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.
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.
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.
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.
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.