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This presentation examines the surprisingly intimate relationship between handspinning and the Internet, focusing on several individual art yarn spinners. These spinners produce unconventional yarns by experimenting with various techniques, and approach spinning itself as a form of creative expression. In every case, the Internet has been integral to the spinners’ technical and artistic development, career, or expression. A community has formed in which these spinners encourage and challenge each other, pushing the art form ever forward. The spinners interviewed initiate swaps, thematic challenges, technical experiments, and sometimes entire websites online, in order to stimulate the exchange of ideas and images. From interviews, we see how Internet interaction has nourished each spinner’s work. The presentation explores this work in detail, demonstrating its online context through screen shots and photos.
All of the spinners interviewed for this paper are active on the quickly growing and massively influential website Ravelry.com. Ravelry was designed as a way to consolidate information about knitting patterns, yarns, and personal projects, and to connect with other knitters. In a few years it has acquired a membership approaching half a million, and has become a watershed for designers, vendors, and fiber crafters wishing to compare notes, show photos, search projects, shop, or simply organize their own stuff in one place. The Ravelry format offers the spinners an engaging, interactive and fluid creative environment in which their individual work thrives. Examination of this online community demonstrates the spinners’ influence on each other, as well as the myriad ways in which the Internet affects them as artists.
Ravelry is just one example of how the popular revival of knitting, crochet and handspinning has manifested online. The Internet currently acts as gallery, classroom, and workshop for a vast, globally dispersed network of fiber people. Individual fiber-related blogs, instructional videos, and thematic shared photo pools all serve to connect the most ancient forms of textile production with the most current adventures in cyberspace.