A baker’s dozen of men’s knitted vest patterns

My last post was a whimsical look at men’s sweater patterns from the early 70s including some wild vests. I have been wanting to knit a vest for Doug for some time now, but find that I can never find the perfect pattern. (Note that I am using “vest” in the American sense here. I will continue to spell colour with a “u” thus confusing those who want to categorize me.) While there are some fabulous patterns out there, I find that most of them fall short on one dimension or another.  In particular, they are (1) designed for someone considerably thinner, considerably younger (or both) than Doug, (2) they are made with a thicker weight wool, such as worsted or aran, and/or (3) they are boring. This last must be commented on:  I am told time and time again that men want boring. My man doesn’t.  As evidence of this, have a look at the last sweater I knit for him.

Doug wants a vest that he can wear to work with a shirt and tie, that he can put a sports jacket over comfortably, that has color and ‘pops’.  He also says he wants it to have buttons so that he can take it on or off during the day (but he could overcome this for the right pattern).  I want a vest which is fun to knit, which is challenging but not scary, and preferably not with steeks (but I can overcome this for the right pattern).  I also think that it would be better in fingering weight yarn to cut down on bulk.  Here are a baker’s dozen of great men’s vest patterns.  None of them seems to hit all of the requirements.  But they come pretty close.

We’ll start with a few vests knit in aran or worsted weight wool, move on to some fancy colourwork projects and end with some fantastic fairisle. (All links are to the Ravelry page.)

1. Laredo by Angela Hahn

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© Jamie Dixon

I seriously love this vest.   Angela is a great technical designer and she charts this out in three lengths so that the pattern starts and ends on appropriate rows.  I keep seeing it in a rich colour, perhaps a strong gold or deep purple.  But it is made with an aran weight wool and isn’t the office-appropriate vest I am searching for.  When Doug needs a vest to go on safari, however, this one is so there.

2. Dr. G’s Memory vest by Kirsten Kapur

Dr G's memory vest

by throughtheloops

This is a fantastic vest.  It is knit in a worsted weight wool, but I also think it would look great with a sports coat. I love how the ribbing on the sleeves matches the pattern running up the side of the fronts, and how the two patterns come together and then separate at the shoulder to provide shaping.  Oh, the technical deliciousness of this pattern is so appealing! Every feature is so beautifully thought out. Kirsten designed this in memory of her father, Dr. G, who suffered from vascular dementia.  In order to receive the pattern, one must donate to dementia research, as detailed on Kirsten’s blog here. So, a gorgeous design and a good cause.  (I already have the pattern and it is definitely in my queue.)

3. Argyle Vest by Veronik Avery

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by Veronik

This is an old one from Veronik, dating from 2007, well before her Brooklyn Tweed collaboration. It is found in her book, Knitting Classic Style: 35 Modern Designs Inspired by Fashion’s Archives.  I already own the book, which puts it in the plus column.  I love argyle, and I think this design uses it to its best – it is a strong motif, but doesn’t overpower the vest.  I love these colours but can imagine all sorts of options from subdued to wild.  The problem once again is the yarn weight – it’s knit in aran.  Plus – intarsia – not quite in my comfort zone. But it’s pretty huh?  Especially when worn with a pout, like the model kindly demonstrates.

4. Drew’s sweater vest by Marly Bird

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© Marly Bird

I love this vest! First of all, it buttons, unlike most of those I am reviewing here.  But it also has great features: the shawl collar, the twisted garter rib stitch, the beautiful fan pattern that goes up the middle fronts and around the collar.  It also is charted in a huge range of sizes – from 36.5″ to 60.5″!  You would be astonished (or maybe not) at how many vest patterns end at a size 48″.   Not only that, but it looks like a vest which would actually look good on big men.  I think this one will end up in my queue.  The problems – it’s knit in aran wool, and the shawl collar means no jacket.

5. #19 Men’s Houndstooth Vest by Josh Bennet

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© Vogue Knitting, Winter 2009/10 Photo by Rose Callahan

I love houndstooth, and this one is scrumptious! Really, this is a lovely vest, elegant and totally office-worthy (especially if not paired with this shirt).  However, it is knit in DK weight wool, STRANDED, which means this has some serious weight to it. Only a guy with rock solid abs and a tendency to be cold all of the time could get away with this one.  (Imagine trying to pull it off when the office heater was set too high.) If you look like the model, I urge you to knit this vest! I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Otherwise, I would suggest that a pair of houndstooth mittens might help ease the pain.

