Click around on craft sites and social media often enough and you’ll come across the term “selfish knitting” along with its close cousin “selfish sewing.” These phrases are usually used to describe a project that’s just for the maker.
Of course I fully understand that the words are used with a sly wink, especially since I don’t know of anyone following knitting quotas. But I have an issue with it.
February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne in Malabrigo worsted; Daybreak by Stephen West in AVFKW Farm Series; Shirt no. 2; Skirt no. 1; Pants no. 2
You just can’t get away from the negative connotations of the word selfish. Perhaps we bandy the word about because people who are conditioned to be caregivers are supposed to be self-less. Society looks approvingly upon those who put other’s needs before their own and less so on those who do not.
There are many stories and fairy tales with this exact dichotomy on display, in which characters who only do things for themselves are cast in an unfavorable light.
Cria by Ysolda Teague IN Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks DK; Shirt no. 2; modified Dress no. 1; pants pattern forthcoming
Calling something selfish, even casually, helps reinforce the notion that making things in the service of others is somehow better. So if you are not knitting a Tomten Jacket for that new baby in your life, however distant the relation, well, shame on you.
We need to create things for ourselves without any associated guilt. Besides, the babies outgrow those things in minutes. That is a joke, because babies must learn to wear wool from an early age.
Modified Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig in AVFKW Farm Series; Bitterroot Shawl by Rosemary Hill in Twirl Yarns Twirling Petals; Shirt no. 2; modified Dress no. 1; Pants no. 1
I might not have started from infancy, but I’m closing in on nearly ten years of wearing mostly handmade things. For me it’s a form of self love. I couldn’t find the clothes I wanted to wear, so first I started with knitting, then the rest of the garments followed. In some symbiotic way—I make what I like, like what I wear and this translates into my general contentment.
Thinking about yourself, does not necessarily mean disregard for others. It’s blessedly easy to remain in a world where every good attribute has an equivalent negative one. But as we grow, we learn that things are much more nuanced.
Modified Stopover by Mary Jane Mucklestone in Léttlopi and Noro kureyon; Shirt no. 2; Dress no. 1; Pants no. 2
All of this is in no way a judgment on people who garner real pleasure from making things for others, be it for gifts or charity. After all, there are many prolific knitters whose drawers are already stuffed to the brim with handknits and stopping is not an option. Maybe you’ve never made anything not for yourself and all your knitting is personal knitting. Just as long as you are meeting your needs. Because indulgent knitting or sewing and taking care of those needs, is important.