This Is for You. I Made It Myself.

“This is for you. I made it myself.”

You make something for a friend or for a family member.

You think of them, with every stitch and brush stroke and creative impulse.

You consider their likes and dislikes, their favorite colors, their lifestyle. You pour yourself into the making.

You want it to be perfect, to express your love, your affection, the extent to which you value their presence in your life.

You value their presence but . . . do they value your present?

A couple of times lately, I have come face to face with what I consider a bit of a betrayal. I’ve found, at garage sales, beautiful handmade gifts being sold for a pittance.

It’s given me pause and made me wonder about the extent to which handmade gifts can ever be truly appreciated by people who are not, themselves, hand makers.

One of the items I came across is this beautiful hand crocheted afghan, in wild and wonderful shades of green.

 

It was hanging on a clothesline at a yard sale and I idly asked if it was for sale. Yes, it was. How much? Two dollars. Two dollars?! I’ll take it.

I asked, Did you make it? The answer was, No, my best friend made it for me.

Um.

Okay.

Your best friend spent hours making you this gift and you are selling it to a stranger for two dollars.

I knew not what to say. But what I thought was “pearls before swine.” What I thought was your friend deserves a better friend than you. And I became the crocheting friend’s friend, in absentia, and will give her afghan the good home it deserves.

And then I came across this fabulous hand knit sweater.

This sweater has it all. It is big and burly and well made. It has cool colors and a terrific retro design. It has a proud tag, added by the maker, “From the knitting needles of Eleanor E. Heffner.”

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Oh, Eleanor. I am so sorry that your sweater ended up at a garage sale, being carelessly sold for three dollars. For whom did you knit it? I hope that first recipient cherished it, even though the sweater came to this sad end.

But, of course, it isn’t the end for the sweater. I’ll offer it for sale and the perfect owner will present themselves, someone who understands what Eleanor was communicating when she stitched this great old cardigan.

I know that, in theory, a gift is supposed to be given freely, with no strings attached. That the joy is supposedly in the giving and, once given, we can’t determine how the gift will be used and maybe we should try not to care.

But I can’t help but be sad for these makers whose work was underappreciated, for any one of us who makes a gift for someone who just doesn’t get it.

I think it may happen more than I knew. I mentioned the topic to my group of sewing ladies, we who meet weekly to stitch, and knit, and crochet, and quilt. To make things that often become gifts. And, I should note, these women are excellent makers, who take great care in their work—no sloppy, amateurish rags coming from this group!

And I heard their horror stories of quilts that took days, weeks, months to make and that were immediately re-purposed as dog beds. Of handmade gifts that were never acknowledged or were given away. Of faint praise and insincere thanks, or no thanks at all.

Is there an abyss, a huge disconnect between those who make and those who don’t? Am I trying to communicate in a language foreign to others, those who receive a handwoven kitchen towel and think, “Oh . . . a towel. Big deal.”

What do think? Are you happy with the simple act of giving, in a selfless, loving way, the things that you labor over? Or do you consider the recipient and, perhaps, reserve your handwrought work for those you know can appreciate it?

And how about those of you who aren’t makers? Are you thrilled or made uncomfortable by a handmade gift? Are those of us who craft expecting too much? Do you cringe or cheer when you hear the words, “This is for you. I made it myself”?

90 thoughts on “This Is for You. I Made It Myself.

  1. Ah, Kerry, I so so relate to this post! I no longer give “handmade gifts” as “gifts”. I will offer a piece to someone who gushes over it when they see it….for instance, one acquaintance is a musician and when she was my tea towels said: Oh, these would be wonderful for my bows. She got two towels!!!! And she uses them!!!! Another friend saw more towels and said: Oh!!! linen! I love love love linen towels….they work so well in the kitchen! She got two, uses them and IRONS them 🙂 Then, I had (yup, past tense for many reasons) a friend who noticed a sweater I was knitting for my husband. She said: If he doesn’t want it (???????why would he not?????) give it to me and I can throw it on to garden in the fall and skate in the winter. Mmmm, not. And that green afghan???? GORGEOUS!!!!!

    • Aren’t people funny?? Imagine not understanding that a hand knit sweater was destined for something more than mucking around in the garden! Lucky for us, there are also the ones that really DO understand and appreciate!

