Knitting for Christmas - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Knitting for Christmas

Knitting for Christmas

Published December 22, 2009

December is pretty much universally recognised as the most difficult month of the year, what with the cold, the dark and the inescapable, mind-numbing ever-present Christmas music. However, what few realise is that this bleak month is especially harrowing for those who knit.

The process of knitterly Christmastime misery usually begins in early November, when the knitter realises that friends and family members have begun their annual mumbling about how cold their various body parts are. The knitter feels uniquely equipped to remedy this sorry state of affairs and so self-imposes a mission to whip up a hand-knit extravaganza of warmth-producing garments by Christmas.

However, instead of at this point getting to work on the present-making, thereby taking the only course of action that will allow them to avoid a massive boulder of failure and general bad feeling being deposited upon their souls on December 24, most knitters choose to take a look at the calendar and exclaim: “Christmas is seven weeks away! That’s a long time, and then some. Have you seen how fast I knit? I’ll have twelve presents knit up in one weekend easy! Now, back to those seven intricate projects all intended for myself.”

The fallacy of this mindset tends to become clear to the knitter in the first week of December, when the cold-related mumbling of loved ones has reached a certain momentum and the seven intricate projects intended for the knitter’s own personal consumption have each progressed by about a centimetre. Suddenly the pressure to knit gifts becomes almost tangible, as if the atmosphere has turned into an all-enveloping knit-slowing jelly.

The knitter quickly and desperately abandons grandiose plans of sweaters for all and moves on to the more manageable field of knitted accessories. This is an especially painful transition for Icelandic knitters, since nowhere in the world is the sweater as prized an object, to the detriment of all other knitwear, as on this cold rock. But all knitters, even Icelandic ones, must bow to the following logic that resounds in the brains of knitters everywhere when Christmas is a mere three weeks away: “A hat knits up in no time at all, especially if I use bulky yarn. And I am a speedy knitter; I’ve just been kind of lazy lately. If I sit down and put my mind to it I’ll churn out twelve bulky hats in one weekend, no problem. Now, back to that sweater I want to wear to all the Christmas parties. Wooo!” Clearly, this poor procrastinating soul is doomed.

Fittingly, the next step in the Christmas-knitting process is nearly apocalyptic: darkness of the soul descends as the knitter unravels and loses it completely, sweatily tossing and turning during sleepless nights spent worrying about the disappointment about to be inflicted on loved ones. This stage is reached about a week before that sacred holiday itself, as the knitter gazes upon the sad pile of four bulky hats completed (or just about, if we disregard the need for the weaving in of ends and blocking) and realises with horror that not only will most friends and family get store-bought hats for Christmas, they will also have to endure the humiliation of witnessing a chosen few receiving handknit treasures. The mere thought of this unfair scenario causes the knitter to experience vivid hallucinations of crying relatives, angry friends and, worst of all, bragging knitters claiming to have finished all of their gifts on time.

Witnessing the knitter’s dissolution of resolve and sanity can in many cases be great fun for his or her loved ones. In fact, deranged knitterly antics and their intrinsic entertainment value may very well be a better Christmas present than any hat could ever be. However, be aware that most knitters would disagree with this statement.

When Christmas itself rolls around, some knitters will still be keeping to a punishing schedule, pushing themselves to finish as many handknits as humanly possible. Other knitters will have taken the less crazy route of resigning themselves to their fate as failed craftsmen and have taken their humiliation to its logical extreme by purchasing presents made of fleece at the mall. But it matters not one jot which of these paths the knitter chooses, for both types will encounter the same inevitable truth once the presents have been opened: most handknit gifts are received with only lukewarm admiration and, following the obligatory wearing of the item at one social event, are forever relegated to the murkiest depths of the deepest closet. For this very reason the smartest and most seasoned knitters choose to knit items mostly intended for their own enjoyment and disregard gift knitting almost completely.

When Christmas is over and done with, knitters, as well as others, can relax a little. The thought that keeps them going is that no matter how little the gifted handknits may have been appreciated, at least it is a full twelve months until the next full-on session of dread and disillusionment. The more neurotic knitters may well expend energy in January and February seething over the infrequent appearances of handknits on the limbs of loved ones, but as spring and summer bring new and fascinating patterns and yarns, the pain of misunderstood artistry is slowly but surely minimised and forgotten.

The following November, the world again seems new and full of promise, and that beautiful, fully-patterned sweater would look so good on Mom.

Such is the natural cycle of life among knitters, and while it is easy enough to recognise, it is harder to avoid. It is unavoidable, much like the process of ageing, and is therefore best accepted and embraced to avoid unnecessary anguish. For those knitters currently in the grips of Christmas-knitting madness, mired in the cautious optimism of the second stage, believing that they can still pull off accessories for all: considers yourselves fairly warned! But since reason cannot reach you now, here is a pattern for quickly-executed ladies mittens that look more time consuming than they are. Merry Christmas!

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