At least it’s not snowing

Today’s the day.  I’ve been trying to avoid it, I’ve done all I can to make it unnecessary, and yet, it has come.

I am going to the mall.

I made one last ditch attempt yesterday to shop in my neighbourhood, on foot, but I couldn’t get everything, and now there are five things left on the spreadsheet that Joe cannot get, that I can’t find, and even though five items is the smallest number ever, it means that I am going to the stinking mall. I am going to get in the car (that alone is remarkable. I drive my car about once a month. I am not fond of that thing either) and I am going to go to the one place where all the things I need are in one place, and I am going to go in, get the stuff and get out. The mall is the opposite of everything that I like about the world, and bad things have happened to me at the mall before, and so this year, I am taking extra precautions.

1. Last year (every year) I cannot remember what bloody door I came in and then I can’t find the car, and this ends up with me sobbing through the parking lot and I only find it right before I take the bus home and tell Joe to work it out. This year, I am taking a picture of where the car is, and of the door I go in, so that I have an escape route well planned.

2. I am leaving my coat in the car. It is better to be freezing for the three minutes that it takes to walk from the car to the door than it is to be sweaty, overheated in the mall for two hours while still trying to be nice to the lady in front of me in The Bay who is paying for her foundation garments with dimes while complaining about the quality of service.  I want to extend her patience, but I just can’t do it with my coat on.

3. I am taking hand sanitizer,  because other people don’t wash their hands, and a few years ago I got Noro Virus, and I’m sure it was at the mall, and it was the Nightmare Before Christmas.  (I’m not a germaphobe, I swear.  I don’t use seat protectors in the loo (because there is nothing you can catch through your thighs) and I don’t use a disinfecting anything in the house, but I know some of you are not washing your hands after the loo (or you are, but then you’re touching the taps and door handle again) and this year I’m just going to use the hand sanitizer a few times, and that way I can feel less nervous about the worlds hygiene.  (If you care, turn on taps, wash hands with soap, get paper towel, dry your hands, turn off the taps with the towel, use the towel to open the door, discard towel. If I’m in a bathroom where the bin isn’t by the door, I know something.)

4. I have a list of the stores I have to go into. I am not going into any other stores. I am not adding a single thing to the list, I am not being swayed by panic, nor 50% off signs.  I know what I need. I do not need more than that.  I have enough wrapping paper (I checked) and everyone on my list has plenty.  The list is all I am getting.

5. I am not even looking at the food court, never mind trying to find something to eat there.

6. I am taking my knitting in with me. It’s not like there’s knitting time, and it will be too crowded to knit while I am walking, but it’s a small comfort.

7. I am not going to let the way things are marketed to me shift the way I think Christmas should be, by wool.  I am not going to be tricked into thinking that I’m not doing it right, that I didn’t buy people big enough presents, or that I need to buy them more for them to be happy.  I am not going to be convinced that this family needs to dress differently, value different things, or stop baking our own cookies, and giving little kids books as presents. No matter how this season is presented at that place, their goal is to make me feel bad enough about what I have that I give them all my money so I can have better stuff, and therefore be happier.  I will keep it in my mind the whole time I am there that I am not unhappy because I don’t have that stuff.  I am unhappy because I am in a mall.

8. I am going to be like the wind. I am going to go in, strike like a ninja, and get out. I am going to be extra crazy nice to every other lunatic in there, and if I start feeling bad about it, I am going to remind myself that when I get back home, you can stick a fork in me, because I am done shopping.

9.  I am going to smile, and be the nicest stinking lady in the mall.  In the name of merino, I swear that every person who encounters me is going to have a better day for it.

10. I am putting a beer in the fridge for when I get home.

What’s Luis hanging today?

The wreath!

wreath 2014-12-17

This morning there was no text from Carlos, because he had taken a picture of the thing, and sent me an email because (while he liked that ornament) he didn’t know the word for it in Spanish, because it’s not really a Spanish thing.  “El Circulo de ramas?” he suggested – a circle of branches?  We eventually settled on “Corona de Navidad” which is close enough.  This one has no pattern either, though I was inspired by these ones, for sure.  I cast on, worked in that pretty blackberry stitch for a while, then cast off, folded the knitting edge to edge, to make a tube, stuffed it lightly, and sewed it into a ring.  Then I knit that bow to cover my seam.

Gifts for Knitters, day 17

Another simple one, though it can be hard, because to do it, you need to go to a yarn shop.  Knitters well, like people who have a pub they always go to, a lot of knitters have “a local.”  At this local, they might even know your knitter, and know what they would like.  (Big tip, some yarn shops have gift registries – just like when you’re getting married, and you go the The Bay and put everything you would like on a list? The yarn shop might have that. Ask them.) If they don’t have a registry, and your knitter isn’t a frequent enough flier that they shop can advise you on what to get (because if they know your knitter, you should just give them a dollar value, and then step off. Take the bag they give you. Smile. Leave.) then you should get a gift certificate. Your knitter will like it a lot, and they’ll really like that you went to their local. It’s nice that you know where it is.

