Handmade Holidays 2009 – Post #1

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Well, the Christmas celebrations are nearly over for our family, with the exception of a visit with my father-in-law after the New Year. It was an incredible Christmas, with Santa bringing us everything we wanted! I spent many hours preparing for the holidays, from decorating to baking to shopping to crafting gifts. I LOVE Christmas, but I was exhausted by the time Christmas evening came around!

I had big plans for Christmas crafting this year – as I do every year – but it didn’t all happen. And really, that was OK. The quilts for the kids are unfinished and my husband didn’t get his gloves. The felt food I have been working on wasn’t completed in time, either. So, it looks like there will be some other surprises in the near future and I am going to enjoy working on them in my own time frame, instead of with the Christmas deadline fast approaching.

I did get quite a bit done. My kids, my sister and my mom all were recipients of handmade gifts. I did a good mixture of knitting and sewing this year. I like the balance since it kept me from getting bored with one craft or another.

So, I thought I would show you one of the gifts I completed now, then come back for the others later, since it is getting quite late. My daughter LOVES dolls. This is apparent the moment you walk in our home. There are dolls of all shapes, sizes and abilities scattered through the house. She has dolls that talk, cry, sneeze, take medicine, drink from a bottle, pee, and numerous other things. But she also has – and loves – dolls that are simple and plain. They are the best for squeezing when you need a hug, for sleeping with at night and for carrying around with you. And while my son is all boy, he loves dolls, too. He has a few dolls that he loves and carries around with him as his security blanket. Being three, he hasn’t learned that dolls are for girls – and we don’t plan to teach him that, either! He is a pretty good “mommy” to his dolls, actually!

When I saw the pattern for Olive& Archie on the Wee Wonderfuls blog (one of my favorites!) I knew I had to make them! I purchased the pattern, which I thought was a great deal, and got to creating! The fun thing about Olive and Archie is that the materials can be really personalized and you can use your stash since most of it only uses smaller amounts. I think I bought a few fat quarters, some wool felt and some remnants to round out my stash and it really didn’t cost me much at all for these cuties! The pattern includes both dolls, sleeping bags, backpacks, snowsuits, felted sweater outwear, a cat, overalls, a jumper, a knitted jumper and kerchief, and a knitted sweater vest. I only got one cat made, so the kids haven’t received those yet and I didn’t get the sweaters to make the felted sweater outerwear, but they got everything else. I don’t have pictures of the accessories as of now, but plan to get them soon. But, here are the little cuties:

(Click to make the pictures bigger!)

You can see the backpacks, the knit outfits (yes, Archie’s vest is huge on him!) and the jumper and overalls. I am missing pictures of the sleeping bags and the snowsuits right now.

I am really proud of these two. The patterns were so easy to work with, you can print them on your home printer and they were fun to assemble. My daughter loved Olive. My son hasn’t warmed up to Archie just yet, but I am sure he will in a few weeks time. He usually ignores stuff like that for a time, then decides he can’t be separated from it for months!

I will be back with more Christmas gifts soon! I promise!

My Big Christmas Project

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While I have numerous Christmas-themed projects going on this year, I had one large project during the month of November.

We never had an Advent Calendar growing up. For the last few years, we had a relative send us one of those paper ones with the doors that open and reveal some random Christmasy themed picture. It was fun for the first few days, until the kids got bored with it and it was forgotten for days or weeks at a time.

I had been browsing websites prior to the Christmas season and found numerous examples of amazing Advent calendars. I loved them all and they inspired me to finally make my own. I thought about making little stockings or mittens to hang across the mantle, but then I realized I did not want to mess with coming up with something to give the kids each and every day for 24 days! With two kids, that could potentially get expensive! I thought about using the activity idea – a slip of paper with an activity like taking a drive to see lights, visit Santa, read a Christmas book, etc – but really, my kids are just a bit too young to get excited about some of that stuff.

