Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

I love my job.  I love the people I work with.  I love the people I work for.  There really isn’t one thing about my job that I don’t love.  You see I work in theater.  My job is to supervise and assist our volunteers in making sure the patrons enter the theater and get to their seats quickly and safely.  I also have to address all customer complaints, seating issues, assist differently abled or disabled patrons to their seats and to make sure they have all their needs met, such as hearing assist devices, back rests or even just room for their wheelchair or scooter.  It’s a wonderful job and very rewarding.  It can also be very exhausting work.

This past weekend I was exceptionally busy and ended up pulling a 9hr. shift on Sat. and then a 4hr. shift yesterday.  These don’t seem like a lot of hours, and admittedly as far as jobs go I have it easy, but a lot of the time is spent running up and down stairs making sure that all entrances to the theater are operating properly, that the ushers have no issues and that I am available to address any customer questions or generally help in any way I can.  I describe my job as one part guidance counsellor, one part hostage negotiator and one part stand-up comedienne.  Humour is a wonderful thing for ensuring patrons enter the theater in a good mood.  It makes everyone’s lives easier.  So anyway, that is one of the reasons for my absence from this blog.

The other reason is Christmas presents.  I’ve been working on a few but mainly on one sweater.  It’s this one from The Knitter (one of my favourite magazines), issue #24.  In the magazine the smocking is highlighted by a contrasting yarn, in their case, a pink.  The version I’m knitting is in a cranberry colour and I intend to highlight the smocking with silver beading.  I’m also extending the rib above the last row of smocking to match that below.  I can deal with some things not being symmetrical but this isn’t one of them.  I’m hoping it will look alright because otherwise I’ll have to take it out and remove the ribbing detail below the smocking otherwise it will drive me crazy.  I can be a bit like Sheldon Cooper sometimes.  One other modification will be to knit the sleeves narrower to make them tighter to the arm.  I’m not a person who likes wide sleeves.  I have enough loose skin flapping around I don’t need a sweater adding to it, otherwise I might take off.

I’ve also been knitting on a cowl.  It’s in the Manos del Uruguay that I talked about here.  It’s just a simple seed stitch rectangle that I will add buttons to.  I think I like the buttoned cowl or neck warmer rather than the kind you pull over your head simply because my hair always looks untidy so I don’t think I need to help it along.  I don’t know why but no matter what I do I always end up looking like I’ve been pulled through a bush backwards, as my mother used to say.  Well, there was the time when I grew it longer but then I had to iron it everyday and that is just way too much work.  Even with smoothing creams and shampoos and relaxers my hair still seems to end up looking like thatch on a roof especially when there’s any moisture in the air.  I guess it doesn’t matter what style I knit it in since it’s not for me but I like to give people things I like but that I know they will like as well.  But I digress.

The cowl is moving along swimmingly because I’m knitting it on size 7mm needles.  I like the fabric I’m getting, it’s a little more dense than it would be if I used a larger needle but since it’s for winter wear, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  The yarn itself is soft so it won’t be uncomfortable around the neck.  I like the way the variations of colour show up in the seed stitch, it’s almost like a little surprise and it keeps the knitting interesting.

I’ve also got three other things on the needles – one pair of socks, a sweater that I’m making out of some Pingouin Ruban which has been knocking around my stash for a few years now.  I thought I should probably do something with it otherwise it’s just going to languish there forever.  The sweater is a simple top down, buttonless, loose-fitting cardigan.  I’m hoping it will come out all drapey but it’s still too early to tell.  The other sweater still on the needles is the one I was making for a party last month.  Yes, I know but the front is done and blocked and the back is slowly progressing but since the urgency to have it done is gone, I’ve kind of put it on the back burner while I work on things that matter.  Poor thing but I promise it will get completed, when is unclear but it will get done.

So that is the story so far.  I should be able to make some good headway this week as I’m only working tomorrow night and then I’m off until Saturday.  Then I work the weekend and am off again until the following weekend.  That gives me 8-10 solid days of knitting to get it all done.  Piece of cake.  Hmm, I just may have to make one so I can eat it before I die of exhaustion.  I’ll try to get some pictures up this week now that I figured out how to do it.  Now back to the needles.

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Soooooo. I know I’ve been a bit remiss in posting but I have been busy. In my defense I’ve had a few things to do, like shopping for wool for prezzies and going to the thrift store because they had women’s clothing half price and how can you resist a bargain like that especially since I found this spring coat, which is right on trend, for $3.00.

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And it looks great!  I just have to lose about 2 kilos (around 5lbs)  and it will fit perfectly.

I also found this 100% wool sweater from the GAP for $2.00.

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The picture doesn’t show the colour of the sweater but the collar and button bands are a deep plum and the body of the sweater a tweedy dark emerald.  It will be a nice warm sweater once winter really starts to blow.  I almost bought a robins egg blue 100% mohair sweater for $1.50 but it wasn’t my colour and the collar came right up under the chin.  I think that would drive me crazy and the previous owner probably would agree.

There really were some great bargains there.  My youngest daughter bought a really nice 100% wool coat for $10.00.  It’s a lovely shade of dark crimson and is double-breasted.  It looks great on her and she was looking for a good coat to wear out instead of her down jacket which is too hot to go walking around the stores in.  She also bought a GAP 100% lambswool cream-coloured sweater for $2.00 that will be really cozy on a cold day.  And, of course, we bought books.  Lots of books.  About 15 books.  But it’s hard to resist when you find interesting books from 1935.

