Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Economics of Knitting Part 1

Why I Knit
I knit for 4 main reasons, at least...4 that I've been able to think of just now.

1) Relaxation: If you've read Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, you may remember that when Morgaine spins, she enters into a sort of trance state. I'm not saying I have visions when I knit, but it is definitely a meditative experience. When I knit, it gives my mind a chance to wander, to passively mull over things that are on it, rather than actively stressing about them. As my mind wanders undirected, it often finds paths that wouldn't have occurred to me in a more deliberate, active frame of mind.

2) Luxury: Leaving aside, for a moment, the delicious things you can get as a result of knitting, knitting is a pleasing sensual activity. Yarn is nice. It comes in pretty colors, yummy textures, it feels good in your hands and it looks luscious as the fabric you're creating grows like some living thing into whatever shape and pattern you've chosen for it. Yarn is soft and pretty and good.

3) Creativity and control: Once you get the hang of it, making things for yourself ensures that what you end up with is exactly what you want. I don't have to spend lots of money on a beautiful scarf that's kind of itchy, or a wonderful sweater that fits not quite just right. Fine, shaping and fit is something I'm still in the process of mastering, but in a materialistic sense, knitting and making things makes you the master of your own fate. This is where my reasons for knitting really intersect with my reasons for making things in general. If I want legwarmers to match my hat perfectly, then I shall have them! If I want carbonara that won't kill my boyfriend, who shall remain nameless, with cholesterol, then I shall leave out the egg yolks! If I want a pot-holder that matches both the mustard yellow of the kitchen counter and the avocado green of the stove top, I shall make it so! Creativity is liberating.

4) Saving money: As you may have deduced elsewhere on this blog, I am a broke-ass graduate student. Saving money is, for me, a necessity, but that doesn't mean I can't still have nice things in my life. I can knit myself a matching hat and scarf pair that's nicer and cheaper than one I'd find at, say, The Gap. I can make really great shirts and skirts out of old t-shirts that I never wear (more on that when it warms up outside). I can't afford to eat out much, but that doesn't mean I can't afford to eat well at home.

I know that I won't always be a broke-ass graduate student. At some point, I'll have the degree and the job and the house and the disposable income. At this point, I expect my first two reasons for knitting to really start conflicting with the last two - actually, more just #2 with #4. I think, however, that even then I'll value knitting as a means of saving money, and not just out of habit.

As much as I like pretty things, I have a definite anti-consumerist streak in me. I like showing "The Man," "The Powers That Be," "The Gods of Capitalism," or whomever that I am not a slave to the market, that I don't need what they're selling, that I can do perfectly well for myself. There are, of course, limits to this. I'm not about to run off and start homesteading. But I take pride and a subversive glee in not being a predictable consumer. If a company wants my money, they're going to have to put some effort into it, and not treat me like a non-existent generic member of my demographic. Give me real options, or I will make my own!

The next two installments of this series on the economics of knitting will deal with being a responsible consumer within this framework - because even as an independent, unpredictable consumer, I am still a consumer of yarn, of materials, of patterns, of ideas. But it will always boil down to why I knit.


  1. Hey Sasha, you seem new to blogging but if you have catched pace quite fast.
    Waiting for the next post in the series of knitting economics..

  2. I think that mostly I enjoy the act of making and the joy of 'having made.' I'm very proud of some of the things I've created and are constantly using.

    But the consumer thing for me - I don't want "the man" to put more effort into it. I want people to go back to simply filling a need that exists, and stop making up a product and then selling (gullible) people on the idea that they need it. That's what annoys me the most. The amount of crap we have in our lives that we truly don't need, and often realize that we don't really even want.

  3. D - yeah, that's pretty much the effort I'm talking about. Filling a need instead of convincing me I need something, and then making a quality version of that thing that won't fall apart on me after a few months.