14 August 2013byRed Wolf in News | Comments Off on There’s a maximum-security prison in Brazil where male inmates are expert knitters
Brazil’s Arisvaldo de Campos Pires is like any other maximum security penitentiary — inmates’ crimes range from armed robbery to murder, and armed guards patrol almost every inch of the prison. Except there’s one small quirk: many of the facility’s prisoners are becoming professional knitters.
As part of a prison-wide program called the Lotus Flower project, inmates are crocheting high-end clothing in exchange for a modest salary and — the real kicker — reduced prison sentences. The program, which began in 2009 after Brazilian fashion designer Raquel Guimaraes realized she was going to need help scaling up to meet demand for her Doiselles brand, has been wildly successful; over 100 inmates have now participated. And unlikely as it may seem, it’s been a male-only affair. While Guimaraes originally approached the penitentiary with a proposal to train female prisoners to produce clothing, they decided to work the men instead.
The incentives are so good that inmates aren’t merely willing, but are eager to start knitting. For every three days spent knitting, male inmates earn a full-day reduction in their sentences. And they get paid a salary — albeit a modest one — too: the workers earn 75% of minimum wage, a quarter of which is put aside and handed over upon their release.
Spider silk is about four or five times stronger than steel, but it is remarkably lightweight. So, what would it feel like to walk around in a suit woven of the stuff? Spiber, a startup in northern Japan, is showing off a dress made from synthetic spider silk. The firm is one of several groups looking into how to make and use artificial spider silk, a task that has proven to be very challenging for scientists.
The electric-blue dress was created from a material Spiber calls Qmonos (from kumonosu, or spider web, in Japanese). The material is extremely strong and more flexible than nylon.
The high-collared cocktail dress, on display at the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, was created to demonstrate the technology behind Qmonos.
The territorial nature of spiders makes them difficult to farm like silkworms. So instead, Spiber developed a technology that uses synthesized genes and coaxes bacteria to produce fibroin, the structural protein in spider silk. Spiber then uses technology it developed to culture the microbes efficiently and weave the fibroin into fabric.
Apart from clothing, Qmonos could potentially be be used to make film, gels, sponges, artificial blood vessels, and nanofibers.
Yarn-bombing is a global craze which is much like graffiti for people who would not ordinarily break the rules.
It has reached Adelaide and popped up most recently in the hills town of Stirling.
Hundreds of school children, scouts, craft club members and individuals spent hours creating knitted and crocheted works to display outside the Coventry Library.
“I knew it would really spark the imagination of the community up here. I just knew it’s the sort of thing our community would really enjoy,” said children’s librarian Jo Kaeding.
She helped organise the yarn-bombing display as part of the Adelaide Fringe festival.
November 1933. Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Beulah Ogle preparing warp for weaving at the Pi Beta Phi School. She is a new weaver at the school and lives on a mountain farm. Another example of Lewis Hine’s post-newsie oeuvre. Large format nitrate negative, National Archives.
Fibre artist Lia Cook talks about her jacquard loom. Lia is a featured artist in the Crossroads episode, premiering on PBS starting 16 November 2012.
Lia Cook has been at the forefront of the intersection of craft and art, where she has recently melded techniques of 18th c. Jacquard weaving with an inquiry into brain functioning, thus combining the most basic manual technology with contemporary technology and scientific practice. Her unusual mix of old and new has garnered her international recognition.
For more information, see Craft in America.
The story of Zulu basketry is one of revival. The craft was dying because of the introduction of tin and plastic containers. A Swedish minister, Kjell Lofroth, and his wife, Bertha, witnessed the decline in local crafts. When drought struck in the late 1960s and people in the rural KwaZulu-Natal Province faced starvation, Mr. Lofroth began the Vukani (“Wake up and get going”) Arts Association to help single women support their families. Only three elderly women knew how to make baskets, but they taught others. A market, and the craft, flourished.
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