Bah, Humbug!

I took a look over at Knitting Daily today and found the holidays staring me in the face.  But in a kinda good way!

The Question o’ the Day over there is, "What are you knitting for holiday gifts?" and it seems that for many of us, the answer is, "Nothing."  I’m firmly aligned with Sandi Wiseheart – and from the comments, several other knitters too – NO holiday knitting!

Some mention their knitted gifts being unappreciated in the past.  This is always an issue.  I forget what year it was that I became absolutely incensed to hear that supposedly, the "fruitcake" has been supplanted as the classic Most Dreaded Holiday Gift by a "hand-knit sweater".

I was incensed partly because I happen to also like fruitcake — good fruitcake, that is.  My father worked for a chain of bakeries and one of their products was Grandma’s Fruitcake.  Apparently Dad and I were the only ones in our family who liked it, though.  There was one in the freezer when he died, that he had apparently meant to send to me for Xmas.  One of my brothers found it, thought it was hilarious, showed it to all my siblings, and announced that he was going to throw it away.  I went running into the kitchen and rescued it.  My husband has now been trained to get me one every year.

But back to the knitting.  It really got me to know that people all over the globe apparently dread receiving a hand-knitted gift.  Let’s hope, for their own sakes, that none of them are people I know personally.

Yes, under-appreciation is one of the main reasons I don’t usually knit gifts for the holidays.  In fact, I’ve been known to state out loud that I don’t knit for anyone.  That’s not strictly true — but the list of people I do knit for on a regular basis is a pretty short one:

  1. Myself
  2. DH

dad's sweaterOf course, this is not to say that I never knit gifts.  Over the years, I’ve knit quite a few.

My dad got a sweater back when I first learned to knit.  This was a nice wool one with sailing ships knitted on it.  Dad had been in the Coast Guard, and he saw the picture in a knitting magazine ad, I think — and he asked if I could make it.  But he wasn’t much of a sweater-wearer, and while he really did like it and he did wear it, he never asked for another one.  Somewhere there’s a funny snapshot he took of it, drying on the living room floor, after he washed it once, lying on what looks like a bunch of plastic wrap.

(BTW, I now have Dad’s sweater, and I cringe to look at the WS of it.  I didn’t really know how to do intarsia, so I — um — I tied a bunch of little knots all over the back.  Despite this, it really did come out OK.)

mom's sweaterSoon after that, my mom asked for a sweater — also intarsia — which I knit properly this time — and then I never knew her to wear it.  I eventually got that one back, too, and sometime in the intervening years, something happened to turn the white yarn yellowish in places.  So it went to the great Goodwill in the Sky.

I’m not sure if they count as gifts, really, but we won’t mention here all those blasted boyfriend sweaters I knit in college.

Just a few years ago, I made purple socks for one brother, who freaked out over the number of yards of yarn involved, and refused to wear them.  I hear he has now gotten over that somewhat, but he wears them only on special occasions.  With high tops.

I knitted a lace wrap for a dear knitting friend last year — and that was a labor of love, believe me.  I wouldn’t have done that for just anybody, Abby.

elizabeth's fur vest

And I knitted a cute little fur vest with a hood for a niece of mine — Xmas 2006, I think it was — and I got the most hilarious thank-you note back:

"Dear Aunt Tess, thank you for the vest it is very furry."

knitted hippoAnd who could forget the hippo?  That one was a hoot to knit.  It was nominally for my sister-in-law’s first baby, but in reality it was more for my sister-in-law herself, who had a favorite hippo toy as a child.




All of these knitted gifts were inspired by the same thing:

a wish to knit something fabulous and/or unique, that a person I know and love would truly enjoy.

For me, in every case, the genesis of the project is a specific end result:  not, "What can I knit Sandi for Xmas?" but "Sandi doesn’t have time to knit herself the Farmhouse Rug she wants — but I do."

Well, that’s the way I knit almost everything.  Definitely a "product" knitter, I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to knit something for everyone on my holiday list.  I only ever do one or two of these "special" gifts per year.  A knitted gift from me is going to be truly personal — that is, inspired by the person receiving it.  But that inspiration doesn’t always happen in December!

Anyway, the whole "must-give-everyone-a-gift-on-this-particular-day" thing is really kind of forced, IMHO.  It always seems to me you end up in one of two places, whether gifts are handmade or purchased:

  • (a) just giving everyone exactly the same thing, or variations on a theme, which I find is incredibly generic;
  • (b) working yourself into a frenzy trying to get or make or finish the perfect gifts for persons ABC thru XYZ, in time for the deadline.

The first place is where you end up when it’s more about the gifts than the recipients.  "Everyone is getting a scarf" isn’t a gift-giving philosophy that considers the recipient — it’s all about the person doing the gifting, actually.

The second place is where I usually end up in December, just with the tasks of shopping and mailing, let alone knitting.  And it can have several outcomes.  One is, you might actually succeed, and everyone loves your gifts, but you’re probably too exhausted to care.

In my experience, it is far more likely that I will wind up falling back to plan (a) for at least some of the people on our list, and giving some generic gifts that don’t necessarily suit the recipients — potentially a waste of money, time and effort, which is bad enough if you’re "just" shopping — but it’s a killer if you’re knitting!

Another possibility with plan (b) is that you stick to your guns, but you don’t get your gifts finished in time, and you end up giving them whenever they get done.  Hey, guess what!  That’s what you end up doing if you don’t kill yourself over a deadline, too!

Personally, I’ll take whatever respite from the annual holiday madness I can get.  So, no need for anyone to cringe in fear that perhaps I’m planning to give a (gasp) hand-knit sweater!!  Maybe a nice fruitcake, though…

  3 comments for “Bah, Humbug!

  1. Sheryl
    09/17/2008 at 11:04 AM

    Hey, how about knitted fruitcakes?!

  2. 09/18/2008 at 9:50 AM

    Oh, my… the possibilities… actually, I bet someone’s already done it.

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