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The Knitter’s Gift Guide – 2016 Edition

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So, you have a knitter in your life and you want to spoil them. Maybe it’s a Secret Santa gift you are looking for – maybe it is the love of your life you are hoping to impress. But what to buy them? What would make a great present? Fear not, I have some really great ideas for you.

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The Yarnistry shop on Etsy has some fabulous wooden laser cut badges that let people proudly declare their love for spinning, knitting, crochet or yarn. Continuing with the theme, Marissa Thereze has fair-isle button sets that I think look really cool.

Stitch markers are great stocking fillers or Secret Santa gifts. If you search on Etsy for “knitting + stitch markers” you will find themed sets on everything from Alice in Wonderland to zombies. Personally I quite like this set of Green Man themed markers and these markers that will not get tangled up in your knitter’s project.

In the whimsical section, you can buy knitting-themed tea, a cute sheep print, or a car sticker warning off potential yarn thieves.

You can buy yarn for well under £5, but you rarely get enough to make anything substantial or the yarn isn’t the nicest. However, one ball of Drops Kidsilk is enough to knit a scarf (my Florence pattern is free to download from Ravelry) and it is quite, quite lovely.  West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley DK is a great yarn and Woolly Wormhead’s Rainbowret pattern (free on Ravelry) would look fabulous in one of the variegated shades.

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Knitters love small project bags in which they can store & transport whatever they are working on. I really like this Woodland bag from QuincePie and this contemporary project bag from The Stitch Society, but search on Etsy for “knitting + project + bag” for a spectacular range of project bags. Tote bags are also a huge hit: try Knit Long And Prosper for geek chic, Every Week is Wool Week for Shetland knitting enthusiasts, or Cake Lovin’ Yarn Rubbin’ Tea Gluggin’ for the giggles.

Namolio does seriously stylish accessories & notions. This fabulous linen needle book (which stores sewing needles) also comes in a version with hedgehog buttons. I also adore her linen/crochet badges and stunning pincushions.

Does your knitter like to read? Clara Parkes’ Knitlandia is a beautiful and funny love letter to the international knitting community. How about something else for the home? TillyFlopDesigns has this gorgeous Oh! How I’d Rather Be Knitting! tea towel, Debbie Bliss has some rather splendid knitting-themed mugs and Skein Queen sells cute lavender satchels that help ward off yarn-munching moths. Finally, knitters use SOAK to wash and finish their knits.

Yarn and pattern-wise, you have a wider choice. My Lindgren mitts (Ravelry download; not free) take 4 balls of Drops Lima. A skein of Malabrigo Worsted will make a Fuego hat by Justyna Lorkowska (Ravelry download; not free). You can buy a ball of self-patterning sockyarn (always make sure to buy 100g!) or some handdyed Pokemon-inspired yarn for the geek in your life. Sock designer Rachel Coopley has launched her own sock yarn: check out Socks Yeah!

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Knitting jewellery can make for an incredibly thoughtful gift and comes in a variety of styles. Knitting jewellery can be anything from this knitting basket brooch to this laser-cut necklace. YellowBearWares make pieces from recycled knitting needles – this red bracelet is pretty and leaves room in the budget for other things. You can also buy knitting jewellery kits. I like this striking green beaded necklace kit by Mahliqa. The independent dyer Kettle Yarn Co sells this shawl pin on her site. If you’d rather decorate the tree, Gabi Reith offers a really nice “knitted mitten” decoration which she will personalise for your knitter.

Beautiful kits (pattern and yarn packaged together) include a traditional Fair Isle hat from a Shetland yarn company and a contemporary colourwork hat from Scotland-based designer Kate Davies. Ella Austin designs quirky toys with a retro flavour: her Tawny Owl kit is really cute but explore the rest of her shop.

Speaking of yarn, the world is your oyster. Yarn is one of the best presents a knitter can get. There are a truly dazzling array of yarns and it can be difficult to figure out what to buy (and how much!) if you are not a knitter yourself.

Independent dyers and small yarn companies produce some of the nicest, unique yarns around. You often only need one 100g hank from them to make a pair of socks or a small shawl. For subtle and delicate shades, try Eden Cottage Yarns’ Harewood 4ply, Skein Queen’s Lustrous. For deep jewel-like shades, I really like the silk blends from Travelknitter and DyeNinja. Cool and contemporary design? Explore EasyKnits’ Dusted Dreams series, Scotland-based dyer Rusty Ferret and London dyer The Wool Kitchen. Should your yarn be single origin-esque with proven provenance? Kettle Yarn Co makes the exquisite Baskerville 4ply, designer Ysolda Teague has launched her first yarn with the beautiful Blend no. 1 (pair it with her Newhaven hat pattern), Tamar DK from  Blacker Yarns is just lovely, and Daughter of a Shepherd is yarn that can be traced to one single clip.

