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Handwork Courses

Last updated on Mar 23, 2023

Textile handwork is defined as the creation of surface and/or structure through the manipulation of flexible linear elements with small hand-held tools. Historically used to fabricate and decorate utilitarian objects, techniques such as knitting, crocheting, and embroidery were commandeered by makers in the revolutionary fiber art movement of the 1960s. Because these alternative methods of construction continue to invite critical reflection on themes such as gender, domesticity, and labor, artists in many disciplines are employing these materials and methods to reinvent their sculptural and performative practices in the twenty-first century. In these hands-on courses, students experiment with structure, texture, pattern, and image while addressing content such as personal narrative and community engagement.

At the 2000 level this course is open to students in ALL majors without previous experience or prerequisites. Continuing and advanced students at the 3000 level focus on developing content and skill through in-depth investigations.

The following courses have been offered by the Textiles Program on a rotating basis in the last several years.

Knitting It All Together

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb “to knit” means to tie, fasten, bind, attach, join. This definition of the word invites us to imagine what might be drawn together through the repeated looping motion of knitting: strands of yarn, individuals, communities, ideas, sensory experience, and more.

This course explores the current phenomenon of hand knitting in art and contemporary culture, its historical antecedents, and the artistic and conceptual potential of the medium. In the current climate, knitting offers a means for connecting community, a form of self-care, an act of healing and integration. Using traditional and non-traditional materials, students explore various techniques and portable tools for knitting including fingers, spools, needles, handmade tools, and mechanical devices.

Taught by Anne Wolf

Narrative Stitches

Narrative Stitches mines the pictographic and linguistic vernaculars that have long been used in textiles and are now finding new artistic currency. Using the rich history of narrative stitching from diverse historical and cultural arenas as points of reference and research, students craft contemporary works with needle and thread, drawing inspiration from personal, commemorative, fictional, or socio-political sources. Embroidery, appliqué, quilting, and other stitch-based techniques are used to discover the power of storytelling as a means of personal agency, expression of grief, and preservation of histories. In addition, a wide range of narrative traditions from oral histories to poetry and from song lyrics to comics will be examined, with an emphasis on strategies of listening.

Taught by Anne Wolf

Quiet Revolution

In times of social and political unrest, the calls for change can be shouts, cries, songs, and chants. But powerful revolutionary acts have also been as quiet as the spinning of a thread, the wearing of Kadhi cloth, and the creation of a 48,000 panel quilt. In this course students study historical and contemporary examples of textiles that have influenced social transformation. Students develop and implement Individual or collaborative projects that address concerns within a community, take a stand on social, environmental or economic issues, or act as silent or near silent catalysts for change. While no specific skills are prerequisites for this level intermediate/advanced course, the curriculum is geared towards motivated students who have enough technical knowledge and conceptual rigor to complete long-term projects.

Taught by Anne Wolf

Feeling Felt

The use of wool from various animal sources is a world-wide phenomenon dating back thousands of years. Its fluff can be spun, its lustrous fibers can be dyed brilliant colors, and with heat, moisture, and friction, its scales interlock to create a durable material that can be shaped into two-dimensional and three-dimensional sculptural forms. In this course we expand our material understanding by exploring the physical properties and the artistic possibilities of this unique protein fiber. We also consider the history of wool including traditional modes of production, the impacts of sheep farming on the land and Indigenous cultures during colonization, and the current trends towards eco-friendly and humane practices. Assignments include hands-on experiments in spinning, dyeing, and felting, in-depth creative projects, readings, lectures, and field trips.

Taught by Marina Contro

Forget Me Knot

From the mourning body to the post mortem body, textiles mediate relationships between the living and the dead. Textiles bind life and death by marking the boundary of one body to another, of one realm to the next. Across many cultural practices, the dead are often dressed for departure or subsequent arrival in the afterlife. Mourners may wear color-coded clothing, R.I.P. t-shirts, or rend their garments to make visible the internal landscape of grief. Knot structures serve as tactile mnemonics against forgetting while memorial embroideries archive births and deaths in stitches. Students participate in studio projects, critiques, readings, and seminar discussions. Techniques include crochet, lace-making, embroidery, plaiting, knotting, and other hand skills for hairwork.

Taught by Angela Hennessy

Darn It! (UDIST)

In an economic system that promotes perpetual newness over the time honored, an American household generates an average of 82 pounds of textile waste per year. As we find ourselves sinking into a sea of the discarded, what is the value of rescuing damaged or outdated objects? How can we employ techniques of mending to counter the unsustainable proposition of relentless disposability and poetically advance the aesthetic principles of ephemerality and imperfection? Holes, tears, broken threads, stains, and missing pieces offer potential for transformation through the careful work of darning, stitching, fusing, patching, and embellishing. They are also fertile sites for reflecting on the physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and economic benefits of repair and reuse.

Taught by Anne Wolf

Image artist credit: Allegra Samp