Mixing two basic stitches together and a magazine focusing on uplifting BBIM People

Elisabeth in her Dragonfly Tee

Did you see the trailer for Disney’s new The Little Mermaid movie? I was moved to tears to see all the reactions of girls around the world finding out Halle Bailey is Ariel! Representation matters and it brings joy to my heart to see big initiatives like this. I think it is very important to see BIPOC in leading roles throughout our society. Also in the crochet community. This month I have the pleasure to interview Elisabeth, a Haïtian-American crochet designer, the owner of Desamour Designs and co-founder of Radicle Threads Magazine. Each pattern she creates and releases has a piece of her culture and heritage. 

You can find Elisabeth on Instagram: @desamourdesigns

How/when/where did your fiber journey start? “I learned to crochet when I was about 8 years old. I was always a crafty person, I tried my hands at cross stitching, painting, drawing, scrapbooking, sewing and many more hobbies. Crochet was never the top of the list for me until I moved to the US and picked it up years later. 

I started by making amigurumi, kids/baby items for sale using free patterns online and YouTube videos. I soon realized that I did not enjoy the process of making things over and over again. It wasn’t a sustainable process for my lifestyle or was draining the enjoyment out of the process. 

“I stopped caring that my family and friends were making jokes about another “grandma” hobby”

Soon enough, places like Facebook and Instagram became a thing and there I discovered the world of fiber lovers like me. I started connecting with others on the apps, joining groups and testing patterns for designers. It truly opened my eyes to all the possibilities I had with crochet.

I designed my very first pattern and wore it for days. I loved the notion that something I imagined became reality. I could wear something I made with a hook and yarn. I stopped caring that my family and friends were making jokes about me taking up another “grandma” hobby and soon they began asking me to make them things. I dived head first into designing and haven’t looked back since. I’m always finding new design ideas, learning new things and meeting amazing people from the community.”

You design in both crochet and Tunisian crochet, which one is your favourite and why? “Both Tunisian and traditional crochet have a wide range of stitches and textures to be explored. It always amazes me how mixing two basic stitches together can create a whole new unexpected texture, drape, or look in crochet. I don’t have a favorite between crochet and Tunisian crochet, they’re both quite unique in their own ways. 

Radicle Threads Magazine, first issue

You recently started (together with Shohba and Caroline) the magazine called Radicle Threads Magazine. Can you tell us what it is about and why you decided to set it up? “The fiber community is a great community, yet it has boxed Black Brown Indigenous and Melanated People in a corner. For many years, magazines have displayed the work on non-BBIMP front and center, underpaid the few BBIMP they’ve included and had underrepresented the community with no models that resembled us. BBIMP designers and makers in the community wanted to see their work shared, receive the same  marketing as others, and see their works shared on models that look like them.

Radicle Threads Magazine is an independently published print and online magazine with a main focus on crafting, food, creative writing, essays, and arts. A place for BBIMP makers, designers, dyers, and do-ers to share their work without being censored.”

What do you think the ‘real world’ can learn from the fiber community? What, in you opinion, is something the fiber community can improve on? “The “real world” is as much part of the fiber community as we are human beings. As much as the fiber community has been a refuge for some makers, it has not been one for many others. However, if we were to divide the fiber community and the rest of our life, I would say we as people need to learn to understand and accept others more. We are not the square we post, it’s nothing but a snippet of our life. We are people with many interests and facets. We cannot expect others to agree with everything we want, do, or believe in. It is not our place to dictate what one should or should not do with their time. The point is, we are not monolith, we cannot agree with someone only when their view aligns with ours.”

How can we (BBIMP and non-BBIMP) contribute to Radicle Threads Magazine? “BBIMP can contribute to Radicle Threads Magazine by submitting proposals for our submission calls. They need not wait for the deadline, all our submission calls that we’re still accepting proposals for, are still open on our website: radiclethreads.com/submission.
If you’re a crochet designer and would like to submit an article or recipe, do so. We do not limit on what one can submit for, all we’re looking for is quality.
Share the magazine with your audience. Talk about the magazine with your audience on social media and via your email list. Help others, BBIMP and non BBIMP find us.
Non-BBIMP can support Radicle Threads Magazine by sponsoring BBIMP businesses for advertisements. Share and talk about the magazine with your audience on social media and via your email list. Encourage your LYS to become stockists. Purchasing a copy during pre-order, whether BBIMP or not, would greatly help support the magazine long term.”

