Knitting involves intermeshing a series of loops of yarn using needles, forming a two-dimensional fabric. Its symmetrical loop structure and the fact that a new stitch (or course) is knitted into each old loop creates a fabric of meandering lines, unlike the straight or parallel threads of woven cloth. Because these lines of yarn are not secured, they can stretch in response to the wearer’s movements—a property that makes knitwear a staple for cold weather garments. In contrast, woven fabrics are generally only elastic along one of a related pair of directions that lie roughly diagonally between the warp and weft, unless they are woven from a stretchable material such as spandex.
A course of alternating tall and short stitches is the basis for knitted fabric patterns, which can range from simple ribbing to elaborate intarsia or fussy fair-isle. Individual stitches may also be elongated by passing the working yarn around a previous stitch, which is called a garter stitch. The resulting elongated stitch—which looks like a “V” stacked vertically—can be alternated with shorter stitches for an interesting effect.
Drawing on Ingold’s taxonomy of lines (2007), this article explores how the historical marginalization of fiber crafts has conversely contributed to their power as communicative resources for making and sharing meaning. Specifically, the analysis draws on the work of everyday aesthetics to demonstrate how long-established meanings associated with knitting are entwined with newer meanings that demonstrate its value as a significant meaning-making practice in and of itself. knit