Another column on the spreadsheet maybe

You know, there’s one thing you can say about the universe, and that’s that it has a sense of humour.  After explaining yesterday how I was a total paragon of organization (at least when it comes to Christmas, let’s not discuss the basement, or the state of every drawer in this house) I have been bitten hard on the hind parts by my own failure to keep track of something.  See while I was knitting Lou’s advent calendar, I already had this plan, that I would show them to you one at a time, as he hung them.  I admit, at the time I thought he would hang them in the order I put them in, but it’s turned out differently (and way more fun – for everyone. Actually, let’s take a minute and give Carlos three cheers for dutifully texting me every single morning to tell me what Lou hung. He’s a peach.)  In any case, I took pictures of them and got it all sorted, and I was ready.  At the time, I had this niggling feeling that I should have been keeping the links somewhere, so that when I posted about them, I could show you the pattern, but you know how it goes. I thought “No, I’ll remember. I’ll totally remember” and off I went on my merry way.  It’s worked too. I mean, here I am, the 16th of December, and I’ve blogged every day, and remembered every day, and been completely and totally vindicated in my faith in my memory. Then this morning, I got a text from Carlos that said “El adorno del dia: la monopla.”  Mano is hand, so a quick guess took me to mitten!

manopla 2014-12-16

A teeny tiny mitten, knit on 2mm needles, in the round, with a proper thumb gusset and everything, and all of a sudden, the world fell apart.  I have just wasted three perfectly good hours searching for the pattern. I know I used one, or at least started with one, and I searched Ravelry, and then Pinterest, and then google images.  I used at least 10 different searches, and I’ve been squinting at this screen forever, and I’ll be damned if I can find it.  Moveover, I don’t even really remember anything about how I found it in the first place.  I can’t remember if I charted it (I don’t think so, but maybe?) I don’t really remember knitting it (which is bizarre, I’m sure that thumb made me crazy.)  All I can think of is that I blacked out. I was knitting so many tiny thing so quickly, and I’ve even gone back to my phone and looked up the date that I sent a picture of it to a friend, and then gone into my browser history for that day…. Nothing. Not even a stinking hint, and I am officially throwing in the towel.  If you know this pattern, put it in the comments. I’ve got full size mittens to knit. (Actually, I wondered this morning if Lou was channeling my psychic mitten energy when he chose it. It’s the year of the mitten around here, for sure. I’m up to my eyeballs in them. I’d show them to you, but I’d blow peoples surprises. )

Gifts for Knitters, Day 16

Dear Non-knitter who loves a knitter,

Hey, you know how your knitter dries stuff all over the house? You know how there’s sometimes sweater parts drying on the bed, or how on woolly washing day, the stuff is all over the place? It’s because your knitter doesn’t have a good place to dry things. You can solve this, making your knitter both happier, and less annoying at the same time.  Get them a sweater drying system. This one hangs, and holds three and this one stacks. This extremely posh one dries sweaters really, really fast. (It also might not be available anymore. Look around, there’s no way it should be $300.) I am crazy in love with that one. (Sometimes knitters need to dry things very quickly, and in July people object if you turn on the radiators.) If you are the handy type, double points if you make them this one.  Quadruple points if you make one for me.


The Spreadsheet of Joy

There’s been lots of questions about “the spreadsheet” and how I use it to keep track of Christmas, and get the whole thing off the ground.  I wrote about why I use a spreadsheet here, and you don’t have to go read it – I can tell you that I love Christmas, and I love it to be a certain way, and that for years I’ve searched for the proper balance between the things I love to do this time of year (gingerbread, knitting, gatherings with friends and family, beautiful tables full of good food, a big tree, gifts people love opening) and the things I don’t love so much. (Shopping, cleaning, wrapping… to give you the short list.) For me, the answer has been to organize the crap out of it.  Spread out everything to make sure I don’t get stuck wrapping at midnight on Christmas Eve (when I should be sitting by the glow of a tree, glass of excellent whiskey in hand.)  So, it all goes on a spreadsheet, and a bunch of you have asked what’s on it, and what it does, and so – for better or for worse, and I hope it helps, here’s what I do:

It’s a simple sheet, with two tables.  One for gifts, and one for tasks.  The tasks one is pretty straightforward.  It lists things that need doing by Christmas, what I need to do them, and when I need to do it.  The tasks run down the side under “To Do”  and then the columns read: Purchase what?, Zone, Begin, and By when?  All of those should be pretty clear.  “Purchase what” lists all the things I don’t have on hand that I need to complete the task, “Zone” lists where that thing comes from, and who gets it. (Me vs Joe) “Begin” is when the task needs to be started, and “By When” well, you can figure that one out. Everything I need to do is on this list. Bake cookies, make ice lanterns, menu for Christmas Brunch… everything.

As an example, the first task is “Put up Tree”, and following that task along, it says “2 strings white LEDs” “Canadian Tire” “December 5th”.  The part about buying lights was keyed to a reminder in my calendar, so that it got done while the store still had a selection of lights, so that I didn’t leave it so late that all was left were the multicoloured flashing ones. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s pretty much the opposite of what I want.)  The reminder popped up in mid-November, and the next time Joe said he was going to Canadian tire, boom.  Done.

