It’s never too late for holiday gifts

I grew up in a last-minute family.  Because church didn’t start until 11 am, my mother rarely left the house before 10:50 am, even when she was the choir director, because “we live so close–it just takes a minute to get there.”  When friends and relatives were invited over for dinner or for a weekend visit, cleaning up the house began in earnest only when one of us stationed at a window saw THE CAR coming down the street toward

Betsy, Dick & Baby David

our house and sounded the alarm.  Before children, my mother had taught Home Ec and had an idea about what houses should look like when company came.  I participated in the last minute frenzy to stuff newspapers under the couch, put piles of things down on the basement steps, and gather up random things that didn’t belong where they were and hide them in drawers.

It was years later that I really understood all this.  My mother enjoyed entertaining and doing for others.  She loved to cook and bake favorite dishes, especially elaborate desserts. However, she didn’t participate much in mundane activities required to keep things organized.  She

Mom playing piano

preferred playing the piano, embroidering towels, crocheting edges for delicate linen handkerchiefs, trying out yet one more new souffle recipe, making candles, quilting a gift for a new baby and even mending socks and worn-out clothes.

It wouldn’t have been Christmas Eve at our house if Mother hadn’t been up until almost morning with the sewing machine humming.  Occasionally the doll clothes or special gifts didn’t get finished, and we unwrapped packages from “Mrs. Santa Claus” that contained partially completed projects and a note asking that we give the whole box back to our mother so that she could get it back to Mrs. Santa Claus.  She’d usually had some problem between Thanksgiving and Christmas that set her back a bit.

We were conditioned to receiving these sorts of messages and grew up understanding about how difficult it was for Mrs. Santa Claus to do everything.  After all, wasn’t she a woman, and isn’t a woman’s work never done?  I bet you think I’m going to seque into telling you about how I was, therefore, so conditioned from an early age to this sort of thing that not getting all the gifts made before the holidays is not really a character defect…..It was, rather, learned behavior.

Well, surprise, surprise.  I loved my parents but did not love being late, although for years I followed their same script.  Then somewhere between late childhood and now I realized that I could start making (that is, knitting) my gifts way ahead of time, like even in January.  And I learned that there was no law forbidding the gradual making of holiday gifts, spreading them out through the entire year, up to the holiday itself.  The last minute rush was not mandatory or necessarily desirable.  And so I had tried to live my life this way—especially when I got it back after leaving healthcare to knit seriously full time.

This isn’t to suggest that neither of my children ever opened a wrapped gift box to find either needles, yarn and a pattern or a partially completed item.  It did happen several times, but it wasn’t my regular practice and plan.

So, it is with some chagrin that I am now working to finish my son’s holiday stockings.  They were in the queue and cast on so that they could have been completed in time.  However, the whole plan went awry on Thanksgiving Day.  We had just enjoyed a wonderful turkey dinner and were all sitting around on comfortable living room furniture in an L-tryptophan-induced blissful state (or whatever comes from enjoying lots of turkey).  Imagine my horror to see, when my son put his feet up on an ottoman, gaping holes in the bottoms of both his socks—-and yes, they were (like most of his others) ones that had been made for him by his mother!

He looked very chagrinned when I said something subtle like, “OMIGOD, the bottoms of your socks are gone!”  After all, he’d only worn them about 7 years.  Smart son that he is, he quickly said, “these are my favorite socks, I’ve worn them every week since you made them for me and I didn’t want to part with them,” which is what I think he thought would have happened had he told me about this obvious problem sooner.  Well, was my heart warmed by his love of these socks that I had made with mee own lyttle hands?  It told him that I’d fix them and have them back to him before Christmas.  He was so moved at my offer that he went into his bedroom and presented me with another “favorite” pair that looked like they had been worn in the Chicago Marathon in lieu of running shoes.  I felt even more choked up about his also having so lovingly saved these socks and said that I’d fix them right up, too, before the holidays.

What was I thinking of???  He is over 6 feet and his feet are not small—plus he has a small mountain of socks that I’ve knit over the years which I’ve occasionally seen when visiting after a BIG LAUNDRY–the reason for which I’ve never inquired.  I dug through my leftover yarn and stash and found some matching yarn to make two new feet for one pair—-it took a while, but they looked fine.  An untrained eye (not any of yours, however) would not have been able to distinguish the new feet from the old heels and legs. Whew. On to pair #2 which was unfortunately made from discontinued yarn, and I had none leftover in the large sock leftovers basket that I stuff under a settee in my living room.  Ravelry to the rescue!!  I actually found two skeins of the yarn in the stash of a very wonderful Canadian woman who agreed to sell them to me and even to mail them right away to my brother’s house in Illinois where I headed for my mother’s memorial service.

I don’t mean this to be disrespectful and actually believe my mother would have been strongly approving of my doing this while visiting with the relatives, while pausing a few minutes from helping my brothers with various details afterwards and on the return trip home.  She was the embodiment of practicality and also so loved things handmade.

