Christmas Gifts 2011: Mom

In my Giveaway Day post the other day (go check it out, there’s still a few days to enter!), I promised to tell you about the gifts I’m making for Christmas this year. Other than one friend, I really only exchange gifts with my immediate family members: Mother, Father, Brother. Because there’s just the three people for each of us to shop for, we used to go all out on each other. For the last few years though, with the world being the way it is at the moment, and us all freely admitting we can barely get to all the stuff we already have, we’ve gone for a more low-budget handmade-or-thrifted approach.

I blogged about it last year, but the rules are that we can spend about £15 on each person, maximum. Last year I did fine with that part, but started working on my handmade presents way too late and panicked towards the end. Seriously, people, there were tears. It wasn’t pretty. I was smarter this year and although I’m not finished yet, I’m not really freaking out. Um. Mostly.

Handspun Hemlock for Christmas

For Mom, I knit Brooklyn Tweed’s amazing Hemlock Ring lap blanket. It’s a classic. I made it actually lap-sized – perfect for when you’re sitting at a desk and catch a little chill. I didn’t want it to be too big and unwieldy for that purpose. I actually got this one done pretty early – according to my Ravelry project page, I finished it on September 20th. Hey, well done, self! Too bad I didn’t get the more difficult presents started right then. I could be taking a nap right now. But I digress.

Handspun Hemlock for Christmas

Anyway, I couldn’t find any decent yarn that could do the job within the budget, so I had to spin it myself. This is undyed, navajo-plied bulky Corriedale wool, 500g / 550m (and I knitted up every last inch, just about) from World Of Wool* for about £8 or so. I thought it would take me ages to spin all the wool, but I enjoyed the process a little more than usual for some reason and it was spun, skeined and washed in under two weeks. Corriedale is a lovely wool – it feels very cuddly and woolly, but its slight sheen makes it feel a little fancy. As for the knitting itself, anyone who’s knit this pattern will tell you that it both knits up freakishly fast and is strangely addictive. That makes for a fast enough project that I kind of feel like Mom’s getting robbed!

Handspun Hemlock for Christmas

So I’m also making up a jar of Vanilla Lavender Sugar Scrub (mostly using stuff found around the house), bought a vintage book from a charity bookshop (a couple of pounds), and still have to knit a hot water bottle cozy (from stash yarn). Of course I decided this morning that none of the available hot water bottle cozy patterns suit my mother or my yarn, so I have to make one up. You know, because I don’t quite have enough to get done in the next week and a half.

* It’s a WORLD of Wool. I want to go to there.


So … my laptop is all dead. Well, hopefully not actually dead. It seems to be stuck in a comatose state for the moment. A trip to the Apple shop and their “Genius” team allowed me to save some of the most important files, thank goodness, though not all of the music I’ve accumulated since my last back-up (which is not irreplaceable, but still: sob). But at least I’m not panicking anymore. That’s quite nice. I am, however, stuck with my old laptop for now. He’s a hardy old lad, but it’s just not as easy to do stuff without, you know, my stuff.

Hilltop Cloud spin-to-knit kit test

But technology be damned. I can still tell you about a project I finished up recently even on this old creaking laptop. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to test a new spin-to-knit kit by the super-duper-amazing Katie from Hilltop Cloud Fibers. Seriously, if you’re a spinner (or knitter really, because she also sells handspun yarns), you need to check out her etsy shop. Though I secretly kinda don’t want to tell you about it because I’m a little afraid you’ll buy up all the pretties and there won’t be any left for me. Not that I’d ever be greedy about it, of course.

Hilltop Cloud spin-to-knit kit test

Katie’s got an eye for color that just matches my own color sensibilities, such as they are, perfectly. Browsing her shop is like taking a peek into the color section of my brain (it’s all science-y up in here today!) – the combinations she comes up with are breathtaking and totally unique, and her fibers are the loveliest quality and beautifully blended. This yarn came from handblended baby alpaca / silk / merino roving which is every bit as soft and fluffy as it sounds. I promise I’m not affiliated, just a very happy customer.

Hilltop Cloud spin-to-knit kit test

Which is, of course, why I jumped at the chance to test this new kit out. Spin delicious loveliness and call it a “favor” to someone else?! Hecks yes, I’ll do that. Snap. The pattern is called Rhywd, a lovely drapey scarf that suits handspun and variegated yarns perfectly, and the kit comes with enough fiber to spin the yarn and knit it up. I’ll let Katie tell you more about it herself, but I will add that the whole thing was a very nice experience and I’d happily do it again in a minute. So stop wasting time around here, go buy Katie’s pretties!

Total Christmas Insanity: Spinning a Vest

Christmas present #2 and the one will most definitely be my downfall: a handknit sweater vest for my father. Not really that crazy on paper, but if you know about the rules, you’re definitely thinking that there’s no way I can do this for £10 (unless I already have suitable yarn, which I sadly do not).

Total Insanity - Christmas spinning

And you’re right, no way can I buy a man’s sweater vest worth of yarn for under £10. But I can, in theory, spin that yarn myself for under £10. This is undyed Falkland wool from the excellent Wingham Wool Work. I’ve never spun Falkland before but I needed something on the cheaper side and a quick search on Ravelry uncovered a ton of Falkland fans. Having spun up five bobbins and plied three so far, I’m definitely with them. Soft, buttery to spin, fluffy and sproingy when washed – yumyumyum.

Total Insanity - Christmas spinning

With three skeins plied and washed, I guess I should start knitting my ass off now but here’s the part that makes all this extra fun: I haven’t exactly sorted out a pattern yet. I’m spinning it to about a DK weight, and kind of have my eye on the Conservative (but Pretty!) Dad Vest by Julia Trice (Ravelry link). I’d have to do a little gauge fudging maybe, and figure out size-changing stuff. Which just can’t fail, of course, since I’ve never done any of that before. Oy vey. This one makes me really panic – ohmygod, what was I thinking?!

Total Insanity - Christmas spinning

If successful, this could be my best received handmade gift ever. I know this because every time I’m knitting around him, my Dad asks if I’m knitting him a vest. I’d love for it to finally be true. But at what cost? At what cost, I say?!

Totals so far:

Wool: £7.50 (if I use it all, the rules say you only need to count in the budget what you actually used, assuming you have a real use for the rest. Of course it’s always possible I’ll need more.)
Pattern: free (if I stick to my plan as it is now)
My sanity: I don’t even want to think about it. Wish me luck.

Total (so far): £7.50, subject to change.

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