- I saw the sign-ups for the Bee Hive Swap in time this year, and got in! :::happy dance::: So excited!
- My own swap group that I’m running liked it so much that a bunch want to do it again next year! So, busy with setting that up at the moment.
- Yeah, two year-long swaps…talk to me at the end of next year. 🙂
- I wrote up an exhaustive inventory of the many works-in-progress taking up space in my craft room, and then hammered out a plan to plough through almost all of them in the next year.
- The first WIP that will reach completion as a result of my awesome new plan is probably a pair of socks that I started back in Australia.
- A newly-finished pair of socks right now is kind of perfect, given that the snow has started. I was actually thinking the socks would be a Christmas present for someone dear to me, but my feet are freakin’ freezing, so I’m going to keep them. Mwa ha ha.
- The second WIP that will probably get finished is a baby boy quilt I started almost eight years ago.
The kid in this photo is Penguin, who is now nine years old. She’s drinking from the mug I received after giving birth to Junebug, who is now seven-and-a-half years old…
- It’s funny how you can start a project with so much excitement, but with each passing year of not completing said project how much that excitement turns into resentment and shame. So much so that I definitely don’t want to keep the quilt when I’m done, but fear the repercussions of giving a new life an item infused with so many negative feelings from myself. The act of giving wipes off all the bad juju, right? Right?
- I’ve also fleshed out a “Baby Gift Flowchart” to help me decide what to make for tiny humans on my radar. In this age of social media, I find that I’m inundated with the awareness of many a pregnancy, and the baby-lovin’ crafter part of me really wants to make something for every one of them. However, given the physical limitations of time, I can’t. So I came up with a way to shrink the pool a bit and ease my conscience. A line had to be drawn somewhere, or I’d never be done with making baby gifts.
- I’m currently aware of nine pregnancies, and of three women trying to get pregnant. That’s twelve impending births in the next year. My flowchart narrows the gifts down to five recipients, which is still a lot, but gives me back a bunch of time. I am raising four children of my own…
- My son broke the teeth off of the zipper of his winter parka the first day he wore it. Of course. Even better, he broke off enough teeth that the actual zipper pull fell off, too. So, instead of working on WIPs, my time is needed to repair a zipper in a parka.
- Once again, making plans is a dumb idea.
I shared a picture on Instagram a few weeks ago of Junebug holding up her completed quilt top. It was supposed to have its binding by that time, but my back had flared up earlier that week, so the binding had taken a back seat. Ever since that day, Junebug has “reminded” me that her quilt needed binding. Continue reading
I’ve been spending more time with the Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt, and I’m running out of white prints for the stars. More fabric cutting was obviously in order, and I am getting rather tired of the white prints I have been using this past year, so I called Miss Junebug down to the craft room to pick out some new, interesting fabrics for her quilt.
You think I’d learn to stop asking for her input…
…although, truth be told, I am rather pleased that she stuck to the color theme this time.
Her reasoning for picking the snowman fabric, delivered with one hand on her hip and the other hand waving in the air as she explained: “It’s my quilt, and I like snowmen. Besides, you’re Canadian, so that means I like snow a lot more because I’m your daughter.”
[Insert image of me making my “I’m trying to look serious while dying inside from laughter” parenting face]
This quilt is ridiculously unique. Just another reason to keep on with the handmades.
She likes it.
This is my friend Rachel. We’ve been friends for a few years. She’s the friend who “tutored” Bluebird in Latin when we were first starting out two years ago, we embarked on a lofty 72-hour kit creation kick a year ago that she kept up and I did not, and we get to rub elbows a lot in musical pursuits. I think she is one of the coolest people in the world. She’s funny, she’s intelligent, she’s…Rachel.
About a year ago we started a short-lived ritual of walking our dogs during my family’s morning recess break. During this ritual walk each school day (for however long we kept up with it) Rachel and I talked. We talked about religion, briefly visited politics, talked about the books we were reading, and shared childhood memories regarding various subjects that came up.
We also talked about infertility. My dear friend wanted to become a mother, and was having a hard time realizing that dream. I listened as she described what tests and procedures were coming up, I listened as she talked through how she felt about the results, I listened as she thought out loud through something I wished I could fix for her. I had suggested herbs in the very beginning of her struggle to conceive, but it had become apparent through the years that herbs weren’t going to fix the issue. I watched her struggle to control her emotions after a round of fertility drugs; she’d wave it off and shrug, saying, “It’s just the hormones.” So much time and effort to bring into creation a child. Why wasn’t it working?!?!
I prayed for her and her husband. My children prayed for one of their favorite people that she could be a mommy like she wanted. Our family prayed together, out loud, every morning and night, remembering her alongside our cousins and siblings. “Please, Heavenly Father, if it be thy will, allow Rachel and her husband to become parents.”
