Have a look at a piece I wrote for Pray.com.au on the Nativity. It got me reflecting on what it felt like to be a new mother. Did Mary feel this way too?
Have a look at a piece I wrote for Pray.com.au on the Nativity. It got me reflecting on what it felt like to be a new mother. Did Mary feel this way too?
This year, I had the idea of beefing up our Christmas presents to our nephews and nieces with some handmade gifts. You see, Mr Knightley’s brothers and sister always give such thoughtful and generous presents to my children that the presents I buy for their children look rather plain in comparison. I am certain that I am the only one who notices this, but I wanted to find a way to value-add, just the same. Unfortunately, I was only hit with the inspiration to do this ONE WEEK before our Christmas lunch. But the genius of Lucy Ravenscar and the sheer wonder of my hot-glue gun came together and I somehow managed to pull it off.
It was a Christmas miracle.
1. A turtle keyring for my ten-year-old niece (from Lucy Ravenscar’s most excellent pattern);
2. These hair clips for my two-year-old niece (flower motif pattern here);
3. A ‘lucky pig’ for my baby niece (another of Lucy Ravenscar’s remarkable patterns); and
4. These Bananas-in-Pyjamas finger puppets for my one-year-old nephew. These were my own pattern and a lot trickier than they look. The pyjama stripes are worked in rows and joined to make a cylinder, then the head is worked in decreasing rounds on one of the ends. If you try to work the whole thing in rounds, the stripes go diagonal. Or so I’m told.
My other two nephews (aged seven and nine) missed out on a handmade addition to their presents. What on earth do you crochet for a nine-year-old boy?
These were all very well received and I was feeling remarkably smug about the whole situation … until I saw the truly beautiful, thoughtful presents my children received in return. I’m gonna have to start a lot earlier next year!
Note – I wrote this one a month ago and am only just getting around to posting it now. Hence all the references to “Advent” and “December”. I tried to fix it, but it was getting too complicated. I hope you can cope with this blast from the past…
My fingers have been very busy this Advent season. Here’s why:
1. Something about Christmas fills me with the urge to create things with my hands.
2. I prefer to spend my time with a bag of yarn and a box set of Little Dorrit than doing battle with a shopping centre car park.
3. I get to tell myself I’m being all anti-consumerist and sticking it to the man.
4. I’ve been invited to two weddings this December, and as a result have NO MONEY for expensive presents. All my money fell down the wishing well…
Here’s what I made for Harry’s and Christopher Robin’s teachers:
These angels are TOTALLY MY OWN PATTERN. I’m so excited! OK, so maybe I got lacy wings idea from a book I got from the library and I did steal Lucy Ravenscar’s method of joining the head to the body without fastening off, but the rest of it is ALL ME. If you look closely, you can see that some of the angels have different body-types – it took me a while to refine the pattern…
I might just put a tutorial up for these sometime next year…
We also gave them gingerbread in jars, using The Green Dragonfly’s excellent recipe. All of the kids helped to make these. Annie ate all her dough, and Christopher Robin got rather creative in his choice of biscuit shapes, but I bit back the strong urge to fix the wonky ones and let them roll and cut to their hearts content. We decorated with white fudge writing icing, but I wouldn’t recommend it (it doesn’t set properly).
All of the teachers were very happy with their Christmas presents, and I was glad of the opportunity to thank them for taking care of my boys this year.
Stay tuned for more – I’m afraid you don’t have a choice!
Every year, just before Christmas Eve Mass, my parish puts on a little children’s nativity play. And this year, Harry was old enough to join in. I watched him with pride at the rehearsal as he sat on the altar steps next to his big brother, solemnly clutching his assigned wooden sheep and singing carols very dutifully. I could already see how it was going to be. On Christmas Eve, all the otherwise stern-faced parishioners would be nodding at each other indulgently and pointing to the altar. There sat the quiet and obedient little three-year-old with the mop of golden hair and enormous brown eyes as he performed Away in a Manger in Australian Sign Language. “That boy has come good,” they would mutter to each other, “he used to turn up to Mass late and without shoes on and shriek abuse at Father during the consecration, but no more! Just look at him sitting so still! I call that fine parenting!”. My heart swelled.
The rehearsal was a long one. Annie was getting tired of being strapped in her pusher. When I unclipped her, she promptly trotted over to the altar steps and sat down amongst the other children. It was all very cute and she looked very proud of herself. I let her stay there for a little while, but I soon began to sense her presence was making the co-ordinator rather anxious, so I coaxed her back to my seat with toy cars and kept her there. I could tell from the smile of approval and relief the co-ordinator sent my way that I’d done the right thing. It’s true: I do value other people’s approval far more than I ought. Annie, realising she’d been duped, began to howl piteously.
