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.

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Christmas Crafting In Review

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Well, I made it through all of the Christmas knitting and crafting, for the most part. I am quite pleased with how my items turned out and plan to continue knitting and sewing for those I love the most.

All in all, I knitted 12 items and 15 washcloths (I tend to count those as one project, though) and I sewed 5 items for gifting. It was a lot of work, but it was all a lot of fun and I enjoyed the majority of the process. I did most of the knitting while watching my favorite shows on Tivo, late at night after the rest of the household was asleep. What a great way to relax at the end of the day! The sewing had to be done in the evenings while my husband watched the kids, though, since I used my machine and it is near the bedrooms.

So, for a quick rundown (with pictures!) of my projects for Christmas 2008, here you go!

Mom got the Shetland Triangle in black alpaca.

My sister got a Sunday Market Shawl made from my handspun yarn.
My little guy got Sunny The Puppy and a Puppy Dog Hat.

My daughter recieved Jemima Jane (she calls her Sunflower) and a ponytail hat.

I knit scarves for two of my in-laws. My father-in-law got the Red Herring scarf and his wife got Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks.

Grandpa got socks and Grandma got dishcloths (I also gave dishcloths to my sister and Mom.)

My mother-in-law got a special gift. I had spun up some yarn, including some merino mixed with the hair from our dogs, and knitted them into squares, felted them, cut them, sewed them together, and added fabric border and backing. She adores our dogs and the pillow brought tears to her eyes!

Oh, and because I didn’t have enough to do, I knitted two small ornaments as gift card holders for my daughter’s preschool teachers!

I also did a bit of sewing. My kids each got handmade PJs. The bottoms were flannel and the tops were purchased T-shirts with appliques matching the bottoms.

They both also received bathrobes, but I haven’t uploaded the pictures yet. I will add those soon.

And finally, my favorite gift by far to sew and give: my brother’s “pirate” shirt! He dresses as a Spaniard for Ren Fests and needed a shirt to wear with his costume. My step-mom called his costume a pirate costume, so that is what I went for, but the shirt still works with his costume well. He was so darn excited to get this shirt! And I LOVED making it and seeing his face when he opened it! Here are pictures of my DH modeling it, although it is 2 sizes too large on him!

Phew! I am glad I have a few months before I start planning and knitting and sewing for next year!

Oh, and I will say that I was thrilled to receive several knitting related items for Christmas! My mom got me the Knitpicks Options set and Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs From Interweave. My husband got me The Best Of Interweave Knits: Our Favorite Designs From The First Ten Years and all three of the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary books!

So, all in all, I had a very crafty Christmas! And I hope there are many more to come!

The Scarf That Didn’t Want To Be

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I have been knitting for at least 5 years now. I have frogged stuff midstream because I didn’t like it. I have had mistakes I needed to correct. I have had items that have gone perfectly. But never have I ever had this many issues in knitting something!

In my effort to make as many Christmas gifts this year, I decided to knit my FIL a scarf. He came to visit last year on a cold day and had a scarf on (store-bought) so I knew he would wear one. I decided to do something with a herringbone pattern. I originally looked at Henry from Knitty.com. I bought the yarn for it (Knitpicks Gloss in Porcini) and printed out the pattern. Then I did a search on Ravelry and found that the idea of knitting it lengthwise was a bit daunting and took a ton of concentration. And I just can’t guarantee that I have the amount of concentration it requires. I decided to switch to another pattern. I found Red Herring from CogKnition and it was perfect! I printed out the copy and finally, last night, decided to cast on.

The pattern calls for using size 6 (US) needles, so I started with that. I knit the first 6 rows and realized something was wrong. Duh. I was using the wrong weight of yarn! I had fingering weight and it called for DK weight! Oops!

So, I cast on using smaller needles. Much better! I got through the first 6 rows (a moss stitch border) and started onto the pattern. It was fairly easy to follow and the 4 row repeat was easy to memorize. I got through the first repeat and thought I was on my way – until I realized I had 50 stitches. It called for 49 and, since it was a 7 row repeat, that extra one stitch was not a good thing. I frogged it again.

I reknit, this time double checking my numbers. Of course, it was 1 AM and I was exhausted, so I should have probably put it down, but I kept plodding along. Until I realized I had 4 stitches left and I needed 7 for the repeat. So I tinked back and figured out where I went wrong. Then did it again two rows later when I did the same thing.

