On the HGP (I wish I could footnote here. That is the “Holiday Grand Plan,” an online holiday preparation thing that started in late August. If you obediently do all that it tells you to do, then you are ready for all the holidays without stress or strain.), December 10th is the deadline for “adults only” Christmas crafts. That is, you can still make cookies with the kids or do any family gift-making for the grandparents or whatever, but the individual crafting is to be finished. I extended it by one day, since I had the 11th off, and was able to complete the final hat for the DNA scarf trilogy, and the trendy things I am making to surprise #2 daughter. I also got the boys to their haircuts, completed the pre-Christmas grocery shopping, and mailed the box of presents to #1 daughter and son-in-law. I will still have to get to the grocery once more for perishables, and my boys have grown more and so must have new pants (do you imagine I would go to Old Navy during a December weekend? Hah!), but otherwise, I do not intend to set foot in a store till January. Except the one I work in, of course.

I am decorating gradually. Yesterday, in the spirit of completing all my individual holiday crafting, I made pillowcases from Christmas flannel. I also made some potpourri. I sent some to #1 daughter and put the rest in my bedroom, along with the pillowcases, and that is about all I intend to do for that room. If you should want to make holiday pillowcases, buy a yard of flannel, look closely at an existing pillowcase to make sure you are folding in the right direction, fold it in two, and sew it up. Hem the edge.

Potpourri is easy, too, but more time-consuming. First you need botanicals – that is, plant material. I grow and dry them myself, but you can buy stuff, too. I based mine on Marie Browning’s Three Kings Potpourri. I used rose petals, cedar tips, and some whole spices (juniper berries, cloves, and cinnamon sticks) from the health food store. I put in a bit of copper mica powder for sparkle.

You also need scent oils. You can buy ready-mixed scents if you like (my all-time favorite for Christmas is Noel from Crabtree and Evelyn), but it is fun to mix them. Master perfumers mix up to a thousand different scents, but if you’re just trying it out for fun like me, you can do it with three.

Fragrances are like chords: you have to have top, middle, and bottom notes. The bass notes are wood and animal (musk, ambergris, etc) scents. The middle notes are fruits and spices. The top notes are flowers and grasses. As a rule of thumb, you want a 1-2-3 ratio. One drop of sandalwood, two drops of ginger, three drops of jasmine.

For my Christmas potpourri, I used oakmoss for the bass note. I added frankincense for the baritones, shall we say, and myrrh for the tenor. Cinnamon oil for the alto. Rose for the soprano. It’s very pretty and not too sweet. If you wanted something sweeter, you could let rose be the mezzo and add clover or honey for a first soprano note.

I’ve had one more concert added in, on the 20th, which makes for a little burst of music right after #2 daughter gets home (Messiah is on the 19th). However, with presents and food under control, and having gotten down to the minor details in the matter of decorating, I am ready to enjoy the season peacefully. In recognition of which, today’s song is a nice little bit of Gregorian chant, “Creator of the Stars of Night.”

It was translated from Latin by Neale in the 1800s, but you could certainly sing it in Latin if you prefer. More than one tune is frequently used for this text, but this 7th century chant is my favorite. It is a good Advent hymn, though admittedly not exactly catchy. I don’t think the 7th century produced a lot of catchy music.


I must admit that it is a relief to be finished with hurried knitting. I like to be contemplative and not rushed about my knitting. I have begun a Fair Isle project — not a cardigan, I will save that for the yarn Santa might be bringing to me , but a sort of warm-up project. I’m using a bunch of heather and variegated Wool-Ease I bought on sale in the fall, and Elsebeth Lavold’s “Siv” for the shape of the sweater. I’ve already made it in Wool-Ease once and know that I will like it. I am using Alice Starmore’s “Donegal” for the pattern chart. I am using 2s for the ribbing and 5s thereafter. Since I have several sets of 5s, I may do the front patterned but the back plain, so that I will have some simple relaxing stockinette to do when the fussy, fiddly Fair Isle seems unappealing.