Category Archives: research

This blog has moved…

I’m pleased to say that I’ve just re-launched the Keep & Share website, at www.keepandshare.co.uk.

The new site has its own blog, so I’m going to post my news there, rather than on this WordPress blog, from now on. If you’ve subscribed to this blog, you won’t receive any notifications of new posts any more (as they’ll be on the new blog).

You might want to subscribe via RSS to the new blog feed to keep up to date.

I’ve put all my old posts on the new blog too.

Find it here: http://www.keepandshare.co.uk/blog

What does ‘knitterly’ mean?

At the moment I’m collecting, developing and sampling techniques for intervening in existing knitted fabrics – opening, unravelling, re-knitting and embellishing in every configuration I can muster. In my last post I showed one example of the step-by-step images I’m taking of each sample, which will show others how to do the same process. I’m aiming for these processes to be generic – able to be applied in many different ways, in different contexts.

But as I’m doing the samples, I’m realising how many decisions are involved in their making. I want to show a multitude of possibilities, but – by their very nature – each sample can only show one. For example, I have a sample of a piece which I’ve opened and knit down from the open stitches. What hem to knit? What cast off to use?

In a conversation with my PhD supervisor last week, I described these decisions to him, and explained that I was using the idea of ‘being knitterly’ as my guide. Where I have a choice of techniques, I choose the one which seems the most knitterly. But what does this mean? I suppose, for me, it’s about appealing to the sensibilities and preferences of an experienced knitter, and enjoying the full vocabulary of knitting – based on my own experience and the knowledge gained from discussing techniques with others.

I guess that I started using the term ‘knitterly’ with reference to the idea of ‘painterly’. My dictionary defines painterly as:

painterly adj

1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a painter

2. characterised by qualities of colour, stroke, or texture perceived as distinctive to the art of painting, especially the rendering of forms and images in terms of colour or tonal relations rather than of contour or line

So…

knitterly adj

1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a knitter

2. characterised by elements perceived as distinctive to the craft of knitting, especially…

It’s the second of these definitions that I’m particularly interested in. Could it be developed? What are the elements perceived as being distinctive to the craft of knitting? I searched for others using the term in this way, and found a thread on the Knitter’s Review forums, and a mention in KnitKnit about the knitterly work of Teva Durham.

One person on the forum also made the link between knitterly and painterly:

“I view ‘knitterly’ much as I view ‘painterly.’ Or much as I view the concept of a ‘musician’s musician.’ Paintings that are considered ‘painterly’ often display techniques that may be difficult for a beginning painter to master but which add something beautiful to the work. Tom Waits is a classic musician’s musician–some folks without much of a musical background may not understand all of his work, but those who have studied or played a lot of music can hear musical quotes and techniques that are really exciting.” Lanea

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On the hunt for the characteristics of knitterly-ness, I’ve gathered some ideas together, backed up by some of my own thoughts and the words of others (usernames refer to posters on the Knitter’s Review forum, which can be found here - I hope the original posters are happy for me to use their contributions, but please contact me if not)

Knitterly is about both design and execution

“I create designs to bring out this expressive quality, but in reproducing them, not every knitter has the touch. There are two levels, the design and the implementation or interpretation – like a Chopin nocturne needs a feeling pianist.” Teva Durham quoted by Sabrina Gschwandtner, KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave, p60

Knitterly is about both process and product

“An attention to the craft – to the skill involved in making the item and not just in the item itself” fillyjonk

“[To] focus not only on patterns but also designing, technique, fibre, etc … because for me, knitting is more than just fashion.” MJM

Knitterly is being ‘absolute boss of your knitting’

“The technique will, I think, prove to you that you are the absolute boss of your knitting.” Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears, p37

… by understanding the structure you’re creating 

I think of a knitterly approach as being able to read your knitting, to see a piece of knitting or a pattern and to understand the processes involved.

