Knitting Curriculum: Storied Threads of Pre-Service Art Teaching

By Lajevic, Lisa M.; Powell, Kimberly | JCT (Online), January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Knitting Curriculum: Storied Threads of Pre-Service Art Teaching


Lajevic, Lisa M., Powell, Kimberly, JCT (Online)


"Knitting is a living tradition-it's physical knowledge of a culture." (Jim Drain, as cited in Gschwandtner, 2008)

ASSOCIATIONS WITH KNITTING as craft and as product are multiple and widespread, evidence of its pervasiveness as a cross-cultural practice. While knitting and knitwear are a commercialized industry, knitting is often thought to be a pleasure craft, a relaxing repetitive act that is often associated with women's work and wear such as scarves, afghans, and sweaters, or baby wear such as booties and blankets. These easily found knitted items have a practical and functional purpose, and often evoke thoughts of grandmothers, feminine hobbies, and domesticity (Greer, 2008). Once a male trade, with the invention of the knitting machine in the sixteenth century, it has been argued that as men followed a more lucrative industrial route, women inherited the knitting needles (Malarcher, 2002). Knitting came to be associated with domestic work, done primarily by women.

Throughout the past decade, there has been increased attention to the act of knitting as activism, engaged in as a way to change the world (e.g., craftivism) (Greer, 2008; Moore & Prain, 2009). In addition to knitting for pleasure, relaxation, and necessity (i.e., warmth), many people knit as a quiet protest against mass-produced goods and consumerism, as a response to the fast paced culture, to raise awareness of issues, to make political statements, and to make a difference in everyday life (Moore & Prain, 2009). Afghans for Afghans, a humanitarian project, knit hats, mittens, scarves, and other clothing to help keep the people of Afghanistan warm. This is similar to the Red Cross tradition of knitting clothing for soldiers in World War I and World War II. Even Martha Washington, the first lady of the United States, organized knitting groups and efforts to knit clothing for soldiers of the Revolutionary war (Afghans for Afghans, 2010). Many groups have used the aesthetic medium of knitting for protest. For example, protesting the World Petroleum Congress in 2002, Calgary's Revolutionary Knitting Circle, a group aimed to create community and local independence (Facebook, 2010), knitted a web to stop a military procession (Moore & Prain, 2009). Contemporary artists, including Lisa Anne Auerbach, Freddie Robins, Patricia Waller, Magda Sayeg, and Lauren Madsen, have knitted as an art form, which is displayed on the streets, in public spaces, and in museums and galleries (Moore & Prain, 2009). Artists such as Lacey Jane Roberts and Sophie Horton have used "knitting as a tool to critique both boundaries and institutions that have neglected to see the textile for its potential as a powerful mode of communication" (Hemmings, 2009). Knitting, thus, can be both a simple craft and an art form or artistic act with complex meanings.

The space of knitting can be an interesting place of curricular and pedagogical exploration. Its potential to communicate meaning and explore life stories suggests that knitting is more than the production of garments. It is the making of something bigger-the making of curriculum and pedagogy. Knitting is the interweaving of loops, and as a strand of loose thread becomes a woven fabric, a narrative surface materializes. In this paper, we argue that knitting is more than a surface of fabric, it is a woven storied life with embedded in/equalities (Gschwandtner, 2008), social meanings and cultural practices.

In this paper, we explore a knitted curriculum. Connecting the traditional craft of knitting with meaning-making, art, and activism, we attempt to understand live(d) curriculum through two pre-service teachers' unique experiences. Based on a larger qualitative study of how pre-service art teachers make meaning of their student teaching experiences, we investigate the role that knitting played in their development as art teachers. We did not enter into this research study expecting to explore knitting. …

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