Finished: Vine and Leaf Beret

Seven days of knitting frenzy equals one lavender beret. I got it into my head that I wanted to finish this before the end of the year, so there’s been a whole lotta clicking needles this past week.

Pattern: Vine and Leaf Beret (#11) from Vogue Knitting Fall 2009
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, Color #340033 (Lavender), 1.25 skeins
Needles: US #3 16″ Circular & #3 DPNs

This was easy, especially after wallowing through the charts for the Japanese Butterfly Lace Beret. You just do four repeats of a simple pattern and then switch into a pretty simple decrease modification of the same pattern. It was a nice “pick up and knit a few stitches when you have a moment” project.

Here’s a shot of it, fresh off the needles and before its wet block last night–very beanie-ish.

The yarn–oooh, smooshy, smooshy. Love it, even though it will split like crazy should you happen to make a mistake and frog and then re-knit it. If you’ve ever been in my house, you’d know that I love this particular shade of purple (it’s what we painted our great room). I was torn between the lavender and a beautiful light aqua color…perhaps I’ll just buy the aqua as well on the next trip up to my favorite yarn store, Black Sheep Wool Company in SLC.

I would totally make this beret again; it’s easy, a pretty quick knit and the yarn was really nice to work with. (I may actually be making a toddler version, as Renaissance stood by me for quite some time yesterday, asking if it was for her…guess she took a liking to it.) The brim is pretty darn loose though–I’ll probably knit it on smaller needles next time for a better fit.


Japanese Butterfly Lace Beret Delivered

I did it. I parted with that beautiful hat. It was the plan all along, but it was a test of personal accountability to actually follow through with my original intentions.

It was worth it. She phoned me twenty minutes later in a very happy mood and said that her gift was “exquisite.”

Good. 🙂

Finished: Japanese Butterfly Lace Beret

Meet the model: Giant Penguin.
He thinks this hat is “cool.” (Hehehe)
This beret was created for a friend, and I just have this thing about wearing someone else’s stuff before they get to wear it, so I decided to have Giant Penguin step in as my model in order to avoid stray hairs or anything else that would be kind of embarassing to show up in a gift.

Anyway, the technical stuff:
Pattern: Lace Beret #13 from Vogue Knitting Fall 2009
Yarn: KnitPick’s Bare Merino Wool Sock Yarn, about half a skein (220 yards or so)
Needles: US #1 & #3 circulars, #3 dpns

Notes: The ribbing for this thing is just plain torture. However, once you get into the lace pattern, it’s pretty fun. I like this hat. I’m slightly tempted to make one for myself as well.

And blocking over a dinner plate is super amusing:I could not keep her away from the thing while it dried. Hopefully there’s no Dorito fingerprints on it–I kept moving the plate to various spots where I thought she couldn’t get to it, but she kept proving me wrong.

There’s not much else to say about this cute little beret, except that I need to walk it over to its recipient. I am sad to let this one go, I’ve come to like it so very much!

My New Response to Knitting Requests

It’s a weird phenomenon–word gets out that you know how to knit (or crochet, or sew, or quilt, or whatever…) and people start asking you to make stuff for them. It’s not rude or anything, they’re genuinely interested in your talents and are willing to buy the materials and sometimes add on a little extra money to make it worth your while. I’m not complaining, it’s fun to be “in demand.”

But I’ve got a lot of people who demand much from me.

And I’m a gifter. I really, really enjoy making stuff for other people.

But I have to say no. There’s just not enough time to produce all the items requested, paid for or not.

So my new response is: “If you buy the yarn and come over to my house, I’ll teach you how to make it yourself.”

Give a pal a handknit gift and you warm them for a couple of years. Teach them to knit and you warm them for a lifetime.

Finished: Inca Snowflake Hat

Rachel’s so happy that I made a hat for Emily because she knows that in a few years, when the other two are too big, she’ll be able to wear it!

(And don’t get all impressed by the supposed plethora of projects that are getting finished up lately–this was finished weeks ago, but then shoved into Emily’s dresser and completely forgotten. I noticed it today and realized I never gave it a proper “Finished” post.)

Pattern: “Inca Snowflake,” from Itty-Bitty Hats by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Noro “Taiyo” Color #11–I had to use portions of two skeins in order to get the ear flaps to have the same color gradient.
Needles: You know, I really can’t remember. My dear, sweet toddler ransacked my knitting arsenal and fumbled everything together.
Modifications: The hats in this book are for toddlers, not Kindergarteners. I know I just basically followed the pattern but used larger needles…but that’s as much as I can tell you! I haven’t lined it with fleece yet, which will make it fit better. I’m still deciding if I’m going to embroider the snowflakes and put the crochet trim on it…I worked on this during the “morning sickness phase” and I just really don’t like looking at it anymore.