  2. Oh, it’s wonderful to be appreciated enough to have a handmade gift, specially for ME. At the same time, I’ve occasionally received things that just – um – aren’t me. And this is such a hard dilemma. What to do? I currently have something in my home that was made for me as such a kind gesture, but I really don’t like it. I’d never get rid of it, but it is stored away. In truth, I think it might be better for the maker to say ‘I really would like to make you a ….. Would you help me plan it?’ And that could be fun too. What do you feel, Kerry? And Team Kerry?

    • I wove kitchen towels for all the women in my sewing group, as birthday presents. At first, I just gave the birthday girl a towel I liked but then I put a plain, off white warp on my loom and asked the others what kinds of colors they would like added. I could tell that that second approach was much more appreciated. But several of them said they’d never use the towels because they were too pretty–and that makes me CRAZY! And, from the other standpoint, I, too have a few handmade gifts from others that are stashed away. The worst is a beautiful cross stitch sampler made for our wedding, with our names and the date. It’s not our “look” at all but who else would want it? I can’t even give it away! SO, I’m stuck with keeping it or trashing it . . .

      • this makes me think of about 10 years ago, when I made a whole set of bibs for a friends baby, with cross stitched designs on each and the different days of the week. The Mum said they were “too pretty to use” lol and promptly stashed them in a drawer. I would have been much happier, if they had been used, got thrown in the washing machine on a daily basis, and ended up being used a dusters afterwards. Since then, I haven’t cross stitched any bibs, as it’s just too time-consuming for something to go in the drawer!

        • “Too pretty to use”–that confounds me. We live in our pretty houses, sit on our pretty chairs, eat pretty desserts, wear pretty clothes . . . but we won’t use pretty bibs?? What good do they do kept in a drawer?!

  3. Powerful post with quite a message for both sides to ponder. A daughter, a crochet wizard made me a beautiful afghan which became my dog oops fur baby’s car blanket. In my defense our schnauzer is truly my son so it seemed and act of love to allow her ‘brother’ the use of this warm comfy throw. On the flip side an entirely hand stitch quilt given as a gift was lost to a washing machine – instead of sharing the mistake and asking for it to be repaired it was thrown out ~ I was horrified oy! Enjoyed your post this morning…the sweater is wonderful…love your rescues. Sharon

    • So, I need to know–how does your daughter feel about the fur baby using the afghan she made? She probably loves the dog as much a you do, which makes it okay! That quilt/washing machine story made me wince–what a loss! It reinforces the idea that non-makers have no clue how much time and energy goes into these things we make!

  4. I can really see both sides of the story here – I love to crochet and knit and have mad afghans for people – but only for those who specifially said they would love to have one. I’m also very particular about what I like, and if someone made something for me that isn’t my style, I’d feel real bad about it.
    That green afghan you found – oh my, I would have loved to find that, and I would definitely have paid more for it; green is my favourite colour, and I can absolutely visualise it on my sofa!

    • That afghan is on my sofa! One of the benefits of having a vintage shop on Etsy is that, when I see these cool things, I can buy them and find the perfect home for them, but this afghan is staying with me! You’re smart, I think, to do your crafting only for the people who show true appreciation!

  5. I can see it both ways…I have done hand made wedding gifts, especially for some of the kids I’ve worked with over the years. I always try to use their exact colors and I look at their gift registries to determine if my gift will at least “go” with the decor. I have long since resigned myself to the fact that those gifts may not be appreciated as much as other things, but I hope that with a little time and experience they do gain. The quilts I have made for special friends of my girls have been treasured, and the notes reflect that, even the grooms have chimed in, in some cases, but I think I am fortunate. Living in the Midwest, those old fashioned traditions of wedding quilts and hand made things are more common.
    I have received hand made items in the past that were a complete and total reflection of the maker’s taste in style and color, and nearly opposite of mine. Those are much harder to deal with. In the end I have kept them, acknowledging the love and hard work they reflect, until I can find them a loving and more suitable home.

    • You’re right that, the better you know someone, the easier it is to make something they will appreciate. For instance, I don’t bother making anything for my mother that isn’t turquoise! And no one in my family is really the quilt type at all. It’s hard, when we love to make things and they pile up around the house! Maybe that’s why I sell the weaving on Etsy . . .

