12 Quick and Easy Patterns for Christmas Gifts

PicMonkey Collage - 12 christmas gifts

I’m proud of myself. This year, I started making Christmas gifts in January to give away for the 2015 holiday season.  Of course, I only managed to make three gifts total from January to September… but hey, I had good intentions. Christmas seems so far away when the sun is shining and you’d rather be outside. So if you are like me, and you still need to make several Christmas gifts, fear not. Though we may be down to the 45-ish day mark, I’ve rounded up several quick and easy gift patterns.

Although there are plenty of beautiful paid patterns out there, I’ve only listed free ones here. Some are knit and some are crochet, but all should only take a day (or maybe two) to make.  A big thank you to all the designers! Also, if you are still shopping for yarn to make last minute presents, remember that bulky & super bulky yarns are your friends.


capucine hat

  1. Capucine by Adela Illichmanova – (Knit – bulky weight) This adorable hat works up quickly in bulky yarn and would make a great gift. Click the link to find the pattern download on Ravelry.


2. Reversible Strands for Men (and Women Too!) by Nancy Smith – (Crochet – worsted weight) I made this hat last year for my brother and he was shocked that I didn’t buy it.  It’s snug and stretchy and very warm. Make a couple in different colors for different people! The link above takes you to the Ravelry page for the pattern.


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3. Simple Slouchy Hat by Julie Weisenberger – (Knit – bulky weight)  Who doesn’t love a slouchy hat? Wear it brimless for a super slouchy hat, or fold the brim up for a more snug fit.  Click the link above to go the Ravelry pattern page, or download the pattern from her blog, Coco Knits.


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4. Winter Hat by Michele Maks – (Crochet – bulky weight)  Here’s another great gift hat that would look nice for men or women. On the Ravelry page (linked above) you can also find the pattern for the matching scarf.


5. Braided Knit Headband by Beth Attwood – (Knit – super bulky weight)  Headbands make perfect gifts for women like my mom, who don’t want to mess up their hair with a hat. Keep your hair style intact and keep your ears warm! Headbands also make a perfect first time cabling project if you’ve never cabled before. It’s really not as scary as it seems! Get the pattern at Ravelry at the link above, or get it at Beth’s blog, Owlswakeup.


6. Super Soft Merino Hats for Everyone by Purl Soho – (Knit – bulky weight)  This fabulous pattern has five sizes–baby, toddler, child, woman and man–so you can literally make one for anyone on your list!  The pattern also includes several color variations (solid, one stripe, three stripes, pin stripes, and rainbow stripes) so you can make it exactly how you want it to look. Get the pattern at the Purl Soho blog.


7. Crochet Grocery Bag by Haley Waxburg – (Crochet – DK/worsted weight)  Market bags make a great gift–for whomever you give it to and to the environment! This lovely grocery bag can be made in any weight cotton yarn (or another non-stretchy fiber). These bags are great to stash in your car for shopping, library visits, picnics, etc. Get the pattern at Knit-o-matic (the pattern is free but it does require you to go through the checkout process).


8. Dragon Hands by Caitlin ffrench – (Knit – super bulky weight)  These fingerless mitts/arm warmers make a great gift for men or women. They work up quickly in super bulky and construction is super simple (they are basically a tube with a thumb hole). I made a pair of these for my brother, but I may have to make another before Christmas, because I want to keep them for myself (I’m wearing them right now!). Get the pattern at the Ravelry link above or visit Caitlin’s blog at We Will Tell You All Of Our Secrets.


9. Owl Hat by Sarah Zimmerman – (Crochet – worsted/aran weight)  While you may not be able to make one for everyone on your list, this hat is just too adorable to leave off the list. Every child should have an owl hat, whether they like it or not ;). Get the pattern at Repeat Crafter Me.


10. Convertible Cowl by Stephanie Swaim – (Crochet – super bulky weight) This is a great pattern for crochet beginners and experts alike, and can only be limited by your imagination. If you don’t have super bulky on hand, use two strands of worsted weight; or add in a strand of something fun (like fun fur, eyelash or boucle) to make the cowl perfect for your giftee.


11. 75-yard Malabrigo Fingerless Mitts by Jeanne Stevenson – (Knit – worsted weight)  Not only are these cute little mitts quick and easy, they only use 75 yards of yarn, making them great for using up those leftover skeins that you don’t know what to do with. If you have more than 75 yards, it’s easy to make these longer–just extend the wrist ribbing. These are great for knitters, crocheters, and office workers, whose fingers get cold but still need dexterity to work. Grab the pattern over at Jeanne’s blog, Life in Cleveland.


