Needlework Goes Political, Profane, and Beautiful in High-Art Doc ‘Yarn’


Needlework is one of the few art forms that originated with women, argues an Icelandic crochet artist in Una Lorenzen’s quiet and lyrical documentary Yarn — and that’s why it’s rarely considered fine art. Yarn goes far in changing that perception by featuring the work of three artists and an avant-garde circus troupe who use crochet and knitting to create colorful, thought-provoking, and occasionally comic works that have garnered the attention of art critics around the world.

Despite sharing a medium, the artists profiled here produce wildly different work. Tinna Thórudóttir Thórvaldsdottir veers political, crocheting “Free Palestine” into textiles that she then tacks up in public spaces. In Italy, another artist crochets enormous, spiderweb-like structures built for children to climb on. Yarn art, like her grandmother’s needlework, she explains, should have a practical application. In New York, young artist Olek challenges the stereotype that yarn is inherently feminine and polite by knitting “Keep Calm & Eat My Cock” in huge, lacy letters against a canvas of pink thread. The Cirkus Cirkör troupe, which includes both women and men, performs feats of strength and stamina on skeins of yarn twice the size of their bodies.

Between interviews, the camera lingers on gorgeous Icelandic vistas and cute woolly sheep, which evoke feelings of warmth and comfort that are somewhat at odds with what the artists are trying to achieve. Still, the film offers fascinating insight into what yarn can do in the talented hands of those determined to elevate mere craft to high art.


Directed by Una Lorenzen


Opens June 24, IFC Center