After Practical Crocheter's somewhat philosophical post, a little introspection seemed appropriate for this time of year. With all of the economic turmoil so many of us face this year, many are having to cut back on what we do, prioritize, choose. In my case, I'm also expecting a new addition to the family in short order, and the things I physically can do are limited. How could all this possibly apply to needlework, you ask?

Of course, it's easy to go into a yarn store and drop a small fortune on luxury and novelty fibers, and that's not necessarily possible anymore. But it's a little deeper than that. "Why" is part of the learning process. It's hard to learn something that has no purpose, as most high school math students complain at one point or another. Needlework is the same way.

I taught a friend to knit recently. She needed something to keep her hands busy and to distract her mind as she struggles through a difficult divorce. In my experience working at yarn stores, I explained that I'd only work with her on stuff she was actually going to use in her projects. I wasn't going to be a stickler for technique or insist that she learn things she didn't plan on using. From what I've seen, putting pressure on someone about the thing they're using for stress relief isn't helpful, and they won't learn very well. My friend has done a lot of knitting in the last couple months, and the things I didn't correct her about early on have ironed themselves out as her projects have demanded increasing levels of proficiency.

As we approach new projects, it is important for us to think about why we are doing that project at that time. Is it for stress relief, to stay occupied, because we need the finished project? If I need stress relief, I'm not going to choose a complicated project, because I want a break from thinking; but if I need to be occupied, I might choose something a little more demanding so that my mind is amused as much as my hands. Currently, I'm making things that I actually need for the baby. Why should I buy ready made things, when I've already paid for all the materials? And I've generally chosen simple designs, because I'm working on a deadline.

In the coming year, it may make needlework more satisfying to be more thoughtful about it. As you begin a project, ask yourself why you want to make it and if the thing itself is in line with your needs at the time. As we all cut back and prioritize, let's make the things we choose more deeply enjoyable.