Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dear Prudence,

Thanks to Minestrone Soup, I recently ran across a Q & A of yours from last month regarding knitted gifts for Christmas. While I must agree with you that a room full of preschoolers would probably not put hand knit socks at the top of their classroom Gift Wish List, I must wholeheartedly disagree with your seemingly general sentiment about knitted gifts. (photo used with permission from bettylovesyarn)

For those who have not seen it, here is the original question and answer:
[From on November 22, 2010]

Q. Help! Advice on Gift-Giving: I am a knitter who is knitting socks for my son's preschool class. I intend to give these socks as Christmas gifts this year. I am keeping them a secret as I would like them to be surprises. The only one who knows is the teacher as I needed her help getting the kids' feet sizes. My question revolves around the note I am going to include with the socks. Of course it will include washing and drying instructions (cold water and low heat); however, I am stumped about how to ask for the socks back if the kids don't like them, so they can be redistributed. Now, I don't really want the socks back for my own son; I would like the socks to go to someone who'd actually wear them. What would you do in this instance?

A: In this instance, I would stop with the socks and knit a sweater for my own child. While many people enjoy handmade scarves, there's a reason people stopped wearing lumpy, itchy, droopy handmade socks as soon as industrial looms were invented. It's sweet of you to want to make gifts for the entire class, but you're investing way too much time in a gift that won't be appreciated. If you want to do something handmade, maybe you should bake some treats. Or you could offer to come in and do a knitting lesson for the kids. Unless you're making socks they can hang by the fireplace for Christmas, no one wants handmade socks in their Christmas stocking.

I also agree with Minestrone Soup that finger puppets might be more enthusiastically embraced by the preschool set, but as you can see from photos here, here, and here, well made hand knit socks are anything but "lumpy, itchy, droopy" and such is certainly NOT the reason industrial looms were invented. In fact, those young feet look positively cozy in those beautiful and well-fitting socks. Ditto those cute little tootsies in the above photo!

Perhaps you prefer industrially woven Hanes, Asics, or even American Apparel socks with their unmerciful seams across the toes that dig into your feet over the course of your day, and apparently you believe that "no one wants hand made socks in their Christmas stocking," but I and many others in this world would gratefully and humbly accept and treasure such a gift as a pair of hand knit cotton socks that hug the foot and have no such deadly seams.

Also, I understand by your answer that you must not be a knitter, or you would understand that it would be a very bad idea to attempt to offer a knitting lesson to 15 or 30 humans in the 4-5 year old age range. You do realize that knitting involves the very precise hand coordination of not one, but TWO pointy sticks AND a ball of yarn that could pose a choking hazard for entangled youngsters?

Bravo in your attempt to lead the woman (who made the mistake of asking your advice) into baking rather than knitting. Have you tried to take homemade baked goods to a school lately? Most schools no longer allow such acts of culinary love - allergies and food borne illness to blame there. While you may hold baking in higher esteem than knitting, I assure you that there are those out there who do understand and appreciate the value of a lasting and useful hand made textile good. For those of you who prefer off-the-rack, I fear you may fall into the category of not "knit worthy." For your sake, I do hope you take a second look at the value of something made with actual skill and careful craftsmanship over something churned out by a Mega Corporation that pays its labor in pennies and cares nothing of real value.

My answer to the original question would have been:
Socks may be too costly and time consuming a venture to be your best choice for giving to an entire preschool class. However, there are some amazing amigurumi pattern options available on Ravelry that I am sure would be warmly welcomed by any preschooler on the planet. If your goal was something useful rather than whimsical, I would suggest hats instead of socks. Hats can be knit up more quickly and more economically, and there are some super cute patterns for hats for children available on as well. For example, I offer the Fish Hat. If you are not a member of, I believe, as a knitter, you would find it very useful. Membership is free. As to asking that any unappreciated socks be returned to you, I understand your reasoning, but I don't believe there is a tactful way to make that request. Perhaps you could place a tag in that suggests a charity to which they could be donated if the person, in fact, did not find them useful or comfortable. Kudos to you for putting thought into your holiday gifts rather than joining the masses in Consumerist Cash Cow Christmas.

In closing, dear Prudence, I wish that people to whom others turn for advice would not so often answer with such pithy and unhelpful advice. The power you wield must be respected most by yourself.




Lori at Jarvis House said...

My daughter came up with the request that we have a "no purchased gift Christmas" a few years ago. The first year we all made gifts, and that was actually a bit daunting. From then on until now we cook and bake gifts for everyone. That goes over well and we don't have to wonder about likability or sizes.

Mini said...

nicely done!

Tim Wei said...

The knitted slippers given to me by my grandmother many years ago were among the best gifts I ever received. I remember the slippers - but not really the plastic toy trinkets.

And our neighbor made us the most beautiful homemade ornaments for our tree. That was over 20 years ago, and our neighbor has been gone for many years now. But her ornaments are still proudly displayed on our tree to this day.

Happy Holidays!