Checking Privilege, Changing Patterns

This week has seen a great deal of emotional labor exerted by BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color) and allies regarding racism and white privilege within the fiber arts and crafting communities.

I’ve shared below the accounts of some of the people who have really lead this long overdue conversation on diversity and inclusion. These individuals have used their Instagram stories and posts to lay out—and comment on—the tone-deaf and racist event that played a part in this sea-change; shared about experiences of racism that BIPOC face frequently in this community; provided incredible education about white privilege and struggled with and witnessed to white folks who are coming to terms with new concepts (which is really not their job so thank you thank you thank you);* and have collated and listed fiber artists and crafters to follow and engage with. These individuals, and others who have been involved, are amazing. Period. I know I don’t get many readers in this space, but I encourage anyone who is reading this post to get clicking and dive right in, especially if you are white or benefit from light skin privilege. *Buy these folks coffee at the ko-fi links under their profiles (if they have a ko-fi account).

I feel humbled and grateful to be connected with a craft with so many strong and compassionate people willing to do the hard work of calling-out racism, calling-in education about white privilege, and doing what is required to foster true, not token, equity and inclusion. I am also aware that there are many crafters who are not willing to confront or are completely blind to their privilege, especially white privilege (which is part and parcel of white supremacy), and have reacted to these call-ins/call-outs with white fragility, offensive statements, and avoidance. Being called out is often painful, but it is also a necessary part of transformation. Call-outs might even lead to some very real grief for the easy blindness that came before the call-out. These quotes are particularly relevant to this:

“When we are held accountable for causing harm to Black and Brown people, when our racism and wyt supremacy is called out, it can feel like a personal attack because it calls into question our deeply held belief that we are good wyt people. When we finally realize that our impact matters more than our intentions, we will be able to listen - & I mean REALLY listen to BIPOC about all the ways we are unsafe and still causing real harm. We will stop weaponizing our white tears & white feelings as avoidance. — @nowhitesaviors / @unpopularvote

and

“People often say ‘stop being angry and educate us,’ not understanding that the anger is a part of the education” — Dentata (thanks to @mckensiemack for sharing that one)

and

“There is something important that happens when we really start listening to the people we’ve caused harm. When we stop trying to justify our actions or deflect and tell that person how they should respond to their pain. For once, we might actually hear what is being said. — @nowhitesaviors

It’s been over a year since I posted in this space and I still have my one and only 2018 project sitting unfinished in my knitting basket (a tiny cardigan for my friend’s daughter). In 2019, I am going to pick up my needles more. I am also committed to confronting and addressing my white privilege and the blind spots (racism) in my knitting practice and in my life (which is ongoing work). Over the last two days, I’ve been introduced to many incredible BIPOC designers. When my current project is put to bed, I am very excited to frog some of the items in my repurpose pile and get to crafting.  While I don’t yet know the gauge of the items in my frogging queue, I wanted to share a few patterns of various gauges from BIPOC designers on Ravelry that I’m excited to try (I’m particularly excited about these child jumpers since I’m on a kids clothes kick right now):

Another very cool and critical idea is the #buyfromBIPOCchallenge and @buyfromBIPOC Instagram account, spearheaded and co-moderated by @little_kotos_closet,** @smilelaina, @yokeandbore, and @slow.themme. **A quick note on @little_kotos_closet: she is my activist parent style icon and an absolute rock-solid account to follow. Also check out her story on WOC makers on Instagram.

I am grateful for this year-long challenge (starting February 2019 to February 2020 in honor of Black History Month) and also inspired by the call to reflect on and ascribe to a life-long commitment to justice and representation in my purchases. Because I am trying to purchase less this year (read: still in student debt from my MSW program), this challenge is an opportunity for me to slow down and take the time to really think about what I’m buying and why and whom I buy from. Here are just a few of the shops and items that I’m excited about:

Scarves and a pillow from SUNDAY/MONDAY, a textile brand established by Nisha Mirani and Brendan Kramer in 2017. Their mission is “to design and produce handmade textiles honoring India’s rich craftsmanship traditions of weaving, block carving, printing and dyeing by partnering with textile artists.” Nisha is the daughter of Gujarati immigrants and dreamed of starting a business rooted in community and craft. At SUNDAY/MONDAY, the textiles are designed by Nisha and Brendan and then produced by weaver and block printing families in Gujarat and Rajasthan with their input. The name “SUNDAY / MONDAY comes from a phrase used in India to indicate the duality of textiles. Oftentimes, an Indian textile is reversible, with a different pattern or color scheme on the other side. In a practical sense, textiles can be multi-functional - serving as art, rugs, or throws.” I have been wanting a block print scarf for quite awhile and I think one of these is in my future.

