Fake Merry Til You Make Merry

My friend told me that I have the most holiday cheer of anybody he knows. It was meant as a compliment (or good-natured teasing), but it made me feel misunderstood. Once October hits I get very busy. This is intentional. I do the things and I buy the things and I make the things. But to me it doesn’t feel like cheer. It feels like desperation. Not desperation to make all the things or do all the things or have a perfect holiday. It’s a coping mechanism. I keep busy while I feel like I’m heading towards a cliff I can’t see. I worry that I’ll careen off that cliff and I have to do as many things as I can before that happens. My avoidance masquerades as excitement. I let myself get lost in the trappings so I don’t have time to think about the spirit.

The confusion this creates is understandable. Look, for example, at the Christmas outfit I made this year. I’ve already talked lots about my new Christmas sweater, but I haven’t mentioned my new skirt.

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Pattern: Everyday Skirt by Oliver + S
Size: Medium
Fabric: Moda, Berry Merry, Reindeer Games Cream
Mods: No pockets! I rather miss the, but didn’t want to spend the time or fabric.

If I was going to make a sweater-babe-style sweater I needed a skirt to go with it, after all.

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What I actually look like when not posing provocatively.

It’s more a costume than an outfit. You know how faking a smile will improve your mood? This is that in clothing form. But I’ll tell you a secret: there are moments when I wonder if my friend might be right. It may be that I do have a lot of holiday cheer. I tell myself that I’m faking it but maybe it’s that I’m finally letting that cheer assert itself a little. This year maybe there’s room for all the feelings the holiday brings.

Santa-Gnome

A little gift for Granny, a woman aged 93 years who needs nothing  but collects Santa. Guess what everyone gets her every year?

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Pattern: Never Not Gnoming
Size: Biggest – turned out 7.5 inches tall
Yarn: Bibs and bobs of leftovers + red Koigu KKPM that I bought eons ago and was too precious to use (I’m breaking myself of that bad habit)

In fact, who can say if she actually ever wanted to collect Santas or if we all collectively decided she should so we would have a go-to gift for her?

I Santa-ified this pattern by knitting the hat and body in red with white brim/cuffs/purl turning row at the bottom and knitting a belt which was just a long 3-stitch row of garter stitch sewed into a circle with a bit of embroidery for a buckle. I didn’t have pellets so he’s stuffed with plan old polyfil. It makes him rolly-polly. Oh, and the tassel because I somehow forgot pompoms were a thing (HOW?) and didn’t want to bother knitting a sphere.

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He turned out well, but not nearly so cute as the gnomes this pattern intends. But then I have a fondness for gnomes. Please, nobody decide I should collect them, though! I have big plans for lots of little gnomes for giving and not for keeping.

A Forest for the Trees

I continue to struggle to get any workable photos at all. Light! I need light! Light is hard to come by in December when you report to work at 8 am and the sun has set by the time you get home. There were a few occasions when I thought I’d wait for the weekend to take photos, but those weekends were so busy and overcast that it didn’t improve my results.  Given my time constraints I’m settling for light and leaving composition to the side.

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A captivating image of our baseboards

Composition is difficult because the morning light is by the windows and door at the back of our house and further complicated by the fact that we’re not a tidy family. A photo of stuffed trees on the latch hook rug I made years ago isn’t great, but hey: at least you can’t see dishes, toys, books, laundry, or any of the other detritus I don’t see until I whip out the camera (and get frustrated) or have company (and get embarrassed).

IMG_8297Pattern: McCall’s M5778 Holiday Decorations
Size: Smaller
Fabric: Novelty holiday prints from Jo-Ann

I made the smaller of the stuffed tree patterns. Note that “smaller” does not mean “small” – these stand 11.5 inches high. The larger tree stands 17.5 inches high and would take up a lot of real estate on a table.

I picked up the fabric when I was at Jo-Ann’a for interfacing. I saw the Santa flamingo fabric right away, but didn’t see anything that coordinated. I poked around a bit, hemmed and hawed, deliberated making stuffed trees at all, finally found the blue snowflake fabric, and rushed back to where the flamingo fabric was, sort-of invading a fellow shopper’s personal space in the process.

