New Pattern: Felis Hattus

I’m always happy to mix business with pleasure when it comes to knitting. While this is my business, it’s also pleasurable. Mixing business with politics is another issue altogether, and comes with more baggage. While I don’t want to unpack it here, I’ll let you peek inside. Social activism isn’t pleasurable for me. I don’t enjoy it. I am inclined to avoid conflict whenever possible, and activism is all about conflict. However, I was raised to be compassionate and to embrace the diversity of humankind that makes America (and the world) such an interesting place to live in. I was raised to love nature and to care for our planet. I was raised to love learning and science and the search for truth. These things are all pleasurable to me, and when the regime in power stands against all of these things, I feel I have little choice but to stand against that regime.

At the same time, my strengths are not best used on the front lines. In my short stint as an activist working with the Maine Independent Media Center during the G.W. Bush presidency, I was essentially a reporter, working to give voice to those whose voices were not being heard. I made no claim of neutrality; we covered things from a decidedly left-wing/radical perspective. I have not been doing this kind of activism for some time, and I am out of practice and out of touch with the resources I once had. But I’d like to make a difference in some small way, because one has to (re)start somewhere.

Will this become a politics blog? No, but I’m also not going to keep my politics entirely separate from my knitting. Yes, there will be new patterns that are just patterns, and my books will remain the bastions of technique knowledge they always have been, but there may also be the occasional pattern that comes with a message. This is the first of those.

Felis Hattus, as you can probably tell, is my answer to the “Pussy Hat” embraced by the women’s movement in 2016-17 leading up to the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. I struggled to decide whether I wanted to make it available for free, or to charge for it and use the proceeds to make donations to worthy causes myself. In the end, I decided it would make more sense to just keep it free and have the charitable donations be on an honor system. If you download this pattern and enjoy it, I’d love it if you’d make a donation to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the SPLC, or your favorite charity supporting the rights of women, immigrants, LGBT+ people, or other disadvantaged groups specifically targeted by the policies of the current administration.

On the other hand, if this doesn’t float your boat, it’s just a hat with cat ears on it, and it’s a free pattern. Make it in whatever colors you like and have fun with it!

Alasdair’s Fine Mathwear revisited

I’ve had some projects that have been waiting on the back burner while I finished the book, and now it’s time to bring them forward again. The one that’s been the longest away is a project I wrote about in my Craftstory (for the book). Not merely a knitting project, but a small side business that I stopped before jumping into double-knitting with both feet. I called it “Alasdair’s Fine Mathwear;” I designed moebius scarves, klein bottle hats, hyperbolic surfaces … but I didn’t know anything about pattern writing at that point. I sold or bartered with the pieces themselves, did a few commissions, but this business was ultimately short-lived. Many of the math-related patterns I came up with have been left alone for some time, but I think it’s time I revisited a few — but now, in double-knitting. It’s likely that I’ll be releasing these as a small ebook/print booklet similar to Parallax.

Here’s the first one — or at least, here it is before it’s been stitched together. It’s a very weird garment and a very weird shape. In case it’s not clear, it’s a tube with a slit in the center. Anyone want to make a guess as to what it becomes when it’s properly assembled?

In book news

It’s been a great first (whole) month, with fantastic book sales numbers at Vogue Knitting Live and again at the Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market this past weekend. Online orders are down to a trickle, but I’ve got hope that a few new publicity opportunities will bear fruit. I’ve had some new wholesale accounts opened, so there will be a few LYSs around the country stocking my books as well. I hope Stitches West will be a big success; the Adenydd shawl will get its major runway debut there too (it took a short spin on the catwalk at the Fiber Festival of New England).

In a couple of weeks, I’ll have a new edition of the Parallax booklet available. I liked the print job on Double or Nothing so much that I decided to do a short run of Parallax there as well. It cost quite a bit, but this is a book that routinely sells well and has never had trouble doing so. I hope that it will continue to do so, since I am about to have 1000 of them. The lower price point per book means I can also afford to wholesale them as well, for those who are interested.

I’ve also begun having some of my patterns professionally printed. On my store, you can now see printed patterns as well as books to order. All of these (as well as my new book and the Parallax booklet) come with a free PDF download from Ravelry. Each book and pattern has a unique code on a sticker inside, so you can even give them as gifts and your recipient can easily redeem the code.

