I’m Knitting it for Myself

There’s a duet of questions you get asked whenever someone discovers you knitting and it goes a little like this:

“What are you knitting?”

Every knitter loves hearing this question – it’s exciting to be able to share our obsessive habit crafty skills with people, mainly in the hopes that we’ll induct them into the Secret Society of Knitters and thereby advance our plan of introducing world peace by getting everyone to sit down and knit.

Preferably with a cuppa.

Or wine and cheese; we’re pretty flexible that way. Just… don’t bring your lacework or fair isle to these ones. And… possibly expect to un-do a lot of the knitting you do at these ones. Actually, it might be best to stick with tea.

In fact, the only time a knitter doesn’t like hearing the question What are you knitting? is if they happen to be crocheting. If you’re not sure, play it safe and ask What are you making? instead.

My response to either question is likely to run along these lines:

“I’m knitting a jumper. It’s from this amazing old 1940s pattern that I found in an op shop and it has these sweet cables running up here. I’m knitting it in 4ply, even though it calls for 3ply, but given that it’s a pattern from the 1940s and was thus designed for extremely skinny people who had been living on rationing and the nutrients found in oxygen for a decade or two, I’m hoping it might be just the trick for changing the size.”

If, by some miracle, they’ve managed to survive this explanation intact and their eyes show only minimal sign of glazing over, the second question of the duet inevitably follows:

“Who’s it for?”

Nine times out of ten, my answer is:

“Me.”

Knitting for Myself 06

“What do you mean, is it for Lenore? I don’t know any Lenore – I’m knitting it for myself.”

I’m an unashamedly selfish knitter, but a bit of guilt sometimes sneaks in with that answer. It feels as though it’s the wrong answer, for a start. Grandmas knit bootees for their grandchildren. Aunts knit blankets for their nieces and nephews. Molly Weasley knits jumpers of dubious taste for her entire family. Who am I to go around knitting things for myself?

Let’s face it: social history provides us with one heck of a precedent for selfless knitting, too. In the First World War alone, over one million pairs of hand knitted socks were sent to the troops (and they’re just the ones that were sent – even more were knitted that apparently didn’t make the grade). A glance back to twentieth century history provides us with images and stories of women and girls keeping the home fires burning and knitting socks for the boys at war (presumably in front of said fires). There’s a whole article about it here, if you’d like a read – I rather liked the bit about turning bicycle spokes into knitting needles when there were more knitters than needles. I guess if you couldn’t ride your bicycle any more, you’d have more time for staying at home with your knitting.

So knitting’s a selfless act, right? People don’t knit really things for themselves. Do they?

Oh, but we do.

Knitting for Myself 05

“Oh, no – I’m knitting it for myself. Yellow simply isn’t his colour.”

Why aren’t we constantly making things for other people?

It’s not that I don’t like making things for people. You only have to look at the cacti I knitted for my work colleagues one Christmas for proof of that. (They were seriously great cacti – every single person thought they were real. Someone brought one of them back to work last week and even I thought it was real… until I took a moment and recognised it. Have a look at my instagram pic from a million years back when I was making them and see what you think.)

But the thing is knitting takes time. A knitted cactus might take you part of an evening, but a pair of socks will set you back a week. Even a quick knitter who’s given up sleeping and is doing their best to live on smoothies for meals because it frees up their hands for knitting… even they’ll still take a couple of weeks to make a jumper or a cardigan.

If we’re going to dedicate hours of our life towards making a knitted garment for someone, we’d like to know they’re going to understand the time, effort and love that went in to its construction. We also want to avoid any possible awkwardness from giving someone a gift that is completely wrong for them. (See the section on Lists below.) And if you think about it, if there’s one person I can guarantee is going to appreciate the effort I put into making a garment, it’s me. Because, well, I was the one who did it.

The thing is, not everyone appreciates or understands slow fashion. For every person who loves putting their heart and soul and every evening for a month into making a jumper, there’s another person who’s happy to run to the shops and buy one. Knitters are fashion rebels. Here we are, living in a world where you can have a brand-new wardrobe every week for next to nothing and we decide to do the exact opposite and start knitting our new jumper in the middle of Winter so it’s ready for the height of Summer, at which point we have to look at it wistfully and pack it away for another half a year.

Or, if you live in Melbourne, keep it on the top of your dresser for when Winter decides to drop in for a visit at the start of February.