The second table is a little more complex.  The names of people run down the side – everyone I need to do something for, even if it’s just drop a card at their house, or bring a bottle of wine to their party.  The columns read like this:

Idea – this is what I’m planning on doing for them. What I’m going to buy, what they’ve dropped hints about, etc.  I colour it green when it’s a solid decision.

Knitting: This one should be clear. It’s what I’m going to knit for them, and how many hours I think it might take.  I pad this pretty generously, because of LIFE. So, that column might say “Hat – worsted, 10 hours.” I colour the box yellow when I change it to the specific pattern name, and put a link to the pattern in there – so “Hat – Linga – 10 hours.” I colour it green when It’s finished.  (Finished also means blocked.)

Stocking: This is where I list everything I have to buy for their stocking.  I colour things green as I buy them. (Or add them as I find them, and colour them green.) At a glance, I can see what I’ve got for each person.  It really, really helps me from going overboard. I can see it all in one spot.  (As an aside, I also put the stocking stuff into individual bags, one labeled for each person, as I go along. Then it’s all sorted when it’s time to help Santa.) I don’t delete things as I get them for this, just colour the text green.  I want to see what’s there.

Shopping: This is an important column.  It lists everything I need to buy – including yarn and groceries.  I delete things as I get them.  I can scan the column and see what it is that I need.

Zone: This again. This is one of the most helpful things on there.  I list the place (or zone – like “the mall” or “grocery store” or “village”) in that square. Then if Joe calls and says he’s going to the grocery store, do I need anything, I scan that list, and give it to him.  It also means that if I go to the village, I go ONCE, picking up everything on the list. I also list “order on line” in that box if I’m going that way, and change it to “Ordered” when I do it,  along with the expected date of delivery. Helps me remember what’s coming in the mail, and when. (If a job has been delegated, or belongs to someone else, I write their name in the Zone.  Then I know who’s doing what, and that it’s not me, but it’s still getting done.)

Deadline: This column is easy.  It’s when it needs doing by.  We celebrate with different people on different days, and it’s easiest for me when I list all that.  As we make our holiday plans to gather with people, I plug in the day I’ll be seeing them so that I can prioritize, and avoid that wrapping at midnight thing.

Wrapped: I do this one for two reasons.  First, I can’t colour in the square until it’s wrapped, which sort of motivates me to get it done, and because a few years ago I searched the house for a book I’d bought my sister for 45 minutes, sobbing because I’d lost it, and the whole time it was wrapped under the tree.  I don’t want to live that way. Now, I know where things are, and what that package is.

For every cell, I colour it green as it’s completed – and I also colour a cell red if it’s a problem. (For example, I ordered something, and it’s not going to arrive on time, and I need to do something about that.) When the whole thing is green, bob’s yer uncle. Christmas is ready.  I get up every morning, and while I drink my coffee, I consult the spreadsheet (and calendar) and ask if there’s anything I can do on it that day to make things better.  There’s always something that can move me towards a green square.

Now, I know this approach isn’t for everyone. (Joe, for example, hates the spreadsheet. He’s a fly by the seat of your pants guy, and enjoys that.) It’s meant a world of difference to me though. Makes me feel like I’ve got it all in one place, and I can see what’s happening. For me, it’s reduced work, and shopping and rushing around, and made the whole holiday season totally do-able without tears, which is the whole goal, right? You’re supposed to enjoy this time of year, and around here, if Mama ain’t’ happy, ain’t nobody happy.  It’s also had a really amazing side effect. It’s improved my ability to accept help. It used to be that I was so overwhelmed and all of the jobs were so disconnected, that if someone tried to help me, I honestly couldn’t think of what they could do to get me out of trouble.  I’d refuse the help, because sorting that out seemed so complicated.  Now? Now if someone asks what they can do – I take a look at the spreadsheet and I can see what exactly needs doing.  I can see if they have time to pick up one of the things on the list, or if what I really need is time to do something that only I can do, I can give them the task I had for that day.  Sam can’t knit socks for my brother, but she can totally wrap a few finished things while I knit. Joe can’t bake cookies to save his life, but dude can stop at the drug store on the way home for stocking stuffers and more tape. It’s made things a lot better for us, and somehow made it so that we work together better.  I really like it.

That’s it. The whole approach.  Take it, and do what you will with it.

(PS. I start the next year’s spreadsheet in December of this year. That way I can remember what didn’t work, and change it for next year. That’s totally how I remembered to get the tree lights in time. Last year I was a deranged person in the dollar store at closing time.)

What’s Luis Hanging today?

My favourite.  The toque.

tinyhat1 2014-12-15

I can guess that it’s not Lou’s favourite, since he’s waited this long to hang it, but what else could I expect? (If I was 2 3/4, my auntie making me a toque would be low on the list.) This morning, Carlos texted and said Lou picked “el gorro” which I guess is Spanish for “toque” because I swear to you I though that “hat” was sombrero. Live and learn.  I knit this hat from the pattern, pretty much exactly (except on 2mm needles to make it small enough) and really the hardest part was making the tiny pom-pom.

