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Craftivist

According to Urban Dictionary, “Craftivist is the intersection of two words: craft and activism. A Craftivist creates crafts for environmental responsibility, social justice, peace, love, and the challenge of bettering the world with crafts.”

Although the current nuance of Craftivism has taken a more activist connotation, the concept of helping others through fiber crafts has been around since the American Revolution. The idea probably existed even earlier but perhaps in a less intentional and organized fashion, as factory-made goods were not readily available and handmade goods were more commonplace.


American Revolution

During the American Revolutionary war, the colonists took to their spinning wheels, knitting needles, crochet hooks, and looms to create cloth and garments for their households as a way to protest increasing British taxation. Wearing “homespun”, or garments created by textiles produced in the colonies became a sign of pride and support for the revolutionary cause. Later when the war began in earnest, women were encouraged to support the army by knitting socks and sewing shirts for the Revolutionary soldiers.



One woman even used her knitting to smuggle British secrets to Washington. Known as “Old Mom Rinker”, she worked in a tavern frequented by British soldiers. After the tavern closed for the night, she would write down detailed notes of what she overheard. These notes she wrapped around a rock and then wound yarn around them creating a knitting ball. In the morning, she would take her knitting to a nearby cliff and as she worked on her socks she gently nudged the ball of yarn with the concealed notes, over the edge for Washington’s troops. In this way “Old Mom Rinker” was able to pass vital information on to the Revolutionary soldiers.


War Time Knitting

While women were not allowed to fight during the American Civil War, World War I, or World War II, they were encouraged and wanted to show their nationalism in other ways. “The Red Cross recruited knitters nationwide to clothe and comfort Allied soldiers, European civilians, and, eventually, US troops.” (Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time p.15). Throughout WWI and WWII, knitters made numerous socks, hats, and blankets to send overseas.


Today there are those that would argue that knitting for the troops supports war. While I do not support war, I do support providing comfort for humanity. There are many reasons that someone decides to join the military. They may believe that this is a way for them to express their patriotic duty, they may want higher education and a career but are unable to afford to do so in any other way, or they may want to improve their current circumstances and believe that entering the military will help them to accomplish their goal. No matter their reason for joining, the men and women of the military are often put in dangerous and difficult situations. Providing them some comfort through knit hats or slippers does not support war, it supports the humanity of the people experiencing war.


Activism

In modern times, some fiber artists have continued in a traditional direction while others have taken a decidedly political turn. There are those who use their needles to help others by providing shawls, caps, socks, and other comfort items to soldiers, those who are ill, the homeless, infants, and children. They do this through religious or non-religious organizations. Then there are those who take up their needles to bring attention to a problem or to support businesses owned by marginalized groups. During the Women’s March, knitters made Pussyhats a symbol protesting Donald Trump's vulgar comments and transformed it into a word of empowerment instead of suppression. The Yarn Mission was organized by CheyOnna Sewell and Taylor Payne in reaction to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Its mission is to fight racial injustice by supporting black creators, yarn dyers, and artists.

Fiber arts have been used by women and men to support a variety of causes over the centuries. Each woven, knitted, or sewed piece offers comfort and a sense of caring to those who receive them.


Looking for ways to join the cause? Check out these links!


Sources

Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christianesn


VOTE Pattern

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