12. The Black Hole Cowl by Laura Jansen – (Crochet – super bulky weight) This cowl is big, comfy, squishy, soft, warm–everything you’d want in a cowl on a cold winter day. The Black Hole Cowl makes a lovely gift, but make sure to buy enough yarn for two–you’ll want one for yourself.  Get the pattern on Ravelry at the link above, or visit Laura’s blog, Red Ribbon Fox Knits.

Minecraft Obsession

Check it this awesome CAL for a Minecraft afghan! I’m a little late, but I WILL catch up! Thank you to Crafty Ridge Designs for putting together such a fun project!

Crafty Ridge Designs

15 - 1 (3) Creeper Square by Crafty Ridge. The first square of my Minecraft Graphghan

My youngest, like so many other kids out there, is obsessed with Minecraft! This year we went a little overboard and built our two boys gaming computers. They love to play and would do so from morning until night if we allowed it. So this year we decided Christmas and Birthdays are going to be minimal. I have been looking through patterns, scouring through Tumblr and Pinterest and I finally figured out what I am going to make for the youngest. I have decided to create a Personalized Minecraft Graphghan! Problem one….I had no clue what character to pick, so I picked a few and I have decided to graph them all out, hook them up individually and share them with all of you as I create this fun piece for my Minecraft addict.

This is the beginning…

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How to Make Moving and Packing a Little Easier (Because Moving is SUCH a Pain in the Ass

Moving is such a pain in the ass.  Finding boxes, packing the boxes, loading and unloading, back aches, sore knees. And appliances. Ugh. Appliances are the four-letter-word of moving. Everyone, evvv-errr-eee-one, hates moving.  And if you’re some kind of weirdo that actually loves packing up all your crap and carrying it around in boxes, well, you’re just weird.  Also, if you actually love moving because you have the money to pay a moving company to load, haul and unload all your crap, you don’t count. And, you suck.

Inevitably, it will be really, really damn cold or swelteringly hot, and 95% of the people who swore they would help you move are MIA, and suddenly out of cell service range. And those people that you helped moved last year? Well, if they don’t show up to help you move, Satan has a special “VIP” section of hell just for them.  Don’t feel bad, they deserve it.

So how to do you make moving less of a pain in the ass? Well, if you’re me, you just move an average of every two years throughout your ENTIRE life.  That doesn’t make moving pleasant per se, but you do end up learning some tricks that make it a little faster and easier. So seriously, how can you make packing easier?  Well here’s what I do, and I consider myself pretty much an expert.


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  1. BOXES, BOXES AND MORE DAMN BOXES

As soon as you know you’re going to move, start collecting boxes.  You can hit up the usual places like grocery stores, but I’ve found the places with the best boxes to be shoe stores and liquor stores.  I always ask before I take them, and they always look at me like do you think I give a damn about boxes?, but I ask anyway, because I pretend to be polite most of the time.  I’ve never been told no, and most employees are pumped that they don’t have to carry a crap ton of boxes to the dumpster.  Smaller businesses are more likely to have boxes just laying around, but bigger, box-type retailers typically use a crusher to squash all their boxes into neat little cubes.  I’ve had luck with Kroger and Walmart, but you have to go late at night while they are stocking the shelves and get the boxes before they go to the crusher.

Also, don’t ever buy boxes, unless you’re just rich and you have nothing better to do with your money.  In that case, you can probably afford movers and you wouldn’t be reading this.  Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to go hunt boxes down sometimes, but their free.  Spend that box money on your favorite charity, or better yet, buy beer and pizza for your friends that aren’t assholes and actually showed up to help you.


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  1. GET ORGANIZED

Unless you’re a superhero, you’re not going to get all of your boxes unpacked the first few days.  And I’ll be damned if I don’t always need some stupid item and I have no clue what box it’s in.  Well, that’s what I used to do until I starting making a box inventory to keep track of what goes into boxes.  I made a simple table in Word with three columns: box number, contents, room—and as soon as I can figure out how to upload it, I will share it.  You can make your own, or search for one online, and there are wide variety from simple, lazy ones like mine, to ultra-neurotic, super-detailed checklists.  Until I get mine up, here is an inventory sheet I like is from Jensen Moving and Storage—you can find it here.

