Starting my super secret Christmas knitting in August was not planned. It was small-bite comfort knitting from a familiar and beloved pattern to satisfy my too-tired-to-be-inspired brain. It was nice that my mindless knitting projects also had purpose, but I knew myself too well to count my knitted chickens before they hatched. Having a deadline doesn’t guarantee motivation. Just because I start a thing in August doesn’t mean it will be done in time for Christmas this year or next or ever.
I had a friend who one Christmas was upset because she wasn’t going to get her holiday crafting done in time. She was in a bad place and I unwisely tried to reassure her it was going to be OK. “Is it? IS IT GOING TO BE OK?” she yelled. I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t “Um, yes?” which, now that I was caught up with the magnitude of her stress levels I sagely refrained from blurting out. Instead I stood there awkwardly, realizing I had been dismissive and not at all reassuring, pissing her off all the more with my stunned silence. We’ve all been in that mental space and it wasn’t about the presents. It’s never about the presents.
This post, on the other hand, is ALL ABOUT THE PRESENTS. I hope you like gnomes because I’m about to introduce you to the 14 I made. First, family groupings:
The pattern is for male gnomes only. I added braids and left off beards to make lady gnomes even though neither I nor several of the recipients have enough hair to braid. But then most of the men don’t have beards, either, so I guess we’re even.
They came out a surprising variety of sizes considering I used size 1 needs and fingering weight yarn for all. I had a bit of work figuring out pairings and groupings, trying to coordinate colors and sizes before adding hair.
Amazingly they were done in plenty of time which wasn’t true for some of the other items I decided to toss in at the last minute. Leave to me, I thought, to finish the time consuming part and still end up late because of some random thing that ins’t. I was raised to believe that if you’re not early you’re late, but and when the post office pulled through and everything arrived in the nick of time (ha ha, couldn’t let that one pass) I decided to not think of them as almost-tardy, but perfectly-timed.
I like to make the kids tiny toys for their stockings I have this idea that they’ll grow to form a prized collection, but of course they get lost, separated and disassociated from the holiday, subsumed into the collective mass of my kids’ other toys. Only the ones in B’s stocking are collected or prized, and only by me. Her stocking is laughably large, so big you wouldn’t know there are tiny toys inside if I weren’t telling you.
I’ve already lost track of where the hot dog and ice cream have gone gotten to, but Chuffy’s delight when I fished his overlooked hot dog out of his stocking (hey, it’s super small and easy to miss and there was Pez) was more than enough to keep me making more next year and every year.
Toys are deceiving. I know from personal experience that beginning knitters misidentify toys as “small projects” that will be “quick” and underestimate the skills they require. Toys are actually really difficult projects to get right – there can be more techniques used in a seemingly simple toy than a simple sweater and when you scale down a project’s size you’re often leveling up its difficulty. I don’t say that to discourage anybody from knitting or sewing whatever they like – do it! Toys can be excellent learning tools for all the same reasons that they’re difficult! – I say it in case you don’t have me in your life to (loudly, probably) reassure you, “Toys are HARD!” if you’re embarrassed to find that, for example, the stuffed pig you made with ad-hoc fun fur wings turns out to have more of a sneer than a smile, crooked bum, asymmetrical snout, and 4 differently shaped and sized legs that collectively cannot support the creature’s weight.
Point is, it takes a little more time and practice to develop the chops to throw a toy off one’s needles that you feel proud to gift to anybody but the cat. The good news is that except in cases such as the crocheted hanging clown doll that lived in my childhood closet terrorizing me at night, the trade off to “perfection” is often “character”. And so even though I knew I didn’t have the sewing skills or attention to detail that would make these dolls keepsake-quality, when MJ picked cooed over, clung to, and generally delighted in the Goldilocks and the Three Bears samples at Craft South (well played, Craft South, well played) I thought, well, what the heck. Why not?
Uneven, imperfect, and who cares? They’re cute and good enough and MJ won’t get them until her birthday, but I hope she loves them to literal bits after years of use and abuse. Aren’t keepsakes that retain their condition the ones never enjoyed? Or is that a lie I tell myself because we don’t take good care of our things?