Why Do You Make Things? (Or: The Knitting Project That Didn’t Work Out)

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Why Do You Make Things? (Or:  The Knitting Project That Didn’t Work Out)

Today I have a knitting project that I finished earlier this year, but have waited to post until the weather turned cool.  This isn’t so much about my failed and salvaged hat project, though.  It’s about what that failed and salvaged hat made me consider.

Why do you make things?

Last winter, I decided I would knit the Traveling Cable Hat, a free pattern from Purl Soho in some beautiful yarn from Romney Ridge.  I’ve knit cables before, so I thought I could do it, even though it might be challenging.  I’m not a perfectionist, and I don’t like to go back and fix every single mistake.  I prefer to finish.  This project, however, was one I tried to be precise in.  There were parts I didn’t understand, so I looked things up and asked other knitters.  I ripped back when I made a mistake and read and reread the directions to try to get things right.  I got frustrated and persevered, and to say I wasn’t enjoying myself is putting it lightly.  My husband kept asking, “Why do you keep knitting?”  The question surprised me at first, because he’s always one of my biggest supporters.  He always encourages me to push through, knowing I can finish the project.  But he could see that this one was one long, downhill slide.

Why do you make things?

When I sew, I certainly don’t enjoy every moment of every project.  There are times I get frustrated and have to put my project aside for a while until I can figure out how to solve a problem or until I’m not so annoyed, but overall I enjoy it.  I enjoy knitting, too, although I’m not nearly as successful with knitting as I am with sewing.  In fact, my last few knitting projects have ended up…OK, but not amazing.

Why do you make things?

His question made me think, though.  Why do I sew?  Why do I knit?  What am I looking for in my photography?  What do I want to get out of each and is it the same for every one?

It’s important to think about what we do.  After all, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates)  I don’t mean you have to give great weight to every activity in your life, but it’s worth it to figure out what you want to get out of your creative endeavors and why.

So, here’s what I came up with, for me, at this point in my life.

Knitting is for enjoyment.  I like knitting.  I like its tactile nature and I like the act of knitting.  I want to knit things that are simple enough that I can work on them while talking to a friend or watching a movie, but still interesting enough that I’m not completely bored.  However, this is not the craft I currently want to challenge myself in.  I don’t want to dive deep and learn every knitting technique and method out there.  I don’t want to do a ton of problem solving with my knitting.  I want a project that’s not too taxing, but is still enjoyable.

Photography is for seeking out and capturing beauty.  I’ve also been thinking about photography in this vein.  Even with this medium, which I’ve loved since I was quite young, I don’t want to get into the technical aspects.  I’m interested in composition and accurately recording what I see that I find beautiful, but I’m not interested in doing that deep dive right now.

Sewing is my creative practice.  Sewing, on the other hand, is exactly the place I want to dive deep.  I want to try new things, read all the blog posts, magazines, and books, and add skill to skill.  I want to see what it will be like to make certain kinds of things.  I love the planning and the finishing in sewing.  I love to wear what I’ve made, and I love discovering that I can learn new things and get good at something!  I don’t get into the process in the same way that I do with knitting–I’m heading for that end goal–but I do like the problem-solving involved with sewing.  It makes me smarter and it teaches me about how to handle other hurdles in life.  This is where I want to spend my mental energy and challenge myself.  This is where I want to work hard and grow.  This is my medium, my craft, and my art.  At this time in my life, sewing is my creative practice, and through it, I have learned so much, and I have gained so much.  I’m really thankful for it.

So after struggling with that pattern through the ribbing and the cable set-up, and after thinking all this over and coming to these conclusions, I gave up on it and stitched the rest in stockinette stitch, using another pattern to figure out the decreases for the top.  And I enjoyed it.  I can’t tell you if the Traveling Cable Hat pattern is good or not.  I gave up on it.  But I’m glad I started it because it (and my husband’s question) made me evaluate why I’m creating in the ways I’m creating and what I want to get out of each medium, where I want to spend my mental energy, and what I should call success in each area.

Why do you make things?

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Why do you make things?

What do you want to get out of your creative pursuits?  They don’t have to be sewing or knitting or photography.  They might be your hobby or they might be your job, but why do you love them?  What is the end goal for you?  Even if you can’t yet figure out the full and complete answer, taking the time to think through these questions will be worth the effort.

