What about the early worm

This time of year fills me with a sort of general, vague panic.  Just the creeping feeling, omnipresent and pervasive, that I have forgotten something, fallen behind on something or am about to light the holidays on fire (metaphorically speaking.) I’ve got all kinds of strategies for staying on track, most of all the mighty Christmas Spreadsheet, but mostly I’ve learned that I feel this way because there’s always something that I actually am falling behind on, forgotten or have (occasionally literally) lit on fire. (Usually cookies.) I love having a large family that does Christmas big, but it means there’s a lot of moving parts. This year, I wasn’t doing too badly. I was working the spreadsheet, getting stuff in order, pulling it together, and Joe had his list, and he was working hard on it. It was looking pretty good, something getting done every day, until Joe came to me – handed me a glass of wine (never a good sign) and said “Thing is, I’ve got to go out of town.”  Turns out that as much as he’d like to avoid it, he’s got another work trip to make this year.

I took a sip of my drink and thought about that, and decided what I wouldn’t say, which was something about abandonment, and being a team player and how if this meant I had to go to the mall twice or something unreasonable like that, it was right the hell out. I also decided against reminding him that for years and years we’ve had a deal. I cook, clean, knit, organize, make lists, hand out lists, wrap, remind him what we need and when we need it by, and he goes to the store. I hate the store. The store is his. As much as Joe would rather wax his armpits than make cookies, that’s how much I don’t want to go Christmas shopping, and I am willing to do a million other things to avoid it. I thought about laying all that on him, thought about telling him that there is no bloody way that I am going to be here by myself pulling together this whole thing while he’s in a hotel room and not running out of tape at all, while I stand in a queue at The Bay with meringue in my hair, desperately knitting a sock while trying to buy the last stupid roll of wrapping paper in Toronto, even though it’s ugly.


I said none of that. I took a deep breath, and asked him when, and for how long. The answer was the worst possible.  A week. The week before Christmas. Okay then.  I took more deep breaths, and Joe asked if that was going to be okay, and said maybe he didn’t have to, and I thought about it, and thought about how hard he works to make things nice, and then I didn’t say what I was thinking, which was something about how it really wasn’t, and then I went to the spreadsheet, and had a  good look. Then I finished my wine, went back to Joe and told him that it was totally fine, if we made one change.


We will be finished before he leaves. We’ll do it all before he gets on a plane. All the shopping, all the wrapping, all the stocking stuffers, the whole thing with the tree. Everything that’s going in jars, everything that needs printing, the stupid trip to IKEA -all of it. He can go, and I’ll smile and drive him to the airport and wish him well, and he can feel great about it and I will too – if we’re all done. “No problem” he said, and I know he meant it. I started changing things on the spreadsheet, and we made a plan to go get a tree, and started to get stuff out of boxes and pull it together – and then Joe stopped, frozen in his tracks, and said “Wait… All of it?” I nodded. “All of it. No exceptions.”

He looked at me stunned, and I couldn’t quite figure out what he was worried about. We have a list. We’ll work the list, and be ready a week early. Boom. No problem. It was kinda exciting, actually.  “Everything.” I said, and Joe said “But… not all of it? Not….. ” he paused, and I could tell that he was about to drop something huge. I looked at him questioningly, and finally he said it. “Not the knitting though… I mean….”

I almost laughed. “Of course not the knitting Joe. Get real.”

Gifts for Knitters: Days 1, 2 and 3. (See, I’m going to catch up.)

It’s tradition around these parts, for me to provide ideas for those who love knitters and are tasked with buying gifts for them this time of year. I know that if you love a knitter, and want to get them a present that they’ll love, that it can be confusing to know what you should get, or where to find it, or if it’s any good. To that end, I’ve got a list for you. Not everything is going to be right for every knitter, but if you keep an eye out, there should be something that works for yours.

