Monday, December 17, 2007

Check out the progress.


Eight days and counting. And as you can see, the rug still has a few checks missing. So, I am on a different kind of three-squares-a-day. That leaves a couple of evenings for whipping. As usual, I will be cutting it close - but I guess that's part of the fun. Or at least it is for me.

I am very happy with how this rug has evolved. I realize that this simple two-colour checkerboard idea opens up a whole new way of looking at borders, etc. My mind is already racing ahead with endless possibilities like red and black combinations for a more interesting buffalo check border for my next cottage rug.

The little strawberry hat turned out well - I'm sure the little recipient will be happy. It was a very easy knit and is the softest Merino wool, which I'm hoping will be no-itch.

The gingerbread man ornament could probably have used a smaller crochet hook, since you can see a bit of the stuffing which, by the way, is white grocery bags. I got the idea from a knit ornament pattern, which I just might try to squeeze in too.

When I trimmed the tree yesterday, I realized that the last thing I need are more ornaments, so will hold to just one gingerbread man. If I do the knit ornament, it will be a gift.

The latest car socks probably won't both be done in time. I think one will be, so it will be put into the stocking with an IOU for the mate. I am using baby alpaca. It is the softest wool I have ever felt and the yarn is a bit thicker than other sock wool. I will be interested to see how it wears. I hope a lot better than the wool/acrylic mix I used in the first socks I knit. They had the most beautiful tops, so when the feet all wore out, I started knitting replacement feet out of pure wool. They were just too lovely to abandon.

I think I have made fewer gifts this year than I have in a long time. But time just wasn't on my side. As it is, I will be racing to the finish line. What would the season be without a little last-minute frenzy.

I won't even start to worry until there is only one day left.

Cuz the next day, I'll have 17 people for Christmas dinner - YIKES.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Amigurumi here I come.


Every year since my kids were born, I have made them an ornament for the tree. It's fun to decorate with them every year, as it is a trip down memory lane. I can see what crafty thing I was favouring each year. There are needlepoint ornaments, painted wooden shapes that I cut out with my scroll saw, greenware that I painted and then had fired, there are hooked ones from the last couple of years. And one year, I painted a half paper mache ball for each of the kids - my son's had a portrait of Bob Marley on it.

When they leave home and have their own trees to trim they will have a tree full of memories to take with them. In fact, Laura has a tree this year, but is not quite ready to pull her ornaments from the family tree just yet. She has asked for the "overs" instead. They are the ones that we decide not to use if the tree is looking a bit too crowded. They each have a story to tell as well.

I have never understood those people who do a theme tree every year. Those evergreen fashionistas who go with the latest colour scheme and spend too much time and effort reinventing their tree every year. I can't imagine not feeling emotionally vested in every decoration on the tree.

This year, I am going to crochet some little amigurumi gingerbread people. I'm not sure what amigurumi is, but they look pretty cute. I'm not a very experienced crocheter, but the pattern says "easy", so I'll give it a try. (I just finished two very easy hats and they have given me the courage to try these ornaments.) There are snowmen and reindeer patterns as well, so if the gingerbread men go well, I may just get brave and try something a bit more adventurous, You can find all these little patterns on www.lionbrand.com. The patterns are free.

I still have a few other, larger gifts in the making that will eat up most of the remaining days, so something this small should be just the ticket - if I can follow the pattern.

So I'm off to find my brown yarn and a crochet hook. With a little luck, there will be a couple of little cuties to add to the tree before too long. I'll also make a point of finding out what amigurumi means.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Art of Giving


Nothing makes me crazier than seeing Christmas displays and hearing Christmas music the day after Halloween. Somehow we have managed to pretty much warp the festive season by racing around driving ourselves loony trying to find things to buy for people who really don’t need anything. Bah humbug! (not really)

I’ve been pretty much a gift maker for as long as I can remember. My long-suffering family will attest to home-made clothing sewn by a 12-year old who really was in a hurry to get things made – perhaps overlooking a few of the finishing details required to make something last.

Luckily, over the years, I have gotten better. But my family still gets a knit something or a hooked something or a painted something nearly every year. And what I can’t make myself, I try to purchase from someone else who has. That’s why, starting in the middle of November, I am in heaven as the holiday artisan shows begin. There are large shows like One of a Kind, small shows in people’s homes and medium-sized shows in all sorts of venues – schools, churches, galleries.

The one thing these shows have in common - artisans. Artisans who are brimming with talent, originality and passion. Artisans who create works of art that people can choose to give as gifts instead of the mass merchandise that is flogged from November 1st every year. Artisans who put themselves out there, seeking people who will admire their efforts and reinforce their commitment to their art form.

Over the years, I have gotten to know quite a few of these extremely talented people. And this year, at a show at my son’s alma mater – the Sterling Hall School –I got to meet someone with whom I have had an Internet relationship for nearly a year. I’m so pleased to have finally had a chance to meet her face to face. She’s as lovely as her wares. We hugged like old friends as soon as I told her who I was. It’s amazing how well I felt I already knew her. I guess being connected by a love and appreciation of the craftsperson in both of us formed an instant bond.

The beautiful belt buckle featured in the picture with this blog is one of her creations. Karen has a company called Bijoux Belts and she makes incredible belt buckles. Each one is different. She combines beads and bling and silver and treasures to create very special, original accessories for the fanciest outfit or the comfiest jeans. Her buckles fit on snap belts, which fasten around the buckle so that you can interchange your belt to match your outfit or your mood.

Her website is fantastic. You can buy online, since her photography shows the buckles at their best. I will warn you now that the hardest part is choosing. Actually, seeing them on display was even more magical, because you could instantly see how different they all were, even ones with the same colour scheme. You could see how much time and talent went into the placement of every piece in the buckle.

By the time I met Karen at the show, she had been there for nearly 12 hours. She had another show the next day and the next and was then heading off to Ottawa for 10 days for their version of One of a Kind. I’m sure she will do amazingly well there.

Last nite, my husband and I went to One of a Kind, which we do every winter show. The vendors looked whooped – after 9 days of record crowds it’s no wonder. I have done two-day shows in my past and I can tell you that even that was exhausting. I can’t imagine multiplying that by five.

I salute these brave, talented folks who bring their artistic spirit to town at a time when I think we need it most. They remind us how wonderful it is to find a gift that is the perfect, unique item for someone special.

Unfortunately, this year I don’t have a theme for my gifts as I have in past years. Everyone already has a pair of my socks and a hooked ornament for their tree, so I’m choosing well-crafted things that others have made.

Maybe I’ll have an epiphany in the next week or so - that's happened before. But for now, I’ll just thank those artisans who continue to create year in and year out, so that I can come and admire their wares and be inspired to create some small token to put under the tree.