The Sweater Curse

This weekend I started another project, a gift for my husband, and it put the sweater curse on my mind. I’m certain most knitters, crocheters, and general fiber lovers know about the sweater curse, but I’ll explain for those new to the concept. In its basic form, the sweater curse tells fiber manipulators to never knit a sweater for a boyfriend/girlfriend/less-than-legally-binding significant other. The concern is that by gifting this type of garment to them it will signal the end of your relationship, and you’ll break up quickly after that. What it actually concerns is that non-fiber-crafters (or non crafters in general) won’t appreciate the time/energy/effort that goes into a project, especially something as in-depth and time consuming as a sweater. As such, you’ll be expecting the recipient to be over the moon with your offering and, when they aren’t as exceptionally enthusiastic as you were picturing/expecting, it will cause a rift in your relationship that will eventually lead to the end of your partnership.

Heavy stuff, isn’t it?

I heard about the sweater curse, and for awhile (when I first started to knit) it made me nervous. Not necessarily that my then-boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate the effort that went into the project, but more that it would look terrible and he’d hate it and that would spell the end for us. It didn’t take long for me to come around from that – I liked making him things, and we were in a long distance relationship … people just don’t put years of effort into those just to break up with someone over crappy knitting. In the almost 7 years of knitting I’ve done I made my then-boyfriend-now-husband many things: hats, scarves, socks, even a blanket. All have gone over really well, and every once in awhile he’ll post reminders that he still wears them, even if it’s a bit wrong. (Don’t worry, he corrected his folly)

What I have learned in my time knitting is that a curse does exist, and it doesn’t take a sweater to do it. The curse being that some people will just not appreciate the time, effort, thought, and skill that goes into handmade objects. As a knitter I’ve made tons of gifts – to my husband (as previously mentioned), to my ex-boyfriend (a scarf using super-luxury yarn and a giant hand knit [it was over 6′ long!] and then felted bag – the bag I know he still uses, the scarf remains to be seen [as this will be the first winter after we broke up]) … but even then, he made sure to compliment and repeatedly thank me for my time, effort, and skill in crafting him these gifts. I’ve made swap projects, gifts to other fiber-lovers, and gifts to those who have never played with yarn in their life. In the last year I’ve made multiple baby blankets – only one of those went to someone related to someone who knits, but not a single recipient knits or crochets themselves. In fact, to my knowledge only one knitted gift failed to impress (I made a baby blanket and gave it to the expectant mother, who then quite literally threw it on the floor beside her … I’ve not made another thing for her or her children since [though, I suspect I’ll craft for the kids when they are older and able to appreciate the gifts more]).

It all comes down to really … you can’t ever know. You hope that the person you make something for loves it as much as you loved making it. You hope they’ll use it frequently, or even infrequently … but think of you all the same when they do. But it really is just like any other gift you can give – you don’t get to decide how they’ll react to it, and either way, there’s not much you can do about it. In the end, you have to go with your gut and hope for the best. For me, I’m a process knitter – the actual time and act of knitting brings me comfort and joy, and so I’m less concerned with the use after I give the gift, but it’s still nice to know that the item is appreciated and loved.

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