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  • swedish pancakes (pom pom spring 2015)

    The preview of the spring 2015 issue of Pom Pom Magazine went up today, and I'm thrilled to have a design in this issue! When the call for submissions was first posted, I have to admit I got pretty excited. "Clean lines and shapes and Scandinavian minimalism" were the key words, so I was all over it. I had time to put a couple of submissions together, and fortunately one of them made it in! Here's Swedish Pancakes:

    I'm so happy with how these sweet little mitts turned out. One of my favorite things about working with third parties like Pom Pom or Brooklyn Tweed is that they often push me to work outside my comfort zone with colors (leave it to me and I'll work with blue, grey, and green forever). My swatch for this stitch pattern was worked in white and blue, which is very typical for me, but I think the subtle pink and warm silver are a beautiful combination and I love the effect of the softened colorwork.

    To explain the name of the mitts, we have to turn to the pattern motif. I've wanted to work with this colorwork stitch pattern for quite awhile - it's very directly inspired by the exterior of a building here in Seattle: the Swedish Club. It's a box of a mid century building which was completed in 1961 (around the same time the Space Needle was nearing completion, the year before the Seattle World's Fair in 1962), and situated on the west side of Lake Union with a beautiful view of the lake and city. I first encountered the club when a friend suggested we try out their Swedish pancake breakfast back in 2010. Once there, we learned that the pancake breakfast is a monthly event that brings a thousand people through the doors in the space of a few hours, complete with folk bands and people of all ages, and it's bucketloads of fun. I joined the club that very day. My relationship with the club goes beyond pancake breakfast, though - it's also a pretty special building to me because it's where I got married. If you're in Seattle, I highly encourage you to check out the rather large calendar of events and find an excuse to go to the club. (Seriously - weekly happy hour, fiber arts open studio time, and dinners, movies, Swedish classes, car shows... there's a lot to choose from.)

    The south and east walls of the building feature an exterior layer of metal latticework in a geometric design of overlapping circles. It's one of my favorite things about the building and I'm so happy to finally feature it in a colorwork pattern.

    (photo borrowed from the inimitable Jenny Jimenez)

    You can check out more views of the building on Flickr.

    I also thought it would be fun to share a bit of memoribilia from the club. My husband Chris and I picked up this plate at one of their antiques & great finds sales:

    It's hard to make out in this photo, but I love that the plate features the original signage on the front of the building over the doors.

    We also have a handful of these vintage swizzle sticks, which were handed down by Chris's grandmother:

    Pretty swanky.

    Thanks for indulging my love of this Seattle institution, and I hope you'll feel inspired to check out the spring issue of Pom Pom! It's available for pre-order now from the Pom Pom website, and you can check out the rest of the patterns on Ravelry. (I especially love Joji's hat Vitsippa and the adorable Elske socks by Merrian Holland.)

  • cardigans, or a lack thereof

    Karen's post on cardigans this week has me thinking again about a subject I'm often thinking of these days: the dearth of handknit cardigans in my life. I wear cardigans all the time, but they're mostly store-bought fine gauge knits, and I'd love to change that. While I've knit a few cardigans, none of them make it into totally regular rotation in my wardrobe. My first was this little cropped number, the Hexacomb cardigan by Katie Himmelberg, originally published in Interweave's spring 2008 issue:

    The resulting cardigan was super cute, and I liked my color choices (heck, I still love to wear grey and green all the time), but despite that I rarely wore it. I think I wore it two or three times before deciding to give it away to a friend who commented on really loving it (she ended up wearing it way more than I did, so I'm happy it found a good home). There were a few reasons for this. The body of Hexacomb is knit in one piece, which meant long rows that took me forever to knit, and between having to then knit and seam the sleeves into place and pick up button bands, I procrastinated a lot. This little cardigan took me about ten months to finally finish - it felt like a neverending project! At any rate, it left my wardrobe and took my handknit cardigan total back to zero.

    Other cardigans I've knit for myself include the prototype for Elskling, which was knit for my wedding, my delightfully oversized Michiyo cardigan, my Faire du Vélo bike sweater, and Svalbard. Svalbard is the closest thing to an everyday cozy cardigan, and it gets worn all the time because I love it, but I find myself thinking often these days of something a little more traditional in construction that's perfect for wearing around the house whether I'm working or spending a lazy Sunday reading. A search of my Ravelry favorites yields many potential options, but this time I want to take my time choosing a sweater to knit. Given my history with cardigans, I want to make sure I'm choosing a sweater that I'll want to reach for all the time once it's done - rather than choosing a pattern because I think it's beautiful/intriguing/fun to knit. I think this kind of decision-making can be one of a knitter's greatest challenges.

