Do you prefer Sewing to Knitting?

Do you knit and sew? Not everyone does. Until the middle of last year I was basically a seamstress who liked wearing knitted items, looking at knitting, reading about knitting, and thinking about knitting, but who had never actually done any knitting. But once I realised I could, with sufficient encouragement and support, make clothes I have to admit I was hooked.

Two weeks ago I made a new clothes making plan. 

In summary I said I would knit four items

  • An Ankestrick Heavenly sweater
  • An Ankestrick Holsten sweater
  • Finish my Fara Raglan
  • Make a jersey for myself from the left over green cashmere yarn

And I would sew four items (five actually as the last is trousers and a jacket)

  • Red Burda coat
  • Burda summer dress
  • Cord trousers with the Style Arc Talia pattern
  • Alexander McQueen suit

Progress so far has been one knitted and one sewn item, so it looks like, for me, they are evenly balanced.

But that would be the wrong conclusion! I have two half finished jumpers now. The Fara (no progress) and the green cashmere. I decided to make another Heavenly – partly because I like the style. But also just to see what happens when you make the same item in a different yarn. Although the Lang and the Colourmart yarns are both 100 per cent cashmere double knit they are very different creatures. The Lang is soft and fragile. The Colourmart is strong, a little stringy, not very cashmere-like in terms of feel. But I enjoyed borrowing Gus’s poloneck in this yarn so I think I will enjoy wearing it. The style of jumper allows it to be worn over a T shirt or blouse so I think it will be versatile for me. I prefer this sort of scooped neck line on T shirt or jersey. I am enjoying knitting something for the second time as it allows me to relax even more and also to avoid some of the mistakes I made first time round (although I made new ones!).

So what of my sewing plans? The Talias were a bit of a pain, and didn’t proceed as expected. They took a few weeks to complete. I have the fabric I need for at least the coat and the suit. I also have the three patterns I need for the sewn items but have not even printed out the Burda’s or opened the Vogue. Why? I am not sure but here are my reflections.

  • Right now I am still very excited about knitting. I need to be enthusiastic to compete a task that I don’t have to do.
  • I am happy to knit simple things – I am a beginner so I am making fairly easy things that don’t need much fitting.
  • Style-wise I am not that keen on the dressmaking equivalent – the Jiffy/Beginner/Easy pattern. Not that I am a snob – I just feel I could buy a T shirt/baggy dress – when making clothes I want a good fit and a stand out design. This is much more challenging to make and requires a fair degree of concentration.
  • Previously I welcomed more challenging work – drafting or draping a pattern. At the moment I prefer stocking stitch – with circular needles, and with a TNT! I want to be on auto-pilot.
  • I think I have a bit too much on at the moment in terms of work – a huge project looms – and I want to crash out a bit in the evenings
  • My weekend routine has been smashed – but in a good way. I am travelling to the country (three to four hours in a train or car each weekend), and then basing myself in a place without a proper sewing area (yet). At the moment I want to sit in our lovely sitting room and knitting or reading seems more harmonious with my environment than going into the back room and doing “industrial” type work.
  • Maybe for me sewing is more like work, and knitting more like leisure.

Do you have different feelings about your clothes making activities? What do you like doing best? Do you make clothes for recreation or challenge? Or other reasons?

39 Responses

  1. Good afternoon from sunny – and muggy – Melbourne! This is a great question from my point of view because I always like to know the WHY of things, plus it really goes to the heart of what motivates us. Mine is creative, I need to make/create, always have done. But I like practical things, so clothes, hats, scarves, mittens and so forth are my preferences, although I have made the occasional cross stitch or whatnot thingy and I am a mean quilter (although I must admit that my daughter has been married three years and I still haven’t started ‘the wedding quilt’). I like creating items that I can do while doing something else: sitting with the with family or watching tv, dressmaking is more of a solitary pursuit (especially with my level of distractedness). As a teenager I used to sit with my legs draped over the armchair, watching tv, knitting, and reading a book during ad breaks. Talk about multi tasking! My mother taught me to knit when I was a child (I think I asked) and I used to hand sew dolly clothes, then later I was taught dressmaking at secondary school. I always found dressmaking a bit disappointing as the items never turned out as expected, which seems to bother me more than knitting and other creative pursuits. I choose not to make many clothes for that reason, although I did make a lot before the children multiplied, plus I am impatient, want it done quickly and mistake-free; hate HATE unpicking. I really admire your interest in learning new techniques and your stickability, Kate!

