Holiday Knits & Crafts

Three colorwork men’s hats

*Mild Warning—the Reindeer hat is slightly NSFW!*

This is a quick post to share some knit and crochet hats I’ve made. Some of them are things I made a long time ago but never shared (in those cases, sorry about the crappy quality of the old photos!). They all have three things in common—they are hats, they were made gifts, and they involved colorwork. They were all things I made for guys as well, but they don’t have to be for men only—I would wear any one of these hats.

Hats make great holiday gifts—they don’t take as much time or require as much fitting as other projects do, they are super practical, and you can probably make them with yarn in your stash. This patterns, as usually, are all available on the internet for free.

To the hats!

The Striped Beanie (Crochet)

The fastest way for me to make a hat is to crochet one. And the easiest way to make said hat more interesting is to add stripes.

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I made this beanie in a few hours using blue, gray, and black worsted weight wool from my stash. I placed stripes of blue and gray two rounds tall between stripes of black that were one round tall so no one color dominated.

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I do not actually have a pattern for this hat—I have done versions of it several times, and I adjust it to the recipient. But I would suggest using this free beanie pattern if you want to make something similar.

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Here’s a version I made seven (!) years ago, this time out of two colors of bulky weight wool blend, with one stripe 5 rounds tall in the middle:

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(side note—look at how long my hair was then!)

The Swell Earflap (Knit)

Want something a little more challenging and with more ear coverage? Try Swell:

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This earflap hat has a basic repeating chart to form the wave pattern. You need to be comfortable with colorwork in the round, but once you get the hang of the pattern it’s not too difficult.

I will say that this pattern runs small! I am a loose knitter and I made the medium—it just fit him. Also, it looks best on very short or very long hair, but not so great on my medium-short curly bob:

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That’s me trying to keep my hair under the earflaps without success.

In my version, I omitted the peace sign on the earflap and joined the flaps to the hat with knit stitches in stead of purls to make it more seamless.

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Originally I did include the tassels, but the recipient preferred it without, and was able to remove them without difficulty.

The Procreating Ungulant (Knit)

Looking to make a hat with more complicated colorwork and a slightly NSFW motif? The Fornicating Deer is probably what you want:

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This is hat is the full package—it’s seasonal, it’s intricate, and it features two deer in the process of making another deer. It also runs really small. Confession—the first time I made it, I got 3/4 of the way through a size small and had to rip it back. It was awful. But the final product (made with gray and black wool, worsted weight) turned great.

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My version was a weird size—I actually used Swell as a basis for it, sort of. Since the medium sized Swell hat had 88 stitches and did not divide by the 32 stitch chart, I actually started knitting at the beginning of the second tree and ended at the end of the first tree, then did this all over again (total of two times). This gave me a total of 90 stitches, which was close enough to the original swell pattern (I just increased twice before beginning the chart and decreased twice before starting the top decreases). It worked.

Surprisingly, with the colors I chose, the exact activities of said reindeer are not apparent until you really examine it closely. Heh.

Holiday Knits & Crafts

Festive decorations that cost almost nothing!

Last weekend I had nothing but lots of work stretching out ahead of me—so to take breaks, I did a bunch of craft projects. And since it’s December, they all ended up being Christmas related. Now my apartment is decked out in a bunch of homemade and repurposed decorations. The best part of all this is that I literally spend $2.50 at the thrift store, total. Let me show you what I did.

Outdoors: wreaths, garlands, and bobbles

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Since my cat eats anything green and growing, all my seasonal greenery has to go outside. Last year I made a wreath out of boughs from shrubbery. This year I already had a grapevine wreath on the door, so I decided to just alter it by weaving in some branches from a nearby evergreen and berries from bushes in my complex. Here’s the result!

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Yes, I left up my “no solicitors” sign because it does seem to deter some of them. Also, it’s also homemade, so it fits right in. I’ll probably have to replace the berries in a week or so, but so far they’ve been holding up.

