Presenting: A Crafty Christmas

I sit here, sipping my Chai tea
letting smooth tones
of Christmas jazz
wash over me.
The foggy gray sky offers little hope
of wint’ry snow
or distraction
from final’s mope.
But in a bag I have a small yarn stash,
which will be used
to make presents
worth more than cash.

With finals drawing near, so too does Christmas. This means many things for college students:

  1. Shopping for gifts is a perfectly good procrastination excuse.
  2. More reasons to bake and eat cookies!
    Lemon Pomegranate CookiesPre baking - I think they look like jewels! Mocha Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookies
  3. It’s socially acceptable to wear dorky Christmas sweaters.
  4. (Free) Department dinners.
  5. Knitting comes in handy for whipping up last minute presents.

Ok, so the last one is kind of tailored to my own Christmas plans, but it’s more common than you think.

I grew up in a crafty household, and quickly learned that hand-made presents were cherished more than those I bought at the store. It sounds horribly cliche, and maybe I over do it when I paint my own “gift wrap” (paper bags, since I’m too lazy/broke to buy holiday paper), but I promise you those hand made gifts are worth all the hours you put into them.

I remember when I first learned counted cross-stitch and I spent several years churning out kitchy samplers and ornaments for my family. Shortly after that came knitting and crocheting which launched my brief career in scarves. There were also short stints of beading and I’m pretty sure everyone remembers those woven potholders!

Sooner or later everyone in my family received (or is receiving) something I made, and I don’t mean that in a pompous “I’m better than you are” way at all. It just kind of happened. And those hand made presents, no matter how young and inexperienced I was at the time, still hang on walls, get put on the Christmas tree, or are worn when the weather gets chilly.

You may not be the best artist (I know I’m not) or craftsman, but you don’t have to be. The only thing that matters is that you put care and (this is so cheesy) love into the production of the gift. I like to joke with my friends at knitting club that if I’m working on a project and I keep on messing up or the pattern is frustrating, I’ll put it down and let it rest so it doesn’t get bad karma. It sounds silly, but it’s true. You can really tell when knitters had a hard time with a project (tight stitches) and/or if they put a lot of effort into it (resilience despite a few mistakes).

Sometimes the process of making something means more than the end result, which I think a few of my fellow knitters are discovering!

Knitting ClubA Knifty Knitter!

No matter what you choose to make or buy, it’s the thought behind the gift that makes people smile.

Another Knifty Knitter!A Final Knifty Knitter!Teaching how to knit Socks

Brotherly Love and Christmas Tidings

“I’m going to kidnap your roommate”
“What?”

A few moments later there was a knock on my door and my neighbor/friend came in, picked me up by the legs, and proceeded to carry me to his room.

Ah yes, the joys of having brotherly friends.

Don’t worry, I was going to hang out in his room anyway, so I got him to put me down so I could get my knitting and homework. But honestly? I love having friends who can be totally goofy and are like a second family.

Actually, they’re more like my primary family for nine months out of the year. And that’s truly what gets me through each day, knowing there’s someone who has my back (or legs), and can relate to my experiences. It’s true I have two sisters, but there’s such a large age gap it’s like we’re in two different generations!

So, when I get back from breaks it’s like a little family reunion, everyone hugging each other, visiting our neighbors, and enjoying each others company.

In the case of this Thanksgiving break, our reunion consisted of freaking out over homework, decorating our Christmas tree and the rest of the room, and other prep for the holidays.

I won’t bore you with the first bit of our reunion, except to say that reading a book (for history class) about the Holocaust will make you 100 times more thankful and appreciative of the life you are currently leading.

As for the second bit:

I have now experienced the joy of a Christmas tree in my own place!!!

You know when people move into their first apartment and have to buy their own furniture, or celebrate their first (fill-in-the-blank) in their new “place” and it’s a really big deal? Big in terms of life steps and making your own way in the world. Well, that’s why I’m so excited about having a Christmas tree in my apartment.

Setting up the tree

Always the dramatic one...

Last year my roommates and I hung things up and baked sugar cookies we then decorated, but we didn’t have a tree.

