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I had an email “conversation” with Mim yesterday that I found to be really interesting.

Mim was debating blocking a sock because she was concerned that it was lumpy. I left her a comment saying that the lace socks that I’ve knit have been just fine once I’ve worn them so I don’t bother blocking them. The *ahem* ampleness of my leg *ahem* seems to spread out the lace just fine. However, Mim then pointed out that these socks are being knit for someone other than herself and therefore they can not be lumpy.

Hunh. Socks for someone else cannot be lumpy. Socks for self can be lumpy. And that’s when I realized that I would do the same thing. When I’m knitting for myself, I sort of wing it. With socks, mittens, whatever it is, I just don’t really worry about perfection when it’s for me. And yet, when I’m knitting for someone else, suddenly the goal is absolute perfection. There can be no wonkiness in the thumb increases of a gifted mitten. Socks must match perfectly. Sweater seams must be flawless and shawls must be blocked to within an inch of their lives.

What’s up with this? Why, oh why, do we (well, Mim and I, anyway) consider something knit for ourselves to be substandard? Does this mean we don’t value ourselves enough to strive for perfection in the knitted items we keep?

Oh, this sock is just for me, I don’t care if the stripes line up.

Or is it that we’re trying to garner recognition for the importance of our knitting?

Look at this perfect sock I knit for you! I know you could buy one for a fraction of the cost but isn’t this amazing? Of course it’s worth my time to create something that’s so much better than store bought.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and really wondering what it means about myself as a knitter and a person. I’d love to hear what you all think about this topic!

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Sorry I can’t help you. I’m plagued with the perfectionism thing whenever I make anything. That’s a different topic for discussion! 😉

  2. I’m in the same boat as Jan. And since I rarely knit for others – I’m a selfish perfectionist – I don’t know how I’d proceed there.

  3. But see, you forgot the “I don’t need it to be THAT perfect becuase they aren’t a knitter and won’t know the difference!”


  4. If your just taking a shortcut, like not blocking a sock, then no big deal. But if you ARE making subpar items for self you might be in a hurry to show them off. In either case do what makes you happy and always love yourself most;-)

  5. Oh yeah, I’m exactly the same way. When knitting for loved ones I’ll make myself nuts trying to make sure the finished product is as close to perfect as I have the ability to make it. For me…uh…I’m happy if I finish it.

  6. I have had the same exact thought. I too get much more lax when knitting “just” for myself. If I’m knitting for others (I must say others here means outside my immediate family – I am lax with stuff for them too!) then I take the time to fix this or that, even if its something small I’d let go for myself.

    For me, I think it is less about devaluing ourselves (in my case, my whole family!) and more about not knowing the giftees tolerance for imperfection. I know it won’t drive ME crazy if that stitch is twisted a little funky, but how about the recipient? Will he or she care/notice/take it personally that I left it less than perfect? Better to be on the safe side.

    Thats how I think of it –

  7. For me, the perfection level for others isn’t so much that I knit substandard items for me. I like to “wing it” and there many things that just don’t bother me in a finished item. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how I knit all the time regardless of intended victim.

  8. I have the same thought, but I’m often able to move past it. I knit a felted bag for my SIL’s birthday last year and it felted wonky. It felted so fast that by the time I checked on it (during the first wash, before the first spin), it had some serious folds felted in. I got those more or less ripped apart, but in the end the bag was shorter on one side and had thicker felted spots. It still looked cool – but not if symmetry was one of your goals.

    I apologized like crazy when I gave it to her… and yet she loves the bag and uses it all the time. Even in summer, when I personally wouldn’t want to be lugging around a felted wool item.

    It made me think about my perceptions as a knitter.

  9. Guilty. I block socks I knit for others but have never blocked a sock for myself. And mostly because of the time involved…I don’t feel the need to wash and block them and make them perfect for me since I knit them. I lived with them, knit them and know where all their warts are—I just want them on my feet.

  10. I think being more accepting of one’s own imperfections in an item has to do with actually being a knitter…we realize that mistakes are inevitibe and that sometimes ripping out three inches of finished work to fix one stitch just isn’t worth it. However, when knitting for non knitters who might not realize the headache of fixing something, we may just be worrried they’ll think less of the item because of a slight imperfection???

  11. Knitting for others makes me a little neurotic. Especially if I’m knitting for someone I’ve never met. Especially for another knitter. I mean, I like a thing to turn out well no matter who it’s for and rip like a fiend for obvious mistakes. But if there is a mistake 12 inches back that you can’t see, I’m probably not fixing it. Unless the object is for another knitter. Then I obsess about the least little thing, because she’ll KNOW I’m lazy or inattenive and that the object isn’t Worthy. I may be a little pathetic that way.

  12. I’m a perfectionist on just about everything knitting, but I have rarely blocked socks for myself (once I think), but I do wash them. On the other hand, a sock, especially a lace one, doesn’t achieve its full beauty until worn or blocked. When I give a pair as a gift I want the receiver to have something beautiful coming out of the wrapping. Less about my knitting and more about giving.

  13. I was thinking about it too after the “conversation” and I realized that I do it because I can be accepting of imprefections in myself and I am on a regular basis… but others seeing imperfections in me is less acceptable, because they may or may not think less of me. If these socks had been for my sister I would have just said “Hey, when you put them on they’ll look better” because I know she accepts my imperfections and loves me anyway, but since they’re for my supervisor at work and she’s paying me for them, I’m neurotic about whether or not she will want more later or if she will tell everyone that handknit socks are awesome and worth the price. It’s more my reputation as a knitter-for-pay that is on the line. So I’m rather nervous about it.