In other news

I’ve got another local class, and have been booked to do two intensive workshop series at two weekend retreats, in addition to the dates posted a couple months back.

March 5, 1-4pm: Intro to Double-Knitting workshop at Stitch House Dorchester. There will also be a mini-trunk-show and book signing event afterward at 4pm.

May 5-7: The Flaming Ice Cube knitting retreat in Canfield, Ohio. Learn double-knitting, two-pattern double-knitting and multi-color double-knitting — a great introduction along with some intriguing next steps.

June 1-5: Camp Stitches Vermont in Essex Junction, VT. If you already know double-knitting and want a 3-day, 15-hour intensive workshop on a huge number of double-knitting techniques beyond the basics, this is the event for you. Don’t know double-knitting yet but still want to take this? Get a head start on my Craftsy class first.

Want to see where else I’ll be teaching? Check out my events calendar.

Finally, I’ve just begun to release my patterns on Fibermob, a new website recently opened by the good folks at Yarnbox. They’re still tweaking things over there, but it seems to be working, so give it a shot if you like. How can you resist the Aardman-like sheep logo?

 

Attention US customers: Due to the uncharacteristically high number of lost or damaged packages sent by Media Mail, I have disabled the Media Mail shipping option on my online store. For one or two books, Priority Mail is only a couple of dollars more expensive, will get you your stuff faster, and carries less risk for me. I hope you’ll agree that it’s worth a little more money to spare both of us the possible headache. Thanks for understanding.

Gratitude and Getting Stuff Done

On the subway that runs near my home, there’s a sign that says, “Your tax dollars pay to clean this vehicle. Please do your part by taking your belongings with you.” This always gives me a little cognitive dissonance: Don’t I already do my part by paying my taxes?

At the risk of further cognitive dissonance, I’m going to both thank you for your help and then ask for more. But first, let me give the final update.

Double or Nothing has arrived. On December 15th, a couple of friends and I moved 2.5 tons of books into a moving van, up a ramp, and into my storage unit in approximately one hour. About 10% of those books came home with me and I spent the next 36 hours packing, labeling and shipping books on the coldest days of the year (single digit temperatures with a -20F windchill). Over the next week, I began hearing from excited people who were getting their copies after a long wait (the earliest preorders came in 2 months before shipping). Since then, I’ve been troubleshooting issues with orders, sending promotional copies for reviews, shipping wholesale orders and stocking up my Amazon storefront. Oh, and spending time with my family for my birthday and Christmas, of course.

I posted on my FB page that all I really wanted for my 40th birthday was to get this book done. But now that it’s done, to be honest, what I really want is to help it succeed — not only to help make my small business pay for itself, but to really get these innovative techniques into the hands of as many people who’ll use them as possible. Now I’m going to be teaching a whole lot starting next month, and will, of course, be bringing my books to sell wherever I go. But let me be perfectly straight with you: in order to “break even” I need to sell about 50% of my current stock, or about 1500 books. I’m a bit over 20% there.

So here’s where I ask for your help. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, so I’ll start by saying that if you’ve done any of this already, THANK YOU! And all of this is purely optional; I’m happy to have any help, and every little bit counts more than I can possibly express.

So how can you, as a customer or student or (dare I say) fan, help me? In no particular order:

  1. Like (and follow) me on social media, especially Facebook. I’m happy you’re reading my blog; it means you’re of a mindset that pays attention to long-form text. But I can’t post here every time I have a little bit to say, so you’ll find me more visible and accessible on other platforms.
  2. Tell your friends. I can advertise until my fingers are blue, but the real power is in word-of-mouth referrals. Recommend my books and patterns to friends you think would enjoy them. If you follow me on social media, share my posts so your friends will see them.
  3. Tell your local yarn shop about me. I do sell some of my books and patterns at wholesale to resellers like LYSs and bookstores. Also, I teach double-knitting all over the country; if I’m not coming close enough to you, see if you can get your LYS interested in bringing me in.
  4. Tell your guild. I do speaking engagements and have presented about my techniques and my adventures in the world of knitting design and publishing. I’m not Franklin Habit, but I’m happy to share my love of double-knitting with your guild. Also, see above about teaching — it’s often more cost-effective to bring me in to teach through a guild than through a LYS (or you could collaborate).
  5. If you liked or loved my book, leave a review! New customers often want to know what other people think about a product before buying. If you bought my book from my web store and created an account when you did it, you can log in again and leave a review on the product page! You can also leave reviews at Goodreads or Amazon.
  6. If you didn’t like my book for whatever reason, please do me a favor and contact me personally about it. I’m always happy to take constructive criticism, but too many negative reviews in a public forum can really sink a small business. If I made a real mistake, I’ll own up and do my best to correct it in the next edition.
  7. Are you a podcaster or blogger or in some other way a tastemaker in the knitting world? Get in touch with me! I’m happy to send you a free PDF of my book for review, and we can even do a giveaway game with another copy for one of your readers/viewers if you like. If you’re not a podcaster or blogger but are friends with one, see point #2 above.
  8. Nobody likes to talk about money, but that’s what it all boils down to. If I can’t make sales, I won’t be able to keep doing this. To be honest, I’ll probably keep doing it anyway because it’s something I love — but I won’t be able to increase my output. Buy my books and patterns. They are priced fairly for what they are, and I try to make it easy to get them. Take classes with me, if you can, when I come to a show you’ll be attending or an LYS near you. Take my Craftsy class, even though it’s getting a little dated. If you have some disposable income and a thirst for knowledge, consider helping me to help you.

Again, thank you so much if you’ve already done or plan to do any of these things. Thank you, frankly, for getting all the way down here to the end of this post. I’ve got one more thing to ask, and it’s a little more difficult.

At one of my knitting groups, there was someone who I had always thought would make a great model for my new book. I was delighted when she accepted my offer, and we had a nice morning walking around her neighborhood and taking photos. You can see some of them in my book, and here’s one we both particularly liked. Her name was Allison. One week later (to the hour), she was killed in a horrific traffic accident when a sight-seeing vehicle didn’t see her on her scooter and ran her down on a turn. The book is dedicated partly to her memory. Her parents have succeeded in getting a bill through the MA state legislature to help keep this specific thing from happening again, but there’s also a coalition of non-profit groups trying to improve relations between pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transit in the Boston metro area. I have donated to one of these groups, and if you’re looking for a year-end contribution, perhaps consider donating to the Livable Streets Alliance in memory of Allison — and thanks.

Book Countdown: Month -1

If you’ve been following me for the past few months, you’re probably wondering “What’s up with this post title?”

Last month, I did my “Month 0” countdown post, which should have been the end. But the fact is that the book is still not out, and that was known even last month. However, by this time next month the book will be out and, with luck, those of you who preordered it will have gotten your hands on it. So next month the countdown will be done, but this month I have one more update — and no more numbers to use. Hence, -1.

First of all, I’ve got an ETA. The printer has told me that the book will be ready to ship on Dec 8 or 9. 2-3 days after that I should have it in my hands and a day after that I should be shipping. Taking high estimates all around, I expect to begin shipping the book on December 15th. If you want to change your order in light of this ship date (for example, to speed up your shipping), let me know. I’m not 100% sure how that’s done since the eCommerce site is still new to me, but I’m sure we can figure it out together.

Second, I decided to release the eBook early after all. If you’ve been waiting for me to release the book digitally, now’s the time. If not, everyone who preordered the book should have gotten an email with a link to get their PDF copy on Ravelry. As of right now, 192 people have taken me up on that, which leaves 102 people still without the PDF. If you preordered but didn’t get an email about the PDF, check your spam folder and let me know if you need a hand. Of course, if you don’t want the PDF, you don’t need to download it. Just to clarify, I’m going to be letting people download their PDFs early until the preorder period is done, then I’ll be closing that door and using unique codes inside each front cover to allow access to the PDF. These will also be in effect for any of the preordered books which are marked as gifts.

So, in case you need a reminder, preorders officially stop in about 2 weeks, or on the day I receive the books. After that, they’re just called “orders” and will ship as soon as I’m done handling all the preorders. So why preorder? Well, at this point your best rationale is to have the best chance to get a copy before Christmas, if that matters to you. I will absolutely continue to take orders after the preorder period is over, so if you’re not in a rush feel free to wait.

