Minimalism at Christmas

Christmas is the season of excess and when I first discovered minimalism I thought that it would be a nightmare! But in many ways it has made the festive season easier.

Here are a few of my ponderings on being a minimalist at Christmas!


Gifts

The challenges with both giving and receiving gifts, but being a minimalist makes decisions easier!

I now never panic buy a gift just because I feel I “should” give a gift. If there isn’t a specific thing I want to buy someone then I go for vouchers or consumables rather than buying them something they may not need or want. I feel like there has been a shift in the last few years – with people buying fewer gifts, but focusing on quality rather than quantity and  supporting independent shops and designers. That makes me very happy!

The other thing to consider of course is handmade gifts. Something handmade is the ultimate thoughtful gift! But the run up to Christmas can get a bit hectic and I’m really good at being hugely unrealistic about what I can achieve… I know I’m not the only one who has gifted an unfinished Christmas present! So this year I decided not to make gifts, but to give myself the gift of time… Instead panic knitting on Christmas eve this year – I’ll be doing some relaxed selfish knitting.

I very rarely receive a gift that I don’t like or won’t use – but when I do, I find it easier to let it go. I used to hold onto things because I felt guilty that someone had spent time and money choosing and buying the gift, but now I re-gift or donate as soon as possible.

Sometimes people miss the mark and buy something you don’t like or won’t use, but the old saying “it’s the thought that counts” really is true. Re-gifting something doesn’t change the fact that the giver thought of you or that it was given and received with love. The person who gave you the gift wouldn’t want it to clutter up your house or give you feelings of guilt! So just let it go… let someone else enjoy it.


Decorations

Christmas decorations aren’t very minimal! We collect them over the years and store them away for the majority of the year. However, they are definitely “just for when” items rather than dreaded “just in case” items so I think that makes them okay?

I condensed my Christmas decorations right down last year, but a few new ones have crept in – including a beautiful beaded bobbin made by my friend Steph as a wedding gift. It has our initials and wedding date beaded around the sides and I absolutely love it!

Christmas is a time where we can be unashamedly sentimental and nostalgic. I think this is reflected in a lot of peoples decorations. So I’m just going to try my best to keep my collection to it’s two small boxes!


Wardrobe

This is where I start to struggle! I’ve barely bought any new clothes for the last two years and most of the time I’m happy with that. I have plans for handmade additions to my capsule wardrobe and having less clothes makes life so much easier! But every December all I want to do is buy cosy jumpers and sparkly dresses.

Even if I’m not actively going shopping – it’s impossible to avoid the adverts and I really do love sequined dresses!

This year I’m working very hard to resist temptation, but next year I want to make either a cosy festive jumper or a new sparkly dress, top or skirt. Maybe I can pick up some sequined fabric in the January sales…

As I said in last weeks Festive Jumpers blog – I want to have something I can wear every year and for more than just Christmas day.


Food & Drink

The Excess doesn’t end with clothes and “stuff”. In our house there is a huge excess of food & drink and it can be difficult to avoid waste. I get serious food fomo and always eat far too much at Christmas!

We generally don’t keep much sweet stuff in the house because we both have a sweet tooth and just don’t know when to stop. If there is chocolate and cake around then I can’t resist and when I mix that with a few glasses of bubbly… I always end up going to bed feeling sick on Christmas day.

This might not sound like a minimalist issue but I definitely think this is something I should approach with a minimalist outlook! I think limiting myself to one desert per meal would be reasonable? It’s very difficult to avoid excess food at Christmas, but if I can avoid eating so much I feel ill then I’ll be happy!

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Knitting

It’s November! It’s the time of year that I usually decide to knit overly ambitious things for everyone I know! This year I’ve been fairly organised and I have a couple of things mid-make and I’m planning a couple of small bits that I’m sure I can get done in time. I’ll tell you more after Christmas!

I thought I would just share a few ideas of small and achievable knits which would make lovely gifts.

For Her

I’m a huge fan of knitting snoods/cowls for gifts – they’re so much quicker than a scarf! Hats and handwarmers are good too. Anything small and fun to knit is great because you might have to knit multiples when the rest of the family see it!

