It Isn’t Selfish, It’s Just Knitting

I always see Knit alongs and suggestions for projects in January that are labeled as “selfish” knitting. Meaning, knitting that you’re doing for yourself can be seen as selfish. I’ve said it myself because that’s what it has been called, but I’ve decided I don’t like that adjective. It’s just knitting.

I realized years ago that knitting is a skill I learned and I learned it to make things for myself. I didn’t learn it so I could become a sweater factory for my friends. I didn’t learn it just so a friend’s baby could have a hand knit blanket. I learned how to knit (despite my mother telling me I didn’t need to spend money on another hobby) because I wanted to take my time to learn that skill. Just like I’ve taken cooking classes or driving lessons and I don’t get asked on demand to braise short ribs (although I’m really good at it). And whether I chose to give my knitting as a gift is generous of me, but I’m not required to knit anything for anyone. Let me say that again, whether I chose to give my knitting as a gift is generous of me, but I’m not required to knit anything for anyone.

Morning Meditation

A few years ago I decided to no longer put pressure on myself to make Christmas knits. The deadlines, the money, the pressure to make something for x amount of family members or friends took all the joy out of it. So sometimes I knit a sweater and my sister gets it in August. Or sometimes I’ve got the time and my Mom gets something for her birthday. Or sometimes when someone asks me to make them something I just say no. I’ve been told I’m mean when I say no to someone asking me to knit them something. I’m not being mean, I’m being honest. Whether it’s something I’m not interested in, don’t have the time or energy to do…whatever my reasoning is, I get to choose how to spend my time. Even if someone gets upset and then says, “but I’ll pay you,” again, I didn’t ask to do that for you, so if I say no, let’s just accept that I said no.

I know it’s the beginning of the holiday season and everyone is about giving and gifts. So give yourself the gift of not feeling guilty if you don’t want to knit gifts, or you just want to knit for yourself. That isn’t a selfish act. Knitting is a gift that we give ourselves and sometimes to others. It’s a skill not everyone has and I am so happy that I decided to learn.

104 Replies to “It Isn’t Selfish, It’s Just Knitting”

  1. Wow, thank you! I’ve always felt that since I knit, crochet and quilt I should give back. Now that I have health issues and work full time, I feel guilty that I don’t do that anymore.Guilt gone! Thanks so much for this post, I’ve never thought of it this way!

    1. I totally agree. I tried making a baby sweater set for a friend and it turned out too small and was never worn. Never did it again!

      1. I feel like a lot of traditionally “feminine” crafts are undervalued and the people who do them (mostly women) are expected to always put others ahead of themselves, so it’s become regarded as “selfish” for them to make things for themselves. You’re not depriving anyone else of anything by making clothes or accessories for yourself, so I think it’s pretty silly (as well as kind of sexist) to refer to projects that women make for themselves as “selfish” projects.

    2. I go back & forth all the time about feeling like I should knit for others. But I’ve found that so few appreciate the time & work I’ve put into it. Do it for pay?! Nah, they couldn’t/wouldn’t pay me for I’d think I’d deserve. Big sigh at realizing it’s not selfish, it’s my time, my arthritic hands.

    3. I go back & forth all the time about feeling like I should knit for others, especially at holidays. Big sigh at realizing I’m not selfish, it’s my time, my arthritic hands. Brava!

      1. I have always taken my my crocheted items to family Xmas party white elephant drawing. Responses from those receiving my gifts upset me so I have stopped attending party.
        I have always made crocheted blankets for my grandchildren n made booties sweaters n caps for great granddaughters n grandson last year. I started making each grandchild a birth blanket that has all birth info on it plus a character that parents choose for child in middle of blanket with half info on top n bottom. I am now on great grandchildren’s . all 6!! Then family will have to ask before I make anything as I am getting tired of the effort n expense n no real / genuine happy thank yous…

    4. Thanks. I’ve felt guilty for years. I really needed to hear that. You have gi en me FREEDOM. Bledded be.

  2. I so agree! knitting is a wonderful thing but only at your choice.. have a wonderful holiday!!! knit on

    1. I have no guilt any more! You are spot on. Have also found many do not appreciate the work involved in gifts so only do if I feel like it.

