Y'know, there's always a big push this time of year to give handmade gifts for the holidays. Well, in my (perhaps somewhat biased, interest-wise) circle there is, anyway. I always try to do so for all the usual reasons. I make a lot of things myself, and I also try to buy handmade whenever possible.
So this morning, as I'm knitting away - more slowly than usual due to a particularly nasty and painful (and well-earned) callous on my left pointer finger - I sit down to watch last nights episode of my very favorite currently doomed TV show, 'Pushing Daisies'. Perhaps another day I'll lament why every time I fall unconditionally and irrevocably in love (why yes, I saw 'Twilight' with all its promises of unending love last weekend. Why do you ask?) with a TV show it meets an untimely death. But none of that is relevant to this story. What IS relevant, is that one of the characters on 'Pushing Daisies' is a knitter (How much do I love that, you ask? Only a lot, is all.) and, well, long story short (too late for that, perhaps...) a comment is made about (I'm paraphrasing) 90 year old grandmothers making gifts nobody wants.
Now this came on the heels of reading Kal Barteski's [i] Love Life blog this week, where she mentioned wanting to hand paint nesting dolls to resemble their family and give them to her very young daughter with the hope that she'd treasure them into adulthood, but the realization that she'd probably just try to flush them down the toilet.
These two reminders, in such close succession, made me almost want to put down my needles and head to the store. Because, while, to my knowledge no one has ever tried to flush one of my handmade gifts down the toilet, I have seen them show up at garage sales and in Goodwill bins. Ouch. I have come to the realization over the years, that there are people who appreciate items that are handcrafted and people who don't. Often it's a gamble. So I carefully choose my yarns and patterns, trying to find something that I think will not only suit, but please the recipient. I put more hours than folks could possibly imagine into it. I think about the recipient during all those hours of work, so, cliche as it is, there really is love knit in.
When I give that gift, it really is like giving a little bit of myself.
So when those gifts are rejected, I do tend to (rightly or wrongly) take that rejection very personally.
Sometimes I just want to quit. It's so much time, and I don't really save any money. You can almost always buy a decent sweater (scarf, hat, pair of mittens, etc.) for less than the yarn to make it would cost.
But every now and then, I get the reaction I'm seeking, and it's like crack. I know I'll never quit.
Last year I knit a cap for a casual acquaintance. He wore that cap all the time. It made me want to go home and knit him 10 more. I crocheted an afghan for an old high school friend when she got married over 20 years ago. When I ran into her at our 20th high school reunion, she said she still has that afghan over a chair in her family room. Awesome.
I'm making a lot of gifts this year. Some will inevitably find themselves on the handmade equivalent of the Island of Misfit toys. Most of them, probably (to be realistic). But if even one gets to be a skin horse (come on, admit it, you've read 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. You know what I'm talking about), then it will all be worth it and I'll do it all over again next year.
Bottom line: The bad reputation handmade gifts get through popular culture is ridiculous. Not every handmade sweater is twice as long as it should be with three sleeves. Not every color combination a handcrafter chooses is garish and/or random. And the gamble is worth it for just one of those few and far between wins. Give handmade.