Above from left: Lazy Lace Cowl (available as a kit or pattern), Dice Cowl (available as a kit or pattern) and Triangle Hat (pattern free when you purchase three balls of Rowan Fine Tweed from Spins & Needles)

For Him

HalfSockI always struggle a bit for ideas for men that are quick and easy to get done. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I genuinely don’t think you can go wrong with a pair of hand-knitted socks!

I’ve knitted a few pairs for my Dad over the years and he loves them. I know it’s a common joke for people to be disappointed if they get socks for Christmas – but those people obviously aren’t getting beautiful hand-knitted socks!

I particularly love Regia sock yarn, as it’s very hardwearing, warm and washes really well. There are some amazing variegated colours as well. The new Arne & Carlos shades are brilliant.

For The Kids

Toys are great for kids because they don’t have to fit! You never know which one will become the teddy they take everywhere. My Ted Bear pattern (above middle) is great for babies/toddlers as it’s small and has embroidered features. He’s also quick to knit and you could use up some stash yarn. The free Ted pattern is here.

Chunky Monkey from Cute Little Knits is perfect for a slightly older child – and Shuggie sheep is so simple to knit, the kids might want to try knitting him themselves! Shuggie is available as a kit or pattern.

For Everyone

I always think a day out is a good gift for anyone. Whether it’s tickets for their favourite band/comedian or a pre-paid knitting workshop or pottery class – a day out gives you something to look forward to when the January blues kick in!

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If you’re looking for a small gift to knit and you’re stuck for ideas – you can’t go wrong with a little Winter Animal tree decoration! The Winter Animals are available as a kit with all the yarn you need to knit the cute family. The kit comes wrapped in a festive box so it makes a great gift for a knitter – or you could knit the animals and give those as gifts.

Happy Christmas knitting everyone! x

 

Back to Reality!

It’s always a shock to the system getting back to work in January, but it certainly feels a bit different now that I’m self-employed! I’ve got lots of projects to work on over the next few months (sorry I can’t tell you yet) – and I’m really excited about getting 2015 started.

I don’t want to make you jealous, but the transition between Christmas holidays and back to work was pretty easy as I just had to get up and go to my lovely little workroom at home!

But there are downsides. When you work at home, it can be difficult to just shut the door and switch off from it. There is also a certain amount of guilt in not working when there is no-one to authorise your holiday (and no holiday pay). I often end up going a bit crazy with the diy and personal knitting, because if I’m busy doing something else I can justify not working!

My Christmas break was no different and I did a lot of bits and bobs but struggled to settle on one thing. As a result – I have one mitten, a stitched edge on a very unfinished rag rug, approx half a cardigan, an unfinished hexi blanket, an unfinished sofa arm cover and a bit more than half a scarf which was meant to be my boyfriends Christmas present (oops).

I was very busy doing bits of everything but didn’t finish anything! I don’t have new years resolutions as such – but I’m going to try to do the following –

  • Do a bit more ‘nothing’. My new mindfulness book and weekly pilates lessons should help with this.
  • Don’t start any new selfish making projects until I finish some. Focus!
  • Give myself a holiday allocation and try not to feel guilty about having days off.

How was your first week back to reality?!

Christmas Knits

wpid-img_20141208_152926.jpgMost years I decide well in advance that I won’t have time to knit something for everyone for Christmas. However – every December when they start playing Christmas songs on the radio – I decide that I can knit for everyone and start to set myself ridiculous amounts of projects!

This often means I’m still knitting socks on Christmas eve and one year I even gave my mum a half knitted cardigan which I then finished on Christmas day!

This blog is mostly an excuse to show off the scarf I made for my brother a few years ago. It was back in 2011 and for some reason- I was organised! I decided well in advance that I wanted to knit slippers for my mum, a hat and gloves for my dad and a scarf for my brother.

I was particularly pleased with how the scarf turned out. If you look closely you can see his name in fair-isle. Eleanor from Knit Nottingham had her eye on this scarf. I said I would give it to her if she changed her name by de-poll to match the scarf, but she wasn’t dedicated enough!

