Knitted Gift Etiquette; a precautionary tale of the Goldenrod Sweater Set

This year IT happened to us – the gift of a hand knit sweater and matching mittens.  Oh, the nervous look in my eyes as I opened the bag, which was already sending out strong vibrations of YIKES!

IT was made of a heavyweight yarn in bright yellow with hunter green stripes which seemed to bubble over with effervescent, “I LOVE TO KNIT!” enthusiasm that only a fluffy woolen sweater can produce.  IT was the kind of sweater vest that ends up getting stuffed into the bottom bureau drawer, never to see the light of day again until the temperature hits a steady 80 degrees.  The one saving grace of the sweater was that it was intended for our three-year-old toddler and not for me.

handknitted striped sweater and mittens

IT was given by someone at her preschool who knitted one of these sweater sets for each and every one of her 14 toddler classmates, or so I was told by her teacher.  A true, “Oh, please, you shouldn’t have.  YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THIS.”  Because what am I to do with IT now?  Seems wasteful to have her wear IT once and discard, although she will likely outgrow IT before next winter rolls around.

As a somewhat experienced knitter, I can truly appreciate the time and effort that went into this gift.  I am also very grateful for the giving nature of the maker, who wanted our foster child to have something warm and cozy, as well as a Christmas gift.  The sweater is nicely done.  The arms are the same length and the stripes match up.  The mittens are the same size.  Yarn isn’t cheap.  I can also understand the desire that someone who loves knitting has to share the somewhat scratchy/itchy woolen wonderfulness of items knitted with love.  It’s just that the sweater is boyish in style and, quite honestly, not an attractive shade of yellow and green for our little girl.  She has very long hair and I have the feeling this acrylic sweater will act like a Van de Graaff static electricity generator – that is, IF it fits over her sort of bigger head circumference.  I haven’t had the courage opportunity to try and squeeze her into it yet.

Handmade knitted and crocheted items, although thoughtful and often expensive gifts of time and effort from the giver, are difficult when the receiver doesn’t care for them.  It’s not like you can return the item to the gifter and swap it out for a different color or size.  “Hey girlfriend, I’m glad you think I have pencil thin arms but truly, they are of normal length and proportional to my height.  But I look like I’m recovering from the plague with this shade of green wrapped around my neck.  Do you have something that makes me look ten pounds lighter and tanned, as though I just returned from a week in Hawaii?”

So take this as a gentle reminder of knitted gift etiquette as you handcraft your way through life.  As this Reddit forum commenter said,

“Make sure that whatever you choose is something that the giftee will like. Especially with complex patterns, that’s an awful lot of work to put into something the giftee doesn’t adore.”

My favorite handmade gifts to unload on unsuspecting best friends, Mormon visiting teaching ladies, and as wedding shower gifts are basic kitchen items – dish cloths, hot pads, and tea towels.  The amount of my time involved and also the cost to make them is minimal.  I like fun projects that do not become tedious.  If the receiver doesn’t care for them or can’t use them, neither one of us feels bad that the item is sent on its way (i.e. white elephant re-gifted or accidentally set on fire with the first use) or relegated to the back of the linen closet to join company with the snowman holiday towel with matching oven mitt they got from me last year.

About Home gives three great Tips for Gift Knitting.  As for the sweater and mittens, if you are in need of a size 4  bright yellow and hunter green boy’s pullover sweater with a smallish neck opening, please let me know.  IT hopes to have a loving home some day…


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