I don’t number my boxes until they are taped shut and ready to get stacked in a pile. That way I don’t end up with two #22 boxes. Also, if you have moving or renter’s insurance, it might be a good idea to make an inventory of expensive items. You can find printable ones online that let you keep track of make, model, serial number, etc… all that info you’re insurance company will want in case the item is damaged, lost or stolen.


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  1. WHERE DO YOU START PACKING?

So you’ve got your boxes and your inventory list, and you’re looking around your house thinking where the hell did all this stuff come from?  It can be difficult to know where to start, but the first box is the hardest.  I start with stuff that’s not going to be used in the next few weeks (off-season clothing, decorative items, small appliances, etc.) After that, I move on to the closets, just leaving the clothes and shoes I’ll be wearing before I move. I try to start packing at least three weeks before I move, but the earlier, the better.  The most important part is to jump in there and start packing something.  Once you’re on a roll and organizing as you pack, the flow of the boxes will come naturally.


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  1. ORGANIZE AS YOU GO—SAVE YOURSELF HASSLE LATER

Which brings me to my next point—organize as you go. I don’t want to pack up and move stuff that I’m just going to throw away, and I’m sure you don’t either.  Packing is the perfect time to clean out those closets and drawers you’ve been neglecting—you know, the ones that are so crammed full of shit you can barely get them closed?  When I start in on a closet, I set up two boxes and trash bag; one box for packing, one box for donation and the trash bag for, well, trash.  A really nice thing about donating old stuff you don’t want (other than the fact that your trash is someone else’s treasure) is you can write it off against your taxes (ask the donation agency for a receipt).  Also, if you live in a moderate-sized town or city, most donation charities, like Goodwill or Salvation Army, will come pick it up and leave you a receipt.  Just call them to set up an appointment, leave the stuff outside and BAM, it’s gone.  Doesn’t get any easier than that.

I also use this organizing time to sort like items that have migrated around the house.  All the sheets get packed together, all the extension cords get packed together.


  1. THE ‘MISSED THE BOX’ BOX

Inevitably, after I have packed up a box full of something, I’ll find another one of those somethings that I missed.  Rather than waste time reopening boxes, just make a ‘missed the box’ box for stuff that’s separated from its inanimate family.


  1. THE ‘LAST TO PACK’ BOX

I put everything that I want to get packed up but that I may possibly need in this box.  Ink pens, flash light, camera, can opener—whatever you might use before you move, but would be in the way just sitting around the house.


Mr. Lion likes being squishsed in with the dishes.
Mr. Lion likes being squished in with the dishes.
  1. FINALLY, A USE FOR ALL THE DAMN STUFFED ANIMALS YOU PICK UP EVERYDAY

If you have kids like I do (I have 4, two of my own here all the time and two steppies here part-time), you have stuffed animals.  Lots and lots of frigging stuffed animals.  Moving is the one time these things actually come in handy for anything other than looking cute (the girls) or getting attacked by zombies (boys).  Use them to pack between fragile, weird-shaped items like large dishes, lamps, or, I don’t know, statues.  I also put them in tops of boxes that aren’t quite full to cushion the contents and keep the box from collapsing.  You can also use other soft items, like towels, blankets, etc. for packing up fragile items.


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  1. GARBAGE BAGS ARE USEFUL

Is it tacky to pack stuff in garbage bags?  I don’t know, probably, but who cares?  If you’re going to stand there and watch me carry my garbage bags to the moving truck, you’re ass better be holding a box.  I use lots of garbage bags to pack soft stuff like clothes, pillows, and blankets, because they soft, squishy and you can fill the gaps between furniture and boxes with them.  I usually buy a box of premium, stretchy garbage bags just to pack stuff in before I move, because you don’t want them to rip open.  Usually someone manages to snag one on the corner of table, but the good ones won’t rip open and spill stuff everywhere, making your crappy moving day even crappier.


Now put the ball away and get to work.
Now put the ball away and get to work.
  1. GET THE KIDS IN ON THE PACKING ACTION

My kids actually think packing is fun. Why? Because I’ve brainwashed them to think it’s a game, and their too young to know the difference. I actually have the kids prep their room before packing. First, throw away all the trash that kids collect like magnets—papers from God knows where, broken toys, etc. While they are doing this, they also pick out old toys they don’t want and clothes that don’t fit. Then I inspect the donation pile to determine if anything can be passed down to a younger sibling, and if not, it goes to donation.  After all the junk is out, give them boxes and let them go to town.  About two weeks before moving, I seal up all the boxes and only leave out clothes and one small box of toys, so I don’t have to continuously pick up thousands of toys while I’m trying to pack the rest of the house.


