I consider myself a fairly conservative knitter, preferring to create warm practical wearables over art statements. Toques, mittens, scarves, and slippers in warm, single colour wools are what I tend towards – I do live in a climate where it is winter for over half of the year. Without a doubt my most ambitious project to date was a collaborative knit farm playmat, created with nine other knitters for the debut issue of Living Crafts magazine.
Each participating knitter designed a square, and knit it up for each other member. Once the mailing was done we stitched our squares together to create our own personal playmats. It was a huge undertaking and an even larger mat, but the experience pales in comparison to any of the knitting projects described in the cutting edge KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting’s New Wave by Sabrina Gschwandtner, now available as an audiobook from Knitting Out Loud.
Spinning out of her work on KnitKnit, the highly collectible, limited edition, edgy knitting zine, Gschwandtner drew together a collection of 27 avant-garde knitting artists and activists. Traveling worldwide to visit studios and conduct interviews, Gschwandtner compiled the book in her own words – summarizing her findings, detailing the knitting she found, and directly quoting the knitters throughout. Unlike a number of recent interview-type Knitting Out Loud releases, Gschwandtner interprets her experiences in her own writing rather than editing and compiling the written words, or transcribed interviews resulting in a consistent voice throughout.
For a knitter like me — dependent upon straightforward patterns and mathematical formulas -- listening to the radical departure of knitters for the previously unknown frontiers of the craft felt somewhat voyeuristic. The world of a performance artist who uses industrial equipment and utility poles to knit huge pieces of installation art seems far removed from my own domestic sphere of knitting. With eyes agog and jaw dropped I listened to Gschwandtner read the text of her book, detailing tiny miniature sweaters knit at 80 stitches per inch, hand knitted breasts for mastectomy survivors, and complete knitted rooms that become wearable when art patrons slip into the knitted garments attached to the walls.