NEW book: Rowan Modern Family Knits by jen geigley

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Such a dream! Introducing my new book from Rowan Yarns + Quail Studio, Modern Family Knits – a collection of 21 hand-knit designs for you and your family. (Men, women and kids ages 5 up to tween.) If you’ve followed along here for any amount of time, you’ll know that I have been a long-time fan of Rowan, which started when my friends first took me to a local yarn shop and I picked out a few skeins of Big Wool in Glum. (Still a favorite!)

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The kids’ knits in particular are some of my favorites. I love knitting for this age group – sometimes knitting books for kids focus on babies or toddlers, and I feel like the older or in-between age group sometimes gets overlooked. So Modern Family Knits focuses on knits for kids ages 5 years up to tween.

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The pieces in this collection are inspired by my own family and what we would wear. Casual, contemporary and wearable, many of the knits in the book are unisex and knitted in neutral colors and can be worn by men, women, boys and girls and are sure to become foundation pieces in anyone’s wardrobe.

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Modern Family Knits has something for everyone – new knitters may find their first sweater in these pages and experienced knitters will enjoy the combination of textural knitting stitches with modern shapes.

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To me, loving the pieces you knit and wanting to wear them often is the definition of hand-knit success – hand knits that your entire family can enjoy. That’s what I hope to share with you in this collection.

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Happy knitting!

xo,
Jen

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All my beautiful photos are by my talented friend Joelle from Figment Art Photography.

HOW TO BAKE A STOCKINETTE CRUST PIE by jen geigley

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This is a blog post I wrote for the Mason Dixon Knitting blog. About pie.

Full circle: when your knitting inspires a pie, and a pie inspires your knitting.

I like to knit, I like to bake … and honestly, I like to play with food. A few times a year, I make annoyingly elaborate themed lunches for my kids to take to school. Heart-shaped strawberries, Harry Potter broomsticks made of pretzels and string cheese, and sandwiches that look like Emmet from The Lego Movie. I like finding ways to make baked goods look interesting too. 

A couple of years ago, I made a berry pie with a faux-knitted lattice crust for Pi Day (3/14.) Playing with pie crust was fun. I had done simple cut-out pie crust shapes before, but making a knitted crust was a totally new experiment. (Can you actually knit pie crust dough? I tried and failed, using chopsticks.) 

Earlier this year when I was collaborating with the MDK team for Field Guide No. 12, my raspberry/blackberry knitted pie became part of the theme, part of the story. The Brambleberry Cowl in Field Guide No. 12 is named after my pie. I had written the pattern for this cowl, but didn’t have a name for it yet. The stitch pattern in the cowl is called the cluster, blackberry, raspberry and/or brambleberry stitch. I was brainstorming pattern names with Field Guide Creative Director Melanie Falick, and we realized the name Brambleberry could not be more perfect. Knitting meets pie, pie meets knitting!

I can’t take credit for this faux knitted crust technique. The first time I saw a pie like this was on craftberry bush, and I had to try it. (Mine turned out differently but that is okay.) I’ve also seen cake bakers create this faux-knitted look with rolled fondant. It's not difficult ... it just takes a bit of time. But it’s totally worth it. We are knitters after all. We know all good things take time.

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YOU WILL NEED

Two boxes of pre-rolled Trader Joe’s Pie Crusts (2 crusts per box)

- or - 

Pie crust recipe of your choice (I have suggestions below)

Blackberries (1 cup)

Raspberries (3 cups)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

Cutting board

Pizza cutter

Pie pan

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay one crust on your cutting board. Use a pizza cutter to slice crust into 1/2 inch wide strips. Place the other crust (uncut) in the bottom of your pie pan. Set aside the other two crusts in case you need them later.

Fold your strips in half, then roll into ‘yarn’. Pinch two rolled pieces together at the top, then twist, right over left. Take two more pieces and twist them left over right. (See photos.) These twists make a pair. Lay them side by side on a cutting board. They should look like a column of stockinette stitch.

Keep twisting your yarn in pairs until you have enough stockinette twists to cover your pie. Use an extra crust if you need to make more. 

Toss berries with the sugar and flour in a medium bowl, then add to pie pan. Lay the twists on top of the berries and gently press the ends onto the bottom crust. 

Use extra crust to make a larger twist and place around the outer edge of pie. (I used 1 1/2 inch strips.) Press this larger twist into crust below so it doesn’t end up falling off during baking. (This may have happened to me.)

