Festive Gift Guide Part 1: Finding The Impossible

Over the coming weeks, I'll be posting all sorts of gift ideas - plenty of things you can make, cool products to buy (because most of us don't have time to make all the gifts, and not everyone appreciates the time and effort!), book reviews and stocking fillers. So while I'm realistic about everything not being handmade, I'm on a mission to share ideas which do not involve buying 'mass produced tat'. You're already helping me and have sent some lovely recommendations - I'm in the process of selecting things I would love to give (or to receive). But first, we must address this...

Generally I love choosing, making and giving gifts but I have to admit there is one person I dread finding something for. I think we probably all have someone like this in our lives and, while I generally hate this kind of gender distinction empirical evidence suggests this is often a father or brother. In my case it's my husband, D. He is almost impossible to buy for because (a) he already has everything he is interested in, (b) he's particular about the things he likes and (c) he doesn't have the same appreciation for handmade things that I have. It makes it very difficult to choose what to give him. If you have someone like this in your life, I have put together a small selection of  'tried and tested' things to inspire you. It needn't be a man, as only one of these isn't really unisex.

1. Something to treasure

Hip flasks were not on my radar until I came across SWIG, who kindly offered to send one for me to try. It's not the type of thing I'd normally write about, so my recommending it here really says it all. After commandeering it, D has the 'Magnetic Executive Flask' which is a smooth and shiny (very tactile) stainless steel flask in a beautifully crafted blue leather pouch, compete with magnetic flap and card slot. As well as the flask and pouch, the package included membership of the "SWIG Society" - the unique number etched onto the flask means you can track and share your travels via social media, if you are so inclined. 
This is a really great present - it came beautifully packaged, and feels like a luxury item. I am sure that it will only get better with age, and indeed it comes with a lifetime guarantee. There are lots of colours and styles to choose from including "naked" flasks, some with Harris Tweed pouches and several designs made of leather. NB: At the time of writing, selected flasks are on sale and there is free UK delivery code when you sign up by email. 

Not only is this is a super product, but I like the story behind it too. SWIG was set up in 2013 by a young entrepreneur called David who won government funding to help with his business initiative (but only after selling his possessions - including his Xbox - to fund it). It's an amusing tale which you can read on the SWIG website.

2. Something for his whiskers! 

My furry faced man swears by Kalamazoo from Lush. He first got it as a gift, and he's been buying it himself since then, as he thinks it makes a massive difference to his beard and skin. It also stops our six year old from complaining about his kisses on her soft cheeks. If you prefer DIY gifts, how about making your own beard balm? This article from The Art of Manliness tells you all you need to know to make your own. 

3. Something to read

Although this is a mass-produced item, I would definitely not call a Kindle eReader 'tat'. In fact a Kindle Voyage was my own present last year and it has been used every single day since then. It is officially one of my favourite things. Ever. There are various different devices to suit all budgets - you can find a comparison chart here to help you select one that might be right. As avid readers, we have three in our house and, using the family library feature, D and I are able to share the books that we're both interested in so it also means we can be reading the same book at the same time without needing two 'copies'.

4. Something to write in

Regular readers will know that I'm a sucker for a nice journal and Sara at Yarn Tree Studio is making some beauties at the moment, which will appeal to the Indiana Jones in anyone. I have bought several different sizes from Sara, for myself and as gifts, and they are great. Each leather cover is handmade to your specifications with lots of options to choose from (sizes and colours) and the notebooks inside are interchangeable, so the cover will last for many years. You can find them listed on the Etsy store here.

5. Something handmade

This Lovely Ribbed Cowl is a very simple free pattern from Purl Bee. It doesn't take too much meterage so it can be made to showcase a special yarn if you want to spoil your loved one without breaking the bank. If you want to use a different weight yarn from your stash, it would be easy to adjust the number of cast on stitches and rounds, so you might also be able to use a single skein you've been wondering what to do with. D finds his cowl to be really good for the winter commute - smaller and easier than a scarf and it doesn't take up much room in his bag, during the day.

I hope this selection has given you some inspiration. If you are still looking, check out my 'Impossible He' ideas page on Etsy, where I'm adding all sorts of handmade and vintage items. The next Festive Gift Guide instalment will be published soon, catch it by subscribing to the blog by email (in the sidebar) or follow the CftC Facebook page.

Now that I've told you the things that my fussy person loves, I need your help with the things that yours likes, as I still have no clue what to get for D. Please leave a comment...

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Monochrome Update: Low-lands, high-satisfaction

Last week I showed you the inspiration for a monochrome project I came up with while visiting the Netherlands. "Netherlands" literally means 'low countries' or 'low lands' - the perfect name for a beautifully flat place with enormous skylines. It's a testament to the excellent company on my trip (travelling with fellow bloggers Dedri Uys and Heike Gittins), that I have not a single photograph of the scenery with which to illustrate this point, so I'll move straight onto the yarn and knitting...
After much deliberation (and several knit and crochet swatches), I decided to knit and to use 8 mm needles for stocking stitch. This produced a firm but flexible fabric which will work really well for this item. Plus I find stocking (stockinette) stitch to be very attractive in it's simplicity.

It's the first time I've worked with the Scheepjes Mini Nooodle yarn* and it won't be the last as it knits up really well and has a lovely texture. Some other 'fabric' yarns I've used suffer from excessive stretching and lots of loose fibres, which went all over my clothes and up my nose, but this is really nice to knit with and I haven't experienced any of those issues. I am thinking of getting more in different (bright) colours to make some cushions for the sofa in my Cwtch, but I digress.

With the stitch and needles sorted, it was time to calculate the gauge and dimensions and to write the colourwork chart. There is some irony here - in complete contrast to it's namesake, this design includes many "peaks". Here's a little look at just a few of the many triangles I'm knitting... 
This project isn't going to take too long. I'm hoping to have it bound off before the end of the week, and there will be a few more things to add before it's finished. I am really happy with it so far and so it will also be written up as a blog pattern once it's finished - I think it would make a nice (quick) handmade gift.  Have you worked out what it will be yet? I'll show you the finished item next week, and you can see if you're right.

*My yarn was supplied by Scheepjes - I first spied it when I was having a tour of their warehouse, and mentioned my idea for this project. I'm not sure whether it's currently sold by stockists outside the NL, but several of their Dutch stockists will post internationally.  


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