Well, it's time to go into grump mode: the holidays are over. This is my least favorite time of year. It's cold and dark and boring and cold. Hmph.
But I'm trying to look on the bright side, and one plus is that I can refocus on knitting for myself again. In fact, yesterday I managed to turn the heel on a second sock that's been languishing since before the holidays, so soon I should have another toasty pair of socks for my tootsies.
As far as Christmas knitting, here's what I accomplished:
The boy is in Jared Flood's Habitat, my sister is wearing Hermione Hearts Ron, mom got the 16 Sixteen Cable hat I blogged about a couple months ago, and dad was the lucky recipient of a Morgan hat. This hat holds a special place in my heart, as I tried to knit it for him last Christmas, and failed miserably. This time, though, it turned out quite nice.
In fact, he really seemed to like it. He put it on several times on Christmas day. But I'm concerned that something in the hat is causing sudden-onset dementia. To quote a famous holiday tune:
"For when he placed it on his head, he began to dance around!"
My dad put the hat on, and then inexplicably started to do a little dance, imploring us to guess what movie it was from.
::Dance:: ::Dance:: "Remember this movie??" ::Dance::
I was bewildered. The only thing it looked like to me were the so-called dance moves of the Peanut Gang from A Charlie Brown Christmas:
But that didn't seem quite right.
Ultimately, I had to give up, at which point dad announced, rather disappointed, that it was "the dance from Evan Almighty."
I've seen the movie exactly once, and certainly wasn't memorizing any dance scenes. But ok.
I was going to embed the video for you guys, but I could only find one (bad) clip and embedding is disabled, so you'll have to do without.
So (one of) the (many, many) reason(s) I'm a smidge behind on my Christmas knitting is that I thought it would be a really good idea to knit my friend a lace shawl for her birthday. Which was December 10. And I came up with this brilliant idea on, oh, November 27. Which not only left very little time to accomplish a lacy shawl beyond the scope of any lace project I've completed before, but also interrupted my Christmas knitting, which, up until that point, had been going along fairly smoothly.
I am clearly a genius.
(It really wasn't my fault though. She had complimented my Summer Flies Shawlette. So it was an absolute necessity. See?)
But I pushed ahead and am happy to say, I actually did it.
Pattern: Damask, by Kitman Figueroa Yarn: Caper Sock by String Theory Size: small Rav link
This is my first "real" lace shawl (ok, it's not done in laceweight, but still)--I've done a few other shawls, but they just had a lace border, or the body was mostly eyelets and not really lace. Not so with this one, which is allover lace, and, frankly, super fantastic. So of course, I could not keep it for myself. It seems to be an unwritten rule that whenever I manage to knit something super fantastic, I've already committed to giving it away. Hmph.
As many knitters know, lace shawls frequently contain nupps. What you may not know is that "nupp" is shorthand for "will cause hand cramps and general misery." Seriously.
Ok, not seriously, but it may as well be. Here's generally how my nupp experience went.
Right side: "Knit 7 stitches into the next stitch? Well, ok, that's kind of pain, but doable. 1 . . .2 . . . 3 . . .. 5 . . . wait, that was 4. Ok, 5 . . . 6 . . . 8 . . . how did I get 8? Grrrrr. Let's start over. 1 . .. 2 . . . . . . sh!t, lost count again. Well, that's some number greater than 3, that should do it."
Wrong side: "Purl next 7 stitches together??? What the hell? What kind of magic am I supposed to use to do that? These aren't Hermione's bewitched knitting needles here!!! Ok, maybe I should try it before panicking. Let's go . . . ok, that's 1 stitch on the needle . . . 2 . .. 3---come on, 3, get your act together and get on the right hand needle. 4----ack, this is impossible, and I've still got 3 stitches to go. There's no room! Am I supposed to be using a sewing needle?? (Assorted grunting while trying to force needle through remaining stiches.) Ow, ow ow, my hand!! Ok, they're all on there. Now, to pull the yarn through. Oops, split the strand. Oooooops, split the strand again. OK, got it! Got it! Got it! Don't got it. Arghhhhhhhhhhhh. Ouchie, ouchie, my finger!!"
And so on, and so forth.
I don't know what crafty bastard invented nupps, but clearly some kind of masochist. Or possibly someone with an iron fingertip.
Aside from the nupps, though, this was a fairly enjoyable knit. The designer did an unGodly number of charts, they must've given her quite a headache, but they were easy to follow, and I encountered no problems. (Well, actually, just one small problem. There's a row missing between the final chart, and the "finishing" instructions--it's hidden in the written instructions for the last chart, but was easy to skip over. It was also easy enough to find once I realized the last charted row was a right side row, and the first row for "finishing" was a right side row, so I'd certainly missed a crucial step somewhere.)
So there you have it, a shawl in 2 weeks. I have bestowed it upon the lucky recipient, who made all of the appropriate Ooos and Ahhhhs and other assorted compliments. And I'm just trying not to miss my shawl too much as I finish up the last of my admittedly less awesome Christmas gifts.