My grandma Minnie taught me to brush a pie crust with milk and then sprinkle with sugar before it goes into the oven. 

Optional: Use a pie crust shield for the first 30 minutes of baking. Place a cookie sheet under your pie pan in the oven in case your filling runneth over.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown. 

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Your pie may have a mind of its own as it bakes. The stitches might sink, twist, turn and gap. The berries might bubble over your neat little dough twists. But pie doesn’t have to be perfect. Like knitting, it’s handmade. What matters is that it’s made with love. (And no matter what it looks like, it’s going to taste delicious anyway.)

Here is more pie inspiration from some of my personal favorite cookbooks. (Some of these crust recipes may be better suited for regular, non-decorative crusts … but I’m a pie lover and these deserve a share.)

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Kelis: My Life on a Plate 

Singer, mom and chef Kelis (also known for her song ‘Milkshake’) serves up a collection of recipes inspired by her Puerto Rican/Jamaican upbringing and world travels as a musician. Add this book to your collection and try her apple pie recipe and Butter Flaky Everything pie crust dough. (You also may want to try making her recipe for Cappuccino Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust. Just wow.) 

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Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit

At Sister Pie, Lisa Ludwinski and her band of sister bakers are helping make Detroit sweeter one slice at a time from a little corner pie shop in a former beauty salon on the city’s east side. No one leaves without pie – those who don’t have money in their pockets can simply cash in a prepaid slice from the “pie it forward” clothesline strung across the window. This gorgeous book includes a whopping 75 pie recipes, sweet and savory (and totally unique.) Find the Sister Pie Crust recipe here.

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Ms. American Pie

I can’t talk about pie without mentioning fellow Iowan Beth Howard. Beth knows about pie. She made pies at California’s Malibu Kitchen for Barbra Streisand, Dick Van Dyke and Steven Spielberg before moving back home to rural Iowa to live in the famous American Gothic House, the backdrop for Grant Wood’s famous painting. Beth Howard explains how a simple slice of pie can serve as a catalyst for healing. After suffering a personal tragedy, Beth discovered a new sense of purpose and hope while making pie. For her, giving away pie is a metaphor for giving of yourself. Read more about Beth here – scroll down to the Shaker Lemon Pie to find her pie crust recipe.

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For some reason, knitting and pie just go together. Maybe it’s the season. Maybe it’s the joy of making things with our hands. Beth Howard says “Pie is comfort. Pie heals. Pie can change the world.” 

Knitting, too.

xo,
Jen


























– Jen Geigley

www.jengeigley.com

It's here! MDK Field Guide No. 12: Big Joy by jen geigley

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I’ve been so excited to share this news (and this collection) with you! My last post was an ode to Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting and for good reason – they’ve been a huge influence on my knitting journey over the years and a source of techniques, inspiration and so much more. Last January, Ann, Kay and I had a lunch date in NYC and I almost fell out of my chair when they proposed we do a Field Guide together. Excited is not the word. Ecstatic would be more accurate. So today I am thrilled to share the modern, giftable, super fun-to-knit projects we’ve been working on for the past several months behind the scenes for MDK Field Guide No. 12: Big Joy. (And what a joy it’s been!)

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Open this awesome cover (illustrated by Jessie Pickren) and you’ll find chunky knits using Rowan Big Wool that come together fast, perfect for this season of knitting gifts for those we love. The five patterns in this field guide play with scale, texture and color and I made sure that everything comes in multiple sizes. Hats you can make for a baby, a tween or your dad (and everyone in between?) A cardigan in eleven sizes? Yes to all of this. Check out the designs (and gorgeous photos by Elysa Weitala) below.

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And … oh yeah. That pie? (Everyone’s been talking about this pie!) More to come on the pie. This was inspired by a pie I made and blogged about a few years ago for Pi Day (March 14th). This pie has a faux knitted crust and became the inspiration behind the Brambleberry Cowl in the Field Guide.

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Ready to get your own copy of MDK Field Guide No. 12: Big Joy? It’s available right here. Mason Dixon Knitting also has Rowan Big Wool in ALL the colors, and Addi Rockets to make your knitting extra, extra speedy. (Supporting MDK with your purchases means you’re supporting all that goes on at MDK, including their fantastic content, articles by their amazing contributors and these awesome little Field Guides.) If you’re local, stop by and knit with us at A Tangle of Yarn on September 14, 2019 from 12-4 for our MDK Field Guide launch party! Teresa will have lots of copies of Field Guide No. 12 on hand and I can sign yours if you want. (There will be pie.)