    So I've been asking myself some questions: what do I want in an everyday wear-around-the-house cardigan? Ideally: something long in length, with button bands and buttons, and in a perfect world, pockets. Here are some options I'm considering:

    Clockwise from top left: Edith by Pam Allen, from her new Home collection; Picea by Andrea Rangel; Aureus by Michele Wang; and Chocolate Stout by Thea Colman.

    There are a lot of features I'm interested in here: length, pockets, buttons. In all cases there are modifications I would make, but then, freedom to make modifications is the beauty of knitting something yourself! Still, as great as these options are, and against my better judgment, I can't stop thinking about this number:

    You may remember it from the Fred Perry controversy of 2013. Even though the "pattern" isn't truly a viable pattern, I'm still in love with this sweater. Given the incompleteness of the pattern file and its lack of sleeves (interestingly, the PDFs are all still accessible on the Fred Perry server), this would involve drawing out some charts for myself and doing a lot of math - basically reverse-engineering the thing. In a way, that's a little bit appealing; it would be a way to put my designer brain to work without having to come up with a cardigan design on my own, and I could use a little hand-holding in what seems to be a difficult area for me (cardigans). But it also seems a little crazy when there are so many wonderful cardigan patterns out there. I'd like to sit on it a little bit and see if my interest is holding - I think my fixation on it has something to do with the Amanda KAL that Fringe has been putting on for the last several months (aka the #fringeandfriendsknitalong).

    What about you? Is there an obvious hole in your handknit wardrobe? How do you tackle that?

  • combatting tight colorwork

    Happy Monday, everyone! This post took a little bit longer to put together than I wanted, but it's finally ready to go! It's a lot to read through, but I hope you find it helpful and please let me know if you still have questions about this topic by the end.

    One of the most common problems knitters encounter when starting to knit in stranded colorwork is tight knitting. There are a few reasons for this, but the big one is that colorwork fabric by its very nature is less elastic than normal stockinette. This is due to the strands being carried across the back of the work (the "floats") - unlike knit stitches, these strands don't really stretch that much, so the stretch of the overall fabric you're creating is much less.

    That being said, there's a great deal of variation in how stretchy colorwork fabric is from knitter to knitter. In fact, for a single knitter, there's variation in how stretchy their colorwork fabric can be, depending on:

    • what type of yarn the knitter is using
    • how the knitter is holding/carrying the yarns
    • how much space the knitter leaves between stitches
    • whether the knitter is working on DPNs or circular needles

    It's important to consider the elasticity of your colorwork fabric, and to remember that it won't necessarily correspond with your gauge - since gauge is measured with the fabric "resting" (i.e. not stretched out), there's no indication of whether or not your knitting will be stretchy. This means you can "get gauge" for a pattern like Hearth Slippers but still have trouble with the fit if your fabric is too inelastic.

    My first tip to help knitters keep their colorwork tension easy and even is always to stretch out the stitches that were just worked along the right needle as you're working on your project. This gives you a chance to check your floats - are they too long? too short? - and it also allows you to evenly space out your stitches. You want there to be just as much space between stitches of two different colors as there is between stitches of the same color. This helps increase the elasticity. If you're working on DPNs, you can do this at the end of each needle; if you're working with circs (or over a large circumference, like a sweater yoke) you may want to check it at even intervals: every 8 stitches or so (or 6 stitches, or 10 stitches; whatever works for you!). You'll be better able to adjust your tension as you go along, and you'll catch things that need fixing without having to work backwards too far. (Side note: it's always better to have floats that are a little long than a little short - you can always draw in the slack when you're weaving in ends, but you can't make a short float longer.)

    Stitches just knit spaced out along the right needle.

    If you've tried this out and you still think your colorwork is coming out too tight, roll up your sleeves and get ready to try a few different methods, keeping in mind that some things may work for you and some may not; there's a lot of trial and error in knitting! Here are some things to consider:

    Smoother yarns are closer to the top of the list, while stickier wools are towards the bottom.

