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a holiday scene

Gifts for Knitters

Gifts. Who doesn't love them? For me, the challenge is always to find something truly meaningful to give, something that won't just become another piece of unwanted clutter.

When picking gifts for knitters, yarn may seem like the obvious first choice—but it's a tricky proposition. Unless you know your knitter extraordinarily well, your chances of picking the right yarn, in the right color and even the right quantity, are slim. Far better to give something that will make his or her knitting experience that much more pleasurable.

Gift Certificates
We begin with the obvious: Gift certificates. They're not very romantic, and they do assign a clear numeric value to your gift, but they also guarantee a happy recipient.

If you want to keep your money close to home, find out which yarn store your knitter likes to frequent and get a gift certificate to that store. Most online retailers also offer some sort of gift certificate, or you can always try Webs, Purl Soho (convenient if your knitter also loves to quilt), Jimmy Beans, and Yarnmarket.

If your giftees are passionate collectors of patterns, also consider a gift certificate to Twist Collective. They'll be able to use that gift certificate to buy and download patterns from any issue of Twist.

Tools
Artists love their brushes and chefs their knives, and knitters are just as passionate about their needles. But giving needles can be tricky because they come in so many sizes and styles.

the lace Addi Clicks
If you know that your knitter enjoys working on circulars, the obvious solution is an interchangeable needle set. It's also the Cadillac of tool gifts because it offers a full needle arsenal. Skacel has just released the final version of its much-anticipated Lace Click interchangeable needle system, now coated with nickel for a smoother join and a non-tarnishing finish. The only thing to note about the Lace Click set is that, when attached to the cable and ready to go, the needle is only approximately 4 inches (10cm) long. The length is fine for my hands, but I have seen other knitters struggle to adapt.

the bamboo Clicks
If your giftees prefer longer needles or the warm feel of bamboo, consider Addi's brand new Bamboo Click interchangeable needle system instead. These offer the same degree of precision and engineering as the Lace Clicks but in bamboo with a longer needle, medium taper, and blunt tip. The join on these is as close to seamless as I've experienced in an interchangeable set. At first, the "click" connection between cord and needle is fiddly, but once you've figured it out, the connection is faultless.

Extra cords for interchangeable sets also make a great gift because they let you park your unfinished project and use the needle tips for something else. For example, if you know your knitter is a fan of the Denise interchangeables, surprise him or her with an extra set of the new companion cords in one of seven bright colors.

a group of Signature DPNs
In the realm of non-interchangeable needles, a few brands stand out. The Signature Circular, DPNs (shown here), and single-pointed straight needles are made in the U.S. (as are the Denise needles) at a high-precision custom metal component manufacturer in Wisconsin. For fans of metal needles, these are the tops. Since Signatures come in so many lengths and sizes and tip styles, unless you know exactly what your knitter wants, you may be safest with a Signature gift certificate.

a group of the Montana needles
For traditional single-pointed straight-needle knitters, check out the wooden needles from Turn of the Century or Montana Mountain. Both offer hand-turned needles in a variety of sizes, lengths, wood types, and end finials. Montana Mountain needles are made by Sam Bolton, who offers an exotic sampler set that includes four needles in a suede leather case; or you could go wild and get your friend a membership in Sam's needle of the month club (memberships are available in six- or 12-month increments).

a sample sock bag from Crazy Lanea
Bags and Baskets
If a bag full of cashmere is out of the question (and who said it was?), you can still give a beautiful bag. The sky's the limit since any kind of bag—whether marked "knitting" or not—is fair game.

For the power commuter who needs strength and discretion, Tom Bihn bags fit the bill perfectly. If you're open to a little more conspicuous patterning, take a look at the bags, baskets and totes from Lantern Moon, Amy Butler, and Atenti.

Also remember Etsy. A recent search on the simple phrase "knitting bag" pulled up more than 12,000 results ranging from fabric to felt, handmade to vintage, from this felted bowl to these basic totes with crafty words. I'm particularly fond of the sock bags by Crazy Lanea (shown above left) and anything by go-Monkey Design.

a tub for relaxing after a long spell of knitting
Gifts that Pamper
When working with smooth yarns that contain luxurious low-crimp fibers such as silk, it's extremely important to keep the fabric away from anything that might snag it. And nothing invites snags like a rough callous or cuticle on our hands.

Why not put together a hand-pampering kit with lotions and potions from L'Occitane, Sephora, or Bliss. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also try one of these recipes for making your own hand cream—or try a jar of the Shepherd's Friend Hand Cream that shepherdess Maggie Alexander whips up on her farm. An added nice touch: A portion of the proceeds from each purchase are donated to Heifer International and the Nature Conservancy.

Here's another idea. After a long spell of stockinette, your knitter will love being able to slip his or her hands into a microwaveable hand cozy infused with lavender, or to drape a microwaveable neck pillow around his or her neck for extra comfort. Come to think of it, we should all do this.

Casey the cat intrudes upon a perfectly good tea party
Tasty Treats
Many of us tend to keep a mug of something warm by our side as we knit. My favorite is assam tea with a splash of milk and sugar, but every knitter is different. Mark T. Wendell imports some phenomenal blends from around the world. For those particularly fond of Chinese teas, you could also consider a gift-certificate or sampler pack from Seven Cups.

If hot chocolate is your knitter's preference, I have two names for you: San Francisco chocolatier Recchiuti and New England-based L.A. Burdick. Both offer extraordinary hot chocolate blends as well as other chocolate creations.

And on the other end of the chocolate spectrum, here's an amusing idea. Did you know that M&M's candies can now be custom-printed with whatever you'd like? What if you put together a batch of M&M's with knitting-related words on them?

They'd be a fun gift and a helpful tool, too. Imagine you're working on a sleeve that requires 12 sets of increases. You could simply pull out 12 M&M's marked "inc," line them up in a row, and pop one in your mouth each time you work the increases. When the M&M's are gone, your increases are done. How's that for motivation?


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