Nostalgia

Crafting a Merry Christmas

Editor’s note: This is a guest post all about Christmas crafting from contributor Juliette Williams. See below for her free knitting pattern! And visit www.juliettepecautdesigns.com and follow her on Instagram @juliettepecautdesigns.


A lifelong love of crafting, rooted in family

This story starts around Thanksgiving 2003, if memory serves, in Sherborn, Massachusetts. My grandma, Winnie, was sitting in her La-Z-Boy recliner by the fire, knitting up a storm. In my nine years I had already received three hats from her, all fruit and vegetable themed. First was a strawberry, bright red with little bits of green yarn scattered throughout as seeds, and a little green stem on top. Then I received a pumpkin, a nice warm orange perfect for chilly autumn days, and finally, a blueberry. At that time, I had been wearing the blueberry most often.

I asked if she would knit me a scarf to match my blueberry hat. I didn’t understand, at the time, that knitting scarves is rather time-consuming, even if it’s a child-sized scarf. So, instead of agreeing to knit me a scarf, Winnie taught me to knit. She set me up with the same scratchy, blue, acrylic yarn from the hat and a pair of long, straight, US size 8 metal needles, and taught me the knit stitch. I never did finish that scarf (scarves really do take a long time to knit), but I ended up with a lumpy, holey, rectangular scrap of knitted fabric. But the more valuable thing I walked away with that day was a life-long desire to knit almost everything.

The making of a Christmas crafter

Throughout middle school and high school I knit little toys and keychains for my friends and me. I made googly-eyed aliens, stuffed hearts for Valentines, rainbow cupcake paperweights, and the Daleks from Doctor Who. And, of course, Christmas ornaments. I made mini stockings, Santa hats, and silver bells with actual jingle bells inside. I even managed to make a dreidel once for a Jewish friend. All of these little treasures were made out of cheap, atrociously bright, acrylic yarn.

image of knitted Christmas stocking ornaments

Handmade Christmas stocking ornaments

A cozy activity with practical results

By the time I entered college, I was using nicer yarn and making more practical things. I made scarves and hats made with 100% wool to fight the cold of New England winters. I even attempted my first sweater, though I never wore it and I ended up ripping out the yarn later to use in a different sweater. But by far my favorite things to knit were Christmas decorations and gifts. I made little elves out of wine corks with knit hats and sweaters. I knit a miniature wreath to hang in the window of my college dorm. And I made hats for my two brothers.

I think knitting is so popular around the holidays because as the weather grows colder, people turn to indoor crafts. There’s nothing cozier than curling up under a handmade blanket by a fire with a cup of cocoa and some knitting. And, of course, if you plan to be outside at all during the winter, you’ll need some wool clothes and accessories to keep you toasty warm.

image of a nutcracker wearing a hat

Even nutcrackers need handcrafted protection from the New England winters

Knitting for the “knitworthy”

Last year, I knit all my gifts for my friends and family. My oldest brother got a pair of fingerless gloves. My other brother and his girlfriend both got extra-cozy brioche scarves to brave the winter in Germany. (Brioche is a style of knitting that creates a double-thick fabric.) My mom got a poncho, and my two best friends got mittens and a hat and scarf set respectively.

Planning early is one way to save yourself from this frustration. Another is to ensure your recipients are “knitworthy.” This term is applied to those who will truly appreciate a handmade gift. A simple scarf can take weeks to make. Even something small like a pair of mittens with chunky yarn can take several hours.

There’s nothing cozier than curling up under a handmade blanket by a fire with a cup of cocoa and some knitting

When I knit an item with the express intent to give it to someone, I spend a lot of that time thinking about that person and why I care enough about them to knit for them. It’s a way of experiencing gratitude, and I love reflecting on my relationship with someone as I knit. So, it would be a shame to give something with so many hours of my life woven in it to someone who won’t appreciate it any more than a $10 hat from a fast fashion store. But for those knitworthy people, there is nothing more special than receiving a gift that a loved one put so much thought and time into making.

image of hand knitted fingerless gloves

Fingerless gloves

To make it meaningful…make it yourself

High quality, handmade items have been gaining popularity in the last few years. Platforms like Etsy promote independent artisans, and people are generally moving away from the waste and exploitation of fast fashion. Many are even picking up old skills they dabbled in when they were young to make their own clothes. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the price reflects the value of the materials and the work put into each item.

Making things by hand teaches us the value of our own skills, and it makes us appreciate each item more than something store-bought. I hope this trend of making and buying handmade continues, and that people learn to respect the value of the materials and artistic skill that goes into handmade gifts. I don’t think I’ll be handknitting everyone’s gifts this year, I do plan on buying gifts from local artisans to support this trend. Even if I didn’t make the gift myself, I can often still trace its story of creation, which is incredibly special to me. And when someone buys a hat or scarf from me, I like to think about that stranger out there wearing something I made from skills my grandma taught me.

Keeping family memories and traditions alive

Winnie passed away just after Christmas 2016, and knitting is one way I keep her memory alive. She was endlessly patient and caring, teaching knitting to any child in her life who wished to learn, and making countless sweaters and blankets for her loved ones and those in need.

So, this holiday season, consider picking up a new skill to make gifts for your friends and family. Or put some time into thinking about what local, independent artisans you could support to buy gifts. I believe it’s much more meaningful than grabbing something mass-produced from the store at the last minute. I think of Christmas as a time to reflect on our values and cherish our relationships. Knitting is one way I like to do so.

Free Christmas pudding ornament knitting pattern

For those Christmas Past fans who already love knit, here’s a free pattern for you! This little Christmas pudding ornament is about 2 inches wide and high, and it will cheer up any tree branch. It also makes a quick, fun gift!

image of hand knit christmas pudding tree ornament

Let’s make this ornament!

Materials

  • Small amounts of bulky weight yarn in brown and white (I used Universal
    Deluxe Superwash Bulky for the brown, and Knitpicks Wool of the Andes
    Bulky for the white)
  • Small of bulky or worsted yarn in red and green (I used Knitpicks Wool of the Andes Worsted)
  • US 9 (5.5 mm) knitting needles (DPNs or long circulars for magic loop)
  • Ribbon or yarn for hanging

Directions

Pudding—With brown yarn, cast on 12 stitches and join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist.

Round 1: Knit
Round 2: (Kfb, k1) 6 times. (18 stitches)
Round 3: Knit
Round 4: (Kfb, k2) 6 times. (24 stitches)
Rounds 5-8: Knit
Round 9: (K2tog, k2) 6 times. (18 stitches)
Round 10: Knit
Round 11: (K2tog, k1) 6 times. (12 stitches)
Round 12: Knit
Round 13: (K2tog) 6 times. (6 stitches)

Cut yarn, thread through live stitches, and pull tight to cinch. Weave tail to the inside
and tie off.

Stuff the pudding with brown yarn until full. Use the cast on tail to sew up cast on
edge, cinching tightly and tying off end.

Frosting—With white yarn, cast on 24 stitches (leaving a long tail) and join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist.

Rounds 1-3: Knit
Round 4: (K2tog, k2) 6 times. (18 stitches)
Round 5: (K2tog, k1) 6 times. (12 stitches)
Round 6: (K2tog) 6 times. (6 stitches)

Cut yarn, thread through live stitches, and pull tight to cinch. Weave tail to the under side and tie off. Using the long tail from the cast on, sew the cast on edge of the frosting to the middle of the pudding, and weave in the end.

Leaves (make 2)—With green yarn, cast on 3 stitches.

Row 1: Knit 3, and slide stitches to the other end of the needle
Rows 2-4: Knit 3, pulling yarn from other end of the work, and slide stitches to the other end of the needle.

Cut yarn, pull through the live stitches and pull tight to cinch. Weave in end. Repeat for a second leaf. Using cast on tails, sew leaves to the top of the pudding.

Berries (make 2)—With red yarn, cast on 3 stitches.

Row 1: Knit 3, and slide stitches to the other end of the needle
Rows 2-3: Knit 3, pulling yarn from other end of the work, and slide stitches to the other end of the needle.

Cut yarn, pull through the live stitches and pull tight to cinch. Sew ends together to make a ball. Repeat for a second berry.

Using tails, sew berries to the top of the pudding. Using a ribbon or scrap of yarn, make a loop and sew it to the pudding for hanging. Finally, hang it on the tree and enjoy your Christmas pudding ornament!