Ten Perfect Needlework Notions: The Gift Giver’s Guide

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Ten Perfect Needlework Notions: The Gift Giver’s Guide

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It happens every year. The Thanksgiving turkey isn’t yet cold on my plate, the parade hasn’t even passed by, and here come the questions from friends-and-relations of those who knit and crochet.

“What sort of holiday gifts,” they ask, “ought I to get for this delightful, but odd, person in my life? I feel it ought to relate to her obsession, but I do not quite understand this obsession. I feel sure she must already have enough yarn. What else might she enjoy?”

The first order of business, of course, is to explain that the words “enough” and “yarn” are never properly placed together without the word “not” preceding them.

When that’s settled, I suggest they have a discreet rummage in the loved one’s knitting bag or crochet portmanteau or whatever.

Because while it is impossible to have too much yarn, it’s a tricky thing for the uninitiated to buy yarn on behalf of the devotee. Unless there is a shop registry or wish list to consult, what innocent giver knows whether or not mohair is preferred, or cotton, or wool? Lace weight, or worsted? Variegated? Solid? Muted colors, or bright? How can one possibly know? It’s like picking out someone else’s new underwear. It may fit, but it might also itch.

And how much yarn to buy? The number of non-knitters I’ve met who think you can squeeze ten adult ski hats out of a skein of anything on the shelf is simply staggering.

There are gift certificates, yes. They can be lovely, in that they offer the recipient freedom of choice. But they do lack a certain romance when presented by candlelight.

Better, I insist, that the giver see what notions on this list might be missing from the loved one’s bag. These are the little things that are needed, often go walkabout, and cost money the maker would prefer to spend on more yarn.

So, investigate and find out if she or he has got…

1. Very good scissors. For keeping in a needlework bag, the sort of scissors you want are small, sharp, well-made, and–this is not unimportant–pretty. Yes, pretty. Tools that make you smile when you look at them are a great boon. Seek out, or ask for, embroidery scissors. Yes, even if he doesn’t do embroidery. The price may surprise you, but a solid pair of scissors is often not inexpensive. You might even consider having them engraved with the loved one’s name, and (space permitting) a sentimental message like Je pense à toi souvent or The first cut is the deepest.

2. Stitch markers. There are a million varieties. Some are extremely plain, being no more than plastic rings. Some are so fancy they look like fragments of Fabergé egg. There will be a few kicking around in the bottom of the bag. That’s the kind your knitter likes. Buy more of that kind. Lots more. They don’t stick around long. It’s marvelous to have a ready supply.

3. Retractable tape measure. We never have enough of these, either–even though at fiber events they are often tossed into the crowd like beads at Mardi Gras. Look for a really handsome, sturdy one in a wooden or metal housing, from a needlework supplier or haberdasher. Or consider, if she is a whimsical sort, a well-made plastic or fabric model in the shape of an animal or superhero. The tape must be flexible. This is for measuring fabric and body parts, not plywood; so the safety orange edition in the discount bin at the home improvement store is unsuitable.

4. Needle/hook gauge. Our most important tools–hooks and needles–come in different sizes, and choosing the correct size is incredibly important. A gauge helps us to do that. We insert the needle or hook into a hole or slot, and it tells us that whatever we are holding is not the correct size. The correct size is always either in the other room, or in a shop that is closed today. Your needleworker may have a gauge, but it’s probably an ugly plastic give-away or cheap metal thing that looks more suited to a machine shop than the stylish confines of a knitting bag. Offer an upgrade in the form of the beautiful artisan-made gauges that are (to our delight) now readily available from many shops and makers.

5. Pocket Reference Guide. Lightweight, portable, and authoritative, little books like Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book and Margaret Radcliffe’s The Knitting Answer Book fit easily among the notions. They’re clearly illustrated and remarkably comprehensive; and can both help you with unfamiliar techniques, and help get you out of a jam.

6. Shot glass. When a needlework project goes wrong, we often drink to ease the pain. A shot glass tucked into the project bag allows one to administer a medicinal dose, perhaps two, with elegance and discretion. Bonus points if the glass sports a fitting motto like Let’s get loopy! or Here’s mud in your ply!

7. Heavy wooden stick. This is for smacking people who interrupt us while we are counting, or trying to understand the next step in the pattern. Two feet is the customary length. Collapsible models lack oomph and should be avoided. Fancy turnings, holly or ebony inlay, and ormolu mounts are a luxurious touch.

8. Cooperative small child. For fetching whatever is out of reach, be it a skein of yarn, a fresh bottle or red, the remote control, or the good pair of reading glasses.

9. Whistle. For summoning cooperative small child.

10. Unicorn. Just nice to have around, really.

Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.

Franklin Habit

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com.

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  • #6-10…I lost it. My family is trying to figure out what broke my brain.

  • I find the folding professional carpenters’ rules are quiet sturdy and efficient. and are also easy to store.

  • Perfection!

  • The random skein or two chosen by your young grandchild as “Granna likes that”, however, is always perfect, if he gets to choose and is not thwarted by well meaning adults with color wheel training and/or knowledge of what colors you wear. That said, I have an old heavy crystal inkwell, capless, long since cleanly devoid of ink, which is PERFECT for holding seed beads when I get a beaded project going. If your knitter likes beading, I recommend it. If you happen across a heavy, lidded or not, but aesthetically pleasing inkwell.

  • I rather suspect item 6 may have been in use during the writing of items 7-10 🙂

  • I’m with Catherine. Please, someone, get me the stick? Thanks.

  • I laughed out loud, and needed it. Thank you!

  • So funny, so true. I loved it. When I got to the shot glass I said to myself “what” and they laughed and wanted to send it to everyone I know. Good writing.

  • I’m so glad I read this (because you wrote I’d!). You had me laughing out loud from the shot glass on! The one thing I don’t have is the shot glass.. (Must also admit when I read “shot glass” I thought it would be to wrangle loose stitch markers and stray pieces of yarn to keep my space organized! Like your reason better.)

  • Rap beats you want to select for your tracks are often a vital consideration when making music.
    That way you may warm up by shooting some balls at the driving range.
    Dress – Evaluate your golf course’s dress code.

  • So good. So true: #5 was an excellent gift from a dear friend.

  • I have tried 8 times to sign today I put my password Tecumseh1930 which is the year I was born and you refuse to to accept. That is easy to remember. I,m 88 get us oltimers a break, please.

  • The smacking device. Oh, how I need one handy at work. On lunch break. And, can we talk about the helpful relative and the Xmas gift of a bag full of approximately a dozen balls of FUN FUR, “enough to make a sweater, I’d think”?

    Said “yarn” is still in the gift bag two years later.



  • Hey, fun fur has its place! It works really well for felted toys like a certain hedgehog. I have done a couple of felted Cat Bordhi Mobius baskets with a bit of Fun Fir worked in as an accent. A dozen balls, at that rate…hmmm. Sounds like a lifetime supply to me!

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