Monthly Archives: December 2013

Be Nice to Your Hands

It’s winter, which means that every ounce of fluid has been sucked out of my body and my skin is actively turning into beef jerky.  Every year, it’s the same, but every year it still surprises me.  My knuckles crack, my skin is itchy and tight and I cultivate hangnails the way farmers grow corn.  It’s pretty much the worst.  It’s uncomfortable and painful and it’s making knitting no fun at all!

I don’t know if you have any tips and tricks for fixing my hands, but I’d love to hear them.  I know I’m not the only one with this problem.

So far, the best thing I’ve found is Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream.

300It’s about three bucks, and you can find it in almost all drug stores.  It’s unscented and super heavy-duty, but it really works, at least more than other lotion I’ve used.  And, it doesn’t irritate my cracked and dry skin.  (Neutrogena didn’t ask me to shill for them, but if they wanted to send me some money, or maybe a crate of hand cream, I wouldn’t stop them.)

Basically, these are my hands without the hand cream*:

themeparty-halloween-pair-hands-witch[1]And these are my hands with the hand cream**:

20101116-hand-perfection[1]*Not my actual hands.

**Also not my actual hands.

It’s Cold As Balls (of Yarn)

I’m spending my Christmas break with family in the Great White North (of northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin).  It’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s windy. I’m spending the week curled up with my leftover Christmas knitting and a cup of hot cocoa.

But, when I leave the house, there’s nothing I want more than to wrap myself up head-to-toe in three sheep’s worth of woolens.

I’m going to go fill up the kettle again and daydream about these super chunky patterns.

150-4 Little Red Riding Slippers – Slippers with cables in Eskimo by DROPS design

4-2_medium2[1]Twiggy Cardigan by Jane Richmond

Twiggy_Cardigan_070_medium2[1]wham bam thank you lamb! neckwarmer by Susan Chang


Merry Christmas!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hope you’re having a fantastic Christmas, and I hope that Santa brought you everything that was on your Christmas list.

I’ve got one more extra-special present just for you, dear readers! A little bitty knit doll of your very own.  And, she comes with a little bitty storybook of her very own.   She has long flowing hair and a removable dress, and she is just as ready to play house as she is to go adventuring with her friends.

The Little Knit Doll’s construction is very simple.  She is knit in the round with minimal sewing.  All shaping is done with simple increases and decreases, except for the feet, which are worked like tiny socks.  Her luxurious long hair is applied with a crochet hook, just like adding fringe to a scarf.  She is totally safe for children of all ages, with her embroidered face.  And, her adorable green dress is knit in the round with virtually no finishing.

The Little Knit Doll is now available through Ravelry for $5.00.

Get the pattern here

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m posting The Little Knit Doll here exclusively for about a week.  But starting next week, the pattern will be available through Ravelry for $5, so download it now, if you want it for free.


It’s Just Christmas, Don’t Kill Yourself

Christmas is in two days.  If you’re like me, then you probably have about 72 hours worth of knitting left to cram into the next 48 hours.  I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be OK.  I promise.  Do what you can, but don’t kill yourself over it.  Don’t stay up until three in the morning trying to finish that sweater.  Don’t forgo eating to work on those socks.  Don’t skip your friend’s Christmas party to stay home and felt that pair of slippers.

And if (or when) Christmas comes around and you’re still not done knitting your gifts, you’ve got two options:

1.  Write them a really nice note about the project you’re working on.  Maybe include a sketch of the finished project, or a photo from the pattern.  Here’s a vintage card you can print out:

antique xmas cards12.  Wrap up that sucker anyway.  There’s no shame in gifting someone a sweater still on the needles, or one and a half socks.  They’ll be able to ooh and ahh at the softness of  the yarn, the beautiful colors and the pretty pattern, but then you get to take the project back home with you at the end of the party to finish up later.