6. #8 Fitted Waistcoat by Franklin Habit

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© Soho Publishing

I’ve featured this waistcoat on the blog before.  I think it is totally beautiful.  It is definitely on my radar, but I am waiting to see a few more projects pop on on Ravelry. I want to see what it looks like in real life on people who don’t wear a size small like this model.  I am worried that its cut, not only the trim waist, but also the deep arm scythe and the narrow shoulders, won’t suit Doug’s shape.  But someday, maybe….

7. Estefan by Brandon Mably

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© Rowan Yarns, 2014

This is another vest that I’ve featured before on the blog.  (Oh no! Have I become hopelessly repetitive and redundant?)  Abstract away from the fantastic tile background, and from the attractive model staring at you with smouldering eyes and come-hither look, and ….you still have a great vest. Brandon Mably is a colour wizard.  This is knit in cotton, in a sport weight.  I don’t really see myself doing this kind of colourwork in cotton, but I can imagine knitting it in wool.

8. Lean on me by Anna Maltz

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© Anna Maltz

This is a pretty pattern published in the Winter 2014 edition of Knitty magazine (this means it is free as well!). I love its use of colour and pattern, particularly paired with this shirt! Like the Houndstooth vest above, however, it is knit stranded with DK yarn, which will produce a heavy fabric.  That, and the way the stitch pattern biases, leads me to suspect that if you are carrying some extra weight around your middle, this vest will highlight it.  On the other hand, it is awfully pretty and there are endless options for playing with colour.

9. Order of the Phoenix Winged Vest by Kyle Kunnecke

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© Interweave & ©Harper Point Photography

I think Kyle Kunnecke is a great designer; he is so clever and has such a sense of fun in his designs.  You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to think this is one seriously cool design.  One of the best things about it is that from the front it looks like a completely straight, classic v-neck vest that would like right at home with a jacket and tie; then you turn around and kazaam! I’m not sure this has “Doug” written on it, but if he has a (late) mid-life crisis and buys a Harley, this is going on the needles.

10. Carraig Fhada by Kate Davies

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© Kate Davies Designs

Kate’s recent collection, Inspired by Islay, contains a few very nice pieces for men.  This vest can be made with either a crew or v-neck style (it is designed as a unisex piece and has directions for both men’s and women’s versions).  There is a huge range of sizes, from 32 to 60 inches.  It is knit up in her new signature yarn, Buachaille, a sport-weight wool.  I love this yarn, which feels good on the hands and takes to cables or colourwork really well.  If you follow the link, you can see one done in shades of grey with a very thin green stripe (in place of the yellow here) that is equally lovely.  I think that single row of a bright, contrast colour really makes this pattern pop.

11. Fall River Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone

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© Interweave Knits

I love this Fairisle Vest designed in natural shades by Mary Jane Mucklestone.  This is the first vest in this post that is knit in fingering weight wool.  (I can see why you might think that fingering weight would be a slog for a man’s sweater; but for a vest – no sleeves!  A vest seems like a reasonably-sized canvas for some fingering weight colourwork with no chance to get marooned on sleeve island.)  This is a fairly standard Fairisle man’s vest, but an especially lovely one I think.  This uses seven gorgeous muted shades that really work together to add richness.

12. Luke’s Diced Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone

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© caroline bergeron

This is a great vest.  I am clearly attracted to designs in which different patterns play off against each other.  And it buttons down the front.  But it is knit in sportsweight wool. And it looks hard to me.  (And the model looks to be about 15 to me.  I know this is a very nit-picky complaint; I am showing my age.)

13. Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover by Susan Crawford

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© Susan Crawford

This vest has an interesting story.  From the pattern description: “In the wake of the popular Wartime Farm BBC TV series, you can now knit your very own authentic Fair Isle Sleeveless Pullover, modelled on a 1938 original and as worn by Alex Langlands no less!  For each pattern sold, a £2.50 donation will be made to the Women’s Land Army Tribute Campaign to help raise money for a permanent memorial to these forgotten ladies and their untold toil during the World Wars.”  This is knit in fingering weight wool, and is not steeked (it is knit in one piece to the arms and then knit back and forth). I think that it is fantastic.

