Watching for the post

Friday. That’s the day we’re supposed to be ready (except for the knitting) and though I suppose progress is being made, I’m starting to feel the pressure of the little details. You know, small things like needing a huge number of cookies baked or a mammoth amount of groceries even though the car broke down, and things are getting tight.  I’ve responded to this in several inappropriate ways, like considering cocktails at three in the afternoon,  repeatedly looking over the spreadsheet while sighing deeply, or setting calendar alerts that remind me to worry about all of this in July of next year.

I think the strain is starting to interfere with clear thinking. This morning I consulted the spreadsheet, saw that today is the day I’m to start the ice lanterns for Solstice, and then spent 25 minutes hopelessly cleaning out the fridge freezer to make room for the molds, dejectedly realized it isn’t remotely possible unless I throw away all our food, declared defeat and reconciled myself to a holiday without lanterns, and then walked to the post office to mail a few last minute far-away things. I was stomping along, wishing I could feel my feet, shivering and wondering why I hadn’t worn my long underwear, when it occurred to me that Canada *IS* a freezer at present, and I returned home to fill the molds and set them outside. I’m pretty sure that the backyard is much colder than the freezer – and suddenly I find myself hoping it stays that way.

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Another pair of socks is done, perfectly matching and ideal for the recipient, who really likes things that way – and a little sweater is just a few rows away from finished, and that means I’ve spent the day watching for the post truck, and opening the front door and checking the porch to see if I missed it coming, despite my constant vigilance. It has not. The yarn I need for the next round is still out in the world somewhere, though I know it’s in the country – it can’t be long now, and I’m starting to get nervous. I can start more socks, but…. slippers, a cowl, and a sweater are on in the wind as I type this, and tomorrow I might snap and go to a yarn store to see if I can buy something to be a stopgap. I’ll bake some cookies, vacuum half a cat off of the carpet,  wrap a few things and see what happens next. I know patience is supposed to be a virtue, but the solid week of knitting is supposed to start on Saturday when Joe leaves town, and I’m starting to get sweaty. (Hold on. I’m just going to check the porch again…. Nope.)  Let’s do gifts for knitters. Maybe it will be here after that.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 11

There are not many generalizations that we can make about knitters, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: Knitters love bags.  Few and far between are the knitter’s who don’t have a bunch of them, and don’t want another. The odds are pretty good that a bag will be well received, especially if it’s knitter-specific. Tom Bihn’s Swift was designed by knitters, for knitters, and is tried and true. New to me, but admired by a quilter friend who spotted them in person, My Stow-n-tow look good, and are machine washable and have no zippers or velcro. (These are two of knitting’s natural enemies.) Della Q has quite a few to choose from, and I’ve been carrying a Lexi Barnes for (literally) years and years. If you’re thinking a little more upscale, I’m wild about these from Jul Designs, one that says Make, and the other (appropriately) Knit.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 12

You got a bag last year? That’s cool, you can still stay with that theme, because knitters like bags that go in bags. Project bags are fun, knitters need tons of them (they keep yarn from (theoriticaly) tangling with your knitter’s keys or headphones) and they’re super fun to shop for, because I promise, no matter what your knitter is into – there’s totally a project bag for them.  There’s fabulous box bags from Splityarn (I can’t get enough of them) I think Binkwaffle dumpling bags are sweet, wedge bags are nifty, Tom Bihn stuff sacks are classic (I like the ones with clear bottoms so I can see what’s in them) or, hunt up one that suits your knitter. Get one with yarn on it,  or cats, or dragons, or hedgehogs or (here it comes Tall Allison) get a Doctor Who themed one.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 13

I know there’s only a small chance this could work for your house and your knitter, but if it’s even remotely possible… you should buy knitting wallpaper.

(PS. the yarn still isn’t here.)

The only thing broken is my spirit

We’re home again, after travelling westward from Quebec in a snowstorm yesterday, and I think that the whole adventure was a grand success, if you use that metric that I do, which is to say that my legs are not broken, some knitting was accomplished, and I didn’t meet anyone on the ski patrol in a formal sense.