Project tote from Bookhou, a multidisciplinary studio established by Arounna Khounnoraj and John Booth in 2002 that emphasizes natural handmade materials and small production pieces. Arounna received her education from the Ontario College of Art, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and a MFA from the University of Waterloo and explores pattern and image in her textiles and sculptures. I’ve been using a basket and linen grocery store bags for my knitting for the last few years, but have been wanting to upgrade to something designed to hold my crafting tools. This project tote is currently sold out, but I’m hoping it will be back in stock soon!

Earrings and a ring from Slantt Studio, a small sculptural line of jewelry designed and handmade by Jennifer Rodgers and founded in 2013. “Slantt jewelry is modern and distinct, designed with an intention to create pieces that are timeless. Architecture, sculpture, objects, textiles, and natural forms serve as inspiration behind the design.” All Jennifer’s pieces are fabricated and finished by hand using traditional metalsmithing techniques in her studio in Austin, Texas. I want those earrings so bad.

Powerful tees from Green Box Shop, a custom social justice t-shirt company founded by Kayla Robinson in 2016 and promoting authenticity, inclusivity, and awareness. Kayla decided to start this shop when she couldn't find any bold social justice tees and sold them to raise money for her yoga instructor certification. Since then, Green Box Shop’s mission has grown and the company supports and ever-growing and evolving body of artists, activists, and creators. There are many shirts and causes to pick from but here are four that I really liked.

I also want to highlight some BIPOC crafter/style icon Instagram accounts I follow and love (some new to me and some I’ve loved for awhile). Many of these crafters are designers and have shops, too.

I know this work to address racism and raise up inclusion has been—and will continue to be—ongoing. I am committed to work on waking up to my privilege and racist habits, to listen, to educate myself, to apologize and recommit to the cause when I mess up, to sit with discomfort, to struggle with my peers, and to show up for social justice. In short, to do my part in the work it takes to live in a truly anti-racist and equitable world. Thank you for reading.

Better Sweater No. 9: Brighton

 

Well, it's a Christmas Eve miracle! Brighton is DONE! I was really hoping to finish this baby before the New Year and am so pleased that I did. I began this jumper in September 2016, just after getting married and starting my last year of graduate school. I worked away at it very very slowly in the interim. It's a fun and mostly uncomplicated pattern and one that I recommend. Here are a few of my edits:

Front and back panels: I knit these longer than what the pattern calls for since I didn't want a cropped look. 

Back panel: Did absolutely no shaping on the back panel as I wanted this to have more of an A-line loose fit. I knit it to be slightly longer than the front panel by a few rows.

Sleeves: Did only a few increases since I have small arms and didn't want wide sleeves. I had to mess around with the sleeve cap shaping given that I did not have the same number of stitches as the pattern.

Stitching it together: I love the look of a split side seam at the bottom. The two panels didn't quite match up so it was good that I'd pre-planned keeping the ribbing separate. 

Overall, I really like this sweater. The lapped shoulders are very fun and nothing I've ever done before. I'm super into it!

More images and info about the pattern over on the project page

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In Search of a Drapey Cardigan

 

I did something a few months ago that I feel a little guilty about. I bought a sweater. Not yarn for a sweater. A sweater. A drapey, soft, cozy sweater from Madewell. And I love it. I want to buy it in every shade. 

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But I won't! Because now that graduate school is over and I've officially launched my career, I do have more time for knitting and I would really like to make the drapey, soft, cozy sweater of my dreams. 

I've been scouring through Ravelry for weeks. And while I haven't found the perfect pattern, I have located a few contenders.

Clockwise from left:

1. BlueSand Cardigan by La Maison Rililie; 2. Liv by Carrie Bostick Hoge; 3. Pente by Carol Feller; 4. Palmer by Michele Wang

Ultimately, am looking for something that lives in the very middle of these. I love the textured quality of BlueSand, the simplicity and flow of Liv, the draping of Pente, and the construction of Palmer. 

Since I started the Better Sweater Project, I have rarely strayed from following a selected pattern to a T. Sure, I've modified and tweaked here and there for fit, but that's about it. Maybe it's time for some off-chart adventure!?  

