Shinybees

Ep 112 – Knit Share Love with Clare Devine

Clare Devine | Knit Share Love

Clare Devine of #KnitShareLove rejoins me on the podcast this week, as we catch up with her after quite a while since her Sock Surgery days on the show.

Clare is in Australia, the country where her knitting adventure began, at that time, she was in a totally-unsuitable-for-knitting Broome. Now she’s based in Brisbane, which is pretty warm, and presents its own knitting challenges.

Broome – Image Copyright Clare Devine All Rights Reserved.

Knit Share Love Collaborations

Since her last appearance on the show, which was shortly after the adult edition of her book, Sock Anatomy, was released, she’s been involved of lots of exciting projects and collaborations. She’s designed her first cardigan pattern, as well as working with UK dyers Joy McMillan of The Knitting Goddess and Jess James of Ginger Twist Studio on both The Neighbourhood Sheep Society and The Tea Collection.

Moonlight White from The Tea Collection Vol II – Image Copyright Clare Devine

#LoveLocalWool

Recently, she’s turned her attention to working with and raising the profile of home-grown talent in Australia. We briefly digress into the development of independent designers on Ravelry and the idea of training to be a designer.

In terms of local talent, Clare recommended Circus Tonic Handmade, a former geneticist PhD turned hand dyer. She also shared a wonderful story about Tarndie, a farm around two hours west of Melbourne. She found this yarn in a project during her first stay in Oz, having been recommended it to use for a felted bag. Around seven years afterwards, she met Jools of Woollenflower, who waxed lyrical about how wonderful this yarn from Tarndie was, and how Clare must visit when she went back to Australia. After a stint working one day a week in a yarn shop in Melbourne, the owner asked if she would like to teach at an event at… you guessed it… Tarndie.

Tarndie have Polwarth sheep and have been farming for many years, The yarn is spun in New Zealand. They have also been in collaboration with Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, which is local to them, to produce a Super Bulky yarn called The Henry. This is made from a mix of Alpaca and Wool.

There aren’t many boutique yarn spinners – a lot of the clip is merino, which is sent to China for processing. Clare talked about a Gotland sheep farmer called Cheryl, creator of Granite Haven Gotland Yarns, who is based in Victoria. She has the only flock of Gotland sheep in Australia and breeds for diversity rather than conformity. As a result, her sheep have a wide arrange of colours in the fleece.

Lanson Socks. Image Copyright Clare Devine

Australian Small Producer Yarns

Clare talked passionately about the importance of educating customers as to why local and boutique yarns can be expensive, as well as why they can make great choices. She promotes these yarns by using them in her design work, and also because it allows local knitters to access the yarns, as many people like to knit the pattern with the exact yarn. She advocated being enthusiastic about yarns and  producers, as the likes of Louise Scollay has with KnitBritish, to help share these great products and knowledge with others.

Where to find KnitShareLove Online

Clare can be found at http://www.knitsharelove.com or as @knitsharelove on Instagram.

Continue the Conversation in the Shinybees Podcast Community

Enjoyed this episode? Continue the conversation with fellow wool lovers over at Shinybees Podcast Community

Ep111 – Assmimilating New Knitters

How do we get the entire world knitting?

It’s a mission of mine to get everyone knitting. Today, we discuss the five pillars of knitter assimilation:

  • Marketing
  • Self-belief
  • Tools and Materials
  • Medium and motivation
  • Access to decent resources

Of course, this is the Shinybees Pentagon of Knitting Assimilation and I think these are the things we need to be considering if we do want knitters to take over the world. More specifically, if we want the entire world to knit. Think how awesome that would be.

No longer is it the case that we keep our knitting hidden away to ourselves.

No more hiding behind closed doors in case someone asks us a silly question, offers a flash of the blindingly obvious, or says, ‘You must have a lot of time on your hands.’

Want to hear what this Pentagon is? Sit back and grab a brew, it’s about to get technical.

Pillar 1: Marketing

Knitting has an image problem.

There you go.

I said it out loud.

