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Jumper Cables to Bean Bags: Practical Gift Giving
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Jumper Cables to Bean Bags: Practical Gift Giving

"I have always felt that it is a lot nicer to make presents than to buy them. It is also more creative and individual, as well as less expensive."
- Esther Hautzig, Let's Make More Presents

Red and black coated wire, heavy and thick, coiled in concentric circles. Four ferocious teeth-like clamps on each end. Guaranteed to "stay flexible in the cold" was written on the cardboard tented over them. A few industrial staples shot through the center held the whole affair together. Not an easy package to wrap--which it wasn't. My first anniversary gift from my husband, Rody.

"What are they?" I asked him.

"Jumper cables, in case your car won't start," he told me. Late in getting a driver's license, I was completely unknowledgeable of almost everything automotive. Rody had just helped me find my first car, a second-hand bruiser, and was transitioning me into car maintenance.

"I wanted to give you something you needed. Now you’re ready for winter," he continued. "It's a perfect gift." Everything automotive delighted Rody. It still does.

Back then, my visions of perfect gifts were softer and more glittery. They did not have an afterlife in a trunk. Usually they were worn. Over the years, however, I have come to appreciate the perfection of that clunky and practical first anniversary present. We have come a long way in our marriage. Changing as we learn from each other, I have moved over to the hand-made side of Rody's jumper cables. Always ranked high on my gift knit list are washcloths, hats, mittens, and scarves. This holiday season, though, shortly after our 27th anniversary, I found myself wanting to experiment— add to my repertoire of the functional. Could I develop some new easy pieces to keep on hand for last minute giving? Something I could grab on the way out the door to neighbors, or meeting a friend for coffee.

A few days ago on a sunny, bitterly cold morning, I headed to my studio, armed with two balls of Lion Brand Jiffy, a pair of size 3 straight needles, a small pom-pom makers, a bag of baby lima beans, a measuring cup, a large-eye yarn needle, and a pile of untested ideas. My design parameters were clear--using only garter stitch and chunky yarn--items were to be quick and practical. Once I left my chair to reheat my coffee. A few times, I made a pilgrimage to my needle basket to change sizes. By lunch time, I had four projects.

"What do you think?" I asked Rody later, showing him the samples, one by one. The key chain scarf easily passed the test. The luggage ties, inspired by his original employment of a hand-woven Guatemalan belt to distinguish his black rolling suitcase from all the others, received a high score. The bookmark graced with washer made the grade as well.

"One more," I said and tossed him the bean bag, the only non-utilitarian item. Or at least that's what I had thought.

Then Rody tossed it back to me.

"You know I always kept a ball on my desk," he said. "Sometimes I'd toss to someone across the office. Or back and forth, walking down the hall. It's a great tension breaker. Very useful"

From this practical knitter to you. Bearing Rody's coveted stamp of approval, I offer four handy dandy total useful project patterns. So simple, they are more like recipes. For those of you in the final rush to finish that fine gauge, triple--axel--cabled Norwegian-style ski cap. Save it for the next year. Give your hands a well deserved rest. Take a bookmark break. Or better yet, relax and stitch a bean bag. Then toss it about. Have some fun. You might have to knit another one. For yourself.

Happy Holiday Knitting!


The Patterns:

All patterns are knit in Lion Brand Jiffy in Paprika and Apple Green. Gauges vary. Small amounts of yarn are needed for projects. A skein of each color will make many projects.

Key Chain Scarf

Key Chain ScarfMaterials:
Small amounts of 450-132 Jiffy Yarn-Apple Green and 450-133 Jiffy Yarn-Paprika
Size 3 knitting needles
Small Pom-Pom Maker
Large Eye Blunt Needle

Finished size: About 7 by 5/8 inches, stretch to measure.
Gauge: About 5 stitches to an inch. Exact gauge is not crucial.

KEY CHAIN
Cast on 3 stitches in Paprika yarn.
Knit each row until entire piece measures 7 inches.
Bind off.

FINISHING
With Apple Green yarn, make two pom poms leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread tail through the large eye blunt needle and securely attach one pom pom to each end of the item. Weave in loose ends.

Luggage Tie/Tag

Luggage TieMaterials:
Small amounts of 450-132 Jiffy Yarn-Apple Green and 450-133 Jiffy Yarn-Paprika
Size 3 knitting needles
Small Pom-Pom Maker
Large Eye Blunt Needle

Finished size: About 7 by ¾ inches, stretch to measure.
Gauge: About 5 stitches to an inch. Exact gauge is not crucial

LUGGAGE TIE
Cast on 4 stitches in Apple Green.
Knit each row until entire piece measures 11 inches.
Bind off.

FINISHING
With Paprika yarn, make two pom poms leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread tail through the large eye blunt needle and securely attach one pom pom to each end of the item. Weave in loose ends.


Book Mark

BookmarkMaterials:
Small amounts of 450-132 Jiffy Yarn-Apple Green and 450-133 Jiffy Yarn-Paprika (optional)
Size 10.5 knitting needles
1 Metal Faucet Washer
Large Eye Blunt Needle

Finished size: About 6 by 1.3 inches, stretch to measure.
Gauge: About 3 stitches to an inch. Exact gauge is not crucial.

BOOK MARK
Cast on 4 stitches in Apple Green yarn.
Knit each row until piece measures 5.75 inches.
Bind off.

FINISHING
Thread large eye blunt needle with 6 inches of Paprika, or a contrasting color yarn and securely attach the Metal Faucet Washer to one end of the item. Weave in loose ends.

Bean Bag: Plain and Alien

Bean BagsMaterials:
Small amounts of 450-132 Jiffy Yarn-Apple Green, 450-133 Jiffy Yarn-Paprika, and 450-120 Jiffy Yarn-Dove (optional)
Size 10.5 knitting needles
Small Pom-Pom Maker
Large Eye Blunt Needle
Dried Baby Lima Beans - small bag

Finished size: About 2.75 by 5 inches
Gauge: About 4 stitches to an inch. Exact gauge is not crucial, but it should be close. The bean bag knit must be tight enough to keep beans in and flexible enough to throw.

BEAN BAG
Cast on 20 stitches in Paprika yarn. Knit each row until entire piece measures 5.5 inches. Bind off. Fold in half. Thread Large Eye blunt needle with about 12 inches of project’s yarn sew up side and bottom. Fill the bag with about 1/3 cup dried baby lima beans. Sew top close.

FINISHING
With Apple Green yarn, make two pom poms leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread tail through the large eye blunt needle and securely attach one pom pom to top corners of the item. Weave in loose ends. For the Alien bean bag, using Dove, or a third color, embroider eyes, nose and mouth.




Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
 
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