Today’s blog post is inspired by #themakersyear - an initiative that the wonderful Kate from A Playful Day started at the beginning of this year. The goal of #themakersyear is “to encourage every person to think about little differences in their lives that can have a massive impact in our day to day” - little differences related to making, crafting, working with your hands.
Kate shared a prompt recently on her podcast to think about what making means to every one of us. Making has become an integral part of this journey, so her prompt really hit home. Without further ado, I present to you: “What making means to me.”
First, and foremost, making - more specifically, knitting - is what kept me going when I was deeply unhappy in my old job. I didn’t know that at that time, but I started knitting more and more at about the same time that I started thinking about whether I actually wanted to keep doing what I was doing. Knitting was an out - an activity deeply rooted in a physical action, far removed from everything that my day job entailed. It brought me pure joy at a time where I didn’t have a lot of that in other areas of my life.
So, making means therapy to me. While writing this, I realized that this has been true for a different kind of making for me for a long, long time - baking. I’ve told multiple people over the years that “baking is therapy” to me (and my old teams can attest to that - cookies, anyone? ;)). The physical act of measuring out ingredients, kneading, forming, baking, taking something out of the oven, cutting and eating is so soothing to me. I’ve made apple pie without a scale or a mixer in a hostel kitchen in Sao Paulo when I was so homesick I couldn’t think anymore. I made my beloved macadamia nut chocolate cookies when I was heartbroken at the realization that I needed to leave my old company. I started my first sourdough starter when I was so stressed at all the new things I needed to learn in this freelancer life that I couldn’t breathe.
Making also means connection to me. First of all, a connection to myself. Whereas “making as therapy” happens on a subconscious level, I also use making to make a conscious connection with myself. When my head doesn’t stop spinning, when I’m stuck without ideas, when I’m frustrated, I pick up my knitting and knit a couple of rows. My head miraculously stops, and I feel like myself again.
Secondly, making provides a connection to memories. My grey garter stitch sweater with the striped grey-and-pink back? There’s a whole lot of love in there from a wonderful vacation in Iceland with my partner where he drove and I sat and knit on the passenger seat. The blue Luxa tee? Hours of knitting while listening to my large, large family during our last Haferkamp family reunion at my aunt's house last summer. The striped sweater that looks more like a sack? That was the first garment that I knit - I ordered the yarn from my cousin’s home in New Zealand about two hours after she showed me the wonders of Ravelry. My hand-knits hold memories. They hold places, times, feelings, sadness, laughter, regret, love - all of it. They are a tactile reminder of who I am and how I got here.
Thirdly, making (re)connects me with people - my family, my friends, strangers. The pure joy of making is one of the strongest connectors of people I’ve ever experienced. I’ve met complete strangers over coffee in London and spent an hour with them in the most wonderful yarn shop. My cousins who live in New Zealand and Australia and who I miss on a daily basis are enthusiastic crafters and every time I knit I feel as if the physical space between us is reduced.
Making as building a connection to people holds even more true for cooking and baking. There are very few things that make me happier than spending an afternoon in the kitchen cooking and baking and then feeding people with my food - and for that matter, there are very few occasions with better conversation than over a home cooked meal in someone’s house.
Last, but not least, making is my connection to the real world. Making is per definition a physical action. You create a physical product. Coming from the tech world, this is an immense relief. Optimizing conversion rates that Google Analytics gives you of virtual customers that you’ve never met is a task that disconnects you from the world. Making reconnects you. It grounds you. You make something for yourself, or for someone else, and you put your heart and soul into it, and at the end, you hold something physical in your hands.
Making has been and will always be an integral part of this journey. How? It’s given me my sanity back. It’s given me my belief in myself back. It’s grounded me. It’s helped me make honest, real life connections again. It’s helped me trust in people again.
I’m so curious to see how making will integrate itself further into my journey. Will I start something to make money with my making? I’m deeply conflicted about that. I’m scared that I lose all the joy that making gives me if I’m depending on my making to provide income. On the other hand, I love handmade physical products. I’d like to sell stuff that I made, just for fun. So I’m doing what I’ve always done - I’m trying it out. I’m opening an Etsy shop soon where you can buy some of the things that I make - and other things that my friends made! If you're curious what that is, check out my Instagram: @hannaontheroad.
I find it amazing to think that people have always been making. Thousands and thousands of years ago, people started knitting. People have prepared meals for as long as humankind exists. And we’re still doing the same things today. We’re still feeling the same feelings around them - the meditative calm, the joy of feeding people, the companionship. The relief of picking up our yarn, or paint brushes, or a cookbook at the end of a long, exhausting day. Sinking down. Breathing. Reconnecting with oneself.