Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Red Light Specials

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

While sitting indoors fighting off my cold, in the hazy days that follow Christmas and Boxing Day festivities, I finished off these two lovely hats.  I’m quite taken with the Red Light Special Pattern.  I love how different it looks with each new colourway I’ve light specialThe blue one was started on Christmas day, but not quite finished in time to be under a tree.  It has already been delivered to my sister in law, and the orange one will be given in the near future to a very big fan of orange who needs a bit of extra warmth and encouragement this winter, specially since we’re finally getting lots of snow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a closer look at the pattern.  I bet you can’t make just one!

A Hat Fit For An Olympian

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

This past week has been an exciting one!  We had a secret santa exchange in our class, and one girl, a young rower, had asked for her secret santa to get her Will Crothers for Christmas.  Will is one of Team Canada’s men’s 8 rowing team that won the silver medal at the London Olympics. [youtube]

men's 8

Photo courtesy of Will Crothers

He’s a local guy, and a distant cousin of mine, so I sent a few emails and was thrilled when Will agreed to come and visit and sign a picture for my student.  She was incredibly surprised, and giddy all day after his visit.  My students enjoyed the opportunity to touch a real silver medal, and to talk to an Olympian.

Will CrothersTo thank him for going above and beyond, and making a young rower’s Christmas wish come true, I gave him a hat that I’d knit this fall.  It is the Red Light Special hat, one of my favourites.  He told me that he’d wear it often.  My students offered me a very big complement: they didn’t believe that I’d knit it.  They were sure I had bought it.

Thanks Will for making this a very memorable week!

Secret Santa

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

‘Tis the season for giving.  I love this time of year!  The weather gets colder, and it just seems sensible to wrap up in warm woolies.  I’ve been taking advantage of the long evenings to whip through a few gifts for the secret santa exchanges that I’m involved in.

My three high school classes are all exchanging gifts.  Each person is limited to $5 to prepare their project.  These limits have brought up all sorts of discussions generally starting with “you can’t buy ANYTHING for $5″.  I am a firm believer in creating gifts.  For $5 you could bake cookies/cake etc, draw or paint a picture, or in my case, I choose to knit.  I’m curious to see what gifts get exchanged.  Last year my gift was a Christmas tree ornament and a can opener.  I still use the can opener to this day!

Here’s what I’ve made for my secret santa students:  Here’s a slightly modified version of the “End of May” hat (ravelry).  secret santaI knew that I didn’t have time to knit up the hat at the gauge that was specified, so I used heavier yarn (acrylic so it’s not itchy) and worked 3 pattern repeats rather than 4.  I also didn’t work the internal lining, but rather did ribbing for one hat and a Latvian braid for another.secret santa

The yarn is scrap from my stash.  The red is not actually red, but more of a “radioactive salmon” hot pink/orange colour, which seems to be quite fashionable amongst the youngsters these days.  This yarn was rescued from the GAP where it was used as part of a display, but going to be thrown out afterwards (shameful!).  I remember the day when a big bag with many balls of fluorescent yarn appeared in my office–thanks so much to Rachel for giving me some.

secret santaThe third gift I made is a pair of 100% wool mittens (Sean Sheep brand from Walmart, purchased AGES ago). It’s a very cozy softly spun single ply yarn that sometimes didn’t hold together under tension.  I knit these mitts with extra long cuffs, then decorated them with snowflakes embroidered on top.

I hope that my students realize that although their gifts cost me less than $5 to create, they are worth much more.  I invested my time, and my care to create something specially for them.  I have high hopes that teenagers can appreciate these gifts.

Julekuler-Norwegian Knitted Balls

Monday, December 10th, 2012

It’s rainy here these days.  We’ve only had one brief dusting of snow which was quickly washed away by showers.  All the rain is making me remember my experience in Norway.  There is some amazing knitting that originated in Norway, the entire Selbu tradition for instance.

I recall my visit to the Selbu knitting museum where a young boy working there on a summer job told me that the very intricate mittens were knit in a day by Altzheimer’s patients who had forgotten everything but mitten knitting.  I’m a little doubtful as to the truth of that story, but here’s another little bit of Norwegian knitting that could be done in a day.  From my poor translations of the Norwegian websites I’ve discovered that Julekuler are knit balls that are stuffed, and hung as Christmas decorations.

Here’s the pattern for the reindeers in love julekuler shown below. (ravelry)

julekulerI knit this one for my brother and his wife to celebrate their first married Christmas.  He has a thing for moose–reindeer are pretty close.

Two Norwegian guys Arne and Carlos have made many different Julekuler as seen below.

image source:

Their pattern for the snowflake Julekuler is given on their site.  I made this one for my other brother and his wife for their first married Christmas.  snowflake

If you are counting down the days until Christmas and looking for a quick and interesting project, I recommend giving these a try.  They’re knit in the round with a gauge that creates a dense fabric so the stuffing doesn’t show through.  I’m sure there are lots of traditional motifs around, but I’m sure that a creative crafter could invent some non-traditional motifs.

image source:

Happy knitting!

