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better than porn

On knitting for gifts

Posted on 2005.08.08 at 11:50
Current Mood: lethargiclethargic
I don't knit gifts for people; that's just not what my knitting is about. I like owning the means of production. I like being able to make clothing that's exactly the way I want it, in colors and textures that please me, with measurements tailored just for me. I am, to put it bluntly, a selfish knitter, though I wasn't always.

I used to knit gifts for people. Then I realized that they don't appreciate it. Non-knitters will never understand the work and love that goes into every piece, especially the work. My cousin's wife is constantly asking me to make her things, in ways that make it abundantly clear that she has no idea what knitting entails. "Hey, I saw this super cute cashmere sweater in a catalog, could you make it for me? You know, since it'd be cheaper that way? I'll pay you for it." Sweetie, if you're worried about cost, just buy the sweater, because that's much cheaper than buying all the yarn and then paying me a decent wage (say, $10 an hour) to knit it for you. "Hey, you know what I want? An afghan. A really big, really fluffy, oversized afghan. Could you make one for me? Maybe, like, in lots of different colors with designs in it?" Sure, I'll get right on that and have it finished by next week, since nothing goes faster than 6 foot by 4 foot intarsia.

And I know I wouldn't be as bitter if I hadn't knitted her things that she took completely for granted. I made her daughter the lacy pink cardigan she requested, and two months later she told me about it as if I hadn't knitted it, because she didn't remember who had done it. Yeah. Thanks. Glad to know all those hours of lace charts at 7 stitches to the inch were appreciated.

I've given people scarves that ended up as dog toys, hats that went almost immediately to Goodwill, bags that were just tossed in the back of a closet. To me, knitted pieces are magical. To most people, they're just things like anything else you can buy at the store.

I have exceptions about people I'll knit for. I'll knit for my sister. She's a seamstress, so she understands the work that goes into handmade pieces. I'll knit for other knitters, crocheters, weavers, or spinners. The favorite gift I've ever received was from a woman I met in fandom who's also a spinner and weaver. She sent me four skeins of handspun yarn with a little tag telling me the name of the sheep the wool came from. To people who don't understand fiber arts, they're probably just skeins of gray and beige wool--to me they're magic. I haven't made anything from them, yet, but I take them out every now and again to touch them and smell them. I can smell the lanolin from the sheep's wool, and I think a little incense. I like to think of her spinning that yarn with a glass of red wine by her side, treadle going steadily, making something out of nothing, making yarn out of tufts of fiber.

I think the main reason I don't make gifts for people is because for me, knitting isn't about the finished project, it's about the knitting. I sit there thinking, "This is me, making something out of nothing, making cloth out of yarn." When I look at objects I've finished, I don't see a sweater or a scarf or a pair of socks, I see the journey I was one while I made them. I remember sitting in my mom's overstuffed green armchair and knitting those socks while my dog, who was just a puppy at the time, gnawed on my toes. I look at the first sweater I made and remember how proud I was when I finally, finally figured out what I was doing wrong that made me have to keep ripping out the sleeves. I made that hat from yarn I bought when I got lost in San Francisco and just kept walking and worrying until I saw the yarn store and knew I could go in and get not just yarn, but also directions. That's the cabled scarf I made because my heart was broken and I needed something to distract me while I healed. That ugly acrylic blanket is the first thing I ever knit and it's lopsided because I knit so tight when I was learning that the day after my first lesson my hands and arms ached. And I love that ugly, acrylic, lopsided blanket because it's a picture of me learning how to knit, learning how to loosen up and trust the needles, learning how to trust myself, to trust the yarn. I know nobody else wants that ugly, misshapen thing, but that's good because I wouldn't give it away for anything; to me it's beautiful, and a reminder of the first time I ever learned to create magic.

Comments:


Davey
ruggerdavey at 2005-08-08 20:32 (UTC) (Link)
That is really horrible. I wouldn't think it would take much brains to relaize how hard it's got to be to make stuff like that. As someone who has trouble just sewing a button back onto a shirt or a pair of pants, I'm so amazed at all of you knitters and the things you create. Seriously, it does seem like magic to me. Kind of funny when you think about how common a skill it used to be, and now it just seems so amazing. Beautiful, soft, lovely things out of a skein of yarn. It's just really, really cool.
Brienze
brienze at 2005-08-08 20:32 (UTC) (Link)
The time that goes into handmade objects, and the lack of appreciation non-craftspeople have for it... yeah. That's why I don't do stained glass professionally.

I'm not at all surprised to hear how you feel about the process of knitting. Even if you haven't been posting pr0n on your journal lately, you are clearly a Maker Of Things, and I imagine knitting has a lot of the satisfaction that writing does. (Except that it's a lot easier to knit while watching tv. *grin*) To extend the analogy perhaps further than it can go, writing fanfic is like spinning the thread and then weaving the story, and original fic is the same except you have to track down your own sheep first.

You don't have to be into crafty things to be a good writer, but I think this experience of the process of creating is what separates writers of your quality from the "hey I just got a mental image of Nick licking ice cream off a spoon and had to share" folks. There should be more going on than just the picture at the end.
oh yeah?
sillyboho at 2005-08-08 20:40 (UTC) (Link)
i love to knit for others, i sent out knit gifts to my inlaws last year.they live in philly so i have no idea what's going on with that. i promised to make soem rastafarian stuff for the new bebe, and i'm dreading it.

my hubby's grandmother makes gorgeous afghans (crochet) and she doesn't give them to her son's family anymore as they use them for dog and play in the yard blankets.

i buy and frog handmade sweaters from goodwill all the time. i always think of the original crafter and feel bad.
Ruthie
spoiledjap at 2005-08-08 20:51 (UTC) (Link)
I understand how you feel; sort of, my aunt's an artist she paints, and can making a tin can look like a Da Vinci. Anyway she just won't make things for everyone because the process of making the object and the symbolism behind it is what's important.
A Goat with a Warning
meleth at 2005-08-09 00:26 (UTC) (Link)
This is why I only make things for certain people. My family has seen me knit, and knows how much work it is to make something, so they appreciate everything I do for them. It's the reason I'm probably not making a scarf for my boyfriend; doing all that work with so much love, and having it not appreciated, might make me have to hate him just a little bit.
Silvia
sillie82 at 2005-08-09 22:09 (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes... I've made drawings for people, but some don't understand how much time and devotion goes into it... :/
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