February 2013 Report to TNNA’s Yarn Group.


Report to the YARN Group of TNNA

Long Beach, California   Feb. 4, 2013

Please Note: This report was prepared specifically for the members of the Yarn Group and focuses on discussing the contributions of their membership and industry to the success of the Symposium.  The Center for Knit and Crochet is equally grateful for the contributions of all those who participated, before, during and after the Symposium, even if their names and roles are not specifically mentioned.

This report describes the successful results of the Symposium, “Knit and Crochet Heritage Museum: A Work in Progress,” held in Madison, WI, November 8-10, 2012 to explore and assess the feasibility of establishing a museum dedicated to knitting and crochet. A generous donation of $5000 made in 2011 by the TNNA’s Yarn Group made this symposium possible.

Before the Symposium, I had already engaged knitters, crocheters, museum professionals, and industry representatives in an extended dialogue over two years, both in person and on line. Once I received the funding from TNNA’s Yarn Group, I was able to promote the Symposium through Ravelry, a blog and a Facebook page that continue to grow in membership. In September of 2012, I presented a paper about my efforts at the Textile Society of America’s 13th Biennial Symposium in Washington, DC. I was fortunate to receive publicity and support from others on popular knitting and crochet blogs, including Beth Casey’s blog post for TNNA. I also received coverage for the Symposium in The Wisconsin State Journal, in publications by the Wisconsin Historical Society, and from the Madison Knitters’ Guild, a vibrant 550-member organization.

The Yarn Group’s generous grant of $5000 was absolutely essential to hosting the Symposium at this crucial time in the development of popular and scholarly interest in knitting and crochet, and we are extremely grateful for this support. The money was used to pay for brochures and other related promotional materials; travel, lodging, and honoraria for speakers; a professional facilitator, Bert Stitt; food and refreshments for Symposium attendees; and scholarships and discounted registration fees for students and local volunteers. The funds provided by the Yarn Group gave the initiative credibility. I also received advice and in-kind assistance from Dr. Ellsworth Brown, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, who acted as our host, and from a remarkably dedicated group of enthusiastic volunteers.

The event drew more than 50 people from 13 states and three countries, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The attendees had pertinent experience in many disciplines, were passionate about knitting and crochet, and were eager to help in constructive ways. Industry professionals, teachers, designers and authors who attended included Trish Malcolm of Vogue Knitting, Jack Blumenthal of Lion Brand Yarn, Beth Casey of Lorna’s Laces, Yarn Group Chair,  Jolie Elder, past president of Atlanta’s Knitting Guild, Julia Grunau of Patternfish, Susan Strawn, June Hemmons Hiatt, Perry Klass, Myrna Stahman, Sheryl Thies,  Gwen Blakely Kinsler, founder of the Crochet Guild of America, and Dr. Angharad Thomas, textile archivist for the United Kingdoms’ Knit and Crochet Guild, to name a few. Many museum professionals also attended (directors, curators, conservators, collections managers, archivists) in textiles, social history and the arts. As we continue to develop our organization we are keeping these individuals, who are already so critical to our success, involved and engaged.

Summary of the Symposium: Dr. Susan Strawn, knitting historian, Dominican University, Department of Apparel Design and Merchandising, and author of Knitting America: From Warm Socks to High Art spoke at the opening. The Wisconsin Historical Society created a Curators’ Choice exhibit of knitted and crocheted treasures from their collection and from the University of Wisconsin’s Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. The Wisconsin Historical Foundation hosted the opening reception.

The program featured Melissa Leventon of Curatrix, who spoke about the challenges and expense of creating, governing and sustaining a physical museum. Jennifer Lindsay, a recent graduate of the Smithsonian Associates and Corcoran College of Art + Design, and Project Manager for Artisphere’s Yarn Bombing, made the case for establishing the museum of knitting and crochet as a digital collection that relies on a global consortium of museums, private collectors and individuals to share objects in a collaborative repository. Emily Pfotenhauer, creator of the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Online, advised on practical aspects of creating a digital collection from multiple institutions, and the need to develop a uniform nomenclature for knitting and crochet. Dr. Ellsworth Brown, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, endorsed the idea of developing a digital entity first, with the open possibilities for programming, exhibitions, and networking that it would create, without the burden of a building to maintain and the expense of a physical collection. Trish Malcolm, VP and Editorial Director of Vogue Knitting and Jack Blumenthal, VP of Lion Brand Yarn, then joined Ms. Kendrick-Hands, Ms. Leventon and Dr. Strawn in a panel discussion that explored how we can preserve our knit and crochet heritage.

Following these presentations, and group discussions that were guided by a professional facilitator, Symposium attendees voted to create The Center for Knit and Crochet, a non-profit organization designed “To Preserve and Promote Art, Craft, and Scholarship.” We also formed a 9-member volunteer interim advisory board to seek federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and set an agenda for developing as a digital entity. The Symposium concluded with an official Wisconsin Book Festival-affiliated sale of knitting and crochet books that helped to raise additional money to defray expenses, thanks to generous logistical support from Unicorn Books. This summary in no way captures the passion, energy and sense of urgency that pervaded the entire event.

Next Steps: As of December 13, 2012, The Center for Knit and Crochet, Inc., now incorporated as a Wisconsin non-stock corporation, has opened a bank account and is set-up to accept donations online through Paypal, thanks to Marilyn Huset, CPA, our treasurer.  We have upgraded our interim web presence and published our first newsletter, thanks to Vanessa Gribowski.  Volunteer experts led by June Hemmons Hiatt are developing a uniform nomenclature, while our Vice President, Jennifer Lindsay, is guiding preparation of bylaws, including membership categories for businesses and organizations. Secretary Nicole Scalessa, of the Library Company of Philadelphia and her sister developed our new logo. With help from Heather Gooch of Positive Yarn, our social media efforts have been successful. We are in the early stages of planning a Second Symposium in late 2013 to preserve and promote art, craft, and scholarship by prioritizing the Center’s projects and programs. Jack Blumenthal has graciously offered to host us at the Lion Brand offices in New Jersey.

We are excited to be embarked, and to see the interest grow among knitters and crocheters of all ages. There is much to do, and we are looking forward, with much gratitude to all of you for what you have already done, for your continued support as we make this dream a reality. Sign up for our newsletter and stand-by for membership information, our statement of priorities for work and fundraising, sponsorship opportunities, and how you can personally engage with the Center for Knit and Crochet, Inc. Meanwhile, stay in touch:

Karen Kendrick-Hands: 313.600.1670; knitheritagemuseum@gmail.com

www.knitcrochetcenter.org; https://www.facebook.com/KnitCrochetCenter