Appreciating the Teachers

The girls’ last day of school happens today, so I put together some gifts for their teachers and a couple of other staff members at their school.  I trolled Pinterest for inexpensive gift ideas that were easy to assemble because I don’t have access to my gift wrap vault, which is a little sad-making.

Undaunted, I pressed forward and decided upon dressing up regular ol’ paper bags with some paper Christmas doilies, which was ridiculously easy.  The girls were so excited to take “their” gifts to school–there was a little bit of bickering about who would carry the box containing all the bags as they headed out to catch the bus.

I kept it simple, gift-wise.  I baked up some soft ginger cookies and then piped a simple snowflake on top of each one and added some foodie pearls at the various snowflake junctions:

I don’t even know if ginger cookies are something Australians even like, but it was from the heart.  (FYI, Peanut Butter and Jelly isn’t a thing here.  My neighbor asked me what PB&J actually was…”Just peanut butter and jam?  On bread?  Do you toast it first?”)  I’ve questioned a lot of my food assumptions in the past months, especially after having the missionaries over for Thanksgiving.  I’m constantly amazed by how different two first-world, English-speaking countries that stem from the same mother country can be.

I put two cookies in each bag, along with a gift card to a popular chain of stores around these parts.  Simple, looks and smells good, done.

Michael and I were talking about the irony that this is the first time our kids have given teacher appreciation gifts, and how it really was too bad I never received any teacher appreciation gifts while homeschooling.  And then, at the same time, we both laughed aloud and said, “Yarn stash!”

Now that I think of it, a lot of my yarn was purchased at the end of trying school days…

Merry Christmas, Educators!

Bonus link:  Doilies to dress up plain ol’ chocolate bars!  Squee!

The Yarn is My Proxy

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.


This post is participating in Small Thing’s “Yarn Along,”
“Anything Goes Monday” at Stitch by Stitch,
and “Sew Cute Tuesday” at Blossom Heart Quilts.

Family Handmade Christmas: How Our Family Did Christmas Presents This Year

In case you haven’t noticed, I like to make things.

However, this can make Christmas a little bit troublesome.  I want to craft a treasure for each person on my gift-giving list, but (in case you haven’t noticed) I’m terribly busy with growing and educating my family.  Crafting time is a bit hard to come by at times.  As a result, we haven’t sent out Christmas presents in years because I didn’t want to send handmade gifts to some people and generic store-bought gifts to others, just in case it caused hurt feelings.

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.

My mother’s hat was hard to give away.  The pictures turned out terrible because lavender purple does not look cute when photographed in a lime green-painted room.  The pattern is Leafy Rosette Beret, by Amy Jansen and I enjoyed knitting it very much.  I used Berrocco’s Ultra Alpaca yarn in colorway 6283 “Lavender Mix,” and I’ve already used up the leftovers in a project for myself.  It’s a gorgeous shade of lavender.
My father’s hat was super soft and warm.  I made him a Turn a Square (designed by Jared Flood) from some charcoal Ultra Alpaca (#6289) and the leftover forest green yarn from the scarf I made for his wife a few years ago.  I have only one picture of it, and it’s while it was on the needles.  In my haste to get the packages out on time, I neglected to take photos of just about everythingHopefully I can avoid this error next year; or, better yet, hopefully the recipients of each gift will email me a picture of them enjoying their gifts, which I can then add to this post.
With Junebug’s insistence on sending pictures to people on her list, I “stole” one of her recipients and made him a hat.  He’s 17 years old and I’m quite sure the cuteness of a 3 year old’s painting would have minimal effect upon him.  He received the first Turn a Square that I ever made.  I made it earlier in the year because I felt prompted to make one to have on hand “just in case” come Christmas-time.  Awesome.
And that was that.  🙂  The day after Christmas we “chose” our names for next year.  With the success of this year’s gifting, we decided to expand our list to twenty-something people and changed up the selection process a tiny bit:
  1. 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.
  2. We then drew the rest of the names out of a bowl to assign the remaining names.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
Now we each have 5-6 names we are each responsible for and an entire year to work on the gifts.  I’ve sectioned off the next year and set up deadlines for gift-making–if they want to take advantage of this idea, then all their gifts will be completed by the end of September, thus allowing them total freedom in Halloween costume design and any other last-minute gifts they may wish to make for members of our immediate family during November and December.
So watch out Family, we ALL have our eyes on you in this next year…

