The knitting workshops and collaborative projects I had already run as part of my practice provided the starting point for my methodology; I had found that this context encouraged open and thoughtful conversation amongst participants. I also drew on two emerging methodological areas: research through design and participatory creative research methods. I now consider the ‘workshop’ methodology I developed to be sitting at the intersection of these two areas.
This project can be seen as an example of research through design, in that I was engaged in the generative process of designing re-knitting techniques. Because these techniques were intended to be adapted by amateur makers, it was crucial that I had the input of a group of makers during this process. As the research progressed, I started to see the participants as co-developers; thus, the project could be described as employing a co-design or participatory design research approach.
However, the input of the participants went far beyond the development of the re-knitting techniques and into the realm of participatory creative methods. As we knitted together, conversation flowed, providing me with invaluable data about the lived experience of making clothes. Because the participants each altered a garment from their own wardrobe, I was able to see the techniques in action and understand the considerations, concerns and triumphs which emerged from this experience.
The success of this methodology hinged on the gathering of data during the creative activity. Rather than talking to makers about their practice retrospectively, as would be the case in an interview-based strategy, I was able to hear the participants’ feelings first-hand as the project progressed.
The detailed data gathered from this small group was supported by comments from a wider community of knitters that I collected via an informal participatory knitting activity run as part of my festival Knitting Tent [read more: creative methods case study].