Christmas in August, September, October

Starting my super secret Christmas knitting in August was not planned. It was small-bite comfort knitting from a familiar and beloved pattern to satisfy my too-tired-to-be-inspired brain. It was nice that my mindless knitting projects also had purpose, but I knew myself too well to count my knitted chickens before they hatched. Having a deadline doesn’t guarantee motivation. Just because I start a thing in August doesn’t mean it will be done in time for Christmas this year or next or ever.

I had a friend who one Christmas was upset because she wasn’t going to get her holiday crafting done in time. She was in a bad place and I unwisely tried to reassure her it was going to be OK. “Is it? IS IT GOING TO BE OK?” she yelled. I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t “Um, yes?” which, now that I was caught up with the magnitude of her stress levels I sagely refrained from blurting out. Instead I stood there awkwardly, realizing I had been dismissive and not at all reassuring, pissing her off all the more with my stunned silence. We’ve all been in that mental space and it wasn’t about the presents. It’s never about the presents.

This post, on the other hand, is ALL ABOUT THE PRESENTS. I hope you like gnomes because I’m about to introduce you to the 14 I made. First, family groupings:

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Tennessee branch
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Washington branch
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Wisconsin branch
Pattern: Never Not Gnoming by Sarah Schira
Yarn: Leftovers
Size: Large

The pattern is for male gnomes only. I added braids and left off beards to make lady gnomes even though neither I nor several of the recipients have enough hair to braid. But then most of the men don’t have beards, either, so I guess we’re even.

They came out a surprising variety of sizes considering I used size 1 needs and fingering weight yarn for all. I had a bit of work figuring out pairings and groupings, trying to coordinate colors and sizes before adding hair.

Amazingly they were done in plenty of time which wasn’t true for some of the other items I decided to toss in at the last minute. Leave to me, I thought, to finish the time consuming part and still end up late because of some random thing that ins’t. I was raised to believe that if you’re not early you’re late, but and when the post office pulled through and everything arrived in the nick of time (ha ha, couldn’t let that one pass) I decided to not think of them as almost-tardy, but perfectly-timed.

Tiny Things

I like to make the kids tiny toys for their stockings I have this idea that they’ll grow to form a prized collection, but of course they get lost, separated and disassociated from the holiday, subsumed into the collective mass of my kids’ other toys. Only the ones in B’s stocking are collected or prized, and only by me. Her stocking is laughably large, so big you wouldn’t know there are tiny toys inside if I weren’t telling you.

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Patterns: Tiny Ice Cream, Tiny Hot Dog, & Tiny Cupcake from Mochimochi Land
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I told you they were tiny!

I’ve already lost track of where the hot dog and ice cream have gone gotten to, but Chuffy’s delight when I fished his overlooked hot dog out of his stocking (hey, it’s super small and easy to miss and there was Pez) was more than enough to keep me making more next year and every year.

Sweater for a Baby Human

Winter babies are my very favorite to knit for, early winter babies especially, born when the nights are longest and there are so many cold days ahead and the year is new or will be soon. I don’t care if the tiny sweater will fit for only a few weeks or that it might get spit up on. It’s a sweater for the littlest, most fragile bodies that need the warmth the most. Little sweaters for baby humans are a knitter’s blessing. Summer babes, equally knit-worthy, just don’t have the same urgency.

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Pattern: Baby Girl Human Fair Isle Cardigan by Purl Soho (seriously though, why is the name of this pattern gendered?)
Size: Newborn
Yarn: Knitpicks Preciosa Tonal Fingering in Pearlescent Tonal + bibs and bobs of other brands in purposefully bright colors because boys deserve colorful clothes, too
Mods: I centered the colorwork chart

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My first baby was born two days before winter solstice and I remember those days being so warm and cozy and sweet and special and feeling like a Christmastime baby was the best sort of baby because the world seemed to slow down and know its specialness right before bursting with energy and newness at the same time as I was slowing down and experiencing the world in an entirely altered way.

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Of course I would have thought any time was the best time to have my baby, that’s how it works, and I’m sure this baby’s parents feel exactly the same way.

Oh, my stars and garters

Who didn’t see Gillian’s Scandinavian Fabric Stars tutorial and immediately order a short stack of fat quarters to make a quick 27 or so?

I know it wasn’t just me.

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These were really satisfying to make.

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Perfect for plopping down in front of the TV with BIG glass of wine and a delightfully terrible made-for-TV Christmas movie.

All they need is hangers. The ribbon is in a small bag possibly in a bigger bag tossed into an even larger bag (it’s bags all the way down, folks) with all the unwrapped Christmas gifts and I keep thinking I’ll dig it out when I get around to starting the wrapping, but I keep postponing that chore until “tomorrow” in favor of another Christmas movie and requisite boozy accompaniment.

Santas’ Workshop

I was in my 20’s when I started knitting. I plodded along through the early disappointments, of which there were many. I learned to chalk them up to the learning curve, retreating back to what dish towels after the especially painful setbacks. It’s been a while, now, since I was in my 20’s and I’ve knit a lot of things between then and now besides lots (and LOTS) of dishcloths. I’ve knit socks and sweaters and mittens and hats and scarves and toys, and even a willie warmer. I’ve knit cables and lace and stranded colorwork.

But I had never knit intarsia on such a large scale, or possibly ever, though I vaguely remember being frustrated by the twisting yarns and the idea of intarsia has always inspired a sense of dread that I can only attribute to one or more failed attempts that I buried deep into my subconscious. I definitely had some yarn bobbins at some point which indicated some interest or intention to learn the technique, but I cleaned them out because I was never going to use them anyways. Hobbies and clutter, am I right? I am overwhelmed by stuff but anticipating what may or not be useful or when is a crapshoot.

