Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Don't judge a book...

Today, the sun is shining, and it looks like a gorgeous spring day, a perfect day to throw open the windows, and maybe go for a walk. But according to the weather channel, it's 28 degrees, with a windchill of 18. It's a good thing I have tons of writing to do, and need to stay inside today.

Geronimo warms his shaggy tummy in the sunshine:

Mirando, with the UNFROZEN lake in the background! Woo, the lake is unfrozen!!!

I wanted to address comments on knitted Christmas gifts. The big question is "are they appreciated?" That's a good question. The short answer is, mostly. I am lucky to have family members who are extremely appreciative of knitted gifts--they either wear them frequently or just make an effort to wear them when I'm around. I hope it's the former :) They relay nice comments they hear from strangers on their knitted items, and tell me how useful they are. I haven't had any polite hints of "Boy, I sure do have a lot of scarves and hats. I don't think another would fit in my closet!" or anything. Last year, when I made the outrageous number of gifts, I saved larger gifts for family members I knew would appreciate them, and made smaller gifts for my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I made each of my aunts a scarf in a different lace pattern, booga bags for my girl cousins, fuzzyfeet for my uncles and guy cousin, and placket-neck pullovers with really fun buttons for my little second cousins (or first cousins once removed, I can never remember what my cousin's kids are called). The choices turned out to be good, which I think is the key to knitted gifts. The little sweaters were in climate-appropriate cotton blends in fun variegated colors(this is for my family, in California), and the boys loved the car and dalmation buttons. Booga bags are simple, cute, and useful. And who doesn't love fuzzyfeet? (I made them in dark blues and greys to be extra "manly.") And my aunts gushed over the lace patterns in their scarves. I made sure that I was knitting them for me, as well. I got to try out five different lace patterns, I *really* mastered felting (at least what it takes in my washer), and I learned some basic sock techniques with the fuzzyfeet.

Five Rules for Knitting Gifts:

1. Choose with the recipient in mind. I worked very hard last year to choose appropriate patterns, yarn, and colors. If someone is in a warm climate and not the type who always has a sweater in their office to combat air conditioning, a bulky wool sweater will not be used. If the recipient dresses very conservatively in muted colors, something crazy and multi-colored is probably not a good idea. My brother-in-law does not wear sweaters. Ever. So, it would be pretty clueless of me to expect him to love one just because I made it. So I made him a hat and scarf set instead, which I knew he would use.

2. Knit for yourself. Choose patterns that challenge your knitting, or that allow you to practice a technique you want to master. Or choose new yarns you haven't tried before. That way, even if your gifts are unappreciated, you've at least gotten something out of the process. (Obviously, this is a delicate balance between #1 and #2.)

3. Don't build up your expectations. I try to expect a thank you on the same lines as I would receive if I had given a store-bought sweater, slippers, bag, whatever. Unless you're giving to another knitter, THEY HAVE NO IDEA what you put into your gift. They do not know that you frogged the lace pattern four times before getting it right, or how awful p3tog is, or how much time it took to perfectly seam their sweater.

4. Some people are not good candidates for knitted gifts. If your sister only wears major designers and thinks "handmade" is tacky, don't expect her to gush over the scarf you knitted her--go buy her one at Nordstrom instead. If Aunt Mabel is chronically disappointed with every gift she ever opens, save your energy. Get her a gift card for Borders. If you feel compelled to make knitted gifts for absolutely everyone on your list, consider going smaller--like a little knitted gift bag to hold a Starbucks card. Or a little Christmas tree ornament instead of a bow.

5. Be compulsively organized. I had a spreadsheet with columns for recipient, pattern, yarn, deadlines, and status. And I started in March. I had my yarn organized so I knew what was for which gift. I had all my needles...well, in the same general area of the apartment, at least. I kept a lace project, a mindless project, and parts of a large project in my bag all the time.

Other Knitting: Finished Tubey photos tomorrow! I have about an hour of knitting left, but I was too tired to finish last night. After measuring some of my other sweaters, I felt like the 18.5 inches called for on the medium was too long, so I've shortened it by two inches. I really hope I don't regret that later. I also started teaching another friend to knit. She is picking it up so quickly, it's amazing.

Writing: 12,600 words. Yes, 100 words is not that exciting, but today is an "all writing, all the time" day. I have also realized that I have to re-work the opening. It's just not compelling enough. It won't make a literary agent say "I *must* represent this!" I'm saving that for the Great Revision when the whole thing is done. I still can't believe I've written 43 pages.

Reading: I decided on one more fluffy book before I tackle The Year of Magical Thinking. I'm reading Killing Cassidy by Jeanne Dams. Her Dorothy Martin series is cute. It follows Dorothy, an American living in England, as she solves a bunch of murders. I somehow missed this one--I've read the rest of the series. This one takes place in the U.S., and I miss her neighbors and the more English flavor of the other books.

Cooking: I can't really remember what all I put in my hummus, so I won't post a guess. Next time I make it, I'll pay more attention.


Rachel said...

Great post! I think your holiday knitting guidelines are dead on.

Congrats on all your productivity! Can't wait to see finished Tubey pics.

Oh, and your cousins' kids are your first cousins once removed (the number of times removed refers to how many generations -- or vertical rungs on the family tree -- apart you are. Your kids will be second cousins to your cousins' kids (same generation, but one step further away "horizontally"). Does that make sense?

String Bean said...

Sam still has his claws, I didn't have the heart to wrap him up tight in a towel and take the pliers to his paws just yet. So tonight I'm making cauliflower and broccoli soup. You know I'm really motivated when I use TWO vegetables.

Tim said...

I just call 'em my cousins. Same with my cousins' spouses. They're all cousins.