Tag Archives: gifts

Indie Design Gift-a-Long 2014: Last Minute Gifts

I’m finishing my series of roundups featuring designs from the Indie Design Gift-a-Long, an awesome virtual event on Ravelry happening through December 31, 2014. All of these patterns are 25% off through 11:59 p.m. Eastern tonight with coupon code giftalong2014! In addition to this sale, the Indie Design Gift-a-Long includes a massive knit-and crochet-a-long, and phenomenal prizes.

Earlier this week, I shared roundups of some of my favorite crochet designs in the Gift-a-Long sale bundles: 9 patterns for men12 crochet lace patterns9 neckwarmers, and 12 crochet hats. (You can find even more great patterns on the Pinterest board I set up of all the crochet patterns on sale.) Today, I’m sharing 16 great last minute gifts. Each of these projects is relatively small and/or holiday related, so these would make great last minute holiday gifts.

Links to the patterns and designers are below the gallery. All images are copyright the designer unless otherwise noted.

Top row: La Villa Lace Fingerless Gloves by Betty Fay Wallace, Sweet Shells Purse by Melinda Miller, Snegurochka Mitts by Yuliya Tkacheva, Swift Kick Boot Cuffs by Janet Brani.

Second row: Crochet Splat Cat Coaster by cheezombieHardware Heaven – Boot Spats & Wrist Warmers by Sarah Jane, Cat Santa Hat by Akua Lezli Hope, Crocheted Vintage Rose Bracelet by Maya Kuzman.

Third row: Stash Pillow by Beth Graham, Dreidel Bowl by Lindsey Stephens, Mill Run Mitts by Amy Maceyko, Reindeer Baby Hat by Denise Balvanz.

Bottom row: Summer Girl Crocheted Headband by Monika Sirna, Mendeleev Vest by Debbie Sullivan, Tunisian Cat by Jennifer Raymond, Unraveled Sheep Bookmark by Justyna Kacprzak.

I hope you enjoyed this series, and I look forward to seeing you in the Indie Design Gift-a-Long group on Ravelry!

NaBloPoMo
I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

5 Tips for Holiday Crafting Success

Right now, many crocheters and knitters are revving up for the holiday crafting season. Unfortunately, this time of year can be filled with late nights, repetitive stress injuries, and disappointment. In the hopes of sparing you these dramas, I’m sharing my 5 tips for holiday crafting success.

5 Tips for Holiday Crafting Success by Underground Crafter

1) Create gifts only for those who are “worthy”

It can be tempting to make handmade gifts for everyone on your holiday gift list. If you love your craft and are skilled, often the fruits of your labor are more valuable than any gift you can afford to buy. But there are two realities you should consider before trying to crochet or knit gifts for everyone on your life.

  1. You are only one person with a finite amount of time.
  2. Not everyone is truly crochet- or knit-worthy.

By knocking the non-worthy off your list, you can manage your holiday crafting time more realistically, and increase the odds that the gift will actually be appreciated. When your gifts are appreciated, neither you nor the recipient is disappointed, so everyone wins!

What are some signs of a knit- or crochet-worthy recipient?

  • S/he has enjoyed and used previous handmade items you’ve gifted, or
  • S/he is also a crafter, and appreciates the skill and labor that goes into a handmade gift, or
  • S/he has complemented your work and seems to grasp that handmade gifts are difficult to produce!

2) Make a list – and check it (at least) twice

I usually start with 3 lists for holiday crafting: the must-makes, the maybe-makes, and the if-I-have-extra-timers.

The must-makes are the gifts at the top of my production schedule. The recipients are the most “worthy,” I have a clear idea of the project I plan to make, and the yarn is already in my stash or readily available. These are the projects I start right away.

The maybe-makes are the next tier of gifts. Perhaps the recipient is not as “worthy,” or I’m not quite sure what to crochet or knit, or I don’t have a suitable yarn, or, the recipient is really looking forward to another (non-handcrafted) gift. These are the projects I may (or may not) start once the must-makes are finished.

The if-I-have-extra-timers are the last tier of gifts. These include projects for people I don’t always exchange gifts with and quick and easy projects that can be used as gift wrap or embellishment. For instance, if I have the time, I may crochet a set of washcloths to go with a luxury bath kit, or coasters to go with a set of gourmet jams.

