Ask Jean revisited

Came across my Ask Jean archive the other day - six years of Q&A for the UK magazine Knitting.  Thought it would be a good idea to republish some of the relevant columns every so often on the blog.  As Christmas is coming here's a couple of seasonal questions:
Unfinished Imogen
Q  What do you do when you can't finish a Christmas project in time?  I have seriously good intentions and start my Xmas gift knitting in September as soon as the kids are back at school.  However, I’m a bit of a magpie and love to work on several – well many - projects at once, which disastrously results in a mad knitting scramble before Xmas.  Once December arrives I start to get panic attacks and nightmares as the big day approaches.  Please can you offer any suggestions for a serial tardy gift-giver, I can’t face another December of knitting through the night - the stress is killing me!
Andrea Brooks, California, USA

 Finished Imogen from Couture Knits
A  Stress no more, Andrea, and be assured you’re not alone with this problem. I know knitters who have frantically knit in airports two days before Christmas to finish a project, en route to their holiday destinations.  There are others who even sewed the buttons on when the sweater was being worn on Christmas day!   And another who has actually worked furiously on something right up until Christmas Eve, stuffed the work in progress with pattern and picture into a gift bag, insisted on the recipient opening it first thing in the morning, and then got back to work on it. Of course, this only works if the person for whom it is intended is close – really close! However, in my opinion a knitted gift is an act of love and dedication - can you ever give a better gift than your time, not to mention the craft and cost of yarn? So, who cares if it takes a while longer for the recipient to actually take possession of the item - as if we don’t all have enough to think about at what is probably the most anxious time of the year. But to help you stay sane this year and keep stress levels to a minimum, here are some creative ideas to go under the tree:
  1. buy a tiny doll and make a doll size version of the sweater to give the idea of what the finished project will be like 
  2. create a cute card with the original swatch you knit for the project promising the actual item by the end of January/February/March depending on exactly how many unfinished projects you've got 
  3. tie an IOU a sweater/socks/scarf/whatever tag onto a ball of yarn
  4. give a gift certificate from the local yarn shop and let the recipient choose the yarn/pattern.

Couture Knits by Jean Moss (Guild of Master Craftsman), Oct 2006,  ISBN-10 1861084048
ISBN-13 978-1861084040

Rhiannon in Artesano alpaca

Q  Help!  My partner and I are travelling south this year to spend Christmas with his sister and her family. Her home is very warm, so I need something lightweight, new and different to wow the non-knitting family members.  I hate red for Xmas, it’s such a cliché, but I just don’t want to wear sludgy colours.  What colours do you recommend for the party season? For Xmas day I need something colourful but serviceable too as I am helping to cook lunch for the whole clan of twenty-five.  What do you recommend?
Sandra Reston, by email
A  Red, black and gold are hard to beat at Xmas – cliché or no cliché,  guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit!  By the time December comes around, we’re all pretty fed up with the drab and dreary weather and need warm colours to keep the spirits up.  Xmas is a time when even the most shrinking violet can let down her hair and throw caution to the wind fashion-wise.  Whilst we all want to look good and feel comfortable, there’s a little more slack in the dress code as everyone knows it’s Xmas and stressful. To stay cool in the kitchen, wear a sleeveless top like Rhiannon and take along a shawl, cape or cardy for later.  Here are a few further thoughts on how to eliminate sartorial stress:
  • go for warm colours -  if you’re tired of red, try rust, apricot, purple or magenta instead.  If you stick to jewel colours you can’t go far wrong
  • block colour has been on all the catwalks this autumn so either go the whole hog with just one shade, or layer different tones of the same colour
  • add sparkle with fun, bold jewellery.  Knitted copper bangles and necklaces always look good at Xmas and are quick to make.  Add pieces of turquoise, jade, amber or coloured glass for contrast
  • don’t forget the slap!  Glam it up with emphatic eyes and lips - there’s nothing Santa likes better than a smear of good old lippy on his cheek!


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