 

Making My Wedding Dress

 

If you've wondered why The Better Sweater Project has been close to silent this past year, it's because, in addition to graduate school and summer research, I was working hard on my wedding dress! 

Let me be clear: I am no seamstress. On a scale of seamstress to delusional, I fall safely on the latter side. This project saw me cutting, sewing, groaning, and dismantling again and again.

But I am also an incredibly optimistic person. And in the end, despite my novice skills, I finished the project! 

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The Story

So why did I make my own dress? Well, it all started when I tried on a Rue De Seine washed silk crepe dress that I could never afford but had to have. Actually, I was not a fan of the top part of the dress, but the skirt...oh man...it was perfect. And as I walked (in it) around the store, observing the construction and how it flowed, I thought to myself, "I can make this!" 

Or at least something like it! Thus began my crafting adventure.

The Process

Before I spent all my money on silk for the skirt, I bought some poppin' pink fabric of a similar weight and got to draping. [I just noticed that the note I have taped to my monitor reads: "uncontrollably compelled to do something unwise." Hah!]

Yes, this is real. Despite looking ridiculous, the beer-sized iterations really did help! I then made a few life-size versions, draped on my trusty dress form, and tweaked my "pattern" until it fit "just right." Wabi-sabi wabi-sabi! 

For the top, I decided on a simple sweetheart neckline. I was lucky enough to work with my dear friend Kelly's mom, Chris (she falls on the seamstress side of that scale I mentioned before), on a pattern that fit right on over a bustier I'd purchased from Nordstrom's. Chris lives in Portland, so my mom, Kelly, and I trekked on up to Oregon over Spring Break and got to work.

Though I'd found the perfect stone-wash crepe de chine silk for the skirt, I was still looking for the right lace for the top. Portland's gigantic brick and mortar Fabric Depot had tons of options and I was able to find an ivory lace that matched my silk.

Once the draping and pattern-making were complete, I got to sewing. For the skirt, I used my machine. Though I started out doing the same for the top, I eventually resorted to sewing by hand.

For the top's lining, I used scraps left over from my mom's wedding dress (made by her mom). Here she is on her wedding day (gorgeous!) and a close up of the lining on my dress. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I completed everything but the hem in July. I then twiddled my thumbs for a few weeks, trying to figure out how to sew the hem so that I wouldn't trip.

In the end, Eric and my two best friends did almost all of the measuring, cutting, and pinning while I sat/stood in the dress (wait, this isn't how it's supposed to be done?).

Later, I dedicated a whole day to sewing (because of the skirt's draping it has a crazy huge circumference). At 2am on the Tuesday before our August 13th wedding, I finished the dress! Wahoo! 

Here are few images of the funky yet functional final product: 

The Materials

If you are thinking about making your own dress, make sure you have plenty of the following:

  • Optimism (you can do it!)
  • Wabi-sabi mentality (embrace imperfection!)
  • Supportive friends and partners (to help pin, cut, etc.)
  • Time/dedication (werk werk werk werk werk)

In addition, you might also need these items if you want to make a similar dress (also, note that I am 5' 3"):

  • Lace - 1 yard (purchased at Fabric Depot in Portland)
  • Stone wash crepe de chine silk - 10 yards total and used for the skirt and layering under the lace top (purchased from Dharma Trading Company)
  • Antistatic polyester lining for the skirt - 8 yards (purchased at Fabric Depot in Portland) - Note: if I were to do this again, and wasn't so cheap, I would not have gone with a synthetic
  • Lining for inside the top (I used my mom's wedding dress scraps)
  • Silk pins
  • Bustier (mine was by Betsey Johnson purchased at Nordstrom) - Note: I had a Nordstrom tailor hem the bottom by about an inch so that it sat just above my belly button
  • Bustier pattern (Chris designed mine but there are plenty of patterns out there!)
  • Zipper (for closing the back of the dress)
  • Hook & eye closures (for ensuring the dress stays closed!)
  • Silk thread (three spools was enough for me!)
  • Really freakin' sharp scissors

I also made my own veil by gathering the tulle material and stitching it to a metal hair comb. There are plenty of tutorials for DIY veils online. Then, on the day of the wedding, two of my friends cut the bottom so that it flowed. Yes, really!

 Materials used:

  • Metal hair comb (purchased on Amazon here)
  • Thread - whatever is left over
  • Ivory tulle - 3 yards (purchased from Fabric Depot)

All told, I spent under $400 on materials, though the labor/stress cost was thousands! Joking aside, making this gown was an incredible experience. What a thrill to take on a complicated project and complete it.

