Lion Brand Notebook

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Me Me Me

January 3rd, 2013

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Editor’s Note: We’re excited to introduce Franklin Habit’s monthly column for our Weekly Stitch Newsletter as a regular feature here on the Lion Brand Notebook. Stay tuned for stories, insights, and laughs.

My grandmother, a mostly sensible woman who nonetheless cultivated a small garden of superstitions, taught me early that to begin a new year with messy closets is to invite three hundred and sixty-five days of calamity. So last week, while 2012 was running out the clock, I was hastily performing the annual ritual of Keep-or-Keep-Not.

An essential part of the ritual is contemplating my meager pile of sweaters and wondering why there aren’t more of them. And why most came from a factory. And why most don’t fit. And why most of them are, to be blunt, tragically ugly. Keep? Hah. Burn.

I am a prolific knitter. I knit ceaselessly. But I almost never knit for myself. So I have to buy sweaters which never fit properly and I look terrible nine months of the year. This needs to stop.

A few of my friends are formally dedicating the coming year to knitting primarily for themselves. There’s a popular term for this­–Selfish Knitting. It’s a term I don’t like.

The same grandmother who taught me that a messy closest causes earthquakes taught me not to be selfish. Selfishness is deliberately withholding love, help, or cookies when somebody else might need them. Selfishness hurts people. Selfishness is bad.

Is knitting for yourself bad? If you are a hobbyist knitter, and your hand-made socks end up on your own feet and not your husband’s, are you being selfish? If your hobby is selfish because the direct benefit of it is yours alone, why don’t we hear about Selfish Golf?

I don’t believe in Selfish Knitting. Knitting for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s sensible.

If you knit (or crochet, or weave, or sew) for yourself:

You know that the end product of your work will be wanted. Even your dog isn’t necessarily going to appreciate every sweater you make for him, though he may be too polite to say so.

You won’t fulfill a request for a blue, cabled hat by making a blue, cabled hat; only to be told, “I didn’t mean that shade of blue.”

And should you decide not to wear or use whatever it is you made for yourself, you will not thereafter look at yourself with a smoldering resentment that finally flares up one morning and causes you to fling the butter dish at your head.

My first new project for 2013 (kindly look away from the pile of works-in-progress littering my worktable) is going to be a sweater for me. I intend it to replace the nasty, clammy moss-colored abomination manufactured by a Big Label that thinks a small man is two feet larger around than I am. All I can say for it is that it looked decent enough at 75% off after Christmas 2010.

The pattern I have in mind is the Man’s Rough Neck Sweater from the 1916 Lion Manual of Worsted Work, obligingly republished in facsimile by the smart cookies at Lion Brand Yarn. I love the collar and I’m curious about the construction of the pockets and hem. As it happens, Lion Brand makes a perfect modern substitute for the original yarn–LB Collection Organic Wool.

Of course, as is my custom I intend to make some changes. The only question is how many…Pattern Alternations by Degrees of Intensity: a guide by Franklin Habit for Lion Brand Yarns

—–

Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.

Franklin’s other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with an Ashford spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

  • Idonna

    I, too, almost feel guilty when I knit for myself. Seems as though there is someone looking over my shoulder saying when are you going to make that shawl for me? My sweaters fit like yours do, Franklin, I was looking at a package of yarn stashed here in my bedroom yesterday. It has the pattern with it and is for ME. Next on the list. Idonna

  • Serena

    Aha! No, knitting for yourself is not selfish! You will be much happier wearing what looks good on you, and therefore others will not bear the brunt of your unhappiness from looking tacky.
    Disregard the pile of started-upon for now. Knit for you in January and then add a “for-somebody-else” after you have a “for-you” established and going well. Keep those two going and look neither right nor left until the “for-you” is done and make it the dominator of your knit-time.
    From an old lady who also has piles of WsIP (Works in Progress).

  • http://www.facebook.com/SharonCraigSweeting Sharon Craig Sweeting

    Do we ALL suffer from knitter’s self remorse? I know I do. I belong to a charity knitting group so if I am not knitting for someone in my family, I am knitting to give away to local charities. So I am going to take the plunge and knit something that I LIKE and is FOR ME! I know I can do it……………

  • artist-on-the-move

    I just finished knitting my first pair of real socks.. love sock yarn– it is so beautiful and the pattern just appears out of nowhere. They are so comfty and I am keeping them just for me. BUT my daughter liked them so much she asked for a pair just like them– so now I am knitting my second pair– and have learned the pattern and know how it will come out and know she loves them already– This is truly one of the benefits of knitting for oneself– you get your cake and can eat it, too! Or in this case — get the socks and can wear ten, too — not eat ( unless the new puppy gets ahold of them)

  • artist-on-the-move

    Re recent posting—oops– meant wear them–not ten— But who knows by the end of the year I might have 10 new pairs of socks– maybe for ME– or maybe I will share.

