Styling Meaning

I have been struck recently by how little the recent wave of ‘ironic’ knitting or knitters really have to say. Some of these people really seem depressingly incapable of thinking about the politics of their craft, or of explaining the meaning of what they are doing in any terms other than it being, um, quite cool. This really struck me when listening to a recent interview on Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood’s wonderful CraftSanity podcast (power to you, Jennifer). The interview was with the DomiKNITrix—an ‘amusing’ play on words, and alter-ego of Jennifer Stafford, author of DominKNITrix: Whip your Knitting into Shape. Stafford was very good at talking about herself, but far less good at explaining what the mildly sado-masochistic aesthetic of her book, persona, and designs really meant. During the interview, Stafford explained her chosen aesthetic with the words ‘while I knit, I’m in control’. But does wearing a leather basque while knitting suggest power in any meaningful sense at all? Does the juxtaposition of the world of yarn and needles with that of whips and chains add very much to either? What “DominKNITrix” relies on is simply ‘witty’ juxtaposition: if you find the assumed incongruity of sado-masochism and knitting funny, then that is fine. csdomiknitrix.jpgTo me, though, this is mere contiguity without any meaningful content. I would have been interested in Stafford’s work if she’d had a better explanation for it, but being cool means nothing when you have nothing to say. Granted, I’ve not seen the book yet and should at least give Stafford the benefit of the doubt: she’s  a talented designer whose patterns look interesting and innovative. She is clearly keen to encourage inventiveness and creativity, and this is all to the good.  I’ve ordered her book and perhaps I’ll find that here she does say something of consequence about the politics of her aesthetic choices. But I fear that someone who, when interviewed, described her sojourn in Prague and Istanbul in disturbingly culturally imperialist terms (this completely unselfconsciously, mind you) will not be able to persuade me.