During those walks and talks I made up my mind, should God bless Rachel with a child, that I would throw the biggest, most beautiful baby shower I could muster in celebration of her impending motherhood. To work so hard for something deserved a huge to-do! As luck would have it, other ladies in our neighborhood wanted in on the fun as well, so we went all out.
At Rachel’s request, we had a tea party baby shower; which is funny, because we’re Mormons. As a collective group, we’re not really known for our tea party-throwing skills. Therefore, all the “teas” offered were herbal: Lemon Chamomile, Peppermint, and a rooibos-based Tulsi Dosha Chai. (I made a little announcement at the beginning of the party that there was no actual tea in any of the teapots, and that no one had to worry that I was enticing them to disregard the Word of Wisdom.)
And it was lovely, oh so lovely. The looks of delight on the ladies’ faces as they carried their delicate cups of “tea,” the “oohs” and “aahs” over the finger foods…it was pretty, it was refreshing, and it was just wonderful. I think I’ll be pleased with how well this baby shower went for a long time. It was one of the nicest things I’ve seen in a while.
Seriously, always throw a party with multiple hostesses. There were five of us altogether who put the food together, and it went splendidly. (I didn’t have to touch the Egg Salad Sandwiches or be anywhere near them at all! Score!) We all made what we each liked to make, and everything was taken care of. I was in charge of the tea and scones. That’s it. I also made some macarons on a whim,
since I’m obsessed with the recipe from Martha Stewart Living and have been waiting for an excuse to try it out just because.
|I don’t have a picture with the mom-to-be, but I do have this one with my fellow hostesses.|
|I told her that I needed a picture of her
with all her swag, and she obliged me so fittingly.
There was a good attendance, and we had fun with the various (non-annoying) shower games. Rachel received some lovely gifts for herself and her daughter, and I saw her make multiple trips to refresh her tea cup.
I took pictures of everything. I knew I would write a blog post about this awesome party that I helped throw, and I wanted some beauty shots to accompany the play-by-play. But as I look through the photos, I’m disappointed because they don’t capture the true beauty of the occasion.
Because what is beautiful about all this, after all the tea and finger foods are gone, is that we’re celebrating a miracle. We’ve watched a heart-wrenching struggle turn into something so joyful that it makes our hearts hurt with happiness, like when you’ve smiled for too long and your cheeks ache.
We gathered together today to bask in the glory of our friend’s answered prayer, to sit together as women and cheer on another one of us who will soon enter the ranks of motherhood. We thought of our own miracles at home; far, far away from the breakable china we balanced in our hands, while laughing at the realization that we celebrate the arrival of motherhood with delicate servingware and dainty foods when the realities of motherhood dictate that we eat PB&J and drink from plastic cups soon after we are initiated.
We hugged each other, placed hands upon each other’s shoulders in concern, smiled, laughed, and nodded our understanding. We shared stories of our experiences–stories about our fears of motherhood, our disappointment with some of our parenting choices, amusement over what children say, gratitude for the help we receive and the lessons we’ve learned, and love for our families and friends. And amidst the clinking of tea cups upon saucers and tearing of wrapping paper, we shared one more thing: A quiet sense of excitement for Rachel. She got her wish, her prayer, her love: She’s going to be a mother.
I’m trying to be a good little auntie.
I have a weird sibling situation that I finally came to a conclusion upon last year about how I’m going to treat all my present, former, and kind-of siblings: I’m just gonna love them all. More love always wins, right?
One of my sisters had a baby last week, and there’s nothing like the actual birth of a baby to really light the fire under one’s rear end to finish the crafties intended for said baby. She had a little boy, and he is beautiful.
I’ve been working on this layette since October. The plan was to finish it all before Christmas and then ship it so it’d be there before the birth, but…yeah. Whatever, it’s finished, and it’s heading to the post office in the next couple of days to make its way to the chilly, chilly Canadian town that boasts one more beautiful baby boy as of last week.
The cardigan is the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan pattern, knit up in Plymouth Yarn’s Jeannee Worsted (51% Cotton, 49% Acrylic). The buttons are from JoAnn Fabric. I knit up a matching hat following the Basic Hat Pattern in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd.
The blanket is crocheted, as is every blanket I’ve ever made from yarn. (The idea of knitting a blanket makes me twitch a wee bit.) The pattern is “Pastel Waves,” from Leisure Arts Our Best Baby Afghans, which I’ve owned for years upon years. I used good ol’ Red Heart Super Saver for it, despite its baby-melting acrylic content. I just haven’t reached the point where I can buy that much cotton yarn at once. That also makes me a bit twitchy.
So I’ll send this off, with much love and many wishes that I could live closer to this new soul. It’s somewhat heart-breaking to watch all these nieces and nephews grow up, and know that I’m only seeing it in photographs instead of experiencing it in person. Sigh. But, perhaps, they’ll be reminded that I care when they snuggle up in a blanket or sweater I’ve made for them.
