20 February 2009

Knitting Faux Pas; a few things non-knitters should know.

On Ravelry, I belong to a group called "Selfish Knitters".  The group's credo is as follows:

We are The Sainthood of the Aggrieved Knitters Who Say Nee to Non-Lovers of Our Knitting.

Our Battle Cry(s):

  1. We only knit for ourselves and for people who bless us and hand us boxes of expensive chocolates! Or money.

  2. Some people need to learn gratitude or face the wrath of our flinging needles of Death!

  3. Selfish Knitters are people who love and value themselves.

  4. The person I knit for knows how to appreciate a knitted item–ME!

  5. By uber-KAL-ling, selfish knitters can multiply the amount of attention they get for each knitting project.

  6. Everybody should be loved. But some people are greeting-card-love-worthy and some people are handknit-socks worthy.

Official Proclamation - any knittings done for friends/family who just created human life OR are fighting hard to preserve human life are knittings done from the heart and not because of the selfishness of others and are therefore free from scorn and spite in this group!

We are here to support each other in our quest to become/be selfish knitters. No more “Can you make this for me and have it done tonight?”. No more “But I really liked the other color better.” No more “Can you make me a man-thong?”

The group started a list of rules for how people (i.e. non-knitters) should react when presented with a hand-knitted item.  I read my way through what was then "just" a 3-page thread and howled the whole time.  I contributed but one of these rules, and I'm really touched that it ended up in the listatation.  The thread is still going strong with 8 pages and counting, so I might just run this post from time-to-time with the additions.

Please bear in mind that most of this is intended with tongue FIRMLY in cheek and is intended to sound both selfish and self-deprecating.  Thankfully, no one that I knit for has ever committed any of these 'mortal sins'.  One or two of the rules made me gasp out loud that someone would say such a thing to a stranger - or worse - a friend or family member.  Most of the posts in the thread had a little backstory to each rule, so some of these things have indeed happened to real people.  

Chapter 1: Gift giving

  1. Don’t give yarn as a gift if you expect the recipient to knit something for you in return. That is not a gift, that is a request.

  2. A gift that is a pattern book with the expectation that I will make something from said book IS NOT A GIFT! It is a commission. I do not do commissions.

Chapter 2: On Show and Tell

  1. When shown a knitter’s FO, oohs and aahs should be used liberally. Any comments such as “I don’t like that mitten” or “You should have done ______ differently” should be kept to oneself. Period.

  2. When you see a FO of wondrous beauty, or a knitter working on something, please don’t gasp and say, “I could never do that!” Do you think knitters were born churning out such objects? Stop hinting and get yourself some needles and we’ll see how quickly you can pick it up.

  3. Time: Do you, dear non-knitter, know how silly you sound saying, “I just don’t have the time to do that,” while you’re sitting there, watching me knit, on break at work or in an office waiting for an appointment, rehashing to me yesterday’s reality show highlights? If you don’t want to knit/crochet, that’s perfectly alright, all the more wool for me, but do not say you don’t have the time. You just lack time management skills, and perhaps a bit of creative industriousness. 3a: And don’t use that Time excuse to 1. not say what you really mean; I don’t want to… thats ok toots, we don’t want you to either, so shut up. 2. Act as if what we do isn’t as important as what you do, so we have far more leisure time to ‘play’ at knitting, since you’re a closet (TVaholic, boozer, eater, nosepicker)… we really don’t care what you do with your time just leave our time alone. 3. Put us down because you are really jealous as hell and wish you had something to do so you didn’t look so stupid sitting there griping about your busy (aka boring) life

  4. When approaching a stranger about a knitted garment and finding out they made themselves don’t say “I could make that” in a derogatory tone. It doesn’t matter who made it the level of skill is still the same.

Chapter 3: Making request

  1. Never ever assume that it will be cheaper to have someone knit you a hat, scarf, sweater, mittens. hand knits are NEVER cheaper….maybe for you but definitely not for the person knitting said “deal.”

  2. When a knitter has deemed you knitworthy and is working on a project for you… under no circumstances should you ever say how easy it would be to finish if the knitter would just get to working on it. This will force the knitter to play the hand of “if it’s so easy… here, do it yourself” and your name will be stricken from the knitworthy list because it was on the list tenuously to begin with and that was the last straw.

  3. If you ever request a knitted item from a knitter, do not tell the knitter that you do not like the finished object or, heaven forbid, return it as well. Knitters are not stores. We do not make consumer goods you may return, we make you gifts. These gifts come from the heart and are made with love. When you return these gifts by saying you hated them and if we could please do better next time, we feel hurt. Especially when it was you that requested this gift. It’s like us offering you our hearts and you stomping on them and throwing them into our faces and then expecting us to give you our hearts again. A knitter can only take so much heartbreak before permanently kicking you off the to knit for list.

