I’m late to the stranded yoke colorwork knitting fad that’s been bursting for the last few years. I always admired them, but if you’ve never priced out the cost of purchasing 3 or 4 or more different colorways of fingering- or dk-weight yarn, your virtual shopping cart’s total may give you a shock. I can usually justify a yarn or fabric purchase, but I could already feel before completing the purchase the guilt of an unfinished sweater I had sunk so much cash into and I dreaded having so many barely used skeins of yarn left over. I imagined them haunting my dreams, taunting me every time I dove into the stash, reminding me of that sweater that cost $$$$ but only used half that $$$$ in term of yardage. It would be yet more leftover yarn that I can’t get rid of yet never seems to serve a purpose beyond “maybe mittens, someday”. Buying yarn, you see, has a psychological cost as well.
The parade of fantastic patterns and makes kept coming. It was only a matter of time before I found the perfect gateway into stranded yoke colorwork sweaters.
It feels contrary to knitterly consensus to admit that apart from its obvious gorgeousness, I started with this pattern because it uses only two colors. What knitter worth her or his salt is trying to limit the amount of yarn on hand? The leftovers from this sweater, I rationalized, could be used in my next, and the leftovers from that one into the one thereafter, and so on. It would be a sort of step-up plan into the really colorful yokes.
I guess I’m OK with stash creep if it’s gradual.
Also in the forecast: maybe some mittens? Someday?
Because socks are my on-the-go take-anywhere-and-everywhere knitting I forget how fast they fly off the needles if you just sit down and work on them. It took me 4 months to get to just past the gusset on the 2nd sock knitting these in found moments outside the house. It took me me a cheesy holiday movie and a bit of Christmas Eve morning to finish it off. Makes me wonder if the volume of knitting I accomplish out and about is worth the trouble of carrying it.
What am I even saying, OF COURSE IT IS.
And that’s all the holiday makes I have to share. Christmas is in books., or it will be soon after I get it all packed up and moved out of my living room.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A vital blocking:
And a fair amount of embroidery and finishing:
And some sewing up:
Add a collar and viola!
I 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.
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.
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.