I am not a quilter

I am not a quilter, I am just making a quilt.

IMG_1594This might seem an odd distinction to make to non-handcrafters perhaps but maybe you understand what I mean? Just because I practice a craft does not mean that I identify as someone who does that thing. I take photographs but don’t consider myself a photographer but I know that Annie Cholewa does (and rightly so!). I sew most of my own clothes but I don’t consider myself a sewist/seamstress but I know that Stephanie of My Vintage Inspiration does. I crochet (infrequently now) but I do not consider myself a crocheter but Alina of The Gift of Knitting does. I garden but am not a gardener, I cook but I am not a cook.

IMG_1597I do consider myself a knitter though and have done for about 15 or so years, however, I have been knitting much longer than this. Similarly, although I learned to spin seven years ago, I only began thinking of myself as a spinner a few years ago. I am not sure when I started to call myself a spinner or why…at some point I just knew I was.

Why is that we identify with some crafts as a practitioner and not others? What is the point at which we know we are a knitter, a spinner or a quilter? Is it when knowledge enters the bones and muscles? Is it perhaps about what engages our sustained curiousity and delight? Do we know we are a knitter when we take stitch dictionaries to bed? Do we know we are a spinner when we find pleasure in being arms-deep in mucky fleece water?

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I have been reading some literature recently on consumption and how since the fifties we have become increasingly identifying with and identified by our consumption practices.  Colin Campbell is an American sociologist who describes several different ways the consumer has been defined: as the passive consumer who is the unwitting dupe of advertising and the status quo; as the heroic, rational consumer researching about product choice; and, the lifestyle consumer who buys to express their personality through brands. I remember very clearly a moment in the mid 90s when I was working full time after graduating and could finally afford to buy new clothes.  I was wearing a pair of Converse sneakers, Oakley sunglasses, Levi’s jeans and a Mooks hoodie. I was feeling mighty fine. And then suddenly I had this odd realisation that the brands I was wearing were acting as symbolic representations of me and I could combine brands in different ways to say different things about me. Brands were like identity codes.  It was a memorable and rather horrifying moment as I at once realised that I had finally got a style that was saying all the right, cool things (for that moment) and also that this was a projected, aspirational, fictional me rather than flesh-and-blood-interior-furniture me. Ah yes, I was the emperor feeling so fine just as my brain pointed out I was actually naked. Loss and insight! Now, this was no revolutionary epiphany, more the beginnings of a discomfort with lifestyle brands, a vague sense that as desireable as the bright shinies on offer were, there was more to being than buying.

Still, that was the nineties and the ascendancy of brand culture. Colin Campbell argues that there is another category of consumer that is significant today, that of the craft consumer who consumes in order to create.  A craft consumer buys materials (often mass produced materials) and uses skills and knowledge to make something like a meal, a garden or a room. Whilst craft consumption is an increasingly significant category for understanding contemporary consumption, there is the risk of overstating the role of consumption in craft practice. Crafters do consume, sometimes a lot. Sometimes we buy and accrue vast amounts of fabric to make quilts or buy more yarn than we can knit in a lifetime.  Sometimes we are proud of this and boast about how big our stashes are. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable about the buying and hide our stash around the house to make it look less. We go on yarn diets and participate in stash busting projects in an effort to discipline our buying habits.

Consumption is definitely a part of contemporary crafting. But are crafters simply craft consumers? It is entirely possible to make a meal or a garden without buying anything, nor does the buying of the raw materials constitute the defining activity of making something. Even if you buy all the fabrics to make a quilt, making a quilt is still more than an act of consumption. Buying fabric is but one activity among many that make up the entire practice of quilting.  If someone makes a quilt by cutting up old worn out clothes to hand and another makes a quilt from mass produced fabrics bought at a shop, are they not both quilters?  Surely we are more that what we buy or how we buy?

