Gift Knitting

As the holidays are fast approaching, I thought I would write a little about my experience with knitting gifts for people.

As an artsian (which we knitters are, not crafters as most people think we are), we put lots of time and love into everything we make. And when we love (or really like) someone, we want to show them how much we love them, by making something special. Something that can’t be found in any store, because it’s one of a kind – like they are. We get excited about planning and making things for them, putting a little bit of ourselves into each stitch, knowing that they will love what we made for them.

But what happens when they don’t? It breaks our hearts a little. Or actually…a lot.

I have always been a crafter and starting making gifts for people long before I knit, so I already had some experience with giving handmade gifts. After some disappointing responses, I realize that while I love everyone who is on my list (whether holiday, birthday or other special occasion), it may not be appropriate to make them something.

Knitting something often takes more time than most non-knitters know. And therefore they don’t have any idea of how much energy you put into this gift. Often they think that you made it just because you love knitting, which, while true, is not the only motivation. Knitting is most gratifying when the recipient understands the value of the item, and doesn’t just stuff it in a drawer, or accidentally put the non-washable item in the washing machine!

I put together some hints for you if you are considering knitting something as a gift. Just some things to consider before running out to your LYS to get yarn for that special project.
  1. Is this someone who will be in your life for a long time? Many of you have heard of the boyfriend curse, and while that factors into this equation, I am also speaking of passing acquaintances and such. Blood relations are a no-brainer – they are (usually) knit worthy. In-laws can be tricky, but assuming you want to foster these relationships, I suggest you put them on your knit list, even if it is just something small like a tea cozy. A good friend – absolutely.  Someone you say hello to on the bus every morning…maybe not.

  2. How will they care for the gift? After painstaking hours working on something for someone, you want to make sure that they have the FO for a long time. I am not suggesting that you don’t make something for someone because they won’t care for it like you would; I am suggesting that you consider your materials before casting on.

    I once made a sweater for someone I care for. I planned and planned and planned. I perused many pattern books to find the style that I thought looked like something she would wear, picked her favorite shade and even snuck into her drawers to measure a sweater she wore all the time to get the right size. I was so proud when I handed the box over to her to open. And she was really excited about it as well. It wasn’t until a year later, when I saw her from a distance wearing the sweater, I realized my mistake. I noticed that it looked short on her, but thought “oh, I guess I didn’t make it long enough.” It was later, when I saw sitting closer to her that I saw what had really happened. I had made the sweater out of 100% wool and she, not knowing (even though I gave care instructions with the sweater), put it in the wash. She now had a very nice felted sweater. I wanted to cry, but at the same time didn’t want her to feel bad about it, so I put it out of my mind, or I tried anyway. Clearly it still haunts me.

    In today’s yarn market there are some really nice washable wools (like LibertyWool
     or Liberty Wool Light) and now I know that when I make her something else, I will use one of those. Keep this in mind when picking yarns for your gift.

  3. A subset to the point above, when giving someone something that was handmade, be SURE to include clear instructions on how to care for the item. Of course the obvious is washing instructions. But also consider that if this person has the FO for a long time, there may be times when the object needs a little TLC. When I make socks for people I also give them instructions on how to darn their socks and a bit of leftover yarn. I tell them “I will make you socks, but I will not darn your socks.” Apparently my love does know some bounds.

  4. Does what you plan on making them “fit” them? I am not talking about size here, but instead style and lifestyle.

    My brother is one of my favorite people in the whole world. And I would do almost anything for him. Except maybe make him another sweater. I know he appreciates the one I made him. But I have come to understand that he has only worn it about three times in the past six years. He just isn’t a sweater guy. On the other hand I know he wears the socks I made for him (I have seen him wear them, even when we didn’t know we were going to be seeing each other). He may not be sweater worthy, but he is definitely sock worthy!

  5. Make the correct size.

    If you are going to make something for someone that they are going to wear, you need to know what size to make it, right? This may require some stealth-like behavior on your part. Consider a co-conspirator if you don’t live with the person. And someone who knows what you mean by measure across the chest. And/or have more than an old fashioned school ruler to measure. You may need to loan them one of your many tape measures you have laying around (oh come on…we all know you about 4,000, it’s just a matter of where).

    If you really want to make something for someone and can’t find someone to help you, you may consider outright telling the person that you are making them something. But be forewarned, you may lose control of your project at this point. They will want to have some input on the FO, which could be good or could be bad

  6. Will they appreciate it?

    This one is tricky. There are people (even people we love very much) who won’t “get” why we make them things, when you can just buy it at the store. Ouch. That hurt just typing it. But it’s true. Some people prefer to have brand names and then there are people who want to get something fast and cheap. There are probably a bunch more sub-groups of this thought process, but those are the 2 that stick out to me.

    When I make something for someone I WANT them to use it. It warms my heart to know that the blankie I made for my friend’s child might be going to the playground and not just folded on the shelf. Knowing that my brother’s feet are warm because of the socks I made him makes me happy. And I feel absolutely giddy when I see someone wrapped up in a scarf I made them. I think you get the idea.

  7. My final point applies to all gifts that you give, not just the handcrafted ones…and it is the hardest to come to terms with.
    Once you give someone something, it is no longer yours. It is theirs to do with as they wish. If you make someone a blanket and they stick in the back of the closet, you have no say in it. If you make them a sweater and you see it on the top of the pile that is going to the thrift store, that is their choice. They put it in the washing machine and felt it? Too bad, so sad.

    This was something that I had a hard time coming to terms with until a few years ago when, for whatever reason, it finally made sense to me. I feel better about
    all my gift giving knowing this.
The holidays will be here very soon. I encourage you to think about your hand-knit gifts carefully. Oh and if you haven’t started your gift knitting yet, I encourage you to think about hats and cowls as gifts. Unless of course you are a speed knitter and/or willing to pull a few all-nighters with your knitting.

1 comment:

  1. Number 7 is my tenent for anything I make and gift to/for others. Thank so for posting this elegant articulate reminder. Give with an open heart and open hand. Love your designs!