off that square promotional patch on the front pocket, and (very apropos) used the diaphragm of my stethoscope to get a perfectly round circle.

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The big side is called the diaphragm and the small side is called the bell.

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I used black embroidery thread because I left the cream at my parents’ house when I was finishing my hot water bottle cover. It was really hard to pull six strands of thread through the fabric of the bag–I think that the diamond texture might be some kind of rip-stop, because it’s insanely durable!

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I originally planed to put some extra stitches at each point where the letters touch for a kind of welded look, but it looked good enough as is and I didn’t want to mess with it.

I do think the middle point of the M should be lower, but overall, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It’s not as much of a distinguishing feature as I would have liked, though, because the black thread blends in with the general look of the bag.

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After staring at it for a few days I realized that it reminds me vaguely of the Deathly Hallows symbol.

blah

Both are shapes-within-shapes, with a circle, a central vertical line, and a bunch of acute angles. I was going to say, “Great minds think alike,” but like a lot of people who loved Harry Potter as children and then have watched it be heavily retcon-ed and squeezed for more and more profit as adults, I have heavy sighs and ambivalence about J.K. Rowling. Still though, I think the Deathly Hallows symbol looks good.

Well, that got a bit sad. Let’s end with a fun snapshot of my lecture notes from my most recent academic half-day. See if you can tell when in the lecture on pediatric heart murmurs I fell asleep:

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Whoops. Good thing I downloaded the PowerPoint.