I was recently asked to talk on local radio about the resurgence in knitting. I know for many it has never gone away, however knitting in popular culture is definitely on the increase.
Some say that the resurgence is due to its meditative qualities, the quiet click clack of the needles, the feel of the yarn through your hands as you watch your project grow. For others it is the need for a simpler lifestyle within the hi-tech fast paced increasingly impersonal society we live. A response to how we feel about the environment and mass consumerism, it is part of a broader collective urge to simplify our lives.
There is a greater value placed on handmade things, the uniqueness and variation that come from flaws and mistakes and experimentation are celebrated rather than sneered at, the maker is visible within the object and so is the love that went into creating the object. We are also rediscovering the intense satisfaction there is to be found in creating something and being rewarded by our labour intensive efforts.
Youth are discovering the versatility in knitting, how it can be shaped and used within popular and sub cultures. Knitted super heroes and movie character’s costumes and knitted graffiti and street arts are happening along side ‘geek’ or ‘tech’ knitting; knitted mouse pads, ipod cosies, knitted robots, daleks and zombies, and lets not forget knitted skulls appearing on everything.
Along with all this self discovery, we also have a desire to give back to society; community and charity knitting is a wonderful way where people can use their skill for good, not only to help those in need but to help themselves by being a part of something bigger. A large part of this is knitting for activism, where knitting is used as a strong political tool to gain the attention of the government and society and to rally communities together.
The internet is a big part of the international communication that is happening within the knitting community. Websites such as knitty.com where free online patterns become part of our collective conscious, craftzine.com with links to ‘diy’ and ‘how-to’ projects, etsy.com where crafter’s can sell their knitted items and of course whipup.net which provides a broad view of the online crafting community. Apart from these sites the thousands upon thousands of knitting blogs, podcasts and forums shows how versatile knitting is to changes in society and technology, and how important a tool knitting is for reaching out to others.
Artists have taken up the call to knit as well. When knitting is used in a fine art setting it manages to make the ordinary look extraordinary. It speaks of gender politics and domestic processes, it pays homage to long traditions and is naturally imbued with history, survival, warmth and protection. It is an artists job to subvert, explore and extend the medium of their choice and the use of non-traditional materials helps to push boundaries. However it is the handmade quality of knitting that is valued in art, the process, transparent technique, the tactile qualities that are prized, and the simple craft of knitting allows freedom to explore ideas and experiment, to pursue the creative process.
Image credit: Gurilla artist Banksy Old women knitting punk slogans from BBC website