The Christmas tree at my house is always one of my favorite childhood memories. We would get a real tree, strap it onto the roof of the car, I’d help my dad bring it into the house, set it up, and laugh at the cats’ reactions to its sudden appearance in our living room. We’d spend one night decorating it, filling it with ornaments passed down through the generations, pictures of family members young and old, ornaments made in kindergarten with bow-tie pasta and glitter paint. The whole house would smell like pine; it was wonderful. On Christmas morning candy canes and small presents would be hidden amongst the branches.

The tree in my apartment is significantly smaller and therefore can’t be host to as many surprises, but it still adds Christmas cheer to the room.

Fin!Close up

As my roommates and I decorated, we listened and sang along to Christmas music, everything from Jason Mraz’s “Winter Wonderland” to Bing Crosby’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I’ve also discovered the wonders of Pandora’s Folk Christmas playlist (my favorite artists so far: John Fahey and Windham Hill).

We’ve also been modifying the posters in our room; there will soon be a sleigh and reindeer traversing the Starry Night.

500 Days of ChristmasSheldon

I’m sure we’ll decorate more before we go home for the holidays, and I know I have to put some time into knitting Christmas presents for my roommates! I think I’ll be spending more time with my brotherly neighbors to work on that.

I want the presents to be a surprise!

Wooly Weather

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when the weather turns cold, a knitter must be in want of good wool and a hot beverage.

It’s that time of year again. The time to bundle up in thick scarves, chunky sweaters, over-sized hats, and drink copious amounts of tea and coffee to ward away the afternoon drowsiness which accompanies darker evenings.

For me, this weather is perfect. I hate the heat, though my complaint actually lies with over-exposure to the sun (I’m super pale. Like, I glow in the sunlight in early spring. And I’m as red as a lobster in the summer). Right now I’m really excited to break out the wool socks and mittens. I’d be super happy if it snowed this week, but I know that it wouldn’t be a good thing for those who are still out of power from Sandy (like my parents; they already got half a foot of snow last night).

Still, my idea of a perfect winter afternoon is curling up in a huge armchair in front of a fire, snow swirling outside the windows, shelves of books host to infinite new worlds, my cat in my lap, and knitting in my hands. Some quiet music would be nice, too. Maybe some tea on a table beside me.

Biltmore LibraryTudor house in Elmira NY

Well, at the moment I’m lacking snow, a fireplace and my cat, but I have some form of the rest at school. The reading room has wonderful chairs to curl up in, Barnes and Noble is only a bus ride away, I have my iPod, I just bought a cup of coffee, and my knitting is in my backpack beside me.

When it comes to hobbies, I am not your average 20 year old. My art prof saw my knitting this past week and asked “Shouldn’t you be texting or something? Constantly tapping away at technology?”

Trust me, I do my fair share of that, but my answer will always be “No, I’d rather be knitting.” And what I knit isn’t your typical scarf or blanket either.

I started knitting when I was homeschooled, and made little stuffed animals and knick knacks but nothing very complicated. I stopped knitting for a few years, and then got back into it in high school when I was given sock yarn one Christmas. Since then, I’ve made

socks

First pair of knitted socks!

hats

Polka-Dot hat - took me forever!Blue Beret

scarves

Scarf in Progress

and now I design my own patterns. Which, let me tell you, involves more math than you think (Reasons why it’s good to have math core at Loyola).

I actually have Loyola to thank for getting me started on designing patterns. When I visited here my senior year of high school, I wore a hat my sister had knitted for me, but lost it when my mom and I were checking out Fells Point. I was really ticked because it was something my sister had put a lot of work into and I really liked wearing it. So, instead of associating bad karma with the school, I decided that I would try to make my own hat. I sketched out ideas, looked at other hat patterns, and came up with this:

Designs for my first hatLove wearing this, it's so soft and warm!

Since then I’ve made leg warmers, a fez, hand warmers, sweater motifs, and a Batman hat

How I plan out patterns: lots of graph paper!For my friend Ben :D

I currently have a Superman hat in the works!

Pattern in Progress

Writing patterns and knitting is so much more suitable for cold weather. Soft wool slipping through your fingers, smooth needles click clacking away, and the rhythmic hand motions are all very soothing.

I think it’s time to end this and take out my knitting. Productive Procrastination!