gift knitting

A more minimal knitters Christmas

20181203_095317.jpg

Please don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love the warmth, the fairy lights, the candles (and yes - a bit of mulled wine). What I increasingly struggle with is the excess and the intensity of it all. Each year seems to bring a mounting sense of urgency, of the endless pursuit of seasonal perfection and a constant comparison between myself and others.

I know that the last point - the comparison - is entirely on me. It’s the way that I can respond to external pressures when I’m feeling less than positive about my own circumstances and that’s something that I am working on.

But, that minor personality foible aside I do feel as though every year brings with an onslaught of more - more Christmas “stuff”. There are some beautiful yarn advent calendars out there and some really lovely KALs and projects but sometimes it all just feels a little bit too much.

I’m really glad that I decided not to buy a yarn advent calendar this year. I was sorely tempted back in the summer when my favourite dyers were busy plotting and planning. But in the end I decided that I would rather not put that pressure on myself to keep up. I would inevitably feel that I had to keep up with the daily knitting (again - that’s entirely my own neuroses talking) and that it would just add to the general feeling of overwhelm that often threatens to overtake me at this time of year.

So instead, rather than wallowing in my own self-analysis I’ve decided to adopt a few principles for a more minimalist knitty Christmas.

  • I am packing away my WIPs (and a sizeable chunk of my stash) - all of them - into the loft when I get the Christmas decorations down. Instead I am just going to have the 3 or 4 that I’m actively working on instead of the huge WIP basket that stares balefully at me every time I pass it.

  • I will pick out a few suitably seasonal skeins of yarn to decide on a relaxing “Twixtmas” project - the lovely period between Christmas and New Year when nothing ever happens.

  • I am doing absolutely no gift knitting, other than things I want to do (read: none)

  • I have asked for no yarny gifts (or indeed any gifts) this Christmas. Both my husband and I have agreed that we have enough “stuff” and we would rather folks donate to Crisis or some other charity on our behalf.

  • Rather than doing an advent knit I am going to use up some of my sock yarn stash and make a series of hats for a homeless shelter, ready for donation in the New Year.

    I am really sorry if this post comes across as “holier than thou” or in any way miserable. I promise you that isn’t my intention at all. But I’ve been writing this blog long enough now to realise that if I’m feeling a certain way there are bound to be others who are feeling just the same.

    I love seeing all the advent and festive posts on my social media feed but for this year I am giving myself permission not to get caught up in the seasonal knitting. But instead to relax, light some scented candles and just do some nice plain hat knitting with no pressure or expectations.

It's Indie Gift-along time

Screenshot_20181122-091446_Chrome.jpg

I’m really pleased to be able to announce that I’m taking part in the Indie Gift-along 2018 sale over on Ravelry. If you are new to the GAL you are in for a treat.

There are hundreds of participating indie designers who team up for a few days at the end of November each year to offer a 25% discount on a selected range of their patterns. But then the fun really starts. There is a knitalong which follows on from this and runs along until the end of December. There is a whole group devoted to chat, competitions, prizes and lots more over on Ravelry and it’s always great fun to be involved in it, both as a knitter and as a participating designer.

You can join the Ravelry group here and when the full list of participating designers goes live you’ll be able to see, browse and buy patterns using the special “giftalong2018” coupon code. The sale goes live on November 23rd, 2018 at 8:00 pm US EST which is 1 am on Friday for us UK folk, so you’ll have plenty of patterns to browse over your coffee on Friday morning.

If you want to see the patterns I’ll be offering in the sale you can see my GAL Bundle here but please note that the “giftalong2018” code won’t work until the full GAL kicks off.

Christmas Knitting...or not

IMG_20181029_150956_039.jpg

The above photo neatly encapsulates the sum total of my planned Christmas knitting - and yes - it’s all for me. The West Yorkshire Spinners Fairy Lights yarn will be my festive socks for the season (and beyond) and the sparkly delights of this smashing Lay Family Yarn will be my relaxing knitting project for December (pattern to be decided).

I do plenty of deadline knitting throughout the year for commissions and designs of my own and so for a few years now I have made the conscious decision not to knit for others at Christmas. The exception being stripy socks for my boys - but they have recently had new pairs of socks from me and at the rate their feet are growing they will just have to wait for their next pair.