  • Mary Kay

    Oh, Selfish Golf! So true! I too am in the knit-for-myself mode, after a Christmas gift was left in reach of the dog, who promptly chewed a hole in the beautiful fingerless mitts I made. I was able to repair them, but still!

  • Andi

    My opinion? I like the length unaltered!
    Also, there’s a quote by a church leader in my church that says “One of the deepest yearnings of the soul is to create. We all have an inate desire to create something that did not exist before. The more you create and rely upon the Spirit, the better your capacity to create.” Basically, creating is divine and thus good in and of itself, regardless of the recipient of the creation.

  • Marcy Weinberg

    When asked “Did someone make that for you?” Your reply can be a quiet “Thank you, I made it myself.”

  • MomGrandma

    Very funny but mostly true accounts of a knitaholic.

  • Stephanie

    That is an awesome article, and yes, I don’t own one thing I have made…

  • BG

    HURRAY! PERMISSION TO DO WHAT I’VE BEEN WANTING TO DO! I’m gonna sit down tonight, watch a movie I want to see, and finish a pair of dark blue fingerless mittens that — TA DA! — I made for myself! Big hugs out to my son’s girlfriend who fell in love with my “Ultimate STASHBUSTER” afghan–6 strands on size 19 needles. Only pattern is two rows of black or white between every other color. She loves it because I worked hard on it. She loves that it’s colorful and “so warm and fluffy.” EVERY knitter and finished object should be this appreciated! I love this girl!

  • Wendy M

    Knitting &crocheting for others only feels generous until you finish something your friends or family hate. I knit for myself until someone sees a project and asks me to make it for him/her.

    • http://www.facebook.com/WriterInFact Brenda Russell

      Ha! Even when they ask for it, it’s left in the drawer – if it even makes it THAT far!! There are certainly times when I regret that I cannot knit (my grandmother taught me to crochet, half a century ago or so, but she didn’t knit, either, so couldn’t teach me that one), and my guys don’t care much for crochet, apparently (that would be three sons and a husband – plus 2 cats). Well, the cats like it, but only because of the yummy yarns trailing from my chair ; )

      No, I crochet for myself, almost exclusively. And once in a while for someone else, especially someone I don’t know. Yet.

  • Meg

    The other great thing about knitting for yourself is that you learn new skills as you figure out how to make the exact collar you see in your mind’s eye, or how to change the sleeve increases so everything isn’t bat-wing style. Once I started changing patterns to really fit me (or my sister, or my Dad, or anyone else), I had a whole new repertoire of techniques. And it didn’t hurt a bit.

  • Sharon McMillan

    I made this sweater but did change it, I put cables up the front near the band and up the front of the sleeve. I also used a seed stitch for the cuffs, bands, bottom and collar. I never follow a pattern as given. Always have to put my own
    twist on things.

  • Kathy Robinson

    Go with Cookoo! But you’d need something on the other side to balance the weight of the mini-fridge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/claudia.canny Claudia Canny

    There’s something pretty awesome though, about the amazed look on your recipient’s face when you hand them a handmade item of clothing. We’ve gotten so far away from that, it’s almost like a miracle to non-makers. When I make it for myself, yeah, it’s nice because it’s exactly what I want/need, but the thrill isn’t there, if you know what I mean.

  • Maureen Chandler

    I usually knit gifts first and after Christmas, I knit one of the goodies for myself! I have a drawer full of scarves that I knit for myself and love them. This year it was fingerless gloves although I am mystified as to why they are so popular – my whole hand is cold most of the time!! The great thing about knitting for yourself is that you can SHOW OFF what you make – feels good when someone admires your scarf of whatever and you can say thank you, I made it! :-)

  • Terri

    I’ve noticed that when a person is crafty or artistic, it is considered selfish if they make things for themselves. However, a good cook/chef taste tests new recipes before presenting the creation to the public. In my eyes, if a knitter/crocheter isn’t wearing things they made for themselves then the question “why not?” pops up. Are they ashamed to be seen wearing their own work? To anyone who says that making clothes for yourself is selfish, I reply “I consider myself to be the test dummy/guinea pig/prototype model (choose words depending on mood) for this new design/pattern/technique I’m trying.” Also, you’re the best advertiser of your work if you are walking around wearing it. That way when someone asks if it’s handmade, you can hand over a business card along with a smile and “Thank you” and possibly get more business.

