As part of the exhibit Sticks, Hooks and the Mobius: Knit and Crochet Go Cerebral (science and math-inspired sculpture) that closed this past weekend at Lafayette College, curator Susan Huxley created a yarn bombing with a poignant message.
For the uninitiated, a yarn bombing is like graffiti or guerilla art with yarn. Community projects run the gamut from anatomically correct flowers knit to a chainlink fence, to a stitched cover over a bus.
At Lafayette, Huxley, a recycled fiber artist, created a clothesline of granny-type afghans meandering down the hill from the college to the town of Easton — using the bright colors and wild patterns to beautify the urban landscape. She spent six months collecting these afghans from thrift shops at embarrassingly low prices. The price tags have been left on the blankies to how how little the value of these craft works.
Knit and crochet afghans are often made as gifts, and the maker spends a great deal of time — and money — considering the colors and pattern that will suit the gift recipient. During the many hours it takes the kntter or crocheter to complete the project, she — for it is often she — is thinking of the loved one for whom she is making it. It is “the gift that says I love you.”
Some become beloved family heirlooms, but others get stuffed into the back of the closet and eventually wind up at thrift shops, unused and “nearly new.” They are often priced less that what it cost to buy a single ball of yarn, when it may have taken 30 balls to complete such a project.
The gift recipients who gave these to thrift shops did not appreciate the personal time-consuming process undertaken, and the gift of time, in the name of love. Huxley points to the lack of respect for women’s work. “I want people to react to the hanging afghans,” she says. “Some, who understand what’s involved in making them, will think it’s horrible to leave them outside for a month. Others will complain that they’re ugly and should be removed. And, hopefully, some will begin to discover the beauty of the stitching and color combinations.”
The good news is, some passersby have been stealing the blankets, showing they are, indeed, needed and perhaps loved. Those remaining on the line by the end of the installation were to be laundered and donated to shelters.