Christmas in July

Last year, I really kicked around the idea of doing some kind of Christmas project that my daughter would have forever.

I have had the idea on my mind since I saw the Yarn Harlot’s advent tree that she did back in 2014. I loved it, but I wasn’t a confident sewer, and I had a one-year-old at the time, and it just seemed a little out of reach for what I could accomplish at the time. Also, I already had an advent calendar with a scene of Santa and Mrs. Claus that had a tiny mouse that you moved from pocket to pocket. It was given to me by my Granny, so it’s very special to me, and I had passed it down to BK. I thought she was covered for an advent calendar, because I want her to have fond memories of that one, too, and it was a wonderful thing we could share.

So I started looking for alternatives. Last year, the 12 Days of Christmas Mitten Garland KAL caught my eye. It was appealing because it only involved 12 things, not 24, and also you had two weeks to complete each small mitten, which seemed very reasonable. It was also very beautiful. But I ultimately decided not to make it, because even though it was lovely, I struggled with where it would go in amongst my Christmas decorations. I also explored the Mitten Garland Advent Calendar by the same designer, which is also lovely. I also considered a garland of little stockings, but didn’t want to commit to finding treats to put in each one of them, since BK usually already has a store-bought calendar with chocolates in it.

Eventually, this year, I got back around to the idea of the Yarn Harlot’s tree. And I figured if I’ve been thinking about it for 3 years, that’s probably what I really want to make. And that BK probably had enough room in her life for two advent calendars, since last year she had three (the mouse one I gave her, a chocolate one, and one with mini Thomas trains in it).  I started digging around for ideas on what to put on the tree, and made a rough list of what I would like to include. I’m still finalizing exactly which 24 things will be on it. BK and I have a had a few conversations over what to add and what to remove, and the list is very fluid at the moment. I’ve started on a few, and since I still have 4 months, I’m sure I can get it done for this Christmas (famous last words, right?).

tiny ornament for advent calendar

Above, you’ll see one of the finished items. It’s a tiny Christmas ornament, made from this pattern in one of my favorite books, Handknit Holidays. I’ve made the full-size version several times (I got a little excited about this pattern when I first learned to knit in the round), and all I did for this one was start just as the patten calls for, but didn’t increase the full number of times. When I finished it, I then picked up three stitches on the top in the gray yarn and made a tiny i-cord for the top of the ornament. The main part of the ornament is Tiny Toes by BaH Yarns. I’m not sure they make this color way any more, because I bought it when they first started. Heather is a good friend, and I love everything she and Brenda make. I originally purchased this yarn with the intention of making BK socks, but since she hates all socks (handmade and store-bought) and prefers to be barefoot, it seemed like a waste of good yarn. So she’ll still have something made out of this beautiful yarn, and it doesn’t have to be on her feet. 🙂

Wish me luck on getting all this done before December! And I’ll keep you posted on which 24 ideas make the final cut.

P.S. – Happy Birthday, Harry Potter.

FO: Reindeer wish you a happy new year!

I LOVE reindeer. Just love them. They are the main theme of my holiday decor, to be honest. I think it stems from my obsession with the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie. It is tied for my favorite Christmas movie (original Miracle on 34th Street is the other). And nothing says Christmas quite like Santa’s support staff. 🙂

So even though I had a couple of projects on the needles that I planned to take to England when we went in mid-December (a Playful Stripes cardigan and Adrift fingerless mitts), my plans changed rapidly the day before we left when Ravelry displayed Donder and Blitzen in my pattern highlights. Reindeer, hearts, colorwork – I was already on board. I knew immediately that I had just what I wanted in my stash already, and it happened to be very similar to an already completed project. I had grey left over from my somewhat ill-fated Wildflower cardigan in Cascade Venezia, and some pink that I had been hoarding dyed by my good friend Mary Ann from A Good Yarn a few years ago.

I cast on in JFK airport during our layover, and powered through the ribbing. Then I attempted (and failed miserably) to sleep on the plane. Once I hit the colorwork at my in-laws house, I thought I was going so fast, I should have packed a few other projects. That progress slowed down significantly during the week, as we had activities of some sort nearly all day. So on the plane ride home, I didn’t watch any movies and just buckled down on this sucker. I wanted it done before Christmas, and we were flying on December 21. And I finished it! Boom!

