I recently read an article by a knitting magazine cautioning crafters about gifting their handiwork. Obviously, this is well timed as Christmas is a major date for a lot of crafters who are trying to share their talents with their friends and family. As I tend to rotate a few friends and family in and out every Christmas for hand crafted items, this subject is one that I think about all of the time when crafting for others.
The article discussed how you need to know your audience and understand that not everyone would like something hand made. This is absolutely true, you need to know your audience. Part of gift giving, in my opinion, is giving something that you think the recipient will like! Now the flip side of this is that my default mode is to think that everyone I know wants something hand made by me!
Quite often, knitters will talk of someone being “knitworthy” (can be applied to any craft) and its considered a very high honour to bestow this title on your friends and family. I am VERY lucky in the fact that my family and friends tend to rank very high on the knitworthy scale. They appear to enjoy the things that I make for them and best of all is when I see them use them!
Essentially, being knitworthy is a measure of how likely the person is to like and use the item that you make for them. Just because a crafter might not consider someone knitworthy, does not mean that they don’t care for that person, just that they are unlikely to either appreciate or take proper care of a hand made item.
Selecting gifts for family and friends is almost never easy, you need to consider their likes and dislikes, think about what they might already have or just buy for themselves, and try to imagine whether or not something that you select will agree with their style or taste. At Christmas, many fall back on Christmas Wish Lists.
This is something that I absolutely hate doing, I do try to come up with some ideas for those who I don’t spend every day with, but still wish to find something that I might like or need (although by the time I wrap my head around this its always late in the season). It sort of feels a little like cheating to me, but I can appreciate that this takes some of the anxiety out of the decision making process for others.
The questions I ask myself, when deciding on whether or not to craft something for someone, are as follows:
- Do I think that the recipient will appreciate a hand knit item or consider it “cheaping out”. We all know people who prefer the mass marketed options that you can just go out and buy. Its OK to think that way. I just need to consider if the recipient will appreciate the HOURS that go into crafting the final product as well as the material costs (pro tip: good quality materials and tools are NOT cheap)
- Do I think that the recipient will use the particular item that I am considering. I recently had a conversation with my Grandmother with regards to some of my Christmas knitting to see if she would be offended if I did not include her. I happen to know that she will not use the item that I am making. (All is well, she will get something else at another time!)
- Do I think that the recipient will properly care for the item that I am crafting. I have made the occasional lace item for family and friends and always gift with the proviso that I can re-block the item when it comes time. While I find most people can understand when somethings need to be hand washed, most non crafters wont understand how to block out a lace shawl. That’s OK! As long as they don’t throw it in the wash and ask me to help, all is good!
Beyond the questions above, which essentially are to determine whether or not the recipient is knitworthy, are the more fun questions on what to actually make! What pattern do I think they will love, what are their favourite colours, what kind of materials should I use? Any of you who have read my posts on project planning, will understand that this is no short process either.
All of the above being said, what should you do if you are the Recipient of a hand made gift?
- First and foremost, THANK the crafter. Even if you hate it, they spent a lot of time, money and effort in deciding to make the gift for you. They did not “cheap out”. You are thanking them for their thought and time.
- If you want to score bonus points, try the item on right away or discuss how you might use it if its not an article of clothing.
- If the gifter is not there, they would most likely LOVE to see a photo of you with your gift.
- If the crafter forgot to include care instructions (hey, it happens sometimes), ask if the item is hand or machine wash/dry.
If you don’t like the item, there are a couple of options depending on how well you know the gifter. This is going to be the controversial point, not all crafters will think the way I do.
Personally, I would like the recipient to be upfront with me. It will hurt. That being said, I would much rather take the item back and gift it to someone who will use it and come up with an alternative, than have the item sit in a closet somewhere for years, or worse, end up in the trash. And folks, there ARE nicer ways to suggest that you might not have a use for the item.
We live in a world where we get “gift receipts” for items if we aren’t sure whether or not the recipient has one already or if we aren’t sure if they will like it or not. It is considered quite socially acceptable to return a gift and exchange it for something you really did want or need.
While you don’t need to be totally cavalier about it, you can be polite and thank the crafter and then suggest that you might not be the best home for the item. Treat it with respect and have a real conversation with the knitter. Quite likely they were thinking about you while they were working on your gift, I know I think about the people I am knitting for. Try “I really appreciate all of the time you worked on this for me, but it just isn’t my style and I don’t want it to go to waste, do you have someone else who might need this more than me?”
If it is truly just a style issue but you do love the idea of a hand made item from the crafter, you can also tell them that its not that you don’t appreciate hand made, this is just not something you would ordinarily use. If it is because you don’t like hand made, come up with a polite way to let them know, so they wont try again. Like most things in life, if you pretend you like something when you don’t, you can bet you will see more of it in the future as people try to give you what they think you will love!
TL:DR – Honesty is always the best policy, but use it with understanding, tact and diplomacy