Fast and Furious Fiber Arts

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If you work with yarn or fabric, you’ve probably seen online tutorials offering instructions on “How to Arm-Knit a Scarf in an Hour” or “How to Make a Quilt in an Hour.”

There are many reasons why “fast fiber arts” in general, and arm-knitting in particular, have become popular. It’s exhilarating, and perhaps liberating, to so quickly transform a skein of yarn or pieces of fabric into useful form. For gift-giving, or to craft a fun, wearable, marketable item that’s significantly less labor-intensive than traditional knitting or quilting, these stream-lined processes yield items that offer genuinely handmade quality. In a class learning arm-knitting, the focus need not be on counting stitches or doing precise work, but on socializing and relaxing — while still learning a new skill.

There is no speed limit beyond which creativity cannot happen.

At best, the need for speed in fiber arts introduces a playful, accessible vibe that encourages and affirms creative possibilities for folks at diverse levels of ability and with limited time — and we all have limited time; and it boosts productivity for artists working in otherwise slow media.

At worst, speed-crafting might deprive the spirit of some of the transcendent potential of art making, and turn the crafter into a kind of factory.

Ideally, sometimes you will feel free to work slowly, delighting in the materials and deepening your engagement with process, as if you might live forever; and other times you might work with a kind of abandonment, like a windstorm of creativity with a propensity to leave art in its wake.

Most of us, most of the time, are somewhere in the middle, between the best and the worst possible creative experiences. We are somewhere between throwing together a handmade item and Joseph Conrad’s description of the artistic experience:

“The artist appeals… to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition — and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation — to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity… which binds together all humanity — the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.”

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Sometimes a felted rose is a felted rose is a felted rose. And sometimes it’s a meditation on nature and transience.

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Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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