  6. I read this with mixed feelings to be honest: I never knit gifts unless I am 100% sure the receiver loves it and appreciates it. To me, its also a matter of taste. I once got quite a large painting created by a well meaning niece. She put effort and skill in it…but it was not my taste. It did not fit my home, my decor etc. She expected me to love it, to hang it on the wall etc. Although she meant well, i also thought it quite invasive. To me, that is the same with this lovely green afghan,and the brilliant sweater…what if you simply do not like a green crochet afghan or skiers on a sweater? Is that creating friend not equally inconsiderate to think that her skills and effort must be appreciated?
    So this is how I go about it: I knit what I love and when someone remarks that it is so lovely …that someone might be so lucky and find it as a gift the next day/christmas or birthday. The painting from the niece ended up in a sale and someone exclaimed it was just what she was looking for and I was so happy to see it go to a good home…..Oh Kerry what webs we weave sometime ;o) A lovely thought provoking post, as always my dear! Xo Johanna

    • I think it is much better to give someone something they have already admired! Then you *know* it’ll be appreciated. I always seem to have a number of handwoven towels lying around and can say, “would any of these work in your kitchen?” The thing that freaked me out about the green afghan, which is really quite loud, even though I have the perfect spot for it, is that it was the woman’s BEST friend who made it and she sold it for $2!! I mean, why not ask a little more? Or show a little remorse for selling it? Oh, well–it’s mine now! Glad you found a good home for your niece’s painting–I won’t tell her . . . 😉 XOXOX

        • I go back and forth on that sweater. It just fits me (but a little snug if I zip it up) and I do love it but it’s a little flashy, “look at me” for my style. I’ll probably sell it on Etsy.

  7. I’m with most of the other comments here in seeing both sides of the issue, but first I’ll say, I try hard not to care about how my gifts are used (or not) after given. But when I know they are not used/loved/appreciated, or that they are abused, that person probably won’t get another from me. I don’t care how loved a pet is, I don’t want one of my quilts to act as a dog bed.

    OTOH, for me to put the energy into the making, I have to make something I like, too. I don’t work on commission. 🙂

    • I kind of like the idea of working with another person to make something to their taste, unless, of course, their taste really offends my taste! I have a great deal of trouble weaving or sewing anything purple . . . just do not like purple! You’ve given a lot of quilts as gifts–have you ever really been disappointed in the reaction?

  8. I have received handmade gifts that I loved/disliked for the various reasons aforementioned. But I would NEVER dispose of it. I know what went into the making. I have disintegrating tatting on pillowcases, pilly crocheted afghans, stained hand-sewn batiste baby gowns that family or friends, generations twice or thrice removed, hand-sewed, knitted, crocheted that I can’t bear to part with. They are hand washed from time to time and put away. I am ashamed to confess that a wedding gift received, a hand-stitched crazy quilt, was given to a clothing charity. I thought the fabrics and “craziness” was ugly. I was young, unappreciative, selfish and ignorant of the sacrifice this Appalachian Cherokee woman (mother-in-law to my mother’s cousin) made in order to give me the best gift that she could. Thirty-eight years later I still regret it. 😐

    • I think you are a very sentimental, caring person, Joanne! And I can really relate. I have crazy things stored away here because they were gifts from a family member or once belonged to a long-gone ancestor. Recently, I’ve been given two christening gowns by people unrelated to me who were looking to simplify their own lives. It kind of breaks my heart that these pretty things are not staying in their families!

  9. One aspect of handmade gifts that may seem counter to gift giving is to work with the potential gift receiver to make something they might like and use. A friend has worked with color schemes that wouldn’t be her choice to make quilts that the recipients would like. And they did. Same thing with hand knit sweaters. The recipient may hate to wear wool or hate turtlenecks, etc. The only regular handmade gifts I make are baby quilts for the offspring of nieces and nephews. The feedback has been mostly positive.

    • I completely agree that, if we’re going to put the energy into making something for some, we should get their input! But people so want to surprise others with their gifts . . . sometimes the surprise isn’t a happy surprise is the problem.

  10. My husband’s family didn’t seem to appreciate hand made gifts. I would make gifts for them because we didn’t have much money. So things I knitted, crocheted and sewed was quickly gotten rid of. I was glad when I didn’t have to give them gifts anymore.

