My top Christmas presents!

Sure, I made a couple of really nice Christmas gifts, but I also got some lovely ones, too! I thought I’d share my favorite knitting-themed items with you:

  1. Harry Potter and Doctor Who knitting bags. My husband sure knows how to make a girl happy!
    Harry Potter and Doctor Who knitting bags
  2. Delightful Harry Potter stitch markers from my brother-in-law. I’ve coveted these since my friend Smashing the Serene got some a few years back. I’m so excited to have my own set! I think I’ll need to change the marker I have on my Narcissa socks to one of these – only appropriate!
    Harry Potter stitch markers
  3. Knitting charm. My husband hit it out of the park with this one! It’s tasteful, small, and goes great with my charm bracelet. I hadn’t seen one I really loved before, and yet he managed to find one. He’s a keeper.

    Knitting charm

    Knitting charm, shown here next to my Minnie Mouse charm!

  4. Mitten blockers. I’ve never gotten around to blocking my Snowfling Mittens, and now I will! I also have another pair of stranded mitts on the needles, patiently waiting my someday return. And I have a couple other pair in my queue. These will get a workout!
  5. Sock blockers. I already have one set (both sets are from Knit Picks), but I wanted to have two so I can keep my handknittind socks washed and blocked more quickly. I always dry them on the blockers because I think it makes them feel nicer on my feet – I think “crisp” may be the best way to describe it. I imagine I may feel this way about my clothes, too, if I could ever muster up energy to iron them. Not likely! Bonus points in that I was gifted them in a gift bag that looked like knitting. Thanks, Donna!
  6. Poppy stitch markers. These are coming, but haven’t arrived yet. Thanks again, Donna! I looooove poppies!

It was a really lovely Christmas. Not because of what I got (though I have to say I was super pleased with all of the above!), but because I got to spend it with my family and enjoy the excitement of it all through BK. This Christmas season is certainly one I will cherish.

Advertisements

FO: Penguin Pillow

I know, I know, I said I don’t do Christmas knitting and yet here I am with my second knitted Christmas gift. This one was for BK, so it is a special one.

Mr Snips has a Penguin Pillow that I made him last year for Christmas. I briefly flirted with the idea of making the same for BK and giving it a different colored scarf, but I found the first one so tedious to knit that I didn’t fancy going down that road again.

When I found this Winslow pattern on Ravelry, I knew this was meant to be BK’s version of a Penguin Pillow.

I immediately had a color scheme in my mind, all readily available in my stash (how convenient! Despite having a good-sized stash, this almost never happens). I had 4 skeins of some lovely green (Cascade 220 Superwash) that I had bought to make a Sweet Pea sweater, back before I even knew whether I was having a girl or boy. Once I knew I was having a girl, I made other plans, partially so I didn’t have to knit all the bobbles on that pattern. I also had some cream left over from the sheep hat I made BK. And finally, I had one very special purple skein that was from my Three Irish Girls yarn club subscription a couple of years back. Not only did these colors call to me for being lovely, they also match BK’s room very well! I think that, though they are not traditional penguin colors, the pastel color scheme can grow with her. Besides, I really like purple and green for a Christmas theme!

So off I went. I elected to do the back first, because I thought it would be so boring that I really should trudge through that part first. I wanted to feel like I had the “fun” part left with the colorwork. I sailed through the back in about a week, mainly during mindless TV watching time.

Then I got to the “fun” side. First of all, I didn’t check my gauge before I started. I mean, it’s a pillow covering, it’s not like it’s high fashion. But my row gauge was apparently WAY off, and after knitting the suggested 30 rows, I realized I was at least 1/4” over the length I needed before I was to start the penguin chart.

Front view of Winslow

Well, no turning back, I said to myself. Forge on, Christmas is very near. I can make adjustments on the other side of the penguin if needed.

So I made the penguin. And sometime during that, I realized that this thing is honking huge and why does it need to be an 18” pillow, couldn’t I have adjusted and made it a 14”? And after measuring, yes I could have, but it was too late in the game to make that change.

