Sunday, 11 November 2018

Diversity in Knitting and Beyond

Diversity in Knitting and Beyond

Recently, the topic of diversity in knitting* has become more prominent and it's been on my mind for a while now.  It is such a complex topic that I didn't quite know how to tackle it in a blog post and this one may well sound like it's all over the place. However, it is an important topic and I hope that it will make you think.

White as default

Most knitters and designers we encounter in our craft tend to be white and from similar cultural backgrounds (i.e. Western). To my surprise, I never really paid attention to that - and what surprised me more, I didn't realise that I am actually not part of that dominant group. 

I am multicultural, multiracial and multilingual. I have lived in three countries, two of which  are predominantly white. I spent part of my childhood in Bangladesh and know just how different the cultures I have experienced are. And still, I somehow never felt I was any different from other white people. I suspect that's because I have been surrounded by whiteness most of my life and that I haven't struggled with my own multicultural heritage in a way that many do.

Considering the amount of racism I experienced in Germany in the 1990s, that's surprising even to me in retrospect. It was the hardest, most dangerous time of my life because I looked foreign in my own country of birth. I did not believe I would get older than 14 at the time, given the violence at the time. (The political atmosphere in the UK and US currently remind me very much of that time and Germany is not far behind at the moment.) And yet, unlike many who are made to feel different, I always felt very secure in myself, so the struggle was never really one coming from within me. Instead, I knew that it was a problem only for other people, something they tried to force on me from outside. This caused all kinds of issues at the time, but it never made me think less of myself, feel unworthy or out of place. Unlike many, I did not feel like I was not at home where I was, though what exactly constitutes home for me is hard to pinpoint to this day.

A sense of home

For me, there was never a doubt about who or what I am. It is more a question of finding home in a physical sense that is difficult. Geography. I moved so much between countries and cultures that home is hard. For me home is temporary and ever changing. It is where I happen to be at the time. Home is not one place or even a person or group of people. Instead, home is something intangible, maybe a state of being that, like everything, is fluid and ever changing. Maybe home is simply within me.

Brexit is a good example of how your sense of home can be suddenly denied, altered or removed by external forces you cannot influence. Many EU nationals in the UK (and, similarly, UK nationals in the EU) are now experiencing this loss for the first time due to the threat that Brexit poses to their lives in the countries they've decided to call home.^ It's because of the vulnerability of home that all we have is ourselves, so we need to be comfortable with who we are.

Creating your own space

Nearly a decade ago I worked on a book about multicultural identity in Maori novels (you can hear a little bit about it in the Fiber Muse podcast), which taught me a lot about the struggle of people who feel like they don't fully belong anywhere. In the book, I write that people like us create our own space, a third space, that draws on everything we are. This way, we find ourselves and create something new, drawing on the different strands that make us who we are. We create a unique blend that is us, and just us.

So what does that mean for us multicultural knitters? Do we incorporate elements of our heritage in our knitting? Do we use traditional designs, stitch patters or techniques in our work? Are we aware of them at all? Do we demand our place within dominant knitting culture? Or do we focus on simply making others aware that we are here, that we exist, that the knitters, just like knitting itself, is diverse, colourful and challenging if you allow it to be?

This is for each one of us to decide and we may never find a definitive answer. And we don't have to. Personally, all I know is this:

The one stable thing in my life is my sense of self. I have always known who I am, a being in flux, but confident and trusting in myself.

And that sounds pretty good to me.

Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @KnittyNadia.
*Follow #diversknitty on Instagram and other social media to find knitters from various cultural backgrounds.
^If you want to help people affected by this, please join me in becoming an EU Citizens' Champion

Sunday, 8 July 2018

British Wool Show 2018

Absoknittinglutely: British Wool Show 2018
Image: British Wool Show

Get out your diaries! The British Wool Show is coming to York again this August. Supporting the Campaign for Wool that champions British wool, the show offers a sheep shearing demo, vendors selling all manner of woolly things for everyone, and a lot of wool for spinning, felting, knitting, and crochet.

You may remember I visited the show in 2015 and very much enjoyed it. I especially loved the Sheep Show Man and highly recommend watching one of the three daily shows. They are educational and entertaining at the same time - what more can you as for? I hadn't expected to learn so much that day.

To get a taste of what awaits you at the show, have a look at the photos of my visit. Sadly, I can't be there myself this year, but if you love wool shows and can get to York for the weekend, have a look! you'll find all the details on the British Wool Show website

If you go, let me know how you liked it!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Knitting: A Positive Addiction

Knitting as positive addiction

When we think of addictions, we usually think of the kind that cause a wide range of problems and potentially destroy lives. But can there be such a thing as a positive addiction? Some psychologists think there is.

