Monday, December 16, 2013

Heartfelt (Knitting and) Gifting

A woman in one of my online knitting groups complains 'I made an afghan for someone and have yet to receive a thank you. Should I worry?'

This kind of knitting and gifting insecurity is common.  If you're the kind of knitter that hears about someone with a special event coming up that needs a gift, and think it would be special to receive something crafted by hand and immediately start making plans, cast-on and knit frantically until it's done, you know the anxiety this woman is describing.  Every knit/crochet/craft blogger will discuss it. There's just as many conversations about crafting for the worthy, knitting for the knitworthy.

Here's what I know.

I know what knitting does for me.  I know that when my hands are busy, I'm trying to do something heroic one stitch at a time.  I'm trying to keep the receiver warm, I'm trying to tell them they are beautiful, I'm trying to tell them they are loved.  Is it unreasonable to expect that from every stitch?  I don't think so.  I've knit that stitch based on the thoughtful planning I gave for that person before I ever cast the first stitch.  I've considered carefully the colors they look good in, especially the ones they seem to be wearing when they are their happiest, if they've not told me directly their favorites.  I've given a lot of thought to their body shape and what they wear and how it fits. I've looked through the patterns I have in my possession, spent hours online, looked at my stash of yarn usually determining it's inadequacy, and then spent further hours online determining the availability of the materials I need do I need to order or can I stop in a local store and if there room on my credit card.

With every stitch, I recount all of our happy memories, I see their smiles and think of what they've meant to me. I think of what they will be doing when they wear or use my knitting gift, their pride when they show it off to their family, friends, co-workers, their world.  With baby gifts, if it's before the baby is born, I will imagine them doing all the things I did with my daughter as a baby and other babies in our family that are cherished memories.

And then you present them with the gift. If I can give it to them in person, I can tell them why it's that color, what it's made of, why I thought they could use this personally, unique-crafted thing. Then watch their eyes.  You can tell if it was too much or if it's just right.  

As a crafter gets older, you're better able to determine the heart of a person and how they will receive something. This summer I made a scarf/shawl for a friend of ours. It was for someone who was going through some medical issues on top of some really personal dramas, too. We were impressed with how she coped with this stuff which was always with laughter. Together, my husband and I looked for yarns that reminded us of her.  When it was handed to her, at that moment, she was having an especially bad day. When I was able to let her know what this was and why, she melted.  I couldn't take a picture of her during her awful day, but asked that she take one when it got cold enough to need to use it, which she did. At the time I gave it to her and when she sent the picture, she described what she loved about it and how it made her feel.

Knitting for kids is a pretty awesome experience.  A baby afghan for a newborn, becomes a nap blankie for a toddler and an adventure tent in play.  Sometimes garments are saved as mementos or passed down to younger siblings. One of my favorite garments to make a child is for starting school.  If you make it in their favorite color and with special details like pockets (POCKETS!) they are ready to do school, like Superman donning his red cape.

But here's where knitting for someone else is like paving a path through a blissful garden. Halos of Hope was founded by Pam Haschke after she fought cancer and beat it.  During that awful time she was given a hat.  When she'd lost her hair, this hat gave her a joy she hadn't expected.  (I haven't met Pam yet, I've heard her tell the story, but I imagine it gave her a lot more than that.) I've heard her say, time and again, she started this charity because she wanted to share the comfort of a soft hat with others still battling.  If you go to the website and look at the notes under Stories of Hope, there are stories of gifts well received. The notes are mostly from the cancer centers where the hats were sent and it's because the writers of the notes were there when a hat was given and received, because the experience is so beautiful the note writing must be done. These people can't take credit, but pass the messages of thanks back to where it belongs, to the ones that thought they would like to, took the time and made the effort to make a soft hat, organized donation efforts and sent the hats out.  

Sometimes when you make something for someone else, you don't get the thanks you needed to hear. You can't let it stop your generosity because you didn't get a thank you card. You have to remember the joy you had in making it, just know that there is more good in the universe because you did and then do it again.
If you are interested in creating hats for Halos of Hope, there is a big effort to achieve a high number of hats by the Stitches West event at Santa Clara, California in February. Several of the podcasters I mentioned a couple of weeks back are participating in a Podcasters Throwdown (challenge amongst themselves). You'll find at the website above the requirements are pretty relaxed, it has to be a new hat, of soft yarn, for a child or adult, male or female. There's even some great patterns that have been donated. Hats take no time to make, unlike a sweater or an afghan. When you're done with one, you won't believe that one hat can make a difference. 

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa