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Knitting to Relax

Classic Elite Yarns MountainTop Chalet

Knitting can be such a therapeutic hobby. I love sitting in a quiet place listening to the sound of my knitting needles click clacking as I work through the days thoughts that are swirling around in my head. It’s a great opportunity to decompress and refresh. If we’re being honest though, that’s not always the case. Sometimes knitting can be downright frustrating. A pattern may be asking us to keep track of complicated repeats, we’ve tinked or frogged a project several times, that darn lace chart is just a thorn in our side or the yarn keeps splitting every time we try to knit a new stitch and we just want to call it quits. What about when that stitch marker falls off our project and we don’t know which row we’re on? (Confession: I did that and the hat with a beautiful brim pattern has been sitting in storage for several months because I just can’t stand to look at it and mentally untangle my mess. So much for a new winter running hat!)

When I sit down to knit or crochet, I usually have an idea of what my goals are, but not in a weird nerdy way where I think to myself “Today’s knitting goal is…” When approaching a project we’re usually in a particular mindset though. Sometimes I choose a project for the beautiful detailing integrated in the project, sometimes I’d like to forget about my day and choose a project that requires extreme focus. Other times the project I choose is for passive knitting and something to keep my hands busy when chatting with friends or watching television.

We can set ourselves up for success if the intension is to knit to relax. When I’m seeking a time to just chill out and knit my heart out, then I look for a pattern that’s not going to be overly complicated or above my skill set. Patterns where most of the stitches are understood and repeats are simple are best suited for relaxing knitting. Some of the patterns I choose can also double as good TV knitting, patterns, but generally these are more detailed and have a medium difficulty rating. Of course choosing a project that incorporates mostly known stitches and medium difficulty rating is dependent on your particular skill set and how you usually approach knitting.

We know there are health benefits to knitting and crafting in general. Doing something pleasurable also helps to relax the body and knitting can be soothing. So we love to knit and feel the calmness that comes with creating something beautiful (usually) with a couple of sticks and string, but how do we ensure we choose the right project when knitting to relax?

What I’ve found over the years is to focus on elements within a pattern as opposed to the pattern in it’s entirety when there’s a specific knitting goal in mind. When looking to knit to relax, understand that many patterns vary in complexity within the project itself.

The first sweater I ever knitted included yarn overs integrated into the raglan shaping. I was brand new to knitting, only having knit a dish cloth before starting on that sweater. Was that ambitious? Yes, did it quench my knitting thirst? Yes. I taught myself how to knit with the use of a helpful app and the My First Sweater class on Craftsy. I chose to knit a sweater for myself as my second project because I knew the project would incorporate many skills that would be needed for other knitting projects. I also knew that once I got into the rhythm, it would be relaxing. My first several rows of yarn overs were frustrating, but the ribbing and body of the sweater was a breeze.

Later, once I had a better handle on knitting and how to read and interpret a pattern, I was able to seek patterns based on what I was trying to accomplish. This sweater tank was a simple pattern knit in the round. It was easy and also made for great TV knitting, but it also included a couple little fun details. The front accent was simply made by ribbing. When knitting in the round, I simply had to pause at the stitch markers, knit in the rib pattern and then carry on in stockinette stitch until I reached to sides where the increases and decreases were incorporated.

The simple lovey pattern (pattern review here) was a fun knit and it was perfect to knit for relaxation purposes. The diamond motif pattern that I used for the blanket portion of the lovey was just enough to keep me on my knitting toes and easy enough to provide a mental break from the day.

If you’re looking for great resources to find knitting patterns that lend themselves well to relaxing knitting, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites:

Jo Sharp has some beautiful patterns that are simple to knit and provide beautiful results. I have several of her pattern books and am amazed at the simplicity of her patterns, but have learned the hard way not to over estimate the simplicity. I was knitting a sweater that incorporated an 8 stitch rib-type pattern repeat and realized that somewhere along the line I started working up 10 stitch repeats instead. Whoops!

If you like to make progress quickly on your projects, then one of my favorite pattern sources lately has been a knitting calendar that was given to me as a gift. This calendar includes over 100 different patterns and many of them vary in both complexity and type. Many of the projects are on the smaller side and easy to whip up in a fairly short period of time, so not only are you getting some relaxing knitting time in, but also high satisfaction from completing a project!

