I have started this post a few different ways. I thought about drawing in the debate crafters have about who ‘deserves’ their knits as gifts (in the Land of Knitting, we call these few the ‘Knitworthy’), or about just diving into the pictures and basically doing a media dump.
Instead, I want to talk about a hat.
This hat was a yellow-gold and burgundy hat, and it had three floppy points like a Jester’s hat. You know, those ones you see on every stereotypical rendition of a court jester, except I don’t think this one had bells. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. I don’t remember, because my grandmother made it for me when I was four. This was my first home-knit (at least that I can remember for myself). I had mittens from her when I was older, and probably countless other things in my life time, but this hat I remember first. I don’t know where it is now, I’ve moved house several times since I was four so it may be in storage somewhere or it may have gotten lost in the chaos at some point.
A lot of knitters will tell you the deep sting of disappointment when a gift recipient takes one look at a knit item and then doesn’t ever look at it again. Maybe the smile politely and put it out of sight, or they scoff and complain about how it must be itchy or something else. Either way, it isn’t truly appreciated. This has happened to me; it doesn’t feel nice. A knit item is more than just the ephemeral object you’re holding in your hands. Unfortunately, fibre fades, breaks down, and at some point just isn’t useable anymore… even the nicest alpaca will weaken even if it’s retired in desperation to the sturdiest cedar trunk with as much anti-moth protection possible. It might take generations but it’ll happen.
No, a knit item is time. It can easily take hours to knit a pair of new born baby booties, or a layette set. Weeks for anything bigger- babies aren’t actually as small as they want us to think they are. Don’t get me started on adults. And usually (not accounting for extenuating circumstances like knitters watching small children) the knitter will be thinking of the recipient as they knit. It’s a lot of time concentrating on one person, and how much they care about that one person (the other few moments are spent concentrating on not messing up the pattern). That one knit garment is not just a pile of wool the knitter waved their hand over, magically transformed into a garment and said “Oh! What a nice hat. Maybe so-and-so might like it”. It’s a pile of wool that has been painstakingly transformed into an object that is infused with hope, or love, or well-wishes for you.
(This is not a new statement, not unique to me, and in fact for some it might feel like I’m just re-hashing something. But it’s important.)
The jester hat is gone. So is my grandmother. But what’s left of them both is what was really important, and something that I’ll never be able to forget. That she loved me enough to spend hours and hours knitting for me, and for my brother.
I’d like to end with another hat. This one isn’t gold and burgundy, and it isn’t even jester shaped. It’s a regular toque: blue, with cables and a tiny pom pom on the top. It wasn’t knit for me. My grandmother knit for everyone she loved, and my grandfather wore this toque for years and years and years until he died. It kept his head warm. Now, I can feel that warmth still. It’s a good feeling.