Knitting for Others

I always warn new knitters to brace themselves for a flood of, “Oooh, how beautiful!  Will you knit me one?”

  • Now most knitters can say no to people they don’t like or know, but what about people they don’t dislike (e.g., work colleagues) but with whom they are acquaintances?
  • Most knitters knit prolifically – a masterly understatement – for partners, siblings, (grand)children, and (grand)parents, but what about certain not-so-close family members (e.g., 1st/2nd/3rd cousins, your children’s step-siblings and step-nieces/nephews, etc.)?

As with many conundrums, handling them is personal.  Here’s what I do, and why.    (Please note, I did not base my ultimate decision re gift giving on one example only!)

Work Colleagues:  I stopped giving handmade gifts to work colleagues several years ago.  This was the coup de grâce:  A woman in my office was pregnant with a baby (girl), so I knit a beautiful lacy bonnet based on an Amana colony pattern.  (See Susan Strawn Bailey’s “Amana Star-Pattern Baby Bonnet to Knit,” in Piecework, November/December 2000.)  I used Dale’s Baby Ull (in cream) and ran a purple ribbon through the edging.  (It was really cute.)  Then I wrapped the hat in purple tissue paper and included – as I usually do – a little note re pattern origin, fiber used, washing instructions, etc.  I never received a thank you – written or verbal!  (And, by the way, she was in her mid-30s so certainly old enough to have a grasp on basic etiquette.  In addition, her office was next to mine so she saw me regularly!)

My Ex-Husband:  After we divorced, my grandmother sent me a sweater she knit for him.  I didn’t want to, of course, but I gave it to him.  My daughter wanted to knit him a matching ski hat, so I helped her (then in 5th or 6th grade).  She found some wool in my stash she liked, and she knit him a great cap.  A few weeks later during a visit, she found it had been turned over to the dog as a chew toy.  She was devastated (but didn’t blame the dog).  As a result, he never received (and never will) any handknits from her.  Her father, not the dog, that is.  (And my daughter’s a good knitter.)

Distant Family Relations:  My daughter’s step-sister was having a baby, and I knit a beautiful jacket for the baby.  Once again, nary a thank you.  So, no, I don’t knit for distant family relations either.

Paying Customers:  No problem, though I have one rule.  I will not knit a commissioned piece in acrylic.  (I simply don’t like the feel.)

Friends:  All my friends close to my heart are recipients of my fiber frenzies.  🙂  They know many of the projects they get are often samples and experiments (many with unplanned outcomes!), but they don’t seem to care.

Close Family:  It goes without saying – until they say stop!  When my daughter went away to college in the midwest, I missed her terribly.  So how did I respond?  Like any good knitter!  I knit her a sweater a month.  By February she called me and said, “Mom, the sweaters are beautiful and I love them, but I don’t have any room left in my closet to keep them.  Please stop sending me sweaters!”  Thor has not yet said stop!  🙂

Of course I am sure I risk looking like Scrooge by comparison, but I have to ask:  What influences you whether and when to gift your handmade creations, and to whom?


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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25 Responses to Knitting for Others

  1. mz jenny lee says:

    One of my friends took a picture of herself wearing my gift and sent it to me, and that was one of the best feelings in the world. She clearly wears it with pride, and I am always more than happy to knit for her. But for a relative whose baby I knit a hat for, I never received any acknowledgement whatsoever– I guess it takes a couple of trial and errors to develop that “Knitter’s Radar” — but once you do, it’s important to not waste your time, love and effort on people who can’t appreciate it!


  2. Of course … I love seeing what other fiber artists are up to. And you’re right about what one expects in return. I guess when you give a gift you’re not supposed to expect anything in return. But I always expect at least a heartfelt thank you and appreciate for the sweat and blood (proverbially speaking) that went into the gift. I still give gifts, but only people close to me get handmade ones. 🙂


  3. It’s a really great question, because to some degree it calls into question our own motives as gift givers. Do you give a gift to bless that person? Or do you also expect a little something in return (appreciation, a note, in many cases)? Honestly, I don’t know the answer. But I’ve been fortunate to be a slow enough knitter, that only those who truly want/love/need the item are able to wait so long. Can’t think of anyone who has been chalked off the list, yet.

    Thanks for checking out my blog earlier!


  4. I guess we’ve all had the horror stories. I will just never understand how some people can be so thoughtless (stupid?).


  5. I’ve heard some real horror stories, so I won’t relate mine here but, suffice to say, after the first couple of mistakes, I think we develop “Knitter’s Radar”… a sense of who to lovingly knit for and who REALLY deserves those $9.99 Walmart beauties 😉


  6. Great responses dependent on type of request! I quoted one thoroghly obnoxious stranger a starting price of $600, and she replied, “I can get a sweater at Walmart for $9.99.” She was really awful, so I said, “Then be off with you.” I think was much better than the response I would have preferred to given after she compared handkniting to Walmart knit goods! 🙂


  7. Iz says:

    It’s not often I start a project for someone else. It’s a very personal thing and I’m always afraid too much will be read into the gesture, it will go unappreciated and my time wasted, or the person will appreciate it but think it hideous. I have had people ask me to make them things and my answer depends on their approach. “When are you going to make me something” will get a “Never” and “I really love this, could you make me one? I’d be happy to pay for yarn or will make you something in exchange” will get a “don’t even worry about it, my pleasure.” Most of the time though, I half joking/half serious say it would cost them a few hundred for a sweater. That shuts them up quick.


