Mini Stockings! Or, How to Conquer a Big Knitting Project

 

They are done!! And Lila loves them.

Pattern: Mini Christmas Stocking Ornaments

Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering Mini Skein set

Needles: 2.75 mm (US 2)

Ravelry Project Page can be found here. 

This is my big year-long project, and the smartest thing I did was develop a clear plan with obvious results. My goal was to knit 2-3 mini stockings every month, so I would be done in time for December 1st. I didn’t quite get them all done in time for December first, but I hung up the first twelve and Lila got pretty excited about the daily treat inside! I finished the remaining 6 quickly (I got off schedule, it’s true), and completed the set.

Knitting these has been such a joy! Each sock is small enough that you can cast on and finish it up in the same evening, but there will be lots of ends to weave in. The smart move is to finish the knits as you go, so that you don’t end up with an overwhelming number of ends to weave in or buttons to sew on. You can read some of my earlier thoughts on the pattern and process here and here.

The loops are made by casting on 35 stitches using the long tail cast on method, and then casting off. I sewed one end to the inside of the stocking, and then added a button on the other side. The button loop was made by holding some yarn out while weaving in the ends of the knitted loop for the stockings to be hung. if that makes sense.

This is the first time I laid out an actual game plan for a big project, and it worked SO much better for me than just generally ‘knitting’.  I’d like to share my tips for conquering a big project on time (or on time-ish) so that if you are planning a bit knit in 2017, you will be ready for it!

How to Conquer a Big Knitting Project

Before you Begin:

– Get all the yarn together. Using a mini skein set for the colours took the guess work out of ‘matching’, but if you are going to search out yarn to match up complimentary colours, get all your yarn organized in advance.

– Figure out how many squares/socks/whatever you are going to need. For my mini stocking advent calendar, I needed 24. If you are knitting a blanket, you need to figure out approximately how many squares or shapes you need in order to make the right sized blanket. If you need 40 squares for your blanket and you want to finish in a year, then you need to knit 3.5 squares each month in order to accomplish that.

– Choose colours that you love, in yarn you are excited to work with. Because if you don’t really love the yarn, it’s going to be hard to keep up momentum.

– Put everything you need for the project into one project bag, to keep everything together. If it’s a physically big project, like a blanket comprised of knitted squares, get a big bag to corral all the squares and yarn and a smaller one that will fit inside for the current square/sock/whatever you are working on. Make sure you have everything you need in that smaller bag- stitch markers, small scissors, tapestry needle, etc.

– Figure out the timeline, and be realistic about the inevitability of getting off course. If you want to knit something for December, start in January. Don’t wait until September, the fall is always hectic and you are going to be rushed.  This way if there are setbacks, or if you need to rip back substantially in order to fix a problem, you have time. And if you finish ahead of schedule, that’s the icing on the cake!

Getting Through It

– Chip away all year long. My goal was to knit 2-3 mini stockings each month, so that I’d have them ready by December. It was way easier to knit the socks when taking a break from another project rather than trying to churn out 24 mini stockings in November.

– Make the process easy. If you know that the project requires your full attention, then look forward to times when you can knit on the train, or on road trips, or any other times when you can sit down and focus on the pattern. If it’s a fairly mindless knit, take it with you everywhere so that you can work on it whenever you find some pockets of time.  Having that smaller project bag we discussed in the first section will make this part much easier.

– Celebrate your progress as you go. Take photos! Splash it all over Instagram! Seeing how great it is looking in the middle stages and hearing great feedback from fellow crafters can be hugely motivating.

– Weave in ends as you go, so that you aren’t going to be faced with hundreds of ends to weave in at the end of your project. This not only will help keep the momentum up, but makes it easier to photograph when you are doing the previous step, of Celebrating as You Go.

– Don’t make this your only knitting project. Unless you want to. A project that has smaller parts and monthly goals provides opportunity for you to take a break here and there with the special big project, not just have it be your sole focus.

