Craftivism... it's about women expressing themselves through creativity.

Knitting, needlework, sewing, weaving... all these creative activities have been diminished over the years as 'women's work'.

Initially these skills were performed (mostly) by women to maintain a household, clothe families and create furnishings.

Then the industrial revolution allowed many of these skills to become mechanized and woven textiles and clothing came from factories. Women were then employed to operate the machines and in places like Oldham (where my Grandmother was born) Mill work gave many women a social and sometimes financial freedom as they became part of the work force. Yet even as women gained some independence, the factory roles they held were never highly regarded by society.

There is much debate about the emancipation of women joining the workforce in factories vs. the enslavement of women working in dangerous and harsh conditions usually for less money than men.

Hand Craft work and the skew of women employed in this industry was usually viewed as less worthy than other creative endeavours and usually labelled in a derogatory manner as 'women's work'. As opposed to skilled crafts such as woodwork, leather work or shoe making which somehow were more masculine and therefore more respected in the workforce.

The history of women radicalising crafts such as needlework and knitting has become known as Craftivism. While Craftivism is making a resurgence, especially since USA elected Donald Trump as President, the seeds for women using craft as political activism have long been planted in the textiles industry.

Historically you could say the Craftivism movement started with The Arts and crafts movement from 1850(ish). establishing Craft as protest.

" The Arts and Crafts movement was a social/artistic movement of modern art, which began in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century and continued into the twentieth, spreading to continental Europe and the USA. Its adherents - artists, architects, designers, writers, craftsmen and philanthropists - were united by a common set of aesthetics, that sought to reassert the importance of design and craftsmanship in all the arts in the face of increasing industrialization, which they felt was sacrificing quality in the pursuit of quantity. Its supporters and practitioners were united not so much by a style than by a common goal - a desire to break down the hierarchy of the arts (which elevated fine art like painting and sculpture, but looked down on applied art), to revive and restore dignity to traditional handicrafts and to make art that could be affordable for all. " Click for full article.

In modern times women are reclaiming the craft of knitting, sewing and needlework to protest against inequality. It has become a feminist rallying cry to use methods previously diminished as docile and subservient, to create loud art works to declare feminist rights. There is also plenty of evidence that throughout history there has been subversive work in embroidery, quilting and knitting.

Betsy Greer has been heralded as the initiator of the modern term Craftism. Often the act of simply creating our own products instead of purchasing mass produced goods is seen as a creative statement.

And in Gabrielle Craigs' essay Altruism, Activism and the Moral Imperative in Craft   she states " I suggest a supplemental definition for craftism: using craft skills and ethos to directly engage in creating culturally enriching experiences."

I enjoy the community element of craftivism. I have worked on community projects and it's very rewarding. One of my most favoured images of Craftivism at work was watching the sea of pink Pussy Hats worn by protestors around the world in 2017.

This movement was inspired by the vulgarity of President Elect Trump during his campaign - women took ownership of the slur and knitted kitten ear beanies in bright pink to wear in protest.

 

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Needlecraft workers have also been forthright with embroidered messages. A recent article for Time Money magazine has heralded the popularity of Craftivism . Shannon Downey from Badass Cross Stitch has a high profile for her protest works. With high profile protests and clever images, the Craftivism movement is becoming more recognised and people are loving it!

In Australia, I have been following Tal Fitzpatrick, a long standing craftivism creator. Her current project is the curation of an embroidery collection of pieces celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her exhibition and talk on this project will be held next month in Melbourne.

Some of the works she has featured on her Instagram account are outstanding. Please have a look.

There is certainly a lot of political debate about what Craftivism is and what it stands for. You don't need to make statements or swear. You can create events, be part of a community, stand out from the crowd. Use your creativity as your voice.

There is a wealth of information on creativity and subversiveness to examine, this blog merely scratches the surface. Maybe this has peaked your curiosity if you have not been previously aware of the history of craftism. If so I hope enjoy exploring this subject in further detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close knit community

The Stonnington council is running the second year of the Glow Festival. A festival designed to get the Stonnington community out and about in a dull Melbourne winter.