  11. What a human and well-articulated blog post plus thoughtful comments, Kerry! I can empathize with both sides of the giving/receiving interaction. As someone who tends to hold onto stuff rather than recycle/sell/give it away, I am biased towards those who decide to hold onto a well-intentioned gift (which might not align with someone’s personal style/decor), yet I also admire those who can let go of things. Sounds like many creative people have learned from experience to make their generous gifts in response to comments of genuine enthusiasm/appreciation for their creativity/craft/handiwork… That seems like wisdom! Since my partner is a painter, I have certainly seen how some creative media lend themselves better (and worse) to being given as presents. The gift of a big painting is very different than the gift of a box of postcards featuring that painting, for example. As a songwriter and singer (and a dedicated writer of thank you cards), I have certainly been surprised and disappointed not to get any feedback from friends or family members to whom I have given a CD — or in one case from a cousin for whom I wrote a song (unsolicitedly) inspired by remarks she had made at her daughter’s wedding. But I know that most of us tend to lead very busy and active — and often crisis-filled — lives. So I endeavor to focus on the positive feedback I DO receive from friends and family regarding my creative endeavors and not stew too much about the lack of feedback from others… Somehow the entire topic reminds me a bit about a conversation I had many years ago with the parents of three little boys whom I used to take care of. Both of the parents had very busy jobs — one as a college professor at RISDE and one as a child psychiatrist working with underserved family populations. They pointed out to me that while I was helping to take care of their beloved children during the day, they were busy helping to take care of other people’s beloved children, too (although in the case of the college professor, the children were now young adults). So maybe if we are lucky the fruits of our creativity eventually find someone who truly appreciates and savors them — even if it that path towards appreciation includes them being sold for $3 at a yard sale by the original recipient of the gift…

    • As always, your reaction is so reasonable, so humane and willing to see both sides, Will! But I am still sitting here, shaking my head, that someone would not thank you for a song you wrote, based on her own words!! Nobody is that busy! But it is much more sane to focus on the positive and the good in people. And I think you may be the most sane person I know!

  12. Gosh what a poignant post and what thoughtful comments. When I see something–even if I don’t like it–it can speak to me of another person, their taste, or likes or dislikes. When something speaks to me like that, it’s always the right gift. Otherwise, I’m shooting in the dark–and people often do that with me. My sister-in-law gave me a cute, sparkly summer bag with some little flowers on it. I like it. It’s really cute, but it is SOOOOO not me. So I don’t use it. At some point, I’ll probably have to have a sale of cute bags she’s given me, and I hope someone who buys them LOVES them. So as someone who has made things for people, I’m not sure the giving is that different from ordinary gift giving. You want it to be right from the giving side and you are grateful from the receiving side, but aren’t necessarily going to use the thing. Part of giving is knowing the person will like it. And part of the receiving is being grateful. Giving something to your dog is not being grateful. Giving it away to someone who does like it or will use it (appropriately) may not be so bad.

  13. What great finds, certainly made with love and artistry. I take to heart your writing and the many comments of the bitter sweet dilemma of giving and receiving gifts – especially those handmade. My dear late mother chose to keep every gift ever given to her and took the time to set gifts out in a prominent place whenever the giver came for a visit. As a child, I was puzzled why she bothered with this ritual. Yet now, I see it was her way of thanking the person for caring/loving her enough to give a gift that was precious to them, even if it was not to her. Unlike my mother, as a young adult, I took a vow to keep a very stark home. During that period of my life, I did not keep every purchased gift given, yet highly valued handmade items. Except one, a beautiful handwoven baby blanket woven with a fiber I am allergic to. Over the decades, I have wished I had the skills to suggest the weaver find another home for the lovely blanket and consider weaving another in a natural fiber. Giving and receiving – what a balancing act!

    • Keeping a stark home is difficult when you are a maker of pretty things and the daughter of someone who kept all the pretty things she ever received! I wish we could use a crystal ball, to determine which things we’d regret disposing of and which would be better off in another home!

      • Keeping stark has been a challenge and I’ve not been able to keep up with it. However, I have a new vow to move towards starkness and/or better organized spaces of items used or stored. I will need that crystal ball to help with my choices!

  14. I rarely give gifts that I’ve made and I don’t often get hand-made gifts. If I loved it I’d be very grateful – even if I didn’t, I would treasure the thought and wouldn’t sell it on – it would probably be put in a drawer somewhere. It is difficult if someone gives you a gift to wear or for the home that you don’t like.

    • You’re right that it isn’t just handmade gifts that can cause dilemmas! Gift giving in general is fraught with difficulties. Maybe that’s why, in my immediate family, we don’t give gifts on birthday or Christmas and opt for time together, often traveling and making memories!

  15. wonderful, thought provoking post – the replies are equally wonderful. Of course I too, have been on both sides of giving/receiving and also have stories -happy and not so much. One experience I don’t think anyone has mentioned is when giving handmade baby/wedding gifts the response has always been positive, on the other hand handmade gifts to family or close friends is frequently accepted with a casual response and “oh, is this what you’re making now?” or something similar. I have definitely stopped giving to some folks.

