Women around the world were often in the shadows and could not voice their opinions and ideas. They would come together to form community. It is said that in a time of male dominance, if a woman was smart at all she would be useful and use her creativity in crafts such as: sewing and knitting; creating household objects for her husband and family. These two crafts played a huge part in history and allowed women to come together and voice their opinions, empower each other and stray from oppression.
Girls were usually taught to sew in school, along with other important skills necessary to run a successful household. Not only was sewing and knitting considered a “survival skill”, but also a political statement for women. Overtime sewing, and knitting were ways cultures around the world would tell or retell stories about their experiences. Women’s craft has had a great impact on the world. In the early 1700s most clothing was handmade and women were responsible for sewing and knitting clothing for the soldiers of the second world war. Crafts of women has been devalued throughout history and is often overlooked by male figures.
In the novel, “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana”, in a community that was built and overruled by men, Kamila found it difficult to care for her family. In her city, Kabul women were told that they were unable to hold jobs and had to depend on men for everything. Within a year, Kamila converted her living room factory into a flourishing dressmaking trade offering finely weaved dresses to tailors through Kabul and providing meaningful work for an entire community of women. This is a great example of women fighting through a rough situation.
Women in many cultures leave special objects and family mementos to later female members. Quilts are usually created by women to honor, exemplify, or express important events in their lives. They are also passed down as memorable gifts and inheritances. Quilts are commonly used for females to express themselves artistically and embed meanings in the fabric to reflect deep knowledge that resonates in women’s lives across time.
Quilting was an important activity for women in the American colonies because the results provided the necessary garments and blankets that people needed. These important items moved from strictly useful to form creative expression and immediately turned into a social event as women would come together to show their ideas and techniques. The regional, ethnic, and technical construction of quilts also reflected women’s artistic expression within the confines of their own opportunities. The quilts frequently made social or political statements that reflected regional circumstances.
Nineteenth-century women considered their quilts records of their lives and referred to their quilts as ”bound volumes of hieroglyphics” or as ”diaries.” During the civil war, women’s quilt-making funded much of the confederate war effort. Southern women made and sold quilts to raise money to buy gunboats. The gunboat quilts pictured an elaborate medallion of a floral arrangement cut from printed. While women worked hard to earn this money men were unsatisfied and even referred to these boats as “petticoat gunboats” having been bought by the earnings of women.
In the same way, women from the north made quilts for army soldiers to use on their cots. With the help from the government women were provided exact dimensions and many sewing groups made quilts for soldiers. The United States Sanitary Commission was an organization created by women to provide comfort to soldiers by supplying soap, razors, and other needed items. They were also able to provide them with quilts. They would collect and distribute about 250,000 quilts for the war. This organization was also able to staff many hospitals and raise money to work to educate the military on health.
In order to fund many powerful and political movements such as the Women’s temperance movement and The Abolitionist Movement, they sold quilts which gained a lot of attention. Having quilts unveiled the more public roles women were beginning to pursue in the US society throughout the 1800s. Women were beginning to get recognition from huge names, for example, Susan B. Anthony who addressed many groups of women. For decades, knitting and sewing had provided a path to political involvement for women, but also maintained traditional gender roles.
As women’s suffrage movements gained recognition in the U.S., many leaders of this movement decided to reject the traditional feminine tasks. These women felt like they needed to take a stance on knitting and sewing or needlework of any kind to relay a message. While this was a very serious issue women’s magazines saw no problem in creating an article separating the “real” women which were those who continued to knit or sew from the women that wanted to vote. These magazines would normally exclude the African American and poor women to claim the face of needlework as white and middle-class women.
In recent news, Donald Trump caused a large amount of controversy around the time of his election. He was caught saying very vulgar things about women, which caused an uproar of emotions. While women were not too fond of this comment, they decided to do something about it. Knitters who are not very fond of our current president’s administration say that they see a resurgence in people who see interest in knitting as a political tool. A recent women’s march was held with the creation of “pussyhats”.
The feminist punk movement of the 1990s brought new political significance to many different cultures, these members would encourage feminists and others to take up crafting in order to resist corporations. Since this incident, many independent knitting organizations have called attention to liberal causes. A Pussyhat is a gift and act of kindness from one women’s rights supporter to another. There have been critiques about this particular project and whether these hats should be included in women’s marches in 2018. In others’ opinions the pink colored hat excluded people of color. The founding principles of the project are compassion, and personal connection to further women’s rights and human rights. It is an exciting and ongoing process, and these criticisms are part of it. This is an ongoing movement that uses creativity to generate social change, and inspires those who felt invisible, feel visible.
There are many organizations that build a sense of community, which allows women to come together to share a common belief or even change the world in some way. These changes don’t have to be large, but something is always better than nothing. The Yarn Mission is a black owned organization that holds fundraisers to teach knitting and organize knitting meet-ups. Their mission is to engage with their communities to encourage and support their collective mobilization. They intend to engage the public and others who are not normally involved in activism.
Women have constantly been in the shadows and are taking there power back by forming community through craft. Crafts allowed women to fight oppression, empower each other and voice their own opinions. Sewing and knitting are two popular crafts that allowed them to be creative and fight a very important cause.