I’ve said before how my kids will take a book as a present over just about anything else so when I told my daughter I would buy her some books as part of her Christmas present she kind of went overboard.  This is what we got:

1.  The Music Story Series – Printed in 1968 this book traces the history of hymnology and carolry from ancient Greece and Rome through to more modern times.  On the way it describes how this type of music gained in popularity and lost popularity through different eras.  It also contains sheet music and lots of examples of poetry that would have been set to music and sung on special occasions.  It’s looks to be very interesting especially to a musicologist like myself.

2.  Canadian Home Gardening – Printed in 1938 this book is exactly what it says.  I find these old gardening books interesting because they had to deal with enriching the soil and dealing with pests in an all natural way.  Also there weren’t the amount of hybrids or imported seed that we see now so it’s a good way to learn about native plants and what type are best for our climate.  Yes, our region is at least 1 degree warmer than what it was in 1935 but it should still give valuable information on the challenges of gardening in Canada.  The chapters are laid out by month so you know exactly what you should be doing and when.  Also any book that has a section called, “December, the Month Of Christmas – and the Annual Slaughter of Trees”  is a keeper.  For my green-thumbed daughter.

3.  The Good Housekeeping Needlecraft Encyclopedia – Printed in 1950 this book is an extensive look at everything to do with needlecraft.  If you can use a needle to do it, it’s in this book.  They even have a section on how to make your own fishing net.  It has everything from simple sewing to tailoring to tufting to net embroidery to rug making and weaving.  I love these old needlecraft, and homemaking, books because they often have tips and techniques that have long since lost favour but are very useful just the same.  After all, who knows when you may need to make a fishing net to catch your own cod fish?   For both my girls.  They both love needlecrafts of all kinds so should find this useful.

4.  Our Witchdoctors are too Weak – This is one I got for my daughter bought because it looks at a pair of missionaries who lived with a remote Amazonian tribe, Wilo, and learned about their language and customs as they try to teach them about God.  Now we are not Christians but it will still be interesting learning about the language and customs of people you never knew existed.  Now, I’m not one to agree with missionaries trying to convert people but there is no doubt that they do good work in any case so I try not to judge.  It looks like this book will be a fun read as the pieces I’ve already read are humourous without losing sight of the incredible difficulties these people face.

5.  Robert Service Biography – Robert Service is my favourite poet.  I love his romantic view of the high north.  I love how he paints the people who live there and I love his sense of humour.  He was also my Dads favourite poet and I still have the books he used to read.  I can still see him sitting in the kitchen chair with a cup of tea in one hand, a cigarette in an ashtray on the table and the book open in his other hand.  I can’t wait to read what motivated this man to want to live in the Yukon.

6. Phantoms in the Brain:  Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind – Printed in 1998 so a little out of date but still useful in learning about the brain.

7.  Ideas and Opinions – This book is a collection of Albert Einstein’s most popular writings.  So it has his essays about relativity, nuclear war, religion, human rights, economics and the role of government.  I studied his philosophies a bit in university but always wanted to read more by the man.  Interesting fellow with a lot of good things to say.

8.  The Complete Woodsman – Printed in 1974 this book will give you all the information you will ever need to know about living out in the woods of Canada.  You can learn how to make a shelter, rafts, mocassins, bows and arrows, sun goggles, how to start a friction fire, how to navigate by the stars, which plants are safe to eat and which will kill you, and how to pack for travel in the forest.  Good things to know when the apocalypse comes.  Christmas present for dear daughter.

9.  The Workingman in the Nineteenth Century – Printed in 1974 this book is a collection of documents that paint a picture of the life of a workingman.  It talks about the formation of unions, working conditions, living conditions, his health, diet, recreations etc.  A good history lesson on the way ordinary people lived back in the day.  All the information is from books, newspapers and evidence supplied to the Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital of Canada, so it’s not just anecdotal evidence.  This is another Christmas present for my daughter.

10.  And here we come to a real treasure.  I bought these for my endlessly curious daughter.  This is a collection of five books from 1934, ’35, ’39, ’41, and ’45 entitled Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Year Book.  Along with these we also found and 1931 edition of Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge.  The year books are exactly that.  They are books that chronicled the events and economic changes  that happened in countries around the world during that year.  These are going to be endlessly fascinating, I expect.  Can’t wait to find some time to sit down with one and just read until I pass out or something.  This is a great find for people like us that just love history and are always curious to know what went on before we were born.

These treasures aren’t the only things I bought today.  I also went to a yarn store.  *gulp*  And although I went with the intention of buying a couple of balls of Noro Silk Garden in order to make my oldest daughter a new pair of fingerless gloves to replace those she lost, I didn’t end up buying any.  Apparently she found them at the bottom of her backpack.  But I didn’t learn this until I had already crossed the river Styx and entered into Satan’s lair.  I have no excuse whatsoever for what transpired after I opened that door.  I have very little recall as to how the yarn I am now staring at found its way into the plastic bag that sits at my feet.

Just in case you are wondering, this is what followed me home:

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Three skeins of Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica in Flame colour #115.  The picture doesn’t really show how vibrant this colour is.  I was thinking of knitting someone a cowl.  Or maybe two someones because that is a lot of yarn.  Approx. 414 yds. of a bulky weight pure wool.  It’s gorgeous.

