The Women’s Center Weaves Fiber Arts into Feminism 

Luisa Pira (left) and Rosalina Khanis (right) at Crochet and Chill./Amira Turner

By Amira Turner 

 

   Since the Industrial Revolution, crocheting has been an extremely popular, yet gendered, craft. Like most fiber arts, crocheting has historically been deemed “women’s work,” or a hobby reserved for older women, according to crochet historian Ruthie Marks. With the help of the Brooklyn College’s Women’s Center, student Luisa Pira is dismantling that stereotype by hosting “Crochet and Chill.”

   “We kind of want to fight or work against the stigma of the ageism in the fiber arts community because a lot of people were like, oh, ‘it’s for grandmas’ like, why is that bad?” Pira told The Vanguard.

   Beyond being an idle hobby, crocheting and knitting have not only served as tools for women to collaborate but also helped women to mobilize and participate in social or political movements. 

   According to History Link, Eleanor Roosevelt led an effort for women to knit and crochet for troops during World War II. In a time when women had no other social or political agency, fiber arts became a way for women to be involved in the war effort. In 2016, artist Jayna Zweiman started the Pussy Hat Project after being inspired by a crocheting class she had attended. The Pussy Hat Project spread across the nation and became an iconic symbol of the 2017 Women’s March. 

   “There’s a lot of crochet or just like fiber art pieces where they reflect on recent social events or things like that,” Pira said. 

   Pira’s passion for crochet began in 2022, the same year she started working for the Women’s Center. During 2022, she was tasked with coming up with a summer project, “I was like, ‘Should we do a group discussion?’[…] And then I just started crocheting, like a couple of months before, and I mentioned it and they were interested,” Pira said. 

   Pira began the project in the summer of 2022, and it has now happened every semester since fall 2022. During “Crochet and Chill,” attendees are encouraged to spend time together while creating whatever they want. “When they come here, they have a space where they can hang out and see people,” Pira said. 

   Pira’s main inspiration for creating, like thousands of female fiber artists throughout history, is giving back to her community “I think what really just inspires me the most like giving things to other people and bringing that joy to them,” she said.

   For attendees, like loom and crochet small business owner and BC student Rosalina Khanis, the Women’s Center has provided opportunities to improve her skills and grow her confidence. 

   “Last year, I wasn’t part of the Women’s Center, but they [had] a small business market part of it. I have my own small business. That was an opportunity that really helped me a lot,” Khanis told The Vanguard. “It was like I was able to actually be next to a lot of like powerful women that actually had this moment because I never had the opportunity. I was more introverted into like not selling outside of like social media and everything.”

   This level is growth is what inspired Pira to create a space for people to pursue crochet in the first place. 

   “It’s so rewarding for me to see somebody go from like, like really beginner to making their own thing and they come up with their own ideas and stuff, and it makes me so happy,” Pira told The Vanguard. 

 

   The Women’s Center “Crochet and Chill” sessions will continue every Thursday, from 3:30pm – 5:00pm in Ingersoll 227 through March.

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