Finally I came up with the idea of a Christmas tree with ornaments. I had seen several Chrismtas tree Advent calendars (loved this one, particularly) so I decided to make my own. I had seen one somewhere (can’t find it now) I loved that used ornaments that hung on the tree with buttons to hold them on, so that is the direction I went. Over many evenings in November, I created the ornaments to go on our tree, then put together the tree, embroidered the numbers on the pockets and sewed them on. I decided to take the “easy way out” and used craft glue instead of sewing all of the ornaments, so that saves some time.

So, here is what I ended up with:

Undecorated. Sorry it is so blurry!

Decorated with all of the ornaments!

I think it may still feel a bit unfinished. I am thinking it may need a border of some sort, but I will worry about that after Christmas. I did assign the “lights” for pocket #1 and the star on the top will always be in pocket #24, but other than that, I will place the ornaments randombly. For now, the kids are loving pulling out another ornament and finding a spot on the tree.

Mystery Solved

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Well, I hate to admit it, but the mystery stripe in my sweater has been solved. I was showing it to my husband tonight and touched the stripe. I noticed the yarn was rather rough compared to the softer yarn of the darker color. That was when it dawned on me.

When I ordered my yarn from Knitpicks, I also ordered yarn for my son’s new cardigan. His sweater will be in orange and brown. I ordered 7 skeins of Swish Worsted Superwash in Truffle for my mom’s sweater:

Along with 3 skeins of Chocolate Wool Of The Andes:

And while they look different in the pictures here, when you look at them in the box, in a darkened office lit only by the computer screen, it is easy to mix them up. And obviously that is exactly what I did!

So now I feel really dumb! It wasn’t an issue of non-matching dye-lots. It was the fact that I used a completely different yarn!!!

I think I will work on socks for a while. I can get a whole sock out of one skein of yarn, so at least this problem won’t occur with those!

Christmas Stress

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In the past, I have planned way ahead and knitted many Christmas gifts for family and friends. This year, I decided to take it easy. I have been enjoying sewing more, especially since I got my new sewing machine, so I have notbeen knitting nearly as much. But, my mom wanted a sweater. I haven’t made her a sweater yet, so I agreed. And she wanted one that was short sleeved, so even better! My sister requested socks. Easy enough. And my husband found gloves that were missing the thumbs and forefingers so you can wear them and still use your iPhone or Touch. Not too difficult, either.

I bought the yarn for my projects and started on my mom’s sweater. We agreed on the lovely Juliet sweater from Zephyr Style. She wanted it in brown with one button at the waist. It is knitted top down with no seaming. And, even though I am not double stranding and using worsted weight yarn, it is knit on size 10 1/2 needles, so it knits up quickly. It took me a while to really get into it, but I am finally only about 6 rows from binding off! I was so excited and today I decided to spread it out and take a good look at it.

Today has been our first really sunny day in a while. And our lighting at home stinks. So seeing the true color of yarn can be tricky. But today? In the sunlight? What I saw made me want to cry!

No, that isn’t a trick of the light or my camera being crappy. That is what the sweater actually looks like. And it is not supposed to be striped, either! Somehow, I missed that one skein of my yarn was a different dye lot. Usually I don’t have an issue with that when I order from Knitpicks, so I didn’t even bother to check. I was in too much of a hurry. And look where it got me!  That section was about 2 skeins of yarn back. I started it on the second lace repeat and I am now on the 7th. While the pattern is easy and fairly quick, it will still take me a while to rip back and restart. Thankfully, I ordered an extra skein of yarn and they seem to match the main yarn perfectly. It is just that one rouge skein.

We have a Christmas party with my husband’s family tonight. I have been making food for that, plus baking Christmas cookies for cookie plates to give to friends and neighbors. I have more sewing to do. Not sure I will get it all finished in the three weeks left before Christmas, but I will try my hardest. I do have a few finished items to share, but will wait until I am over the sting of my latest setback.