Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bah, Humbug: First In a Series?

The holiday shopping season is now officially upon us. While the especially clever of you have been knitting gifts for weeks or months already, the rest are beginning to consider the situation. This isn't going to be one of those posts in which I lecture anyone about leaving things til the last minute (me, of all people!), nor am I going to offer any brilliant suggestions for last-minute knitted gifts (not right now, anyway). Instead, I'm going to ask a contrarian question: why are you knitting gifts?

I don't mean to suggest that you shouldn't. I just want you to take stock for a moment and consider why you do. There are lots of good reasons--knitting someone a gift is a wonderful opportunity to show them how well you know them and how much you care, not to mention giving you a chance to work with yarns or colors you may not have tried before, a chance to show off a bit, and possibly a chance to save some money.

But I've seen lots of knitters who don't seem all that enthusiastic about the gifts they're preparing to knit. There are telltale signs: the knitter who starts out saying, "I want something really luxurious" but then complains if the cost of materials is going to be more than $15; the knitter who says repeatedly, "I love this color, but she wouldn't"; the knitter who wants something "conservative" or "refined" but then grimaces every time a needle size below 10 is mentioned. These are all signs of hidden (or not-so-hidden) resentment: for one reason or another, the gift-maker wishes she could avoid this project.

So I've been puzzled: If you don't want to knit this person a gift, why do it? I never have the nerve to ask "It sounds like you're kind of ambivalent about this person; have you considered whether you should be knitting for them at all?" After all, I'm the shopkeeper, not the therapist. But I listen closely to the clues people give, and I'm surprised how often I hear traces of something like emotional coercion: "It's for my husband's assistant;" "It's for my boyfriend's sister."

Sometimes a knitted gift may be the best option, even if you're not totally enthusiastic. But please, if that's not the case in your life--if someone has said to you, totally casually, "Hey, that's a cute scarf; knit one for my mom, o.k.?"--consider standing up and saying, "Do you have any idea how much time and effort that is? When I'd rather be working on a project I love, for myself or for you? Let's buy a gift."

It's our job to educate non-knitters (if we don't, who will?). Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of knitters everywhere, make sure your nearest and dearest understand what a knitted gift involves. And remember that, just as life is too short to knit with bad yarn, life is too short to knit projects you're not really into.

P.S. Another thing I've noticed: if you've gotten suckered into knitting a gift you're not keen on, buying yourself a set of exotic-hardwood needles from Lantern Moon for the job helps take some of the sting away.


Chelle said...

I really enjoy gift giving. I like the hunt for the right gift. I love wrapping it and I like to see the look of the recipient when they open the gift. The fact that I MADE the gift makes it extra special, more enjoyable for me.

Also I have a lot of difficulty expressing my care and concern for people, especially in words. Knitting gifs for people is like making my love for them tangible. Sometimes the gift says things words can't.

That being said, I have learned to choose my recipient carefully because there is nothing more disappointing than a lukewarm reception. Because I've gotten better at gifting the right person, I'm less resentful of my Christmas knitting. And yeah I do sometimes get resentful because gift knitting means little to no personal knitting. But again I try to avoid that by selecting the right person and something I really enjoy knitting, like socks.

When people try to guilt me into knitting them something, I initially tease them. "Oh, look at you spending MY time?" If they persist, I start talking commissions, fees, and money. That usually shuts them up. I'm don't work cheap. And lastly, a firm no always suffices.

Mighty Momogus said...

I thought your question was a fascinating one. I work in a yarn store too and see those frantic people every year. And I've been one of them myself. I only knit for those who appreciate it now - my son, my husband, and my parents. Everyone else gets bought presents. But I've always made presents, even when I was a tiny kid.

I think, for me, we give the presents that we wish we would receive. And nothing would mean more to me than a gift that someone else made for me. Think of how thoughtful it would be!! And I would appreciate it. But I've never received a handmade gift myself!! Irony!!

Lisa M. said...

No one knits for a knitter!

meland4258 said...

Just to let you know i found this great place to make holiday cards. They are usually like $20 but free if you click on this link. I am going to put my christmas letter and favorite family picture in them for christmas cards this year. If your interested