Maslow’s hierarchy and knitting

I learned about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory as a part of my management course in college. The theory describes human needs that underly our motivation as a hierarchy, from the most basic physiological needs to the most advanced self-actualization. The common visual representation is a pyramid such as this one.

While this theory was challenged as being too individualistic or simply not true in each person’s case — remember, Olik, that young professor saying that if it was all true there wouldn’t be starving artists? — it describes human behaviour in general. Simply put, until your basic needs are not met you are not looking for a higher calling and otherwise, having those needs satisfied causes your motivations to shift to the next level. It’s also worth noting that researchers recognize presence and overlapping of several needs at the same time and speak in terms of ‘needs domination’.

I wonder if it can be applied to our knitting needs. Most of us can easily relate to the ‘overlapping and domination’ part. Raise your hand if you have more than one project on the needles. But let’s speculate how our knitterly motivations could progress as we master our craft.

As a new knitter you would probably perceive yourself as a person in a great need of a hand-made hat. (For the sake of the argument, we should assume that any kind of store-bought hat is considered unacceptable as soon as a knitter learned 1×1 ribbing). Perhaps, you made a few hats, and your basic need of keeping your head warm is met. Then you go up a level and make sure your feet, hands, neck, and whatever else is covered. Cozy and secure, you proceed to the next level of knitting needs and wrap your family and friends in woolly love. You buy expensive yarn and start making Christmas gifts. I would speculate that Esteem level is where you get really good at it. You pick more challenging projects and acquire new skills, you are proud of yourself and others can really appreciate your crafts(wo)manship.

What’s next? Some definitely would venture into design to make truly unique items. But for those who won’t, will making more items in addition to those already made contribute to self-actualization? And the reason I think it won’t lies in the very spirit of DIY movement — it’s not about consuming more but making something special. One hat is special, but twenty? Thirty? Maybe on this level, in between their regular projects, people start looking into knitting for a good cause, to share their gift and make a difference in someone’s life. And it seems that importance of an item made for a complete stranger increases because not only it satisfies the highest knitter’s need but also it aims higher than a basic need for the recipient. Because it means someone cares about them.

To continue with the parallel, the happiest knitter would have all needs met, from basic to advanced. Please keep knitting and making yourselves and your loved ones warm. But every so often use your leftovers or dive into your stash and make something for someone you’ve never met, to have it all.


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