December 2, 2008

Gifts for Knitters: The First

Dear Non-Knitters who need to buy a present for a knitter sometime soon:

I am a knitter. I've been a knitter for a long time. I've gotten a lot of gifts, knitterly and no, from non-knitters at the holidays, and I thought that I might take a couple of posts this year to help you choose a gift for your knitter that they might really love. I know that misconceptions about knitters abound, and that the ways peculiar to our breed might seem odd to the uninitiated, and that this confusion can lead sensible and loving people to do desperate things when it comes to gift giving. (Desperate things like novelty waffle irons. Just saying.) I'm hoping to providing a little guidance by giving you some ideas for things that your knitter might love to receive this year, and grant you superhuman status, scoring you some knitting street cred (and maybe another pair of socks). A knitters undying love and gratitude is a wonderful thing to have. Remember that although I'm going to make some suggestions about what your knitter might like to have as a gift, one of the things that makes us hard to shop for is that we all have different likes and dislikes. There's very little I can suggest to you that will be a guaranteed score, although I urge you to remember that a fourth bathrobe is probably not a great solution to that either. To guide you in your shopping, I want you to know that if you find this (or a future post) printed out and left lying about the kitchen (and the living room, and the bathroom, and the bedroom), that this would be a pretty good indicator that your knitter might be trying to tell you something.

Knitting is a craft, and your knitter is a craftsperson. Buying them really, really beautiful tools is like buying a woodworker a really, really excellent saw. Beautiful swifts, ball winders, needles and such are always good. To that end, boy, do I have one for you.


Signature needles. These needles are, for knitters, like a car person getting a Ferrari, or a cook investing in a set of Henckels knives. A pair made the rounds at Knit-night a while ago and we all boggled. They are so well made that frankly, I'm surprised that they don't keep knitting by themselves for a while after I put them down. These needles are expensive compared to other needles, but they are extraordinarily well made, hand-crafted, hand polished tools. (They're made at a machine shop where the president is a knitter.) These needles come custom made, the length your knitter likes, with a cap your knitter likes, and (be still my heart) a tip your knitter likes. (I have a pair with the stiletto point, which is supremely pointy. It's also likely dangerous, so if you have a knitter who likes to leave socks-in-progress on the couch, you might want to think about your personal safety on that one, and think about getting the "middy" or the "blunt".)

The dpn's (double pointed needles) have a microscopically ribbed shaft (get your mind out of the gutter) and while the yarn slides smoothly across them, this provides a tiny bit of traction, keeping the needles from slipping free of the work the way that they do on ordinary metal needles. The straight needles - the ones that I adore more than I can tell you, are slick like an expert car salesman. I won't kid you. These needles are a luxury item, straight up. They cost a lot more than regular needles, but they act like it. If your knitter is serious about knitting, if they spend a lot of time at it, and if they love metal needles, these are going to thrill them the way that an unlimited text message package flips out a 15 year old girl. There's just nothing like working with a beautiful tool like this for the serious knitter. The beauty of these needles is that they're made to reflect the knitter intimately, so if I were going to buy them as a gift, I'd leave the computer open to this page, and let my knitter work out a wishlist. I think they're too personal (and expensive) to just take a shot. When I'm knitting with these, I feel like I'm taking what I do seriously, and I can't say enough about the vibe. (I'm sort of hoping Joe reads this, since I'd really love another pair or two of these, and the price tag makes it hard for me to justify buying them for myself, no matter how seriously I take knitting. I think that's one of the reasons that these would make such a great gift. It's decadent.)

Note to knitters: I know this reads a bit like an advertisement, and I guess it sort of accidentally is - although if it were a real ad I suppose I would be paid to write it. I was just totally surprised by the love that sprang up unbidden for these needles. I hate finding out that expensive things sometimes really are much better than their cheaper mates. Generally speaking, there's no point in developing champagne taste if you have a beer pocket, and test driving a Rolls Royce only makes you feel worse about your old clunker, so I usually avoid high end products on the theory that you can't miss what you don't know. These broke me. I'm going to keep right on loving my ordinary everyday needles, they've served me well and make things just as well as the Signature needles do, just the same way that you can cook a really awesome dinner that tastes great, no matter what your cookware is like... but just like having other beautiful things to work with, these needles are a real pleasure - and I suppose that compared to the price of yarn (and considering that they don't get used up like yarn) maybe I'll start a gradual replacement plan.

Not all knitters will like these needles. (It was hard for me to write that.) If your knitter prefers circular needles (the ones that look like two little needles joined by a cable) exclusively, these might not be for them. I think they could make converts out of anyone else though.

Darned nice.

(PS. I gave up and asked Lene to make me a knitting schedule for the holidays. There's confidence, and then there's failing to understand the daunting nature of a task.)

(PPS. Thanks to all of you, this blog made it through the first round of voting for Canada's best blog, and Canada's best activities blog. Round two has commenced. Thanks so very much for not letting me get my arse kicked. It's lovely.)

(PPPS: If you're Canadian, WOW. Can you even believe what's going on? I'm flipping.)

Posted by Stephanie at December 2, 2008 4:34 PM