It is that time of year when many knitters will be looking towards their stash with an air of panic, remembering the drunken resolution of last New Year’s Eve that saw them swear they’d pace their seasonal gift knitting through the entire year, and realising that they broke their promise almost straight away when they abandoned Uncle Jim’s socks when it got to the heel flap.
If you knit gifts for friends and family to be given during the festive period there is a good chance that your mind will currently be filled with a swirling mass of ideas for presents, but maybe also a nagging nervousness. Will your brother like the novelty jumper with the complicated intarsia motif you have planned for him? Will Auntie Nell appreciate and care for the shawl you have spent weeks diligently knitting? Do your family and friends deserve your hand-knits?
There is an ever-more vocal group of ‘selfish knitters’ (this is not a slur, it is often the title that they give themselves), who think that the best person to knit gifts for is yourself. Maybe only you (and perhaps other knitters) can understand the effort and value of a hand-knitted gift. The time spent not only knitting, but planning and gathering, creating and perfecting. Maybe only somebody that knits can understand the worth of a hand-knit. I say good on them! If you enjoy knitting for yourself alone, then wrap yourself in your squishy hand-knits and enjoy every moment.
On the ever-lively Ravelry boards I regularly read threads started by distressed and angry knitters, decrying that the recipient of their lovingly created gift was disliking of their new knit, or (and this might even be worse), that the recipient was totally nonplussed. Knitting allies, supportive of the gift-giver and their art, will declare the gift recipient unworthy of future hand-knits, and then often indulge in a strange ritual by which they will weigh and measure the worth of a hand-knitted gift. ”She clearly doesn’t understand how long it takes to knit a _____, she doesn’t understand its worth. If you value your time at £___ per hour, multiplied by ___ hours, plus the cost of materials…” Wait, wait, wait… That’s not a gift, that’s calculating wages.
I tend not to think in these terms. An average pair of socks might cost me £8 in materials, and take me 10-20 hours to knit but I do not measure a knitted gift’s worth by either criteria. I enjoy knitting, otherwise I wouldn’t bother knitting gifts. I wouldn’t bother knitting at all. I would no more try to work out the cost of my knitting time than a model railway enthusiast might measure the worth of his miniature version of Didcot station by timing himself on how long it took him to arrange his plastic trees and replica grassy embankments.
I am grateful that any time I have given a knitted gift the recipient has been graceful and joyous in receipt (at least to my face, anyway), but I try not to get too hung up about it. I also try to be sensible in what I give to people, and who I knit for. Much as I would love to knit my brothers a pair of socks each they are 16 years old and like video games and football (they also have size UK13 feet, and there isn’t enough time or yarn in the world) and I know that, really, they will be much more appreciative of something disc-shaped that fits inside an Xbox 360.