Racism in the fibre community

I’ve been a bit quiet of late and there are a number of reasons why. First and foremost 2 weeks ago one of my very elderly parents was rushed into hospital. Thankfully they’re now recovering but obviously they had to take priority over everything else including me. 

I say this not to gain sympathy although I’m truly very grateful for all the supportive DMs and comments I’ve had wishing both them and me well. It’s because I am their primary carer. That is my job.

As a result of this I’ve had a lot of catching up to do which is why I’ve only just watched THAT video on YouTube. I have no plans to link to it from here as it currently stands at over 42,000 views and I’m certainly not going to create a link that drives more traffic to it. (If you don’t know what I’m referring to you’ll need to do some work of your own by using the #notthesilentmajority #racisminknitting hashtags on Instagram, you’re sure to come to it). To be honest there’s already been so much said about it and her that I don’t think I can add to it, particularly since I’m playing catch up again. That said there are a couple of things she said that I wanted to pick up on. 

‘an intense social justice issue that started infiltrating Instagram’

Firstly this phrased was used to describe the current discussions about racism in the knitting community. They’ve certainly gained traction in the last few weeks as more and more people of colour (*POC) recount and relive painful and humiliating experiences. Many of them left me open mouthed, appalled and bloody angry though I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been fortunate to have had very few experiences of racism in the fibre world aside from being asked for ’n*gger brown wool for a golliwog’s hair’ (said as the customer looked up at my hair for reference) while working for Rowan as an instore Design Consultant.

Outside the fibre world I’ve had numerous experiences both subtle ‘oh your English is very good’ or ‘is it hot where you come from?’ (what, East London?) and more blatant – being called the ‘N word’ on the streets in Kent just a few years ago. Like fellow POC or anyone who has to deal with racism and discrimination let me just tell you.

Those experiences were very real for me and should I choose to talk about them no one is going to tell me that I shouldn’t. Or that talking about racism is, in itself racist. It isn’t!

Those experiences continue to be real for POC who are still being discriminated against and it will always be their/our right to talk about what they/we have experienced. They/we need to be heard and acknowledged for proper, intelligent, productive conversations to take place in order to change the fibre world into one that reflects all the people in it – minority and majority. Not just the ones who are perceived to be ‘the majority’.

As you can imagine here in the UK race isn’t a subject that’s often discussed publicly and to be honest I’ve never spoken about racism so openly and frequently before. But, as I’m no academic authority on the subject when I do, it’s as a black designer speaking purely from personal experience. So, if I’m going to do justice to my role as Keynote Speaker at this September’s Perth Festival of Yarn I’ve got a lot of reading to do. *see below

For anyone in any doubt as to whether there is racism in the knitting community. Yes, there is. Have a look at some of the experiences poc have had on @su.krita’s Instagram feed here.

Still in doubt? Well, why wouldn’t there be racism in the fibre community? It’s made up of human beings and whilst some are good, some are real shits. There are those who believe that inclusion matters. That EVERYONE is represented regardless of colour, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, physical ability or body shape while others only want to be part of a community where everyone looks and thinks like them. 

The ongoing IG discussion shows that it’s just not good enough to say that it shouldn’t be discussed in the knitting community because ‘it’s full of lovely fluffy stuff’ and we’re all just here to knit. Well we are here to knit but when people (including me) are:

  • asked for ’n*gger brown’ wool (I’ve never used someone’s skin tone as a colour reference)
  • asked if that’s how they knit ‘where you come from?’ (again, East London?)
  • constantly followed around yarn shops (well you know how ‘they’ steal)
  • instantly shown the cheaper yarns (because they’re assumed to be too inexperienced to be using better, more expensive yarns)
  • ignored in a yarn shop (until they spent a huge amount of money)

 they / we’re entitled to share their / our experiences of racism in the knitting community because that’s where they happened.

There are many voices calling for magazine and book publishers, yarn companies and festival organisers to do better and make changes. Mine is certainly amongst them and I’m very glad to see announcements by some major names admitting that they have fallen short and need to to better. I’m not sure however that every individual silence represents a racist and I’ll no doubt get some grief for saying so. I’ve had lengthy phone conversations in the last week with two friends one of whom is black, the other white. The black friend (let’s call her AB) has spoken out about her experiences of racism and received aggressive and critical messages for doing so whilst the white friend (let’s call her CD) is concerned about saying the wrong thing but in staying quiet realises she’s perceived as part of the silent (racist) majority. The ‘silent majority’ is the second reference from THAT video that I wanted t pick up on due to its sinister connotations. 

Racism isn’t a one sided issue and there needs to be room for discussion to allow people to examine both themselves and their behaviour in order to effect real change. As a fibre community we need to see more representation of POC teachers and vendors at fibre festivals and more indie dyed yarns and designs created by POC in the knitting and crochet publications we see on our shelves. Seeing yourself represented means that you are welcomed as part of that community. Some brands are doing the work now and currently implementing changes while others are just ignoring the issue in the hope that the talk will die down and those of us who have been banging on about this will simply go away. We won’t. 

I’ll be continuing to highlight and promote the work of POC Designers and Crafters in the fibre community….. so it looks like I’ll be talking about it for the foreseeable future. 

J x

*I am aware of the acronym for black & indigenous people of colour – BIPOC and as I do more reading to educate myself I may revise my use of POC but for now it represents people of colour in the broadest sense.