These are all great vests, but I am still wavering.  I have three other options to consider.  I can (1) design my own, (2) modify a women’s vest pattern, or (3) modify a men’s sweater pattern and knit it as a vest.  I have lots of ideas about each of these, and may blog about them soon.

 

Vintage knitting patterns: the men’s edition

I have been thinking for a long time about knitting a vest or waistcoat for Doug.  This is for two reasons.  First, Doug keeps asking me to knit him a vest or waistcoat.  Second, and this should be obvious – no sleeves.  (I once wrote a post called “Do you love your husband enough to knit the sleeves?”) As a result, I have been keeping a close eye on men’s knitting patterns and specifically on vests.  I will write more about this in a future post.

Today, however, the subject of men’s vests came to mind (for all of the wrong reasons) while I was perusing through some of my rather large collection of knitting pattern books.  I stumbled upon this:

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It is vol. 713 of brunswick mostly male.  I cannot believe that these pamphlets were released without dates, but I would guess this one was produced sometime around 1972. In it, one can find some wonders, like this knitted 2-piece pantsuit:

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Or this amazing purple ribbed pullover (paired with spectacular swim trunks!):

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The photos often include drinking (anyone venture to guess what this manly drink is?):

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And smoking:

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And smoking and drinking at the same time:

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And yes, there are also vests.  I love this blue one.  The pose just cracks me up: look at that hair!  The scarf!  The pine tree he is mysteriously hovering over!

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Then there is this tiger-striped vest with the belt loops.  How suave!

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My favorite is this one:

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“What,” I asked Doug, “is that belt made of?”  “Those are bullet casings,” Doug replies “with one bullet pointing at his d*ick.”  Hmm…..perhaps my long search for a pattern to knit for Doug is over.

Skip right to the knitting content

Today is the first of April.  I woke up this morning thinking that I might write a silly post for April Fool’s Day.  Then I started thinking that, in the Age of Trump and Brexit, April Fool’s Day is likely dead.  We probably wouldn’t notice an April Fool’s Day news story because the real news is so surreal these days.

So, instead, I will skip right to the (admittedly sparse) knitting content:

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This is a teaser photo of my new project.  It is in lovely fingering weight wool by Isager in brilliant shades of red, coral, and fuschia, and has miles and miles of garter stitch. I am finding it rather addicting.  And these fabulous colours are very cheerful and perfect for springtime knitting.  What is it? You will have to wait and see, but it is something I am designing myself.

Silk and sunshine

Some time ago, I bought myself a single skein of Shibui Knits Silk Cloud, a mohair and silk blend lace-weight yarn in the brilliant shade called Tango.

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I am a big fan of Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze and have knit many things with it.  But I was curious about the Silk Cloud.  The Silk Cloud is more expensive. However, it has a higher silk content – 40% in the Silk Cloud compared to 30% for Kidsilk Haze. Most important to me, the colours of the Silk Cloud are glorious – brilliant, richly saturated tones.  Kidsilk changes its colours frequently and the last time I checked I found their palette to be rather pale and uninspiring.

I decided to knit a little cowl using a free pattern available on Ravelry called the Madita Cowl, designed by spacecurry.

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This was an airplane knitting project, knit entirely while in the air (or the airport lounge). I used plastic needles (so as not to upset security), and the whole project was so small and lightweight that it fit easily into a pocket.  I actually did not enjoy knitting it, although not for the reasons you might suspect.  The yarn is lovely, as is the pattern; the truth is that I hate knitting with laceweight yarn on big needles (a US9).  I complained about this on these pages before, when knitting the beautiful Smoulder sweater for Emma, which uses a double strand of Kidsilk Haze but it is knit in part with size 15 needles. I think perhaps continental knitters might find this easier, but as a thrower, I find it very awkward.

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The cowl itself is gorgeous, although a bit of an enigma.  You see, it is too short to wrap around the neck twice, and too long to provide any actual warmth to the neck.  This makes it essentially a bit of frippery (although a pretty one at that).  I believe that if I were to knit it again, I would make it longer, so that it could be wrapped twice.

Now that I have had my little experiment, I can say that there will be more Silk Cloud in my future. The only difficult task will be not buying one of every shade.

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The power of quiet

When I was a child, I was known as a day-dreamer. I spent most of my time wrapped up in a fantasy world, often with my head in a book, but just as often not. I could spend many hours happily in my own company, and rarely felt lonely. I took up handicrafts very early, in the beginning mostly embroidery, needlepoint, weaving, macrame, and ceramics, later mostly knitting.

