Why Is Making by Hand Important to You?

By Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne
December 27, 2019

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80 Comments
  • Making by hand just feels right.

  • Wonderful. Thank you.

  • What a beautiful, inspiring article. This confirms that makers are my people. I can relate to every heartfelt word. And, I feel so privileged to respond to the world, make sense of it, and move through it as a maker – it’s just how I am wired.

  • Making by hand makes me happy in my soul. When I’m not making (or planning) something I’m restless.

    • Making by hand is like breathing to me! It has always just happened. Can’t explain the why but I just have to do it. I think we all have it. Some stronger than others. I enjoy seeing and getting inspiration from other’s!

  • My Nana kept her 6 siblings and parents in socks and mittens as a girl on a farm in Sweden in the 1910s. She spun the yarn herself. I have her grandmother’s flax wheel running. The fiber is my connection to the women in my family.

  • I thank you for all these wonderful thoughts on why we crate and knit. I related to so many.
    I am thankful to being able to knit. I suffer with anxiety and a low level of depression. I need and want to knit. As many have said the repetitive motion is calming and mimicks meditation for me.
    I love color work, the excitement of what is next!how will this new shade of turquoise look with a pale hue of orange for example. My mind dance with the rythm of my needles.
    I am joyful when I gift my knitting to a lover of handmade items. I consider the cycle from the animal to the many hands that produced the yarn, to my hands, back to the recipient to warm their head or feet or shoulders.Creating is who I am whether in knitting or baking or gardening. Different levels of skill for each art a love of all.
    After I had one of my carpal tunnel surgeries, a sister remarked to my younger brother, she can’t knit, yet! He commented to me as if that was so important. Oh, yes it is, I said, keeps me,same, serene and happy!
    Thank you MDK and Happy New Year Knitting.

    • Just had my shoulder replaced. First question for my doc… when can I knit? I was knitting a few days later! ( short spurts) getting more time in every day!!!
      I love all these stories!

  • I love these thoughts! I feel like I agree with everything every person has said!!!! But, most importantly, what is Dianna Walla making?!!!! It looks like a sleeve. What is the name of that pattern?

    • I think it may be her scarf pattern “Rue du Tage”

      • Thank you! i’ll check it out!

    • I was drawn to that photo as well! It looks like the scarf pattern she released recently—have a look at her website, Paper Tiger, and see the entire beautiful thing!

      • Thank you, I will!!

  • Love this article! I’ve always felt that I was born in the wrong era. I would’ve fit right into a tribal life where literally everything had to made by hand because it wouldn’t exist otherwise. I won’t lie and say that I don’t use modern, mass-produced items occasionally but those things, in no way, give me the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that something I’ve made offers. As I knit, crochet, work with wood, I am actually infusing this creation with my thoughts and hopes, part of my soul. I can feel the process of bringing this ‘thing’ to life in my bones. It’s hard to understand how anyone could be fulfilled not making something with their own two hands.

  • “It’s pause and puzzle.” Exactly!

  • I loved reading this! I am tall and haven’t grown any since I was 13. Tall clothes for teenagers were hard to find in my teeny tiny hometown, but a sewing machine and fabric were available. Making things satisfied my desire then to have clothes like everyone else. Now, I love that knitting and sewing allow me to have clothes that no one else has!

  • My business card says it all……gift made for you from my heart.

  • What an inspiring and comforting article. I appreciate Gale Zucker’s comment about optimism. Sometimes my optimism can be a bit over enthusiastic and turns into realistic. But no harm done…the yarn becomes something else and I sit and admire what it has become. There is a table top loom in my basement that needs some attention…maybe this is the year. Happy New Year to MDK.

  • What a wonderful read. Says all the feelings I have re making. Just reading this gives me a feeling of peace and fulfillment because I know that my day today will be full of making, food, herbal goodies and knitting and spinning. What joy!!

  • Thank you for this! We don’t just gift the physical objects we make, we give the love that’s in it.

  • Oh, I can relate to so much of what was said! I dabble in a variety of creative hobbies, but knitting is what I do and love most. (Meaning every day!)

