Architecture of Collaboration

I’ve been looking at the September/October 20th Anniversary issue of PieceWork, marveling at the purses and bags that we were able to include.

Sarah Shippen re-created a smaller version of the purse in the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection. Photo by Joe Coca. 

Handknitted purse from Istanbul. Maker unknown. Circa 1860–1930. From the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection (11033). Photograph courtesy of the Gawthorpe Textile Collections, Padiham, Lancashire, England.

I could tell a good story about how each article and project came to fruition–all pretty amazing, but the making of one project stands out in particular because of the level of collaboration. The story behind A Turkish Purse to Knit is a classic example of worlds coming together. This project was based on a purse knit in Turkey (circa 1860–1930) that was later donated to the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection in Lancashire, England. We’ve been admiring images of this purse for quite some time, wanting to work on a reproduction. We contacted the director at Gawthorpe Hall who was happy to collaborate with us in re-creating the purse. Through our editorial director, Anita Osterhaug, we learned about ace knitter Sarah Shippen who hopped on board as a willing accomplice in our project. Sarah worked out the pattern design of the purse from several detailed photographs supplied by the collection, Sarah is also an architect, so it makes sense that she “finds the design and structure of our knitted and weaving creations as complex and beautiful as those in the built world.” It seemed that as a sort of knitting architect, she was able to analyze the construction of the bag and the techniques used to beautifully knit it up into a stunning reproduction of the original.

That this project, created across countries, across centuries, and involving so many people turned out so well, pleases me no end. The goal of the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection is so similar to PieceWork’s—to keep handcrafts alive by honoring the past and carrying it to the present. In the spirit of collaboration, we’re able to do just that.