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for all the kind comments and sweet words of support this week. I’m really excited for this season of knitting and I hope you are too.

xo,
Jen



Dear Ann and Kay by jen geigley

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Dear Ann and Kay,

Unbeknownst to you and before we ever met in real life, you were my knitting companions. Long distance, sure. Virtual, yes. But I heard your voices through your writing. You opened my world to many new knitters/dyers/designers and shared your lives through your stories and correspondence. I felt a certain comradery that I think is understood by many a knitter. This hobby is more than a hobby. And all the people who share your love for this hobby are extra special.

Hold up. Time for the back story. Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner are the women behind Mason Dixon Knitting, also known as MDK. You probably already knew this, but in case you didn’t let me explain. Kay lives in New York City. Ann lives in Nashville. They talk every day, as true knitting friends should. They have been blogging about knitting since 2003, back when knitting blogs were scarce if nonexistent. All these years, they’ve been writing each other letters on MDK. (They were internet pen pals who had originally met on the Rowan message boards.) In the beginning, they’d never met in person but that all changed when they ended up writing a book and turned MDK into the site it is today, which provides (fantastic) daily reads for knitters.

Anyway, Ann and Kay … back to you. For many years, I have been waking up to your stories and bits of knitting wisdom. I’ve been reading MDK since I started knitting in 2008 and I’ve learned so much about knitting from you and your contributors. MDK is often the first thing I read in the morning with a cup of coffee as I get my kids ready for school, and what a way to start the day.

Because you share so much more than just knitting tips. So much more.

Your blog has taken me on so many excellent adventures. I’ve devoured your ‘How to Rhinebeck: A Primer’ and though I’ve never been to Rhinebeck, I can almost taste the cider donuts. You’ve introduced me to the magic of Samantha Brunson/Bobble Club House – I pored over her post about the student knitwear at FIT, more than once – constant inspiration. Your book was one of the first knitting books I ever owned, which resulted in several extremely cute Ballband Dishcloths in my kitchen drawer. Years later, those dishcloths are still one of my most favorite projects to knit. Thanks to you I’ve had the chance to admire Dana Williams-Johnson’s work – her 200 sweaters and fantastic style edits. At my house, Saturday mornings with coffee, PJs and Snippets is a real thing. (I know I’m not the only one.) And the knitalongs! Oh, the knitalongs. I do love a good knitalong.

Why YES, I would like to have a Yo-Yo Ma musical marathon … the morning after I go to a Slipknot show. (#balance) I’d love to watch an Alexander McQueen documentary, listen to ‘LeVar Burton Reads’ or think about thinking in pictures with our beloved Temple Grandin while knitting a few rounds on my sweater on a Saturday afternoon.

Intarsia. Stitch Fiddle. The love of log cabin knitting. Knit to This. Sheet pan suppers. Lazy Sundays and Julia Child on PBS. Paul Simon/Obvious Child. Ballbands are liars. Laugh through the knitting. I’ve learned how to fudge. (A real, actual knitting technique that every knitter needs to know.)

Over the years, you’ve helped me see that we all do things our own way, learning as we go. No one’s the #1 expert at everything (except for maybe Patty Lyons, whose expertise is quite amazing) and there’s always a bunch of different ways to do something. (Just look in the comments!) It’s okay to improvise and make things our own. We are different. We are the same. Thank you for that.

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Today you revealed that somehow, this girl from Iowa who loves a wearable, modern knit is the designer for the MDK Field Guide No. 12.

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What’s the Theme? More will be revealed when this Field Guide launches on Friday, September 6. How did I get here? I do not know. But I am honored and 100% thrilled to be a tiny part of MDK. This is a dream. I have done several super embarrassing happy dances around my kitchen during this process and I have a feeling the best is yet to come. (After all, I follow MDK’s Rule No. 1: Knitting is supposed to be fun.)

xo,
Jen

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Have you signed up for MDK’s weekly Saturday newsletter? You won’t regret it. Sign up here. (Plus you’ll get updates about this latest Field Guide, knitalongs and more!)

The Simple Sweater Knitalong! by jen geigley

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Let's knit a sweater ... together! I've written a modern, unisex sweater pattern that's super wearable and fun to knit. To go along with it, I've also made a series of YouTube videos that will show you what to do each step of the way. (So if this is your first sweater ever, you definitely won't be on your own.)

