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.