I Make Stuff

I was recently asked what I thought were the kinds of attributes needed to be a good knitter. This was a pub conversation. I was knitting.

To be honest I was a bit stumped. There are lots of attributes that make someone a good knitter but as I rattled of a list of things, I admit I was floundering. To me at least, my answers were sounding just a bit limp.

As I recall, I think I said a bunch of stuff like enjoying the feel of different kinds of yarn, having a good attention to detail, being patient and so on.

In among the waffle, I managed to say ‘enjoying making something out of nothing – taking raw material and turning it into an object.’ So when I was trying to wrap up my floundering, I returned to that point because it seemed to me the best reply.

The woman I was speaking to was asking out of genuine curiosity, I believe. As I offered her my reiteration of the ‘making stuff out of nothing’ explanation she said, ‘But I like to make stuff, too. I just have no interest in wool.’ (She builds things, like chicken coops, for fun).

I seized on that because it seemed to me the salient point. It’s about making stuff. I happened upon wool probably because when I was growing up, it’s what my mum did. I’ve been around wool a long time. In the end, the material that’s chosen is kind of arbitrary. I just ended up a knitter.

I thought of this recently when I read another friend’s post about making a wooden spoon from an olive branch. It’s very cool.

Essentially, to take this

and turn it into this

Is no different to what we do with wool, alpaca, silk or any of the other yarns we use. In that post, Evan describes the art of work with the fibres that make up the wood and shaping them to form something smooth and beautiful. He’s taken a raw material and made it something new and different.

That really struck me. I felt that even though I was reading about woodwork, I was reading my language and so when asked what makes a good knitter, I drew on that understanding. It’s about the material; it’s about the love of making, of creating.

We simply choose our own media. You may have noticed I changed the tag line at the top of my blog from ‘Knitting. Lots of it’ to, ‘I make stuff.’ I did that a week or so ago and I did it because I’m becoming increasingly aware of the fact that it’s not just knitting for me. Knitting is only one creative outlet. I apply the same love of making stuff to food, to photography, to gardening (when I do it!), to writing and now to sewing. It’s about the creative life, the creative mindset. It’s deeply important to me and helps me cope with the fact that I don’t have a particularly creative job. I might one day, but I don’t right now.

So I make stuff. That’s just what I do and, more importantly, who I am.



18 thoughts on “I Make Stuff

  1. I’ve been saying I make stuff for years, after a friend of Himself came over and watched me spinning and knitting, and looked at Himself’s photos (he takes, develops and prints his own) and also the website Himself had just finished building, and I said something like “making stuff is fun” which is pretty much how I feel about it. Doesn’t matter what the “stuff” is, it’s fun. It makes you feel good.

    Thank you for the thoughtful post:)

  2. Oh yes, in-very-deed. I get the same relaxation and sense of accomplishment out of bread-baking as I do from knitting. It’s the vision, the focus, the doing and the making which feeds my soul.

  3. Yes! Good answer. I make stuff, too. It’s so satisfying – doesn’t matter what media I’m using. A cake, a little girl’s bed room, a sweater, a garden. One reason I particularly love knitting is because it’s so portable. (I can’t paint my kid’s room while having a beer at the pub.) Plus, even having knit for twenty years, there’s still something mystical about taking a ball of string and some sticks and making a garment, a doily, a child’s toy. Very, very satisfying.

  4. i like your idea of the creative life. i think that’s key – some of us want to have some degree of control over our lives and create some aspects of them just as we like, and not how someone else has prescribed or manufactured for us. and there’s the satisfaction of successfuly achieving this.

  5. I am spending a year with my mother who is in hospital/nursing home. I feel blessed that I am able to have this time with her, but being away from home and work is difficult. I have been making gifts for friends, the nurses and aides because I have little else to do. Sitting beside her bed as she sleeps, I have discovered that knitting and crocheting are my meditation and have helped me maintain my sanity. I make stuff, but I think (or zone out), and stay sane. And yes, I have had many conversations initiated because of what I am doing.

    Unfortunately I have discovered it has become an obsession. My son calls the LYS the crack house. While working on one project, I had to go to the bathroom and actually started trying to pack up the project so I could take it with me. At tht point I realized that yarn is my crack and I needed to do other things as well.

