The Get Real Holiday Gift Guide
November 30, 2010
It’s November 30. December starts TOMORROW. Once again, one finds oneself in the situation of wanting to give charming, handknit holiday gifts, but having none on hand, or at least none on hand in an acceptable state of done-ness. What is a knitter to do?
Don’t worry! There are lots of wonderful, not-knitted things you can give people, especially your crafty-leaning pals. Knitting does not define you! (OK, maybe it defines you! Never mind!) Face it: with few, unreasonable exceptions, other people really do not care if you knit them anything or not. [Everyone gets up and leaves the room in a huff.] Liberate yourself! Spend your precious knitting time finishing that Red Scarf, and enjoying it, and get everybody else something else. Here are some ideas. I will add to them in the coming days, and if readers have any ideas along these lines, would you please pass them along in the comments?
Come On In, Have a Jar of Pickles!
I associate each of my friends very strongly with their kitchens, for some reason. I like the jug of fresh flowers on Diana’s counter in Providence, the trugs made from old plastic potato sacks in Belinda’s kitchen in East London, the pre-eBay (!) vintage aluminum canisters in Lisa’s kitchen 4 flights down from mine, and the extremely enthusiastic. blowsy asparagus fern that stands guard over your dishwasher in Nashville. Over the years, I’ve acquired duplicates of things that remind me of friends’ kitchens, and developed a habit of giving copies of my own favorite kitchen items to friends. So when I became unreasonably smitten with Bee House teapots, so tiny and well-designed, I gave them as holiday and birthday gifts until pretty much everybody had one whether they drink tea or not. One year I felt I had to share my discovery of the Best Possible Spoon Rest. Everything looks better wrapped up in a tea towel (even a tea towel).
Look around your kitchen. Is there some bit of whimsy or usefulness that you really love? Get a new one, wrap it up, and give it to someone you really love. It will remind them of you every time they use it. Whether they want to be reminded of you or not!
Mastering The Art of the Annotated Cookbook
As a sometimes-cook and all-the-time book lover, a gift that always thrills me is a cookbook that has a friend’s seal of approval. Over the years Belinda has given me a choice shelf-ful of British cookbooks. (It makes me feel so Merchant/Ivory when I’m instructed to set my oven to “Gas Mark” whatever–what is a Gas Mark anyway?) The best part is that my book comes with sticky notes on the recipes that Belinda has tried, imparting her unvarnished thoughts. So as I leaf through, months later, looking for something different for a Friday night dinner, I have the feeling of chatting it over with Belinda. Email is all well and good, but It’s also nice to cook what a friend cooks and eat what they eat–this is the basis of Civilization. So if someone is far away from you, or 4 flights down from you, and they like to cook, here’s what to do: (1) acquire new copy of cookbook you like, and (2) write notes on post-its. (Just this past weekend, I made Jamie Oliver’s Chili Con Jamie. My brother-in-law, looking over my shoulder, said, “Oh look, Belinda made this for Halloween and it was fantastic.” And it was fantastic.)
If You Insist on Making Something
So, you’re stubborn and you really want to give a gift made by your own fair hand. Consider this fact: sewing, with a sewing machine, is faster than knitting. Assembly-line style, you can whip up a whole bunch of gifts in one of those Long Nights of the Crafty Soul. One of my favorite gifts, still in use, is a Denyse Schmidt potholder, from her book Quilts, made by our mutual Nashville friend, Angela Haglund. That year, it was her Gift For Females; she made a huge stack of them. Mine has bobble fringe; I have burnt a whole in the thumb, but its charm is undimmed. Always makes me think of Angela, crazy like a fox, tracing and cutting out mitts that year.
As luck would have it, Denyse Schmidt has free downloads of patterns for great holiday gifts:
World’s Cutest Scottie Dog (neck scarf optional).
The Hope Market Tote (This is really just a fun-size prelude to Denyse’s amazing Proverbial Quilt. I’ve got the pattern but I’m stymied by the tasks of choosing the right fabrics and the all-important text –it’s like Twitter in quilt form.) (Currently leaning toward Jane Austen.)
For traditionalists, the All the Trimmings Stocking.
After all that, I have to confess that the nicest gift I’ve received in a long time is a pair of handknit socks, perfectly knit, in an indulgent fiber, that fit my feet exactly although the knitter has never measured. (She has psychic sock powers.) Thanks, you know who!