Saturday, June 6, 2009

Knit Ahead

Every year around the first of July I like to start my holiday knitting. This is a hold-over from the twenty-something years that I worked in the salon industry. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve was an unending madhouse of 10 hour days and no time to think. Because I actually prefer to enjoy the holidays rather than watch them rush past in a blur, I got into the habit of starting my shopping and preparations for the next year's holidays on January 2nd. If I see something that I know someone on my list would like, I buy it and tuck it away. By the time the holidays roll around I usually have 3/4ths of my holiday shopping done, I have as much of my food shopping for my holiday party finished as is possible before Thanksgiving. This is not to say that I don't add to it all at the last minute, just as any normal human does (ask my husband) but trust me, I am a lot less crazy before the holidays this way than I would be otherwise.

If I plan to do any holiday knitting - and let's face it, I always do - then I begin my plan at the start of June. Begin with your list of special people that you like to knit for. Make sure that these are people who are going to appreciate your handmade gift. We have all heard the horror stories of the intricate, painstakingly knitted lace tablecloth sold at a yard sale for 5 bucks, or the Christmas stockings Granny made for each of her grandchildren that were given to Goodwill by the daughter-in-law. If I give a knitted gift to someone who does not immediately genuflect before me, then I cross them off of my knitting list right away. No point in wasting my time, money and talents again on those who don't appreciate what I am really saying when I spend 30 hours making them a $25 pair of cabled alpaca socks. Their lives and mine are happier when I just give them money or buy something from the mall. These people cannot be converted.

Once you have your list, start to think objectively. Can you really knit pullovers for 15 people between now and the holidays and not make yourself crazy? Maybe not all of them need something as involved as a pullover? Maybe not all of them need to be on the list? Remember: Quality beats quantity any time. Be ruthless in paring your list - they'll never know that they were crossed off or downgraded to an easier project in consideration of your available time and desired level of sanity.

Next I like to come up with a theme. One year I knitted mittens for everyone - felted mittens, fair isle mittens - in rainbows of colors and neutrals so that everyone in each family could pick out their favorites. Pack them up in a beautiful little basket and you have an unbeatable gift. The last two years I have knitted socks for everyone, and last year I added sock monkeys for my two sisters from the sock yarn leftovers that resembled my sisters in uncanny ways. One of my sister has knitted beautiful hats and scarves for everyone.

Think small and portable. Something that you can keep in the car for those times when you have to wait at the doctor's office, in line at the PO, school Mom at the playground, car-pooling and waiting for kids. Even just a few rows at a time are a few rows more than you had, and you'll find that your projects will be finished before you know it. Another advantage of small projects is that you don't have time to get bored - before you know it, your project is finished. It also enables you to buy a luxury yarn for your project that is a splurge, which makes the project more special - and more fun for you to work on.

If you set yourself a reasonable schedule of so many gifts knitted or crocheted per month, you can keep on track and avoid getting too far behind. I try to concentrate on one person per month, making and/or buying for that person in their birthday month, for example.

Knitting ahead also allows you time to track down a special yarn, getting your local yarn shop to special order the right yarns in the right colors for you.

Do you know a really clever knitter or crocheter? Are you afraid that they will scorn your less-than-expert efforts at making them a gift? Take heart, no one loves a hand-knitted gift more than a knitter does. No one else knows exactly how much that says. They aren't going to be picking apart your technique, and if they are the type that you suspect actually will, then get them a gift certificate to their favorite local knitting shop. They'll be over the moon at your thoughtfulness. Want to make it more personal? Buy them a special yarn for the type of project that you know they love to make - colorful sock yarn or luxurious lace yarn. That way they not only have the pleasure of opening your gift, but also the added hours of enjoyment making up a project that still comes from you.

Don't wait until November rolls around before you get started on your gift making process. Trust me, the holidays will be so much more pleasurable for you if you can sit back, relax and enjoy them with a smug smile, knowing that your gift knitting is finished.

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