On the tenth day of Christmas…

We interrupt this crafting blitz for a musical interlude.

I mentioned the oboe that had to make it through airport security.  The reason it had to come with me at all was the potential trouble I would likely be in had I not.  You see, I am named for each of my parents’ younger sisters.  One is The Crafter, and the other is The Musician.  Aunt Musician came to visit while I was up the mountain.

Aunt Musician was the child prodigy, picking out the tunes my mother and her older sister were learning in piano lessons before she was tall enough to actually see the keys on the piano.  She is, needless to say, an accomplished pianist, and really likes making music with the various and sundry musicians in our family.  I’m sure she would have understood if I didn’t want to cart the thing all the way up there, but I’ve been looking for a good excuse opportunity to play, and we always have a good time together.

I was very silly and neglected to bring along any of my sheet music with accompaniments, so we made due with Mom’s collection of old church hymnals and a quick lesson in playing Beatles tunes by ear.  The latter was moderately successful, as she was kind enough to transpose into playable keys and largely picked out the songs with easier melodies.  (As a side note, “Because” is not nearly as easy to pick out on instruments as voice.)

We did not make it very far into the usual Christmas carols before she started trolling the hymnal index for interesting composers.  I have to admit, I had somehow missed that a few of the hymns that had become staples in my church growing up were composed by Gustav “y’know… The Planets guy” Holst.

Then she got all excited finding the Ralph Vaughan Williams hymns.  For the most part, they weren’t the most familiar songs.  While I was impressed by their musicality, and had little trouble sight reading the music on the oboe, I couldn’t help but notice that some were rather difficult to sing.  Then a nagging sense of familiarity finally floated to the surface, and I realized where I’d heard these before.  The minister at my old home church is also a classically trained musician.  I’d always assumed that he wasn’t intentionally picking out the hardest hymns for us to sing each week, but I figured they must be old standards from the churches he grew up in.

As I sat there listening to my family – many of them seasoned church choir members – stumbling over these melodies, I realized that our dear pastor must have used the very same method of choosing hymns that Aunt Musician was demonstrating.  The old band nerd probably flipped back to the index and picked out his favorite composers, too.

Besides my moment of revelation, the evening was well spent.  The eclectic music selection and familial revelry made for great entertainment, and I really can’t emphasize enough what a special treat it is to play with my aunt, since we live so far apart, but collaborate so easily.

I was even pleased to see that my poor unpracticed embouchure was able to hold up for more than thirty seconds, and my fingers could still find all the right keys.  Now I just need to find more time to practice, and remember to take the bloody sheet music with me next time.

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On the ninth day of Christmas…

My niece has a wiggle.  I suspect it will soon morph into more nefarious actions like a crawl and then a walk, but for now, she is only able to use it to terrorize explore the area directly around her and to rid herself of unwanted garments.  If you put a hat on her head, she will pull it off.  If you put socks on her feet, she will kick her tiny legs with such verve that the footwear just flies right off.  Then, of course, her head and feet are cold.

Last year for Christmas, I made a set of slippers for my brother and his wife, then used the leftover yarn from both to make a tiny pair of slippers for their as-yet unborn child.  They were adorable in their smallness, but ultimately turned out to be too small by this winter, so I decided this year to make something a little more versatile – slipper socks.  While I was at it, I figured I’d make a matching hat.  Not that she needs another one, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

My brief visit with them just before Christmas inspired me to make some adjustments to my original plan.  I wouldn’t just make cute things.  I’d make cute practical things.

Thus, I created wiggle-resistant infant wear:

I took a good deal of crap from some of my family for taking so long to finish such tiny garments, but I finally completed the set a few days after Christmas, and delivered them tonight in my brief stop between the airport and I-10.

Blessedly, everything fit (at least for the time being), and I even got my niece’s seal of approval – the hat was not on her head for a full minute before one of the ties was in her mouth.

On the eighth day of Christmas…

This one isn’t technically done yet, but I am so thrilled with it, I just have to post it early.

Many moons ago, Dear Roommie spotted this crochet magazine on a rack at Joann’s.

She bought it and begged me to make her the “Windmill Bag” on the cover.  I said I would.

While I was at the craft fair over the summer, I stopped into the local yarn-vana and picked up two balls of a really stunning hand-spun and dyed wool blend, and a cashmere merino silk aran blend in a complementary color.  My plan was to make a smaller version of the bag as her Christmas present.