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Let us return to role of practice in craft identity. Some of the literature that I have been reading for my thesis has focused on the social and health benefits of craft. Again and again, researchers have observed that the practice of handcrafting provides a very strong source of identity for practitioners (I have listed one of these papers below). It is the making that is the source of identity, it would seem, not the buying. But what exactly is that identity in relation to a specific practice, how is it formed and how is it understood by the practitioner? How do we know when we become a quilter? Why are we a knitter but not spinner when we might do both?

I know I am a knitter. I know I am a spinner. I feel it in my bones. My fingers find their own way and my mind can play and ponder the infinite possibility residing in materials, technique and purpose.

What are you? And how do you know? I would love to hear.

 

Some writings you might find interesting:

Colin Campbell, (2005) The Craft Consumer: Culture, Craft and Consumption in a Post Modern Society

Gandolfo, Enza and Grace, Marty, (2009) It Keeps Me Sane: Women, Craft and Wellbeing, Vulgar Press

 

 

28. November 2015 by Rebecca
Categories: sew | Tags: , , , , | 46 comments

Comments (46)

  1. I consider myself a knitter, spinner and weaver, probably in that order. These practices were all learned many years ago and I just keep plugging along because I enjoy them so much. Sewing is not my favorite thing to do but I do make an effort and did make clothing for my children and their dollies.
    Making time for my favorite activities is very calming.

    • Thanks for sharing Elaine. Isn’t that interesting that although you do sewing, you don’t think of it as particularly enjoyable. So I guess you are saying that for the craft identity comes from your enjoyment and pleasure in them.

  2. Rebecca,
    This really opens a can of worms! I think I must have a general “shame” problem, as I don’t consider myself much of anything, let alone a seamstress. I cringe when I call myself an economist, which I do only as a shorthand because it explains easily to people what I do by day. I simply feel I’m not accomplished enough at anything to “be” labelled as something.

    Right now I’m most curious about sewing, which is why I am trying to learn more. I still think of myself as “more of a knitter,” though I don’t really think of myself as a knitter in the sense that you do, when I do it, as I know I don’t try to be very creative with it or to improve my skills. I feel very at home when I am knitting though, and knitting is what I turn to for emotional comfort on cold evenings. I suppose I always think that I *could* become a knitter at some point.

    I wonder if “tribe” has something to do with it. For some reason, I feel more connected to the sewing tribe than the knitting tribe. I’m not referring to your blog or any of those you’ve mentioned, but on the occasions that I’ve read broadly among knitting blogs I’ve felt uncomfortable with them for some reason. There seemed to be some layer of exclusion or judgment in the air (not sure if I’m describing this correctly) that took the steam out of my interest. I can’t put my finger on it. Sewing has seemed more freeing and more diverse to me.

    I do worry quite a lot about consumption. In fact, I spent yesterday feeling rather glum about it. I am a consumer, and in spite of my goodwill and effort much more than I would like to be. I’d like to be something else….that I also can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe the “pioneer crafting” that we’ve talked about in the past – responding to real necessity with beauty – is what I yearn for.

    • Oops..as always editing is my Achilles heel. Needed to remove the “” from the “be” in the beginning. 🙂 Very interesting post, as always.

    • Dear Stephanie, Firstly apologies for calling you out as an unabashed seamstress when you are still mulling over this identity yourself. Your idea of tribes is very interesting. It sounds like more than identifying with the only the practice itself, your sense of craft identity is tied up with a sense of belonging within a community. I wonder if sewing blogs have a different culture to knitting ones in how they share their practice? Does the blogging style reflect the different cultures associated with various craft practices? Yes, consumption is tricky, it has such cultural weight and intimacy with our everyday lives, it is hard to see ourselves without reference to it. Thanks for such a thought provoking comment.

