Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemade Gifts

This year, I've decided to make gifts for my mother and sister.  I've never done that before, usually I just get them gift cards to some store that I know they shop at, like Barnes & Noble or Sephora.  This year, I decided, it would be more meaningful to put actual effort into the gift and for me, the best way to put effort into a gift is to make it.

I learned how to knit when I was 10 years old, my mother taught me.  I also learned how to do counted cross-stitch (at the age of 8) from my mother.  The only craft thing my mother did not teach me was how to crochet, I ended up taking a class to learn that craft (age 33).  My mother has been knitting and crocheting since she was a little girl, learning how to knit from her grandmother and crochet from her kindergarten teacher.  My own grandmother sewed, making all kinds of outfits first for her own children, then for her grandchildren.  My great-grandmother spent much of her life crocheting small things like doilies and edges on pillowcases and handkerchiefs; when she died in 1988, we found drawers full of boxed handkerchiefs she was planning on sending out for birthdays and holidays.  So, women in my family have been making things for several generations.

I find knitting and crocheting to be very relaxing.  I can let my mind wander, for the most part, as I sit and work my needles or hook, creating something for myself or a friend.  This past summer, I completed a baby blanket for a friend of mine.  It was knitted with a very soft pink yarn and turned out to be very lovely.  I will admit, I'm no longer a fan of pink, but it was very lovely.  I have also made scarves in both knit and crochet patterns.  My current projects include knitted socks, crocheted socks, knitted afghan, and knitted cardigan sweater.  Since I've decided to make gifts for my family, I've put those other items on hold for the time being.

I'm going to be knitting scarves for my mom and sister out of a very thick, and warm, yarn from Berroco.  The thickness of the yarns necessitates the use of needles size 35, which is about 19mm wide, depending on brand of needles.  I've never worked with needles that big before, the largest I've used were size 12 (at this time the millimeter size escapes me).  Compared to 35, 12 really isn't that big.  My size 35 needles look like large orange crayons, they're definitely not hard to miss and I don't think I'll need to be worried about losing them anytime soon.  Each scarf pattern calls for one skein of the Berroco Link yarn, so I bought 3 skeins.  This way, I can make one for all 3 of us, but the scarves will not all be matching.  All 3 skeins are dark, wintry colors -- black/grey/white, green/brown/yellow, tan/brown/dark green.  The ladies at the local knitting shop where I purchased the yarn and needles told me that this particular yarn was very popular.  I have to say, it has quickly become one of my favorites to work with.

I am always open to trying new types of yarn and there are a wide variety to choose from every time I go to my local knitting shop.  The owners of the shop are lifelong knitters/crocheters and love what they do.  I find this store to be a "safe" place, I feel right at home whenever I walk through the door.  All of the yarns in the shop are from companies within the USA, and many of the creators of the yarn are small businesses -- family owned companies that started in some one's great-grandparents' barn or something and managed to flourish into a family owned small business (I have to say I like that aspect quite a bit as well).  This shop even carries yarn from businesses located right here in Colorado, which is really great!

Most people, when they think of yarn, immediately think of either wool or cotton.  Anymore, it seems that yarn can be made out of anything.  Here in Colorado, there are businesses that use sheeps' wool for their yarns but there are also a lot alpaca farms, and every year (in time for the warmer months) the alpaca are shorn (much like sheep, but they look a little more odd "naked" than sheep do) and their coats are then washed and brushed and washed etc. and then spun into yarn.  Actually, the process for both sheep and alpacas (I am led to believe from talking to the professionals) is very lengthy as the shorn coats are processed into the variety of yarns I purchase at my local shop.  I bow in respect to our Colorado sheep and alpaca growers (breeders? farmers?) and thank them for the lovely yarns that come from their animals.

I rarely use wool yarns, as I haven't had a project that required it yet (I have used blended yarns where wool is one of three materials listed).  I have used a lot of cotton yarns, as well as blended yarns.  I love working with alpaca yarn, in many ways it reminds me of wool, but is lighter in some ways.  I've made scarves out of it and they turned out very lovely.  I have used yarns made out of nylon, acrylic, silk, mohair and bamboo.  Now, the bamboo yarn was the most fascinating and fun to work with.  It was flat, unlike most yarns which are round.  I made a crocheted scarf with the bamboo yarn, which turned out very lovely.  The bamboo did not need to be washed and stretched upon completion of the project (which is done with some projects, especially large ones like sweaters and blankets).  I'd like to make something else with bamboo yarn, but I'm not sure what it will be yet.  I have not worked with linen yarn yet, but have several patterns that call for linen.

The yarn I'm currently using for my gifts, Berroco Link, is 50% wool and 50% acrylic.  It's very soft and is going to result in very warm scarves.  I decided on making scarves because, to be perfectly honest, I decided a bit late on what I was going to give for gifts this year.  Scarves are the easiest and fastest thing I can make, knitted or crocheted.  I would have liked to do something bigger, possible a mitten/hat/scarf set but will definitely need longer than 39 days to get the sets completed, so I'm going with scarves.  Next year, I can do the bigger projects.

I'm hopeful that they will love their scarves!  Once the holidays are finished, I'll go back to focusing on my other pending projects and hopefully end up with new socks and a new sweater to wear.  Cheers to that!
Post a Comment