    1. Yarn choice. Because of the physical nature of wool, wool fibers like to grab other wool fibers (this is what causes felting when wool is exposed to heat/agitation). Some wools are "grabby" or "sticky" and some are much smoother (the method used to spin the yarn also affects this - worsted spun yarns are much smoother than woolen spun yarns). This always affects the knitted fabric you're creating, but it affects colorwork even more. Some wools that are known for colorwork are very sticky wools, like Shetland wool or Lopi. This is also part of why steeking is so common in these places - sticky wools are unlikely to unravel when the stitches are cut. But because sticky wools are more likely to stay in place and the yarn is less likely to slide smoothly past other strands, the finished fabric is generally less elastic than it would be with smooth wools (and it can be tricky for colorwork beginners to achieve smooth results without puckering). Conversely, depending on the knitter, a very smooth yarn can also cause less elastic knitting because it will be easy to pull your stitches tight without meaning to as the smooth yarn fibers slide right past each other. The amount of elasticity you can achieve will also depend on how the yarn was spun and how many plies it has. A yarn like Quince & Co. Chickadee is smooth and springy, because it's worsted spun with three plies. Lopi, on the other hand, is typically woolen spun and a single ply, which means it just won't stretch as much. Some knitters will have an easier time with smooth wools while others will have an easier time with sticky ones. If you're having trouble with tight colorwork you may want to try working with a different type of yarn or wool than you've used before to see if that makes a difference.

    2. Needle type and needle material. If you've listened to episode one of the knit.fm podcast, you know that needle type can affect gauge. Needle material (e.g. wood, metal, plastic) and needle type (e.g. circular needles, double pointed needles) can make a great difference in colorwork - wood, metal, and plastic all have different levels of resistance, and gauge often differs between circular needles and double pointed needles (in general, knitters tend to end up with a tighter gauge on DPNs). Every knitter is different, so while some people knit tighter on wooden needles, others knit tighter on metal needles. Play around with different needle types if you're not sure which category you fit into. If you've tried working colorwork on DPNs and found it to be too tight, try knitting a swatch on circular needles (either two circs or with the magic loop method) to see if that changes your gauge or elasticity. You can always try going up a needle size, as well - many people need to adjust needle size between stockinette sections and colorwork sections when using the same yarn.

    To demonstrate the difference that needle type can make, I have two swatches that I knit: both are unblocked, but both were knit with the exact same yarn on the exact same needle sizes:

    While the difference isn't huge at first glance, and these measurements are pretty quick-and-dirty rather than precise, the swatch on top is noticeably narrower than the swatch on the bottom when both are measured flat. The swatch on top was knit on bamboo DPNs, while the swatch on the bottom was worked on two metal circular needles. The bottom swatch will definitely block out to the 8" circumference I'm aiming for, but the top swatch will likely be too small. Knit a few small swatches with different needle types/materials and see if it makes a difference for you!

    3. Carrying yarn. There are several different ways to manage carrying multiple yarns for colorwork knitting - carrying both yarns in the left hand, carrying both in the right hand, holding one yarn in each hand, carrying one yarn at a time, using a stranding guide, and the list goes on! If there's one thing I've learned from my students, it's that knitters are all over the map as far as which method works best for them. Many folks swear by the two-handed method while others prefer to carry both yarns in one hand (with or without a stranding guide). If you haven't tried more than one method, you may not have found your perfect match yet! Remember that there are no rules here and experimentation is key - trying a new method often feels awkward at first, and your gauge may shift as you settle into it, but until you've given it a shot, how can you say it won't work?

    Plastic and metal stranding guides

    4. Knitting inside out. It may sound crazy, but many folks solve the tight colorwork issue by working their colorwork tubes inside out! The reason for this is that the outer circumference of a tube is larger than the inner circumference - perhaps not by much, but with the thickness of colorwork fabric, you'd be surprised - and turning your work inside out positions the floats on the outside of the tube (i.e. the larger circumference). This is more likely to keep them long, and it also keeps them visible, so you can constantly check your tension as you're working. It can be tricky to visualize, but with the work turned inside out, you're working on the far side of the tube, rather than the near side. It may take some trial and error to get the hang of it, but I've seen this method yield results for several people.

