Is Doing Better Than Done?

Sock Knitting Collage

I received some sympathetic comments on Instagram this week when I shared evidence of a sock being unravelled. But, honestly, I didn’t mind so much. The stitches were soon back on my needle and a heel flap magically emerging as I sat on top of the bus.

A long time ago, I realised that my joy of knitting is in the act, not the result. Honestly, if I want a knitted item that I can wear, wash, and wear again I’ll go to a shop. But for the pure meditative pleasure of creating, I knit.

Knitting in the sun

Can the same be said of sewing? I think the two acts are quite different. Or they are for me. Sewing is faster (I’m a notoriously slow knitter). I’m often sewing towards a quite distinct vision of an outfit. And sewing definitely satisfies a practical need in my wardrobe, more than knitting does. I don’t really need any shawls in my life, but I’ve knitted two. What’s that all about? The act of knitting.

sewing in chiffon

I’m not sure I have an act of sewing, though there is definite pleasure to be found in the process alone. Five years into sewing, there’s muscle memory there. Reassurance around returning to familiar processes. And, of course, there are always the clothes! But is doing better than done? Does your energy ever fade like a deflating balloon once the final stitch is in place?

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29 Responses to Is Doing Better Than Done?

  1. Jenny Lester says:

    I am a prolific knitter and yes I agree that the process of knitting is more satisfying than the result. Consequently I always have a variety of knit projects on the go. I love socks and have perfected a pair which I can now knit without reference to the pattern – toe up two together! Very handy to stuff into my bag and whip out whenever I need to – on trains or public transport journeys – in the car (obviously not when driving) waiting at the Drs and dentist or any other place where my hand are not occupied!! Husband has a large stock of handmade socks and I have a growing set of Christmas presents for friend husbands who all love them, so no need to worry how many pairs I produce. I also love shawls – these two items avoid my hatred of sewing up!!

    Sewing however is a much more planned occupation. I am lucky to have a dedicated sewing room – so I can pop in and stitch for half an hour or all day as and when the time allows without the need to set up sewing machines (yes I have 3 plus and overlocker). This year I have sewn little for myself – alterations for friends and family plus some soft furnishing projects have taken most of my sewing time, however with a fabric stash beyond life expectancy I needed to begin to reduce this pile. After your blog on Ultimate trousers I decided to take action and since then have not only completed a pair but also made a complimentary top – using TMOS purchase. My mojo is working and I now have another couple of projects in the pipeline. So no I don’t feel sad when the last stitch is complete just a desire to begin again!! The stash must be reduced as I am planning a spring trip with my sewing ladies – where to?? Well TMOS of course!! May see you there!!

  2. Anne-Marie says:

    Doing is definitely better than done! Especially with knitting – once you’re done, you have to sew the pieces together – my least favourite part of knitting. I like knitting socks two at a time on a circular needle so that when you’re done, you’re done and have a pair of socks. Sewing is more of a chore for me as I lose interest about half way through – I have lots of half-finished garments, and none of them will fit. I even found a half-made summer dress from 40 years ago, complete with rusty pin marks. So for sewing, dreaming about it is the fun for me. I love your blog, Karen, and always look forward to your thoughts and makes. Thank you.

  3. I like the thrill of the finish and with experience, as with sewing, you learn what size to knit, what yarn to use, what shapes are best so I feel like I have put in the hard work a long time ago. I get good knit results now – my problem – it gives me terrible RSI and right shoulder pain so I do it in short bursts when I want to relax. Jo x

  4. Both. I think one justifies the other, and it goes both ways 🙂 I enjoy sewing and I love seeing other sewists discover that savouring the process and taking time over the details is in and of itself enjoyable, not just trying to knock it off in a hurry. I also love to wear what I make, knowing that it fits and sits and suits me 🙂
    On the other hand, I cannot knit for tuppence. But I do enjoy it, and rarely make anything – just knitting and frogging and reknitting. Defiinitely meditative.

  5. I love it all – the doing and the done, sewing and knitting. But you are right, they all serve different moods and meet different needs of the creative process. One big plus with knitting is that if it all goes completely wrong and ends up shapeless and hideous, it can all be unravelled and re-knitted into something marvellous! But with fabric, once it’s cut, it’s cut. I have sometimes had to put unusually positioned run and fell seams into garment pieces due to an over-hasty chop. Nobody has ever noticed until I draw attention to it. As the maker you are constantly looking at the project in close up, whereas everybody else sees colour, shape and texture.
    I have just started a new knitting project. Easy dk jumper. I’m 12 rows in. Very exciting.

  6. I feel very similarly to you. Sewing is my first crafty love and I do enjoy the process – and now I am at the stage where the process is important as well as the finished item (but not as important: I love new dresses, clearly) With knitting it’s a little bit different. I love being able to knit things to wear but at least half the pleasure is the actual process of knitting. I have had to unravel the cardigan I am working on twice now, both times a fair way into the process. It makes Nic really mournful to see me do it – but I can’t see what has been unravelled as time wasted, because it wasn’t – it was time I enjoyed!

  7. What lovely thoughts about the creative processes of both knitting and sewing. I feel the same. There is something calming about knitting and something practical about sewing. Both can be very satisfying.

  8. Jen says:

    Knitting is what I do in front of the TV to zone out after a busy day. It’s not an end in itself, I do want the thing I’m knitting, even if I do have over 20 handknit jumpers and cardis already…

    I’ve only recently returned to sewing so I’m less confident, but it’s much more of a thing on its own. It needs me to devote time, concentration, space and effort and has a greater risk of disappointment. While it can be relaxing in the way it takes all of my attention, I don’t experience ‘flow’ in the same way I do when knitting.

    Plenty of room for both in my life!

  9. Deb Cameron says:

    Yes, find knitting cathartic, a place to rest my weary mind with the repetitiveness of soothing stitches, soft cosy yarn and cups of tea…bliss! Sewing on the other hand for me is all about the end product, finishing it as soon as possible to meet that creative need it now hole in my wardrobe 😉

  10. norma says:

    Doing is sometimes better than done. I don’t knit much but when I do I am very slow. Clothes usually get done quickly but my quilts can be very slow. I’ve been adding to one one quilt for 5 years. I shall miss it when it’s finished.

  11. Hélène says:

    Doing is as great as done! But to tell the truth, I often have to put away the finished make (whether it is knitted or sewn), let it sit quietly in my wardrobe so it can make friends with the rest of my things, and then I kind of rediscover it and wear it to death. It’s like I need time to cut the umbilical cord with every project!!

    I love the two pictures you’ve chosen to illustrate yourself in the making process. They totally reflect the silent peace and relaxation I personnally experience in knitting and sewing – a very addictive state of mind. Great post!

  12. Kathy says:

    I believe the doing is the best part of both. I don’t knit though really want to learn, but I do crochet. Sewing is a process that allows me to create and problem solve. The time I spend sewing is only for me and it is precious.

  13. Abigail says:

    Well said! I feel the same way about crocheting.

  14. TamsinW-P says:

    I love the doing, but equally I love having an end product that will fit me. I am struggling with my sewing at the moment, I seem to have lost my mojo somewhere. I was all fired up after the Made-up Meet up and am three quarters through a project and I just can’t seem to bring myself to finish it. I started knitting this summer as I wanted something to do whilst sittiing on the sofa recovering from operations. I have just started another cowl for one of my girls (so they don’t steal mine!) and it is very easy to sit and just knit a couple of rows here and there.

  15. Bekki Hill says:

    I think it all depends on the person and what they’re doing. I very much enjoy the process of knitting, but I also like to have the end result. In general I’m the sort of person who likes to have a tangible result to whatever I’m doing – but still there are some exceptions.

  16. LinB says:

    Process is far more important to me than product. I usually have 8-10 projects in the works, all the time, at various stages of construction. Finished items are a happy result of that labor — or even a lagniappe, when I can eke out one more mix-and-match item from my scraps. The mind-state of meditative action is much the same for either sewing or knitting, for me. I can get equally lost in either activity.

  17. smittenness says:

    I love the process of sewing, completely love it. If I’m sewing for myself, I slow down towards the end because I don’t want it to be over. I procrastinate over buttons and hems so I can draw out the process. Any type of yarn craft takes me forever, I enjoy it but if I never finished a piece, it wouldn’t bother me at all.

  18. redsilvia says:

    I knit and live in California where I have little to no need for warm sweaters and wool socks. Do I make them anyway? Yes indeed.

    My sewing is now tending towards things I wear (jeans, tees, pajamas, cute casual dresses). There’s the difference, I sew things I use and knit things I rarely use/need because I enjoy it. Why the difference – no idea.

  19. It is an interesting question. Pondering which is the important one for me all day. When something you make is absolutely right for you that is such a satisfying feeling. So often though I finish something and think yes, I like it but the fit isn’t quite right or I really made a pockle of the collar. But I always love the focus when I am making something. So I guess the doing is more satisfying than the done.

  20. Talya says:

    I am very much a process knitter. Mainly because the majority of the items I used to knit were for me. Sure- they’d end up with someone else, but that was usually because they saw it and wanted it, and I knew I could always knit another. I always experienced a little bit of sadness when I reached the bind off. The experience was almost done.

    However I think I’m becoming a bit of a hybrid. I’ve given away a lot of things that I made this year, and the excitement of knowing that something is going to a good home, is almost as fun as knitting it.

    Plus- next year I plan to focus on adding more knitwear into my wardrobe, so I’m less reliant on commercial-wear. So I’ll be able to experience both the joy of knitting it AND the joy of wearing it.

    • LinB says:

      The best gifts are the ones you want to keep for yourself! You end up giving away a piece of yourself with the gift, which is the whole point of a gift, anyway, isn’t it? And you’re right, you can almost always make another for yourself.

  21. brendamarksstudio says:

    I like to knit, too, but I haven’t had success with many knitting pattern/yarn combos. I think it would take a while to learn this skill (like pairing fabric & patterns). My recent epiphany was to knit a long tube of wool yarn which I will felt and cut up to make a jacket. I’m doing meditative knitting and sewing in one project. Win for me!

  22. Hello Karen! I’m a relatively new reader, but I did what I do with blogs that really draw me in: I’ve read yours backwards to around page 90-something. So, not all of it, but quite a lot. Thank you very much for your witty writing, for sharing your makes, opinions, and also for not hiding things that went wrong because talking about mistakes is so valuable.

    I hope that preface wasn’t too long. The gist is: thank you! 🙂

    I’m new to sewing but I’ve been a rather, um, driven knitter for a few years now. I’ve knitted up quite the sweater wardrobe for myself and I have more shawls than I’m able to wear simply because they make for great projects (that’s probably because I don’t bother with swatching for shawls and just dive in). Knitting entered my life in a rather bleak time when I was feeling very overwhelmed and its meditative quality eased the stress I was otherwise very bad at dealing with. I still knit but I slowed down in the frenzy of making. I treat it less like an escape now and more like a part of my life. In other words, I established a rhythm. That, and I also sated my need for handmade knits somewhat, I guess.

    I’m continually amazed at how different sewing is for me. Like you said, it’s faster — even for a person who considers themself slow at it. And I think the focus on the work takes a different form. The other aspect of it that actually bothers me a bit is how messy it is. I don’t have a dedicated sewing space, so setup and cleanup take up time. And my house is now basically a not very interesting mystery all about thread (how did this piece get here? do I even own thread in that color? why aren’t even the bookcases safe?). It’s not enough to stop me from sewing but I wish I could find a way to contain the problem a bit better.

    Sorry for how long this comment turned out! I really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on knitting and sewing!

  23. Your posts are so thought-provoking! I’m not a knitter (yet) but I can see it as a more meditative process than sewing. Maybe because the only “machine” used is one’s own two hands? I’d love to give it a try, but will get my sewing skills back before moving on to something new. So entertaining reading through all the comments.

  24. Amie M says:

    I’m the same. Doing is my meditation. I am always knitting things I love in patterns I love, but I already don’t need those things. It’s more to challenge myself in a new stitch or construction technique. I tuck some of the things aside for someone’s birthday, Christmas, or Just Because.

    Sewing, I have an end goal in mind, and I want to get there NOW. It is about the product not the process.

  25. Alison says:

    OMG you are my making twin. 😀

  26. I am really enjoying reading everyone’s comments on your post, Karen. Knitting for me is something that I take on the train to pass the time. I love to knit but am really not very good so I only produce simple scarfs that I tend not to wear, or at least not very often. Do you think that sewing seems more detached, as the machine is really doing a lot of the work, even though we have cut and pinned and patterned? Knitting needles feel more like extensions of our hands and by our movements we are turning something a bit abstract (the wool) into some tangible form. Either way I love doing both. They keep me sane. Xx

  27. Melody A. says:

    Love reading your blog, I think the DOING is better than the done, for it is the act of creating, although both are good for the soul. We can look at the lovely product we have made from our own hands and marvel that WE made that, it is part of the fabric of our life and adds to it.
    Thank you for such a lovely informative blog. I enjoy reading all your writing.

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