Although many of us may not actually practice the art of knitting, we sure enjoy wearing it – especially during these cold winter months. The comforting warmth of a well-yarned knit scarf against our cheeks almost makes us feel like were sitting in a coffee shop by the fireplace, with hot chocolate held in both hands while snuggling next to Kit Harrington.
Yet despite my imaginary fictitious day dreaming, knitting has not always been associated with such popular associations. During the 70’s knitting was a lifestyle choice that women included in their resume under the caption of “domestic skills and capabilities”. Despite this, innovators and pioneers of the fashion world found new ways to work the needle and manipulate the yarn.
Did you know that during the rise of the Punk movement, designer Vivienne Westwood contributed to the phenomena of knitting by creating a knitted mohair jumper for her Autumn/ Winter 1977-78 collection? The attribution of her use of knit became central to the contribution of Punk, as her knitted jumper represented the manipulation and deconstruction of women’s social boundaries.
Madame Westwood and her involvement within the Punk movement and her use of knit offered consumers the opportunity to create simple, inexpensive garments. Thus, offering a new dissemination of fashion outside the fashion system, known today as the DIY ethos.
The late Alexander McQueen also distressed the idea of knitting by juxtaposing the manifestation of gothic mind and the inherent properties of knits in his Autumn/ Winter 2001-2002 collection. According to Joanne Turney, “McQueen’s Knitted garments evoked the inner turmoil of the mind through the perception and expectation of themes and technique”.
Knitting’s recognition within popular culture owes much to the unraveled yarn left in unchartered territories of the late 70’s. Had it not been for pioneers like Madame Westwood and the Great McQueen, knitting would have never breached the iconography barrier of craft and femininity.
Today, the image associated with knitting has transitioned into something hip and young within the popular psyche of culture today. It is highly involved with the visual and material of not only fashion, but that of arts & crafts, design and performance. From scarves to jumpers to unraveling dresses, post-modern knitting has undoubtedly transcended into what one might consider a 21st cultural phenomenon.
P.S. If ever you are interesting in the culture of knitting, Joanne Turney has written an excellent book title, The Culture of Knitting that assesses and places the art of knitting within the vast discourse of fashion, art, crafts, and performance.