Christmas under control (for one gift, at least)

Before: re-purposed pillow

There’s lots of little things I’m making for my family – some food-based things, a mix CD, etc – but this the last properly ‘big’ handmade thing I’m making. And by ‘big’, I mean ‘potentially heading for disaster by biting off more than I can chew’.

Before: re-purposed pillow

This pillowcase belongs to my brother, made for him when he was just a wee thing (he’s a grown-ass man now). It was made for him by a family friend, date unknown at the moment (I’m assuming the late-70s / early-80s sometime, but I’ll have to find out more exactly soon), and clearly very much loved. He wore it all the way through!

Before: re-purposed pillow

Brother (“Attie”, for short) saved it for a very, very long time, but decided it was finally time to get rid of it several years ago. I snatched it up before he got a chance, knowing we’d be able to make something from it. I’m kind of hoping he forgot I had it. The original plan was to make another pillowcase, cutting what could be saved from the leopard print material and using it to patchwork something together. But I worried it would just continue to wear through. In the end, decided it should be made into a wall-hanging mini-quilt, to keep it as a special keepsake.

Before: re-purposed pillow

It wasn’t easy to save the fabric – the leopard print is slightly stretchy and I had to kind of fussy-cut to get 3″ squares to work with. The yellow-orange fabric was so worn it was practically see-through and not even yellow-orange anymore in most places! I had to use a lightweight interfacing behind those pieces to give them a little more structure and make it easier to sew. I bought the reddish-brown cord to match the leopard print, mimicked the black edging thing from the original (I’m sure there’s a sewing term for that, anyone know what it is?) and of course made sure the ‘Attie’ got carefully saved.

Before: re-purposed pillow

I’ve quilted it in concentric squares (no photos of that yet, just done this rainy morning) and will bind it in black. I’m not sure how to sign it yet on the back, but it will definitely include my information as well as the maker of the original pillowcase.

This one is pretty great, spending limit-wise:

Corduroy: £5 for a half-meter
Black cotton: free, luckily happened to have already bought it as a remnant just because it was there
Leopard print and yellow-orange fabric: free, re-purposed
Thread, interfacing, whatnot: free, from home supplies
(I’ll still need a dowel for hanging and something for the tag on the back, but I should be able to find that stuff around the house.)

Total: £5 and probably my best-idea gift as well as being the only one that’s not making me freak out. And that’s worth a million.

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.

Christmas panic: Russian cross-stitch sampler

Although I am totally freaking about finishing my handmade Christmas presents in time, I don’t actually exchange gifts with very many people at the holidays. Aside from my immediate family – parents and brother – there’s only a few. But it’s the family stuff that always causes me to panic for two reasons: 1.) we actually exchange and celebrate on a set day, whereas my gift to, say, my best friend, could be sent a month late and she won’t hate me or anything. I’d rather it be done on time, but it’s not the end of the world if not. And 2.) since we’re all grown-ups now and none of us really need anything, we usually set some sort of rule or limit on our gifts to make it more interesting and just that bit more special. In a way this makes it easier, actually, but it also means you are forced to be more creative and put some serious thought into it.

This year, our rules state that we can only spend £10 per gift receiver (but spending £0 is even better) and the gifts must be either handmade or found in a charity shop. Even for someone who would’ve made the presents anyway and who has a pretty big stash of materials already, it’s not as easy as you’d think!

Russian cross-stitch sampler, WIP

This is my first gift, for my mother who loves Russian history (her family having come from thereabouts way back in the day). I came across the chart quite randomly at the amazing and rather literally named Free Easy Cross, Pattern Maker, PCStitch Charts + Free Historic Old Pattern Books when I was looking for something completely different (I love the internet!). This is the first alphabet shown there; everything on that page comes from a Russian pattern book published in 1899. I love that I get to live in a world where this kind of stuff is made available by nice people – how freakin’ awesome is that?!

Russian cross-stitch sampler, WIP

Anyway, I’m two characters away from finishing the alphabet and then I will pick a border from lower down on that same page to fill out the charity shop frame I bought. I can’t yet decide if it should be a simpler border to let the lettering really shine, or one of the really ridiculously ornate ones. I’m leaning towards the latter since I’m so much further than I expected to be by now, but I’ll also have to see how much room I have in the frame.

So, project expenses?

Evenweave fabric: free, leftover from previous projects
Thread: about £3.50 (I had one skein of red, bought one more and two blacks, though I don’t know yet if I’ll use all of it)
Pattern: free, amazingly
Frame: £2-ish

Total: about £5.50, potentially less once I’m finished. Nice!

1 2 3