Cherry Blossom Blanket

We are awaiting a new little addition that will arrive this summer for one of Michael’s brothers (and his wife, obviously) and I simply adore making baby things, so I volunteered to make a blanket for the wee princess.  I saw this pattern and color scheme used in a handmade purse and have been biding my time until I could finally use the combination for a project.

Details
PatternAfrican Flower Hexagon, by Lounette Fourie & Anita Rossouw (Sarie Magazine July 2009)
The edging is #250 “Coming Up Shells” out of 280 Crochet Shell Patterns by Darla Sims.  I figured out the half motifs through trial and error.
Yarn:  Red Heart Super Saver Solids in 0724 Baby Pink, 0774 Lt. Raspberry, 0378 Claret & 0505 Aruba Sea; Caron Simply Soft in 0003 Pistachio.

Hook:  G (4.0 mm) on the Caron Simply Soft & H (5.0 mm) on the RHSS.

Thank you Junebug, for “taking pictures with the blanket.”
(She was overjoyed to help model this finished project, as Bluebird is my usual go-to for photos.  I think Junebug has earned herself a permanent place in my arsenal of models.)

Click here for this project’s Ravelry Page.

Finished: The Wedding Shawl

PatternEcho Flower Shawl, by Jenny Johnson Johnen

Yarn:  JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk 2/18, less than one skein

Needles: AddiTurbo Lace US 4 (3.5 mm) 24″

Oh, the magic of blocking.  In the previous post I showed how teeny tiny this was when it came off the needles…it barely covered Bluebird’s shoulders.  But, after blocking, it easily covers her armspan.  Lace is so weird that way.

So now I will wrap this little beauty up and send it on its merry way up north to the bride-to-be.  (This seems rather anti-climatic, given the amount of energy and thought that has been wrapped up in this project over the past few months!)

I’m so badly bitten by the lace bug.  Nothing else seems remotely interesting besides lace!  I like knitting nupps (the little balls) a lot…I think they’re rather pretty in the design.

I’m very happy with how this turned out!  I hope Carly is pleased with it as well and that, should the weather require its use, it looks beautiful with her wedding dress.  It makes me so happy to have rendered this little bit of knitting service to my future sister-in-law!  Wear it often, wear it boldly!

There were requests for a post about blocking…I don’t know when I’ll have time for that, so here’s a post from the Yarn Harlot that covers blocking in-depth.  (She used string for the straight edge, I used blocking wires.)

"The Wedding Shawl" Part Two: Choosing the Yarn

After days of mulling over which pattern to choose, Carly finally decided to go with the Echo Flowers Shawl.  I enjoyed the moment of decision but briefly, as I was now face with a new matter to decide:  Which yarn?

Now, to all you non-knitters out there, your choice in yarn dramatically affects how your project will turn out.  It’s more than just choosing a color, it’s also choosing what type of fiber is in your yarn.  After asking Carly a few questions about how she wanted the finished product to look and feel (she wanted glossy and smooth), I made the decision to go with a blend of wool and silk–wool for warmth, silk for shine and smooth strength.

I briefly flirted with the idea of going full-out luxurious with a blend of cashmere and silk (ooh la la), but the $65 price tag per skein doused that fire very quickly.  (Sorry Carls, but my babies have got to eat.)

It wasn’t hard to decide on Jaggerspun’s Zephyr Wool-Silk, a lovely yarn that contains 50% merino wool and 50% tussah silk.  I had bought some a couple of years ago to use in my granny’s Peacock Feathers Stole and absolutely loved knitting with it.  (And no, the Peacock Stole is not finished…or even technically started.)