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One skein of Cascade Heritage Silk Paints in the Vino colourway #9958. It matches the Manos pretty well so I thought I could make a pair of gloves or fingerless mitts for that someone. There is 437 yds. per skein so I might be able to eke out two pair of fingerless mitts for two someones if I’m really careful.

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Four skeins of Cascade Yarns Pastaza in #068.  It’s no longer available which is a shame since it is a nice, soft Llama/wool blend.   I was going to make a cowl for the same someone but changed my mind because I like the Manos better.  So now I have 528 yds. to make something out of.  Still could make a couple of cowls.  They never go unappreciated and in this weight are a quick knit.  And last but not least:

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Two skeins of Cascade Yarns Pastaza in #079.  This is a rich, deep forest green.  Love the colour.  This is for me although I haven’t a clue what to make of it yet.  I may go back and get the rest of this because I left about four more skeins behind.  And there were a couple of skeins in the blue and one in a mulberry colour and one in a camel colour…

Oh, yarn, you sweet siren you, calling my name until I am helpless to resist your allure.  Your bright colours, your soft texture, your endless possibilities!  I am powerless, impotent, to resist you.  Oh, yarn, I shared my hopes for the future with you, my dreams of what you could be, lofty goals of that wonder of wonders – the perfect sweater,  and, oh!, the many disappointments you have thrown at me when you refuse to live up to the swatch .  Yarn, to quote Pablo Neruda, “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”  except I don’t love you in secret.  I love you openly, wantonly, with passion.  Oh, yarn, look at me, a woman covered in lint, with knitting needles in one hand and an empty wallet in the other.

Oh, yarn, why do you torture me so?

I’ve been doing a bad thing and instead of working on projects that I need to get done for Christmas, I’ve been searching the net. Why? Well, one reason is that I’m curious and have to see what’s going on in the world and the other is that how can I be sure that this is the sock pattern that is finally going to pull a non-knitter over to the dark side if I don’t look at every freaking pattern on the net. Lets just say that I have a passion with matching the right present to the right person instead of throwing the “anal” word around, mmmkay? I do the same with a pattern and yarn. I will knit the thing three or four times before I’m happy with the fabric I’m getting. Not the whole thing, of course, just half the back or maybe half a front or sleeve. I’ve mentioned before my total avoidance of swatching but I have to admit it would save me time. If only I could trust them.

So while I was searching for the perfect sweater pattern I found a load of other stuff that I thought I could share, and I also have a few tips for some inexpensive presents that you can still make in time for the holidays. So here we go:

1) If you have someone who has a pet, be it a dog or cat or rabbit or hamster, I would recommend looking into getting Pet Projects – The Animal Knits Bible by Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne. In this book you will find things like a knit curtain for the front of your rabbit, guinea pig or other small animal cage. This is a nice gift as it is fairly easy to make, the sample in the book has a carrot motif but I made it much larger for our dogs crate. I found a chart for a pattern of bones and knit that instead of the carrots. Turned out great. It’s a great way to give your small pet some privacy especially at night.

I’ve also made the puppy papoose for a friend who has a Chihuahua. Both she and the dog love it because it is knit from wool it keeps the dog cozy and warm. Her husband made a frame for it so that it hangs it like a hammock and the dog sleeps in it all the time. Very cute. And I’ve made a couple of the knitted animals at the back of the book as toys for my cats and the neighbours dog.

The patterns are easy to follow, the charts in the back are in colour and the things I made turned out really well and the animals they were intended for loved them. Besides, any book that includes a blanket for our equine friends is a keeper for me.

2) Another useful book(let) to have, especially if you have children to knit for, is The Knitted Farmyard by Hannelore Wernhard. I’ve made everything in this book and my kids loved them. The only one I had problems with was the pattern for the horse/donkey. I could not get that one to look like the pictures no matter how hard I tried. Everything else turned out exactly the way they look in the book. My girls especially liked the kitten, the chickens and the ducks. I also put a very small piece of velcro on the backs of the vegetables so they could pretend to plant the garden and have the vegetables “grow”. And because she uses pipe-cleaners as a stiffener for the people and some of the animals they are safe for all but the youngest children. My kids played with this for years and I think I still have some of the pieces around here. I know we definitely still have the chickens because I found some on my youngest daughters bookcase recently.

3) Any of the Jean Greenhowe’s books are a real life-saver if you need a small gift for a child. My kids loved the dinosaurs, the sheep, the food, and the topsy-turvy doll. She has some amazing books out there but a lot are hard to come by and expensive so if you find one, treasure it especially if you come across any of her folk costume books.

4) For the dog lover/owner any of the Patons dog sweater books, Dog’s Life or Another Dog’s Life are worth picking up. I’ve knit countless sweaters from these books for various dogs and all have fit well and been well received by both owner and dog alike. Don’t raise your eyebrows at the cost of them on Amazon because you can get them elsewhere cheaper.

5) I love Garn Studio (Drops) household patterns. I’ve made a few things from them and they have been well received and much used. One person asked me to knit her a few more facecloths to replace the ones I had given her because she had worn them out. I think I might make her these for her birthday next year.

Drops has so many lovely accessories for the home – blankets, baby things, crochet flowers and rugs, Christmas decorations – that you could choose anything from their selection and probably have a hit. I also love their clothing patterns and if you are looking for some cozy slippers or socks to make for someone you know who has cold feet, they have some lovely ones and I can say from experience their felted ones are like little furnaces for your tootsies. And they look good, too. Bonus!

6) If you have someone who will not make Santa’s nice list you could always stuff Grumpy in their stocking. I think this pattern is so stinkingly cute that I wanted to make a couple of dozen of them to put in the coal-scuttle I have on the hearth. I was talked out of this idea when someone pointed out to me that we have two cats. Two cats and a pail of knitted things. Yeah. Nothing wrong with that picture. But he’s still darn cute!

7) Then there’s the Christmas pickle. I really don’t know what to say about it except that I have never heard of the Christmas pickle.

8) If you are looking for something to put on a table or mantlepiece these are a cute idea. I love the look of them and the floppy hat just makes these little gnomes look that much cuter! If I have the time I might whip these up for my mantle. I think next year I could make them a lot bigger and put them in the front hall. Hmmmm….

9) If you are looking for something silly to give someone you could try a nightcap. I know exactly what my husband would say to me if I gave him that as a gift but I’m sure there are people out there who know someone with a sense of humour who would find a nightcap a charming gift. I think it’s quaint and I have to admit that I find it somewhat endearing to see a man running around in a nightshirt and cap. Maybe there is some kind of ancient gene memory floating around my subconscious but I think it’s adorably old-fashioned. I’m sure Alex Langlands or Peter Ginn from the Victorian Farm would wear it.

10) A mitten garland is a cute idea for an Advent Calendar but maybe for next year as we are already four days in and then the time it takes to knit all those mittens. Still it’s a wonderful idea for anyone with children who doesn’t want to buy one of those awful cardboard calendars with that itty-bitty piece of old chocolate behind each “door”. I have to admit that I wonder how fresh that chocolate is and besides it really isn’t as good as say…Lindt.

11) You could always knit up some Christmas balls for your tree. These ones are really nice and if you did them in red and white or gold and white would be very festive. I especially like the third one with the silver snowflakes circling the middle. A friend of mine has gone on a knitting binge and decided that next year she is going to hang 50 of these things on her tree. Yes, she is as crazy as me. Maybe a touch worse.

12) And in case you need some ideas for projects here are 23. I love the chairs and I don’t think it would be that hard to figure out. I have a couch that is desperately in need of a new cover and my dining room chairs could use a redo and I don’t think it would be that difficult…there I go again planning projects that probably will never get done. Oh how I wish there were two of me…then again maybe not…I mean, can you imagine? *shudder*

13) To charm the kids or grandkids you could knit some fairy mice decorations for the tree. Or these little knitted stockings that you could put a small candy cane treat in. Or these bonny little felted mice. Or anything from Frankie Browns Ravelry page. Her Pocket Teddy or the Daisy Chain kit are so enchanting I just want to pinch their little cheeks. Now that’s adorable because anyone who knows me knows I don’t go in for all that cutesy-cutesy nonsense.

So there you have it, my friends, thirteen alternative gifts to make for the people in your life. The books come in handy all the time when you need something quick and different. I like all these things because they don’t take much time to knit and you can probably find something in your stash to use so they are very economical. And since my mantra this Christmas is “Why buy when you can make”, these ideas are just right up my alley. I plan on making a few more posts about how to economize this season so stay tuned. Not all of the ideas will be knitting. Ooooo, I can feel the suspense even now.

I just want to take a couple of minutes to congratulate Linda Benne for being crowned North America’s fastest knitter yet again. For ten years now Linda has been holding the crown and it doesn’t look like she’s going to relinquish it any time soon. Linda is also the owner of Linda’s Craftique here in Mississauga. I have been to her store which is crammed full of all kinds of yarn and accessories (well, duh, it is a yarn store after all) a few times and each time she has been amazingly helpful and knowledgeable. My stash is jealous. Anyway, if you live in the neighbourhood please drop by and congratulate her on her accomplishment. It’s awe-inspiring to know that she can knit 253 stitches in 3 minutes. Interesting fact, if you look in the video at the way she holds her yarn it is exactly the same way I hold mine. I don’t hold my needles that way and I certainly don’t knit as fast as she does but it kind of blew my mind seeing it.

Today is Friday and it was supposed to be the day I hit the yarn store for a few balls of Noro Silk Garden to knit my daughter a pair of handwarmers, a hat and scarf with. I might make her a warm headband for the days when you don’t really need a hat but still want something to keep your ears warm. Haven’t decided about that yet. Anyway, what ended up happening is that I sat here waiting for a call back from the vet. My cat, Taang!, is having a few issues with his digestive tract and before I adjusted his meds I wanted confirmation from the doctor that is was all right to do so. I don’t want him back in the hospital. It’s way too expensive just before Christmas. So instead of buying yarn I decided to surf the web for some interesting projects.

Yes, yes I know what I said yesterday. I know I have fourteen thousand projects to finish before Christmas but look at this.

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Isn’t it pretty? Guess what I did. I totally convinced myself to knit it and I totally convinced myself that I would have it finished in time for my staff Christmas party in nineteen days. And I convinced myself that while I’m working on it I will also be able to work on these other projects. You see, when I get tired, or sore, of knitting one project I can pick up one of the others as a change of pace. I’m pretty sure I can knit at least three things at a time. After all I usually have two or three books going at once. How different can it be. I figure if I pick a TV show for each project and only knit during that show I should be able to get most things done and the one’s I don’t aren’t worth worrying about. I hope…pretty sure that’s true…listen, denial is my only friend. If I didn’t have self-delusion nothing would get done around here.