I know that I enjoy the creative aspects of craft; it fills up a very important place in my psyche. But from a very early age I was also aware of the peaceful aspects of handicrafts, especially ones with repetitive motions, like knitting. I liked being in my head while engaging in the creative process. It is restorative, like meditation or yoga. Looking back on it now, I think that maybe there was more to it: being in your head makes people uncomfortable. The saying “idle hands make idle minds” may not be said all that often anymore but I think it invaded much of the philosophy of child-rearing when I was young. If I was caught day-dreaming, that was bad – it showed me to be a dreamer (and not in a good way). If I was caught knitting, regardless of the fact that I was just as much in my head, I was seen to be industrious and creative.

This reminds me of a story my husband tells. As a young man he worked in a paper mill in the summer. As he tells it, if you took a break to smoke a cigarette, this was acceptable.  You could stand by yourself and have ten minutes of peace. If you tried to take a ten minute break without a cigarette in your hand, you were seen as being idle and were told to get back to work. It didn’t take long, Doug says, until the whole crew took up smoking.

This “being in your head” is not idle – some of it involves elements of fantasy, while it also encompasses thinking about philosophy, history, politics, fashion, books you’ve read, problems you are trying to sort out, designs you are creating, people who you know or would like to know, paths you want to follow. I find this space both peaceful and invigorating. I also find it necessary. It rejuvenates me.

Knitting, therefore, has many different functions for me. It is a creative outlet, it produces beautiful items, it allows me to develop skills and mastery over an ancient craft, it links me to a history and fellowship of needlework, and it also allows me space and freedom to be in my head.

As my life has gotten busier, I find that I have tended to relegate my knitting time into a multi-tasking experience.  I knit, usually, while doing something else: watching TV, chatting with friends over coffee, waiting in line. A few years ago, I went through a time where I resented the fact that knitting took up reading time and vice versa, and to solve this I started buying audio books and knitting while listening.

I recently noticed that my knitting time was thus almost always accompanied by noise. If I picked up my needles, I would turn on an audio book or tune into a podcast. Sometimes, I would suddenly become aware that I had missed some of the book, and would have to re-wind and listen again, often three or four times as my mind would wander. I came to two realizations at almost the same time – I was not enjoying the knitting as much, and I was finding quiet to be lonely. I was rushing to fill up blank space.

Doug has been gone for a few weeks (day before yesterday he was climbing the Great Wall of China) and I have had a very busy teaching schedule. But, while he was gone, I set my alarm clock for very early every morning, got my cup of coffee, and settled down to knit, in absolute silence. And I came to a conclusion I already knew as a very young child: there is power in quiet.

I am knitting something new, which I am designing myself, and enjoying every stitch.  I am feeling more at peace with quiet.  I am feeling more in my head.  I don’t NEED there to be quiet to enjoy my knitting – I still knit while watching TV (currently “Miss Fisher’s Mysteries”) or listening to an audio book or podcast.  But creating a space for knitting in silence is good.   I have come to appreciate, once again, that there is a specific joy to be had in not multi-tasking, in enjoying the peace of knitting all by itself, and listening to the quiet.

Knitting treats from Copenhagen

I was teaching on the weekend and so was unable to make my way up to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I admit to having felt rather sorry for myself. For the entire time I was doing the MBA I was unable to make any yarn shows. I planned to remedy that once I finished, but then I took a job (teaching on the very same MBA programme) which meant a lot of working weekends. The universe (or at least the people who schedule yarn shows and MBA classes) seems to be conspiring against me, as they are mostly scheduled concurrently. Oh well. I am not so desolate as I have a Danish consolation prize or two (perhaps three).

A few weeks ago I was in Copenhagen with my friend, Erun (and with Sarah and Sara). One of my top priorities was to make it to Somerfuglen, a knitting shop that I had long wanted to visit.

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I know you won’t believe me but I didn’t buy any yarn there. Why? Because I loved everything and couldn’t choose and I had a plane to catch. That is not to say I didn’t make any purchases. I bought two lovely knitting books. First, I bought Issue One of the new knitting periodical, Laine.