And Tied Up With a Bow

You’ve spent way too much time, effort and money on your Christmas gifts this year (isn’t that always the way?), so, let’s do something quick, easy and super cheap for the wrapping.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m using brown wrapping paper, the kind you get in a roll to use for shipping packages.  It’s super cheap and sturdy, so if you’re traveling with your gifts they won’t end up all scuffed and torn by the time you make it over the river and through the woods.  But, if you wanted to go even cheaper, you could use old (clean) paper bags from the grocery store for a similar look.  (I suppose if you don’t like the recipient of the gift, they don’t have to be clean, but that’s a little passive-aggressive, even for me.)

And, instead of going to the store and buying fancy-pants ribbons, I’m using leftover yarn that I have in my stash.  I picked out five shades of blue, but you can do whatever you like.  Bright rainbow colors might be fun for a kid, or maybe a birthday present.  Red and green are always classic Christmas colors.  White and silver would make a really classy winter-y present.

Idea one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust wrap a few colors of yarn around your gift.  You can make the yarn neat and tidy or you could go all willy-nilly, just keep going until you like how it looks.  Tie off in a square knot at the back of the package and trim the ends short.

Idea two:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMake a pompom.  Because Pompoms make everything more fun.  Tie it to the top of the package instead of one of those stick-on bows.

Idea three:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHold a bunch of yarn in a bundle (I’m using five different shades of blue) and wrap the yarn around the package the same way you would if you were using ribbon.  Finish off with a pretty bow.

The possibilities are pretty much endless.  What new ways of wrapping can you come up with?

Knifty Kits for Knew Knitters

“Allison, help me!  My niece has been bugging me to teach her how to knit.  What should I get her?  Also, I hate teaching, and don’t know what to do?”

Remember The nOOb Hat?  Print that puppy out and give it to your niece along with:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA-1 skein of worsted weight yarn in her favorite color (I like wool, but acrylic will do.  Plant fibers like cotton and linen aren’t recommended, since they’ll sag and make the hat a little sad after a while)

-1 pair of size 8 needles

-1 tapestry needle (or 1 pack, if you can’t find them sold singly)

-1 pair of tiny scissors (you can skip this if you think your niece already has scissors)

-1 project bag (if you sew, might I recommend the Fat Quarter Project Bag?)

In theory, that’s enough to get her going on a knitting adventure of her own, but be ready to answer questions.  Sometimes photos and written instructions aren’t enough to learn something.  Anyway, knitting the n00b hat together will give you a chance to hang out with your super-cool niece.  Win-win.

Inspiration: The Dreaded Christmas Sweater

You’ve got to love a holiday that comes with its own genre of knitwear.  Unfortunately, Christmas Sweaters have gotten a bad rap, and now the only times you see them are either:

  1. On your Great Aunt Muriel.
  2. On the receptionist at your middle school.  The one with the big glasses and puffy, permed hair.
  3. At ugly sweater parties.

Not fair, I say!

Let’s take a look at some Christmas Sweaters that aren’t that bad.

Not a traditional Christmas Sweater, but totally adorable.  And, I’m sure, super toasty for walks over the river and through the snow.

Boreal by Kate Davies6494110639_e32809410e_z[1]

A 1950s-inspired shape with adorable little reindeer and a neat triangle pattern on the front.

The Perfect Christmas Jumper by Susan Crawford


OK, so this one is definitely Christmas-y.  But, look, you can choose between plum pudding, snowmen, and Christmas Pigs!  (All right, they’re probably supposed to be reindeer, but with their little pink noses, they totally look like pigs.  I suppose you could change their antlers into little pointy ears if you wanted to really run with the whole Christmas Pigs angle.)

Love Yarn Christmas Jumper by Fiona Bennet

10052632855_4df4e5940d_z[1]But, you know what?  The Christmas Sweater is so earnest, so self-aware, and so uncaring of what people think of it.  The Christmas Sweater knows what it is, and is completely OK with its cheerful tackiness.  I can’t let a post about Christmas Sweaters go by without including an actual, honest-to-goodness tacky Christmas Sweater.    So here you go:

Patons Christmas Sweaters by Patons UK


WIP Ornaments

Imagine this:  You are going to a party, and you know that there will be a gift-exchange.  You don’t have time to go to the store.  Also, you’re broke.  You know the other guests at the party will all bring crazy-fancy gifts and you don’t want to be shown up.  And, did I mention, you leave in fifteen minutes?

