"The act of sewing is a process of emotional repair"
- Louise Bourgeois, French-American artist
I have been a knitter for a long time. It was one of the first things that I did in the textile arts and still the method I prefer and am most comfortable with. The reason that I took so strongly to knitting, and other textile crafts I subsequently took up is a little mysterious to me, even today. I know that I wrestled with knitting like an obstacle to be won, a problem to be unravelled. And I still remember the aha! moment I had when I fiiiiinally figured it out, almost instantaneously, after coming home from a family vacation. So, there's the thrill of figuring something rather clever out, which you still get on a regular basis by making new things or using new techniques (throwback to turning a heel for the first time!). And, obviously, the thrill of making something physical and tangible (and soft and hopefully useful). That never gets old.
|Sadly, finishing pieces of a thing is less satisfactory. Single sleeves are not quite so exciting as a whole sweater.|
There are other things that make textile arts fulfilling for me: their ability to tangibly embody thoughts, feelings and ideas through the process of their creation. This embodiment is the reason knitting can be such a perfect gift: it can wordlessly express love for someone important to you. In cold climates, knitting some a hat is personally giving them protection, wishing them warmth. It is a type of love that endures every time that person puts on their hat; a durable method of taking care of another. I imagine this is one of the reasons why it has survived so long as a mainstream(ish) hobby.
Asides from all the positive emotions textile arts can communicate, there is also a darker but still very important role they can fulfill. Textiles can and have been used to express confusion, despair, sadness, anger, grief and insanity. This can happen on an individual level, like Agnes Richter's jacket, or on a social level, like Chilean arpilleras.
I don't know why these kinds of textiles are so poignant to me, but their ability to embody the human condition is remarkable. It is more than words on a page, or any kind of speech. It is a deeply intimate physical expression of emotion that is able to communicate intangible experiences and injustices. It is meaningful for the same reason a gift of a hand knit hat is meaningful: it takes time and effort. It is purposeful. It is done for a reason and it means something.
As for me, this sums it up better than I ever could:
|Found on pinterest, sadly I couldn't track down the original artist.|