The next project took more work. I decided to make a garland for the top of my front door using more evergreen branches, mistletoe, and red bobble Chirstmas tree ornaments I got at the thrift store for $1.

IMG_1898IMG_1907I started by wrapping up branches of evergreen and mistletoe with twine. From talking to several people recently, I realize that the source of mistletoe may not be common knowledge. It’s a parasite, and it grows on a lot of deciduous trees around here. If you see a green bush like thing growing straight down on a tree branch on a tree that has lost its leaves—congratulations, you’ve found mistletoe.

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Anyway, I wrapped three separate bundles—one leaning left, one leaning right, one that was just straight.

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Then I attached them above the door frame using what I had on hand. For the left and right leaning bundles, I used cup hooks. I suggest using a nail of slightly smaller size to make a pilot hole, then twisting the cup hook into the hole.

IMG_1899IMG_1900Here’s what that looked like once they were up. Kinda weird without the middle part to connect it.

IMG_1901IMG_1902For the middle part I used what I think is called a fencing staple—basically a U-shaped nail with no head but two points. For some reason I had one lying around. I just hammered it in over the middle part of the bundle and then pulled the greenery over it to over it.

IMG_1905IMG_1906Finally, I added the red bobble ornaments. I was seriously winging it at this point, but I ended up removing the top wire portion, jamming some floral wire into the opening, then securing that with duct tape. I know, duct tape! But the silver looked a lot like the top of an ornament would, I think.

IMG_1908IMG_1910Repeat for both ends of the floral wire, wrap it securely around a branch, and there you have it! I would have done three bobbles but my box of ornaments was missing one and I needed three for the last outdoor project. I still like how it looks! After this photo I trimmed the branches to make the sides a little more even.

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Finally, I decided that I really enjoyed the bats in the window decorations I made for Halloween. So did basically the same thing, but this time, with red bobble ornaments.

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While this was easy to set up (I already had yarn to tie onto the ornaments and nails installed to hang them from), it is also one you have to be careful with. If I did not have a small apartment and a cat that chases all dangly things, I would put these inside. Because when it’s windy, these ornaments tap against the window. If there is a crazy windy storm, I will have to bring them inside because they are ancient and would probably break. But for now, they are looking great.

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Indoors: paper chains and advent calendars

Ok, first of all, I do have some non-paper decorations up on top of my bookcases, pretty much the only free spaces in my home.

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This little tree and ornaments came from my family’s massive stash of Christmas decor. It goes on the tall bookcase every year, where it is hard for my cat to find it.

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I also added some pine cones and a really old copy of A Christmas Carol to the top of the small bookshelf. I was hoping I could find my own pine cones, but no such luck, so these were $1.50 from the thrift store. The book was my grandfather’s—writing in the inside says “Christmas ’44” and the book itself is from 1938. It has some beautiful illustrations.

On to the paper crafts!

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First up—a paper chain. For some reason I loved making these in elementary school. But I decided to ditch the red and green construction paper for strips from magazines and catalogs.  It was a lot more colorful this way. I did try to get some red and green in there though. I didn’t really measure the strips—they were all about an inch by 6 or 7 inches, but it didn’t really matter.

IMG_1889IMG_1888I ended up making 24 chains, because I had this idea that it could be an advent calendar paper chain. But then I decided I didn’t want to put numbers on them or break one of them off everyday, so it’s more of a decoration. I hung it on the entryway to the kitchen. It was surprisingly hard to photograph.

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But the paper chain inspired me to make a real advent calendar. On a whim. With no plan. And so I did. Below are most of the tools and supplies you need (except for the exacto knife and cutting mat, which I also ended up using).

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I started out with an old calendar that I liked and the magazine and catalogs from before. I measured the size of the box under each number, made a template, and then cut out lots of little rectangles for each day and glued them to the calendar. It would be super easy if you had a glue stick, but I used elmer’s glue and a paintbrush.

