Advent: The Season of Anticipation

Most people are familiar with Advent Calendars that count down the days from December 1st to Christmas. The colourful cardboard calendars that hide a wee piece of chocolate behind each of 24 tiny doors have been a staple for holiday seasons for at least as long as I’ve been alive.  Advent wreaths and Advent Calendars build up anticipation over the holiday season.

Many people don’t actually know what Advent is. To give a little bit of context: In the Christian tradition, Advent is the season preceding Christmas. It is a time of preparation and anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. It was the time when the wise men followed the signs in the stars and traveled to where they would find the infant that embodied hope, new beginnings, light and love for humanity. It begins 4 Sundays before Christmas.

Each of those four Sundays has a theme: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

When you see Advent wreaths with four candles, this is what those candles signify.

I grew up in a German immigrant family and the Advent wreath was a part of our Christmas tradition. My parents didn’t actually talk about the significance of those candles… or if they did, I was definitely not listening. All I knew was that each week on Sunday morning, the candle for that week was lit along with the ones from previous weeks until they were all alight. I may not have really understood the symbolism or spiritual significance of it, but it definitely built up my anticipation for Christmas. My father expressed his artistry and creativity through a variety of Advent “wreaths”. Anticipating what new design he would come up with was part of the fun of the season for me.

Over the past few years, thanks to social media, I have seen many different incarnations of the Advent Wreath and Calendar. Each one has had a theme and the themes have been vastly varied. Not only are the calendars themselves varied but what people put in them is as well. From fine hand-made chocolates to trinkets to craft beers or local wines, every time I see a new one it makes me smile.

Every year when I see what people have done with this tradition it makes me want to make one too. Of course, by the time it’s on my radar, I don’t have time to actually pull it off without way more stress than I want associated with it. So much for planning! LOL! And every time I see a blog post where someone shows off their hand made Advent wreath or calendar, I find myself cheering for them. Cheering on their design, their creativity and their determination and perseverance. I have lost count of the number of times I have thought about making one and then decided not to.

And once you make the calendar… well… you have to fill it with something. Oh MY! That has the potential to become outrageously expensive!

And my point with all of this? Advent is about anticipation. You don’t have to break the bank to build anticipation. Hey, if you want to spend a whole bunch of money, I won’t stand in your way. All the power to you! There is absolutely no shame in spending money for the holiday season. That having been said, I most definitely advocate staying within your financial means. Heaven knows it’s easy to get carried away at this time of year.

I find that I really want to deliberately mark the Advent season in some way every year.

Perhaps it’s because it was a tradition in my childhood. Hope is the first theme of Advent. Hope is a profoundly amazing thing. No matter how tough things might get, the tiniest bit of hope is all we need to keep us going, keep us fighting and working our way out of whatever darkness we may find ourselves in. Let’s face it, I don’t care who you are, we all experience hardship in one way or another.

Not one of us is immune to suffering!

Hope is that light at the end of the tunnel that keeps us placing one foot in front of the other despite the despair that may fill us at times. That hope may come from the simplest of things, like having someone look directly into our eyes and smile at us from their heart. There is no way to know what another person is going through. What does it take to make eye contact with another person and smile? It takes nothing… and it feels good. I guess what I’m saying is I want to be a vehicle for hope. I want to notice when someone seems down. I don’t want or need to “fix” anyone. But I can notice them and recognize their humanity, recognize that they are suffering in some way.

I can offer them a smile from my heart.

Not out of pity, but out of solidarity: human to human! I can acknowledge their existence and my own. Goodness knows there have been times in my life when one smile gave me the hope I needed to not give up.

I want Christmas to heighten those things that I find most meaningful in my life. I know that like all those years before, I am not going to pull off a fancy Advent calendar this year. I really love the Advent season. I love everything about it. There is a part of me, a wide-eyed, wonder-filled little girl, deep inside me, that wants that sparkling anticipation every year. And often, I must admit, I leave her wanting. This year, I am starting off my Advent season by decorating my store. And there will be knitting… lots of knitting!

Happy Knitting!

 

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Reframing Gift-Giving

Ads, ads and more ads… do you get as tired of them as I do?

As a business owner providing both services and retail products, I recognize that advertising is a very important piece of finding and informing the people who may want your products or services. We all need to make a living, after all. And yet everywhere we turn these days, we are hit with a barrage of ads. And it seems to me that it ramps up even more once anticipation of the holiday season begins.

As we approach the holiday season, I find myself feeling quite irritated by all the junk being advertised as gifts. You know what I mean? The stuff that only sells because it’s weird and will get a laugh (before being tossed in the garbage along with its packaging), or the stuff that sells because people want to look cool or be on the cutting edge.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been contemplating. When I’m asked what I would like for Christmas (or my birthday), I always feel at a bit of a loss to come up with anything because I have all the “stuff” I actually need.

