Art or Craft?

Tuesday 1st January 2019

We knitters are practical folk.  There is no virtue to us, really, in a random knitting project that will not have a practical purpose.  Our labours are aimed at producing A Thing that someone will wear or use.  It may have other qualities too such as being attractive to look at and touch. But primarily, it needs a purpose.  

In the olden days, as Lily says when I tell her tales of yore, people, mainly women, knitted for reasons of thrift.  My mother knitted my cardigans and sweaters, and she sewed my dresses. The advent of really cheap, almost disposable clothing has largely made that redundant.  Now, when we knit, we do it for love, and because we like the process.  Knitting is a craft.  But is it also an art?  This is a complex area because sometimes knitting or images of knitting become art.  Sometimes, its perception is partially dictated by who is doing it.  Controversially perhaps, I believe that when men knit, it is more likely to be seen as valuable, note-worthy and even be elevated to a higher plane of activity.  Not just a domestic craft.  Not that I think it is ‘just’ anything, nor that there is anything wrong with domestic crafts and activities.  Quite the reverse.  But maybe it is a bit like when a woman cooks, even in a commercial kitchen, she is still a cook.

My belief is that the fabric we can create by knitting yarns, is an art form.  A practical art form.  Here are some images of the items that I have designed for the March icord days.  The design is based on knitting in two planes – vertical and horizontal.  To do this, and also to add texture, I am using icords.


I like the look of this simple linear design – it does progress in a series of stages in a way that just knitting a block of stocking stitch, for example, does.  I like looking at it.  I wouldn’t hang it on a wall, but I will enjoy using it.

Where knitting can really become art is probably more into the area of colour work.  Intarsia-knit tiger-face jumpers, for the last time, it’s not you.  Oy. This is my Winter Trees Fairisle Throw and it is pictorial, as is my Bees Throw.  They are very different because Winter Trees is literally based on a hand drawing I did and Bees is representative, using balanced motifs and logical shapes.  But they are both artistic. 


They both address a dual creative urge, for me:  they are practical and they are what I had in my mind as I evolved the design.  wear them. 

What do you think of our craft?  Please embroider answers on a postcard sized piece of linen and post back. 


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