  3. How odd that I should be pondering the very same questions!! I also question myself as to whether it may be better to make informed choices regarding the use of time and craft rather than trying to keep my precious time divided between various.
    I decided just this morning that it has more to do with the affliction of creativity than the actual need or desire for objects or self expression. Restlessness and curiosity fuel my passion for creating. Often, I wish I could just stop and accept! I actually recently pared my desires down somewhat in celebrating other peoples creativity. For example, instead of making my own pattern up for a garment (which interestingly I almost never record), I decided to really examine the patterns of those whose styles I like. My knitting changed from a drive to express into making for the desire for a garment I admired. It is liberating! I enjoy knitting for knittings sake. I also learn how other people think and make! Some designers are actually creative engineers! It is these designs I love the best. Simple forms with engineered structures.
    I agree with you regarding labels. I sew. Alot. But I do not consider myself a seamstress (or a quilter). I have 3 art degrees and do consider myself an artist – not through making but through the way I think and approach life. I do consider myself a knitter, but not a cook or a writer or a musician. I have limited knowledge and experience of these fields and therefore feel a slight imposter, tresspassing on ground I am unsure of but am drawn to.
    I suppose it is a question of passion as you so rightly suggest. It is where we feel comfortable to explore and push boundaries and learn. The consistent draw of materials and histories and the tactility of any particular arena.?
    Very interesting thought provoking post! Thank you x

    • Thanks Jill, Gosh there is so much in your comment to explore! Firstly, I love your term ‘affliction of creativity’. I too have wondered about what drives the making, which can be compulusive at times. I too have wished I could just ‘be’ without ‘doing’. There is probably a good chunk of existential anxiety mixed in with my making!

      It is also interesting that you have recently changed the way you make, from your own creations to those of others. I wonder if this about curiousity and a drive to learn. We learn both from creating ourselves and from the creativity of others. Perhaps your curiousity for construction has been sated in your own designs and seeks innovation and novelty in the works of others. But still it seems to be about learning new skills. Expressing ideas and improving our knowledge might be the two forces held in balance within craft practice.

  4. Oh Colin Campbell…you do ask the questions don’t you! However I don’t think buying a fleece or 2 or.. 🙂 could be called ‘mass produced goods’. I ‘became’ a weaver before I KNEW I was a weaver even before I was weaving. I have been knitting for 61 years but just was aware that I ‘knitted’. How odd is that? Weaving seemed to be lurking in my bones although I don’t know of any ancestors who were. But they came from Scotland so they must have been, says she casting about for an answer! I do call myself a spinner, 37 years of that…I had to do some ‘math’ to figure those out. I have heard of evolutionary/adaptive or biological working memory and wonder if they might apply to the feeling I got when I first went to Scotland. I think I mentioned this to you before but I realized I was ‘HOME’. It was extraordinary! I have also heard several pieces relating to how cells carry on from a baby to a mother protecting her in some instances so why not memories. In the study of Homeopathy the Miasm can be likened to a propensity towards a certain dis-ease/problem which may have had it’s genesis in ancestors. so, why not memory?

    • Dear Susan, Yes, I have similar doubts with Colin Campbell’s ideas. I think that crafts that work with raw materials and especially ones that make a material which then is used for other crafts (like spinning) confound the emphasis on consumption a bit. Even the example of cooking, does it mean that preindustrial city cooks are all craft consumers because they must buy their ingredients but the farm cook is not? I think he makes a good point perhaps about how contemporary creative practices are often tangled up with consumption but it certainly doesn’t fit everything does it!

      Now, what you say about weaving and your sense of connection to Scotland is very very intriguing. That idea of ‘becoming’ a weaver before you knew you were or sensing you were ‘home’ in a place you had just got to, is similar to the feeling I had went I learnt to spin. I remember thinking, “…my fingers know what to do here!” It felt more like remembering than learning! Very curious indeed. Curious and fascinating. Thank you!