You don't want to be washing these the morning of your move.
You don’t want to be washing these the morning of your move.
  1. SCREW THE ENVIRONMENT (JUST FOR A WEEK)

The last week or so before moving, I buy disposable utensils, cups, and plates. No, it’s not environmentally friendly, but it’s just for week, and it saves you the hassle of washing, drying and packing dishes the morning of your move. If you want to be ecofriendly about it, you could even buy everything in recyclable plastic and toss it the recycling bin on your way out the door.


Rent a truck. Or a van. Or whatever floats your boat.
Rent a truck. Or a van. Or whatever floats your boat.
  1. RENT A MOVING TRUCK

If you’re moving locally and have (or know someone who has) a truck, it might be tempting to save the $60 to rent a truck from U-Haul or Budget.  However, in my experience, it’s more of a hassle to make 20 trips in a pick-up than to pack a large box truck once.  It also probably costs about the same, or maybe even less, once you figure in the cost of gas.  I also suggest getting a larger truck than you think you will need, because there’s always more stuff than you expect.

Some rental companies charge the same price for multiple sizes of trucks. At the time I’m writing this, U-Haul’s ‘in town’ rate is $20 for 8’, 9’, and 10’ trucks; $30 for 15’ and 17’ trucks; and $40 for 20’, 24’, and 26’ trucks.


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  1. MOVING INTO THE FUTURE

I remember thinking when the ‘moving pods’ first came out that they were a great idea, but they are still out of my price range.  If they come down in price (or I go up in monies), I would consider using one for my next inevitable move.  If you have the money, I say go for it, and let me know how it goes.

PODS used to be only company offering moving pods, but now several companies have them, including ubiquitous U-Haul.  They drop the pod off at your house, your load it at your leisure, then call them when it’s ready for pick up.  From my understanding, they can either store it for you until you are ready for it to be delivered, or take it directly where you want it to go.

I’m not exactly sure how the pricing works, but I do know they charge per pod, and from what I’ve seen, they are relatively small (U-Haul suggested I would need 6 pods for my four-bedroom house); and they cost $110.00 each.  You can assume they also charge various fees for pick up, storage and delivery, but I haven’t found exact amounts online.  Overall, I think it’s a great concept, particularly the ability to load at your own leisure as you pack, versus having to haul ass and get everything moved in one day.


Lazy Cat ALWAYS waits until the last minute to do anything.
Lazy Cat ALWAYS waits until the last minute to do anything.
  1. DON’T BE A DRAG-ASS

Sometimes we don’t have a lot of time to prepare before we move; sometimes we procrastinate and hope that the moving elves will come pack our house up in the middle of the night.  Either way, I suggest getting things done as soon as you reasonably can (i.e. as soon as you know you’re moving).  Rent a truck as soon as you have a specific moving date, because they sell out quick, especially in the summer.  Put in for an address change early, and start gathering boxes ASAP. Call your utility companies and arrange to have your service on at the new place when you get there, and cut off at the old place the day you leave.


Important stuff goes here.
Important stuff goes here.
  1. PACK AN EMERGENCY BAG

It’s a good idea to pack items you could need in an emergency in a bag you can carry in your car during the move.  I throw in things like a flash light, medicine, bandages, snacks and drinks for the kids, a phone charger, a small water bowl for the dog, etc.  You can use a box if you have a ton of stuff, but I use an old beach bag I’ve had forever. Basically think of anything you could need on moving day before your boxes are accessible and toss it in.


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  1. STOP SHOPPING (ESPECIALLY AT THE GROCERY)

Okay, I don’t mean forever, just for like two weeks before the move.  If you have kids or a spouse, chances are you will hear a lot of grumbling and whining.  Tell them to can it and eat what’s in the kitchen.  If you’re moving locally, you can probably pack your fridge food into a cooler—otherwise, I’d toss it all (or give it to a friend or neighbor), versus risking a stomach flu over a half jar of mayo.  Dry goods can be packed or given away, but I still like to use up all we can instead of buying more.  Eat tuna salad and crackers for dinner, or make a new pasta dish out of what’s in your kitchen.

This is also a good time to pack up unexpired canned goods and dry foods you will never eat and donate them to a local food bank.


