Last Gasp

Look, I squeaked out a pair of socks for Hubs for Christmas at the last minute.

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Yarn: Leading Mens Fiber Arts Show Stopper
Coiorway: O Christmas Tree

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.

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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.

Last Year’s Preparations Pay Off

My mother is a guesser, not an asker. What’s more, she’s a guesser who is uncomfortable asking anything of anyone, ever. Pause for a moment before taking that sip because I have something shocking to tell you: I’m the exact same way. In ourselves we call it independent. In one another we call it stubborn. In Granny we call it ornery. With love, folks, WITH LOVE.

You might think our respective guessing and *ahem* independent natures are at constant loggerheads, but it only seems to be a recurring problem when it comes to buying things for the kids. Mom guesses at what we need and I guess at what she has or hasn’t already purchased while we both try to avoid being presumptuous or hurting one another’s feelings. This has played out in several different ways over the years with different results, most notably the time I decided to ask, just ask, for an Easter dress and my mom gave us SEVEN (I haven’t mentioned, yet, that gifts are my mother’s love language which complicates these transactions even more), but this year somehow we just didn’t talk about it. At all. I didn’t ask if she’d bought or would buy Christmas clothes for the kids, she didn’t ask if she should or give me a big bag of them. I honestly didn’t think about it until I picked the kids up from my parents’ and realized that I wouldn’t be seeing them again until Christmas Eve church service and for the first holiday ever we had no clothes for the kiddos.

What to do? I scanned my imperfect memory of the kiddos’ wardrobes. This is another problem, neither my mother nor I remember all the things we buy or where we put them., but I clearly remembered Chuffy having 5 Christmas sweaters to choose from and decided that if MJ were to wear a pink Minnie Mouse dress, well, that would be OK.

I also remembered the fabric I had ordered last year when I thought I might make MJ’s Christmas dress … and Mom bought her one, instead. 🙂 I used a big swath of that fabric to make myself a Christmas skirt. Did I have enough left to make a dress?

I did! I also had all the notions. This wasn’t the pattern I had intended for this fabric, nor is it a traditional holiday style, but I’ve had it on deck for a long while and there’s nothing like the holidays to remind you that time is running out and if you’re going to make your daughter all the dresses while she’s still young you better get cracking.

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Pattern: The Louisa Dress by Companie M
Size: 4
Fabric: Quilting cotton aw yeah

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Read on to find out who chose the buttons…

I didn’t choose this pattern for its simplicity, but I was grateful for it. Not too many pieces, no gathering, straight forward pocket construction, the loud fabric doesn’t compete with the design, and the seams are all finished before you piece it together which was a refreshing change from usual routine. I didn’t have enough fabric to worry over which to use where or pattern placement and matching. So I didn’t! And it was all so easy.  I couldn’t believe how fast it came together. Hubs said he’d thought the same thing, but didn’t want to say anything. No, I assured him, it was legitimately and surprisingly quick.

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This year’s Christmas miracle: unintentional yet PERFECT PATTERN MATCHING

MJ liked it well enough to not fight me too much getting into it Christmas Eve and the fight she put up was I think inspired by Chuffy’s tantrum over wearing not sweatpants. She choose the buttons, but it was the giant pocket that won her over – even little girls love a dress with pockets – and she voluntarily choose to wear it all Christmas Day. Chuffy, on the other hand, stayed in his pajamas. Fair enough, kid, I’ll give you that one.

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Even the full lining went in like a charm.

I could have worn my coordinating outfit, but I’m not into mother-daughter matching. If that’s your thing, cool, no judgment. I’m not yucking your yum, it’s just not my thing. Instead in a funny twist I wore the Christmas dress my mom bought me this year.

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.

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.