      • So pleased to hear re you affinity with spinning. More interesting stuff! I do think sewing blogs/tribes are different from Knitting. Unless it is handwork, embroidery etc, sewing for me is solitary where as you can ‘drag’ your knitting and spinning wheel all over the place 🙂 And then think of the trying on…
        I really like all the comments and your replies. I did read Colin
        Campbell and no, one size doesn’t fit all!

  5. For me what I identify myself, as or with, has changed over the years. Currently I am a spinner and weaver. Perhaps it’s something to do with what I am passionate about exploring and mastering not to mention the fact that I could talk the issues and challenges endlessly, and probably do 🙂

    Thinking about my past identifications, once I have mastered a skill and learnt all ‘I’ think ‘need to know, I move on to the next thing. I get bored if something is not challenging enough.

    On an alternate note spinning is one way for me to ‘switch off’. It forces me to be still, to focus on one thing only. It calms my mind and gives my senses a rest.

    The British Craft Council have a library of online research papers on craft. All of which are excellent reading,

    BTW Your patchwork pattern is lovely Rebecca, what’s it called?

    • Thanks for sharing your reflections Suzette. It sounds like knowledge/skill acquisition is an important factor for you. Thanks for British Craft Council tip…I shall have an explore. The patchwork pattern is called What a Star by Sarah Fielke from a book called Little Quilts (I am just making it much bigger!). It was in the Down Under Quilts mag, issue 167, 2014.

  6. Your choice of colour and pattern makes it work,the secret to a quilt and original to

    • Thanks Cheryl, all the bits are from the remnants of other projects, bits of saved clothes and other scraps. The undyed linen is bought new and it seems to draw all the disparate colours/tones/patterns together.

  7. Very interesting – I’ve been feeling desperate to sew but avoiding it, and the fabric and pattern stash has started to feel oppressive for the first time. I would never call myself a seamstress, even though I wear something I’ve sewn myself pretty much every day; if someone asks me if I can sew I demur and say that I do it badly. Knitting is the opposite: it’s like breathing to me, and is a significant part of my identity. Knitting mistakes don’t rock my sense of self the way sewing mistakes do; I just rip back and fix them.

    Thanks so much for posting about Kim Piper Werker’s Make Mighty Ugly recently. I’ve only just started working through it but it’s had a profound effect on the way I see my own creativity and the negative blocks that had begun to feel like an unalterable part of who I am. It’s not the sort of book I would have picked up on my own, but I think it’s going to be life-changing – thank you!

    • What a great contribution Penelope – your experience mirrors my own. I like your line that knitting is like breathing. How curious that identity should sit in one craft and not the other. Like you, I sew stuff that is useful but I don’t feel it expresses anything for me, nor am I curious enough to improve my skills for their own sake. And yet it is a significant part of my making in terms of time and output.

      So glad you are enjoying Make it Mighty Ugly and that it is shifting things for you. Making something deliberately ugly sounds potentially emotionally huge, an anathema to our usual practices. Well done you for actually engaging with it, I just admired the intent!

  8. Hmmm! If I see someone spinning at a show I would say to them that I can spin, not ,I am a spinner too. I do not consider myself a spinner.

    I learnt to sew as a child more than 50 years ago. In those years I have run up huge curtains, quilts, dresses, baby dresses, toddler clothes, teenage clothes, repaired everyone’s clothes, repaired surfboard bags and so on and on. Am I a sewer? Well, I certainly have never ever considered myself one and apologise for my less than perfect sewing.

    What I know I am through and through and will forever be is a knitter. Why is that? I think it is because I am emotionally involved with the idea of knitting through links with my childhood and events that have happened in the past 55 years since I began knitting. Crises, illness, breakups, contentment, sun, rain, people, departures, sadness, laughter, all intertwined with those millions of stitches that have raced off my needles.

    I do not feel that emotional link with sewing, embroidery, spinning etc Perhaps a little with sewing when I come across some old fabric that I bought years ago and am immediately transported back to that time.