The last resource is near and dear to my heart, it’s the first sweater I ever knitted and one of the first knitting projects I ever created. It’s Lion Brand’s My First Sweater pattern. There are several variations on this sweater, you can create a cardigan like I did, or a pullover. You can also choose which sleeve length to knit and choose your favorite collar style. If knitting a sweater would stretch your skill set, then sign up for the Craftsy class that guides you through each step of the way. If you’re a pro at knitting up sweaters in no time at all, then this pattern still deserves a place in your knitting library.

I’d love to hear if you have any favorite patterns or knitting resources. Leave them in the comments below!

Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie Pattern Review

This lovey is ready for baby!

Ever look around and feel like there’s a mini baby boom going on? Sometimes I look around and see my friends, coworkers and family scrambling to get ready for their new little bundle of joy. Many knitters and crocheters have one go to gift for new babies. Personally, I need more variety in my projects and also love to have several projects on my needles and hook at the same time. It makes life much more interesting.

Baby blankets are super popular, but even within the blanket realm, there are tons of options. One that I’ve recently fallen in love with the the Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie by Lorraine Pistorio. These little security blankets feature a 12x12” blanket with a little animal head (and arms) on the top for baby to cuddle up with. Before choosing to purchase the Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie, I did lots of research first to find a lovey that would fit my knitting needs. I prefer to read a pattern through before choosing to make it, but with paid patterns I pretty much feel like I need to commit before adding the pattern to my cart. So how did Lorriane Pistorio’s pattern make the cut?

I chose to knit a lovey for my coworker’s baby, Andrew, for several reasons. First, I wanted something a little more unique. In all seriousness, not sure how unique this whole idea is, but I loved that it wasn’t the same old conventional baby blanket that I’ve made for friends in the past. Seeing there was a mini baby boom happening in my small world, I knew I had several baby projects on a deadline and I couldn’t take something on that was going to consume all my time. Knitting is a love of mine, but also need to keep my other commitments in check. A lovey seemed like it would be small enough to be portable and I could make progress in between appointments or while on the road (and in between my other projects!).


I used Red Heart Super Saver for the teddy bear head and arms and Big Twist for the main blanket and collar.

Once the project idea was sorted out, next it was time to find the perfect pattern. Lovies come in lots of different varieties. I checked my favorite pattern sources before making a commitment. Craftsy, Ravelry and Etsy were my first go-to sites to check out pattern options. I was open to either crochet or knit patterns, as I’m fluent in both techniques. Most of the crocheted patterns I found didn’t seem to be a good fit. Seeing that I was hoping to use a worsted weight yarn (more so for sake of time), the crochet versions seemed too clunky and the stitch definition seemed to overwhelm the small animal part of the lovey because the stitches were rather large in comparison to the animal head. So knit it is!

I read lots of comments and reviewed projects that other people made with the patterns that made it to my short list. Ultimately I chose the Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie because I was looking for a pattern that I could knit up on straight needles. I don’t enjoy working small projects in the round and this pattern is worked flat and seamed after each piece is bound off. Another added bonus? The Ravelry rating was high and the pattern was popular. The other big thing that tipped me over the edge was that this pattern comes in 6 different animal head patterns: bear, sheep, monkey, elephant, bunny and pig. The pattern also includes two blanket styles! No more boredom here! I could potentially make this project several times for different people without feeling bored. There seemed to be lots of versatility for the $6 price tag on the pattern.

Instant downloads are amazing by the way. I was off knitting that night. I chose to knit the bear lovey for Andrew and thought that I’d start at the fun part, the bear’s head. Andrew’s mom had a delicious nursery planned featuring Tiffany’s blue. I chose a baby yarn in a similar shade, Big Twist Yarns, Baby Solids as the main blanket and decided to go with Red Heart Super Saver for the bear for washability. Both yarns are acrylic and had the same washing instructions.

Diamond stitch

This is the diamond stitch in progress. We have a winner!

