Why Make Things?

Over the years I’ve taught perhaps two dozen people to knit. And I love it. It’s like getting them addicted to something that’s good for them — like getting someone hooked on hummus.

But some folks have a hard time understanding why you’d take the time to make something you can easily buy.  I was trying to convince a group of new knitters to learn to make socks and someone one commented, “I know how to buy socks at the store,” and gave me a look that told me she couldn’t think of anything that could be a bigger waste of time than making your own socks.

My answer to that comment will take a few paragraphs to explain.

With any craft —  sewing, knitting, spinning — you have to learn a few new skills.  This is good for your brain.  You get a feeling of accomplishment and a greater understanding of the way the world works.

Next, you get to shut the rest of the world out for awhile.  Knitting and spinning are meditative endeavors.  And I’ve almost never come away from a round of knitting without an idea for something to write about.  Hand crafts have a way of allowing your mind to start composting all the garbage that’s been floating around in there.  After an hour or two, you can end up with some pretty rich stuff.

Then, there are the long term benefits.  You are surrounded by items that you made;  they are exactly what you wanted.  They keep you and your loved ones warm.  They look  impressive to strangers.

Then, there are the very longest term benefits.

Recently my in-laws sent us a package.  Inside was a small quilt sewn by Nora’s great-grandmother, Mary —  she died of cancer more than ten years ago.  She was a crafter-extraodinaire.  My mother-in-law has saved many of Mary’s handmade things.  Nearly every year, she passes something down to one her children, or to Nora.  A decade later, we are still enjoying things Mary made: quilts, Christmas ornaments, tapestries, hand puppets, you name it.

And these items give us an opportunity to talk about Mary with her great-granddaughter.  We tell Nora how Mary was one of the sweetest people we have ever known, and how if she were still alive, she would be doing crafts and baking yummy things with Nora every chance she got.  Nora is able to understand who her great-grandma was when she looks at something Mary made.

So, I sit and I knit. And I take comfort knowing that when I’m dead and gone, the items I made will remind my family of me.   They will have something I took the time to make, not something I casually purchased.  And they will remember my love for them.

Do you have any treasured items made by a departed loved one? Why do you make things?


  1. For me, it is all about love. During the creation of a knitting item, I think of the person who will receive it during the countless hours it takes to complete my project. I picture them wearing and using the creation as well as look back on the memories of the recipient. A lot of effort goes into my creations before I even pick up the knitting needles. I page through dozens of patterns, think about sizes and then comes the yarn selection. I want everything about my creation to reflect the beauty I see in the person whom I love.

  2. Jessica Anne says:

    Well said. My grandma was a knitter. My girls wore the little sweaters and hats she made for me as a baby, and so will their girls. I loved the little slippers she made and remember how excited I was when a new pair came in the mail. It’s just so much more special and perfect when someone takes the time and effort to make it for you. That’s why I do it (or plan to soon).

  3. Carol Anne says:

    I love this! You’re right on the money!
    My mom died when I was 12 and I have some wonderful things that she and her mother made. A beautiful throw that she knitted on the 3 hour drive back and forth from college football games on Saturdays. A red, white and blue afghan that my grandmother made for each of her grandchildren in 1976, the U.S.’s bicentennial year. I curl up with it most nights. And my Christmas stocking, I remember watching my mom needlepoint, at the beach one summer, rocking in her favorite rocking chair. Seriously, in a fire, those are among the few things I’d grab.

    • Sue Campbell says:

      I love how kids catch right away that homemade is special, Nora LoVeS when I make things just for her. Your girls will, too!

  4. My oldest girlfriend, by which I mean I’ve known her since she was 8, gave us a gift when Alex was born. It was a blanket her grandmother had made before she passed away specifically to give to me when I had my first child. That love and consideration is why I took an interest in knitting in the first place. I keep telling myself I don’t have the time to learn but I need to find it.

    She crocheted the blanket by the way. It’s part of why I asked…

    • Sue Campbell says:

      That’s beautiful. And you’ll be happy to know that Editor Kristin has a crochet vlog queued up for next week.

  5. Sue,
    Just think of all the wonderful things Grandma Mary could have taught Nora. She was convinced that she could make just about anything she wanted. The only thing she could never ever figure out how to make was homemade honey.
    Grandma Mary would have loved Homemade Frontier and would have been a great guest writer.

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