Knitting has an image problem  Every man and his dog this that knitting is for Nanas and pregnant ladies, and the media and film do nothing to change that view. Everything people see is stereotyped like this and that is a big issue. Any character in a story who knits? Nana. Comparison to getting old and putting your feet up? Take up knitting! (subtext – Nana). I could go on with all the examples, but the point I make here is that this narrative has to change. This can only be achieved by changing the image of knitting, in much the same way that Skoda have managed to change their image from crap, unreliable junk car to actually pretty decent, no longer embarrassing and, arguably, maybe even a little bit rebelliously hip.

So, how do we change these Nana perceptions? Marketing.

No, it’s not just for sleazy snake oil salesmen and here’s why: marketing is all about conversations and communication. The brand of knitting at the moment is wrapped up in Nana-dom and unless more people see young, cool people doing it, that won’t change. Yes, we all know that it is cool AF, but we’re the enlightened few. We need to find better ways to get it out there that knitting is for everyone.

Knitting needs to become more relevant and desirable if we want everyone to do it.

Pillar 2 – Self belief

Sit in public and knit, and you will get an array of comments like ‘Oh, I could never do that’ and ‘I tried to learn when I was a kid and I was terrible at it’ and ‘It looks so hard!’. Curiosity is the first step to learning, but we also need to deal with the issue of self belief. In order to get people to actually try and learn the skill, instead of telling themselves repeatedly that it is too hard, they need to believe they are capable of doing it.

Pillar 3 – Materials and tools

Very often, a first foray into knitting is a cheap kit with low end acrylic (not all acrylic is created equal) and bendy plastic needles. The instructions are almost always total pants and the whole thing is set up to encourage failure.

New knitters don’t know this is a problem. Think back to when you first started. Given your time again, would you really have used the same tools and materials to get going? Yes, it is probably amusing, looking back now you know what you know. Back then though, there was probably reasonable amount fo frustration involved, and you lily wanted to give up on the whole sorry thing on more than one occasion. Did you even finish the first project?

Whilst this approach may be a cheap failure, the fact is, failure is not what is needed for assimilation (see Pillar 2). We need to be setting newbies up with better tools and nicer yarn, to encourage continuing, and to make the end product worth it (see Pillar 4). It’s mush easier to press on through the difficulties of learning a new skill, if the tools you are working with feel good in your hands, and you really want to achieve the end result.

Pillar 4 – Medium and motivation

Aka Death to the Dr Who Scarf. How many times have you seen others, or have been yourself, taught to knit using the Whovian method? Let’s just all knit a massive boring scarf that will take forever and hope they stick at it. Do you know anyone who has actually finished a Dr Who scarf?

Chances are you still have your first one, and it wasn’t even long enough to achieve neck warmer status. Mine was turned (spectacular holes and all) into a hot water bottle cover.

Yes scarves are easy and allow for (a lot) of repetition but they are so large they are insurmountable. This doesn’t help people stay motivated when the going gets a little tough. It helps them get bored and switch off.

We need to be bringing the Shinybees Trifecta of project awesome into this: a quick win + right level of complexity + desire for finished item = knitting dreams.

Pillar 5 – Access to decent resources

Most of the freebie videos on YouTube are crap. They are too fast, badly lit, too far away to see what is going on, or, lately, have an alarming array of props in there. Learning is not about perfectly styled shots; it’s about getting the information across in an accessible a way as you can. We need decent resources to point newbies towards.

This could take the form of a curated (cringe) list of good places to get started, depending upon what they are interested in making. Whilst there are a lot of really solid tutorials included in independently written books, often these are pitched at slightly more complex skills that may not be appropriate for the new knitter. Many of the mass published ‘learn to knit’ books I have read have had naff projects and unclear techniques sections – again, not exactly inspiring or motivating stuff.

What’s your experience?

What’s been your experience of learning to knit or teaching others? Whilst I talk passionately in this episode, I’d love for this to be the opener for a conversation about how we can all get better at assimilating new knitters. Head on over to the Shinybees Podcast Community on Facebook and let me know your thoughts there!

Ep 110 – An Interview with Jane Murison of Yarnison

Jane Murison of Yarnison joins the show this week, talking about knitwear design, fish and chips and the urban landscape as an inspiration.

