Monday, December 21, 2009

One Last Holiday Thing (and One Free Pattern)

Last minute holiday stuff is coming up all around me, and it's making me think fast about last minute gift ideas for family and friends. I figured I'd share my musings with you in case you too are at a loss. Parts of my list could be for knitters and others, but mostly for knitters of course, because I am one and so am very biased in knitterly favor.

Audio Books
This depends on your giftee, but in general I find audio books to be well-received. I myself have a few around and some were sent to me for review purposes. I most recently dove into a review copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society with gusto, and really enjoyed it. Disarmingly homey, this is the story of the correspondence and relationship that forms between columnist and author Juliet Ashton and members of a rather unique book group. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is formed spontaneously as an alibi to protect the members from arrest by Nazis during the occupation of Guernsey. Presented as a series of letters between members, artfully read by multiple voices, I found this a compelling listen. Following Juliet's process from slight to intense interest in this band of club members was entrancing.
I also received The Girl Who Played With Fire to review. Having not had the benefit of reading (or hearing) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I had concerns that I might be missing enough critical information to make this a complicated listen. I had nothing to fear. I was instantly captivated by this thrilling tale of criminal activity and investigation, and by the main character Lisabeth Salander. I found myself rapidly caught up in the story, and sense that if it had been the "real" book I might have found myself curled in my chair long past bedtime, pages turning one after the other, unable to put it down.

Webs Gift Cards
Or a receipt for the one that you ordered online. I always think that the size of the gift card should be commensurate with how late you are in purchasing it. In other words if you don't manage to shop until Christmas Eve - or worse, online on Christmas morning, then the value of the card should be at least double what you would have spent if you'd planned better. Trust me, this will make you feel MUCH better about the whole thing. Would I lie? If you get your gift card in person at the store, amp it up a notch by tacking on a pair of really nice needles, a set of fancy stitch markers, or any of the myriad of other knitting notions we knitters just can't live without. Webs store staff is more than able to assist you in finding just the right thing!

Something Knitted
If you are a knitter, and you've got a toddler or small child in need of a personal but hurry-up gift, knit something and make it their own. Shopping out in public this weekend I ran across multiple examples in different shops of adorable knitted hats and mittens for kids that really were super simple, just embellished and customized into painful cuteness. Here as an example we have the basic knitted hat and mittens:
Yawn? Boring? Dull, right? Well, help it out a little. Knit your own and embellish the daylights out of it. If you're really pressed for time, you could even buy a set at your local department store and cover them with scrap-ball embellishments. This hat and mittens were knit in one day, and embellished the next morning. Super simple and super fast and VERY fun. The hat pattern is below.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash colors Chocolate, Magenta, and Pink Ice are shown, but you can use any three colors of a worsted weight yarn that will get the correct gauge.
Needles: For me, a Clover 48" circular, US 4, but you should swatch and use whatever needles get you the proper gauge!
Gauge: 5 sts/inch in stockinette stitch
Notions: Clover (or other, this just reflects my bias toward a favored multi-tasker) locking ring stitch markers (8 of them), tapestry needle, imagination.
Finished size: about 16 inches in circumference.

The finished hat will fit a toddler, from about age 2 to about age 5, depending on the size of the kid in question. It may fit a 11 year old, if a bit snugly, as mine did (I just slapped it on one to see). It's snug on me, but I'd wear it, and my head is about 20 inches around. PLEASE feel free to adapt, modify, make bigger or smaller by adjusting gauge, or number of rounds knit, or casting on an extra inch or two's worth of stitches, or what-have you. This is a really basic pattern, and it assumes the knitter has a basic skill set of simple decreases and circular knitting techniques, or knows where to get information on the same.

Toasty Warm Toddler Hat With Ear Flaps Begging for Embellishment:

Cast on 80 stitches – Divide and join for working in the round. (This will vary based on the type needles you choose for your project. I used one long circular, so I divided the hat in two sets of 40 stitches. You could easily substitute dpn if desired, dividing the stitches based on the number of needles in play – for example 20 stitches on each needle if you’re using 5, or 26-28-26 if you’re using 4 and so on. Really all that matters is that you've got 80 stitches and they're joined for working in the round somehow. You could use one 16” circular and not divide at all. Choices, choices!)

