As I sat in knitting group last week, monotonously turning out 132 stitches of green green green white, green green green white, I inadvertently paid attention to a neighbour's conversation, and all I can say is Thank Goodness I was sitting. For she was knitting socks, and she intended to give them away as a hostess present*.
I may have gasped. I likely said "Oh, surely not," while reaching for pearls (of course, I had none to clutch. I never do.)
Fortunately it turned out she'd be staying at their home for some time. That's fine. If you want to save $1,000 in hotel costs and hand over a pair of socks (that you probably enjoyed knitting anyway), Uncle Stashley is all for it. But it did get me thinking about what kinds of knitted gifts one should and shouldn't give, and for what occasion.
Everyone's heard, for instance, of the rule that you Don't Knit For Your Boyfriend until he's put a ring on it, otherwise known as the Boyfriend Sweater Curse. I didn't know how to knit when I was merry and single, so I can't vouch for this one, but (as with the suggestion you should slip the first stitch* in order to have nice tight edges) I bow to older, wiser knitters.
Breakfast/Brunch/Dinner/Lunch: a nice dishcloth or washcloth or trivet* would be a charming gift for such an occasion.
Cocktail Party: give them nothing! They are using up the cheap gin and just wanted an excuse to drink themselves. Being nice to their guests who got a pity invite (you know who they are, unless they are you) is gift enough.
Birthday: a promise of a reasonable item in the future makes a lovely gift. You must mean it, though—nail down a date to meet at the yarn store so they can choose colours that work for them. Think hat, or cowl, or fingerless mittens, unless they're in your immediate family, in which case a sweater, shrug, vest, or shawl become reasonable options.
Bachelorette Party: little baby booties. What, she didn't have to get married? Well then, why on earth is she marrying him? Oh, never mind. No present then. Or if you're in the right frame of mind, you can crochet something naughty, but you have to know your crowd (Uncle Stashley, personally, would not be amused, he's a bit of a prude).
Valentine's Day: no present, at least not the knit kind. Knitting is homey and comfy and cosy and not remotely romantic (although some knitted items can be excessively romantic, but more in the posing-for-a-romance-cover can of a way). Spend more on dinner instead.
Baby Shower: oh, honey, go to town. Whatever you knit is going to be fast (tiny sizes) and cheap (little yarn), but despite that it will look so much better and be so much more meaningful than all your friends' stupid bought gifts. This is your chance to shine! In fact, Uncle Stashley suggests you try to befriend as many women in the early stages of their pregnancy as possible, just because nothing compares to the thrill of giving the nicest present. If they're particularly pleasant parents, go all the way to a baby sweater. It'll take two balls of yarn and be done in a week if you make an effort.
Easter: this is a bit of a tangent, but you know how you've bought about 120 stitch markers yet only have three left? They're somewhere in the house, under cushions, below beds, behind desks. Get your kids to hunt for stitch markers on Easter Morning! They can trade them in for chocolates at the end.
Promotion: repress the urge to knit a tie, unless you have invented time travel and yearn for 1983 again. No, ties should not be knit, alongside other forbidden objects (shorts, swim wear, underpants, and anything with a visible cat on it).
Job Anniversary: according to Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur Indiana, this is an occasion for a gift. The mind boggles. Uncle Stashley thinks you owe him 27 presents: better start knitting! This store also thinks "New Employee" is a gift-giving occasion. Yup, that's how the world works: "Welcome to BigPlace Incorporated! Please fill out this HR form, and oh, here's your welcome gift of a small silver necklace with garnets and topaz." So, Mom and Dad, you know how you always claimed I have no common sense? Well, I got more than Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur Indiana, that much's for sure! They even have "weight loss" on their list. I mean, it's nice when people notice, but if you start giving me presents for it even I think that's overboard.
Christmas: I like to tuck dishcloths/washcloths/trivets into stockings; in our family stocking presents are small, relatively inexpensive, useful objects, like soap, jam, batteries, or mosquito repellant. If you're clever, you can combine birthday and Christmas presents where the birthday present was the yarn, and the Christmas present is the finished object.
Housewarming: really, it depends upon the age and situation of the householder. Relatively young and unestablished folks can, again, use dishcloths etc. Those who are old enough to have houses that must be boiling hot by now don't need or want any housewarming presents, save for more alcohol. At a certain point they start giving things away, so always keep boxes in the car, just in case.
Apology: nothing says "I'm Sorry" quite like a shawl with "IM SORRY" picked out at regular intervals in purl bumps against a ground of Stockinette Stitch, but that's not going to happen, so you may as well just take them to lunch and let bygones be bygones (they get to choose the restaurant).
Bar Mitzvahs: you need to knit something in Brioche, because it's traditional, and if they're having a bar mitzvah, you know this is one ethno-cultural group that values tradition! No, I'm just messin' with you. You need to do Entrelac.
Just Because/Thinking of You: or, if we're being honest with ourselves, "I'm thinking of you because the sweater I just finished will not fit me no matter how hard I block it, and you're enough bigger/smaller than me that it'll be perfect for you." Don't say that, though, just hand over the blasted sweater, and cast on more/fewer stitches next time.
On The Needles
(I will mark with a ! those projects that have advanced, and !! those projects that are new to the blog.)
!Falling Snow Stocking (the heel!)
!!Falling Snow Stocking #2 (cast on)
!Sophie's Universe crochet project (Part 3: Round 26)
!Vice Versa scarf (double knitting!) starting the ninth row of squares
(I didn't take the following to New York, so they'll stay like this, barring some contravention of the spacetime continuum):
Sweater Sample (from the Sweater Workshop, in the short rows section)
GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater (about 13.8 inches into it, from the bottom. There's a magical time in every sweater project where, no matter how much you knit it, it never gets any bigger. I am there.)
Persian Dreams Blanket (row 43 of the second hexagon)
A Random Blanket (about 40% through)
*Hostess Present = something you give to your hostess (or host, but most men don't bother entertaining at home unless prompted) of lesser value than the amount you estimate she (or he) is spending on you in ingredients, etc.
*Slip the first stitch = just slip it purlwise with the yarn at back (assuming you're doing a knit stitch). By not knitting it you stretch it out a bit and help decrease that sloppy-edge syndrome you've no doubt encountered by now. (As a beginning knitter, I was so puzzled by this instruction: I pictured that edge stitch stretching out over two rows, three rows, four rows ... when would it snap? Eventually I realised that you knit in when you came around in the other direction). Naturally this only occurs with flat knitting (knitting back and forth), not circular/in-the-round.
*Trivet = a small flat surface to support something hot and keep it from marring one's tabletop.