Covert Reclamation of Unloved Knitted Things – Totally Justified

Curls & Q recently wrote a post entitled Are They Handmade Worthy? She shares a very entertaining Do You Knit the Gift or Do You Buy The Gift decision chart, created by The Panopticon blog. This chart very faithfully outlines the decisions I make each time I ponder whether or not to knit a gift. Is the occasion special enough? Can I count on this recipient to treasure my gift and appreciate its true worth?

As shown on

My judgement on this score has definitely been a work in progress. I’ve made some (to me) tragic misjudgments and have learned bitter lessons.

In her post, Curls & Q asks: Share with us the worst scenario for your hand-made gift, all of us will sympathize

Alright. I will. Here’s my story:

I learned to knit when I was about 8. My first projects were dish cloths, full of holes but much adored by my family members. My first more ambitious project was a ribbed scarf. I started with some ancient cream colored yarn from my mother’s stash. When that ran out, undaunted, I tied on some orange yarn and continued to the end. The result was pretty ugly, but it was my first item of knitted clothing and I was immensely proud of it.

Casting about for a worthy recipient, I decided to gift it to my friend, E. I remember wrapping it up and walking over to her house in the snow and presenting it to her, warning her not to open it until Christmas.

Cut to several months later: I was at a sleepover at E’s house. We were in the bathroom making Barbie shampoo–horrific concoctions of common bathroom items (like mouth wash and cologne) that we would use to wash Barbie’s hair. It turned the hair odd colors and made it frizzy. We thought this was hilarious.

Anyhow, we were digging around in a cupboard in search of a bottle of bubble bath when a mass of towels and old t-shirts fell out onto the floor. (Her mom was not the world’s most accomplished house keeper.) Mixed in among those things was my scarf, abandoned and unloved.

I burst into tears right there, but quickly covered them up. E had gone back to her room to fetch our next Barbie victim so, furtively, I gathered up the scarf, hurried down to the living room, and stuffed it into my backpack.

This was covert reclamation and I am unashamed of it. E never mentioned the loss; indeed, I doubt she ever noticed.

I took the scarf home and gifted it to my mother, who accepted it gladly. She probably still has it, secreted away in a drawer.

Now, in case I haven’t emphasized this enough–this thing was horrendously ugly.  Ugly in a way that only a scratchy half orange, half cream scarf, knitted by a novice knitter can be. And it was also beautiful, for all the same reasons.  I chose my second recipient much better. Mom appreciated it far above its value as a scarf. Indeed, it had almost no value as a scarf, being full of holes and unbearable to wear against the skin.

This memory is the standard against which I measure all of my hand-made gifting decisions. Roughly, here is my decision chart, which is a little simpler than Panopticon’s.  Guess who gets the gift?

Will wear it once to make you happy. Treasures and uses it all the time. Brags to their friends.
Will store it in a bathroom cupboard to get moldy. Loves it for what it represents, even if it is hideous.


  1. Love this! I didn’t post on the blog what my husband did since he reads it. I labored over a wool scarf, since he used to drive a motorcycle to work every day he needed it. Anyway…. I tend to daydream when I knit so this scarf was a challenge, the knit and purls changed continually across every row. Well, we’re cleaning out the garage and there it was on the floor and mice had gotten to it. You can imagine how upset I was. NEVER taking the time to knit something for him again. The hat I knit him was there too, but that didn’t take very long. Sigh…. It does hurt ones feelings. Especially as a young girl, poor thing. Love this post!

    • Oh how heart breaking. It really is. You put a piece of yourself into those knitted objects. They’re powerful symbols. Not everyone realizes or understand that.

      • We’ve been married almost 40 years, and I know he is VERY caviler about his “things”. He kept bugging for a scarf. I should have just done a garter stitch. At least now when he bugs me to make a sweater for him, I can remind him of the scarf and hat! 😎

    • It was. And oddly, while most childhood hurts like that one have faded, that one still twinges a bit.

  2. Oh man, what a rough lesson for an 8 year old. Having been burned one too many times by people who *ask* for specific hand knits and then declare them unacceptable, I will never knit an unsolicited gift.

  3. Aww… that had to be heartbreaking, I can’t think of any stories. But to be fair, the first sewn (learned when I was seven and knitted items were given to my parents, and they held onto them even though they were awful! I was also eight when I learned to knit.

    My nine-year old daughter already knows how much time a handcrafted item can take. She crochets and sews, based on some of her comments, I don’t think I’ll have to worry that she’ll snub someones gift

    Her best friend, O, is the same way. O’s mom sews, and her grandmom crochets and knits. When making doll items for my daughter, I usually crochet or knit something for her dolls too.

  4. I think this is a GREAT way to make that decision, and I totally support the idea that a knitter (or other crafter) should decide that some people are not “knit worthy.”
    In fact, I say that because *I* am not “knit worthy.”
    As someone who doesn’t much love knitted things, or even most handmade things, I’m always chagrined when people give them to me. I don’t really *want* to treasure a friend’s or relative-who-is-not-my-child’s handiwork; I have other things I’d rather *choose* to treasure instead of things I didn’t ask for that were simply given to me by someone else. So if we were friends, I’d be glad that you decided not to spend your treasure of time and creative energy on me.
    I hope you have plenty of people in your life who appreciate your work!

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