Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Present Ideas

It's that time of year again - for knitters it's variously a fun and/or a stressful time. Yes, it's holiday knitting time! Honestly, I'm ambivalent about the whole prospect.

I used to knit for everyone - because I could and because I couldn't imagine anything nicer than a handmade gift. But then I realized that there were some people - smart, funny, kind, loving people - who just didn't appreciate the wonderfulness of a knitted gift. So they came off the knitted gift list. And soon, I wasn't knitting holiday presents anymore.

But then gradually over the years, I've dipped into holiday knitting again. For me, non-garments are the way to go. But your mileage may vary, of course. I still think a handmade gift is the best thing you can give someone. Here are some quick little fun projects that I've enjoyed making and giving over the years:

Beaded Bookmark (Ravelry link)

This is my new go-to teacher gift. Knock this sweet little thing out in an evening, enclose a gift card to a bookstore, and you're done! Fingering weight yarn and about 25 beads (added as you go). Easy-peasy. The pattern comes with a half dozen variations of the beading pattern.

Tiny Sweater Ornaments

Oh, don't get me started on these. Last year I made a half dozen of these. I gave these to some dear friends. They're fussy, but also awesome (the sweaters, not the friends). The cable is fun, but the pattern also includes a plain version. Fingering weight - another small project you can knock out in an evening or two.

Cable Hot Water Bottle Cover (Ravelry link)

My husband thought knitting a hot water bottle cover was absurd, but he doesn't have crazy-knitter genes. I loved this (and actually kept it for myself). Eschew all those high-tech polarfleece, electrical-corded warming devices! A hot water bottle (you can still buy them in any drugstore) with a handsome cover is like snuggling up with a warm, non-demanding companion. This pattern is written for bulky weight yarn, so it goes quickly. There are a bunch of patterns on Ravelry, but this one was my favorite. This would be a nice gift for someone who lives in a drafty old house, or a reader, or an older person (wait - that's me!)

Tiny Felted Hearts

This pattern isn't written to be felted and the picture above is pre-felting, but I ended up stuffing these with yarn and felting them. Then I added a ribbon and gave them as ornaments to the above-noted fussy but awesome friends. I didn't put eyes on them, but those amirugumi creatures always make me laugh out loud. Poke around her website - her patterns are delightful.

So there you go - some ideas for you. But don't feel like you have to knit gifts for people. Only do it if you enjoy the process (knitting should be a stress-reducer, not a stress-inducer!!) and if you realize that not everyone will get the wonderfulness of what you did for them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love giving and receiving presents as much (okay, maybe more) as the next person, but this time of year, it's good to take a break from your gift list and think about how you can make your world better. Here's a link to Interweave Press's list of charitable organizations and their guidelines for giving. Boy, just reading the list gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling!
Though every one of these programs is doing fabulous wonderful necessary work, one of my personal favorites is Heifer International. They donate animals, trees and other stock to needy families around the world in order to increase sustainable self-sufficiency. They have a "Knitting Basket" donation that provides two llamas and two sheep to a family for income-producing wool.

Each year Gus and I go through the catalog and pick out an animal to give. Two years ago we had Merry Chicksmas and last year was Merry Cowmas. He donates all of his December allowance and then asks relatives to each donate a few dollars too. And that adds up to a lot of chicks! Or one cow!

Most of these organizations will accept donations on behalf of someone else, so think of it as a nice alternative to a gift card to the local mall. A donation to a charitable organization is especially nice for a teacher's gift.

And, as I tell myself 10 times a day this time of year, stay calm! Take some time to stop and smell the pine and cinnamon scents around us, hear the beautiful holiday music, watch the twinkly lights, sip some hot chocolate, and appreciate all the little good things we have in our lives.