  6. I would have had to ask her about her question, because people knit for so many different reasons. Some folks attracted to the physical proccess. some are more tactilely oriented, and love to play with the nice fibers. Then there are the folks who love to produce a beautifully finished product. And the folks who want something completely unique to wear, and the folks who just love plaaying with the color and . . . well, you know how it goes. And then, what constitutes a “good” knitter?

    Good question, Very thought provoking.

  7. Interesting conversation starter! When people ask about my hobbies I see there’s that common thread in all of them, that I like to use my hands to make things. Personally I feel like its been an interesting progressing for me to learn this about myself. My younger, 20-something, feminist, black-and-white self would have likely been horrified to find that I enjoy spending time on traditionally “womenly” things like baking bread or gardening. The thought of lace might have induced some sort of fit! But the truth for me is there’s something innately satisfying about making something from raw ingredients, or from immersing myself in the moment of creation.

    I’ve found it interesting too to read about your recent adventures in sewing. I’ve been trying to do more sewing but I’ve found that while I like the product, I don’t find much engaging about the process. Whereas I can happily knit along, enjoying (for the most part) the process itself, regardless of the outcome. When I put something aside in the WIP knitting pile (which, yeah, has it’s own space in the cupboard) it’s because I’ve disengaged from the process. i.e. most likely bored with it. I enjoy baking, woodwork, painting, and gardening for the same reasons. There’s something lovely about pottering with things that aren’t essential but because I enjoy them. By that I mean if I had to bake every day because I needed to make bread for sustenance I’d likely lose some of the joy. But I love making bread when I feel like it, and kneading by hand is an awesome stress reliever 🙂 Possibly also relevant train of though to your post about opening a shop – which changes the reason you’re creating.

  8. I make stuff too. My husband used to joke that I would have made a good pioneer wife (except for the killing of my own food thing) because I can cook and sew and spin and knit and fix things. And I like doing it.

    He feels the same way about his wood working as I do about my fiber crafting. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at a piece of tree that has to be cut down and worked with and shaped into something beautiful. It’s that same feeling as when we fondle a skein of wool and have plans running around in our heads.

  9. I noticed that change in your tag line and thought it was a nice shift to encompass your expanding interests. I am totally with you on the creative thing. I took up knitting when I started my phd because a bunch of other people were doing it, and i loved it so much because it was about my hands making something, not my mind. It was tangible and practical in its creativity. I still love it because of that. It is the same as other crafts in that respect, but there’s something else special about knitting, and I think its about clothes. Turning wool into beautiful things that people wear and keep us warm. Life affirming, practical and creative. Can’t beat that!

  10. That is a very interesting question! I do think that knitters tend to be people who like to make stuff – I love paper crafts and baking, too. But ultimately, knitting is just… easier? You don’t have all this stuff to carry around, or need a flat table or water/glue or machines. And the items produced are more permanent, too, than say, a notecard or a cookie. And it meets your needs and challenges better, too. (Like when you need an easy knit for waiting at the dentist or a challenging one to engage your mind.) I think it’s really hard to beat knitting when it comes to making things!

  11. The medium is important – but wool and knitting is also very accessible. I make stuff too and sway between knitting, embroidery, paiting and collage, but I find knitting the most accessible of my crafts. You can pick it up, put it down, take it with you on a trip. It’s relatively easy to be ‘on the road’ with knitting – an advantage not really afforded with collage or painting.

  12. It’s an interesting question isn’t it. I think that creativity is a big part of it – although for some knitters moreso than others (I’m thinking here of the difference between someone who designs a garment from scratch and someone who knits the pattern as written, using the specified yarn and even in the same colour/s as the original). I think practicality comes into it (although many knitters make very impractical things); I think aesthetics comes into it too (although again, many knitters make things which are not aesthetically pleasing to many). I think, maybe, that to be a good knitter, a person needs the ability to stick to it. To not give up. That doesn’t mean you can’t give up on a particular project, but more that you don’t give up on knitting as a whole despite set-backs or difficulties grasping concepts. Interesting! Will have to think on it some more!

  13. You expressed that well. It is like my ‘thread twiddling’. I take a piece of thread, no matter if yarn, floss, cord whatever and manipulate it with needles or hooks, or even just my fingers into a completed object that one can wear, use or just enjoy its appearance.
    I think everyone needs some creative outlet, and fortunately there are as many different ways to express creativity as there are people.

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