15 November 2011

thirty-nine days to go... bah humbug, I'll be knitting

Having to negotiate the vagaries of international postage for virtually every Christmas card and gift is a bit of a chore. You know that pile of air mail cards and parcels that you get ready earlier than the rest, intend to take to the post office before the end of November, accidentally forget to do until it's definitely going to be too late, and then have to pay through the nose for stamps when you know fo sho they won't arrive 'til mid-January? Picture that scenario for every card you need to send. It requires serious pre-advent organisation and it's expensive.

And I am not going to do it this year.

Why? Because every year we design, make, write and post 150 Christmas cards. Sometimes they're a bit crap, but sometimes they're good (even if I say so myself, 2009 was a pleasing vintage) and they've always had a lot of time and effort put into them. Last year we had them ready at the beginning of October so that, in a nod to philatelic economy, my Mum could haul them all the way home to post in the UK. And after all that (and a fifty quid charge for overweight luggage - oops), many thousands of miles from home for the first Christmas in our lives, we received six in return.


Talk about out of sight and out of mind. To say I was hurt doesn't even come close. Naturally cards do need to be sent, tendrils of friendship do need to be extended, even just as a reminder that we're still here. But this year they'll be largely shop-bought, ready-made and, the way things are going, they are quite likely to be late. If others can't fork out a stamp for us then who cares?

Well actually, I care. Keeping in touch matters to me. And I always feel that a home-made Christmas card, or a couple of lines of a personal message, or a scribble by the kids, embodies the spirit of the season. Particularly compared with a supermarket multipack card marked "love from X, Y and Z", but with no indication who it was intended for (ie anonymous production-line card-writing). Or worse still, the dreaded photocopied round robin (shudder).

[Apologies if you're a round robin writer, but I find even the most amusing ones (which are precious few) faintly cringe-y. Sorry. Delete the paragraph explaining my scorn for holiday letters. I know it's heartless of me to admit that said missives aren't always received in the spirit that they were intended. But trust me, I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE. Holiday letters are a perfect example of the rule that says that making something "one size fits all" simply guarantees that it will actually fit nobody properly. And I'm pretty sure some of the people who sneer at the 'holiday letter' then go on to write one themselves anyway, labouring under the illusion that theirs is better. Seriously, unless you're a newspaper columnist, it's probably not.]

By the way you can start calling me Scrooge any time around about... now. And if you were about to point out that that last paragraph highlights a possible reason why we only got half a dozen Christmas cards last year... well, fair enough. Maybe every cloud has a silver lining; fewer cards means fewer round robins. Bah humbug.

Part of me wants to maintain the higher ground with the Christmas card situation, make our own and carry on regardless. I've had some designs sketched out since August. But the coming month is going to be busy, and there comes a point when you've got to prioritise. I don't mean to sound self-pitying (even though I know that I TOTALLY do!) I've just decided to invest time and creative energy elsewhere this year, safe in the knowledge that the sentiment would have gone largely unreturned anyway. Perhaps normal service will be resumed next year.

On a more positive note, one parcel is already winging its way across the oceans to my dear friend in time for Christmas. The stash-buster scarf is finished, and I'm super duper pleased with it. Not only did it completely use up the odds and ends that it was intended to, but by sheer luck I think it's probably the most useful and wearable thing I've ever made. It's about 6'2", there are 600+ rows of K1P1, and it was pure meditation to make. This is going to be a tricky Christmas for her, but I hope this shows how much I've been thinking of her. A kiss in every stitch and all that.

modelled by my glamorous assistant!

On completing it I realised that since July (and since starting this blog) I've made only shawls and scarfs, nothing else. Time to stretch my brain cells with a last-minute Christmas knit for my little poppet. This is going to be a Zooey cardigan from Rowan kids, using Rowan Extra Fine DK Merino that has been sitting in my box since April 2010. Such a perfect Christmas colour in squishy soft merino - I hope I get it finished in time!

Where books are concerned, I've just finished the Booker prize winner, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Everything I've ever read by him is so carefully written, and this is no exception. You can just sense that every sentence has been considered at length so that it says precisely what it needs to. Nothing more, nothing less. So despite being a short book, it took me a couple of weeks to read, in small slow chunks. I enjoyed it a lot, I find his style very interesting. Next on the list is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I thought that Middlesex was phenomenal, so I hope this doesn't disappoint.

Joining in with the inspirational Ginny and her weekly Yarn Along on Wednesday. Do nip over to see what others are making and reading, they'd all love you to join in. And I'm pretty sure they're all feeling more benevolent with their Christmas spirit too!