What I really want is time and the opportunity to spend unrushed time with the people I love.

I want to laugh with them. I want to enjoy home-cooked meals with them or go for walks and enjoy the scenery in this amazing part of the world. I want to feel connected with them. I don’t need them to spend money on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive gifts as much as anyone. And I love the way it feels to know that they have spent precious time and energy to make me something. It’s a very clear message that illuminates just how much they love me. How wonderful is that?

I was reminiscing about past holiday seasons and remembering how varied they have been for me. There were years when it was all I could do to pay the rent and still have enough money to feed myself. I remember feeling a tremendous degree of shame in those years when I simply couldn’t give material gifts. The commercialization of the holiday season persistently and insidiously plants and builds an unconscious (or subconscious) sense that we must purchase items to give as gifts… and not just to loved ones but to teachers and co-workers and bosses and the check-out lady at the grocery store.

No wonder I found myself feeling overwhelmed with shame in those years when I had no money to spare for gift giving.

It’s so easy to get carried away and overspend in a way that puts us behind the 8-ball when the new year settles in. I’ve definitely fallen into that trap and paid the price!

I still really wanted to give my loved ones gifts, so I made up coupon books and each coupon could be redeemed for some service that I could provide. For instance, “this coupon can be redeemed for a kitchen cleaning”. When that person called in the coupon, I would go to their house and clean their kitchen for them. I gifted “tea party” coupons and “walk in the country” coupons, “pedicure” coupons and “car wash” coupons. People didn’t always cash those coupons in, but when they did, I was delighted.

Years ago, after my mom passed away we were doing some organizing of her things. I needed a small pair of scissors and looked through the drawers of her sewing cabinet and found one of the coupon books I had given her.

She had saved it all those years.

It’s funny, at first I felt bad that she hadn’t redeemed any of them. Yet she had kept that coupon booklet, and she kept it with things that (before her dementia was too severe to allow it) she used every day. That left me feeling deeply touched. She didn’t need anything from me. She just wanted to be reminded that I loved her. I like to think that my little coupon book shouted, “I love you Mommy!” every time she opened that drawer to get her scissors out. (And yes, I called her “Mommy” right up until she passed away.)

In other lean years, I would go to the thrift shop on $1/bag sale days (that was a few years ago… LOL) and look for items made of really interesting fabric. I’d carefully choose things that I could transform into new and useful items. A dated leather coat could become a beautiful purse; a several decades old fur coat could become a teddy bear. I often found remnants of new fabric, bundles of lace and other trim. I always went primed to be creative and think outside the box. I always found interesting things that had the potential to be transformed.

One of the things I love about Revelstoke is that our community embraces earth-friendly practices. Re-pair, re-purpose, re-use, re-cycle… in Re-velstoke. My business couldn’t exist without people who want to avoid throwing things away just because they are slightly damaged. Repairing clothing and gear is a huge part of what my shop offers our community. I love to see people purchasing items at the thrift shop and cutting them up and transforming them into something completely different.

I love that. I love the creativity and ingenuity that goes into that process.

It’s fun when customers bring their projects in to show me. It’s inspiring.

Like most people, I want my holiday season to be meaningful. If I’m going to give gifts it’s going to be done within my financial means and it will be because I want to express my love for those people dearest to me. And hey, I’m happy for any excuse to bake and knit! I’m all for less stress during the holiday season. I’ll be in a lovely state of Zen, knitting under a blanket in my comfy chair as the snow falls outside.

Happy Knitting!

Wow! Too Easy! More Gift Ideas

Anyone who crafts or sews will likely own a rotary cutter. These handy tools come in a few different sizes ranging from 28mm to 60mm. The size I find most popular is 45mm. The round blades are razor sharp and allow for nice clean cutting of fabrics and other craft materials. The newest style of blade opens up a whole vista of crafting possibilities.

The regular rotary cutter blade is simply a razor sharp disc that makes a solid clean and straight cut. You can also purchase wave blades that give a gently zig-zagged edge, like you would expect from pinking shears.

What I am excited to tell you about is the new skip cut blade. The skip cut blade has gaps around the cutting edge of the disc. It has many short cutting edges with equal spaces between them. When you use this blade, it gives you small cuts at regular intervals. For the creative individual, the possibilities for this blade are exciting. I just want to talk about two applications.

Quick and Easy Fleece Blanket with a Crochet Border

You start with a piece of Nordic/Polar Fleece fabric. With the edges cleanly cut, corners rounded off and the selvedges removed, use a ruler and rotary cutter fitted with the skip blade and cut an inch in from the outside edge all around the piece of fabric. It’s important to do this in one pass. Press firmly so that you are sure you are cutting all the way through. You now have a series of holes evenly spaced an inch in from the edge of the fabric. This gives you a place to easily crochet into so you can create a crocheted border all around your blanket. The edge folds in half, so you have a double layer of fabric contained within the first round of your crochet edge. I found two different links that show how to do this. Both are relatively long, however they give the necessary information well. The second one is more thorough a demonstration than the first.

