“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.
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.”
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”?