Monday, 9 October 2017

Some thoughts on handmade presents

A few years ago I used to follow a wonderful Facebook crochet group. Sadly it grew too large and eventually it was shut down because the moderators couldn't cope with all the vileness hurled at them in response to their strict policies on what was and wasn't allowed. I still miss that group because there were some wonderful patterns and projects posted, but I understand why it couldn't continue. But there was one topic that divided opinion and which I've wanted to talk about ever since, namely handmade presents, in particular crocheted gifts.

Road trip scarf

Many of the people who made crocheted gifts for their friends, family and work colleagues reported that the recipient was delighted with the present, but there was at least an equal number who posted resentful comments about how their hard work had not been appreciated as they felt it ought to have been. They would complain that they were mortally offended that their handmade garment wasn't being worn or their doilies, baby blankets or teacosies had been stashed away in a drawer, unseen and unused.

The posts were all about them and their grievance, but it made me wonder why should a gift be valued and used just because it has been handmade?

If the person making the gift has consulted with the person they plan to give it to and they are sure of size, colour preferences etc. there is less likely to be a problem, but you have to face the fact that not everyone appreciates hand crafted things. Are you confident that it is skilfully made to a professional standard? Parents treasure the wonky craft projects produced by their offspring, but if you're an adult they won't cut you the same slack. Many people are not that keen on handmade items and would rather have a commercially made item. You may think this is shallow and consumerist of them, but when it comes to gift giving, you need to respect their opinions.

However, even if someone likes the originality of handmade items, you still need to be sure that what you're planning to make will be to their taste. If the colour is wrong or it's just not something the recipient would use or wear -- someone who loves the minimalist look is not going to appreciate doilies! -- or they're allergic to wool or hate the feel of acrylic, then regardless of how many hours it took to make, the gift will end up unloved and forgotten in a cupboard somewhere.

Then there is the opposite problem. The recipient may think that the item is lovely, but if it needs too much care, for example gentle hand washing in a mild detergent instead of being thrown into the washing machine along with the rest of the laundry, a busy person is going to find it's too much trouble for general wear.

Animal face doll blanket

I have made crocheted gifts occasionally. There was the Year of the Blankets, when I made colourful crochet blankets for the grandchildren to snuggle under while watching TV or playing games on their tablets. These were a great success and smallest granddaughter loved the blanket I'd made for her when she was a baby so much that she wanted one for her doll, so I made a small version out of yarn left over from the original. I've also made hand knitted scarves for my daughter and daughter-in-law which were very well received, so much so that daughter-in-law requested another one for her sister. So handmade gifts can be a delight, but my advice is to give freely and don't expect extra gratitude just because you made it yourself.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Weaving in ends

Oops! I don't seem to have posted here for a whole year! Must try harder in 2017. Recently, smallest granddaughter requested a blanket for her favourite doll. I thought I'd make a smaller version of the one I made for her when she was a baby and I've just finished crocheting all the squares. I've joined them using the join-as-you-go method, but whichever method I used, there would still have been an awful lot of loose ends! This is the snag of doing multi-coloured crochet or making items from squares or other motifs. See what I mean? All those ends! You often see people saying that you should weave them in as you go along, but here's why I don't. For Christmas 2015, I decided to crochet some Christmas stockings for the grandchildren. The idea was that they would have money for their main present but I would give them some sweets and small toys in a stocking so they would have something to open and enjoy on Christmas day. I embarked on the three stockings, but after getting this far, I realised that they were coming out far too big. All those ends! See all those ends?! Now, if I'd woven them in as I went, I would have just have had to throw those part finished stockings away because when I weave in an end, it stays weaved! I know that from bitter experience. A few years ago I was trying to make something out of African flower motifs and I'd followed the advice to weave in ends as soon as I finished and joined each motif. Unfortunately, I eventually realised that I didn't like the way the project was working out and I decided to frog it and rescue the yarn to use for something else. It was a complete pain trying to find and unpick the ends and I wasted quite a lot of yarn. This time, however, the unravelling was easy and the yarn, along with other random bits from my stash, ended up as small tea cosies which I use every day. Small tea cosies   To be honest, I don't find it too bad tidying up the ends all in one go. I usually find an interesting drama on the BBC iPlayer and once you get into it, end-weaving can be quite relaxing. Here are the three small Christmas stockings I made. It was quite easy to modify the original pattern to make them smaller. Small Christmas stockings
I did finish one large one. Here it is for comparison. It would have taken an awful lot of chocolate and treats to fill it and my son and daughter would not have been pleased if I'd given their children so much sweet stuff! Large & small Christmas stockings