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time stamp

By Kim Werker

In the last issue I wrote about discovering the kind of knitter I am (garter- stitch, sock-weight yarn, 4mm needles), and how my ability to relax into my knitting is central to my enjoyment of the craft. It’s central to my mental health, too, if we’re being totally honest here.

I didn’t mention in that column that ten years after discovering what I love most about knitting, I hit a new level of satisfaction while I was on a plane. During my family’s flight to Hawaii over winter break, I hit a special spot of nirvana when, for the first time, I knitted and read at the same time. Yup, it was stockinette stitch in the round, and yup, it was on an e-reader I could prop up in front of me and tap to advance pages.

time stamp

Stockinette stitch in the round on a plane. Soon, I pulled out my e-reader and experienced ultimate knitting-reading bliss.

The project I was knitting on the plane is one I’d set aside for much of the month of October while I indulged a compulsive need to carve stamps for Halloween. (Yes, when I put a project down in October it’s totally my M.O. not to pick it back up again until late December.)

Stamp carving was an unexpected cliff I fell off of a few years ago, during my first go at a 365-day challenge to make something every day.

time stamp

Sketching and carving a Halloween stamp. The first of many...

About three months into that challenge, I started using it as an excuse to try all kinds of crafts and arts I’d never done before. I dabbled in mixed-media art, tried my hand at lettering, got seriously into making soap. The one new craft I continue to practice regularly now is carving stamps.

One thing I didn’t see coming about stamp carving is how satisfying it is to make something that can be used over and over again— to make other stuff!

Something I love about knitting is that I make stuff that can, obviously, last for a super-long time. As I write this, I’m wearing a toque I made a few years ago and have worn almost daily during every winter since. That’s pretty awesome.

But stamps? I can carve a stamp in fifteen minutes and use it for years to make other stuff. Fifteen minutes! Reuse it over and over to make other stuff! This is not something you can do with knitting.

time stamp

I love carving word stamps.

It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before when making things. Stamp carving shares a certain practicality with knitting, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Carving stamps is messy. You get rubber shavings everywhere and stain your fingers with ink. Though it’s totally possible to use a template as the basis for a hand-carved stamp, it’s also very straightforward to come up with your own design. That’s different from knitting, too, especially if you’re a knitter like me who loves taking the leap of faith involved with following someone else’s instructions.

I’ve never used a template to carve a stamp. From the very beginning, I’ve made my own designs. Simple ones, yes, but mine alone.

time stamp

I carved “Boo” and a few ghosts, too. In a fit of pique on Halloween night, I painted a shoebox black and used these stamps to decorate an epic candy container to keep by the door for trick-or-treaters. Talk about instant gratification!

For a short while, I thought I’d ditch every creative hobby I had so I could do nothing but carve stamps. (Yes, it was for a short while.)

I teetered on the edge of becoming addicted to the instant gratification. I could seriously become a hoarder of handmade stamps. “I can use this one to make thank-you cards, and that one to print on T-shirts or aprons; these two would look great together in contrasting inks on a dark surface…” Seriously, it’s a slippery slope.

But where my yarn stash occupies several huge plastic bins—all full of treasures I’m certainly going to transform into beloved objects that will last a lifetime—my stash of stamps fits into part of a small drawer and a few stackable shelf-top boxes. A hand-knit shawl will cost me $40 in yarn and hours of delicious knitting; I’ll make half a dozen stamps from one $8 rubber block—all in one evening.

The fast-crafting of stamp carving is intensely satisfying but that doesn’t diminish my love for slow knitting. The stamps I use over and over again are no more or less practical than the toques I knit or the scarves I keep in constant rotation.

You can go to any crafts store and buy stamps that are already made just as you can go into any clothing store and buy a hat or a scarf.

This is why I love these two crafts so much; why would I want to buy something mass manufactured when I can make my own?

 Kim Werker teaches Crochet at Craftsy, makes something every day for #yearofmaking2018, and can’t help but want to carve architectural symmetries into rubber stamps.