Why do we Hand Knit?

I just came back from the knitting trade show TNNA in Columbus, Ohio and as always my head is just buzzing. So many ideas, conversations and meetings. It’ll take me a while to mentally unpack it all! One of the last conversations I had was not at TNNA but on the way home. For my first flight, I was sitting next to a Chinese- American investment banker. Needless to say, he was rather fascinated to have someone knitting next to him and I spent the hour answering his questions. It makes you think a little laterally when you have to talk about your ‘business’ with an actual business person as it takes them quite a while to get how it works. It’s useful perspective seeing what you do with completely fresh eyes as well.

Our conversation started with the knitting basics; ‘It seems really slow’, ‘Don’t they have machines for that now’ and ‘I remember my mother back in China knitting sweaters for me’. I started to explain that while yes there are machines to do that, and yes it is slow there are other benefits to knitting. The act of knitting is relaxing, empowering, mentally stimulating and it gives you complete power over what I wear. If I used a machine, while it can do the basics very quickly, a home machine can’t do much beyond the basics. If I wanted a basic sweater I can go to a shop and pick one up for less than it would cost me to buy the wool.

Then we moved on to why I just didn’t write a pattern, sell it to a manufacturer and make my business like that. That got us onto a discussion of what I did. My business is about empowering and teaching other people, not creating end products to sell. I have no desire to sell finished knits for a living, I want to teach through my patterns and in person. So a non-knitter only saw the end product, what was being knit but not the process which is usually the most important part to the knitter.

From here he wanted to analyse the market. Was it urban, what age was it, how much disposable income? Being a non-marketing type it took me a while to warm to the subject. But as I thought about it I realised that knitting is a complete and utter luxury in our day and age. We are all time poor so spending many weeks or months knitting an item you can buy in the shop is the ultimate in luxury. The fact that the yarn probably cost double what a finished sweater would cost also puts it into the luxury category but I think time is more significant. To me, knitting, teaching people to knit and promoting knitting is the ultimate in self-care. You’re taking time for yourself, learning new things and enjoying the process of learning something new. By the time we had finished our conversation and were due to land I think I had almost convinced him to take himself to a LYS and take up knitting in his retirement. After all, it’s one of the best mental exercises out there!

4 thoughts on “Why do we Hand Knit?

  1. What a great experience! It is never a waste of time to stop and think about why we do ANYTHING. I liked that you described knitting as a luxury. There are many people who celebrate being “yarn snobs”, while many of us are just thankful for the opportunity to knit…period.
    You are always a pleasure to read.

  2. My first grandchild only lived for 10 hours, and my daughter was left with a terrible emptiness. She asked me to teach her how to knit so she could have something to do with her hands and something else to think about. Our knitting has become a wonderful bond, and she has inspired me to try all kinds of new things in knitting. It may be a luxury, but for some, it is also a deep necessity. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It helps to see how you answered those questions, because we get asked such things, too.

  3. I enjoyed reading this. My son and many grandchildren live in Israel so I usually go there each winter and stay a few weeks. I connected with a group of knitters thru Ravelry so it’s nice to have some of my own friends there. One of the things I notice is that there is a very limited supply of nice knitting yarns. Once I noticed that I figured out that lots of people there just don’t have the time to knit. Many families have lots of children so moms and dads are really busy with parenting activities plus there’s just not much money for luxuries like nice knitting yarn.
    I would imagine it’s like that in many parts of the world. We are very lucky in the US to have such an abundance of beautiful materials to work with.

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