This issue of Crochet me goes live in the beginning of December -- a crucial time of the year. As I write this, I can feel my adrenaline flooding. For most of us, preparing for Christmas or other end-of-the- year holidays is anything but peaceful and calm. There may be travels to plan. There may be people to invite or family conflicts to worry about. There is food to buy and cook. And, for so many of us, there are gifts to purchase. So much for peace and calm.
Peace and calm, though, is what you find when you sit down with your crochet hook, carefully crafting a beautiful item. So why not prepare for the holidays by crocheting gifts? Yes, why not? What could be a more welcome gift than a lovingly hand-crocheted item, into which you have put thought, love, skill and materials? Well… it depends. Hand-made gifts are a very, very tricky subject. I have experienced this from both sides.
As a giver, seeing the recipient’s impatient anticipation turn into shock or displeasure as she unwraps her gift can feel much like getting a hard knock on the head. You try to look as if nothing happened. You may even try to smile. But you’re all dizzy. You can’t help your eyes filling with tears. The only thing you really want to do is to lie down on the floor while you wait for the pain to go away.
As a recipient, unwrapping a lovingly made gift under the giver’s gaze can be a trying experience. You wish you were a better actor. You do your very best. You try to put on a happy smile and get the right sound in your voice when you say, “This is just lovely!”, while you’re thinking, “But what the h**l is this?” When you see the giver’s face fall, you understand that you’ve failed, and spoiled the holidays for a loved one.
Disaster can be averted. You just have to think very, very carefully before you give in to your enthusiasm and start crocheting away.
I believe the most important rule when crocheting gifts is: Don’t do anything BIG! Unless the recipient specifically asks you, don’t make a sweater, large and complicated shawl, tablecloth or bedspread. If you’re asked to do it, make sure the recipient knows what she wants, knows what it will look like and, most importantly, knows how much time, effort and cost of materials this will entail. You don’t have to show the receipts from the yarn store – but keep in mind that many people who don’t do any crafts themselves believe that you can make something yourself for less money than you can buy it. Don’t laugh at them. They don’t know any better.
Small things are good: stylish hot pads, crocheted brooches, cozies for i-pods or cell phones, simple bookmarks. Things you can whip up in a couple of evenings.
But you also have to take some time to think a little about your recipient. Even if you make a small and easy item, you will have take time to choose and buy your materials. You will carefully select your pattern, and you will put a lot of thought and love into your work. Will it be appreciated?
Think about your recipient’s general way of life. An i-pod cozy for your grand-mother might be a great idea, but it might not. Think about what their homes look like. Your sister who just moved into her first apartment may love your cool neon-colored hot pads. But your uncle who thinks beige and brown is a daring color combination may not. Think about how they dress. Your young cousin who thinks “dressing up” means lacing up her sneakers may not have a single item in her wardrobe to match a snazzy, sparkling crocheted necklace.
Consider whether this person really wants a hand-crafted item. I have two sisters-in-law. This year, I’m considering making them each a crocheted flower brooch. I have leftover yarn. I have brooch pins. I know how they dress. Crocheted flowers are in fashion -- you see them in the stores.
These two girls are very different from each other. The first one tried her hand at sewing. She started to crochet a baby blanket (never finished). She considered making an easy wrap or poncho, and asked me for help with patterns. Every time she sees me working on something, she asks me about it and fondles the fabric. She buys a lot of clothes, but can be seen wearing things from a couple of years ago. For her, I could definitely make a flower brooch.
The other one is as close to a fashion victim as you get in real life (that is, on a limited budget). She’s very stylish and always perfectly groomed. Every season, she empties her wardrobe (except for very expensive items like winter coats), gets rid of her “old” clothes and buys new ones. If a button falls from a garment when she’s about to dress in the morning, she changes plans for her outfit. She will ask her husband to sew the button back on later. In her case, I’m not so sure about whether I want to make her a flower brooch or not. (There’s always the hot pad option. They don’t go out of style).
So, before starting your crochet gifts, think about it. I thought about it – for a long time, and very carefully. I realized that I know a person who would absolutely love a crochet gift. She seems to be the perfect recipient. This person loves beautiful yarn, so it would be very appropriate to select a high-end yarn for her. She’ll understand how valuable it is. The gift doesn’t have to be very small, because this person knows everything about the time needed to complete a larger project. I know her tastes perfectly. I know exactly what she wants.
My mind’s made up. I am going to make at least one very nice crochet gift this year – for myself.