random thoughts

sufjan stevens knitting

My boyfriend used to ask me to sew up holes in his clothes and reattach buttons that fell off. I refused because I think people should know some basic sewing skills by the time they reach a certain age, regardless of gender or even background. Just stuff like reattaching buttons and maybe simple alterations to hem or sleeve lengths.

Last time I went to visit him I offered him some tips on sewing buttons so he could reattach them himself. (Advice to readers: don’t buy Atticus clothing) His (male) housemate saw us sitting around doing this little impromptu sewing seminar and decided to join in, because he had some fraying jacket sleeves that needed touching up and wanted tips.

The weird thing about teaching crafts or textile stuff to men is that about halfway through the lesson they decide that they already know whatever you’re showing them how to do. They argue with you or get sceptical about your techniques. That’s not a complaint or a sleight against men, just a funny thing that seems to crop up quite often in my experience.


I love Sufjan Stevens’ point in the little blurb above about “real people making real things with their hands”. It’s very Death Of A Salesman, but also I think it’s interesting and profound in an age where the internet is presented as this amazing tool of democratisation. Like, it’s great that the internet allows people to promote their music or art or writing (hi) and get that stuff seen on a scale that they probably couldn’t have managed before. It would be unpleasantly obstinate to say that any of that stuff is not “real”. But crafts of any kind (not just knitting and sewing) can be a private thing that you do only for yourself and maybe having secrets is more important now because sharing has become the default and keeping things for yourself is the more unusual choice. This has as much to do with the culture of celebrity as it does with the internet though. I mean, you can become famous just for instagramming or tumbling enough things that people like.

Of course if you’re so inclined you can sign up to Ravelry Dot Com and share your knitting projects and patterns with knitters all over the world. It’s a wonderful resource and I’ve spent ages browsing patterns on there, although ultimately I had to delete my Ravelry account. I knitted my grandma two jumpers and posted those projects, but then she died and it just made me sad that those were the only two completed projects on my Ravelry page (account?). I wouldn’t say that particularly soured me on social networking but it made me so happy to see Grandma in jumpers that I knitted for her and looking at the handful of comments I got for those pictures just made me bitter and sad.

If you’re writing songs with Garageband or a blog with WordPress (hi) or making art on Photoshop, obviously that’s fantastic and creative and is arguably still a craft if not an art. I’m not the type to unequivocally slag off anything new-fangled because I don’t think progression or devolution are linear, but crafts/working with your hands/”making real things”/techne?, it all requires such a different kind of creativity and approach to problems that it can only complement your primary artistic pastime or career.

A lot of us react to writer’s block by trying to restrain the infinite possibilities we have when it comes to sticking one word in front of the other. I mean, if I wanted to I could devote the entirety of the rest of this post to a story about prisons for sharks. A lot of techniques intended to solve writer’s block involve forcing yourself to write on one topic.

Too much choice can be crippling and sometimes knitting or sewing or model-making can be refreshing because it’s so limiting. When you’re knitting something really repetitive it can give you a lot of space to think, which is nice. You have to work through it because you can’t copy and paste a line of stitches. God, I sound like a cranky old lunatic, no wonder Sufjan kept it so concise.

But making things is cool.


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3 Responses to random thoughts

  1. Elephant says:

    I enjoyed reading this – too true about men – agree about crafts – extends to being “handy” about using tools and fixing things your self at least a bit. Sorry about your grandmother – I’m sure the sweaters brought her joy!

    • Oh, absolutely, about handiness and using tools! I wrote another paragraph about how my dad loves fixing up cars, but ended up deleting it. It’s cool, I’m not really interested in cars or Airfix kids but I think it helps us relate to each other in a more abstract way.


      • Elephant says:

        Wow! I can no longer even consider a car . . . I never knew more than tires! But I do think a person should have a few tools and know a few things about the house. It was really great when Dads could fix cars.

        Don’t delete things you write – think again – it is a real past, present, cultural divide, maybe a passive aggressive divide – people who can torque a screwdriver as opposed to those who can’t!

        Some people are very proud that they can’t do anything with tools – a strange and dim witted thing to be proud of – oh well to live in the haze of no-can-do . . that is now!

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