Dressing Up the Holidays

Close-up of Abby's stocking

My brother, Noah, was the catalyst for the other holiday gift knitting experience.

Last summer Noah asked me if I could secretly knit a pair of Christmas stockings for himself and his fiancée, Abby.  He likes the set of handknit colorwork stockings I made for my house.

My family's handknit Christmas stockings

 

These stockings are knit from Nancy Bush‘s pattern, Christmas in Tallinn, published several places, but the only souce that matters is her excellent book Knitting on the Road.  I made the first one, the red one, in 2005 for my infant son; Matt’s green stocking was made in 2006; my blue one was made in 2007; and then I had a year reprieve until our daughter came along in 2009.  She got a purple stocking.  I substituted the yarn Bush’s pattern calls for, Dalegarn Tiur, for Dalegarn Heilo simply because I liked the Heilo palette better.  (This was, by the way, the first time I was bit in the ass by yarn substitution.  Tiur is 109 yards.  Heilo is 126 yards.)

E's Christmas stocking

Noah left me in full creative control, so I of course immediate sought out ways to make this project as difficult as possible.  First, I had to design my own.  Second, if one design was fun, then two new designs were twice as fun!  (Right?!)  Third, the yarn (O!  The yarn!).

Abby's Christmas stocking, designed by me

I really enjoyed picking out colorwork patterns for these designs.  I found everything I wanted, and pretty quickly, in Sheila McGregor’s Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.  For the top of Abby’s stocking (green), I chose a boy-and-girl motif; for Noah’s stocking (orange), I chose reindeer.  The body patterns on each of their stockings come from the same 19th-century sweater: one was the pattern on the back and the other was the pattern on the front.

Noah's Christmas stocking

Can you imagine knitting that sweater?  Maybe…

There was some math to work out to make these motifs go together, resulting in Noah’s stocking being noticeably larger.  Noah has no problem with this.

As for the yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash Sport, it wasn’t my favorite.  Noah and I chose it based on wide color palette and affordable price, but it has just about put me off superwash yarn for the rest of my life.  It did not hold up well to repeated ripping and reknitting, coming un-plied and… for lack of a better descriptor, flacid.

Of course then my friend pointed out that many of the high-end end indie yarns, like Mashtosh and Tanis and Plucky Knitter, are superwash now so never say die.

Endings and Beginnings

The green socks are DONE!  No small thanks to Charlotte who did half the knitting!

It’s hard to catch these socks between feet and laundry and in fact I had to fish them from the top of the basket for this pic.  Zander loves them and immediately requested a new sweater.  I gladly put in the call to grandma who in fact has a wack of the same yarn, Plymouth Jelli Beenz, to make a child’s sweater or two.  Ball’s in your court, G-Terry.

I started some little green socks for Elinor, knit one almost to completion, crammed it on her foot and thought, Self, this sock is running small.  My daughter has big feet.

Riiiiiiiiiiip.  Cast on for the Size 2.  Immediately set aside because recipient has no long term memory and other things seemed more pressing…

Like this!

Elinor’s Christmas stocking, knit in Rauma Strikkegarn, a rough, sticky yarn that was perfect for colorwork.  The color is deliciously saturated without being a distracting eyesore.  I think the Strikkegarn natural is a little brighter than the Heilo used for the other three.  These stockings make me happy.

As for beginnings, I started a project for myself on Christmas Day:

Bits and Pieces

I’ve reached that point of the holiday season when there is so much to do, holiday or otherwise, that I can’t keep track of it all and I know some things are time-sensitive and I end up so turned around that I don’t know what to do first and thus do nothing.  Thankfully, I’ve learned not to stress about it (too much).  Instead, I am bewildered, I suppose.  I called Matt this afternoon after dropping Z off at preschool just in case he knew something I forgot.  He suggested I do some shopping downtown.  I am burned out on shopping, whether it is for gifts or groceries, so I just went home and played with the baby until it was pick up time.

Now for the randomness:

*It’s so windy!  And wet!  I should make myself a cup of tea.  But I forget to before I make it to the kitchen.  Or I don’t hear the electric kettle.  I’ve heated it twice.

*Finished a small Thorpe for Zander last week.  It took me only three days–what a thrill to finish something so quickly.  I knit the small size using Cascade 220 doubled, and this is a good size for a child.  It’s a little loose on my preschooler but not so it will fall off his head.  I skipped the braided ties because I thought that would be safer on the playground–and they’re easy enough to add later if I change my mind.

*Elinor makes kissy noises with her lips.  And gives open-mouth, wet, baby kisses.  You know it’s love when you don’t care!

*Hanukkah starts on Friday.  We are ready with the gifts but not the food.  Someone needs to go to a grocery store with a real produce section so we can get a heaping mound of onions and potatoes for latkes.  And it’s windy, rainy, cold, and gross outside.  So far…I can live without latkes on the first night.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings (I hear it’s going to be very cold).

*I have had a crisis of coat buying for the children.  It has nothing to do with the holidays but has worn me out on shopping.  It involved going to the mall, in December, which I never do.  The best part, though, is that I found a coat for Elinor in her closet this morning, a coat her cousin passed down.  Hallelujah.  Crisis over.

*I/Zander inherited a UFO from Charlotte–a pair of half-finished socks–which her children outgrew before they ever got to wear.  I finished the first this afternoon.  Here it is yesterday.  The yarn is Plymouth Jelli Beenz, a fun and colorful acyrlic/wool blend.  Zander, my biggest fan when it comes to knitting, is very excited.  We’ve already had one serious discussion about his socks and the dog.  Ahem.

*My freelance work is ramping up again.  I have two projects right now, although one is in three pieces so it’s really more like four projects.  I must pace myself to avoid stressing out because I can only do one piece at a time and if I get behind it will be a vicious domino effect complete with loss of sleep.

*I am knitting Elinor a stocking to go with our other three.  The pattern is Christmas in Tallinn by Nancy Bush from Knitting on the Road.  I’ve made several patterns from this book.  I had to substitute the yarn because no one locally now carries the Dalegarn Heilo I used for the first three, but I am happy with the substitute, Rauma Strikkegarn.  It comes in lots of colors and is sticky, which is great for colorwork.  I may actually like this yarn better than the Heilo.

*The seed catalogs are starting to arrive.  I am thinking of planting more quantity of fewer types of plants next year in the vegetable garden.  Partly to get better at growing the things we love the most and partly because we really need to focus on the flower beds, get them organized.  They were empty when we moved in.  Now they’re kinda weedy.

Good night!