January 22, 2014
Knitting – once considered a necessary cost-saving domestic chore, a sign of sedentary dotage (something only for grannies) and an activity to keep women’s hands busy lest their pretty heads entertain too many revolutionary thoughts – is casting off its cultural baggage.
These days, knitting has become a DIY fashion statement, community activity, educational device, health-care tool (the “new yoga”) and new form of urban graffiti. (Okay, that last one has to be explained right away: Yarnbombing is an underground global movement by people calling themselves “guerrilla knitters.” They cover items such as buses, parking meters, telephone poles, trees, doors, benches – anything in the public realm – with colourful yarn as an act of feel-good community coziness. In fact, International Yarnbombing Day, an annual event, was started by Joann Matvichuk, a knitter and crocheter from Lethbridge, Alta., on June 11, 2011.)
“It’s about bloody time,” Kaffe Fassett, the celebrated American-born textile artist, laughs about the resurgence of interest in knitting. “It has taken people a long time,” he adds over the phone from his studio in London, England, “to appreciate that sitting down and rubbing two sticks together with a string of yarn between them not only creates something beautiful and truly creative, but is one of the most life-enhancing activities around. It just makes you feel good.” Fassett, 76, is the author of more than 30 books on quilting, knitting and embroidery; his work in those media has been exhibited around the world. Fassett has knit “everything from the tiniest little scarf for a teddy bear to huge hand-knit drapes featuring colourful fantasy maps of the world.” Lauren Bacall, Barbra Streisand, Candice Bergen and Princess Michael of Kent are a few of the people who have commissioned custom-knit clothing from him.