If you read any of the columns I wrote last year around this time, then you know I am the Ebenezer Scrooge of hand-crafted gifts. Before you are too hard on me, remember that I am primarily a knitter and a quilter and those are the gifts I am reluctant to make for others. Quilted or knitted gifts take not hours, not days, but weeks and sometimes months to make. Since I am a quilter I am, by default, a sewer as well. I will occasionally sew simple gifts. In the area of knitting, it is possible to buy super-bulky yarn and really big needles to whip out a scarf or hat in just one day. While I haven’t done that yet, it is a possibility for the future.
Alison Bolt writes a column for Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine and has a Facebook page of the same title, "Right off the Bolt." Last week she posted the following: "We have to accept that we have no control over how recipients of our gifts use them. A reader just related the following tale of woe: A quilter lovingly made a quilt for her niece. Later, during a visit to the niece’s home, she discovered the quilt had been well used—— by the family dog in its bed. She picked up her quilt, walked out, and hasn’t spoken to her since. What would you have done?" The responses included a range of opinions from "the dog probably LOVED the quilt" to people, like me, who would have never made a quilt for the niece in the first place. There were also a few more similar tales, including one where a woman made a quilt for her sister’s retirement, only to have the sister call the next day to ask if she could make the quilt a different color.
There IS a point to my rant: If someone gives you something they have made, please look beyond the item itself to see the number of hours they spent on you. The real gift is the time and thought the maker dedicated to you. I cannot give you any hard and fast rules on how to handle a gift that does not fit your decor or tastes, but be considerate enough not to have it out in plain view of the maker being used as a dog bed!! And if you re-gift it at one of those white elephant exchanges, make sure you are at least three states away from the maker among a group of people she is never likely to meet.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that people make gifts because they are tightwads. While it is still possible to save money by making things, it is not the norm. Fabrics and craft supplies have gone up in cost while inexpensive merchandise has flooded the market. For years I made my own clothes, but now it doesn’t make sense to spend twenty dollars on materials to make something I can buy ready-made for ten dollars.
I have a second point to make: If you are a crafter, make sure you can give a gift with no strings attached. Do not knit someone a scarf then expect them to be wearing it every time the temperature drops below seventy. Do not show up at their house and look for and ask about the doo-dad you made for them. The above mentioned niece should have thought enough of her aunt to get the quilt out of the dog bed before the aunt saw it....but maybe the aunt should not have gone snooping to see what happened to the quilt! Maybe she should not have made an unsolicited quilt for the niece expecting it to be treated as a treasured heirloom.
With all that said, giving hand-made gifts can be a wonderful experience. I am making a few this year and am not even building in any strings. But just remember, if you get something from me and decide to let the dog have it, please make sure not to let me know! SpringCreekArtsGuild@gmail.com