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Are you the kind of knitter who sets your mind on a project and monogamously stitches away until completed? Your sweater collection is a sight to behold, you have a shawl for every occasion, and the handknit socks clamor for space in your drawers.

Maybe it’s all about the challenge, with fingers always itchy to try a new technique. You’re absolutely mad about marlisle, cable crazy, or batty about brioche.

But what if you don’t neatly fit into a category of process or product? Looking at photos that other knitters post on Ravelry and social media, it might be difficult to avoid comparing their skill or speed to that of your own. Before you know it, you have a full-blown knitferiority complex.

Sonya is wearing: Joan Fuller by Ellen Mason in Beaverslide Dry Goods Merino/Mohair 90/10; 100 Acts of Sewing Dress no. 2; and Pants no. 1.

With my monthly posts and photos, there’s a part of me that wishes I could freshen things up and throw a new cardigan or shawl into the mix. I confess to not banging out my Carbeth as I fully intended. Instead, as of this writing, it languishes on needles, with the sleeves joined, and the finish line tantalizingly close. (Editors’ note/spoiler: Sonya finished her Carbeth! We saw it on her at Rhinebeck.)

Tea Leaves Cardigan by Melissa LaBarre in AVFKW Toasted; Dress no. 2; and Pants no. 1.

Another sweater in my wardrobe is, for the most part, a superfluous thing. I won’t be cold without it, since there are ample woolens in my life. I share this not to fish for compliments about my knits, but rather to examine that compulsion to do more. What is satisfaction? Mick Jagger told us he couldn’t get any and perhaps he was right.

Cria by Ysolda Teague in Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks DK; modified Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1. 

Perhaps we want more because we believe that we alone are not enough. Most days I know that’s not true, but we all have insecurities and unless you live like an internet-free hermit, they’re exploited on a near daily basis. After all, it’s a well-known fact that a new lipstick color/sofa/yarn has the power to change your life/catch that man/really tie the room together. We are fed this exact promise across media of all forms. Especially surprising is how often our lives need improving. Sticking to convictions until a particular print or cut eventually comes back into style is always an option, but not one that many take. While there are garments that are considered timeless or classic, who are the arbiters of taste that bestow those designations?

Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig in AVFKW Farm Series yarn; Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1. 

Every time you get dressed, you can work with existing clothes in new ways. Instead of looking at the barrage of images as indicators of what we lack, we can view it as possibility. I wear what I make, and I make with the time and resources I have, which lately, is not much. That’s not completely true. The resources, in the form of fabric and yarn, are plentiful and seem to have no problem accruing. If there’s a category for stockpiling stash and knitting from it sporadically, it’s the one I would occupy. One with far too many possibilities.

About The Author

Sonya Philip is an artist, designer, teacher, and the author of The Act of Sewing. She has made it her mission to convince people to make their own clothes, by teaching classes and selling patterns. When not covered in bits of thread, she can be found knitting another shawl or cardigan. Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family and their scruffy terrier duo, Willie and Hazel.


  • Sonya, I am wondering which pattern you used for the shawl at the beginning and end of the post. As always, you are truly an inspiration.

    • I would like to know too! Is it Daybreak?

    • Yes please, I would also like to know more about that beautiful shawl.
      As always your column is such a pleasure and inspiration to read! I knit because I love the process, and sad to say, I rarely wear what I knit. I’m going to make a valiant effort to change that this winter. Thank you for kick starting this new change in my life!

    • Yes, please; I would also like to know about this shawl.

      You give me comfort and encouragement that the three cardigans lacking only sleeves in my house will one day be worn, as was your Carbeth. I just hope I can look half as fabulous as you do when I wear them.

      • It looks like Daybreak, by Steven West.

      • This is too funny, I also have 3 cardigans lacking completed sleeves. One is for my grandson, so it must get done before he is too big to wear it. The others are for me. Hopefully , I am done growing.

  • Well!! by the look of all those cardies, you have more than me. Your words made us laugh (husband as well). And so true, I will try to be more light hearted about the slowness of my knitting and sewing projects compared to others. I am a seeker of individualism, hard to achieve sometimes with so much consumer choice around. Jocelyn

  • So true. I am by no means a prolific knitter, but still always feel that I am in a race to finish what’s on my needles so I can move on to the next “great thing.” Somewhere along the line I’ve forgotten why I love to knit in the first place … I love the soothing, rhythmic process, the feel of making each stitch and and the satisfaction of making something from nothing. You’ve reminded me that it’s not a race or a competition,and I will be slowing down and enjoying the ride once again. Thank you!

  • Love your articles and style, Sonya. You are an inspiration.

  • Such a great article to read this Monday morning! Thank you for your insights – now I will look at my wardrobe with new eyes and enjoy my slow knitting!