That’s the hope–that they’ll feel my love and know that I wish I was right there with them.
Happy BIRTHday, Little Baby J.
It’s been a weird spring and summer for me, in that I’ve had no desire to knit. None. I forced myself to finish some projects because I had all that time lying flat on my back while recovering from those lovely herniated discs, but there wasn’t a time where I was excited about knitting. I preferred to just lay on the couch and watch Netflix movies. I didn’t even read a lot. I’m proud of myself for keeping it relatively together, attitude-wise, during all that yucky back stuff, but I was kind of bummed out during those months.
But then, in August, we had a couple of cool weather days. Very cool weather, the kind of weather that makes your toes start to feel a little frosty. So I went in search of my alpaca socks, and reveled in the loveliness that is a pair of handknit socks snuggling around very cold toes. That wonderful feeling, in turn, started moving the knitting cogs in my brain–at first it was a rusty creak (“It would be nice to own more than one pair of handknit socks.”), and then a disjointed series of interruptions to my regularly-scheduled thought processes (“Sweaters appear to be in style this year,” “I’ve never made myself a sweater,” “Monkeyboy has grown out of his old sweater,” “I haven’t been to the yarn store in ages,”), all the while speeding up until I’ve rediscovered my former life as an obsessive knitter who feels greatly conflicted over whether or not to take the knitting with me to the U-Pick Berry Patch. (Yes, it’s true; and I am a little embarassed that I did have to devote a little bit of logic-making to that decision.)
But even with my brain humming along its (now) well-lubricated knitterly paths of pondering, my hands and heart were having a hard time getting with the program. I’d sit down to knit and find myself desperately wanting to get away from my yarn after a few minutes. Knitting wasn’t fun anymore. Knitting didn’t make me happy.
And, finally, I figured out what it was: Knitting reminds me, so strongly, of my neighbor who passed away this past winter.
I was forcing myself to put in some work on a vest I’m making for Monkeyboy, and as I was knitting, my eyes glanced across our front yard and into the window that I used to monitor my neighbor through during her last few months here. My thoughts wandered to the crocheting bag I gave her for Christmas two years ago, and I surprised myself with having to choke back a sob at the thought of how she no longer has a need for a crochet bag, and wondering what had happened to it. Then I thought of knit group, which featured little wise cracks she’d make; and then I saw one of her crocheted afghans laying along the back of one of my couches, which made me think of the bits of granny square advice she’d imparted to me over the years. And it hurt; hurt so badly that I had to lay my knitting down in my lap and just breathe until I could think about those things without wanting to cry.
It continues to amaze me at how much I miss my neighbor. You have all these “regular” people in your life that don’t appear special on the surface. They’re not your grandmother, your best friend, your roommate from freshman year, or that teacher who woke you up with their words of advice. There’s no “moment” that can be pinpointed as to their significance in your life–they were just there, silently building up memories and bonding slightly closer to you with each seemingly-insignificant interaction that you shared over the years. It’s a love that is rarely recognized in the flesh, and mostly only realized once circumstances change to the point of no longer having it around in its normal form. It makes me both sad and angry that I didn’t realize that I loved my neighbor like I did until she was dead.
And my neighbor is linked to the knitting part of my life, which makes the knitting part of my life hurt right now as well.
I won’t quit knitting. (That would be so many levels of stupid.) But I now understand why it’s been difficult, and that it wasn’t just my injury that made me disinterested in what I consider to be my most favorite hobby, over this past year. It’s some weird expression of grief, and now that I recognize it for what it is, it does make a lot of sense to me.
However, the past couple of days have found me, for the first time this year, looking forward to knitting. Autumn is on my mind, which raises mental images of cabled sweaters, tweedy wools, and marled mittens against a backdrop of fallen leaves. Boots beg for warm socks as lining. There are whisperings of Christmas knitting. The changing of the seasons is diverting my thoughts to the good times that await throughout the next few months.
Those knitting thoughts are happy knitting thoughts, and they are peeking through the sad knitting clouds of mourning that I’ve been unconsciously carrying behind me. So I’ve decided to take those thoughts of my neighbor and frame them in a positive light, rather than allowing my brain to close itself around the dismal interpretation of those thoughts. I remember my neighbor’s smile when she unwrapped her crocheting bag, and I don’t allow myself to think on the question of what happened to the crochet bag. The crochet bag made her happy, and I gave it to her. That is a wonderful thing. I am thankful for the crochet advice she gave me, and I’m glad that I have it to bless the lives of those I crochet for. That’s another good thing. And I will always look fondly upon “Bright White” skeins of Red Heart Super Saver yarn because it was her favorite color to edge her granny squares with, and there are a lot of people in this world who possess the Bright White works of her hands. She was good. And I got to have that in my life. It’s just good, all around.