Jane began designing a couple of years ago, and has several knitting patterns now, that are a homage to the post industrial landscape of Manchester, that she sees every day on her walk to work. A UX designer by profession, Jane enjoys bringing together design inspiration, techniques and the user (knitter) experience in her designs. Not one for ‘quiet’ yarns, she enjoys working with bold colours and neons to create striking pieces.

Her approach to design is to make things that she herself likes to wear, but struggles to find in the mainstream pattern world. This results in quite quirky and recognisable pieces that can be made as bold or as quiet as one desires, depending upon the colours chosen to make the pattern.

Manhole Socks by Yarnison.

How Jane got started designing

Jane’s first design was a pair of socks, called Manhole Socks. She was inspired by a Countess Ablaze colour way called ‘Urban’, which in itself was inspired by the steely colours of the city. Jane teamed this metallic looking yarn with another altogether unexpected muse for a knitwear design – a rusty manhole cover. A common sight around Manchester (it always rains, it isn’t just exaggeration!) the textured, non-slip pattern became the basis for showing off this particular colour way to excellent effect. It manages to pick out flecks of colour on top of the overall sock fabric, in much the same way that the texture on the grid is picked out, and can appear to be different colours due to the uneven rusting.

We discussed the juxtaposition between the large amount of conventionally pretty patterns, imagery and branding available in the hand knit world and how it is harder to find things to appeal if that isn’t your aesthetic. As a very urban loving person myself (that’d be the Geographer in me – and I studied at the University of Manchester) I’m attracted to Jane’s neon bright imagery and play on the urban landscape and the colours that can be found everywhere.

Urban Hero Shawl by Yarnison

Holy Batman!

One of my favourite of her patterns is the Urban Hero shawl, which was inspired by the neon yellow flashes of hi-vis vests on the builders working all over the city. There is almost constant construction work, and these vests pepper the (often grey, it’s Manchester) landscape with pinpricks of colour.

We discussed the juxtaposition of chevron lace, hi-vis and Batman’s cape in this pattern and Jane explained how her approach has ben reflected in other designs, such as Boomtown Beanie. This pattern was inspired by the ever changing skyline of the city, as cranes move and add more buildings and different materials. She wanted to find a way to capture and document this, whilst introducing the technique of stranded knitting for the knitter. Again it became clear how much the experience of the knitter is considered in Jane’s designs, and how playing around with the colours can create strikingly different effects in this pattern.

Boomtown Beanie by Yarnison.

Builders came up again when discussing how the domestic arts and quite traditionally male construction roles are actually very similar skills when you break them down. Plastering is, in fact, exactly the same thing as buttercream icing.

We also discussed the traditional Friday meal that is fish and chips. Eye-opening.

Favourite Indie Dyers

Jane’s favourite yarnies to work with are Countess Ablaze, The Knitting Goddess, Five Moons, Riverknits and Rainbow Heirloom.

Urban Hero Shawl by Yarnison,

How to Knit with Variegated Yarns

In terms of tips for embracing the crazy bright and variegated, Jane recommends pairing with a semi-solid or solid, and avoiding too much detail in the stitches, if you want the detail to be seen. Texture can sometimes work well if you are wanting to play with the colour and create unexpected pops, as she does with her Manhole Cover sock pattern.

In terms of designers that make good patterns that are suitable for pairing with variegated yarns, Jane recommends Curious Handmade’s Helen Stewart and Martina Behm (Strickmich).

From her own designs, Urban Festival was specifically created to work with the variegated yarns.

Rainbow Relay by Yarnison.

New Pattern!

Rainbow Relay is Jane’s latest shawl and is a fantastic pattern for using up mini skeins whilst exploring the joy that is short row shaping. Jane will be at Woollinn in Dublin this month, 25-27th May 2018. She’ll have kits on the Countess Ablaze stall which will contain yarn from both The Countess and Petra of Undercover Otter.

Want to grab a cheeky 25% discount? Head over to Ravelry and get your copy of the pattern with 25% off before midnight 9th May 2018.

Where to Find Jane

You can find everything about Jane’s patterns over on Ravelry and she is @Yarnison on Instagram.

Ep109 – Hidden Heels with Mitch of Surfing Ducks

Are you going to Woollinn?

Woollinn will be taking place in Dublin on 25th-27th May 2018. I’m venturing over there on a blue and white winged chariot for the event and I would love to meet as many listeners as possible. Please let me know if you will be attending.

