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It smells like Fall today.  It’s the leaves that suddenly started appearing on the ground immediately after Labor Day (very prompt of them).  I think I first caught the scent this morning, but didn’t realize it.  All day at work today I had the urge to start putting out autumn decorations – the big grapevine pumpkin I got on super sale from the gift shop last year, and the little scarecrow on a skewer that goes in the potted plant on the ledge of my desk.  Then when I got home from work, I crunched up the stepping stones to my door, smelled that crushed leaf smell underfoot, and I knew.  It’s as if when the air turned suddenly cold last night, someone flipped a switch and just like that we changed seasons.  Yesterday when I got home from work I couldn’t wait to put on something sleeveless and cool, turn the fan up on high, and sit in front of it with a cold drink and a book.  Today I changed into a sweatshirt and thought seriously about wool socks.  It might turn warm again later, but I think it’s too late.  It’s Fall now, and there’s no going back.

Of course, the beginning of Fall is traditionally the time when I do two things.  First, I start wondering how I have gone wrong as a knitter that I do not have a whole closet shelf full of hand-knit sweaters to snuggled up in.  So far this has not led to me actually knitting any sweaters, at least not for myself.  Usually I just think about it, and analyze the relative merits of various sweaters at length, with reference to yarn availability/affordability.  I’ve even sometimes gone so far as to actually purchase the yarn.  However, before too long my sweater ambitions get thoroughly derailed by my second traditional Fall activity: panicking over Christmas.

You see, I have this most lethal combination of qualities: a certain skill at various handcrafts, a conviction that handmade presents really are the best, a relatively large number of people to whom I wish to give presents, and a relatively small amount of money with which to procure these presents.  It’s this weird combination of being a cheapskate and a snob.  It all congeals into this strange stubbornness/arrogant pride that insists that every present I give ought to be a hand-crafted thing of wonder, and nothing else will possibly do.

Then there’s the traditional spell of amnesia, which commences as I browse through all the twenty million project photos and patterns for Advent calendars, decorations, ornaments, and all kinds of ridiculous cuteness that would be so easy to make, and take no time at all!  Really, I could knock out half a dozen gorgeously hand-sewn felt animal ornaments in an evening, and still go to bed early with a good book.  No problem.  And these paper stars would be so childishly simple to put together, there’s no reason I shouldn’t give them to just about everyone I know.  While I’m at it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t make a small village of cardboard houses to go on top of the filing shelves at work, plus a couple of felt garlands, and oh my, this little Advent calendar of tiny knit hats would look so absolutely adorable on my fireplace, plus I’ll need a grove of poster-board Christmas trees to go behind the nativity scene.  Those won’t take me long at all.  Really.

This inevitably leads straight to the customary December plunge into the depths of despair and desperation, as it becomes clear that, contrary to what the blog tutorials would have you think, making things actually takes time and effort.  (Who knew?)  Since I’ve been spending some of time and effort on things besides making Christmas presents (like, say, going to work and taking showers), I haven’t gotten nearly enough done.  Hopelessness starts to set in as deadlines approach.  Next thing I know, I’m going down that gift list with a much more ruthless eye, cutting projects right and left, and calculating how my gift budget, depleted from buying craft supplies, might stretch to actual purchased presents.

After this comes The Crunch – those final days when projects must either be completed or (oh, the shame) wrapped up as is to be presented to the recipient, and then immediately taken back to be finished.  That’s when I start raiding Redbox for anything even slightly entertaining, and staying up all night knitting and sewing until my fingers cramp.  I told one of my friends that, for crafters, that last week before Christmas is kinda like Exams, and the Post-Season play-offs all in one.  You’re going one more round, competing against the clock and your own limitations.  Some years I win, presenting everyone with tidy packages containing finished projects.  Some years … I don’t.

So far this year I think I’ve managed to stay fairly sane.  One of my major presents is all done already.  I’ve got some other pretty things, nabbed at sales and specials, stored away.  But I’m starting to feel the build up of projects calling to me.  There’s Uncle S’s sweater – all the separate parts knit, but not sewn together and finished, and scarves I promised to knit for Aunt M ages ago (all knit, but not blocked, and no buttons sewn on), and Gentle Ben’s Christmas stocking (the kid is two now, and has a younger sibling).  Plus, Fleur specially requested a doll just like the one I made for Honey, and now I know exactly how long that takes.  And then there’s the project I wanted to make for Honey, not to mention the babies, and… yeah.

I think maybe I might start raiding Redbox early this year.