    • The comments on this post have blown me away! Such great insights! I bet you’ve seen it all, in your lifetime of being a weaver and artist–every possible reaction to a handmade gift. And you’ve learned not to throw pearls before swine!

  16. Well, seems like you hit a hot button for a lot of folks, me included. I look at a hand made gift and see that person taking their time and making an effort to create it with me in mind. I don’t care what it is, I keep it and treasure the person who made it. When I die, you will find it here. It will not go to a garage sale. On the other side, I have given family gifts that have taken months to create with the colors or themes picked out by that person and gotten a half smile and they’re probably either stuffed under a bed or the dog is sleeping on it. Along the way, others saw the item and commented how lovely it was and how it would be so much appreciated, but… I don’t know what happened to the idea of saying a sincere ‘thanks’ or sending a card, an email, a text – something to acknowledge hours and hours of work, but it doesn’t exist any more. Therefore, I don’t create for those folks anymore. When there is a situation that requires a gift, I send cash. I still don’t get a thank you, but at least there was no effort put into it. I hate feeling that way, but reality sets in after a while and it would be foolish to continue to gift gifts that are unappreciated. Good post and comments.

    • Thanks, Judy–yes, the reactions to the post have surprised me–a lot of emotion! I’m with you about the frustration I feel when I make a real effort to do something nice and get a lukewarm, or no, response. I wove two baby blankets in the past couple of years. In one case, I got an effusive thank you note and repeated photos of the baby playing on the blanket. in the other case . . . nothing. Guess who I’m inclined to give more gifts to!?

  17. Isn’t this great! So many thoughts and opinions to accompany your thoughtful musings on those found items. I love that green blanket – but then those shades of green speak to me right now (it’s spring here) but not so much that sweater. As you know I make and gift. I have learnt over the years, for my own well being that ‘gift’ means exactly that. Once given it is gone and of no more interest to me. Actually I could say the same about anything I make, it’s the making I enjoy, not the having or keeping or hoarding or who has it now that I think much about…… Though, having said that, I do enjoy hearing something is appreciated and I do know who has and who appreciates and they tend to get more 🙂

    I have a daughter who used to keep everything she was given whether she personally liked it or not, whether it suited her current life style or not. Being sentimentally attached to the giver she felt honour bound to keep the gift. She was drowning in stuff she didn’t really want. She did some hard therapy and began to divest herself – I’m pretty sure she still keeps some things, but certainly much less than she used to.

    I have made and gifted clothing items that have ended up in the bottom of wardrobes. I just think, meh! That didn’t work so well. 🙂 I have given away lots of items I have made and some I have never heard another word about, some not even an acknowledgement and others are effusive and proudly display their item. I think it says more about the recipient than the gift really. Some people just aren’t that effective at expressing how they feel. And I think also maybe life simply gets in the way. Tastes change, people change, circumstances change. We cannot know what goes on in peoples lives and emotions. And maybe gifts given are charged with emotions.

    I think some things come into our lives for a time and a season – others stay. I have some little handmade items on display that were gifted to me. None of them are items I would have chosen, but they are kept because they have memories and gifters attached to them. When I die they will probably end up in an op-shop and I hope someone will find them there who will give them a continued life. In the meantime, I keep on giving simply because that makes me happy.

    Great post Kerry! ❤

    • You’re such a reasonable person, Pauline, always ready to see the good in others! Your philosophy about giving is one I aspire to . . . and usually fail to achieve! I think I am quite sentimental, like your daughter, and want my gifts to mean as much to others as theirs do to me . . . But, like I say, I’m working toward your attitude!

  18. I can honestly say that I’ve never sold or gave a gift from a friend away, but then again I not a person who has a certain theme for each room. However, I made a knotted quilt for the elderly lady that who to live across the road as she complained she was getting cold at night, I ended up making two for her for she used the first one on her little dog ,who apparently was getting cold too. The dear soul was thrilled with the two quilts. So in the long run ,I was happy ,after I realized how much it meant to her.🙂 Both of your garage sale finds are lovely! Your post was a interesting thought provoking. Thanks!

    • You make such a sweet point, Deb–by using one of your quilts for her beloved dog, the woman was actually paying you a compliment! It was good enough for the pup! Like you, I don’t have a theme for each room in my house, which is really quite liberating! I can always fit in another thing I like.