I also realized that intarsia is messy. I had never done intarsia, just fair isle, and I found the mess of bobbins and small bits of yarn for the eyes and everything to be totally tedious and tangled. I was also trying to knit from both sides of the purple yarn to make sure I didn’t waste any of it, because I had plans to knit BK a hat with the leftovers – the color was too lush to spend on just a penguin! And into the deep abyss of twisted yarn I went. It was horrible.

When I finally came out the other side and got to go down to one strand of green, I nearly cried with happiness. To adjust for my size miscalculation, I only knit 20 rows of the suggested 32 of green after I finished the penguin. Yes, I know this makes it uneven, but he’s charted on purpose to be a little uneven, so what’s a bit more?

Back view of Winslow pillow

Little fingers love these flower buttons!

 

I finished this project on Christmas Eve Eve (that would be the 23rd), and wrapped it as quickly as I could to have it done and dusted.

But the best part is that BK’s reaction was absolutely the best one a 19-month-old could give me. She hugged it, brought it to me, sat down and snuggled with me and the pillow and said “Thank you, Mommy” three times like her little heart was just full of gratitude. She then gleefully suggested we put it on the couch – which is hands down her favorite place in our house. I nearly cried with happiness. That lovely moment was worth all the horrid mess, and I would do it again in an instant.

FO: Ahoy Princess Beret

I don’t really do Christmas knitting. After the Dishcloth Debacle of 2010, I don’t really do Christmas knitting.

Well, I say that, but I do some. Last year, I made Mr Snips a Penguin Pillow (totally charming, but BORING to knit), and a year or two before that, I made my Mom and Dad a throw blanket for their new home, and once I made my Mom a shawl… I guess it happens sometimes.

But it has to be a special person and a special project to get me to commit to deadline knitting.

My niece has had a very rough year. And the only way I can think to show her that I think about her every day, and that I am proud of her, and that I am always rooting for her, is to knit her something.

She’s still in college and has a lot of long walks to class, so I thought a hat may be the most useful for the winter months.

I picked out this hot pint/reddish color for her for two reasons: 1) her school color is red and 2) I thought it would look amazing against her very dark brown hair. I had admired this Ahoy Princess pattern for some time, and thought it was the right time to finally knit it.

I hemmed and hawed quite a bit on what version to knit, since the pattern gives you a choice of intricate or simple cables and a choice to add some more repeats to make a slouchy hat. I was really thinking I wanted intricate and slouchy, but I did not trust I’d have enough yarn. I only had 200 yards, and the pattern called for 190 for the regular adult non-slouchy version. I told myself that I’m always a yardage coward, that I always have tons left over because I make a conservative choice out of fear that I’ll run out of yarn. Be bold, I told myself. Go slouchy! But I couldn’t muster up the courage and stuck to my cowardly ways and THANK GOODNESS. Do you see how much yarn I have left?! Hardly any.

yarn leftover from my Ahoy Princess beret

This color is so hard to capture – both red and pink. This is probably the best picture for being true to color.

 

And really, I think it has enough slouch in it as it is. I think any more may have been too much. But hey, I’m not really down with the kids any more (I’m a mom! I’m in my thirties! When did this happen?!?!) so maybe extra slouchy would have been cool, too.

So… final result was intricate cables and the regular non-slouchy version. I really love it a WHOLE LOT.

Finished Ahoy Princess beret

This was my first time using Madelinetosh yarn. It was crazy soft and lush to knit. However, when I gave it a Soak, all of my water instantly went hot pink, and it also dyed the towel I dried it in. I’ve had other yarns bleed before, but I’ve never had them permanently stain my towel before. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s such a vivid red, and I don’t do much vivid red, or if it’s something specific to MadTosh. Regardless, the final product still looks and feels amazing, so I guess I’ll give it a pass.

2nd photo of Ahoy Princess

Merry Christmas Eve!

It’s Christmas Eve! I’m getting so excited about what tomorrow with BK will be like. She really understands it this year (unlike last year when she was so small), and I think she’s going to have a great time.

Until then, Mummy is taking advantage of BK’s nap time to have her own fun. The Christmas tree is twinkling, I found John Mayer’s Where The Light Is on TV (silly, because I also have it on DVD and could watch it any time!), I’m working on a hat I’m really really excited about (Tantramar Toque from TFA’s Year in Colour Club) and I have Christmas cookies in my tummy.

