It is an annual event in which you either participate whole-heartedly… or skip altogether for lack of intestinal fortitude, time or heaven-help-you, yarn.
The Holiday Crochet Gift Marathon does not have a specific start date nor a finish line (other than Christmas morning) and isn’t the same distance for everyone, which doesn’t seem fair. Crocheting five projects for our most cherished loved ones is a leisurely stroll around the block; cranking out dozens of pretties to fill an extensive gift list is the whole 26 miles and 385 yards at full tilt.
In my life BCD (before crochet designing) I stayed the course year after year. Once the professional deadlines began piling up I had to ditch all personal projects. Work trumps play every time. It has been nearly a decade since I’ve run the race. But I remember what it was like.
Fun. It used to be awesome fun, and I say that with no trace of sarcasm. I loved the whole process, from compiling the naughty/nice list (in other words, choosing which giftees were most worthy of something hand crocheted and who wouldn’t appreciate the gesture enough to deserve the effort), to coordinating yarns and projects, to the all-night end weaving sessions, to seeing the reactions (usually delight) of the recipients on Christmas. One aspect I often didn’t like was having to give away certain items. There was always a project or two per marathon that I loved enough to want to keep. This is why you should always follow Marathon Rule #3.
So I have gotten ahead of myself. What I thought to do today is share some helpful and hard-won tips regarding the Holiday Crochet Marathon, most of them common sense. In doing so I don’t claim any expertise in the race, I only hope to show you what I learned, and in the process, make myself feel better about not being able to run this year.
1– Start early. Earlier than you think. Earlier than is seemly. August would have been good, but as it is already November you should really be starting now. At least before Thanksgiving. An acceptable reason for waiting until after Thanksgiving would be if you want to take advantage of possible Black Friday sale prices on yarn. But really, you should already be a mile off the starting line.
2– Choose projects for which you have plenty enough yarn on hand. Do not risk the agony of running out of materials to complete anything. I cannot stress this enough. If you have 4 hanks of a yarn, don’t try to squeeze a whole adult sweater out of them. Choose a different gift project that requires less than 4 hanks.
3– Use yarns you will not miss. I once crocheted a marathon project in one of my finest acquisitions, the softest, bluest, most luxurious yarn brought back as a souvenir from a trip. The wrap looked so good on me. Really. I still regret having given it away. So under no circumstances should you dig into your personal absolute favorite stash.
4– Do use yarns and colors that will be appropriate and happy for the ultimate recipient. Say you have a butt load of blue yarn because you just love blue and you’d really like to make gifts with it but your sister doesn’t like blue. Pick something else for her, in her best color, not yours.
5– Know your limits. Instead of planning too many marathon gifts, it is better to plan fewer and give yourself extra time in case stuff happens. If you are a super fast, efficient, single-minded crocheter and can say with absolute certainty that you will not be sidetracked by inclement weather, unexpected guests or other emergencies, then by all means do more.
6– Pace yourself. Can’t marathon if you burn out too soon. Take a breather after each project. Pat yourself on the back. Have some wine or chocolate before going on to the next.
7– No hinting to anyone. Do not tell people that you are making hand-crocheted gifts this year. If they aren’t the ones getting the pretties then they’ll feel miffed.
8– Bigger is not better. Huge, elaborate projects make wonderful special gifts but have no place in the marathon queue. Keep your projects to a manageable size. This does not mean the gifts have to be easy or simple or plain. Instead of skimpy, think of smaller projects as unique showcases for your skills.
9– Pay particular attention to the details, like end weaving, blocking if needed, and finishing. This raises the level of your work from homemade to hand-crafted.
10– Pour your passion, your very being into every step of the marathon. Think about the person for whom you are crocheting while you are crocheting. You’ll discover that each gift will be the most precious thing you could give; not just a pile of looped yarn, but a piece of yourself.