I was going to take the weekend off, but decided this morning that I really didn't want to do three days worth of Gifts for Knitters tomorrow, so fueled by coffee - Off we go.
Day Three, and Day Four
Knitting is like woodworking - it's a skill that can be accomplished with the simplest of tools, but is made easier and infinitely more pleasant with nice ones. The same way that you wouldn't be surprised if a woodworker had several saws or chisels, each for a specific task, you shouldn't be surprised that a knitter needs lots of tools, and sometimes several similar ones. If you don't see the tools I'm about to describe here in your knitters home, they would be a good gift.
A swift. A swift is a yarn holding device. Some yarn comes in skeins, or hanks, and need to be wound into a ball before they can be used. A swift sits on or clamps to a table (or something) and twirls as the yarn unwinds onto (usually) a ball winder. (More on ball winders later.)
There's this kind, a metal and plastic one, that's sort of the entry level swift. It's small, light and handles most average size skeins of yarn. Or you can get a wooden one, that's a little prettier (to my way of thinking) sturdier and has (at least in my experience) held up well to constant use. It is bigger though, and harder to store. You can get a sort that sits on the table - this kind is pretty common, but there's a whole lot of really amazing woodworkers out there making really, really beautiful handcrafted ones. Dig this from Hornshaw Woodworks.
Any way you slice it, a swift is a really cool tool for a knitter, and comes with a bonus for you - you'll never be asked to hold a skein for them again.
Usually, a knitter uses a ball winder with a swift. Like swifts, there's a couple of different kinds, and mostly they're about longevity and durability. Almost everybody I know has a Royal ball winder. I do. They're great - although they do wear out with time (and when the gears start to go, they begin to make breast shaped balls. It's very entertaining) and the design of them means that you can't wind really huge skeins onto them. They're going to meet about 90% of most knitters needs for a few years, then need replacing, but they are easy to find, and reasonably priced. If you're looking to start moving up the food chain - take a look at the Strauch Ball Winder. It's an animal. Gorgeous, long lasting, makes really big balls. (There's a joke in there, but I'm going to skip it.) It's a serious tool. (There's another chance at a joke. It's hard to talk about ball management without running into them.)
Pro-tip: If your knitter really, really likes managing wool by hand, consider a beautiful Nostepinne. It's a way of winding balls by hand, and they might love it.
For day four, I want to talk about cases for knitting in progress. You know your knitter might love these if they've always got holes in their bags, and someone in your family has been poked by a sock-in-progress from within that bag. You can get inexpensive ones made out of cardboard or plastic - but I like the durability and style of the Knitzi, There's several versions, they're all pretty cool. There's also several woodworkers making very elegant and gorgeous versions - all a little different. I've got one called a Sock Safe, made by Karen Sandberg, and it's inlaid figured maple. Keep your eyes out.
Finally, a note about choosing what sort of tool to buy your knitter. Before you buy, remember to think about how much time your knitter spends at this craft, and how seriously that might mean they take it. If you knew someone who spent several hours a day in a woodshop, would you think they probably wanted beginner tools? Helping your knitter invest in wonderful tools is a nice way to show them that respect their craft, and them.
PS: This means that all mentions of Signature or DyakCraft needles should be met with enthusiasm on your part.
PPS. If you are a woodworker who loves a knitter, I bet they would love it if you made some of this stuff for them.