I also attempted to make a wedding shawl, which at the start I was super jazzed about (case in point this eager beaver blog post). I purchased the yarn, tried two different patterns, and in the end the whole project felt like a chore. While making the wedding dress was tough yet thrilling, knitting (a craft that I love) the shawl felt soul-sucking and brought me little joy. So I stopped. Now I have a bunch of beautiful Lerke yarn and am excited to see what else I can make without the pressure of a wedding deadline!

For more images of the dress and our wedding, check out this slideshow (pictures by the incredible Tim Coulson):

 

Dickey with a Modern Twist

 

We've been watching a lot of Big Bang Theory recently, which is where I learned about the dickey (see Howard Wolowitz), one of the stranger accessories out there. Then, the other day, I saw: 

Not only does Amanda Brooks have the best travel style, but she is also wearing the coolest knit dickey from Celine! And now I want one!

Well, sorta. I can't imagine wearing a dickey unless the back was as long as the front, and even then those flaps... At that point, why not just make a vest? 

Still, knitting a dickey is pretty darn easy. Says raynathompson on Ravelry:

Find a basic turtleneck pattern in the size you want. Cast on the same number of stitches as the armhole width. That’s the amount of stitches after decreases for the full sweater width and before the neckline shaping. Don’t overthink it! Knit the front and back as straight pieces for the length you want (knit a wide edging so the stockinette doesn’t roll), then follow the pattern directions for the neckline and collar. That’s it! Choose any pattern in the correct size to get you started.

After a wee search, I found three patterns whose separate components, when combined, would make the perfect little Celine inspired dickey or vest. Similar cabling pattern meets vest pattern meets turtleneck. Wahoo! Could this be a future better sweater? MAYBE! Will I get a chance to actually knit this semester? Man, I hope so! And wouldn't this be perfect for a California summer?

1. Wicklow by Norah Gaughan (image by Orangewall), 2. Dalea by Berroco Design Team, 3. Pendleton by Wendy Baker and Belinda Boaden

 

Instagram Inspiration

 

Like many craft-loving individuals, Instagram is my social media of choice. So many people to follow! So much to inspire! Still, there are certain profiles that I return to again and again. I am always excited when I search for these folks and find several new photos that I hadn't seen before (it's the little things, eh?). So here are my favorite Instagrammers from the last while, sorted by the categories of Crafts, Family & Home, and (Life)Style, with notes on why I like them. Maybe you'll find someone new who will inspire you!

Craft

Clockwise from left:

1. @thecraftsessions - Felicia Semple is a crafty genius and her Instagram profile inspires me every time I look at it. Whether she's sewing, knitting, or quilting, her pictures always make we want to run over to my craft corner and start making something (likely whatever she's crafting that day). If you don't already follow her blog, you should check it out. It's a great one to have in the maker-journal rotation. 

2. @karentempler - Another great craft blogger! Karen Templer is the owner and proprietor of Fringe Supply Co., my favorite knitting-related shop on the interwebs, and her personal Instagram is just lovely. Like Felicia's profile, I am often inspired to get crafty by Karen's posts. So watch out!

3. @wikstenmade - Jenny Gordy is an incredible pattern maker and the woman behind Wiksten, an online clothing and pattern shop. Her children's patterns are especially precious and I look forward to one day making little harem pants and smocks for my kiddos (if I have any energy at all...that parenting thing looks kinda tough). 

4. @folkfibers - When am I going to make a quilt? Who the heck knows! In the meantime, I'll just salivate over Maura Grace's Instagram which is full to bursting with images of the beautiful quilts she is working on.

My other favorite craft-related Instagrammers include @blockshoptextiles and Blockshop's two super cool owners, @lilystockman and @hopiestockman.

Family & Home

Clockwise from left:

1. @courtneyadamo - Courtney Adamo, her husband, and their four children are spending a year traveling abroad and her Instagram is full to bursting with posts of their travel and homeschooling adventures. I am living vicariously through her photos and growing so excited for my own trip to New Zealand later this year, a place they visited a few months ago. Also, Courtney's family wins the "best-dressed family on Instagram" award, hands down. So much linen!

2. @barnaclebags - Lissa Snapp lives on Lopez Island with her husband and young son, and every time I see her profile I feel a strong urge to move north! Lissa's cabin home, built by her husband, has lots of Waldorf-inspired elements as evidenced in this photo (I think I spy some Lyra pencils!). She also makes beautiful bags!  