  • It is the uniqueness….and oh so satisfing…..like to add my own twist…deb

  • Making by hand is a driving sense of need. I’m thankful I found the things that slow me down and give me joy. The end product is wonderful.

  • Good to connect with these thoughts. I’m not alone!

  • Knitting connects me to the relatives I never had a chance to know, grandmothers, great aunts. It is a continuity, but it is also peaceful, calming, challenging, and a way to learn new things and keep my mind engaged. Most of all it is about sharing, knowledge, as well as finished product. Every project brings a unique experience..

  • It’s the creativity, the tactile sense of working with your hands, and the interior pride in wearing something you made.

  • Sometimes when I make things (knit, spin, cook, draw), the results are just what I want. And that’s a joy.
    But most of the time, the results are a complete surprise. The joy of making is watching the creation reveal itself.
    Also, when I don’t do something creative every day, I get cranky.

    • Such a wonderful read this morning! I never considered myself a maker. It was just something I’ve always done. Watching the creation appear out of nothing but fiber and needles always fascinated me, calmed me and taught me something new. Now I will proudly call myself a maker.

  • Wonderful! I’m in love with the fingerless mitts photographed by Gale Zucker, that are pictured just under JULIET BERNARD’s statement in regard to making. I had hoped I would find the pattern in her Ravelry shop, but alas, no. Can you tell me where I might find the pattern and the yarn used there in the pic? Thank you!

    • Years ago I made a pair of fingerless mitts for a relative who could buy anything that his heart desired. When he opened my gift he said, “ You made these for me?” My answer, “Yes, with love in every stitch”.
      That’s it right there. Joy in the making, joy in the giving, joy in the receiving. Something money cannot buy.

      • Yes, it’s the love. I do it for the love.

    • They are The River Still Runs Mitts by Jill Draper, knit in her Kingston yarn. We photographed all the patterns in that collection with real life makers as models, in her town of Kingston. So on theme for this conversation!

  • Nice talk! ((((( Making by hand…..keeps me off the streets. ((: )))))

  • All these thoughts on creating resonate with me, every word. There is another reason I love making with hands and looking at things made with hands – every stitch (or paint stroke, or brick laid, or marble chiseled) was touched by its makers. That fascinates me when I look at any handmade object…who were these people? What were they thinking about as they did this? It has always been a means of thinking about someone else’s life for me.

  • GREAT ARTICLE! Thank you!

  • When I first started reading this beautiful book, I burst into tears. It is that well written and thank you

  • Making is fun and magical. It seems like magic to me that a piece of yarn can turn into a sweater. I’ve always been a maker. At 10, I was featured in the paper for making my dolls Christmas gifts.

  • Thank you – wish I had read this before having a Christmas conversation with a non-maker about why we create/knit/sew/cook/garden. Lovely.

  • I received Melanie’s book for Christmas; it is a gift I will savor for hours! I’ve just started (slowly) reading it, so of course I am thinking about MAKING. Fortunately I come from a family of low-level makers and all of us make stuff. I couldn’t live (the way I want to live) without making stuff.

  • My mother started teaching me to make things when I was 4 or 5. She was wildly imaginative, not strong on technique, but she wanted to master everything: sewing, weaving, knitting, spinning, jewelry making, pottery, etc. But there was also the ethics that if you could make it yourself, you didn’t buy it, and so as I got older the making of my own clothing became a focus (by older,I mean about 12). Knitting grabbed me the hardest and has held me tight for sixty years. But I learned the other things as I went along, mostly as I understood how they could improve my understanding of fiber. As I became more aware of my family history, I realized how connected I was to my family before me because so come from generations of sheep farmers in Wales and England and Scotland who emigrated to America and continued to raise sheep, to build mills, and continue those gracious of knitting and weaving and sewing. That connectedness is deeply ingrained in what I choose to do, along with my mom’s breaking of rules and levity about the whole thing: after all, why not try something new?

    I am looking forward to going back to this post again and again. Thank you

  • Making by hand helps me in so many ways. I get an opportunity to meditate- the peace that comes with focusing on one stitch at a time when embroidering, knitting or crocheting.

