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Being Merry & Bright

This time of year is truly magical. Lights adorning trees, ornaments handed down through generations, mailboxes overflowing with holiday wishes and pictures of family friends one year older, steaming mugs of tea (and perhaps a cookie or two), hugs from old and new friends, knitting needles furiously finishing off last-minute gifts… It’s all magic.

How do we celebrate the holidays around here? With an exceptionally curious toddler, we elevate, downsize and get crafty.

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Orange pomanders. YUM. Take some fresh oranges and make designs in them with cloves. What do they smell like? Christmas. My mom and I used to make them after we went on vacation years ago to Williamsburg, where you see them everywhere. They last for weeks and continue to give off an amazing scent.

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I always had a bowl of ornaments on the table, but since Callum came along, I’ve had to revise my plan… Take a domed cake stand, hold it upside down and fill with bulbs. Hold the base to the bottom and gently flip it over, encasing them inside. Plastic ornaments are ideal since they won’t break if you overfill a bit. Toddler-proof and a fantastic table centerpiece!

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Beautiful!

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Gone (for now) are the days of a large tree in the living room. My son and dog cannot resist the temptation. Instead we got a small, real tabletop tree and strung it with lights. We get the scent of pine and the joy of an out-of-reach tree, just toddler-sized.

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A wreath leaves pine needle debris everywhere and since this is the main door we come in and out of, a felted snowflake makes a great door decoration. No matter how many times I run into it with handfuls of grocery bags, a squirmy kid or the mailman bangs it shut, it stays perky and debris-free.

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Super fun to make, I got a large, scalloped-edge paper punch, some fancy paper from the paper store and yarn from my stash. I took my tapestry needle and ran it through the paper and strung it up in our archway. They dance a bit in the breeze and the sparkly ones catch the light. Simple and quick!

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I bought a very inexpensive box of star ornaments from Target, used some yarn from my stash to string them up and have an instant over-the-table garland. It distracts my son when he’s eating and brings cheer to our meals.

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In our new place we have a yard. A YARD!!! That means lights strung everywhere and every time I catch a glance of them outside it makes me smile.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

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No Words

I grew up not very far from Connecticut in Massachusetts. My oldest friend in the world whom I’ve known since I was three years old lives two towns over from where the tragedy happened this morning. She is a teacher. She is the mother of two young children. I got down on my knees today and thanked God for letting her and her family be safe and cried tears of grief for those who are not.

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There are simply no words.

Hug your loved ones tightly.

My heart goes out.

Tick Tock

We’ve been busy gearing up for the holidays around here, unpacking the remaining boxes (even though there’s always a few that never get unpacked, yet we continue to drag them from place to place, right?), hanging up Christmas lights, sending out the cards and wrapping gifts.

I’ve been wanting a knit this cool clock cozy I saw a few months back for a while now. I even went so far as to buy the clock I wanted, grab yarn from my stash and leave it on my desk as a reminder that it needed to get done. It languished for months, gathered a bit of dust, got thrown in a box when we moved and once again, lay on my desk in the new place, mocking me.

So I decided to get down to business.

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I’ve had this lofty yarn in my stash for years. 2 hanks of it, to be precise. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it other than make a cool hat for my kid or one of my zanier friends who would wear it proudly. We wrote about it back when I was co-Editor of knit.1 magazine and I liked that it was called “32 Flavors” and handmade by a woman in Vermont. I tend to flock towards bright colors and having 32 of them in one hank just about blew my mind. However, I’m not a huge fan of not-so-subtle variegated and was never sure what it would turn into.

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The free pattern on Ravelry by Inger Lise Næss didn’t give much info, but truth be told, you don’t really need much. Needles, yarn, a clock and a tape measure. It’s all garter stitch (and perfect for scrap yarn or crazy variegated) and you simply knit around the edge of the clock until you get the length you want. Weave the long tail through the back edge to cinch it shut, then single crochet around the face of the clock for a clean, even edge on the front. It knits up incredibly quickly and is easy to set down, walk away, come back and not miss a beat since there’s no fancy stitching or chart to follow.

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I find it important to have a clock in my son’s room. I can get carried away when it’s time to read a book before bed, or he needs something done at a certain time (nap time, or medicine, a bottle or whatever) so having a clock that doesn’t tick loudly in his room has been helpful to keep us all on track. It would also be a fantastic gift for a knitting friend or someone who needs a clock and would appreciate having it wrapped in yarn.

If you’ve left some gifts until the last minute, this one you can stitch up in no time. Everyone needs a clock, right?

Tick, tock…

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

I’ve always loved fairy tales.  Growing up I had a very well-loved copy of all the classics. I adored them all – The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel were my favorites. It’s interesting how such simple tales became such a big part of my childhood.

I remember snuggling up to my mother as she read them aloud again, how’d she’d let me turn the pages and even though I had heard it one hundred times before, the anticipation of what would happen made me bite my nails down to the quick. The illustrations were like familiar friends, as was that old hardbound book. It remains packed up in one of the many boxes of books from my childhood, waiting for a time when my son is old enough to haul it off the shelf, tuck both himself and the book into my lap and tell me which one he wants to hear that night. I can’t wait!

Many of these tales have popped up over the course of my life thus far. I was in many fairy tale-inspired ballets as a kid when I danced very seriously with a company. My VHS Disney tapes practically wore out from extensive watching. I did a stop-motion animated version of Rumpelstiltskin for my junior year animation thesis at RISD. The puppets were crafted painstakingly by hand and I even knit little outfits for them. The miller’s daughter’s hair was actual hair from my head (how we suffer for our art!) and I enjoyed every minute of making that short film. Very modern versions of The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood posters adorn my  wall and I have to admit, I do love “Once Upon A Time,” a current TV show.

Fairy tales let us escape into a world where witches appear out of thin air, straw can be spun into gold, princesses dance until dawn, glass slippers fit the right person, a kiss can break a spell and the guy gets the girl. Admittedly, too many of them are damsel-in-distress stories and the real versions written by the Brothers Grimm are fairly horrifying, but grasping the moral of the story, diving into a world of pretend and believing that anything is possible while you read them is a right of passage for any child.

In honor of my love for fairy tales, I offer up the Rapunzel Cowl. Knit in Cascade’s Lana Grande yarn, this 100% Peruvian highland wool will keep you warm, whether you’re visiting Far Far Away or Neverland. What surprised me most about the finished project is how light it is. A plied wool, this yarn is so light and lofty that it has what every princess wants, a serious cozy factor. A 16-stitch cable is reminiscent of Rapunzel’s long braid and a kitchener join makes for a seamless finish. With almost 45 colors to chose from, this cowl knit up almost as quickly as I could say “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” on US 15s.

I designed this project for a quick gift knit as the season is upon us. Maybe you’ll take a break between cable repeats and reread those tales we all enjoyed from so long ago…

And they lived (and knit) happily ever after. Download the free Rapunzel Cowl pattern here.