Generative crochet : using computational methods to augment handicraft




Street, Kira Ayana

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Crochet is an old craft with a rich history that spans many regions and cultures. Although historically it has been the work of men and women in the form of fishnets, clothing, and accessories, it is now largely associated with the feminine arts. Its historical applications were a means for women to gain an independent income and be productive in the home, and because of this association, it has been practiced in the domestic sphere to create forms appropriate to that context: lace, edgings, clothing, and towels for example. However, by engaging in the theory of craft, in particular with the idea that invention can come through experimentation and play, and by employing algorithmic assistance, crocheters can break out of making the same items for the same applications and begin to find new forms and applications for the craft. In the last two decades, a diverse range of disciplines, such as fine arts, architecture, and mathematics, have demonstrated radical new approaches and applications for crochet. Free-form crocheters use the organic nature of crocheted pieces to create intricate pieces of art and to present elaborate organic sculptures of natural scenes. Architects and mathematicians use crochet as analog models for larger structures or theoretical forms to better understand how they can be constructed or how they perform. The precedent set by these applications begs the question of how else crochet can be applied, specifically for use in the realm of the product design world. Furthermore, how might we discover these new applications, and how might we encourage people, within the craft community and beyond, to use crochet or craft to augment their established practices and open the door to invention? In order to explore these questions, I have designed an algorithm that randomizes typically formulaic crochet patterns and that encourages crocheters to make new, unconventional forms unlike existing patterns. By engaging in this “uninhibited play”, my hope is that crocheters can use this algorithm to spur inventive crochet applications from furniture to lighting to structures. I am also in the process of building an interdisciplinary crochet community engaged in using this algorithm to experiment with crocheted form and to make and display the pieces in an online gallery. In this way, the iterative nature of the process can reach beyond the algorithm, prompting a culture of remixing generated crochet patterns and forms. The principles behind this platform can even reach beyond crochet by encouraging those of other disciplines to use the idea of craft and play for innovation.



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