When the rehearsal ended, it was time to fit the children for their costumes. Being one of the smallest, Harry was last to be fitted. As we approached, I could hear him murmuring to himself: “but I don’t need a clothes. I don’t want one. I just don’t need a clothes”. The kindly parish lady held up a small brown robe. Harry’s eyes widened: “No. No. No, I don’t need it. No! No! Take it off! Take it off!”. I didn’t want to make a big thing of it or – for that matter – tear a hole in the lovingly handmade costume. Harry can have a bit of a thing where clothing is involved. In the end, we held the robe against Harry’s wriggling form to measure it. “Never mind,” said the kindly parish lady as she pinned a label with Harry’s name on the costume’s coat hanger, “it’s been a long morning. He’ll be fine on the night.”
Christmas Eve was a day that went by in a bit of a desperate whirl. A couple of days earlier, my mum and I decided we would move the family Christmas to my house (Mum and Dad are getting their kitchen renovated and, whilst the builder had given them many reassurances that the kitchen would be ready by Christmas, it would seem he had not specified which Christmas). I was feeling quietly jubilant by this prospect. I still feel the novelty of having a home of my own and now I would have the chance to get it all dressed up for Christmas. Surely this was some sort of housewives’ rite of passage? My head spun with the possibilities. What about this?
Image credit: Mollie Makes, http://www.molliemakes.com
Image credit: Craft & Creativity, http://craftandcreativity.com
Image credit: http://www.welke.nl
My home would be so beautiful and charming. Everybody would exclaim over all of the sweet details and thoughtful touches. But before I could let loose with the decorations, I needed to tidy up. After all, an artist must always begin with a clean canvas!
By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I had modified my expectations a little. OK, so I probably wasn’t going to get a chance to make beautiful, bespoke decorations and create a Pinterest wonderland here on earth, but at least I could focus on making it fresh and tidy and welcoming. So I wrote a list a mile long and got lost in a frenzy of sweeping and dusting and endless picking-up-and-putting-away (or picking-up-and-scratching-head-over-random-objects-that-seem-beyond-classification).
It soon got to the point where I realised I wasn’t going to get the house tidy in time for Christmas. My delightful children were expertly manufacturing mess at a faster rate than I could possibly dispel it. I decided on a new goal – I would make the kitchen functional. My family had suffered weeks in a house without a working kitchen, it would be a relief for them to work in a shiny-clean and clutter-free space. I might even clean the oven (hey: there’s a first time for everything!).
But as we hurtled towards the end of the day, I realised forlornly that I was not going to accomplish any of my goals and now had to focus on force-feeding dinner to my children before getting them to the church by 6:15-no-later. I had sort of hoped to coax Mr Knightley into taking the children so that I might have some child-free time to get some stuff done and – hang on! – get dressed for church. But, as Mr Knightley ruefully pointed out, he had been working in the garden all afternoon and was covered in dirt and grass clippings. He would need the time to have a shower.
We were already late. There was no time to discuss matters. It was possible that I fumed a little as I strapped Annie into her car seat (she was looking very sweet in a bright green fairy dress Matilda had found for her) and muttered to myself about my husband’s tendency to find urgent things to do in the safety of the garden whenever I go into stressed-out-cleaning-banshee-mode, but this is not the place to document such grumblings.
As we raced towards the room with all the costumes, I took note of the pretty dresses and floaty blouses all the other mums were wearing. The earrings and the makeup and the high-heeled shoes. I was wearing a faded peasant top that makes me look a little pregnant and my jeans with the frayed bit at the bottom. The co-ordinator (looking spectacular in a black lacy number with red lipstick) made an elaborate display of relief when we burst in the door (eleven minutes late) and ushered us to the dressing room where the kindly parish ladies were waiting. I shared a brief look of solidarity with the KPLs and gamely girded my underdressed loins. Harry had already started to shake his head.
As I cheerfully approached him with the robe all gathered up and ready to pull over his head, Harry shot one look of disgust and pure loathing at the proffered garment and bolted. I somehow managed to rugby-tackle the miniature maelstrom as he ran laps of the room shouting “No-no-no-no-no-no! Help! HELP MEEE!” and began to wrestle arms and legs and heads into sleeves and neckholes and skirts. It was just as I stopped applying the costume and picked up the tea towel headdress that Harry managed to fling the small brown cloak off in one swift movement and resumed his protest march around the room.