Glad it’s done…it makes my girl(s) happy.

Japanese Butterfly Lace Beret

Yeah, it’s not too terribly exciting to look at right now, but I’m very eager to see how it turns out.

And yes, I know that I have the Peacock Stole I should be working on…and that my head is still bare and releasing precious heat every time I wander outside in this frigid landscape. I really should be focusing on those projects.

However, I was sitting in church last week, and I started just looking around the congregation and when my gaze fell upon one of my friends I had the thought to make a hat for her. Having plans to start making a hat for myself after I finished the Bella Mittens, I shook my head and dismissed the thought–it’s not my job to furnish the world with handknit goods.

However, during Relief Society that same friend said something about promptings: “Just do it, even if you have no idea why.” So I decided to make her a hat.

This is the Lace Beret Pattern (#13) from Vogue Knitting’s Fall 2009 issue. I’m using KnitPick’s Bare Merino Wool Sock Yarn, from the stash, after deciding that I wasn’t going to buy any more yarn this year. I’ve never actually knit with just plain white before, and I’m really liking how it’s turning out.

I am becoming envious of this beret…but I can’t pilfer two intended gifts in a row, so this will most definitely go to its intended recipient. And besides, it probably won’t even fit me anyway because I have an enormous head and I’m making this in the smaller size. Thwarting my own greediness from the start…smart move.

Accepting Gifts

Allow me a moment here to air my feelings on a subject that is bothering me a lot this particular Christmas season–the art of receiving gifts.

I am a gift person. I love receiving gifts and I love giving gifts. I especially like to dole out homemade gifts and baked goods, as our financial situation makes it difficult to buy gifts for everyone on our list. I actually draw up my Christmas list in the first week of January in order to give me enough time throughout the year to complete the many hours of labor necessary to produce the handmade items I’d like to give.

Now, I know that “giving” a gift isn’t for the benefit of the giver; it’s all about the recipient. But part of the reason I like to give gifts is to witness the reaction when the recipient receives their gift. It makes me want to keep giving, especially to that person!

May I suggest that we all take a step back and re-apply ourselves to the practice of receiving gifts graciously? Any gift, no matter how simple, extravagant or *cough, cough* weird–each was brought to its recipient because the giver thought they would appreciate it and because the giver wanted to do something nice for the recipient.

It took a parting with one’s funds, or a sacrifice of one’s time and/or energy to give a gift to another person. (I don’t know about you, but I’m in short supply of all three these days!) We need to look beyond the physical gift and see what really is being given: the kind thoughts of another and the actions that say “You are worth my time, energy and/or money.” That’s a HUGE deal in this world of bottom lines, cramped schedules and tired bodies and minds.

My challenge to all this holiday season is to receive gifts graciously. We need to plaster on a mega-watt smile, elevate the pitch of our voice an octave and express a joyous “Thank You!” each time someone shows that we are important to them and shows that love with a gift (be it a trinket, a plate of cookies or an act of service). We need to express our gratitude to that person for their actions and just accept the fact that another human being, in this world of faceless electronic communications, has physically sought us out in hopes of making us feel a little bit more loved. That’s a very big thing.

But what if the gift isn’t something you want? Many of us are watching our diets and cringe at the thought of another plate of cookies (I am not one of them!); and sometimes gifts are just freakishly ugly and odd.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You don’t have to actually use the gift. If a plate of sweets is too much a temptation, take a small nibble (so you can give an honest answer when the gifter asks if you liked them), then throw them in the trash. If you receive a home decoration object that you don’t like, then pass it on to someone who will like it. If the gifter asks where the item is the next time they’re over, give a vague answer. (And furthermore, will all the gifters STOP asking where their gifts are in someone’s house? It’s rude.) Appreciate their intentions, recognize that few people actively seek to physically give gifts to their neighbors anymore and just be thankful that you are so lucky to possess such caring neighbors, co-workers and friends. Never negate a gift to its giver or suggest ways to improve their “performance” the next year.

What if the gift is offensive? Well, I guess it depends on the situation and gift. As a practicing member of the LDS Church, I don’t drink coffee or alcohol. However, these are popular gifts, especially from people who don’t know me that well. I would never push a bag of coffee bean or a bottle of alcohol back at the giver. I would never inform them on the spot that I don’t drink those things. I would accept their gift graciously, and then figure out a way to either use it or dispose of it. (Coffee beans can be used in many cookie recipes that can then be given as gifts to my non-LDS neighbors, and alcohol can be used in cooking because the alcohol can be burned off in the right recipes. Or you can always give them to someone who knows your religious beliefs with the explanation that you received it as a gift and have chosen not to use it.)