The lists keep me on track throughout the holiday crafting season, and I frequently make adjustments. I may find a perfect gift for someone while shopping, and decide to take them off the must-makes list, for example. Then, I may move up a project from the maybe-makes list.

And, of course, it helps to be realistic about your lists. Think about how much time is left before the holidays and what else is going on in your life during this time of year before even adding projects or recipients to the lists.

3) Remember the recipient

This tip may seem simple but it can be a difficult one to keep at the forefront of your mind, particularly if you spot a project that you’d love to create. The best handmade gifts are the ones that are enjoyed by the recipients, so taking some time to consider his/her needs, interests, and preferences before picking up the hook or needles can really make the holiday crafting season go much smoother and spare you (and the recipient) some hurt feelings down the line.

The key things to consider are project type, color, fiber, and care instructions. Your cousin who doesn’t wear jewelry will probably not love those crocheted earrings, even if they are lovely. Your friend with a very specific color scheme in her apartment will probably never display that stunning blanket (in a clashing color) that you labored over for weeks. Your uncle that is allergic to wool (or *thinks* he’s allergic to wool) will tuck that wool scarf in the back of the closet (even if it’s Merino!). And, your son who can barely do his own laundry will not be hand washing anything in the near future, so please use machine washable yarns.

4) Take breaks

Especially if your lists are long, it can be tempting to crochet or knit during every spare hour of every day through the holidays. But remember to be kind to your body. Repetitive stress injuries can make it impossible for you to enjoy your favorite craft again, so to avoid them be sure to take frequent breaks from your crafting (at least every half hour). Stretching, especially your neck and hands, can also keep you flexible and comfortable.

5) Add in something fun!

I frequently hear from crafters who dread this time of year. Gift making becomes an albatross around the neck, or a hated obligation. If you feel this way, drop as many projects from your lists as you need to and remember, you don’t owe anyone a handmade gift. Make some fun projects – for yourself, for gifts, or for charity – so you can remember why you love to crochet or knit in the first place.

NaBloPoMo

I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

Temperature Cowl for Mom

In 2013, I had a great time crocheting my temperature scarf, and having a 365 row scarf certainly came in handy during the brutal cold of January and February.

blog Temperature scarf folded flatIf you’re new to the temperature scarf phenomenon, it’s a conceptual project where you link a particular colorway to a set of temperatures, and then allow the weather to dictate your striping pattern. (You can find my free temperature scarf crochet pattern here.)

I promised my mom that I’d make her a temperature scarf before this winter. The catch was she only wanted to include the dates between my sister’s birthday and her birthday. (My birthday happens to be in the middle of theirs.) So, instead I decided to make a cowl.

Last weekend, I picked up some cozy and monochrome yarns from Frog Tree Alpaca that I thought would be perfect at Knitty City during the New York City Yarn Crawl.

FrogTreeAlpaca

Earlier this week, I looked through the weather from December 20, 2013 through February 23, 2014.

TempScarftracking I assigned the colors and charted out the striping pattern.

TempScarfdetailsNow, I just need to pick out a stitch pattern. I’m thinking this may be a knit version, with cables. I know my mom likes cables, but I’m not sure which stitch pattern might look best with frequent color changes. I guess I’ll get swatching!

FO Friday: Booties, 30 Min-Knits Book Review, and Giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

I have just a small finished object today, my very first pair of knit booties.  But they come with a long story!  (And, to thank you for reading the whole story, I’m also including a book review and giveaway at the end of this post.)

I have a friend that I haven’t seen in ages.  She used to date (and then was engaged to) a friend of mine from college.  There were about 3 or 4 years when the three of us would get together very frequently and have a great time.  They lived in a nearby neighborhood for a few years and then they moved to the Boston area, but I actually kept in touch and visited regularly for some time.  Then there was a lot of upheaval in my life in 2007-08 and, at the same time, they broke up and this friend moved to California.  I haven’t seen her since then and now we are “Facebook friends.”  (You know what I mean – I think about her, occasionally see a status update, but haven’t actually called or written in ages.)  Via Facebook, I learned that she got married and eventually that she was pregnant.  She actually kept a rather entertaining weekly blog during her pregnancy which I only discovered in about the eighth month.  The humor in her posts reminded me why I enjoy her friendship so much, so I decided to make her newborn baby girl some gifts.

