Homemade Advent Calendar

With 3 minxes, a full and cluttered house, and enough Christmas decorations to fill an entire street, the last thing we want is 3 chocolate-filled novelty Advent calendars. ‘Where would we hang them?’ I wail every year. ‘Think of the expense!’ moaned The Boss.

A few weeks ago I was planting some broad beans into toilet roll cardboard inners to protect the new little seedlings when they sprout, for planting and (optimistic) overwintering. We had loads of tubes left, and Maxi had the bright idea of making them into a Homemade Advent Calendar. Between the 5 of us, we came up with this (instructions below):

AdventCalendar

  1. The minxes stuck down little squares of tissue paper over the top of 26 toilet toll tubes.
  2. Then they mixed up some green poster paint and PVA glue and plastered it over the outside of the tubes.
  3. While it was still wet, they formed the tubes into the shape of a Christmas tree, then blew glitter along the sides. It dried overnight and stuck together quite well.
  4. The minxes wrote numbers on random tissue-covered rolls, from 1 – 24.
  5. innards of the calendar

    innards of the calendar

    The Boss and I raided the treats cupboard and filled the numbered tubes with chocolate sweeties.

  6. He then used a hot glue gun to stick the tubes to a piece of cardboard that came off the back of a lorry art-paper pad.

With the cost of the chocolates, I don’t think a homemade Advent Calendar is much cheaper than a shop-bought one, but it works for me: it uses up craft materials and chocolate we already had, and the kids had so much fun making it that it was (almost) worth clearing up the glitter mess afterwards!

Child’s Fleece-Lined Pocketed Hat-Scarf Pattern

The wool shop struck again – it got me in its tractor-beam yesterday and dragged me in. I spotted some Romano Chunky by King Cole, in Aquarius. It’s a beautiful mix of teal-coloured chenille, turquoise fluff, and slubs of soft brown, purple, blue and green. Those colours suit all 3 of my wee minxes, so I had to buy it. Couldn’t help myself.

This is what I did yesterday with 2 balls of the stuff and a dark purple fleece throw that I bought in the Tesco sale for £1.50. It’s as soft and snuggly-warm as it looks, and Midi Minx is pretty delighted with it. I didn’t follow a pattern or work one out beforehand. Were I to make another one, though, I’d buy 3 balls of wool and make the scarf bit longer and maybe even knit the hood. The pockets are entirely fleece-lined and at the sides of the scarf. When you look at the diagram it looks like I’ve got them upside down, but they’re meant to be like that: this makes the scarf stay crossed over without tying it or using buttons, etc.

It took me an entire day to make, probably because I hand-stitched it and have never made a fleece-backed scarf before. Therefore, although it’s beautiful, it’s not going to make its way onto the online shelves of my knitwear shop! I thought instead that I’d jot down what I did so anyone who likes it can make it, too. I’m not writing it up as a free knitting pattern, as such – more a chatty description of my thoughts.

Why supply it free? What’s the catch? None! Feel free to use this pattern however you like. The only thing I ask is that if you use it to make items to sell, it would be good karma if you credited me either with a mention or a link to my website (http://www.rainbowknits.co.uk). And if you use it at all, it would be really lovely if you would post a comment to this post (even anonymously!) to say how it turned out, or to share with everyone any improvements you made to the basic instructions. Of course, a photo of your scarf would be truly awesome – I’d love to admire!

Child’s Pocketed Hat-Scarf by Rainbow Knits

Materials:

  • 2 x 50g balls of Romano Chunky (though 3 would give you more flexibility; approx £7.90 per ball)
  • pair of 8mm knitting needles
  • 8mm crochet hook
  • piece of thin fleece approx 85 x 42cm
  • appropriate needle and thread to sew the fleece to the scarf. I used a purple thread that matched the fleece, but you might prefer to use thick contrasting wool?

See? No seam at back of the head

Method

Prepare the Scarf

  1. With 8mm knitting needles, cast on 24 sts using whatever technique you like. I used the thumb method to give a nice elastic edge.
  2. Row 1: (K3, P1), rpt to end
  3. Row 2: (K1, P3), rpt to end
  4. These 2 rows set up a nice, loose rib that shows off the gorgeous wool and adds a little bit of stretch without eating up all your wall. Continue repeating these 2 rows till the end of the scarf. Mine measured approx 84 cm.
  5. You can either cast off nice and loosely here, leaving enough wool to do the edge around the hood, or you can do what I did: don’t cast off, but leave the stitches on a holder, or scooted round into the middle of a circular needle if that’s what you used instead of straight knitting needles. In this case, find the end of the ball of wool and use from there when you start to do the hood edge. If you need more wool, just unknit the scarf a row at a time until the hood edge is finished, then cast off. This way you maximise your wool!

