This has been a disorienting week full of firsts and lasts... first snow of the season, first school snow day, last class day of 2008, another snow day today, forcing cancellation of the playgroup I host, as well as a few other speed bumps in the road. Through it all, I have kept knitting.... you see, this year I am gift knitting. This is not an every-year occurrence, but I noticed this fall that I had more yarn than money and decided that several wee gifties for the people I am the closest to would be ok to slip in....
hats for the menfolk... including a little man; these patterns are very basic, two ribs (one in Lambs Pride Superwash, the other in Knitpicks WOTA) a striped plain stockinette from Jo Sharp Aran Tweed and Kathmandu Aran, and the denim is Lambs Pride worsted knitted up in Jae's Cabled Toque pattern.
then there's a pair of mitts for DD, thanks to Gina House for the Christmas Eve Cabled Mitts pattern, made up in Elsebeth Lavold's luscious angora... I did shorten the mitts by one repeat, since otherwise I might not have had enough yarn, and DD and I both have smallish hands for adults.
This yarn is delightful to work with, sorta like petting your favorite cat without all the moving around, claws, etc....
There's a bit more 'secret' knitting going on, as well as the beginning stages of preparing a sample for a lace knitting class I will be teaching at Fibers next month... Raha, from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. I will be working on the sample over my holiday break (actually, it is more a reduced work week schedule than an actual vacation, so don't go getting all envious on me), using a new yarn we just got in, Isager Wool 1. This is a single-ply fingering weight yarn with a very primitive sort of feel and look... almost handspun-looking and in an array of colors with grey and brown undertones reminiscent of dipping sheep into pots of 'transparent' haircoloring. We also got a batch of their fingering weight alpaca, which is even more luxurious.
My own favorite project has taken a bit of a backseat all week to gifting....
Here is a beginning photo of my Queen Silvia shawl... I managed to cast on, get the bottom border knittend, and even the first 18 rows of the first 28-row repeat done, in between deadline items. I am in love with the pattern already, and made it through my first-ever row of gathered stitch, wherein one knits five stitches together, does not slip them off the needle, makes a YO, then knits the same five stitches together again still leaving on the needle, adds another YO, then knits all five together a third time, and finally slips all the five off the needle... effectively replacing them with five new stitches to be purled on the next row. I think Nancy explains it better.
We have still managed to fit in a little of each of the usual Christmas activities: tree trimming, baking, shopping and wrapping, however this year has been considerably subdued. Our extended family made the decision at Thanksgiving to suspend our annual draw-a-name method of present giving for one year, to allow all of us to avoid feeling even more economic pressure. Most of the 'kids' are now young adults. A few of our collected extended family have gone through job turmoils in 2008. A good time to all agree to scale back, not that it means we don't all want to do things for each other as in the past.
I was happy to realize that only one of my knitted gifts required a new yarn purchase, while the rest came from stash, that we could be just as content to have time off together as to take a trip, even though that has been an annual tradition for DH and I for the past decade, and that we could agree to forego giving each other a present so that we could enjoy shopping for and helping out our young-adult children through this more difficult season. What kinds of adjustments has your family made for this holiday? I know that most of you will answer that the last thing you would do away with is time with family and friends... I wish all a blessed Winter Solstice and more than ever this year yearn with anticipation for the light to return.....
I always love the first snow of winter, especially when we have had such a long, dry fall. Still, I didn't expect it to snow quite so low or quite so much! Dustings of snow fell overnight both Saturday and Sunday mornings, but then the real thing started about 10:30 AM yesterday and hasn't stopped yet.... so far, I am estimating 7-8 inches. The school bus contractor for the elementary school across the road from me decided to cancel school last night, and since our early childhood program is on their campus and follows their schedule, it is a day off for me, too. Not that I think it is safe or necessary for anyone to be out on the roads myself... when low elevation snows hit our region, most people aren't prepared and there are far more accidents.
Snow had been shedding off the roof with loud thuds off and on all night...
The garden has been transformed from its lush, green summer self to one of white....
and the fish pond is unrecognizable, except for that large patch of greenery, nurtured by the immersion heater that is keeping the fish comfy.
burros are snug in their little barn,
with plenty of hay to eat. Though Assteroid isn't too happy that his is just outside the door, thanks to pushy Abraham, who has turned sideways so that he can claim more space and (he thinks) more hay to eat.
Now, for a few small announcements to catch up on things.... first of all, the winner of my Blogiversary contest is JessaLu! I will be shipping off her prize this week... which makes me think that having a Blogiversary in December really is kinda nice after all, because I can play Santa! Thanks to everyone who entered (even those of you who were late:) The lovely comments and encouragement will keep me going for another year.
Second, I wanted to share with all of you sky lovers a great website I found while looking up the definition of gloaming the other day.... Scotland in The Gloaming. You will be thrilled and amazed by the images.
I don't have to point out to anyone how very short the days are this time of the year... we are fast approaching that magical time, the Winter Solstice, when the sun begins to return. I, for one, really cheer on that day, as doing without the light is the worst part of winter for me. I was busy on the computer yesterday afternoon, and caught a glimpse of the time... 4:48 PM, and realized I had to quickly jump up from what I was doing to feed the burros before it was too dark to see. This was the sky that greeted me as I ran out the kitchen door... you have the burros to thank for a sky that truly represents that Gaelic concept of 'in the gloaming' ... I decided to post it for its glorious color, even if a bit off-focus.