SO IN SUMMATION:

 

If that was too much to read, or you just want to summarize, here is my excellent advice to making packing and moving easier:

 

  1. Gather boxes early and often.
  2. Use a box inventory to keep track of boxes.
  3. Start with closets, off-season clothes and unused items.
  4. Pack similar items/items in same room together.
  5. Make a box for ‘missed the box’ items.
  6. Make a box for ‘last to pack’ items.
  7. Use stuffed animals and soft items as padding for fragiles.
  8. Pack soft stuff in quality garbage bags.
  9. Let kids help pack their own stuff.
  10. Use disposable, recyclable plates and utensils the last week.
  11. Rent a truck and make one trip.
  12. Consider moving pods if you have the cash.
  13. Don’t procrastinate renting a truck, switching utilities, and filing address forms.
  14. Pack an emergency bag for moving day.
  15. Quit buying food two weeks ahead of moving day.

I’m Back After a Summer (and part of Fall) Break

It’s been a while since I’ve published a blog post, and I feel a little guilty about it. But now I’m back and the good news is I have TONS of new projects to catch up on.

We had a lot of fun this summer (and part of fall).  I’ve been learning to knit and I’ve officially finished off my first project (post coming soon).  I’ve also got lots and lots of crochet projects, including some really great amigurumi projects!

In other news, I’ve begun homeschooling my daughter this year, who had been attending public school before.  After some consideration, I’ve decided to add our homeschooling info and updates to this blog versus starting a whole new blog.  We actually incorporate our crafting and art lessons into our homeschool curriculum, so it only makes sense to include it here.

So ANYWAY, I’m super excited to be back and I’ll be adding a lot of stuff in the coming weeks!

Bouncer Big Daddy Amigurumi

This weekend I found a super awesome amigurumi pattern for the Bouncer Big Daddy from the Bioshock video game series at Nerdigurumi.  Bioshock is one my  all time favorite games, and the Big Daddies are phenomenal characters.

Bouncer Big Daddy

 

The pattern is FREE (can you believe it?) and you can find it here.   I pretty much followed the pattern as it is written, except that I crocheted a chain around jewelry wire to make the carapass piping around his head and shoulders.

Big Daddy

The pattern designer’s Big Daddy can stand on his own.  Mine can’t, but I think I sewed on his belt too low and placed the legs too close together… but I don’t care, I still think he’s awesome!

Bouncer BD

The pattern uses basic ami stitches –sc, inc and dec–and over all it wasn’t too difficult to crochet.  He does have a lot of parts that need assembling, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a first project for someone who has never done amigurumi before.

A super big THANK YOU to MJ Bailey at Nerdigurumi for publishing this awesome pattern for free.  My whole family is begging for Mr. Bubbles, but I think he’s going to live on my desk.

So go on and check out the Bouncer Big Daddy pattern here, and while you are there, check out some of the other awesome amigurumis–there are a ton!

Kittens in a Row Afghan – Free Crochet Pattern

 

 

I’ve been on a crocheting streak here lately–I’ve made four afghans in recent months (working on the posts now), and the latest is the Kittens in a Row afghan I made for my daughter, Sophie.

 

Sophie is a cat lover, like her mom.  If you don’t believe me, ask any of our four cats:

 

I looked around for a few weeks to find a pattern that I knew Sophie would love, and as soon as I saw the Kittens in a Row afghan pattern at Bev’s Country Cottage, I knew this was the one.  The afghan is absolutely adorable!  The stitches of each row form the upper body and paws of abstract kitties, popping up from the row of kittens below.

 

kittens in a row close up

 

Two or more colors of yarn are used to make the pattern visible.  Because Sophie likes super colorful things, I used twelve different colors of yarn that I had left over from other projects.

All the yarns used in my afghan are the Red Heart Super Saver brand.   The colors are, from the bottom, Real Teal (teal), Tea Leaf (green), Dark Orchid (purple), Lemon (yellow), Carrot (orange), Aran (white), Perfect Pink, Turqua (blue), Cafe Latte (brown), Lavender (light purple) and Hot Red.  I added Black in a later row to fill in for another color I ran out of.

 

kittens in a row colors

 

Since I used leftover yarn, it’s difficult to estimate how many skeins I used to make Kittens in a Row—-but if I had to guess, I would say 6-7 regular size skeins.  I also used a J hook instead of the H hook indicated in the pattern to get larger stitches.  The pattern give more details about amounts of yarn and sizing, and gives instructions for making the afghan in a preemie, child or adult size.

You can get the free pattern with detailed directions here at Bev’s Country Cottage.

 

kittens in a row2