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I skied, and this time there were a few moments that approached graceful, a few stretches where the skiing was easier than it has been in the past, and some periods of time where the panic I usually feel was downgraded to mild concern. The thing about being a new skier is that everything I do is the first time I’ve done it, and that means there’s a lot of empirical learning. I’d be headed down a run, thinking about how well it was going,  and there would be a flash of a wee dark thing in my way, and before I could make up my mind about anything, I’d be face down in a snowbank, with Joe standing over me saying “Honey, you should really go around rocks.”  (It is a credit to the sort of person I am that I did not once reply to this the way I wanted to, which was to say something like “YA THINK”, but instead murmured “Good tip” into the snow.) The truth is that I still lack the skill to make a whole lot of choices while I’m on skis, and I live in fear of one of the toddlers that skis faster than me getting in my way because I’ve really got no guaranteed way of going around them if they fall. (Luckily, it turns out that most or them ski better than I do – though this time there was a particularly inept six year old who struggled to keep up with me.)

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My biggest claims to fame this time around were that I didn’t fall off the lift even once (big improvement, I believe last time there was only once I didn’t fall off the lift) and that I can now proudly state that I can turn to my right at will – approximately 95% of the time. (That remaining 5% remains troublesome, unpredictable, and usually results in me sliding backwards down the mountain while smiling at the six year old like I planned it and it’s all part of my “style”.)

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I remain, as I was the first time, particularly good at Apres-ski. and much knitting was accomplished – leaving me only mostly behind on the Christmas knitting, not totally behind, as I’d feared.  I finished the Tool Box Cowl

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I freely admit that it was so cold while we were skiing that pretty much the minute I finished it, I wore it.  I know that’s not standard operating orders for a Christmas Gift, but I was really cold, and I’m sure the recipient won’t mind that I tested it. (For the record, it is cozy. I had my cashmere Pretty Thing on first, and that over top.  It was almost enough against the -20.)

I also finished two pairs of socks –

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Almost. One pair’s a secret, I’ll show you later, and that pair above was almost finished on the way home, I’ll make short work of it this evening. (Anybody who guessed the colourway was MustStash R2D2 from the series “These are the droids you are seeking” nailed it.)

Joe and I are still on track to finish getting ready by Friday, if the next few days are magical. I ran an errand or two on the way home from the dentist this morning… and now there’s a little wrapping and baking, and a few things on Joe’s list that I’m trying not to worry about, because it’s Joe’s list.  I’m focusing my concern on the fact that my yarn isn’t here yet, but hold out hope for tomorrow.  Cross your needles, I’ll be ready for it then.

Shall I get start getting caught up again?

Gifts for Knitters: Day 9

Looking for something fun for your knitter’s stocking? Good for you. Lots of knitters have knitting tattoos, but if your knitter isn’t the sort to commit, how about some temporary ones, just for fun? There’s these ones from Ragline Knits, and these ones from Soak, and these ones for the multicraftual, and then these bad boys from Tilly Flop. (I can quietly admit here that I think these are my favourites. Your knitter may vary.) There’s also knit related nail wraps here and here and here. (If you don’t know what a nail wrap is, your knitter might not be into that.)

Gifts for knitters Day 10

Look, I know we’re all having a good time here, and I don’t want to harsh on anyone’s mellow or bring up upsetting things, but the truth is that your knitter has a mortal enemy or two, and helping to defend against their dark arts would make you a hero on the side of light. I speak here, of Moths.  There’s lots of stuff to help. You can consider some of the natural deterrents out there like traps, or some natural deterrents, like this moth chaser, or this repellent, or this one, or cedar stuff. These blocks are a charming weapon, or you can buy bulk. If you know your enemy already dwells too close, think about this. I don’t know if it works of not, but as a knitter, I really dig the phrase “no survivors.”

Randomly on a Thursday

1. This morning Joe and I got up at 6am and got our scene together, and went to the airport. We have a coffee maker where you pour the beans into it, and then it makes one cup of coffee at a time. This morning, I got the only cup of coffee in the house before it ran out.

2. Joe is pretending not to care but I think it is a strain on our relationship.

3. Not as much as a strain as it would be if he got the last cup, I think.

4. I knit at the meeting last night but I didn’t finish a sock.

5. That puts me a little behind but I am trying not to panic because today is a new day.

6. The Tool Box Cowl is bigger but still not done but I hope today is the day because I am sort of panicking about that one. I can handle a single day where I don’t meet a deadline, but two days in a row could start to be a trend.

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7. We’re in Quebec City and it is properly cold and snowy.