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This is a lovely book. It is filled with knitting patterns, beautiful photography, articles, designer profiles, recipes, and has high production values. Even the ads are lovely! This issue had profiles of Joji Locatelli and Helga Isager among others. It seems to me that this will be a collectable and I am happy to have the first issue.

I also bought this amazing book:

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By Annette Danielsen, it is filled with stunning photos of Greenland and absolutely gorgeous sweaters. I want to knit them all. I particularly want to knit this one, Fjelde, which coincidentally I have in my favorites file on Ravelry:

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© Annette Danielsen

Here is the extra special goodness from my trip to Sommerfuglen:  I tried this jacket on! And it was scrumptious. It fit beautifully and was a dream to wear. As a result, I have purchased the book and now somehow have to teach myself to read a knitting pattern written in Danish! Never fear, dear readers, I WILL accomplish this eventually (perhaps with some help from my friend, Erun, and her mother, Liv)!

Hanging in the window at Sommerfuglen was a very smart jacket by Hanne Falkenberg. I was able to try it on as well. I am a big fan of Hanne’s designs and yarn as you can tell from this post from some years ago. This jacket also fit perfectly and I could not help but notice that it was precisely the kind of thing I need for my working wardrobe. I thought about buying it right then and there, but was prevented because (1) I couldn’t check any luggage on my flight home and (2) the shop didn’t have kits in the colour combos I liked.

Once I got home, I continued to think about this jacket, however, and ended up ordering a kit in the same colourway as the shop sample (colourway #1). Here it is:

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The design is called Sofi, and it is knit in two different yarns – the sleeves and main colour are knit in her No2 shetland 100% wool and the contrast colour is her No4 Sofistica 60% Cotton & 40% Linen. Here you can see the two different yarns from the kit:

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So, even though I didn’t make it to Edinburgh, I can console myself with these lovely Danish knitting treats. I have heard that the festival suffered this year from its excessive popularity – by all accounts it was very crowded and hot. I would have braved both to see Kate Davies’ stand (and all of the other goodness) but perhaps by the time I do make it up there, the venue will be bigger. In the meantime, I have plenty of knitting to keep me happy.

When you need a rainbow…knit one!

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I wanted to do a quick project this week.  I rooted around in my yarn stash and found a bag full of half-used balls and remnants of Rowan Fine Tweed.  I really like this yarn and used it to knit my Peerie Flooers hat and my Soumak Wrap, both very colourful projects, meaning lots of bits of many colours leftover.  Rowan has now discontinued this yarn, carrying on its great tradition of discontinuing nearly every yarn I love (knock on wood for Kidsilk Haze).

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I had in mind a quick pair of mitts based on Follow your Dreams, a very cute pattern available for free on Ravelry by Vlněné sestry.  Here is the pattern photo:

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© Vlněné sestry

I spent some happy time playing with all of the leftover colours when it came to me: I could knit a rainbow!

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I used a light grey for the background and picked out five rainbow shades for the arrow motifs.  I didn’t think I had enough of the grey, so I knit the ribbing around the wrists in rainbow stripes as well.  The colours are reversed, so the wrist ribbing uses red, orange, yellow, green and blue, and then the arrow motifs work in reverse order from blue to red. Thus, the mitts are framed by the red.  At the time, I had no inkling that the red would match my beloved Acer cardigan so well, but I think that together they are fabulous!

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The only other modification I made was to make the mitts mirror images of each other (so that the arrows point in opposite directions).  I loved making this project.  I could easily imagine knitting up many pairs of these, using lots of different colour schemes.  It is a great project for using up small bits of fingering weight yarn.  Using stripes for the ribbing meant many extra threads to weave in at the end, but it was totally worth it.

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Some time ago, I wrote a post about the use of gussets in mitts and mittens.  In that post, I mentioned that I had always knit mitts with gussets, and I speculated that gusset-less mitts would be uncomfortable to wear.  Based on my lengthy observation consisting of wearing this one pair of mitts for a few hours (how scientific!) I would venture to say that gusset-less mitts can indeed be comfortable.  I will now have to do more research on the topic, thus necessitating knitting more mitts.  All in the name of science of course!

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We took these photos this morning in Henley-on-Thames, a beautiful old market town on the Thames a few miles from my home.  (I work there and shop there.)  The sun was shining and everyone was smiling; it was a perfect day to walk along the river and to wear my new cardi and rainbow mitts.

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I wish you all sunshine and rainbows this weekend!