January 4, 2012

Man Slippers, Hats, A Monkey and A New Year's Resolution

Only a few gifts this year! There are two
pairs of slippers missing...I was also late
in taking the photos!!
 Christmas. At work today, my knitterly friends and I were just discussing this knitting-sore topic, meaning this: we are all sort of new-ish knitters (I know I have been at it for 3 years now, but put me up against someone who has been knitting for 40 years and I am like primordial knitting slime) and for the last couple of years, we have been killing ourselves unnecessarily before Christmas with knitting.

Instead of realizing that it takes many months--or at least weeks--to crank out gift-worthy knits, we all seem to continue to operate under the assumption that we should wait till after Thanksgiving every year once the proper holiday season begins, cozy up by a fire on a cool day and knit away for our loved ones. And all of these projects will be, of course, finished completely by Christmas with plenty of time to spare for shopping, card writing and general fun Christmas activities. We had at one point even discussed the idea of throwing in a fun knitting club Christmas party.

Instead of the above peaceful fantasy, here is what really happens around the holidays: Thanksgiving comes seemingly faster with each passing year, then goes as fast as it came. We no sooner pack up the leftover turkey for our parting guests before it is time to look at the calendar. There are only...let's see...how to calculate working time...31 days in a month, but Christmas is on the 25th...that only leaves about 25-27 days to complete about 15-20 gifts, 21 if we include the outer circle of friends and the mailman.

It's frustrating to not be able to do everything you want.
 We then realize--seemingly afresh each year--that we have to quickly decide on patterns and yarns, shop for these things, order some things online, wait for them to come and when that task is completed, we re-check the calendar for updated working time, only to realize that there might now be a realistic 20 days (at best) to knit. And shop. And decorate. And do cards, visit Christmas light displays, take our kids to Santa, go to church, plan each family gathering, bake treats (which we also must complete as gifts for our neighbors and co-workers) and on and on it goes.

Instead of a cozy warm fireplace on a cool day, I personally end up sweating it out figuratively and literally: the days are usually not cold enough here in early December for a fire, but I am always determined to have one, even in spite of the fact that I am working at mach speed to finish gifts for at least my own children. The very children I neglect for most of December in my rush to finish projects like an underpaid worker in some third world sweat shop with my head perpetually down and my blistered fingers flying. It is not cozy.

This year, I sort of wised up...a little. I realized about midway through the month of December, that some things had to be cut, pushed out, let go. Not everyone was getting a gift this year of dainty woolen fibers lovingly wound with two sticks into magical intricate shapes. Heck, I can hardly do that on a regular day, and no matter how much Christmas magic one sprinkles on a project, some fantasies are not to be.

I stripped my knitted gift list down to a few people: my husband, three sons, three daughters and my boss. That would be manageable enough--maybe. Then I looked again at my feverish list of possible patterns, determined to pick only a few that would leave enough time for eating and sleeping, at the least.

One son loves Oregon State, and one loves UofO.
Civil War in our house.
Slippers. There was something I could finish. And hats. Now we were talking. I had a great pattern from Fiber Trends for some felted clogs and another one I had wanted to make for my daughter about two stressful Christmases ago--which I had failed to do. That one was a Paton's pattern for sock monkey slippers.

I got out my patterns. The clog pattern was great, and I knew just the yarn for the men in my family--my husband and two of my sons. I also had practiced making a pair a few months back, so there would be no weird surprises. I knew exactly how it would turn out. The sock monkeys were another story.

I bought Patons's Family Felting book a couple of years ago and Annie, age 9 at the time, wanted the sock monkey slippers immediately. Back then, I fel that I could not tackle them: they looked too hard for me. I looked at them again this year. What a nice surprise they would make for Christmas. I understood the pattern. No problem after all those socks I have been making--another bonus of Sock Summit! I looked closer. Hmmm....size 8 inch foot length for a 7-8 year old child. Annie was now 11 and had a women's size 7.5 foot, about 9 inches long and 8 inches around.

Yup. I had to rework the pattern.

Adding to the difficulty was the fact that is was a felted project. I took a deep breath and thought about all those mathmatical measurements I had learned over the past several months for feet, socks and fit. I made myself sit down calmly with pencil, paper and calculator--sans fire--and figured out how to add stitches for 25% shrinkage that would ultimately fit her foot. I was unsure, but I went for it.

It actually worked. I will never doubt math again. Unless it promises time travel, but that's another story. After the monkeys, it was on to the slippers. They really are a fun project and I would recommend the Fiber Trends pattern by Bev Galeskas. They worked up pretty fast and turn out great. I used Cascade 220 wool. A friend recommended Lamb's Pride, but I don't like it as well. Those things aside, it was time for a couple of hats.

Alex's new Duck's hat. It was fun to try "fair isle" knitting
for myself. I used very, very old Red Heart yarn. Boy,
it sure feels thicker than the new stuff!
My one son, Alex, did not want slippers. He wanted a new Oregon Ducks hat. I made him one last year and he wears it so much, it can stand alone in a corner. I actually think I heard it demand dinner once. So, in order to wash it so as to prevent it coming completely alive, I agreed. I worked my own checkboard pattern into the one size fits all hats from More Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. I love that pattern and even made it a second time for my boss, this time with navy yarn and a white stripe for BYU, his favorite school.

Finally, and since I sort of had a small amount of time, I threw in a pair of fingerless mitts for my boss to match his hat. 

That was my checklist: 5 pairs of felted slippers, 2 hats, one pair of fingerless gloves and a partridge in a pear tree.

As for Amy Rose, she did not get any knitted things for Christmas, though I am working on a sweater for her as we speak out of the latest Interweave Knits magazine called Petite Facile Pullover in Plymouth Mushishi. It's adorable and fun to make in this breathable time.

That is the story of how I survived Christmas this year. It wasn't perfect and I still was late in my knitted start, but we were able to decorate our house and made it to one local light show. Next year is going to be different. I suppose I am making a resolution. In fact, earlier today, I think my work friends and I all did: we are starting now. At least the planning. The knitting, we decided must begin in Spring. Or summer at least.

Only then will the mailman be able to receive his special delivery.

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