Conquering Christmas Knitting Part 1

I’m not embarrassed to admit that since Starbucks let me have access to Pumpkin Spice Lattes again on September first, I’ve had four. My husband would be horrified if he found out. But I’m not sorry. Every time I sip one, I think about Thanksgiving with my Grandma when I was little and her trying not to laugh as I gave short lectures on the right whipped cream to pumpkin pie ratio.

The answer is equal parts, of course. Don’t be ignorant.

I love the fall. I love sweaters and thick socks, changing leaves, and apple picking. I got married in the fall so I could be surrounded by pumpkins.

Two years today! #WilliamPennInn

A post shared by Jacquline "Cappuccino" Rivera (@jac_attacking) on

Here’s the things about autumn though, it convinces you that anything is possible and time isn’t finite. I have seen countless knitters and crocheters fall victim to the drug known as autumn, myself included. We get so excited about breaking out that worsted weight yarn and making gifts for Christmas that somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving, we’ve taken on more than we can handle. By the time the big day rolls around, we oftentimes resent it or become casualties and find ourselves handing out the dreaded IOUs once again.

Not this year.

There are 108 days until Christmas and 95 until Hanukkah. If you do most of your knitting or crocheting on the weekends, you have 16 Sunday afternoons, depending on how you feel about crafting on Christmas Eve, until the big gift-giving day. I’m not breaking this down to freak you out. Just the opposite, I want to empower you. Today, I want to give you some tips on how to navigate your Christmas or Hanukkah knitting without sacrificing your sanity or your dignity. When Thanksgiving rolls around this year, I don’t want you lying to yourselves, saying:

I can totally get this done. I’ll just stop knitting for myself for a while until I get caught up. No big deal, I have a whole month.

And then, somewhere between the holiday parties and the nights getting shorter, you lose track of time and it’s mid December. You pull all-nighters and hiss at your husband when he tries to say things like, “Why don’t we get them a hot chocolate gift basket from Ghirardelli and you can give them the thing later,” because we all know, that’s what you’ve done for the past two years. You put more than love into those handmade items, you put in time and effort. You deserve to have a nice family dinner without someone joking about your IOUs.

MAKE A LIST

First and foremost, download this free printable My Holiday Make List and fill up the “Person” column with the names of all the people you’d like to make gifts for this year. Go wild and don’t reign yourself in, because if you have even a slight inkling of knitting something for someone as a gift, you might pull a Megan-Anne and talk yourself into it later, won’t buy anything for them, and be completely surprised when you don’t have time to execute your ideas. Know yourself and plan for your insanity.

I punched holes into mine and added it to the beginning of my planner. I feel as if using a green pen adds an extra layer of holiday flair, but do you. Megan-Anne just carries hers around in her project bag now.

Before you start writing in gift ideas, go to your pile of abandoned projects and make sure none of those were originally intended for anyone on your list. Have a sweater you started for your husband over a year ago that’s just missing the sleeves? Have a pair of socks you started for your Mother-In-Law’s birthday, but you suffered from second-sock-syndrome and got her perfume instead? Guess what those people are getting for Christmas this year? Add those abandoned projects to your make list and consider yourself lucky for having a head start. Once you’re done adding those WIPs, have fun churning up ideas for the people remaining on your list.

BE REALISTIC

The reason why making your list is the most important is because it’s easier to be realistic about what you’ll actually be able to complete when you see it all written down. If it takes you six weekends to knit one sweater and four to knit a pair of socks, what makes you believe you can knit three sweaters and four pairs of socks within the 16 weekends until Christmas when it would normally take you 18 weeks just to knit those sweaters, let alone the 34 weeks to complete all of it? Unless you’re a Timelord, it might be time to rethink your pattern choices. If you’re dead-set on gifting a pair of socks to Mom, Grandma, Aunt Lisa, and your Mother-In-Law, maybe you should plan to knit slipper socks with a worsted or chunky weight yarn instead. Be realistic about how much time you’ll have to devote to knitting for your loved ones and what you can achieve in the given time frame.

PRIORITIZE

Crochet and knit for the most important people first. If Christmas will be ruined if you don’t see the look on your niece’s face when she sees the My Little Pony socks you knit for her, make those first. That might sound obvious to you, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched knitters make ‘the boring stuff’ first and then found themselves without enough time to knit that special something for their partners or best friends. Just because your husband will understand if you run out of time to knit that beanie he’s been hinting at, doesn’t mean you should put it at the bottom of your list.

NOT EVERYONE IS WORTH YOUR TIME

This is the hardest lesson, which even Megan-Anne struggles with when dealing with her in-laws. The only person that automatically deserves to receive a handmade gift from you is you. Let’s say it a little louder for those in the back.

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO DESERVES A HANDMADE GIFT FROM YOU.

After that are the people who understand what goes into a handmade item. But, let’s get back to that first person. You. Whether you’re using a high-end yarn like InterludeΒ or some skeins of sock yarn you got on sale at a big box store, hours of your life will go into making the simplest of vanilla socks. Even if you enjoy what you’re doing and you knit those vanilla socksΒ while Netflixing all 12 seasons of Supernatural, you still invested time into making that item. When you gift those socks to someone, you are giving them that time. So, if you can barely spend an hour with your self-righteous cousin or your racist grandfather, why would you bow to societal pressures and gift them something that took you several days to make?Β Even if you’re using chunky yarn and the biggest hook or needles you can find, you’re still devoting time to someone you don’t particularly care for when you could be working on those Pony socks for that niece you adore.

Building upon that, stop knitting for people who don’t understand the time and money that goes into it. Cross them off your list now. If your brother doesn’t understand why you spent $100.00 on yarn to knit a sweater when he could buy one for a fraction of the price at Walmart, for the love of all that is good and caffeinated, DO NOT KNIT HIM SOMETHING. If he could use a hat, buy him a cheap one at Walmart. It’ll have the same value to him. And while he might have a moment of realization on Christmas Day that other people got handmade items by you, you can explain in a nice way that he’s expressed in the past that he doesn’t understand the value of knitting, so you were respecting his wishes.

Removing people from your Make List, who undervalue your work or even people you’re not particularly fond of, might sound harsh, but I’m not advocating for you to snub them on Christmas day. I’m suggesting you spend your knitting and crochet time on those that will appreciate it. Instead of purchasing yarn for Racist Grandpa or Self-Righteous Cousin’s projects, spend that money on an easy to wrap gift for them.

HAVE FUN

This tip is a lot easier to maintain through fall and into winter now that you’ve crossed names off your Make List and moved them to your normal to-buy-for list. Your knitting and crochet energy has specific people to focus on. Enjoy dreaming of things to knit for them and the detective work that goes into discovering what colors they’ll be into this year. Now that you’ve made a realistic plan for your Christmas Knitting, you’ll be able to ride that autumnal high all the way to Christmas Day. I’ll be here every week to help you stay on top of it with more tips, pattern suggestions, and printables to help you end 2017 without any IOUs.

UPDATE: You can read Part Two HERE.

~Jac

Most of the examples I’ve given have come from real life knitters and crocheters I’ve met at yarn shops or conventions.The worst one was the racist grandfather incident. I can still see the look on the customer’s face when I told her that life was too short to knit for someone you can’t bare to be in the same room with.Β