Crochet at Alcatraz??

That’s right folks, the fiber arts were alive and well in the world-famous prison. We recently took a trip to sunny (and cold!) San Francisco for a week and we managed some time at Alcatraz, which was super interesting. My son has been wanting to go for ages, and we finally scraped the trip together and went for it.

[As an aside, I have many, many thoughts about the Alcatraz experience: a military prison, turned civilian prison on an island in the SF bay inhabited by prison guard families and children (yes, children!), taken over by Native American activists, and finally claimed by the National Parks . . . whew. There is a lot to say. But I’ll stick to the fiber-related thoughts here.]

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I left my knitting and spinning behind (I know?! right?!) and was pleased to find some fiber *inside* the prison. As part of the audio tour, you eventually wander by several cells that were inhabited by inmates who had some (some would say many) privileges and some natural light. Some painted, some wrote, and at least one worked on crochet. I snapped a quick and dirty picture of their cell-diorama:


One of the strange things about this tour and this place was the glorification and hype of not only the few famous gangsters who were sentenced to be on the island, the other was the set-up of these cells: as if Alcatraz was some kind of crafting, artsy retreat. The cell next door had oil paintings and I think I spotted a water color or two. Plus, I found it strange that crochet hooks would be allowed in a prison where several inmates planned an escape by using simple spoons to dig out the air vent shafts. Go figure. Crochet was innocuous enough to make it inside the Rock.

Has anyone else made the trip? Or found the fiber arts in unexpected places?

This entry was posted in crochet, fiber arts in weird places, history, prison. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Crochet at Alcatraz??

  1. knittedblissjc says:

    your review of the place is so interesting, I think it’s funny that they would try to make it seem like a craftsy retreat with lots of crochet and painting as therapy. I also wonder what it was like for the kid raised on the island! I wonder if it felt really isolated.


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