By now, everyone else had departed for photos-on-the-basketball-court. So, with one arm dragging Harry and the other pushing the stroller (which contained both Annie and the wretched costume), I proceeded outside to resume negotiations.
Harry and I sat facing each other on the asphalt. I had managed to poke Harry’s head through the costume, but that was as far as I’d got. I gestured helplessly at the other little shepherd boys as they posed together for a photo.
“Look, Harry,” I coaxed, “all the big boys are wearing their costumes. Don’t you want to be like a big boy?”
Harry glared at me mutinously. I tried again.
“Do you want to sit with me and Annie like a baby?”
“Then you must wear your costume”
“Then you won’t be able to be in the play”
“Are you a big boy or a baby?”
“Just try it”
And he ran away.
I sat, bereft, on the bitumen. Two of the dads were regarding me from on high (they were tall and standing up, I mean).
“Nobody would say you didn’t give it a good go.” said one consolingly.
“There’s always next year,” said the other.
I sighed and climbed to my feet. Mr Knightley appeared by my elbow. “There’s still time if you want to run home and get dressed up.” he said, “Go now! Hurry!”
So I raced home, pulled my favourite summer dress off the line, flung it over my head, poked my feet into some pretty sandals and raced back to the church.
I fell in the door just moments after the play had started. As I stumbled to my seat, I took in the scene before me. Christopher Robin and Harry sat beside each other. And Harry was in full costume, with only one arm poking defiantly out of his neck hole.
It was a Christmas miracle.
I looked across to the angels. There sat Matilda, a halo of silver tinsel on her dark hair, singing her eight-year-old heart out. And there, sitting amongst the Heavenly Host all in white, was a small green fairy. Annie shot me a warning look that said don’t ruin this for me, Mother. Mr Knightley smiled indulgently. The co-ordinator smiled nervously.
I flopped down into my seat. Meh. Three out of four ain’t bad.
Please excuse my very long absence. I’m on summer holidays at the moment and it’s been a little difficult to blog amongst the anarchy. I have a few longer posts on the way, including a Fail post, a God post, a Holiday post and a Newsy post, but in the meantime, here is a completely self-indulgent one.
Here are some handmade gifts I wanted to brag about:
This is a crochet star garland I slipped in with my sister-in-law’s KK present. It doesn’t really do anything and it kinda looked better in my head than in real life. The stars are a mix of Lucy from Attic24’s very addictive Little Lacy Stars and my own Star Snowflake. You can’t see it very clearly in the picture, but the ribbon is a sweet blue-and-white check pattern.
I made some more Lacy Stars (I told you they were addictive) for my mother-in-law (“Mrs Knightley”?). Do you remember this tree from last year? I don’t know why I didn’t choose red the first time around. It looks so much better.
These presents don’t really deserve to be included, as I didn’t make them myself, but I couldn’t resist. These were Christmas presents for the ladies at Harry’s occasional care. I gave them Pippi’s handmade soaps (like what I gave away on my blogiversary) and wrapped them in lunch bags with nice ribbon.
Here are the presents I gave Harry and Matilda’s teachers (Matilda had two teachers this year). This photo is a bit dodgy. I made the lid covers in purple yarn, but in this picture, they look blue. The gingerbread is baked from a recipe I found on The Green Dragonfly, which is awesome and I will use always and forever until the end of time. And I drizzled melted white chocolate on top. Can you tell from the shape that they’re supposed to be stylised Christmas trees? Maybe if you squint a little and turn your head to the side? I get a little tired of rolling out all the waste dough again and again when cutting biscuits, so I chose a shape that tessellates to save me time. Efficiency plus! I tried to explain this method to several people over the course of Christmas, but their eyes all tended to glaze over, or dart about desperately for someone who could save them from the conversation. I think it’s interesting…
And at last, the pièce de résistance. I made this bunny – who might bear a remarkable resemblance to Peter Rabbit, but for any lawyers from Beatrix Potter’s estate who may be reading, I will refer to only as George – for Lovely M’s son, who is Christopher Robin’s best friend, and who actually happens to love Peter Rabbit, when he’s not trying to act all grown up. This was one of those situations where the idea for it flew into my head and then I just couldn’t rest until I had created it. I followed Greedy For Colour’s Flora Rabbit pattern (one of my favourites) and then invented limbs and a cardigan to transform Flora into Peter (I mean George!). Lovely M’s son was suitably impressed with this gift (although he tried hard not to look too much so in front of Christopher Robin, until Christopher cheerfully mentioned his own favourite toy dog who still sleeps with him) and I’ve been assured that Peter/George has been fed carrots at the table every night and goes to sleep in his owner’s bed.
