A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Art of Gift Giving

My husband and I had a discussion about what to give his daughter, whose birthday is tomorrow, and it led us into a general conversation about culture and gift-giving. I have been mulling it over for the past twenty-four hours and thought it would be worth getting some insight from fellow knitters.

When it comes time to think of a gift for an occasion, do you think of knitting something first off? I had done this earlier, planning to make a felted yoga bag, since Amy is a yoga teacher... however, it is WAY too hot to work with that much wool (45 inches long before felting), so I have decided that would make a better Christmas gift.

My husband comes from a medium-sized family, and gift-giving, although done, has taken some awkward turns in recent years. We decided to draw names at Christmas so that the expense wouldn't be so great; that lasted awhile, then the push was to give gifts to the children only. But then many of them began to reach adulthood, so we have returned to a name drawing, including the adult children. My one brother-in-law, also inducted into this family by marriage, expressed some frustration last Thanksgiving while this was being debated, saying "It's just not that hard to get any one of you a gift!". I had to agree. I can watch someone for a while, discover what colors they wear the most, what their likes and dislikes around food are, what their favorite hobbies and activities are, and end up picking a gift that will mostly be appreciated and/or put to use. Only occasionally will this match be something knitted, although knitting a gift gives me more pleasure in the making than selecting something from a store or website. I have to think of the receiver more than myself, though, so I try to let them guide me to the proper match, keeping in mind that there are items I won't buy out of my own belief system.

I can easily knit for one son, who will take any and every "beanie" that I make for his dear little head, however, it gives me the most pleasure every time he pulls out his digital camera to snap a photo when we all get together, because that gift was my inspired idea, and has gotten the most use of any item I have given him over the years (except, maybe, shoes!). I can't do as well coming up with a knitted gift for my other family members... although picking something for a fellow knitter or quilter is no sweat, and also great fun!

It is the inspired gift, the one that brings the thrilled, "This is just what I wanted" response, that we are seeking in gift-giving. We want to bring joy to the other person, and improve their life in some small way. Some of the gifts I have received and ended up cherishing the most have been small, everyday items that were exceedingly beautiful, and that I could pick up and put to use frequently. Some were immensely practical; my husband's first Valentine gift to me was a double-bit axe, that I used for several winters while a single mom trying to keep my cabin warm with only wood heat. I treasured that axe and the concern for me behind the giving of it.

This afternoon I filled one of my monthly shifts at our crafts coop, where there is a very cute cartoon placed on the counter... a mother is berating her teen-aged daughter, saying "I spent seven months secretly quilting you a prom dress, and all you can say is 'Um...'". You can envision for yourself a patchwork, quilted dress with puffed sleeves on a teenaged girl with pierced nose and eyebrow. Have you had the misfortune to spend hours creating something that was poorly received?

I hope you will find yourself pondering this subject as well in the next few days, and that you take the time to share your thoughts with me.


Anonymous margene said...

It is a gift, a talent, to be able to find and give a gift that is wanted and enjoyed by the receiver. When in doubt I give GC. They aren't 'memorable' but always well liked. The only time I make or knit a gift is when I KNOW it will be loved and wanted. Life's too short.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

I haven't been knitting long enough to be confident in knowing whether my knitted gifts will definately be loved and wanted.. =) I'm actually not a very gift type of person (it ranks the lowest on my "love" languages) but when I do give gifts, I see the handmade (knitted included) gifts the most treasured, and I'm extra careful and extra selective with those... so I think I usually save those for a special birthday, or a special occasion. But it's great to see how thoughtful you are with your gift-giving... I need to be more like that! =)

9:55 AM  
Blogger Lynette said...

I haven't "matured" enough to give knitted gifts on a regular basis, maturity being a combination of confidence and unselfishness. Once I knit 3 simple scarves in a couple of days for friends and they were received well. However, 1 scarf that I obsessed over and gave to a friend was put away and not seen for more than a year. It depends if the person would appreciate the time and effort.

11:30 AM  
Blogger FaeryCrafty said...

There are some people that I knit for and some I don't. I used to make all my gifts but quickly learned my lesson. Now I only knit for people that I know enjoy knitted things, and buy as thoughtful of a gift as I can for the others.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Cody said...

Mama, I would wear just about anything that you made for me, cause I love you and the thought that preceeds the recieving of such a gift.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Oh yeah, I have made some things that were poorly received!!Two of the most memorable were in-laws. My second husband's grandma gave me yarn because she could no longer see well enough. Her husband was ill, and in a wheelchair, and I thought the perfect gift would be a lapghan, made with her chosen colors. She called me and asked me if I wanted it, because she didn't want it!!
Now for mother-in-law #3, I made her a lovely bedjacket.When she opened the gift, the first thing she said was, "Don't get me anything anymore" !!! She kept it in a drawer for a long time, and then presented it back to me, saying she couldn't use it!!
Both of these people could have just secretly done whatever with these gifts, and I would have been none the wiser. But, they both chose to return the gifts, so I knew they were unwanted. I thought they were totally rude. However, my dental hygienist just gushes over anything I knit, and she is just a joy to give a gift to!! I don't give gifts to many people anymore....just the ones who make it fun to do. I think, besides a few chosen people, I mostly give knitted items to charity.

4:23 AM  
Blogger Janis said...

Awww, I love the gift that Cody gave his mom a couple of replies up. Thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit obviously abound in your family!

My husband and I are better givers than receivers, really delighting in matching the presents we give to the recipients. We prefer giving on the spur of the moment, when we figure out "just the thing" and have never been very good at "enforced" giving, such as Christmas, when the pressure is really on. In recent years, I've been able to deal with the Christmas pressure by buying or making gifts year 'round to stash for later giving. I love giving and receiving things that have personal meaning or sentiment (a handwritten letter, a framed photo), that have been used and cherished (a special book, a set of cookie cutters), or that show just how well I'm understood (the steel-toed boots my dear husband got me for Valentine's day two years ago beat any bouquet!).

My big weakness is putting gifts in the mail. Just the thought of wrapping and boxing up a gift, going to the post office during its busiest hours... I usually end up buying online in order to avoid the post office for distant family members. It's a terrible laziness of mine.

7:31 PM  

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