Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

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.


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 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.

I’ve already written a post about what I intend to do for Christmas this year so I just thought I might write about the 10 things I really cannot do without. These are things I find invaluable for my knitting experience. Things that after 52 yrs. of knitting I have learned to keep near at hand, some of the more obvious things like knitting needles and scissors I won’t mention simply because they are obvious but while I’m on the topic I might just include a footnote about my favourite knitting needles and why. So here we go:

1). The Knitters Companion – I’m working on my second copy of this indispensable collection of knitterly information and instruction. The first copy is lying on the bookshelves, the pages fused together by a good cup of tea. This is no way to treat such a handy little book nor a good cup of tea. I got my first copy many, many years ago and my current copy, when not in my knit bag, is never far from my elbow. It is a great gift for someone wanting to learn to knit, who has just started knitting or just wants a practical and easy-to-use guide for such questions as sizing (good sizing charts); yarn substitutions; cast-ons and offs; gauges; buttonholes…and it also has a handy ruler and needle conversion chart.

2). A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker – There are actually three in this series but I like this one the best. I use it whenever I want to add a little spice to a plain cardigan. There is enough variety here to keep me entertained for years and years although I still don’t think it would make a dent in the stash if I made one garment out of each of the patterns included. The beauty of this collection is the clear instructions and helpful pictures. It is organized into pattern groups that make looking for a particular pattern easy. I recommend a stitch dictionary to everyone even if you don’t design your own things simply because it allows you to make modifications to a pattern so you can have a garment that is uniquely your own.

3.) A small bag to keep stuff in – I made this myself but you can find them inexpensively on the net. Something like this style is what I like so you can customize it yourself. I keep cable needles; tapestry needles; scissors; a couple of crochet hooks (for catching dropped stitches); a seam ripper; a small retractable tape measure; a sewing guide great for measuring gauge; a needle conversion chart; a row counter and stitch markers. By keeping them in a bag I never have to search the house for them and it keeps them out of the cats harms way.

4). Hand-Knitting Techniques from Threads – An excellent book to have around for information on things like casting on in rib for a nice clean edge; knitting to fit; how to knit from sewing patterns; finishing techniques; sock knitting tips; glove knitting tips; beading; how to knit raglans to really fit well (hint: there is a difference between the back and the sleeve widths), and many, many other useful hints. My copy is paperback and is currently being held together with scotch tape. I reference it a lot.

5). Knitter’s Handbook by Reader’s Digest – Another reference book I cannot do without. This one has tips on how to use colour; cutting after blocking to repair big errors or add length; grafting; 30 pages devoted to casting on and casting off…so many tips and tricks that I never learned at my mother’s knee.

6). A box of yarn – The first step I take after deciding on a pattern is picking the yarn. I generally choose 2-4 yarns of the same weight, although I do like to add a yarn that is slightly lighter in weight than the pattern calls for as well. I put them in a box and have them right to hand when I’m knitting for gauge. It saves me time by having alternate yarns available just in case my preferred yarn looks like crap in the pattern I have chosen. Sometimes you think a yarn and pattern are going to work but once you get knitting you see that the pattern stitch is lost because the colour is too dark or the yarn, although the right weight, is of the wrong density. Some patterns look very different, and awesome, when knit with a light-weight yarn as long as you get the right gauge. I once made a very light and airy sweater that I wore for many summers as a cover-all by doing this. I generally take yarn recommendations as a guideline rather than a strict rule.

7). Baby alpaca yarn – There is nothing quite like it. I always have a few skeins around simply because if I need an impressive gift and don’t have time to look around, I can haul out some of this yarn, knit up a cowl, or a scarf, or a pair of fingerless gloves and know that it will look like I spent a lot of money when I didn’t at all. I don’t like shawls but I have knit them for others and if I have the time I can whip one up as a last-minute gift. I also like to keep a couple of balls of a cashmere/merino mix as well for the same reason. People open the present, feel the cashmere and they never have to know that you didn’t get it at some expensive boutique.

