Like many people during the pandemic, I turned to crafting to help pass the time. What I didn’t expect was that learning to make things for myself would also help liberate myself from capitalist, sexist, and racist views of beauty. From having to be honest with size, style, color, and the materials that go into each piece I have taken my hobby beyond a means of producing to creating intentionally in ways that help me grow as a maker.
The witch in my username is no misnomer and to me, to perform magic is to act with intention. When making a spell it’s important to listen to your gut but also be informed with the whys and hows. If I’m looking for protection, the matter of onion over rosemary is a decision based on if I want to banish the bad or attract the good. Both can work and should give the intended results but unless I consider “how” I want it to work, I still may not be fully pleased with how things turn out. All of the moving parts are important, just as lemon vs all orange is important in a desert.
I try not to buy yarn or fabric without having a project in mind, that’s my first step. It’s not a matter of self discipline or budgeting but making sure I’m setting the project and myself up for success. Most of us make sure to keep in mind the color and weight when choosing but to me, even more important is the fiber content. Fiber will tell you how it wears, how to care for it, and if you’re even going to like using it. Do I still impulse buy? Of course, sometimes things just call to you, but it’s easier to discern if you’ll use that pretty thing if you are in tune with the kinds of things that you like.
Having a project in mind helps focus your search, like looking for ingredients for a love spell vs a career spell. I know what colors, weight, and fiber content will be best suited for the finished piece. I don’t love knitting with cotton, so if a pattern is looking for yarn that is cool with drape, I try to find a yarn with enough wool, silk, or linen (or a combination of all) to offset the stiffness of cotton. It’s so simple but if I choose a yarn I actually want to work with I’m more likely to finish the piece and wear it! Which is the whole point isn’t it? That we wear the things that we make? That’s where fiber content can really make or break a yarn. As I’m writing this, I live in Colorado, summers are hot and sunny, winters are cool and dry. I love the summer and avoid being cold at all costs. The best choice for me would be a yarn that is a blend of wool, silk, and linen. If I lived in a more humid climate, I’d take wool out of the blend completely. Now not only have I picked a yarn that I will enjoy working with, I’ll actually reach for it because it’s comfortable to wear in my climate. Knowing fiber content allows you to work with the yarn or fabric instead of against it. This is what got me into spinning! You can go even deeper because specific breeds are better for different pieces. This is also why swatching is so important! I know I know, I too dread doing it but unless you want surprises it’s definitely best practice. Does that mean I swatch every project? Not if I’m very familiar with the yarn (I’m basically a savant for Malabrigo Rios) then I probably already have a finished project that will tell me how the yarn will behave in real life.
Another thing to consider, that often gets overlooked, is the longevity of the finished piece and the kind of care you are willing to do for it. I enjoy handwashing my knits, I also don’t believe I could ever hand wash my fiance’s socks to a level of satisfactory cleanliness without my hands falling off. No rinse wool wash has its place, not with socks. I love love love non superwash (NSW) yarn and if you are a person who strives to be especially eco friendly NSW yarn has the added benefit of not going through the same harsh chemical process that superwash (SW) yarn does that allows it to not shrink and felt in the washing machine. I say all this to say that you shouldn’t feel bad for using SW yarn but you should be aware of the pros and cons of both kinds of yarn. When I’m knitting for others I typically go for SW so they don’t have to worry about ruining my hard work after one wash and wear. If you don’t like gently hand washing your knits then you should absolutely go for SW yarn as well.
Making shouldn’t be hard. That’s not to say that it can’t challenge you but it shouldn’t be hard. It shouldn’t fill you with dread to pick up your project. If you feel that happening with a UFO take a second to recognize what changed. Forcing yourself to continue will not make you reach for that project to wear in the future. Make the necessary changes so you have a piece that excites you. It could be as simple as changing needles or making a different size.
It’s easy to fall into trends, even us makers. Trends tell us what is popular among the masses but it doesn’t really tell you about you. It can be hard to think about what we really like. How do we divorce what we were socialized to be from who we really are? As a little kid I thought there were colors I shouldn’t wear because my skin is brown. As an adult realizing I was nonbinary, I wished I was less curvy. I can’t change these things about me but what I can change is that way I use my clothing to embrace and share who I am. My favorite part of making is the ways we are able to express ourselves. Making, Magic, Cooking, and Baking are all based on recipes, how will you adapt the recipe to your own access, needs, and tastes?