8. Gifts for knitters: Day 8.  (See what I did there?) No matter what your knitter is in to, knit wise, they need to block their knits.  How they block things is going to depend a lot on what they make, but there’s some stuff that’s useful to everyone.  For sure, your knitter would find a use for a blocking mat (they roll up and don’t take much space) or a set of these foam tiles that lock together.*  (They’re a little less chic, but it’s super cool that you can put them together into the shape you want. If your knitter makes everything from sweaters to scarves to shawls, that could be a plus.) Toss in some T-pins, and you’re good.  If your knitter makes lace, then they might love a kit with wires. This Inspinknity set is good (and there’s several types there.) This set is just fine, and I’ve owned this set forever. (I actually own those, and the Inspinknity ones, and use them together often.)  If you’re the handy type of non-knitter, you could totally make your knitter a set of blocking wires, and they’d love it.  They appreciate things you make yourself, it’s totally what they’re into. I promise

*Yes. If you think you saw some foam floor tiles like that at the Home Depot or Canadian Tire, you’re right. They’re the same. Can totally be cheaper if you find them on sale. Do it.

The sweaters are small

I know it seems really unlikely, but I think things are okay over here.  I think this even though my yarn hasn’t arrived (it’s okay, I have lots to knit) and even though there’s not a lot of finished anything kicking around. I think this even though I’ve spent a big chunk of the day getting ready for a meeting tonight, and even though I’ve got to go to that meeting. (It’s okay, I’ll knit on the subway on the way there, and at the meeting, and on the way home. Everybody at the meeting is used to me by now.) I think this despite the fact that I’m not (quite) packed for a little trip Joe and I are taking tomorrow – and I think this even though it’s a ski trip (apparently I ski now. I was wondering if that was a one off last year, but Joe’s really into it) and even though you can’t knit while you are skiing, or while you’re recovering from the broken arm I worry about getting while skiing. (I’m not very good.)

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I think this even though that cowl (it’s another Tool Box Cowl, this time knit from a Lorna’s Laces String Quintet called “Flute”) is sort of just started, not “almost finished”, which is what I just almost typed, and I do believe it’s all going to be just fine.  (Pardon me while I tidy the dining room, a wrapping paper bomb seems to have gone off in there.) I know all of this seems delusional, and there’s no way all of this is going to get done, but it doesn’t feel that way today.  Today, I’m a lady with hope, and that could just be because I finished up arranging the stockings with Santa yesterday, or it could be because it seems like there’s still a lot of time – but I absolutely feel like I’ve got this.  I’m sure I do.

Right?

Gifts for knitters: Day 6

Short and sweet, if your knitter wears tee shirts. This one is a total classic (and I’m wearing it right now – trust me, even if you don’t get it, your knitter will.) If your knitter’s a guy? How about this one?

Gifts for knitters: Day 7 (Look at that! All caught up.)

How about a little pottery?  Jennie the Potter is a fabulous thing, especially on the 15th of this month, which she has her next shop update. If that’s not your knitters thing, check out Creative with Clay.  There’s mugs, and bowls, all with knitting on them. Still not right? How about a sheep mug? Not that one? How about this one? Personally, I think I like this one.

It works if you work it

You know what, I’m just going to say it.  I forgot to order yarn for Christmas presents.  There. It’s out, and I feel so much better. I’d toyed with telling you something else, just adding a few projects in a few days and pretending that it had been my plan all along, but we’re too close for that. The total and honest truth is that I forgot to write it on the spreadsheet, and it didn’t get done. I wrote down the things I was going to make by names on the sheet, and nodded to myself like it was all arranged, and wandered off to do something like knit a Santa Mouse. I didn’t really realize what had happened until yesterday when I went to knit the yarn I didn’t have and it all came together.  (Subtle sign, that one.) I’ve ordered it now (really, not just psychically)  and I’m sure it will be here as quickly as the border allows, and everything is going to be fine because it’s not like I don’t have things to do. The plan between now and Christmas is (don’t panic, I’m not panicking) Two sweaters, two cowls, a hat, some slippers, and four pairs of socks.

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I’m only waiting on the yarn for the sweaters, one cowl, the hat and slippers. Everything else (that’s a cowl and four pairs of socks, is already on the needles, or at least…. here. It’s going to be a little tight, but fine, and maybe I’ll get all that stuff out of the way while I’m waiting for the yarn to arrive.  It’s funny, but I really sort of think that getting everything cast on helps. I know it doesn’t, I know it can’t matter at all, but there’s something about having it all started that makes it seem like it’s going to get finished. Godspeed, little box of yarn.

