Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Craftivism: An experiential report on the capacity of activism through craft

Craftivism: Activism through networked craft
Kate Samson

Over the past several months, the ReCrafting Mathematics team has greatly furthered our understanding of rich interpersonal and technical details of crafting practices and communities. In addition, we have come to understand the integral function of community in the continuance and preservation of these crafts. Similar to storytelling, traditional crafting practices can be passed from generation to generation within communities, as older or more skilled individuals share their knowledge with younger folk. These same crafting practices also percolate through networked online communities. Crafters often talk about a recent resurgence in traditional craft, which can be attributed to the accessibility of crafting knowledge through online video content, such as YouTube. Though it is difficult to attribute the longevity of traditional craft to a single group or tool, we can make a case for the crucial role social media and online communities have played in the development of craftivism.

Craftivism is a term for the blend of activism and craft. This blog communicates the idea well.

A Call To Action

Recently, craftivism was realized through a powerfully beautiful and beautifully powerful cross-continental craft project: The Pussyhat Project. This project was a call to action for crafters and women (and really, for all people) to unite through the creation of knitted or crocheted pink pussy hats during the Women’s March on D.C. and across the country. Solidarity through pink yarn? You bet!

A Pattern-Sharing Network

Kat Coyle from The Little Knittery in California created the first pattern for a knitted hat, which served as the template for additional patterns for crochet and sewing. The patterns were first shared when the project launched over Thanksgiving weekend. It what seemed like a matter of days, the project launch catalyzed an outbreak of conversation and craft over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. I experienced the intensity of craftivism as galpals near and far sent the pattern to me via text, and my most-frequently-visited local yarn shop, Yarns Unlimited, became a haven for pink hat crafters.  Awareness of the project spread rapidly. Yarn shops around the country opened their doors to the project.

Present From Afar

Several friends packed their cars with sisterfriends and climbed onto buses on the eve of the Women’s March. Though I could not be in D.C., I did make a pink hat for one best friend to wear at the march. The pattern was beginner-level (the entire hat could be crafted from stockinette stitches), which meant the process-of-making was quick, with little room for error. This simple knit allowed me to think through the importance of women’s rights and the power of community as I knitted along. I can still look at the hat and remember what I was thinking during particular parts. I talk about this phenomenon in an earlier blog post, but the feeling was especially salient during this knit.  The woman who wore the hat mentioned that the Pussyhat Project enabled me to be present from afar, as she marched my knits and purls down the streets of D.C.

ReCrafting Math: Beyond the classroom

The Pussy Hat project is an exemplar of the function of craftivism in action related to social and civic ventures.. For many, traditional craft is conceptualized as a niche interest, with historical and cultural roots (not to mention the typical mapping to grandmas).

What could happen if traditional craft were incorporated in the classroom? How might educational spaces benefit? What if craftivism were a norm - something youth across the U.S. regularly engaged in?

Direct-Action Craftivism
Angela Caldwell

The dedication and commitment to community was apparent when the Women’s March on Washington was announced.   My work partner Kate, knowing that I intended on traveling to D.C., sent me a link very early on about The Pink Pussy Hat Project.  I was intrigued but put it on the back burner.  It was hard to ignore.  Many of my knitting friends began talking about it, I’d see posts on Facebook and my local yarn shop was buzzing with people in and out purchasing pink yarn and sharing the pattern.  This was craftivism at its finest.  On MLK day, my yarn shop had a sit in, knitting pink hats for sale with proceeds benefitting a women’s organization.  Over $2,000 was raised!
The night of my long bus trip arrived and I, and 50+ women gathered in a parking lot awaiting the arrival of our bus.  To see many women already wearing their hats was an incredible sight.  When we stopped along the route, more and more pink hats could be seen.  Pictures were popping up on the internet of airplanes filled with pink hats!  But nothing could prepare me for he walk to the Rally and the March itself.  Amazing to think that so many women stopped their busy lives to create this sea of pink.  

Now that I’m home, I still wear my hat.  1) Because it is soft, warm and very comfy and 2) Because these hats have created a sisterhood.  I get nods and comments everywhere I go.  I’ve also had requests from three women to make them hats.
This speaks to the ever important matter of gauge.  I have a peanut sized head so I had to do the math – converting number of stitches down to fit while also considering using a smaller needle.  In making of the gift hats, I will again have to consider type of yarn, stitch count (I reduced mine from 60 to 52) and needle size in order to knit a beautiful and comfy hat for my community of women.


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