The Center for Knit and Crochet is a resource you didn’t even know you wanted.
Have you ever wished you could spend hours wandering collections of historical crocheted items? Or manually examine exquisite knitted garments? Maybe you’ve wanted you know what your great-grandmother knitted, or what she wore when she was a baby. You can find all this, and more, in the Center for Knit and Crochet’s digital collection.
What is the Center for Knit and Crochet?
The Center for Knit and Crochet (CKC) is a digital-only museum designed to provide access to collections of knitting and crochet to the public and to scholars. The museum values makers and thinks that makers have valuable information to share about their crafts.
Why is CKC a digital-only museum?
A digital museum allows people from around the world to have access to the collections. There’s no need to travel to a specific city to study exhibits. Plus, a digital museum is more cost-effective than maintaining a physical building, allowing the organization to build the collection rather than worry with maintaining a lot of overhead expenses.
A Sampling from the CYC Museums Collection
You can spend a lot of happy hours poking around the Center for Knit and Crochet’s collection. Here are a few fun things I found on the CKC website. Because of copyright restrictions, some I have included here as images, but others just as links worth exploring.
Marine knitting aboard ship on the way to Iwo Jima (at timestamp 3:46). His expression when his buddy aims the horn at him is priceless.
Beaded miser’s purse with a butterfly motif, circa 1810-1830
1872 Knitting machine “for home work”
Cute baby in a crocheted hat, looking kind of like a Baby Yoda wanna-be
Digital Exhibition: Sanquhar Gloves, a Living Scottish Tradition
Membership in the Center for Knit and Crochet
As a 501c3 non-profit organization, the CKC is sustained by memberships, donations, and grants. Membership in the center for Knit and Crochet is open to everyone. There are two types of membership.
A sustaining membership to the Center for Knit and Crochet costs $35 for the first year, with a $20 annual renewal. An annual membership costs $10/year.
In July 2023 they are offering a 20% discount on all memberships. Members receive a monthly newsletter and discounted admission to various programs.Become a Member of CKC
A Chat with CKC’s President
In late June 2023, I talked to CKC’s president, Jennifer Lindsay, about the origins of the museum and where it’s going next. Read an edited version of the interview below, or watch the entire interview on video.
Edie: You are celebrating your 10-year anniversary – congratulations! Who are your members? Is it just academic-types, or do you have regular civilian knitters and crocheters who belong?
Jennifer: Our membership is not at all restricted to to those qualities. All of us who happen to bridge the communities of museum work or collections work and being passionate crafters ourselves. You know know that the knitting world is full of creative and interesting people who have a lot of skills to share. You cannot do these crafts without being an interesting creative person, so the membership is open to all.
We of course want to make these resources available to scholars but I know our our organizational view is that scholars are everywhere and new scholars are made every day, simply by somebody becoming fascinated by something that they have access to that they didn’t have access to before. So every person listening to this right now is a potential knitting or crochet scholar and these resources are there for you 24/7.
Edie: How do you recruit or find the digital resources or or bring museums into the fold digitally?
Jennifer: We are just beginning to move along the spectrum on that process and we’re moving out of our embryonic phase as an organization and into a more collaborative phase where we really are trying to persuade various museum small museum collections, private collectors and also individuals. You know, just everybody out there to start adding to these collections because the more material we can share, the more the better our work as makers is preserved. Right now we have two main collections available on our website: CKC’s Library and Museum Collections, and CKC’s Crowdsourced Collection. The Library and Museums Collection comes to you via digital Public Library of America; we are simply hosting these items in one place. .
The digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has multiple hundreds of museums, historic houses, libraries’ archives, government resources that share open source items from their collections with DPLA. It’s possible … to run custom searches on this vast database of information …. We run a custom search for items related to knitting and crochet and we host them via our website. When you go to the Library and Museums Collection on our website and you click on an item, it takes you directly back to the the institution that’s sharing it so you are never really separated from where that item or and any other related objects are.. that’s a huge variety of items, everything from sheet music to images of children laboring and knitting factories … it really shows the intersection of craft and and every aspect of American life…
Another nice feature of the Crowdsource Collection I want to quickly mention is the collection that we have established for anyone anywhere to add their own items… I’m a huge lover of Ravelry … but one of the things that is not really very easy to do on Ravelry is to document, say, the 15 doilies that you got from your grandmother. Those are still very valuable to everyone who crafts, and having access to those for the general public is really an amazing gift that you can give to craftspeople everywhere.