Gifts for Knitters: Day 4

Now, not all knitters like trinkets and shiny things, but you’ll know if yours does, and if it sounds like him or her, then you can score major points by combining two things that they like, and get some knitting themed jewelry.  I hunted around for a bit, and I found this pin (complete with real knitted brass) a cable needle pendant, a ring that’s a knitting needle (bonus, you don’t need to know their ring size) one that looks like knitted fabric, another pendant that’s pretty funny, little sterling balls of yarn earrings, Schoolhouse press has some beautiful things. If you think your knitter would like making their own jewelry, Laura sells some pretty kits, and there’s a funky necklace kit here. There’s lots out there, good luck!

Gifts for Knitters: Day 5

This one will likely seem a little odd to those of you who don’t knit, and think that maybe a knitter would only need one of these – but the mighty needle gauge is a fleeting thing, most knitters struggle to put their hands on one, even though they own several. It’s a safe bet that your knitter would welcome another, even if they’ve got one or ten. There’s ones with birds, or a peacock. Shoes and sheep, ones that are necklaces, like this or this one in sterling silver. You can even get them one with their name on it, so that maybe they won’t lose it as fast, or a Doctor Who one (I threw that in just for Tall Allison. We’ll see if she’s paying attention.)

Any needle gauge is good, I promise, remember though, the most useful ones have both American and Metric sizes on them. Go forth and find one. Or ten. Really, we can’t have too many.

PS: See that? I’m almost caught up.

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.

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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.

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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.)

Also the server didn’t work

I  know someone who used to say that in their family, if you did something twice, it was a tradition.  This used to be a sort of a joke, where you’d do something that the family or your friends enjoyed, and you’d think to yourself “note to self, so-and-so really liked that” and I’d write it on the Christmas spreadsheet to make sure it happened again, and everyone would laugh, and say “watch out! You’ll have to do it forever!”

Little did I know, that my family is so sensitive to tradition and ritual, and the little things we always do that make our family special, that for us, it doesn’t take twice.  If the thing you did was really good, and it resonated, and everyone loved it, then whammo. It was an instant tradition, this time of year not the same without it.   Such was the case with the Advent Calendar I made for Lou’s family two years ago.  I thought I was making a calendar, but it turned out I’d made an instant tradition, so much so, that this year everyone asked. “Myrie is three,” they said. “Isn’t this the year for her calendar?”

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I sighed, and started with the knitting of the tiny things again.  All last month, tiny thing after tiny thing came off my needles and it was sort of a secret. I didn’t say out loud that it was Myrie’s calendar, but everyone knew. The whole thing culminated last weekend in a flurry of sewing and applique and a general sort of hysteria. I always remember too late that the sewing machine and nine oceans worth of felt is a bit of a production.  I cut the whole thing out, and I embroidered all of the numbers on the pockets – I’d forgotten you can embroider over tissue paper then rip it away. Way easier.

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I sewed those parts on, and then sat down to sew the buttons on, and in that moment, realized I didn’t have any.  A trip to downtown and the button store later, I had all I needed, and sewed every single one of those twenty-four buttons on. (I tried to do it with the machine first, but after I broke two needles and the ones I’d done fell off anyway, I decided to rock it old school. I sort of had to, once I’d broken all my needles.) When it was done, I hung all the tiny things from the buttons, and then moved half of the buttons to the right places.  (Little problem with the order of operations there.)

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Then, I loaded it into the car, and did something I almost never do.  I drove somewhere.  Myrie doesn’t live very close to me, but she had to have it for the 1st of December, so off I went, wending my way along the highway, over the big hill to Myrie’s house.  When I got there, Myrie’s mum Robyn opened the door and said “I think I know why you’re here!” and I went to the car and got the thing.

There is a danger in giving a gift to a three year old, unless you have your head on straight. The three year old could not like it. They could be afraid of it. They could cry and refuse to look at it, or they could promptly flush three tiny things down the toilet because they’ve just learned how the lever works.  You cannot care. Gifts to three year old’s need to be freely given, in the spirit of the thing, and without ego.  I marched in, hung it on the wall, and waited for NOTHING to happen.

It was my lucky day, as an auntie.  Something did happen.  All the ornaments were taken off, exclaimed over, cuddled, taken out of pockets, put back in pockets, and though I have no doubt that the kid has no clue what it’s for or how it works, she was delighted, and so was her mum, and that was enough for me.  Robyn’s reported back since then, and apparently the star was hung on the first with much enthusiasm, and today the candy cane went up. (Unlike her cousin Luis, Myrie seems to be keen on doing them in order, and the candy cane was in the day two pocket, after all the shuffling.)

