Gift Knitting

As the holidays are fast approaching, I thought I would write a little about my experience with knitting gifts for people.

As an artsian (which we knitters are, not crafters as most people think we are), we put lots of time and love into everything we make. And when we love (or really like) someone, we want to show them how much we love them, by making something special. Something that can’t be found in any store, because it’s one of a kind – like they are. We get excited about planning and making things for them, putting a little bit of ourselves into each stitch, knowing that they will love what we made for them.

But what happens when they don’t? It breaks our hearts a little. Or actually…a lot.

I have always been a crafter and starting making gifts for people long before I knit, so I already had some experience with giving handmade gifts. After some disappointing responses, I realize that while I love everyone who is on my list (whether holiday, birthday or other special occasion), it may not be appropriate to make them something.

Knitting something often takes more time than most non-knitters know. And therefore they don’t have any idea of how much energy you put into this gift. Often they think that you made it just because you love knitting, which, while true, is not the only motivation. Knitting is most gratifying when the recipient understands the value of the item, and doesn’t just stuff it in a drawer, or accidentally put the non-washable item in the washing machine!

I put together some hints for you if you are considering knitting something as a gift. Just some things to consider before running out to your LYS to get yarn for that special project.
  1. Is this someone who will be in your life for a long time? Many of you have heard of the boyfriend curse, and while that factors into this equation, I am also speaking of passing acquaintances and such. Blood relations are a no-brainer – they are (usually) knit worthy. In-laws can be tricky, but assuming you want to foster these relationships, I suggest you put them on your knit list, even if it is just something small like a tea cozy. A good friend – absolutely.  Someone you say hello to on the bus every morning…maybe not.

  2. How will they care for the gift? After painstaking hours working on something for someone, you want to make sure that they have the FO for a long time. I am not suggesting that you don’t make something for someone because they won’t care for it like you would; I am suggesting that you consider your materials before casting on.

    I once made a sweater for someone I care for. I planned and planned and planned. I perused many pattern books to find the style that I thought looked like something she would wear, picked her favorite shade and even snuck into her drawers to measure a sweater she wore all the time to get the right size. I was so proud when I handed the box over to her to open. And she was really excited about it as well. It wasn’t until a year later, when I saw her from a distance wearing the sweater, I realized my mistake. I noticed that it looked short on her, but thought “oh, I guess I didn’t make it long enough.” It was later, when I saw sitting closer to her that I saw what had really happened. I had made the sweater out of 100% wool and she, not knowing (even though I gave care instructions with the sweater), put it in the wash. She now had a very nice felted sweater. I wanted to cry, but at the same time didn’t want her to feel bad about it, so I put it out of my mind, or I tried anyway. Clearly it still haunts me.

    In today’s yarn market there are some really nice washable wools (like LibertyWool
     or Liberty Wool Light) and now I know that when I make her something else, I will use one of those. Keep this in mind when picking yarns for your gift.

  3. A subset to the point above, when giving someone something that was handmade, be SURE to include clear instructions on how to care for the item. Of course the obvious is washing instructions. But also consider that if this person has the FO for a long time, there may be times when the object needs a little TLC. When I make socks for people I also give them instructions on how to darn their socks and a bit of leftover yarn. I tell them “I will make you socks, but I will not darn your socks.” Apparently my love does know some bounds.

  4. Does what you plan on making them “fit” them? I am not talking about size here, but instead style and lifestyle.

    My brother is one of my favorite people in the whole world. And I would do almost anything for him. Except maybe make him another sweater. I know he appreciates the one I made him. But I have come to understand that he has only worn it about three times in the past six years. He just isn’t a sweater guy. On the other hand I know he wears the socks I made for him (I have seen him wear them, even when we didn’t know we were going to be seeing each other). He may not be sweater worthy, but he is definitely sock worthy!

  5. Make the correct size.

    If you are going to make something for someone that they are going to wear, you need to know what size to make it, right? This may require some stealth-like behavior on your part. Consider a co-conspirator if you don’t live with the person. And someone who knows what you mean by measure across the chest. And/or have more than an old fashioned school ruler to measure. You may need to loan them one of your many tape measures you have laying around (oh come on…we all know you about 4,000, it’s just a matter of where).

    If you really want to make something for someone and can’t find someone to help you, you may consider outright telling the person that you are making them something. But be forewarned, you may lose control of your project at this point. They will want to have some input on the FO, which could be good or could be bad

  6. Will they appreciate it?

    This one is tricky. There are people (even people we love very much) who won’t “get” why we make them things, when you can just buy it at the store. Ouch. That hurt just typing it. But it’s true. Some people prefer to have brand names and then there are people who want to get something fast and cheap. There are probably a bunch more sub-groups of this thought process, but those are the 2 that stick out to me.