I am working on getting the book listed on and sold by Amazon, but it’s not going to happen before the new year. Amazon simply doesn’t want any new items to deal with until after the Christmas season is over. I’ll send an announcement once it’s available.

Here’s a shot of a friend of mine wearing (almost) everything from the book and a few extras.

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In other news, I’m booked to teach workshops all over the place in 2017, starting in January — and many of them are in the Northeast for a change!

  • Jan 14/15: VKL NYC. I’ll be teaching one class and will be vending my books and patterns at Wall of Yarn.
  • Jan 21/22: Slater Mill Knitting Weekend, Pawtucket, RI. I won’t be officially “there” and may only be there for part of a day, but Dirty Water Dyeworks will be selling my books there.
  • Feb 24-26: Stitches West, Santa Clara, CA. I’ll be teaching all weekend and my books will be vended by Wall of Yarn.
  • Mar 10-12: FiberCamp Boston, Cambridge, MA. I’ll be doing the keynote presentation for the Common Cod Fiber Guild, and vending and teaching at FiberCamp itself.
  • Mar 17/18: Harrisville Designs, Harrisville, NH. I’ll be doing a workshop event (attendees take 4 workshops with me over the span of 2 days).
  • Apr 1/2: WEBS, Northampton, MA. I’ll be teaching 4 workshops at America’s Yarn Store!
  • April 22: Yarnover, Minneapolis, MN. I’ll be teaching 2 workshops at this exclusive event!
  • April 27-30: Stitches United, Hartford, CT. I’ll be teaching all weekend and my books will be vended by Wall of Yarn.

I will also be vending and teaching at the Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market in Wayland, MA — but the date has not yet been set, and I may be teaching at a shop on the MA North Shore. More announcements as I have them, and you can always check my calendar for up-to-date info and links.

If you’re still reading, thanks much for your interest! I hope to have more exciting news for you soon!

Book Countdown: Month 0

The countdown has reached zero, and everything is on schedule. As this month was crunch time for me, I thought you might like to hear about exactly what happened.

A month ago, the development editor who’d been recommended to me stopped communicating so I hired two copy-editors and set them loose on a draft of the manuscript. The agreement was that they had until around the end of the month to finish, but that I’d need them to give me their edits chapter-by-chapter so I’d be able to do edits on the fly.

While they began their work, I began to work on my brand-new website, as alluded to back in Month 2. After much tweaking and no small amount of panic, the new WordPress-based site is online — and more importantly, the store is open. As a result, I have also closed my Etsy store, since I can now do my own sales and Etsy wasn’t bringing much in anyway.

Two weeks ago, I had finished my website and let my focus group beta-test it (and also get the first few preorders of the book in, ostensibly to test the e-commerce side of things). When I was convinced that all was well, I let the preorder mailing list know that preorders were live and they were welcome to come and do what they’d signed up to do. After a bit of troubleshooting and three emails to various parts of the list, I had 150 orders for the book — 1/4 of the preorder mailing list.

One week ago, I began letting everyone else know. So far, preorders have reached 215 copies.

don-back-cover

Today, thanks to my good friends Kate and Lars, (and thanks also to the other folks whose blurbs I didn’t use here but will use later), I have finished the manuscript and the covers, and am sending them to the printer so they’ll have the first thing Monday morning. Next, I need to make the hardest decision: how many copies do I print? I have to balance this decision carefully. First, the more I print, the more I stand to make per copy. But if some significant errata are found, that means it’s that much longer before a second edition can come out. Second, I’ve put so much of my own time and money into this project already, I thought it was only fair to try to get the first printing paid for by my customers directly. But if I want to print the number I have in mind, I need 600 copies presold by the end of November (when the final bill comes due) and I’m only a little over 1/3 there.

Again, the book is on target to ship for Christmas this year, so if you’re thinking of gifts for the adventurous knitter on your list, this would be a great one. With my publicist’s help, I’ll be doing some big promotional pushes in November which will hopefully raise the sales on their own — but the best advertisement is word of mouth. If you want a book for yourself, by all means go ahead and buy one — but if you could share this around, that would also be much appreciated.

