Sunday, July 31, 2016

On the Subject of Thank-You Notes

I have a finish to photograph, but a forecast of rainy days will prevent me from sharing it until the end of the week. (I’m not complaining—we need this rain!) I thought I’d take advantage of the lull in new finishes to talk about a related subject ...

I was at a gathering of quilty-minded ladies yesterday and the subject of thank-you notes came up. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. In fact, I’ve discussed it with this group of friends, other quilters, even quilt-shop owners. All too often, quilters feel that the recipients of gifted quilts don’t adequately express their gratitude. Some would be satisfied to receive a quick text or shout-out on Facebook. Few get a handwritten note sent the old-fashioned way.

There are exceptions—big, happy, thank-you-thank-you-thank-you exceptions—however. The first quilt I made was a simple patchwork of 8-inch squares. I gave it to my friend Miss K on her birthday. She wasn’t expecting any gift from me, let alone a handmade one, and she was over the moon.

I don’t recall receiving a thank-you note (maybe I did), but Miss K’s appreciation was clear. Whenever I encountered her and her daughters in public with the quilt, Miss K would shout out, “We’re having lunch on your quilt, Michelle!” or “We’ve already had a milk spill and washed your quilt!” Now, after countless picnics and concerts in the park and washings, the Denyse Schmidt fabrics I used in that first quilt are a shadow of what they once were, and that’s fine. That quilt has been well loved.

My first quilt, made in the summer of 2013.

Does that story remind you of how friends and family members have responded to quilts you have gifted, or are you still waiting for a thank-you for that quilt you gave someone three years ago?

If your binding is in a bunch about the subject of thank-yous, may I offer some suggestions?

Be deliberate about your giving.

Not everyone needs one of your quilts. Some people aren’t into handmade quilts or don’t understand the time, effort, and cost that go into a quilt. Buy those people in your life a gift certificate for Christmas instead of handing over a prized finish. (It does not make them bad people or you a bad gift giver!)

Other people get a quilt because you know they will be thrilled about it. Sometimes, they, like Miss K, will even get a second. (K, if you’re reading this, I have no idea when that second quilt will come into existence!)

Scale down the grand plans.

Less of a project can be more, especially if you’re the one making it. My mother-in-law, for example, requested a quilt last year. (When your MIL asks for a quilt, I think she should get one; it’s a perk of being a MIL.) I made her a quilt, but it was a throw size instead of the king size she really wanted. A king-size quilt was too big of a project for me. Making her a throw was more doable, and the result was the same: a happy MIL.

Lotus Blossom, made for my mother-in-law.

Here’s another example. After I started quilting, I was inclined to make quilts for all the new babies in my life. As a mother myself, though, I knew that new babies get lots of blankets and quilts, both store bought and handmade. Instead of committing to making a baby quilt that may not get the use it deserves, I decided to sew Jane Market Bags for these newborns instead. These bags are great for toting toys to a play date or books to the library. Making them was a win-win situation: I got to give something handmade, and the mom received a practical gift.

I am such a fan of the Jane Market Bag pattern that I have been known to make six at a time!

Practice showing appreciation yourself.

We can’t control how others respond to a quilt we make for them, but we can choose to tell others when we appreciate a gift. I’m not great at writing thank-you cards promptly, and I have decided to get better about it. Thanking someone does matter, and it will be noticed.

What do you think?

Sometimes my thanks comes in forms other than notes. Audrey got an Instagram thank-you when I received this bag from her. (I cannot tell you how many times random people have complimented this bag!)

And I remember calling Kim within a minute of opening up this beauty.

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  1. I think your suggestions are all very, very wise. I truly try to remember to show appreciation myself and being reminded that hand written notes are rare and beautiful things these days is a good thing every now and then. <3

  2. TY notes are such a sticky subject, right? But I think you've made some great suggestions. When it comes to baby quilts, I usually ask the parents-to-be if they even want one. Or sometimes, I just make burp cloths or bibs instead. (Or buy a gift card--ain't no shame in that!)

  3. Sometimes it is really hard when a gift that is so personalized is not received with the thanks one expects. I think my favorite "Thank you" is seeing photos on Facebook or whatever when the gifted quilt is part of the couch snuggling, or on the little one's bed, slightly crumpled. Knowing it is used and loved everyday is the Best thank you in my opinion. Although, the acknowledgement is ALWAYS appreciated.

  4. Great topic....and great suggestions. I'd take any kind of thank you -- in person, written, on Facebook.....

  5. Thank you notes are becoming a lost etiquette, at least in the way that they once were. You've given some great suggestions. For me, I think it's managing my expectations before I give a gift. I really want to make each of my nieces and nephews a quilt. I've already gifted one to my oldest niece that was extremely appreciated. But it's been like pulling teeth to get even a favorite color from my oldest nephew. Maybe it's more important for me to give the gift than to receive the thanks that I want. It's tricky.

  6. The best thank you note is seeing a quilt a year later looking worn and loved. Although, I love getting hand written cards and always give them to my students. Not so good with other aspects of my life.

  7. Such a great post. I like pillowcases for a fast kids gift.


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