Also, there is a great line up of vendors including dear friends of the podcast Countess Ablaze, Travelknitter and The Little Grey Girl.

There’s also spaces left in the workshop schedule, which has some great, big name teachers offering workshops including the likes of Woolly Wormhead, Karie Westermann, Nancy Marchant, Carol Feller, Isabel Kraemer, Justyna Lorkowska and the ever fabulous Nathan Taylor.

Kate Davies will be travelling over from Scotland to give a reading and presentation on her latest book, Handywoman.

Find out all you need to know at the Woollinn website.

#HiddenHeels – Mitch of Surfing Ducks

Mitch of Surfing Ducks is my guest on the podcast this week, where we discuss a plethora of things that spiral slightly out of control and end somewhere around knitted, transferable ‘tramp stamps.’

Yes…

Day of the Dead Socks by Surfing Ducks

 

Mitch designs sock patterns with a particular twist; every heel flap is adorned with a quirky design. This led to the brand developing into an almost secret society under the #HiddenHeels theme. The idea is you can have these socks on, and have a heel that is usually hidden from view, but then is brought out on show at exactly the right moment. This moment may well be to secure access to some underground speakeasy with a gin urn.

Mitch is several patterns in now (more have been added since this interview was recorded a few months ago) and each time a new one is released, there is a badge to go along with it. Be one of the first to finish and share pictures of your #HiddenHeels design and collect your limited edition badge.

I don’t know about you, but I want all those badges.

Balancing a day job with designing

We also discuss how Mitch balances her design work against her demanding day job. She began her foray back into socks a couple of years ago after previously finding them difficult. A chance meeting with the lovely Christine Perry of Winwick Mum at Sirdar led to her catching the bug again, thanks to Christine’s infectious enthusiasm for the medium of socks.

Mitch had also worked in customer support for a large online retailer and was the pattern support specialist. Through the experience, she was able to gather lots of knowledge and learn exactly what sort of thing trip knitters up when knitting a pattern, and has been able to bring all that to her design work. Her aim is to make knitting easy, and each of her designs adds one new technique, to ease the knitter into developing their skills in an easy feeling way.

Although her patterns look complicated, only the small heel canvas contains the colour changing. Because it is so small, it can be a great way to introduce techniques without it feeling too overwhelming. Brand new sock knitters have knit several of her patterns and had success, so if you are even a little bit intrigued, chances are you will be able to do them.

For her design work, Mitch uses Stitchmastery and Stitch Fiddle (snigger) although she also advocates Excel as useful for charts.

All of her patterns are available via Ravelry, and there are plans to produce ebooks of the collections at a later stage. Mitch is already teaching sock knitting and would love to do more of this as her business expands.

You can find Mitch at http://www.surfingducks.com and all her patterns on Ravelry.

 

Ep108 – Speckled Yarn – So Hot? Or So Not?

Speckled Yarn – So Hot Right Now? A Hot Potato?

Speckled yarn is the marmite of the knitting world right now. Outrageously popular, thanks to patronage by the likes of Stephen West and Andrea Mowry, speckles are so hot right now. Or are they?

What Do The Shinybees Community Think About Speckled Yarn?

A straw poll of hardcore Shinybees listeners suggested a 66/33 split between Hot and Not. A lot of people expressed speckles as being something you need to be in the mood for. Generally though, there was an overall mad-for-the-speckles feeling amongst respondents.

What Are Speckled Yarns?

But what are speckled yarns, I hear you cry? (Where have you been?)

These are colour ways that are dyed onto yarn that is a majority of one main colour, with random spots, splodges and flecks of other (often multiple) colours on top.

This can be achieved using a variety of different methods, and differs from variegated yarn in that the colours are more randomly spaced and generally shorter lengths.

Who are your favourite speckled yarn dyers and designers who create great patterns for these tricky to use yarns?

Also in this episode I give you a quick catch up of where I have been hiding for a year and also what you can expect from the podcast going forward.

Spoiler: I am in camp Not 🙂

Mentioned in this episode

Interview with Stephen West
Travelknitter for red yarns
Shinybees Podcast Community Group

Ep107- Sh*t Tea and Tray Bake with Countess Ablaze

Where shit tea, tray bake and exposure collide!