  4. No nagging! Assuming that you are knitworthy, do not ever ask the knitter “how long will it be? “I need this by ______ date” or “can’t you finish it sooner?”

  5. It being common knowledge that someone is the only knitter you know and quite an unselfish one at that (when it comes to kiddies and the exclusively knitworthy) - DO NOT grab said person mid conversation and point out someone’s ‘knitted’ garment with that “nudge nudge wink wink” look on your face or smile pathetically and say “hi” in that awful patronising tone - At the very least you will get an eyebrow raise (the unimpressed kind) or else - especially if you are a repeat offender - you WILL get a slap!!

  6. If you ask me to make you something (and you are willing to pay for it) don’t complain that the price I set is too damn expensive. For my family and friends, if they ask me to make them something, I usually only charge them for the yarn I use. So if you choose that gorgeous merino silk that is handyed, don’t be surprised at the $30 hat I knit you. How much are they charging at banana republic? Well, take your a$$ there an’ buy one. I’ll make myself that awesome hat from the idea you just gave me :)

  7. There is no “quick altering” for already knit items, so don’t ask.

Chapter 4: Dirty fingers, stay away!

  1. If your hands are dirty (eg. from eating/snacking), resist the urge to grab pretty lace-y angora (or any type of handknit). Handknits are often not easily washable, unlike the clothes from the Gap that you may currently wearing.

Chapter 5: Thanks!

  1. When deemed knitworthy and bestowed a handknit gift, a simple email saying “thank you so much” is perfectly fine, especially if the alternative is nothing. Don’t put off the thank you because you somehow feel it needs to be in epic form and sent via Oscar-worthy video clip, turtledove, handmade card, or whatever.

Chapter 6: Respect (and don’t joke with) The Knitter

  1. Knitworthy people should refrain from asking, “What are you going to knit me next?” Maybe once, fine. But repeatedly, even as a supposed joke, will slowly bump down their knitworthy status. Double demotion for asking The Knitter before they start a project from themselves after just finishing something for the requester

  2. Do NOT grab the WIP to have a feel/squish without asking first!

  3. Do NOT borrow tools without asking.

  4. Do NOT assume the knitter is “doing it wrong” and GRAB their knitting to “show them how it’s done”.

  5. Do NOT go through a Knitter’s bag

  6. Do NOT take away my book/magazine/pattern

  7. Do NOT play with the yarn I am knitting while I am knitting

  8. Don’t call a knitter a “granny” in a slighly derogotary tone when you see one knitting. Its insulting two ways: the implication that being an older woman is bad and the implication that knitting means we are old women. I’m young, I’ve got no kids, and I’m quite proud that I am skilled enough to create with my hands.

  9. Looking at my knitting and saying “Wow, you made that? I don’t have to bother making things, I have enough money to buy what I want. I value my time more than you do” is really rude. Just because you don’t choose to make things with your hands does not make you better than those of us that do. Good luck staying warm if all the stores suddenly closed.

  10. when approaching a knitter staring very hard at what they’re knitting, do not assume the knitter wants you to talk. Politely approach said knitter and whisper: “Are you counting?”

  11. If you run into a knitter you haven’t seen for a while, and the knitter has the same project as the last time you saw them, DO NOT, in a shocked tone, say “Wow, you’re not done with that YET?!?”

  12. And when seeing someone ripping out their first pair of socks AGAIN ask, “How many times are you going to rip those socks out?”

  13. If a knitter makes you something that you did not ask for - as a gift just because s/he wanted to make it, accept it graciously (with lots of enthusiasm) and let it go. Please do not offer payment.

  14. It is perfectly acceptable to ask to squish or pet something a knitter is wearing, as long as the knitter has made it. But please remember to ASK before you do so.

  15. A knitter is always happy to answer the question “Whatcha makin’ now?” or “What’s that yarn for?”, if asked with enthusiasm.

  16. When someone tells you his/her hobby is knitting, don’t say “But can you knit?” Not that it’s very offensive, it just doesn’t sound very bright. (No, I can’t knit even though it’s my hobby?)

  17. Never ask: “If you want socks, why don’t you just go buy them for $10 a pack??” OR “You can buy a sweater at Kohl’s for $15” OR “Why would you knit ____ when you can go to _____ and buy it for $__?”’ Ugh. Because if I wanted mass produced socks, I would go buy them. But they don’t give me the satisfaction that I get making socks myself. Nor do they feel as nice on my feet. Nor do I get to choose the luscious colors or fibers. There is a time and a place for Wal-mart socks. But they aren’t going to give me the satisfaction of working with my hands and producing something beautiful and one-of-a-kind for myself. Plus, I love me just enough to spend the time on me. So Pffffbbbbbtttt. If I wanted a cheap sweater, I most certainly WOULD go and buy a cheap sweater. But since I want to choose the fiber, fit, pattern, colors, etc, AND because I enjoy making something so unique with my own two hands, two sticks, and some string, I will.