Tantramar Toque in progress by the tree

As you can see, Santa is also hard at work in his workshop in BK’s North Pole Cottage. Last minute work, you know!

I’ve also finished my Christmas knitting project, and it is wrapped and ready to go, which is also something to feel great about! I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I’m hoping this horrible grey rainy weather will go away soon and I will be able to take photos of lots of my FOs in some lovely natural light.

So for now, I’m excited about our family gatherings. I hope you all get to share the holidays with family, friends, and good food. Merry Christmas!

Insulate!/Exterminate! Knitting friends.

When I was wearing my Fall in a Ball shawl a few weeks ago, someone at work came up to me to ask if I had made it. I said yes, I had, and she inquired how long I had been knitting to make something so beautiful like that (how nice!). I told her 10 years (how did that happen?!) because that’s about how long I have been “actively” knitting, but on reflection I realized I’ve actually been knitting for 12.

Back in very late 2002, two high school friends of mine came to visit me at university and told me they had learned to knit. From their description, it sounded like fun, and I certainly could not resist the temptation of being able to make my own Harry Potter scarf. Not long after they returned to their university, I was at Meijer, buying some horrible acrylic yarn and a set of needles and scooting myself over to visit my parents so my mom could teach me what to do.

That scarf was a slooooow process. Every time I made a mistake, I had to wait until the next time I saw my parents so that my mom could fix it and put me on the right track.

I finally finished it though, and it looked pretty good for a beginner project.

I put knitting on the back burner for a while until I graduated from college. When I learned my cousin was pregnant, my mom helped me source some quality yarn (that was my first time with the good stuff!), and I made a really simple baby blanket. I also learned to crochet well enough to make the Blue Blanket. And then I never stopped.

Those first two years of “real” knitting were mostly done solitarily. I would knit in my apartment at night after dinner. Then, after moving to England and getting married, I knit in my apartment during the day because all of my friends and my husband were employed (and I wasn’t for the first couple of months). I made things that were important to me, like our Christmas stockings, and started working on charity blankets. But I still considered it kind of a silly diversion (I know!).

When we moved back to the U.S. and I was able to visit my favorite yarn shops, I got a bit more serious about it. But when a true LYS opened up less than 10 minutes from my house, I was pumped! I attended the very first Friday night open studio, and I have pretty much never left.

And it is here, at my LYS, where I have made dear friends. I had no idea that knitting would introduce me to new people, and help me create my own little sub-community of like-minded people. (Now, when I say like-minded, I mean in regards to knitting and that we are all really nice and funny and awesome. Not that we all agree on everything. That wouldn’t be much fun.) I had no idea knitting could be so social!

And in my little community, I met Heather. She worked at the shop for a long time. And she did lots of really great things there and made it an even better place to be. When I found out she would no longer be working there, I felt like she needed a really great send-off gift.

Because I’d been watching carefully, and had seen her give thoughtful little gifts to people, appreciated her keeping my favorite coffee in stock at the shop, and doing awesomely fantastic things like throwing me a knitted baby shower. And she is one of a handful of people I actually trust to help me decide on colors for a knitting project.

I entertained the idea of making her a fingering weight project because I had a skein of sock yarn that felt like good Heather colors. But I couldn’t find a pattern that felt like Heather.

I finally had an epiphany. Why have a favorites list on Ravelry if no one is going to use it?! So I went through her favorites and landed upon Insulate!. We both love Doctor Who. I had the perfect green and cream yarns for it. And Heather loves green! Done, done and done!

IMG_3089

So I started knitting feverishly and finished this great little hat. Based on feedback on some of the Ravelry projects I read, I lengthened the ribbing, though I honestly can’t remember my mods exactly (I will try to figure it out for the Ravelry project page soon).

It made it a big long to be a true beanie, but I like it better that way and think it looks perfect the way Heather wears it. It looks like it was made for her… haha (oh dear).

I know she loves it, and I’m so happy. Thanks for all the things you do, Heather!