Now, if there was ever a title that sounded like spam, it would be this one, but I realized during the week that I had never posted a photo of WHAT I am giving away as my Blogiversary Contest prize! I seem to have the most time to myself early in the week each week, and then can't carve out any time for posting as my task list piles up. I finished my online class, a big, big chunk of my consulting project and even some gift knitting this week, but never got this picture up... a special gift package that includes a Lantern Moon Ladybug measuring tape, Black Sheep coffee, and Austermann Step sock yarn, containing aloe vera and jojoba to pamper your hands while you knit up a pair of socks or a lace scarf. Everything will be wrapped in this Anything Tote made by my neighbor Chelsi (or 'grocery purse' as I heard one preschooler call it). You have until midnight to enter.... have a great weekend dear friends. So many of you left encouraging comments about why you enjoy my blog, that made the past four years seem richer to me than ever, and motivated me to keep it up! Thanks from the bottom of my heart.
This year will be a fairly quiet one on the gifting front, though a few small knitted gifts have snuck their way into the queue. Just a few... just for a couple of close relatives .... only small items... I am sure you have heard (or thought) it all before. I am planning to avoid holiday madness, but also helping others through the LYS to participate a bit in it, and will be teaching mitts, hats and a few other small giftie ideas on Saturday afternoon, if you care to drop by.
That takes care of helping out the knitters wanting to gift others on their list, but what about those knitters themselves? Well, being a good yarn shop employee, I usually ask what kind of knitting their gift recipient likes to do best; they sometimes can help me and we can arrive upon a lovely gift solution, but usually a gift certificate is the safest (and maybe most fun for said knitter) option. That solution does not make very good blog fodder, though, so I decided to offer you some book reviews that you can forward along as broad hints to those shopping for you. I have Amazon to thank for the links, though I would prefer you try to help out your local economy this year, either your own LYS or independent bookseller, or through the Fibers website.
This book is my top pick of the season... but then of course I love to knit lace. Sorry (my) kids, I already got a copy... you will have to read further or come up with another gift idea for me.
A few weeks ago, I was on the phone chatting with Margene (just like in the old days, before blogging, imagine that!) and she was getting ready to attend a talk by Nancy Bush, so I begged her to get me an autographed copy, and I think my knitting course is pretty well set for the coming year. I have enough stash to make at least three of the patterns I fell in love with, and by the time I manage to complete those, will be ready to tackle designing a stole myself, with the excellent resources in this masterpiece. Yes, I am glowing about this book.
Intertwined: The Art of Handspun Yarn, Modern Patterns and Creative Spinning, Lexi Boeger
Your giftee does not have to be a spinner to easily become enamoured of this book. This is the yarn coffeetable book we have all been looking for... Lexi elevates yarn to an artform, showing how to make a yarn that reflects creative impulses you see in the world around you. If your knitter doesn't spin yet, this book may talk her right into it, or simply encourage her to look for a wider array of yarns to make one of the many patterns in the knitting section. Besides being beautifully, lushly photographed, this book has got to be the best value on the market right now... each of the sections, simply spinning, patterns, and yarn gallery contain as much or more information as many of the complete books offered in the fiber arts field this year. Lexi will be speaking to my fiber guild later this year, so let me know if you want to be reminded... you can come as my guest and join a very talented guild.
Ethnic Knitting: Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the Andes, Donna Druchunas
Donna Druchunas became a favorite author when she issued Artic Lace (another good gift pick), but this book is every bit as good, and perhaps far more useful for the average knitter. Donna has taken classic knitted garments from several parts of the world with strong knitting traditions and distilled them down into garments anyone can make to fit themselves exactly right... in fact, the book is also a great introductory course into knitting-to-fit, the main reason why many knitters are afraid of the thought of making sweaters. She has another volume in the series, covering the traditions of Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland, set to come out on December 25th, if your giftee already has this one.
The River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
What, you say, a cookbook?! Get over the outrage... you all know that I am ALL about local foods! Hugh is apparently as big in Britain as Rachael Ray is here in the US.... own TV show, filmed at his cottage farm in the sticks, etc. I picked this up while waiting in the checkout line at my local library, and was more than impressed. Hugh is a chef that espouses the tenets of both the Slow Food movement, and also is enough of a do-it-yourselfer to have tried his hand at raising chickens, raising and slaughtering/butchering a pig, and growing many types of foods and herbs in his home garden. He also loves the chance to get out and fish and hunt and forage in the hedgerows (we don't have those here, but I manage a fair bit of foraging anyway), and also lives close enough to the coast to know of what he writes in the section on ocean fishing. A truly inspiring read, and helpful text to get your giftee more food self-sufficient. I don't believe in total food self-sufficiency, and neither does he, but we agree that the closer you can get to the source of your diet, the healthier and tastier the foods will be... and every knitter needs ongoing sustenance.
There's my list... now tell me what is on yours, so that I can be a better helper to those coming in to buy a knitter a present this holiday season... and don't forget to enter my Blogiversary giveaway this week.
It kinda snuck up on me, but as you will see from the counter in my sidebar, my fourth Blogiversary is just hours away! The past year has been a harder one to stick with blogging than the first three, and yet I still am so grateful for the friends I have made through mine and their blogs, and for the creative outlet it provides me, that I fully intend to keep it up for another year. I decided to give you a quick tour of what I consider some of the high points of visiting my blog ....
the magical burros,
my quirky sense of humor....
and of course the knitting content, sometimes much better and more interesting than at other times!
And, at anniversary time, there are contests.... so, please leave me a comment any time in the next week, until Friday December 12th at midnight my time, telling me what is your favorite reason for keeping me on your list of regular reads and I will enter you into my Blogiversary Giveaway Drawing... prize photos coming in the next post.