Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2003  

Yarn snobbery and gifts

Wheeee! Off now for 5 days! And a good weigh in at WW last night - still moving down - and this after a gourmand’s festive week with lunches at Italian restaurants and roast beef dinners over the weekend. Nice and uplifting thoughts. The nag lurking along the edge of my consciousness will just have to remain there - besides, the next 5 days will be spent with BD who, in a crisis, will become DaddyExtrodinaireBigStrongShouldersTakeCareOfEverything and never remind you later about it. (yes, that does mean I’m expecting a crisis.)

In other thoughts, though, is Martheme’s essay on fiber snobbery - and gifts. Really, what pricks my consciousness right now is the gift giving part, since, obviously, nobody cares what someone uses to knit for himself. It is when I knit for another - or that other
knits for me that an opinion can either hurt or ignore or be thrilled - and so often that opinion seems to trickle from an uplifted nose.

Like Martheme, I am a natural fibers gal. For a brief time in the ‘60’s I was excited by some of the synthetic fibers - though I will tell you I never wore polyester double knit. It felt like puffy saran wrap. But I was an early fan of acrylic and I do remember a halter necked prom dress, in a polyester crepe with green frogs on it, which I made for about $10, from bargain fabric I got at one of those stores that sell stuff from other store’s damaged shipments. As I recall, the fabric cost less than the pattern.

I like soft first, then sleek, and last of all fuzzy - but of course, not up-your-nose fuzzy. Wool, then alpaca and llama, then pure silk, silk blends, blends with rayon, then mohair and angora. I also like shiny and have no trouble adding glitter, hologram film, sequins, etc. and beads oooo yes beads. Cotton is not sleek enough to tempt me most of the time and is easy enough to buy in ready mades. Silk tempts me (I even adore the word!) enough to put up with it’s lack of sproingggg, as does alpaca which is better as a blend anyway and adds drape to the garment.

I also like the Colinette acrylics and am enormously impressed with the combinations that go into the glorious afghan kits. I can see myself putting in the time to make one of those. I just haven’t sprung for one yet. Seems I seldom have that many hundred dollars to put into something when I happen to be near a store that carries them.

The groundwork being thus laid - we come to the issue of gift making or rather, the whole the slippery slope of gifts regardless of being the giver or the recipient, whether the gift was bought or made. As I recall, growing up, it was not possible to effuse enough to satisfy my family’s notion of proper gift acceptance. There are hideous Christmas tree photos of us squealing in ecstasy as we clutch some gift to our bosom in frenzied delight - emotions cranked up for the show required to keep lower lips from pouting out of disappointed givers’ faces. Since this display had to be repeated for each gift, holiday mornings were exhausting baths of hypocrisy and rather put me off gift getting altogether. But not quite. One of the all time, worst fights BD and I ever had was over a birthday gift I gave him - and come to think of it - I remember another one over the lack of Christmas gift he gave me the first year we actually had an income. Hmmm.

Well, thank God those days are long ago and caused no lasting damage. In fact, they taught us both some important lessons we needed to learn about our gift style. We know that one gift is essential, two is nice and three is too many. We also know that the ONLY response necessary is “Thank you”. More is only welcome if it flows naturally and happily from your heart and off your lips. You are not required to use the gift, wear the gift, display the gift or anything else with it. Once it is yours, you are welcome to give it away, drop it, store it in a cabinet - whatever you please. Once you have said “thank you” it is yours. It no longer belongs to the giver and nothing of it’s karma attaches to him.

If your loved one gives you an ice maker for the refrigerator that you specifically chose because it didn’t have an ice maker in it - and you say “thank you” and set it aside, it is understood that the ice maker now becomes his to install and who knows, you may even be glad of it on long summer afternoons, if only your loved one would flip the little metal arm back down so it would continue to fill the ice reservoir.

And you are quite free to wear the gorgeous cushiony shawl collared vest, with its high riding collar that blocks the cold drafts seeping into the computer room on winter mornings, which you knit your loved one - that he would wear if only you’d rip out the collar that rides up so high against the back of his neck.

This philosophy carries over to the gifts I choose for (or receive from) friends and extended family. My response is always “Thank you” and “You’re welcome”. If I am truly thrilled I will expound and I will always welcome expansions from the recipient of my gifts; but it is not a requirement. Gifts are tokens of respect and affection - not definitions of them.

So how does my gift philosophy fit with my creative urge? Not very well, I’m afraid. My favorite person to knit for is myself. I always appreciate my knitting exactly, perfectly right. I squirm when I see another open the wrapping of a precious hand-knit item, flush from my needles, and watch them struggle, trying to find the appropriate expression. The dread sense of doom, as my heart plummets, always costs more than any anticipatory joy I got making it - though as I see the eyes glaze and the smile freeze I begin the silent internal chant “the thought that counts, you enjoyed making it, the thought that counts, you enjoyed making it”. Worse yet is the pouting “I thought you were going to make me _____?” as a response to my efforts.

This doesn’t mean I don’t make gifts for others. I do. Selfishly, it gives me an opportunity to use colors I never wear. Sometimes the perfect thing, for the perfect loved one, springs off my needles. Sometimes I get a request - as in both the D’s request for wool socks for every Christmas. I want to knit a sweater for LD and it will certainly be a gift - but we’ll plan and design it together so that the months of work I will put into it will not be in vain. And BD can’t really see the need for a sweater since, “You already knit me one”.

This also doesn’t mean that I won’t see some lovely winter-sky-at-dawn colored wool, buy it and knit it into, say, a scarf, that would look lovely on Mama - only she doesn’t wear scarves. It does mean that I’ll hang on to the scarf till someone comes along who could wear it and I’ll give it, but it’s not going to be an “I knit this for you, darling, working my fingers to the bone knitting into the wee hours”. The emotional commitment to the knitted garment has long been severed and now it’s just one of those “extra” gifts one keeps about the house, like extra Birthday cards or hostess gifts. It could just as easily be a box of scented candles.

Anyway - all this is to say that gift giving is a tricky activity - something of a window onto one’s psyche, a snapshot of a relationship, an exercise in inter-personal dynamics, a random, accidental nothingness and an opportunity for endless humiliation - or boundless delight. When it comes to gifts I try to expect nothing, accept the token as proof that another is fond of me, release the item given utterly from my ego - and of course, the final caveat:

Buy myself the gift I really want.

posted by Bess | 8:19 AM