At the end of November I quietly passed the 7-year anniversary of the day I really took to knitting. For other personal reasons I choose not to do anything or say anything about it (see post on lost mojo right now), but reminded myself how thankful I am that I was introduced to this craft, and that someone didn’t give up on me … and (more importantly) I didn’t give up on me during those first few years where my projects didn’t look the best, and the workmanship wasn’t the greatest. I was still learning, still adapting, still finding “my knitting style”. I can confidently say I have my style. I can proudly call myself an expert knitter, and I stand behind the quality of my work and the things I produce.
That all being said, I find myself having a love/hate relationship when I see machine knitted items. I’m impressed with some of the looks and designs. I am jealous of the perfect seaming a machine can make. I chuckle at myself when I look longingly at a knit hat and wonder about asking the wearer if it’s handmade, until I notice that one little thing (whatever it may be) that gives it away as machine knit.
Today this is on my mind because I know a commissioned work of mine is coming back to me. It was a pair of mittens I made recently. Now, for all the things I’ve ever made … this was my first pair of actual closed-top mittens. Also due to the deadline of the two mittens I was asked to make, I needed to make the smaller pair first … and I was using a pattern I was seeing for the first time (though all the skills are second-hand to me), and I was making a size I could not check on myself too well, as my hands are bigger (the gift was for a small-handed woman) . The mittens are coming back to me because there is a concern about the look of the thumbs, in that the person giving these as a gift worries the thumb is too big. So the mittens are coming back for me to see again, and (most likely) rip out the thumb and redo it.
Actually, I know exactly what the person is taking about. The first thumb on the first mitt came out horribly. The instructions in the pattern were way off on finishing the thumb (it said pick up 1 stitch when, truthfully, picking up 5 was required). In the first mitt I tried to fudge it to follow the pattern as written. In the second mitt, I did it myself to much better results. So even though I knew the thumbs were different, I passed it on anyway (again, mojo lost and apathy). And while neither thumb was perfect, I thought everything was still good. And I’m happy to take them back and fix them to the best of my ability. But, and let’s be real and honest here, the thumbs will never be “machine-knit” perfect. In fact, most hand kniting will never be “bought at the store” perfect … and I’m glad for that. Just don’t hold my knitting to that standard.
Machine knitting is perfect. It follows the pattern to a tee. It never makes a mistake. It never has a stitch out of place. It doesn’t take that long to make huge garments. It feels more affordable. Judging by the number of machine-knit things I see people wear on a day-to-day basis (especially in the winter), people love the look of knitting, but either don’t have the time/patience to learn themselves, underestimate the cost of yarn, or don’t value the time that it takes to make something. So by all means, keep buying the machine-knit versions. They are textbook perfect.
But my knitting is better.
My knitting is full of love and good intentions. My knitting is unique, because I can take any yarn and any pattern and make it how I want. My knitting has mistakes that are actually 100% intentional design elements – I mean, I totally meant to drop that stitch, or just knit those two together because I had one too many stitches. My knitting is full of excitement as my favourite hockey team scores a goal; it’s full of “Oh no ways!” from my favourite tv show’s cliffhanger that I have to wait until next week to find out what happens; it’s full of glee as I happily stitch a pattern that I absolutely know you’re going to love and I can’t wait to give this to you. My knitting is full of joy as I do a craft I am proud to do, something I’m good at and happy to spend my time doing. My knitting is a tireless labour of affection and devotion, and I want to share that with you.
My hand knits will never look as good as machine knitting. But I can do things with my needles that machines will never do. I can put love, affection, good intentions, devotion, and best wishes into every stitch I make. With a flick of my needles I show you just how much you mean to me, whether I’ve known you for years or you’ve seen my work and asked me to craft something for you (which means the world to me). My knitting will always be better than machine knitting, and you can’t put a price on that.