  19. I totally feel you Kerry! I picked up a lovely hand made wool afghan for just a few dollars as well. You put my thoughts into words perfectly. That being said, I realize that not every item given fits every receiver’s tastes. it’s a hard call for sure…. thank you for the thought provoking article❤️. —Tracy

  20. I had the dilemma of moving on a gift made for me. I wavered about keeping it or not. The ‘not’ was because I am trying to have less things in my life. I am feeling weighed down by things, many of them kept because I felt I should. In the end I moved it on, thinking that I have given it a year or so of appreciation for the gift. Like many other thoughtful commentators have said, I hope that someone finds it, uses it and loves it. My Mum is the opposite. She always keeps gifts and would never considering getting rid of them. She has some of my very early drawings that I look at now and think “How could I?”. Maybe some things should have a shorter life!!

    • I can completely relate to feeling weighed down by stuff! I’ve been working every hard to clear out things that have no sentimental value and have to work myself up to dealing with the things that I do get nostalgic about. I think it’s sweet your mother has your early drawings–it would be so interesting to see a blog post, showing how much you’ve developed!

  21. hmmmm – very thought provoking.
    I love crafting. It’s something which gives me great pleasure and fills my hours, and I often make gifts for friends & family. Part of me thinks that once given, the recipient is free to do what they like with the gift BUT if I ever saw one of my hand-crafted items in a sale for a pittance, I would probably be very upset and buy it back to bring home!
    I keep the handmade gifts I was given and use as many as possible, or have them on display. Each one has a memory, of the person who made them and I appreciate the time & thought that went into them. But I suppose you need to be a crafter to appreciate a hand-made gift.
    One problem is, with consumer society, some people just treat a handmade made gift as they would a factory produced one. They use it for a while, and then just move it on when they get bored with it or (in case of clothes) it no longer fits.

    • Our consumer society does give us a very nonchalant attitude about things–buy it cheap, use it, toss it out and get another. So non-crafters may treat handmade gifts that same way. I like your point about the handmade gift making us think of the friend you made it–the person who cared!

  22. My grandmother was the only talented crafter in my family. She was a very talented seamstress and did lovely mosaic work. I still have some of her mosaics and treasure them. But otherwise my family and friends are not crafty types. So I never hear “I made this for you.”

    Thanks to Etsy shops like yours, these pieces are finding good homes with people who really want them. And you can’t ask for more than that.

    • I’m so glad you still have some of your grandmother’s mosaics! That’s great! And, yes, the Etsy shop is really a joy–it means I can bring these treasures home, even if I know I can’t use them myself, and find a good new place to be appreciated.

  23. I once made the mistake of making a lovely baby quilt for a friend of my husband. We knew him quite well but the wife was a bit of an unknown quantity. I wrapped it up and took it to the Christening party where she declared she wasn’t opening any of the gifts until later and I never heard another thing about it – no thank you note, nothing. They divorced not long after. Now, I only make a quilt for somebody if they ask – nay, beg – me to. Other, smaller gifts, I try to make only for people who either know how much work goes into things or I know well enough to be sure they will appreciate the fact somebody has taken the time to make a gift especially for them.
    Unfortunately, I don’t know many people ‘in real life’ who knit, crochet or sew – apart from my Wednesday sewing buddy – so am not as experienced on being a recipient of hand made gifts but, when I do, I definitely put them into use as I would feel terrible about passing them on.
    I can’t believe the woman you bought the beautiful blanket from would let it go so easily – if I were her best friend, I would be re-evaluating our friendship. If I ever see well made hand crocheted or knit blankets in the charity/op shop I can’t bear to leave them there as I can imagine how heartbreaking it would be for somebody to see the results of their hard work languishing amongst the second hand books and odd bits of china.
    In the end, I suppose those of us who love making things must carry on no matter what.

    • Yes, make them beg! I cannot believe you received no thanks for a handmade baby quilt. Oh, wait, I can believe it because it has happened to me, too! I tend to buy too many handmade afghans and blankets–it’s a good thing I have the Esty shop so I can redistribute them!

  24. I’m such a terrible crafter that I rarely give anything I make away! I have knita few hats and mitts for people that I never see again, but for me its more about the process than the outcome. If they like the gift its a bonus. If my mother found those lovely items in a thrift store she would have taken them home and unraveled them and reused the yarn. She grew up in the Depression and nothing every went to waste.

