Why Stitchers Don’t Make Knitted Gifts for Just Anyone

Knitters, crocheters, and crafters of all stripes are used to hearing the same question from the people in our lives, especially as the holidays approach: “Hey, will you make me one?” This seemingly innocuous string of six words can come from all quarters, including strangers on the bus, coworkers in the break room, sisters, uncles, and parents of newborns. It can be lobbed into conversation by someone watching you knit in passing or from someone who has sat beside you through innumerable cast-ons.

And as well-meaning and even flattering as the question may be, it’s almost always a little irritating. Because making knitted gifts for others is fraught. No matter how much you love the recipient, there will always be some stumbling blocks that don’t arise when you’re crafting for yourself.

For one thing, knitted gifts time and money! It’s safe to assume that the folks casually asking for a sweater or an afghan generally have no idea that making such a project could leave you hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours in the hole, but that’s all the more aggravating when the request comes, however tongue in cheek, from someone you don’t know well enough to justify that heft. Meaningful gifts are one thing; commissions are another; a random man watching you knit a few rows on your lunch break is another altogether.

Knitted gifts doesn't always work out - especially if you get the measurements of the recipient all wrong.

Knitted gifts don’t always work out – especially if you get the measurements of the recipient all wrong. (Photo Credit: Dan Brownsword | Getty Images)

Even if you are an identical twin, chances are the other person’s body will be built differently from yours, so you won’t have the constant fit model of your own skull or limbs against which to check the dimensions of berets or legwarmers. Sure, tape measures exist, but people are squirmy and even numbers can lie.

And then there are the less tangible obstacles. Even if you do choose to follow through with knitted gifts for loved ones, with their measurements in hand and a commitment to investing cash and energy, there’s the fear that it won’t be received the way you want. It can be hard to watch someone unwrap a finished object only for their face to momentarily fall before they chirp “Oh! I love it!” just a pitch too high.

It can be hard to spend time and energy to copy the Anthropologie cardigan your best friend cooed over only to have her show up wearing the original a month later. It can be hard put 10 or 12 hours into something only to feel as though you’re not getting 10 or 12 hours’ worth of gratitude back.

“She said, ‘make your own sweater.’ I don’t even know what that means!”
“Hold tight, bro. I got this.” (Photo Credit: scoutgirl | Getty Images)

Of course, this is a selfish (not to mention anxious) position—the point, after all, of making someone a gift isn’t to drop a Merino-wrapped debt of appreciation into their lap. It’s to keep them warm, to make them feel known, and yes, to a degree, to remind them that you are there.

Your handmade gift says you could have waltzed into Anthropologie* with the rest of America and bought one of those cutesy aprons or monogrammed mugs, but you wanted to sit with your gift, to imbue it with the spirit and the improvisations and the mistakes that only you, the maker, are capable of adding. “Hey, will you make me one?” doesn’t have to be a six-word burden; it can be a way to connect in the moments when words aren’t enough.

Still, that guy in the break room? Holidays or not, he can learn to knit a sweater himself.
*Sorry Anthro, I really do love you.

ALANNA OKUN is the author of the recently published essay collection The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater (New York: Flatiron, 2018) and an editor at Racked. (Featured Image Photo Credit: Ljupco | Getty Images)

Still into making knitted gifts? Here are some great ideas!


  1. Lianne B at 9:56 am September 29, 2018

    Expecting or wanting appreciation isn’t necessarily selfish. You have put a lot of thought, effort and love into a gift, so you want to know that the recipient is feeling the sentiment intended and that the item will be used/worn, enhancing their life. Otherwise you have wasted your energy.

  2. Chris at 11:11 am September 29, 2018

    When I retired a few years ago I told my colleagues I was most looking forward to spending lots more time knitting. One of them said, “Well, why don’t you knit me a sweater?” I thought, “Sure, Bill.” Then the 1st weekend of retirement I Did knit Bill a sweater, a Tee-Tiny Raglan by Loribird on Ravelry. (www.ravelry.com/projects/Mafleur/tee-tiny-raglan) A perfect raglan from a few yards of sock yarn. It was the hit of the office when he received the envelope, even if it didn’t fit!

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