What she was crocheting was a gift for Eamon, her boyfriend's baby grandson (who calls her "bubby.") It was adorable - a bumblebee hat. It was also made of sticky, nasty, ugly acrylic yarn. This yarn is just fine for her favorite project - endless crocheted afghans, and it's what she can get at Wal*mart (much as she hates Wal*mart, there's nothing else in her area and she doesn't use the internet at all.) I did have Patternworks and Knitpicks send her catalogs, but she sees their yarn as expensive.
Anyway, I'd always planned on making this a two-part gift. So. First thing I did while we waited for my brother to join us was to take out a couple of swatches I'd made for my current project. The yarn is Dale of Norway Falk - 100% superwash DK wool. One was for gauge, one was to practice the cable, and I'd washed both. They were soft and lovely to touch, and the color, a rich purple, just glowed. My mother has never worked with real wool.
I showed her Encore in the catalog - Encore is a relatively inexpensive but nice feeling acrylic/wool blend that works beautifully and would really be idea for the bumblebee hat, but we didn't get that.
Instead, she found a beautiful cardigan pattern with interesting stitchwork and we got the yarn that it called for, although instead of grey, we got a soft blue. I also got her the needles called for - she probably has them in straights but I got her circulars because she wanted circulars, which would be easier on her hands. I called Patternworks right there, and it was very amusing - my husband reciting our credit card number from memory, my mom talking about Wal*mart and the nice lady on the phone hearing every word. There was a sale on denim needle holders, but I have two pairs of straights and I'm not likely to buy more. So I bought it for my mom, too. It was cheap enough. Not that she'll know, as they're sending the invoice to *me*.
This way she'll make something for herself - and she picked the pattern and the yarn.