I just realized, about a month after the fact, that I have been knitting for five years. I’ve had my wood knitiversary. (Interestingly, my relationship with yarn has outlasted my marriage. But that’s a knot to be untangled another time.)

What’s weird is that I don’t feel any less like a noob than I did when I started, which is pretty silly when my ever-deepening descent into fibery madness can be objectively measured with a quick glance at my Rav profile. I have 328 projects (although, in the interest of full disclosure, a number of those are very small, things like coasters and stuffies and other small, quick knits… as well as over 60 frogged and abandoned projects.) I have 117 current stash items–both yarn and fiber–and over 300 stash items that have either been used up, sold, or given away. And if you sort by date, you can see the skill (in both technique and photography) regress as you scroll down the page.

It’s possible that I’m so accustomed to seeing knitters who have been practicing the craft for tens of years, that five seems like nothing. It’s also possible that five years doesn’t seem that long ago, and that the days when my entire stash fit into a single drawer were pretty recent. But I’ve had a lot of adventures in the meantime, and picked up a lot of knowledge along the way, so I realize how foolish it was for me to knit my first pairs of socks out of a wool/alpaca blend (they developed holes within a month), or a sweater of any kind for a dude who was a walking furnace. I’ve realized that going for what’s available rather than what you really want is never a good idea.

(I’m speaking, of course, of getting a perfectly serviceable Ashford Kiwi instead of BlueBonnet Thimble when I was in the market for my first wheel. The Kiwi was a fine and perfectly serviceable wheel, but when it came time to pack every last belonging I owned into my car, it didn’t really make the cut, and I had to sell it. The foldable, portable Thimble would have been a better choice for my circumstances. I picked the Kiwi because they had one in stock at the Woolery and I wanted to start spinning ASAP. Waiting weeks for the right wheel to come my way when they had a perfectly good one right there in front of me, would have definitely been the better decision. Although I suppose it could be said that in this instance, I’m also speaking of my marriage. I know now that I should have chosen the contortionist rather than the short little bird…)

The thing is, even though there are some certain milestones you reach in Knitting, they’re largely arbitrary and can occur whenever you feel ready for them, if you want to tackle them at all. Some knitters never learn to spin, some spinners never knit with their yarn. I read once that all knitters, once they reach a certain level of experience and expertise, should begin thinking of designing. In this respect, I’ll probably always remain on the JV squad, because I really have no need or desire to put out my own patterns. There are zillions of hundreds of patterns by people who have the creative spark necessary to dream up designs and bring them to life with yarn. (Most of them are in my queue. At over 2100 entries, I should probably give that thing a good pruning.) At best, I might see a commercially-knit item or garment and try to deconstruct it in my head, not even necessarily because I would knit it (or wear it), just to see if I could make it. And, generally speaking, when I’ve done so, I’ve later gone on Ravelry and found almost the exact same thing. Effectively someone more talented has already done the work for me.

There are other ways of branching out further in your knitting career (or of making a career of knitting from your hobby), such as starting a business or a podcast, and aside from the facts that A) I don’t really have that much of an eye for color, and B) I have nothing compelling enough to say that I’d want to put out an audio or video file of myself saying it, both those things come with a lot of strings. (Pun completely intended.) There’s just the whole turning-your-pastime-into-your-paycheck thing that doesn’t sit right with me, and even obligation knitting imposed by no one but myself tends to put me in a sour mood. I worry all the time that I might screw up at my regular 9-to-5 badly enough to get fired. I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel trying to make the rent on the whims of fiber trends or the strength of my personality and creativity.

The most concrete rite of passage to Serious Knitter that I can think of is the Master Knitter designation, but that’s not something that’s ever interested me. While I have nothing but respect for people who’ve dedicated themselves to the task, it just doesn’t seem like it’d do anything for me. Being able to designate myself as a Master Knitter would only make sense if I were ever marketing myself as a knitter, which I have no plans on ever doing. (Not to say if I fell into a solid opportunity teaching knitting or working in a fiber mill I wouldn’t take it, but I don’t think I would want to earn the title just for the job opportunities.*)

Another reason I couldn’t ever see myself as a Master Knitter is that, from my (admittedly perfunctory) perusal of the requirements, it seems to be more about being technically perfect at knitting, which is something that I am far, far from. I’m fortunate in that I haven’t had very many major knitting snafus, such as a sweater that turned out several sizes wrong, running out of yarn halfway through, or a small creature destroying my work in progress. No, my knitting is imperfect in much smaller (and more easily hidden) ways. You could pick almost any of my projects, and I could tell you in what way I screwed it up. (Even if I went back later and fixed it, as in the aforementioned sweater.) If not an outright mistake, I could tell you what I’d do to make that project better. Mostly it doesn’t bother me, because the mistakes I make are things nobody would notice (for example, I’m not sure I’ve ever finished a pair of socks where the toe increases were perfectly even, because I tend to get distracted and forget what row I’m on, so I’ll have rows where there’s an increase on one side and not the other). But having to achieve a certain measurable metric (like X gauge) when not for the specific purpose of the fit of a garment, just doesn’t interest me. Again, it comes down to could and not would.

I don’t have a lot of FOs to my name, which I think might be one reason I don’t see myself as that seasoned of a knitter. I give a lot of things away, but I have also had things that have just plain worn out. I’ve felted things and had to toss them. I’ve made things just for the sake of using up a certain yarn and getting it out of my stash, things that I’ve later donated to Goodwill because I really had no use for them. My current FOs are almost entirely socks, and even that collection is dwindling. (I’m about to develop a toe hole in my To the Moon and Back socks, and I don’t have any leftovers of that yarn to fix it with. I’m pre-mourning their demise.) I have two knit sweaters, one of which I need to add more length to. Most of my cold-weather accessories I gave away, in anticipation of Southern California Weather. (It’s colder here right now than it is on the East Coast: 30s versus 70s.) Looking around me right now, I see handknit mittens, a scarf, and the socks I’m wearing… which hardly seems like the kind of full-to-bursting houseful of knits you’d expect from someone who’s used up 156 yarns.

Maybe I’m just looking at it all wrong. Maybe instead of thinking of it in terms of numbers, I should be thinking of it in terms of experiences. Knitting has carried me through a lot of living. It’s been with me through good times and bad, and even though there has been an instance or two when I just didn’t feel that interested in doing it, I always felt it was a part of who I was, and I always wanted to come back to it. (Last time I compare it to my ex, I promise.) It’s been the impetus for a lot of my adventures, too. One of my favorite things to do is seek out and explore a new yarn shop. Even when the shop turns out to be kind of meh, I still look back on the trip itself–the drive, the anticipation, even just the freedom of tearing down the highway with the windows down and the music up–with good memories. Knitting carried me across this country during my darkest hours, and I wonder how much more difficult it would have been driving from Kentucky to California if I hadn’t had those stops and shops to look forward to. If there was nothing but the open road, the horizon, and the boredom to keep me company, would I look back on that trip as a positive thing? Hard to say. It was definitely something I needed to do. But the doing of it could have been a lot less memorable.

*It occurs to me that it might seem a little silly for me to want to work processing fiber or imparting basic beginner skills, when I am so adamant that I never want my hobby to become my job. I think it’s because, whether erroneously or not, I see these positions as less creative and more technical. Making a living on my creativity, in any capacity, is both thrilling and terrifying to me.