Crochet hat disaster

“Aww, thanks! You made me a… er, what is it?”

I’m sure every knitter and crocheter has had an experience along these lines at some point. Often the relative or friend will be too polite to voice it, but you can see it in their eyes as they warily handle the hat you spent weeks toiling away on, risking your eyesight and ruining your hands with unsightly needle callouses. “Is it a teacosy?” you see them asking themselves. “I don’t have a teapot. What was she thinking? Or perhaps it’s a bag, but where’s the handle?” Eventually you take pity on them and tell them it’s a hat, then watch them try it on. “Oh, don’t worry,” you say, as you watch it drop down around their ears. “I can add in some elastic and that will sort out the fit.” This is the point where you also begin to get paranoid about whether your head is abnormally large, because the hat fit just fine on you.

Dad's earflapsStephanie Pearl-McPhee advises in her great little book, Knitting Rules!, that the only person who will ever truly appreciate the amount of time and skill that’s gone into a knitted gift is another knitter. I think she’s right about that, but there can be another potential issue. Your relatives are so keen to save your feelings, that rather than tell you there’s a small problem with the gift that you could fix for them, they throw the hat in the back of a drawer and you never ever see them wear it. Eventually I managed to worm out of my mum that Dad didn’t wear his knitted hat because he didn’t like the earflaps (shown left). They didn’t want to say anything because they thought the hat was all in one piece, whereas in fact the earflaps were sewn on at the end. It took me all of five minutes to unpick the joining stitches, and since then I’ve seen him wear it when out gardening or woodchopping.

Husband socksThe other thing Pearl-McPhee warns about is never to make anyone socks as a gift, because then you’ll spend the rest of your life being pestered for more. I learned this lesson the hard way after making a pair of socks for my husband. The other similar phenomenon I’ve encountered is my mum handing me patterns saying “If you want a present idea for me, I really like this bed  jacket.” This is a bed jacket worked in a complicated lace pattern using fine mohair yarn on tiny needles. Yeah right, Mum. Maybe if they issue an extra few hours in the day…

With Christmas fast approaching I’m having my annual brainstorm about what gifts to make my friends and family. For years now I’ve been giving handmade birthday and Christmas presents to my nearest and dearest, but recently I’ve started to get a bit more selfish with my crafting time. I realised that although I’d spent the best part of five years on my hobby, I didn’t have a single item of clothing I’d made for myself. Just one lowly scarf. Things had to change. I put a moratorium on handmade birthday presents, freeing up my time for most of the year. However, for me Christmas shouldn’t be a time for crass commercialisation, but for giving simple, handmade gifts. If I don’t do the knit/crochet thing, then I’ll end up making a ton of truffles!

Pattern links

Here, then, are my top pattern links for quick and easy gifts:

Jo's mobile cosyTechno cosies are probably one of the quickest gifts you can make, and everyone has at least one item that could use one. There are so many beautiful free patterns over at Ravelry here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/search#photo=yes&craft=knitting&view=captioned_thumbs&availability=free&sort=best&pc=electronics

However, you don’t need to follow a pattern. So long as you know the dimensions of the item it’s easy to improvise (This pattern shows you a simple technique for a crochet case). I made this gorgeous crochet phone cosy on the left by making a foundation chain as long as the base of my phone, then working half double crochet stitches in a round, going into each side of the original chain. The striping was simple too: just use a stripy sock yarn! This year, however, I’ll be making my sister the zombie variation instead :)

Crochet snowflakesXmas decorations can be cute little gifts you can slip into a card and send to friends in far away places. A few years back I made loads of crochet snowflakes (you can see some in the picture on the right), using free patterns sourced here: http://www.crochetpatterncentral.com/directory/snowflakes.php I honestly couldn’t tell you now which ones I actually made, but there’s something here for all crochet skill levels. Make them in fine white cotton yarn and block them using a solution of PVA glue, then sprinkle on glitter as they dry. Beautiful! You can also find a whole bunch of free knitted ornament patterns here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/search#photo=yes&craft=knitting&view=captioned_thumbs&availability=free&sort=best&pc=decorative

All I Want for ChristmasBut what about the crafter herself? (or himself–sorry Cole!) I decided that as well as making presents for everyone else, I wanted to make myself something too. I’m going for a dressmaking project instead of a knit or crochet one. See, I bought this fabulously camp piece of fabric (left) last year and it’s just dying to be made into an apron…

Are you a selfish or a selfless crafter? And what are you making for people this year? Better yet, what are you making for yourself?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Josephine Myles first learnt to crochet when she was eighteen. After making one beret that turned into a teacosy and frustrated at the crappy choice of yarn in her local shops, she decided the craft just wasn’t for her. Fast forward ten years, and having a bun in the oven prompted Jo to pick up her hook again to crochet some teeny-tiny baby things. Fortunately, by this time the world had caught up with her and there were all kinds of sexy yarns out there to indulge in. A few years later she taught herself knitting and dressmaking, and she hasn’t looked back since.

When she’s not busy with yarn or sewing machine, Jo can be found with her head in a book, pottering in the garden or running around after her daughter. She should probably get back to writing the steamy manlove novels, shouldn’t she?

Jo’s website and blog: http://josephinemyles.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JosephineMyles
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/josephine.myles.authorpage
Ravelry profile: http://www.ravelry.com/people/Anna-Jo

Hat photograph shared by Yersinia under a Creative Commons Licence. All other photographs © Josephine Myles