Racism in our Close Knit Community?

If you’re a knitter and you have even 1 outlet to Social Media, I’m sure you’ve heard of the current discussion relating to racism in the fibre arts community. I know racism is a strong word, and there’s also diversity and other more subtle words being used, but from experience, it has been seen that unless something is shockingly graphic, it tends to be ignored. So how did we come to this? I mean, aren’t knitters and the fibre arts community as a whole, the most inclusive group of people out there?

I like to think so. Unfortunately, that may be navieté speaking. If you think about it though, it’s not surprising. Regardless of the group, it is still comprised by human beings. And human beings are flawed. So yes, there will be problems associated with being human beings (racism for one), in any group, including (if not especially), the fibre arts community. We are arguably the most diverse and inclusive group out there – with people from every demographic imaginable, from both sexes and almost any age range. In my opinion the question is not whether or not racism exists, but rather, how do we address it and minimize it to have the least possible effect in our beloved community. I’ll return to this in a minute.

You’d think that being a black male in the knitting world, that I’d have lots of stories and this would be an easy topic for me to write about. In actuality however, it’s the exact opposite. Yes, I’m a black male in a predominantly white female industry, but believe it or not, I have yet to experience racism as a result. Has it been there? Perhaps, and I am not trying to make light of the struggles of anyone who has experienced it or had to deal with it directly. I, myself, however, am not one of those people.

Have I experienced discrimination in the knitting community because of being a black male? Absolutely, even today, it still happens. Have I experienced racism in other areas of my life? Absolutely! And from the unlikeliest of sources as well. I am actually embarrassed to say however, that until a very good friend of mine (a black female) pointed me to an article by Julia Farewell-Clay, https://bit.ly/2SSwagZ, I was blissfully unaware of the plight of so many in our beloved Close Knit Community. Julia herself, is a “privileged white woman” (her words) in the industry. It was her enlightening article regarding the existence of racism (there’s that word again) in the knitting community that opened my eyes. I strongly suggest you read this article if you have not yet done so!

I have been blessed and very fortunate for being so accepted into this community that I love. Almost everyone I meet becomes a friend, with knitting providing the instant connection. Quite often, after a little interaction, we find that we have so much more in common than our love of knitting. I have even been lucky enough to be welcomed by two of the most influential people in the industry today, and truly, I am humbled because to this day I don’t know why. I accept it with what modesty I can muster and appreciate their support. Yes, I’m talking about you two, Trisha and Ben – thank you.

So you can imagine my embarrassment when I realize that it hasn’t been that way for everyone – and because of racism, no less! I have honestly been thinking about this since I discovered the article in November, and feel it is time to step up and do what little I can. If that sounds narcissistic, my apologies. I don’t think I can simply wave a magic wand and solve this problem, but I do know that there are some that listen to some of the things I say, and if I can inspire a few to raise their voices, maybe we can help this wave along and influence the decisions we all make every day.

So what little can I do? While I have no direct experience of racism in the knitting community, I have far too much experience of it elsewhere in my life. It’s not a comfortable feeling. It’s actually in my top 3 of worst possible feelings to experience. If I every experienced it in a community I loved as much as this one, I simply don’t know how I would react. I would hope I would have the ability to deal with it with dignity, professionalism, and caution. And I suppose that is my answer to the question I posed above regarding how to address it and minimize it.

It is important to call out the person or persons that are violating your right to be who you are, regardless of race. It is important however, to do so in a just manner. If it is at all possible, one on one discussions (not confrontations), should be sought out. If not, perhaps bringing light to the practices of that person or persons through the media. In this day and age of Social Media, we have to be extremely careful however, as things can go viral all too quickly, and sometimes unjustly and unnecessarily.

Part of the discussion that I have heard, is that there is misrepresentation in the industry against certain people based on race. Again, while this has not been my experience in this industry, it has been in others. What can we do? I don’t have the answers, sorry. I do know awareness helps, and continuing perseverance, transparency, and accountability will aid in reducing the occurrences of these incidents. Is that enough? I don’t know. All we can do is try and see.

In this particular instance however, I would like to do 2 things. The first is call to those that feel they are victims of racism in this particular area – exclusion based on race – to submit your bodies of work through all means necessary. If you feel a particular magazine or website is not showcasing your designs or article submissions based on race, submit them elsewhere and get others to do the same. If 1 person submits a design, article, or even retail booth for inclusion in a magazine, show, or other and gets denied, it is difficult to say this is based on race. If 50 do so however, and the representation is still predominantly privileged white women, then there is a basis for argument and subsequent discussion.