At the end of the day, knitting is as practical as it is fun. If I want to stay warm during Winter, I’m going to need a jumper and since I like to make my own clothes, I have to reconcile myself to the fact that it’s going to take a while before I can turn a pile of wool into a wearable garment. Sometimes, there’ll be time to make a little something for someone, but mostly I’ll be sitting in front of the TV, savouring the delight of seeing a fair isle pattern appear row by row and imagining how it’s going to keep me warm when the jumper’s finally finished (which, yes, will probably be close to Summer at this rate).

Knitting for Myself 01

“It doesn’t matter how long you sit there and stare at me, I’m still knitting this cardigan for myself.”

Are knitters always selfish?

Absolutely not! Why would we waste our knitting skills when there are people out there who genuinely appreciate it? There’s nothing like throwing yourself into a project, propelled along by the excitement of being there when your friend opens your present.

That being said, every knitter has a List.

Let me tell you about these Lists. Every crafter, whether they’re a knitter or a dressmaker or a taxidermist (I assume) has one – a carefully curated assortment of people for whom you would willingly make things. Someone who’s expressed admiration for your ability to knit. Someone who seems to understand the effort and time involved. Someone who’s done something nice for you.

Someone you just like a heck of a lot.

Making things for someone on my List is always bittersweet, mostly because I put so much care and effort into the item that I usually end up wanting to keep it for myself. I’ve made and given away socks I’d love to have worn myself; a blanket I’d have loved to snuggle into; and two ruffled tea cosies topped with pom poms that I desperately wanted for my own teapots. It’s actually how I know I’ve done a good job: if I can’t bear to part with it, then it’s just right.

It can be easy to get it wrong, though, and that’s why the List is so important. How awful would it be to give someone a gift that isn’t right for them? Or something that they wear or use purely so they don’t hurt your feelings? This is why our Lists exist: not to exclude someone from receiving hand-crafted goodness but to make sure there’s minimal bruising of feelings.

Knitting for Myself 03

“Yes, one is knitting it for oneself.”

How do I get on a knitter’s list?

Honestly, it’s usually luck or a combination of the knitter having some degree of fondness for you and wanting to make you something. We go through a thorough process of working out whether our potential knittee (it’s a new word I’m trying and I appreciate it may not catch on in circles that don’t include myself) will be receptive to a handmade gift. After that, we become almost indistinguishable from stalkers as we try to work out what our victim target knittee would like or might find useful. Then we need to hit on the right colour and style.

Sometimes, we’ll take days to work out just the right question to ask that will give us the information we need without giving away our intentions. For instance, I have plans to knit a pair of socks for a colleague and I haven’t quite hit on the right way of asking what size shoe she wears. Taking away the creepy factor, there’s absolutely no way to do it in a way that doesn’t immediately give away my plans.

That being said, there’s no harm in a non-knitter trying the direct approach. I was toying with the idea of knitting something for a colleague who was leaving to pursue further study when he made things nice and clear by saying, “Would it be rude to ask you to knit me something?”

No. No, it would not be rude. It would help me a lot. He chose wool in a nice, silvery grey and I knitted him a scarf. This neatly satisfied both criteria of Selfless Knitting: a) I knew my hours of work would be understood and appreciated, and, b) the gift was going to suit the recipient, given that he’d chosen almost every aspect of it.

That’s how it’s done.

If only it was that easy to solve my sock-size issue in a way that doesn’t involve photographing my colleague’s feet from a distance with an extreme zoom lens and trying to work out their proportions. That would look every bit as weird as I imagine, wouldn’t it?

Knitting for Myself 02

“Yer knitting it fer yerself, ye say? No chance of a game of darts, then?”

If you ever spot a knitter in the wild (or on train or at the desk next to you), do ask them what they’re knitting. We love to talk about our knitting, especially if there’s something particular about it. Just don’t be surprised if you learn we’re knitting it for ourselves!

 

Image Credits: 1. link, 2. link, 3. link, 4. link, 5. link.

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23 thoughts on “I’m Knitting it for Myself

  1. Style Wilderness says:

    oooh my sentiments exactly, but more with sewing (at which you also excel). Who else is going to appreciate all the scratches from pins and the agonising over length and colour combos that goes into every garment I make?
    Also, those captions on the photos made me laugh 🙂
    Also, did you ever read this blog? I used to read her stuff all the time as she was hilarious, but unfortunately seems to have given up blogging. https://selfishseamstress.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie Writes Stuff says:

      Every time I stick a needle in my thumb, I wonder if it’s time to invest in a thimble. It’s worth it, though, when you end up with a well-sewn garment you know you’re going to appreciate!

