While studying weaving, I've discovered commonalities across textile arts. I've become fascinated with the processes rather than the outcome alone. I am interested in the stories surrounding the act of sewing, weaving, knitting, etc, and the overarching "fiber journey" of each artist. I've divided my research into three major themes, exploring the social, meditative, and computational qualities of these processes.
I've become really fascinated by the term fiber journey, which encompasses the full range of textile design and production from hobbyist to professional trade. Most fiber journeys start with a skill passed down by a relative. People from all over the world talk about learning from their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, and family gatherings in the form of sewing circles. There is a connection between these processes and their sense of cultural identity.
Traditionally textile crafts are performed in groups of women. There is an inherent sense of community, especially since many of these skills and patterns were passed down through oral tradition. Local yarn stores and community centers hold group classes. Even more recently people gather online to share tips, patterns, and finished work.
Many crafts are also known to relieve stress and foster patience. I find myself knitting to keep my hands busy while I clear my mind. I've found textile studios around New York City that focus on zen practices, like Saori hand weaving, that encourage free expression. The repetitive movements of these crafts becomes so automatic that it's easy for the mind to wander, but there is also an opportunity for mindfulness.
I have become interested in textile arts as a form of healing. Throughout history women have gathered during times of grieving and war to sew and knit. I also hear recent stories of women working through trauma and difficult issues by taking on a craft. The output may be garments or wallhangings or works of art.
When I first started programming I found a lot of overlap with the knitting patterns I was used to reading. Being able to design and alter patterns takes mathematical and spacial thinking.
To make any of the more intricate designs on a floor loom, it takes a lot of advanced calculation and planning.
Draft for an eight-heddle loom.
During my research I have started to explore the relationship between fiber and computing. The jacquard loom led to the invention of the first computer, and the textile industry has provided modern computing with many fundamental concepts including the binary system.
Core memory board (1960s)
This research has led me to think about ways in which computing is re-connecting with it's ancestor, textiles.
For my proposal I am combining these ideas to create a connected online experience for knitters. I would build a website where knitters can come "plug in" their needles to share an abstraction of their movement.
Prototype of proposed website
I am making conductive knitting needles that act as a switch to trigger calming sounds and animations to encourage the knitter to experience their work in a new way. I think the repetitive movement of knitting will provide a rhythm that can be shared. Multiple people on the same channel will be able to sync up, or respond creatively to the other users.
Handmade knitting needle switches
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