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16 responses »

  1. Good question. I certainly am not going to try any more knitting. i have struggled through a few items over the years. Now that I have wrist joint problems knitting only aggravates that. Sewing I have always loved. So much that I will continue my project even if my wrists ache. When my husband asked me what I was going to do about my sore wrists. I said quit my day job! 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am in a vary similar place to you. Knitting is what I do when I get on the train in the evenings to touch something real after a day of working on a computer. Photography is what I do to add to the story of my life. I take pictures of our travels and adventures with our girls so I can remember when when share with other people. Sewing is for me only. It may feed some subconscience need for control, since I spend my day pinballing between everyone else’s priorities. I think my desired wardrobe and tastes my just enable my desire to “to do it for myself”.
    Great topic, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this post and the idea of asking and thinking about why we do what we do. I knit and crochet to keep my hands busy while I watch TV, so that I don’t engage in more destructive habits (like eating, picking at dry skin, etc.).

    I’m like you in that I’ll always choose done over perfect. I also like to have something at the end of my labors… a cowl, a scarf, a little cactus!

    Thanks for sharing your passions and your introspection with us. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lisa,
    I love the title of today’s blog! Ha! The top of the hat and the yarn you used is beautiful. Can you get away with wearing it like a “slouch hat” (is that what they call them?) ? That color is great on you. In my opinion, you are an excellent photographer and seamstress. And that’s a lot!! Thanks for your honesty in sharing your hits and misses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good idea, Gretchen! I’ll try that. I think I’ll try adding a pom pom too. Thanks for your comment. I’m definitely a fan of showing both sides of making things (hits and misses). No one’s perfect over here, but we can all keep trying and cheering one another on. 😊

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  5. I love the color of your hat on you!! I’m not much for knitting – I have tried and always fail. I create just to have fun, and for me, knitting is not fun:). Sewing clicks all of the boxes for me though!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this yarn. such a beautiful color – and your finished hat looks great even if it isn’t exactly what you were originally planning.

    I find that my different hobbies fulfill different purposes in my life. Knitting is something to do in front of the TV at night. Its generally about having something to do with my hands, but I do want to try new things and expand my knowledge. I like learning new techniques,but sometimes I just want to sit down and knit something without thinking about it.

    Sewing is something I do during the day and for me it’s more about the drafting and design – I’ve realised that the act of sewing itself isn’t really that exciting for me – its a means to an end. I love doing the design and drafting and then just use the sewing to see if what I was trying for came out as I had imagined.

    So many times I’ve been told “You should start a business” but I’ve thought about it and sewing things I’m not really interested in for other people has no real interest for me. On the other hand I’ve been commissioned to make one off things a couple of times and I love that as it’s all about the creativity.

    I find as I’m getting older that what I really like is to be able to make things – it really doesn’t matter what the medium is as long as I’m creating I’m happy!

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    • I just realized I didn’t see your whole comment the first time. I think I’m at the same place with sewing—I want to see the outcome. I also feel completely the same on the business aspect. Maybe that will change (never say never), but I don’t see it happening at this point, although I do want to work within the home sewing industry (hence the social media and editing work I currently do for Pintuck and Purl). I definitely feel that I was made to create. Sewing feels like my medium, but even if it isn’t always my first creative love, I think I will always need to make something.

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  7. I sew primarily because I’m super tall (6’2″) and often can’t find things I want that will fit me. I also sew because it’s nice to have a creative outlet. I recently discovered your blog and have been reading through the archives and have realized that I’m not as organized in my sewing practice and sometimes rush through projects. This makes me make mistakes and maybe I don’t enjoy the process as much as I could. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m really enjoying reading your posts and I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to share them with us. If I comment on your really old posts, it’s just because I’m catching up… I know you mention helpful books and other sewing resources, so I want to peruse back through and pick those up. Thanks!

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    • That means so much that you would take the time to look back through the archives! Thank you. I do the same thing when I find a new blog that interests me. As far as organization, I’m not always organized, but I do like to try something and then refine the process. It’s not so much that I want to do the same thing over and over, I just like refining the systems of how I’m sewing overall, if that makes sense. Everyone is different, though, so refine and organize if it brings you joy, but if it doesn’t, don’t! Like you said, it’s a creative outlet. And feel free to comment away. I’d love to hear your thoughts on different projects. Feel free to leave your own book and pattern recommendations. I love those.

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