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Craftivism in three parts

Social craft action. Craft activism. Craftivism. Along with answering to various names, I also tend to talk about the intrinsic connection between craft and activism no matter what name it’s given.

I also believe that craftivism is about more than “craft” and “activism” -- it’s about making your own creativity a force to be reckoned with. The moment you start thinking about your creative production as more than just a hobby or “women’s work,” and instead as something that has cultural, historical and social value, craft becomes something stronger than a fad or trend.

I started writing along this theme in late 2002, and have delighted in the ways that people have been empowered and enlivened by the handmade, and knitting in particular. I started a blog site called craftivism.com to pay attention to two culturally stigmatized words, ‘craft’ and ‘activism’ to better spotlight the ways in which we can use our craft production to make the world a better place to live.

And to kickstart a monthly column here at knitchicks, I decided to elaborate on the three points that I find central to not only my own work, but the craftivist spirit in general.

1. Craftivism is about using positive forces to create small joys and a better world.

It doesn’t take more than a quick Google search (try “knitting,” “charity” to start!) to see how you can use your knitting skills to help others. Soon after I began knitting and had made scarves for everyone I knew, I started to turn my attention to those who might need to keep warm but don’t have the resources. Along with warming up those dear to me with accessories each year, I also make it a point to donate a few items I’ve made to homeless shelters or charitable organizations. Why? Because I believe that handmade items created out of love can keep you just a teensy bit warmer on cold, cold nights.

2. We live in a world built of materialistic dreams, where products can be bought off the racks and from the shelves. Celebrating the handmade gets us in touch with our own consumption.

Sometimes it’s alarming at how much materialism we are presented with on a daily basis – from television advertisements to window shopping on the high street on the way to work. Even though we purchase yarn and needles to knit, we are fighting this consumer onslaught by creating garments in colors and shapes that we choose.

Instead of a wardrobe designed by someone else, our craft production lets us choose if we want long sleeves or 3/4-length, let’s refashion the streets with our own genius instead of a stranger’s. It also reminds us that items made by hand allow us to be in charge of our closets and allows us to look at the ways that clothes are marketed and how materialism and money rules instead of individualism.

3. Craftivism is about giving and realizing your place in the makeup of the world.

By becoming aware of the power of your craft, you also begin to realize how it changes you as a person. In making that sweater stitch by stitch, you see how it is possible to enjoy both the process and the outcome of an activity. As you take note of the small things and how they can quickly turn into a thing of exquisite beauty, you also begin to see how in the hustle and bustle of modernity we all too often fail to take notice of how our own lives are stitched together.

It wasn’t until I started knitting that I truly woke up to the world. As I watched garments grow on my needles from cast-on to completion, I started to take a step back and see how other things were constructed and how even the tiniest of things can become something vast and strong.

Sharing. Choosing. Noticing. These are the three most important components of craftivism. I look forward to sharing more on these themes with you in the future.

Betsy is a freelance writer, crafter and top chick. You can read her article on the state of the British wool industry in Spring's Vogue Knitting.
We miss her since she moved back to North Carolina and look forward to her return (anyone want to sponsor a craftivist?!).

Hmm...I'm a little behind on things, seeing that it's now February 2007 and there's still Part 2 and Part 3 coming. I said I was going to do a monthly column, maybe I should turn that into yearly?!?

Yikes! :)

Top post. I look forward to reading more. Cheers!

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