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?