There has been a lot of discussion within the knitting community around inclusivity, as in is the community inclusive enough? The easy argument is no because knitting is an expensive hobby and you need to have time to commit to it. To this, I would like to point out that when working seven days a week and struggling to make ends meet I was able to maintain my identity as a knitter. Though difficult, I maintained my identity by utilizing the library when I didn’t have internet at home or printer paper to print out my patterns. I waited patiently for yarn to go on sale and then stuck to a strict budget when it did. I reached out to yarn companies to see if I could knit samples for them in exchange for yarn. I even considered buying old sweaters from goodwill so that I could repurpose them, but could never find something I was willing to rip out. The thing about knitting is that if you want to do it the resources are there for you, you just have to let go of your desires to knit with high-end yarn.
With the easy argument out of the way, it’s time to take a moment to look at the harder ones. Are we being supportive of all of our designers? Are garments being photographed for patterns using all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, etc? Are we welcoming to different viewpoints within our forms or our knit nights? These questions are harder to answer. Am I less likely to buy a pattern based on the pattern’s name? No. Am I less likely to buy a pattern based on the designer’s name? No. Am I less likely to buy a pattern being shown on a male model? No. A plus-size model? No. A model that is a different race than me? No. Does this mean that the community as a whole as the same mentality as I do? No.
This last question is one that I really struggle with. I, as an individual, respect differences in others and am willing to take the time to learn and understand how I can be better. Having worked in alternative school settings where my students come from various backgrounds, I know that I’m not perfect. The best I can do is strive to be better, strive to be more patient and strive to understand. People are different and we must move beyond tolerance towards respect.
These conversations started several months ago, one of the reasons I didn’t join in right away is a lack of platform. At the time, I wasn’t trying to actively write a blog and I didn’t feel like my main social media platform (Instagram) was the right place to do it. One of the reasons is that I didn’t know what to say and how to say it. I was torn between my optimism that the community was inclusive and the experiences that were being shared around me.
The main reason, unfortunately, was pointed out to me at a conference last week: People often say we don’t do something when they mean they don’t do something. And there is was, the shameful truth staring me in the face. I had assumed that everyone within the community was trying to be better because I was. I didn’t feel the need to speak up because I assumed that everyone wanted to be more inclusive, because I do. And in my wrongness, I will do better. And in my wrongness, I will speak out. And in my wrongness, my assumptions, my optimism I will remember how it feels to be invited and welcomed to the table; not because you weren’t allowed to be there in the first place but because you are a valued member of the community.
I value the knitting community for its potential to be inclusive. For its potential to be a safe and welcoming space. But I also value its potential to challenge me to do better, both in my craft and in my person. In addition to being a safe space, the knitting community needs to be a safe space to feel uncomfortable. A place to hear different viewpoints so that we can communicate and better everyone at the table. And as I listen to the news reports on yet another mass shooting, I am reminded of the importance of community. The importance of being connected to those around you even if you are not connected by blood.
Over the last few years, I’ve been reading the Witchland Series by Susan Dennard. Dennard does a wonderful job creating and immersing her readers into a land that she has created. Her characters are diverse, multifaceted, and complex — and she has a lot of them. Each has their own story, their own personality, and their own perspective. Dennard has woven in “isms” that we see in our everyday lives to show us how they affect the people within her stories. She has spun tales of conflict and emotion so powerful I find myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book.
I bring up this book series not because it is good, although it is, but because the main theme of the book is the idea of threads. Everyone has threads. They react to stimuli around them, changing color with various emotions. They connect people, creating thread families and heart threads. But most importantly, they are all woven together into the same tapestry of life. As knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, etc, etc, we should resonate with this. As crafters, we of all people should understand that people are beautiful because of their “mistakes”, isn’t that why we call them design elements? As crafters, we of all people should resonate with the idea that everyone is connected by threads that are woven into a larger project, after all even the most complicated sweaters are created one stitch at a time.
And as I listen to the news cover yet another mass shooting, another family struggling to make ends meet, another person seeking their thread family, and everyone seeking healing, all I can think of is my optimism for what my knitting community could be. What I want it to be. What I hope we will continue to work towards.