The bear head worked up in under and hour. The 27 rows went quickly and the instructions were super easy to follow. This gave me lots of confidence in the project despite how daunting it seemed when I started to read the 15 page pattern. Yes, really- 15 pages! I almost instantly regretted my purchase when I downloaded the the pattern and opened it up for the first time. The PDF is super long for such a small project and there is a ton of text jammed on each page. There are images, but at first glance it’s really confusing. So I took a deep breath and started to read at the beginning and make sense of everything.

The first page includes the materials you’ll need depending on which pattern you choose to knit. It’s organized by heading where then you can find information about the requirements for the blanket and each animal head. Thankfully these were broken out separately for simplicity. The skill level recommended for this particular pattern is intermediate. I thought this seemed a little over cautious during my knitting, but then I had to assemble the darn thing and decided that intermediate is just right. 🙂

Blanket diamond pattern.

I chose to use a different stitch pattern for the main blanket than recommended in the pattern. Love the result!

The second page covers pattern notes and the blanket pattern options included in the pattern. The yardage for each piece of the pattern is broken out separately. This is incredibly helpful so if you’d like to make the collar and blanket different colors, you know how much yarn is needed.  After starting to knit the blanket- I chose Blanket B in the Diagonal stitch, I was having a miserable time. At the rate I was knitting, Andrew was going to get his blanket on his 5th birthday. I found the stitch pattern boring to knit and not very fun at all. The suggested blanket patterns are rich with texture, but I just couldn’t keep going with it. I frogged that blanket, which was only as big as a large bookmark, and looked for another stitch pattern that would prove to keep my interest for the 12x12” blanket. I chose a one sided diamond pattern because it had an interesting 8 stitch, 8 row repeat that would keep my attention for the duration of the project. (Pattern provided below.) Being that the background of this pattern was stockinette stitch, I added a garter edge on the blanket to keep it from rolling. Usually I stay away from non-reversible stitch patterns on blankets, but this was an exception because the blanket would be folded into itself and there was a definite right and wrong side when the blanket is being used.

The pattern for the collar is on page three and then the animal heads begin! The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Photographs are included for additional clarity and include notes to eliminate confusion. Page 5 goes into more detail about how to finish the arms and collar. This is a little weird because if you didn’t make the lamb, you actually have to flip backwards in the pattern for your finishing steps. If you made the lamb, you only use the first five pages of the pattern.

blocking in progress

I use a sophisticated blocking system: bathroom sink.

Once all the knitting is complete, you are ready to add safety eyes (I used 9mm instead of the 7.5mm called for in the pattern) to the head. The instructions aren’t super clear about blocking. I actually added the safety eyes then stuffed and seamed the head before blocking. Don’t do this. Next time I would block the knitted pieces before stuffing and seaming. I chose a polyfil for the stuffing because it would dry somewhat quickly when mom goes to wash the item, and the stuffing did dry fairly fast after blocking, but I had a more difficult than necessary time shaping the head once it has been soaked in a tub of water.

This project actually sat in my WIP (work in progress) pile for several months after it had been knitted up and blocked. The idea of attaching all those pieces was not my idea of a good time. So what if I’m the type to knit a finish free garment from the top down…? I digress. Anyways, I finally brought all the pieces back out to start seaming the arms and assembling the whole thing. When you go to do this, make sure you can set aside some distraction free time. This is not the time to watch TV while trying to get all these pieces lined up just right.

Removable Stitch Markers

I used these stitch markers to secure the ears to the head during finishing.

My least favorite part was attaching the ears to the head. The ears are on the larger side, and trying to make them symmetrical was challenging. I used removable stitch markers to temporarily hold the ears in place on the head as well as a couple extra yarn needles which acted like straight pins. Somehow the head and arms got turned when securing them to the blanket. I decided to roll with it, and it still turned out great. Tip- use yarn the same color as the blanket for this part because the yarn will be visible on the underside of the blanket.

Overall the lovey turned out amazing and I was super happy with the result. There’s always a small amount of uncertainty when giving a handmade gift to someone, but in this case it was a home run. Baby Andrew loved his new toy and immediately started to chew on the ears (thank goodness I went over those seams twice!) and the bear’s arms. This was most certainly a successful project. The pattern was awesome and I’d highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself!

