Whether you knit, crochet, weave, macrame or embroider – yarn is the universal thread that intertwines much of our handmade world. A tried and true craft material that’s been used for centuries with techniques passed down from generation to generation, yarn is used to create blankets, clothing and plush creatures. Yarn is versatile. It’s soft texture, when woven together, creates a reinforced strength. For many people yarn offers a first introduction into handmade whether through an item gifted from a relative or our first dabble into DIY crafts.
Scrolling through Instagram I stumbled across the feed of Vickie Howell. Longtime fiber maverick and godmother of knits, Vickie was attending South by Southwest and posting images of yarn bombing on display throughout the city of Austin for the premiere and promotion of YARN: The Movie, a film by Una Lorenzen. Like a cat chasing a skein of yarn, I was googling my way through trailers and press releases to learn more about this fiber-centric film. (Listen to Vickie’s interview with the co-directors on the Craftish podcast.)
The movie has a low run release to small cinemas, libraries and museums so I reached out to my favorite, local independent movie house and within a few weeks we were in contract to host a private viewing party. The feeling of an opening night movie premiere with star studded actors is most likely the closest description of what transpired that night although instead of a Hollywood actress and paparazzi, 75 like-minded peers with the common thread of yarn tying us all together gathered for a movie experience we won’t soon forget.
YARN: the Movie shares the story of a handful of fiber artists living around the globe and shows the powerful political statements which can be made from the simplest of materials: yarn. Each artist depicted in the film has a distinctive viewpoint on the material and shares the process and passion behind their work.
The movie’s opening shot offers a wide roaming view of a scenic countryside with sheep running in herds. The documentary dives quickly into the subject matter of racial divide – amongst sheep. As the handmade world enjoys more and more brightly colored knits, sheep are being bred to produce white yarn which can then be dyed and cast into a rainbow of colors. Darker haired sheep are considered less valuable but there’s a movement in place and an awareness being made to combat this fur shaming.
Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldar is an Icelandic yarn artist who yarn bombs her way through the countryside protesting the color divide while crocheting simple stars along the farms where the sheep are raised, all in dark undyed fiber she spins herself. Thorvalday continues her political knitted uprising, as we follow her to the streets of Puerto Rico, where she crafts more wall hangings in a country where artists are limited in expressing free speech.
The playful side of yarn is highlighted in Japanese Canada-based artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s work. MacAdam can be found weaving large scale, interactive playgrounds allowing the child-like wonder of a fiber meshed bounce house to engage those who crawl their way around a labyrinth of webbing. The unintended result is a gender study of how boys and girls choose to respond to the webbing.These elaborate and colorful nets create a stunning interactive playground which challenges the viewer to think of yarn as more much more than a single stranded.
Viewers continue to journey through the juxtaposition and wonders of yarn by following Polish born, American artists Olek who challenges fashion trends with installations using the human body. Olek crochets her models into head to toe commando outfits and sets them free to wander the streets engaging with the public. She later takes to the murky deeps by creating a crocheted life-sized mermaid suit which entrances the audiences with a soft form and fascinating commentary.
Enjoying the film in a private movie theater surrounded by enthusiastic fiber lovers, many of whom were knitting in the dark and later joined us in live weaving and spinning demos reminded me of our commonalities as a community of makers. Yarn continues be integral to our everyday lives. With manufacturing and mass consumption we often overlook the simple strands that unite our world together into an interconnected mesh.YARN: The Movie is worth finding in a town near you.
Megan is a hard core maker who continues to bring a highly curated selection of handmade goods to her hometown of Columbus, Ohio and through her organization of Craftin’ Outlaws. Megan is also the owner of Stinkybomb Soap, co-organizer of Midwest Craft Con, mother of two, wife to one and lover of all things craft related.