Sewing vs. Knitting

16 Feb

(Not that it’s a competition, because both are so fabulous.)  But they are not interchangeable.

And they are completely different exercises to undertake.

At first, when I started knitting, I thought it was so much more tedious than sewing. After all, sewing is relatively quick: If you have the right piece of fabric, you can often turn it into a three-dimensional garment with the addition of a few well-placed seams. Whip, whip! You have a skirt. The fabric does most of the work.  Whereas, with knitting, one builds the fabric stitch by stitch. And when you have built it and built it, stitch upon stitch, you then have…pieces of fabric, which you still get to sew together to create a garment.  All that work, and the knitter ends up with another version of what the savvy seamstress cuts from a bolt in a fabric store.

But then I kept knitting….and knitting, and knitting. And I learned that what knitting has going for it is that it doesn’t require such focus. I can knit and talk at the same time. Knit in a moving vehicle, knit and watch a movie. I’ve even knitted at poker games.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, setting a sleeve or inserting a flat-fell seam while playing Texas hold’em…but, well, I’ll say it can’t be done by me. Most parts of sewing require a fair bit of mental attention–and sewing projects are often less than portable. The actions of sewing take up space all their own. I traipse from cutting table to sewing machine and then back out into my hallway, where I set up my ironing board, to press the most recent seam.  It’s hard even to have someone in the room to carry on a conversation, while I’m turning this way and that, walking about, running the sewing machine and mumbling around the pins in my mouth.  Hence, sewing’s comparatively asocial.  It likes a room of its own and some good music in the background.

As I balance the two, I notice it becomes a question not of what project is most alluring to me on any given day, but of what structure my day has. Do I have some free time to spend alone, in my home, trotting back and forth from pressing to stitching? Or am I on the move today, with only moments free riding the bus? Or maybe, today, my real focus is spending time watching Downton Abbey, and “creativity” of any sort will be only my secondary pastime.

Because when I’m busy, and the time for crafting happens only on a train going here or there, or overlaps other activities, I find that the stitch-by-stitch method of production in knitting sometimes make for craft projects that get finished much quicker, in calendar time, no matter how much more labor-intensive they may seem.

4 Responses to “Sewing vs. Knitting”

  1. prttynpnk February 16, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I agree about sewing being asocial- I have shows and movies I just keep putting on in the sewing room and never quite paying attention to- my husband sits across the hall in his computer room and we wave periodically! I’d hate for him to be in there while I ignore him! The best sewing companion is a sleeping cat and a dvd!

  2. gingermakes February 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I greatly prefer knitting to sewing when Blake is home– we’re together for such short windows of time during the week that I feel bad ignoring him for a sewing project. I love to get really absorbed in a sewing project when I’m home alone. But I also love that I can pack my knitting project with me– I HATE waiting, so instead of being impatient and fidgety when I’m in waiting rooms or train stations, the time flies by while I’m clicking away!

  3. Catherine Daze February 17, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    I wonder how a knitting machine compares? Obviously you can’t take it on the bus but I imagine they need a bit less attention than a sewing machine.

    • handmadejulie February 17, 2012 at 8:44 am #

      I’ve heard they’re noisy…and it may not be as much attention as sewing, but you do need to be right there, focusing. It goes row by row (and then adjustments for design features) so faster than the stitch-by-stitch way…but my infatuation with them pretty much ended when I found out how loud they could be.

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