Craft

Are Fibre Arts a Backlash Against the Internet?

This morning I read an article in yesterday’s Toronto Star [link] that makes the repeated claim that fibre arts have grown as a reaction to the Internet and our usage of screens. Now, I don’t argue with that in principle, but the way in which the claim was made implies that it is a backlash rather than an evolution. I cold not let it lie without reacting to it.

I understand that The Star was attempting to point out the move online with Instagram and other media to share photos and trends of fibre arts (such as weaving in this case). The writer could have done that, however, with far less condescension to online folks.

It is truly great that more people are knitting and crocheting and weaving and dyeing and spinning and so on, though I would prefer to see some figures to prove that’s true. I would guess at most it has grown a little but mostly has become more connected. People who sat and knitted socks and sweaters at home could now join in discussions online about their passions, which in turn spurs people on to knit more.

I know for me my interest in the craft would have died out quickly if I had no community around it. My knitting life has always involved local knitting groups (there’s your real world component) but it has also involves a large slice of Ravelry and of course this blog. The fact I can discuss knitting and fibres with so many different people through different means is exciting. We can share so much easier than before.

Now, with the Internet full of knitters and other fibre artists, it doesn’t matter that I didn’t have anyone in my family to teach me to knit. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t afford lessons. I could just jump on Youtube and figure it out that way.

There’s also the fact that even if you do learn the basics offline, you have the chance to learn so much more from that jump-off point thanks to the Internet. In the past if you didn’t know someone who could spin, it would have been much more difficult to learn. Now you can figure it out online. That means the less common of the crafts are opened to such a greater audience than before.

That is why I love the Internet. Yes, there’s a great community around our craft and any other that you can mention, but it also opens doors to so many different people who may not have had the chance to experience certain things without it. So I don’t believe that fibre arts are ‘taking off’ as an antithesis to the Internet; I think it’s quite the opposite. Our screens are the fuel to engage more people into the crafts.

What do you think?

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15 thoughts on “Are Fibre Arts a Backlash Against the Internet?

  1. I wouldn’t be knitting at all if it weren’t for the Internet! I haven’t found a local knitting group that I’m comfortable with, and I get all my patterns through Ravelry. It was a friend sharing photos of her knitting on Twitter that inspired me to pick it up again.

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    1. Yeah, that’s another good point. I’ve been fortunate with knitting groups but not everyone has that chance, and the internet means there’s still a community for us regardless. Plus there’s SO MUCH inspiration here!

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  2. I absolutely agree with what you have said- the web does just make it easier to connect with other crafters whatever it is that we like to create, and although crafting of all types has regained popularity and as you say the web has allowed people to learn crafts in a different way, I wouldn’t see it as a backlash against the internet- in fact in the uk the rise in interest has been seen as a reaction to the government induced recession and austerity measures 🙂

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    1. “in the uk the rise in interest has been seen as a reaction to the government induced recession and austerity measures” – That’s really interesting, I hadn’t thought of that. I’d be really interested to hear more about that.

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      1. The increased interest and participation in handicrafts has been linked with the increase in the recycling of products during the recession here due to less disposable income. People are starting to value recycled/ homemade/ crafted items again either for their own use or to make extra money selling on and as a way to spend leisure time (craft fairs are booming again), buying new, shiny, mass produced and expensive isn’t so popular in more thrifty society.

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      2. When hubs lost his job at the begining of the economic recession, and couldn’t get work for the next 13 months, the internet was my saviour. I don’t mean that in an over the top dramatic statment. I mean it as fact. We couldn’t much go places or do much. Even going out for a coffee with friends was not fesable during that time, but the net was a place where I could connect, interact and find some joy. Sometimes even through knitting!

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  3. I wouldn’t be knitting if it wasn’t for YouTube, Ravelry and Facebook. My friend in real life taught me the basics of casting on, knit stitch and casting off, but it was online that I learned the rest. I’m very uncomfortable in social situations with strangers, so classes or asking for help in my LYS were not an option. I’m also a visual learner, I need to SEE it in order to comprehend it and link the technique to the words. I also order yarn online quite frequently, simply because I can find it cheaper on my favorite yarn site than I can in my LYS, and my budget isn’t extensive.

    The accessibility of the trade online is what kept me interested and enabled me to learn. I think the digital world and the physical world blend together beautifully; one is not a backlash to the other.

    I’m also a digital artist, and I love to create digitally as much as I do physically. They’re each their own unique trades, with unique skill sets that are native to their medium. I think the fact we can combine these two elements is what draws everyone to pursue these crafts. To suggest otherwise tells me that the individual is trying to create a sense of elitism (i.e. “This is better than that”) or is too narrow minded to see the bigger picture.

