Craft · Knitting

Who we are and what we do

“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.” – Stephen Fry

Do you consider yourself a knitter? Or do you just knit? A spinner, or someone who spins? A crocheter or someone with a penchant for hooks?

I’ve been thinking about this quote for a while. Stephen fry is a wonderful, intelligent man and much of what he says rings true. Perhaps this does too. I’ve been struggling with what it means to be certain things (a writer, a blogger) and Mr. Fry made me realise that it’s not that simple. Yes, if you write you are a writer, and if you knit you are a knitter.

But is it healthy to define yourself that way?

Spoiler alert: I consider myself a knitter. There comes a point in any hobby when it’s taking up so much of your time and attention that it has to become a defining part of yourself. I’m also a writer: I have been writing roughly two decades longer than I’ve been knitting and it’s not easy for me to stop. It’s compulsive. These are two of my defining attributes and I’m comfortable with that, but I still take something away from Stephen Fry’s words.

That is: labels are not everything. Calling myself a knitter does not negate the fact that I do other things than knit. I do not have to write at every opportunity to consider myself a writer. Our identities flex and change and that’s all right.

Maybe one day I won’t be a knitter any longer. I can’t imagine that day coming but it’s possible. Perhaps one day I’ll consider myself only a person who knits.

What do you think?

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21 thoughts on “Who we are and what we do

  1. I don’t think of being called a knitter a label as much as a characteristic of who I am. I suppose it’s like a tentacle of my creativity. A many leveled layer of who I have the potential to be at any point in time, do I so choose.

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  2. The only people who are imprisoned by labels are those who want to be imprisoned. I am a knitter, I am a person who knits – I really don’t think it matters. Knitting makes me happy, why would a label have any impact on that? Do what makes you happy (as long as it’s not going to harm anyone else/yourself) and call it what you want. Examining life to the extent that Fry is doing in his quote would give me a headache.

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    1. I examine life to his extent. Ironically I suffer from migraines. 😉

      Yes, labels are only damaging when you let them be but we put so much weight on them that sometimes it’s difficult to remember that. Or at least that’s true for me.

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  3. I used to knit. I could go months between picking up the needles and making something. Now I am a knitter. I think it depends on to what degree knitting has taken over your life. If your family gets uncomfortable when they see you WITHOUT knitting- you are a knitter. 😀

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    1. I think the day I truly became A Knitter rather than a person who knits was the day that, upon moving to a new city, the first thing I did was seek out a yarn store/knitting group. 😀

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  4. I was in a yarn shop in Waterloo (Ontario, not Belgium. Just wanted to clear that up beforehand ;), the owner asked if I wanted my newly purchased skein wound, I replied saying, ‘No, thanks, I’ll do it at home with my winder and swift.’ She replied, ‘Oh, you’re a capital K Knitter!’ and that has stuck with me.

    I certainly consider myself a Knitter, not just because that is what I do, but also because it is now a community I consider myself to be a part of too. I have made good friends because of knitting, and I think it’s now beyond a hobby I do to pass time.

    That is a great quote by Stephen Fry. I had never thought of it that way, but it won’t make me take away the ‘Knitter’ badge I proudly wear. 🙂

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    1. The community is a big part of it. I think in the sense of our little groups I am definitely ‘a knitter’; it’s part of my social existence as well as my hobby.

      Good points as usual. Thank you, Lisa!

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  5. For me, at least, it fluctuates. I usually like to think of myself as ‘someone who does things’, because I can feel snagged on the idea that what we do is who we are. I want to see myself as more than my ‘productivity’. But sometimes claiming a label can make you feel some pride in what you do. So it depends on what my needs are that day. Do I need to feel good about my bigger self? Or do I need to feel good about what I’ve made?

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    1. I think you have a good point about productivity. I’d like to be able to define myself as more than that too, yet unfortunately it crops up again and again in my assessment of self, not always in a positive way.

      “Do I need to feel good about my bigger self? Or do I need to feel good about what I’ve made?”

      I like that. 🙂

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      1. Thanks for your blog post. It’s had me thinking for a few days, because I often think of myself as a ‘maker’ and that one seems to work for me. I guess because it can describe a my general creativity without boxing me into one place. Thanks again!

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  6. I consider myself to be only a mathematician (touch wood that’ll be what brings in the bread money!), who has a vast range of hobbies! I also label myself other things (introvert, agender, etc), because they help me find ways to figure out how I think.

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    1. Mathematician! That’s awesome.

      Labeling yourself definitely helps with that, you’re right. Figuring out gender identity has been a big thing for me lately and the words are more important than mere letters. They help cement ideas already there or help you sprout new ones that fit better than the old.

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  7. Buckminster Fuller made an (I believe) earlier statement about being a verb, in the 1970s: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.”
    I Seem to Be a Verb (1970) It’s an interesting point of view–and I just read another blog post raising the same topic a couple weeks ago.

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  8. This is wonderful. Really makes me think. I’m perfectly happy calling myself a knitter, but I struggle to call myself a writer, even though I *do* write. To some extent, I like the labeling but it allows me to feel part of the community, it lets me feel like I belong. I am a knitter, therefore I am part of the knitting community. Because knitters are awesome! But that doesn’t mean it’s my only label. For so long, I think I labeled myself a mom first and foremost, but now that the kids are older, I’m trying to figure out who I am, who I want to be. And I’m finding that I can’t, or don’t want to, fit into just one spot. I want to be a knitter, and a writer, and a proofreader, and more. Maybe the labels only become an issue when they become limiting. Thank you for sharing this, Polo!

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    1. Community was mentioned before in these comments (as I think you saw) by Lisa, and you’re right. It does have a big part of the cementing of identity in terms of your social group. I like hanging out with knitters, and I am a knitter in turn.

      I think you can be all the things you want to be. The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves!

      Thank you for your interesting comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am a child of God, who enjoys many things. Knitting, writing, reading, jigsaw puzzles, coffee, crocheting, cross stitch, making greeting cards. I’m sure you get the picture. Oh did I mention fledgling photographer? So I don’t think I define myself with any label other than child of God. That is who I am.
    Good post. Very thought provoking.

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    1. Thank you! I am really interested to see how people define themselves – or how they don’t, in equal measures. Fascinating to see what things are central to a person’s identity. Thank you for sharing.

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  10. Very interesting quote.

    I think I am a Knitter but to some people I knit. I am also a Reader and a Gamer although others might not agree. I guess part of it being a label it’s also your own definition of that label. Basically you have to define the label rather than letting it define you.

    Also some people find refuge in labels. It’s like belonging to a group (as mentioned before), finding people with similar interests, definitions etc. I think what I mean is that sometimes applying a label can help you better define yourself (for yourself as well as others). Not really thinking of knitting now but LGBT* where people find acceptance within others all defining themselves under one (broad) label.

    Still, a label is dangerous. And sometimes, you fight against wrong defintions of labels people (or yourself) apply to you (think feminist for example).

    One last thought: Do not challenge what other people want to label themselves (except if asked by themselves because they want an outside opinion). For example, if there’s someone at my local knitting circle who only knits once every few months it would still be up to them to say if they knit or considers themself a knitter.

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