Over the years I've received lots of emails and messages from knitters who want to knit sweaters, but are intimidated by the instructions or aren't sure how the construction works. So I've made YouTube videos that will show you how to check your gauge, knit the set-up row, knit raglan increases, divide the sleeves and body ... all the way to finishing, weaving in ends and blocking your sweater. This raglan pullover fits like your favorite sweatshirt and is knitted in the round from the top down in one piece – my favorite sweater construction, because you can try it on as you go. This pullover uses chunky/bulky Rowan Big Wool on US 11 (8 mm) needles, so it's super quick to knit.

If you're not a beginner knitter, that's totally okay too! If you just want to add a classic pullover to your wardrobe, this KAL is for you.

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Ready to start knitting? Find the Simple Sweater Knitalong pattern HERE!

You can find all of my YouTube Simple Sweater Knitalong videos
HERE. (I'm on the road to 1,000 YouTube subscribers, so please click subscribe!)

I love nothing more than seeing your project and progress photos! Please share your photos and knitalong progress on social media using the hashtag #simplesweaterknitalong

Thanks so much (and let's knit some sweaters!)

xo,
Jen

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The Gap-tastic knitalong! by jen geigley

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Who is ready for the #gaptasticKAL? We cast on today, February 1st! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a brand new cozy cowl, fresh off the needles? Here in the Midwest, it’s crucial to our survival during this polar vortex. (But if you’re not quite ready yet or still need to order yarn, no worries - jump in when you’re ready. No rush to finish, but definitely share pics of your progress!)

My friends at StevenBe have a huge Gaptastic section on their website with tons of yarn options that would be perfect for this cowl. (Find everything right here.) Once you have your yarn and needles ready, download the free Gaptastic pattern on Ravelry, then start posting photos on social media starting on February 1 using the hashtag #gaptasticKAL. I can’t wait to see your pics!

Excited to knit along with you!

xo,
Jen

Favorite things 2019 by jen geigley

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These are a few of my favorite things … January 2019 edition! Happy new year to you all and hope you had a happy holiday season. I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite things lately and thought it was a good time to share, so here’s a little visual list of some of the cool things I’ve been loving lately.

First up is Hank’s Pockets. I own these pocket vests in both brown and black and they are the absolute best. I met Hannah (the creator of Hank’s pockets) last year in nyc at Vogue Knitting Live and immediately fell in love with her handmade creations. Get your Hank’s Pockets here and use the coupon code SHAREPOCKETS to recieve 15% off.

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My whole family is loving this Everyone Coconut & Lemon lotion this season. It’s bright and fresh and smells fantastic with matricaria flower extract, aloe vera leaf, calendula flower extract, white tea leaf extract and lemon peel oil.

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You guys know I wear Vans every single day, right? This pair of Woven Check Slip-Ons will be your new favorite – they’re comfortable and will look cool with every outfit you own. (Are you in the Vans Family? Join to get rewards, free gifts, insider information, exclusive designs and experiences and points from purchases.)

Are you always cold? Try out my new favorite base layer – Heattech from Uniqlo. I love the entire womens’ collection but I really, really love the Heattech from Alexander Wang pieces. (Click this link to get $10 off your first purchase.)

I signed up for The Sketchbook Project this year and you should too! Let this project be your creative kick-start to 2019. Sign-ups end soon, so order your book today! Enter the code NEWPROJECT2019 at checkout to get 20% off.

Guys. Have you still not tried THINX?! These period underwear have changed my life. I’ve been using them for a few years now and will never go back to my old ways. Skeptical? I get it. Try one pair and see what you think. (I bet you’ll love them.) My personal favorites are the the hip hugger, the cotton brief and the boy short. And if you have tween/teenaged girls, check out THINX (BTWN)! Get $10 off your order with my referral link.

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Is your regular lip balm not cutting it this winter? Try Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15. This best-seller is famous for its ultra-nourishing and protective benefits, sublime texture, and citrus flavor.

I have a new favorite pair of jeans! Check out Uniqlo’s High Rise Cigarette Jean – you won’t be sorry. (Use this link to get $10 off your $75 order!)

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And last but not least, I have to include my brand new Knitting Planner in my list! I’ve been working on this baby for awhile now, so I’m super excited to see it in print. It includes project planning pages, brainstorming pages, lists, knitter's graph paper, beautiful photos and more. It also functions as a day-to-day planner with monthly and weekly pages with plenty of room for writing and/or bullet journaling. This planner will give you a place to record all your important knitting information, like the measurements of friends and family and yarn requirements for projects you want to knit. It’s 6x9" and has 240 pages awaiting your notes and ideas, perfect for throwing into your knitting bag.

