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O'ahu born and Rockville bred, both Maryland and Hawai'i are home. Middle-aged knitter (believe me, my 40 is NOT the new 20) seeking the courage to live consciously, each and every moment. Now if I could just remember where I put my keys...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chptr 35: Lessons Learned in Gifting Handknits - One Man’s Treasure…

The autumn I began knitting again, about 3 years ago, I got bitten BIG by whatever nasty little bug it is that gets some of us new knitters where we look around and everyone close to us is, in our fantasies, wearing handknits that we think they should wear. 

I know there are some new fiber artists (my politically correct term meant to encompass knitters AND crocheters) out there who maintain reason and sanity.  They look around and see the HATS that their friends should be wearing (made by them).  They look around and see MITTENS.  Perhaps, if they are in SoCal or Honolulu or Miami, they look around and see lovely SCARVES draped artistically around the necks of their nearest and dearest (scarves knit with glitzy novelty yarn that does all the work, in garter stitch, on really big needles – say US size 20s).  (And I’m coming up blank on what new knitters in tropical climes knit for their menfolk in their new knitting fantasies. Anyone?  Anyone?)

Not Just Socks for Kids
The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & GaugesI was NOT that new knitter.  My mom was in a Shimmer 5 cardigan in the Colinette Shimmer 5 pattern book.  (She’s a Spring, so the Monet colorway.)  My sister-in-law was in a Tagliatelli pullover.  My nephews were in little matching hoodies from the cover of  Not Just Socks (for Kids).  And, most lunatic of all, my dad (not a skinny or short man) was in a baby alpaca sweater knit on US size 4s that I was going to design myself using the Handy Book of Sweater Patterns.

At three months into knitting, at which point I had only made scarves and never followed a pattern, such was the grandiosity of my vision.  This was my vision to the extent that that first holiday, my gifts to these people – what I wrapped up and GAVE THEM – was yarn and the pattern books.  (Not even copies of the patterns.  I literally got to keep the whole shebang that I had wrapped for them once it was opened.)  And, dammit, they were all going to look really GOOD in that stuff.

You know what comes next, right?  

First, I was all action and the best of intentions.  I did all the boring knitting (these were bottom up patterns to a one) with great devotion and loving attention.

Then, I got frustrated. Note that these were the first patterns I was reading, and because I knit Russian style and patterns are written for The Rest of You (more about this at some point, argh) my decreases were inexplicably looking either twisted or wrong-slanting, I stopped following patterns…  I started knitting all those things I had already gifted on the tiny tiny needles (except for the Shimmer 5).  And I got to the decreases.  And they looked like crap.  And the yarn shop I went to for help (I was sticking to just one at this point), didn’t understand my knitting style and thought it was simply Continental, and my decreases still looked evil.  (I didn’t find out there was a whole huge country of people who knit like me until last year.)

So, frustrated, I took a sock class.  Again, the instructor didn’t get my knitting style (I guess I have to explain – the way I taught myself to knit as a child and by intuition rather than any kind of instruction, my stitches mount differently from the way patterns in languages other than Russian (and all I know about Russian is “da” and I think their alphabet is pretty to look at and I know Johnny Weir wears shirts that say things in Russian – or used to, maybe he’s past that phase).  So while my socks looked funny, at least they were on feet and not on someone’s back where the person behind them in the checkout line would look at their shoulder seam and go, “well, that looks strange.”

Sock class distracted me.  Socks socks socks for awhile.  Even Chester was wearing socks.  (Who doesn’t got through a sock phase?) 

Those presents weren’t getting knitted.  While my parents were understanding of this and my nephews oblivious, my sister-in-law, as she would say, “not so much.”   I think she kvetched about my gift-giving to my mom.  So my mom had to have a talk with my about how to give.  As in, how gifts are supposed to be what the other person wants and not so much what you want to give them.  (Keep in mind I was over 40 when we had this conversation.)  I have to say, Ma handled it gently and kindly and gracefully hinted at who needed a Finished Object like fast in order to keep peace at Thanksgiving.  (Cuz, by this time, it was 10 months after the infamous First Knitting Gifts Holiday.)

I had to make something – FAST – for my sister-in-law that was not a Tagliatelli sweater with decreases. 

I chose the Belle Star poncho pattern from Berrocco  - I had scored a big batch of Berrocco Suede in an aqua shade on eBay, and it was Melissa the sister-in-law’s favorite color.  It was knit top-down and therefore lots of increases (my kf&bs look ok) and no decreases.  And I had a great skein of Colinette Silky Chic in a complementary colorway to finish off the neck cord and the fringe, and it was all so exciting.

Except, dear readers, it was very very blue.  And very big.  And, well, look at this picture of Chester modeling it:

Let's just say I have (selectively, probably) no memory at all of what I saw or heard when Melissa opened this package (must have been doing the virtual eyes-squeezed-shut-fingers-in-ears-singing-la-la-la place anyway).  Let’s just say I have never seen Melissa wearing it.  Let’s just say I probably never will.  Let’s just say I contributed to the snickering that I am sure happens when “Jann’s Knitting” is mentioned in the family circle.  Let’s just say I pretend I don’t see the flinches my family makes when a card “from Jann” is read during the gift-opening extravaganza. 

At least I finished it.  Right?


Link to Ravelry posting on this item, more pictures on the detailing if you can stand it.


Shout out to the Golden Lovers, Maine Coon Lovers, Yarnaholics, and Russian Knitting Technique Forum (love you, BroadwayStitches!) and especially the Chronic Bitches on Ravelry - I love you guys!


  1. Jann Mouer, I LOVE YOUR BLOG!! And I know nothing about knitting. You are a very good writer...maybe you missed your calling and should be writing a book or something. I laughed out loud reading this blog. :) keep up the good work.
    Christine Z.

  2. oh... it was obviously just made for Chester! possibly slightly girly and dress-like on him.. could look quite dapper with his stripy socks ^..^

  3. this is why i refuse to make gifts for any family unless they ask for something (neice and nephew don't count)