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Winter reaches us on the Bristol Downs

Hi! Happy be-lated New Year!

Yes, it has  been a long time since I posted. I’ll skip the excuses and get on to the goods.

So remember I’d been knitting several gifts for friends/family for Christmas? Well, here are the pictures I have of those. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of all of them before I wrapped them up. But as the French say, tant pis!

I’m sorry the lighting isn’t so good for some of these. I do the best with what I got.

Mittens and a matching tam (not pictured) for Momma in Choclate, by Deborah Norville. They match the scarf I made for her last winter — my first ever knitting project. Isn’t that sweet? I’m a married woman but I still like to make things for my Mom in the hopes that she’ll put them on the fridge.

Why yes, that is a Melanie Fallick pattern from her delicious book Weekend Knitting. The pattern was straight forward (my kind of project) and the final product looked pretty darn good for my first pair of mittens — another box to tick. I made another pair for my bro-in-law’s gf out of Wensleydale wool in Oatmeal. Unfortuantely I don’t have a picture of those, but i can tell you they were lovely and neutral and super warm because I lined them with fleece. I used a little bit of the leftover yarn for the strip in my hubby’s hat, pictured  below.

Next here’s the hat I knitted for my fella. I used the wool I bought when we were on our honeymoon in Maine. (I subsequently accidentally deleted all of our pictures from that trip, so little momentos like this are pretty special, if you know what I mean).  It’s spun by the last living Shakers in the world  from their community at Sabbathday Lake. And yes, we did go to a Shaker community on our honeymoon.

It’s warm and wooly with 2×2 ribbing. It’s a basic man hat. No frills. They like it that way.

Isn’t he cute? And the scenery’s not bad either. This was on our sledding day. England in the snow at Christmas is so ridiculously picturesque and nostalgic. We’re talking Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Last but not least, another man hat for my new bro-in-law. J’s got the crazy personality to pull of a slightly slouchy hat (though in this pic it looks like it fits him pretty snuggly). The yarn is ” Linus” by Knit One Crochet Too. They do a whole range of colors specifically designed for men. Isn’t that cool? I love the orange gradations splashed into the manly pine color.

Here he is rocking it.

And yes, that is a pet rat in his lap. Isn’t he adorable? His name is Mango and it makes me sad that he’s way over in NC while we’re in England.

How did y’all’s knitted gifts turn out? Did your peeps like them?

Despite intentionally trying to avoid them, I fell into a trap today; I read an article about graduate unemployment.  The best I can say about it is at least I don’t feel alone. The Independent reckons there are, on average, 69 applicants for every one position; The Guardian has a bleaker outlook: 12,000 applications for 50 places.  Talk about spoiling the rest of my full English breakfast (probably the last I’ll ever be able to afford if The Guardian staff writer is right).

So what did I do with this information?  Did I immediately hop onto the computer and begin– for the 20th time — job hunting?  Fraid not.  Did I fret and flutter and burst into tears?  Well, nearly.

Nope.  I got out my rolling pin and baked some delicious cheese scones. And then I knitted some more of the square cake handbag.  And you know what?  The future didn’t look so bleak afterwards.

We are creative beings; we thrive from positive nurturing and encouragement. With so much discouragement out there, sometimes you have to use your hands to create something beautiful and delicious. It’s what we were made for.

Here we are:  two unemployed graduates… but we seem pretty happy so far.

In addition to picking out our wedding favors these past few days (which, by the way, is still not a done deal: s’mores or candy rock?) I’ve also been looking into handmade wedding thank-you gifts for family and friends who’ve helped out. Naturally I’d like to knit and crochet some of these gifts. And I don’t just want to knit pretty flower pins and small gift bags either; I want my gifts to be personalized, practical, and something people would want to use or wear because, let’s be honest, the handmade movement is at its best when made-from-home crafts compete with factory-made items for usefullness and prettiness.  Otherwise, why would people bother with handmade? So picking the right gifts/patterns is key.

The other factor is, of course, time. Seeing as it’s taken me three months to get through half of a shawl for my sister’s wedding gift turned birthday present (granted, I was in the middle of finals), I know it’s better to be realistic than optimistic — game day is, after all, under three months away. Yikes!