8). DVD’s – Invaluable when you have a lot of knitting to do and need something to stop you from going barmy after knitting your sixth straight hat. I like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; The Princess Bride; Benny and Joon, or Red Dwarf, something that doesn’t require a lot of attention but is still entertaining. Most of those listed are also funny so I don’t have to follow a convoluted plot. I also like really bad disaster movies like Sharknado or Twister because you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what’s happening if you can’t pay attention for a few minutes or five. Also because they are often the funniest thing on TV.

9). A pad of paper and a pen – Really good for making notes as you go along. Also for noting any changes you might make, any problems that might affect the sleeves or collar or button bands, or anytime you have to make two of something. I also find it’s a good thing to have around to jot down what row you are on if you have to put down your knitting to go make a cup of tea, or a margarita, or make a trip to the bathroom, or rescue your cookie from a rabbit…or cat…but not a dog, they drool all over them and make them mushy. And for the record I really, really, and I can’t say this strongly enough, really do not recommend drinking while knitting. Maybe one drink, or maybe two, but a pitcher of sangria or margarita’s is really not a smart thing to do when holding sharp objects, or when partaking of an entertainment that requires any form of math even if it’s just counting stitches.

10). The internet especially YouTube – I really cannot do without the internet while knitting. There are many helpful how-to videos on YouTube and I can’t tell you how many times they’ve pulled me through a situation I thought I could handle. It’s like a friendly hand guiding you along. Steeking used to freak me out. I still try never to steek but there are times when it is absolutely necessary. YouTube has saved my sorry behind so many times I can’t even say. So do yourself a favour and bookmark sites like Ravelry; or Craftsy; or Knitty; or some YouTube videos. They will always come in handy and give you the confidence to hack away at your hard work with a pair of scissors like a boss.

Now about knitting needles: For me my favourite needles are the ones my Mum gave me when I was 10. They are Aero aluminum needles and sure the points aren’t so pointy any more and some of them are a little bent but I find I can knit along on those bad boys as if they were like some of the pointier modern needles. The double points I like are the Susan Bates ones. Nothing fancy, definitely not expensive but they suit me just fine. I found one thing to be true of knitting, the best results don’t come from using the most expensive materials, the best results come from using materials you are comfortable with and give you confidence. I have pairs of expensive needles such as the Signature line but they generally sit in their package while I’ll dig around everywhere looking for my 40 yr. old Aeros. My Mum used plastic, nylon or metal needles almost all her life. I bought her new ones that languished at the bottom of her knitting bag and never saw the light of day. So don’t let a price tag determine what kind of needles you should knit with. Everyone is different so try different kinds and brands until you find what suits you.

So there you have it, my top 10 things that I cannot do without as a knitter. Whether or not this is helpful to anyone I can’t say. Everyone’s list will be different. But I will say that if there was just one thing that you could get for a knitter it’s a little bag full of gadgets like those I’ve described. I’ve given similar things to various people and it has always been appreciated. It’s also customizable so for a knitter you can give them stuff like I have in mine, for a crocheter stuff that they may find useful, for a geek you can stuff it full of things like a Tardis key chain etc, for a fashionista you could put hair clips, lipstick, nail polish etc. I label it, “A Bag O’ Useful Stuff” and put it with all the gadgets wrapped individually in a box and then duck as people try to throw things at me while they try to pull the paper off forty small items. It’s fun.

Well, with only five more Saturday’s until the eat-fest, gift-giving, gift-receiving, gift-returning, lame excuse-making, tacky ornament display making, tree murdering, over-spending spree day is here. Yes, I mean Christmas.

I don’t do Christmas, at least not in the traditional way. We don’t decorate, don’t put up a tree but that’s mostly due to cats and my husbands ennui, and gift-giving is usually minimal. For me, I’m not a Christian and I feel hypocritical and disrespectful to partake in something I don’t believe in. And I abhor that something that was/is religiously relevant for some people has been made into a crass, commercialized exercise in proving who loves someone more by the gifts they give.

You know I’m right even if no one wants to admit it otherwise hand-crafted, hand-made, and home-baked gifts would get more respect. But unless the person has specifically asked for a hand-made gift the usual response is, “Oh, you made that yourself? How lovely and thoughtful.” and then you never see the gift again until you are in a thrift store you happen to come across the sweater. Or if you give home-made cookies, or breads, or soaps, or hand embroidered dish clothes/pillow covers etc. the words may say one thing but the face is saying quite another. Meanwhile they coo over the new iPhone their dad/mom/grandparent/lover/husband/wife/mailman gave them.