The Home Stretch

– If you are are getting near the end, don’t get cocky and think you can slow down. Keep. Going! You would be surprised how many projects stall in the last little bit, when the squares all need to be joined or the ends woven in or one more piece to go…. it can easily lead to a gigantic unfinished project.

– If you know that you have really busy times in your life – say, October is always crazy for work and December is… December, then plan around it. Push a little harder on your project in advance of those challenging times, so that your efforts don’t get derailed by the inevitable craziness that life will throw your way.

Lesser known fact- I started to knit a baby blanket for James when I was pregnant with him, after I found out it was a boy. It was a garter stitch blanket knit in rectangles with alternating, randomized stripes. As you probably have already figured out, I never finished it. Not only did I not give myself enough time to knit it (I was convinced I could do it in 3 months), I was using yarns I thought would look great together when viewing it online, but when they arrived the colours just weren’t what I had hoped. I made a few switches for different colours in similar yarn, but at best it felt like an ‘okay’ project. Needless to say, it’s languished.

Having completed this mini stocking advent calendar makes me feel so satisfied. The joy on Lila’s face every morning – and the request for her ‘little sock’ that often comes when she’s standing beside my bed before the alarm goes off and my feet have yet to hit the floor – makes me realize how I didn’t just knit 24 little socks, I knit a tradition, one that is setting the stage for all the Christmas memories she will gather in her lifetime.

One morning, I was standing near the bookcase pictured above,watching Lila reverently open her little sock to find out what treasure awaited her and Guy said to me, “You know, you are going to have to knit another set for James. Opening the sock is the best part, they can’t take turns on that. Not without a lot of fighting.”

So – January 2017, I’ll be embarking on another set of minis stockings! Are there any big knitting projects you would like to tackle in 2017?

Modification Monday: Little Striped Dress

Original Pattern: Lightweight  Pullover

Knitter Extraordinaire: Ida (Ravelry ID)

Mods: Turned the funnel neck long sleeved pullover into a short sleeved, crew neck sweater dress. Details can be found on her project page, here.

What Makes This Awesome:  It’s been a real wave of awesome sweater dresses, hasn’t it? ‘Tis the season! We have seen that it’s great to go with a top down sweater pattern so you can try it on as you go, and that you need to add in some waist shaping and then increase more than you would for a pullover to all for some ease in the skirt, but we haven’t seen This one has been modified to be a winter layering sweater dress, specifically with short sleeves, so that there’s the option to wear it over long sleeved shirts or on it’s own. Ida adjusted the neckline to a crew neck, adding k2 p2 ribbing to echo the hem. And then there are the great stripes! Each of her stripes is 20 rows, providing a great graphic look.

Pin Ups and Link Love: My Favourite Things This Week

My Favourite Articles and Links This Week

An anonymous artist/guerrilla crafter has been putting up these fabulous mice-sized shops and cafes all over Malmo Sweden. I’m so smitten with them.

This is 101 ways to cheers yourself up. The entire list is so brilliant, everyone should read it.

How to be a good listener.

Choose your hard. The things that are the hardest to do are usually the most important.

My Favourite Pins This Week

Twix cookies!! Be a cookie hero and make these for whatever holiday gathering that has compelled you to bring a baked good! These look so good I want to reach through the screen and eat one right now. Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe can be found here.

Chicken Fajita sweet potatoes – Healthy, delicious, and you might as well get something good into you before the overdosing on holiday food is upon us (although if the holiday party that Guy attended last night is anything to go on, the onslaught has already arrived – it was at a restaurant that had kangaroo meat hot dogs and duck fat french fries.). Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe post is here.

I am in love with these mini swan succulent planters. Just looking at them makes me crazy with desire to rush out and find those swans, paint them, buy some succulents, plant them, and then gift them to everyone and anyone, because they are the perfect ‘anyone’ gift. You know the kind of crazy I mean- where you are convinced that the time it will take to fight your way through the shopping crowds and traffic to the craft store and the line ups, and then to make them at home, then wrap them in cellophane (go back out to buy cellophane because you forgot the first time) or something to protect from the actual freezing winter out there so you can gift them…. all totally doable before the holidays! Who’s with me?! Maybe for New Years. Pinterest link is here, and the original DIY post is here.