Autumn is approaching, and Knitting Season is beckoning me to move forward…and my heart and my hands are willing to get on board.
Life goes on.
Grief isn’t permanent.
Knitting waits for you.
In case you haven’t noticed, I like to make things.
That all changed this year. I delegated the Christmas gift-giving list amongst members of our family and allowed everyone to partake in the joy and anticipation of giving to our extended family. I think it was a smashing success and plan to continue with the practice for next year’s Christmas.
Unfortunately, this idea of delegation came to me in October, which didn’t allow for extravagant crafting, but it was fun nonetheless. First, I wrote up the list of the people
we I wanted to give gifts to and then we had a family meeting and everyone took turns choosing a name from the list and accepting responsibility for making their present. I put a “handmade gift only” rule into effect because I was not about to open the gates of allowing a 7, 5 and 3 year old to run rampant through the mall, choosing any gifts they desired for their recipients. I’m OK with spending a few dollars to purchase fabric and odds ‘n ends for projects; I am not OK with forking over $50 for some novelty monstrosity that my 3 year old thinks would make a good gift.
Our list of thirteen gift recipients was divided amongst five people, which meant the girls each made three gifts each and Michael and I were each responsible for only two. A “Handmade Christmas” has an actual shot at success when you’re only responsible for making 2-3 gifts!
The girls LOVED making their gifts. Bluebird put her newfound sewing skills to use and sewed up little lavender-stuffed heart sachets for two of her recipients, and I took her and Penguin to a ceramics studio to make a gift for one person on their lists. Bluebird chose to paint a cappuccino mug with matching saucer for her Aunt Sandra and it turned out so incredibly cute that I would possibly have thought about keeping it for myself had Bluebird not painted a gigantic “S” on the saucer.
Penguin used her ceramic studio experience to paint a gift for…well, I can’t exactly say yet because I’m not sure if that particular family has received their box yet (I’m glaring at you, Canada Post, for this infraction). We were at the ceramics studio for THREE hours as the two of them diligently tended to their projects. I was so proud of their commitment to producing “good” presents.
Penguin also painted a picture for Granny and helped make a basketball-themed hair ribbon for her cousin Amber, who recently made it onto her high school’s JV basketball team as a freshman.
Junebug…knows what she wants to do and will allow nothing to distract her from accomplishing what she decides she is going to do. She wanted to paint pictures for everyone on her list. Period. I tried to talk her into other ideas, but she was adamant–she would paint pictures for all three of her recipients. So she did. And I packaged them in gift bags with a big bag of Ghirardelli chocolates as a way to sweeten the deal.
Michael had big plans for his people, but a last minute business trip to Hawaii made it impossible for him to make his ideas tangible. He ended up purchasing some thoughtful gifts for the people on his list.
I knitted for the people on my list. (Shocking, I know.) As luck would have it, I ended up with my mother and my father as my intended giftees and I made both of them hats.
Everyone got to hand-select one name up front. We all get “perfect ideas” for random people, so I wanted to allow everyone a chance at creating at least one of those “perfect” gifts.
We then drew the rest of the names out of a bowl to assign the remaining names.
Each person had the opportunity to “trade” one of the names they drew for a name on someone else’s list, if the “owner” of that name was willing to trade.
You could not have a name that you had last year. (And, in future years, this rule will extend to the last two or three years…I’d like to avoid monopolies.)
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.
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!
The evenings of early winter are one of my favorite experiences. Darkness approaches at an earlier hour, and somehow, it becomes easier to turn my energy inward and keep it contained within my family.
The girls got their second round of flu shots this evening and I allowed them to have Burger King drive-thru for dinner as a reward. As we drove home, I found myself basking in the comfort of the early darkness–how it seemed to separate us from everything else and made it feel like we were our own little world, encapsulated in our warm vehicle, with only our thoughts and feelings to worry about. I like feeling that feeling–that we’re all that matters in a particular moment.
The earlier approach of night empties the streets of bikers and walkers; when I’m at home on a winter evening, there are fewer distractions outside my window to remove my focus from my precious brood. I love to stand at a window and not see anything outside–only the reflection of my home behind me in the glass in front of me. It seems to sum up what really matters in such a simple way.
Add in the glow of twinkling lights and warm traditions of the winter holidays, and it’s no wonder why this time of year enlarges our hearts and magnifies our desire to spend time with our loved ones. Perhaps we love harder in order to feel warmer and counteract the chill in the air?
Thank goodness for winter. If life was one summer day after another, there would be no time to slow down and ponder when the shortened days of winter keep us close to home. This is a special time, a time to sit still and really see and feel what matters most–our families, our homes, warmth, love, peace and contentment.