Simple holiday gifts to make on deadline

Posted Dec. 20, 2010, at 11:06 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

Today I make note, with awe, of the celestial mystery of the solstice as we enter simultaneously the longest night of the year and the beginning of the lengthening of the daylight.

It’s also the week to check gift giving lists, receive a last-minute hint from a loved one, to give into the desire to do one more thing to make someone happy. As knitters, crocheters, seamtresses and practitioners of other needlearts, we’re probably going to do that with thread and yarn.

Even with only three days left to Christmas Day, many simple gifts — often the best kind — can be crafted.

More than once I have found myself plying my needles to create a last minute gift. Quite a few years ago, when my younger son was in college, I thought he was well beyond the age where he was at all interested in finding anything handmade for him under the tree. Or so I thought until he said, casually, the night before the night before Christmas, “I hope you’ve knit some mittens for me.” This from the young man who scorned the cold and rarely wore anything on his hands in cold weather. He simply shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Nope, no mittens this year,” I said. “You should have mentioned it two weeks ago.”
He shrugged and went to his room to tinker with his computer.
The minute he was out of sight, I reached for my set of No. 4 double-point needles and a ball of denim blue wool yarn. I cast on 48 stitches — he has big hands. By bedtime I had the wrist done. The next day, Dec. 24, knitting on the sly, I finished the mitten. I cast on stitches again and worked on the second mitten as time allowed — which wasn’t much because I was up to my elbows in Christmas cookie dough and other holiday cooking that involved yeast, dates and orange glaze. There was no way I could finish the second mitten before Christmas morning.

Not one to be deterred by a lack of time, I wrapped the finished mitten and the one in progress, needles and all, and put the package under the tree.
When my son opened the gift on Christmas morning, his big grin of satisfaction told me that the “little boy” in him was right there just beneath the surface of his newly grownup self. He handed me the unfinished mitten and I worked on it off and on the rest of the day — in the car on the way to my parents and at their camp — until the mitten was finished.

When at last my son had two new mittens to put on his hands, he went outside and started a snowball fight with his older brother. Later, I saw them snowshoeing across the pond.

My son wore those mittens several winters and I darned the thumbs more than once.
Each time I saw him wearing the mittens, I smiled. The best part about making the mittens had been giving them away.

Here are a few ideas for making last minute gifts:

  • Crochet a friendship bracelet using no. 10 crochet cotton — also known as bedspread cotton. Visit www.crochetpatterncentral.com to access free patterns for crocheted bracelets.
  • Go to www.coatsandclark.com to access a host of bag patterns for knitting, crocheting or sewing. My favorites are the eco-friendly tote, the mesh beach bag, a monogrammed bag, a grocery tote and a lunch bag. (I also like the lacy crocheted mitts.)
  • Directions for a crocheted bag and a patchwork fabric tote are available at www.simlicity.com.These websites require a bit of patience to navigate because so many free patterns are available — in some cases hundreds — so you will have to keep clicking through the pages until you find what that appeals to you.
  • Craft a tree ornament — never mind patterns, just use your imagination and whatever materials you have at hand. Fold and cut paper into snowflake shapes, add a thread for hanging. Lash two toothpicks together and weave colorful embroidery floss around the toothpick “arms” to create a traditional “God’s eye” ornament. Or cut round shapes from red and green felt, decorate with glitter glue, or hand stitch with bits of trim. Sew on a paper clip for a hanger.

Snippets

Those who love to crochet lace will find a plenty of inspiration in “Crochet So Fine: Exquisite Designs with Fine Yarns” by Kristin Omdahl, $22.95. The book contains 20 designs crocheted with fine yarn and includes sweaters and wraps, tops and cardigans and accessories. The shawls have a cobwebby aura and the sweaters are imbued with a drape-y kind of romance.
Knitters interested in learning a new technique will be interested in “Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting” by Rosemary Drysdale, $24.95. The book provides the basic techniques, stitch guides and charts. Projects include socks, baby items, sweaters, hats and blankets.
Inquire about these books at your local bookstore.

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