Handmade Gift Giving

Marcy Petrini

December, 2016 

Let’s hope that my sister doesn’t read my blog before Christmas, or her surprise may be spoiled…. She is the lucky recipient of the handwoven scarf shown below, in a twill with a variegated red silk warp from RedFish Dyeworks and a red Blue Heron rayon and metallic weft. The rayon can be a bit heavy, but the silk lightens the scarf up up, so that it has a nice drape; the interplay of the various reds and the gold metallic gives it sparkle and shine. I am tempted to keep it…. But I won’t – but I may make myself one!

My brother-in-law is receiving this hand knit scarf in seed stitch, with handspun of silk and yak; he likes to go winter camping in the Rockies, so this is sure to keep him warm.

I often advise students not to give their handwoven or hand knitted work as a gift to friends who may not appreciate it – and to be very careful in thinking who will truly value it. I believe that people don’t really realize how much thought, work and care goes into our handmade pieces, even those who may practice other fiber crafts may not have a true understanding.

I will never forget this brief encounter: it was the late 70s, and I had been weaving only a couple of years; I entered the elevator with a woman who worked in the next department, whom I often saw in the hallway; she said to me that she heard that I wove, that she cross stitched, and, in fact, she planned to cross stitch afghans for her Mother and Mother-in-Law, 50 squares each, with the birds of the 50 states in one and the flowers in the other. And, she added, “I thought it would be a nice touch if you wove the fabric for me to cross stitch; how much would the materials cost?” After I bit my tongue, I smiled and said that I didn’t weave for others, but I knew weavers who did, that I would be glad to refer her to some, and that she could expect to pay $50-$60 per yard for custom handwoven fabric (remember, this is late 70s). She looked at me as if I was from Mars, I am not sure whether it was because I wouldn’t just weave the fabric for the honor, or whether she couldn’t believe that handwoven fabric would be that expensive. She clearly didn’t have a clue about what it takes to weave fabric.

It’s not unusual for me to overhear buyers surprised by the price when looking at handwoven or hand knit works by my Craftsmen’s Guild colleagues. Fiber, more so than other crafts, it’s undervalues because after all, “my grandma did that.”

Over the years, I have been very wise in my gift giving of handmade pieces. There are only three or four that I regret giving. But those few times have been far outweighed by the joy I have experienced when I have given items to people who truly appreciated them. I clearly remember having spun the yarn from Ronaldsay wool for seven caps; the fiber was of different natural colors, so each cap would be a bit different. Six of us were going to Oban, Scotland to meet our Scottish friend; Scotland was suffering from a heat wave; still, I was knitting the last two caps while going from home to Oban via Edinburgh; my sister thought I was crazy to be knitting wool in that heat. But the weather turned cold and those caps were the hit of our group, and they are still in use, all these many years later. Here Terry and I are sporting ours as we embarked the ferry in Oban.


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