We’ve all got one or two on our list — the friends and family members who seem to have everything. Every year we agonize over the perfect gift for these people (some of whom are inordinately talented gift-givers themselves, which just makes it worse). Since I’m always better at solving other people’s problems than I am at addressing my own, allow me to make some suggestions for the tough ones on your gift list.
The stocking stuffer for your sister-in-law (also great for Yankee Swap gifts at work, or book group gifts): Lavishea lotion bars! These delicious-smelling items are non-greasy, so you can moisturize without worrying about your knitting. They come in lovely scents, like Lavender, White Lily & Amber, Coconut Lime Verbena, and Yarn (which smells like almond croissants, in case you were wondering). Perfect for stashing in your knitting bag, Lavishea bars will keep cracked hands at bay this winter with the power of shea butter.
Similarly, our kilt pins (available in two sizes, and either silver or gold finish) make great stocking stuffers for your Scottish uncle anyone who likes a statement piece of jewelry. The pins are elegantly simple on their own, but you could personalize this gift a bit by adding a few beads or charms in the recipient’s favorite color or style. Kilt pins can be worn on the lapel, as a brooch, or can be used as shawl/scarf pins when you want the attention to be on the knitted item.
Kids can be challenging to shop for at the holidays — most seem to have so many toys already! We just got adorable “Top This!” hat kits that come with a multi-color & texture ball of yarn, plus a plush animal that goes on top. You could knit or crochet one of these up in an afternoon for a young child, or use it as a learn-to-craft item for an older child — the rewarding final touch of a cute puppy/kitten/giraffe on top should help fuel their enthusiasm if the going gets tough. For kids who aren’t into hats, the Top This! kits can also be knitted or crocheted into little blankies with a friendly critter at the corner.
And in case fingering weight yarn is more your thing, consider our newest color of Malabrigo Sock: Light of Love. For anyone (teenage or otherwise) who loves pink, this yarn is the answer. It would make wonderful socks or fingerless mitts. Or give the skein to your favorite knitter to let them know how you feel about them.
Your friend loves to shop local, and always enjoys gifts made by local artisans. In this case, the answer is a ceramic yarn bowl by Devenney Pottery. Devenney Pottery is a husband & wife team based in Jefferson, Maine (Hi, Joe & Mary!). They make amazing ceramic items, and their yarn bowls are no exception. My cupboards at home are filled with their mugs, and they also happen to be two of the kindest, most lovely people I know. If you take home one of their yarn bowls for your friend (or for yourself!) you can feel good about supporting a pair of talented local artists.
Finally, the Big Ticket Item. This is the gift for the crafter who has it all, the knitter who wants to try something new. We only have three of them this holiday season, and they’re going to go fast: Schacht Cricket Looms! These 15″ Cricket Looms come with everything you need to start weaving, including yarn, instructions, and project ideas. I’ve been thinking of getting one so I can weave placemats for my mom. It’s a great starter loom, doesn’t take up much space and, at under $200, is a great way for someone to try their hand at a new craft.
Thinking of gifts for everyone can make this time of year feel overwhelming and stressful. Above all, the most important gift you can give your loved ones is the gift of your time. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to be present. Sometimes it’s not about a physical gift, and sometimes people really do already own everything they need or want. For these folks, consider giving a donation in their name to a cause they care about — the Heifer Project allows you to gift a family with a sheep! Or if education is more their thing, you could always give on their behalf to a non-profit like Few For Change. (Ask me about Few For Change whenever you like — my partner Brooks is a board member and I support their work wholeheartedly.)
May your holiday season be stress-free, and full of love, light, and tasty food!
A ball of yarn is one very long piece of string with two ends. One inside, buried down deep in the middle, and one wrapped around the outside. You can start using the yarn from either end, pulling from either the inside or the outside. I know it’s going to come as a shock to you, but I have opinions about this.
You may have heard me say it, or you may have learned it elsewhere, but for those of you who don’t know, yarn is only held together by the twist. If it were not twisted, it would be just roving and would fall apart with even gentle tugging. The way a quantity of yarn is lumped together is called the put up. Go here for a great graphic that explains more about put up. Every time you change the put up, depending on which way you wind it, you either add or subtract twist. Going from the reeling machines into cones at the factory, going from cones to hanks in the warehouse, or going from hank to ball in the shop or at home, adds or subtracts twist. And so does knitting or crocheting.
I have a really hard time working with single ply yarn because wrapping the yarn around my needle or hook in a counter clockwise motion, as is customary here in the western world, takes away the twist and makes my yarn begin to fall apart. Working from the outside end of a ball of yarn will add twist if the yarn comes off in a counter clockwise motion, and add twist if the yarn comes off the ball in a clockwise motion. Either way, adding or subtracting twist can affect your gauge.
Working from the end in the middle of the ball will preserve the twist. It also allows your yarn to sit still and not roll around. It may be becoming clear what my opinion is. I like the center pull put up. To address the pros and cons, though, there are a number of accessories you can use to make which ever end you want to work with, work for you.
The simplest yarn bras come a variety pack with three sizes in three colors.
If want to use the inside pull out up, but you’re worried about the center of the ball collapsing, a yarn bra will be your best friend. You can read more about yarn bras here in Kate’s review guest blog. The gentle pressure of the yarn bra holds everything together and you can knot or crochet along in the confidence that nothing is going to fall apart on either end.
The big, four-armed thing hanging on the wall is a swift, which holds a hank of yarn while you wind it into a ball. the covered bowl below is perfect for keeping your yarn tidy and within reach. Isn’t it beautiful?
If you want to use the outside pull put up, you have two challenges. First, you have to let the ball roll around to compensate for the twisting motion the yarn makes as you pull it. This keep your yarn from getting over or under twisted as you work. Second, you have to keep your ball from rolling away out of reach, or around in the cat hair on the floor (not that I think you have cat hair on your floor!) or under the couch where you can’t reach it. The perfect solution is a yarn bowl. You can see some great yarn bowl ideas here. And, of course we have Francis Farley’s beautiful bowls here in the shop. A yarn bowl will contain the yarn where you can keep it tidy while still allowing the ball to twist freely.
So, opinions aside, which ever put up you like, inside pull or outside pull, a simple accessory can make or break your experience.