I've been in a bit of an emotional whirl with one thing and another and I feel as though I've been thrown into a wind tunnel and pummelled around. In particular, I've been following and digesting all of the posts and discussions about the issues of racism and inclusion (or lack of) in the knitting and crochet industry and wider community.
It saddens me when my BIPOC friends and neighbours tell me that they've been the subject of racist comments. It's such a poor reflection of society. If you haven't come across the term BIPOC or POC before, the acronym refers to Black, Indigenous People of Colour, or People of Colour.
As someone who works within the knitting and crochet industry, I've been reading with interest and thinking about my experiences, and how I can make sure that I always include and welcome everyone to my small corner of the crafting world.
Having worked previously in a large organisation where inclusion was top of the workplace agenda, I fully accept that the knitting and crochet sector can do a whole lot better, and we all have a part to play, including myself.
I have always welcomed everyone and will continue to do so, here on my blog, on my website and my audio podcast. I will continue to feel proud to both engage with and teach people from all different communities, from any gender/ethnicity/race/religion/level of income and also including people with physical and mental disabilities. I will continue to grow and build upon my past experiences to help you all to learn and develop your knitting and crochet skills. Sometimes I have to think quickly when I'm teaching people with learning disabilities or where our first language is different and we might struggle to understand each other, or where people have physical disabilities and need to find a more comfortable way to knit or crochet. But in most cases we persevere and work through it together with a successful outcome. I've realised that knitting and crochet can surpass language barriers by using exaggerated hand movements, or repeated actions, over and over. We usually find something that works, which is always a pleasure, both to me and my pupils, and the best part is that we usually end up smiling a lot as we engage and learn new things from each other - not just about knitting and crochet, but about ourselves too.
My main priority is for everyone to enjoy the process of knitting and crochet, not just for the therapeutic benefits it can bring, but also for the building of self-confidence and self-worth.
Another important thing to remember about is that everyone has a different level of income, as well as time, to spend on their hobbies. Some people have lots of spare cash to spend on yarn – which is fantastic and I love to see what they’re buying and what they're making; it can be both interesting and inspiring, as well as supporting a huge area of the knitting and crochet sector, including indie dyers and wool manufacturers. But at the same time, there are many crafters who have a considerably tighter budget, as well as crafters who simply don't want their hobby to cost them a small fortune as they have other higher priorities to consider. Knitting and crochet should be a hobby that can be enjoyed by everyone without any prejudice or judgement.
Over the years, I've taught many people who have lost their self-confidence for various reasons, and the most rewarding thing for me is that when they leave me after a 5 or 10 week course they are so very proud of what they have made and eager to continue with their new-found crafting skills.
I know from personal experience that having nothing and losing self-confidence is really hard to deal with, but knitting and crochet can help to make people feel proud of their abilities and give them a small feeling of self-worth and achievement - just something to hold onto in times of hardship. I love that knitting and crochet can make such a change to people's lives and help improve their mental health. Whilst it doesn’t solve problems, it does make people realise that they have ability, determination and creativity hidden within, and this in turn can sometimes be pivotal in helping people turn a corner and start to re-build themselves.
It has saddened me over the past few years that the knitting and crochet community has also become incredibly judgemental and has become somewhat overly competitive - particularly the social media side of things, and this can be off-putting to those who want to join in and celebrate their knitting and crochet love. I feel that if knitting and crochet is to remain an all-inclusive hobby then there needs to be less judgement aimed at people who cannot buy expensive yarns to use, or who simply prefer more affordable yarns, for whatever reasons. We shouldn't ask and we shouldn't judge, and we certainly shouldn't be nasty.
Being made to feel that you're not good enough, or to be pushed away or excluded from a group or community can be soul destroying and there is a lot to be done within the knitting and crochet community to make sure that everyone is welcome, regardless of the yarn they use.
For some crafters or potential crafters from minority groups, there are often barriers to engaging with the knitting and crochet sector, either because they are financially, physically or mentally unable, or perhaps their first language isn't necessarily that of the country that they are living in. I would love to see everyone being welcomed as an equal part of the knitting and crochet community and feel valued and proud of their achievements and contributions.
In truth, we all share the same skills – we pick up our needles or hook and yarn, and want to make lovely things, either as a necessity or as a hobby. Whether we make amigurumi or colourwork jumpers, whether we make things for ourselves or for our families, whether we make gifts or knit for charities, everyone should be able to feel proud of what they’ve made and feel as though they can share their progress online, without fear of any negativity. Nobody should be made to feel bad or worry about risking criticism or judgement for sharing their knitting and crochet online.
Conversely, those who love wool and love to knit and crochet with wool, should also be able to show off their makes, without being judged for spending more money than others, or for having a larger stash of yarn, or for their genuine love of wool. We're all different - we all have different priorities and different amounts to spend on our knitting and crochet activities. In essence, we're all doing the same thing and looking for the same enjoyment and fulfilment from our crafting experience and we should celebrate our creativity together.
I hope we can all play our part in making our industry inclusive and fair, and free of judgement, exclusion and negativity. We won't all agree on everything, and we can agree to disagree - there's nothing wrong with discussing different opinions or sharing how we feel about things, and often it's enlightening too, but responding in a nasty or aggressive manner won't help the knitting and crochet sector to move forward in a positive way.
I have so much more to think about and learn about, but please be assured that I will be doing my best to make sure that I'm inclusive, welcoming and approachable to you all.
I send out a couple of newsletters each month to my subscribers which, in truth, tend to be a little rushed. I always link to another designer, blogger, maker, creative influencer or indie dyer and in future I will be making sure that I spend more time to research, communicate with and showcase creatives from all sectors of society and I'll be using Jeanette Sloan's growing list of POC (people of colour) designers as a starting point (link is below).
I'm looking forward to enhancing my social media feeds by following a more diverse range of designers, makers, knitters and crocheters - I've already found many amazing, inspiring and creative people that I didn't even know existed. I will be making sure that my writing style is inclusive and welcoming so that everyone feels at ease.
I'm always available if you have any questions and I will always do my very best to help.
I'll keep you updated with my thoughts and changes and look forward to crafting with you all in 2019.
For links to read more about POC designers and crafters, please head over to Jeanette Sloan's website. Her informative blog list is here: POC list of designers and crafters by Jeanette Sloan