    Here's a bird's eye view to help you visualize the difference between normal (right side out) circular knitting and inside out circular knitting. You can see where the working yarns meet the needles:

    The biggest thing to remember is to be patient with yourself! If you're tense, your knitting often shows it. Try out some of these techniques in the evening with a glass of wine or whatever else relaxes you. And keep in mind that mistakes are an important part of the process: we can learn from them.

    If you have any other tips for easing up tight colorwork, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

    Further reading / listening / watching:

    If you want to explore this issue in further depth, I recommend checking out some of the following links to blog posts, videos, and books. (If you're on a budget, don't forget you can always check your local library for books.)

    On different yarn types:
    Knit.fm episode 5: Yarn [podcast]
    Knit.fm episode 6: More Yarn [podcast]
    Sue Blacker on Woollen vs Worsted mill spinning on wovember.com
    The Knitter's Book of Yarn and The Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes
    "Part Seven: Materials" from The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt

    On working in stranded colorwork:
    "Part Three: Decorative Techniques" from The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, particularly pp. 256-266 (2012 edition)
    Colorwork knitting inside out for socks from Melissa B [video]
    Tips, Tricks and Treats from Eunny Jang

    On gauge:
    Knit.fm episode 1: Gauge [podcast]
    How to Measure Your Gauge in Knitting from Craftsy.com

  • business-ing

    It never fails to amaze me how much work it is to run a business by yourself. I am so immensely grateful for the support and advice of friends and family, and I am eternally grateful to my perpetually patient and encouraging spouse (for letting me destroy our basement as I reconfigured the Paper tiger studio last week), because running Paper Tiger would be impossible without that support. I think a lot of businesses like mine (especially in the craft and "lifestyle" industry) often try to make our work look effortless - you come here for fun, after all, not to read about the office-job side of running a creative business. We're about celebrating the beauty. But the truth is there's a ton of work - so much work - that goes on behind and the scenes and so much of it is very, very business-y. January has brought a lot of that to the forefront this year - from filing business taxes, which I do every January, to new challenges like adjusting to the new EU VAT rules which went into effect on the first of the year.

    I think I'm almost out of the admin black hole, but a few relevant updates:

    - I've configured Paper Tiger pattern sales to EU customers via Ravelry with the system that Casey has so wonderfully set up with Loveknitting. EU customers, please let me know if you run into any issues trying to purchase patterns!

    - Paper Tiger has joined Kollabora, and I'm in the process of getting all the Paper Tiger knitting patterns up. I love that it's an all-around creative community! You can find the Paper Tiger page here.

    - I've started working on my pattern release schedule for the late winter/spring. I have a bunch of stuff that's been simmering on the back burner and I'm looking forward to getting it out!

    - I've also put together my preliminary schedule for tutorial posts. I'm hoping to start posting tutorials once a week, beginning next week with tips for combatting tight colorwork.

    All that said, 2015 is off to a fantastic start around here and I hope the same goes for you!

  • north x west

    I'm starting to get back into the Pacific Northwest vibe now that I'm home. It's been a typical PNW winter since we returned last week, with lots of clouds and drizzle, but that makes the sunny days all the more beautiful. It's a good excuse to get out and go for a walk (especially in the middle of doing business taxes.)

    With days in the upper-40s Fahrenheit (~10ºC), it feels positively balmy after spending new year's in Montreal. I hope those of you on the east coast of the States and Canada are bundling up and staying warm in your sub-freezing temperatures!

  • project prioritization: managing WIPs

    With both Jen and Karen writing about handmade wardrobe planning in the last week, I can't help but find myself thinking about the things I'm wanting/planning to make as well. I have fabric and patterns ready to go for a Deer and Doe Chardon skirt and a Grainline Linden sweatshirt, and the list of sweaters I want to cast on for right now is only getting longer (I'm also seriously thinking about joining in on Andi's Selfish Sweater KAL, because I really want a Chuck, not to mention the cabled fisherman's cardigan I'm dreaming of knitting with Snoqualmie Valley Yarn, neither of which I actually have the yarn for, but let's stop while we're ahead...).

    Still, having just finished a pretty serious Paper Tiger studio overhaul in which rearranging the space became a catalyst for some serious and necessary organization and sorting/purging, I also find myself wanting to set more practical and useful goals for the coming months.