    • I have never made a garment that didn’t have some mistakes in it Kerry. And when I was learning I threw out lots and lots of things. There are mistakes in my knitting too. Maybe that is why I can keep going – luckily I wasn’t born with a perfectionist gene!

  2. I find sewing therapeutic and an afternoon in front of my Baby Bernina is sure to put me in a good mood. My knitting is terrible but I could crochet the Eiffel Tower and I cannot watch a tv programme without having my latest project on my lap.
    What I admire you for is your lack of any fear of failure. You seem to dive in to new projects and if they don’t work out then nothing is lost. I would love to be more like that.

  3. An interesting post. Thinking why some creative projects excite and other don’t, for me it is down to functionality. I need the things I make to be ultimately useful or needed rather than just because. Mind you having said I’ve a set of much needed curtains to finish that I put off every time!! You’ve said before that your work/professional wardrobe is quite full, maybe your new weekend lifestyle needs more warm, casual items so you are drawn to that. And if that means you can enjoy being with Nick and the ‘view’ and have a bit of mental downtime after the demands of work so much the better.

    • I have functional sewing that is absolutely at the back of the queue too! I believe this topic is actually rather complicated and involves lots of feelings and emotions, habits, preferences and history. Thank you Jenny, as ever, for your perceptive and kind remarks.

  4. They’re different skills that fulfil needs. What you’ve discovered is a way to satisfy your drive to be productive that fits your lifestyle, perhaps it’s more selective than preference.

    I like the tactile process of knitting, handling and manipulating yarn and seeing the results but I’m impatient and often lose interest, sewing is quicker and more precise and I like that more but I feel the same joy in completed works of both. I find the processes of the two skills satisfying in the short term and if it ends successfully that’s a bonus, for me it’s more about the journey not the destination.

  5. Jenny Lark

    I love all things crafty – sewing, knitting, jewellery making, quilting, embroidery. I need to be making something all the time and with 4 little girls to make for I have plenty to keep me busy. I have much more success with sewing for children but my fitting skills are improving, thanks to online courses. I damaged my muscles by knitting too much when all the girls started arriving but after a couple of years I am now producing again and hopefully this time will take more care of myself, although it is difficult as I am so in love with knitting. I love embroidery, much to my surprise, now that I have discovered modern designs but I don’t want to fill my home with embroidered items so don’t do this at the moment. The same goes for quilting. I have made everybody quilts now and don’t want to just make them for the sake of it. In other words, I don’t want to make anything unless it has a definite use. I do have a large basket full of scarves and shawls however. You can’t have too many!

    • As you know with my sewing I have already reached peak wardrobe. I think my knitting enthusiasm is because I have quite a few not very thrilling old RTW sweaters just asking to be chucked out so I can replace them with beautiful hand knits. Thanks for your interesting comments Jenny and I hope your hands improve.

  6. I sew for 49 weeks a year (give or take a few weeks for holidays etc). However, for the three weeks of July when the Tour de France is on, I become a knitter. The broadcast of the tour starts at about 10pm here in Australia, and it’s in the middle of winter here, so I sit under a blanket, in front of the fire, enjoy the view of French countryside and knit. If I don’t finish the item I’m knitting during the Tour, it waits until next year, because once the Tour is over, I lose interest in knitting. I don’t really need that many knitted items anyway, because our winters are short, sharp and not that cold. Works for me!

    • What a funny story Paola. Are you knitting a yellow jersey? Even year, for as long as I can remember, my mother dedicated herself to Wimbledon on the TV. No one was welcome to visit, she didn’t pick up the phone, and she lay on the sofa and just absorbed the sport.

  7. I used to do a fair amount of machine knitting. Hand knitting is quite therapeutic, like crochet you can sit in front of the tv or take it on the train. I’m bad at doing tension swatches though – so you can see where this is going. I’m not keen on sewing basics, but love fabrics, and like to try out different pattern ideas. This conflicts with what I can actually wear or need.

    • I have only done a few swatches – I prefer to just give it a go. I am experimenting at the moment Jay with making a jumper twice with different yarns. I will measure the results and write it up for those swatch-haters. I hardly ever pre-wash either….I guess I am the impulsive type.