As you may or may not know, I host a knitting group at Malvern Library. Everyone one is welcome, but I mostly teach beginners how to knit.  It is through this connection with the Stonnington Library that I became involved in the Yarn based installation for the Festival.

The festival theme is 'down the rabbit hole'.. so a link with Alice In Wonderland was the perfect connection to the Stonnington Libraries. It was proposed that we create a community based Yarn project to connect with Glow.

We put together kits and tips for library users and the broader community to make Pom-Poms, finger knitting and knitted pieces along side kits including yarn and old CDs for weaving.


Meanwhile I set about knitting a variety of large form pieces as well as pieces to patch together for the yarn bombing.

I created hoops which were both woven and knitted which we threaded with fairy lights to spell out G L O W, these are displayed in the Library window.

I also knitted hoops featuring Alice in Wonderland images such as the Pocket Watch and Heart decorated with playing cards.

And of course what would an Alice In Wonderland yarn bombing be without an oversized knitted Cheshire Cat grinning madly from the tree?!

More community involvement came with the Installation, where the Toorak Library hosted a Mad Tea Party preceding the decoration of the area. 

The Tea Party was fab! We had prizes for everyone - thanks to donations  including Pancake Parlour vouchers and hamper. There was a themed photo booth, a story telling card wall, bunting made from playing cards as well as a delicious selection of tea from Yarra Valley Tea Company and gorgeous cakes and cookies from Verve Spice cafe in Toorak Rd.

With great enthusiasm, local families and others adults all set to work to hang pom poms, decorate trees, benches and bike racks! The woven CD's were strung like textiles Christmas lights. All in all, a great job.

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Thank fully we finished in time as the rain came down around 5pm.

The next day, in true Melbourne style, it was blue skies and sunshine! I stopped by to check out how the installation had fared in the rain and came across local residents curious and entertained by the sudden decoration of the space. I had a chat with a number of people who all thought it was really fun and great idea.

Be sure to check it out if you're in the neighbourhood. The installation should be up until the end of August.

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I look forward to working on more community based projects in the future, bringing together people with craft and creativity is a rewarding exercise.

 

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10 TIPS for NEWBIE KNITTERS

A GUIDE TO GET YOU STARTED & COMPLETE YOUR FIRST KNITTING PROJECT

(Warning: involves lots of Social media posts!)

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/fluffandfuzz/camera-purse

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/fluffandfuzz/camera-purse

1. Check out WHAT JANE KNITS Follow me on Facebook & Instagram

 

2. Watch Tutorial videos

 

3. Find a beginner project: All the kits on What Jane Knits are designed especially for beginners. However you may want to dig out an unfinished project you have already. For best results start simple and small.

4. Post on Social Media - your intention to start/finish your knitting project. I suggest an using an Instagram account and include the following hashtags #wjknewbie and #knittersofinstagram #whatjaneknits. There are many knitters online and they are a great support network.

5. Ravelry - it's like the Google/Facebook/Wikipedia for Knitters. Create a free account and have a look around. There is a link to the Ravelry page on the purse image - you can get a free pattern there.

6. Finish your first project - YAY!! Don't forget to post a project on Facebook, Instagram and/or Snapchat!

7. Learn a new technique. For your next project, choose something that uses a technique you haven’t used before. If you have just knitted plain/garter stitch then try rib knitting. Moss stitch is simple and fun and has a gorgeous look to it. Maybe you are jumping ahead to knit a Cable project! If you knitted a scarf, knit a beanie next!

8. If you get stuck on anything don’t just leave it languishing in a bag. Ask a friend or relative for assistance or Email me on jane@whatjaneknits.com and I’ll try and help you.

9. Take your knitting out and about… Knit on public transport, in the park at the beach or cafes! Don’t hide your knitting. Share it with your community. You’ll be surprised at the number of friendly comments you receive.

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10. FINISH your next project.

Now you are now a knitter… how exciting is that! Very bragworthy indeed!