Thursday, January 13, 2011


Everyone who works at the library, and many of our patrons as well, know that my favorite craft for the past few years has been knitting and many have been asking me what is on my knitting needles these days.  When reflecting on my answer, I was surprised to realize that my focus has been on finding craft books to review for this blog (and crafting some items from them) and that my own craft projects have been languishing. Egads!! In fact, even though I was blogging about crafting holiday ornaments and decor, Christmas snuck up out of nowhere. (Go figure!!)  It seemed like Christmas was weeks away and then BOOM!, no time left for all the projects that were on my needles, or planned in my head to give as gifts, or even to recommend to you in my blog (next year....).  Oh well.  At this point I did what every good little (blogging) knitter does -  I looked through our library shelves for anything that might provide ideas for gifts to knit quickly and came up with plenty!  Uh oh, I might need more needles...

One book in particular caught my eye. It was on our cart of New Books that were waiting to be shelved so it was front and center, the cover showed a fun and playful take on an old project and, the title...well, you will know by its title why I was drawn to it:

This book provides a variety of ideas all of which are divided into sections by time required to complete the projects - less than 2-hours; 2-4 hours; 4-6 hours; 6-8 hours; more than 8 hours. I kind of like this method of organizing the patterns because it is time-saving in and of itself allowing me to jump to a very quick project or one that might take longer.  While the projects include the expected last-minute ideas such as hats, mittens,  fingerless gloves, scarves and socks their designs seem a little more creative than the usual simple ones. The author also includes many unexpected ideas such as bookmarks, coffee cup sleeves, coasters, slippers, baskets, and ornaments.  Some of the more time-involved projects such as the cardigans are simplified by their design elements.  The Baby Cardigan, for example, is knit in one piece which eliminates the need to sew multiple seams at the end - a real time-saver in my world!  The lady's Cardigan  is also knit in one piece and has a simple, yet elegant yoke (although it is knit using a fingering weight yarn and would definitely take more than 8 hours!) 

I would like to try many of the projects (if only I had more time) but in the hope of actually completing this article I have limited myself to two that I thought I could work up quickly and for which I had recipients in mind.

The first project I chose comes from the "less than 2-hours" section and is an item that one of my friends would certainly appreciate: the "Reusable Hot Coffee-cup Sleeve."  This is an eco-friendly project in that it is reusable and uses 100% wool yarn (which is a renewable source).  I like that! It is also much more comfy on the hand than those cardboard sleeves that are usually placed on the cups.  I substituted the yarn suggested with an equivalent 100% wool yarn that I already had. Since the project doesn't require much yarn, it is also a good way to use up yarn left over from other projects.  The Coffee-cup Sleeve did indeed reach completion in less than 2 hours and while I am not terribly fond of working with double-pointed needles I am ready to make a lot more of these for all my coffee-drinking buddies if they would like one. 

The second piece I decided to work up is an accessory that is currently in fashion: a cowl.  A knitted cowl, for those who might not be familiar with the term is essentially a loosely draped neck warmer.  I have seen them in fashion magazines and catalogues all over the place this year - some very loose and "slouchy", some like a scarf that is joined at the end, and others that are more fitted.  The author provides patterns for three elegant  "Soft as a Cloud Cowls" which vary from each other by simple stitch pattern options.  The pattern for each is pretty easy to master and remember which is also a time-saver.  Each cowl project uses less than one hank of the yarn specified...which, happens to be a fairly pricey cashmere yarn, (lushishly soft I am sure but one I don't dare go near).  Fortunately, I had yarn in my "stash" (all crafters have a stash, trust me) that I could substitute - an Alpaca yarn, almost as soft as cashmere but not nearly as pricey.  I selected the simplest of the three pattern variations - simple in that it is a 5-stitch repeat and 4-row pattern which made it very quick to remember and I didn't have to keep marking my place or get "lost" in the pattern.

Note:  It is easy to lose your place as you look back and forth from the pattern to your knitting which wastes a lot of time.  When working a more complicated pattern I solve this by using a Copy Holder (typically used for holding documents upright so you can refer to it when you type it up) purchased from my local office supply store. I keep the Copy Holder next to me while I knit and I slide the clear bar down my pattern as I complete each row. 

"Ahhhhh..."  Soon after I casted on and worked several rows I felt the comfort of working with a favorite craft and enjoyment of the soft Alpaca yarn as it fed through my fingers!!  This is going to feel so soft and cuddly on the neck of the young lady I am making it for.  I am so excited, I love making gifts for friends.  Whenever I work on a gift, I think of the person that I am making it for, focusing on all that makes them special and it makes me happy.  While I have never thought of it this way before, I guess that the making of a gift is like a gift to myself.

I like this stitch pattern especially because those five stitches and four rows create what looks like a complex cable and lace piece which, in fact, is achieved by an easy slip-stitch decrease in one row followed by a yarn over increase in the next.  No cable needle needed, another big time-saver!

I will admit that this did take me a while to finish.  It required a fine yarn which always takes more time to knit into any pattern.  A friend of mine started this project with me to give as a Christmas gift and rapidly decided to switch to a cowl pattern that used thicker yarn and larger needles...she was definitely done way before me, even managing to ship it out in time for Christmas!  Fortunately I was intending to finish mine for a January birthday gift rather than a Christmas gift and it was completed in plenty of time for that event.

As the title of the book implies, it is a sequel to another book by the same author that you might also enjoy called LAST-MINUTE KNITTED GIFTS.

This book also segments the patterns within by the amount of time most likely needed to complete them and includes interesting patterns for projects such as potholders, leg warmers, drawstring pouches, cushions, toys, even a yoga mat bag.  I can easily recommend either of these books as a source of some interesting gifts to work up.  I hope you give at least one of them a look!

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