Alright, you ready for the drama?  (‘Cuz there’s drama!)

Carly made her pattern decision on Saturday morning, and I quickly headed off to the closest yarn shop to me, Heindselman’s, to go looking for the yarn.  Not surprisingly, Heindselman’s did not have it, because they rarely carry any kind of yarn that I want.  (I was, however, surprised that their lace-weight selection has increased since my last visit.  Yay!  But I was not looking for mohair, so it was of no help at this time.)

I went to the internet on Monday.  Zephyr is available in a lot of places in the $11-14 range, but I stumbled across a site that was offering it for only $9.25 per skein with free shipping.  I was out of money until Thursday, but when Thursday rolled around and my new allotment of cash was automatically deposited into my account I fired up the ol’ computer and click, click, ordered!  Woo hoo!  It was going to take a week to arrive, but I figured it was worth it for the awesome price of only $18.50.

As luck would have it, I fulfilled a weight loss goal that rewarded me with a trip to my favorite yarn store, Blazing Needles, up in Salt Lake City that Saturday.  I oohed and aahed at all the lovely yarn offerings, and stopped in my tracks when I came face-to-face with shelves of Zephyr for $11.75 per skein.  AUGH!  I resisted the urge to just buy what I needed then because I had already ordered the yarn from the online store.  I departed with some other yarn for a different project and a lovely book of mitten patterns.

The suspense was killing me.  I raided my yarn stash for some lace-weight yarn and cast on for a Percy Shawl in order to satisfy my urge to knit lace.  Whenever I’d start getting worked up over how long it was taking for the Zephyr to arrive, I’d pull out my Pink Percy and start knitting.  It helped immensely.

That Tuesday, I received an email after the children went to bed.  It informed me that the online store was out of stock of the black Zephyr and that it would take two weeks for them to receive it and then another two weeks for them to ship it to me.  Yeah, count that, it would take a whole month until I’d receive my yarn.

I phoned Michael and vented all my frustrations over this yarn and asked him for a logical, rational decision as how to pursue because I knew I was starting to become a little nutty over this whole yarn situation.  He suggested that I call the shop, cancel the order and then phone my beloved Blazing Needles and ask if they could ship some of their Zephyr to me.  So I followed his advice and happily found out that, for only $5 in shipping, Blazing Needles could indeed ship yarn to me.  With tax and shipping, their yarn ended up costing around $30.  Ouch. 

The pain was significantly lessened when the yarn arrived just two days later on Thursday.  I was all smiles as I walked back to my house, and some neighbors who were taking a walk noticed my happy demeanor and asked why I was so cheerful, to which I responded with, “I’VE GOT YARN!”  I don’t think they understood the significance of my declaration, due to the puzzled looks they displayed.  I didn’t care; I just skipped up the sidewalk to my front door and enthusiasticaly exclaimed, “IT’S HERE!” when I walked into my house.  Husband and children came running to view my glee.

I updated my Facebook status with “They yarn has finally arrived!” and then hurriedly re-posted with “Too excited, can’t type correctly. THE yarn has finally arrived! Cost twice as much this way, but totally worth it!

It was suggested that I bring the coveted skeins to Knitting Night that night, but after taking so much effort to get it into my house, I was literally afraid to take it outside of my house.  So the yarn stayed home, patiently waiting for me start working with it.

Twenty four hours later my Facebook status read “A moment of silence, please. I’m about to cast on for Carly’s Wedding Shawl.

Stay tuned for Part Three of “The Wedding Shawl”: Knitting Chart #1.

"The Wedding Shawl": A new drama series Part One: Picking the Pattern

So, my brother got engaged to his girlfriend, Carly.

And I was very happy for the two of them.

But a little sad.

Because I am a bit selfish and wished I could help with the wedding, but I can’t because I don’t live in New Zealand or Canada.  (Boo.)

So I had the brilliant idea of how to weasle my way into the wedding…I would knit.

