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Greg McVerry

Knitting rebellion: Elizabeth Zimmermann,identity, and craftsmanship in post war America

Elizabeth’s philosophy of knitting stressed each knitter as an independent craftsman responsible for material and design choices, in opposition to the uncritical, or “blind follower” of the patterns knitter of the knitting industry publications. This shift in the practices of knitting intersected with increasing feminine autonomy and increasing interest in fiber arts to shape a new identity of ‘the knitter’ as original and self-determining craftsman, rather than the mere producer-reproducer of knit objects for domestic consumption.

The work of anthropologists Dorothy Holland and Jean Lave in their text History in Person focuses on social and individual practices generative of individual and communal identities in relationship to the larger and more durably instituted historical and cultural movements, and offers a number of contemporary and historical case studies of this process

Francesca Bray brings this recognition of the individual acting in collusion and resistance to social identity in her work on hand weaving as a technological production of women’s identity in late Imperial Chinese society. Her example of the swadeshi movement of mid-century India, with its production of homespun cloth as a “less economically efficient” commercial enterprise while remaining a highly “efficient technique for the production of Indian Nationalism

Marie Griffith’s scholarship on conservative religious women and their embrace of a recognizable form of traditional femininity while reshuffling pre-existing elements of identity into new priorities outside of traditional gender roles and spaces

Thus knitting as craftsmanship, and as a viable form of cultural production, was able to generate the individual and social identities that could support major new publications, institutions and associations, that could in turn, self-replicate across time and reproduce new individuals, in resistance to previously dominant conceptual forms of commerce and industry.

this is why knitting fits into the idea of innovation systems as the focus is on the identity of the agent in face of the collective.



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