I think it’s a time to make WIP Ornaments!

These are super fast, super easy and super cheap (in fact, you probably have everything you need in your craft bin right now).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGet the pattern here:

WIP Ornaments

What to Buy the Knitter Who Has Everything…

I get this question all the time:  “I don’t knit, but my buddy does.  What does he want for Christmas?”

My usual response is: “Well, what does he like to make?”

And their answer is usually: “I donno.”

Super.  Really helpful.

Obviously, if you know the kind of project that your knitting friend likes to make, get them a gift that speaks to that interest (sock yarn for a sock knitter, lace weight yarn for a lace knitter… this isn’t rocket science).

But, if you really don’t know, here’s my standard answer, because every knitter can find a use for it:


-2 or 3 skeins of NICE medium weight yarn in the recipient’s favorite color, or a color that they wear a lot.  (Go to a fancy, independent yarn store, if there’s one in your area.  Spend 10 or more dollars per skein.  Pick out something pretty and soft. Bonus points if the label says “mohair,” “cashmere,” or “merino”)

And then, if you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket, pick one or more of the following:

-Fancy knitting needles (get the size that is recommended on the yarn’s label)

-Buttons (6 or more in a coordinating color to go with the yarn, no smaller than a half inch, no bigger than an inch and a half.  Tiny and gigantic buttons are harder to find a use for.)

-A project bag (These are usually draw-string or zippered fabric bags about the size of a piece of printer paper, and they’re used to carry around half-finished projects.  I’ve yet to meet a knitter who has enough project bags, me included) If you sew, might I recommend the Fat Quarter Project Bag?

-A pattern printout or flier that uses the yarn you picked out (but make sure you buy enough yarn to complete the project, if you do this.)  Or, a knitting book.  Take a few minutes to look through the knitting section at the book store, and pick out one that has patterns that your knitter friend might wear.

-Other fancy notions (decorative stitch markers, fancy scissors, a cute measuring tape, etc.  Knitters love pretty things.  We’re like magpies.)

Wrap up everything you bought, and be the king (or queen) of Christmas!

Inspiration: Awesomely Bad or Just Plain Awesome Christmas Gifts

Christmas isn’t Christmas without terrible, terrible presents.  Or at least terrible presents “as seen on TV.” You could just buy your friends’ gifts from TV, or the local CVS Pharmacy, but that would be too easy.  You are a hand-knitter.  You over-complicate projects.  You spend too much time thinking about things that normal people don’t even know exist.  You make things difficult for yourself.

Let’s knit bad TV-infomercial gifts.

You could give your father an always-classy Christmas tie.

images_w22_image2_ties-xmas[1]Or, you could knit him a super fabulous seed stitch one. (Knit Necktie by Lion Brand Yarn)

MyPicture__1__medium[1]How about the perennial classic, Chia Pet (which I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen in real life, and I honestly kind of want)?81vPzG13LRL._SL1500_[1]Or, you could transform a stuffed animal into a Chia Pet like this poor, scared-looking slug.completed[1]And, of course, there’s always the epitome of laziness/the most genius invention ever (that I would totally wear the hell out of if I had one):  The Snuggie.41DW7GnBa-L[1]But why wrap yourself in polyester fleece from the drug store, when you could be wrapped in knitted woolen comfort? (Wrap-ghan (knit) FP5826 by Bernat Design Studio)image_4044_medium[1]And, don’t forget Barbie.  Because after hours of princess-ing/veterinarian-ing/lounging by the pool/whatever else Barbie does these days, there’s nothing Barbie wants to do more than curl up on her hard plastic furniture in a pink Snuggie. (Fashion Doll Snuggle Up with Sleeves by Marianne Forrestal)WR1926_doll_snugglet_medium[1]