See, Carly’s planning on wearing a strapless dress, and the knitter in me automatically screamed, “Cold shoulders!”  True, it will be summer, but summer evenings can get a little chilly.  Sometimes.

So I talked to Carly and pathetically grovelled for the honor set forth my intention to knit a shawl for her wedding day.  (I stifled the urge to skip about the room when she enthusiastically accepted my offer.)

I spent a few hours looking up shawl after shawl, and compiled a list of eight different patterns that I thought she’d maybe like:

  1. Swallowtail: http://yulianknits.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/why-a-bunch-of-beads-looks-pretty-but-is-essentially-unuseful-at-least-for-me/
  2. Luna Moth Shawl: http://marinoie.blogspot.com/2010/01/luna-moth-shawl.html
  3. Birch: http://susancrowe.co.uk/2010/04/16/it-made-me-the-ksh-junkie-i-am-today/
  4. Echo Flower Shawl: http://www.pepperknit.com/2010/11/echo-flower-shawl/
  5. Queen Silvia Shawl: http://rogue-knits.blogspot.com/2009/06/queen-silvia.html
  6. Summer Shawl: http://osbornfiber.com/2011/01/07/a-joy-forever/ (detail shots)
    http://deserthomemaker.blogspot.com/2009/06/im-so-excited.html (shape) 
  7. Forest Path Stole: http://thingssoolikes.blogspot.com/2008/02/end-of-path.html
  8. Myrtle Leaf Shawl: http://segasummasuvila.blogspot.com/2008/07/must-ilma-punaseta.html

Then I emailed another two choices a day or two later because they were too pretty to leave off of the list:

  1. Purityhttp://dagi35.blox.pl/2009/06/Plan-wykonany.html
  2. Citron: http://j-essaieonverrabien.over-blog.com/article-citron-au-coeur-d-artichaud-64202817.html

Carly narrowed it down to two designs (Purity and Forest Path Stole), but was having trouble deciding on which one to go with.  Being the inpatient knitter that I can be, I gave her 37 hours to make up her mind.  (Yeah, I really did!  But only after she told me that she was terribly indecisive and needed a “cutt-throat” deadline.)

Thirty seven hours passed…and no email from Carly.

I posted a mocking Facebook status update: “Dost my eyes deceive me? No lace decision? Oh, now I’m sad.”  (Reading that now makes me think I should have used “mine” instead of “my.”)
 
She replied, two hours later, with: “I”M SORRY!!!!!! (If you are talking about me lol) Decision being made NOW!

I had an email within that hour to tell me that her choice was something completely different from what she had previously narrowed her choices down to.  I laughed out loud.

Michael asked why I was laughing and I told him that Carly chose a pattern that wasn’t one of the two she was previously considering.  Michael laughed too.

The pattern that Carly ended up choosing, drum roll please….is the Echo Flowers Shawl!

Tune in next week for Part Two: “The Yarn” of the Brooketopian drama “The Wedding Shawl.”

Sweet Pea Hat for a Little Princess

My cousin and his lovely wife just became the proud parents of an adorable little girl in November, so I made an adorable little hat for her first Christmas.  I made a unisex version before the birth of Monkeyboy (which he wore proudly), but I was really looking forward to making it in a definitive gender color scheme.

PatternSweet Pea, by Susan B. Anderson
YarnTahki Cotton Classic (#3446-Pink, and I couldn’t read the color number for the green…)
Needles:  US 5 & 7

Needless to say, I think this is an adorable little hat.  This was the first time I was able to use the Cotton Classic yarn, and I don’t think I’m a big fan of it.  It’s too…crisp.  Which seems like a weird thing to dislike, but dislike it I do.  The colors are beautiful and I love the sheen of the yarn…but it’s too crisp for me.  I don’t know how to describe it any other way.

It’s so much fun now that my family members are starting to reproduce!  I won’t commit to making something for every new soul, but I’m definitely going to try to fit in some crafting for wee ones when they come about into the world.

