Knitted Gifts: Setting the Record Straight

The following is the longest post ever. Usually I try to keep it short, so as to not indulgently ramble on, but I had to get my soapbox out and to get this off my chest. Hopefully if you’re a knitter you’ll take the time to read and leave a comment with your own opinions on the matter.

I love knitting for others. Since I learned to knit about two years ago, only a few of my completed projects have been for me and those I’ve presented with knitted gifts have been more than gracious and stoked about their presents. My daughter wore out the first pair of socks I made and has demanded more. She’s been known to sleep in the first hat I knit for nights on end and when she sees me casting on something new, she always asks, “What are you knitting? Can I have it?” (She is 11 though and I’m sure there will come a time when a hand knitted garment from Mom will be the…worst…thing…ever.)

My best friend, Ericka, has also enjoyed her hand knit gifts. There’s one hat that just didn’t come out how I liked it, I felt it looked obviously handmade, but she chastised me one day when I teased that she only said she liked it to be nice. “Excuse me? You don’t tell me if I like something or not!” This past weekend she made my evening recounting the numerous compliments she’s received on that rolled brim hat and basket weave scarf knit out of the same yarn. Someone even asked if I sell my wares. I grinned from ear-to-ear.

Then there’s my brother and mother. Both have requested specific items (hats, gloves, and a shawl for Mom) and have lovingly worn these items that I made them with pride.

So why do I need to set the record straight? There are others, beloved friends, teachers at my daughter’s school, even virtual strangers who don’t “get it”.

I'm not there yet...

I pretty much know my own knitting skills. I don’t mind a challenge, but I’ve had requests for projects that I know are way out of my league and will be for some time. I’m not ready for a sweater with six different types of cables (or any sweater for that matter) and when I am, it’s going to be that famous Central Park Hoodie…for myself. All others will have to wait in line for something that complex.

Time is a most valuable thing…

I work full time, am a mother full time, a part time housekeeper and cook. There are errands to run, shopping to be done and groceries to purchase. I love staying at home and relaxing, there’s reading, playing on my DS, television to be watched but I’m not a hermit…yet. I’m still like to catch a movie, go out to dinner, and get some fresh air. Knitting is on the top of my list as a great stress reliever but as much as I’d love to, unfortunately I don’t have endless hours to play with my yarn. Did I mention that I’m a rather slow knitter with quite a few projects in my queue? I might not get to your request for quite some time (try next year).

It’s the thought that counts…right?

I think this is what burns me the most. I have several friends with very discriminating tastes. Basically, they’re picky. I’m not mad, there’s nothing wrong with that. I have a few things I’m picky about as well, purses for one. However, if I have an inkling that someone might not enjoy what I knit for them, that it might get thrown in the back of their closet, that the item might never be worn, said person is not getting a knitted item for me…period. For one, see the above paragraph, my time is valuable. Plus, at the minimum a very basic hat is going to take a few hours to knit and if there’s any complexity to the pattern at all, sometimes many more. I don’t knit to sell my items and I usually don’t even request that a person purchase the yarn. But trust me, I’m not desperately combing the streets, “Please, I need to knit you something and I hope you’ll wear it at least once!” I don’t require the spoilee to think my gift is the next best thing since sliced bread, just a give a showing or two, wear it once or twice (even if it's in the privacy of your home. I won't know the difference) and show a bit of gratitude.

This is especially true after a recent incident. One of my neighbors was going through chemo treatments and lost her hair. I thought I’d whip up a really soft, cotton chemo cap in a lovely shade of lavender. It turned out really large so I worked out a braided cord to make a drawstring so she could make it fit and in the end I thought it was very pretty (pat on the back). When I presented her the gift bag (in a matching color no less), she kind of looked at it blandly, thanked me and said, “Oh, you made this for me because you heard I’d lost my hair, huh?” She even hinted that the hat might not look right without hair on her head (which totally defeats the purpose of a chemo cap, btw). My feelings were hurt. It was as if I’d been snooping about, when her illness was common knowledge. Granted, she’s older and I’m sure she wasn’t feeling her best, plus it’s normal for her to be difficult at times. Still, I really thought she’d appreciate wearing something pretty to her therapy sessions instead of a bland hat. Oh well.

Edited to add: My neighbor did wear her chemo cap and she looked lovely in it. I should have given her a break for two reasons (kind of mentioned above, but obviously I wasn't feeling it then). First and foremost, she was sick! Second, as my mother reminded me, she is always sourfaced even when she wasn't sick. So I'm glad to add, that she's recovered very well and continues to be her grumpy self. I don't know if she loved the hat, she could have hated it, but she wore it once and that's all the gratitude I need.

Don’t talk to strangers...

Again, see the above. If I’m not close to the person (unless it’s charity knitting), if it’s a friend of a friend of a friend, a co-worker that only converses with me in passing, they aren’t getting my knitted items. Like I said, I’m not even accepting offers of being paid right now (maybe one day). How do you calculate the time spent on a project? What would one charge? Sometimes I’ll see a hand knit piece and incredulously turn my nose up at the price, but I get why, I really do.

It’s just….I can choose my own yarn, in my favorite color, and make it myself. ;)

Rant over. Soapbox put away in storage.


Wool Free and Lovin' Knit said...

I hear you. That's why everyone in my family got a copy of my "knit worthy" survey this year at Christmas. I said that I was not saying I WOULD knit for anyone or WHEN I might knit for anyone but as it was obvious that I like knitting I may at some point consider gifting them with one of my hand knits and therefore I would like to know in advance who wants what. So they had to check off from a long list of garments, accessories and home decor items any that appealed to them. Provide colors, measurements, style preferences and the like. This way when I do get around to taking the time to knit for others, I'll know that I'm spending my time and money on something they actually hope to get one day.
A few close friends are getting a copy of the survey too, just in case I ever get the inspiration to knit for them as well. As for the general populace? Not a chance!

apple said...

I feel the exact same way! I've had certain friends tell me how wonderful it is to receive hand-made personalized knits, while others just give me that "Oh..... thank you....."

After a few of those, I've decided I'm only knitting for myself unless somebody wants a replica of something I've already made. Don't get me wrong, I like knitting for others but this way I know beforehand that they'll like it for sure. :)

greener side said...

I'm a knitter but have not taken up a new project this winter yet. There is something special about what goes into your knitting projects and I tend to only knit for those that will appreciate the gift.

As for the woman that was going through chemo and had lost her hair, I would give her the largest benefit of forgiveness that you can muster. Your heart was in the right place and you did something very sweet for this woman. Give yourself a pat on the back. I imagine she is struggling and maybe even in denial about the cancer and you know us women and our hair!

Just my 2 cents worth.


iggystar said...

@ Wool Free...that's a really good idea, a knitting survey. I might just adopt that.

@ greener side...yeah, she's been our next-door neighbor since my mother was a child. Over 50 years, so I'm not necessarily suprised. She's kind of a curmudgeon that way, but more like family. I agree, forgiveness is best...I just needed to get it off my chest.

@ apple and the others...thanks so much for your comments. :)