  8. Stephanie

    I agree with Jenny – love everything to some extent. I understand what you mean about knitting, as often for me it’s also a “turn off” thing that I do in the evenings when it’s cold, I’ve got something in the oven and the kitchen is warm and I can sit at the table listening to the radio news. It has the added bonus that I feel more certain that I’ll have a wearable garment at the end than I do with sewing, although I find I love sewing and once I get back into it I’m happy to do that, too. Maybe because I’ve been knitting for so long I’m not usually interested in doing endless stocking stitch for hours at a time, although right now I’m really loving Icelandic style sweaters so I’m enjoying the circular st st in that context, knowing that I’ll get to the patterned yoke. The good thing about knitting though is that when you are in more of a mood to make a time-consuming garment there are plenty of challenge projects to take on. I want to make an old-fashioned aran or gansey this summer. Cabling is easy but it’s much more time-consuming, you have to pay more attention, and it’s harder on the hands, so it’s a much bigger commitment. I also like making small accessories and items like socks, so one can take on a more varied knit without greatly lengthening the time to a completed garment. I sometimes don’t mind knitting with no end in sight, and even leave garments unfinished (i.e. I just enjoy the process), but sometimes also get into the mode of wanting the instant gratification of an easy knit. At least we live in countries where jumpers are always wanted! It’s good to have the option of switching between hobbies to suit where you are.

    • Good point Stephanie – we actually need jumpers. I am always cold. And while I love making and wearing summer clothes I guess the dresses – worn on their own without a jacket, tights and jumper – only get four weeks wear a year (optimistically). I hadn’t actually worked this out before!

  9. I think that the two activities complement each other well. When sewing became my job, I didn’t want to spend all my spare time in the studio too, but I still wanted to make things, so knitting became more important. Also, it’s something I can do and still be with my people. Now that all my sewing is for me, it just depends on my mood. Some days I want to get stuck in to a juicy sewing project, and some days I want to sit on the couch watching Netflix and going round and round on a pair of socks.

    • This sounds so nice – socks and Netflix. At the moment, in the country, we don’t have the internet, so no Netflix for me. We investigated the usual TV programmes and even with hundreds of programmes to choose from there is nothing to watch.

  10. I’m not nearly as productive as you, in terms of hours put in as well as speed, I suppose. So when I work on a sewing project, I knit less (or not at all) and vice versa. Also, I find knitting very relaxing and sewing not at all, it’s like work to me, but I like the result, so I do it when I have the energy. On holiday, or to be social (I can’t sew and hold a conversation!), I knit! Love your blog, love your clothes 🙂

    • Uta, thank you so much. I don’t think I am a particularly fast knitter. I probably put quite a lot of hours in. But I agree that it can be very relaxing. My day job is mentally challenging so the switching into a different gear really appeals to me.

  11. I have tried to learn to knit, which for me is like crawling on gravel. Give me sewing anytime!

  12. Sewing is quicker (and I like the idea about more precise – there are fewer moving parts in sewing, and I can control them better) but I can’t take my sewing with me. When the kids were small and had lots of afterschool whatevers (and trying to remember them, ‘whatever’ is the word that comes to mind) that I had to take them to, I could bring my knitting and seem engaged and get something done that kept me awake. I did have a few sweaters that smelled like a chlorine pool, but that fades quickly. Perri Klass wrote a fine article (for Threads I believe, remember those days?) about knitting during college lectures and recognizing how much better her attention was while she knit.

    Sadly, knitting and my CTS don’t play well together. And the moths have made lunch of most of the hats in the drawer.

    • You have put your finger on two things there. I find knitting is something I can easily do when I am doing something else, although I have to report that my mother can be a little jealous of the knitting. In the days before mobile devices knitting and hand sewing were things women could do to seem, as you say “engaged” without having to be fully and perhaps boringly present. Also I find it is easier to hold my tongue if I am doing something else. I don’t think my attention is better while knitting. In fact if I try to follow a TV programme I can go wrong with the knitting. But I have found podcasts rather useful.

  13. I sew and knit for recreation and for the challenge. I find knitting more therapeutic and more restful, when I need that kind of activity, and easier mentally than sewing – most of the time. With knitting, I can sit in one place and just knit. Sewing means sitting at a task chair in front of the SM, clipping, trimming, getting up to press, repeat these steps multiple times. But now I find I don’t have the drive or concentration to do the other side of the short row shaping on my Terra Cotta pullover, as I need to refer to instructions and photos to do the albeit brief few rows of German short rows which is new to me. On the weekend, instead of doing this and then being able to get on with the easy knitting, I traced the pattern and cut out the pieces for a denim jumper, just because I needed to do something creative. Maybe this evening, I will turn off the TV and get the short rows done, as I need to carefully think through my altered construction and top-stitching sequence to ensure I end up with functional pockets on the jumper

    • This is good advice, and feedback. I have a simple jumper and a more challenging one on the go. I am avoiding the harder one at the moment, but as you say there is a time for everything. Sometimes knitting or sewing can be an avoidance activity for something else we ought to be doing. Other times we do things to avoid the sewing or knitting!

