Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On Knitting for Others

I've got crazy vertigo today, so I don't seem to be getting any work done. This is bad, of course, but it means that I've made a lot of progress on my mom's Mother's Day socks. They look much better now that I've frogged my first attempt and started reknitting them in my new gauge. I will post pictures as soon as I'm done with the first sock.

I'm pretty sure that my mom will appreciate these socks. The reason I think that is because a while back, her friend Faith knit her a pair of socks, and she's been raving every since about how wonderful handknit socks are. So I feel confident that this is a good gift for my mother.

I've been thinking, however, about the whole idea of knitting for other people: both gifts and knitting for charity. Obviously, I've been doing some of both lately. I've knit one hat for Can't Stop the Serenity and am working on another, and I'm knitting these socks for my mom. So it's not like I'm opposed to knitting for other people.

But there's a discussion going on over on Ravelry that was started by a woman who is wondering whether she should feel guilty about not knitting a baby present for her pregnant niece. She has three family members who are expecting babies, and she is knitting presents for two of them. She doesn't want to knit for the third one, her niece, because the last time her niece had a baby, she didn't seem to appreciate the handknit gift that the poster gave to her. She seemed to appreciate trendy baby clothes and gadgets more. The poster was basically asking everyone to validate her decision to slight her ungrateful niece by not knitting anything for her.

Now, this seems to me to be entirely the wrong way of thinking about this. The poster shouldn't knit her niece a gift, but not for the reason that everyone said, which is that the niece was an ungrateful brat. She may be an ungrateful brat, but that's not the point. The point is that a gift is about the recipient, not the giver. You should give someone the thing that you think they'd appreciate getting, not one that you'd appreciate giving.

When push comes to shove, I'm an entirely selfish knitter. I have never knit a project that I didn't want to knit. I'm not sure I've ever knit a stitch that I didn't want to knit. I knit because I enjoy knitting. If someone else derives a benefit, that's just icing on the cake.

That doesn't mean that I won't knit for others. If I think someone will appreciate something that I would like to knit, I will certainly knit it for them. But I'm conscious of the need to avoid giving people things just because I want to knit them, because that's not a gift for them. That's a gift for myself. I also have to avoid thinking that people should be grateful for the enormous amount of time that goes into every knitted gift. I spend that time knitting for my own pleasure, so it's not like I went through 40 hours of miserable toil to make that present.

All of this may have to do with the fact that I'm a process knitter. I know that the process/ product dichotomy is a little trite, but I'm such a totally hard-core process knitter that I think it's a useful one for me. I kind of don't care very much about FOs. I've knit some things that were nice and useful, but I've also finished a lot of things, admired them, and then thrown them on a shelf, never to look at them again. And I have limited shelf space. I really could see myself giving people "gifts" mostly just because I didn't want the things to collect dust in my apartment. It's useful, therefore, to remind myself that gifts are about doing something nice for the recipient, not for the giver.

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