The only wrench in the works is the sweater that I want to knit for my youngest daughter for her present at Christmas. A whole sweater takes a lot of time unless you are Linda Benne, then it would take a weekend, but I’m not her and I have limitations such as making sure the cat gets his meds on time, making sure the dog gets his walks, making sure there is food in the cupboards, making sure that the dust bunnies don’t get too out of hand, making sure I get some kind of sleep, and making sure I make it to work on time. Some of those things are important. So in light of all of that and the fact that it is a present, I’m going to have to make sure that it gets done. And without her knowing. So that means knitting when she is in bed. Which means I will have about two hours a night to work on it. And about 24 days to do it in. Which, once the dust settles, totals about 48 hours of work. So if I don’t sleep for two days, don’t eat, and don’t pee I have nothing to worry about. Totally doable. *ahem*

While I was searching for yarn the other day I came across a pattern for the Bloody Stupid Johnson hat. I had forgotten I had this pattern. I had knit it for my youngest daughter last year but it was too big for her so I frogged it and put it aside for reworking and then promptly forgot about it. This is a very interesting hat to knit and works up really quickly so I think I can probably give her this for Christmas with a promise of the sweater. And if I put the sweater on needles and get most of it done, it will shame me into finishing it. I hope. I have a sweater I knit three years ago in a bag still waiting to be blocked and sewn up and the button band/collar worked. I think I’ll finish it and give it to her for Christmas with the promise that I will knit her other sweater for New Years. Possibly.

That nice lacy sweater in the picture above looks simple enough. It’s done in one piece, my favourite kind of design, and the pattern is a pretty simple wave. It shouldn’t be too hard to remember. And it’s worsted weight knit on large needles so that is usually a fast knit. There is a crochet edge and I have a nice bit of silk yarn for that so I’ve pretty much got it all figured out. Except the dress that I’m wearing to the party is a dark teal and I can’t decide if I want to knit this sweater in cranberry or a dark teal yarn that almost matches the dress precisely. So do I go with matchy-matchy or with something a little more Christmasey. Or I might try seeing what it would be like in a fingering weight yarn. It would certainly be a much more open style and the edge would probably need something firm to keep it from distorting but I like the idea. I have some white Rowan kidsilk haze that would be very pretty done in this pattern. Maybe if I double up the kidsilk to give it a bit more body…Hmmm…I have four balls of the kidsilk which means I have 836m, the pattern calls for three balls of Vivaldi @ 280m each which means they want 840m. I think I can squeak by. They usually over-estimate yardage, don’t they? Sure they do.

Well, if the kidsilk doesn’t work out I do have other alternatives. I have a large quantity of Knit Picks Gloss that I can pick through. I know I have a cranberry colour and a green and a black but not sure how they will look with the dress. I guess I’ll have to try them and see. The other colours wouldn’t go really, they are mostly in blues that don’t work with the teal. Those ones I already tried with the dress when I was looking for yarn for something else. Look, I may have trouble making up my mind but once I know what I’m doing I do it. So this will get done. I hope.

The great thing about having kids is that you can get them to do things that you don’t have time for. I can get my kids to do all the baking that needs to get done, make dinners, walk the dog, vacuum, and just generally be a slave big help while I do all this knitting. And if I tell them it’s their Christmas present I’m working on they will leave me alone…for the most part. The cats on the other hand…but then all I have to do is shut the door. So with only 24 days left to plan, knit, bake, clean, wrap, buy, sort, block, stitch, freeze, cook…and I don’t even really celebrate Christmas. But I have friends and relatives who do and they are important to me so there are certain expectations that have to be met. So with a lot of love and just a tinge of panic I will be knitting my little heart out until I hear on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof…

After posting yesterday about my stash, I decided that I would sort out my sock yarn to see how much I really had. It’s a sad, sad, sad state of affairs when your sock yarn out numbers the money in your bank account. True story.

I also decided that I would get busy and finish the socks I have on the needles. The one pair are a simple toe-up knit 3 purl 2 rib with a single rib cuff and really don’t take long at all to knit. And the other pair are a toe-up in a box stitch pattern and don’t take long to knit. I figured out the reason I didn’t finish that pair is because I was trying to figure out which heel would be best suited for that pattern.

Considering how small socks are it’s amazing how many options you have to knit them. My go-to is a toe-up sock because I like trying them on as I knit. The other advantage is that you can see how the thing is going to look on the foot so if you have a complicated pattern in mind it’s good to be able to see if it will work or if it will be uncomfortable. Also some patterns, like cables, pull the pattern in so you need to add stitches to accommodate for the loss in width. If you don’t do that you can end up with a sock that is too tight and the cables end up stretched out. Not a pretty sight. I also like toe-ups because I’m lazy and I don’t like taking the time to kitchener stitch the ends together. Yes, I am that lazy.

My go-to heel is usually the wrap and turn heel (Knitty.com has a very good article on socks and discusses various heel options). I like the way it fits my foot and I find it a quick way of turning the heel. I also find it easier to remember. However, if I’m using a dark sock yarn then I go with a flapped heel because trying to see those wraps on a dark yarn with bad eyes is a lesson in frustration. And since I have enough frustrations and knitting is supposed to be relaxing I say forget that crap and go for simplicity.