The second thing I would like to do is caution against over reacting. Often, when something like this occurs, and there is enough of an uprising, the pendulum swings all the way the other way. We need to monitor the reactions on both sides. Many of you are familiar with Ravelry, and they have started a discussion thread on this board … https://bit.ly/2SXDQie . This will help serve as a place for moderated open discussion on this issue.

I personally will try and educate myself on this issue and help through further education where I can. I will also use whatever influence I have to help garner fairness in this industry. I don’t want to downplay this issue by saying it is only the work of a minority of individuals, but I am sure that on a whole this is the most inclusive community I have ever belonged to. I truly hope that we can establish a protocol for dealing with occurrences of this so that they are the exception, and not the rule.

In the end it is up to all of us to police this (and other) issues that threaten our community. I hope that we can all consider the consequences of our actions going forward.

Hugzzz 😎

Home again … for now! ;)

Wow!! What an amazing 2 months it has been! If you haven’t been following my Facebook or Instagram posts, you might not know that I have been traveling across the UK and Europe for the last 2 months! It was my intention to be blogging regularly as I visited yarn shops and shows etc, but let’s just say I was overwhelmed by all the experiences I had while over there! I did manage a few posts, but after Woollinn (which I will have to add to), I was entirely too busy to post regularly.

I did do “mini” posts through Facebook and Instagram (search for MrHugzzz and you’ll see them – #youshouldbehere will work as well on Facebook) where I videoed walkthroughs in many of the shops I visited. There is a LOT more to add though and a lot of pictures to upload! I took over 7,000 pictures on the trip, and I truly think that I’ll end up keeping at least 75% of them! There are also at least 100 videos!

Unfortunately it will take a few weeks for me to organize these and edit them (the ones on my DSLR have to be edited before I can post them) as I’m back to the reality of “normal” life already! UGH!

The trip was a success beyond my wildest imaginations though, as I got to connect with a lot of family (that’s another story entirely), enlarge the Close Knit Community with new friendships and contacts, visited a LOT of yarn shops, and got inspired almost hourly! The future looks great and I am overflowing with ideas and plans that will hopefully benefit a lot of you in this great knitting world!

Here’s a little gallery of a few (a very small few) of the photos from the trip. I promise to have more up over the coming weeks as well as getting back to the regular blogging about everything great in this amazing world of knitting we’re all so vested in!

 

I’d also like to just send out a HUONGOLOUS HUGZZZ to everyone who shared on the journey with me and all the amazing comments and requests for the continued videos and posts! You have no idea how heart warming and inspiring that was! Even though it was a solo trip I never felt alone – it truly was as if you were all there with me!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Hugzzz 😎

WOOLLINN!!

#youshouldhavebeenthere If you didn’t make it to Woollinn this year, the above hashtag sums it up in one (okay, technically 5) word! I’m interrupting my regular postings to bring you this quick review of an absolutely stupendous event, especially for a first year! I would have to say the theme of the event this year was #colour!! It was everywhere, vibrant, and saturated. Here is a link to a walk through I did on Facebook. Unfortunately, because of the size of it, it didn’t upload in HD. 🙁

Woollinn Walkthrough

There was an great list of instructors teaching a variety of classes from the Friday – Sunday and you had the marketplace open Friday and Saturday! There was also a little shinding on the Saturday with dinner, dancing, and of course, karaoke. I couldn’t believe that @JulieknitsinParis was actually dancing while knitting! Check this out!

JulieKnitsinParis

Needless to say, there will be reviews upcoming, but I had a horrible time posting anything at all in Ireland, as the wi-fi just didn’t seem to want to work with my computer. So I’ll leave you with some pictures as a teaser for now, and after I get caught up with Scotland, I’ll come back to this! This is just a snipit of the fun that was had this weekend! I have loads more photos (on my DSLR) that I’ll get to when I get home and lots of stories to tell you! I’ve barely mentioned the instructors and the great job done by This is Knit in getting this put together! I definitely plan on coming back next year!! Huge hugzzz 😎

Countess Ablaze!

As you may know, I am currently spending 2 months traveling through the UK and Europe. There are a few reasons for the trip, but among the primary ones are to visit family members and friends that I have not met or seen in ages, and to explore the knitting culture firsthand on the “other side of the pond”! I recently got a chance to do the latter by visiting a yarn store in Manchester, England – Countess Ablaze!