  14. I don’t seem to advance from slow and laborious knitting; altho I like the IDEA of knitting ( and buying yarn, love to buy yarn!) a lot the actual process is more trouble than satisfaction. Lately my sewing has been pretty unsuccessful too, I am due for a really great project soon…..or I need to improve my effort and attention a bit. Just now in travel mode I’m not doing either and have delusions of productivity to come.

    ceci

    • I always love your comments Ceci. You are so funny. The idea of knitting appealed to me long before I actually did it! Also, to be honest, the idea of sewing is often more appealing than actually doing it. Maybe that is why so many of us have a pile of fabric and patterns that we may never use. Travelling is a wonderful mode to be in. Lucky you.

  15. I prefer sewing though my knitting machine is waiting, ready to go when I am. Sewing or knitting machines don’t lend themselves to being social on the whole, I feel. I used to handknit but fear my hands are too sore these days. I preferred cables, Aran jumpers etc – I found stocking stitch too boring. I never did master the ability not to look at my knitting. Hand knitting, cross stitch etc are certainly more portable.

    • Yes the portability is a big factor. I can just stuff it in my bag in case I am held up somewhere or forget my newspaper. I would love to have a go at machine knitting one day.

  16. I find knitting more relaxing, and certainly more sociable as I rarely have people come into my sewing room ‘socially’ (although that may change now I’m not sewing for clients). I believe knitting to be less pressure too as the results can be undone and remade if not as expected – not always possible with cloth.
    (I was told at Colour Mart that the yarn may soften and ‘fluff up’ for a few washes after knitting until all the dressing was removed).

    • Yes – good point. I hadn’t really realised this before I started knitting, but of course it is so recyclable. Even if it is a complete mess it can be returned to its raw material with very little damage. Thanks Kim!

  17. Sewing vs. Knitting? Sewing for me! I don’t have a lot of extra time in my life, so I can really only indulge in one hobby at a time. I agree with some of the other commenters, I also only sew out of need (mostly) and I currently stick to simpler patterns and projects. This fits my personal sartorial style and contributes to the relaxation aspect. RTW doesn’t fit me well,even t-shirts. I try to pick one or two areas of sewing to challenge me periodically to keep me interested but not overwhelmed.

    Knitting is on my to-do list however! Or maybe crochet. In a year or two, or maybe for next year’s SWAP!

    • The thing is, when you have young children, there is hardly any time for anything. I remember feeling completely exhausted. Knitting in particular requires a relaxed state of mind and hands without tension in them. I knitted last night while I baby sat the kids and felt like a traditional grandma – knitting quietly in the background while I watched them play together.

  18. I definitely make clothes for challenge. Sewing my own clothes is actually incredibly more expensive than my previous way of sourcing clothes i.e. car boot sales and charity shops. Prior to sewing I considered paying £3 for a coat too expensive! Sewing and knitting are equivalents for me (I have too many things I want to make without the time) – but what what gives me respite and peace of mind is gardening these days.

  19. My problem is I don’t seem to be able to run the sewing and knitting projects along side each other. During the nearly 4 months of knitting the cable jumper I only sewed up one item, quite a straightforward knit top.
    I’ve since started knitting a jumper for my daughter and again not much sewing can get done, I’m slowly stitching up a shirt.
    I think I find the knitting just more relaxing and it’s so easy to pick up and put down. Also I just want to get the knitting finished. I have less than a week to go on the jumper but tonight I’m planning on making some progress on the shirt before I sit down to knit.
    Even though I gave up the RTW fast over a year ago I still buy hardly any items of clothing and I have noticed the lack of choice in my wardrobe over the winter. I’ve really got into knitting so I need to find away to balance the projects.

  20. I was interested to read your comments on the Colourmart cashmere and the one you bought being a bit stringy. The previous week I had spent ages trying to decide whether to get some cashmere from Colourmart, first there was the difficulty in trying to understand the count thicknesses and then much of it had been spun with a tight twist for weaving. Perhaps you happened to get one of those. Finishing up I gave up on it and bought some Drops Baby Alpaca and Silk, last night I started the pattern on Ravelry called ‘lightweight pullover’ Hannah Fettig, the yarn is lovely to knit with and the stocking stitch seems to even itself out beautifully.

    I’m enjoying reading your knitting and sewing adventure.

    Cynthia

    • Thank you Cynthia. The colourmart yarn is not particularly soft, but it is nice and not at all itchy. I have also used that Drops baby alpaca with silk and it is lovely. My Fara raglan is made from it – I must pick that up this weekend.

Leave a Reply