  • clubkookoo

    I always knit for myself, but since my swatch gauges are approximate, it usually turns out too small or too large. Then it becomes a present for one of my sisters, or my husband , or a friend…

  • Carmel J.

    I think it’s more selfish to make something for someone because you think that you should or that they should have one than it is to make something for yourself. Most of what I make is for me, because I know what I like and what my measurements are. I actually feel a little guilty that I have rarely done any charity crochet, it’s just not how I spend my stitching time. (Still working on Christmas presents though, for people I won’t see for a few weeks…)

  • bee knits

    I knit for myself mainly, because the recipient is handy for measuring! Do try the pockets as written, it is a cool technique – add fringes?

  • Krista

    I crochet, and I make most of my projects for other people. That said, I honestly don’t have a problem making something for myself, especially when it’s something I know I really want and will use. My mil gave me yarn for my birthday several years ago. It seemed silly to use my gift to make something and give it away, so I made myself a blanket.

    • http://www.facebook.com/WriterInFact Brenda Russell

      Wish someone would gift yarn to me! I want LB Collection; yes, the whole thing! 8 )))

      • melodie

        yea! Me to I got 1 ball for Christmas from my sister
        homespun

  • dridlon

    Since in fact theact of knitting itself is selfish, it is like the consumption of narcotics. Knit away! Thank you for this article it is everything right and wrong(but only the best wrong). Makes me want to be not only a better knitter but a Much better knitter.

  • lorie

    oh that just cracks me up! What a wonderful sense of humour, and just what i needed on this dreary day. I agree, knit something lovely for yourself people you are worth it.

  • Jill Schneider

    Thwonly thing I knit consistently for myself are socks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/WriterInFact Brenda Russell

    So, I like the sweater, in all its versions. Can’t imagine anyone I actually know, though, would actually wear it, if I made it (which I won’t, ’cause I can’t knit!). I imagine most of us who knit or crochet also make tiny (or huge) alterations to the patterns we make. Where else would new patterns come from?

    I started out to say I make for myself, exclusively, but the last 2 things I made were requested – ear muffs and a scarf – because it suddenly got cold enough to need them, especially for someone standing on a train platform every work day. So I really shouldn’t complain, I suppose. Then again, the rush of appreciation was such a narcotic that I’m imagining another scarf (or maybe a cowl!) and a pair of gloves (or maybe some flip-top mittens for use with touch-screen doodads). Perhaps by the time I have the money for yarn in his colors, the urge will have worn off and I can go back to making for myself.

    The projects before those 2, however, were all me. 1. Went to Disney World in September and needed a shawl for over-chilled buildings. Made exactly what I wanted. 2. Lost 50 pounds and needed a belt to hold up my pants. Made it. Not exactly what I wanted, which would have been new pants. 3. Same trip to Disney World, needed a sunhat since I burn walking to the car. Made it, but it turned out floppier than I wanted it, so it’s on my list to rework. 4. Saw a pattern titled “Birthday Earrings” and had to have them. Made it, but added a third motif, doubled #10 thread, as a pendant. My birthday present from me to me – love it!

    • Susan

      “Then again, the rush of appreciation was such a narcotic that I’m
      imagining another scarf (or maybe a cowl!) and a pair of gloves (or
      maybe some flip-top mittens for use with touch-screen doodads).”

      Brenda, instead of flip-top mittens, you could try conductive yarn for gloves, made especially for using with touch screens…. It’s thin, so just let it run alongside your regular mitten yarn. You can also use this to adapt an existing pair of gloves: just thread a needle with it and sew a few stitches into the fingertip where it would touch a screen. Let an inch or so of the ends dangle on the inside for better contact with your skin.
      (And congrats on the 50 lbs!)

  • sandra

    Love it! Franklin, your articles tickle the brain and the eyeballs. Enough research for today…I’m going home to my skein and needles!

  • http://crochetnirvana.weebly.com/blog Robin

    I’ll admit that I am a selfish crocheter. Oh sure I do give away things here and there, but for the most part it’s all about me. And I have to say there is nothing better than a patron at the library saying, “What a beautiful sweater did you make it?” And I get to answer, “Why yes I did – thank you so much!” As a rule I am not a selfish person, I just love being able to make things for myself instead of buying them.

  • Colleen Sheehy

    Lights and Kitty Intarsia are way cool…Mini fridge might be better replaced with a battery pack/chill pack. Then maybe you could get the wings to move, too? I’D wear it/knit it in a NY Minute! Knitting for ourselves is A Good Idea!