3. @practisingsimplicity - I've been following Jodi's blog Practicing Simplicity for ages and love her photography. Her Instagram profile is filled with beautiful photos of her simple and functional home decor and of her three adorable and, like Courtney Adamo's brood, very well-dressed children. Definitely check out her blog if you want to read more about purposeful simple living (and see more photos!). 

4. @junelettersstudio - I first started following Jess's Instagram because our moms are close friends and her graphic design posts were always awesome. Years have passed and now she has a young baby boy and a very cool loft in Oakland. I enjoy her pictures as well as her refreshingly reflective captions. Instagram doesn't often feel very real or down-to-earth, but Jess' profile does. 

(Life)Style

Clockwise from left:

1. @clarevivier - Clare Vivier is the eponymous designer of an increasingly popular purse and accessories brand, and is definitely one of my fashion idols. (And yes, I looked up the "precise use" of eponymous to write that last sentence.) Her style appears effortless, classic, and simple. Bonus, to me anyway, she's also Martha Stewart-approved (Vivier's Echo Park home is in the June issue of MSL, which I've been reading [i.e. looking at pictures] religiously since my youth). I own three of her bags thanks to eBay's generously reduced used prices but, if I'm ever financially solvent enough to purchase an item in her shop, well, I think I will. 

2. @witblog - Laura Fantacci is an Italian stylist living in London and probably the chicest person I follow on Instagram. To me, her style is one part Jenna Lyons (J.Crew) and two parts some fashion house I don't know and can't afford. Still, I find the looks she puts together very accessible (i.e. I could find similar shapes and materials in my own closet) and am often inspired by her Instagram. 

3. @taza - While Taza's Instagram (Naomi Davis) would probably fit better in the Family & Home category, I first started reading her blog before she had children and was immediately attracted to her sense of style. Color! Patterns! Shiny things! Three kids later (the cutest kids), she still looks effortlessly chic! Definitely one of my favorite bloggers

4. @beatricevalenzuela - A shoe designer by trade, Beatrice Valenzuela's general style (clothing, accessories, home) is very "current bohemian," which sounds like a thing but may or may not be. Like Clare Vivier, she is another one of the hip Echo Park set, which also includes @heatherbethtay@simoneleblanc@jleighwms@jessekamm, and @jeanasohn (whose Closet Visit photoblog got me started on all these ladies in the first place), among others. If you're looking for even more Instagram (Life)Style inspiration I definitely recommend checking out those folks. 

 

Wedding Shawl

 

I'm getting married this summer and recently found the perfect wedding shawl pattern: In the Garden by Ilga Leja! The weekend before last I spent time in Southern California and while I was down there I visited the cutest little yarn shop in Pasadena. The staff were so patient with me while I compared all the white fingering-weight yarns and even let me take my favorites outside to see how they looked in natural light. And lo and behold, I found the perfect yarn: Lerke ("Lerke" means "lark" in Norwegian), a fingering-weight 2-ply from Dale Garn of Norway. It's 52% fine merino wool, 48% Egyptian cotton and super duper soft. So excited to begin this project! See images below for my fit inspiration.

 

2015 TBSP Year in Review & Plans for 2016

 

Happy first day of 2016 and happy two-year anniversary to TBSP! To welcome this new year of knitting, I thought I'd share a little review of last year's (whoa!) projects and my knitting plans for 2016. 

2015 was a slow but steady year for TBSP. It saw the knitting of Better Sweater No. 7 and No. 8 (plus Epistrophy)! While that's quite a few fewer than last year, I really enjoyed the process of knitting my 2015 jumpers. Cabling and meticulously following charts were central themes in both Moroccan Nights and Ondawa, and I am now pretty darn good at both. I'm also super great at unraveling small sections to fix twist direction! Huzzah!

Top photos: 1. Moroccan Nights // 2. Ondawa

I currently have two sweaters in my queue for 2016. On the left: Backbay by Jared Flood. This Aran-style pullover was also in my 2015 queue and is at the top of my knit list. On the right: White Pine by Amy Christoffers (Savory Knitting). I absolutely love the fit of Christoffers' patterns (Campus and Acer are two of my favorite Better Sweaters) and White Pine looks like a fun project to sink my teeth into. Yay for more cables!

1. Backbay by Jared Flood // 2. White Pine by Amy Christoffers

Looking forward to knitting the Better Sweaters of 2016, once again transforming meh into yeah!