It’s officially been over a year since I changed states and took the next step in my career, a term of time I have loosely been calling “the year of change”. In that time, a new job was started, a long-term relationship was ended, my first home was purchased, new friends were made, a new car was needed… the list goes on and on. Despite all these changes, and I’d like to think my life will continue to evolve, it feels like for the first time since moving out of my parents’ house I have roots. For the first time since starting the period of my life after college, I have a desire to engage with the community around me because I don’t want the community around me to be temporary. Not that I wasn’t engaged in my previous communities of course, the difference is I have more of an investment in the community that I now belong to.
During my first few weeks in this new place, actually more like the first month and a half, I stayed at an air bnb while waiting to close on my home. I cannot express my gratitude enough towards the family who took me in, as they have become some of my best friends. Perhaps it was because I spent so many nights in their little cabin, or because our personalities and values were so similar, but what started as a formal relationship quickly dissolved within the first week. Hours of card games have been played, miles of runs have been enjoyed, and thousands of conversations have taken place since the initial awkward hello.
I don’t remember the exact day that it happened, perhaps during my third week there, but one of the daughters made me a friendship bracelet and enthusiastically tied it to my wrist. Though the gesture was small, I didn’t realize at the time how much the bracelet would come to ground me through the changes of the last year. She didn’t mean to, but with the small handmade gift, she reminded me that I was never alone and that I had people rooting for me. Due to the bracelet’s construction, it has been with me every step of the way this past year because it was not designed to be taken off. This bracelet has been hiking, running, ice fishing. This bracelet survived mountain races and a half marathon. It has been with me through tears of frustration, enthusiasm, and laughter. Until the other morning, when it broke off. I sent the daughter a photo of the bracelet with a sad face and she promptly responded that it looks like it’s time for another one. At no point did she reflect on how I had ruined the gift that she made me because she knew that I had worn it every day when I could have cut it off. She knew I had worn it out of love.
Over the years, I have made hundreds of hand-knit gifts. The more my knitting skills evolve the more I want to share my finished objects. I’ve made cabled sweaters for my sister and fancy socks for my mother. When my dad told me he wanted to spray his handmade hunting mits with something for hunting, I didn’t bat an eye. Despite this attitude, I still have people who are worried about ruining my hand knits. When I gave my sister’s SO a pair of convertible fingerless mitts, his first reaction was these are awesome! A feeling that quickly transformed into “I’m going to ruin these on the job”. So I told him the truth, I made these mitts for you to wear them. If they keep your hands warm on the job and your work wrecks them, then I’m happy that they kept your hands warm and I’m happy to make you another pair when you need one.
While I am flattered that people want to covet my hand made items, it makes me sad to think that the item will never be used. The point of the object was to give you something to keep you warm or to give you comfort, not to make you think I was testing you to see how long you could keep the item pristine. If you are someone who worries about people taking care of the items you make, take a moment to think about why you’d be upset if they wrecked the item.
Are you about to use cashmere on someone who is just going to through the garment into the dryer? Consider the care of your item and whether or not they’re realistic to expect the person you’re giving it to. While I have mixed feelings about superwash, superwash yarns are better than cashmere for baby blankets that need to be washed all the time.
Will the recipient of your gift appreciate the time and effort that went into their garment? The answer to this question can go either way for me. Sometimes I just want to see the person wear a complicated Octopus sweater, sometimes the sweater curse is real because in the middle of knitting said complicated sweater I realize they’re not worth it. Sometimes when the answer is no I opt to choose something else. Mostly, I think about whether or not the recipient would wear the item if they bought it from a store. In other words, if someone doesn’t usually wear shawls they’re not going to start just because you made them a beautiful lace one.
At the end of the day, hand knits are meant to be worn. They’re a physical token of love, a magical item to remind the recipient they were in your thoughts the entire you made it. Maybe not the times where you were cursing a row for not lining up or you were focused on learning a new skill, but definitely when you were worried about making the final product look good. To this day, my favorite cowl that was gifted to me by my aunt was made out of handspun that I gifted her! It’s something I wear with pride because we both contributed to the final product, can you imagine if I tucked it away never to be seen again? So much work and thought was put into this tiny garment, it would be a shame if was never able to carry out its destiny of keeping me warm.
Who deserves a hand-knit is probably more controversial than the idea that hand knits should be worn, but since the two go together I’ll end with this idea: those who deserve handmade items are the same people who need it, and there are so many reasons as to why someone may need it.