A Mountain of Mittens

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

mittensIt’s been a busy fall!  I’ve been working on this pile of mittens for some time now–all Christmas gifts for various friends and family members.  The vast majority of the mittens I make are my slightly modified version of Robin Hansen’s Fox and Geese Mittens.  I started making this pattern when I was in grade 8 when my grandmother gave me Robin Hansen’s book “Fox and Geese and Fences, A Collection of Traditional Maine Mittens”.

My mods are: narrower longer cuff, and using a Latvian braid to stabilize the non-ribbed cuff from rolling.

thrummedAlso from the same book, I learned the technique of thrumming mittens.  This is where bits of fleece or roving is knit into the fabric of the mitten, leaving the ends loose on the inside as extra insulation.thrummedThese mittens are the warmest ones I’ve ever made.  The only issue with them is that there is limited mobility while wearing them.  They’re big, like boxing gloves, when they are first completed.  After years of wear the fleece tends to mat and felt a bit.  I’m using fleece that I washed myself.  It is clean, but has a bit of lanolin still on the fiber (it’s good for soothing chapped hands!).  It is not combed or carded fleece, I’m thrumming with the locks of fleece.

Tis The Season For Elf Slippers

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

December brings twinkle lights, snow, and best of all….it’s the only time where it is perfectly acceptable to wear elf slippers.  I made a pair for my dad a few Christmasses ago, and was so intrigued by the process that I have knit up some Cascade 220 from my stash into some child and infant sized slippers.  The free pattern from Flint Knits blog explains the entire process, from knitting the oversized slippers to felting them.beforeThey go really quickly since they’re worked on 6.5mm needles….child size…the pointy toes are a clever addition…infant size…as are the pointy additions to the cuffs.  With a quick trip through the wash (twice through worked really well), they are felted and drying stuffed with paper towel to keep their shape.afterI’m pretty pleased with the sizing of the child’s pair, but the infant pair seems to be really large.  If they don’t fit for this Christmas, they’ll fit for next year for sure!

Rather Late Christmas Presents

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Last Christmas I gave my brothers soft squishy presents under the tree.  They unwrapped and found bags of fiber which I promised to make into something that would be unique and perfect for them.  I never guaranteed that they’d be done quickly or anything.  Here are the results of several months of spinning and knitting.

A cable hat for brother #1 made of merino wool


And…for brother #2 who can’t wear anything wool because it is too scratchy, a pair of mittens designed for operating an iPod or iPad made out of superfine alpaca.


These are hunting gloves, with a finger and thumb separated from the hand.  The tips of the index finger and thumb have conductive thread stitched in.  This is what lets the touch screen devices pick up the “touch” signal.finger

He’s going to have the warmest hands this winter–no need to take these mitts off EVER!



Our Turkey Had A Mustache!

Monday, December 27th, 2010

This year I went home for the holidays.  Every year since I moved out I have returned home for the holidays–at most I am a 12 minute walk from home on most days, but for the holidays I pack my stuff and sleep over–this year we were all there, both brothers, my parents and me.  We take comfort in many holiday traditions, some of which have just sort of evolved over the years.  Take our Christmas Eve dinner–It has been lasagna ever since an unfortunate self-timing-oven-broiling-incident about 20 years ago; Mom had the timer set so the lasagna would be done after the 5pm church service.  Ever since I can remember we’ve all go to the midnight service where I now sing in the choir, and my brothers–both grown men–sing descants from the congregation.  From where I sit, I can usually see the giggles from my family, and others around them.  It is tradition to see choir friends returning from university, or from jobs far from here–some come with spouses and kids now!  After late church, giddy as anything, we head home to eat a Yule Log that my mom makes, and listen to a compilation of interesting Christmas music that my brothers put together before we hang up our stockings.

Christmas morning we open gifts slowly-a tradition that we didn’t really like when we were little, but we appreciate now that we are older.  I’m not sure how it is in most families, but I get the traditional gifts of shampoo, pantyhose, life savers, and gingerbeer every year!  A new tradition, that I’m not sure will stand the test of time, is that my brothers and dad grow Christmas mustaches–I bet that they will be gone by New Year!

grandmother's tree

We gathered for dinner at my grandmother’s house.  This is her 96th Christmas, and she had a great time.  Many days are spent in preparation for this feast.  My aunts and my mom and my grandmother all do lots of cooking and organizing.  We gathered on the 23rd for the annual smoothing of the table cloth and setting of the table.

We had a lovely turkey (note the mustache).  My mom and dad have been the turkey preparation team for the past few years.  It was delicious!

My grandmother made the pudding again this year.  Every year there is a concern about how the pudding will turn out.  It was delicious as always…

..and it flamed really well too!

The tradition of doing it all again on boxing day is something else I love.  We are dressed more casually, and can bring a gift to show and tell.  We used to play never ending games of checkers with all of the cousins, but this year everyone was watching football because their proline tickets were still good by 6pm.  It was an exciting time for them.

I knit more of my pathetically late secret santa mitten.  At least I’m knitting the thumb now–Deadline #2 is Jan. 3rd.  Fingers crossed it will be finished by then.What are your Christmas traditions?