When I logged into my Facebook account this afternoon, I saw that there were new pictures of the wee little and I happily discovered that two of those pictures featured her modelling this very hat.  This marks the infant’s parents as knitworthy, which may benefit her in the way of knitted goods in the future.  She looked so stinkin’ cute and so very tiny.  Sweet baby girl.  Oh, bitty babies are just so precious.

Merry Christmas!

Posts might resume in this next week, but I reserve the right to continue enjoying a low-stress vacation.

Edith Hats Galore

PatternEdith Hat, by Johanne Landin
YarnKnitPicks’ Palette in White & Bluebell, about half a skein each.
Needles:  US 1 & US 2

I made this cute little hat for my mother-in-law, who I have been promising a hat to for quite some time.  I went with the idea of making something that I really wanted so that I knew for sure that it was a good gift.

The problem with this gifting philosophy is that while you’re busily knitting away, you develop a sort of sadness that you will not be keeping the beautiful thing you are creating.  I would share my frustration at knit night as I plugged along–how beautiful the hat was and that I couldn’t keep it and would have to suffer my way through the pattern yet again when I embarked upon knitting it for myself.  (I’m generally not the kind of person who starts a project for someone else and then decides to keep it for myself…I would feel guilty each time I wore “someone else’s” project!)

So my knitting buddy made me one:

(And I totally stole the picture that she took of it for her Ravelry project page.  Hee hee!)

I almost cried when she casually flopped it onto the table and remarked that she had noticed that I seemed to really like the pattern and she figured that I’d appreciate it if she made one for me because Heaven knew when I’d be able to get to making one for myself. 

I was speechless.  (And that’s hard to do to me.)  I still get a little choked up when I put this hat on each morning as I head out into the bitter winter wind.  Especially since I’ve worked through the pattern myself and know how time-consuming and challenging it is…what a wonderful gift. 

Bluebird did me the favor of modeling her grandma’s hat for the blog.
Her verdict:  “It’s so warm and toasty, Grandma will love it!”

Seeing how my mother-in-law isn’t obsessed with knitting like myself, I don’t think she’ll get all emotional about her hat every time she wears it…because I’m pretty sure it’s kind of weird that I do that and we just don’t need any more weirdness like that in this world.  But hopefully it brings a smile to her face.  She has really pretty brown eyes and I think the blue will complement them ever so nicely.

It’s just such a beautiful hat, it even has a picot edging!  Oh, just lovely.  If I didn’t go cross-eyed while reading the pattern, I’d make a whole lot more.  Love it Grandma, love it…it’s destined to be a one-time-only creation.

(I wrote this post before I gave the hat to my mother-in-law and it turns out that I think she was pretty pleased with it.  And it fit quite nicely.  I’m kind of hit-and-miss with making things that actually fit other people.  Success!)

Roar! #2

Pattern: “Roar! A Dinosaur Hat,” by Kate Oates
Yarn: Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted in Green Apple & Grass
Needles: US 7

Even though Penguin is modeling the hat, I made it as a 4th birthday present for her future fiance, Will. He’s big into dinosaurs right now and his mom made a random comment after seeing Monkeyboy’s Roar hat that Will would totally love a dinosaur hat of his own. And seeing how she was able to deliver that comment without exuding any pressure upon me to actually make one for her son, I decided to make one because I wanted to make it.





I totally love this hat and I totally love this yarn.

Click here to view this project’s Ravelry page.

Penguin and Will have been intended for each other since before they were born, when Denise found out she was having a boy and I found out I was having a girl, due at the same time. (I went into labor a week early, she went into labor a week late…) I was thinking about this blog post when I stumbled across some archived photos from the first version of this blog (long since deleted), and found the following:

Holding hands:

This is from when we referred to the two of them as “Tank and Tink”:

And this happened one random day when Denise and I were messing around with her camera:

I’m a little concerned over how forward she was in kissing him first…

Totally meant for each other. I will make their boy babies lots of dinosaur hats. 🙂