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I didn’t know when I was making the first one that there would be a second, but I’m clear now that there will be a third. When my grandson is three. I’ve got three years to get it together.  (That’s right, a grandson. We’re completely shocked and thrilled, Megan is expecting a boy.) I can’t wait to find out what tiny things he’ll like.

Santa Mouse for sure.

(PS. I know too that Gifts for Knitters is a tradition, and I’ll get right on it. Give me a minute, I’ll catch up.)

Get thee behind me, tiny things

I am finished knitting the tiny things. I feel like there should be a parade, or some sort of party, or a telegram from a dignitary tasked with congratulating people who undertake this sort of business. The last two tiny things were a little intense, especially when day before yesterday, I thought I had knit the last of them, displayed them all proudly, stood there looking over all I had wrought feeling chuffed and relieved, and then realized that there were only ^%$%^&ing 23 of them.

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A quick consultation with friends (can there be two mice? Are two mice allowed?) and this little thing joined the ranks.  I am not going to pretend I was cheerful about it, nor will I contend for a moment that I had any positive feelings about knitting the wings and star out of wire. I’m pretty sure I pouted actually, and even though I was alone, the last little bit of making up and sewing together was punctuated by loud exclamations of “OH COME ON”  and “(*&%& THIS”. It is a very, very good thing that I don’t believe that knitted things carry the feelings that you have while you knit them, or that little fairy mouse would be an itty-bitty avenger and a toxic plague upon the earth.

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I felt great about finishing for 10 minutes, and then got out the felt, sewing machine, rotary cutter and tissue paper, and set about phase II.

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I’ve got most parts cut out, and the next step is embroidering all the numbers on the pockets. I can admit, I dallied briefly with the idea of cutting the numbers out and hot glue gunning the thing together, but in the end I took a long view. I’m trudging through the last of this with one idea in mind… I’m not making this for a child, I’m making it for the adult they will become, standing in front of it when they’re grown, and maybe a knitter, and looking at all the work in it, while they think to themselves “Wow. That Steph is a lunatic who has always really loved me.”

Gauge is still a thing

I bet, if I told you that I was going to knit a tiny snowflake, that you’d think that was no big deal. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? I mean, I can knit, and I’m getting pretty good at the tiny things. The main barrier to knitting a snowflake would be (you would think) that it might be a little fiddly… and you would be right. It would take a little time, you might suppose, to muck about with wee needles and wee yarn and what proved to be a teeny little chart, and all those things are true, and I saw them coming, and so on the weekend, when I was alone, and I’d already knit a few tiny things and was working up a good head of steam, wait… here’s the tiny things I knit to get warmed up.

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That’s a tiny sock, and a tiny mitten (I faked it, using these and the sock charts)  and a tiny bluebird.  (The bird still needs eyes. Overlook it for the moment, will you?) I tossed a quarter in there for scale.  So I was feeling pretty good, and I found patterns for snowflakes – and I got to it. I got my tiny needles (2mm) and some white laceweight and with very little fanfare, I knit a snowflake, and blocked it. Now, while I was knitting it, I thought it wasn’t all that tiny. In fact, it seemed sort of big, but by the time I was blocking I’d committed to the thing (and I guess there was a part of me that thought something might change, though blocking lace never makes it smaller.) When I was done it was perfect….

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and too big. A lot too big.  “Gauge, you bastard” I thought to myself, and looked around for what I could do to make it smaller. Smaller needles, naturally – and I went into my needle bin and came out with a set of 0000 DPNs (1.25mm) that I’ve been saving for a day I was feeling particularly lunatic.  An hour later, I’d thought of wonderful new ways to combine filthy words, had wept some, had loudly and bitterly complained to the cat about the difficulty of a central double decrease on needles that size, and had a much smaller snowflake, but I had a feeling it still wasn’t tiny enough.

As I walked to the kitchen to block it, I made a decision. I decided that this had gone far enough. I can get a little weird about the knitting, sure, but there’s a line and I was perilously close to it.  If it was small enough to fit in the pocket of the advent calendar I was stopping, I told myself.  I had a little chat with myself about perfectionism and how the pursuit of same isn’t always totally healthy, and as I took out the pins I congratulated myself on letting go. It isn’t totally characteristic of my nature. I may have even thought something about how glad I was that the snowflake interval was over… and then I started to block it.

