The World Needs a Knitting Museum

As an addicted knitter and crocheter, lover of textiles and enthusiastic visitor of museums, I have frequently attempted to combine my passions.  Repeated disappointments have long caused some serious musing:

Why are knitting and crochet so often treated like the illegitimate stepchild, the crossed-eyed cousin concealed in the attic?  As I have plunged into the world of Museums, I am learning there are very legitimate reasons: lack of resources, backlog of objects waiting for processing, different criteria for cataloguing, costume vs textiles expert . . . .

But the gnawing question was: Can this be addressed and resolved somehow?
My answer:  The World Needs a Knitting Museum!
I am planning to use this blog to focus on the process of creating an entity to collect, preserve, document and share our knitting and crochet heritage, and record my journey of exploration.  I hope to gather the talents of fellow travelers along the way. I hope you will engage with me in this conversation and process.

I visited a museum focused on the history of the city in which it was located.  The name and location are irrelevant to the experience.  My husband and I had a special opportunity to get behind the scenes ( lucky us!)  With little notice, we dropped by for a mini tour.

We met with a staffer long involved with exhibits there, and during the conversation, I mentioned my interest in establishing a Knitting Museum.  She paused, pondered, and replied definitively “Well there aren’t any Knitting Museums,” as though there never could be either.  Bemused, I responded:  “My point exactly!”

We actually got to see the Costume Department. The development coordinator,  had forgotten to give our guide advance warning when we made our visit plans.  Our guide apologized for not having prepared, and gamely offered to find a couple of knitted pieces in the collection to share with me on short notice.  We followed her down to the basement; – though the development coordinator had worked for the Museum for six months, he had never been down to the Costume Department.

Our guide searched through several drawers, and then triumphantly pulled out her favorite, red wool scarf: fringed, with a reindeer and the name “Robbie” cross stitched on the surface – “P L A N   A H E ad” style.  It was quite charming.  Poignantly, however, it wasn’t knitted.  It was made using another technique called “Tunisian Crochet” – a crochet technique, performed with an extra long crochet hook.  Those who don’t indulge in either knitting or crocheting would not be vexed by this.  To fans of either one, there is a crucial distinction, and I was both disappointed and triumphant:  the encounter proved my case that knitting just wasn’t getting the respect I believe it deserves.

Our guide was a great sport about it.  She had, after all, accommodated my request to look at “knitted” items without any prep time, and she had acknowledged that, though her mother was an ardent knitter (of dishcloths), that she didn’t know anything about it.   I had a hook and yarn with me, so as we talked, I worked up a swatch in Tunisian Crochet to demonstrate how it differed from knitting.  The guide and I will try again, on another visit with much better advance warning.

I share this account of my visit, because it so perfectly illustrates what motivates my yearning for knitting and crochet to have a place of their own.  The experience has left me with a big smile, to be handed such a perfect example of what knitters experience when they try to interact with textile collections. For me, it underscores the need to change the way knitting is collected, documented and shared  with the public.

Has anyone else experienced this?  I look forward to your input on the need for a Knitting Heritage Museum.

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