In Psychology Today, Dr Mark D. Griffiths looks at knitting as a positive addiction. As knitters, I am sure we have heard someone in our circle jokingly say they were addicted to knitting, maybe we've even said so ourselves. 

Hobbies such as this "could be deliberately cultivated to wean addicts away from more harmful and sinister preoccupations." Taking up knitting could therefore keep us happily occupied and take our minds off other, less healthy actions. In order for this to work, these "positive addictions must be new rewarding activities that produce increased feelings of self-efficacy."

There have been several articles in the papers about the health benefits of knitting such as reducing stress and creating a feeling of purpose. In other words, knitting can be a coping mechanism for the usual stresses we experience in life. We can find a new sense of purpose in knitting, which can be seen in the surge of craftivism (guerrilla knitting and pussy hats, anyone?). We love to create things, and it is even more satisfying for some if there is a greater purpose behind it. Knitting for charity comes to mind, for example. In these cases, it is important to us that there is a greater purpose behind what we create than simply the act of creation.

However, Griffiths relates that knitting can indeed be as addicting as a drug. We even have an ever growing stash and we can't stop ourselves from buying more, using terminology with a "clear crossover to the drug culture" (Etherknitter). We may not always feel we are in control of our yarn-buying habit, we spend a lot of time pursuing our craft, and for some of us not being able to knit can cause actual symptoms of withdrawal.

Griffiths concludes that it "is theoretically possible for an individual to become addicted to anything if there are constant reinforcements (i.e., rewards)", which makes sense. As long as knitting doesn't have detrimental effects on your life, there's nothing to worry about. Enjoy your WIPs and yarn stash and the joy they bring! 

Would you say you are really addicted to knitting? I have to say I am not, though I enjoy it. It's never interfered with anything else and has always been a nice way to spend my free time. I enjoy creating things with my hands, especially if they are intricate because I like the challenge. And yet none of my creative hobbies have ever had a negative effect on any other aspect of my life. That's just how I like it.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Pattern Inspiration: Beach Days

There's no denying it, summer is here and I can't stop thinking about holidays at the seaside. While I won't get away until later summer or early autumn, there's no reason I can't enjoy looking at all things that remind me of the beach. So this week's pattern inspiration post comes as no surprise, inspired by a longing for sea, sun and lazy days. Enjoy!

1. I absolutely love Life's a Beach! The fossil pattern looks amazing in the blue yarn and this cowl is just what you need on a windy beach walk. The pattern is available in English and German, and if you have two balls of 4-play, you're good to go!

2. If you've got your hands on issue 89 of Knit Now, you will have seen these fun little Beach Bears. I love those little life preservers and the seashell necklace one of them is wearing. While toys are always fiddly to knit, these would be a fun distraction from your usual projects. 

3. Amanda Berry's Beach Hut pattern is absolutely free. Yay! In my eyes, nothing is more British than the sight of colourful beach huts, so this knitting pattern is perfect for lovers of the British seaside. Why not knit two or three in different colours for the full effect?

4. This light jumper is a-ma-zing. Jellyfish is only available in Russian, sadly, but I had to show it to you because I am intrigued by its ethereal quality. It looks like some rows are knitted with a transparent yarn or thread so the sleeves and neck appear disconnected from the rest of the garment. I can imagine that if you are an experienced knitter and don't read Russian, you can probably wing it without the pattern. I just love the whole look of it.

Have you discovered any interesting patterns lately you'd like to share? Post them here or over on Twitter @KnittyNadia. See you there!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Happy Worldwide Knit in Public Day!

Worldwide Knit in Public Day

Happy Worldwide Knit in Public Day, everyone!

Knitty First Fall issue is out

Whether you are actually out and about with your knitting today or at home, this is the perfect day to knit in company. Incidentally, this is also the day the latest Knitty magazine is out, so check out the new patterns! (I can't believe it's already the autumn issue. It's not even summer yet.) Maybe you've even cast on one of them especially for today?

To MAGA or not to MAGA

You may have heard about Karin Aida's latest hat pattern that has been causing quite a stir! If you are a Trump supporter, it definitely isn't for you, as the name makes clear: the Not for Trump Fans Hat piqued everyone's interest and the comment section is quite something to behold. It's very different from the usual comments you find on pattern pages and in a way I am disappointed that it now reads like all other political comment threads, but that was inevitable, I suppose. So if you fancy a peek, go ahead and remember the popcorn.

Your thoughts

Let me know what you've knitted today and if you have knitted in public. Leave your comments here or find me on Twitter @KnittyNadia. 

