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Holiday Handmades

January 4, 2012

When I was little, I loved Christmas. Really, really, sing-Christmas-carols-in-July loved it. And I still do. Back then, though, I didn’t understand why adults were so stressed out about the holidays, or the vaguely bitter things I overheard about the “commercialization of Christmas.” Now, as an adult myself, I get it. Somehow we’ve turned a season of celebrating kindness and returning light into an absolute frenzy, but I think I’ve found my antidote.


This year, I had big handmade plans. Most of our decorations were homemade, which I found so cozy and welcoming to come home to. I’d planned a handmade gift for everyone on my list, and while that didn’t quite happen, I spent a total of about 30 minutes actively shopping for gifts this year. Literally.

Making stuff can be time-consuming, and maybe isn’t feasible for everyone. For me, thinking a little bit about what I wanted to spend my time on most, and trying to be okay with falling short sometimes really helped.  I was lucky to have a significant amount of vacation at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but most of my knitting and decorating happened on the train to work, in the evenings, and on the weekends through November and December. For the most part, I tried to keep things reasonable (no knitted sweaters or lace shawls under the tree, no massive cookie-baking sessions), and for the folks whose gifts weren’t handmade this time — well, there’s always another holiday. Because you can bet that next year’s Christmas will be handmade too — I can’t think of a more peaceful way to spend the darkest days of the year than making simple things by the light of the Christmas tree.

So without further ado, a wee parade of the simple things I made this year:

Jitari's Hat 2
Jitari's Hat 1

This hat, modeled by the recipient’s baby brother, is by far the simplest thing I made. I hadn’t intended to make it, in fact, until I realized that my 6-year-old nephew would be the only one in his family with no handmades. (Don’t feel too terrible for him: he got this last June.) And then my sister told me that he really loves handmade things, and I was sold. I threw it together in an afternoon and evening with the leftovers from the next gift below, guessed at an approximate number of stitches based on this sizing chart, and knit until of was kind of too small for me and vaguely head-shaped. (Thank you to Marica of Wasabi Honeybee for the green contrast yarn – during craft night at her house, I realized I’d never have enough yarn, and she came to my rescue. A lifesaver!) It is, as you can see, too big for his baby brother, so here’s hoping it fits him!
Dashing 1

Here’s the origin of the yarn I used for the hat above: a pair of Dashing for my brother-in-law. He rides his bike to and from work, so I thought he could use a little something to keep the chill off. This photo really is a disservice to these mitts – they’re MUCH nicer-looking when worn, but I had about 45 seconds to take a picture before the recipient walked in. I’d never used this yarn before (Stonehenge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool) , but really, really loved it. It’s very soft and squooshy, and the color is nicer than it appears here – it’s very lightly heathered.

Fetching 1Fetching 2

On the theme of fingerless mitts, this set of Fetching, modeled here by my badass coworker Mary, went to my older sister. She loves purple (the color in the left photo is pretty accurate), and this super soft wool/silk blend (Berroco Inca Gold in color 6420, which looks like it may be discontinued) is really delicious to work with. I hope they’ll keep her hands toasty during early morning (pre-crowd) trips to the local skate park with her 6-year-old.

Kanaan's Sweater 2Kanaan's Sweater 1

The newest member of my sister’s family will hopefully fit into his gift (the Ribbed Baby Jacket by Debbie Bliss)… eventually. I am notorious for making badly-sized baby items (perhaps because I don’t actually have a baby nearby for sizing comparison?) and my sister’s warnings of how huge this little guy was getting were ringing in my ears. At 4 months, he fit into 12-month clothes, so I knit the 12-24 month size. Many reviews said that this pattern knits up on the short side, so I added a couple of inches to the length. Whoops. I think he likes it anyway, though – would you look at that face?! On a more successful note, I love this yarn. It’s Quince and Co. Lark in Storm. This is my first experience with Quince and Co., but it absolutely won’t be the last. The yarn is wonderful, the prices reasonable, and the delivery very quick.

Thuja 2
Thuja 1

Last up in the knitting department, a pair of Thuja socks in Malabrigo Sock for my dad. My dad is an excellent person to have for a relative for many reasons, but most relevant at the moment is that he loves handknits. The man can’t get enough wool, put handknit socks on his list of Christmas wishes, and says (to my face, anyway) that handknit socks are the most comfortable. This is an excellent way to acquire more handmade woolly things, so for his sake, I hope he’s not exaggerating his enthusiasm. This pattern was entertaining but easy and well-written, both desirable qualities in an intended holiday gift.

I have one more handmade gift to show you, but since I finished it late on Christmas Eve I have no pictures. This was a landmark project of sorts, so I’d like to show it off properly photographed. Soon, I promise. Until then, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. (Is anyone else counting the days until the MLK Day three-day weekend?)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Robin I. permalink
    January 5, 2012 12:55 pm

    They all turned out sooo great, Ash! You are so talented!

  2. October 4, 2013 7:16 pm

    Wow, your knitting is just gorgeous. We are coming up on knitting season here in China. Soon, everywhere you look, ladies will be busy knitting away as they walk down the street, sell you vegetables, ride the bus…it’s a national obsession. These socks make me want to take it up as well.

    • Ashley permalink*
      October 4, 2013 7:20 pm

      Why thank you! I had no idea knitting was such a big deal in China. I think I’d feel right at home, knitting away as I walk down the street.

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