“Why knit?” A coworker asked me this question one day when I offered to teach her how to knit. She continued on in that vein, asking if it was cheaper to knit things myself. I actually laughed at that. The short answer is: no, it is definitely not cheaper to knit things myself. I buy the vast majority of my knitting supplies-needles, yarns, bags-at local yarn shops or other small local business. Hi Loops! Hi Tatermash! And I buy yarns based on other things than price tags. I also took classes to learn how to knit and they weren’t exactly free.
So, back to the first part of her question, why knit? And the answers are legion. I hate shopping for clothes and shoes for myself, for well-documented reasons. Yarn shopping is an activity I straight up love. It is a small, selfish indulgence in a life largely dedicated to family. The yarn shop is a sensory delight. Pleasant music, good lighting, friendly faces and gentle voices greet me when I arrive. The shelves are filled with beautiful colors, ranging all across the yarn spectrum from soft and muted natural dyes to saturated and vibrant hues. Even while I’m trying to choose from endless color possibilities, I have my hands all over the skeins, feeling for texture and heaviness or lightness. I imagine how each yarn would drape when it’s knit up and what garment each yarn wants to be. And even when there is a line to check out, like on Black Friday, everyone is patient and kind and friendly. We talk about what we are going to make and for whom it is being made. We ooh and ah over each other’s choices. And we gossip like old friends even if we are strangers bound only by a love of yarn.
With the advent of cheap knitwear at practically every store, knitting is no longer a drab necessity, no longer a chore, no longer drudgery. Knitting is a pure pleasure. Something I do for the sheer, sensual hell of it, because I want to, so there! I knit only with yarns that feel good in my hands, yarns that I love. And I have my favorites, the yarns that I buy whenever I see them, the yarns that I horde.
There are also other reasons, beyond the tactile, beyond the sensual. When I knit something for a particular individual, when I spend hours poring over patterns, or designing my own pattern, and carefully choosing yarn, what I knit is a physical manifestation of my love or care for that person. I refer to it as yarn-love. When I see something I made with my own little hands warming the hands, head, or neck of someone I love it warms me right to my heart. I take a great deal of pride in making something tangible to take care of my loved ones.
Like most women, I like to multi-task. It drives my husband nuts, but I like to read while I eat. Knitting gives me something extra to do while we watch TV or movies or wait at the doctor’s office. I also multi-task my knitting–I like to have at least two projects going at a time.
The last reason that I’ll list here is something I didn’t even set out to feel or think when I started knitting. When I knit I feel that I am partaking in a distinctly feminine task. Woman’s work. So much of woman’s work throughout the centuries has been the invisible stuff that makes life smoother for others. Down through the years, women have done most of the cooking, the cleaning, the sewing, the mending, the ironing, the laundry, those things that are invisible except in their absence. Husbands and children may not have noticed when their clothes were cleaned and pressed, but they sure would have noticed it if they weren’t.
Not only has woman’s work been invisible, it is still mostly uncompensated to this day. No one would’ve dreamed of actually paying women for knitting stockings or sewing underclothing for their families! When I knit I feel a connection with all of those uncompensated, invisible-task-performing women of the past. We are, all of us, bound together in this woman’s work.