Knitting for others

Gentle People Shawl by Silvia McFadden

When you knit for others, it’s a labor of love. It takes time, skill and attention. It’s a selfless act. Most of my days are spent tending to the needs of others, namely my small children. And so knitting is often how I give back to myself. My selfish act. As a result there is often a conflict between knitting for myself (self-care) and knitting for others. To be honest, I’d much rather teach someone to knit so they can reap all the benefits of a knitting practice for themselves.

But then there’s family and that’s where the line becomes harder to hold.

I have made three Weathered Mountain Hats for my dad. A fourth was meant to be one, but I changed it to plain stockinette so I could get his gift to him on time and I thought the yarn shined better in that stitch. I’ve also knit many hats for my boys, husband, siblings and friends. And I have knit cowls, shawls, leg warmers and two kid sweaters that turned out to be too “itchy”.

Knitting the same pattern at different times for my dad over the past 3 years or so provides a snapshot of how I’ve grown as a knitter. (The pattern has gotten easier but the crown decreases in the established pattern still get me. (I think I have it almost figured out.) It also supplies a glimpse into the ebb and flow of a relationship. Knitting for someone else, especially family, usually involves love and a desire to share that love in the form of a handmade item. Sometimes you can be at odds with the person but you still want to follow through with your commitment. Sometimes you feel so much love that you want to knit all the things for them. The knitting is much smoother when your relationship is good and so laborious when it’s not.

I try to be mindful in my knitting for others and only commit to making something when I know I really can do it. I do my best not have obligation knitting on my needles. And if for some reason I find myself in that thick spot, I have to give myself permission to put it down for a bit. Then when I pick it back up, hopefully the rows come with more ease. For me, the stitches of a knitted gift hold the feelings in which you knit it with….and I only want the piece to hold the love, joy and gratitude I feel for the person.

And once something is knitted and gifted, I let it go. No matter how long it took me or what transpired while knitting it or whether it’s worn or not, it doesn’t matter. There’s love in each stitch, fulfilling my intention. (Of course, if the recipient wears it, I’m much more inclined to offer again.)

Now my husband would like a dk weight (on the lighter end of yarn) cardigan, the McQueen. I’m ready to make it, even if it takes a few months (or years).

Sewing the Alice Top

I finished the Alice Top by Tesutti Fabrics late the other night. I made so many wrong turns, I essentially sewed the top twice. (It’s in these detours that you learn the most about sewing.) Sewing a garment, inherently, is much faster than knitting a garment. It’s 1-2 weeks from start to finish versus 1-3 months (and that’s if it’s basically a straight line from start to finish). So why does sewing feel like it takes longer than knitting a sweater? 

Maybe because for the very fact that sewing is a faster process? Expectations always shift one’s perception. I expect knitting to take time; one stitch here, a row there and over a course of a long while you have a completed project. I’m not a speed knitter so when I pick a pattern, I don’t have the expectation that I can wear it the next day.

When sewing, the expectation is that if I work quickly enough I could wear it tomorrow. But I’m not a fast sewer either. And the actual sewing is only part of the process. Selecting and washing the fabric, choosing a size and tracing the pattern; cutting out the fabric, changing the needle and thread on the machine (which used to take me so long! I’d have to pull out the manual to do the bobbin for years) and then the sewing begins. 

Sewing my own clothes should be a reminder that speed is not the goal but the learning , building skills and my handmade wardrobe in the process is the purpose. It’s a relief not having to pull out the manual every time I need to change the bobbin now. It makes sewing smoother and less frustrating. Sewing the yoke of the Alice top backwards the first time then picking it out with the seam ripper enables me to really understand how it’s constructed and when I encounter that again- I’ll know how to do it. Same with sewing the armholes on upside down. Twice. I always tell my son that working quickly doesn’t always mean it gets done faster. Often the quick work has to be redone many times because you went too fast. If I slow down with my sewing, I bet it would be faster. But then, that’s not the point. Right? 

If I want a piece of clothing immediately, I can just go to a store and buy something. Fast isn’t why I make my own clothes. And sometimes, I need the reminder. 

Time passing

Hello there. It’s been a long while. The vision when I started this blog was to write regularly and document my creative process. Somewhere that idea and intention got lost in the business of life. The projects continued: knitting, sewing, baking, family time, and theater. And somehow, now, time has opened up a bit (or maybe it’s space in my mind) and I find myself back here, ready to share once again what I’m making.

Right now, I have a hat on my needles, the Weathered Mountain Hat by Andrea Rangel and sewing an Alice Top by Tessuti Fabrics with some old fabric I purchased at Nancy’s Sewing Basket before they closed. Their ribbon room is still missed.

There are grand plans to sew a few more garments before summer begins…we’ll see how that goes. But you can be sure I’ll be back here before too long.