I couldn’t figure it out, until I remembered Denny making a gagillion tiny pop-poms one year out of Kid Silk Haze, and I remembered that she did it on the end of a pencil. That worked, and although the tiny pom-pom is incredibly satisfying, I don’t need to make any more.  (If I do, I’ll call Denny. She got a lot of joy out of that.  I think she made hundreds.) I love this ornament.  I think it’s one of the most charming ones on the tree.  It’s even more charming in a picture that shows how small it is. That’s a quarter. (Canadian and US quarters are about the same size, that’s the same as 5p.)

tinyhatmaking1 2014-12-15

Gift for knitters, Day 15.

Dear Non-Knitter who loves a knitter,

You know what’s hard? Counting.  I know that’s disappointing to hear, what with the way you non-knitters think that it’s easy, but knitters have to do it all the time, and we’re not great at it.  (It doesn’t help that you keep talking to us while we do it. Here’s a good way to give a gift to a knitter, if you see them with their fingers on their stitches, and you say something to them, and they reply with “32, 33, 34…” they’re counting. Shut up for a minute.  Here’s another tip, you know what’s not funny? Saying other numbers while they’re counting. That’s little brother crap from when we were all kids. Don’t do it.)  Your knitter (even if you stop messing with them) probably needs some help counting stuff. Buying them something to help with that could make up for some of the times you were the reason they unsuccessfully counted to three four times in a row.   There’s a lot of ways to help them – I love these Ablets.  It’s a knitting abacus, and it’s very charming, and a great way to rock counting old school.  (Heck if it was good enough for Demosthenes, it’s good enough for a knitter.)  These bracelet versions are a good option too… and like the Ablet, look like jewelry.  There’s more modern ones too, like this kind you click (it’s got a cord that goes round your neck) or this digital one that goes on a finger or thumb. For complex counting missions (counting more than one thing happening different numbers of times, like rows, increases and repeats, all at once – your knitter is a genius by the way, they do that all the time) this Sirka Counter is just about the coolest ever.  I have this app that I use sometimes, but it really drains your battery, and the batteries on the Sirka never run out.

If all else fails, buy your knitter a bag of Smarties (or in the US, I guess it would be M&Ms – I mean the candy covered chocolates, not those things that American’s call smarties that are Rockets here in Canada – although those would work too, if your knitter likes them) and tell them that they can set out how ever many they need.  If you’ve got twenty decreases, put out twenty, and eat one every time you do a decrease.  When they’re gone,  you’re done.  (Note: this only works if you don’t eat your knitter’s candy while they’re in the loo.  Don’t be a jerk.)


Right Down To Business

What’s Luis Hanging today?

You know who’s a good boy? Luis is a good boy, because despite asking (again) if he could hang Santa, and being told (again) that it’s not time for Santa, Luis went ahead and picked something else, and I can hardly believe it.  Lou is apparently nothing like my kids at that age.  Lou’s seen Santa around town several times, he’s even visited and spoken with the guy, he understands that when you hang Santa, it’s Christmas, and still, upon being denied this several times, he apparently hasn’t shredded the entire advent tree while throwing himself on the floor in a temper tantrum that made the kid in the Exorcist look restrained.

elarbol 2014-12-14

Instead, the gentleman picked the Christmas Tree. (That’s Arbol de Navidad, for those of us giving the Spanish a shot.)  This one was a pattern I figured myself, although this one looks to be pretty similar.  I didn’t want to sew two sides together though, so I worked mine in the round.  I cast on enough to make the tree as wide as I wanted at the bottom (x2) and joined to work in the round.  Round and round I went, decreasing 4 stitches (k2tog and ssk at the sides) every third round.  When I was done, I stuffed it with a little wool, added the wee trunk, and sewed on the little gold beads to be ornaments. Simple, sweet, and a little sparkly.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 14

This one is simple and straightforward.  Your knitter needs good tools to work with.  If they were a carpenter who spent as much time building things as your knitter spends making things, you wouldn’t expect them to have a crappy saw, right?  If your knitter was a cook that spent this much time cooking, you’d think they’d have some pretty slick tools in the kitchen, right? Absolutely.  Take a look around your house and see if your knitter has these tools, and choose what seems right for your budget and their level of engagement – but remember, these are tools your craftsperson will use not toys for their amusement.

Swift:  A swift is a tool that holds a skein of yarn so that the knitter can turn it into a ball that they can knit from.  There’s  several kinds, like this one – it’s great for the knitter who has no swift, this sturdier wooden one, and this (I have one of these and love it so, so, so much) Hornshaw Woodworks one.

Ball Winder. The swift spins, and the yarn is connected to the winder.  Ball winders are pretty freakin’ handy – even if you’re knitter doesn’t use yarn that comes in a skein.  You can wind half of a ball off of an existing ball to make two things of equal size, you can rewind a commercial ball that’s gotten sloppy – Your knitter needs one.  If you don’t see one around the house (and your knitter hasn’t expressed a profound love for winding balls of yarn by hand *) get one of these.  This blue and white one is ubiquitous, it’s a good winder, but has a lifespan, then the gears start to go, it makes skipping noises and starts making breasts rather than balls.  It’s a great, great place to start though. This one from Nancy’s Knit Knacks looks like a workhorse, and the Strauch winder is a joy to behold.