  18. Never assume that a knitter’s project is for a baby - pu-lease - even adults wear knitted items.

  19. Never assume that a knitter’s project must be for someone else.

  20. And never, ever, ask a stranger (knitter or not) if she is pregnant unless it is so freakin’ obvious that you don’t have to ask.

  21. Anything along the lines of, “I let my girlfriend wear the hat you made me. She hates it” should be grounds not just for banning from the knitworthy list but for possible bodily injury.

  22. DO NOT assume that if I crochet, I can also knit and vice versa. At least not at the same proficiency.

  23. DO NOT take ANY credit for a hadcrafted item if you did not actually handcraft said item. Oh, you bought the yarn? Picked the pattern? Gave me the idea? How nice, but you did not spend the tens/hundreds of hours creating each stitch. NO CREDIT FOR YOU!

  24. If you’ve been gifted with a handcrafted item… perhaps, let’s say (purely for the sake of argument), a baby sweater… for your wee little love, kindly do not return the handcrafted item to the crafter & ask him/her to take it all apart & use the yarn to make something newer & bigger for your not-so-wee-any-longer little love. While the crafter may appreciate your concept of recycling & your desire that the crafted item not go to waste, I’m pretty sure the crafter will not be receptive to all the work involved with deconstructing something that took lots of time, love, effort, stitches, etc. to construct in the first place, nor will the crafter be pleased to be thought of as a “crafting factory” no matter how much you might consider it complimentary that he/she is “in demand.”

  25. Don’t ask your wife to pretty-please knit you a 100% wool sweater to fit your 50” chest, from wool yarn that was chosen by you specifically for its woolly warmth… and then ask your wife to “hurry up” in finishing the 100% wool sweater because you are “cold” and you really really REALLY want to wear your warm 100% wool sweater…and then NOT WEAR THE 100% WOOL SWEATER BECAUSE IT’S TOO WARM.

  26. If I make something for your little one, and tell you “all I ask for in return is a picture of baby/kid wearing it.” Take a darn picture and give it to me! It’s really not THAT much to ask in return. Is it?

  27. If I am counting stitches and you interupt me, I am likely to start counting out loud (loudly) This is your que to stop talking. It is NOT your que to start to yell out random numbers at me!! (thanks kids!)

  28. If you ask me to teach you a stitch/ technique (I work in a yarn store) do not then tell me “that’s not how I do it.” or “that’s not how I was taught it.” Why are you even asking me to show you then?!! My response has been, “Then just do it the way you were shown. You’ll get the best results with what you are comfortable with” And yes I have gotten at least one, “But I don’t remember how to do it!” (head banging against a brick wall then ensues.)

  29. If I am knitting on the train/bus and there are empty seats that aren’t right next to mine, please sit elsewhere, NOT right on top of me (forcing me to move my knitting bag and scrunch in on myself to avoid bumping you.~~stabbing you in the eye with my needles~~ )

  30. If you see someone that you do not know knitting (let’s say in a class or on the bus or in public somewhere) do not ask what they can knit you. Yes, I am capable of knitting you a tie / computer case / whatever random thing you think I can’t knit and it is possible but I don’t know you, and I won’t knit you any of these things. The situation is just awkward.

  31. In the case that you are married to one or date one or for share money or something - do not bother said knitter about buying yarn and accessories. There is a reason I need different sizes of needles - yes, there really is - and if I buy the yarn, I can use it in the future. It’s not like chicken or something where if I don’t eat it all in a week it’s going to magically disappear. I promise - the yarn will NOT go to waste.

  32. If you are a husband, do not offer your wife’s knitting services to others. Do not say to your mother, “Mom, my wife can knit that for you if you ask.” She does NOT want to knit that for your mom. or your grandmother. or your sister.

  33. If you are a sister-in-law, do not say, ”I’d like for you to knit a sweater for my daughter.” I’ve never knit a sweater before and if I wanted to knit a sweater, I’d knit one for myself first.

  34. If you are the often mean grandmother-in-law, do not say, ”I’ll pay you to knit me a scarf. I’ll pay for the yarn.” What about paying me for the time?! And do not say, “I wish the first scarf you knit for me when I became your new granny was brown not blue because I don’t own enough blue things to match it.” And don’t look at the scarf I made a mutual friend with envy. It makes me feel bad that you obviously don’t appreciate the hard work that went into choosing that specific color and pattern for you.

  35. If you are a friend who guilted me into giving you a scarf off my neck, then WEAR IT! Let me see you wearing it. It makes me feel bad that you never wear it. Why make me give it to you if you won’t wear it?!

