Last year, my little community of online knitters, crocheters, makers, and dyers were rocked by our own shifting in the growing pains of society and faced ourselves in the mirror about diversity, inclusion, and racism. Just like any group of influencers and their followers on Instagram we have created this community around the fiber arts which has existed for hundreds of years but has conveniently collected itself online now. There are some heavy hitters that have a large number of followers due to the product they sell, or their designs, yarns, or just their cool-ass-selves and they grasp the attention of their followers just like the makeup goddesses and the workout queens on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.
In January of 2019, the fanciest of bag makers designed purely for holding half knitted items wrote a blog post about a trip to India she was planning. She talked about how excited she was but how it would be like visiting another planet. A woman of Indian descent commented on her blog and asked her to reread her post and think about how this would come off to someone that is actually from there. It sparked a huge racial debate amongst our community which brought to light how much bias the knitting community really showed towards white models, pattern designers, yarn dyers. We took a really deep look at ourselves.
Meanwhile, I’m over here crocheting, following whoever has nice designs to offer. One of my favorite designers that I spend a lot of time communicating with happens to be black. One of my fiber pen-pals and now kind of mentor happens to be black, I started following a number of “BIPOC” members of the fiber community because of these women before our earth-shattering racial discussion last January so I was pretty confused when everyone started talking about “inclusion”. I thought we were talking about knitters vs. crocheters! Which is a thing, but really not as serious as racial inclusion, obviously.
Then things began to spiral. Since everyone has a mouthpiece, all of the BIPOC members of our community were able to speak their truth. And so were the non-BIPOC members of our community. Our tone-deaf members of the knitting community spoke up in a number of different ways. Either in solidarity but with ignorance, just plain ignorance, and a few with some actual helpful things to say. People got angry, people came together, people left, people came together. All the things.
Then some crazy girl posted a MAGA hat pattern on Ravelry and the community banned Donald Trump. Just like that, they banned the mentioning of the president! I found this hilarious, unhelpful, but I support it. Ravelry is an online community where crafters post patterns for purchase and communicate via message boards, etc. The ban consisted of Trump’s policies that discriminated against marginalized groups but it was blown up by the media to be straight “Knitters are anti-Trump” so there was a stark line drawn down through the community. Just Ravelry’s landing page for this conversation makes me chuckle “content/no-trump” I mean, come on.
Anyway, the fiber community is not unique to this situation, I just thought I’d bring up a group of people that no one else in our class has probably heard about. I’m an avid crocheter so I live and breathe these people on my social media accounts. Instagram is my happy place because I’ve flooded it with yarn people. Since the discussion has cooled down many people have begun to become more aware of BIPOC members of our community. Which is a good thing, for sure, it’s a shame it’s taken this long. Or maybe we were aware and just didn’t point it out. At least I know I was.