Day 1: A swift. Does your knitter ever ask you to stand with your hands out, holding a skein of yarn for them? Do you see them with yarn draped over chair backs, or sitting with their legs out, yarn held by their feet while they wind it into a ball? If so, they need a swift. A swift is a yarn holder that replaces … well, you.  Buy one of these, and you never have to do it again. There’s all sorts of them. The basic entry level one looks like this, and that works for most knitters -but can be squeaky, and doesn’t last forever. Still, a good start. If your knitter has that kind and complains about it, you could upgrade them to a wooden one, and these are a little nicer.  If they have one of those, or you want to get a really great one, take a look at these.  They’re hand made, wooden, don’t clamp to anything (the clamping thing can be hard, depending on your furniture) and don’t squeak. They’re beautiful.

Day 2: A yarn bowl.  Now, these aren’t for every knitter. Knitters who knit everywhere, trucking their project from place to place, they might not need one of these. If your knitter is the stationary type though, a yarn bowl can be a nice thing. They plunk the ball of yarn in it, and then it doesn’t roll around or get covered with cat hair. There’s wooden ones, and ceramic ones, and Doctor Who ones, and … you get the idea. There’s got to be something on this page that suits.

Day 3: Knitting needle organizers.  Look around your house. Somewhere there might be a nest of knitting needles.  If they mostly are long and straight, then your knitter might like a knitting needle organizer for straight needles.  There’s lots of kinds, but these roll up ones are pretty good.  If you see mostly straight needles, but they’re short and fine, then think about grabbing one of these.  They’re from Handwork Hardware, and they sort the needles by size (trust me, that’s a great thing) and store them too.  I’ve got one, and it’s reduced needle related swearing incidents quite a bit.  If your knitter mostly has needles that have a cable connecting them, then they’re into circulars.  You can get a hanging one like this, or like this, or – if your knitter seems more the type, there are cloth folders like this, or this.  If your knitter has all kinds, or you’re looking for something a little fancier, look no further than Grace’s Cases.  (She’ll even do a custom one, and if your knitter is a guy, she’s got ones that are made from suit fabric.)

63 thoughts on “What about the early worm

  1. Oh, the fun you will have being finished early! A little subtle smugness is allowed after using such amazing restraint while you thought it through…

  2. Thank you I am feeling a little better right now. Just to know I am not alone.

    My family always has Christmas at our house. The house will need a big clean and pick up because it has been a while. Yeah those present things to get and make, and don’t forget the food. Well funny thing is, I am overwhelmed with at work. I have problem solved it the best I can and now it means some nights and Saturdays. This has happened the last couple of years when I spent the weekends before Christmas cleaning the house and getting ready while working. And each year my blessed preChristmas birthday gets less celebrated. Something about being an adult I guess?

  3. There are also inexpensive wooden swifts on Amazon which also squeak a bit but can be stained and maybe oiled. Mine was less than $25. I know we all say this, but Joe is a keeper – did he think he was gonna have to knit??

    • I’d like to throw in an honorable mention for the Knit Picks wooden swift. Yes, you have to worry about clamping it down and it does squeak a little, but it’s nice and sturdy and for the price it can’t be beat.

  4. I have to admit to actually laughing out loud about Joe’s question of the knitting being done a week early. The rest of it, I have faith that the two of you, as a team, can handle it.

  5. Why go to the mall when there’s this marvelous new thingie called the Internet? Order things from home, in the comfort of your pjs and cozy slippers! Elves will bring gifts right to your door.

  6. I see a plus here: with everything else done and ready to go, you should be able to knit to your heart’s content in peace and quiet all by yourself (okay, that’s a pipe dream, I know).

  7. I’ve had an early case of SAD, but you made me smile– and read the armpit/cookie choice out loud to my husband. Thank you, a lot. Seasons Greetings!

  8. Joe is a man in a million. And good for you, making it work. (I am asked to touch the truck – is that a nudge to shop online and have stuff delivered rather than braving the mall?)

  9. I was reading and thinking “oh, she’s going to have the last week for mostly knitting.” (I recognize there will be cleaning and cooking for the big days, but still.). That you would also have the knitting done never once crossed my mind.

    Re gifts:. I’m mostly an on the go knitter, but I still love the yarn bowl I was gifted. It sits near my favorite chair and holds the odds and ends that are forever trying to escape. And then when I do work on a project that isn’t suitable for on the go, it’s a lovely yarn holder.