* About that knitter who loves to wind balls by hand? Think about getting them a beautiful Nostepinne.  There’s basic ones here, but you can find a million beautiful handcrafted ones.

Let’s not think about the cookies

Today’s a knitting day, my pretties, or – as close to a knitting day as one may be permitted, if there’s still a hundred other things to do. It’s actually going pretty well here, if you keep the parameters loose, and the priorities shifting.  A hat’s drying over there, I’ve got the first of four mittens done, and there will be time even for a brisk walk today – if only to keep me from becoming that crazy lady who stays in her house and knits all the time.

Onemitt 2014-12-13

I’m still completely determined not to fall behind, and so for today, let’s just have our ornament, and gifts for knitters, shall we?

What did Luis hang today?

Today, Carlos texted to say Luis picked the bastón de caramelo, which I only figured out was the candy cane because bâton is stick in French.  (I call this my “panic Spanish” approach.  When all else fails me, I think about French, and see if anything works. I’m constantly surprised how close the two languages are.) Once I knew that bastón was stick (or might be stick) then the only stick-like thing I made, was the candy cane.

candycane 2014-12-13

I used this pattern,  but I downsized it from 5mm needles and worsted yarn to 2mm needles and fingering weight. To say that knitting a few stitches in the round in colourwork at that gauge was fiddly would be an understatement.  Next to the snowflake, this is the ornament that made me the craziest.  When I was done, I had something so tiny that there was no way that a pipe cleaner would fit through it- and it was a straightened paperclip to the rescue again.  It’s no surprise Lou picked this ornament today. He’s worked out that if you see Santa, you get a candy cane, and he’s been accosting Santas all over town to get the goods.  At least this one doesn’t leave him so sticky.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 13

Dear Non-knittter who loves a knitter,

Your knitter is a handworker.  They work with their hands all the time, and a really lovely gesture that recognizes that you think that’s important, is to make their hands important.  Today I’m going to suggest that you procure for them a knitter-specific hand product. There’s several soaps made just for knitters, like these ones,  or these ones.  I like hand lotions and creams a lot (especially in the winter, it makes knitting nicer to not have scratchy hands) and there’s lots out there that’s knitter specific. Soak has one that’s new to me, but looks great, there’s got to be a scent that would suit your knitter here, and these look fabulous. My all time favourite for the winter though, is (well, anything from Goodies Unlimited) the Everything Balm.  I can’t live without it.  (I also have deep, personal feelings for the stress-free green tea soap and the E-tomic balm, but that’s not knitter specific. Just good – although I do use the e-tomic if my hands are tired and aching at the end of the day. It’s on my bedside table.)  Good hunting.

Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear

I gotta tell you.  Up until today, I thought things were going pretty well.  I mean, yeah, there’s a lot to do, but it’s all simple and straightforward and everything is going to be fine as long as I stay calm, I thought, and then, there was today. Today I could no longer ignore the waning yarn supply (I know. I can’t believe it either) and I sat down very carefully with the spreadsheet, and I figured out exactly what I needed, and made a very good list.  I even had colours on there,  I didn’t scrawl  “some green worsted” because you know how that ends up, no, no.  My list was precise. It was abbreviated, there was nothing on it that I do not hope to need in the next three weeks and  I got myself off to the store, walked in, got just what I needed (I have witnesses who will verify that I was not in there long at all) and I paid for the yarn, and they put it into a bag and handed it to me, and I brought it home, spread it out on the table, and promptly lost my mind.

yarngo 2014-12-12

It felt so reasonable until now. It felt so possible until now – yeah verily when you’re looking at it on a spreadsheet it all seems fine, but there’s a big difference between that mountain of yarn and a short list on a spreadsheet, and there’s only 13 days and I think I might have miscalculated a little bit. Just a smidge.  I’m going to knit my brains out this weekend, and reassess my situation on Monday.  There’s a few things going on there that should reassure me.

1. I do not believe that the projects will take up all that yarn. Some of each, but not all that yarn.

2. There is only 2 skeins of sport weight on there. Everything else is worsted, and three are bulky. That’s a good thing. That’s an amazing thing.

3. The spreadsheet doesn’t lie.  It might occasionally tweak the truth, and it might make things look easier than they are, but it does. Not. Lie.

I’m going to keep repeating that, and dive in.  I’m a fast knitter. It’s going to be totally fine. Fine, I tell you.

What’s Luis hanging Today?

Oso Polar. Polar bear.

tinybear 2014-12-12

Technically, it’s just a wee bear, but I thought it more Canadian (and possibly fierce) if it was a polar bear, so white it was.  I used this  Bear Christmas Tree Decoration, and two things happened.  First I knit the pattern exactly as written, and second, I barely escaped from there without knitting a million of them.  They are ridiculously stinking cute, and fast to make. You make one and then think, my stars! I could make EVERYONE a tiny bear! (Then you remember that you have other problems (see pile of yarn above) and get a grip on yourself. When Luis pulled this bear out the day he got his calendar, he squealed with laughter, which is exactly the right response.