And if you’d rather gift something that can be worn immediately, witty t-shirts abound: The World’s Okayest Knitter, Francis the Alpaca, Knitted Spaghetti and around 32,000 other tshirts.

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Gifts over £25 for the knitter in your life? Apart from combining some of the items mentioned previously (and what a special treat that would be!), one of the best ideas would be to get a gift certificate from a local yarn shop. Not only does your knitter get to go on a shopping spree but it also supports the local knitting community. You can also look into gifting a space on a workshop – a day out learning new skills and meeting fellow crafters is a great experience. Check your local yarn shop for more details.

Needle sets can be pricey but they are a fabulous gift to give an intermediate or advanced knitter. KnitPro Zings are great everyday needles while the KnitPro Rosewood interchangeables set makes for a really luxurious gift. I’m personally a big fan of ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles. Sock knitters will love the Hiya Hiya Bamboo DPN set.

Kits range from intricate colourwork garments from Alice Starmore, a classic yoke jumper from Marie Wallin to a vintage-style jumper from Shetland.

Finally, I’d suggest giving your knitter the gift of time. If you are feeling extremely generous, you could look into knitting holidays (France, Scotland, or Iceland), but a cheaper – and equally nice option – would be a weekend without anybody to disturb them (and throw in a selection of awesome teas/coffees, food items, and knitterly goodness as mentioned above).

I hope this inspires you to give a lovely present to the knitter in your life – whether it is a cheerful Secret Santa gift or a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Happy holidays.

Seasonal Greetings

Merry Yuletide!

The days are finally getting longer. We may be heading into deep winter, but light is returning to the Northern hemisphere. This year I have been enormously homesick – yearning for a traditional Scandinavian jul with its baked goods, traditional singing, and blazing candles. While I have been too busy to do much baking myself (and singing is no fun on my own), I have kept candles going throughout the month. And now we turn the corner.

Glædelig jul – happy holidays – to you all. Here’s a bit of 1950s Danish jule-kitsch.

More Yuletide Crafting

E. did open her parcel before Christmas. I received a rather excited text as a result. I made her a pair of bangles as I knew she’d love the combination of fashion and knitting.

No pattern, but this is what I did:  I bought two large-ish bangles from a well-known high street shop. I used some bulky pure wool which I knitted to a very, very tight tension on 3.5mm needles (this is rather hard on the hands, I should add, but the result is great).

I experimented with how many stitches to cast on but settled on 14 stitches before knitting away rather happily. Throughout I measured the length of my knitted strip against the bangle – I wanted a snug fit, so I kept pulling at it. I cast off using my usual lace cast-off method which allows for elasticity.

Then I sewed it all together: cast-in/off edges first and then the long edges with the bangle inside. The sewing-up was hard on the hands, but I found using a safety pin helped me enormously by keeping the edges pinned together as I worked around the bangle.

There are some rather amazing jewellery patterns on Ravelry, actually. I spent a lot of time this month looking for inspiration and quick-yet-substantial knits. Some of my favourites include Bevy of Bangles (felted and embellished), Knitter’s Brooch (which I have seen retail for up to £10 at craft fairs!), Blooming Rose (utilising the natural curl of stocking stitch), and Braided Cable necklace.

I have one more handmade Christmas present up my sleeve – except I forgot to take a photo of it before I dispatched it to .. er .. somewhere else. Meanwhile there are five pressies in my living room all wrapped in “woolly wishes!” wrapping paper. I think that means they are for me! Ooh, the excitement!

Today is Winter Solstice and while you can take a girl out of Scandinavia, a Scandinavian girl will always love her pre-Christian pagan holiday traditions. So, I’m off to light some candles and pet my straw yule goat (julebuk). The days are getting longer, finally!

Gift-Buying Guide For Knitters

So, you want to buy a great gift for the knitter in your life? And you haven’t a clue where to start? I have written this gift-buying guide for people just like you.

And the Boys From the NYPD Choir Were Singing

My all-time favourite Christmas song. Yes, December madness has officially begun.

But let’s not forget that December 1st is also World AIDS Day. Stay safe and play safe, my friends.

The Connection Is Made

Sitting here in dark, rainy Scotland does not feel so bad, when I look at the Danish Budget for 2010. Among all the talk about a new super-hospital and whatnot, the government is now going to offer non-Western immigrants up to £12,000 for giving up their legal residency and returning “home”. The Budget also includes £500,000 to mark overseas Danish cultural heritage – particularly the former slave colonies of Ghana and The West Indies. At the risk of sounding cryptic: Denmark is now what the Daily Mail wants Britain to become.