  1. I stopped sending xmas card and send xmas e-cards instead.. nowadays it will be a real treat to receive anything in the mail.

  2. great scarf and a lovely red for your little poppet! i can't stand the round robin cards either but i do love a great picture card.

  3. Seriously - only 39 days???
    Oh my - I hope I sent you a Xmas card last year. I know I missed your birthday and I feel awful about that. :-(
    I haven't got my head around Xmas being so close yet. Time just flies. I haven't even checked to see whether or not my Mum is working on the day - I need to know what day we are having Xmas.
    I'm so in awe of your cardigan making - looking forward to seeing her wearing it.
    Miss you loads - even if I forget your birthday card. xxx

  4. Dominique - ecards is quite an idea. Certainly I've had some from friends who donate to charity for each ecard sent - better than wasting cardboard!

    Nunu - you're right, LOVE a picture card, especially a really silly one! Last year, my brother and his wife went down to their local charity shop and bought BAD knitwear, before posing in front of the most hideous tree they could find in real catalogue model poses - priceless!

    PDNFTA - are you kidding? You didn't just send a card, you mailed an amazing ocean craft set for the girl, which we still use bits and pieces from! And don't be daft about the birthday, I'll be sure to give you plenty of notice when I turn 29 (ahem!).

    39 days and counting down...

  5. Oh, how I love handmade cards, but I can understand your pain. We did the same thing last year...painstakingly made each individual card, probably sending out about 60 or 70 and receiving about 8 in return. It's definitely a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind, which is sad since some of these people are family and/or lifelong friends. This year with the baby I've decided to skip Christmas. I don't think I'll even bother with cards, and I'm only purchasing gifts for my boy and husband. Some years it's just too much.

    Your scarf is just beautiful! Your friend is so lucky and will be very warm and happy. And I LOVE the Zooey cardigan too. It's beautiful and in such a gorgeous color.

  6. Looking forward to your word on The Marriage Plot. I too loved Middlesex.

    Love what you say about Christmas cards. How funny - I thought this might be the first year in many I might finally get off my buttocks and do them. Of course, now the lead-up to Christmas might include a big house move, so it'll be a miracle if it happens. At least I can always count on my mortgage broker to send me a card (!)

    Oh, and the finished scarf is glorious x

  7. I think investing your time and energy in something that will be appreciated (and that you in return will feel good about) is a much better idea than making and sending loads of cards and not feeling like you get the same level of thought (or any!) back in return.

    Love the scarf, beautiful project (and yay for stashbusting!)

  8. I hear you on the Christmas card thing. I tend to send out to a select few now and I always make a point to send a card back to those who took the time to send me one. I remember one year hand making cards and it was nice to know, a few people actually had them on their fridge months later anh one friend framed hers. Christmas always sneaks up on me. Which is silly as it is the same day every year.
    What a beautiful scarf you made your friend. May it be cherished. Jacinta x

  9. i keep a family christmas planner through the year. i have always been very prepared for christmas, making my cards, gifts, sending things out early so they arrive in time. over the last few years i have noticed a huge drop in card swapping, maybe the economy? not sure what the deal is,but i so understand what you are saying.
    your red yarn cardigan is lovely and i'm sure you can get it finished in time.

  10. Sweet scarf and such pretty red yarn for your cardi!

  11. The red yarn looks lovely!
    As to the cards- well we don't send many any more either- just ones to the people who sent us one last year usually.

  12. i love your thoughts. when my children all lived at home i always did the photo card handmade. for many years we didn't get anything in return. finally it stopped, kids moved out, i lost motivation. then i heard from people, where is your cute card? why haven't you sent it this year?? funny.
    love the red, your daughter is going to be so cute. and thank you for the wishes, i had to remove that part after thinking on it....
    happy knitting.

    oh, and your scarf is beautiful!

  13. The scarf is lovely, all that effort is defitely going to be appreciated. Loving the christmas coloured yarn in the last pic too :)

  14. hey there, i saw your comment at karens regarding the shawl, i probably misspelt the word (like i do :) but here's the link to the one i have queued...


    i love to see all the finished projects, the color combinations are endless!

  15. Ok, so strange. I seriously just wrote a post about this and scheduled it for sometime next week!!! With some of the exact same thoughts. We are on the same wavelength, I guess! It is SO frustrating to send out tons of cards and not get any in return. For some reason people are scared to send things overseas. Sending to us in Sweden from our "home" in the US is less than $1USD and there is no special procedure - just address and dump in the post. The lack of effort on the part of our friends and family has been really disappointing.


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