Around the holidays there seems to be an uptick in the number of people knitting or crocheting items (particularly hats) for holiday or charitable donations. When I have seen the contents of “donation baskets” – the containers into which handmade knit or crocheted caps are dropped – I am always horrified by the goods. They are almost always items that are “quick and easy” to make out of some of the most horrific yarns and colors one could choose … crocheted hats that could deflect bullets, knit scarves with garish clashing colors, yarns that won’t do much to keep the wearer warm, yarns that are not long-wearing, yarns that will not hold their shape, et cetera.
I’m sure you’ve seen hand-knit or -crocheted accessories that are, well, blindingly awful – the ones where the colors hurt your eyes, the feel of the fiber makes you cringe, and the design has you wondering, “What in the world were they thinking?”
Yes, the intended recipients are having difficulty (e.g., financially devastated, homeless, victims of a natural disaster, etc.) and as such will undoubtedly be thankful for the generosity of others. But why demoralize them further by pawning off some ugly gift even if it is hand made?
A crafter with solid, basic skills can knit or crochet an attractive, usable item (e.g., cap or a simple scarf) simply by selecting a lovely yarn. If she’s skilled with her needles or hook, she can easily create a more complex patterned hat, scarf, mittens, beaded wrist warmers, or cowl.
If you live in an area with long cold winters, don’t gift cotton ski caps. If you live in an area with warm winters, avoid warm Lopi hats and mittens.
Why not personalize the gift? Imagine the recipient pulling out a lovely, warm hat and seeing a note that: tells her the name of the pattern and why you selected it; tells her about the fiber source (e.g., an alpaca named Daphne raised nearby? from New Zealand possum?); contains washing or care instructions; and includes your wish for the new year. Certainly the recipient would appreciate feeling a little special in a dark time in her life.
If you have no nice single skein remaining in your stash, why not pick up a nice, locally produced skein? In the U.S., you could probably deduct the cost of the skein on taxes (that is, if you itemize).
My beloved American grandfather used to say: “If you’re going to do anything, do it right or don’t do it at all.” I’m thinking of my grandpa’s words as I write this: If you’re knitting or crocheting something for donation, do it in a way that doesn’t make the recipient feel bad about receiving the charity of others.
Have you any particular creations and ideas to share that work well as holiday donation items?