When asked why she kept old clothes which no longer fit, my grandmother (born in Austria in 1902) used to reply with a German proverb that "clothes outlive their people."Read the rest, including the story of two old sweaters staging a jail break. It's a cozy reflection in these chilly days.
Today, clothes don't have that resonance. Clothes are not really considered valuable. That, too, is something I think about when knitting: after all, it takes a certain thickness of skin to be a confirmed hand-knitter in the day of cheap ready-made sweaters and expensive yarn. However difficult life was for the old-time knitters, the usefulness of their craft was never at issue. So, while we think about knitting's value while we knit, that's one thing the old-time knitters did never concern themselves with: they and everyone around them knew it was valuable.
As further proof that a well-made item can long outlast its wearer, I submit this news story, about a 150-year-old Fair Isle cap that was just recovered.