The End (of Pre-Thesis)

It’s finals week so that typically means life is hell, but I think I have some idea as to where my project is going.

Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

I spent a good portion of the week putting together my final presentation for this week’s class. Here’s a recording of it for your viewing pleasure:

When I was putting this together I was reflecting on where I was going and what I wanted to do for this project. My research went much deeper than what I was able to show in my final presentation and so since this is the final official blog post for this class I thought I would break my thoughts down further.

This week, I read more journal articles, and one of the ones I read talked a lot about a concern I had with wearable technology.

That had to do with waste and the sustainability of the practice.

“The Electric Corset and Other Future Histories” by Katherine Townsend, Sarah Kettley, and Sarah Walker Part of why I wanted to document what I was doing in a pattern are so that ultimately if anyone else was to make this pattern they would be able to rethread it or simply remove the electronics so that the integrity of the finished garment is still intact.

It mentions accessories a lot and has me thinking about ways that wearables could work as an accessory, but maybe go beyond the idea of a fitness tracker. The concern about how something will work in an industrialized world where most material needs to be easy to care for is another thought that’s crossed my mind in developing wearables ever since.

I also read a bit about Elizabeth Zimmerman this week and learned a lot about the pattern industry and how she helped shape the knitting pattern market.

Elizabeth Zimmerman is an interesting character in the realm of knitting because she was good at being the boss of her knitting. She came into prominence at a time when there wasn’t a lot of talk about techniques and patterns typically just presented directions to the knitter. The goal here was for young women to prove they had useful domestic skills by creating a perfect sweater to specs.

This was prevalent, particularly in some European knitting traditions. The paper recounted how German knitters would be given exact instructions and they were expected to NOT deviate from them.

Zimmerman started to change this after a yarn company misappropriated one of her sweaters with instructions that didn’t match the picture. After this, she started a newsletter and began speaking directly to knitters in letter format. She saw her readers as curious and wanted them to push the boundaries of their craft as she had over the years.

Zimmerman’s work is appealing, but there’s an overarching idea in this article as well that domestic craft wasn’t respected when Zimmerman was starting out except in the respect to measure “wife-ability.”

This comes up in interesting conjunction against “The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater.”

Most knitters are aware of this curse stating that if you are in a romantic relationship you shouldn’t cast on a sweater for your significant other before you hit a certain relationship milestone. If a knitter does so it effectively dooms the relationship and there’s plenty of discourse surrounding how to supposedly prevent this.

However, what I am interested in is this idea of wives knitting for their husbands. If knitting was a craft meant to show off a woman’s domestic knowledge then the sweater curse now seems like something designed to protect a woman’s labor. Knitting for your family, especially as the world grew more industrialized seems like a luxury of a scout merit badge. Saying you won’t knit for someone until there is a commitment within marriage feels like a way to say, “You don’t get this unpaid labor until we’re more to each other.”

Yet, a New Yorker article entitled “The Sweater Curse” also mentions this, brings up a point about how a husband clothed in a handknit sweater served as a warning to other women.

Knitting legends are incredibly hard to track and find the origins of this are likely outside the scope of what I am going to be able to do this spring, but this juxtaposition feels too coincidental.

Now that you’re up to date on what I read let’s talk about where this is going in terms of end-of-term deliverables.

I expect that this deliverable will be at least two parts.

Part one is a knitted object that I will design myself. I have no idea what this is going to look like. I’ve looked at work by artists like Kate Just and work from other wearable tech labs like Cornell’s Hybrid Body Lab but I haven’t quite figured out what I want to do with the object as a whole.

It definitely feels like this should address something larger than just the garment and knitting does give me space to do that with the design. It’s part of why I am going to give myself a design challenge with different words and I’ll go into it Crazy 8’s style.

However, the other parts I’m a little less clear on.

Since a lot of my work has been around the idea of maker culture and what goes into making an object it feels like the patterns should be published and live somewhere ready to be used by a broader audience.

Now, this can take a few forms:

  • A grimoire type object that really serves a sourcebook for how someone can work with these materials
  • A zine that explores the connection between knitting, STEM, and the dichotomy between everything I’ve been reading about.

Similarly, I’ve been thinking about how I may produce a film along the same lines. Since part of my research was also about the labor of craft and what goes into finished objects I’ve been thinking of ways that I could visualize and actualize that part of the process. Some ways I thought to do that:

  • A film
  • Some type of QR code that displays the life of a garment

This may be the aspect of my deliverables that I am most struggling with, but I’ll figure it out.

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A place for thoughts, musings, notations, and synthesis of ideas for my thesis research.

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Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser

Grad Student at NYU Tandon. Associate Editor for Tell-Tale TV. Pop Culture enthusiast. Writer with a dog. Knits.

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