“Why bother knitting a scarf?”


I’ve started knitting again after a year-long break. I went to the local knitting store because I wanted to make an infinity scarf. I had a mental image of a luscious, cozy, double-looped scarf in a chunky, loose, flowing yarn. The lady at the store helped me pick out some beautiful hand-dyed fuchsia yarn that’s made nearby in Williamsford. It’s spectacular stuff, so I bought two balls and a set of giant bamboo knitting needles.

Then I knitted for two days straight, ending up with a three-foot scarf that was 1.5 times too wide. It looked like a gigantic tea towel. I went back to the store because I needed someone to tell me what I already suspected: “Undo it and start again. It’s too wide.” Ugh, the agony of undoing all that work! But now I’ve put in another two days and it’s a much better width, though still unfinished.

I took my knitting to a cookie exchange party on Thursday night, and someone posed an interesting question: “I don’t see the point of knitting. I could just buy a scarf for so much cheaper and much less work. Why bother?” I’ve been mulling over the question because, quite frankly, it’s a good one and it relates exactly to what I was reading about in Overdressed. (See my review of the book here.) Why bother, indeed, if I can spend $10 on a scarf at H&M? Here’s why I think it is important to bother.

1) I’m creating a product of high quality. Because this scarf is taking me so many hours and because it’s made of expensive wool, it is automatically more valuable than something I’ve bought for $10. I will care for it and it will last for many years, keeping its shape and colour long after cheaper scarves has fallen apart.

2) Knitting a scarf by hand is a subtle act of rebellion against the outsourced fashion industry. We live in a world where most of us are dependent on certain highly specialized people and companies to do specific jobs for us. This is a way of reclaiming a bit of my independence, of thumbing my nose at a bigger industry and saying, “Ha, I don’t need you to make my scarves!”

3) I’m supporting a local industry. It wasn’t cheap to buy two balls of that locally produced and hand-dyed yarn, but at least I’m making a statement with my consumer dollars to a nearby farmer, saying, “Yes, I think it’s fabulous that you’re making a living raising sheep.” If everyone redirected even a small portion of their purchases into the local economy, it could do a lot of good, instead of always choosing cheap imports over local quality.

4) It feels really good to make something by hand. I spend so much time writing and reading, which are cerebral activities, so there’s something very peaceful about performing a simple, repetitive act with my fingers that creates beautiful, useful things. Sometimes it gets boring, but mostly I like having time and space in my brain to just think.

And that, my friends, is why I bother knitting. Why do you make things?


You might also like:
The Happy Knitters Club
The inconvenient truth about bargain shopping
Fashion Angst


9 thoughts on ““Why bother knitting a scarf?”

  1. Katherine, picking up your needles after a knitting hiatus is a great accomplishment in itself. As a lover of all things handmade I appreciate your arguments. As a knitter I feel your pain in having to “rip ” all those knits and purls back! I have been in that position many times. In moments of intense frustration (and language) Ryan will ask ” why do something that causes you so much grief?”. Well, because I love the challengeand it makes a successfullly completed project so much sweeter. Happy knitting to you and I wish you many more mistakes turned into beautiful works of handmade art!

  2. I prefer to crochet instead of knitting. It is easier to undo when something is wrong. I love giving my afghans away to family and friends, because they really appreciate the time it takes to make one. It relaxes me in the evening and I accomplish something when it is done.. My bucket list this year was to make one afghan a month, which I did and have the remains of all the wool I didn`t use up in my closet. Keep up the good work .

  3. Knitting is how I survive PTA meetings graciously. When the conversation drags, I comfort myself with the thought that I’m not wasting precious time on a conversation that is twice as longs as it needs to be – I am making significant progress on a [scarf, washcloth, etc.]!

  4. I agree whole heartedly! I crochet, and I absolutely love doing it. Finding the time is the biggest challenge I seem to have.

  5. Knitting helps me feel productive while watching TV. I always feel a tremendous amount of guilt when I sit down especially if there is laundry or cleaning to be done. I knit enough during the year that I have enough Christmas gifts for everyone I know.

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