The question appeared in my Facebook Messenger app a week before Christmas. “We are looking for a stocking for our daughter,” a friend explained. “Could you knit her one? We can pay you!”
I stared at the query for a long time. I’m a people pleaser, and I really liked this young mother. Her daughter is adorable. In an ideal world, I could search through my stash and come up with the perfect yarn, casting on a gorgeous colorwork stocking that I’d drop into the mail with just enough time for it to arrive for Christmas Eve.
Of course, it isn’t an ideal world. At the time, I was merging households with my parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, and suitcases and bags were strewn throughout my house. I worked at home with my one-year-old son, and I hadn’t even finished his handmade stocking. Moreover, the United States Postal Service was so overwhelmed during the holiday season of 2020 that I doubted a package would make it to her house before the New Year, let alone before Christmas.
Yet still, a few months ago, I probably would have said “Yes" and worked into the wee hours of the night before spending an arm and a leg to ship the small package as fast as possible. But thanks to communities of crafters on social media, podcasts, and blogs, I not only knew I that I could say no, but I also knew how to say no.
The shared stories are almost too rude to fathom. Fiber artists and crafters write in about strangers who ask them to hem pants or fix a zipper or about friends who demand costumes for their kids in a week’s time. Some friends “gift” patterns or books to a maker and then expect free garments in return.
Overall, the stories communicate a community’s frustration with the lack of appreciation for the time and effort that go into handmade items. For reasons that defy explanation, noncrafters peg every handmade project at $50—$50 to make a bespoke dress, an intricate Halloween costume, a movie-accurate replica doll, or a multi-hued scarf. This amount rarely covers the cost of materials, let alone the hours of time put into making the item.
Beyond merely sharing their frustration or funny or strange stories, the ensuing discussions in these online communities inspire followers to stand up for themselves, to demand compensation that reflects the hours they put into their beautiful work, and to stop friends, family, and coworkers from expecting free alterations.
As for me, my friend was sweet, and when I told her I couldn’t make a stocking in time but offered to teach her, she immediately expressed interest. Her daughter may have had a store-bought stocking in 2020, but in 2021, we will work together to create something handknitted and one of a kind!
Erika Zambello is passionate about taking her fiber craft into the outdoors and knits while hiking, walking, kayaking, and more. She is a writer and communications specialist living in North Florida. Follow her adventures on Instagram, @knittingzdaily.