Thursday, July 13, 2006

Christmas in July

Remember theme days at summer camp, like Backwards Day? My camp always designated one day in July as Christmas, when you’d sing carols and make each other gifts. That’s what I feel like now, as I start my holiday presents.

I hate to shop. I realize that this is weird and anti-American of me, but I can’t help it. Shopping stresses me out, especially shopping for others. Even when I’m given a list, or possibly more so when I am given a list, because then there is the expectation that I will gift that exact item, and I have to run around to find it.

Last year, by complete coincidence, almost all my gifts were handmade (by me or others—I bought several at a craft sale). I think I set foot in the mall just once, to buy my husband a DVD. And it was the pleasantest, least-stressful holiday I can remember in years.

So I pledged that this year, everyone (with the possible exception of my nephew) would receive handmade gifts. At first I felt a little guilty about throwing out the lists, and I had a little twinge of “what if they don’t like it?!” fear. And then I said, screw them.

Ha ha, just kidding! But it does feel a bit self-centered and thoughtless to prepare gifts with almost complete disregard to their recipients’ wishes. Until I remembered that some of the gifts I have treasured the most, carried with me through the years, clung to like an old teddy bear, are the ones that came unsolicited. Items I never in a million years would have thought of, things I didn’t need, presents that were pure surprises. Sure, it’s fun preparing a list and receiving things off it, but it might be even more fun to get things you didn’t see coming, both because you have your horizons broadened and you gain some insight into the gift-giver.

Last year I knit scarves and gloves, sewed belts, and painted ceramics; this year I plan to sew tote bags and knit shawls, mittens, hats and one sweater. Since I’m working on a much larger scale this year, I need to start a lot earlier, so I’ve timed my progress with the weather (light/small things in summer, heavier items in fall).

July: sew totes, knit shawl #1
August: knit shawl #2
September: knit hats/mittens/socks/scarf
October: finish hubby’s sweater
November: finish hats/socks/mittens

One of the best parts about this whole odyssey is that almost all of the above can be created out of stash and homespun. And it’s not done completely thoughtlessly—for instance, the two shawls are earmarked for women who will truly cherish them.

I decided one of those shawls would be the completed Swirl Shawl.
swirl shawl 001
When I saw it blocked on the carpet, I realized it belonged to my beloved aunt.

Next up is the Fina Hyrnan from Three Cornered and Long Shawls. I’m knitting that in the green silk/wool I picked up at Claudia’s winter swap . I’m a little concerned about the yarn because the singles have, shall we say, a little more spring in their step than I’m comfortable with. But it is July, so if the experiment in handspun is a failure, I have time to regroup.

Now the only question is, when will the cussing start? I’m guessing when the sewing machine comes out, but I’ve never knit an Icelandic shawl before…


claudia said...

I guess now you are glad you rescued swirl from the garbage? That was the one, wasn't it?

Carole said...

I'm impressed with your organization. And I wish I was on your Christmas gift list.

Cheryl said...

Wow, the swirl shawl is amazing! Beautiful!

I'm knitting a shawl out of my handspun singles right now (you saw the beginning of it!) and the singles were really twisty before I blocked them. I just figure I'll block the shawl really well and we'll see how it goes.

Fields of Heather said...

Wow, you are sooo wrong! Handmade gifts are the best. We all have too many "things" these days that have no meaning. Your handmade gifts will mean so much more. If they don't like them, I know someone who would! hehee

Beth S. said...

Oh! Swirl turned out wonderfully--I'm so glad you persisted with it.

And I admire your organizational/planning skills, too. ;-)

p.s. Amazon and LL Bean tide me through the holiday shopping season almost entirely. I love them to distraction.

Laurie said...

The shawl is stunning. You should have no trouble with the Icelandic version.

Kristen said...

I had something witty and smart to say but it all went out of my head when I saw the swirl shawl.

swirl shawl = beautiful, and totally worth fishing out of the trash. Congrats on it's completion!

Juno said...

That is beautiful.

I shan't repeat what other's have said about the trash...but oh, savor the irony.