“Did you want Santa flamingo fabric?” I asked, in explanation, as I grabbed the bolt. She laughed at me. No, she didn’t want Santa flamingo fabric.

I’m sending these along with some socks I fished out of my box-o-sox. Yay!

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Christmas Sweason

I finished my holiday sweater in time for Kristkindl Markt at church!

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Pattern: Julgran by Andi Satterlund
Size: It’s complicated (details below)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash in Shire

I love the color. I sent screenshot of – no joke, I counted – 19 different shades of green Cascade 220 to Hubs and he helped me whittle down my choices. Why haven’t I knit more dark green sweaters, I wondered. Because I spent many a year looking for the perfect pea green is why, neglecting entirely these wonderful not pea green shades.

I don’t know whether the motif gets lost or if people are not accustomed to looking at my chest, but it was only the knitters who immediately spotted and delighted in the tree. Otherwise my sweater-centered conversations felt something like:

Me, gesticulating excitedly at chest area: Look!
Hapless victim, gazing inquisitively at bosom: ???
Hapless victim, visibly confused, clearly thinking: Um, there’s nothing worth looking at???
Me: THE CHRISTMAS TREE.
Hapless victim, relieved: Oh! How neat!

The technicalities:

  • I put this sweater on pause for a bit while I pondered the sleeve situation. Turns out the problem wasn’t my short-row-wrapping, but that purling across the sleeve cap to where the short rows started made it so that the front and back of the sleeve didn’t match because I was purling across one but not the other. I dropped the yarn after picking up the sleeve cap stitches, slipped stitches to where the short rows start, and picked up the yarn there and it worked a bit better.
  • That half-a-purl-row probably would have been invisible if I had knit the sleeves in stockinette stitch as recommended by the pattern. Knits hide better than purls.
  • My row gauge was larger (longer?) than recommended. Great! I needed to add length, anyways. How convenient.
  • I forgot about how that would impact the sleeve depth.
  • Which, in retrospect was a big part of why the sleeve cap was too roomy.
  • I ended up with a sweater in size medium circumference (yay!), large length (yay!), and extra large sleeve depth (boo).
  • I knit a size small sleeve to compensate. Didn’t fix the problem entirely, but it helped, and let’s not let perfection be the enemy of the good enough.
  • Since I had knit the sleeves in reverse stockinette to match the sweater body I thought the funnel collar would be off. I knit 10 rows of 1×1 rib instead.
  • I used tubular cast off everywhere. Joy!

More pics to come after a good wash and block.

Stuff It

I decided – I wish I could remember the sequence of events that led to this decision, but when your decisions about what to make and when are best characterized by the word “whim” their roots are hard to trace – that I should make my husband’s cousins a pair of these throwback stuffed Christmas trees in whimsical (there’s that word again!) fabric. Didn’t you have these in your house growing up? Didn’t everyone? I thought so and consequently have had this conversation several times with my husband:

Me, confused: Really? You didn’t have these growing up?

Husband: No.

Me, incredulous: Like, really? You don’t remember them?

Husband: NO.

We certainly had at least one and I remember them at other people’s houses, too. I’m sure our was made by some well-wisher or other and my mom grudgingly held onto cherished it for years until she could finally chuck the thing with no guilt it fell apart from all the loving.

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NEEDS MORE STUFFING.

I have a fondness for homely objects of yesteryear. Making them in silly fabric elevates them from nostalgic to absurd. Unfortunately the seemingly never-ending bag of poly-fil I’ve had longer than I can remember did finally meet its match on this project and finishing will have to wait until another bag can be acquired.

I bet Hubs’ family had at least 3 of these and he just never noticed.

The Sea Captain

I finished a thing!

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This is the Sea Captain kit from Cozy Blue Handmade. I didn’t notice that random stray piece of a thread on the Captain’s cap until now. It’s driving me nuts. Look, you can really see it well in this photo:

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I used:

  • Stem stitch for the, smoke, and pipe stem
  • Split stitch for eyebrows, beard, and moustache
  • Satin stitch for eye and pipe bowl
  • Fern stitch for knit cap
  • French knots for sweater bobbles
  • Straight or back stitch for everything else
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I was surprised to learn that you finish embroidery like this using a hot glue gun. Good thing I have two!