Speaking of Twitter

On Thursday evenings at 7:30 (UK time) you can join me and other knitters for our weekly #knittinghour chat. We're just a small bunch who like to talk about yarn and all sorts of other things going on in our lives at the moment. It is promo-free, so there won't be any unwanted spam.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Smaug Socks in Walcot Yarns Opus

Smaug socks in Walcot Yarns Opus

Some time ago, I knitted a pair of Smaug socks that I absolutely loved. Sadly, I only got to wear them once or twice before the moths got to them and they couldn’t be saved. Even though I dislike knitting the same thing more than once, I knew I would give these socks another go.

2014 is far enough away for me to not mind revisiting this pattern, but the main reason I chose it is because I got my hands on Opus by Walcot Yarns, my LYS’ very own brand (I love that Art Nouveau style label, by the way). A Yarn Story has created a range of beautiful colourways and I was tempted from the start. My stash is already making me feel guilty, so it took this long to finally buy a skein, and I think it is worth it.

Opus would look best in shawls, I think. I can imagine using it for lovely, soft gloves as well or a light, but warm top. It feels wonderfully soft and is fairly loosely plied. I love the fibre content on the label: 70% Falkland Merino, 30% Baby Alpaca, 100% Awesome. Seriously, how can you resist 100% Awesome? Despite the softness, this 4-ply is described as hard-wearing, so I hope it stands up to being worn on feet. I deliberately wanted to use a yarn that does not contain nylon, just to see how well it lasts (the environment will probably thank me, too).

The yarn knits up very well, though using 2 mm needles means I have to be careful to get all the strands of each stitch while knitting. Sometimes I miss because of the loose ply, but using the recommended 3 – 4 mm needles would make it easier.

So Smaug is coming along nicely and I am enjoying the pattern. I made a mistake right at the start, however, and ended up with a much longer cuff than called for. Never mind. The original length was a tiny bit too short for my liking, so this mistake isn’t a biggie. I particularly enjoy knitting the "scales" the cuff consists of. It’s very easy to do and memorise, so don’t be afraid to give this pattern a go.
I am in no rush to finish these socks and am enjoying the process. The yarn and pattern certainly make for a good, calming experience. 

Have you tried Opus yet? How did you like it? Let me know here in the comments or over on Twitter @KnittyNadia.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

I Am a Planner Convert

I love my planner! Last Christmas I felt like I'd give a planner a try. In the past, I never saw the point in things like bullet journaling and elaborately decorated planners, especially for the sake of being more organised and saving time. I thought it was a serious waste of time (still do, really), considering how long it takes to do all of this. My colleagues will tell you that I am far too efficient already (how very German of me), so I didn't want a planner to help me with that. However, I liked the idea of a planner as another creative outlet. Being able to actually record all important dates is simply a bonus.

So I asked Mark for a specific planner for Christmas and got this beautiful limited edition Kikki K planner in light blue with gold polka dots. It's even got my initials embossed inside, which is very special to me because they are for my married name, which still feels incredibly new. The planner is an A5 ring binder with a few dashboards, sets of paper, and perpetual calendar included. I like the practicality of being able to put pages in or take them out as needed. Very helpful if I mess something up!

I added the colourful index tabs to separate the pages by month. The paper that comes with the planner consists of basic lined pages, so it's great for creative people who like to make their own weekly or daily spreads.I have a week on two pages, added a water log to make sure I drink enough every day, and I decorate each day with a sticker or drawing. I can't tell you how many stickers I've been buying! And washi tape. Oh, the washi tape! I needed to buy a separate box for the rolls and really need another.

Of course I have some knitting-related pages as well. The one above shows my list of blog topics to help me come up with new content. This way, if I have an idea, I can jot it down instead of forgetting it before I have a chance to type it up on here. Soon I'll need to do another brain storming session to add to the list. 

I especially like my WIP section of the planner. I created a dashboard collage that leads to a month-by-month calendar where I mark off the days on which I have knitted. I also record what I have been working on, which will be a great way to look back on the year once completed.

As you can see, I tried my hand at some fancy script, which is harder than it seems. It looks a bit shaky there, but I still like the overall effect. I have bought a few new pens in the meantime, including a fancy Tombow brush pen that I need to practice with so that I can add a few more pretty touches to the planner. Kikki K planners come with paper that is sadly too thin for markers and brush pens, so I am bit restricted now. It's easy to buy suitable planner paper, though, and I found some great packs with rainbow-coloured lines or simple dots. I can't wait to use them!

So I have been thoroughly bitten by the planner bug. Do you have one that you use for knitting in some way? Do you have any recommendations for stationary? Let's hear them! Comment here or tweet me @KnittyNadia.