Melanie Falick posed the question, and I’ve been mulling over my answer. I don’t really think of myself as a maker, actually. I’m a knitter, to the core, and clearly that is a creative endeavour; but that – knitting and a little crochet – is my only thing. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of sewing (no, I haven’t given up, it’s just not top of my list). But I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people who Makes all kinds of things, in all kinds of ways. I can’t draw or paint at all. I have at best superficial interest in other crafts (and extremely limited patience for exploring them). My creative passion runs deep, but it runs in one very narrow channel.
That said: knitting* clearly satisfies a very deep need in me. So what’s that about? All I know is, I don’t feel right without needles in my hands, or at least playing with project ideas in my mind. I don’t feel like me. Knitting is such a perfect combination of sensory pleasures: colour, texture, movement. (I’m very, very picky about the tools and materials I use. Besides doing the job right, they have to feel good. And ideally look fabulous, too.)
For someone who’s been knitting for about a quarter-century, and has been actively working for most of that time to get better at it, I don’t have much to show for my efforts. I’m tragically lacking in good sweaters, have only about two pairs of handknit socks in working order, and I could really use more scarves. So clearly I’m not greatly motivated by building a better wardrobe (though that would be nice). That’s not the part of “making” that draws me. I do love the products, though: I’m not a serial abandoner of projects, I like to finish things. I like to show off. I like to admire the result of all those hours. As Elfling gets drawn into the joy of making, I get a big thrill from seeing her finish things, too. (She suffers from startitis way more than I ever did! But playing around with techniques is a great and valuable thing in itself.)
But I suspect by now, it’s largely about habit. My fingers don’t know how to sit still. My mind doesn’t know how to stop thinking about colour and pattern and shape. The physical act of knitting has become a huge part of me; so no wonder I feel more like myself when I’m knitting. It’s what I do. And even if there were no other comforts to be derived from playing with yarn (which, well, duh), just that fact, that familiarity and reassurance of me-ness, would be very comforting in itself. That’s why, maybe, I have to knit my way through all of life’s stresses. Big traumas or relentless everyday grinding down: the only way I know how to cope is with needles in my hands. I can say that the small, repetitive movements soothe my mind, allow me to retreat into myself, and that’s true. I can say that achieving tangible results through the simple, manageable micro-steps of one stitch at a time is a very encouraging thing, and that’s true too. And it’s very true that I need to knit because it’s the only way I know how to create beauty. But mostly I knit because I’m a knitter. And that’s just how it is.
* Which I use to include crochet, much as the masculine is commonly said to include the feminine, and as a feminist I apologise for that, crocheters, but it’s a lot easier