I love him, but he already has a wife.

Wrap and Return to the Turn

Hm, well, my holiday sweater has hit the skids a bit. I blithely knit on the first sleeve (I took the liberty to knit it in reverse stockinette to match the sweater body, the pattern calls for stockinette) last night without checking the wraps on my short rows until just before bed and lo:

I must have wrapped in the wrong direction on the back because they’re not beautifully invisible like they are on the front. Womp womp.

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A close up of the disappointment.

It’s just as well because I was afraid the sleeve would be too big for me and it is:

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Pooch, badly lit in early morning bathroom light.

This style sweater is a bit of a departure for me. Not being a sweater-babe-type person I cast on a size that wouldn’t have as much negative ease as recommended so I thought this might happen. Back to the sleeves drawing board!

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I love a tubular cast off.

This time with properly wrapped short rows and a maybe 4-8 fewer stitches picked up around. Not today, though, this sweater and I need a little break from one another.

Distractibly Distractive

I thought I was starting a primarily sewing blog, but the thing I can’t put town this week is Julgran:

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© Andi Satterlund

I clicked through and bought this pattern as soon as I saw Andi’s pattern release blog post. Not long after that I sent screenshots of 19 different shades of Cascade 220 to Hubs to help me whittle down the selection and then I picked what turned out to be the perfect green – Shire – from those 4. You know those studies that show that too much choice actually makes people more unsatisfied with their decisions? I’ve always known this to be true about myself. Have you ever shopped for a stroller? It’s maddening. I knew I would be unhappy with whatever I chose so I didn’t bother and we ended up with a hand-me-down that we literally strolled into the ground when the front wheel went irreparably flying off the thing 7 years later. The thing I loved best about that stroller was that I hadn’t picked it so I had no reason to ever be unhappy with its shortcomings or interpret them as me making a bad or wrong decision. It was just a stroller that was better for some things (like traversing NYC’s variable topography) and not so great for others (like fitting through the check out line at a NYC grocery store). There is no perfect stroller, but there is a lot of angst over not picking one that is.

Anyways. I love a good Christmas sweater! There may not be a perfect stroller, but damn if this isn’t pretty darn close to a perfect holiday pullover. I’m close to the ribbing. I tried it on this morning and lost a bunch of stitched (oops) so I’ll have to fix that up before hopefully finishing up the body tonight. Yay!

Trifecta

Three stockings, three toys, three jack o-lanterns, three, three, three!

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Bear completes the group. I think he (she? I got to thinking too hard about these toys’ genders after my last post when I realized I was naming them all mister and decided to leave gender assignments out of it going forward) is my favorite and I think it’s because Bear is colorful though it does make me wonder if Bear has a circus past and the politics of that.

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These toys are adorable and a great introduction to embroidery.

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Please excuse the dirty plant container and mums that need deadheaded. We are not a very pinterest-y household.

I can hardly gloat about having some Christmas items done so early. It was more a function of really wanting to make these than any sense of order or preparation or planning. Sometimes a whim will work in your favor.

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Kiddo was artistic director of the pumpkin carving. This 7-eyed one is my favorite. Squirrel pictured is not responsible for the nibbling. Damn squirrels.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

Mr. Fox’s Friend

Two down of three!

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This is the squirrel from the Kiriki Press‘ doll embroidery kit series, aka “Mr. Squirrel” to keep with the theme.

This embroidery bug has taken my quite by surprise. I suddenly want to embroider something for everyone for Christmas. I ordered this amazing Sea Captain embroidery kit for brother-in-law and his girlfriend. I was sorely tempted to get the Sea Captain’s Wife, too, but the expense of all these kits was starting to add up even for usually-spendthrift-when-it-comes-to-her-hobbies me. So tempting, though…

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Waiting on one more. Will Mr. Squirrel share his acorn? Will Mr. Fox eat the lot? How will Mr. Bear’s personality change the group dynamic?