Since we haven’t seen each other in about 5 years and I am completely pressed for time, I decided that my standard baby gift (a blanket) was out of the question.  I also didn’t want to buy any yarn, so I started looking for a group of smaller projects that I could make with stash. And that’s where these cuties come in.

I had a second ulterior motive.  I recently received a review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum from Barron’s Educational Series.  As the self-professed world’s slowest knitter, I figured I had to time myself making at least one project from the book.  I decided that if I could make one of the projects in 90 minutes, a normal knitter might be able to do it in 30.

The Broad Strap Booties seemed the perfect solution:

  • A pattern fit for a baby (check),
  • Made with small amounts of yarn (check),
  • In a yarn weight where I have some “girl colors” in my stash (check),
  • In an easy care (machine washable) yarn (check).

I used just a wee bit Lion Brand Wool-Ease Sportweight (now discontinued) that I bought years ago at one of the Smiley’s Yarns famous Manhattan yarn sales.  I think they came out pretty cutely.

I’m looking at Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers and Baby Blueprint Crochet: Irresistible Projects for Little Ones, both of which I won in blog giveaways (yippee!), for inspiration for some other small items to include in the package.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.  And to learn more about the Ripple Mania CAL giveaway, open to all readers on earth with prizes donated by Leisure ArtsLion Brand YarnMagique Enterprises, and Red Heart Yarn, check out this post.

Book Review

I recently received a review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum from Barron’s Educational Series.  The book positions itself as “a collection of knitting projects that you can really fit into your spare time…creating fun and imaginative pieces in a half-hour or less.”  The concept appealed to me totally, especially since I knit extremely slowly, but I’ll admit that I was dubious that anything can be knit (by me) in thirty minutes or less.  The book comes with a few disclaimers that put me more at ease.  Finishing is not included in the 30 minutes, and when the project is for multiple pieces (e.g., a set of mittens), only one piece can be made in 30 minutes.  Ok, perhaps there is such a project out there.

The book includes 60 projects, most of which are small and can be made with stash yarn, or which are made with bulky yarn or two strands of yarn held together.  You can tell that Carol is primarily a teacher, because the book is organized by skill level (40 Easy projects and 20 Intermediate projects), and then sub-divided by technique.  At the beginning of the book, there is a gallery of  project photos along with the page where you can find the pattern.  Some of the patterns include a technique marker (e.g., Cable Knitting) on the side of the page.  These techniques are explained in a 14 page illustrated section at the end of the book.

I made the Broad Strap Booties (pictured on the cover) to test out the 30 minute theory.  I gave myself 90 minutes per bootie since I know that I knit extremely slowly.  (As a reference point, it took me 25 minutes to make half a gauge swatch for the pattern – 22 stitches by 15 rows.)  I was able to complete both booties (not including swatching but including knitting and assembly/finishing), in just under 2 hours and 15 minutes.  I consider that a resounding success.

What I liked about this book: 

  • Each project is photographed several times from different angles.  The projects appear against a white background in the gallery, then again in “group photos” every few pages (with each item numbered for reference to the pattern), and then again on the pattern page.  This gives you a really clear idea of how the finished project will look and is also visually interesting.
  • Even though I personally don’t see myself knitting some of these projects (e.g., a Dali mustache), everything inside is actually very cute.  None of the projects “look” like they were thrown together in 30 minutes or less.
  • Most of the projects are great stashbusters.
  • There is an opportunity to try out techniques like shaping, cables, beading, or colorwork on a small and low-risk project.  The technique section in the back includes a “Practice This” box which directs you to the appropriate patterns using the technique.
  • If you tend to procrastinate on gift knits, this could be a great “go to” resource for inspiration.

What I don’t like about the book, or what’s missing:

  • Like other paperback books, it doesn’t lay flat so it is difficult to knit and read at the same time.  There are front and back cover flaps that you can use to hold your place, though.
  • When a pattern includes charts or a template, those are in the back rather than next to the pattern page, so you will need to flip back and forth a bit.
  • Though most projects are clearly made with just a small amount of yarn, the patterns list the full size of the skein used for the project.  For example, the booties that I made used about 34 yards in the main color and about 9 yards in the other color, but the pattern just mentions that I need two balls of Rowan Handknit Cotton DK (93 yards each).  I think the book could get more mileage as a stashbusting book if Carol included the approximate yardage for each project.  Instead, the knitter needs to guess whether they have enough yarn in their stash for any given project.
  • On a related note, it would help if the weight of the yarn was listed for each project.  If it isn’t part of the brand name (e.g., Rowan Handknit Cotton DK), then there aren’t many clues about the yarn weight.  I’m guessing the Rowan and Coats yarns that Carol used for the book are ubiquitous in the UK, but it would be great if it was easier to make yarn substitutions.
  • While arranging the book in order of difficulty is a great idea, it is hard to find projects by type (e.g., women’s accessories) with this system.  It is difficult to determine the scale of a project from the gallery, so it would be helpful if the index listed projects by type.  (The baby projects are listed as a category in the index, though.)

Unfortunately, the patterns are not posted on Ravelry yet and you can’t “search inside the book” on Amazon, so it is hard to get an idea of what is included if you don’t see the book in person.  I would recommend this book for a beginner, advanced beginner, or newly intermediate knitter who likes to make small, portable projects.  If you are trying to bust some stash and enjoy gift knitting, this could also be the right book for you.  The book includes 60 projects, which is more than you would generally find in a book at this price point, but many of the projects are primarily decorative.  I think this would be a fun book to use when knitting with children or teens since the projects are cute and fast to make, and the accessories are on trend.  If you are a more experienced knitter or like more detailed/involved projects, then this is probably not the book for you.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

To kick off the last minute holiday gift making season, I’m giving away my review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum, courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series.  This giveaway is open to all readers with a U.S. mailing address.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, November 29, 2012.

Holiday Stashdown Challenge 2012

In years gone by, I used to work on winter holiday gifts all year long.  My goal was to be finished by the end of August, but mid-November was my real deadline.  I hate shopping, and if the handmade gifts weren’t going to be ready in time, I needed to know before “Black Friday” so I could beat the holiday shopping crowds!  In the last few years, I have started my handmade holiday gifts at the last minute, which inevitably led to stress, late gifts, overpriced shipping costs, and other drama.  I’ve been focused on saving money and destashing this year, so I decided to combine all of these motivations into one big challenge: a holiday stashdown.

If you’d like to join in the Holiday Stashdown Challenge with me, I’ll be posting updates and suggestions each Tuesday for the rest of the year (along with a link party, starting next week), and I’m even willing to organize swaps/yarn trades and offer some prizes for good behavior :).

The mission: Use existing stash (or other “free” yarn obtained through trades and swaps) to make holiday gifts slowly during the year (instead of through a series of all-nighters in December) for crochet- and/or knit-worthy people.  (If your stash isn’t ginormous like mine, feel free to buy yarn as needed – the emphasis of the challenge is on making holiday gifts throughout the year rather than at the last minute!)

The deadline: Well, that will vary, based on the holidays your loved ones celebrate, whether the gifts are being shipped, and your own personal comfort zone.

Here are some winter holiday dates to help with setting your own completion goals:

Please let me know if I’ve left any winter gift giving holidays off – I’ve only included those that I’ve made gifts for in the past.

My personal goal will be to finish my gifts by Sunday, November 18.  That will leave me time to shop before “Black Friday,” as well as time to make birthday gifts for all the Sagittarians, Capricorns, and Aquarians in my life :).

How it will work: Every Tuesday, I’ll share a Holiday Stashdown Challenge post, along with a link party you can join.  You’re welcome to link up a post about your progress towards your own Holiday Stashdown Challenge goals.

Sometimes, our intended recipients are also readers of our blogs, so it can be tough to share information about our progress.  Not to worry!  Each week, I’ll share a prompt for the next week’s post, so you’ll have something to write about even if you can’t share exact details about your projects and recipients.  The Holiday Stashdown Challenge is ultimately about relieving stress, not creating it, so don’t feel that you must post weekly to participate :).

The prompt for Tuesday, May 15: How do you decide who is crochet- or knit-worthy?   Do you make gifts for all the important people in your life, or are you selective about who receives your handmade creations?  Draft up the list of who you will be making gifts for this year and when you plan to give or ship the gifts.  (Even if you can’t share the details of the list, let us know how many people are on it; if the recipients include friends, family, classmates, co-workers; when you need to have the gifts finished, etc.)

 

Are you up for the Holiday Stashdown Challenge?  Let me know in the comments :).