Gift Knitting or ‘why do I always do this to myself ?’

I’m a little late to the end of year round up party and as we’re crashing headlong into the New Year it feels like the time for a full review has passed me by a little. So I thought I’d just share my adventures in gift knitting. I had thought I’d add a short design review and a few ideas for 2014, but this post got a bit long so I’ll come back for that.

I appear to suffer from a pretty universal knitters self delusion when it comes to ‘Christmas Knitting’. Around about October when thoughts of making the Christmas Cakes start to lurk, and then again in November when they actually get made, I resolve to not put undue seasonal pressure on myself with lots of gift knitting. After all there are all those work deadlines looming, designs that really need finishing off and publishing, and arrangements to be made for going away to visit family.

Then we start thinking about what presents should be bought and a combination of lack of inspiration and a horror of what the shops become and much of what they contain makes me think about what presents have worked well in previous years. In this respect I count myself fortunate that knitted gifts have been universally well received, but therein also lies my downfall and so it begins, and this year it went something like this:

My great niece (yes, scary I know, but I am the youngest and my brother started young etc.) is almost 2 so a sweater for her would be pretty quick = sweater 1.

My niece does like her hand knits, as does her mum, past gifts have come back to me the following year to lengthen the sleeves because ‘she lives in it’ = sweater 2.

My nephew is only four and all his cousins have been kept in hand knits for years beyond that and both his mum and grandma did ask for a sweater that would fit over his head as commercially produced sweaters have a too small neckline for his large bonce = sweater 3.

His elder brother likes his sweater and yes I still have one from a couple of years ago to add some extra length to, I wouldn’t want him to feel left out and this may be the last year before he get too ‘fashion’ conscious etc. = sweater 4.

Paolo wasn’t sure what to get his Dad but thought a hat like his would be perfect = 1 hat.

My sister in law suggested pot grabbers but from the message I wasn’t sure if she was suggesting them for herself or my parents in law, for whom I made them 2 years ago = 2 sets of pot grabbers. Then lacking inspiration for my other sister-in-law = 3 sets of pot grabbers.

So How did I do?

November saw an Indie designer ‘gift along’ on `Ravelry in which I participated. All designers offered 25% off their designs and knitters were encouraged to join knit alongs with prizes etc.

I bought the Rhymes with Shawl pattern by Jenny Wiebe for my Nieces and Abernathy by Terri Kruse for my youngest nephew. We picked out the colours in Cascade 220 and ordered the yarn for these and for a Knit Knit Hooray Hoodie for my eldest nephew. I must admit I did wonder what I was embarking upon when the yarn arrived and I started winding the 16 skeins of yarn into balls. But on I went.

We went to my parents in early December for my Dad’s birthday and to drop off all the Christmas presents so the girl’s cardies were my staring point. I played around with the colour combos a little and used every last yard of the darker purple – sewing the buttons on was a little touch and go – but I had just enough. They were completed and quickly photographed whilst still damp from blocking. Gift bags and labels were left with my Mum to package them up once they’d dried. Close, but I made it:

erin   emma

So, I started on my father-in-laws hat – another Cairn knitted up in Rowan felted tweed – the green is the aran and the gold is the DK held double. These were stash yarns as selected by Paolo for his Dad. This was my fourth Cairn so it went pretty quickly and was mostly done by the time we’d driven up the motorway home.


Next up was Abernathy. I’m not sure what it is about small boys but they seem to love the colour orange, their parents less so. I tend to side with the kids as they’re the ones who wear it and this burnt orange isn’t too screamy in my view. This was started at home and worked on on the ferry (this year we were in Italy with Paolo’s family for Christmas/New Year), through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy when not driving or navigating and completed once we got there.


I did the 6 year old size based on measurements I took in the summer but was still concerned it may be a bit too big, but actually it fitted pretty well with a little growing room.

I had also started my older nephews hoodie before we left. We had the DVDs of the first series of ‘The Bridge’ – again a little late to the party but quickly hooked. So I needed a sweater on the needles that I could knit whilst watching TV, reading the sub titles and not missing any of the subtle interactions etc. Stocking stitch in the round fitted the bill and I was a fair way up the body.

But then I stumbled.

My haste got the better of me as did secrecy and sociability. I was juggling between the sweater and crochet pot grabbers whilst trying to avoid the recipients seeing their presents but not hiding myself away.

Then I screwed up.

The Hoody pattern was chosen by Paolo and was designed to be knitted flat in pieces and then sewn up. To fit my preference and ‘need for speed’ I did the body in the round thinking I’d split at the under arms. But I just kept going and only when I got to the length for the front neck shaping did it occur to me that I had no arm hole shaping and indeed no holes for the arms…

So I had knitted four inches more than I needed to and had the dilemma of pulling back or seeing if the extra length would be Ok and just carry on splitting for the arm holes at this point. A quick hunt in the laundry and comparison with a pyjama top suggested it may be OK. So I just kept going. The only problem was that it was now Christmas Eve and I had only just realised that I was knitting a sweater that would probably fit me and wondering how did kids knitting get so big? Oh yes, they grow up don’t they.

So my nephew got a parcel containing the body of a sweater, joined at the shoulders and the promise of sleeves, hood and pockets. He tried it on to check the length and it was fine. More importantly for me, he looked so chuffed even with half a sweater that it spurred me on through the next week and the cold I picked up to finish all the other bits.

And finish it I did, the evening before we left. He tried it on and it looked fabulous on him and he had exactly the right degree of almost teenage slouch to carry it off. Unfortunately I have no pictures.

Meanwhile, on the pot grabber front, 9 were completed. 6 by Christmas Day and 3 more by the time the rest of the family arrived after Christmas, which was just as well because my sister-in-law walked into the kitchen, saw her parent’s pot grabbers hanging up and announced ‘That’s what I need – if you have three I can have one can’t I?”

pot grabbers

These were the first few, the rest were coming straight off the hook and into the wrapping paper.

So phew… it all got done… just.

So my resolutions for next/this year – get organised and start sooner.

And, if the above means you doubt me – I have already started one present and have selected the pattern for another! So, we’ll see how it goes…

And it wasn’t all knitting. We also did a fair bit of DIY and gardening whilst we were there. I was very taken by the electrical supplies shop, just the switch covers puts B&Q to shame… The plumbing supplies shop was less impressive.

We also went to see the local Presepe, or nativity scene – these are traditionally organised by  community groups as well as churches and this one was centred around a tree stump at ‘The Party” meeting hall; I’ll resist any reflections on religion and opium:


We saw out the old year with a bonfire on New Years Eve:


phone fire4

And finally we saw snow on the way back home. This is a view of the Alps beyond the clouds as we drove towards the St Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland. There had been snow just before we left and the views of the Alps from Milan onwards were pretty amazing.


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