    I do have a stash of yarn and fabric. I am also emotionally linked to much of that too, but not all. The knitting world blogs and podcasts always want to sell me tempting yarns or encourage me to go to fibre shows ( luckily there are none here) where I know I would love to spend on what I do not need or can afford.

    All in all a mixed bag really. A very interesting post indeed.

    • Wow! Great reflections, thank you for sharing them Lydia. Again, how fascinating that there are things that we can do (like your spinning), that we may have been doing for decades (like your sewing), but we don’t attach our identity to. It seems that it is the emotional involvement with the knitting (or other practices) that makes you a knitter. Your knitting is enmeshed with your everyday life to the point where it witnesses and expresses all the events and feelings that part of that life. What a symbolic, powerful thread to run through a life!

  9. What a wonderful, wonderful post! I have often pondered the idea of consumption and contemporary crafting as well. Since I live in a fairly tiny house, there is only so much room for crafting supplies and I have always kept my crafting stash fairly small. I also find that large stashes, while some people revel in them, make me feel overwhelmed. It is interesting how each person feels differently about their crafting supplies 🙂

    • Dear Simone, I think there might be a whole world of culture to be explored just in terms of people’s relationships with stash! It is interesting too how capitalism responds to craft practice (or any practice really!) to create niche products that then over time begin to define the practice of that craft. Patchwork is a good example of this with its development from a frugal practice of repurposing fabric scraps in utilitarian ways to a huge industry of designer collections and seasonal releases, high tech machines and international exhibitions. Similarly, knitting and scrapbooking. It becomes more complicated to extricate ourselves from the industries which support our crafts because in many ways they have come to express and carry the culture of those crafts.

  10. Lots to think about here, Rebecca. I come from a very intellectual family where intellect was prized above all else – but many of us are makers. I’ve sewn since I was very young and knitted for quite a while too though I don’t remember who taught me. I was taught to spin some 30 years ago. I’ve dabbled in other disciplines too – basically I always want to make things. I’ve always felt an oddity ( there was a very interesting post I identified strongly with by Jen, I think, of Grainline where she said much the same). So many people disparaging the crafter. Now I am older and retired and more at peace with myself, I say I am a knitter and a spinner and a sewer – but I then I look at Instagram and recognise that I am not a knitter as say, Karie Westermann, is. I am not a spinner as you are with your knowledge of ratios and different sheep breeds and how to spin them. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t feel inadequate, just different, perhaps a dreamer (and a bit of a bodger …) Your blog post recognised the differences. I still feel it is a valid claim to see myself as a maker – spinner, knitter and sewer. As for the consumer categories – very interesting but I don’t really identify with any of them. How about a new category: the scavenger consumer?! That would suit me! I’m not unsusceptible to fashion and the charms of popular culture, but an awful lot of what I do and make is based on what I get from charity shops, friends, locality etc. Yes, the scavenger consumer – I quite like that! 🙂

    • Dear Katherine, Thank you for your introspection and reflections. I think you raise a very significant point, that identity is not necessarily about mastery or attainment but about something more intrinsic, the drive/desire to make. I have been thinking about the word maker recently and it really is a very useful one as it gets to the very heart of the drive (for me and it sounds like maybe you too). It is not so much to create or express but to make and by this distinction, I think I am saying the process and experience of making with my hands is what compels me (rather than the giving of form to an idea which I associate with creativity/art). So perhaps it is to the extend to which knitting, spinning, sewing allow you to ‘make’ that forms your identity here. What do you reckon? I am understanding what you are saying properly?

      I really like your new consumer category too…the scavenger consumer! Increasingly, this would have to become a recognised way of consuming. Colin Campbell move over!

