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Reclaiming Fabrication One (Utopian?) Stitch at a Time

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Calling for the liberation of craft as well as for general revolution, the knitting movement “Hønsestrik” (Free Knitting) was an important craft practice in Denmark in the 1970s but has since spread worldwide, reaching knitting subcultures in the United States. Starting with an analysis of this movement, this paper will investigate how the current discourse on 3D printing and other digitally based maker and craft practices can be understood as simultaneously highly utopian as well as potentially constitutive to the way that we perceive our options for asserting influence on everyday products. In industry, 3D printers are important for customizing equipment, for prototyping, or for making models of micro-scale structures, however Chris Anderson’s argument in Makers as well as the FabLab discourse argue that individuals, and by inference society, will benefit greatly from access to and familiarity with fabrication technologies; this will change how we understand our own agency with respect to things, objects, and code.

Like the ‘hønsestrik’ movement, the current hype on 3D printing as well as the resurfacing of repair and reuse practices (see for instance iFixit) argue that individual fabrication has the possibility to change societal structures from the ground up: By reclaiming production and by enabling fabrication to take place on an individual level, 3D printing, reuse and repair practices dream of a society where individuals are able to remodel and repurpose almost anything thus disrupting contemporary mass-production structures.

The Free Knitting movement was documented in a series of books that also served as a political manifesto for how people should stop knitting from patterns bought in a store. Known for their very simple base patterns and many case examples they collected personal stories of the knitting trend from its beginning to its demise (1974-80) and laid out the intellectual and political backdrop of knitting and sewing in the 1970s. Happening at a time without (micro) blogging, the books were important as witnesses of a practice that depended on a community eager to share and co-develop new ways of responding both as individuals and as a movement to contemporary society. As importantly, the books sought to spread out into other domains when explicitly stating that knitting is both a creative and a political act; by reclaiming the fabrication practices, it is possible to change the way the (capitalist) world works: “Once your first knit is finished there will be no end to your courage, also in other aspects than knitting.” While current repair and fabrication movements diverge in means and aims, what they have in common is the wish for the individual to question contemporary consumer practices through repurposing and customizing its aesthetic and cultural value.

Analyzing how these contemporary practices of fabrication and repair oscillate between being utopian and relevant on an everyday level – using Free Knitting as a recent historical example of a similar practice and discourse – the paper discusses how it is perhaps precisely this oscillation that gives strength and agency to a movement with a goal to reclaim fabrication.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2014
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventAmerican Studies Association Annual Meeting: The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain in the Post-American Century - Los Angeles, United States
Duration: 6 Nov 20149 Nov 2014

Conference

ConferenceAmerican Studies Association Annual Meeting
CountryUnited States
CityLos Angeles
Period06/11/201409/11/2014

Bibliographical note

In event:Fabricating Tech: Pleasure and Pain of Design Communities

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