 

Fleece Lined Blanket

The next project I want to share with you is a fleece lined blanket.

You can start with either a crocheted or a knitted blanket that you have already completed. You can either measure your blanket and use those measurements as a guide, or you can lay the blanket on the fleece to mark its size instead. Either way, you want to end up with a full inch all the way around the blanket. In other words, if your blanket is 45″ x 60″, you will want to cut a piece of fleece that is 47″ x 62″. As with the example above, you will use the skip cut rotary blade to make your nice tidy row of holes around the edge. You will have to take some liberties with how you align what you are crocheting with the existing stitches in the crocheted or knitted blanket. I would personally pin the edge profusely before beginning the process of crocheting the fleece to the edge of the blanket. Below is a link to a video in which this technique is demonstrated. This video is very thorough and assumes that you are a beginner.

I was introduced to skip cut blades by a customer who was traveling through Revelstoke. She stopped in my yarn shop and asked whether I carried them. I had never heard of them. While we chatted, I looked it up online through my supplier and found them. I brought them in for her and mailed them to her when they arrived. At the time, I brought in the packs of 5 as they are more cost effective than the individual blades. I have a couple packs still in stock. My next notions order will include some singles, so that if people want to try one out without committing to 5 of them, they have that option. I have a variety of solid colours of fleece in stock and many options for yarn that could be combined with it to make it special. What a great, easy gift to make someone’s life just a little more cozy.

As always, if you like the videos I have linked to and you want to see more from the folks who took the time, effort and care to create them, show them some love. Give them your likes, share the link or subscribe to their channel. Let’s support those amazing creative people in our world. 🙂

Happy Crocheting!

Merry Christmas!

 

Where does the time go?

How can it already be just days before Christmas?

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, my sincere wish is that the remainder of this year is good to you… and that the new year provides you with hope, love and wonderful opportunities.

 

As much as this season is hyped up and coined as the

“season of peace, love and joy”,

for many people it is a deeply challenging time of year.

Getting together with family can be a wonderful thing, and it can also be stressful. Sometimes it can be filled with a mixture of anticipation, joy and conflict. For some people it is a sad reminder of the loved ones that are no longer with them. As the year comes to a close, may you find yourself surrounded by people who sincerely care about you. And if you are one of the many people who struggle at this time of year, know that you are not alone in your struggle. I offer you a heartfelt wish for all the very best.

At Judy’s Designs, we’ll be closed from December 24th to January 2nd so that we can spend some time with family. We look forward to serving you in the New Year.

As a fun little gift, I have made up a Yarn Lovers’ Crossword puzzle. It is a 2 page PDF file, with the puzzle on page 1 and the answers on page 2. No peeking! LOL I hope you enjoy it.

Here is the Crossword! 🙂

All the very best! See you in 2018.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

Merry Christmas

I want to send out a “thank-you” today.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my loyal customers, my friends and my loved ones. I am resoundingly fortunate to have your support.

It’s been a year of growth, of learning curves, hard work and challenges, and a whole lot of connections built of yarn, friendship and laughter.

However you celebrate, whatever you celebrate I wish you love, peace, joy and abundance. For those who are lonely and missing loved ones I wish you comfort and love. For those who are struggling with overwhelming challenges I wish you strength and support. For those suffering health challenges I wish you healing and a vibrant recovery. For everyone that I connect with, whether in person or through technology, I wish you all the very best of the season and a wonderful, prosperous and love-filled 2017.

I will be closing the store over the holidays from December 24 through January 2. I look forward to serving you again in the New Year. I will take a respite from my blog next week. See you in January.

Merry Christmas!

Sincerely,

Judy

Holiday Startitis

Thanksgiving has come and gone and suddenly there is a cold bite to the air. There is absolutely no denying that fall has arrived. The heater is on, the windows are closed and I’m reaching for my hand knitted socks and sweaters. The shift has happened in my store, too. I’m noticing that the chunky yarns that were being ignored in favour of cotton, bamboo and linen are now getting a lot more attention. Customers are dropping off their winter gear for repairs.

I’ve always been partial to fall. I love the changing leaves, the nip in the air and that I can bake again without it making our home unbearably hot. Along with a sense of urgency to get all my outdoor chores finished up before the snow arrives, I find myself wanting to take time to cozy up my home. The days are already noticeably shorter and the nights are definitely colder. In the evenings I want to curl up in a comfy chair with a knitting project. Although Continue reading “Holiday Startitis”