      • Yup – I think you’ve distilled the essence of my muddled thinking!, Rebecca! It is the yen to make that is at the heart of what we do – the affliction of creativity as jillybeanyarns puts it. And what a lovely term Maker is – with shades of biblical creativity and Shaker simplicity – much nicer than the laden language of spinster and seamstress! There’s even a little fishermen’s village of small cottages and quaint sea views near Plymouth called Maker 🙂 I’m so glad you and Susan both approve of scavenger consumerism 🙂 🙂 🙂

        • You are right ‘maker’ is a bit biblical and it doesn’t have all the baggage of crafter and the art vs craft debate and isn’t as exclusive as artisan. It feels egalitarian in the old way that ‘worker’ used to be.

  11. I have GOT to get OFF of this post and start making 🙂 But I totally agree with your reply to Katherine and ‘scavenger consumerism’ is priceless!!

  12. I am not a quilter either, but I do make quilts. I think it’s important to acknowledge the role of consumption in crafting, and its relation to identity (among so many other things)… but agree there is more to it than this. I would prefer to peg my sense of identity to skill or persistence over consumption. But identity is a thing to be pulled out and examined carefully once in a while too!

    • Thank you for your thoughts Mary. It is good to know another ‘not a quilter’ who is making a quilt! In the same way we air out our blankets periodically in the sun, perhaps we need an occasional shake out and hanging up of our identities, a bit of time in the sun, and good inspection and then back in the drawer! I agree that identity based on skills or qualities is preferable but I fear that consumption practices/habits and the meanings associated with them are deeply ingrained. Probably the more room we make in our lives for non-purchasable experiences and living, the more these identities grow but our whole society has shifted over the last couple of hundred years to one of buying rather than producing. So much food for thought, it makes a feast!

  13. You sure know how to ask them!

    You’re right, I do identify as a photographer (a digital photographer as I rarely work with film now and it’s years since I spent any time in a dark room producing actual prints). I wouldn’t claim any mastery but I have training and long experience and have made money as a photographer. In the same way I would say I’m a writer … it’s not a hobby because it makes me money/I’ve been employed to do it. And ditto I’m a natural dyer and have been an artist … I have taught natural dyeing and I’m art/textile art trained. Am I knitter? Only in so much as I do have some mastery, acquired over very many years. I’m not a sempstress even though I made my own wedding dress because I really have to work at getting good results when I sew, it doesn’t come naturally.

    So I guess for me who I am is at least as much about what I’m confident I can do well and, and this is key, with authority, as it is about what I’m actually doing at any given period in my life.

    • Dear Annie, Thanks for sharing your answer to these questions. So for you, it not just about enjoyment or curiousity but confidence and authority in the practice that constitutes identity, the acquiring of enough mastery and knowledge to own the identity as your own. How insightful and interesting.

  14. I consider myself a spinner and a quilter, but I also knit and weave. I identify more with spinning and quilting because I daydream about those hobbies- while I’m cleaning the house, exercising or just resting. If I’m not doing one of them, I’m dreaming about them-colors, textures, patterns-knowing that soon I’ll pick up a spindle to spin or sit down at my sewing machine to begin a new quilt. I can’t imagine life without being creative. I love knitting, but I don’t dream about it and I’ve only tried simple designs. As for weaving, I usually make functional things-rugs, kitchen towels, table runners-things that fill my house, but I don’t dream of weaving, I don’t know why.

    • Thank you so much Judy! What a lovely way to identify who we are…as what we dream about! And you are probably right, if something that we do is significant enough to be worked on by the subconscious in our dreamstate, it is pretty important to us. I do dream and daydream about knitting and spinning but not sewing although I do think it is a most marvellously useful skill and enjoyable too, probably much like how you regard your weaving.

  15. I am a knitter. Mainly of socks but also jumpers, gloves, mittens, mitts and hats by request from family members and good friends. The whole thing about paying for work, particularly paying a Living Wage for Time Spent Knitting just gets ridiculous otherwise.

    After all, simply because I knit to improve the TV I watch (selectively) does it mean that my time is worth less than that of any other skilled craftsperson? But enough of that.