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POC designers & crafters

This post sort of follows on from my previous post ‘Black people do knit & the diversknitty conversation’. As I’d hoped there’s been a lot of very positive responses to the article and it’s got a lot of people not only talking but connecting with black designers, crafters, dyers & makers from across the knitting & crochet community. It’s also put the odd person’s nose out of joint with comments that the article itself is racist  –  well let’s just say they clearly haven’t read it.

black knitwear designers IG post

As part of the conversation we had over on Instagram I asked how many black knitwear designers people could name and it transpired that it wasn’t as many as we’d hoped. Well in an effort to address that imbalance I invited people to comment on my post with the names of any black designers they knew and where in the world they were located. What I actually wanted to know was the names of designers who, like me work in the craft industry designing patterns for others to knit for themselves. But because my original post was vague (as no doubt, was my brain that day) what I got was a wonderful list that included a variety of creative folk ranging from hand knitwear designers & fashion designers producing high end ready to wear garments to machine knitters, crochet designer/makers and indie yarn dyers. I did promise at the time that I’d compile all this info into a list to be made available to all who are interested and to be honest it’s taken me this long because I wanted to make it easy for anyone browsing through it to link directly to their work and Instagram profiles. I’ve called the list POC designers & crafters and although originally it came about on the back of the black people do knit hashtag what the discussion did throw up was that other non white ethnicities also knit. Well after all why wouldn’t they? Just in the last week there’s been chat about how Asian knitters are also under represented so knitters like Soraya Hussein (@mahliqawire), Hansa Sinha (@hansa.sinha), Sukrita Mahon (@su.krita) and Ankita Anupurva (@yarn.and.needles) are urging other Asian knitters and those from the Asian diaspora who knit to join in the conversation with hashtags like #asiansdoknit #asianknittersofinstagram #knittersofindia and #wedotoo. Looks like this is the beginning of a growing list of talent. How fantastic!

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Click here to see the POC designers & crafters list

The names are in alphabetical order by region with links to Instagram profiles, websites, Etsy shops etc. Please forgive me if I’ve spelt any names incorrectly and let me know any of the links go astray or just don’t work. Oh and I’m sorry to add this as a link here rather than as a new blog page but despite trying numerous times it just wasn’t showing up in the menu and to be honest my head just isn’t up to it today.

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Third Vault Yarns
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Lady Dye Yarns

Enjoy the list and if you’re wondering where all the crochet designers are, there’s more to come…….

J x

 

 

 

 

 

May Camisole by Jenny Reid, Inside Crochet issue 55

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(c) Tailor made Publishing

If you’re a big fan of crochet (in fact even if you’re not) I’m sure you’ll love this beautiful design by my lovely and talented friend Jenny Reid. She’s used my Baby Alpaca / Silk 4ply in sh Olive to create this wonderfully feminine camisole. It’s worked  in shell stitch throughout with delicate straps and pleating at both front and back which tapers the sides into a gentle A line shape.

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(c) Tailor Made Publishing

You’ll find the pattern in issue 55 of the brilliant and inspiring Inside Crochet – if you’re under the impression that crochet is all woolly Granny squares just one browse through will soon put you right. Congratulations Jenny, this design is beautiful and thank you for making my yarn look so gorgeous.

You can see more of Jenny’s designs on her Ravelry page here

J x

New 4ply Design – #2 Skinny Winnie

SkinnyWinniescarfJSloan

 

This design is just a bit of fun which guarantees a major shot of colour to any outfit. This time it’s worked in crochet on a 3.75mm (US f/5) hook with 3 colour stripes of trebles and half trebles which travel vertically down the scarf. The good news? There’s only 12 rows of pattern. The bad? This means there’s a very long chain to make first, but never mind you’ll still be able to make one in a weekend and the best news of all? You can download the pattern for FREE from my Ravelry Pattern Store from 10.00 am tomorrow. 

skinnywinnie 1

 

For a hot colourway I combined Olive, Spice and Lippy but you can of course choose your own colours when you order the kit which will be launched at Unwind this weekend. If you can’t make it along then simply order the kit through the website.

J x

Waltham Abbey Wool Show

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A new year and a new wool show. This weekend sees the first ever Waltham Abbey Wool Show which takes place on Sunday from 10.00am to 4.00pm at the Marriott Hotel in Waltham Abbey.

The show is being organised by Diana and Tina who are the ladies behind The Crochet Chain a local wool shop in Waltham Abbey that stocks all sorts of yarnie treats plus haberdashery, knitting needles, crochet hooks and accessories. I kind of found out about this show by accident on Twitter and am very pleased to have got in at the last moment so I’ll be there on this Sunday January 19th selling my lovely soft baby alpaca yarns, beautifully wrapped kits and patterns.

Come and look, touch and get inspired, there’s a Funky hat competition, lots of yarn to squish, demonstration areas as well as lots of skilfully made hand made items to buy.

Advance tickets are just £3 or alternatively you can pay on the door (£4). You’ll find more info on the Waltham Abbey Wool Show website here

Hope to see you there

J x

Hot weather, new pattern

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Image courtesy Lululoves.co.uk

I know some are finding the hot weather in the UK too much to handle but I am loving it. Put it down to 15 years of dreary Edinburgh summers spent praying for even the tiniest ray of prolonged sunshine. Brighton has been roasting for the past 2 weeks and as I’m not at Kingston for the summer I have the luxury of working in the garden. So if you are finding it too hot and long for when the mercury starts to drop check out this cute pattern.

Designed by Lululoves these wristwarmers are crocheted in  my Jeanette Sloan Baby Alpaca DK and the pattern is available on her blog where she also reviews the yarn. You can read the review and get the pattern for free here

Back to knitting in the garden….

J x