    I posted over a year ago about wanting to finally finish some long-suffering WIPs, and while five of the six projects I posted there are actually finished now (hooray!), my habit of having way too many projects going at once has only gotten worse. Last year I hovered around 12 projects going at once for most of the year. I think I'm finally under ten (personal, not work) projects, which feels huge, but having so many hibernating projects is really starting to get to me. While there are many things I'd like to be knitting and sewing for my own wardrobe right now, I think my own to-knit list should really involve prioritizing these WIPs, so I can get back to focusing on just a few projects at once. 

    I'd love to hear any advice about managing projects and WIPs. Do you have a system? Do you put a moratorium on casting on for a certain amount of time? Do you ever end up just ripping anything out? I'm all ears!

  • a new year, tutorials, & yokes

    Happy 2015! I hope everyone's new year has gotten off to a good start. I must admit since getting home (and it is so good to be home again) that I've been swept up in the new-year-fresh-slate-mindset a little bit. I decided to give in to that impulse this year, knowing that some of the changes I've made this first week/month of the year will stick, and some won't; some will probably come and go depending on the weather/my mood/the time of year/any other number of things. It's hard not to feel good about taking steps to make positive changes in my life, though. Three mornings in a row of yoga (which is kicking my butt but still manages to make me feel amazing) followed by a huge green smoothie feels like a great start, even if I can't keep it up every day moving forward.

    I've been slowly working my way back into work this week - I always have a hard time getting back into a good work flow after traveling - so there's been a lot more studio organizing and a lot less hands-on work. The good news is that's given me a chance to start planning a schedule for the tutorials I'm hoping to start posting soon. I'm aiming to address a lot of the most common questions I get about my patterns, so there will be a definite focus on colorwork! I'm hoping to cover things like different provisional cast ons and grafting together ends (used for Pine Bough Cowl and Inkling), working the thumb gusset increases for a Norwegian-style mitt/mitten (as in Seven Stars), as well as some more general colorwork stuff like how to trap long floats and ways to combat tight colorwork. If there's anything in particular you'd like to see me cover, please let me know! I'll make sure to add it to my list. 

    --

    One of the most exciting things about getting home was finally being able to crack into my copy of Yokes, the beautiful new book by Kate Davies I've been posting about. I have no idea which sweater I'll knit first, or even when I'll have time to cast on for one, but in the meantime the wonderful essays should keep me busy! I had the opportunity to read through the second chapter, "Greenlanders and Norwegians," in advance; Kate and I did some writing back and forth about this topic and I was able to translate a few small pieces of one of the chapters in Ren Ull to help her find some information she was missing about some iconic Norwegian yokes. It was a thrill after helping her with the research to see how amazingly she tied everything together and was able to draw through-lines I wouldn't have seen otherwise, and I'm so excited to read the other pieces of writing in the book. Thank you so much to Kate for the engaging conversations and for putting such a wonderful book out into the world.

    You can view all 11 patterns from Yokes on Ravelry, and you can purchase your own copy here.

  • 2-0-1-4

    Tomorrow is my birthday.

    I've always liked how neatly the years of my life line up with the years on the calendar; there's something very tidy about being the same age for an entire calendar year. I also haven't had to throw myself a birthday party for years - I get to celebrate with the whole world, welcoming a new year, without the focus being on me (which is kind of the best of both worlds). After 2014, I find myself at a little bit of a crossroads, trying to figure out where I want my future to take me. I've had a very good year, and it's been a great year for Paper Tiger, but in a very different way than 2013 was. At this juncture, I am especially grateful to all of you who make what I do possible. Your support means the world to me. It's such a joy to see your projects, to listen to your suggestions, to think of new ways to tackle your questions. I feel like I have learned so much and grown so much as a knitter and a designer. So thank you for that.

    Inspired by Karen's post about her knitting year in review, I started to assemble a folder of finished knits for the year, and it's insane to realize how absurd my output has gotten. Excluding things I've knit that are for patterns that are still under wraps, there's 27 finished objects. Adding in things I can't share yet bumps the total up to about 32 items, I think.

    One of my goals for this year was to do more personal non-work knitting. I think I succeeded with flying colors. Next year's goal is to take it easy a little bit. 

    This leaves out current WIPs entirely, but if you're super curious, you can always check out my Ravelry project page. I managed to finish some long-suffering WIPs this year, but I still have too many things on the needles. I'd like to get that down to a sane, manageable number.