In more personal news, my aunt died this week and my family attended her funeral in rural Denmark today. Although she was a distant relative of mine – I think I met her four or five times – I am very sad on behalf of her siblings, her daughter and her grandson. Rest in peace.

And while I was pondering writing about my life and how it has changed these past ten years, I have decided against doing so. I am amused to note, though, that the Noughties are bookended by me sitting in a dreich Scottish city during November lamenting the lack of double-glazing and proper heating. In 2000 I sat in Stirling (also known as “Hellmouth” – after living there I swore I’d never return to Scotland) and here in 2009 I am sitting in Glasgow. I hope to finish the next decade sitting somewhere warm and sunny. Ha.

Finally, Other Half and I watched a snippet of a BBC programme last night about the Orient Express. We decided that a jolly little train trip would be good fun at some point in the not-too-distant future and today I checked just how much such a jolly little train trip would set us back. £3,700 for the both of us for a jolly little train trip lasting maybe 36 hours and not including any extra frills. I think we may need to rethink that holiday idea.

Girlfriend in a Coma

march09-068Kraków is not a great place to shop if you are into your crafts. I managed to track down a couple of pasmanteria (I have no idea how to pluralise the word – it means “haberdashery”) on Ul. Karmelicka, but the best one I found was on the corner of Ul. Królewska and Aleja Juliusza Słowackiego. I had to pass through a room of children’s clothes and another filled with children’s shoes before hitting the tiny pasmanteria.

I bought a few buttons using a lot of sign language, pointing at my cardigan’s buttons and speaking a hybrid between Russian, German and the few Polish words I knew. I wish I had known that the Polish word for “buttons” is guziki.

Dave has uploaded a few Kraków photos, by the way.

I’m now on my third day of resting after our little Polish adventure. I do not mention my health very often, but I wasn’t amused that I had to take painkillers yesterday just to get out of bed. I think today will be yet another slow day, but hopefully that means I will be back to normal tomorrow. Sometimes I really do regard my body as my enemy.

And thank you so, so much for the extraordinary response to my Heritage shawl.

Ghosts

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The Jewish Quarter, Kraków, Poland, March 2009

Letter from Krakow

Dear everybody,

I am typing this entry in the lobby of our Art Deco hotel in my bare feet. It has been raining all day and, just as I moved to Scotland without an umbrella and still do not own a pair of wellies, I cheerfully wore my comfy (not rainproof) sneakers to rainy Krakow. I also only packed three pairs of socks. I have already changed twice today, so I’m not quite sure how tomorrow is going to work out. I hope it will be drier.

Also? I had been singing New Lanark Aran wool’s praises in recent weeks and refuted any claims of its dye bleeding. I currently have a red-striped forehead where my newly-knitted New Lanark beanie in red has been resting. What do you mean I should’ve washed and blocked it before leaving? You sound as though I’m a patient sort of person!

Krakow, then. To me, it feels like a Copenhagen which has been through hardship and war (which Krakow has, of course). The same architectural feel, but very run-down in most places. A beautiful, proud but tired place. We visited the old Jewish Quarter today which affected me on a personal level (a long-lost branch of my family tree is Jewish) – particularly as somebody has drawn white ghostly figures on abandoned houses. I felt decidedly twitchy and we left for more carefree ventures. Tomorrow we intend on tracking down some Art Noveau stained glass, eat more pierogi (yum!) and just maybe take in a church or two before heading home to Glasgow and dry socks.

And I’ve bought the first Christmas present of the year. Score!

The Balance Shall Tip in the Favour of Culture

krakowBeing of a fairly decadent, yet thrifty, disposition, we are going on a short holiday in March. Thrifty? We are going to Krakow in southern Poland – a city which is supposedly gorgeous, very Old Europe and still affordable. Decadent? We are going to stay in an art deco hotel for the duration of our stay. Don’t say we don’t know how to indulge ourselves whilst remaining within budget.

As we are only going to be in Krakow for a very short time, I don’t expect we’ll get around to seeing all that many sights. We are both slightly intrigued by the famous Wieliczka salt mines but they will probably have to wait for another holiday. I’m mainly looking forward to seeing a lot of beautiful Central European architecture (I’m thinking Krakow will be as picturesque as Prague but significantly less spoiled by fast-food chains) and eating pierogi.

Speaking of Old Europe and beautiful buildings, we watched In Bruges last night. At first I struggled a bit with the strong Irish accents, but when my ear finally tuned in, I relished a dark, funny and very smart film. I didn’t even mind Colin Farrell all that much which is saying something.

On needles? I ripped back my delicate lace shawl, have begun a lovely colourful shawl and have almost finished a little cardigan for my nephew-due-in-March. I am also working on my jumper and am getting close to a point where I have to make design decisions. O-er!