  10. So – as much as I love your craziness and enthusiasm, I have to ask WHY? Why do you put so much pressure on yourself. Why so much stuff? My first son was born just before Christmas – as a result, we kept things simple and low-key (and I was a church musician for many years) and you know what? We never changed and still love the low-key celebration in the cold dark stillness of midwinter. Please do yourself a favour, and stop trying to do so much. Christmas will come anyway and will still be wonderful.

      • I feel the same way about the mall, or any stores before Christmas. Today at the grocery store I was trying to figure out if I could buy enough so I wouldn’t have to go back until January. It doesn’t work well for the fresh veggies and fruit though.

        • Jo-Anne, you can’t go most of a month without hitting the grocery store, but I am going to let you in on my most wonderful tip. If you go to the grocery store before 8 a.m., it is mostly empty! My youngest child gets on the bus at 7:30, and weekly, I leave when she does to get groceries. I am in and out with a full week’s worth of groceries in well under an hour. Granted, this is a luxury I have since I work from home and can get started at 8:45, but I’ve done it on Saturday and Sunday too, and it holds true!

          I hope you are able to find quiet times to shop and have a wonderful holiday!

      • Actually not all that new, and older than Steph with the bruises and scars to prove it. Spinner, weaver and crocheter who also had a full time non-fibre off-the-farm job for many years. Rita Buchanan was my mentor and one time told me that popcorn makes a great supper. True that.

  11. How lovely to hole up in a completely Christmas-y house and only need to finish the knitting! Almost worth being frantic beforehand.

  12. Agreeing with Brenda, I’m sorry this celebration causes you do much stress and anxiety. As long as you’re with your family, nothing else matters much.

  13. We also have a low-key Christmas. But perhaps the payoff isn’t as big, either, than if we’d gone all out in the weeks before. YH loves a great big celebration. She works for it, and reaps the benefits.
    But I don’t think I’d go to the Bay for wrapping paper. You can get that at your local Shopper’s DrugMart or even a dollar store, and those aren’t as crowded as the mall. Especially, the Mall (Eaton Centre).
    Enjoy the month, YH. Sending you stamina and inspiration for the journey.

  14. I shopped on-line in my jammies with a cup of coffee by my side. Lands’End is my friend! We decorated in miniature, literally. 10-inch ceramic tree with tiny bird ornaments that lights from within with 2 AA batteries. Some collectible Peanuts ornaments we both love, the obligatory live poinsettia and a blooming Christmas cactus from my favorite local nursery. The whole mini-diorama sits on the credenza that houses our stereo stuff. Voila! If you are looking for a great yarn swift, go on-line to The Oregon Woodworker. It’s ingenious–so saith my other half.

  15. Stephanie: Thank you so much for the Handwork Hardware shopping recommendation. The phone has a gong that goes off with a sale. It’s been ringing.

    I have definitely been on your wavelength for the holidays. I make most of my gifts and really enjoy doing so. This year, however, I have a new knee and pain meds. Although I am home, I am not capable of following a pattern. It became quite clear this weekend that my knitting list was wishful thinking. I am now spending my time writing Christmas cards, and if appropriate I send this note: “Sorry-I got behind the Christmas ball. Your gift is on its way.” That’s it.

    I hope that you have a good week of knitting while Joe is gone. And a very happy holiday season.

    Judy Van Cleve

  16. Doctor Who yarn bowls!!! Why did I never think to look for those!! I can’t help wondering if you put that link in just for me 😉

  17. In a pinch, Christmas fabric can be used to wrap presents……and fabric stores are much nicer places for last minute shopping than the mall 🙂

  18. If Joe ever starts a support group for partners of women who craft too much, my partner is in, man. I’ve seen that exact same look in a person’s eye when they have to inquire about knitting (or jam or tortiere making) deadlines.

  19. We’re behind because two of us have gastroenteritis. So we haven’t decorated the tree or even take the decorations out of the attic yet. My husband and I did manage to go *cut* the tree. Sigh. At least I’m getting knitting done.