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Then we got home, and it was nearly tropical. I didn’t even get to wear it before Christmas. 😦

But I’ve worn it once since then. Even though I would normally celebrate this strangely warm weather, having a lovely finished hat I can’t wear is making me a bit irritated. I guess you can’t have it all!

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These are unblocked shots, because honestly, if I wait to block it before taking pictures, the pictures will never get done! So here it is. I LOVE IT.

I love it so much I’ve started another one for BK. Though I’ve made so many foolish errors on the colorwork it’s unbelievable, so progress has been slow. I would like to blame it on the few mods I’ve made to the chart to make the hat more shallow for her little head, but that’s not been the real issue. I just need to focus! Hopefully, I’ll be back soon with a wee coordinating one!

And happy new year! Wishing everyone a fantastic 2016, filled with joy and fun!

 

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.

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!

FO: Penguin Pillow

I mentioned a few times that I was working on a secret Christmas project. Now this is unusual for me, because I have basically sworn off Christmas knitting after the Great Dishcloth Debacle of 2010. I’ve had some serious self-discussions about knitworthiness, and I’ve decided that it’s largely not worth it to me.

However, I do love to knit for my husband. In fact, I like to think that a scarf I made him was a pivotal moment in our early relationship. However, he doesn’t really want me to knit him anything else to wear. He doesn’t wear hats (though I made him one anyway, and sometimes convince him to wear it when he shovels the driveway), and he has so many store-bought scarves that he’s received from others that he doesn’t need any of those. And he won’t wear any gloves or mittens I make. To top it off, I won’t even offer to make him a sweater (I won’t make myself one for fear of it not fitting the way I want – why would I put him through that?). So I was really between a rock and hard place – wanting to knit for him and having nothing practical that I could knit him.

Then I saw the Penguin Pillow. I actually saw it in the Knit Picks catalogue last year, and thought about making it, but decided against it. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. You see, the first Christmas we knew each other, he’d bought this penguin ornament. And since he didn’t have his own tree that year because he was abroad, it ended up on my tree. Add that to the fact that he genuinely likes penguins, and I decided I couldn’t resist any more. The Penguin Pillow must be made.

I decided to make it out of some sturdy, washable acrylic, since I know it will get used (and probably drooled on – we do have a baby). All of it, except the orange, is Bernat Satin. The orange is Vanna’s Choice (remember it from the Spider Yarn Wreath? The same skein of yarn did both projects!). I also purchased two small sheets of felt, a 14” pillow form, and took some stuffing my mom had in her stash and I was set.

My enthusiasm for the project quickly dissolved when I saw I had to make a very long 1×1 rib scarf. And then knit two large stockinette panels. And then seam them together. But I’d committed to the project, purchased the pattern and the supplies, and I must trudge on. The end result would be worth it.

Well, I procrastinated on this thing like you wouldn’t believe. I started in early September. I finished on December 20. It’s really not difficult; it was a mental game to get past the back and forth stockinette. I don’t mind stockinette in the round where you just knit and knit, but purling can really get a girl down. I don’t know why – it just does.

So anyway, I went about my penguin making and started to have some fun once I made it to the in the round part. Seaming was even kind of nice, as it turned out a lot neater looking than I expected.

I did make some mods:

  • I thought it was peculiar the designer did not have you make use of kitchener, as it saves you binding off and then seaming. So I did kitchener the top of the penguin and the bottom of each wing.
  • The specifications for the size of felt circles you need is clearly wrong. It tells you to cut out a larger size black circle than white circle (those would be some crazy eyes!). It’s also clear that even if you use the dimensions specified in the opposite color that it will still not look like the picture. I ended up cutting out paper circles with a circle cutter I have for scrapbooking and placing them on the penguin to get a feel for the correct size. Then I traced the best one onto the felt and cut it for the whites of the eyes. For the black, I pretty much freehanded a very small dot, and then cut around it a second time to get a match.
  • There are no instructions at all for how to put the feet on. In fact, the pattern does not even mention attaching the feet. I ended up using some orange yarn and whipstitching them to the bottom in some kind of crazy way until they seemed like they were attached well enough.

Overall, I expected a little more out of a paid pattern. Not that I couldn’t figure out things like the eyes and attaching the feet – it’s just I thought they were strange mistakes and omissions.

Regardless, I think it turned out very well. And Mr Snips was very pleased. It was a good Christmas surprise! Isn’t he the sweetest little penguin?!

Penguin Pillow