And that’s my list! I hope you enjoyed it because I had lots of fun putting it together. What’s on your list of favorite things this year?

** The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. **

The Knitting Planner by jen geigley

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I’m super excited to share something I’ve been working on for a long time. I’ve always wanted a knitting planner … a place for my sketches and knitting project planning, but a space to keep track of my daily life stuff too.

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Introducing … The Knitting Planner. A planner just for knitters!

Plan and organize your life … and your knit life! The Knitting Planner is a must-have for any knitter or knitwear designer and includes project planning pages, brainstorming pages, lists, knitter's graph paper and more. In addition to providing pages to plan and record projects, The Knitting Planner functions as a day-to-day planner with monthly and weekly pages with plenty of room for writing and/or bullet journaling.

The Knitting Planner will give you a place to record all your important knitting information, like the measurements of friends and family and yarn requirements for projects you want to knit. At 6 x 9", this planner is the perfect size to throw into your knitting bag and with 240 pages awaiting your notes, dreams and ideas, you'll fall in love with this planner and knitting companion.

You can find it here. (I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!)

Happy knitting!
xo - Jen

New favorite knitting gadget ... the Knitter's Pride Row Counter Ring by jen geigley

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I love knitting gadgets, but I love them even more when they are super functional and help me be more productive. This is quite possibly my most favorite knitting tool ever – a row counter ring from Knitter’s Pride. You can wear it on any finger, but I find it very comfortable and easy to access on my thumb. (I got the size 7, which fits both my ring finger and my thumb.) It comes in four sizes so you can find the perfect fit for you.

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I was working on my fleegle heel on my Flourite socks last night and this row counter ring was a lifesaver. I normally count rows in the most old-fashioned way possible … stopping after each row to make tally marks on a post-it note. I still forget to mark my rows down half the time, especially when I’m trying to zip through a bunch of short rows. But this ring made such a difference – it’s right there in front of me and it’s super easy to ‘click’ to the next number. And the numbers stay in place – they won’t accidentally slide around while you work. Just gently push inward toward the center to move to the next number. I love not having to set my work down. Just keep knitting!

I definitely think this should be on every knitter’s holiday wish list! Find more info about the Knitter’s Pride row counter ring here. Available from your local yarn shop or favorite online retailer.


Disclaimer: I received a free row counter ring from Knitter’s Pride and in return I wrote this honest review. All opinions are my own.

Bento: the basics by jen geigley

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If you've been following me on Instagram, you might already know the bento is back! This year I'm back to packing school lunches for my two kids (after a short hiatus.) And I'm having so much fun. Last week, I made these Harry Potter and Mario-themed lunches for their first day. And after I posted this pic on social media, I got a TON of questions!

So, I'd like to share my favorite, most-used bento supplies right here ... and a few things that I bought over the years and haven't used very often. Let's take a look.

(Disclaimer: The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. All opinions are my own.)

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First up! Silicone baking cups. I use these for every single lunch I pack! They make perfect containers for fruits, veggies, small crackers, slices of cheese ... practically anything. And the flat silicone shapes are baran food dividers. I use these to divide a lunchbox section into two parts, especially if I have a wet food next to a dry food. (Find the cups here and here. Find the star/moon set here. Find the baran/dividers here.)

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The most adorable and irresistible bento accessory in the world are these little plastic food picks. Use them to decorate sandwiches, fruits, cheese, veggies ... they are adorable and inexpensive and are so fun to use.  (Find these here.)

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I bought a few new food picks to use this year because I couldn't help myself. Some of these are too 'cute' for my sixth grade daughter but my son is in first grade and is STOKED about these. (Find these and more here.)

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Sandwich cutters! This pic does not show what these do very well at all, but basically the outer shape cuts an outline into the bread, like a cookie cutter. Then you take off the top shape and 'stamp' a more detailed, 3D image onto the top piece of your sandwich. I have used these a million times over the years for Lo's lunches. Tiny bunny sandwiches!

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And that's why I bought one more set this year that was a little bit more boy-themed for my son. Pop a few of these little sandwiches into a lunch box and you're set! Sometimes these fit better inside bento boxes than a regular square sandwich too. (FInd them here.)