  8. Tracey says:

    Thanks! There’s another charity group I coordinate with. We once knit hats, scarves etc. for LGBT runaway teens in a NYC shelter.


  9. I am with you! I tend to use the word “artist” to describe us … craft (to me) always invokes a picture of gluing together rick-rack ribbons or something. 🙂 I’m trying to get used to using “craft” as I know there’s nothing wrong with that word!!! 🙂


  10. Cool, fashionable when feeding horses! 🙂


  11. It was many years ago, but I think this was the group. I checked the website given, however, but found nothing about “Caps For Kids.” When I lived in Eugene, Oregon, a wonderful local yarn store, hosted “Caps for Kids.” The yarn store provided patterns if requested and kept a big box of donated yarn to give to participants (if requested). Local knitters and crocheters made hundreds and hundreds of caps. Then around the holiday time the yarn store would coordinate with local relief (etc.) agencies and find out which group needed how many caps for children (and what age) and adults, and then donated caps to each group. The groups then prepared holiday baskets.

    Caps for Kids: Distributes knitted items to children in homeless, abusive or serious illness situations.
    Bonnie Greene Lawless
    Craft Yarn Council of America
    30112 Echo Blue Dr.
    Penn Valley, CA 95946-9422
    (800) 662-9999


  12. Curls & Q says:

    In fact, Barb had knit a hat for her. When we visited in Feb said sister mentioned that she didn’t wear knit hats (I had made some for her), so Barb kept it for herself! One thing she wears is the beaded wrist warmers I knit – uses them when she goes out to feed the horses!


  13. Tracey says:

    I haven’t. Do they have a website or email so I can check them out?


  14. It’s definitely about if I think they appreciate them. I am so willing to knit for other crafters, because I know that they understand the level of work and commitment that goes into a project. And I totally agree with you- the minute I don’t get a thank-you, they don’t get any more knits!


  15. Great minds think alike … 🙂 Have you heard of Caps for Kids? I’ve knit and donated to that group.


  16. Whoa … she doesn’t wear your knit gifts? (What’s wrong with her?!) Take them back! 🙂


  17. Tracey says:

    I have also knit for charity. These days if I’m knitting for someone outside of my house, it’s usually for charity.


  18. Curls & Q says:

    I have a sister that I have knit quite a few items for since she lives in a colder climate. During a visit this last winter, I found that she doesn’t wear the items. No more for her.


  19. Ahh, I forgot the vapid “oh that’s nice” response. Years and years ago I knit a sweater for my then father-in-law – beautiful British cardigan pattern, very small needles, great oily Norwegian yarn, covered in intricate cables. And it was JUST like you said: “Oh that’s nice” and set aside.


  20. You’re a better person than I … I won’t even knit, weave or crochet a baby blanket! I guess I’m not totally Scrooge: I have knit, on occasion, however, for charitable purposes: sweaters from yarn donated by local yarn stores that are then auctioned off. 🙂


  21. It is absolutely AMAZING to me how people actively show a lack of appreciation for hand-made crafts – items that take skill, patience, time and money (cost of fiber, buttons etc.) to make! (I hope you kept all the turkey and pie leftovers!)


  22. Tina says:

    I love your post and can totally relate! I stopped knitting for others years ago simply because there was no appreciation for what I had made or the time it took to make the gift. No thank you either or when the gift was opened I got a “oh that’s nice” and it was put aside never to be seen again. I now only knit for my hubby, parents, best friend and myself. I have found that only knitters/crocheters (or crafters in general) truly appreciate the time, love and thought that goes into things handmade.


  23. Tracey says:

    It’s so hard when you spend a lot of time knitting something and the recipients aren’t appreciative. As a result, I pretty much only knit for people who live in my house now. It’s rare that I’ll knit for others, and when I do, it’s usually a baby blanket, and if I don’t get thanked for that, no worries, it’s for the baby, not the parents. One year, I knit every Christmas gift I sent out, even ones for the kids’ teachers. It took me months of work. Some people were very appreciative. Others…


  24. jenyjenny says:

    I ‘ve knitted some hats and scarves and purses this past year, and at our Thanksgiving party I asked the relatives to take anything they wanted from a big box of items I plunked on the floor in the middle of the living room. They had fun looking through them, trying them on, but everyone was very reluctant to take anything. Except for one little grandchild who manages to destroy everything; she took several items that were made from extremely expensive fibers and were difficult for me to make! My daughter finally took items that people seemed to like and thrust them in their laps. I only got one response: the parents who took one hat for a step-child who wasn’t there that day, later told me how much the little girl loved the hat and had always wanted one like it.


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