Naturally, I had to show her the yarn immediately upon my return in August, but I didn’t get the bag (sans handles) finished until tonight.

Because I was working with such a small amount of yarn, I obviously had to scale down the pattern.  It’s actually very easy – just four long rectangular pieces joined together at their ends with the sides sewn up.  To scale down, I just made the panels with fewer stitches across and fewer rows long.

The only part left is the handles.  When carried, it should look most like this:

I do not have a reaction yet, since Dear Roommie will not be able to see this in person until I get back to Texas late tomorrow.  I promise updates when the bag is actually completed.

On the seventh day of Christmas…

Tonight, I give you repair No. 2. My sister-in-law commissioned a repair many moons ago, which unfortunately sat untouched for too long while the chaos in the craft room stubbornly refused to be tamed.  When I finally dug out the supplies for Dear Roommie’s Dear Mother’s necklace, I warmed up with this repair. It seems sister-in-law’s sister had a necklace made with these large, heavy turquoise beads that were so large and tightly strung that they stubbornly refused to lay flat.  Then the nylon string on which they were strung finally gave up altogether, and the necklace broke. The request was very simple: Can you fix the necklace, and maybe add some beads in between so the thing will lay flat and not break? Having played with some turquoise for a previous project, I knew exactly what the necklace needed. I have poppy jasper chip beads in my collection, and they are some of my very favorites because of their rich color and the variety of shades of red and brown.  The giant turquoise beads also happened to have similar shades of brown in them, so it seemed a natural fit to pair my tiny poppy jasper chips with the turquoise monsters.

The color match is bold, but works because the red is so small.  I briefly considered silver spacers as well, but that just seemed unnecessary.

The final product was yet another success.  Not only did I score another victory in my new adventures in color coordination, but I also secured the mechanical fix needed to prevent the necklace from self-destructing.  The beads are strung on not one but two strands of nylon-coated wire.  In addition to the spacer beads, I left a little slack on the string so the beads will freely move when the necklace is pulled into a ring.  Most of the hardware was still functional, so I just reused it, but I used fresh bead tips.

Once again, the necklace was delivered to a very satisfied customer.  Sister-in-law’s sister immediately put it on and wore it all night when I saw her on December 23.  It even survived a little tugging by our darling niece.

On the sixth day of Christmas…

Now we venture into the repairs portion of my holiday crafting.

My aunt and cousin arrived at our little mountain paradise earlier this week.  Yesterday, my aunt very sweetly asked for my assistance with a small problem.  You see, she had purchased as a Christmas present for my cousin, a really awesome kitty hat – a Cat Hat, if you will.

However, Cat Hat was missing a pom pom.  It may have been missing already by the time of purchase, but my Aunt was just so thrilled to find something her daughter would so dearly love that she just didn’t even notice the status of the pom pom until after the giving of the gift.

Her request to me:
“Can you think of some way to replace this pom pom?”

In the course of investigating the construction of the remaining pom, I realized that it was far too dense to properly analyze.  Shortly thereafter, I came to the conclusion that the thing could probably be cut off and split into two poms, which would likely still be very full and fluffy.

Tonight I did just that.  I was able to find the knots holding the pom on and together, and as I cautiously pulled out chunks of string, my aunt diligently straightened and grouped the strings so that they could then be retied and reattached.

The finished product, I am pleased to report, looked perfect.

On the fifth day of Christmas…

We now move into the first of the August craft fair gifts.  Specifically, this is the only one that required any further crafting.  I purchased a very lovely glass pendant for Dear Roommie’s Dear Mother, with plans of turning it into a necklace.

Exhibit A
Lovely pendant:

Needless to say, I didn’t get it done before I drove Dear Roommie and Dear Mother to the airport two days before Christmas.  Instead, I dug out a corner of the craft room and put together the necklace in the few hours between the airport drop-off and my own long drive to Houston.

I am especially fond of creating multi-strand and mixed-media jewelry.  In this case, the ribbon back half also served to save my sanity after stringing half of four strands of seed beads while under a time limit.

The finished product turned out a good bit longer than I intended, so I’ll probably have to take apart the ribbon portion and try again, but I was really pleased with the final design.

Exhibit B
Completed necklace: