Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Knitting is ubiquitous, an unremarkable part of everyday life that tends to fade into the historical background. Unfortunately, the craft of knitting has also suffered from sad associations with impoverishment and from its reputation as frivolous, Victorian-era "women's work." Women have in fact written much of their personal and social history in textiles, including knitting. Making textiles is "the key to the inner story of the existence of women," wrote textile scholar Candace Wheeler. The scholarly study of certain hand-produced textiles?especially quilting and weaving?was overlooked in the past. Such study has now been acknowledged as a valuable way to understand cross-cultural artistic, social, and historical experiences, for women in particular. Knitting, however, remains largely neglected by scholars and curators despite the extraordinary popular interest shown within contemporary society. Therefore, a review of literature was conducted, which revealed the contributions of a relatively small but significant number of scholarly works focused on knitting. In this paper for the panel, I present an overview of refereed publications, dissertations, and exhibitions to date. In addition, I summarize the range of disciplines for which knitting has proven a valuable topic of study and elaborate on the specific contributions to these disciplines. Knitting may follow the same trajectory as quilting, which in the past was overlooked and undervalued and now is appreciated in collections, exhibitions, and a designated study center. Knitting offers a similar potential for valuable contributions to future research, scholarship, collections, and exhibitions.