I’ve been visiting my aunt Jem for the last week since arriving in the UK, and we went into the city to see this yarn store. I found it through Google which is a good thing as my aunt was unaware of its presence. Ironically, we had visited a haberdashery a few days prior that was less than 2 minutes away! Anyway, given the lack of yarn shops in Manchester (so unlike Vancouver, BC), I was thrilled to find this gem of a shop right in the downtown core! I quickly found out however, that it’s a yarn dyeing studio, not a typical yarn shop.

If you look closely you’ll see Countess and I standing in the window. Just a heads up, when you arrive you’ll have to ring the bell to get someone to let you in. That’s because there are 3 floors to this studio! The first is the main retail space. The second is a combined show room and partial workspace where shipments are sorted and other packages put together. The third floor is exclusively staff and where the dyeing takes place. Countess is often up there working her magic! I say magic because from when you first step into the studio you feel like you’ve walked into a rainbow! Or you’re walking over the Bifrost into the magical realm of Asgard! I have been in many a yarn shop and seen many displays but the sheer magnitude of colour in this one is astounding!

sock yarn wall

As a custom dyer, Countess has her own brand of sock yarn and fingering weight yarn. There is also a sign warning you that the names of the colourways may offend your sensibilities – how polite considering that is also says, “Oh well”! This character directly reflects that of Countess and she is brashly unapologetic. She has set out to do things differently, and she has succeeded beyond expectations!

I wasn’t surprised to see books and accessories in the studio, but again, not all the usual suspects. She has a great collection of books and needles that aren’t everywhere else. It just adds to the charm and character of the studio. I continued my journey to the second floor and was pleasantly surprised at the great combination of functionality and practicality of the space. Bright and colourful, it just envelops you in warmth. There is a fabulous courtyard which unfortunately is restricted to the store owners along the street, but the windows along the wall allow a tremendous amount of sunlight to flood the displays. Perfect for lighting the brilliant colour and the table where many a knitter has sat and worked happily, whether in the studio to get some help/instruction on a project, or as a participant in the knitting group meetings held on Saturdays! I plan to attend the one on June 23rd so I hope to see you there. Here’s a little peek into more of the colours and yarns in the store.

If this has whetted your appetite to visit the studio, I am glad and urge you to do so! If you’re unable to visit I recommend you check out COUNTESS ABLAZE and join her group the Antisocials! They’re quite friendly (despite the name, lol) and you’ll get some great insight into the Countess as well as firsthand news about upcoming specials!

Hugzzz 😎

Back with Angel 2.0!

Hi everybody! I’m not quite sure what to say to explain my lengthy absence, just that life happens and I’ll try to not let it happen again.  🙁

On the bright side however, there’s lot to tell and update you with! That means that there will be a few more posts than what will be my norm in the next few weeks. Likely about 3 – 4, then we’ll settle back down to the 2 or so a week after that. So jumping right in back into the swing, I have a new pattern release!

Actually, the pattern isn’t new, it’s just updated, but the yarn is and there are a few detail changes. The pattern I’m talking about is Angel! It hasn’t yet been uploaded here (coming in a few days), but you can get it now on Ravelry. Here’s the link to the Ravelry download …

Angel 2.0

What’s new in Angel 2.0? Well, the first and most important thing is the yarn! As the original yarn is discontinued, I was fortunate to meet Tom and Cindy Garland of Stunning String Studio (click the name to go to their website). They have an amazing yarn called Twinkle that comes in over 170 colours! This yarn literally sparkles, due to the silver glitter found throughout the fiber. Twinkle is 75% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon and 5% Silver Stellina (for a soft, shimmery sparkle). It is an amazingly soft, medium twist, 2 ply with enough loft to be warm and light feeling at the same time.

Above are just a few of the colours you can order Twinkle in. As it is made to order as well, you can order a custom colour. Just let Tom and Cindy know what you want in the notes and they’ll have it to you in 2-3 weeks!

As for Angel 2.0, it uses 2 strands of Twinkle held throughout so you have an almost limitless number of options when it comes to colours! There are size customizing options as well to account for varying heights. As this is a shrug, the size is calculated by your height.

You might be looking at all those cables and thinking OMG! Don’t worry. This is an intermediate level knitting piece, but because of the series of strategically placed transitions, you’ll be a pro in knitting the braids long before you get to the feature 16 strand Angel Braid!

I’d recommend learning to cable without a cable needle but it is not necessary. Reading charts is as these braids are simply too large to write out and would actually be more difficult. I’m sure that between the colour options of Twinkle and the braids in the pattern, you’ll thoroughly enjoy knitting Angel 2.0 and even more so, wearing it out on the town!

Hugzzz 😎