The first few pins went fine, and then as I stretched one of the points out,

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I found a dropped stitch in the worst possible way – as it sprung loose, and ran.  Now, you would have thought that I had invented all the way to put swearwords together while I knit that, but you would be wrong. Very wrong. I thought about getting a tiny crochet hook and trying to fix it, and then I got the bourbon out of the cupboard.  At the last possible moment I remembered that attempting to fix knitting problems with hard liquor doesn’t work.  (It’s not a moral problem, just one related to accuracy.)

I went back into the living room, swore one last time, admitted that I probably didn’t get gauge that time either, and since I was already using the smallest needles I had… I got smaller yarn.  This time, success was mine.  I won’t pretend that there wasn’t bourbon after though.

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Gauge. It’s a thing. Same pattern, the first on  2mm needles, the second on 1.25mm, with cobweb instead of  laceweight.

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The pattern is here, if you’d like to fall down your own little rabbit hole of neurosis. (Buy bourbon.)  After that, catching up was easy.

A flower – the recipient loves flowers. (This one is from Knitted Embellishments)

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A little Christmas tree, complete with beads for ornaments. (Cast on 28 stitches, work garter in the round, decreasing  two stitches at each side every sixth row for the tree, then cast on 8 stitches for the trunk, and work garter for six rows. Cast off, sew up in the important places, and sew on beads. Voila.)

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A little Christmas light

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and finally, a wee bell. (Because someone will ask, yes, it’s hanging off the spindle of my walking wheel.)

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For the bell, by the way, you may ask yourself “Can I buy a little bell to go in this at the dollar store?” The answer is:

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No.  You can only buy a hundred.  I’m set for life.

Two more tiny things to go.

 

 

Little Things

The little things are starting to get me down.  I am beginning to dream of chunky yarn, big blankets, cozy cowls knit out of bulky… something that when I’m finished knitting it and say “it’s over there” people don’t strain their eyes in the direction of the project and say “Where?”

I long to hold needles that are bigger than 2mm. I almost snapped yesterday and knit another Encompass (they’re a pretty fast gift, and I thought it would take the edge off) but I pulled myself together at the last minute and knit another ridiculously tiny thing.  I’ve knit 18 of 24 tiny things (and yes, that does put me three days behind schedule but I had a snowflake incident this last weekend. I’ll tell you tomorrow.) The end is in sight, and every time I find myself sighing in the general direction of something else, I double down. Today there are flurries and it’s very windy and very dark, so no current pictures for you, we’ll have to make do with ones from last week.  While I was at the retreat I made pretty good time, even with working very long days and the time spent defending Santa Mouse from Judith.  That wee woolly rodent had her entirely in it’s thrall, and I feared she’d nick him if I weren’t vigilant.  We knit, we dyed things (and there was leftover indigo, so Judith had a go at Debbi’s hair) and ate,

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and everyone was making amazing things, and they were all bigger than mine.

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While I was there, I made (from left to right) A star, a sweater, a snowman, a gnome baby, an olive (inside joke, I know it’s not very festive) and a heart.  I used all the patterns linked there, with the exception of the snowman. Mine looks a lot like the original, but I upsized it significantly. I still bought the pattern because it was her idea and not mine, and that’s worth paying for.

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While I was on the ferry, I was knitting some other tiny thing, and Debbi went off for a few minutes, and a very nice looking lady sat down opposite me – in Debbi’s spot. She pulled out her notebook, started writing, thinking, enjoying her quiet space.  I knit, and looked out the window, and when Debbi came back we talked about something – can’t remember what, but I think it was a normal conversation. Then the chime rang, telling us we should get ready, and I said to Deb “hold on, I want to take a picture of all my tiny things” and I lined them up, and took out my big camera, and worked hard to get them all just so, and took their pictures, and the whole time I did, there’s this lady, sitting right there, just out of the shot on the right, and this lady is so stunned that she can hardly breathe and I can tell that she’d really like some sort of explanation, and I offer none. She watches me do this, and I say something to Debbi like “should I get out the mouse or is it cool like this” and Debbi says it’s cool and checks her phone like it’s all no big, and Debbi says the mouse is overrated anyway, and then I pack up my tiny things and leave, and the woman just watches us go.

As sick as I am of the tiny things? I’m never going to get sick of freakin’ out the bystanders. That lady is going to wonder about the mouse for weeks.

 

 

 

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