  14. see, i would block the sock in question if i were giving it as a gift because it would be all about presentation. i just finished a baby afghan — and it’s far from perfect, i should have probably resewn the squares better, etc — but if i were just making an afghan for me, i would have thrown it on the bed as is. but since i’m giving it as a gift, it will get washed properly and reblocked.

    so i’m generous with my knitting (i knit for others most of the time) but laziness gets the best of me most of the time.

  15. I guess I’m still too new at this – I’ve never knit socks for anyone but myself at this point. However, I do have a problem with being an over-compensating perfectionist when it comes to stuff I’ve knit for others.

  16. I think it’s ok. There are times when our knitting is about giving someone something because we care about them and times when our knitting is about relaxation or learning or just plain functionality. I think it’s normal to want to give a gift that is as good as we can craft it. I also think it’s normal to want to relax a little when it’s just for us. I don’t think of it as substandard, I think of it as a sliding scale of standards that we get to adjust whenever we feel like it.

  17. I think it’s ok. There are times when our knitting is about giving someone something because we care about them and times when our knitting is about relaxation or learning or just plain functionality. I think it’s normal to want to give a gift that is as good as we can craft it. I also think it’s normal to want to relax a little when it’s just for us. I don’t think of it as substandard, I think of it as a sliding scale of standards that we get to adjust whenever we feel like it.

  18. Sock blocking itself is pretty much an unnecessary thing, as far as I’m concerned, unless I’m gifting the socks. Then I put them on sock blockers and tie them up with a pretty bow and one of Kristi’s custom made tags because presentation is everything when it comes to gifts.

    My knitting itself, though, is just as good for someone else as it is for me. I’m a perfectionist and will frog things back until I’m happy with them. I love being this way with my knitting because there are so few other things in life that I actually have the opportunity to re-do if I don’t like the way they come out. It’s a freedom, rather than a restriction, although I know how odd that sounds.

  19. This is why I ONLY knit for people that will appreciate it! I just make sure all of the ends are tucked away. THEY don’t know how to knit a sock so why would they criticize?

    If they give you the “I could buy socks at WalMart.” line, then they deserve the stinking $1.99 socks from WalMart.

    But I knit with love and DAMN IT, they better love me back! (Oh, puleeze love me back. I’m so needy!) 😉

  20. Yeah, I do that too. I don’t care if MY socks don’t match, or there’s pooling all over the place, but dammit, they gotta behave and look really good if they’re going to someone else.
    I think it’s because I know they know that I’ve been knitting for a long time, and I don’t want them to think that I suck at it.
    But–I don’t block anything for anybody. That’s just an extra step that I don’t like to take. It’s the lazy-ass knitter in me. 😉

  21. I’ve thought about this also. I came to the conclusion that other people I kniw for are non-knitters, and they will compare my handknit to store bought articles. If my knitting is lumpy, slightly wonky, etc, then they will come away with the impression that hand knit articles are wonky, lumpy etc, even if it evens out after wearing or washing. So, I try to even it out and make it look as good as it is going to get before I give it to them to avoid giving the wrong impression.

  22. I think it simply means that you don’t worry when you knit for yourself because you know you won’t be so critical of the end project, but when we knit for someone else we want them to have the very best. It’s a gift of all the things that are best about friendship, those perfect little wrappings, the stitches of perfection. I don’t think its that you think you deserve less at all. Otherwise, we’d all go around in bathrobes and house slippers!

  23. I call this the “burnt cookie syndrome”!

    Ever stand at the stove and eat the rejects so the family can have the “good” cookies?

    I think most women have an innate desire to give the best to others. We’ll eat the burnt cookie, or make sure to take the chipped dinner plate, or grab the bent fork. It figures that we’d want the socks for others to be perfect, as well!

    I don’t think it’s that we don’t value ourselves, or that we are necessarily afraid for others to see our imperfections. I like to think it’s more that we actually enjoy making things special and since that isn’t always possible, we choose to lessen our standards on ourselves. It’s a compromise that’s not too hard to accept because we know that if we really want to, we can choose to be fussy for ourselves – anytime!

  24. Well, I don’t really knit for other people much, though when I was knitting a sweater for the nephew I was very self concious that it be up to SIL’s standards, as she is a very fine knitter.

    But I mostly can’t stand it when things aren’t right, so I redo them until they are.

    Perhaps this is why I don’t finish much…..

    But no, I wouldn’t generally (never say never) accept a standard for myself that I wouldn’t also consider giftable.

    But an (ex) friend once looked at me and asked why I always had to do the best I could on things. Apparently it made her feel inadequate. So what do I know.

  25. you are so right carole, I “practice ” a pattern and keep it for me then knit again a perfect one as gift. eg; cute little cable knit hat. sharon

  26. Perhaps I am more anal than even I realized!

    If washing a pair of socks and laying them on my blocking board and patting them neatly into shape is “blocking” then I am guilty of treating EVERY sock I knit the same way, whether it’s for me, a friend and/or fellow knitter!

    Actually, that step is, to me, one of the best parts about knitting…I love to see the stitches bloom with washing, and even out and then see the sock at it’s peak of perfection on the blocking board…yup, anal, that’s me 🙂

  27. Interesting post and comments! I think it might have something to do with the fact that we enjoy the process as much as the final product. If I have socks that don’t match or one sleeve is longer than the other on my sweater, I’m not really going to notice because 80% of the rewards came while I was making the sweater.

    Of course it’s great to have a totally perfect finished object, but if I enjoyed the process, that is a big part of it too.

    When we make things for others and they have nothing to judge but the final product, maybe we are more critical about making it flawless. (I’m guilty of it, too).

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