If you love to make gifts for others but struggle with actually finishing them, Linda Ligon has a (sort of) solution for you. In her article from the September/October 1995 issue of Handwoven, Linda muses on procrastination and how she makes it work for her. —Christina
I can’t find the word "crastinate" in Webster's, but whatever its precise meaning, I'm in favor of it. You could call me a pro, in fact. I've crastinated actively and skillfully in almost everything I've ever undertaken: homework, housecleaning, weeding, writing my regular magazine columns, even spinning and weaving.
Regarding the last, though, I've found a way to turn my fault into a virtue. Or at least the illusion of a virtue. Or at least a way to keep people off my back. Here's how.
I love making things for friends and relatives. It's a special way of keeping people in mind, especially if I'm anxious about them. I remember long, long nights knitting a complicated cable sweater for my daughter when she was traveling in Eastern Europe and Africa, not available by phone for weeks on end. I'm sure those stitches kept her safe. I remember spending weekends weaving afghans and other useless items for my son when he went far away to school in a big city. He didn't get mugged (except once), and he graduated, so that's proof that my strategy worked. The reality is that, though people seem to enjoy receiving the things I make, the process probably means more to me than the object does to them.
I started applying my penchant for procrastination to my love of making gifts a few years ago. One of my coworkers was going to have a baby, and I wanted to spin and knit a little cap for it. By the time her shower came around, I had only got the spinning done. So I gave her the yarn with the understanding that she would return it to me and receive a finished cap soon. The "soon" ended up being when the baby was about three months old. The effect was that she got two gifts!
Another time, I spun several small batches of space-dyed silk top just for fun. As you may well know, there's not much you can do with randomly colored silk yarn that's not homely or at best surprising, so I gave each batch away with the promise that, if it were returned to me, it would find its way into a scarf for the donee. (That way I could put off having to figure out how to use it.) The most recent such magnanimous offering was made to a colleague in celebration of ten years of working together; eight months later, he's getting the scarf, with the silk as an accent yarn against a solid ground, and it looks okay. The gift that keeps giving (only not right away).
There are lots of ways to spin this process out even further. One year, I gave my son for his birthday a lovely black fleece, washed, carded, and dyed a dark charcoal green. For Christmas, he got a sweater's worth of yarn spun from the fleece. Next birthday, a sweater! Which didn't fit! By the time I had ripped out the bottom ribbing, lengthened it, put gussets under the arms, and gift-wrapped it yet again, it was time for another birthday. Four gifts from one project. It's the thought that counts.
I admit it's a racket, and I can't imagine why I'm sharing this personal nonsense with you. The fact is, I'm three baby caps and two silk scarves behind at this point and feeling a little panicked. I've never believed in buying things on layaway or running up my credit cards or going into debt. Yet here I am dealing in handmade gift futures.
An alternative, I suppose, would be to just give away the raw material and be done with it. I had a great-aunt who used to give me yardage for Christmas. It shifted the burden of procrastination to me; I don't think I ever did get around to making anything out of those odd lots, but every time I looked in my sewing basket, I remembered her. I won't say how.