So I’ve had a really productive day. I got one pair of socks finished and off the needles, blocking on the floor in the family room (heated floors are wonderful for blocking knits) which by now are either being sat on by a cat, dragged around the floor by a cat, or bunched up in the towel against the wall by a cat. Heated floors may be great for blocking knits. Cats? Not so much. I don’t mind the hair, I figure it makes them warmer but I do like to have the knits that I took the time to lay out on the floor to look like someone cared for them instead of like they were used to mop spills. I generally don’t pin socks for blocking and if I have a bigger piece(s) that I need pins for I put it up on the wide bookshelves we have. Cats don’t like pins and I don’t like vet bills so I think it’s best to keep the two separated.

The sock stash filled two bins. One bin full of Patons Kroy and the other bin is full of misc. sock yarn of various wools and cottons. Well, I did say that Kroy is my favourite sock yarn, didn’t I? And this is my favourite colourway. It knits up into a nice striped pattern of red/brown/grey that I find very appealing. It may not be exciting but I like it. But I like red in all its glory and variations so anything that has a bit of red in it generally gets my attention.

This is my one of my current favourite knitting books on socks. This is my other favourite. I love the Finnish Paivatar Socks in the Knitting Socks from Around the World. I love the colour work and the toe and heel details. I would never knit them in white. Around my house socks that start out white end up grey in no time. We have a dog and that means the floors are sometimes not as clean as they should be so white socks are worn rarely around here. And I love just about every pattern in Around the World in Knitted Socks. You do have to have experience in knitting socks in order to follow these patterns, though. Stephanie Van Der Linden includes basic instructions with clear pictures at the back of the book which is very welcome.

One of the best sources for good solid knitting patterns is my perennial favourite, the local thrift store. You can usually find old Patons Beehive booklets for next to nothing. Some that I have found are long out of print and those that aren’t, well, you can’t beat the price. My favourite of these is the Socks, Mitts and Gloves for Children booklet. It has good basic patterns that are easily modified to make something truly unique. I also like this book for the same reason, simple basic patterns that you can customize anyway you like.

I knit socks in fits and spurts. When fall rolls around and the leaves start turning I start feeling the itch to have warm feet. Warm feet for me is a pair of comfy hand-knit socks. So out come the needles, I prefer double points although I have certainly used the magic loop method, and on goes the TV and any night of the week you will find me watching the new crop of shows while socks come flying off the needles. This fall I have been knitting to: Sean Saves the World; The Crazy Ones; Mom; Game of Thrones (not technically a new show this fall but a new to me show and has there ever been a better written, and acted, character than Tyrion Lannister?); The Blacklist, and Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. I have to say that I knit a lot slower during Game of Thrones. And it may be because my little heart goes pitty-pat whenever Peter Dinklage is on-screen. What a great actor! If anyone was going to make me end my fake marriage to George Clooney it would be Peter Dinklage.

Today the Yarn Harlot had the audacity to mention these verboten words “about 27 days to knit”. I don’t know what she was thinking because if anything is going to put a jinx on Christmas knitting it is the acknowledgement that there are only a finite number of days left to accomplish it in. I have approximately ten pairs of socks to knit. On average if I forgo eating and insert a caffeine drip, I can churn out a pair of socks in a little over two days. Maybe two days if I wear Depends so I don’t have to take time out to go to the bathroom. Eww, I just reread that. That sounds so gross! Anyway you look at it there is no way I am going to get all those socks done and the handwarmers for my daughter and a sweater for my other daughter and a couple of hats for some people I know and I think I want to knit a shoulder wrap for my upcoming Christmas party. Don’t you roll your eyes at me. I know I still have to finish the sweater I started for last weeks Christmas party. And I also know I have twenty days to find a pattern, find the yarn, find the needles, and find the time to sit down and knit a lace shawl. *sigh*

Why do I think I can knit faster than I actually can? Knitters optimism? Pride? Denial? Have I overdosed on lanolin causing me to have delusions of grandeur? I really need a time turner like Hermione had in Harry Potter. Or maybe if I could find a radioactive sheep and if it bit me I would gain super knitting powers. Or would that just make me sprout glow-in-the-dark wool from the top of my head?

This trying to write a blog post every day for a month is hard. As you can see I think I’m a bit late with this one. It is already Nov. 27 so this should be Day 27 not 26ish but I’m holding onto the ish because my clock read 12:03 when I started it. So tomorrow/today I’ll be back on track.

Coming up with something to write about isn’t easy, even though I have said that I have a overactive good imagination. And that part is true. The part that’s difficult is the actual sitting down to write. Life is busy-ness, you know. Even if all you do all day is sit and watch television, it takes up time to do that. Time that could be used to do other things. But since I knit, if I’m watching TV I’m already doing one other thing. I’m knitting. And that takes a lot of time.

A sweater is impossible to make in a day, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think the fastest I’ve ever made a sweater and this was knitting almost non-stop – just potty, tea, and food breaks – was three days. But that is a marathon I don’t wish to repeat. It’s funny how far away a deadline is until it looms over you. I had three months to make that sweater but I procrastinated until I looked at the calendar and freaked out. The biggest problem in making a sweater in three days is that you over-estimate your abilities over and over again. “Oh, I’ve got lots of time. I’ve knit a sweater in three days.” But you forget that sleeping became an option.

