For Art’s Sake vs. Utilitarian – Does your knitting have to have a practical purpose?

Decorative Art – art for art’s sake
Applied Art – utilitarian / functional

Where does the Art of Knitting fit?

I’ve always thought of knitting primarily as serving the purpose of utilitarian art, although there certainly are many recent examples such as “yarn bombings” to show that it can be done for art’s sake alone. While planning this month’s Pinwheel Flower project, I wanted to touch on looking at knitting as a bit of art.

As I wrote last fall in Uses for Little Lacy Leaf Medallions

Lacy Oak Leaf Medallion

“Personally, I don’t have to have an end-use in mind beforehand for everything I knit (you might have guessed that I am moreso a process knitter than a product knitter). But I sense that many people do want to have a purpose …”

I hope you are finding Pinwheel Flower designed to be BOTH attractive and useful …

“Bring a little bit of knitting art into your kitchen, bath, or dining entertainment. Make this practical, small piece of flower-inspired ‘art’ that you can use as a facecloth, tabletop coaster/doily, or stylish kitchen dishcloth.”

Why shouldn’t we go ahead and use/enjoy the pretty things we make? Or are you the type that is saying something like “that is too pretty to be used”?

Just for fun, I set up this poll. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Does your knitting have to have a practical purpose?
Ends June 15, 2013 @ 12:00 am

  • YES always (12 Votes)
  • YES usually (110 Votes)
  • Occasionally (51 Votes)
  • NO never (17 Votes)

Total Voters: 190

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8 Responses to For Art’s Sake vs. Utilitarian – Does your knitting have to have a practical purpose?

  1. Pingback: Do You Only Knit for a Practical Purpose? | Knit HeartStrings || BOBBOL 2013 Monthly KAL's

  2. isabelbarr says:

    I have to knit, have to! Generally, it is afghans to donate. In fact, most of the stuff I make is usually to bring comfort or joy, even if it is just toys. However, I take care with colors and appearance and embellishments for toys. I’ve gotten very narrow in what I do and am planning on branching out once I finish a few more afghans. Art is very often in the heart, so it depends on what I am making and for whom. Mostly it is practical knitting, while talking to kids, sitting at meetings, etc.

  3. lyndell netherton says:

    a lot of what i knit and crochet is amigurumi: animals (cutesy and realistic) and dolls, so no real purpose. but then i do some lucky cats and mojo bags; so that has purpose just a bit more esoteric. hats, scarves, mittens, socks etc. are purely purposeful but also need to be appealling. i am just not sure where the line is drawn as fun and entertainment are as necessary as food and water.

  4. Linda says:

    I have made rare items just for “show” but usually I want my efforts to have a useful product. Guess it goes back to my mother’s generation who lived thru the Great Depression. Everything had a purpose. houses often did not have flowers because they grew FOOD. I do love to try new techniques and stitches but I always try as dishcloth or something useful. The last item I knitted was a cotton purse as agift. Not so utilitarian but is a delightful idea for a gift as it gives a lot of pleasure.

  5. Marti says:

    I returned to knitting when going through a depression (who can remain depressed when knitting socks?) and along the way, picked up knitting lace, especially little snippets of lace edgings. In this day & age, they seldom serve any useful purpose, but I find them such fun to knit, seeing the pattern grow so quickly, and even if it isn’t being used when completed, I love seeing the finished project, and knowing that in some past time, this was a necessary item to complete a bit of a dressing gown, or maybe a decorative part of a curtain or towel. It doesn’t have to be useful to charm me … and yes, I still knit lots of socks … and maybe one of those cute edgings would look rather nice along the top of a sock … have to consider that, too.

  6. neednap says:

    I’m in between ‘utilitarian’ and ‘for art’s sake’. I’m smack in the middle! I love doing something because it’s beautiful, or fun, just because, and frequently do things for those reasons, but I also delight in making something utilitarian that is beautiful, fun, or artistic; otherwise, I don’t bother. If I’m going to the trouble of making something, utilitarian or not, I want it to be something I truly enjoy, both the making and the wearing or using; it’s getting difficult enough for me to make anything these days, but even when it wasn’t, as an artist I couldn’t just make something I needed or wanted unless it was beautiful or delightful in some way. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about sweaters, doilies, snowflakes, or socks!

    (Note: I am also an artist, although I haven’t done much there either lately; it’s on my long list of ‘things to get back into’.) :~)

  7. Susan aka sjanova says:

    Another response: It depends. Often I see something that I just want to knit for the experience of knitting it. But more often I see something and say, oh, that’s perfect for X or Y or Z. Then I go find a yarn that will work for the something that is a good fit for the person. I also have a stash of baby things and toys that are not intended for any specific person (yet). So my vote goes to “it depends”!

    • jackiees says:

      I originally had the “Occasionally” written as “Not necessarily”. With that, I had in mind exactly what you describe as “it depends”.

      Anyway, the poll and the “answers” are generally there to inspire discussion. So thanks for your comments!

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