There are so many things going at this time of year that it is easy to get all lost in it all — lost amidst the shopping and the rushing and the spending and the wrapping. It’s so easy to focus on what we feel we ought to do and we must do that we can lose sight of the best that season brings.
The best part of Christmas is the time we spend with family and friends, and when we open ourselves up enough to treat strangers as friends. It’s the gifts that come not from our credit cards, but from our hearts. And it’s the traditions that we keep — the old ones passed down through the generations, that link us to all those who celebrated the season in times before, and the new ones we create with our own families.
Yesterday, we celebrated our traditions. We baked gingerbread men and decorated our tree, which had been standing patiently and bare until its big moment on Christmas Eve. We gathered around the table and ate a feast. We laid out brownies and wee dram for Father Christmas. And we took some time to stop and remember what the season and holiday is really all about.
And on this bright and snowy Christmas morning, I want to send to all of you my wishes for very happy holidays and for all the best things that the season brings. Merry Christmas, everyone!
The holiday season is upon us and suddenly, I’m in the mood for something a bit luxurious. I don’t know if it’s the chill in the air, or the lovely smells of wintery comfort-food, or thoughts of all the gift-giving to come… but I have been wanting to snuggle down and knit with something really luxurious.
Cashmere, I thought. Cashmere is luxury. And I knew it would be soft, and I knew it would feel heavenly, but I wasn’t really prepared for just how luscious it is…
Let me introduce you to Estelle, a stunningly soft 4-ply fingering yarn, in 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Nylon, and 10% of that most wonderful Cashmere. The superwash will prevent it from felting, and the nylon adds the strength needed for socks and mittens, but it’s the cashmere — oh, that cashmere — that makes all the difference! And this is not me talking this yarn up — I was quite genuinely surprised by how soft this yarn is, how squishable, how… well, just how luxurious it is. I have not been able to stop petting it all week!
I also haven’t been able to stop dyeing it. I may never go back to ordinary yarn again… Care to join me?
In every home across the country this week, the scene will be exactly the same… There will be mixing bowls filled with the most amazing treasures, and pots gently bubbling on the stove. There will be the old favourites and new recipes, last minute changes and quick saves when things go wrong. A pinch of this and a dash of that…
And it’s been no different here. Well… ok, then, maybe a wee bit different here in the SpaceCadet house. Here’s what I’ve been busily cooking up this week…
I know two little girls who are mad-crazy-keen about ballet. They begin dancing the moment they wake up, and they dance all through their day, and they don’t stop dancing until they go to bed. Actually, they probably don’t stop dancing until they fall asleep — I am quite certain they lie in the dark and practice their tondues under the bedsheets until sleep finally steals them away.
And they would wear their ballet shoes every single day if they could. But they’re not allowed, because the ballet shoes get lost — absent-mindedly set down on the wrong shelf or accidentally kicked under the sofa or sinking slowly to the bottom of the toybox — and are nowhere to be found on ballet day. And so those most-beloved shoes get secreted safely away after each class and the disappointed girls must instead practice their dancing in their socks. It’s not at all ballerina-like!
I’m always on the lookout to bring you great patterns that would make the most of single skeins of SpaceCadet yarn, and when I came across the Open House Socks by Kate Atherley, technical editor of Knitty and knitting editor of A Needle Pulling Thread, I fell in love them! They’re sweet, romantic, and cheeky all at once — and, as a bonus, each pair takes only about half a skein of yarn. They’d make a great quick-knit holiday gift — perfect for padding around the house on cold winter days. I looked at them and thought, they make me want to… dance!
Wait… Make me want to dance?!? I thought immediately about those two little dancers… I could knit them ballet shoes! I could knit them lovely ballet shoes so they could dance all week whilst their real ballet shoes were safely tucked away. There could be no better Christmas present for them on Earth!
In the dyeing studio, I sat and thought for a while about the perfect colour. I could do them in the standard ballet-shoe pink-beige but… well, while these two are budding ballerinas, they are also little girls who love all the stuff that little girls everywhere love: sparkly and bright and fancy and pink. Plain ballet shoes would never do — if they were going to have custom knit ballet slippers, then they would have them in a pink to thrill their hearts. And I began mixing the dyes…
I emailed Kate and told her my plan, and she wrote straight back and very kindly offered to help me adjust the pattern to suit these much smaller feet. What a lovely thing to do!
So once I’ve done my gauge swatch and worked out some calculations, I will cast on with this wonderful, crazy pink. And then I can’t wait to share with you my new works in progress!
There are some designers whom I admire hugely, and some whom I just want to sit and absorb knitting knowledge from, and some whose stars have shot so high into the knitsphere that I’d be awed just to meet them. But there is only one designer that I genuinely like so much that I want to sit down and a pour a nice cup of tea, and spend half an hour knitting with her each week. And… I do!
Brenda Dayne produces Cast-On, my absolute favourite knitting podcast and the most relaxing half-hour in my week. She is (as I was until a couple of years ago) an American expat living in Britain and, in between her interesting and entertaining pieces about knitting and spinning and dyeing, she also paints pictures of her home in west Wales that take me straight there. Cast-On is an absolute delight.
And even if I weren’t a fan of Brenda’s, I’d want to show you this design for the name alone, but her Brother Amos Hellfire Lace Socks are worth knitting not just because of Brenda, and not just because of the name (Hellfire..? Lace..? How did those two words end up side-by-side?!?) but because it is a gorgeous design. I love the way the lace flickers up the leg (what better to keep your feet warm as winter sets in?), and I know the stitch pattern would be interesting to knit without being too daunting.
And they’re beautiful, aren’t they? Just beautiful!
These socks call for a yarn that lives up to their fiery name, and I think they’d would really… (ahem!)… glow in the warm colours of Ball of Fire or Sunset Over a Stormy Sea. Don’t you?
Now, let me just stop here and give you fair warning that I am about to tell you that the holidays are around the corner.
I know, I know. That last post — the one right there below this one — has jack-o-lanterns in it and I know it feels waaaay too early to be even thinking about breaking out the holiday decorations and baking cookies and wrapping presents and… But we are a special breed, you and I. We are fiberistas. We don’t just rush out to the stores and buy our gifts at the last minute. We make gifts — each gift unique, each stitch fashioned with love for those people we care about most in the world, and who understand just what a hand-made gift means.
And that kind of gift-giving takes time… which is why, for the likes of you and me, the holidays really are right around the corner! So to get your gift-giving ideas flowing over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some great patterns for quick holiday gifts.
And let’s start with something from Kate Gilbert, who designed the incredibly popular Clapotis scarf (with 16,395 projects listed on Ravelry!). But my eye was caught instead by her beautiful Marina Piccola socks. I just love the way the simple pattern so perfectly evokes ripples across a water’s surface. And I think it looks like a quick but really interesting knit for holiday gift-giving.
You know this pattern would really shine in a rich colourway such as Desert Wine, but I’d love to see these how these socks came out in a more variegated yarn such as DayLilies or Plumberry. I think the combination could be quite stunning.