    It’s the chance to watch myself create something in real time when I spend the other half of my using my brain solving problems or analyzing. Seeing me being the creator and seeing the thought I put behind what I make helps me see my contribution to the world rather than always looking at someone else’s.

    Most importantly my body craves to so a project, like a pregnant lady craves a certain food. Making things myself has become such an integral part of my life that my fingers ache and I get that uncomfortable “get up and DO something” feeling if I don’t give myself a project. Sometimes I have a particular new project in mind and I can’t stop thinking about it until it’s done.

  • I really appreciated that so many creative people truly enjoy making things with their hands. I’ve been at this for a year now and have enjoyed every bit of this journey. Everyday I am falling more in love with learning to knit thanks to my Aunt Dee.

  • I don’t know that I have thought much about why I like to make things so it was an interesting read. I think I identify most with the one who dabbled in many mastered in none. I’m often exploring new ways to create and most of all I create because it’s a need deep with in me from my Creater. It gives me peace, I sleep better and I love to give away something that is very personal because I made it. It’s my love language.

  • Franklin, pretty please is there a pattern for that lovely doll coverlet square?

  • This column was a great gift, reading every comment hit a personal response. Thanks to those who took the time to put their thoughts down to be read by others.

  • I enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing.
    * MAKERS GONNA MAKE *

  • As humans we create, it is part of our make up. My people were watchmakers, opticians, tailors, and knitters of course. I can’t imagine being any other way since I was 9. When I was young, it was the pattern that intrigued me. Now that I am old it is the craftsmanship and the quality of the yarn. And, yes, if I know the name of the alpaca that contributed to my garment, all the better. And, I do follow designers as they create the next inspiration. I have become…a fiber snob. And, I am not embarrassed to admit it. I have an old sweater of my mom’s. A short sleeved, ballerina neckline, cropped waist, in fine emerald green wool. I think it’s from the 40’s. It has a knitted patch on the hem, same yarn, in a rib. It was old when I was young. It has inspired a life in wool. My other material of choice is clay. Always gotta be making something useful.

  • Wonderful wonderful piece!
    Thank you.
    Received “ Making A Life” for Christmas. Can’t wait to sit down and read it.

  • What every one of these makers have said! Thank you for this beautiful affirmation of who we are and what we are about—a beautiful gift!

  • When my hands are busy my mind tends to be still. For a worry wart that is a real blessing. I also like the feeling of crunchy tweed running through my fingers, and the satisfaction of a finished project. That about covers it.

  • I just love learning to do something. I taught school for 17 years and did not have time for myself. I learned to knit in the sixth grade when the teacher taught the girls to make a pin cushion for their Mother and one for a boy in class. I chose the colors red and yellow. My first success. After retiring from teaching, and many years of doing calligraphy, basket making, drawing, book binding, wood carving, print making, wood turning I am now back to my basic love that is knitting. I love reading about it and trying new things so I guess I continue to learn even though I will be 80 this year. You always seem to have something to learn on this website and each morning I sit down and go directly to you. Thank you for your inspiration to all.

  • My great grandmother and great aunts and grandmother and aunts and my mother all made things. I don’t think I ever knew other people couldn’t sew or bake bread. So I imagine it is in my dna. I love to make fibery things because it connects me to my foremothers and because without textiles we wouldn’t be here. Shelter is one of the essential things in our lives. So here we are.

  • There’s a part of my brain that needs to create something. I also really love yarn. I’ve dabbled in lots of arts/crafts-related pursuits and have enjoyed all of them. But, it’s knitting I always return to – just can’t quit it!

  • Beautiful!

  • Thank you. Making by hand confirms for me that I am a capable person and can take care of myself and those around me. Knitting, cooking and sewing connects me with my mother; growing food with my father and grandmother. I am very grateful that I have learned these skills.

  • Love this!

  • I make for enjoyment, to connect with my knitting ancestors (I am genetically predisposed to knit), to keep calm and patient in waiting rooms and to show my love. If I knit you something, I really like you in my life and want to give you some part of me. I love learning new things and am pleased, honored and proud to be a maker.

