Knitting, Weaving, Embroidery, and Quilting as Subversive Aesthetic Strategies: On Feminist Interventions in Art, Fashion, and Philosophy


  • Natalia Anna Michna Jagiellonian University in Krakow



Handicrafts, Subversive Strategies, Contemporary Art, Fashion, Feminist Philosophy


In the paper I pose the question of how, on artistic, aesthetic, and philosophical levels, decoration and domestic handicrafts as subversive strategies enable the undermining and breakdown of class-based and patriarchal divisions into high and low, objective and subjective, public and private, masculine and feminine. I explore whether handicrafts, in accordance with feminist postulates, are transgressive, transformative, and inclusive. I link handicrafts with the feminist perspective, since, in the second half of the twentieth century, it was precisely the feminist movement that initiated significant changes in the social and cultural perception of women, femininity, and gender relations. Thus I apply this perspective in the first place to the analysis of selected works of contemporary art in which handicrafts is used not only as a means of artistic expression, but also as a subversive aesthetic strategy. I also demonstrate how the world of fashion transforms and aesthetizes handicrafts, whose presence in fashion makes it an area in which, in addition to imperatives and aesthetic values, social attitudes, ethical values, and world views are shaped. Finally, referring to the works of selected feminist authors (Mary Field Belenky, Mary Daly, Evelyn Fox-Keller, Donna Haraway), I show how these researchers have metaphorically interpreted handicrafts as specifically feminine ways of creating and developing knowledge.


Atak, Awut. “Billie Zangewa on expressing her black femininity and being a mother and artist.” True Africa (November 19, 2015), (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Baritaux, Zio. “Björk collaborator James Merry’s incredible embroidery creations.” i-D (July 2, 2015), (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Belenky, Mary Field et al. Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1986. “Julita Wójcik.” (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology. The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1978.

Flynn, Elizabeth A. “Composing as a Woman.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 39, n. 4 (1988): 423–35.

Fox-Keller, Evelyn. Reflections on Gender and Science. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Gatens, Moira. Feminism and Philosophy: Perspectives on Difference and Equality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Ghosh, Asmita. “Meet Sarah Naqvi: The Textile Artist Who Sews Feminist Embroidery.” Feminism in India (July 5, 2017), (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies, vol. 14, n. 3 (1988): 575–99.

Haslanger, Sally. “On Being Objective and Being Objectified.” In: A Mind of One’s Own. Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity, edited by Louise M. Antony and Charlotte Witt, 85-125. Boulder-San Francisco-Oxford: Westview Press, 1993.

Hein, Hilde. “The Role of Feminist Aesthetics in Feminist Theory.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 48, n. 4 (1990): 281–91.

Lanigan, Roisin. “5 young designers making embroidery cool again.” i-D (August 2, 2018), (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Lippard, Lucy R. From the Center: Essays on Women’s Art. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1976.

Longino, Helen E. Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. “Feminist Aesthetics.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (accessed: September 11, 2019).

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. Gender and Aesthetics: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Miller, Nancy K. Subject to Change: Reading Feminist Writing. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Möhrmann, Renate. “Occupation: Woman Artist. On the Changing Relations Between Being a Woman and Artistic Production.” In Feminist Aesthetics, edited by Gisela Ecker, trans. H. Anderson, 150–61. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Nochlin, Linda. Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988.

Parker, Rozsika. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London-New York: I. B. Tauris, 2010.

Parker, Rozsika and Griselda Pollock. “Crafty Women and the Hierarchy of the Arts.” In Aesthetics: The Big Questions, edited by Carolyn Korsmeyer. 44-55. Malden­-Oxford-Carlton: Blackwell Publishing, 1998.

Potter, Elizabeth. “Gender and Epistemic Negotiation.” In Feminist Epistemologies, edited by Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter, 161-86. New York: Routledge, 1993.

S.a.r.k home page, (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Sokalska, Małgorzata. “Pieśniowe portrety kobiety-prządki.” Wielogłos, vols. 1-2 (9-10, 2010): 147–65.

Stein, Judith. The White-Haired Girl: A Feminist Reading: Grandma Moses in the 21st Century. Alexandria, VA: Art Services International, 2001.

Steup, Matthias. “Epistemology.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (accessed: July 24, 2019).

Yotka, Steff. “Alessandro Michele Reveals His Inspirations on Gucci’s New Site.” Vogue (October 19, 2015), (accessed: July 24, 2019).




How to Cite

Michna, N. A. (2020). Knitting, Weaving, Embroidery, and Quilting as Subversive Aesthetic Strategies: On Feminist Interventions in Art, Fashion, and Philosophy. ZoneModa Journal, 10(1S), 167-183.