I think this might be the coolest crochet scarf I’ve ever seen! The white and pink combo here looks very summery, but you could easily work it up in neutrals or dark colours for a more wintery look. Pinterest link is here, and the original pattern can be found here.

The best thing about obscure old swear words? They make you look cool, and not uncouth. The link does how more racy terms, and a whole lot of gifs with people flipping their middle finger, so be warned. Pinterest link is here, and the original list is here.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends! I hope you are all on top of your holiday planning and shopping and feeling like you’ve got this all under control. Then maybe you can come over and tell me your secret as to how you got it all done.

Match the Pom Pom to the Hat

I need your help! I have a couple hats in progress, one for me and one for Lila. I also have 3 faux fur pom poms, because I couldn’t decide which colour would work best. Not that having 3 to choose from is helping much, mind you.  So will you help me play matchmaker with these hats? Shall we meet our lovely bachelorettes?

This is Take Heart, knit in Briggs & Little Heritage in their brand new colourway, ‘Magenta’. It’s a wonderful bright fuchsia, makes me think of pink highlighters and how cheery it will be in the winter to have a nice bright hat. The pattern – I’m still undecided, I love that the brim is long and meant to be worn folded over to help keep my super sensitive ears warm, but I am not sure if the twisted rib is a little too airy. Should I have done normal ribbing instead? I’m too lazy to rip it out, and I like the way it looks, so it’s staying:

I do like the cables, they are intertwining in a wonderful way, although it’s hard to see it here. This is one of those patterns that looks a bajillion times better when blocked (I hope). Magenta, much like red, can be a tricky colour to photograph as it bounces light, but this is an accurate representation of the colour in real life.

My other hat in progress is the Bunny Hat from Muki Crafts. I’m knitting it in some Knit Picks Stroll Fingering in Dove Heather. I have completed the hat, and just need to knit the ears:

The pattern is lovely, and comes in both child and adult sizes. I haven’t shown it to Lila yet, but she is going to go completely crazy for it when she sees it all finished. I’ve got some soft pink angora yarn leftover from this very old sweater that I’m going to use for the inner ears, and one of the faux fur pom pom is on it…. my insides are already squealing from the cuteness.  I love the little loop on the top of the hat that is folded down to go around the pom pom!

So, ready to meet the bachelors?

I called 5 yarn shops in Toronto and no one had the faux fur pom poms, so I got lazy and ordered them off of Ebay for I think about $2 a piece. The price is incredible, but the downside to buying them this way is they ship from Hong Kong by the slowest/cheapest method so it takes about a month for them to arrive. I know I’ll use them, so I picked a few colours that I thought would work with either hat. And now I can’t decide.

  Perhaps the cream one makes the most sense on the bunny hat, And maybe the light brown or pink on the magenta hat? Or the pink one on the bunny hat to match the ears, even if not ‘correct’ for a bunny tail? What do you guys think? Which pom pom should go with which hat?

Side note- I caved and bought one of those fake wooden backdrops that are printed on vinyl. I can’t deny that it looks good, yet I feel like I’m just perpetuating all the ‘knitting with wooden backdrop’ photos that are out there. I’m not sure if I’ll keep using it, but I’m trying it out for a bit. There is something so visually harmonious about yarn and knits on wood,  the eye seems to love natural materials on natural materials.  Even if the ‘natural materials’ are faux fur and a photo printed on a sheet of vinyl.

Knitting Themed Books for Kids

I’ve barely begun my Christmas shopping, so if you are anything like me and have some kids to buy for, why not help get the love of knitting started early and get them a knitting themed kid’s book?

Knitting Books for Toddlers: Ages 2-4

Clockwise from top Left: 

Knitty Kitty: This is a great book to start off the youngest ones. The rhythm of the prose is lovely, the words are simple, and the illustrations are beautiful. Lila loves this one.