Gifts for Knitters Day 12

Today it’s more paper things, to go with the posters from yesterday. (Did you look in the comments? So many nice ones. Your knitter would enjoy any of them.) If your knitter is the paper sort (and they very likely are. Knitters have a thing for both paper goods and bags. I’m not sure why) then this is the day you’ll find a ton for them.  How about these good moth/bad moth notecards? TillyFlop has tons of beautiful ones, like this one (trust me, all those things are good) or how about a M1 card for a new baby? Inc 1 for a birthday? Keep calm and cast on? There’s so much there, and look at this thing too – a card that turns into a paper die to help a knitter make up his mind what to make next. If none of those look right, how about alphabet postcards with sheep by species? Or wee gift tagsPeace Love Knit notecards? Or there’s lots of tags here, but I love these best.  Good hunting.


Snow Day

We woke up this morning to a white and snowy day – perfect snow too – not too cold, not too blowy, it’s sticking to everything in the prettiest way, except that there is rather a lot of it. There’s about 20cm so far at my house, and it’s still coming, and coming and coming. You can’t tell that we shovelled this morning, and I’ll have to go out the front door to dig out the back one so it opens.

snow 2014-12-11

Not that I mind, far from it actually.  I’m in a warm house, and I’m cozy and I like the snow. (I like it from in here.) I have nowhere to go, my house is tidy, I’m all cleaned up from the dinner party last night, I’ve spent the day at my desk, and that means that this evening this knitter will be getting her yarn on big time.  Me, a seriously large pot of tea and a movie, while the snow flies outside. I’ll light the candles, and hunker down with a woolly scene.  My sympathies to those of you who have to drive in it, or try and get around, but I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve got a million things to knit, and this is the perfect set up. Speaking of perfect set ups…

What’s did Luis hang today?

If you think I’m happy about the snow, then let me tell you, Lou is thrilled, in exactly the way that only little kids can be. Snow  is all a win when you’re 2 3/4, you don’t even need to shovel the stuff. It’s all fun, all the time when it snows for him, and a very, very happy boy chose his ornament this morning.

snowflake 2014-12-11

The snowflake. (El copo de nieve) How perfect is that? This ornament was the one that made me the craziest. I used this pattern, but I did it on 1.5mm needles (that’s a little tiny) and used laceweight to make it small enough.

snowflakesoak 2014-12-11

When I was done, I soaked it in a solution of half white glue, and half water, and then pinned it out on my ironing board over parchment paper and then plastic wrap. (I was very worried it would stick. It didn’t.) The pins I used are toast, but the finished product was great.  Stiff as a board, and perfect for hanging on a wee tree, and diminutive enough to fit in a pocket.  If I were a stronger woman, I’d knit a bunch of these for my genuine large tree.

snowflakeblock 2014-12-11

Gifts for knitters Day 11

Today is short and sweet.  Knitting posters. If your knitter has a special space that they knit in, a studio (or your home) this might be perfect. Knitting posters.  You can frame them, you can tack them up with pins like you did when you were 17 – no matter.  These will all be up your knitter’s alley. How about Keep calm and Cast on?  Or one that outlines the steps in knitting? One of those might be perfect. Anybody have anymore?


Maybe little nails would work

Lookout world, because here I come.  Actually, it’s more like lookout living room, here I come, but today is the day that I pull this house the hell together.  (The little lights above the door fell off again. I need to try something else.)  The first of many holiday gatherings is here tonight, and I’m using it as the impetus I need to get the place squared away. The wrapping stuff has been put away, the bathroom is almost something you could let another person use, and I’m thinking about taking the pressure washer Joe was using yesterday to the kitchen.  It turns out there really are only so many hours in a day, and if you spend a bunch most of them knitting, everything else goes to Hades in the proverbial handbasket.  Still, the knitting is the only thing that seems to be going well (that fits, considering where I’m spending my time. I had a meeting last night where I plowed along on a wee sweater I’m not showing you, and when I got home I got the first of two hats on the needles.

hatstarted 2014-12-10

The other will have to wait until I make a trip to the yarn shop – and can I just say that I can’t believe I have to go to a yarn shop? I practically HAVE a yarn shop here in the house, and it boggles the mind that I’d have to go to the store for anything at this point.  (I’m making a careful note of what I don’t have – and when I get to the shop I’m going to buy double. Just to be sure that it’s on hand from now on. The stash should be a force against yarn emergency, not just a curated collection of pretties.) I’m cleaning in sprints today, my favourite way to manage the task. I set a timer for 10 minutes, and then address a problem, moving at light speed until the timer goes off. You’d be surprised what can get done. After a while I should have just the big jobs left, like swabbing the decks and running a vacuum around to collect up the worst of the cat hair.  (How can there be this much cat hair, and still be any on the cat? It’s a mystery. I think she grows extra on purpose – in cahoots with the hoover company. The wee beast is likely getting a kickback.)  So- the timer needs setting for the dining room, so let’s get to business, shall we?