      I did read the Selfish Seamstress and I’m so sad she’s not blogging any more. Her posts were so funny and yet educational. And she was a damn fine seamstress.

      Thanks for your compliments – I’m glad you enjoyed the captions. The whole post was a lot of fun to write. 🙂

      Like

  2. Bonita (@lavender_twill) says:

    I am laughing, nodding and agreeing with every single point in this fantastic post! You summed up my feelings exactly, particularly the selfish knitting{and sewing} thing. Having three small children I feel like a lot people expect you to making for them ~ be it sewing or knitting, but I’m just like “Have you seen how quickly their clothes get torn/dirty/stained/wrecked beyond repair?” and I think to myself, why would I waste hours of my time on something that just won’t last/be appreciated? So I keep on going on with my selfish knitting and sewing and my goal is to teach the children to sew for themselves, so that they can appreciate what they make and spend their endless time on it! ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie Writes Stuff says:

      Thank-you for your lovely comments! It’s great to know I struck a chord with you. 🙂 I love the sound of your plan to teach your children to create clothes for themselves – it’s perfect. My mum taught me to knit and sew and they are honestly some of the best possible skills to learn. There’s nothing quite as delightful as being able to make things for yourself, which is a thought we sometimes need to keep foremost in our minds when everything is going wrong!

      Like

    • Katie Writes Stuff says:

      Thanks! It does feel as though TV and film haven’t quite cottoned on to the fact that a whole bunch of us are out there, knitting all of the things for ourselves. 😀 Thank goodness for the internet, where we can connect with people who know exactly where we’re coming from.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Katie Writes Stuff says:

      Oh yes! I know it’s always said with the best of intentions, but we’d never be able to sell anything once we added in the cost of our hours of work. On top of that, if I’m making something for someone else (in my rare, unselfish moments), part of the fun comes with imagining how they’re going to enjoy the gift. And when you’re in the middle of crocheting five million ruffles on a tea cosy, you need something to keep you going!

      Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

      Like

  3. Tess says:

    You’re such a talent and I am all in awe of our work! 😀
    The knitted hat you sent me is a favourite obviously and it will soon start being useful after six months of resting.
    I haven’t really thought about it though, but if people started knitting instead of fighting and shooting we would soon face world peace. I love that thought! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie Writes Stuff says:

      It would work on so many levels! Not only would people be spending their time knitting and creating instead of destroying things, you’d be amazed at the problems you can solve by sitting with a group of people and having a good knit. 😉

      I’m glad you’re still enjoying your hat – or will be again soon!

      Like

      • Katie Writes Stuff says:

        That’s a more important job than you might realise. My cats spend so much time trying to sit on my lap while I’m knitting, which I suspect is a concerted campaign to put a stop to said knitting so I can return to the important job of patting them. It would be handy to have someone to distract them!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Doja says:

    I’m exactly the same way with sewing. When people ask me to make them clothes, I always turn them down. I’m way too much of a perfectionist and the pressure really gets to me that I start suffering from performance anxiety – I struggle to sleep, I worry all the time that I’ve messed up somehow… It’s terrible. Being paid isn’t even worth all that stress. So I’ll only consider those who are close to me because I know their expectations won’t be too high but even that’s rare. I only really sew for myself and that’s it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie Writes Stuff says:

      You’re so right about that added pressure. If I ever have to fix something in a less than professional way on my own sewing, that’s fine; I’m the only one who’ll ever know about it! But if I was making it for someone else, I’d probably have to start again from scratch.

      It’s much easier to make things for ourselves, really. We’re very forgiving of all our mistakes when it’s for us. Oddly, I’m pretty sure our friends and family would be forgiving of any minor mistakes on items we made for them, too, but we’re the ones putting pressure on ourselves there. It must be perfect or it’s not good enough!

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Doja says:

        Yes Katie, completely true. I am probably more willing to wear a wonky skirt that I made myself than ever let a customer even look at it with their eyes. People have said that I should stop striving for such perfection or I wouldn’t get anywhere, but it’s so hard when you want to show your best to people!!

        Liked by 1 person

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