Now, if the question on your mind is, “When does the digital version come out?”, the current plan is to release each book with its own unique code to allow a free download of the PDF from Ravelry. This will make things easier for gifting, and reduce my workload since all I have to do is print a bunch of stickers and put them inside the covers, instead of individually “gifting” each buyer with a copy of the book on Ravelry. What this means is that I’m not releasing the eBook until the book itself is out. It would be unfair to the people who bought the book (and will be getting a copy of the PDF later) if people who didn’t were able to get their eBooks first. However, I may change plans later and will certainly let you know.

Thanks for all your support so far and stay tuned for more news as I have it.

Double or Nothing preorders are live!

don-cover-draft3-3Double or Nothing is now available for preorder! We are on track for shipping in early December, so if you’re wanting to order one as a Christmas gift, there should be no problem.

If you’re waiting for the PDF, it’ll be up on Ravelry around the same time books begin shipping.

Each book ordered from the Fallingblox Designs online store will come with a unique code that will give access to a PDF copy of the pattern.

Book Countdown: Month 1

TwiceAsSexy-SM-72Remember when I said I’d post photos of the new necktie once I had them? Well, here you go. OK, this version is made for a double-Windsor knot so it’s longer, and neither of us could remember how to tie one, so it hangs long, but it’s far and away better than me modeling it.

The book is now almost fully laid out, and more than half of the patterns have been tech-edited. In the next month, I have to keep tweaking things and finalize all the little details like ISBN and front- and back-matter. In addition, as I mentioned before, I have to get my e-commerce site up and running one way or the other — which brings me to my preorder mailing list again.

This will be the last blog post I make for the preorder mailing list. By next month, I’ll have the preorder page up and running and the preorder list will have served its purpose. As a reminder, if you get on the preorder mailing list, you’re going to get some kind of perk. I was hoping to get enough people to justify dropping the price on the book but we’re just not there yet. An exclusive pattern is more likely — and I have one waiting in the wings for just this kind of use. One way or another, you’ve got a couple of weeks to join the list before the preorder period starts — and, as a reminder, people on the list will have the first chance to order and I will be fulfilling them in the order I receive them.

If you have had trouble joining the list due to technical difficulties at Mailchimp, please let me know. You’re not alone — a handful of people have emailed me with these issues. I don’t know what’s causing it but if you can’t get on the list for whatever reason, just email me with your full name and I’ll add you manually.

Finally, here’s another possible cover, after there were complaints that the first one had too much black/dark space. I think I’m leaning toward this one and I hope you like it too.

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Book Countdown: Month 2

 

DoN-Cover-Draft2-2

This month marks the beginning of Double or Nothing‘s layout stage. I’ve got about 2 months to get the book into its final, ready-to-print form. I’m hoping I can get it basically finished well before then in case the printer says something needs to be tweaked (virtually guaranteed, really). I don’t have a lot to show, but I figured you might like to see one of the cover options. Of course I’m using Adenydd for the cover, because the photos show off the reversibility well, and it’s one of the more eye-catching pieces. The issue is that I’ve decided to lay out the book as an oblong (in landscape mode) to accommodate some of the charts which will have a harder time fitting into portrait mode and still be readable. The difficulty is that most of my really good photos are in portrait mode, so I’ve had to get creative. Love it? Hate it? Let me know (but be kind, I had to ban one person already for extreme rudeness and vitriol).

If you’ve been following my blog or social media in general, you may have noticed that last week was the end of 14 weeks of pattern previews from my book. As of today, we’re just shy of 500 people on the preorder mailing list — which, assuming they all order a single copy of the physical book, will just allow me to print the number of copies I’d prefer — but won’t yet allow me to drop the price as a perk for those loyal fans on the list. However, the preorder list is still open — and will be until I begin the actual preorders, so feel free to go and add your name if you think you’d like to get in on the fun earlier than everyone else.

In the coming month I have two big projects: the first is obvious — do as much of the layout as possible, and identify gaps in the manuscript where I need to take new photos or write new copy. The second is less obvious, and may be subject to a “plan B” if I can’t do it — redo my website. Currently it’s a mostly hand-coded CSS/HTML static page, but with Google downranking non-mobile-friendly sites, it’s time for me to migrate to WordPress. Unfortunately that’s going to require a total rebuild; fortunately it’s WordPress so it’ll be a little easier to do that. The other reason is that I’d like to use WooCommerce for my new payment platform (you know, so you can actually order the book), and that’s a WordPress thing.

