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


“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)


“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.