“Selfish” Knitting

Early hat efforts, circa 2005

Around this time of year, it’s not surprising to see many people rushing to finish hand-knit gifts for the holidays. I’ve also seen a few people refer to their chance to get some “selfish knitting” done come January, and I find this an interesting choice of words. Google it and you get quite a few blog posts about knitting an item for oneself, as opposed to knitting for someone else. It’s a loaded phrase, one that reveals the expectation that knitting is something to be done for other people, and to do otherwise is somehow negative. I think most of us who knit have been asked at least once about a project, “And who is it for?”

It occurred me to that I’ve never heard the phrase “selfish painting” or “selfish art” (and the paucity of hits on Google for these terms backs up my experience). How often does a painter get asked, “And who are you painting that for?” I can’t imagine a musician being admonished for writing a song they intend to perform themselves. And yet craft, knitting in particular, is often seen as selfish if not done for the benefit of others. Is this because craft, unlike art, is meant to create a functional item, rather than one that exists for its own sake? Is it because we tend to associate knitting with caregivers, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts?

The other day I was looking through photos of knit items I’ve made over the past several years. From early 2005 to about 2007, I really didn’t knit anything for myself. Everything was a gift for someone else, or made for a charitable cause. I liked knitting for other people, and it was nice to be able to present friends with a hand-made present to commemorate a special occasion such as a wedding or birth. It could be hard to part with some items, I’ll admit, and there were one or two occasions where it was clear that the recipient either didn’t realize, or didn’t care about, the weeks or months of work that go into making even a relatively simple item. Soon my friends were getting married and having kids faster than I could keep up with hand-crafted presents, and the transition from school to full-time work meant I had much less time for knitting. These days, I’ve mostly given up gift knitting, though I still like to work on some charitable projects. I knit for myself, but I’d never call it “selfish.”

So tell me, knitters–is knitting for oneself “selfish”? Do you think the concept applies to knitting and craft more than the fine arts? Do you knit mostly for yourself, or for others?

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3 Responses to “Selfish” Knitting

  1. lainevierge says:

    Interesting. I’ve been knitting for seven years. It was only this past year that I mostly knit for other people, and that was a choice I made. I wanted to knit just as much as I always had, but I already had plenty of handknits for myself. When I realized that I enjoyed the act of knitting as much as wearing handknits gift knitting was an obvious solution.

  2. Karen says:

    It depends. I do knit a fair bit for myself–in fact, I got back into knitting in a big way a few years back, when I realized how WARM wool is, compared to almost any other fibre. I was freezing at the time, so I knit myself a number of warm things before I started branching out to make stuff for others. Since then, I’ve done a fair bit of other-oriented knitting, mostly for family members and close friends. I don’t really think of knitting for myself as “selfish”–though someone did once try to tell me that I was selfish for not spending all my time knitting her lace shawls! :)

    • Leslie says:

      Wool was a big reason I started knitting for myself, too! Moving somewhere with a “real” winter made me think about hats and mittens for myself pretty quick.

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