Chapter 7: Respect (and use) the knitwear

  1. Giftee should never disrespect anything that the knitter has given them. As in tossing on the floor, throwing in the laundry (unless superwash), forgetting that it was you that gave it to them, giving it away to someone else that admires it, sending it off to thrift shop because you really didn’t like the (color, fit, texture, it’s wool) whatever.

  2. If a knitter takes the time to hand-knit you something, please don’t just pack it away because it’s “too nice” or you “don’t want to ruin it.” We knit it for you to enjoy and use, and not using whatever we’ve made for you makes us feel like it wasn’t loved.

  3. If you decide to help out by doing laundry, look at what you’re throwing in the washer/dryer. If you’re in doubt about whether something will be safe in there, then ask, for Bob’s sake! Nothing like seeing hours and hours of loving work reduced to a felted lump. sniff

  4. If you are 6 years old, don’t throw the mittens your Mom made onto the roof of your school, even if “all the other guys were doing it”. Especially if there are workmen up there tarring the roof.

Chapter 8: Proposal of knitting for sale

  1. Please resist the urge to tell the knitter that they could make “so much money” selling their finished objects for the amount you would be willing to pay for that object, usually less than $25. First of all, we’ll think you’re just silly that you think $25 is “so much money”; secondly, we very likely spent more than that on just the yarn; and thirdly, you are displaying your ignorance of how much time and work I’ve put in. Suggesting that your handknit socks are worth any monetary amount under $500 is grounds for removal from the knitworthy list.

Chapter 9: Respect the Designer

  1. When your knitter gives you a wonderful gift, it is wonderful that you wear it. It is also wonderful that you brag on your knitter. And I can’t tell you how impressed your knitter is that you finally realize knitting takes money and time, and your knitter will not be loaned out, nor pressed into servitude producing gifts for you to hand out. However… when your friends ogle your wonderful handknit and think that they’d like to “make one just like that”–do not volunteer your knitter to photocopy her pattern and hand it round! In most cases this is clear copyright violation and is tantamount to stealing money right out of the designer’s pocket. It doesn’t matter that your knitter “already has the pattern just sitting around”. It doesn’t matter that your knitter has a home copier. It doesn’t even matter that no one will know. It is wrong, and your knitter will not do it and then you will have to explain to all your friends that they won’t be getting a freebie pattern after all. ps– if you ask nicely, I’m sure your knitter will be happy to tell you where she purchased her pattern, and then your friends can go buy their own copy.

Chapter 10: Respect the Yarn Store

  1. If you go into a yarn store, browse all you want. ENJOY all the yummy yarns you want, but please do NOT tell me you can get it cheaper at a craft store or on the net. ALSO, please don’t come in, ask me to help you find something, then ask for a piece of paper and pen so you can write the yarn info down because you “buy all my yarns on E-bay.”

Chapter 11: Template for Those Who Don’t Want You to Knit for Them

  1. “My beloved (wife/husband/girlfriend/partner/mum/sister) I am so impressed by your new found enthusiasm for (knitting/crochet/spinning/buying yarn and going ‘oooh’) and I deeply respect and cherish this. When you said last night that you wanted to make me a (hat/scarf/sweater/pair of socks/really nice pair of fingerless gloves you saw on Knitty) and you had already picked out some (Malabrigo/Wollmeise/Sundara/exotic sounding fibre that makes you go all obsessive and slightly scary) for it, I was filled with great love for you. However, I have a (yarn allergy/dislike of knitted items/dislike of items that can’t be machine washed and dried/phobia of handcraft dating back to a nasty incident in my youth involving a darning needle) and I fear that whatever you make for me, I will find it too hard to enjoy the end product. I recognise that your willingness to include me on your list of people to knit for makes me the luckiest person alive, and I am filled with love right now, but I would not want you to spend all that (time/effort/money/stash) making something for me that I am too (ignorant/careless/weird) to appreciate. Instead, why not (buy yourself some yarn/sit down and put your feet up while I make dinner/enjoy these chocolates I bought you) and knit something for yourself so I can admire you in it?”
I think perhaps it is a sad state of affairs when the world in general needs to be reminded of some basic, common courtesy.  Some of these rules are things that perhaps your knitter wanted to say, but was too polite to do so.

Part of the reason I find these so amusing is that I have been a knitter for 8 or 9 years and in all that time, with about 45 FOs (or completed projects, to the non-knitters), I have ONE SCARF that I made for myself.  One.  It is therefore high time I take some time to knit FOR ME.  I love to knit, I find it soothing, I enjoy creating things with my hands, and it makes me very happy when someone genuinely likes something I've made for them.  My sisters and mother, all recipients of hand-knitted projects of mine, are always enthusiastic about what they've gotten.  But I think it is time for the person who appreciates my work the most (i.e. ME) to have a few things I've made.  

Selfish?  Maybe.  Ask me if I care.

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