… and using the right technique, based on your own preferences

“It’s about knowing eighteen different ways to do an increase, and choosing the one you want, no matter what the pattern says, based on how you want the end-product to look.” honeybee33

Knitterly is attention to detail

“An attention to, and an appreciation for, detail. An unwillingness to sort of shrug and say, ‘Oh, that’s good enough, no one really knits any more so no one will notice the corners I cut.’” fillyjonk

Knitterly has a preference for in-the-round to flat knitting, for seamless finishes, and for knitting over sewing

“[The] traditional method of construction ‘in the round’ is more natural to knitting than the more modern method of knitting over two needles. Knitting pieces and sewing them together owes more to dressmaking and tailoring, than knitwear. The majority of old patterns were in the round. There is a piece of good advice for knitters that the Shetland Islanders mention over and over again. ‘Never, ever sew when you can knit’. After all, most people hate putting the knitted pieces together.” Michael Pearson, Traditional Knitting, p14

Knitterly is revelling in the cleverness of knitting …

“Perhaps many people share with me great pride in producing a piece of work which will cause their expert friends to exclaim, ‘How did you do it?’” Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac, p44 

… but being open about your techniques

“[I] gradually, with hints and winks, give out clues.” Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac, p44 

“The “wise knitting woman” who passes her skills and knowledge on to others.” fillyjonk

Knitterly doesn’t disguise its nature

“Being true to the craft….to me that means it should look like knitting.” kdcrowley

I surprised myself by realising how much I agree with this. I remember having a conversation with a machine knit designer, who tried (quite successfully) to disguise the fact that her fabric was knitted. Her work was accomplished and professional, but I don’t think I’d describe it as knitterly.

Knitterly is being prepared to experiment and ‘unvent’

“It’s about ferreting out how it could be possible to make a yarn-over-knit exactly the same size as a yarn-over-purl, even though you are the only one who would be able to tell.” honeybee33

“[To] look at a sock knit the same way for generations and come up with a different heel.” RobA

Knitterly engages with tradition yet pushes forward

“To me, knitterliness is not about tradition, or ‘the way they used to do things’. It’s not just about looking back, or moving forward. It’s about the drive for the craft that propels all of us ever outward, expanding *and* refining, preserving *and* inventing, no matter where that long drive takes you. Just because we can, and just because we care.” honeybee33

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There were some proposed characteristics of knitterly-ness that I disagreed with:

Knitterly is about enthusiasm rather than skill or detail

“I think of someone as knitterly if they love knitting, and it has nothing to do with attention to detail. A grandmother who knits with Red Heart yarn because she loves the craft so much and can’t afford wool is a perfect example to me. I know people who knit tons of novelty scarves, and others who knit one exquisite sweater per year with every detail carefully planned out and executed. Yes, I think the latter is a better knitter (skillwise), but I think they are both equally knitterly.” knit_cookie

“If the work is done for the joy of knitting (product or process)  it is knitterly. If it is done for the participation in a trend alone, it’s not. So the most intricate knitted garment in the world could be non-knitterly – because it was done for the sake of a trend, and the rattiest scrap of garter stitch with dropped and split stitches, can be knitterly, because it was done for the joy of knitting. RoseByAny

I understand the sentiments of these contributors, but think it’s useful to define knitterly as something other than enthusiasm: otherwise we have no name for knitterly techniques.

Knitterly is about humility and lack of ego

“The old sage woman who’s made mittens and socks (and more) all her life for her loved ones. Without fluff, and without great praise…just the quiet doing.” knittingbaglady

I agree with the following response: “While I understand the feeling of roots that this image creates, I am not sure it represents knitterliness to me. It would depend on how you did that work, wouldn’t it? RobA

My gut feeling is also that a lack of ego or fanfare is more indicative of the status of women, and women’s craft, than a knitterly quality to aspire to. A lot of my work is about trying to get a little more fanfare around the knitting of others.

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So, what do you think? Do you recognise my definitions of knitterly-ness? Disagree? Have any more to contribute? Who or what do you consider to be knitterly, and why?

Knit intervention samples

    

    

For my PhD project, I’m looking at ways to intervene in an existing piece of knitwear. I’ve constructed a scarily complex flow chart of possible ‘treatments’, and I’m planning to knit samples to show the possibilities. I’m starting with plain ecru machine-knitted panels, and using bright red yarn to show what has been changed. Later on I’m planning to do some treatments to garments, to show them in context.

As I started to knit the samples, I realised that I would need to photograph them at each stage in order to show how they were done – otherwise I would have a pile of finished samples and just a pile of scrappy notes. My aim is that the techniques could be used by others, so the ‘how to’ information is really important.