  3. I totally get this! It’s like you pulled it straight out of my head and wrote it down. I rarely knit for anyone but myself, because, well, the time I have to knit is limited, and I want to make what I choose.

  4. Totally. I’ve also learned that only a fellow crafter will appreciate the thought, time, and cost that go into the work/gift.

    1. Yep, I’m right there with you. Also, I’ve discovered that few people understand the knitted gift you’ve given them–so keep a list of those you consider knitworthy, and put yourself right at the top of it!

    2. Yes!!! I learned to knit as a wee child (I was probably about 5 or 6, I don’t remember it clearly) so I feel like I have always been able to knit. I enjoyed it so I have continued to knit for ME for over 50 years now. I have knitted for my friends, family, and even charities over the years because I wanted to and felt good about doing it but not because of some sense of guilt. Thankfully, I have never had close friends or family who decided after a gift that I was now now their knitter in residence.

  5. thank you for framing it this way! I learned to crochet bc I needed a hobby when I was sick for a long period. And I love the way it makes me feel. Ppl often ask me to make them things, and despite the obvious crassness of “what, you want me to buy the yarn??” it also takes away from the joy of what I’m doing to warm myself. This post reminds me of an article I frequently share with my female students called ” you don’t owe anyone an interaction” – meaning not a hug, not second date, not a reply to their email or text, etc. So thank you for adding “you don’t owe anyone a fibre project!”

    1. Usually I offer to teach people to knit if they ask me to make them something!

  6. I love this post. I am a slow knitter, so it’s a big deal for me to make something for somebody. Knitting a blanket for my grandson: no problem. HAVING to do it, that’s a deal breaker. This post is also timely for me as just this morning I was asking myself if I was being selfish for wanting to mostly knit for myself.
    Happy Thanksgiving! And thanks for your words….they are always appreciated!

    1. I call it self-care knitting. It helps my sanity. I fully agree with you—making for others is something I chose sometimes, but I don’t do deadlines.

  7. Thank you so much Dana! I so totally agree. People that don’t make things by hand don’t realize the time and sometimes cost involved.
    My reply to people asking for something hand made has become, “ I’d love to teach you how to make it yourself.”
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, enjoy your time off!!!

    1. I agree with you a 1000%! I knit for the challenge of learning new things, and the sense of calm it can bring. I found I enjoy doing socks and bizarre little critters. The socks are mine, the strange little beasts usually go to my grandson. He’s five and really appreciates my imagination.
      Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  8. Well said! When people ask me to knit/sew/bake etc I now offer to teach them how to do it themselves: it’s amazing how the desire for the requested object diminishes when they have to do the work 😈

  9. Sing it, sister! I only knit for others when I want to & when I’m not on a deadline. I learned a long time ago that many non-knitters/crafters don’t appreciate the amount of time, effort & cost that goes into making things, so I don’t waste any of those things on someone unless I want to. I don’t expect a parade from someone I make something for, but I do want them to realize that whatever I made was a labor of love.

  10. Thank you for this. I always give away what I knit when someone tells me how much they love it and wish they had that. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I mean, I’d REALLY like to keep a sweater or shawl for myself.😂

  11. THANK YOU! I enjoy the entire process of knitting, the choosing, the colors, the story of the yarn, the pattern, the designer, the fiber in my hand as I work, the hours of time, the blocking and the wearing. It all brings me joy. Most of what I knit is for my wearing and I am going to lose the self shaming around it – that’s one good New Years resolution.

  12. Yay you, Dana! I couldn’t agree more. I love your analogy with the cooking and driving lessons. As a slow knitter I have made peace with the fact that knitting on demand is not possible for me and I’m so much happier for it.

  13. I think your way of looking at it sounds healthy. I am a slower and more amateurish knitter and already a few people have asked me to make things for them. I would rather surprise someone than feel pressed and ruin my me time. Sometimes I will ask a question that let’s the person know I will probably be making them something but that is coming from my own wish to create for them.

  14. I’m in total agreement with this. I also apply the sentiment to my dressmaking and soft furnishings.

    I learnt these skills so I could create clothes that fit me, and high end curtains at a fraction of the cost.

