Are You On Track For Christmas?

Are You On Track For Christmas?
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Are You On Track For Christmas?

Wow! October is nearly gone already! I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting older (I turned 60 recently) or whether it’s just a sign of our society today, but the years seem to go by so quickly now. Ideally I should have started on Christmas projects in early September, or at least have some projects organised, but I’m afraid I’m running a bit behind.

I recently received my second Christmas catalogue from “Fox Collection” and am having as much fun browsing through it as I did going through the first one, which arrived in September. I am not in a position to buy much from the catalogue, but it is really interesting going through and getting ideas. They have kitset projects for a number of different craft areas, plus some gift ideas.

A number of my affiliate sites have Christmas hand craft kits available. You might like to check out Leisure Arts, Craftsy, Annie’s, Knit Picks, LoveKnitting, Creative Bug and Connecting Threads. If you enter “Christmas” in the site search bar of any of these sites you will be shown great selections of kits, patterns and products. Again, even if you don’t end up buying the actual kits, it is a great way to get ideas and inspiration. That being said, I would also recommend kits as a convenient and cost effective way to get all the materials you need for a project when you do decide on something.

I have also been looking through a number of my own pattern books which have Christmas themed projects in them. Several of them I hadn’t looked at for some time, and it has been good to find some patterns for projects that I had forgotten I had. I will go through my books and post some photos of interesting ideas for projects in different categories soon.

Enjoy your Christmas preparations. I would love to hear of interesting ideas you may have come across for decorations or gifts.

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Special Occasions and Family

Special Occasions and Family

Special Occasions and Family

Do special occasions bring family together, or does family getting together make occasions special? I think the answer is probably a combination of both of these. Even gatherings which may have a sad focal point, like funerals, can still turn into really special family occasions. Remembering the past together can strengthen our sense of identity and belonging.

I was lucky enough to be part of a very special family occasion recently, so have been thinking again about the importance of family. My husband and I have our birthdays just over three weeks apart, and this year we both turned sixty. Our lovely daughters did a great job of organising a surprise party for us. We had no idea what was going on and it was wonderful to catch up with so many family members, plus a few special friends, so unexpectedly.

I have mentioned on my “About Me” page that we have four adult children and five grandchildren. It was lovely to have all the grandchildren together for a couple of days, getting to know each other a bit better. The two families live quite a distance apart, and travel between the two locations can be a bit difficult and expensive. The five grandchildren got on really well and shared some very memorable times.

The girls had managed to get our younger son and his partner over from Melbourne without us knowing, and my husband’s brother over from Brisbane. Unfortunately our older son was not able to join us as he is still on “The Longest Walk NZ”, but he did manage to talk with us on the phone during the party. I am the oldest of five siblings, and it was great to have everyone together for the first time in a long time. I have always wondered what it would be like to have a surprise party and it was GREAT!

Our families are such an integral part of who we are. Whether we come from really good families (which I am lucky enough to have done), or not so good families, the things we experience growing up help shape the people we become. Special family occasions bring groups of people together who share a common history and knowledge of background which people outside the family can never fully understand. This creates unique bonds between them.

I really value family and special family occasions. I feel truly blessed to have grown up in the family I did, and to now be able to watch my wonderful children and grandchildren living their own unique lives. I hope that you are as blessed as I am.

Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis

Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis

Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis

I love sunrises and sunsets, especially the really colourful displays. Although they can have a lot in common, they also have some subtle differences. Whereas a beautiful sunset can be a peaceful, calming end to the day, sunrise can have the opposite effect.

Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and TuisBoth sunrises and sunsets are obviously hugely affected by the weather on the day, but this just adds to the variety of the displays we can experience. What I find special about sunrises is the sense of a fresh start and new opportunities. As the light increases, the world re-emerges from the darkness and there is a feeling of expectation. Where I live the sunrise is accompanied by a “dawn chorus” as the birds joyfully welcome the new day. I really love the singing of the birds, especially our beautiful native Tuis.

Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis
Tui
Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis
Kowhai

In New Zealand we have just entered spring which is also all about fresh starts and new opportunities. This is the season when our native Kowhai trees (pronounced kō-fai) come into flower. This coincides with the mating season for the Tuis, so we are currently being treated to amazing aerial displays as they chase each other around the neighbourhood, as well as their wonderful song.

Spring and sunrises both bring the excitement of new beginnings, which is something I also associate with starting a new hand craft project. Every new beginning holds the promise of many enjoyable hours of crafting, not to mention the final satisfaction of the finished product. I think it is really important to keep looking around us every day for any opportunity, no matter how big or small, to appreciate the expectation and promise of fresh starts and new beginnings. Let’s make sure we enjoy every day to the full.

Sunrises, Spring, Kowhai and Tuis

Homeless Knitting

Homeless Knitting

Homeless Knitting

A couple of months ago, in my post “Another Octopus and Some Scarves”, I was interested in trying to get some knitting done to donate to local homeless people. Unfortunately I was a bit late to get myself organised for this winter, but I am working on getting some significant supplies ready for next year. We are officially into spring in New Zealand now, although the weather has been a bit slow to get the memo so far.

Homeless KnittingI have been going through my “stash” and experimenting with different ideas to knit items that might be useful to donate. The first scarf I made was a simple garter stitch one that used up a number of leftover partial balls from previous garments. I had planned to use only double knit (8 ply) yarn, but I think I accidentally included some cream yarn of a heavier gauge. When using this weight of yarn I suggest using 4mm (UK size 8) needles and at least 40 stitches. I like to make scarves at least 140cm long, but this is a matter of personal preference.

Homeless Knitting Homeless KnittingThe stitch I chose for the second scarf was broken double rib. I used 10 ply yarn and 4.5mm (UK size 7) needles for this one. This stitch is most easily knitted using multiples of four stitches plus three stitches at the end. For my scarf I used 51 stitches (48 stitches plus 3 = 51). For 8 ply yarn I would suggest at least 59 stitches and 4mm needles.

 

Broken double rib pattern using this guide for stitch numbers:

  [knit 2, purl 2] to last 3 stitches; knit 2, purl 1.

Repeat this row until required length is reached. Cast off and sew in the ends.

 

Homeless KnittingAnother experiment I have tried is a double rib hat which I made in 8 ply yarn, using 4mm needles. I have made the pattern I developed for this available as a PDF on my Downloads page. I plan to do more experimenting with different yarns, stitches and patterns, and will share them with you as I go. I hope you will consider joining me by making things to donate to people in your own local area.

See also: “Handcrafting to Support Charities

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My Crocheted Knockers

My Crocheted Knockers

My Crocheted KnockersMy recent post about “Knitted Knockers” mentioned that there was a crochet pattern available as well as the knitting patterns. A couple of weeks ago I went away for a few days, and I decided to trial the crocheted knockers pattern. The materials required for crochet are slightly more portable than those required for knitting.

This turned out to be a very good decision. I ended up spending eleven hours at the airport as a result of cancelled and then delayed flights. The crochet pattern was in US terms, rather than the UK terms I prefer, so I had plenty of time to work my way through it. (See “The Minefield of Crochet Terminology”.) Once I had my head around how the pattern worked, I managed to start moving ahead quite quickly.

I decided I would try to make several different sizes of the pattern. During my five days away I made one each of a size A, B and C cup knocker. I did find a couple of things in the pattern that I had to be a bit careful with, but by the time I was doing the third one it was becoming more straight forward.

My Crocheted KnockersThe photos I have included show the difference in size between the three unfilled knockers: A is dark pink, B is light pink, C is white. Unfortunately I only had enough filling for one knocker, so I have filled the middle one, the size B. You can see how the stuffing fills out the shape of the knocker. I have also taken photos of the back of them as well to show how the back is left open a bit so the amount of filling can be adjusted as required.

My Crocheted Knockers My Crocheted KnockersI am even more convinced now of the importance of this programme and I will definitely be making more. My next project will be to trial several of the different knitted knocker patterns.