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Here's a supply I bet you already have! I use cookie cutters and metal fruit/veggie cutters constantly. They are easy and fast and make your food look super cool. I use them to cut sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, cheese, deli meat, fruit leather ... the possibilities are endless. (Find my favorite IKEA metal animal cookie cutters here.)

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If you happen to have a hard-boiled egg lover in your house, egg shapers are extremely fun. I have one kid who loves eggs and one kid who won't touch them. (Of course!) These molds definitely work best on small to medium-sized eggs. If your eggs is too large, egg white will smush out the sides and your shape won't turn out very well. (Find these here.)

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To use these, you just boil an egg like you would normally. Then peel it while it's still hot. (Not so hot that you burn your fingers, but you want it to be pretty warm.) Put the peeled egg inside the mold and clip the sides shut for about five minutes or so. I make about six at a time and store them in the fridge for a week. (Find Star Wars egg shapers here!)

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I like to avoid using zip-lock bags if I can and these reusable snack bags are the perfect replacement. They aren't totally waterproof though, so they are best for sandwiches and crackers or other dry foods. I love throwing these in my purse, too. (Find the blue/orange set here and the Mario bags here.)

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Hold me closer, tiny boxes! You can pretty much find these anywhere or just use your smallest kitchen containers with lids. I use these all the time when I want to throw in some extra carrots or grapes or strawberries ... sometimes it's nice to keep the wet things separate in a leak-proof container and these little guys do the trick. (Find tons of them here.)

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Okay ... now on to my least-used supplies. (This part is kind of sad, because these boxes are ADORABLE and some of the first lunch boxes I ever bought.) Boxes like these are tricky for a few reasons. They are very shallow, can be more difficult to pack because foods have to stay very flat, and the sections have to be stacked perfectly to keep the food from falling out. (The sections of these boxes don't really snap together at all ... they just sit on top of each other.) These boxes come with a strap (which has been misplaced) but even that didn't always keep the three sections from falling apart. The cute top section is meant for silverware and is very shallow, so there's not a whole lot of space in the compartments below for kids with an appetite. BUT they are adorable, so if you love these, go for it! (You can find similar boxes here.)

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Here's another adorable type of box! But beware of any boxes with these tiny clips on the sides. They break really easily.

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Now THESE boxes have stood the test of time. They might be 6+ years old and still are probably my favorites. Sistema lunch boxes come in a ton of sizes and shapes, and they all have these awesome heavy-duty clips that keep the box sealed really nicely, but they are still easy for kids to open. I have never had one of these clips break. These boxes also hold a nice amount of food. (Find a huge selection of Sistema here.)

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This super sweet random box is another favorite of mine! Again, it has the strong side clips (on all four sides.) And that blue divider inside slides back and forth so you can move it wherever you want, which is awesome. I love Star Wars and I love this box! (I'm not sure this box is available anymore, but there are similar ones here and here.)

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More lunch boxes! This year, Cat and Jack for Target came out with bento boxes (yay) and lunch bags (double yay) and I have been LOVING them so far. These are the perfect size for elementary kids, have sturdy clips on all four sides of the lid and the boxes fit perfectly in their bags with enough room for ice packs and a juice box. The bags also have an outer sleeve to hold a water bottle. They are just fantastic.

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Another fave of mine are these rad boxes from Bentology. If you really don't want your lunch to spill all over the place, these containers will do the job. (Sometimes I only use a couple of the lids, depending on what I'm packing.) I love these colors so much too. I got the raspberry/blue set and the night/pear set. So modern and cool. These also have a nice narrow space on the side for silverware or a napkin. These outer boxes can be a bit tricky for kids to open, but if you practice at home first they will get the hang of it.

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These fit perfectly in the Bentology lunch bags, which I also love (and like the Cat and Jack bags, they too have a side compartment for a water bottle, which is so smart.) These boxes and bags are almost the same size as the Cat and Jack ones, so you could put a Bentology box inside a Cat and Jack lunch bag.

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If you're wondering where I learned all of this, check out the book 'Everyday Bento' by my friend Wendy Copley of Wendolonia. I've followed her and her lunches online for years and everything I know I learned from her. (Get this book.) Another favorite? Bento USA. (But beware ... you'll want everything you see there. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

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And there you have it – some of my favorite and most-used bento boxes and supplies that I have collected over the years. Do you need all this stuff? Absolutely not. You can totally start with what you have – all you really need is a knife, containers with with plastic lids, maybe a few cookies cutters and your imagination! Can't wait to share more throughout the school year – let me know if you have any questions!

(Want to see more? Read my other bento posts.)