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The Joy of Making

[Yarn] Photo: Lindsay CrandallWhen I was a child and my mother called me over so she could pull the measuring tape around my chest and along my torso, I didn’t think much of it. She knitted often, and making sweaters for me was a regular event. We lived in upstate New York; sweaters were necessary. Being a child, though, those sweaters didn’t mean much more than my other pieces of clothing. To me, they were just sweaters.

Years later, pregnant with my daughter Lily, I opened a gift from my mother: a tiny knitted cardigan and matching hat, and a knitted blanket. Of all the things I was given for the baby, those gifts were the most special. Yes, they were from my mom, which was special in itself — I was carrying her first grandchild, after all. But they were special because they were made by her hands, hands that had chosen colors and spent hours clinking needles together and tugging at yarn. I’m certain my eyes welled up.

[Lily in the pixie hat I knitted for her last year] Photo: Lindsay CrandallIt was when I was pregnant that I began making things as well. I took a sewing class and learned how to use my hand-me-down sewing machine. I made aprons and bags and a quilt for my unborn child. I didn’t know how to knit then. That would come the week Lily was born when my mother visited and got me knitting and purling my way through my first scarf, the easiest of all knitting projects.

I kept knitting and sewing and dabbling in other crafts. Something about making things made me feel wonderful. It wasn’t just about the handmade gift-giving; it was the entire process — from choosing materials to putting on finishing touches. To put it simply, I like the feeling of using my hands to construct something new.

A few weeks ago, the blog Elsie Marley hosted Kids Clothes Week Challenge. The rules were simple: spend one hour a day for a week working on kids’ clothes. I had been planning to knit Lily a hat, so I figured this was the perfect time. I chose a lightweight cotton yarn in a pale green and a pattern I had used a year earlier. I knitted for an hour every day.

At the end of the week, the hat wasn’t quite complete. I expected this. Knitting projects can be lengthy and arduous. I kept at it a few days past the week’s end, but as I got further along the hat didn’t look quite big enough. Turns out it wasn’t. I held it up to Lily’s head and found it was about two inches too small. I had miscounted stitches, an unfortunate error.

[Latest progress on the new hat for Lily (after being ripped out)] Photo: Lindsay CrandallSo I ripped the whole thing apart.

I wasn’t angry, though. Sure, I’d lost all those hours, but I didn’t see it as a loss. The thing is, I like to knit. I like to finish projects too, but the actual knitting process is, to me, just as enjoyable as the product. All that time I had my daughter in mind, knowing that the work of my hands would yield something cute to keep her head warm. Just because it didn’t work out the first time didn’t mean that the hat would never be finished. It would just take a little while longer.

So I recounted and remeasured and made sure the hat would fit this time. I cast on and started over, and I’m OK with that.

[Lily in another hat] Photo: Lindsay CrandalGiving a handmade gift provides me a bit of a thrill, even if the gift is for Lily, who I know can’t appreciate it any more than I could as a child. I trust that if I’ve given something away it will be well-used and well-loved. Even if it isn’t, that’s OK.

More and more I realize that making things by hand is really for me, the maker. Whether I end up keeping what I’ve made or giving it away, I know what went into making it, and I did it because I wanted to. When I think of those sweaters my mom knitted for me as a child, I imagine she felt much the same way. I don’t knit because it’s trendy. I don’t sew because I think it’ll save money. I do these things because I love to create.

Lindsay Crandall spends her days writing, teaching, photographing, and (mostly) chasing after her toddler daughter Lily. She lives with Lily and her husband Adam in the Deep South, though they secretly hope to return to their northern roots one day. Lindsay blogs at A Condition of the Heart and frequently posts her photographs on Flickr.

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Reader Comments (2)

A couple of years ago, I wanted to relearn how to knit--a childhood craft that I had long abandoned. My mom taught me the basics over the phone (she used a TV antenna on her end so that she could properly guide me). I love making gifts for people and am storing up sweaters and blankets for my baby (due February). In this way, the stitches become rosary beads. As I make my way through them one by one, I pray for the recipient of the gift, sometimes in specific ways, sometimes just by lifting their names to God.

Of course, other times, I'm watching TV while my fingers work (much to the chagrin of my husband, who prefers to watch TV in complete darkness).

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I enjoyed reading this. My mother knit and my sister knit, but I was the outdoor type, doing things with my hands there. I was thrilled when my adult daughter was knitting and secretly wished I could do it, but lacked the confidence. Bethany developed carpal tunnel syndrome from many of her artistic endeavors and computer work, so knitting had to be dropped. I asked her to teach me how to finish a hat in the round she had begun...and from that moment on I have been knitting things far too complex for a beginner, but if a pattern caught Bethany's eye, I was going to make it for her. Only about 3 years have passed and I still keep about 4 projects going at once, for I love to knit for others. Bookmarks I created have been turned into bracelets--a novel and great idea!
I believe we all have an innate desire to create, for we are made in the Creator's image. Some of us need patterns or instructions or someone else's ideas for inspiration and some are so creative they see things in their heads and then work them out with their hands. I stand in awe of those folks, for I am of the former category.
May your endeavors continue as you make people happy and are fulfilled with the work of your hands, Lindsay. (We live in upstate, NY where sweaters, hats, scarves are all essential!)

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatti Welch

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