    • Good news for you. The “deadline” is Dec. 24. So technically, you’re not behind at all. Just do what you can and the holidays will be much nicer.

  20. Speaking as a woman who once waxed her own armpit, I can say with complete confidence and utter sincerity that a) almost nothing hurts worse, especially if one is blessed with a thick luxurious “pit mane”, and b) I too hate both cooking and shopping during the holidays. That being said, I’d cook a 14 course holiday dinner for 12, then immediately hit the 24 hour Walmart on Christmas Eve in search of the last triple A batteries to be had in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, AND Arkansas if it meant avoiding the indescribable pain of ripping cooling wax and (essentially) beard hairs from my underarms ever again. Pro tip: cold washcloths not only help with the pain but also stop the bleeding. Oh, and it’s probably best to skip the deodorant for a few days.

    Assuming you and Joe forego waxing, I’m confident you can get it all done!

  21. I love that he actually thought you’d get all the knitting done a week early! Actually, if you can manage to get everything else done a week ahead, you can use that last week for extra knitting time, no?

  22. Being finished early! WOW That would be a dream come true for me! That being said I will be completely finished By 9 PM December 18. As I work the entire next 7 days. Including Christmas day! How wonderful to have a week with nothing to do but knit!

    Enjoy, embrace and most of all Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

  23. This Christmas season is proving a little more stressful than the average around here, with baby-toddler concerns front and centre. That moment if “not the knitting though…” brought a little light into my day. Thank you!

  24. I have often wondered whether the presents would like being wrapped in their finery for longer than a few hours between midnight or later and the earliest risers in the household…. Now is your chance to find out!
    And to add to the presents for knitters if I may, what about small lavender bags to stuff in your favourite knitter’s project bag? I have just done that for me.

  25. I feel that if by chance any miraculous year I was to find myself “ready” – more or less – a week early, the season would just expand to find more should-does or must-does or it-would-be-so-nice-to-does that they would take an additional ten or so days and I’d be right back to where I started. That’s just a hunch. (I’m not an organized person.) All the best with this new strategy!

  26. and with all these nice gifts, no one else in my family is a knitter so they don’t read you. I wish the things you posted were able to be seen on FB and I would share them there, so the family would get a clue.

    • You can share this on facebook. Copy the address for this post (it’s in the menu bar at the top of your browser page). Then go to facebook, make a status that says “Gift Ideas Here” and paste the address in with your status update. Should create a link for family & friends.

  27. I laughed and thought, oh, I love your Joe!

    And then I did a little fast intake of breath at seeing yarn swifts as item #1 on your list and thought, oh I love you Stephanie!

    • Aren’t the swifts beautiful! And the functionality only makes them more beautiful! The best of both worlds. I have a similar style one made by a dear friend – who knows nothing about knitting except that I knit. What a sweetheart he is.

      Time for a swift for you???
      Chris S in Canada

  28. It takes a special kind of man to be married to a knitter, no? Glad we both have one! 🙂 Good luck with the list! I’m cheering you on!!

  29. The world needs more Joes. He’s a keeper for sure.
    We live far from family, and most of our friends from way back in the day have moved away, so our Christmas is always low-key. We’ll have a nice dinner & pie, and put up a tree (artificial; I’m done with pulling cats out of the tree), and just enjoy being together. Our best Christmas wishes to you & your family.

  30. How lucky to be finished early! Thanks for the list! I have racking my brain for a knitter gift exchange, an poof, there it was. Merry Christmas!

  31. Perhaps next year the magic spreadsheet could include a 10 day deadline buffer as each year there’s a flu, mandatory party someone forgot about, a baby, a wedding, a dinner for forty, a trip….a wrench in an otherwise perfectly planned execution of all things holiday. How fun would it be to sit by the fire, wineglass in hand, leisure knitting close, giddy from the feeling that you don’t have to do anything more…no mall…no post office…no grocery store…More mulled wine? Would you care for another appetizer? A gingerbread? Perhaps a walk later to look at the lights?
    I know it will come together perfectly-that’s the magic of Christmas.

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