What did Luis hang today?

Bola de arbol de navidad. (That one stretched my Spanish, though  it shouldn’t have.  Arbol is tree, I knew that, and Navidad is clearly Christmas – we’ve all sung that song, it was bola I had to think about.)

balldone 2014-12-10

It’s a Christmas tree ball! Carlos thinks he probably picked this one because they got their tree up, and Luis had a great time decorating it.  (I think he’s just so pissed he can’t put up the Santa and truck forever that he doesn’t care.) No pattern for this one, I just cut the shapes out of felt, embroidered on it a little, added a few beads from the stash for pizazz, and sewed them together.  Boom. It was a quick one.  There’s lots of patterns for knitted Christmas balls, but they were all too big for me, and I wanted something flatter that would fit in the pockets of the advent tree.  Felt, to the rescue.  (It’s still wool. It counts.)

Gifts for Knitters, day 10

As much as I’d like today’s gift to be a couple of hours of housekeeping service (and really, that would be an outstanding gift) today, let’s go with Jewelry for knitters.  There’s a ton out there, and as much as I’m not really a jewelry wearer myself, I love most of this stuff. (The same might be true of your knitter. Knitting themed stuff can almost always shift a knitter.)  First up? These cool kits from Laura Nelkin, so your knitter could make their own. (Double points, extra fun.) If that doesn’t suit, how about a cute needle gauge pendant? Still not your knitters style? Check in with our lovely Jennie the Potter. While her stuff is notoriously hard to get (she’s only one woman, for crying out loud) she has some fantastic knitting themed earrings in her shop right now.  This knitted jewelry is gorgeous, and Sassafras Creations always has cool stuff made out of knitting needles, including this necklace that’s really pretty understated. (It doesn’t scream KNITTER, but yours will get it.) Schoolhouse Press has two especially lovely things this year, the sterling silver ball of yarn pendant, I love that one… and for the right knitter, the Elizabeth Zimmermann signature necklace (also made by Jennie the Potter, hard to go wrong) is beyond charming.

… and with that, I’m off. I’m going to unearth the table.


Something that went right

You know that thing when you’re cleaning a closet or a drawer, where things get much worse before they get way better? I think my pre-holiday life is like that right now.  There’s lists and post-its and presents and wrapping paper and yarn over every inch of this house, and thus far, all attempts to corral the disaster only seem to make things worse.  Every task I take on seems to take me deeper into the abyss, and only the spreadsheet and what can at this point only be loosely termed “a plan” are keeping me from falling over into disorganized despair.  I keep making bigger and bigger messes, and muttering foul things while I putter around, trying to pull it all together.  (Moments ago, the beautiful string of snowflake lights I managed to hang in the living room came crashing down.) I’m hoping that this is the chaos before the calm, and not the cruel backlash of an overly ambitious system, but tomorrow should have the worst of it over.  At least now I can re-make the bed upstairs and get that room ready.. because Indian Feathers is finished blocking, and it, at least, is fabulous.

indianfeathers whole 2014-12-09

I modified this shawl/scarf pretty heavily.  I had an abundance of yarn and a good attitude at the time, and a little screwing around yielded me a personalized version I like a lot. I loved the fabric I got when I knit this on 3.5mm needles, but worried that it would be too small. (The original was knit on 4.5mm.)

samindianfeathers 2014-12-09

I wasn’t too worried about the length, but didn’t want it to be too narrow – I solved this by repeating a pattern row a few times. (I did rows 18 and 19 three times each) and by eliminating a double decrease in row 27, and replacing it with a regular decrease every other feather.

samindianfeathersshoulder 2014-12-09

I knit a few plain rows after that, then did all the short rows (more or less) as I was told. (Obedience isn’t something that comes naturally to me.) I finished the whole thing off with a three stitch i-cord bindoff.

indianfeathersgate 2014-12-09

The end result was just what I’d hoped for.  A slightly taller, far less circular version – mine’s more of an arc than the original, which means it curves less that the designer intended, which is awesome, because I didn’t use the cast on she suggested at all.  There’s less stretch in my edge, but I don’t need it, because it doesn’t need to stretch as much.

indianfeathersdone 2014-12-09

That bad boy also has extra beads.  The original had beads in a little V at the bottom of each feather, and mine has some up at the tops of the motif, as well as one every 5 stitches along the top.  The kit from Holiday yarns had more than enough yarn for my version, but not enough beads for me to go nuts like I did, so the top ones are little crystals from my own stash.

samindianfeathersannoyed 2014-12-09

I also skipped  the row of yarn overs at the top.  I didn’t mean too, but it’s worked out fine. It’s so very pretty, I could have taken pictures of it all day, but for the waning patience of the World’s Top Knitwear Model.  There’s more going on here knitting-wise, but I’m trying to run a few projects sort of stealth, so bear with me. Can I distract you?

What’s did Luis hang today?

