The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s Christmastime again. No? Christmas isn’t until December? Clearly, you are not a crafter. If I let myself believe that Christmas is not until December, no one would get anything but gift cards from me. This weekend I went out and bought my first round of project-specific gift yarn. Already, I have a growing stack of quick little projects knit from my stash.

I always feel a little guilty giving people projects knit from my stash, actually. Almost half of the yarn that’s in there has either been bought on super deep clearance of given to me by other crafters who no longer wanted it. Last year, for example, my mother gave me a huge pile of red and gold Lion Brand Homespun that was meant to be turned into a Gryffindor scarf for my sister Cho. Mom hated working with the stuff and couldn’t bring herself to make a full scarf out of it. I took the yarn and with it the task. In my arrogance, I thought my medium of knitting would be better suited to the task.

Did you just hear that boom? That wasn’t thunder. It was the gods of knitting shaking with laughter.

I didn’t really need to use a pattern for the scarf, but I looked around for ideas to keep the edge from curling. I decided that the best advice was to knit the scarf in a tube, which means casting on twice as many stitches as you normally would in order to get a fabric that is twice as thick. It also meant knitting in the round, which is fine, but I’m a bit cheap when it comes to acquiring new tools. The most suitable needle in my case was a circular two sizes smaller than the recommended gauge for the yarn. “No problem,” I thought. I often knit with smaller-than-recommended needles because I like to make toys and the tight fabric is good for keeping the stuffing in.

In my mind, as I cast on, this scarf was going to be the easiest project I was doing that year. I mentally started planning ahead for more difficult projects because this one just wasn’t going to fill up enough time. I also started thinking about what else I should give Cho. After all, I had gotten the yarn for free, and this scarf was going to be so simple that it hardly seemed like a gift fit for a beloved sister.

The knitting gods are laughing again.

First of all, let me tell you something: eighty stitches for a bulky-yarn scarf is just too darn many. Forty stitches is too many, but I didn’t want to skimp on the width. This scarf was for my sister, after all. Let me tell you something else: two sizes too small is a bad idea with LB Homespun, especially if you normally need a size up to meet gauge because you knit with high tension like me. And one more thing: remember that the wider you make a scarf, the longer you’ll want to make it to give it proper scarfly proportions.

Three rows measured about half an inch and it took me 45 minutes to knit that far. (I measure my progress by how much  I get done during a typical t.v. show). I was working stockinette stitch, which means that my slowness was not a matter of getting used to the stitch. There was no getting used to that darn yarn. It split at every opportunity. It clung to other stitches. Stitches slipped off the needles every time I turned my back and hid stealthily amidst the curly refuge of the fabric. I am not a swearing person most of the time, but I believe a sailor could learn a lesson or two from what I had to say to that scarf. And did I mention I was working in stockinette stitch? In the round? Stitches, stitches everywhere, and not a single purl. Or increase. Or decrease. Or yarn over. Not only was it difficult…it was BORING.

John and I took to calling it the “Hateful Scarf.” I pulled out my ruler every few rows and wanted to cry every time I had to keep working in the same color. I began to worry about giving the scarf to my sister. How could something knit with so much venom towards the yarn ever be trusted to lie docile around my dear sister’s neck? Would the ill-will I bore Lion Brand at that moment rise up to strangle my sister on some evil skating trip? I tried saying nice things to the scarf as I knit, bottling up the vengeful wrath to be released out-of-range of the scarf’s hearing.

The only thing that kept me from frogging the project was thinking of the person I was making it for. This row is for the time we performed the execution scene from A Tale of Two Cities on the landing at school when we thought no one was around and earned ourselves a funny look from a history teacher. This row is for the time we sang “The Boxer” at the top of our lungs in the hall behind the P.A.C. This row is for being the first person to bring a Harry Potter book into our home. This is for the scratch we put in the basement ceiling while fencing with and umbrella and a music stand. This is for the story she wrote about alien banana invaders. This row is for the light bulb she gave me for graduating high school. And finally…these tassels are for the spiders I woke her up in the middle of the night to kill and the hundred times I went into her room to borrow the dictionary and stayed three hours, distracting her from your schoolwork.

When I tied off the last tassel and lifted the scarf from my blocking mat, all I could think was, “It’s huge.” I didn’t make a scarf to fit Harry Potter. I made a scarf to fit Hagrid…or possibly his giantess mother. This soft monster could bring mere mortals to their knees with nothing but it’s cozy hug. My sister is no fainting flower, but she wouldn’t exactly meet the height standards of the NBA either. At that point, as close to Christmas as we were, I just shook my head and sighed. It might strangle her or break her back, but I knit the serpentine beast and darn it, she was going to wear it and like it. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out it was teaching her Parseltongue.)

Thankfully, Cho is either a really good actor (um, yeah, no) or she loved the scarf in spite of its enormity. Possibly because of it. Possibly because she has an instinctive understanding of what went into the blasted thing.