  • I love this! Thank you so much for posting it. I feel the same way but also want to add that making things makes me feel independent. I can survive without the mall! I sometimes say to my friends that they want me around if there is an apocalypse because I cook, bake, garden, weave, sew, knit, crochet. A second point is that I feel it connects us to who we are as the human species. We evolved by making, by learning to clothe ourselves, to feed ourselves, to shelter ourselves. We were born to make things.

  • Knitting, dyeing, sewing drapes and cushions for other people and making something fit and see their eyes light up( I sew for yarn money)……feeds my soul….

  • I make because I worry. I worried about my mom. And then she died and now I worry whether I was a good daughter or not. I worry about the planet. I worry about my community members getting what they need in this life. I worry that instead of making, I should be reading the news. But what I hear on the news just seem redundant and awful. The news is full of things I can do nothing about but worry. So I knit and consider each stitch. Sometimes, I consult the pattern and realize I zoned out and need to rip back feet or yards. Maybe at the end of the project I realize I chose a size too big or too small and then I have to take it all apart and reknit it. It’s like a mandela. Reminding me nothing is permanent. Nothing really matters and so I can choose what matters. Unlike life, I can rip out a mistake and do it over. I wish I could but I can’t rip swaths of my life out and redo them. I have to accept the mistakes I made and move on knowing there will be more. Making is a slice of interior life. For some reason, I don’t worry when I make something. If I make a mistake I marvel at how calmly I can fix it. I don’t get frustrated with myself. I redo. I’m hoping somehow that influences the rest of my life. That I can adopt self-acceptance/self-forgiving attitude I seem to have when I knit or spin. Seems as good a reason as any to make something by hand.

  • Thank you to everyone that expressed themselves so eloquently! I come from a long line of makers; my father, an electrician by trade, possessed beautiful, exacting carpentry skills. His father and grandfather made furniture with their own hands, some of which are in my home. I’m sure that had I been born a boy I would have followed in that vein but as a girl it wasn’t acceptable at the time. I still love the smell of sawdust! So I became a sewer, an accomplished flutist, a crocheter and later on a knitter. I love the process as much as giving the finished product to someone I love to keep them warm – to wrap them up in my love! I’m so happy to be part of a community of creators ❤️

  • I love this…how did I miss it before? Also, had to get the book and I love that, too. For me, ditto to everyone’s comment above!

  • Making. There are so many things I could say about that! It teaches me something everyday, its lessons cross over to other parts of my life. It hones observation and patience.. Active is better than passive. Problems are something to be worked through. The idea of a thing, however dazzling, it still not a thing. The real thing is real. Imagination works better with repeated help from the hands.

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful article! I loved it as well as the comments. I like the process of knitting and learning something new, but mostly I like finishing and gifting the finished product to someone I love.

    I also enjoy the community of knitters – we all have a bond that brings us together. I love recognizing a hand-knit article and telling the wearer how it looks so nice!

    Knitting has brought me so much joy, including reading your posts first thing each day. Hugs to you and all who create!

  • I resonated with every single idea about why we handmake things in the article, and in the comments. The reasons why we create are almost infinite.
    One of the things that I’ve noticed about myself over the years of making by hand is that (usually) for the time I focus on making and creating, the “I” disappears and I become one with the materials, the process, the problem solving. I don’t consider whether I’m behaving properly or saying something I might regret, don’t worry about how I look or how my house looks. It’s so freeing to enjoy each moment for the sake of that moment, like active meditation. And the end product of most fiber based crafts is useable – that satisfies some need that I have that what I make can be filling a functional purpose. I am so grateful to have the option of making by hand in my life.

  • I also meant to comment on Vilasinee’s amazing pompoms. They just wonderful. I need to find my pompom makers! Thank you Vilasinee!
    And all the other photos of the makers in the article – such beautiful work!

  • Loved this article

  • As far back as I can remember, when I was allowed to hold a needle, I felt the need to be making things. Now, I don’t let a day go by without spending some time knitting, and lately, I’ve been learning to spin and teaching knitting.
    The need to make runs in the family, with my grandfather, and father, having been skilled carpenters, and now, my daughter, a potter. I can’t wait to see where my grand-daughter’s interests take her.