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Knitted Knockers

Knitted Knockers
Image courtesy of Ravelry.com

Knitted Knockers

Several months ago I came across a wonderful initiative called “Knitted Knockers”. As the name suggests, knitted knockers are handmade prosthetics for women who have had to undergo a mastectomy. They are soft, light-weight, fully adjustable, and can be made in a huge range of colours.

Knitted Knockers.org was founded by an amazing lady named Barbara as a result of her own experience with breast cancer. Complications with her initial surgery meant that she couldn’t follow her original treatment plan for immediate reconstruction, which meant she needed to look for an alternative interim solution.

Her doctor showed her a picture of a knitted knocker, and provided her with a pattern. A special friend was able to make one for her quite quickly (she actually made her two) and this is what she says on her website:

“It was FABULOUS! It was light, pretty, soft and fit in my own bra perfectly. I took off my jacket and knew right then that I wanted to make these available to other women going through the same situation. I thought, “what if my doctor had real knitted knockers to give to women rather than only having a photocopied picture on a sheet of paper to show them?””

Knitted Knockers
Image courtesy of Ravelry.com
Knitted Knockers
Image courtesy of Ravelry.com

I highly recommend that you visit Knitted Knockers.org and read Barbara’s story in full on the site. There is also a lovely video you can watch. Barbara has taken her idea and run with it. She is now trying to make knitted knockers available to any women who need them. Through her site she is connecting people in need with people who can donate. There are also a number of patterns available on the site, including crochet as well as knitting, which you can download.

Knitted Knockers
Image courtesy of Ravelry.com
Knitted Knockers
Image courtesy of Craftsy.com

While Barbara began her initiative in the United States, there are knitted knocker groups in many different countries. A quick internet search will allow you to find the group or organisation closest to you. I encourage you to get behind this wonderful movement and become part of an outreach which is making such a meaningful difference in the lives of so many women who are going through such a traumatic time in their lives.

 

See also: “Handcrafting To Support Charities“, “Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies“, “Two Jumpers and an Octopus“, and “Another Octopus and Some Scarves“.

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It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

It’s hard to say goodbye to people we love. Recently my very special friend Heather turned 60. I designed and stitched a special cross stitch piece for her (see “The Magic of Outlining”). At the time it was very special to be able to give her such a personal gift, but I am even more thankful now that I did this for her. Heather died on the 1st of July and I attended her funeral on the 7th, along with hundreds of others whose lives had been touched by her.

Heather and I had been friends since we were 12, nearly 48 years. We went through high school together, got married and had children at around the same time, and shared a special bond. As life became busier, and we both shifted around a bit, there were often times when we did not see each other for quite a while. Each time we met up again, though, it was like we had only been apart for a week. There was a strong thread that wove through both our lives and now that thread has been broken.

I created my “Karen’s Korner” page to have somewhere on my site to share significant events or inspirational happenings. At the time I never dreamed that this would be the first thing I would be sharing with you, but somehow it seems the right thing to do. We all have a few very special people in our lives and, at various times in our lives, we all face the loss of loved ones. How we work through these times determines how we continue to live our lives.

Heather was a very special person with a wonderful gift of friendship which she shared generously with everyone around her. She was always cheerful, in spite of battling with several painful illnesses, and always eager to help people. Her family were her treasure here on earth and she loved them dearly. She was a gift to all who knew her.

After hearing all the memories people have shared about Heather, and knowing how she lived her life to the full, it is very tempting to think “I should try to be more like her and live more like her”. In some ways this might be a good thing, but something else has been becoming clearer to me over the last few days.

It is right that we should be inspired to live better by the example of someone like Heather, but it is not right that we should try to become them. Only Heather could be Heather, I am the only person who can be me, and you are the only person who can be you. The best way that we can honour the memory of the special people who have passed on from our lives is not by trying to be like them, but by striving to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

I believe we are each unique and have been created to fulfil a role that only we can play. Heather has fulfilled her role here, and now I must strive to fulfil mine. It’s hard to say goodbye, so I choose to say farewell to my special friend until we meet again in our eternal home.