Julia Farwell-Clay


Knitting is My Happy Place


You know that conversation over on Instagram? The one that happened after someone who isn’t you posted about her trip tp India this year? The one that shook my well-meaning liberal white girl heart?


You would be well-informed to look into the instagram accounts of the knitters above for the details (later, or now, I’ll wait), but the short-hand of it is that at this moment in our knitting culture, tied in as it is to the culture around it, there’s a lot of mistakes we are making, and it’s time to look at how those mistakes happen – the cultural underpinnings of those terrible mistakes that hurt our fellows – and to work on not making them again. Who said what is almost not the point anymore. The fact is, most of us (and I’m looking at the white people here), make those same mistakes.

So here’s the thing: we can work on getting better. That’s it. Let’s do that.

I’ve gotten a number of messages on my Instagram from followers who said something like this: “Knitting is my happy place. Keep this uncomfortable conversation out of my feed, please.” And I lost a bunch of followers too. All fine, that’s a real response. I get it, I actually expected that among the 8500 people who follow me over there, that there would be a bunch who were just looking for pretty. They want beautiful knitting, and just that from me. So I’m delighted that only a fraction flounced off.

That meant a lot to me. It meant people around me could sit with being a little bit uncomfortable, and could handle some constructive criticism. If knitting is comfort, I think it can be safely offered that once folks find out that it isn’t the same for other people, how can we remain comfortable after learning that?

Lady Dye Yarns    singles in the swatching stage: that GREEN!

Lady Dye Yarns singles in the swatching stage: that GREEN!

Comfort levels have so much to do with how we interact with the world, and if we choose to only do things the way we’ve only ever done them, that’s a choice we may take for granted. Sometimes that’s not the case. But if we ARE lucky enough to be surrounded by comfort, why not ask a little more of ourselves? Even here in our happy place around knitting? And I don’t mean in just trying Brioche Stitch or knitting a first sweater: I mean making new friends here on the internet: listening to new voices, perhaps voices of immigrants, voices of people of color, the voices of someone different from myself.

If we dismiss anger, box it up and say there is no good reason for it, we’re missing the point. We’re judging the anger on its merit instead of accepting that it is real and earned. I’m missing an opportunity to learn something from another’s experience. Ultimately, I’m failing my fellow human being, and I’m failing myself. And dude, it’s MY job to learn, not anyone else’s job to teach. There are books. Audre Lorde is a good place to start. I can even laugh at myself by watching Aamer Rahman’s bit on reverse racism. Google is our friend.

There are many beautiful voices to find out. If we retreat from difference, we will never grow as people. Listen, learn, and most importantly, act. I don’t even have to leave my couch to buy yarn from a new maker. I can use my accounts to amplify someone. And if someone taught me something, if they spent time teaching that thing, I can buy them a coffee through their ko-fi.com accounts or PayPal. Let’s make everywhere we are a more welcoming place. Maybe knitting CAN change the world.

Looking for where else to start? Go check out Jeanette Sloan’s list of makers of color, and let her know if she is missing someone you know about.

Julia Farwell-Clay