  • Absolutely perfect! The common thread appears to be it is an act of love…

  • While this article was written for Knitters I can relate to the sentiments expressed here. As a avid crocheter and a sometime sewer I find that taking that flat fabric or straight yarn and making something for someone else to wear is fascinating. Straight yarn turns, with a bunch of loops, into a cardigan or thread turns into a tablecloth….tota tot nuts but I can do it. So do all of you.

  • Franklin zeroed right in on it: “if you can do it yourself, you can get what you really want or need instead of what someone else thinks you want or need”. That’s huge.

    Narrowing it down, knitting for me is the perfect balance between the meditative (a size 48 sweater in stockinette, made in fingering weight yarn? Bring it.) and the creatively challenging (a fisherman’s knit afghan made in one piece, with six different cable patterns, none of which share the same row-repeat count? I’m on it!).

    Add the pure sensuality of immersing oneself in color and texture … there’s very little I would rather be doing. Ending up with a garment or other item is pure bonus.

  • Am I repeating myself…..?…..idle hands are the devil’s workshop. I play piano, too. Knit, crochet and play piano. ((: (((((((( Thank you for your articles and Happy Holidays. )))))

  • Knitting, baking, crocheting, gardening, spinning, sewing, all reinforce to me that I just don’t need a lot to be rich, to have a life of options and choices, to cherish old connections, and make new ones. Each stitch is a vote for optimism, and keeping going.

    Also, when the Zombie Apocalypse happens, just sayin’.

  • Making by hand is “history”. History is family!

  • Nothing as grand as your contributors… my parents grew up poor and rejecting handwork was their way of leaving their past behind. I on the other hand was fascinated with all of the supposed “women’s work”, in no small part due to Laura Ingall’s Wilder books and my grandmothers. So yes there was a little rebellion in me. Glad I did though. I now have post apocalyptic life skills!

  • Beautiful, wonderful, marvelous article! Thank you .. I will save this and look at it in the future… very inclusive and reflective of the values for which we are all hoping.

  • I love the process of fashioning raw materials (yarn, fabric, paper, thread) into something. Basically, I love to create and all of these testimonials fill me with camaraderie and inspiration!

  • I grew up in the 1950’s in a family of 6. Only my father was employed outside the home. We rarely went out to eat. My mother grew up in an Illinois farm family during the depression. The whole family were makers. It was a survival necessity. My clothes were made at home. I learned to knit from my grandfather (who knit his own socks), because my mother was busy cooking or sewing our clothes.

    In the 1970’s and 1980’s I had my own family of 4. I was employed outside the home, but I sewed my own clothes and clothes for my daughters. Again it was a necessity. I sewed prom gowns and wedding gowns so the girls could have nice things at a price much less than store bought.

    Now I am a 74 year old Grandmother and retired on a fixed income. I have been knitting sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, and socks for my 9 grandchildren and their parents. Crafting is something that I can do to keep occupied and give nice things to my family.

    Knitting (and crocheting) also gives me a community of crafters at my LYS (The Knitting Cup in Georgetown,TEXAS) to keep me connected.

  • Becoming a crafter makes the whole world look different–because everything you see, every object, had to get made somehow.
    Besides the wonderful thoughts shared by the makers in this book, what I find most moving are the pictures of hands. What remarkable things they are, when you think about it.

  • Making things by hand — I got bogged down in details each time I tried to explain why my spinning, knitting, and designing are important to me. I think I’ve finally come to the reason: I am a human. The earliest of human ancestors have made things. They made useful, functional things, of course – tools and weapons and containers and clothing, but other things too. Long before modern humans, people had beads made of stone and shell and baked clay. 100,000 years ago, an artist left a shell palette with ground mineral pigments and associated tools in a cave in South Africa; these things were probably used for body painting and adornment. I am guessing that first, people made things with their hands (pigments, shapes of clay, “look at what I can do with this stuff”); and then, second, thought of something to do with them (“I like this; I will keep it and hang it around my neck”). Even many tools and weapons were made beautiful or interesting or personalized, so making went beyond function. I believe the urge to make is one of the deepest and most ancient of human characteristics. I make with my hands. It satisfies me. I am human.