The holidays came about two weeks later, and I presented my son with a holiday check and two old pairs of socks with four new feet.  He seemed pleased.  All my other gifts were completed on time, including these

Mom's Mitts

fingerless mitts I made for my mother that I never got to give to her.  Still it bothered me that I hadn’t finished the new holiday socks I intended to make for my son.  So, after all the dust from the AARP tv segment chapter cleared away, I began knitting them and knitting them…a few days ago, here’s

Late holiday 2009 socks

what they looked like.  I worked each one on two circular needles, sequentially, the ribbing on one, the ribbing on the other, the leg on one, the leg on the other….They are bigger than they look:  10″ from cast on to beginning of heel flap.

Right now I’m working on the gusset decreases on the second sock and estimate that by tomorrow night, if I keep pushing, I’ll have the pair finished….and, therefore, be able to close the Holiday 2009 chapter.  Who says knitters aren’t a wee bit compulsive???  I could have just waited to give these to him for some other special event, but they are his holiday 2009 socks and he will have them before this weekend!

17 thoughts on “It’s never too late for holiday gifts

    • Geri, I loved reading the colorjoy entry about mending socks by using duplicate stitch. That’s a good method—and especially if handknit sock wearers keep an eye peeled for spots that are weakening a bit. I loved her use of various colors so that the mended socks would be even more colorful. Also, I share her joy at being able to rescue socks that would otherwise bite the dirt. I’ve often thought about it and wondered why I get so much pleasure out of rescuing them. I have concluded that refooting and mending and otherwise rescuing socks and other handknit items almost falls into the category of “survival skills.” And it feels so good to be recycling and keeping something going as long as possible in contrast to what is so often done in our disposable society. Thanks. I love your comments and the blog.

    • Geri, thanks too for your caring thoughts about my mother. She always said she’d lived a life that was long, healthy and happy–and really did a good job of helping all of us understand that she felt her life had been good and that we celebrate rather than mourn when she passed. We actually did a little bit of both, of course!

  1. Oh my gosh, Betsy, I am honored you knitted my pattern 🙂

    Those are the Sally Gloves, right? I am just hopping up and down in my chair right now of excitement!!!



    • Hey Nancy,
      Yes, you’re definitely right. I love those mitts and have since given them to a close friend. I finally got my project up on Ravelry that tells the story of them being the last gift I knit for my mother—but wasn’t able to give them to her as she died this past November. Great design!!

  2. Nancy: Thanks1) for identifying the gloves — bought the pattern, just waiting for our 10″ of snow to melt (must be spring in Colorado) so I can go buy the yarn. These will be perfect for my niece at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts and Thanks 2) for introducing me to a new blog — yours!

    • Yup, they’re “Fingerless Glove Sally,” a great pattern designed by Nancy Ricci. You can buy it from her at her website, “Getting Purly With It,” or from Close Knit on NE Alberta Street in Portland, OR, where she used to work before moving to the SF area. I like this pattern. It is attractive and was quick to knit. I embellished it with stacked buttons that I purchased at Stitchcraft in Vancouver, WA.

    • Thanks. I made the note for her because I wasn’t sure she’d know how they went, that is, several times I’d made her things that got put on backwards or inside out or ??? So, I thought that if I made one hand, labeled it, e.g., “left hand,” and stuck it inside the mitt, along with the note, that it’d be clear. I once made her a lovely Evelyn Clark Flowerbasket Shawl—from yarn that lightweight and washable and, I thought, would be perfect for having to deal with air conditioned rooms during the heat of midwest summers. She seemed to like it, as she said, “Oh thank you for that lovely gift. What is it?”

  3. I am so excited to find a designer/knitter that blogs on a regular basis. Yeah! I’ll be right here to read every post.

    By the way I blogged about you on my blog today.

    • Great. It’s taking me a bit to get going—-maybe I’ll do more than one blog in a week. But, as you will learn if you follow me, I tend to be unrealistic about how long it takes to do things! Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. My Mom just emailed me the link to this blog entry. I’m not quite sure who she saw more in it – herself or me. I don’t remember putting papers under the sofa cushions, but I have definitely loaded my dryer and dishwasher with papers, fabric, whatever was still laying around as I was pulling food out of the oven and frantically wrapping (usually finished) gifts I’ve made as my guests pulled in the driveway. It’s a wonderful life.

    • Suzy, I love your story, and you and your mother are so very creative! It never occurred to me to put anything except clothes and dishes in the dryer or dishwasher. What a lack of imagination on my part!! I can’t say on my mother’s, too, because she didn’t get her first dishwasher until I’d left home and the washer and dryer were located in a room at the back of the house—way, far away from the upside down living room!

  5. I so identified with your blog on the frenzy of cleaning up for guests. I used to have the terrible habit of putting dirty dishes in the oven but have cured myself of this now.Ii think a lot of women are made from the same mold… I also believe that the Holiday gift can be late. I once gave a box of fabric with a promise to complete but I’m embarassed to say I never sewed it for my husband. A few years ago I gave a pair of Christmas socks to my son in July when he made a request of a hat,scarf combo that interrupted the socks. I do enjoy your blog and love to see the way your mind works! Linda

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