Christmas – Knitter to Knitter

We’ve all survived Halloween now, with its pumpkin carving contests, orange Christmas lights, and stories on NPR about having weird things done to your body so you can freak out your friends posthumously. If you, for some masochistic reason, decided to go to a shopping mall today, you surely heard the first strains of Christmas crooners echoing through the tiled aisles. Usually I shirk in terror at the blatantly opportunistic start of the Christmas season on November first, but today, I’m going to join ’em.

I was asked a blogworthy question today by a very good friend who is a new knitter. She wanted to know how knitters feel about getting knitted presents for Christmas. I’ve seen loads of blog posts meant to help non-knitters shop for their knitting loved ones, but this is a little different. So, ignoring the fact that this is clearly a hint about what I might be getting this Yuletide from the aforementioned friend, here are my musings on the subject.

Passionate knitters are, by definition, weird people. They inherited a tradition that was a rather repetitive form of manual labor, made popular by the need to avoid poverty. And, as it became more and more unnecessary and inconvenient, they slowly but surely have turned it into a wonderfully diverse and creative art form. We spend gobs of our money and time producing objects that are spouted out by machines in China at a sickening pace and that are available in all sorts of stores for a fraction of the cost of good wool. Let’s face it – that is at least a little weird.

My knowledge of that has been augmented in the past month and a half by my work in a yarn store. We get some extreme oddballs, but I don’t mean those. Everyone who comes into a yarn shop is just…. quirky. It’s always different – they’re funny to talk to, or dress a little different, or just have notable personality. It isn’t being in the shop that makes them weird, though perhaps the public creativity necessitated by yarn shopping writes our weirdness a little bigger on our sleeves. It’s just… you can’t be a number in a yarn shop.

It’s this uniqueness, that is somehow not just being “unique like everybody else” that makes me like knitters so much. If you are a knitter, and you hang out with other knitters, you just have to be pretty accepting. Everyone’s taste is different in every imaginable way and then some, and we span a shocking number of demographics.

It’s also this uniqueness, I think, that make it pretty special when a knitter knits something for another knitter as a gift. Knitters know that knitting gifts is hard work – you have to find something that fits the recipients taste, and you always know, no matter how appreciative the recipient is, that probably won’t understand and appreciate a hand-knitted garment for the sacrifice of time and energy, the icon of the creator’s imagination and identity, that it is. Knitters who keep giving gifts just learn to accept this and move on – they do it for love, after all, not just validation, and a homemade sweater will keep your child warm whether they see it as a work of art or not.

But when you knit for a knitter, it’s a whole different story. You have a connection with this person very different from your other knitwear recipient. They get it. When they open a knitted gift, you can watch the gears click into place as they calculate the hours it took you to make it for them, and they appreciate every one.

It seems to me that knitting for a knitter opens a list of rather unrepeatable gifting opportunities. You have a chance to knit them something that they liked and wanted, but perhaps doesn’t fit their technique preferences and would have been a bore/hassle to make themselves. (And if this object also falls into that category for you, they are likely to know and appreciate this as well.) You can knit them something they admired but knew they would never get around to. You can knit them something that fits their taste in garments while fitting your interests in technique, birthing a project with a combined creativity as unique as a child’s DNA.

I know I’m waxing idealistic – knitting for a knitter can be as problematic (and can fail as badly) as knitting for anyone else. (Surprises are not a good idea for big projects. do not make your life suck.) And I have given knitted objects to knitters that had all of these qualities and more without being intentional and reflective about it. But I think I can safely conclude that knitting for another knitter is not just worth doing – it’s an experience unto itself that will make the gift of giving even more fun.

All that said – It’s really okay if you put knitters at the bottom of your list of Christmas knitting recipients. We know that we love each other, and we can always, always, always, get each other more yarn. (Anyone need a hint? Cashmere is on sale this month at Cloverhill.)

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