Noodle’s Knitting: Noodle the mouse finds a wonderful ball of yarn, and decides to knit a huge scarf… until she gets all tangled up!

Freddie’s Blanket: This sweet book is about a little platypus transferring to his own bed, and includes actual knitting patterns!

Knit Together: A little girl wants to knit like her mom, but finds it too difficult. So they collaborate on a knitting project together- she draws a picture, and her mom knits it. So sweet.

Knitting Books for Young Kids: Ages 4-6

Clockwise from top Left: 

Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf:  This is a great book about a little girl learning to knit, and facing the frustrations and imperfections of that first project. It also comes as a deluxe set, and I’m pretty partial to it(you can see my review here).

Knitting Nell: This is a story about a little girl who was made to feel badly about her voice, so she doesn’t talk much- but she sure does knit a lot! Also talks a bit about charity knitting, which isn’t something you see much of in children’s books.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza: Annie the owl loves to knit, but the other owls don’t want to wear her knitted creations. So she knits herself an air balloon and goes off in search of animals that will appreciate her knitting.

Phoebe’s Sweater: This is a sweet book by the same author as Freddie’s Blanket. Phoebe is about to become a big sister, and learns about her new role in the family. This book also includes the knitting patterns for the knits featured in the story.

Knitting books for older kids:  Ages 6-9

Shall I Knit You a Hat?: When mother rabbit hears of a blizzard heading their way, she knits a special hat for rabbit. He loves the hat so much, they set about trying to knit for all their friends.

That Darn Yarn! : This is a pretty cool format- there are two stories in one! On one side of the book, is a sock monkey who gets snagged and begins to unravel. On the other side, a young girl find a ball of yarn and begins to knit a sock money. Watching these two stories come together is really clever and fun.

Extra Yarn: This utterly charming book is about a little girl who finds a magic box of yarn, and knit  a sweater for everyone and everything in her home town, until it’s famous. The illustrations are extraordinary.

The Magic Ball of Wool: one morning, Hedgehog wakes up to find a ball of wool stuck to his prickles. A spider teaches him how to knit, and he knits things for all his forest friends. Then one day, something happens and he needs a lot more yarn- this is a sweet book about helping others out, even when it’s difficult.

Our Newest Knitting Book Acquisition!

 

We love A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, our newest knitting books for Lila! It’s not only knitting themed, but also references Jewish culture (now I finally know what a mitzvah is! It’s a good deed!). Sophia is a little girl who helps her neighbor, Mrs. Goldman, make pom poms for hats. Mrs. Goldman knits for everyone in the neighbourhood to help keep them warm, but because she has put everyone before herself, she has no hat and is cold when they go for walks. So Sophia tries to knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman, even though it’s not easy. Lila loves this book! I’d say it’s ideal for ages 4-6, and promotes thinking about others, doing good deeds, and persevering even when something isn’t easy.

We aren’t Jewish, but I have been trying to read multicultural books to Lila in an effort to make sure that she doesn’t just see kid’s books full of white people. When I was a kid (maybe about 7 years old?), I had a school trip to the ballet and it was magical. We saw Sleeping Beauty, and I loved it except I insisted that the dancer wasn’t really Sleeping Beauty. The ballet dancer who played Sleeping Beauty was Asian, and in my books, Sleeping Beauty was always blonde. You know how kids can be so rigid in their definitions of something? Well, I had only ever seen blonde Sleeping Beauties, so I couldn’t accept anything else.  Now that I’m a parent, I don’t want my kids to think that only white people (and blondes at that!) can be a certain character. And I don’t want them to only see one type of person in their story books.

Fortunately, kid books are more diverse than ever before.  A good example is one of our favourites, The Airport Book, which shows a multiracial family (the mom is white and the dad is black) and teaches kids about what to expect when travelling by airplane. There is no discussion of race, it’s just a book about a family flying to visit grandparents and spending hours in an airport. And we love it! Perhaps a great gift idea for little ones that might be travelling by airplane next year?