Sticks & String

A podcast by an Australian bloke who knits.

Set it free

Why is it that most knitters give away most of what they knit? Why, after spending a decent amount of cash on yarn (or hundreds of hours spinning it yourself) and then sixty, eighty or a hundred hours knitting, blocking and sewing in ends, we then give it away.

Now I know that in the past knitting of clothes was a necessity, store-bought was either unavailable or too expensive and whole families would knit to clothe themselves and supplement their income. But that’s not the case now. If I walk into any department store, I can buy all manner of knitted goods, and if I avoid the “name” brands, I can buy them at much lower prices than I could buy the yarn. So we don’t do it to save money.

And you know, I don’t think we do it just out of love either. Now I don’t mean that we don’t love the people for whom we knit, or that we don’t knit for the people we love; but we do it for a better reason, we do it to make people happy.

We do many, many things for the people we love, out of love, but they don’t always make our loved ones happy. I am sure our parents all dutifully sent us regularly to the dentist, and paid their often exorbitant fees out of love for use, but it sure didn’t make many of us happy at the time.

Knitting is different, when we knit we aim for happiness; no one is knitting with the thought “well they’ll hate it now, but in the long run they’ll thank me for it”. No, we go for the instant happiness shot, the “wow” from the recipient as they realise how warm they’ll feel and how cool they’ll look in our gift – they’re happy and we’re happy that we’ve made a friend of loved-one happy; and we know that a little bit of that happiness will continue every time they put on the hat, gloves or jumper over the years to come.

It’s that knowledge of happiness to come that gets us through all those earlier steps. It’s fun going to the yarn shop and picking out yarn, it’s even more fun when we have a project in mind and we know who the recipent is going to be. It can even sustain us through the moment when we open the next credit card statements and realise that that number is the balance owing and not the enquiry telephone number.

I also think that it’s this happiness that enhances the meditative benefits that knitting brings. Part of the relaxing quality is the simple, repetitive steps involved, but just as important are the thoughts we have about the happiness we’ll give to the recipient.

I think happiness also explains the enormous amount of charity knitting that goes on. Of course the plight of people who have weathered a disaster, been displaced by war or just fallen on hard times can be heart wrenching, but if all you want to do is help, you can send money, it’s quick and effective; but instead (or in addition) we knit. While we knit we imagine the happiness of the refugee child in the mountains of Afghanistan as they get the blanket we are working on; or the happiness of the cancer patient whom we may never meet who finds that the hat we knitted matches their taste perfectly. Anyone can give money, we knitters can give time, creativity, love and happiness, and money can’t buy those.

In a society where so many people seem intent on spreading hate, pain and unhappiness, where so many people seem to think that they can only get ahead by walking over others, it is incumbent upon us to show the other way – we knitters feel good because we make others feel good.

So, get out there, set your knitting free to spread happiness, on scarf, hat or mitten at a time.


  1. Apart from my kids and grandkids I don’t often knit for for anyone else. But it is nice when I do knit a gift – people do seem to appreciate it a lot.

    Comment by M-H | 12 November 2006

  2. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this particular essay–it really resonated with me. I discovered your podcast through Lime ‘n Violet, and I’m so glad. Thanks for all the work you to do put out such a great podcast.

    Comment by Juls | 26 October 2007

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