That sweater was a birthday present a friend wanted to give to his mother so he commissioned me to make it for him. And, no, it wasn’t just a plain old stocking knit cardigan, it was a Fair Isle yoked sweater like these. Yeah. You can imagine the panic that set in when I got the call from Peter asking if his sweater would be finished on time. “Oh, yeah, no problem. I’m almost done.” I lied through my teeth as any good procrastinator has done. Then I drove like a maniac to the yarn store, bought the yarn and pretty much did nothing but knit for the whole three days. My cats were wondering if they would have to feed themselves. However his mother loved it but it almost killed me. I certainly almost killed anyone who came near me. But I was paid handsomely for it so it was a win/win.

For the knit Olympics a couple of years ago I took on the challenge of knitting a sweater in 14 days. I chose the Whisper cardigan because I thought it would be a true challenge in the spirit of the games. Knitting a sweater with all that ribbing and stocking knit in a small gauge was something I thought would take me a while. Nope, I was done in about ten days and that was leisurely knitting. The problem with that sweater was I enjoyed knitting it so I was happy to knit along on it for hours at a time. And because it really was simple construction it wasn’t as much of a challenge as I thought.

I’m trying to pick out a sweater to do for next years Olympics in Sochi, Japan. This time I’m thinking I want to do something with cables or a cable-like design so I was pleased to get the new Twist Collective Winter ezine in my email today. In perusing it I found quite a few things I wouldn’t mind knitting and I may just do several small items instead of a whole sweater. For instance, I love these mittens (and I love the name, Pixie Farts. Hahahaha). I think these would be interesting to knit and also fun to wear. And I love the colour scheme.

I also love these mittens. Moggies is a name my Mum used to use all the time for a cat. Having owned or having been owned,depending on your perspective, cats all my life, I appreciate the work that went into designing these. I think I would have to knit the cats in orange and white in honour of my boys. And it might even be fun to try to make one a tortoiseshell. So cute and so many possibilities for colour combinations. Love it!

The winter collection at Twist Collection has a lot going for it. There are many amazing patterns. Of course, this happens to be one of my favourite websites when I’m looking for a pattern so I’m a teeny bit biased. I haven’t bought a pattern from them yet due to budgetary considerations and I’m trying to work through all the patterns I have in my queue before I buy any new ones but that may change this time around. There are so many delicious looking designs and a lot of patterns that anyone could wear and look great in. Things like this, this, and this. Nice sweaters with interesting designs, although someone like me who has a bigger…um…derierre might not want all those cables marching across the back of their sweater as shown on the second sweater. Still it’s quite beautiful.

I think I want to make some of the accessories for my kids for Christmas. I had already planned on making them things and was looking around for an interesting hat pattern. I think this one will fit the bill quite nicely. I think my eldest daughter will really like that hat just as I’m sure my youngest daughter will love this hoodie. In fact I think I would like to knit that for the next knit Olympics. It looks challenging enough and maybe with a bit of luck, I could crank it out in 14 days. Not sure with the hood how fast it would go, although it is a worsted weight so it should knit up pretty quickly. But then there is the pretty cable pattern up the front and around the top of the hood…Ah, what the heck, I think I’ll do it.

My other favourite website for patterns is Knitty.com. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are familiar with it. I just love this hat from their early fall collection. I love the fact it is done all in garter stitch but still manages to be interesting and fun. Face it an all garter stitch garment can look a little uninteresting at times but this hat is just perfect. I love the squared off top and the pointed brim. Adding some really funky buttons would just put it over the top for me. Of course, I would be tempted add a pompom but I do think that would be a bit too much. After all, I love the simplicity of it all.

I love this sweater, too, although I couldn’t wear it. Something about all those horizontal stripes especially across the bust makes me think that I wouldn’t really do that sweater justice. I think people would look at me and wonder what I was thinking. But for someone slimmer, like my daughters, I think this is a stunner.

I had thought I had this Christmas thing all sorted out for this year. I knew what I was going to make and approximately how long each item would take, give or take. I had it all scheduled and spreadsheeted out and colour coded and marked with highlighter and everything and now I can see I totally have to change things around. This is going to take some time. A spreadsheet isn’t made in a day. Ok, for some people it is but I’m not one of them. Doesn’t help that I don’t really understand them nor do I use them a lot but this time I thought I needed a better organizational system than a sticky note on a box of yarn.

I had also thought that all I needed from the yarn store was a couple of balls of Noro Silk Garden to make my daughter a pair of handwarmers and, maybe, a hat to go with them. So already, as detailed in this post, my yarn addiction is starting to get out of control. I mean, I will get the Noro…probably…maybe…if I don’t get too high on lanolin fumes and forget it during the wool frenzy. Wool frenzy is kind of like a shark feeding frenzy with less blood…well, maybe with less blood but certainly with no water and no one gets hurt…possibly. That last time wasn’t my fault.