Five Batches of Cookies…Parchment Paper Is My Friend

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

This year Christmas kind of snuck up on me. I had been so focused on all the mini deadlines that I had lost track of the fact that December is here, and almost gone! I didn’t really get all the knitting done that I wanted to. I didn’t really want to go to the malls, although I did go a few times. When I woke up on December 23rd and realized that the next day was Christmas Eve, I knew I needed a solution!

Thankfully I had stocked up on butter and flour and eggs…I got out my recipe box and on December 24th made lots and lots of cookies. Cookies are great gifts for cousins and friends. They make wonderful care packages for those who might be spending Christmas away from family, or for whom the season might be difficult.

I love all the recipes, and want to share them with everyone. For massive cookie production, I recommend clearing a large place for cookie cooling, clearing space in the fridge for chilling dough and pans between trips to the oven, and using parchment paper to line the pans! (I actually don’t recommend making all of these in one day–it left very little time for all the other Christmas Eve things, like delivering gifts, eating dinner as a family (we have lasagna every year), and singing at the late church service.

Cookies were baked and cooled, and packaged in time to deliver by 5:00pm. Delivering nicely wrapped home made cookies to people on Christmas eve who are not expecting a gift is kind of a special thing. I was able to see some of the people, but others were left as part of stealth missions of Christmas joy. I may never hear back from those ones, but I imagine that they were thrilled to receive a Christmas surprise. I enjoyed being the secret santa to about 10 unsuspecting people this year. If you get into a cookie baking marathon, you need to think up about 10 families that will eat all the treats!

Here’s my dining room table when things were winding down.


For some reason, I didn’t get to taking a picture of the disaster area that was my kitchen. It’s clean now though, I promise!

So here are the recipes:
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. butter
1 1/2 c + 2tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift flour and baking powder and salt together then set aside. Put butter and 1.5 c sugar in the bowl of the mixer. Mix on medium until pale and fluffy (3 min). Mix in eggs, reduce to low speed and mix in dry ingredients.

Stir cinnamon and 2 tbsp sugar in small bowl. Shape dough into small balls then roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake cookies until edges are golden (12 minutes. Cool on sheets.

Lemon Poppyseed
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice +3.5 tsp grated zest
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
2tsp pure vanilla
1 tbsp poppy seeds and more for sprinkling

Bring lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook until reduced by half.  Add 1/2 cup of butter.  Stir until melted. Set aside to cool.

Whisk flour, b.powder, salt in med. bowl.  Put remaining 1/2 c. butter and 1.5 c sugar in bowl.  Mix until creamy.  Add egg and reserved cooled lemon butter.  Mix until pale (3 min). Mix in vanilla and 2tsp. lemon zest.  Reduce to low.  Mix in flour and poppy seeds.

Stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 1.5 tsp lemon zest.  Roll dough into 1.25 inch balls. Roll in lemon sugar.  Press with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake at 350 F until browned (12min).

Oatmeal Raisin (These were the favourite of the season!)
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. + 2tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 c. wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I added more)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together oats, flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Put butter and sugars in another bowl and mix on medium until pale and fluffy (5 min). Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add oat mixture. Mix until just combined. Add raisins.

With a 1.5 inch ice cream scoop (or large spoon) mound dough on pan. Space 2 inches apart. Bake for 14 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 min. Cool on wire rack after that.

Molasses Cookies
1/2 c butter softened
1 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar and 1/4 cup for rolling
2 large eggs
1/2 c unsulfered molasses
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground all spice
1/2 tsp salt

Put butter, brown sugar, 1/2 c granulated sugar in the mixer (3 min) on medium. Mix in eggs followed by molasses and oil.
Reduce speed and mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, all spice, salt. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or more.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Put remaining 1/2 c granulated sugar in a bowl. Scoop out dough and form balls then roll in sugar. Place on a pan 3 inches apart. Bake for 17 minutes. These cookies spread a lot while baking.

Gingerbread (my great aunt’s recipe)
2.5 c flour
2 tsp b.soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cloves
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 egg
2 tbsp. molasses

Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients. Chill 1 hour at least. Roll to about 1/8 inch and cut into shapes. Bake at 400 F for 5-8 minutes.

Super Top Secret Craft Club Meeting

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

It was a crafty Friday!

craft club

A group of us got together and made porcelain snowflake Christmas ornaments.  It’s a wonderful thing to know a potter who is generous in their time and materials.  If you have access to clay and a kiln, and want to know what we did, here are the steps.

1.  Make a paper snowflake.  Fold paper into quarters or sixths and cut out along the edge and the middle.

2.  Unfold the snowflake and use a damp sponge to adhere it to a thin rolled slab of porcelain.

3. Using a scalpel blade/exacto knife, cut out the snowflake.


4.  Peel back the paper, and let the snowflake dry and harden.

5.  Fire the snowflake in a kiln.

Some of us were not really into the whole snowflake thing.  They thought that making guns ornaments would be more manly.


I look forward to seeing what the finished products look like.