    When I make something for someone I WANT them to use it. It warms my heart to know that the blankie I made for my friend’s child might be going to the playground and not just folded on the shelf. Knowing that my brother’s feet are warm because of the socks I made him makes me happy. And I feel absolutely giddy when I see someone wrapped up in a scarf I made them. I think you get the idea.

  7. My final point applies to all gifts that you give, not just the handcrafted ones…and it is the hardest to come to terms with.
    Once you give someone something, it is no longer yours. It is theirs to do with as they wish. If you make someone a blanket and they stick in the back of the closet, you have no say in it. If you make them a sweater and you see it on the top of the pile that is going to the thrift store, that is their choice. They put it in the washing machine and felt it? Too bad, so sad.

    This was something that I had a hard time coming to terms with until a few years ago when, for whatever reason, it finally made sense to me. I feel better about
    all my gift giving knowing this.
The holidays will be here very soon. I encourage you to think about your hand-knit gifts carefully. Oh and if you haven’t started your gift knitting yet, I encourage you to think about hats and cowls as gifts. Unless of course you are a speed knitter and/or willing to pull a few all-nighters with your knitting.

Lucretia Shawls

I have a dirty little secret…I have more shawls than I know what to do with. Yet I still want to make more. Ok, maybe that isn’t much of a secret between knitters. In fact, it is possible that you suffer from the same condition.

I go through phases of different shapes. It all started with rectangles as scarfs and grew into triangle shawls from the center point out. But lately it has been all about the crescent shaped shawls for me. I don’t really wear my shawls as shawls, but more like oversized scarves. I feel like the crescent shaped ones are easier to wear that way. They are big enough to wrap around your neck, but not so big they overpower you. Or you can throw them over your shoulders. There are lots of different options!

The Lucretia pattern from out Portraits book is a great little crescent shawl. Meg Myers wanted to create a pretty little shawl that had a lot of different options. She used a combination of stripes and a simple lace pattern that most of you are familiar with (feather and fan) to make a border on a stockinette shawl using short rows for shaping.

She also made three different versions of the shawl, by simply changing the yarn. In one version she uses Fresco - a wool, alpaca and angora blend that has a beautiful halo and amazing drape.

Another version of the shawl was make using Soft Linen – a wool, alpaca and linen blend that is a little heavier, but just as drapey when worked at a larger gauge (as this shawl is).

And the last version is worked in Liberty Wool Light Solid – a lightweight washable wool (just recently introduced in solid colors).

Any of the three yarn choices would make an amazing shawl, and with all the different color combos, there are endless possibilities. Here are just a few ideas.

Soft Linen, from left to right: 2281 New Fern, 2203 Dove Gray & 2206 Thistle;
2203 Dove Gray, 2247 Deep Cornflower & 2258 Turk Red and 2248 Blue Grotto, 2281 New Fern & 2292 Lupine

Fresco, from left to right: 5315 Pea Pod, 5380 Moss & 5390 Passion Fruit;
5318 Bittersweet, 5317 Sangria & 5322 Port Royal and 5375 Gray Stone 5371 Max Factor Pink and 5397 Fern

Another great option would be to work the Liberty Wool Light version with one of the prints on the feather and fan section and a solid for the stockinette part.

Liberty Wool Light Solid & Print, from left to right: 6615 Bright Olive & 6620 Faded Brocade,
6679 Midnight Blue & 6623 Deep Tropical Sea and 6695 Aubergine & Violet Glen 
The shawl is fun and fast, so you can make a ton of them. They would make great gifts for almost anyone in your life. Make a bunch and stash them away for those moments when you need a thoughtful gift at the last minute. Or make a few for those select people in your life who will cherish a hand knit gift with the love and care it deserves.

Knit on!

Christmas is coming...

The other day I was driving home and I saw the weirdest block ever. One house still had their Halloween decorations out in their yard and a few doors down, someone had put up their Christmas lights. In fact I have been seeing lots of holiday decorations popping up in stores for quite some time now. And I even heard a Christmas song on the radio (ok folks…I can sorta understand the decorations, but it is waaayyyyy too early for music).

But it did get me thinking about Christmas stockings. If you don’t already have a stocking (or two or three) ready to put up by the fireplace, now might be a good time to think about casting on for one (or four or five).

