Most of the time, I make knitted gifts as surprizes. I like the process of finding what I think suits the person best. Of course, you could claim that they should choose themselves, because who better knows what suits them best? But my non-knitterly friends can mostly base their choices on the things I’ve made before, while I have a whole treasury of patterns on Ravelry. Their yarn preferences mostly come down to choosing a colour, while I can think about different drapes, weights, halos. Sometimes I can also challenge them a bit, make them consider something that they wouldn’t normally think of on their own (of course, that has to be kept in good measure, if I want the gifts to be used).
And then there are the other times, when I ask people what they would like. In my modest experience of doing that, I have so far encountered three types of people when it comes to answering that question. The first kind are those who get completely set on something they’ve seen elsewhere, and refuse to budge even a tiny bit. The second kind are those who have general ideas about what they want, but rely on me to use my knowledge, experience and judgement to make the specific choices. And then there are the third kind, who put me in a bit of a pickle.
Recently I asked a friend who wanted me to knit her a hat to point out on my previous FOs what she liked. She pointed out the colour of one, the shape of another, the band on a third, the cables on a fourth. She loved it all and absolutely wanted it all. The problem was, however, that some of the things she liked were completely mutually incompatible. An all-over cable-pattern and a button band, anyone?
I raked my brains. I had at least three false starts. First I thought the best idea would be to eliminate one of her preferences, simply fulfilling three out of four, and hoping that I ignored the one that was least important to her. Halfway through, I realized it wasn’t working the way I wanted it too. Then I tried stepping aside from her requests and finding something that was generally similar but much more knitterly advanced – I think the hope there was that she would be so awed by the elaborate pattern that she wouldn’t mind that I had pretty much ignored her wishes. I gave up on that one quickly, hehe!
Finally, I found a pattern that I thought I could modify easily to meet her requirements. It was the Hermione Hearts Ron pattern (which I highly recommend, by the way!). I modified it to include a small button-band and to be slightly slouchy. No one had done this before so I had to figure it out on my own. You can find detailed notes on the mods here, if you would like to do something similar.
In the end, I think I did ok! Most importantly, I managed to put together buttons, cables and semi-slouchiness without it looking like an unfortunate gargoyle. I am told the recipient loved it, and said that it was “exactly like she wanted it and impossible to get in stores”. Yay! Isn’t that exactly the point of handknits? :)
And I was grateful for the challenge she had posed me. :)