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Hey Knitter—You’re Being Creative, Too

Recently, I asked my Instagram community some questions about creativity. I was curious about knitters’ self perceptions and their relationship to their craft. See, I’d gotten a sense that some people thought knitting from a pattern and being creative were mutually exclusive.

The responses were surprising.

But let’s circle back a bit, explore why this matters in the first place, and then dig into what knitters are saying about their creativity and why they feel that way.

A top-down photo of a woman's pair of small, plump, white hands knitting a seed stitch shawl with a mohair edging. There's a cup of milky tea and a plate of madeleine cookies nearby.

Why Care About Creativity in the First Place?

When I left my law practice several years ago, I was in a pretty dark place. Wrapped up in all of that was a deep, unspoken fear that I wasn’t actually good at anything, that I didn’t have much to contribute to the world, that I was just taking up space.

In the intervening years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with others who’ve felt the same way.

One of the many things that helped me turn that feeling around was actively, intentionally cultivating my creativity. I started thinking about creativity not as something that some people are born with and others aren’t, but instead as something we’re all born with. It’s just that some of us have had our creativity pressed out of us.

Life does that in a lot of ways. Misguided adults tell us when we’re children that we’re not good at making things. Busy work schedules leave us little time for rest and thought. We absorb narrow ideas about what art is supposed to look like, what an artist is supposed to look like (for more on that, see this excellent post from Julia Cameron about how creativity doesn’t have to be “high art”).

And it disconnects us from our own creative spirit.

Reconnecting with my own sense of creativity has been healing, and in my conversations with others, I’ve found it has often been part of their healing process, too.

What Knitters Say About Being Creative

My first question out the gate was simple: knitters, do you think of yourself as creative? And out of about 200 respondent, nearly 30% said no, they don’t.

A screen shot of an Instagram story that says, "Knitters, let's chat about something that's been on my mind! Do you think of yourself as creative?" A bar graph of responses shows 71% said yes, but 29% said no.

I’ll be honest: I was surprised that number was quite so high. Maybe I shouldn’t have been. If I think back to how I thought about my own making a decade ago, I probably would have told you the same thing.

What really intrigued me, though, was the next question and its responses.

A screenshot of an Instagram story with text reading, "Does your knitting help you feel more creative?" A bar graph of responses shows 89% said yes and 11% said no.

Clearly, knitting is doing something important for the vast majority of knitters. For those who already thought of themselves as creative, knitting generally helped them feel more creative.

But it also helped those who didn’t already think of themselves as creative. Knitting is a tool that helps unlock creativity. I confess, I got pretty excited when I saw that.

Why So Many Knitters Think They’re Not Creative

I asked a follow-up question at the end of this series of slides. I posted a little question box that asked, “If you don’t think of yourself as creative, why not?”

Every knitter who responded said that the reason they aren’t creative is that they’re just following a pattern.

I reached out to a lot of these respondents to ask some follow up questions. We had some great conversations! I got a few interesting analogies that compared using a knitting pattern to reading a book or following a cooking recipe. Others explained that they felt following a pattern meant they weren’t using any of their own input.

Reframing the Conversation

Now here’s where it gets interesting. It turns out every single one of the knitters I talked to chooses their own yarn, makes little modifications to patterns to better fit their needs, and adjusts things to account for their unique gauge.

If that’s not being creative, I don’t know what is.

But beyond that, there seems to be this sense that if you don’t come up with every part of your thing from scratch, you’re not being creative.

A top down photo of a pair of pink knit socks and a pink knit hat. They're surrounded by white roses, antique books, and a teacup full of espresso.

Now, I don’t spin or dye my own yarn. I draw inspiration from stitch dictionaries. I pore over old fashion plates and modern runway shows. Everything I do as a designer builds on stuff others have done before me. That’s the nature of the creative process. We’re all getting pieces of our work from someone else.

You don’t have to do every single part of it yourself. Ina Garten taught us all better than that, friends. Store-bought is fine. It doesn’t diminish your skill as a cook.

Using a pattern doesn’t diminish your creativity, either.


Friday 23rd of September 2022

Just finishing a first design project, no pattern needed. Really enjoying the creative process and making it work on for me. So nice to see others feel the same.

Lauren Rad

Sunday 25th of September 2022

How exciting! That first design project is always a special one. Congratulations on the milestone.


Monday 5th of September 2022

Thank you for this article! People need to feel their creative sense from an early age and parents can help their children with this! It's an important part of development that will stay with them through life, and it's fun. I was lucky, my grandparents were creative artistic people, so I was always exposed to "Making". I thought that's what everyone did. Now I know how special this is. Keep in mind, learning to cook, loving to cook is also creating! I believe the more creative we can be, the more peaceful we can feel.

Lauren Rad

Sunday 11th of September 2022

I love this! Yes, creativity shows up in all sorts of ways and places. The more we make and do and explore and grow, the more that creativity shows itself.

Stephanie Fricke

Monday 5th of September 2022

I loved this article! Thanks for giving us all the pep talk we need sometimes. 🤗

Lauren Rad

Sunday 11th of September 2022

I'm glad it resonated with you! Sometimes, I need the pep talk, too 😊

Elizabeth Moore

Monday 5th of September 2022

When I first started knitting, I never thought I was creative either but when I first made a case for my iPhone, that changed my ideas. I’ve made a few things without a pattern but what I would never become a designer. Writing it down seems more complicated!😂😂


Friday 23rd of September 2022

@Lauren Rad, I'm finding the same to be true for me as well. It makes the logical side of my mind work with the creative.

Lauren Rad

Sunday 11th of September 2022

Writing a good pattern is definitely a separate skill set from creating a good design, but it's also something that can be learned. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to explain the thing in my head clearly enough that other people can make it, too 😊


Tuesday 30th of August 2022

My ex once asked me what I was doing while I was working on a sweater with an all-over intarsia pattern. I showed him how the chart worked, and he said, "oh, so it's just like painting by numbers then."

Yeah, except for the part where I changed the colour scheme and repositioned the motifs in my head without redrawing the chart. Grrr.

And even with painting by numbers, there's figuring out how much paint to put on the brush, and the strategy of which areas to colour in which order, plus brush technique.

As you said, people need to appreciate that there is space for creativity... on easy mode, I guess?

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

Creativity exists in all sorts of unexpected places! And the more we all engage with and explore our creativity in whatever ways are available to us, the better for everyone, I think.

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