These stockings by MillaMia using the Naturally Soft Merino are perfect for the traditional knitter. They use classic motifs in traditional holiday colors. There are three different patterns, so you have a few options to hang by the fireplace. And there are different techniques used – a simple stripe for the beginner knitter, a cable for the advanced beginner and a Fair Isle for the intermediate knitter. These are available as kits, each of which includes the pattern and enough yarn to make one stocking. Ask your LYS if they have them or order them here.

But if you like a little more color in your holidays, you might consider these kits. Featuring two different designs by Kristin Nicholas, there is enough Color by Kristin yarn in these kits to make both stockings. I really love these stockings – they remind me of something I would see at Anthropologie or in the Sundance catalog – but these are so much better, because you can customize them to make them uniquely yours!

Kristin also has a new pattern out for stockings using her Color by Kristin yarn. You can purchase a PDF of the pattern on her website. These are so much fun, and definitely perfect for those who love lots of color!

Do you have some hand knit holiday stockings? Please share your pictures with us on Facebook, Ravelry or Pinterest!

Knit on!

“Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa…you’re so like the lady with a mystic smile.”

I think it is a good possibility that the robe that Mona Lisa was wearing in the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci had a hood. There is something so enigmatic about a hood. You have the opportunity to be extra mysterious, scandalous or maybe a little introverted. Maybe that is what she is trying to hide with her smile?

Personally, I love a good hoodie. And the hoodie on the Mona Lisa cardigan is just one of the many reasons I love this pattern from our newest book, Portraits.

The cardigan is knit in Wynter, a bulky alpaca and wool blend. The stitch definition on this yarn really makes the diagonal pattern that Tonia Barry used in this design pop. I really love the way that she changed direction of the stitch at the center back to make a V-shape, which is echoed at the side seams and on the hood.

In addition to the cardigan, there is a pullover version of this sweater knit in Blackthorn (did you know that Blackthorn and Wynter are interchangeable? Blackthorn is part of our MountainTop Collection of natural yarns and is the same base as Wynter.) The pullover features a flattering neckline and is also a great layering piece.

Whether you choose to knit the pullover or the cardigan version of this sweater, you are sure to love it. The stitch pattern gives this simple silhouette a little extra flair, without making it too difficult. Knit at a bulky gauge, it will go fast and keep you (or the lucky recipient of the FO) toasty this winter. 

Check your LYS for a copy of Portraits, there are lots of great designs in this book that are in bulky yarns…so you’ll be sure to whip them up in no time!

Knit on!

Something New and Exciting!

I have had something I have wanted to share with you guys for a while now, but I was sworn to secrecy. But today, today I can tell you!

If you are anything like me, you are always looking for something new to cast on (I may or may not have several things on my needles already). But many yarn companies (and CEY was included in this list) only publish new patterns a few times a year. This made sense in the “pre-internet” world. But we realize that is no longer the way we live. Today it’s an “I want it now” world! After many months of planning, we made some adjustments to how and when we are going to introduce new patterns to you, the knitter.

Starting this month, we will be releasing a new pattern book every month! Yep, you read that right…a new book EVERY month.

These books will also look a little different from what you have seen from us in the past. They will have more patterns (sometimes with several different versions) in numerous yarns. They are printed on a higher quality paper and feature lots of great photographs of each garment/accessory, while still having the high quality patterns that you have come to expect from CEY.

The books will be available in a variety of places. Of course you can always find them at your LYS – and we all know how important it is to support your LYS. But now you also have the choice of downloading an eBook from Ravelry. And if you want to buy an individual pattern, you will be able to buy that on Ravelry as well. And, as a special treat, if you buy the book in your LYS, you will find a scratch off code for a one-time only Ravelry download of the eBook. How awesome is that? You can have the hard copy in your knitting library (and don’t try and pretend you don’t have one…even if it is only one shelf) and have access to the digital copy when you are on the run.

Our first book is Portraits and it features quick knits that are easy to wear, which is perfect for this time of year. If you are looking for something yummy to snuggle into or are starting your holiday knitting, you are going to find something in Portraits you will want to cast on right away. There are sweaters, cardigans, scarf and shawls, mitts and hats. Some of the yarns used are Chalet, Toboggan, Ava, Alpaca Sox, Soft Linen and more! The book also features Chateau – Chalet’s colorful new cousin – which will arrive in your LYS by the end of the month.

In the coming weeks, I will tell you more about the designs, but in the meantime you can find information about each design on our site.

I can’t wait to see what you are going to cast on first!

Knit on!