Lyndsey aka Countess Ablaze joins me this week for a chat about issues facing us crafters and business owners. A recent recipient of an offer of ‘exposure’ as payment, along with some fairly misogynistic stereotyping of her customer base, The Countess decided to take a stand against this (and raise some actual money for charity in her own, imitable way) by creating some new colour ways.

That she will!
Image Copyright Countess Ablaze used here with permission.

Exposure is the new currency!

In this episode we discuss the thorny issue of ‘exposure’ as a payment for our craft, time and expertise.

Is it ever acceptable?

Where does the balance lie when offering this as an exchange of value? Why does it seem to be so rife amongst the creative industries and is it a peculiarly female thing? There are definitely differing elements to this idea of exposure as an exchange of value. In some circumstances, where it is a mutually agreed thing, everyone stands to gain and everyone puts in the required work, it can be a win-win for everyone. The problem comes when it is used as a bargaining chip when you want someone to do something for free. You don’t value their contribution and therefore the idea of paying them doesn’t even cross your mind.

#Laaaaaadybusiness

Next up is misogyny as an everyday blight. Lyndsey shares some examples of when she has encountered this working in her business. This includes the entirely false notion that her husband bankrolls her little craft hobby business. Spoiler: he doesn’t.

As if any self-respecting Northerner drinks shit tea.
Image Copyright Countess Ablaze used here with permission.

Everyday sexism and the Thermidor effect

We discuss the idea of everyday sexism and the pervasive nature of little things that alone, seem inconsequential, but together, have this cumulative effect that makes you question what you actually think and know. I liken this to the Thermidor effect. Like a lobster that starts in cold water, those little, incremental temperature changes mean that the lobster never knows it is getting cooked alive, as it’s always just a little bit hotter than a moment ago. Little snide comments, off the cuff remarks become bigger and more offensive because it is only a bit more sexist than the last one, as we’ve all become so conditioned to hearing it.

We briefly cover the deeply offensive idea that anyone in the North would drink sh*t tea. This is the thing that offended me most about the whole saga, I don’t mind saying.

Charity as an afterthought

Finally, we discuss the use of charity causes to excuse bad behaviour, and as a tag on excuse for self-serving events or initiatives, rather than having them as a focus.

Image Copyright Countess Ablaze used with permission.

We wrap up with her reply and salute to this – two new colour ways called Sh*t Tea and Tray Bake and If I Want Exposure I’ll Get My T*ts Out – with £3 from the sale of each skein being donated to Womens Aid.

If you would like to preorder either of these, you can do so at Countess Ablaze. If you are on a yarn diet, or these colours aren’t your thing, then please consider making a donation to either Womens Aid or a charity of your choice that supports women’s issues.

Episode 90: Curious Handmade- An interview with Helen Stewart

ep90 promo

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Intro

So first things first, my mental and yet fabulous (obviously) assistant LJ is running the London marathon this weekend. She has broken her arse as a result of yarn fumes, sort of, so listen in for the full comedy breakdown of the incident. If you should take pity on the poor maniac then you can sponsor her here. As promised here is a little snap of her and what she will look like on the day in case you happen to be around and want to cheer her on in her sorry state! Good luck LJ!

ep90 me

I feel sorry for her already…

Interview

The lovely Helen had a very crafty upbringing in Queensland, complete with Macrame and all. How could she not grow up to be a creative soul? At the age of 25 she upped sticks after catching the travel bug and ended up here in the UK. She began knitting again as she was living in London (and it’s cold innit?) The growth of her hobby began as her friend asked her for a contribution to her pattern book, though it was after the publication of her Afternoon Tea Shawl pattern in Knitty magazine that she began to feel more recognition and believe that this may be something she would like to focus on. After having her second child she wasn’t loving corporate work the same way and wanted something flexible to fit around the children and having them gave her the push she needed to start her own business, something she never dreamt she would do. One of the least likely elements of her business is her podcast, given that she is quite shy. Her husband says it works for her as it creates a community and allows her to talk with people without actually having to meet them. Helen feels it is an excellent springboard into friendships and makes things easier when you do meet face to face. Clearly it is a good thing she took that leap – Helen’s career high is winning the UK Podcast Awards ‘Best Hobby Podcast’ last year.

