Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Primarily a feminine duty or pastime, knitting has a deliciously rich history of political subversion in fiction and life. As a preemptive measure just prior to the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), American colonists boycotted British goods, spinning their own yarn and knitting and weaving all their own clothing. Madame Defarge, from Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), knitted constantly in the background; the domestic pastime belied a sinister agenda; readers learn she had been knitting a registry of all those condemned to die in the name of the new republic. Largely abandoned with the invention of knitting machines, there has been a youth-driven revival of yarn arts in recent decades, a statement against mass production and reclamation of women's crafts. Activists have begun incorporating large-scale knit and crocheted pieces into political public art statements. Called "yarn bombing" or "yarn graffiti," these installations may beautify public spaces and add a touch of the handmade to our industrialized environments - drab urban landscapes are the usual targets if temporarily. More overtly political yarn bombers may target military tanks or relevant statues; Marianne Joergensen stitched a pink blanket over a combat tank to protest Denmark's involvement in the Iraq war in 2006 [figure 1]. Contrary to its innocuous grannie associations, knitting can ‘politicize’.