What is ‘art’ about yarn art?

Fiber art is defined as fine art that uses natural or synthetic yarn or fabric. The focus is on the materials and the manual labor required to produce the work of art. Though it’s been around for centuries, it was in the sixties and seventies that modern fiber art underwent a massive change and gained immense popularity. Since then, fiber art has been created by knotting, twining, plaiting, coiling, pleating, lashing, and interlacing yarn or fabric. Artists around the world are now pushing boundaries in terms of what fabric can do. This has resulted in the creation of works that can be hung, are free standing, two or three dimensional, flat, many stories high, or miniature. Though we’re not familiar with fiber art here at Workman’s Friend, we are in awe of the resulting creations. It is for that reason that we’ve done a little bit of research to learn more about what makes yarn art, ‘art’?


A work of art begins with an idea, feeling or experience and when creating with yarn, this is no different. Usually an artist begins by spinning their own yarn. That means taking the different drawn-out strands of man-made material and twisting them together. For them, spinning takes on a whole new meaning as they weave together many different colors of material. While doing this, an artist may reflect on the theme and want to incorporate those elements into the yarn; for instance if their design has an architectural theme then there might be a defined construction in the yarn. How they can spin their ideas into their yarn, the association between each element of the theme, and the specific elements chosen in the yarn design are all considered.


This is where a fiber artist turns their idea into something concrete. They consider that each element of design reflects their interpretation of their idea and theme. They decide on color, fiber, the ways to spin the yarn, and the techniques they will use to create their piece. Whether they draw it, design it on the computer or use the mental technique of mind mapping, the goal is keep kept focused on the original idea being expressed through the yarn. They must ensure that every decision relates directly to the concept without being overshadowed by other considerations.


The amount of twisting, the plying, the additions to the yarn, these are the elements of the execution phase. The artist is constructing their work of art by marrying their inspiration and design into one cohesive piece. This is their opportunity to show their audience the mastery as yarn artists; that those hours of practice and exploration with technique have brought them to this point.

A Final Twist

If art is in the eye of the beholder, then the international reaction to yarn art proves it is indeed just that. From its origins as a textile used to produce clothing, to a medium that has created some of the most intricate works of art the world has ever known, it is a form of expression that will continue to push the limits of our imagination.


Workman’s Friend Barrier Skin Cream is a light-weight and non-toxic hand cream perfect for yarn artists. A simple application of our heavy-duty formula will keep your hands moisturized while you spin, twist and plait. Then when it’s time to clean-up and simple wipe and you’re done. Check out our barrier skin cream products here.

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