    I'm looking forward to working on more patterns in 2015 (I only released four proper patterns this year) and I'm looking forward to more teaching - the Nordic Knitting Conference and my workshop at Knit Purl were definitely highlights this year. I'm also looking forward to my future becoming a little more certain; I've applied to go back to school, and while I await decisions from schools I'm trying to decide what my next move will be if any of the programs offer me a place.

    As for this space, you can look forward to more patterns and more blogging - I have a series of tutorial posts I'm starting to put together, based on the most common questions I get about patterns. I'm looking forward to getting some of that up. Thank you again for your continued support, and I wish you all a very happy new year!

  • slovenia

    Slovenia was special.

    I'll be up front about the fact that before we started planning this trip, I didn't know that much about Slovenia (even having lived in a bordering country, Hungary, for a year). A small country on the Adriatic Sea, sandwiched between Italy and Croatia, it has a population of just over two million people. It's mostly mountainous, and there's a lot of forested territory. We entered the country from the Italian side, as we were coming from Venice, and as it was a clear day, we had beautiful sweeping views of the snow-capped Julian Alps the entire time.

    And then we got to Ljubljana. We were utterly charmed by this city, and I think it would be hard not to be, especially when it's all lit up for Christmas. The center of the town is the historical center, full of cobblestone streets and bridges criss-crossing the Ljubljanica river. I've been fortunate to see some pretty spectacular lit-up-for-Christmas city centers in Europe in my life, but Ljubljana's was unlike any I'd seen before. Mostly forgoing the typical snowflakes, bells, horns, and traditional holiday imagery, many of Ljubljana's holiday lights were astronomy, math, or art/design themed. My very favorite was probably the street full of shooting stars, pictured above. 

    I also managed to find what I later learned was the only commercially-made yarn in Slovenia - made by Soven (website in Slovene only). Not purely a yarn company, Soven deals in a wide range of woolly industries, and carry not just their yarns in the store but also a selection of knitted goods (both hand knits and machine knits), a variety of bedding materials, wool insulation for construction, and more. Quite a different type of company than I'm used to interfacing with! I spent the most time looking at the yarn, of course, which came in a range of solid colors, both dyed and undyed, as well as a selection of marled yarns. I kind of fell in love with this pink/cream melange above.

    I commented on Instagram that there seemed to be a lot of knitters/crocheters/weavers around, and put out a general call for information on Slovenian textiles. A Ravelry member sent along a very sweet message with some info, particularly on the lace-making tradition (thanks Neža!), which had caught my eye. If you're interested in lace, I recommend checking out this link on Idrijan lace that Neža sent along. It's bobbin lace, not knitted lace, but it's incredible beautiful and the lace school in Idrija has operated continuously since 1876, which I think is quite a feat. I'd still love to hear suggestions of links or texts to check out on Slovenian textiles, and welcome suggestions in the comments!

  • some thoughts

    We're really into the meat of our trip now (or if the trip is a chausson aux pommes, we're into the gooey pastry filling). It's nice to take a step back from the daily routine - home and work truly feel lightyears away - and we've seen some incredible stuff. I've been thinking about food, too.

    France and Italy were a little bit of a revelation. One of the things that I'm realizing is that stereotypes and ideas about other cultures tend to stick around, outliving the things that created them in the first place. Without going too deeply into it (this isn't a food and drink blog, after all), this article about France's coffee situation is a really interesting read, particularly for anyone who's been to France and wondered, why on earth is this coffee so terrible? On the bright side, we found the most amazing little locally-sourced foods store in Lyon, de l'autre côté de la rue.

    Italy was interesting this time too. We really only made it to Venice, which is a beautiful unicorn of a city - I'd been once before, but Chris had never been. But Venice is expensive and there's some shockingly bad food to be had. On the flipside, there's also some incredible food - but it makes me realize that I'm spoiled by having a place like Delancey in my neighborhood at home. Once upon a time, you had to go to Italy to get pizza like that. Now, I can sit down eating pizza in a beautiful square in Venice and say, this is almost on par with Delancey. The modern world is weird. Still, I think I left Italy this time much more interested in Italy and the Italian language, which is a bit of a surprise (I've never cared much about Italy one way or another). I'm looking forward to going back and seeing different parts of the country someday.

    I am so grateful to be on a trip like this; to see so much is a privelege in the first place. But I am also incredibly grateful to have a trip like this open my eyes to new things and ideas, which I suppose is part of why people travel in the first place.