Rejecting traditional notions of what constitutes art, this book brings together essays on a variety of fiber arts to recoup women's artistic practices by redefining what counts as art. Although scholars over the last twenty years have turned their attention to fiber arts, redefining the conditions, practices, and products as art, there is still much work to be done to deconstruct the stubborn patriarchal art/craft binary. With essays on a range of fiber art practices, including embroidery, knitting, crocheting, machine stitching, rug making, weaving, and quilting, this collection contributes to the ongoing scholarly redefinition of women's relationship to creative activity. Focusing on women as producers of cultural products and creators of social value, the contributors treat women as active subjects and problematize their material practices and artifacts in the complex world of textiles. Each essay also examines the ways in which needlework both performs gender and, in turn, constructs gender. Moreover, in concentrating on and theorizing material practices of textiles, these essays reorient the study of fiber arts towards a focus on process”the making of the object, including the conditions under which it was made, by whom, and for what purpose”as a way to rethink the fiber arts as social praxis.
Contents: Introduction: threading women, Maureen Daly Goggin; Identity, Embroidery, and Sewing: The needle as the pen: intentionality, needlework, and the production of alternate discourses of power, Heather Pristash, Inez Schaechterle and Sue Carter Wood; Stitching a life in 'pen of steele and silken inke': Elizabeth Parker's circa 1830 sampler, Maureen Daly Goggin; 'Tattered to pieces': Amy Fiske's sampler and the changing roles of women in antebellum New England, Aimee E. Newell; 'I dearly loved that machine': women and the objects of home sewing in the 1940s, Marcia McLean. Cultural Identity, Piecing, Quilting, and Lace Making: Turn-of-the-century quilts: embodied objects in a web of relationships, Beverly Gordon and Laurel Horton; Crazy quilts and controlled lives: consumer culture and the meaning of women's domestic work in the American Far West, Cynthia Culver Prescott; Native quilting: history, traditions, and studies, Marsha MacDowell; Mundillo and identity: the revival and transformation of handmade lace in Puerto Rico, Ellen Fernandez-Sacco; Invisible seamstresses: needlework in Venetian convents from the 15th to the 18th century, Isabella Campagnol. Politics and Design in Yarn and Thread: Textile mills and the political economy of domestic womanhood in Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's The Silent Partner, Laura A. Smith; Recovering American women industrial designers: Florence Cory as a 19th-century case study, Sarah Johnson; Hooking magic: transforming women's handicraft into Art, Cynthia Fowler; American women and wartime hand knitting, 1750-1950, Susan M. Strawn; Bibliography; Index.