  25. Wonderful post!
    I used to always make gifts for people – we couldn’t afford much and I love to create. I rarely finished though and I do remember one Christmas draping a blanket over my table loom which had placemats for my SIL on it! Peter has often gotten yarn in a bag…
    I only make things for people who appreciate them. Makers or not. (I have given several gifts to non-makers and I know they treasure them.) I can think of so many times that my feelings got hurt when the recipient didn’t appreciate the gift.
    And I do agree that I have often gotten handmade gifts that I didn’t like! My aunt made an ugly needlepoint picture for our wedding and I kept it for years on the off chance she would visit. I would have put it up on the wall!
    We have two weddings coming up and I did debate doing small counted cross stitch pieces with initials and dates. I came to my senses pretty quickly though!

    • I have to laugh about the unfinished gifts–been there, done that! And I have to say, one gift that causes me a lot of angst is a cross stitch wedding sampler we got from my husband’s secretary, with names and the date. It’s lovely but very fussy and not my taste, plus we’ve been married 28 years and I don’t feel the need to keep proclaiming it on the wall. But what to do with the sampler? No one else is going to ever want it! Do I throw it away?

  26. I know how you feel, Kerry, but here is a funny story on homemade gifts you might enjoy. An elderly friend of mine, now departed, made the most beautiful crocheted blankest with roses in each square with a 3D effect to them. She would make these blankets and take them to a local nursing home, where she would give them to residents who looked needy. The residents were so happy to have someone notice them, and they were very grateful for the gifts. She eventually noticed that the blankets were disappearing! My old friend Ruth suspected that the blankets were being taken away from the residents and going home with staff who thought they were pretty and wanted them. So she went up to the head nurse, and told her each blanket came with a curse that would be activated at her command if the blankets did not return! On her next visit, she noted the blankets had all been returned.

    I have several of Ruth’s blankets that she gave me, and they will never be given away or sold. I bought several others as gifts for friends and relatives, to help Ruth get started with her own business. Sadly she is gone now, but I remember her through her beautiful crocheted blankets.

    • What a story!! There’s nothing like a good curse to get people thinking straight and doing the right thing! But really? Stealing from nursing home residents. That’s pretty vile and should be cursed. I’m so glad Ruth lives on through her blankets and your memories!

  27. This is a timely post for me as I was about to give a handmade baby blanket to the Goodwill. It is beautiful, but we do not expect more grandchildren, and someone else will love it.
    I don’t do much in the way of crafts myself, but I used to make collage cards for birthdays and other events. Now I hardly ever make cards because people don’t look at them with the attention I put into them. They look for the words, which I had hardly think about.

  28. Wow Kerry, what an incredible post, and such amazing comments. I have all sorts of feelings as a result and have been pondering exactly how to reply. I think that people often simply don’t realise what goes in to the making of something. I also think that when we give gifts, it must be on an unconditional basis, regardless of whether the item is handmade or not. As a maker of textiles, art etc etc I have come to understand that the pleasure is very much in the making and I avoid giving handmade gifts for all the reasons explored throughout this post. I am currently working on a crochet blanket commission which is great because I know the recipient really wants what she has requested. I am enjoying making it, so it is a happy win-win!

    • Yes, the comments on this are way better than the post itself, I think!! I Like working on commission with my weaving, too, and letting the recipient guide me. I do worry that they’ll feel disappointed in the end, though, because it isn’t always technically possible to do what they envision. But I bet, if that happens, I can find someone else who likes what I made!

      • Oh I know exactly what you mean. I have really had to resist sending constant updates and photos to my recipient for reassurance. As you say, the item can be found a different home if need be (or I may even keep it myself!!).

  29. Sorry to not get here sooner but this is a subject I have been thinking about all day. I made a set of quilted placemats for a cousin that decided to come visit me after 15 years, bringing her 2 adult children. She had just moved so I looked online to see the house she moved from and the one she was going to noticing the colors she chose. She had placemats on her table so I felt safe on object and color. It was her birthday as well as mine. I spent hours on them. The comment on opening was, “I get these at craft sales”. Not thanks for thinking of me. So I’m with Johanna in a way. I also don’t care for the green afghan but loved the little sweater someone must have outgrown and the thought that went into them. A good friend would have known she didn’t like green. I stopped making gifts for those who don’t understand. This was the final straw. I’ll make it, if you like it, you can have it. Done. It’s hard to see your gifts on the garage sale chopping block but as I’ve learned, you can’t keep it all. I’ve been offering gifts back to the giver first, then offer them to anyone that would appreciate them. The rest goes to the thrift store or a garage sale. I have much to pass on as my life takes this next turn. You can’t take it with you. But $2?? That’s insane! You do good work so I hope you never see your towels on the $2 table. That would break my heart.