  • I think I have become one of the slowest knitters on the planet as I have gotten older. I used to have three or four projects going. Now I have one, and a pair of socks. I’m more pleased with my knitting and my knitting time than I used to be. No more racing for me.
    As always, Sonya, every outfit you have on is a joy to see.

  • I am definitely a “product” knitter, with no fidelity to finish one thing before jumping into something new:( and “full-blown knitferiority complex” is a great description of what I get too frequently!! Thx for this post, Sonya!!

  • Love everything about this!

  • Your Joan Fuller inspired me to knit one of my own, and I still need to finish it!
    I think I cast on two years ago.

  • Great thoughts as always. I would never have thought to make pants no 1 in denim. I seem to knit slower than I want and have a lifetime supply of projects in waiting.

  • I think you knit like you dress: however you want. I do too, and that’s not only okay, it’s desirable! I am more about process than finished project (though I like those too). I currently have 11 projects either UFO or hibernating, plus 5 of my own designs that are finished but patterns not written (I hate writing patterns!), plus 4 new designs on the needles being worked on, plus two spinning wheels with projects being worked on. Nothing has a time limit, and while I work for hours every day knitting/spinning, I’m not in a hurry. I am retired and having a great time!

  • Oh, Sonya, you are totally right! Our society is so acquisitive that even as a maker, I want more and more. 🙂 Even my kids are fighting over the multiple handknit sweaters and asking for more. It is actually helpful sometimes to step back and think of how very much we all have already. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder. –And of course, your outfits always make me feel so happy. Thank you for showing them off!

  • Thanks Sonja! I needed this so perfectly conveyed self confidence

  • Such a timely post. I trawl daily through the recent hauls and stash acquisitions made at festivals and I watch the organised knitters proclaim their next years knitting plans, and I glimpse their impulse buys…if only tv were better….it is easy to feel that the cardigan and three pairs of socks that I have on the needles at present, (oh and a shawl in hibernation), makes me unworthy. I have managed housework to a bare minimum, it can’t get any less without social welfare visiting. I just need to relax and enjoy. One day I will have a lot of sweaters, but not today.

  • I am definitely suffering from “knitferiority complex”. I belonged to a knit group in a local yarn store that was supposedly the advanced knitters. Every week I would attend this group and come away feeling less than because I was no way capable of doing all that they could do. I was really happy with my scarves and hats and baby items for my grandchildren. They were, however, popping out amazing full length sweaters, dresses, intricate lace items, etc. I felt like a loser and eventually I decided this was not the place for me and I quit going. I do miss some of the people but actually my knitting practice has grown some and I actually attempted my first sweater. It’s not quite finished yet but it is an okay project. I would not make it again only because I didn’t like the texture of the yarn nor the pattern itself. It was offered as a class to learn to make your first sweater. Now that I have the process down, I would feel confident enough to do one on my own.

  • Sony is a true I aspiration to a non-sewer and not so good knitter like me, live her ideas!!

  • So helpful to feel the support of others who suffer from ‘knitfieriority’ complex! I have recently learned to knit socks…..however my knitting is slow and cannot keep up with the growing stash of gorgeous sock yarn, add to that two unfinished crochet blankets….ah well it’s all about the journey

  • LOVE this article Sonya! You summed me up perfectly, I love the garments that I have made and get such satisfaction and joy from wearing them, but…….. I see new techniques I want to learn and beautiful yarns and fabrics I could use to make them and there goes the current project I’m halfway finished back into the bag. Sigh!

  • LOVE your MDK contributions, Sonya! In a world of talented designers, there is much temptation to have them all. Slow-knitting is my jam. If I wanted to knit more quickly, I’m sure I could, eventually, but it’s true – I can only wear one sweater at a time!

  • Thank you Sonya!

  • I love your style! You’ve motivated me to be more daring in what I wear…no more black and white…thanks!

  • As I left the house yesterday with dog in tow, I found it to be a bit chilly. There is nothing like the feeling of my sweater and hand knit mittens. Just the feel puts me in a better mood. Over 30 some odd years, there have been some winners and some losers, but the feeling of joy on a chilly morning can’t be denied. Knitting is the best thing I’ve ever done !

  • I am such a fan, Sonya! You always inspire me to think and pause.

  • Sonya, you have hit upon something that I have been thinking about in the process of downsizing and getting rid of “stuff.” For those of us who like to make things — whether sewing or knitting or whatever — how much is too much, whether we are talking about stash or finished objects? For FOs, I suppose you can always give it away (or sell it)…but what if you really like the finished product for yourself? And with the new books on mending, at what point is a garment no longer wearable? Especially if you wean yourself from fashion and just wear what looks good on you and gives you pleasure, in fashion or not. Needless to say, I don’t know the answers, but I have been thinking about the questions a lot lately.

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