Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Christmas is coming - knit faster!

I know I'm not the only one who cannot resist the compulsion to knit gifts for Christmas.  It's so satisfying to think of the ones we love wrapped up in the woollies we've made.

I also know I'm not alone in making this decision way too late in the year, often as December is well underway, thereby putting myself under yet more pressure.  There's cards to write and post, presents to buy and wrap, food to procure and prepare and a myriad of other tasks demanding attention in order that Christmas will be all ready come 25th December!

Still doesn't stop me from thinking I can knit more than I can...

The answer to the shrinking knitting time available to me was to tackle small projects.

I made my Mum a Neck Warmer to tuck inside her sweater.  I made it for her birthday on Boxing Day (which I still count as Christmas knitting).  To be finished in time I even had to knit anytime I was waiting in the car.  Here I'm parked up waiting to collect my husband from the airport.

I kept seeing this slogan on Facebook and Instagram "Christmas is coming - knit faster!"

This is the second neck warmer  I've made for my Mum as she really found the first one so cosy.  I used Rico Design Baby Classic DK so it won't irritate her neck and it can be easily washed.

Hats were my favoured project for Christmas gift knitting this year.  I managed to knit three hats as gifts, including one for my Secret Santa.

I got my sister-in-law, Fiona, in our family Secret Santa draw.  I decided to make my gift and chose to make her a Baa-ble Hat.  The pattern, designed by Donna Smith, was the official pattern for Shetland Wool Week in 2015 and this event is held every year in Shetland to celebrate Shetland wool and its associated crafts.  To date, over six and a half thousand Baa-ble Hats have been knitted!

I used one of the recommended yarns, Jamieson and Smith Shetland Aran in the wonderfully named colours Snaa White, Peat and Silver Grey.  The sheep are knitted in Drops Alpaca Boucle which gives them fleecy wee bodies.  Wool is stranded across the back of the colour work sections making this one of the cosiest hats I've ever knitted!

I made my husband, Geoff a hat last year for his birthday.  Gorgeous Birlinn yarn the Hebridean Isle of Berneray.  Here's the last recorded siting of it before it got lost!

So I made him a new hat for Christmas.  This time I used New Lanark Aran in Limestone and liked the texture created by the Bankhead pattern from Knit Natural.

I also made a hat for my daughter, Eilidh, last birthday.  Soft Na Dannsairean Aran from Ripplescrafts in the North West Highlands of Scotland and the popular Acai pattern by Clare Devine. It's not lost but has got a bit stretched...

... so I made her a new one for Christmas.  It's squishy and soft in Rowan Wool/Cotton and I repeated the Bankhead pattern .  Eilidh wasn't sure about the fake fur pompom though - so it had to go!

Finally, here are the hats on happy heads!


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Work, work, workshop

This is the third year in a row I've been asked by Community Education at my local secondary school to organise a craft workshop for a group of mums in the village.  The group meets monthly to support mums who have children with additional needs.  There's a brief two hour child-free window to make something, accompanied of course by chat, coffee and cake.  Susan brought these delicious homebakes to yesterday's workshop.

Each year I've chosen the craft of needle felting for the workshop as it's a craft which requires no prior knowledge on the part of the mums but everyone is able to complete a project to take home, even in the short time we have together.

In 2014, we made a winter picture.  I used the video tutorials at to form the basis of what we were going to make.

Last year, we made these brooches featuring a robin.

At this year's workshop, which was held yesterday, the aim was to make a needle felted bauble featuring Santa.

But reaching the decision about what to make can take more time than the making itself!

I'd never tried this before myself so I started off with the only polystyrene shape I had in the house - an egg - possibly left over from when the church craft group made these fabric covered eggs for the Easter display in 2012  (throughback to a much younger me!)

I tried needle felting the polystyrene shape with merino roving wool and a felting tool.

That worked - so I tried some more eggs and added a bit of decoration.  I bought some polystyrene spheres and had a shot with them, adding some sparkle this time.  I felted a spiral tree onto the red bauble and topped it with a sequin star.  I decorated the green sparkly bauble with a reindeer but it looked terrible - more like an angry fox - so I removed it without even taking a photo!  I spent far too long seeking inspiration from Google images of needle felted Christmas decorations when I should have been doing housework.  Finally, I had a light bulb moment and covered the egg with red roving, fashioned a hat, added pompoms, eyes and a beard and Santa materialised.  Even then, the eyes didn't look right - they reminded me of a bird...

... so I tried making a robin - but it looked liked the scary penguin from Wallace and Gromit!  Besides, we made robins last year.  Then I found smaller beads to make eyes and refashioned the robin into this Santa with which I was finally happy.

Then I had to see how long it would take to make one - by making lots more of them.

Only then could I write up an instruction sheet, gather all my craft supplies together and feel prepared for the workshop.

The reward for my 'work', and I use this word loosely because it was mostly a lot of fun, is seeing the finished decorations at the end of the workshop and feeling that the participants have had a good time.  I'm delighted that the ladies have agreed to let me share their decorations here. 
Here's the handiwork of Elizabeth, Susan, Karen, Gina, Gillian, Rebecca, Lisa and Biff.  They all did a fantastic job yesterday and made wonderfully unique Santas!  I hope they'll be part of their Christmas decorating traditions for some years to come.  

I wonder if they'll ask me back next year?

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