Our resources allow you to put your own things on and talk about the stories that you have for those objects and tell them in your own words, Many times if you look at items in museums they’re not really necessarily stories of the makers, they are stories of the owners of the objects, so details about how the things are made that we might know just by looking at them are not included in the record,
This makes it harder for us to find them if we’re searching for things using our own terminology and it also means that the maker history or the craft history of the object isn’t really very well documented. The beauty of this Museum collection now is that many museums are really interested in hearing your opinions about the things they’re sharing so you can there are sometimes avenues to get in touch with these collecting institutions and say, ” Hey this really isn’t right – you say it’s knitting but it’s actually crochet.” So we have the ability as makers now through these digital resources to really correct incorrect information and also to make sure that all communities who make are represented in these digital collections.
That’s really a huge goal of the Center for Knit and Crochet so everybody can be involved… being able to make sure that all of the knowledge of our community is brought from the print world into the digital world….now that print media is becoming more and more difficult to find, and most people are learning about knitting and crochet from whatever is available online. Part of our job as an organization and part of all our jobs as makers is to make sure that our knowledge gets captured in this new format so that we don’t lose it. Because every time we lose our history, we have to re-do it, as opposed to moving on to invent new things. Even you know techniques that were developed in the 70’s or 60’s, we don’t understand now that they weren’t always there.
I think … that that there are knitters and crocheters discovering new things all the time and when we document those new things, it gives people a greater sense of agency over their craft. They understand that people invent things and that they themselves can invent something new instead of reinventing something that someone else has done, or they can use someone else’s invention as a jumping off point.
Edie: Is the idea of a digital-only museum or collection new? Is this something that is happening all over the world or are you sort of blazing your own trail here?
Jennifer: Well, when we started in 2012 it was very new and there wasn’t even a software system that we could afford to use to create what we’ve created, so our digital collections did not come into being until 2018. We used open source software for that, which makes it affordable for us. I would say that the unfortunate event of the pandemic really made many many more traditional museums aware of the power of having things digitally available, …because most museums have vast collections of objects that they do not show. Unfortunately knitting and crochet are many of those objects, because a museum …could not easily show things that they didn’t know a lot about.
You can’t just put something in a museum and say, “Here’s the thing”, so that without a museum’s way showing items a lot of the items that aren’t very well documented and many of these might be craft items in certain museums just don’t get shown because there aren’t enough resources or time, and there isn’t enough expertise to to give an interesting story about these objects…
I think now just about every museum sees that the digital realm is a great way to show things that they cannot show in their physical space and so that that really opens more doors for us as an organization. Because museums and other types of cultural institutions want to share their things. What we would offer through the Center for Knit and Crochet is you could share them to a dedicated and knowledgeable audience: people who really love these things and want to see them.
Edie: What else do you want us to know about the Center for Knit and Crochet?
Jennifer: I certainly want everyone to know that we are a member organization; we believe that doing this digitally allows collections to stay in their local place so that they’re not being moved to a separate institution where they’re away from the communities where they were created. And that every person out there can be a member of CKC and you can use the resources we have and add to them…We will have anniversary related programs and also some exhibitions and collections coming online within the next year. Anyone that is a member of CKC can volunteer on projects and also serve on CKC’s board of directors when openings occur.
I really hope that you will take a look at our Collections and add to them and also think about joining CKC and supporting the development of this research source which is for you and for everyone.
Millet, Jean François (1814-1875) and Bracquemond, Félix (1833-1914), “[La leçon de tricot, d’après Millet.],” Center for Knit and Crochet Digital Repository, accessed July 1, 2023, https://digital.centerforknitandcrochet.org/items/show/7997.
“Anna Ou knitting”, March 31, 1918, Department of Defense. Defense Audiovisual Agency. 6/21/1979-9/30/1985; National Archives and Records Administration