Monday, May 18, 2009

The Power of a Sincere Compliment

Shortly after Christmas, someone on Ravelry started a forum thread titled, "What is the best compliment you ever received as a knitter?" Over a hundred responses quickly followed. Some of the compliments were received during the recent gift-giving season, but many were years or even decades old, yet still fresh and sweet in the minds of the knitters.

I smiled, cried, and laughed out loud at the poignant range of expressions that had touched these knitters' hearts. Here are some of my favorites:

The woman who had spent all year knitting hats for each family member and said she would never forget the feeling of seeing her loved ones all sitting around the Christmas dinner table still wearing their hats while they ate.

The hilarious mother who asks for one of everything her daughter makes. She has even tricked her by requesting socks for the "pregnant daughter of a friend" and then kept them for herself. Gotta love her.

The woman who is happy (and hopeful) because her estranged sister still requests hand knits for her children at Christmas.

The young woman whose little sister texts her every time she wears the hoodie she knit for her--telling her how much she likes it. She said it brings tears to her eyes each time.

The woman whose grandmother was a master knitter who didn't give compliments freely. When her grandmother moved into a nursing him, she acquired her stash and knitted her a lap blanket from it. The grandmother didn't ooh and ahh over it, but held it up, glared at it, and critiqued it. When she was done, she told her granddaughter that she had a gift and that she was proud of her.

The girl whose little brother only said "thanks" when she gave him a hat, but never takes it off--even indoors, and calls her a knitting ninja to his friends.

The woman who, after her father passed away, found the gloves she had knit for him more than 15 years prior. They barely had a thread of the original brown wool left in them. He had been patching them with different little bits of yarn for 15 winters.

My favorite compliment that I've ever received as a knitter came from my daughter Anna--even though she called the wool and silk scarf I made for her “an insult.”

I was about a week late finishing her Christmas present and so when I finally sent the scarf, I included a note requesting admission to a fictional club that she and her husband used to joke about belonging to when they were in college. It was called the “Slackass Losers Club.” Here’s Anna's thank you email . . .

From: Admissions Committee, SAL
Re: Application
Status: Denied

Dear Ms. Layton:
We appreciate your interest in SlackAss Losers. We accept a limited number of new memberships each year, and these are reserved exclusively for slackass losers. Your Christmas present's belated arrival does not qualify you for membership. Exquisitely crafted, hand knit gifts (especially beautifully designed scarves that cause the recipient to Oooh and Ahhh for hours after opening, and wear around the house despite the temperature being in the 70s) are an insult to everything we stand for at SAL. Please refrain from re-applying to SAL in the future.

Membership Services

I wasn't the only one who loved Anna's response. My post received more "love" and "funny" clicks than any other post on the thread!

Here's another knitting compliment that I really like. This poetic thank-you was given to Mara Mori for the socks she knit for the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

    by Pablo Neruda (translated by Robert Bly)

  • Mara Mori brought me
    a pair of socks
    which she knitted herself
    with her sheepherder's hands,
    two socks as soft as rabbits.
    I slipped my feet into them
    as though into two cases
    knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin.

    Violent socks,
    my feet were two fish made of wool,
    two long sharks,
    sea blue, shot through
    by one golden thread,
    two immense blackbirds,
    two cannons,
    my feet were honored in this way
    by these heavenly socks.

    They were so handsome for the first time
    my feet seemed to me unacceptable
    like two decrepit firemen
    firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
    of these glowing socks.

    Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
    to save them somewhere as schoolboys
    keep fireflies,
    as learned men collect sacred texts,
    I resisted the mad impulse to put them
    in a golden cage and each day give them
    birdseed and pieces of pink melon.

    Like explorers in the jungle
    who hand over the very rare green deer
    to the spit and eat it with remorse,
    I stretched out my feet and pulled on
    the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

    The moral of my ode is this:
    beauty is twice beauty,
    and what is good is doubly good
    when it is a matter of two socks
    made of wool in winter.
And, if I might add a thought to this beautiful ode . . . Beauty is also "twice beauty" when appreciated.


  1. Hey Carol,
    First I want to tell you how happy I am that you and Karen have reconnected. Karen has always spoken highly of you and has so many great memories of your early years. Thank you too for your support and interest in our work, it means a lot to me. I read your blog and you have such a wonderful gift of connecting with the reader... I believe you have passed that gift on to your daughter. I look forward to seeing you around for a long time.

  2. why did my compliment not making into your favorites?!

    "i like your stuff...just don't make it too knitted-ey looking!"

  3. Once again, you have posted a very enjoyable blog to read! It is fun to read the different compliments knitters receive. I just cracked up when I read Anna's way of complimenting your knitted gift to her!
    Thanks for sharing. Love the cable and lace scarf with the crocheted edging, just beautiful. Is that the one you knitted for Anna? If it is that is too ironic; I knitted Lindsey the same scarf in Ivory for Christmas! We have good taste in patterns.
    Beth, your compliment should have made it to the blog too, of yeah, it did, in the comment session!

  4. Ha! Yep, that's the one! I used the "Cable-Eyelet Scarf" pattern by Crystal Palace Yarns. I bet it was really beautiful in ivory!