In exchange for a pair of handmade earrings, my friend Sarah knit me a pair of lime green wristwarmers. I know now that the cuff is knit in a 1×1 rib stitch, and that the thumb gusset increases every other row, but at the time, I only knew that they were warm.
What I didn’t know was that those wrist warmers took hours to make, and that the second one probably took longer than the first. When I lost one, I thought nothing of asking for a replacement, because, at the time, I was not a knitter. I had no idea what I was asking.
But I don’t know what I would do now if I lost one of my lime green wrist warmers. They have become irreplaceable.
You see, Sarah died two summers ago, in a meadow in Alaska, and those wrist warmers have become my favorite memento of her. (No, wait: my daughter’s name is my very favorite memento, with the wrist warmers taking a distant second.)
On certain days, I have studied those stitches and considered the hands that knit them. After all, those were the hands that first taught me a knit stitch, though only in a passing, informal lesson that didn’t stick, and those are the hands that held mine as we walked through the auditorium at our high school graduation.
When I consider those wrist warmers, it occurs to me that a handmade gift possesses a life and history that a machine-made one simply cannot have. A mass-produced sweater is neat and orderly–no untucked ends, no crooked seams, no sleeves that just wouldn’t “taper elegantly,” no matter what the pattern promised.
What makes a handmade gift live is the hands that made it, and all the little imperfections that they could not avoid.