Thursday, December 01, 2005

Gifting Handmade Items – A Manifesto!

It’s the time of year when many of us have either started or completed several handmade items as gifts. I’ve been following several discussions on the Knitter’s Review forum ( with interest and, in some cases, horror. Here’s my own two-cents’ worth on the subject.

Your handmade gifts are wonderful expressions of caring – you’ve thought about what fiber, yarn, color and technique will suit the recipient and you’ve thought about and prayed for that person as you made the gift. You’ve put much time and at least some money into the gift, and anticipated the recipient’s delight upon opening it. You’ve invested a good bit of yourself in this gift, and exercised (and in some cases stretched) your talents to make it.

Let’s leap forward a bit. It’s gift-exchange time, and the recipient is opening the gift. If you’ve chosen the recipient well, you’ll get a delighted squeal or a heartfelt ‘thank you so much’. But if you’ve chosen to lavish your time and talent on an unappreciative person, their reaction may be downright hurtful. What do you do when the recipient doesn’t appreciate your time, energy, talent and money?

Opinions vary, of course. Some say just don’t make that person anything again – buy them whatever you can afford (even if it’s only a token gift). Others suggest that you explain why you chose to make the gift, sure that the recipient will appreciate your effort if it’s only explained to them – slowly, lovingly and using very simple words.

Explanations and excuses abound – depression-era adults or those raised in poverty feel that ‘handmade’ equates to ‘poverty’, and either feel insulted or uncomfortable that you felt it necessary to make their gift. Kind people insist that the ungrateful recipient simply doesn’t understand the effort and love, or is jealous of your skills. Perhaps those are explanations of a sort, but a simple “thank you” delivered in a sincere tone isn’t too much to ask in return for any gift!

Sometimes education does help – it did with my mother-in-law, a product of the Depression. She hid my gifts to her for several years, although she was always polite enough to acknowledge them gracefully. I finally got the message and started giving her purchased items only because she WAS my mother-in-law; then several of her friends saw things I’d made her and raved. Suddenly she wants only handmade gifts from me and brags about my skills to those same friends.

Sometimes education doesn’t help at all – I have one family member who will never receive another gift from me beyond a holiday greeting card. He simply didn’t appreciate the effort or the skill – he’s one of the unfortunates for whom money is the only measure. The only thing you can feel for these poor souls is pity; don’t lavish your time and skill on them again!

I’m probably in the minority but I think that poor manners are exactly that – poor manners. Rather than purchase anything for an ungrateful so-and-so, I’ll strike them from my gift list entirely! Harsh? Perhaps so. But I still feel that it’s the best way to handle it if at all possible. Sure, sometimes you just can’t do that – like my mother-in-law. If I’d stopped gifts to her entirely my darling husband would have been justifiably upset.

I have many people for whom I do make things – most of them in my immediate family, although one or two are especially good friends. I make their gifts because they understand and appreciate the love and skill involved. They are awed and delighted that I make the time in my busy life to do something especially for them. I make these gifts joyfully and with love in every inch.

But herewith find my own personal manifesto! I declare my freedom from guilt! I will no longer force myself to make something for those who do not appreciate the effort, no matter who asks me to do so. And if I don’t have the spare cash to buy a relative something, I’ll simply put a card under the tree and again refuse to feel guilty! The shortcoming is theirs, not mine, and the responsibility for modifying their attitude is also theirs. So be it!

Now where did I put that pattern and yarn…


sopranospinner said...

When I gift, I never really know how the gift has been received. My relatives are always polite and seem grateful and happy. This year I have knit hats for my nephews in their hockey team colors. I don't know if they are cool or way too un. So I'm going to give my sister-in-law an address to send them off to earthquake victims in Pakistan if they don't like them enough to wear them. Then they will at least warm someone and we can all feel good about the whole event.

I made them socks a few years ago and they all got worn, I know, except probably my brother-in-law's (very bright) but my sister-in-law stole them from him, so all was fine in the end.

Evelyn said...

I saw your post on what to do with shawls if you don't wear them on the EZasPi list and I followed the link to your blog.
I totally agree with your handmade gift giving manifesto. I have a very select number of people who appreciate qnd even request (politely) hand knit items. They get sufficiently spoiled and the others get store bought gifts or nothing from me.

Have a fabulous New Year!