You know what’s a sad sight for any knitter thumbing through the racks at Goodwill? Handknit sweaters. Poor sweaters! With their tagless necklines and lumpy seams, the hours of love and attention that went into their creation reduced to $3.49.
Some have obvious shortcomings: lime acrylic, stiff fit, gimmicky patterns. Others must have clashed with their owner’s taste: allergic to wool, hates pink, looks plump in cardigans. Were they ever worn?
The plan to keep my sweaters from living out their golden years at Goodwill is two-fold:
1. Try and knit classic shapes in practical colors.
2. Knit sweaters for no one but myself, with one exception: hypothetical future children who are too young to have a say in their wardrobe. I think of it as efficient use of my precious knitting hours. Better to make mittens, socks, or a shawl for others…something that if they don’t like, they can hide in some tall boots or take off when they get in the door. A sweater has to be the right color and style and fit to wear around all day, which is much too much responsibility when trying to make a gift.
I suppose the second exception to rule #2 is my mom. She and I are both notorious for handing over a gift and saying, “If you don’t like it just tell me and I’ll wear it.” Which means, “I bought/made this with both of our tastes in mind.” It’s really a very handy system. This Christmas I gave her a shawl made from handspun, which she kept. She sent me this picture last month of her all styled up. I wouldn’t have thought to put the cowl with the shawl – nice, mom!
Who wears your handknits? Do you gift many of them? And only certain articles or everything from accessories to sweaters?
Buying handmade for the holidays is kind of like eating organic – even if you really believe in it, 100% compliance rate is really hard. But every bit matters. The Handmade Gift Guide is asking people to sign this online pledge: at least half of the holiday gifts I give are handmade (by me, a friend, or a super cool artist).
Let’s do it! Remember, handmade doesn’t have to look like it was made in a camp craft room. It can be sleek, functional, classic. For inspiration, here are ten pledge-qualifying gift ideas.
1. Ruffle gold & silver hoop earrings – $28
2. For the techie, a clever ipod/ipad charger made from a book – $55
(looks like they’re sold out for Christmas, but I still had to include it. It’s too cool. Maybe you have a January birthday to plan for?)
3. Coasters made from Turkish rugs – $36 for a set of 6
4. 8×10 winter scenery print (can’t you feel the crisp cold air?) – $15
5. Instructions for how to upcycle an old frame into a chalkboard serving platter for your favorite host or hostess – $ a few dollars
6. 2012 cityscape letterpress desk calendar – $30 (cut along the dotted line at month’s end and voila! it’s a postcard, ready to send)
7. Instructions for turning a photo into a paint-by-number (paint it yourself, or package it with paint as a kit for a crafty friend…yeah it’s kitsch, but everybody’s got a kitsch-lover on their list!) – $ a few dollars
8. It’s probably too close to Christmas to make an entire blanket from felted sweaters, but this felted ipad cover is doable. – $ cost of goodwill sweaters
10. And if someone’s been very, VERY good, perhaps this handmade leather bag – $140
What handmade things are you giving this year? What are you making yourself and what are you buying from others? Whatever you gift, handmade or not, you can snazz up the wrapping with these free gift tag printables from Eat Drink Chic. Happy gift-buying, making, and giving!
Our first snowfall of the season is predicted for late this Saturday night. I’d say I finished the herringbone mittens for the snowfall, but in fact I will probably mail them to Rachel C. for her 30th birthday. She’s received a series of Katie knits since 2004. Even in the beginning, when the items were super simple and/or wonky, she was very appreciative (or pretended well enough that I was convinced).
When I was just graduating from “scarf land,” it was encouraging to have friends like Rachel who gladly accepted knit gifts. Who’s been in your knitting fan club from the beginning?
Rachel, I hope these mittens help make up for the weird scrap-yarn hat I sent you that one time in 2007. They’re warm…I tried them out on my walk this morning to get an egg & cheese bagel.
Did I miss any other rhyming describers? Hmm. I’m mentally going through the alphabet (…D,E,F,G…). I think I got ’em all.
This is a mini version of the Missoni Inspired Chevron Blanket. It’s made mostly from leftover project yarn, although I supplemented with mill ends and a fresh skein or two from some sale bins. After binding off I still had yarn in a few colors, so I gathered every circular needle I had in size 6, 7, or 8 (buying new needles for a reuse project just seemed counterintuitive – the perfection is in the imperfections on this one) and added a 12-row stockinette border.
Even while adding width and length with the border, I wondered about the functionality of a mini blanket. Could an adult fit under it for napping on the couch? Would it turn into an extravagant dog warmer? Does my lap actually need warming?
I joked to a coworker that it could just be a blanket for a hypothetical future baby. She completely ignored the key word there – hypothetical – and got going about what the baby would look like and what would we name it and ohmygosh she’s going to be its stylist and teach it Spanish.