    • I cannot believe you didn’t get even a basic thank you for handmade placemats! That’s awful. But I guess we all have a story similar to that, that makes us re-think who we give our treasures to. I like your idea of offering gifts back to the giver–has that worked out well, or do they get their feelings hurt because you aren’t keeping the gift?

      • No, they don’t mind when I either say there is no longer space in my smaller space or I want to make room for something new they have given me. Also I’m assigning things for distribution at my demise. Planning ahead. 🙂 Better to do a lot of it now. No squabbling later. 🙂

  30. As a maker I get spending hours upon hours making something for someone. But I enjoyed the making. I did it to show them I wanted to make them something. I love them and want to make them happy. But for me that moment is in the receiving.
    The OMG you made this for me?!? That moment.
    After that? Did they ask for it? Is it really fair to expect them to keep something they don’t want /wouldn’t use for eternity when they never asked for it in the first place? Of course it’s nice to be appreciated. But that best friend might have made something so not in her friends taste that maybe the friend selling it needs a better best friend? Someone who wouldnt make them a blanket they wouldn’t use in colours they don’t really like and make them feel guilty for not wanting to keep it.

  31. I always keep handmade gifts. I usually love the gift itself but even if I don’t, I can appreciate how much work and love goes into the making and I treasure it for that. Sometimes, in looking at the item a while later I find that it is something I can use after all and am doubly pleased I kept the gift. Many people have no idea of the time, effort, skill and cost that goes into producing home-made hand-crafted gifts. Many people prefer a factory produced item rather than a hand-crafted one, regarding home-made as inferior to shop-bought when in fact it is often the hand-crafted gift that is made from better quality materials and with more skill. I am so glad that there are kind and sentimental people like you, Kerry, who rescue these unloved gifts and give them a life they deserve!

  32. And here I always thought that the abandoned photographs were the saddest part of antique shops. But now there’s this to consider… I can’t imagine being so piggish as not to love something that someone made for me. Or at least act like it!

    • I always wonder about those old photos, too–who were those people? Why were they abandoned? But the vintage linens and other handmade items really get to me–the time and love that went into them . . .

  33. I’ve made too many quilts that disappeared into a black hole of indifference, and I don’t work the same way any more. I just got tired of seeing something I’d considered and made carefully and with love in the bottom of the coat cupboard or always covered in ironing or, as you say, under the dog. Now, when I make a quilt, I talk a lot to the recipient, I ask for colour inspiration, I make a Pinterest mood board and get them to OK it, and I specifically ask if there’s anything they don’t like. I do a drawing of my design and get them to OK it. I get them to OK the fabric and colour pull, and I do frequent progress posts on my blog so they can become invested in the making process. Yes, it’s involved and a bit obsessive, but it means that they feel a sense of ownership from an early stage, and it’s fair reflection of how I work when I make for myself. Great post, lots of interesting insights there!

      • It is complex, but it feels very strange to me to make a quilt without knowing who it’s for… The Ovarian Cancer quilts only work for me because I’m allowed to design and direct the creative process, and the people who buy them at auction obviously want them, or they wouldn’t bid!

  34. Oh my, what a discussion you got going here. Thoroughly enjoyable. I knit for my grandchildren. My DIL is very appreciative of my offerings and I have noticed that the children have no jumpers etc that I haven’t knitted. From time to time she will ask for something specific and occasionally has mentioned problems with fit. Middle son doesn’t like baby, baby clothes so I choose more grown up colours. He too has asked for crochet dog blankets because they wash and dry quickly, so I choose yarn I don’t mind being used for a dog. I suppose I should be grateful for them.
    It’s not just handmade items that can be disappointing to the recipient. Sometimes I have received gifts, and thought what on earth do I do with that? I always say thank you and always send a letter. Just good manners.

  35. It is sad to see handmade gifts undervalued and being discarded. I think a lot of makers like making gifts more than the recipients like getting them. I have knitted hats and made other small things as gifts, but usually try to curb my desire to give handmade items unless I know they are specifically wanted. People have different tastes, and lack storage space. Making things for charity can be a better outlet for handmade afghans, quilts, etc.

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