No further news on upcoming teaching gigs beyond the ones I mentioned back in Month 3, although I am delighted to inform you that I will be the keynote speaker for FiberCamp Boston in March of 2017. This is put on by the Common Cod Fiber Guild, which I’ve been involved in since its inception. I did a presentation when my first book came out and I’m glad they’re having me back again.

Double or Nothing Patterns: Adenydd

This is week 14 of the pattern highlights from my upcoming book. If you like what you’re reading about, please join my preorder mailing list. To read more about why I’m doing this (and why you should join the list), you can visit the Month 5 blog post.


Adenydd is worked in Galler Yarn Prime Alpaca Heather, a sportweight 100% alpaca yarn.

Adenydd-AW2As I did with my last book, I’m ending this book with a “magnum opus” — a large, complicated and gorgeous pattern that will (hopefully) get people’s hearts racing and minds expanding.

It had been more than a year since Spring Willow came out as a pattern, and I hadn’t done any other double-knit lace. Not one to rest on my laurels, and of course with a book coming up, I felt I had to do one more thing in double-knit lace to really show off the possibilities. And what better than a shawl? There are so many shawls out there — it’s a popular garment to really show off a pattern or a yarn. I had designed one before, but it was a simple triangle worked from the point up. I wanted to branch out, so I took advantage of my local guild’s speaker series and took a workshop with Anna Dalvi. I learned about various shawl shapes and how to break them down into manageable chunks. I had chosen a lace pattern I wanted to use (again, from one of the Walker treasuries), but then I decided I wanted to use Faroese construction — from the center of the longest side of the triangle outward, ending with the two other sides of the triangle. In this direction, the lace pattern I had chosen would have ended up upside down — and since it was supposed to evoke feathers (or perhaps scales) on wings, the orientation was important. I began playing with the chart — first just flipping it upside down, then tweaking what didn’t work. Eventually, I asked for help from more experienced lace designer MMario while at the Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat, and he made some suggestions that pointed me in a different direction. I ended up scrapping the original pattern altogether and building a new one from scratch, which finally gave me a more significant understanding of lace design than I had previously.

Adenydd-GZFor years I have been going to local sheep and wool festivals; here in New England there are plenty. Years ago I came across a few vendors that sold giant hanks of sportweight alpaca for very reasonable prices. They had different names but all seemed to be more or less interchangeable; I assume that this was because the fiber was all processed at the same mill. These hanks were all in natural alpaca colors — any color you like, as long as it’s white, cream, brown, charcoal or black. Much later, I was in a yarn shop in Brooklyn and found a dyed version of the same yarn: same giant hanks, good price, but a variety of amazing colors which I hadn’t seen before in this context. I was excited to try it, and bought a couple of colors that, in retrospect, were perhaps not the best. But I loved working with the yarn and contacted the company, Galler Yarns, for more in better colors. They were happy to help, in exchange for assistance in plugging their yarn on social media. Well, that’s no problem — I would have done that anyway.

Adenydd-AW1As I mentioned earlier, this is a shawl meant to evoke the image of wings. Whether bird wings or dragon wings I’m not sure — the feathers could just as easily be scales. Perhaps it depends on the colors you pick. Anyway, given the Celtic knotwork motif around the wings, I figured a Gaelic word would be ideal. However, the word for wing (sgiath) in Gaelic isn’t terribly friendly to the English palate, so I looked into surrounding cultures. In Welsh, the word for wing is adain and the word for wings is adenydd. I know a little Welsh pronunciation so I amended that to “Adenyth” to make it easier to say. My Welsh step-stepmother (long story) told me that’s not right — evidently, I don’t know enough Welsh pronunciation after all. The -dd is pronounced as a hard -th, as in “the” or “there”, and replacing it with a soft -th could make it a different word. In fact, it’s not — Adenyth is just a proper name and has no other meaning that I could find — but I decided it’d be better to have a unique name for this pattern and a teaching moment, and save Adenyth for a derivative pattern I have in mind for later.

This pattern will be available in my upcoming book “Double Or Nothing”. To be informed when the preorder period begins, please join my preorder mailing list. Thanks!