Knitting to any kind of deadline is enough to systematically remove all the joy I might feel about making something for others, no matter how knitworthy the recipient. So instead I’ve adopted the rule that if I see a pattern or yarn that I think someone might like I knit it, when I feel like it and give it to them. If it happens to coincide with a birthday or important life event then so much the better. But sometimes, those spontaneous gifts are so much more memorable just for that very fact of spontaneity. “I knit this for you, just because…”

I loathe the term “selfish knitting” with a passion and refuse to apply it to my own knitting. The day I hear someone refer to the term “selfish reading” or “selfish running” I might reconsider.

Knitting for me is an essential part of who I am and time spent knitting is time I’m investing in myself. Investing in both my physical and mental health.

Knitting is my daily act of self care and adding labels or time pressures to it is not an option.

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally in awe of those dedicated souls who churn out hats, mitts and scarves for their loved ones at Christmas. And if that act of knitting and giving motivates them and gives them joy, then all power to their needles. But, it’s not for me.

I firmly ascribe to the view that knitting (gifts) isn’t just for Christmas - it’s for life!

If you knit something set it free

20170405_151310.jpg

To paraphrase the famous quote "If you knit something set it free" - this neatly sums up my attitude to knitting and gift giving.

At this time of year particularly when us knitters are frantically trying to finish off Christmas presents (or like me, eating mince pies and contemplating the WIP pile) there can be a lot of discussion about who is "knitworthy".

We've all heard horror tales, or even experienced them of a knitted gift carelessly thrown aside, of thoughtless comments and of thank you notes never received. A long time ago however I developed my own frame of reference for gift knitting which is quite simply, I don't. Or rather I do, but only on my own terms. If the recipient in question has asked (politely, and in a suitable timeframe) for an item then that's fine. We can have a discussion about colours, yarn choices and styles. I usually set up a Ravelry bundle of candidate patterns for them to chose from. In this way I've successfully knit gifts for friends and family for years and it works well. They get something they will love and wear to death and I get the satisfaction of sending a loved one or close friend out into the world warmly clad.

What I absolutely don't do however is to knit random gifts for people on the automatic assumption that they will love it because I made it for them. Not everyone is as enlightened as us knitters and they may neither know nor care how many hours of painstaking work went into something. Colour choice, fabric/yarn choice and personal styling is just that - personal - and I would never to presume to that someone would absolutely love a bottle green cabled knit hat, just because I happen to have made it for them.

Yes, it's absolutely lovely when you give a handknit gift and it is warmly, nay effusively received. A thank you note or even a photo of the recipient wearing said handknit is a thing a of joy and something to be treasured. But I would caution against automatically judging those who don't send a thank you note and I'll offer up a personal story as illustration for this.

In 2006 I had just had my second baby, exactly 50 weeks after having my first. Like his brother DS2 was premature and was critically ill for a short but very scary few weeks. Finally at home we battled with all the things that expanding your family normally entails, with the additional livener of having an active 13 month old in the house. The health visitor wrote "not coping well" in my notes - a euphemism for impending post-natal depression. But we moved on through a difficult time and eventually found our routine. About 6 months after DS2's birth I moved a random pile of stuff in the spare bedroom and found 2 beautifully knit cream matinee jackets, still in a gift bag. There was no note or card or anything to identify who had sent them, or when. DH denied all knowledge, as did the other relatives who had been staying with us. It was a total mystery and obviously they were now way too small for my rapidly growing boy.

I felt terrible that I had no idea who to thank for them, and also that I hadn't used them. But in truth I didn't use any of the handknit items I was given (apart from a blanket) - DS2 spent his formative months in a series of white babygros as I had no energy for devising baby outfits. In the end, I decided to pass them on to our local baby unit along with some other bundles of donated clothing. 

I'm sharing this deeply personal story just to ask that perhaps we don't always rush to judge someone for not responding to a gift. Each of us, in our own way is doing our best with what life throws at us, and a lack of response isn't automatically equated with rudeness or ill manners.

If you knit something knit it with joy and give it freely, without hope or expectation. Just give it for the joy of giving. And rejoice that you can cast on a brand new shiny project to replace it.