But because I’m stubborn, I’m determined to at least try. Plus I’m sure these adorable gifties won’t take too long to whip up. What do you think?

1.) I love this Crocheted Hemp Flower Necklace from Crescendoh, which I’m thinking would be an adorable gift for the mothers and/or my soon-to-be sister in law. The kit comes with hemp yarn, a crochet hook, 40 hand-dyed buttons and intructions (v. important!). Of course, I think I would use different colored buttons and maybe throw in some novelty items, i.e. felt leaves, shells, and wooden buttons. We shall see.

2.) For our somewhat “green” wedding (whatever that means), I  thought this simple yet lovely market string bag from Erin Vaughan would make a nice gift.  You can never have enough of these washable, stretchable  bags, especially now as farmers markets are regaining popularity across the country.

3.) Here’s one for the winos and, incidentally, the men in my life.  I hope they wouldn’t feel too girly caring a “handbag” even if it is for wine. I don’t care either way. They’re cute as all.

Harry wine bottle tote by Tante Sophie.

I’ve never tried felting before but the instructions look pretty straight forward. I’d say now’s as good a time as any to give it a try.

4.) In the same vein, these crocheted baskets are darling. Perfect as fruit baskets, napkin holders, anything really.

5.) Finally, who doesn’t love an adorable, multi-purpose tote? What’s more, it’s made from recycled bread bags. Again, this would complement our eco-conscious wedding theme, plus it’d be great as a market or beach bag.

I love the colors on this one. Wonder what bread they used... Sarah Lee?

So will I have time for all these projects on top of writing this novel, on top of planning the wedding, on top of applying for real jobs? Okay, probably not. But one can dream, right? Besides, they’re great projects to put on the backburner if I don’t finish them before the wedding.

Recently, I started knitting.  I began for a few reasons, the most obvious being that I wanted to extend my wardrobe with lovely, handmade garments.  Also, it was around Christmas and I was annoyed at all the over-spending that goes on around that holiday, and on gifts that have arguably less meaning that something handmade.  As a writer, you always have the option of writing your loved ones a story, poem, or memoir (hopefully keeping it as cheese-free as possible).  But, let’s be honest, how difficult would it be to write something creative and uniquely styled for each family member while also working on your own projects?  And with the same 25th deadline for each present?  I don’t think so.  Now, with knitting, I’ve got next Christmas in the bag.

One of the driving reasons for my learning to knit, though, was as a way to connect with my grandmother.  Although she is healthy and active now, I know that she won’t always be around.  I feel a great push lately to spend as much time as possible with my grandparents and to accept their gifts of knowledge and skills, which will otherwise be lost.

So those were my reasons, and the time spent with my grandmother in pursuit of this craft produced lasting and precious memory.  However, as I’ve now completed two projects and am working on a third, I’ve discovered another benefit of learning a craft.  Knitting to me is like praying the rosary.  Sometimes I do pray; knit by knit, perl by perl, a prayer for every action, every loop, ever tug, every person in my life, for the stranger I’ve never met.  But even when I am not actively praying, I am meditating.

Knitting preoccupies the hands in a creative way, allowing the mind to mull over other creative pursuits.

For me it’s a great time to think — sometimes without being aware of it — of my writing projects and to work out issues which, if I stared at a computer screen and forced myself to work them out in an attitude of frustration would, A, be unproductive, and B, possibly, and hopefully only temporarily, snuff out the positive creative  vibrations associated with that project.  There is so much to be said for taking breaks from writing.  There’s even more wisdom, I think, in taking craft-based breaks which keep your creative muscles engaged in a way that might seemingly have nothing to do with your writing, but is actually keeping you in tune to those voices.

I’m officially a knitter, but I realize that as long as I’ve been a writer I’ve always been a crafts person.  In these next few days, I’d like to discuss the philosophy of “craft” and how it pertains to the writing life.  What crafts do y’all enjoy in partnership with your writing?

Pictures of my latest project, a basic hat using Araucania yarns from Chile.

I love how my camera picked up the lovely glints of green and blue of this yarn.  Safe to say it will be a photogenic hat even if the wearer is not.  🙂

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"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson

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