Tag Archives: Christmas

First candle of Advent

We follow a mixture of traditions at this time of year. I am half German, and a lot of what we do is based on German practices, tempered by English ones. Because we are not religious, and because we want Christmas to be more than a mere consumerist present-fest, we also think about the winter solstice.

We have the same advent calender every year. It comprises twenty five miniature books that tell the nativity story. Every day we read the story for that day, and hang the book on a little metal tree. Every year we have a mad panic at the beginning of December, trying to find where we put the tree last year. Steve is going up into the loft tomorrow to look for it…

Our real tree only goes up on Christmas Eve, and remains in the house just for the twelve days of Christmas. As a child I was always torn between being jealous of other peoples’ December-long decorations, and loving the magic of Christmas Eve when the tree finally appeared.

We bring lots of foliage indoors – the tree, obviously, but also holly, mistletoe and ivy. We have candles everywhere, including on the tree; the practice of burning candles on a tree comes from the tradition of burning a Yule log on the shortest day of the year.

Our tree decorations are simple: we hang straw stars and angels, as well as glass baubles, and a few decorations made by my boys over the years. It is topped with a straw angel made years ago by one of my German aunts, which is a version of the corn-dollies kept over the winter to ensure a fertile crop the following year.

We have a very old crib that I inherited from one of my German great aunts. Every year I tell myself that I really must mend the donkey’s legs, and stick the wise man’s head on with something better than blue tack. Every year all the pieces get wrapped up and put back in their box, unmended. I have gone through this thought process so many times that it has become something of a tradition in itself.

This year, as you can see, my advent ‘wreath’ is more of an advent ‘arrangement’. I could pretend that it’s an artful and carefully-planned minimalist decoration, but that would be somewhat stretching the truth!

I’d love to hear about some of your traditions – what special ways do you have of celebrating at this time of year?

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Christmas knitting update

Hmm… It’s not going too well really. This is how Will’s polka dot socks have ended up:


I spent all day on Sunday trying to get a corrugated ribbing that fitted over Will’s heel without gaping over his ankle, and working out a polka dot pattern that didn’t automagically transform into a polka oval pattern the minute he put it on. Finally I gave up. I’ll come up with an alternative soon…

And Steve’s socks? Well, I decided to use the Nine-to-Five pattern instead of my original choice of Having Hope.  They were looking pretty good, if I say so myself:

Nice stitch pattern, and variegated Malabrigo sock yarn that turned into attractive stripes, instead of pooling nastily as I feared that it would.

A really sturdy heel, knitted with the addition of woolly nylon for strength.

And now?


The problem was that they were just too tight for Steve. I sort of knew this from about the first inch, but carried on anyway, telling myself that all would come right in the blocking.  He very sweetly struggled to get the sock over his heel several times, telling me that ‘no, really, it’s fine!’  – at the same time as the effort of pulling it on caused his face to match the colour of the sock…

I decided to come clean with myself. This is really special yarn, and I want Steve to have a really special pair of socks from it. Just too tight socks, however gorgeous the yarn, are just not what he deserves.

So I’ve started again, this time with a similar but different pattern. This time I’m making the Diagonal Cross-Rib Socks from Interweave’s Favourite Socks. It’s specifically designed for men, and although it has the same number of stitches in a round (70), the leg is worked with a 3.25mm needle, which goes down to 2.75mm for the foot. It is already much looser, and I think it will be fine.

So, I had 6 1/2 weeks to knit six Christmas items (2 mittens and 4 socks), and in 1 1/2 weeks I have completed a grand total of – one. Oh well, all is not yet lost!

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Dear Santa

I know you are Very Busy at the moment, and that you and your elves must be hard at it making all those toys and things up there in Lapland. So I thought I’d help you out a bit.

I saw that Gerard and Craig from Iknit had been to America and smuggled in brought back some yarn. Their newsletter came yesterday, and when I saw what they had in the store, I knew that I had to have some. So, thinking of you, you understand, and wanting to save you some work, I made a detour on my way home last night and stopped by the Iknit shop.

Helpfully, they had a scarf already made up of the yarn. It’s the kind of yarn that doesn’t come one’s way very often, the sort that really, really needs to be touched to be believed. If clouds were warm and dry, or if candy floss was not sticky, this is how the yarn would feel. It is so soft that it feels like nothing in your hands, as though someone has merely breathed warm air between your fingers.

Of course, as I was shopping on your behalf, I didn’t look at the yarn, and I promise not to take it out of the bag until Christmas morning. I’m sure one of your little helpers will be kind enough to wrap it and put it in my stocking, maybe after your’ve been?

I hope you don’t mind. You know that I have been a Very Good Girl this year, and I promise to keep on being good between now and Christmas.

Yours sincerely

Pea xxx

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