If you’re looking to use the diamond pattern as a background for the blanket, or even would like to use it for another project you’re working on, here are the instructions:

Cast on 57 stitches. This pattern requires you to cast on a multiple of 8 stitches plus 1. I knew I wanted a garter stitch edge. The garter stitch edge I did was 4 stitches on each side of the pattern repeat.

For the blanket shown:

Work 4 rows in garter stitch (knit each row.) For a clean finished edge, I slipped the last stitch on each row as if to knit.

Begin pattern repeat with garter edge:

Row 1 (RS): k8, *p1, k7; rep from * to last 9 sts, p1, k8.

Rows 2 and 8 (WS): p4, p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 10 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3, k4.

Rows 3 and 7: k6, *p1, k3; rep from * to last 7 sts, p1, k6.

Rows 4 and 6: k4, p1, *k1, p5, k1, p1; rep from * to last 4 sts, k4.

Row 5: k4, *p1, k7; rep from * to last 5 sts, p1, k4.

Row 8: k4, p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 10 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3, k4.

Rep rows 1–8 for diamond pattern

If you’d like to use the diamond pattern on other projects, use the core of the pattern repeat:

Row 1 (RS): K4, *p1, k7; rep from * to last 5 sts, p1, k4.

Rows 2 and 8 (WS): p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 6 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3.

Rows 3 and 7: k2, *p1, k3; rep from * to last 3 sts, p1, k2.

Rows 4 and 6: p1, *k1, p5, k1, p1; rep from * to end.

Row 5: *p1, k7; rep from * to last st, p1.

Row 8: p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 6 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3.

Rep rows 1–8 for diamond pattern


RS- Right Side

WS- Wrong Side

k1- Knit One

p1- Purl One

sts- Stitches

Baby Cardi

Sweater Front Close Up

Looking through the library shelves of my local  library, I was Baby in Baby Cardi Sweaterin search of a special knitting pattern to make for my nephew, a recent addition to our family. A yellow book jumped out to me, Wee Garter Stitch: Must-Have Knits for Modern Babies & Toddlers by Vicki Howell. The book featured a cheerful little girl on the front and it seemed that most the patterns would work up quickly, as they were all in garter stitch! I added it to my pile of books to check out and headed home. After reading through the patterns offered in the book, I narrowed my choice down and decided that the Baby Cable Cardi would be perfect!

Sometimes I think knitters are so passionate about finding the perfect fiber for a project, they forget about who is using the end result. In this case, I was knitting something for my 7 month old nephew. His mom is a busy lady, as she’s chasing after three small humans under the age of 5. I wanted to choose a yarn that would be easy for her to care for and soft enough for the baby to cuddle up with and would keep him warm. I chose an acrylic yarn from my stash- Red Heart Supersaver Fleck in Buff. While not super luxurious, it would stand the abuse of a washing machine so my nephew could get many uses from the sweater, keep him warm and his mom didn’t need to treat the sweater differently from the other laundry she was already working on.

The pattern is condensed onto two pages of pattern instructions and an extra page of photography. This yarn was perfect for a durable baby sweater!

Once all the decisions were made, I got out my knitting needles and started the gague swatch. Not sure how it happened, but my little swatch was much taller than what the pattern called for, but the width was perfect. What to do… I decided to risk it and cast on for the sweater.

This particular pattern is worked top down. The ribbing along the collar it worked first then transitions to the body of the sweater. Stitch markers are placed and the shoulders, chest and back are shaped using yarn over increases in relation to markers. This adds an eyelet detail to the raglan shaping which has a nice touch in the beginning, however this detail is not carried through the entire sleeve shaping and ends abruptly. Next time I make this sweater, I will be using M1 increases instead of yarn overs. Given the weight of the yarn, the eyelit detail created using the yarn over method are large enough for small fingers to pop through when the baby is being dressed. This is also the same method used to create button holes on the ribbing during the finishing stage of the project. Once the project was complete, I had wished I used a different technique.

The cable detail runs along the button band and button hole bands and is on a garter stitch

This cable detail reads more like a texture and less like a cable. If you look closely, you can see one of my mistakes in this shot!

background. The cable running along the front panels of the cardigan seemed to be a fun detail, but felt more like a nice texture. I probably wouldn’t change how the cable is handled when creating the next one, but next time I’ll be sure to have the same number of stitches between the cable detail and the button/button hole bands! (Whoops!!) How I didn’t realize that mistake until the sweater was half way done is beyond me!

