Thursday, December 13, 2012

Look, Teddy! More Red Stuff!

Disclaimer: if you're sick of Christmassy kitsch, you may not like this post. My apologies.  

I've been enjoying the chance to break out all my old knits, including one I had never intended for actual wearing: my Where's Waldo hat! Its colors make it a perfect item when I'm feeling particularly festive and just a bit silly.

Getting mileage out of my Waldo hat

As it turns out, I kinda love it and want to reknit it with wool yarn instead of the acrylic I originally used.

Christmas Sock!
Nowadays, Mr. Bean is not so much of a mystery for American audiences, but many people still have not seen his TV show. Back in the day, my family would put on episodes of Mr. Bean when we were gathered for holidays at a friend's house, and we carried the tradition forward last year when someone gifted me with the DVD set.  I highly recommend them, if you are unfamiliar.  Its visual comedy makes for easy watching, and even the elderly at work seem to watch in rapt attention when Rowan Atkinson is performing his antics.

Mr. Bean does not talk very much during his television series, and when he does, it is a comical event of its own. The line that stands out in my mind happens during the Christmas episode, when he gifts himself with a pair of socks and shares his delight with his favorite toy bear: "Look Teddy! Christmas socks!" I was reminded of this when I was nearly finished my latest addition to the family stockings; I thought to myself how much I wanted to try it on... so I did.

Look, Teddy! Christmas sock!

It almost fits! Now I have an urge to knit ridiculous stockings to wear. Maybe when the holiday season is over. For now I'll just enjoy it as a regular stocking.

Stocking 1

By the way, here's a plug for one of my favorite holiday movies. Even if you're not watching it during your Christmas film craze, How About You is an endearing and inspiring tale.  I love that it centers around a young person who is caught up in her own life as she encounters people who have moved to a retirement home to live out the remainder of their lives. That narrative is very dear to my heart, and I wish more people could see the things I see every day. If nothing else, here's a feel-good picture to motivate you.

2012-12-06 21.20.05

Besides holiday movies and hot drinks and marshmallows, I am reveling in the opportunity to play all manner of seasonal music on the harp for the folks at the home. There are so many carols that are much more interesting than the generic, sappy versions we hear ad nauseum on the radio. Many of them have stories behind them that add to their mystique. Did you know that the tune we now know as "Deck The Halls" was originally a Welsh harp tune, and eventually became a New Year dancing game? The New Oxford Book of Carols explains that the singers dance around a harpist, ring-a-rosie style, and take turns improvising a verse of lyrics. The "fa la la" sections are the harp interludes! Much like the game musical chairs, if a person is too slow in coming up with a line, he or she is eliminated. The moral  I share with the elderly: if you can't remember all the words, they're not too important anyway; just fake it.

Make it last all year
If you look at the progress bars on the side, you may note that the number of projects has decreased mysteriously; I just put those WIPs into hibernation while I work on my Christmas knitting. I like to think I'm doing fairly well with the whole ordeal. (I define "fairly well" as having most of the projects I want to give in a timely fashion completed or within reasonable range of completion in the next week or so.) Perhaps the lesson I've learned with gift knitting is that I must pick my battles; when a project is kicking my butt by its sheer size or detail, I need to find something more manageable to give this time around, and finish the big project later and hold it in secret until the right occasion arises. So last year's Christmas blanket became a two-weeks-away wedding gift, which in turn became a "I'll-finish-this-later-and-give-it-for-the-next-wedding-that-comes-along" gift. Repeat.

I'm excited to be knitting a pair of armwarmers for Jeff, at his request.  They really are practical items, and simple enough to knit once you get started. I'm using Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn for his beefy arms and added some length to the ribbing to help it stay up. Simply because it fills out the Christmas color spectrum, here's a picture of what I've got so far:

green armwarmers 2

One gift I've already given was part of a shawl swap with my old knitting crew down in New Jersey. The process was a bit complex, and a lot of fun: we each picked a yarn to swap, placed it in a bag that matched all the others, and traded. Next, without looking at the yarn we received, we had to pick a pattern to go with the description the swapper had written on a sheet of paper; we traded again. The next step was to knit the yarn into the pattern, after which we put it back in the bag and traded one last time.  I was surprised at how much fun this swap turned out; I think I enjoy processes, and it was fun to hear people's stories when all was said and done.

Red Shawl 3

I received two skeins of Malabrigo lace in a delicious "Pagoda" red colorway. The pattern I received with it is one I have knit before, but adapted for laceweight yarn. The problem is that the example given only used one skein of Malabrigo lace yarn, leaving me with a leftover skein and over four hundred yards of laceweight stockinette knitting.  Jeff encouraged me to ply the skeins together, which turned out to be a stroke of genius.  Sure, it would have worked as recommended, but I loved the resulting texture from my wobbly plying. I think it added a layer to the subtle color shifts, too.

The downside of my approach was that I ran out of yarn at a most inconvenient spot - too far to rip back, and too little to go forward. I experimented with some stash yarns, and settled on a few garter stripes in the very soft Vail.
Red Shawl 1

I love how the shawl came out, but my favorite part of it was that during an amazing trip to Oregon I was able to take it along and have a very special prodigal work a row of extra love into its fabric. It was, in my opinion, the icing on the cake for a very enjoyable swap party.


We love you, Jaqi!

I doubt I'll have time to blog again before the holidays, so if you're still with me, I send you warm wishes for the remainder of the year, and a happy new year to come!