  • Laverne

    I keep knitting sweaters for myself but there always seems to be something wrong with each one so that I just don’t enjoy wearing them. They are either to short or too long or neckline not right, on and on. How many do I have to knit to get it right. Each different yarn hangs different and has different ease.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nan.lowitt Nan Lefkowitz Lowitt

    I have not knitted or crocheted for myself since 1987 in which I made 3 sweaters for myself and several for my daughter. I wore them until we moved to Fl in 1990. Last week, it was cold here in Ft.l Lauderdale and I was looking at my sweaters and said, Wow! Did I actually do these for myself.? I am now looking for something for ME ME ME again. I just finished crocheting almost 100 yalmulkes for my grandsons Bar Mitzvah in Feb, and working on crocheted squares for our synagogue Mitzvah(good Deed) project. I also just mailed out almost 1 dozen hats to Emilys Hats for Hope Initiative- Yarn and my hands seem to be connected in all different colored and feelings, I know there are many more out there just like me.

  • Pamela

    Ha ha! Mini fridge! I agree about the term “selfish knitting”; banish it from your thoughts. I have been knitting socks for so long now, mostly for other people, and now I am knitting myself a sweater. One that will fit and flatter.

  • Agnes Berthelot

    Most of the time I knit for myself … and I don’t feel bad about that. I only knit for others when I am absolutely sure that my time and effort will be appreciated.

  • CarmenO

    Don’t want to be selfish? Then call it a practice sweater. You don’t really want to give a practice article to some one else so you’ll sacrifice yourself.

    • Yuliana Ng

      YES! Love that phrase. I’m doing lots of practice sweater, hats, scarves :)))

  • theresacampbell63@yahoo.com

    My three young grandchildren love me to make anything for them. So for their first sweaters I used yarn left over yarn. I did this to make sure they fit right. Then I make notes on adjustments. Then the next sweater fits great. Then thry pick or tell colors they like.

  • willie

    If I knit something for myself that I don’t like I can rip and knit again thus prolonging the enjoyment in the creation process. When something I have knitted for another is not liked I will probably never know and one more work of love will be hidden away and quite likely cause guilty feelings in the recipient. So knitting for one’s self is an act of saying “I like Me enough to spend the time on myself” Thanks for a great essay. Willie S.

  • SherryBP

    Franklin – you made me chuckle as usual. Glad to see Lion Brand is adding your column as a regular feature! 8~D

    I knit and crochet for myself, for gifts and for contract work. I wish I could say all of my handmade gifts were loved and appreciated but a sis-in-law dashed that dream a few years ago. For Christmas, I created hat and scarf sets for her and my niece. When she saw the hat, she said, “Oh, that’s pretty but I don’t wear hats.” Then she tossed the hat to my niece’s best friend, saying “Here, you can have this” while I sat on the floor, flabbergasted by her rudeness. Guess it’s better that she did it in front of my face so I knew not to waste my time making anything else for her…

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.schwartz.798 Melissa Schwartz

    Wings? hahahahahahahahahaha

  • SereneKnitter

    Like Franklin, I rarely keep any of my own knitted creations. I have a couple of hats, one pair of socks and a shawlette…not much considering that I have been knitting every day for over 50 years!
    Selfish Knitting? Bah! Humbug! Knit for yourself! Why should you shiver with cold while others let their hats, socks, sweaters, vests, mittens and gloves lie in drawers or storage boxes? Knit, crochet, weave, embroider, sew, create some nice cozythings for yourself and drop kick the guilt trip into the next county!

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  • Nancrow

    Wow! I’m following a trend and I didn’t even know it! LOL!

    Just this morning I finished the Flowered Cloche hat to go with the Belle Scarf that I made for me. I’ve made hats and scarves for my son, daughters and sons-in law, but never for me. I wore the hat and scarf to work today and my workers thought it looked great. My asst. mgr. even took a picture (her first with her new phone!) to add to her contacts list.
    I’m hoping to post the pictures some time next wewek when I have a day off again.
    Love the story and am looking forward to the next one!

  • Esmerelda

    I have been crocheting baby afghans and blankets for all my grandchildren and great-nieces and nephews for a very long time. This year, I get the lovely shawl I’ve wanted to do for so long…as soon as I finish the afghan for my son at college and one for his girlfriend at college…sigh!

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  • Chris

    I’ve seen Habit’s Mens sweater design in Vogue Magazine-NICE! So it is hard to believe that None of his own designs find their way into his closet.

    • http://www.lionbrand.com/ Zontee

      Well, most designers’ samples (the garments they make for magazines and other publications) go into the archives of that publication, so they don’t get to keep them! But we’re glad to hear that you like his designs!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=835964104 Deborah McGauley

    delightful..