One thing that drove me crazy with this pattern was how future rows were handled. The pattern specifies the beginning of and tells you to continue for 8 rows more. This was confusing. I literally had to write out the cable pattern and how many stitches there would be after the row was complete and noted where the increases fell to ensure I was following the pattern correctly. It also drives me banannas when a pattern states to work a sleeve (or other piece that needs to be exactly symmetrical to something else) to a given dimension. Assuming your gauge is accurate, this theoretically shouldn’t be an issue, however I like certainty. So I counted how many works I worked the sleeves to ensure they were exactly the same. This is literally just a pet peeve of mine personally, Vicki didn’t do anything wrong.

The pattern overall was a bit fiddly. There was a huge mental component to counting rows, checking repeats and trying to decipher the pattern every time a new section began. I’d recommend this pattern for more seasoned knitters, if you’re a beginner, steer clear of this pattern and try some of the others in the book.

Regardless of the difficulties, my sister in law opened the box and thought that the sweater was purchased. Maybe it was the squirmmy seven month old in her lap, maybe it was all the excitement from the day, but I consider that a success!

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Wee Garter Stitch: Must-Have Knits for Modern Babies & Toddlers check out Amazon or your local library!

Seasonal Knitting

Organized Yarn

I never really understood seasonally knitting and crocheting, that is until this past summer… Many knitters and crocheters trade their crochet hooks and knitting needles for gardening or other warm weather activities. This was always a mystery to me, until I accidentally did the same this past summer! For some it’s a conscious choice, for others, like me it just happens. This summer flew by and was nice and hot as far as Chicago summers go. I knitted until the end of May and then got caught up in all kinds of other activities. Nights were spent out with friends and weekends were spent running in preparation for a race. Now that the summer is winding down, it’s time to get back on track!

Here are some great ways to get back into the knitting groove!

Make a list

If you’re like me, you have a mental list of all the people you’d like to make Christmas presents for or projects that you’d like to make. That list will be much easier to conquer if you write it down, check it twice and start figuring out what you’re making for whom. Once the list becomes tangible, it’s easy to evaluate if you’ve bit off more than you can chew and help prioritize and set timeline benchmarks for all your projects! I especially love making my list in Google Sheets or Excel because I can make columns for the yarn I’m using, assign due dates of when I need each project completed by, note the project and pattern I’m using, the possibilities are really endless! If you’re not into Excel and don’t want to create your own sheet, then use Ravelry’s favorites option or add the projects to your Revelry queue.

Get Organized

Organized Yarn Stash

Grouping like yarn weights and colors together helps to locate yarn quickly!

Notice how sometimes knitting needles and yarn seem to find their way into odd pockets of the house? Or how an impulse purchase never quite made it to your Revelry stash list? Now is the time! It’s so easy to get inspired by your yarn collection and think up amazing projects for each skein in your collection (AKA stash.) Winding down the summer I’ve been reorganizing my yarn stash and getting everything uploaded to Revelry. With the exception of odd bits that I picked up at a thrift store, it’s making pattern searching and shopping so much easier already. I’ve been dreaming up wonderful projects, trying to creatively mix and match various yarns in my collection and also determining what needs to get purged so I can make more room for beautiful fibers. If you have knitting needles strewn about, it’s time to get them organized as well, figure out if you have all the tools for the projects on your list and get your knitting books and magazines organized and in one place.


Cascade 220

Part of the fun of knitting is visiting the local yarn store!

Now that your list is made and you’re fully organized, the next step in getting back into the knitting groove is to go shopping to fill in any gaps. While it’s good practice to pair as much yarn from your stash with your project list, sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. This time you’re shopping with a purpose and if you plan strategically, you can support your local yarn store when they have specials going on, take advantage of clearance options and coupons at chain or online stores. I also like to take advantage of any local yarn store offerings when traveling. It’s so much fun to pick up a locally made yarn and tell the story to the recipient of the gift.