Prepare the Fleece Lining

  1. A purist would block the scarf at this point; a lazy person in a hurry (me) would just stretch it ever so slightly out on my knee.
  2. Measure your scarf.
  3. Figure out the dimensions of the fleece lining (see Diagram 1 below in the separate link – click the orange link that says ‘Diagrams for Scarf’ right at the end of the blog post. Yep, after Edge for Hood paragraph):
    • Take a centimetre off the length and width – this is the basic rectangle of the lining;
    • Add a square 21 x 21cm in the middle of one edge (or to fit your child’s head. You just make a square whose side is long enough to go from the middle of the child’s head to the where the top of the scarf will sit on his/her neck, or from the middle of the back of your child’s head around to where you want the hood to end at the front, whichever is longer).
  4. Cut out your fleece in one elongated T shape to these dimensions.
  5. Cut out 2 squares for pockets to fit the end of the scarf. Mine were 17 x 17cm.
  6. You don’t need to seam or hem the fleece lining (yippee!!) but you do need to pin it to your scarf before you start to sew.
  7. Pin the pocket lining squares to the edge of the scarf first. Sew as per Diagram 2 (same orange link ‘Diagrams for Scarf’ below at the end of the post), ie the very outside edges. I used a running stitch.
  8. Now pin the scarf lining to the scarf on top of the pocket linings. Sew as per Diagram 3, leaving a slit for the hands to go in. Again, I just used running stitch. At all times check, check, check that the scarf and the lining are sitting pretty rectangular. You should have half a centimetre of scarf showing all the way round the lining, except for the hood.
  9. Now do the hood: fold the scarf in half, right sides touching. Seam the top edge (marked in Diagram 3) so you get a nice straight neat seam up the middle of the head.

Romano loveliness

Edge the Hood

  1. This is fun! You can do whatever edging you like, eg knit or crochet one you fancy and sew it on around the hood face. I decided to try something else out:
  2. Thread a needle with either thin wool or a couple of strands of thread. Using a running stitch and securely fastened at each end, sew along the face edge of the hood. Leave about half a centimetre or more between stitches: you want each stitch to be spaced about a double-crochet width apart.
  3. Now take your crochet hook and the leftover wool. With the right side facing you and using the visible edge stitches, double crochet into each stitch until the end of the hood edge. Turn.
  4.  Chain one. Double crochet into each double crochet all the way to the end. Turn
  5. Repeat the last row. Fasten off.

Diagrams for Scarf

Rainbow Knits at Inverness Airport

Look, I know I never blog about my knitting, but I have to write a tiny little weeny post about the weekend before last.

While the Scottish Golf Open was playing at Castle Stuart, Inverness Airport right next door decided to put on some entertainment for its customers.  It advertised for some crafters and makers to apply for a stall for some days over the week.  I applied, for a laugh, and was thrilled and honoured to be picked.  I’ve only ever experienced a single craft fair before now (I sold a solitary pair of booties), so I was a bit scared and overawed, and planned to demonstrate my knitting rather than attempt to sell.

Well, it was a hoot and I was so well looked after by the airport staff.  I had so much time to sit and knit and think without untangling a minx or 2 from my wool every 5 minutes.  I spotted a couple of Faces (and got overawed at ‘Auntie’ Carol Kirkwood touching my knitting – about 1000 years ago I failed the audition at Shepherds Bush to be a BBC weather presenter, but I still admire ‘meteos’) and enjoyed blethering non-stop about knitting. It seemed that a simple, “Are you a knitter yourself?” brought out so many lovely stories and interesting snippets from so many passers-by.  I admit that I lapped up the praise I got about my Shetland Ring Lace Shawl that I’d hauled out of storage and displayed, and even started another (well, it’s a wedding veil.  If I start now, it might be finished by the time one of my daughters needs it…).  It’s lovely to receive compliments about your crafting – sometimes I look at my stuff and wonder what the hell I’m thinking of, wasting my time and energies knit, knit, knitting it all.

In terms of ‘business’, I sold nothing on Day 1, made 3 sales on Day 2 and a single sale before I’d finished unpacking my stall on Day 3.  I’m definitely not cut-out to sell – the young dad buying for his beautiful, tiny premature twin daughters showed me their photo on his phone.  I’m glad he gave me the money for the booties beforehand, or I’d have given them away for free (I was feeling very hormonal and gooey).

Best of all, for me, was talking with the other stall-holders, who were all far, far more experienced than me and very generous with their advice (as well as fantastic company and a good laugh!).  I hope I’ve got their links right, because their work was just beautiful.  I felt very honoured to be displaying in their company.  I don’t like to single people out, but I have to mention 3 really lovely and talented ladies:

Helen of Ripples Crafts was selling some absolutely delicious hand-dyed wools, postcards and knitting kits. The Boss had to give me a talking-to every night, reminding me of the size of my stash of wool.  Had he not, I know I’d have spent my entire takings at her beautiful stall.

Morna of Made By Morna had a stall of the most exquisite hand-sewn, appliqued quilts.  It wasn’t just the quality of work that I admired, it was the wit she imbued in her pieces.  I still lust after her Apple Quilt: it’s a thing of beauty and I can see why some people buy them as wall-hangings.

Julia of Julia Smith Ceramics had a stall full of the most delicately patterned, gorgeous pieces.  And it didn’t sag in the middle, like mine and Helen’s…