Work in garter stitch for 1.25” (knit one round, purl one round; alternate these two rounds until desired length is achieved). Change to stockinette stitch and work until the hat measures 5” from cast on edge to needles. Knit one more round, placing markers after each set of ten stitches.

Crown decreases: Decreases will be in the 8 sections of ten stitches each that you've just made with your stitch markers.
Round 1:*K8, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 2 and all even rounds until round 14: Knit.
Round 3: *K7, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 5: *K6, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 7: *K5, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 9: *K4, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 11: *K3, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 13: *K2, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 14: *K1, K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round.
Round 15: *K2tog, repeat from * to beginning of round. 8 stitches should remain.

Cut yarn leaving a 6" tail. Thread yarn tail onto tapestry needle, and pull through all live stitches, pulling to close top of hat. Take yarn to inside of hat and run in end. Run in end of yarn at center back of hat (the tail where you cast on).

Earflaps: These can be left off if you're in a really big hurry. I am just a sucker for ear flaps.
With right side facing, beginning at center back of hat, count across 10 stitches, pick up and knit 16, skip next 28 stitches, and use a second yarn to pick up and knit 16 more stitches. These two sets of 16 stitches form the foundation of the earflaps. I worked mine at the same time, but you can easily slip one set of picked up and knit stitches to a stitch holder and work them separately, or just don’t pick them up until you’ve finished the first ear flap. More choices!!

The earflaps are worked back and forth in rows.
Keeping first and last 2 stitches in garter stitch and the center 12 stitches in stockinette stitch, work 7 rows on all 16 stitches. Now begin decreasing to shape flaps:
Next (RS) row: k2, k2tog, k to last 4 sts, ssk, k2 (14 sts)
Next 3 rows: k2, keep center 10 sts in st st, k2.
Next (RS) row: k2, k2tog, k to last 4 sts, ssk, k2 (12)
Next (WS) row: K2, p2tog, p to last 4 sts, p2tog tbl, k2(10)
Next (RS) row: k2, k2tog, k to last 4 sts, ssk, k2 (8)
Next (WS) row: K2, p2tog, p to last 4 sts, p2tog tbl, k2(6)
Next (RS) row: K1, K2tog, ssk, K1. (4)
Knit two rows on these 4 stitches, then bind off.

I made the ties using 12 strands of yarn, 4 of each color, about 20 inches long. I braided them together and attached them. You can do the same, or knit I-cord, or crochet a chain and work single crochet along it...whatever works for you!

Now comes the fun. Embellish. I've shown you two options here, but there's a million. Simple or complicated, it's up to you. You could use felt scraps to cut out shapes - think trucks, airplanes, snowmen, lollipops, the sky is the limit, and stitch them into place. Or crochet shapes and sew them on. Embroider flowers. Go simple. Go crazy. ANYTHING!! Now find a cold kid, and your work here is, as they say, done!


st - stitches
st st - stockingette stitch
gs - garter stitch
k2tog - knit 2 together
p2tog - purl 2 together
ssk - slip, slip, knit

For tutorials that teach a wide range of knitting skills, check out Knitting Help. This is an amazing website with a huge amount of information available to knitters!


booksNyarn said...

When did someone schedule Christmas this Friday without telling me?

Well, since I put a WEBS GC on my list, I hope Santa realizes how good I was this year.

Happy Holidays!

SR said...

How did you make the kitty cat ears? SUCH a cute hat.

Anonymous said...

Hi Melissa! Tnx for sharing your hat pattern! I especially enjoyed watching the ear flap taking shape.... Only one more to go! I actually picked this pattern while searching the internet because i liked the kitty ear detail and the earflaps.... But i am almost done and there are no directions for the kitty ears. Do you have some notes about how you made them you could share with me? I am wondering how many stiches you cast on, what to do in each row and how you sewed them together so nicely with the pink in front and chocolate in back (matress stitch maybe?)? Happy knitting and love, Jess P
P.S. My email address is