my dream gifts
Great Gifts for Knitters: The 2008 List

Non-knitters tend to know as much about gifts for knitters as I do about, say, fly fishing. Which is to say not much. But they love their knitters and want to do well by us—which is why I offer this list of gift suggestions. You may find a few ideas here for yourself, too. As you'll discover, it doesn't take a lot to make a knitter happy.

one skein of qiviut will score a knockout
Special Yarn
Giving yarn to a knitter may seem like carrying coals to Newcastle. We may appear to already own every yarn ever made, but I haven't met a single knitter who didn't welcome more. Especially if that gift yarn contains the most precious, special fiber of all: qiviut. One skein is all it takes to make a knitter very, very happy (which is good, since that skein will cost you $90). Note: Giving qiviut to a knitter and asking him or her to make you something out of it will score you negative points.

Artyarns Cashmere Sock Yarn
Qiviut isn't the only gift fiber in town—cashmere is also an excellent option. Again, I've never met a knitter who didn't welcome cashmere—unless this person were, say, deathly allergic to the fiber. (And even then, this person kept it in a bag and eyed it longingly.) Why not consider something über decadent like a skein of hand-dyed cashmere sock yarn from Artyarns? It's beautiful and it's extremely soft. I don't know how it wears, but who cares? You're the one giving the yarn, and you don't have to worry about the consequences.

stretches for knitters
Books, Books and More Books!
A knitter can never have too many books. It's hard to know what your knitting friends already have in their libraries, though. The following two adorable little books have slipped under many people's radar, making them prime gift books. First is The Knitter's Book of Stretches by Claudia Krisniski, a lifelong knitter and owner of Countrywool in New York's Hudson River Valley. She presents seven easily memorized exercises specifically designed to relax and realign our knitting muscles—which means a happier, longer knitting life.

Second is Knitbliss from A to Z, an absolutely adorable little book that walks you through the knitting alphabet with a Romney sheep named Irene. It comes to us from Barbara Haines, a graphic designer by trade and knitter by passion. She spent five years living on a sailboat with her husband and cat Hobbes—which is how I met her several years ago when she docked in my tiny Maine town one summer morning. I dearly hope that this little book is just a harbinger of more to come from her.

older out-of-print books make great gifts
Keep your eyes peeled at library book sales, too. A great tragedy occurs every day as old, rare out-of-print knitting books are decommissioned and put up for sale. These books make a genuinely memorable gift for any book-loving knitter and they help preserve our written history. (Speaking of which, thank you again Martha!)

Japanese knitting books make fantastic gifts
For those knitting friends who love adventure and inspiration, I also encourage you to visit Yes Asia and search on the term "knitting." Japanese knitting books make especially welcome gifts because they aren't widely distributed in the United States. Plus, these books have exceptionally well-charted patterns to help you bridge the language gap.

Just one more book...

And finally, I can't help myself. If you want to give a knitter a helpful resource book that they'll turn to again and again as they navigate the world of yarn—which is, after all, what we do—consider picking up a copy of my book, The Knitter's Book of Yarn. It's a labor of love intended to help set knitters free.

the Addi Clicks
Giving a single set of needles to a knitter—without, say, yarn and a project that calls for those needles—could be a little like giving a baker one teaspoon of cinnamon. No, a far more valued and practical gift is a full set of interchangeable knitting needles. If you want to give a gift that makes a choir of angels sing when the box is opened, I'd recommend the Addi Click Needles. Two words of warning: First, the needles are still in the final review stages and may not ship in time for the holidays. And second, at $149.95 a pop, they're best saved for special friends you know enjoy Addi needles. But they are very special, and I'll talk more about them next week.

the Denise pink interchangeables
The next option would be the Denise Interchangeables, which retail in the $50 range and offer endless flexibility in terms of needle and cord configurations. Earlier this year the Denise folks put a lot of work into fine-tuning their molds, and the result is an extremely pleasant needle with a smoother, firmer tip.

An interchangeable option for bamboo needle fans is the KA Classic Bamboo Switch interchangeable set. These needles screw into the cords and have the added benefit of being able to swivel at the join, which can make for more comfortable knitting.

the Signature Needles
Hold on a second. I just said giving a single set of needles to a knitter may not be the most practical gesture, but we will make an exception for really, really fancy needles. I'm thinking specifically of the sleek, high-precision Signature Needles from Signature Needle Arts. Part of the fun with these needles—including the new DPNs—is that they can be customized with different tips. This makes your best gift option a gift certificate.

the Needle Gauge Pendant from Debra's Garden
Tools To Help Us Keep Track of Needles
First, a few facts. Knitters tend to have a lot of needles. Keeping track of these needles is sometimes a little challenging—and it becomes even more so after the original size markings have worn off the needles. Here's where something called a "needle sizer" comes into play. It has holes through which you poke your needle until, like Goldilocks, you find the hole that's just right. Next to that hole is a number, which is the size of that needle. Mystery solved.

Which means knitters need needle sizers. And the cutest option to arise this year is the Debra's Garden Needle Gauge Pendant (pictured above). The basic pendant retails for under $20 and comes in a variety of colors. Or you could go wild and order the sterling silver or gold versions. Either way, you've given a knitter something s/he can really use.

the Della Q case for interchangeable needles
Cases for our Needles
Interchangeable needle sets beg for their own special case—especially the Addi Click set, whose elegant black case is too large for easy portability. While you're waiting for the Addi Clicks to ship, you can order one of the beautiful new Interchangeable Needle Cases from Della Q.

If you think your friend may appreciate something a bit more rugged with more pouches and pockets, something that's available now, consider the Denise Organizer. Although it was created to hold the Denise set, its pockets will hold most interchangeable needles and their cords and still leave you a ton of room for other things. I love my Organizer—it cheerfully accommodates the Denise needles and gives me a ton of extra room for DPNs and other circs as well as all sorts of other tools. I carry it with me everywhere and it shows no signs of wearing.

the Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Gifts that Keep On Giving
Another fact: Knitters love getting stuff in the mail. Not just in December but throughout the whole year. If you want to give your knitter a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, something really special, consider gifting membership in a yarn club. The grandmother of all clubs is the Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. Sign-ups for 2009 begin on December 15th and you'll want to set your clock for this one, as spaces fill quickly. Each shipment is a perfect marriage of design and color inspiration, with notes from Tina Newton and an original pattern that was designed by a professional and rigorously tech edited to near perfection. Many clubs have crumbled under the pressure to continually perform at a high level. If anything, this club seems to get better and better with each passing year.

Sundara Yarn
In the "When you care enough to send the very best" category, we have Sundara Yarn. Competition for these yarns is fierce, but there's a reason: the colors are magic. Sundara's specialty is the semisolid, in which different hues compete for saturation across a single color palette. Sundara's Artist Choice Sock Yarn Collection opens on December 15th and is also expected to fill very quickly. If you miss that, camp out for her Seasons Collection, opening in April 2009.

A shipment from the Year of Lace club
A third club makes the list this year: the Year of Lace from Make One Yarn Studio in Calgary. Every three months they send you an exclusive lace pattern (we're talking capital-p patterns from the likes of Nancy Bush and Sivia Harding) and exclusive colors of luxury fiber yarns. If your knitting friend loves to knit lace, this would be an extraordinary gift.

Here's another gift that would literally keep on giving for 365 days: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Never Not Knitting! 2009 page-a-day calendar. It's almost as good as having Stephanie on speed dial every morning. If nobody gives this to you for the holidays, head right out on January 1st and buy yourself a copy.

Knitters Without Borders
And finally, if we're talking about gifts that truly keep on giving, 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!