I saw this pattern on ravelry and decided I was not going to be intimidated any more. I wrapped my yarns on cardboard and it worked just fine. Just fine in this case means I had to untwist everything ever couple rows because it quickly became a rat’s nest, but that’s the nature of the beast. The knitting itself, I was happy to discover, was surprisingly easy, if fiddly.

There were a lot of ends to weave in:

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I left all those ends on the first one because I thought I’d have tension issues that would need fixed. I didn’t and got smart and wove them in as I went on the 2nd sweater.

A vital blocking:

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Blank Santa faces

And a fair amount of embroidery and finishing:

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Buttons and bobbles and chain stitch, oh my.

And some sewing up:

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I often lament that it’s gone out of style to knit sweaters in pieces.

Add a collar and viola!

IMG_9923I am completely chuffed with myself. These may not be to everyone’s taste, but I am thrilled with them (my kids, on the other hand, not so much! But I don’t hang my sense of knitterly worth on their opinions) and I feel so accomplished. I had built intarsia up to be my last knitting frontier and it turned out to be just… knitting.

Santa Baby

I don’t know how to introduce these projects. They reveal some part of my person and general cheeseball-ness that I try to keep under wraps.

I love kitschy Christmas. I’m too self-conscious and unorganized to go all out, and my decorating scheme probably looks more like a lack of effort than a preference. Christmas red in my house is a true red, not burgundy, green is, well, green, not lime or forest. I thought about buying a tasteful wreath this year, but why should I when I already have one made of multicolored Christmas balls? I prefer colored lights to white and tinsel to popcorn. Our stockings are handmade. They don’t match, nor do our ornaments and I always felt kind of bad for trees whose ornaments do. A coworker once told what was to her a funny anecdote about how how excited she was when she moved into her first house to have an all-matching Christmas tree and how her mother undermined her efforts by sending her a box of her childhood ornaments. I had always considered trees with matching decorations soulless and associated them with department stores. I’d had no idea it was something anybody would want in her own home.

Different strokes for different folks. Not everybody wants a kitschy mishmash, not everybody wants matchy-matchy, only a few would make her children matching kitschy Santa sweaters.

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Pattern: Santa Claus by Sue Stratford
Sizes: 7 & 5
Yarn: Valley Yarns in worsted superwash & non

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There are lots of reasons not to make your children matching Christmas sweaters, especially if you’re as bad at laundry as I am. I don’t know which is worse: wondering if they’ll even wear them or wondering how long before an ice cream or chocolate stain ruins them. Time will tell which fate will befall these sweaters. If I had to wager a guess I’d say the blue will never be worn and the pink will be stained before we leave the house. That’s OK. I don’t mind. Knitting is my love language.

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More on the making another day.

 

More of the same, but different

Friends, I have come up with a corollary to the Christmas pajamas: Thanksgiving pajamas!***

As you are by now well aware, the sleepover pajamas from Oliver & S are my go-to pajamas pattern. HOWEVER. This flannel fell into my virtual shopping cart a while back. It was super cute, on sale, and I figured pajamas are always something I’ll make eventually and therefore not real “stash”. I didn’t have a coordinating flannel for the sleepover pajama’s distinctive exposed facings, nor did I want to think too hard about turning them inward. It should be easy as pie, but pie is deceptively hard, and I hadn’t yet refamiliarized myself with the pattern and sometimes even minor changes can be a mind meld so the last time I was at Joann’s I picked up the first basic children’s pajama pattern I came to in a book. It has a collar, see, and is therefore TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

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Pattern: Burda Style 9747
Fabric: Supernova flannel by Dear Stella
Size: 7*

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The light was so yellow the day I took these.

I thought this was a good plan. I thought it would be easy. I underestimated and reaffirmed my extreme distaste for paper patterns.

Now, I can handle paper patterns in certain circumstances. Circumstances like when a PDF is not available (WHY Merchant & Mill, WHY?). Or like the time I went to pick up my mom’s sewing machine after repair and the shop was clearancing out their paper patterns and I bought, oh, 8 or 10 indie patterns at $3-5 a pop. Good stuff, too: Thread Theory, Colette, and Sewaholic. I hate tracing, but I’ll trace if it means I’m saving 75% off suggested retail prices.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that all paper patterns are not created equal. I was genuinely surprised by the quality of indie patterns. The paper is thick, the instructions are comprehensive, the packaging is interesting and unique to the brand. The pajamas pattern I bought, though, was a tissue paper pattern, the kind that’s impossible to fold back into the envelope whence it came. The kind that make me hate everything and wonder why I’m even bothering sewing because it’s so dumb and why do I do this to myself and what’s the point? The kind that comes accompanied by brief, incomplete, sometimes inaccurate instructions printed on huge pieces of paper that are always in the way. I still have no idea what I was supposed to do with the back of the collar.** I drafted a back facing to sew to the front facings and sandwich it all together, but no such pattern piece was provided and the pattern instructions were to sew the front facings to the shoulder seams, so??? Yay me for knowing enough to come up with a solution.

 

*My kiddo is only 5, but he’s a largish 5 and I made a size 7 based on his measurements. These pajamas are enormous. I can’t tell you how oversized they are because he has’t tried them on, yet. There will definitely be some cuff and sleeve rolling.

**A cursory google search to identify this pattern tells me that I am not dumb and that the collar is meant to be finished with bias tape which the instructions neglect to mention. OK then.

***Thanksgiving pajamas seemed like a good idea until my mother pulled out a dozen pairs of new pajamas to give us the day before. Why do I even bother?