Still. Not as cold, thankfully, but the wind chill is in the 20s, which isn't exactly the Bahamas.
I don't mind too much though--I like it to be cold for Christmas and the New Year. Once those events are over, it could instaneously turn to spring as far as I'm concerned, but I need cold for my winter holidays.
Speaking of, how is Christmas in 5 days? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? I've got 4 gifts to finish. Oops. I'm pretty confident I'll finish 3, which I guess is better than nothing.
And, speaking of gifts, lets announce the winner of the Kiva gift certificate, shall we?
The winner is ............... IVY!! Ivy, please send me an email so I can get your contact info and get your gift certificate out to you. Thanks everyone for your comments and your interest in supporting Kiva borrowers.
As far as knitting goes, I have a few items to show you, just as soon as I can take a break from knitting and work on photos. But if I have any hope of finishing those 4 gifts, I don't have time for much other than knitting between now and the 25th!
Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that Maryland is South, and therefore, not very cold. I have absolutely no idea where this misconception comes from, but let me put this rumor to rest: when I left for work this morning, the windchill was 6. Not 26, not 16, 6. SIX!!!! For cryin' out loud.
No, it may not be the arctic circle, but it's darn, darn cold here. Don't move to Maryland thinking we have mild winters.
(And, in this "mild" weather, I spent 25 minutes standing on an above-ground subway station platform, my extremities growing progressively number,waiting for a train. I've finally regained feeling in my hands, which it why I'm able to write this post.)
Sadly, I am not wearing this today, which would probably help me warm up:
The reason I'm not wearing it today is that I've worn it so much already--it needs a wash, and perhaps some downtime so it doesn't get worn out too quickly.
Needless to say, I absolutely adore it. it fits perfectly, and the yarn is warm and soft, no itch.
The pattern has a lot going on because Ysolda provides so many sizes, but once you get a handle on which instructions apply to you, it's fairly easy. It does involve a few provisional cast-ons, which I'm not a fan of, and it's important to keep track of which row you're on because it skips around a bit where it divides for the body and sleeves. With this pattern, concentration is more important than being a master of any fiddly techniques.
I actually managed to finish this is just one month--far faster than my usual sweater speed.
I love the buttons, but they're a smidge big. They are the size called for in the pattern, but I would consider going a bit smaller. In fact, if I ever find slightly-smaller-but-equally-gorgeous buttons, I might just change them!
"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."
I try to keep this in mind when making charitable donations--who's just throwing money at a problem, and who's really trying to do something to improve the underlying causes of the problem?
I have several charities near and dear to my heart, but today I'm going to wax poetic about Kiva, because, well, you'll see.
Kiva partners with microlending organizations in developing countries to make small business loans. "Small business," note, doesn't necessarily mean the same thing everywhere that it does here (like when you think of your LYS). It's often very informal--a woman selling "fast food" out of her home, or peddling clothes door-to-door. There's often no licensing, no staff, no marketing--just one person trying to get ahead.
So, what do we do? We are the lenders! Kiva offers a platform through which lenders can direct funds (they do the leg work--researching partner organizations, collecting funds from lenders, all the bureacratic red tape that seems to accompany trying to do something helpful; and the partner organizations do all the on-the-ground work necessary--identifying recipients, disbursing funds, organizing repayments, etc. ), but we pony up the cash.
And we don't just fling some money in Kiva's direction--this is the best part! We, the lenders, read people's stories and choose where to send our money. Some of the stories are incredibly inspirational--I read many of them as a Kiva translator, and always wish I had more money to lend! You also don't need a lot of cash on hand to lend--each loan is funded by multiple lenders, so you don't bear the entire burden.
And then we get our money back. To stick back in our wallets, or re-lend to someone else deserving. (Yes, there are defaults, but they are rare--both Kiva and the partner organizations work hard to identify reliable recipients and businesses to minimize chances for non-repayment.) This is what really makes our money so much more valuable--the same $25 can be used again and again to help different people.
Sooooo, this Christmas, I'm not giving away yarn, or pattern books, or anything knitting-related. I'm giving away a chance to do just a little smidge of good--a $25 Kiva gift certificate.
How can you win? Go to kiva.org right now and read some stories. Then come back here, and leave a comment telling me who you would lend to if you won the gift certificate (By the time the giveaway is finished, your chosen loan request will, hopefully, already be funded--but there are always more to pick from!). A knitter in Cusco? An Avon lady in Ecuador? A sheep herder in Azerbaijan? Whose story spoke to you?
When the winner gets his/her gift certificate, I would invite him/her to do a guest post on the blog to tell us all about who received the $25 and why.
(And of course, once the loan is repaid, you are free to withdraw the $25 and keep it for yourself--though I hope you'll continue to re-lend!)
Giveaway open until December 15. Tell your friends!
*(Actually, we should all do some good, all year round, but, well, Christmas is Christmas!)