knitter's soap

Ten Great Gifts for Knitters

What do you give the knitter who has everything? Navigating the sea of gadgets and goodies before us can be overwhelming, so allow me to present my list of this year's 10 great gift ideas for knitters.




1: Something You Knit Yourself
Nothing renders a knitter speechless like a handknitted gift. We often knit for others, but we don't always receive handknits ourselves. Those are the gifts I count among my most cherished possessions.

Alas, as the clock ticks and holiday deadlines loom, making handknits for all your knitting friends isn't always possible (although I've been able to make a pair of my Maine Morning Mitts in one evening flat). Recognizing that our knitting time is more finite than our good intentions, I offer the remaining list to you.

detail of the Maine Made Cherry Swift
2 and 3: Umbrella Swift and Ball Winder
If we're talking functional tools, you can't beat a great umbrella swift and ball winder. We may not use them every day, but we're sure grateful for them when the need arises—say, when we need to wind 1,200 yards of lace-weight silk.

Swifts come in various forms and at various price points, from metal to plain wood to exquisitely handcrafted solid-cherry from Maine. (Halcyon Yarn has all of these.) The price runs anywhere from $39.50 to just under $200. Years ago I invested in the cherry swift (pictured) and can't imagine a more decadent and everlasting gift for another knitter.

Ball winders—a must unless you prefer to wind balls by hand—come in far fewer flavors. The most popular and easily available is a simple plastic ball winder (again, you can see it in action at Halcyon Yarn) that clamps on a table and creates a center-pull ball the shape of a tube of toilet paper. You can also supersize things with a Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder or Nancy's Knit Knacks Heavy Duty Ball Winder, both of which can handle a pound of yarn—which is good if you tend to buy yarn in giant hanks.

4: Needles
You may assume that the knitter who has everything has every needle. And true, she may—but does she have enough of every needle? Does she have every size of every DPN, circular, and straight needle? And even if she does, it's quite possible that several sizes are currently stuck in projects and unavailable for use.

Consider a few pairs of Lantern Moon needles—maybe an assortment of single-pointed straights, circulars, and DPNs in exotic woods. Or for the stun factor, indulge in a pair of glass circular knitting needles from Michael and Sheila Ernst. If you're going for something a little more functional, consider an interchangeable knitting needle set with multiple needle sizes, such as the wood or nickel-plated Knit Picks needles or the pink Denise Interchangeable Needles, with a portion of your purchase going toward breast cancer research.

If your knitting friend has been extra nice this year, check out the Knitters Toolkit Deluxe Knitting Needle Case from Fabulous Yarn. It has 12 pairs of Brittany Birch needles, 8 pairs of Clover bamboo needles, a set of stitch markers, stitch holders, and hand balm from Blue Sky Alpacas, all wrapped up in a colorful silk Della Q folding case. Just thinking about all those needles makes me swoon.

5: Darning Needles
I realize this isn't a very exciting gift, but most knitters can never—I repeat never—have too many darning needles. In my dream world I'd have a whole box of them that I could use (and promptly lose) with abandon. The most popular and utilitarian is the Chibi bent-tipped darning needle distributed by Clover. The slightly bent tip makes it much easier to pick up just the stitches you want.

6: Membership in a Yarn Club
You can't swing a skein of yarn these days without hitting a yarn club. Everybody's got one, and there's a good reason: knitters love getting stuff in the mail, especially when it's something they paid for two months ago and promptly forgot about (or better yet, were given as a gift). If your knitting friend is a sock knitter, consider membership in the mother of all sock yarn clubs, the Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. If your friend adores color, consider a few months of Sundara Yarn's new Seasons Yarn Club. And if you have no idea what your friend likes or dislikes, consider Webs' Skein of the Month club. For 12 months your friend will receive a single skein of yarn and a pattern with which to make something out of that single skein—for $119.95 total including shipping.

Wild Fibers Magazine cover
7: Armchair Adventures
I'm thinking specifically of a gift subscription to Wild Fibers Magazine, Linda Cortright's marvelous ode to the fiber world. Each issue (currently four per year) takes you to a new corner of the globe, to places like India, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan. You meet the fiber-bearing animals from those regions, you hear the stories of the people who raise those animals and work with their fibers, and last but not least, you have original patterns to boot. If your knitting friend already has a subscription, then perhaps you could give him a copy of my new book instead. (Sorry, I had to do that!)

The Omiyage sock bug bag from Sock Diva
8: Knitting Bags
We've established that knitters have a lot of stuff. Where do we put it? Why, knitting bags of course! If you're like me, each project must be housed in its own bag. I have many, many projects roaming the house, each in various stages of completion. Therefore, the gift of a knitting bag is really the gift of a chance to start a new project. Who can argue with that?

From here you can go pretty much anywhere. You can get one of the stylish yet waterproof Lexie Barnes bags, or go for a faux leather Jordana Paige satchel or messenger bag. Or you can skip immediately to the very tip-top of the scale with one of Be Sweet's handmade totes or knitting bags. If your budget is a little smaller and you prefer the true one of a kind, head over to Etsy.com and search on the words "knitting tote". You'll find literally hundreds of totes and bags, most made of colorful fabrics but some are already handknit and felted.

Does your friend tend to knit small projects such as socks? Get a couple of GoKnit pouches in different sizes and colors. Or check out Sock Diva's Sock Bugs (shown in above picture). The only catch? They're in very limited supply, so you need to keep checking and be patient.

Vintage Knitters Soap
9: Pampering Soaps and Potions
Winter calluses and cracks can wreak havoc on our knitting, which is why pampering potions get an important spot on the list again this year. The Vintage Knitters Soap (shown here) is made with shea butter and essential oils to keep your skin soft with each washing. On the lotion side, we have a few products aimed specifically at knitters, including the Knitter's Little Helper hand balm from Blue Sky Alpacas. I don't survive winter without an ample stash of Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, but I hear other knitters swear by Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. For a gift with a little more glitter, check out the handcare products at Sephora or New York spa Bliss. I see a fantastic pamper-filled gift basket in your knitting friend's future (or perhaps yours?).

Knitters Without Borders
10: A Gift That Keeps On Giving
Want to do something that will have a longer and broader-reaching impact than yarn or soap? Why not give a gift to a charitable organization on your friend's behalf. Two such organizations come immediately to mind. You can give a deserving family a sheep, or a share of a sheep, through the Heifer Foundation, or take Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitters Without Borders challenge and contribute to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders.

Do you have other great gift ideas? Share them here!