Creating such monuments to my familial devotion, you now see, would be entirely impossible if Christmastime started after Thanksgiving. If I give you nothing but socks for Christmas, know that each sock represents 6-8 hours of contemplating everything I love about you, all of which compelled me to turn a heel and graft a toe. Twice. (If you only get one sock, of course, you might want to sit and think about what you’ve done.) In a way, I think homemade presents are a blessing to the maker as well, because they put us in the holiday spirit of love and kindness several months earlier. There’s a New Year’s resolution for you–want to keep Christmas all the year? Pick up knitting.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to see some yarn about an elephant.


On Scribd: Snappy Sack Satchel

What’s this? A knitting pattern, two weeks in a row? Yes, my friends, I’m in another knit-frenzy. This time the background noise for my knits and purls is Glee. Can’t believe I resisted watching so long…I hate to jump on the trendy bandwagon for t.v., but the show must have been made for me. Massive amounts of singing and dancing, teen angst. Grand.

Snappy Sack Satchel (Click to download or print.)

On Scribd: Rose Cottage Slippers

John and I went up to Maine to visit our families for Easter this year and I received an abundance of inspiration. My feet always, always freeze to death when we visit his mother and step-father because they have this beautiful old farmhouse with lovely wood floors that, no matter how high the heat is, leech the warmth from my toes. I suffer from chronic cold feet condition (a) because I have the basso profundo of blood pressure and (b) because I never think to stick my slippers in the bag I actually carry around with me. Yes, I am the sort of nitwit who will let my toes get frostbite before I truck my lazy rump up the stairs to pull slippers out of my suitcase. Also, I don’t do socks unless the circumstances are dire.

Rummaging through a catalog of amusing gifts in my mother-in-law’s bathroom, I found a very cute pair of knit slippers that are meant to roll up and fit in a purse. My freezing feet immediately sent my brain a requisition for such an item, and my cheap brain replied, “I bet I can make a pair that will fit nicely in my shoulder bag.” The project turned out to be kismet. My sister-in-law gave John and I an Easter basket which included some super-soft multi-colored yarn that was just begging to be turned into slippers.

And so was born my quest to figure out how to make a slipper. Here is the result of my endeavor!

Rose Cottage Slippers (Click to download or print.)





On Ravelry: “J” is for Joy

My middle younger sister (I have three) recently celebrated the anniversary of her wonderful entrance into this world. Her codename on here is Joy, which happens to start with the same letter her real name does. These pretty and punky monogram gloves were made and designed especially for her. The process was a surprisingly arduous one, mostly because I thought I could knit freestyle, having made many fingerless gloves in my knitting career.

Like Goldilocks, however, I discovered that the first attempt was too large and the second too small, but by applying the principles of gauge and basic mathematics, the third was just right. As it was a frightfully difficult pattern for me to work out, I thought I might as well front-load the difficulty and figure out how to sell a pattern while I’m at it. This pattern, therefore, is actually now for sale, as a test run to see if I can eventually turn my knitting sickness into a financially stable hobby.

Here are John’s beautiful pictures of the finished project…

Notice the cool eyelet “J”? And it’s hard to see here, but there is an eyelet border around the top of the glove, based on the same stitch used for…

…the extremely sexy side gussets. Also note the whimsical Peter Pan-esque bottom trim. Does it make you think happy thoughts?

Continuing the yarn-over fun, the lace gusset runs up and around the thumb gusset for a very hip, modern bit of easy lace work.

What do you think, knitting friends? Did my pitch and pictures persuade you to Buy “J” is for Joy Fingerless Glove Pattern Now! ?

On Scribd: Apnea Oliphant

My mother recently started wearing a mask at night for sleep apnea, which my parents jokingly refer to as her “elephant nose.” I thought it wasn’t quite fair that she should have to endure the embarrassment all on her own, so I threw together an elephantine nose warmer to help my dad empathize with her. Here’s the pattern, for anyone who could use a little chuckle.

Apnea Oliphant (Click to download or print.)


On Scribd: Butterflies on the Lattice

I was going to write you a nice long story about the epic journey I’ve been enmeshed in over the past four days as I designed my first real knitting pattern, but the thing about epic journeys is that they don’t leave you a lot of energy to work with when you get home. My brain feels like it’s been in labor for something like 96 hours…which actually fits rather well with the conversation John and I were having earlier about being a “co-creative” couple instead a “procreative” couple. We’ve decided that we’re better suited for contributing to the memetic pool than the genetic pool, which I may blog more about later.

For the moment, I have only these announcements:

1. I’m on Ravelry now, so look me up if you’re there too.

2. I’m thinking about starting an etymology-of-the-days-I-don’t-otherwise-blog section, so keep an eye out for that and send me words you would like to know the history of.

3. Here’s the pattern I’ve been slaving away at designing and testing this weekend. Leave a comment if you have a question or correction!

Snazzy photo credits go to John, as usual.

Butterflies on the Lattice (Click to download or print.)