Winter AnimalsAnd yes he is wearing a short sleeved t-shirt on Christmas day- he also walks around the house with bare feet and doesn’t get chilblains. I got the cold genes!

So this year I made my usual last minute decision to knit a few extra bits! I started knitting something for my boyfriend in Nov – and as I’m writing this it is still unfinished so I can’t share that yet!

I made some of the Rowan Animal Winter Family – these make great little gifts because you can get them out each year to decorate the tree and they’re easy to pop in the post for people you won’t see over Christmas. You can download the patterns for free here if you want to get started for next year!

wpid-img_20141216_142153.jpgI was planning to buy a fabric scarf for my mum, but did a last minute U-turn and knitted her a snood. I used some oddments of Rowan Colourspun and Kidsilk Haze from my stash. It was really quick to knit and the two yarns create a beautiful texture in moss st. I’d never done a mobius before, so I just guessed- and it worked! I’m really happy with it.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and got all your hand-crafted gifts ready in time. Now it’s time to kick back with some selfish knitting! x

Christmas crackers

I say this every year- but I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone!

I’m really looking forward to Christmas day, but I also love the build up to Christmas- decorating my tree, wrapping gifts and watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. One of my favourite traditions in December is quite a recent one. A few of the regulars from Knit in Notts meet up for a Christmas party! We knit, we eat, we do secret Santa and we drink glogg (because Rebecka’s Swedish).

This year our Christmas festivities took place at Steph’s house so that we could admire her lovely new bathroom! My job was to bring the crackers, so I decided to make them myself.

I used cushion roll to make the centre roll- and bought the bangers from ebay. Everyone got some chocolate, a tree decoration and a Knitting Bingo card! This was an idea I saw on Pinterest. We often knit in the pub and get the same comments time and time again – perfect for bingo!

I wrapped them in brown paper which I fixed in place with washi tape, then tied the ends using a few strands of colourful yarn. They’re a bit crumpled and misshapen – but I think that adds to their charm!

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Ta-dah!

They didn’t take long to make so you’ve still got time before Christmas! What are you crafting for Christmas? x

 

Penguins!

Well, it’s all about the penguins this week! And I’m very happy to be able to talk about my little penguin project with Rowan and John Lewis.

wpid-img_20141106_113817.jpgBack in the summer of 2012, Rowan asked me to design a snowman for a knitting kit to go with the John Lewis Christmas advert for that year. After going back and forth for a while, discussing whether it should be a two-ball snowman or a three-ball snowman and whether he should be smiling or not (I find toys with big smiles a bit creepy) – we were sent an image from the advert and I cracked on with designing!

Designing a knitting pattern from a photo can be a bit tricky. I try to keep the design fairly accurate to the image, whilst keeping the pattern as simple as possible so that it appeals to more people.

The most important thing to me, is to design something that people will really want to knit. If something is overly complicated in order to remain true to the image – people might admire it, but will it inspire them to pick up the needles? I always try my best to keep sewing up to a minimum – I know that not everyone loves it as much as I do!

I found that the most difficult thing about both projects was knitting Christmas themed things on the hottest days of the year! It felt a bit wrong to be sunbathing in the garden whilst knitting penguins. It was also difficult not being able to talk about this until November!

I really enjoyed working on the snowman kit for John Lewis, so I was very excited when I was asked to design a pair of penguins based on Monty and Mabel from the 2014 John Lewis Christmas advert. I love the advert and it’s really nice to finally be able to shout about it!

After getting the image of Monty and Mabel through from John Lewis, discussions began as to whether we should go with a black beak and flesh coloured feet (accurate to the advert) or bright orange feet and beak. After three operations, where the penguins had their beaks and feet removed, we settled on the orange as it looks so much cuter!

The penguins are knitted in Rowan Pure Wool 4ply and the kit contains enough yarn to knit both penguins. The kit is available on-line and in John Lewis stores.

You can purchase the kit here.

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I hope you enjoy penguin knitting and please share your pics on my Facebook page! x