IMG_1914IMG_1915Once that dried, I worked on the overlay part. I measured an even smaller square for each day, and traced three sides of it onto some strips of nice green stationery paper I had. Using an exacto knife, I cut the three sides of the rectangle out so that each day would have a little door flap to open. When I had enough for all 24 days, I glued them over the calendar boxes, being careful not to glue the flaps down!

IMG_1917IMG_1916IMG_1920Finally, I covered up the days of the week and the year on the old calendar…and it was done!

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I was quite pleased with the results, especially because this was the one craft I did not make for myself—it was a gift for a friend. Because the only thing more exciting than opening those little calendar doors as a kid was not knowing what was behind them.

IMG_1924I think I’m done with Chirstmasing for a while now…at least until my yarn comes in the mail and I can start knitting little gifts.

Botanical Knits & Crafts, Holiday Knits & Crafts

How to make a Christmas wreath from your shrubbery

(That’s right. Your shrubbery. Or, you know. Branches cut from your Christmas tree.)

I helped my mom pick out this noble fir over Thanksgiving weekend. We always go to the same seasonal lot (Hopper Bros.) This year, they went a bit crazy with a craft I hadn’t seen before: wood and branch reindeer.

We got the tree up and decorated before I left that weekend. It looks like a pretty standard Christmas tree, but it was a Christmas miracle that I got a non-crappy photo of it all lit up with my camera.

When my mom had to cut off the bottom branches to get the tree into its stand, and I asked if I could keep them to make a wreath. I do this pretty much every year—but normally, I just cut a few branches of juniper or other evergreen tree/shrub from around my apartment complex. This year, I got to…well I was going to say branch out but that’s a terrible, terrible pun. So I’ll just say I got to use branches from three different kinds of evergreens (including mom’s juniper shrubbery), plus red berries.

I ecently realized that I don’t know anyone else who does this. Even though its easy, very cheap, and (at least in CA) evergreen branches are super easy to come by.

So I made a tutorial.

Rustic Wreath, Made From Shrubbery: A Tutorial.

Things you will need:

wreath form (this one is 12″)

wire (I’m use green 1/4 gauge wire)

clippers (that will cut branches and wire)

evergreen branches (between 6-12 inches is best)

red berries

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There’s no one way to do this, but I’ll show you what I do. First, gather everything outside, as you will make a mess. Then, gather a handful of branches of varying lengths/types together and wrap them together using the wire, about a few inches from the base. Leave a tail of wire at least a foot long to wrap them around the wreath form later:

For my wreath form, I made five of these bundles. Make sure they curve in the same direction. Once you’ve made those, start to attach them to the wreath form using the excess wire. Wrap the first bundle tightly around , using the wire to go over and under branches a few places to secure it to the form. After you do this to one bundles, place the next one so that it overlaps and covers up the wire from the first.

After you’ve placed them all, hold you wreath up and/or place it on your wreath hanger. Chances are you will discover two problems: there’s a few sizable evergreen gaps in the wreath, and there are some crazy branches sticking out way too far.

This is when you go back and add more branches to the bundles that need them (using more wire and arranging the branches as necessary). Once you’ve got that under control, hang it on the wreath form and use the clippers to trip rogue branches. I don’t do a lot of trimming because, after all, this is a rustic wreath made from shrubbery! But I do shape it a little. And when that’s done, I add the berries.

Before trimming and berries:

After trimming and berries*:

*Yes I know most people would place berries, or a bow, at the top and not the bottom. But this is just how I roll.

The wreath forms and wreath hangers are really cheap this time of year (I’ve seen them both for about $1 each), and the wire can be anything similar to the one in the pictures as long as it holds and you can cut it (the green is just awesome for blending it—it’s usually less than $5).

If you don’t have a yard to raid for evergreen boughs, just put the word out—when my mom heard I wanted some branches for this wreath, I ended up with an entire garbage back full of them. I do recommend letting them sit out for a day or two, just to see how well they put up with being cut. The noble fir was actually drying up much faster than the other two (juniper and…I didn’t ask what the other was, I believe it was cedar), so I put it at the back of the bundles.

And that is how I make wreaths from shrubbery!