Needless to say, she is my favorite person at work.
Turns out the mini blanket is more versatile than I thought. Today I took the blanket to work because they keep cranking up the AC in our building, so much that I was shivering yesterday as I typed. Below, Read kindly demonstrates its usefulness for afternoon couch napping, and our rocking chair demonstrates how dressy she can look in stripes. I’m sure Sam will have a turn or two under the mini blanket too.
The differences between Oregon professional dress and Boston professional dress are not subtle. The short of it is that all jeans-based ensembles have been relegated to weekend wear and I had to buy a few pairs of heels. Any new knitwear needs to be styled for the workplace, ‘cuz I definitely don’t need more casual outfits.
Here’s where I need help. How can I dress up my newest sweater, the Plain and Simple Pullover by Veera Välimäki? This is the sweater that I made from frogging, washing, and un-plying miles of triple stranded wool from a garage sale sweater. I finally sewed on those buttons and whaddya know, it’s pretty cute. Thin weight, which is great for our overheated offices, and a long fitted shape. What’s it need to be a step or two above jeans?
Pattern: Plain & Simple Pullover by Veera Välimäki
Yarn: Re-used wool from LLBean fisherman’s sweater
Needles: 3 for sweater and 2.5 for neck/armhole ribbing
Who doesn’t love a good deal?
There’s a family story that involves a 3-year-old-me and the new Easter hat I wore to church. An older lady across the aisle commented on what a nice hat it was and politely asked, “Where did you get it?”
“ON SALE!” I shouted.
Last week Read suggested that one of my steals was turning out to be more work than it was worth. I’ve been guilty of this before…the $4 thriftstore dress that just needs some tailoring, the free piece of furniture that needs fixing, the hand-be-down chair with a funny smell…
Often I’m swayed by not only a cheap price, but also the thought of remaking and reusing something that otherwise would be discarded. What about for you? At what point is the investment to fix something (in time or repairs or sweat) not worth the savings?
I bought this Lily shirtdress for half off because it's missing half the covered buttons...how to make covered buttons?? hmm
This most recent situation started with that LLBean wool sweater that I got for $3 at the neighborhood yard sale. I deconstructed it and was left with oodles of triple-stranded dark gray wool. I washed the hanks and stretched them to dry, then knit a test swatch with 10.5 needles. YIPES. Way too thick. I’d start overheating in any garment that heavy.
Unwashed crinkly wool (left) and washed, stretched, and dried wool (right)
The only option was to separate the strands. I had Read sit on the opposite side of the couch – he took a double strand and I took a single – and we wound, wound, wound. The excruciating part is that the yarn gets so twisty it knots on itself, so every few yards you have to stop and untwist. One hank took a couple hours to separate. Read said he felt like Mose in that episode of The Office where Dwight makes him un-ply the building’s toilet paper to save money. He shook his head a lot, but bless his heart he kept winding.
the start of a Plain & Simple Pullover
The single-ply yarn is becoming a Plain and Simple Pullover…so far so good. Separating the strands basically tripled my yardage so I’ll get to choose a couple more projects after the pullover.
What lengths have you gone to fix, retrofit, or mend something you got for cheap (or free)? Was it worth it? Any epic fails?
Our neighbors get rid of cool stuff. So much so that I’ve generally replaced going to thrift stores with early morning walks at the turn of the month, when people are moving in and out of apartments. This year I’ve dragged home a few treasures, including…
An old weathered wooden box with faded gray/blue paint. It holds all of our scarves, hats, and gloves…
A solid wood double-doored console thing that serves as a media stand…
And an old windsor chair with a broken seat, but it remains to be seen if I can fix it.
This morning Read and I walked out the door and into a neighborhood-wide yard sale – it was like a whole year’s worth of moving sales in one morning. Amazing! It felt like a block party, but with rows and rows of $1 bins and used furniture and stacks of books. We met some more neighbors, all of whom are super nice and chill, and made plans to grill out in our shared driveway later this summer.
Combing the house we came up with $39 in cash. With our first dollar we bought some lemonade from the kids next door. The little girl had the best blond goldilocks curls and a cheery chipper voice. She also had a cold, so as she chattered away, a big wad of snot marked her breathing by moving in and out of her nose. Hahaha She remained unfazed. “These cookies have cow’s milk and these don’t! All of the money goes into this cup because it’s the money cup! We’re making a lot of money huh?!”
Thirty-eight dollars later, we had brought home…
A pink collar for Edith…
An antique dresser to put at the entryway and a puffy insulated dog coat…
…and a $3 XL virgin wool LL Bean sweater that I started to deconstruct for the yarn. That ball above is from just one sleeve, so maybe I can get a couple projects out of the sweater! I’ve had Calvados on my queue for a while and it would look nice in dark gray.
Yard sale season is in full swing. Have you picked up anything good lately?