Now not everyone is like that. There are a lot of people who like hand-made things. When my daughters were small some of their favourite gifts were the toys I made for them. I knit farm animals, sweaters, socks, hats, mittens, or sewed stuffed animals, dresses, costumes, or duvet covers. One year I made a duvet for my oldest daughter. She still has it. I enjoyed making them things that no one else had. Now that they are older, hand-made things aren’t as appreciated as much and, more so my eldest daughter, store-bought things are worn while the stuff I made sits in a drawer somewhere. I usually end up giving her a gift card so she can just buy her own things. And this is why I don’t like Christmas.

I really don’t see the point in asking someone for a Christmas list, taking the time to make a thoughtful choice, spending the time in the store looking for and paying for said item and knowing that, in all reality, they could have bought the damn thing themselves. And now that she is working there really isn’t anything I could afford to buy her that she just can’t get herself. My younger daughter not so much.

This year, however, I decided that I’m having a very home-grown Christmas, very low-key with all gifts either home-made or thrift store purchases. Have I started on any of these incredible gifts. No. But I did start looking through patterns and matching them to wool. And I also took a good look around the thrift store the other day. What can I get at a thrift store that my kids might like? Books. Books are the one thing that will make my girls happy no matter what. So books are always a high priority gift item. Then there is the glassware, accessories and the happy accidents you can stumble upon. Like finding a copy of The Absolute Sandman Vol. III by Neil Gaiman, for $20cdn. Or a sweaters worth of Briggs and Little Regal yarn in the Horizon Blue colourway for $.49cdn each. Or finding a stash of vintage knitting needles and getting 12 sets for $1.00.

Now my kids love that sort of thing. I’m lucky and I know it. I am also fortunate in that most of my relatives love getting hand-knits, especially cotton socks. My father-in-law and my sister-in-law are both diabetics and say the cotton socks I make for them are by far the most comfortable they have worn. So socks will be very appreciated. I also plan on making some cashmere gloves, cowls and hats for various people. Cashmere is such a lovely yarn but expensive so the things that only take one or two balls make gift giving a little more affordable. I also have some very lovely silver silk yarn which was given me (I have no idea what brand) that will make a wonderful tie or skinny scarf for someone. I might splurge and get some store-bought items but since neither my husband or I currently have jobs they would have to be inexpensive. Well, I have a job but it’s part-time and they’ve cut my hours. Well, technically they didn’t, they just hired a couple more staff which amounts to the same thing. More staff means fewer hours for us all.

If I have to buy anything, it will probably be the following (if I can’t find some of them at the thrift store or used book store):

The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest – my girls have both read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but we haven’t been able to find these used and they want to read them

Sherlock – the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch (don’t you just love that name?) *I had originally put Elementary but as anyone who has watch these to shows will attest, they are very, very different.

The Game of Thrones – not the books, we have them, but the television series

The Borgias – because my kids loved it but didn’t see all of them

Supernatural – because who doesn’t love Dean and Sam

The Knitters Book of Wool – for my sheep loving daughter

A Sephora gift card – for my make-up loving daughter

Some Godiva chocolate – for my staff

Some treats for the cats, dog, rabbit and degus – we generally don’t give them many treats but since I make them dress up for the occasion, I have to reward them. Well, I dress up the dog and then shame him on Facebook but I just may have to put a Santa hat on the bunny this year. She’s just so darn cute. And since she has cancer I don’t know how long we will have her so it makes sense to humiliate her before she hops over to the other side. I would shame the cats, they really do deserve it for all the things they make me do and do to me, but they have sharp pointy everything that I’ve kind of learned my lesson and tend to leave them alone.

I can’t think of anything else. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts so I don’t have to worry about him and I really wouldn’t be giving gifts if people didn’t expect something so that’s what the cashmere is for. It makes a beautiful gift for anyone.

I have to say this job hunting right before Christmas sucks like a big sucking black hole but there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to keep applying to jobs and going to interviews and sending out resumes and sooner or later something will stick. Hopefully sooner rather than later because I don’t cherish the thought of trying to sell my home at Christmas time.