I’ve started my sampling with treatments that open the fabric along a row, and extend, replace or shorten the knitting. I thought I’d share one of them here for feedback: ‘replace section’. I’d love to know what you think – do you get a sense of how this has been done? What additional information would you need to recreate it yourself?

    

Apprenticeships in the Making

I’m in a film!

I was one of the makers chosen to host two apprentices, Chris and Mark, as part of Craftspace’s action research project, ‘Apprenticeships in the Making’. Here’s some information on the project, which I have grabbed from the Craftspace website:

Apprenticeships in the Making was an action research project which took place in the run up to the current Made in the Middle exhibition. The project worked with young people who are not in education, employment or training, to discover and challenge their preconceptions of craft and to introduce them to potential pathways within the sector.

Through a series of taster sessions the participants experienced the skills of three makers from the exhibition, before progressing onto a week long residency. An aim of the project was to provoke the makers to contemplate the implications of taking on an apprentice long term and to consider what support, as sole traders, they would need to make this a viable proposition.

“I hadn’t really considered what a craftsperson did before, but working with Amy has made me realise the skill involved in knitting.” Mark

“My Granddad used to knit, he taught my Dad too. Amy has inspired me; even my Dad has started to knit again.” Chris

Chris has developed a real love for knitting! Instead of commissioning an item of knitwear (the final part of the project), Chris requested a knitting machine – so I sourced and reconditioned a machine for him. Within a couple of weeks of receiving it he’s already knitted several jumpers and is using YouTube and instruction books to learn new techniques. I’m hoping to work with him again in future and look forward to seeing how his making skills develop.

Slow fashion?

I’ve been reading a lot recently, working on the literature review for my PhD. One theme that keeps popping up is the idea of speed in relation to fashion, and the notion of ‘slow fashion’.

I came across a rather different sort of slow fashion whilst staying in London last month for Made in Clerkenwell. George Moore Menswear is an abandoned shop on Myddleton Road in Bowes Park, north London. The street itself is quite unique – known by friends as ‘the street that time forgot’. George Moore’s has to be the highlight, though – reputedly shut for over a decade, the stock in the window is paused in time. The effects of nature are intriguingly present, however: colours are fading, mould is flourishing across underpants and socks, and water marks add a new layer of detail to ‘outdated’ patterns. It’s a moving and fascinating place.

If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a look. I just came across a short audio interview with Brian Moore (son of George Moore) on a local community website – he talks about living above the shop since the 1930s, and deciding to close the shop and turn it into what he calls a ‘museum piece’.

Fashion Diggers at Making Futures

Leaving our open studios in the capable hands of Marissa, I’m off tonight to the Making Futures conference at Dartington Hall in Devon. In the words of the organisers, the purpose of the Making Futures project is to improve understanding of the ways in which the contemporary crafts are practiced in relation to significant and new developing agendas relating to global environmental and sustainability issues.

I’ll be presenting a paper based on my PhD research so far, entitled ‘Fashion Diggers: transgressive making for personal benefit’. Here’s a link to the abstract - and above is a word cloud of the paper, giving you a taste of its contents (I’ll post a link to the full paper when it’s online).

There are lots of other presentations that I’m looking forward to (particularly the keynote by Kate Soper) and I’m hoping to meet craft friends old and new….

Research summary

Having successfully negotiated the first hurdles of my PhD by passing the PgCert in Research Practice, my next challenge is a meeting on Monday where a faculty panel takes a look at my proposal. Here’s the summary of what I’m aiming to do:

Enabling fashion ownership through material intervention in knitted garments

This research will explore the potential of material intervention to address the personal wellbeing issues of contemporary mass-produced fashion. It employs a central metaphor which treats fashion as a commons, comparing a shared fashion culture with a shared land resource, and draws on the activist repertoire of groups seeking fair access to land along with emergent strategies of design activism.

The motivations for and barriers to individual action will be investigated and tools to support wearers in making knitting-based garment interventions will be developed. While the main focus is an increase in personal ‘fashion wellbeing’, it can be argued that individual making activity would also bring collective sustainability benefits.

Update – the panel approved my proposal with some minor changes to the wording. Hurrah!