What I am going to have to do is write out a list of the yarns needed to make some of these things, that is after I sort out which items I want to make. Then I’m going to have to give myself a strict talking to about buying yarn responsibly. I’m going to have to look at my face in the mirror and remind myself about the fact that my bank account is looking a little famished and that food, especially dog and cat food, is something that you really cannot do without. Food and lodging. Kind of need those things. I’m sure I could knit myself a house but it might be a little chilly on these cold Canadian winter nights. And I could knit some food-like items but they wouldn’t be very tasty. Food vs 100% cashmere…Well there is always Kraft Dinner…

Last year I made my daughter a pair of handwarmers from a ball of Noro Silk Garden I had hanging around in the Royal colourway. What I was doing with one ball of it I have no idea but it came in handy when my daughter needed something to keep her arthritic hands warm. She loved them but I didn’t. I’m not a fan of Silk Garden although I do like Shiro but that may be because of the high percentage (30%) of cashmere. Generally I find yarns that have a high percentage of silk in them hard to knit. Of course silk doesn’t have the elasticity of wool and my older hands don’t like that. And then there is just the general feel of Silk Garden I don’t like. But that’s just me. My daughter loves the stuff.

The handwarmers I knit her were just a generic recipe, nothing special, just a rib cuff, stocking stitch body and rib cast off. It’s a pattern that’s easy to do and needs no special or complicated calculations. Just knit the cuff until you think it’s long enough, decide what kind of thumb you want (I like the thumb gusset), knit the body until it looks long enough and then end in rib. For the thumb I pick up a few stitches and knit in rib for a bit and then cast off. A simple pattern because Noro doesn’t really need anything more than that to still look spectacular. I really do love the colours if not the yarn itself.

My daughter loved them and wore them for much of the late winter and then this fall. Unfortunately she lost them. She was riding her bike and had tossed them in her bag, threw it on her back and off she went. They stayed behind and she didn’t notice until she got home. When she went back to look for them, someone must have picked them up because they were gone. So now she wants another pair which means I have to go to the yarn store to get one ball of Noro Silk Garden in the Royal colourway.

Did I ever mention I have a problem with yarn? Yeah, I do. There’s something about yarn and me and money that gets all confused and when I’ve sorted it all out I find I have less money and more yarn than I started out with. I just don’t know how that happens. It’s like a spirit whispers in my ear, “Sheila…Sheila…buy the Handmaiden…you don’t need to eat this week…by that Yak yarn…food is over-rated…look at the cashmere…the cat can go hunt mice…” I’ve tried to hum so I don’t hear that little voice, so that I can get to the checkout with my one ball of yarn, but something happens and the next thing I know I’m in the car with a bagful of yarn and an empty bank account. I would say I need help but I’m afraid I’m living in the same world of denial that Rob Ford inhabits. That is, I am not an addict, I do not have a problem, and I don’t need help.

Now where I live we don’t have that many choices in yarn stores. There is a Michael’s close by but they don’t carry Noro and besides I have my own personal reasons for never shopping there again. The store that I go to the most is the Wool-Bin in Oakville. I go there because it is just down the street from my favourite grocery store, Organic Garage. This way I can just nip down there before I get my groceries and I don’t have to make a special trip. The problem with this is its appalling convenience. I think on the way over that I’ll just nip in to look around and see if any new yarn has come in or what they have on sale (they have terrific sales) and the next thing I know I’m sitting in the car inhaling lanolin. Fortunately I haven’t been there in a while because I haven’t had the money but I’m going to have to make a pilgrimage if I want that Noro.

I know, I know, I could just order it off the internet but there are some other things I want to look at while I’m there. I need to make some Christmas presents and, after going through my stash, I am surprisingly short on supplies. I mean I have a lot more yarn than I know what to do with but not a single ball that I want to make Christmas presents from. I know I should just bite the bullet and knit from stash anyway considering my financial situation, or lack thereof, but the thought of holding a fresh new skein that hasn’t been sitting in a bin for months and hasn’t been mauled to death holds the same attraction for me as an unfilled crossword puzzle. Just think of the possibilities!

Yarn and I have this long history of a love/love relationship. I love yarn. Love it, love it, love it. It’s like books. Before you crack the cover, even if you’ve read it before, there are still endless possibilities contained therein. Because you are reading it on a different day, with a different view of the world, the story changes. And the same goes for yarn. Just because I’ve knit hundreds of pairs of socks with Patons Kroy doesn’t mean that this pair are going to be exactly the same as the last. Different day, different time, different perspective. When you look at the cover of the book it’s a mystery what you will learn, or how your life might change and the same when you hold a ball of yarn. The mysteries contained in that length of sheep’s wool are endless…exciting…mind-boggling. And I love it.

So when I go into a yarn store, it’s not just a yarn store, it’s a library of wool. There are many, many stories to be told by that yarn, many mysteries that need unlocking with the simple click of two pointy sticks. And after the yarn is made into an object, its story doesn’t end there because there are the stories that will be made with the person who wears it. History’s to be written by the wearer, memories to be made and remembered each time it is brought out. A sweater isn’t just a sweater, it is a person’s diary, a memoir, a book whose pages are rewritten with each wearing but are never forgotten.

For some people my daughter just lost a pair of handwarmers and I will replace them. But for her she lost a bit of her history, the memories of what she was doing when she wore them. Who she was with, where they went, the fun they had. They kept her hands warm while she and her friends biked around the city, or played kick ball in the park, or went to a bar and listened to some good music. Sure she still has those memories in her mind but after a few years they will fade and slowly be replaced by new memories. The handwarmers would have been a constant reminder of those times whether it was a conscious thought or not. She just may have smiled when she put them on not even aware of the thought of fun times long past. So now with a new pair of handwarmers it’s up to her to write some new pages in her history. And perhaps I should attach a string to them so she doesn’t lose them this time.