And that’s it! I should probably mention, before you start feeling too impressed, that I failed to send any Christmas cards at all this year and I’m pretty sure there are some people I’ve lost touch with who think they’re no longer on my list. Maybe next year I’ll be better organised…
Don’t forget to put your name down for our wonderful blog birthday giveaway. I will be drawing the winner’s name on Thursday.
Do it. Do it now.
As you may know, my humble blog turned one on Monday. In honour of this momentous occasion, and because I want to thank you for being such faithful and engaged readers, I’m having a BLOG CANDY GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do you want to see the loot?
Here are some blue bells similar to the ones I used to yarnbomb Bells Beach;
And here are some snowflakes, similar to the ones I stressed out about last year, including a star snowflake, which is my one-and-only original pattern published on this site.
Aaahhh…if only this blog had smell-o-vision! Here is a delectable soap made by my dear friend whom I will call Pippi. It’s hand-made from all-natural materials and really makes your skin feel nice. I hear it’s good for those with allergies too. Plus it smells amazing. And I have a thing about smells (there are many fragrances I can’t stand. If Mr Knightley buys scented baby wipes or scented toilet paper, I throw a small temper tantrum)
Finally, here are some fun educational swap cards about Australian animals. Our supermarket gives these out with each purchase, so this part of the prize is really only for an international winner – I’m pretty sure if you’re Australian, you have enough of them floating about!
And here we have the complete prize haul. As you can see, I made a rather lame attempt to fashion the loot into the shape of a Christmas tree, but didn’t think about the position of the sun, hence the lovely shadow. Plus, can you see the alluring glimpse of t-shirt at the bottom of the photo? Pure photographic genius!
So, would you like to get your hands on all this sugary goodness? Here’s how you can do it:
1. Follow this blog, or like the FB page, if you haven’t done so already
2. Leave a comment after this post – you don’t have to write anything profound, but it will act as your virtual raffle ticket
I will give each commenter a number and use a random number generator to pick the winner. I will draw the winner at 12:30pm next Thursday November 14 and notify the winner by email (so make sure you don’t use a fake address). You don’t have to be a regular reader to enter, so feel free to tell your friends and family to put their names in the hat too.
A note to my male readers – I’m sorry this prize is a bit girly, but if either of you were to win, you could use the prize as gifts, so please enter just the same!
When we last left our hero, she was valiantly struggling with a colossal problem: how to make this Christmas bell look less odd and forlorn? And in only two days?
The answer? Fight crochet with crochet!
Somehow, I got it into my head that the best way to lessen the impact of one wonky bell was to whip up SEVERAL wonky ornaments to put all over the tree. At least then they’d be co-ordinated…
It was at this point that things got a little manic…
First of all, I hooked up a bunch of snowflakes whilst watching a very old and incredibly sexist James Bond movie with Mr Knightley (“Oh, James, it might seem like I am resisting your advances, it might sound like I’m saying ‘no’ emphatically, but just slap me round a bit and I’ll suddenly find you irresistible!”)
I love making these snowflakes. There is an excellent tutorial for them here, at my beloved Attic 24 (incidentally, it was this very tutorial that first introduced me to the many wonders of this delightful blog)
I pinned them out for blocking. I usually spray them with laundry spray, but I couldn’t find any so I painted them with watered down PVA glue instead (when I found it. The real life version of what went on here was much more manic). Here you can see Harry going after one of the “lollypop” pins (not for the last time!).
After I made up this batch, I happened to read an awesome post by The Stitch Sharer on crochet snowflakes (by complete co-incidence, it was so weird!), which gave me the idea for this snowflake:
It’s basically Lucy’s “small” snowflake, but with treble stitches throughout instead of doubles and 5-chain loops in the last round. I drew up a really-truly pattern for it here
Ah what fun!
So, things were looking a little better – but! – I thought, in renewed manic frenzy – what about the TOP? It needs something on the TOP! The whole thing is rubbish without something on the TOP!!
After much complicated deliberation (a-star-would-be-simpler-but-looks-too-much-like-a-snowflake) which I won’t bore you with here, I came up with this:
I had already been playing around with 6ichthusfish’s pattern for a nativity set (as you do) which I first saw here. So I took my Mary head and body and put wings and a halo on her. And I left the bottom open, so it’s kinda like a finger puppet. Then I stuffed the Christmas tree up the skirt…
And what is the result?
Not too bad, I guess.
And my beautiful mother-in-law, of course, made all the appropriate exclaiming noises (of happiness, I mean, not of disgust). So I guess things aren’t so bad after all.