Afternoon Tea Shawl c) Helen Stewart

Afternoon Tea Shawl c) Helen Stewart

There is no fixed pattern to Helen’s day, other than the drop off, work for 6 manic hours and then pick up – familiar to all us working mums. Given that her business is so varied, with many elements, her days are never the same, though having a podcast to do gives her some structure each week. Posh coffees also have a pivotal role. Another varies aspect of Helen’s life is her creative process. It will often begin with a colourful yarn she finds that sparks her interest and then she will look for a theme, however vague, that she can use to try and tie different pieces together. She likes a good swatch and some designs are quick and easy but some take an entire shawl’s worth of swatching. It can be a time consuming process but, thankfully, one that she greatly enjoys.

With the words ‘no journey is a smooth one’ ringing in her ears Helen gives a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t allow yourself the time you need. Early in her career she submitted an idea to a magazine with a very tight deadline. It didn’t work as she was inexperienced and ambitious but had a trip planned and due to unforeseen circumstances got held up on the other side of the world. She submitted work that she wasn’t happy with and ended up with it not being published. The message Helen hopes we all get from this is to be patient, respect yourself and your process and give yourself the time you need. An excellent learning experience for all of us, thank you for sharing Helen.

Pebble Beach Shawl c) Helen Stewart

Pebble Beach Shawl c) Helen Stewart

If Helen could go back and talk to her pre-yarny self she would stress the importance of unpicking and fixing your mistakes immediately. It won’t magically disappear by itself and it’s easier to only unpick one row. You also need to get straight back on it, don’t throw it to one side in a hissy fit like I do, basically. One big message from this interview is to be patient. That is the main bit of advice Helen would give someone looking to enter this business world as it takes years to become a success. Since we’re an impatient bunch (sorry, Helen) I asked what’s next for Curious Handmade and was thrilled to hear that there is a new shawl collection in the pipeline that may even become a club. You can find Helen at www.curioushandmade.com and all the wonderful links from there. The podcast is available at Stitcher and Itunes.

Wrap Up

That’s all from me this week. As always, thank you for listening. Feedback is always appreciated, and you can email me or message me via Ravelry or social media. If you enjoyed listening today, please consider leaving an iTunes review, to help others find the podcast too. Happy crafting!

Episode 89: Paula Abdul Would Be Proud

Image Details: Los Angeles by Wilson Loo Kok Lee, via Flickr.

Image Details: Los Angeles by Wilson Loo Kok Lee, via Flickr.

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Intro

This wee’s episode is a little later than planned but here nonetheless. Paula Abdul discussed the concept of two steps forward and two back. If you’ve not heard ‘Opposites Attract’ for a while, I bring it to you for your listening delight.

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Episode 88: The Wool Kitchen – An Interview with Helen Reed

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Intro

A short intro this week as the old croaky voice is threatening a return. This week I am thrilled to bring you the other half of my Best in Show EYF winning double act – Helen from The Wool Kitchen. She is from the wrong side of the Pennines but a good Northener nonetheless and is responsible for my breaking of the ‘no 4 ply purchasing’ self inflicted rule for EYF. Her love of colour gets me every time…

Interview

Helen follows the classic pattern of a knitter – her mum taught her all she knows! She was a knitter, mainly of scarves, until her first pregnancy, when she started to knit clothes for the impending arrival. It was during this time that she realised she could read patterns and immediately have the 3D image of what it could be. Her love of bright colours and her interest in how a piece of string can be manipulated into different patterns and paired with other colours is what fuelled her desire to dye. She is a self confessed geek.

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Episode 87: Travelknitter- An Interview with Larissa

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Intro

I hope we are all enjoying the change in weather…she says whilst looking at today’s snow. Before we get going I will take the opportunity to let you all know that you can still join the #RewindKAL. There is no pressure, you can join in with whatever you choose and just take your time, Lord knows that I am. I am also excited to say that I am on the wonderful Yarn in The City podcast this week with Rachel and Allison. I like a little mini enabling, so if you haven’t heard them before but you like this show I’m sure you’ll appreciate them too. You may remember an interview they did on the show in July last year.

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