All the Wrong Things


Sometimes inspiration strikes and you’re ready to roll. Time to grab a crochet hook or knitting needles and create! Create something amazing, magically transforming a bit of string into a substantial fabric that is meaningful. Sometimes in our excitement to being a new project, we skip some of the essential steps. Well, at least I’m guilty of that. Have you every taken more than a few years to create a blanket? Ok, maybe you have, but here’s  the story behind my Archive Blanket.

Once upon a time, I was in the yarn aisle at the craft store. There were lots of beautiful skeins to choose from and I wanted to make my first afghan/blanket/throw. Trying to be smart about the process, and not wanting to be discouraged with a slow moving project (if I only knew then what I know now…), I added six skeins of a beautiful, super bulky yarn to my cart. The Lion Brand Thick & Quick had a beautiful cream color that would look great as a throw on my spa green bedspread and I was eager to get started.

Without having a pattern, and always living on the adventurous side when it comes to artsy things,

Such a fun pink sparkly crochet hook! Loved working on the project outside!

Such a fun pink sparkly crochet hook! Loved working on the project outside!

I grabbed my crochet hook and started my foundation chain. I couldn’t be bothered with a gauge swatch. I just needed to start. So I simply measured my chain (dumb idea) and kept on chaining. 130 chains to be exact! (It seemed perfectly normal at the time.) Feeling like a double crochet stitch would be my best bet- after all I was going for a fairly quick afghan that had a high satisfaction level and that would look beautiful on my bed- I started my stitch pattern. (Strict double crochet all the way!)

It took little time to get through the first skein of my Lion Brand Thick & Quick. When I looked down at the project on my lap, it resembled a super long snake and not at all the start of a blanket, or even one sixth of a blanket. I was still blinded by excitement. Somehow three and a half rows with one skein of yarn wasn’t a warning sign! I joined another ball of yarn and keep on going…. And another…. And another… After several days I worked through all six skeins of yarn that were just brought home. The blanket was only inches long, so I decided to go back and see if I could get more of the same dye lot. I could, and the remaining skeins in stock made their way home with me.

Eventually the excitement of other projects prevailed, and the blanket was in hibernation. Over the course of a couple years, I pulled it out, worked up another skein worth of yarn, ran out of yarn, repeat. There were multiple trips to the store for more yarn, and I quickly realized that I was never going to get the yarn I needed all in the same lot.

The unfinished blanket sat in a basket with the pink sparkly crochet hook for ages. It even moved to our new home a couple years ago where it was a fixture in the family room, waiting to be completed. The blanket continued to make its way in and out of hibernation. That is until this past week. (The hottest week of the year so far, of course.) I bought two more skeins of a different dye lot and decided this was it. This was happening. This blanket was going to be enjoyed once and for all! I joined a new ball and spent a couple nights cranking out four more rows of the blanket.

I was mostly good about weaving in ends as I went, (one thing I did right on this project) but there

This blanket is huge! A few ends just need to be woven in!

This blanket is huge! A few ends just need to be woven in! Ronin quickly made himself at home on the blanket.

were a few that needed attention. I spread the monstrously large blanket on the floor and went to grab the appropriate tools for the job. When I came back, my dog, Ronin was already enjoying my handiwork! He happily moved from his spot in font of the sofa to the blanket on the floor and made himself comfortable. All we could do was laugh at him. Not having the heart to make him move, I proceeded to weave the ends in while he lounged about.

This blanket is huge, and it’s heavy. Thick & Quick not only works up fast, but it’s also super chunky. I don’t even want to calculate how many skeins of yarn make up this blanket. What is pretty awesome are the top 10 lessons that I learned over the years:

Even through there was much to learn, this blanket came out great!

Even though there was much to learn, this blanket came out great!

  1. Do the gauge swatch. Seriously.
  2. Yarn weights lots.
  3. Only make a really big blanket on purpose.
  4. Double crochet stitches still work up fastest.
  5. Thick & Quick yarn is awesome and still one of my favs for a fast project that won’t break the bank.
  6. Weave in the ends as you go, you’ll be grateful about it later.
  7. My dog loves handmade goods.
  8. Hibernating projects are ok and can be good for you.
  9. Hibernating for too long is just silly.
  10. It’s important to cherish the things you spent time on and learned from.