    I’ve also done a fair bit of dressmaking – it being about the only way to get clothes to fit my 6′-with-very-long-arms-and-legs frame, and at a reasonable price.

    As for Branded Goods. I reckon the Brand owners should pay us for wearing their goods, rather than charging us extra. If their goods are recognisable then we are in effect wearing advertising.

    • Thanks for your perspective Sharon. Your opening statement is so clear, “I am a knitter”! You raise a really interesting point here about the cost of labour of skilled crafts. You, like many, including me, have decided after consideration that selling hand knitted garments cannot properly recompense the labour and skill invested in the garment, therefore it is better to make garments for oneself or as part of the gift economy where love, familial ties and reciprocity can more appropriately reflect the labour value. It is very hard to put a proper price on skilled labour when the value of goods is determined by mass production. I do like your idea about branded goods!

  16. There are so many directions to ponder after reading your post and the comments so far. I will be returning to this thread for weeks to come.

    What I wonder is, do I have to “own” a label for what I am doing in the moment or can I ever be comfortable just calling the whole package “Kate” ?

    If I am labeled then suppliers can push certain goods at me and I can enjoy a momentary sense of belonging by buying those goods and participating in a community that uses those very same goods, but consuming doesn’t ever fully satisfy my need to make. However if I make a thing outside the community I am at a loss if someone else doesn’t “like” or favorite it. There is a personal risk in not fitting in. That risk has a physical feel.

    For me at least creativity requires an insecure, restless, questing mind, but that comes with a price when the project is complete. Damn it. What a glorious maze we’ve entered.

    • Thank you for your comment Kate! Gosh there is so much in here, I cannot possibly do you justice.

      Do you know I had not considered the sense of belonging that comes from niche consumption…but you are right. I guess this is lifestyle consumption. It is a bit of thrill of in-group identity to buy a spindle or a specialised piece of knitting paraphernalia like blocking wires. And I do understand the isolation and oddness of making outside a community that understand the significance of what you make. It is a glorious maze, but I think we entered some time ago, we are just now noticing that we are actually in there.

  17. What a wonderful thought provoking post, dear Rebecca! From the craft perspective, you are absolutely right to say that I do consider myself a crocheter, though if to look at my latest FOs just a small percent of it is crochet, mostly it is knitting. But strangely enough I feel really attached to this craft. As you know I also do the machine knitting from time to time, but I cannot call myself a machine knitter at this point. Why? It’s really hard to say, but I feel like I am getting closer to it. I guess there is no specific criteria or a line where doing something becomes a part of identity. On the more philosophical point of view, it’s also a fascinating thing to think about identity. I worked with a woman at school and when we had parent meetings or conferences where we had to introduce ourselves – our name, education, job experience, etc, she would always start her introduction with one simple phrase “I am. Period.” And only then she would say what she DOES. And I think this is what I am looking for right now. Just be “I am”. We are always looking for “er” to identify ourselves – knittER, craftER, bloggER, mothER… Sometimes it feels like if we don’t have any “er” attached to us, we don’t really exist, or are not worthy and complete. So, I guess what I am trying to find right now is the ability to reattach myself from any identity in my hobbies, in my professional and personal life. Thank you for starting this discussion! I really enjoyed reading all the comments!

    • Dear Alina, Thanks for your comment and for diving right down deep into an existential quest! Yes, indeed, who we are inherently, away from all significant identifiers is possibly the greatest question and possibly a life’s work finding out. Understanding ourselves in relation to our practices is perhaps only a shadow of this deeper knowledge. Best wishes on the journey.

  18. Rebecca what a thought provoking post. on thinking about what I am I know I am a maker. I feel that the various things that I practise are all combined in that one word. Even though I spin, knit, dye and stitch, these combine under the one umbrella, and often come together in creating a finished work. I also know that I am compelled to make, and am only happy and fulfilled when making is in my life and dreaming.
    Consuming is to me not a necessary part of this making, as I get more pleasure in making something from what I already own or have been given by a friend. Xxx

    • Dear Faye, Thank you for sharing your perspective with us. Maker is a great word, especially if as you describe, several crafts are combined in a single object. It is a solid, honest word, without pretensions or aspirations. A number of other readers have also identified the making as a compulsion and it is interesting that for you consumption is not seen to play a significant role.

