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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Make Your List, Check it Twice.

If I could say anything about handcrafting all your gifts for the holidays, it would probably boil down to one word: don't.

I'm not a Scrooge!  Really!  I love knitting and crocheting.  I love some wonderful people.  Sometimes I love making things from yarn and giving them to the people I love.  BUT: only a portion of my Christmas gift list includes yarncraft items.  I'm lucky that my family just draws names, so I technically only have to make one sister a hat.  It's a simple pattern, I've got the yarn, and it won't take me too very long at all to make.  However, I do want to make my mom something and my brother has a birthday in December and my other sister asked for a hat to wear in December last year and it's my own fault that I didn't work on it during the year.  And my mother-in-law asked my husband to ask me if I could make her a hat, but didn't want to ask me herself because she knew holiday knitting can stress a person out.  The fact that she was considerate about the whole totally ensured that I would make her a hat! (I would have anyway, though.)

Am I stressed about holiday knitting?  Not yet!  Will I stress about holiday knitting?  Probably not.  Any time I do start to feel a little panicky, I remind myself that I'm not trying to finish 10 scarves and feel better about things.

I did that one year. I wore myself out and it wasn't any fun.  I love my friends, but I don't knit or crochet for them at Christmas time anymore.  There's too many of them.  Since I can't whine about having lots of friends that I love so much, I've just stopped giving them handmade gifts.  Instead, I decided last year to give people handmade items on their birthdays.  It's might be a little strange to get a cowl or a hat in the middle of the summer, but my friends and family are absolutely knitworthy people who know how to receive a handmade gift.   When I gave my sister an alpaca cowl in June, she immediately put it on and then posed for pictures so I could put them on my Ravelry project page.  When my other sister got a shawl during the hottest August on record, she wrapped it around her neck, thanked me profusely, and didn't take it off until we had ice cream cake.

Which brings me to my next point: just take take anyone who isn't knit-worthy (crochet-worthy/Knook-worthy/time-worthy) off your handmade gift list.  Give them a gift card.  Give them cash.  Give them a stack of frozen pizzas.  Give them something they'll enjoy and appreciate.   Just don't use up your time and yarn on someone who doesn't like yarn things!  Don't do it!  Don't wear yourself out!

If you like this sort of thing, though--the late nights, the bleary eyes, the adrenaline rush you get from weaving in your ends and shoving your finished project into a gift bag on the car ride over to Grandma's--I can't stop you.  If you like that, awesome!*  Enjoy!  For those of you who just get cranky and flustered from that sort of thing, I feel you.  And I'm here to help.

I'm going to talk about actually giving presents later in the week, but for now we're going to address how to be super mean and 'selfish'.  It's weird to hear crafters say that something is a "selfish project" because they're making it for themselves, but if you've ever made anything with your hands ever in the history of time then you know there are people out there who expect you to make them something.

People who expect you to make them something are the first ones to cross off your list.  I once gave someone a knitted baby gift who really seemed to appreciate it, but said "When I invited you, I thought 'oh, she better make the baby something!'"  Oh.

People who don't treat yarn items well are also off the list.   If your friend is one of those people who doesn't sort her laundry and throws it all in the washer on 'medium'--do not give her a woolen hat!  It will shrink and felt and get so small that it won't fit a cat and you'll both be embarrassed.  Even the most durable fibers need some degree of tender loving care.  One of my grandmothers made my sisters and me lots of little baby sweaters and even a few crocheted dresses.  Since they were for children, my Mamaw wisely used either cotton or acrylic because, well, children are messy.  My mom treated them like they were gold.  Super-delicate and important gold spun by angels and crafted by fairies.  She  always washed them by hand, laid them out flat to dry, and stored them carefully for a couple of decades.  As a result, my family actually has heirlooms now and I have my pick of vintage sweaters for my daughter.

People who don't use what you make are off the list.  The Yarn Harlot has some pretty great advice on how to receive a knitted gift (it's the first hit on Google if you search "how to receive a knitted gift"), but my big test is to see if someone wears or uses what I made them.  That's really all I care about.  I made the hat/dishcloth/whatever, to help someone keep warm or help them dress up a little.  If they don't like a particular fiber or style, that's one thing.  But if they don't enjoy something, I don't keep giving them that one thing every year!  This is why my little brother has no scarves.  He's not a scarf guy.  My sisters, however, wear them every day in the winter.  I think sometimes my mom wears them just so someone can compliment her and then she can beam and say, "Thank you!  Jen made this for me."  And then she makes sure to tell me about it.  A few of my friends and relatives do this, and it's my favorite part!  Well, after the part where I give people gifts and they love them.

Which is why this kid isn't getting any amigurumi gifts this year:

I love my little girl.  I really do.  She is the only person I love enough to make a sweater for--in fact, she's wearing the fourth sweater I've ever finished in that picture.  All of the sweaters I've finished have been for her.  But she has consistently hated and/or feared every toy I've ever knitted or crocheted for her.  As adorable as I think a little crocheted Nativity scene with lots of animals would be, it's just not going to happen this year.  Yes, even the tiny light of my life is (partially) on the "Do Not Give Handmade Things" list.  Maybe I am a Scrooge.

Or maybe not.  I think it's important to have boundaries and rules about how I give out my gifts.  It's easy to feel burnt out if you feel unappreciated.  I do this because I like yarncrafting, and I don't want to work on something I don't enjoy because I'm feeling like I have to.  It's so much more pleasant to make what I want for whom I want.

Speaking of what I want, I want to know your horror stories--I know everyone has them.  Or, tell me your own rules about gifts or holiday gift schedules!  Do you take requests?  Have you sworn off Christmas knitting or crocheting altogether?  Tell me, assuming you can make the time. The holiday knitting and crocheting season is upon us, after all.

*And yes, I know there are some of you who had all of your Christmas projects planned at the beginning of the year and you probably finished them all up before the weather even turned cooler.  I don't even know what to say to you because you're like aliens from other universes.  I guess the only thing I could offer up is "Good work, you hyper-efficient freaks**!"

**I don't mean "freaks" in a bad way.  It probably just sounds a little harsh because I'm very impressed and a tiny bit jealous of you right now.

1 comment:

  1. The love and time that goes into a handmade gift is immeasurable, but to finish that gift ON TIME is amazing!!

    Giving our time to someone is a gift in itself. Wrapped in the warmth of yarn, thread, fabric or love-all gifts given in love should be treated like gold :)


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