    “I think the reason people come to class is because you do something with your hands and you make it and it exists in the real world.” — I think the reason people come to class is because the accessibility gap is smaller. People who would otherwise have never heard of it, now heard of it thanks to the internet. It’s what the majority of real life businesses depend on!

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  4. “I think the digital world and the physical world blend together beautifully; one is not a backlash to the other.”

    That’s put so well, thank you. They blend together. People speak of the Internet like it’s something separate from the ‘real world’; even I do it sometimes. Yet it’s not, it’s an integral part of many people’s real lives and that’s a good thing because it opens up connections that person would previously not have known.

    The opportunity for exposure for small businesses based on arts and crafts is enormous thanks to the web. Before it was local people only and sometimes if you’re unlucky with location that can ruin a business in no time at all, even from a talented creator. With the web there’s so much more chance to get the product and your skills out there to people who care, no matter where they are.

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  5. I think this is a really interesting debate. I agree with you that it’s not a backlash to the internet and that the internet helps propagate it. I’m in the UK and not convinced it’s a reaction to austerity either. Materials aren’t cheap. For example it costs a lot more to knit a jumper than to buy one. Us Brits aren’t all sat at home making stuff we can’t afford to buy. In the 90s there was a fall in a lot of craft practices as homemade became unfashionable as trends were for many about being materialistic. I would say if the rise is a backlash it’s a backlash to that way of thinking, but also a mixture many other factors too.

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    1. You make a good point about austerity being an odd reasoning, especially since yarn isn’t as cheap as clothes. I certainly don’t knit to save money – quite the opposite, I can only afford to do it when I’ve got a little extra cash. You might be right about it being a backlash against manufacturing processes which seem heartless and unnecessarily cruel in places but even that is too simplistic.

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  6. a few examples of this thought:

    http://cjres.oxfordjournals.org/content/6/1/127 Crafting your way out of the recession? New craft entrepreneurs and the global economic downturn author Doreen Jakob

    “During these austere, recession-hit times, it is not surprising that crafting is enjoying increased popularity. In this increasingly fast paced world, there is a growing desire across all generations to connect with something real and tangible. Crafting allows people to ensure that their personality is reflected in a unique finished product.”

    “Have you seen the article, “For Craft Sales, the Recession Is a Help,” in today’s New York Times? If not, click on over and read the online version.

    Because of the recession, business is up for craft stores and online marketplaces like Etsy. To save money, many gift-givers are making their own presents or buying handmade gifts from others.

    Last year, 42 million households gave handmade gifts, according to the Craft & Hobby Association, a trade group, and that number is expected to increase greatly this year, its spokesman, Victor Domine, said.

    “Across the country, people are crafting more,” he said. “With the recession, people are looking for ways to save money, and doctors are recommending it as a major form of stress relief.”

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    1. This is great, thank you so much for linking that.

      I can see crafting as more of a stress-relief due to the pressures of austerity than a money-saving venture, to be honest. Crafting generally doesn’t cost less than the mass-made alternatives. Knitting a sweater in worsted yarn for my size would take roughly $70 (Canadian) of Cascade 220, plus many hours of labour. Yes it would last longer and save money in the long run but that’s a middling difference.

      The benefits it gives to stressed out people though? Infinite.

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  7. I find it funny that they think it’s a backlash. If it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t be crocheting or knitting at all! Plus with posting my work online on a plethora of social media outlets, I’m not riddled with anxiety about critiques anymore. In fact the support and enthusiasm I received encouraged ne enough to start designing my own patterns and be open to commissions. Plus, I love to give back to the needle arts community and help other beginners as well. All in all, we can coexist!

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  8. I doubt they are a backlash – from all the interviews I’ve been doing (I am doing a research project on fiberarts meet the internet actually as I know several others are) the internet actually helps form more community and visibility for fiber artists.

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  9. I don’t support the idea of fiber arts being a backlash to the internet since as most of the commenters point out, their love of fiber arts and the community grew because of the internet. I think what struck me the most about the piece is the title — Dream Weavers: Young Toronto Artists Take Up Fiber Arts and this sentence “young women are increasingly interested in their grandmother’s hobbies.”

    I just don’t get the why with the resurgence of fiber arts in the North West, young people being interested causes such a fuss. Why the emphasis on the artists being young? Why not describe the arts as traditional instead of “her grandmother’s hobbies”? Maybe this stuck out to me because of my most recent “I can’t believe you do that stuff, that’s for old women” experience on the weekend past. The smirks, the idea that you must be a loser of some sort if crafts interest you. This seems to be a prevalent thought in our North Western culture and I don’t know why. Reading and research into other cultures show that fiber arts nurturing starts from very young and it’s a way of life. Not an anomaly that necessitates a newspaper article.

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