Crafting Community: How Digital Media is Shaping the Crafting Community


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Needlework, sewing, and other crafting skills were once of utmost importance to women--Victorian women who could improve their rank in society with well-made clothing, colonial women who carded and spun wool for blankets, and pioneer women who made warm clothes for their family as they traveled West.

Today, the supervening social necessity of handwork has been diminished for most to an enjoyable hobby or lifestyle business.

This presentation discusses what value people find in crafting in an age when items can be mass produced quickly and for a low cost, how skills are developed, and how communities are formed online and offline.

It looks as how crafting communities use digital communication methods to develop shared-experiences, aid those in need, and support life-style crafting businesses. It also takes a brief look at what crafting may look like in the future.

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  • This presentation will discuss how digital media is affecting crafting communities and how crafters use digital media to communicate with one another.
    Digital media has changed the way that crafters learn, form community, mobilize for causes, and use crafts to supplement their income.
  • In the pre-digital environment, women learned needlecrafts such as sewing, weaving, and embroidery to provide blankets and clothing for their family. It was necessary for survival.
  • Young girls learned basic sewing skills from their mothers. When they were old enough, they went to school and learned sewing skills from the school mistress. The supervening social necessity to learn these skills was so important that the government developed land grant institutions for women in rural areas.
  • Women in local communities would gather in sewing circles and knitting bees to socialize. Since there wasn’t much time for leisure for most women, it was a way to maintain productivity while still meeting with their neighbors, sharing information, and developing community bonds.
  • These local gatherings of women would sometimes be asked to donate their efforts to aid those in need. For example, during WWI, women were asked by the Red Cross to make socks, blankets, and hospital clothing for the war effort.
  • Sewing was considered a necessity because so many lived in rural areas far from stores that sold clothes. Additionally, store-bought clothing was expensive. By handmaking clothes, women were able to save money for their family.
  • So how has digital media changed the way that crafters form community and share information?
    Firstly, since about the 1930s women increasingly began to work outside of the home. Additionally, clothing manufacturing became less and less expensive due to economies of scale.
    Because sewing skills are no longer a necessity for most, and is more of a hobby, information is generally passed down from family members, instead of government sponsored institutions.
  • When family members are unable to provide information, people today look to the internet.
    Tutorials can be found on almost any type of crafting technique on blogs, social networking sites, YouTube, Flickr, among others.
    Without this online repository of information, certain crafting techniques may have been forgotten. The digital world is able to perpetuate this knowledge that may otherwise be forgotten.
  • Unlike the pre-digital era, not every person in your neighborhood knows how to and needs to sew. In the post-digital age, people with the common interest of crafting can find like-minded people online without needing to consider geography or time. Digital has eliminated the need to find people in your exact location who have a similar schedule as you do. It has increased the community’s ability to increase membership and participants.
  • Like communities in the past who donated their efforts to aid others, digital communities also participate in good works. Online community leaders use their influence to mobilize members to action. For example, Handmade Help is a blog that was created in response to the Australian brush fires. People were asked to contribute handmade clothing, blankets, and sell items on Etsy (online store) and then donate the proceeds. Contributions arrived not just from areas in Australia, but from all over the world.
  • Just as women in pre-digital used their skills to save their family money, crafters today – many who are stay at home parents– use digital networks to sell items that they make. Many participate in multiple networks to promote their brand and interact with the community. They have blogs to tell their story and keep their community interested in their pursuits, Flickr accounts to interest others who may not find their blog and may just be browsing images, Etsy accounts where they have an online store to sell their items, and perhaps some of them have published books, which bridges the digital with the printed world.
    Participating in cross-platform branding would not be a feasible option for many without the low barrier to entry that digital technologies provide.
  • Digital has changed crafter’s community, fundraising, and ability to generate income.
  • Digital communities offer ease of use and low barriers to entry. They eliminate geographic and time boundaries. People today are able to connect to others with similar interests to learn, participate in community, aid those in need, or even start their own business in a global environment—an impossibility in a pre-digital age.
    Where may the crafting community go in the future? If we consider Everett Rodger’s S-Curve in his book (Diffusion of Innovation, 2003), we can project increasing numbers of crafters online. As these numbers increase, the Early and Late Majority online crafters will quickly adopt successful techniques that were tested slowly by the Innovators and Early Adopters. As successful practices proliferate, online communities will become increasingly influential and successful at integrating the online with the offline world.
  • Crafting Community: How Digital Media is Shaping the Crafting Community

    1. 1. Crafting Community rebekah peterson
    2. 2. Image Sources Slide 1 istock photo #2466719, Slide 2 Flickr erikthenorsk, Slide 3 Flickr CorruptKitten, Slide 4 Flickr YlvaS, Slide 5 Screenshot Red Cross, Slide 6 Flickr Lynnmanhart, Slide 7 FLickr Ralphbod, Slide 8 Screenshot Google, Slide 9 Flickr Luclegay, Slide 10 Screenshot Handmade Help, Slide 11 Flickr t-dot-s- dot, Slide 13 Flickr NimagesDR, Slide 14 istock photo #2466719 Rebekah Peterson University of Washington, Masters of Communication in Digital Media