My wonderful, generous friend knits accessories for me using the most wonderful yarns. However, the patterns that she chooses, well, they are just not my style. I dutifully wear the item at our next meeting to demonstrate my sincere appreciation for her effort and affection, but then the knitted items languish in a drawer.
Is it horrible to “recycle” the yarn to make something closer to my liking? (With the understanding, of course, to never ever wear the recycled item in my friend’s presence.) I have a substantive stash, so I am not wont for fiber.
Or should I simply donate the items to a charity where the items will find a good home for a deserving person? We live in different cities so there is no chance that she’ll see these things at the local Goodwill store.
Drawers Full of Friendship
We do tend to throw knitted items at people, don’t we? The minute we hear about someone going through hard times, our instinct is to pick up yarn and needles and set to work. House fire? Here’s a hat. Bad diagnosis? Here’s a shawl. Tsunami? Here’s a knitted house.
We knit out of happiness, too. For friends, for family. The minute a new love enters our life, what do we do? We knit them a sweater, and then ask, “Hey, where are you going?” as they run for the hills. (This last one is only true if you believe in, or have experienced firsthand, the Curse of the Love Sweater.)
Sometimes our knitted love can be a little much.
Handknitted items hold energy. There’s the literal energy in twist, ply, and stitch. There’s the residual energy from our having focused on this object for weeks at a time. And then there’s whatever emotional baggage we may have attached to it. It’s a lot to receive.
One thing is clear: Your friend enjoys knitting for you. Perhaps you give her an excuse to knit, like visiting friends give me an excuse to bake pie. Maybe she really doesn’t care what you do with these gifts, like I don’t really care if my friends ever finish the half-pie that I send home with them. We had a moment together, and that’s what mattered. Or maybe she does care what you do with these gifts.
While it makes rational sense to want to unravel the garment and reuse the yarn for something else you might wear, knitted gifts aren’t always rational. You say you aren’t lacking for yarn, so this isn’t a matter of economy and resourcefulness. You just don’t quite know what to do with all these gifts she keeps sending.
If you choose to Goodwill the items, there are a few things to consider. Donations are first sorted for sellability. If it makes the cut, it’ll be tagged and tracked. If it doesn’t sell after a certain time (usually four weeks), it’ll be moved to an outlet, and from there, auctioned in big lots. And from there, it gets recycled or dumped. If you’re comfortable with that potential fate, if you’re convinced someone else will spot this item and wear it and love it and it won’t get shredded in the recycler, then go ahead. Just remember that the world is small and interconnected. If these gifts happen to be picked up by a knitter who loves to post pictures of her Goodwill finds ….
If you choose to frog and reknit the gifts, you’re adding a level of complexity to your life. From now on, whenever you leave the house, you have to think extra hard about what you wear, where you wear it, who might take a picture of you in it, and where that photo might end up. Thanks to Instagram, we barely have even three degrees of separation from one another. You can still say, “I loved your gift so much I had to buy more of that yarn!” But now you’ve added another lie to the list. Lies get heavy over time. How much easier to keep putting those items in that drawer (and perhaps a few others) until she burns out. Don’t let your friend’s overzealous gifting intrude upon your life, but do respect the intent behind it and put it in a safe place.
In the meantime, you can start dropping hints that might slowly click with her. Start by casually saying, “You’ve given me so many gorgeous things, I can’t even begin to wear them all.” Or perhaps, “I’ll never need another hat in my life now!” Ditto shawls and fingerless mitts and whatever else she may be making you. If this doesn’t do the trick, if her life’s mission has become knitting you gifts, then start casually dropping into conversation references to projects you do like. Perhaps that’ll help her have a better sense of your aesthetic.
There’s one other thing you can do. Over the course of your life, you’re bound to come into contact with someone who is hurting, who has very little, who would genuinely love one of those items languishing in your drawer. What a fitting way to pay it forward. Tell this person about your friend and about all the goodwill that came with the gift, and then give it to her. There’s no need to hide or fabricate lies. If it ever comes up, you can tell your friend what you did and why, and what happiness it gave to this person. Tell her, “You’ve given me so much, and I wanted to share that love with someone who really needed it. I knew you’d understand.”