I finally decided to walk away. I picked it up again this evening, thinking that I was finally awake enough to count properly. I got through 3 repeats of the pattern, but it didn’t look like it was forming a herringbone pattern. I just didn’t get it. So, I decided to look at Ravelry to see if I could find another herringbone pattern to see what was happening. I found at least 2 other methods of forming the herringbone pattern. And then I clicked on a link that took me to the Red Herring scarf pattern. And then I saw the note:

09/23/2008: I seem to have overridden the corrected version of the pattern by accident during an update. If you downloaded this pattern between 07/11/2008 and now, please download and use this version instead.

I couldn’t remember when I downloaded or printed the pattern so I decided to check it out. And sure enough, I must have had the wrong version. All of that knitting was incorrect. So, tonight, I frogged it – again!

Thankfully, fourth time seems to be the charm. Tonight’s knitting seemed to produce something that at least resembles herringbone pattern in the few inches I have finished. I will wait another inch or two to see if it really looks correct, though. It seems to be a fairly fast knit, even on fingering weight yarn, so hopefully the rest of it won’t be nearly as painless as getting this scarf started!

I never imagined a scarf of all things would give me so many problems!

My current projects

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When I began knitting 4 or 5 years ago, I read about knitters that would have 2, 3, or more projects going at once. I never thought I would be one of those. I always wanted to focus on one project at a time.

Then I made my first sweater. Granted, it was a baby sweater. But there was a lot of boring stockinette. And that was when I knew I had to have something else going on so I didn’t get totally bored. I added in one small project. I decided on projects like sweaters, I would have another, easier or more challenging project going on (depending on the difficulty of the sweater.) And I have been good about keeping my UFOs (unfinished objects) down to a minimum.

In April, I decided to start on a pretty large project. I decided to undertake the Susie Hoodie from More Big Girl Knits. I am a Big Girl, so I knew this meant lots and lots and lots of knitting. It is done in an aran weight yarn, so no bulky yarn to make the project faster! I started working on it and, thanks to the great cables down each side of the front, the knitting went quickly. I only have a few hours each evening to knit, if I am lucky, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it take shape rather fast. I have just added the sleeves and I am working on the yoke, so I can see the end in sight!

Susie Hoodie Cable

Susie Hoodie Cable

In the midst of knitting the sweater, I happened to pick up and start another project. I am not sure what got into me, but I happened to pick up my size 1 needles and some fingering weight yarn to make my husband an argyle vest. Well, most specifically, The Drunken Argyle Vest from Knitty! Now, DH is not a small man! Thankfully he did lose 70 lbs 2 years ago, so I am not having to knit quite as much now! This will be his first non-accessory item from me. I had actually planned to give this to him for Christmas – last year! Now, it looks like it will be Christmas this year instead! I am actually very pleased with how fast this one is knitting up, even with such small needles and yarn. The pattern keeps my attention without being challenging. I sneak in a few hours here and there and it is currently a pretty portable project, so it goes with me to my Grandmother’s house on Wednesdays. DH has not seen it and I don’t plan to show it to him, either! I am only on the back and haven’t reached the armhole shaping yet, but hopefully I won’t let this project die!

And, in the midst of all of this sweater knitting, I decided to knit up a dishcloth this week! Thankfully dishcloths are easy and fast. I had been talking to my grandma and she mentioned that her mom used knitted dishcloths. Grandma isn’t a knitter, so she can’t make her own. So, I want to knit her up a set for Christmas. Of course, Grandma can’t be the only one to get dishcloths for Christmas. Mom and Sister will each want some, too! So, they will also get a few. I am still not sure what a set will be, but I figure I will try to knit a dishcloth a week. I can get one almost completely finished in an evening with a good old movie or episodes of Enterprise on Tivo. I have almost 22 weeks until Christmas. Take 2 weeks off that to knit some nice comfy socks from worsted weight for Grandpa and I will have 20 dishcloths! I can give some to Grandma, Mom, Sister, and even Aunt and they will have 5 a piece – enough for week of washing dishes! I plan to make at least one scrubby for each of them and the rest will be cloths. I already have one or two hiding away, I think, too, so that may reduce the number even more.

I will try to post pics of the other items very soon. And the Susie Hoodie will need a new picture soon, too!