    When I started saying no to Christmas gift knitting/sewing, and to peoples interminable requests for jeans/curtains/jackets to be hemmed, I initially felt guilty.

    Now I offer to teach them to knit or sew instead. So far, nobody has taken me up on that offer.

  15. Thank you, Dana, you put it so well! Several years ago, I made the mistake of donating two “knit to order” scarves to a service auction for my church. Aside from the fact that the yarn cost more than the money raised for the church, I agonized over those scarves. Knitting for others is stressful enough, but knitting things that people had paid money for raised the stakes way too high. Having come back to knitting again recently, I’ve started to wonder if I ought to be “knitting for Christmas,” and your post reassures me that I don’t have to. Spontaneous gifting sounds far more doable.
    Also, I wanted to tell you (and the world 🙂 that I just finished knitting my first sweater!!!!!!!! It’s a Flax, and is currently in blocking pins on my kitchen counter. I credit you for giving me the hope and confidence that I could do it; thank you so much again for sharing your writing and knitting with us all! I hope your semester is wrapping up well, and that you have a wonderful holiday and winter break!

  16. Brava, Dana! I’ve been cutting back on gifts myself, and it’s quite freeing—allowing me to learn new techniques really well. I have offered to teach people to knit, for free. I see that as a wonderful way to enjoy being together while empowering them to knit things themselves. So far, though, no one has taken me up on it. Their loss!

  17. Thank you! I am an uneven knitter and sometimes my gift knits have been more misses than hits.I’ve become very cautious about knitting for others. One year I xeroxed a bunch of pictures of ugly sweaters and gave them to my son. I called it a gift of omission; I promised not to make any of them for him.

  18. So timely and well said. You’ve helped a lot of knitters by sharing your perspective. Thank you!

  19. Amen! I knit for my family for Christmas and the rest of the year I knit sweaters for me. I buy the yarn and dedicate my time to making the item so I don’t feel guilty about knitting for myself. A gardener doesn’t feel guilty eating the food they grow, I don’t feel guilty wearing the clothes I make.

  20. Amen to this!! Agree with everyone’s comments👍🏻 although I have been knitting Christmas gifts for the past month, and still have quite a few more to do:( Nobody expects it so it will be a surprise when they receive their gift and that makes me happy😊

  21. Thank you! I might be wrong, but I feel like the expectation that people have that we should knit for them is sexist. Because knitting is historically a woman’s hobby and has become de-valued. If it’s carpentry, nobody asks you to build them a bookshelf. Especially not random strangers on the bus.

  22. A while back I read a snappy response that sometimes shocks people who request a knitted item (especially when they offer to pay me). It always makes fellow knitters laugh and nod in agreement. 😃

    Knitting is like sex. If I love you and you appreciate it, it’s free. Otherwise, you can’t pay me enough!

  23. Amen! And when Target is selling a gift bag that says « Relax, it’s not homemade » there’s no way I’ll make something for someone else. There loss, and more time for me.

  24. Very well said! There’s no such thing as selfish knitting and I hate that there are those who put that pressure on.

  25. I agree wholeheartedly – anyone who says they’ll pay you is so shocked to hear a price of 4 times the amount of a sweater sold in a store – and that doesn’t include the cost of the yarn! Have a nice holiday season knitting for yourself.

  26. So eloquently put. I have had a coworker say to me, “Maybe I’ll let you knit me a pair of socks.” I”ll skip my response but she did not get anything knit by me. EVER. I do knit for myself but now that I am retired I would like to share something I have started. I have a paid movie pass that entitles me to free movies every day, all day. During the movie, I knit hats for the homeless. It’s the Purl Soho hat pattern and I make them for men and women. I am not doing the decreases in the theater but knit the rest of the hat in the dark. (It is never completely dark.) It keeps me busy and I don’t have to lookout the work. This helps to mitigate the sadness I feel for those without homes while doing something, however small to help.

    1. I want to echo Dana’s response about your hats for the homeless. Knitting for someone who needs and will utterly appreciate what you’ve made is way different from knitting for someone who “lets” you make them something as a big favor! I’ve been thinking lately how unfair it is the way some yarns are advertised as “great for charity projects.” I understand you probably want to save high end fibers for personal projects, but… who says a homeless person doesn’t deserve a lovely, soft woolen hat that stays warm even when wet?!