The Gingerbread man, or as Lou terms him “Señor de galleta” which, if am to take seriously the comments from yesterday on the use of the word “Senor”, translates more like “The Lord of the Cookies” than gingerbread man, but I tried to learn to say “ginger” in Spanish, and I’m willing to go with Lou’s version.

gingerbreadman 2014-12-09

I was going to tell you that there wasn’t really a pattern for this one, since to knit this little guy, I dragged out my old (rather very) copy of The Canadian Living Christmas Book, but the internet is an amazing place, and it turns out to be available online. I modified the pattern, using fingering weight wool instead of Sayelle (I told you it was old) and decreased the number of stitches I cast on (from 32 to 22) and shrunk the number of rows to go with. A little embroidery for the icing and face, and whammo.  Lord of the Cookies indeed.

Gifts for Knitters, Day 9

There’s lots of knitters out there with amazing tattoos that speak to the love of their craft, but for those of us who lack the nerve to permanently etch anything on them (or worry about how it will look should they live to be 97) how about tucking some fun temporary tattoos into their stocking? These great tattoos from Soak (while you’re there, these Soakboxes would make a great gift too, if that looks like your type of knitter) are a hoot, and I’m completely in love with the ones from Tilly Flop.  Who wouldn’t love “Half Human half knitting machine” or this rather cheeky one? This set would be good for a knitter who sews too.  I don’t know how these go on, or how they work (and I know they’re not strictly tattoos) but aren’t these nail decals neat? (Ok, wait. These nail decals are good, and these ones are great, and these ones fit right in with the current trend for gradients. Nail decals might be a thing.)

Only Three Hundred Tea Lights

Just a quick one from me, since the bulk  of my day was taken up by an epic trip to Ikea, in which Joe and I tried (and failed) to buy stuff there without falling victim to the siren call of the bulk bags of tea lights. I am helpless in the face of Ikea candles.  There’s something about the darkness of this time of year that only candles can spare you from, and we light them often, to drive the dreariness out of the corners of the house, and make the world we live in sparkly and cozy again.  As the darkness falls, the candles come out.

tealights 2014-12-08

(That picture, by the way, was taken just an hour before I hit “post” on this – at about 4:30pm It is dark here, indeed.)

Today though, in the little daylight that reigned, I finished my Indian Feathers (modified a fair bit –  more about that tomorrow) and set it to block on the spare bed, conveniently stripped for washing before the ladies all come home for Christmas.

beforeblockingindianfeathers 2014-12-08

(I’ve always called my three daughters “the girls”, but as they got older, my Uncle Tup took to calling them “the ladies” as a collective.  I can’t think of a time that he didn’t speak of them as though they came as a trio, which I suppose, they rather do.) I used blocking wires to pull out the top edge, and pinned each point with a t-pin.

blockingindianfeathers2 2014-12-08

Please pardon the odd pink cast to the photos.  The room has pink walls and a bright pink curtain (holdover from when one of the ladies occupied it during a pink phase) and it gave a queer pink cast to all the photos that I didn’t notice until it was too dark to take them again.

duringblock 2014-12-08

blockingindianfeathers 2014-12-08

The answer to blocking this was (as always) patience and a little time. (And an audio book.) I threaded the flexible wire through the i-cord bindoff at the top, and then it was a quick (ha!) matter of pinning each point.  It will be dry in the morning, and then there’s another gift, ready to be boxed and wrapped.  I have a rather lofty goal of having Christmas all in the bag by the 20th. I’m determined to be knitting for me on Christmas Eve.  (We’ll see if that’s laughable or not.)

What’s Luis hanging today?

The snowman.

snowman 2014-12-08

Or, as he calls it, Senor de Nieve.  (Mister of snow.  I take it that Spain is not a particularly snowy place, and the language falls down in spots.)  Carlos figures he picked that one because he’s wishing for snow, which I think he’s almost alone in.  Soon, I’ll welcome it – we’ve certainly already had a dump or two, but it warmed here and there, and it’s gone – leaving behind only demoralizing chunks of ice. I think Luis is coming a little early on this one, if he’s bucking for a white Christmas.  I used this pattern for the snowman (sort of) and mine came out totally wonky.  His eyes are a little crooked, and his hat doesn’t stay on straight, but he looks like every slightly odd snowman I ever made when I was little, using branches, rocks and leaves, so I left him as he was. If Luis gets a chance to make one, I bet it will be a little dodgy too.

Gifts for Knitters Day 8

Could there be a more appropriate day to advocate for blocking stuff? I think not.  Your knitter needs blocking stuff, unless they already have it.  Look around the house, and see what you don’t see.  I’m a brand new big fan of the Inspinity Deluxe Ultra fine blocking wire kit. (That’s what I’m using above, and it works a treat.) I also have, use and adore the Handworks set of dressing wires.  If your knitter has those already, think about getting them a steamer. (I don’t have one (though my family could note that from this list) but Debbi swears by this one.) Your knitter can’t possibly not need a passel of t-pins, or a set of blocking mats, or even (and I love this one, because I love to block on the bed) a blocking cloth, that lays out a grid over a regular surface, so that they can make nice, straight lines.  (Your knitter, while they may have tidiness issues in other areas, appreciates orderliness in blocking. Trust me.)