  19. I am a knitter. I’ve been reading through the comments and thinking about why I call myself a knitter… I think it is partly because (as Annie said) I have confidence in my skills. I feel I have a reasonable technical understanding and can ‘read’ my knitting. I knit from patterns, which I think it a good way of learning new techniques, but I am also dipping my toe in making up my own patterns. (But I would in no way call myself a designer!)
    Also, knitting is my ‘primary’ craft and I feel odd if I don’t knit a bit each day. I think that helps me to feel like a knitter!
    On the stash point- when I started knitting I loved buying yarn- more than I could possibly use. But for the past few years I have been trying to work through the stash. I still buy yarn, but I try and buy for a specific project, if I can’t use stash, rather than mindlessly purchasing pretty things that might never get used.

    I can sew, a bit, but I don’t. I’ve tried to work out why I have never taken to seeing like knitting- for some reason, I always feel like sewing is too time consuming! (Which is ridiculous, as it is possible to sew a garment in a day, and knitting takes much longer!) I think my real issue with sewing is that it requires a certain amount of space, and dedicated time- getting out the sewing machine, setting it up, swearing at the needle because it’s hard to thread, etc!
    Whereas knitting can be picked up and put down quickly and just sits in my lap…
    (There is also the fact that I am already ‘good’ at knitting, whereas I would have to pay attention to sewing- knitting is more satisfying and relaxing!)

    I’ve tried spinning on a drop spindle, and quite enjoyed it, so although I am not a spinner there is a chance I might one day become one.

    • Dear Nicola, What a great reflection on my questions. I think it is particularly interesting that even though you can sew and use a drop spindle, sewing is not an identity for you but you consider ‘there is a chance I might one day become one’. I wonder if this is because the spinning is an allied skill of knitting which you clearly love and identify with deeply (ie a knitter making their own yarn) or if there is something else entirely in the spinning that gives you a sense it may come to more important in the future. You also raise an interesting point about the stash. You locate the time you bought a lot of yarn as when you first started. I wonder if this is because at this stage we don’t really have a sense of how long things actually take but are captivated by the potential in every ball of yarn. It sounds like things changed for you over time and now you work mostly from stash. Gosh, no wonder folks research stashing habits, it is so fascinating.

  20. Thought-provoking post and comments! I’m not sure why we would choose our categories by how good we are at them.

    For me personally – I knit, therefore I am a knitter. I sew (and this is my area of expertise and most frequent practice) therefore I am a seamstress. I quilt therefore I am a quilter.

    Also, I am creative and bring my visions into being, however imperfectly, therefore I am an artist.

    If I was going by expertise (and also amount of love) I would claim seamstress only. If I were going by degrees, I would claim none (by degrees, I am an epidemiologist). But, there isn’t value to me in making these categories more exclusive. I love them all!

    • Dear Erika, thanks for contributing to the discussion. I am so glad you did because your take is a little different from most comments. You distill your thoughts, succinctly, ‘I knit, therefore I am a knitter’. For you, doing is identity and not linked to notions of mastery, attachment or belonging. Thank you so much.

  21. I know I am a quilter now because quilts have appeared and I made them. Fabric makes me feverish in the best way and I feel so lucky. Sometimes I visit fabric stores and just pat the bolts…drooly. Enjoying your site so much. Janel from Metairie, LA USA.

    • Dear Janel, Thank you so much for adding to the discussion. I just love how you know you are a quilter, ‘because quilts have appeared and I made them’!! It is a wonder sometimes, looking at the things we have made, it is almost sometimes as if they have just appeared. Happy quilting.

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