  27. Bravo! Your knits are an inspiration and now your words on this gift giving subject are too.

  28. Amen. I agree with everyone’s comments. Non-knitters often don’t realize the work that goes into a handmade gift. I could use my time to make something for myself that I enjoy and will use. I haven’t seen that Target bag but it’s true, people think most handmade gifts are going to be wonky and weird. I do feel that guilt that I ‘should’ be knitting for others (especially babies and family); but also, sometimes it’s easier to start a baby blanket or a sock than to figure out and start a sweater for myself. I made a couple of lace shawls for myself this year – next year will be the year of sweaters for me. Thanks for the inspiration, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  29. I completely agree! Knitting is part of my mental health self-care. When I knit for someone else it’s because I decided to do it. Not on a schedule. And the gifting of the item is from my heart. Hopefully to someone that appreciates how much of a gift it is! Most of my knitting is for me. I’m slow enough that I wait for months for each item to be completed!!

  30. Just one more reason for me to bask in your awesome!

  31. Thank you so much for writing this! Gift knitting is tricky. On one hand, I want to make things for the people I love. On the other hand, it is a huge investment of time (and often money). I want people to understand that I love them so much that I believe they’re worthy of that investment. If they’re not going to get that, I’m not knitting for them.

    You know who always gets that? ME. 🙂

  32. I need to print this out and hang it on my wall. My mom has been getting pushy about me making things for people even though I am very busy. There are a lot of things that I want to knit for myself, but haven’t the time. Once this batch of Christmas knitting is finished it’ll be my turn.

  33. Amen! Thank you for such a well written article and saying exactly what I want to tell people. Knitting is a hobby and demands for gifts on timelines that are completely realistic make it seem like a second job that I’m not getting paid for. Yes I still knit gifts but on my timeline and what I want to make.

  34. Thanks for this. I say this all the time. If we valued the hours we spent, and what we create, along with what we get from those hours, we would see that it is never selfish. I haven’t made gifts for so many years. Sometimes something spontaneously happens, but no promises. Value your knitting, knitters! You keep yourself sane, and make the world a better place.

  35. Whoa! Completely agree and sharing on Instagram. I learned the hard way that agreeing to make that granny square crochet throw, or make a baby blanket could turn into a multi-year project that I didn’t enjoy. This Christmas two people will get knit gifts, but it’s because it pleases me and I want to make each project. No musts anymore.

  36. YES. THIS.

    I haven’t completed anything for myself in years. All my recent projects have been for others. I’ve decided it’s time for ME to make something of MY choosing, just for the fun of it!

    Thanks for the reminder that our skills are first and foremost for our pleasure!

  37. Wow. You are so right. I enjoy knitting. Period. I enjoy making things for people and seeing them enjoy those things. Having it expected of me is different. I asked my brother’s family for this years Christmas, would you like a hat or a cowl? My niece, granted she is my favorite (I know, shouldn’t have those), said poncho. OK came out of my mouth before I could stop myself. It’s beautiful but it took forever and I resented it the whole time. My fault, I know. But I know better now. I’ve just learned to make socks! They’re fun. My sister didn’t miss a beat. She said she’d send me her foot measurements. I replied that she should learn to make them herself. It’s ok to say no! It’s ok to enjoy what you do, just for you. It’s ok to make things you enjoy making for yourself or to give to others, should you choose. Happy holidays everyone! 💕

  38. You saved me! I have been struggling to figure out what to knit for who for holiday gift giving. First thing I’m going to do is shop for that Target bag, then take a look at my queue to see all the things I have as favorites but never get around to making. When I get ready to go out for the day the few things I have made for myself look really pathetic. Now I’m going to make sweaters and many of the delightful things I have as favorites. Many of them I found through your recommendations. Thanks for that!

    And wouldn’t you know it, today a knitting friend asked me to knit a hat for her. I offered to give her the pattern. That didn’t work, I caved but never more!

    Bless you! Study hard and knit fast!

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