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The Tipping Point

June 9, 2008

by Jane Patrick

My second weaving, woven at the home ec school in Iceland where I first saw a loom and knew weaving was something I must do. You could say it changed my life.

“In sociology, a tipping point or angle of repose is the event of a previously rare phenomenon becoming rapidly and dramatically more common. The phrase was coined in its sociological use by Morton Grodzins, by analogy with the fact in physics that when a small amount of weight is added to a balanced object, it can cause it to suddenly and completely topple.”

A few years ago this idea was applied to daily life in Malcolm Gladwells’ book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Little Brown 2000). In it Gladwell argues that there is a point in time when there is a critical mass for change and when that happens it is unstoppable. He describes it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” As Gladwell states, “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do.” One wonders if the yarn industry credits the rise in popularity of knitting to the tipping point. It seemed that almost overnight every young woman had a pair of knitting needles in her hands. Knitting, obscure only a few years ago, is now part of the lexicon: “stitch and bitch”, “stitch and pitch”, knit nights, knit outs, knitting at the symphony, books and books and books about knitting. Certainly knitting had truly arrived, I mused, when shopping for a birthday card I found that right next to the funny cards about golfers were humorous cards about knitters. Knitting has done more than start needles clicking, it has brought a whole new group of crafters into the fold. Some will continue to knit to their hearts content, others have begun to explore different crafts. This is what I think I’m seeing happening right now with weaving. I’m not saying it’s anything close to the weaving mania of the 70’s, but every day I sense that there is a movement in this direction. Of course, being the weaving enthusiast that I am, I’m waiting and hoping for the tipping point.

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