What We Learned From a Year of Crafting

There was an embrace of craft — and a search of meaning through making — following other recent moments of national crisis. Remember the subway knitters in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, head down, stitching as if in prayerful meditation? After the financial crisis of 2008, craft became associated with both thriftiness and political protest, or “craftivism.”

But in those moments, unlike the pandemic, “we weren’t shut down for a year,” said Cornelia Carey, the executive director of CERF+ The Artists Safety Net, a nonprofit focused on safeguarding artists’ livelihoods. “We weren’t forced to be self-sufficient. Self-entertaining, if you will.”

“To make something is such a powerful experience for someone. It is a meditation,” Ms. Carey added. “And then the internet gives you an opportunity to share it.”

That’s what Namita Gupta Wiggers has done on Instagram with the shirt she spent a year stitching. In March of last year, Mrs. Wiggers, a curator and writer and the founding director of the Master of Arts program at Warren Wilson College, outside Asheville, N.C., pulled out a simple white shirt and, following the advice of the artist Paul Klee, began taking a line for a walk.

She used a basic running stitch, in blue, and worked on the shirt as a way to process her emotions, observing no pattern. “In and out, up and down,” Mrs. Wiggers said. “There was something extremely grounding to sit down and work through something right in front of me.”

Months turned into a year. She decided she would stitch until she filled the shirt or the pandemic ended. Then, in January, her daughter, a schoolteacher, got her first vaccine shot, and Mrs. Wiggers had the idea to sew a Band-Aid in gold thread, with her daughter’s name and date of vaccination. As more of her family members were vaccinated, Mrs. Wiggers sewed Band-Aids for them, too, down the sleeves, on the collar, 20 in all.

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