Black people DO knit

I can’t be the only one who finds themselves scanning social media when they really should be doing something else….and it’s usually something that has a deadline attached to it.

Despite having a  very VERY heavy head on Friday I’ve actually been surprisingly organised and productive over the last week having delivered 2 magazine submissions (keeping my fingers crossed for them) and 2 more designs for a lovely project that’s a bit hush-hush at the mo.  I’ll let you know more when I can.

During one of my many Instagram visits last week I noticed that I’d been tagged in a post by Lorna Hamilton Brown (@lhamiltonbrown). She’s a black artist based just down the road from me in St Leonards on Sea and she’s currently studying for an MA in Textiles specialising in Knit at the Royal College of Art. Lorna’s knitting and illustrative work is diverse to say the least; from protesting Helen Titchener’s innocence when on trial for attempted murder in Radio 4’s The Archers to knitting life-size artworks that encourage us to reflect on the way that our youth  are portrayed in the light of the 2011 London Riots.  She’s produced a film called  ‘Knitting ain’t Wack’ that’s a rap video based on a traditional knitting rhyme that was recently selected for The Craft Council’s ‘Real to Reel Film Festival, has been referred to by  Deadly Knitshade  as the ‘Banksy of knitting’ and on top of that was awarded an MBE for services to her local community.

Lorna with the knitting legends Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably

Now I don’t normally refer to people in terms of their skin colour but the fact that both Lorna and I are black is key to how we came to be in touch. For her MA dissertation Lorna is examining the myth that ‘black people don’t knit’ and one of her RCA tutors, the lovely Freddie Robins with whom I used to work suggested she get in touch with me.

I have to admit that when I ran a yarn shop in Edinburgh I’d hear ‘no one knits now’ daily (which was infuriating given that I was running a business based on that fact that people did and do knit) much more often than ‘black people don’t knit’. It’s one of those sweeping generalisations – a bit like ‘men don’t knit’ –  that’s worth examining in much more detail. Thankfully Lorna’s dissertation has set out to do just that and I was really pleased to be able to answer a few questions for her and hopefully have contributed in some small way to her thesis. It was submitted last week which must be a huge relief and I look forward to reading it when it’s made public. I haven’t met Lorna in person but given that she’s just up the road I’m hoping that we’ll meet up this Summer. In the meantime – again by the magic of social media – I’ve found Gaye Glasspie (what a great name) also known as GG whose blog Confession of a Yarn Ho can be found here. Well what do you know? One minute ‘black people don’t knit’ and the next thing you know there’s me, Lorna, GG, the great Shirley Paden…….ok you know where I’m going with this.

GG came to knitting later in life but this hasn’t diminished her infectious enthusiasm for creative knitting and all things yarnie. She’s extremely active on Facebook, in fact she puts me to shame, and has been generous enough to be promoting my work to the followers of her Facebook page here. You’ll find her knitting patterns, ready made accessories and her wide range of witty Yarnho products over on the blog which also gets a heads up in the latest issue of Knitscene magazine. I particularly like her ‘we knit too’ and ‘natural knitter’ mugs


Now just in case you read this and are thinking that this is a ‘race thing’ it really, truly isn’t.  I genuinely don’t judge anyone or their crafting habits on the basis of skin colour, race, religion or sexuality. I don’t care if you prefer knit over crochet, hand knit over machine knitting or whether you hold the yarn the Scottish way or Continental style. But ask me to knit something in high bulk acrylic and we may have a problem.
Have  lovely day and as the great Jerry Springer used to say. Please take care of yourselves… and each other.
J x

8 thoughts on “Black people DO knit

    1. How could I not consider you or give you a shout out? Hope you had a great July 4th yesterday, it’s sunny and hot here today so I’m a happy bunny.Have a lovely day too x

  1. Michelle Coffey

    Great to (virtually) met you, Jeanette! Great piece. There’s a bit of any ongoing chatter about people of color who knit (and spin and crochet), esp about the lack of broken faces in magazines and websites that promote the fiber arts. GG and several of us have started tagging our Instagram photos with #blackgirlsknit & such so we can gaze upon one another’s creations & make new friends. Monica Rodriguez wrote a great blog on the same subject. Of course, I don’t know how to link to it here…But yes, black people DO knit: here we are! Liking forward to following you about & if I ever get to your spot across the pond, I’ll give you a good old American hug!

    1. Hi Michelle, lovely to meet you too! It is a little strange to think that people of colour don’t practise crafts like knitting, spinning and crochet – after all we’re a creative lot! Thanks for tip on tagging, I’ll definitely use it from now on and I’ll have a look for Monica’s blog. And if you’re ever over this side of the pond I’ll happily take that hug xx

  2. What a wonderful post! I’m learning to knit but I’m an avid crocheter, and as you can see in my picture what color I am. What can I say about GG other than I absolutely love her! She gave us the link for this post and you will be added to my WordPress reader.

    1. Well you’re welcome here, thank you so much! Love GG’s enthusiasm and lovely sense of humour, I think there’s a yarnho in all of us. Thanks for adding me to your reader too

  3. People never cease to amaze me with their biases.

    OF COURSE we knit, we crochet, we sew, we dye, we spin, we weave… The idea that craft is reserved for a small slice of society is ludicrous.

    As I write this, I’m feeling a bit anxious that my stash and my sewing machine and my serger and all my blocking tools and crafting books are in my home office in another city, while my apartment only has wool and a few needles. I wasn’t planning to move stash/machines/books/tools here, but now I’m reconsidering…

    So thrilled to find your blog/website. Been a reader of your columns/books forever.

    1. I honestly didn’t want to believe that people still think like this – well thankfully it’s a small, small minded minority.How long are you going to be there for? It may well be worth developing a ‘working’ stash, you know, just to keep your hands occupied you can never have too many projects on the go. It’s really lovely to hear from you and I’m really flattered that you read and enjoy what I write.

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