Many fellow Mormons would heartily disagree with me on this tactic, and that’s fine. But what’s more important–being a kind and gracious person or pronouncing your religious beliefs to the detriment of another’s honestly honorable intentions? There’s always time to explain your beliefs to another person–on your doorstep after receiving a gift from them is, in my opinion, not that time.

But won’t this resign you to a lifetime of receiving gifts you don’t want? Quite possibly.

However, people who are giving you gifts because they love you will generally tend to observe you for your likes and interests and hone their gift-giving choices to suit you better. Or, in the case of neighbors, they just make a big batch of goods that they give out to everyone and it’s rude to expect them to bend their traditions to please you. Just accept the gift with genuine gratitude, do what you will with it and move on.

And may I offer just one more teeny bit of advice? It’s really probably just a pet peeve of mine, but if someone takes the time and effort to give you a physical gift…doesn’t it stand to reason that a physical gift necessitates a physical thank-you card? Agree with me or not, but when a person spends hours planning what they’re going to give you and then either creates it or stands in line to purchase it, it’s pretty lame to send a quick email “thank you.” That same two lines, written in a card and arriving in the mailbox, somehow makes all the effort so much worthwhile.

I know a grandmother with very limited means who scrapes and scrapes to be able to send presents to her four grandchildren every year and she never received a single thank-you card from them–until last year. I actually saw her walking back from the mailbox with a spring in her step and I called out my window to see why she was so happy. “My granddaughter liked my gift to her!”, was her exultant response.

Look at it as yet another way to treat yourself and buoy another’s spirits–you get to go shopping for some lovely stationery and the giver gets to experience the warm and fuzzies. I know lots of people who glue their received thank-you cards into their journals or keep them in some other way–physical thank-you cards mean a lot to many people.

Yes, we all will receive “bummer presents” throughout our lives. But seriously, we’re big boys and girls and if we want a particular item, then it’s our responsibility to procure it for ourselves–that is not a burden to be placed upon the shoulders of any other person. It’s a perk if someone does it for us, but it’s not a requirement to continue a relationship with someone, ever. We need to stop focusing on the actual gift and look solely to the sentiment behind the gift. Please. Giving a gift is always a sacrifice on behalf of the giver. We need to remember that and rejoice when someone picks us out to show their love. That gift alone is special enough.

Remember: Big smile and a high-pitched “Thank you”. And, depending on the circumstances, a tangible thank-you card. It’s not that hard. We can do it!

Finished: Bella’s Mittens

I extend my apologies to the two potential recipients of these mittens, but I’ve decided to keep them for myself.

Pattern: Bella’s Mittens by Marielle Henault
Yarn: Peruvia Quick by Berroco, Color #9125 “Sea Turtle,” 2 Skeins
Purchased at: Kamille’s
Needles: #10 DPN & #8 DPN
Started: September 2009
Finished: December 8, 2009

I love bulky yarn. It makes you feel like you’re a superspeed knitter. I love cables. There’s something about manipulating stitches to become cables that I happen to find very exciting. This pattern offered both good things. It’s a good pattern and I recommend it to everyone, especially since it’s free!

Yes, the mittens were originally slated to go to one of two Twilighters whom I figured would appreciate them immensely, but then the past two days’ worth of snow alerted me to the fact that I own ONE glove. I’ve owned this ONE glove for about three years now and I keep it because I like it and I maintain a hope that its mate will magically reappear.

A person can only hold onto hope for so long; especially when it encompasses dried, frozen skin that starts to crack and bleed. It would be absolutely ludicrous to give away a newly finished pair of mittens when I so desperately need a pair of mittens for myself.

Another perk to these little lovelies is that they’re loooong. My maternity winter coat only reaches about halfway down my forearm. (Actually, every coat I’ve ever owned has only reached halfway down my forearm. Why is that?) Another problem solved. The wonderful bell-shaped cuff fits OVER my coat sleeve. No gaps!

*blissful sigh* They went out for their inaugural use last night as I carried things in and out to my Relief Society’s Christmas dinner and they passed with flying colors. It’s so nice to be warm again.

And the Knitting Mojo Returns!

Let me tell you, I have missed my quality time spent with yarn and sticks. Now that I’m over my nausea (for the most part), I can once again stand to look at a project for more than two minutes without wanting to throw up! Yay!

This is mitten #1 of the pair of “Bella’s Mittens” that I started back in September. It had been left abandoned on the shelf until a few days ago. I know of a few young ladies who would probably like it very much if they became the owners of such a pair of mittens.

The idea that they might be done in time for Christmas gifting has been hampered by occurences such this:This is commonly referred to as “pride goeth before the fall.” I got cocky about doing the cables and stopped looking at the directions and then did them backwards and didn’t realize it until about ten rows later. But the mistakes have been corrected and I have moved on.

Oh knitting, I have missed our daily chats. Let’s not ever stray from each other ever again.