What is the number one advice you have for aspiring designers?
“Start with testing for others. I was crocheting for years and still learned the most when I tested for other designers.
You can learn a lot from other designers but don’t make their style yours. Bring yourself to the table when you’re ready to make your first pattern. Don’t copy others patterns, design style etc. Be you, I promise you’ll find your community of people. I’m not saying you cannot be inspired by a designer but still retain your own identity in your patterns. Give credit when it’s due.
My 3rd number 1 advice 😆 is, start now. It will never be the “PERFECT” time.”

Elisabeth in her Forest of the Night Cardigan

Where do you get  your inspiration for all your reels in which you teach us how to effectively use ‘the algorithm”? “LOL – Everywhere. I like listening to podcasts and YouTube videos on marketing while I’m working away on my laptop, especially late at night. I tend to write down the information I wish I knew when I first started on Instagram. I don’t want others to go through some of the struggles I did while trying to get a platform on Instagram so I share what I learn freely.”

After chatting with Elisabeth, I have realised the following:
– I am a pattern tester and pattern designer. I want to be more mindful of whose patterns I test and who tests my patterns. I think it’s very valuable to see a garment on more different bodies, not just different sizes!
– I want to explore other options of supporting BBIMP, one of them being to buy the Radicle Threads Magazine (here) or to buy individual patterns. I invite you to have a look at the Magazine and buy the pattern that speaks to you the most!
– You are never too old to learn about your biases and to try and chance them. The first step is identifying them, the second to play with changing them. Open your heart!

Be inspired to create a more ethical and innovative fashion industry

Dominique in her Edith dress

How familiar does this sound as a reaction to your crochet “oh, but that’s for grannies”? What I like to do is show them the curve hugging, very feminine dresses designed by Dominique!

Dominique Calvillo is a Los Angeles native and grew up in a very artistic family. She grew up singing with her two sisters and at the age of 17, she signed a major record deal with Interscope Records. Working in the music industry lead to opportunities to explore other art forms in entertainment. Dominique began a styling business in 2012 working on commercial, editorial and bridal projects. In 2014 Dominique was invited to work with survivors of human trafficking in India and became very passionate about helping women find a vocation to support themselves. She traveled all over South East Asia working with women and it was during this time that she started to depend on crochet as art therapy. In 2020 she started her brand Namaste and Crochet which centered around mindfulness, inclusion and innovative crochet fashion designs. She began releasing patterns and has created an encouraging and inclusive fiber community who love making her fashion forward designs. 

You can find Dominique on Instagram: @namaste_and_crochet

How/when/where did your fiber journey start? “I was taught to crochet by my grandmother and mother when I was 6 years old. I would go to my grandmother’s crochet club which was famously named “The Happy Hookers”. I enjoyed crocheting my entire childhood but started to take it more seriously when it became a form of art therapy for me.”

Where do you get inspiration from for your gorgeous goddess dresses? “I pull inspiration from many places: art, nature, architecture, feelings and most of all, women. I love accentuating a woman’s body and designing things that will fit and compliment every body type.”

Dominique in one of her most recent (unnamed) designs

Can you describe your designing process, what happens when you hit that inspiration? How do you go from nature/architecture to a woman’s body and/or a dress? “Once I get an idea through art or emotion, I usually get a pretty strong image of the garment I want to make and start to figure out the construction for it. I am famous for unraveling. It drives my friends and family crazy but I will unravel a garment as many times as it takes in order to create the drape or fit I am dreaming of. Sometimes a new design will pour out of my hands like it could not wait to exist and sometimes it’s a long grueling process with lots of starting over. No matter what, I keep to my vision until the garment is what I wanted.”

Why and when did you start writing your patterns and how is that going? “I resisted writing patterns for a long time. I am not good with math or anything too technical so obviously the process was intimidating to me. A fiber friend finally convinced me to give it a try and I was pleased to find that I really enjoyed the process once I got the hang of it. It is the joy of my life to see other makers making and enjoying my designs. Seeing pictures of their projects and feeling beautiful in my designs is something I really cherish.”

“I keep to my vision until the garment is what I wanted.”

You raise awareness and support against female trafficking, could you tell us why and how you do this? “I started working in anti-human trafficking in 2014. I mostly work with women who are reintegrating into society and need life skills to support themselves. I have traveled all over South East Asia and India teaching women things like hair styling, sewing and of course, crochet! Every December I lead a team in participating in an anti-human trafficking fundraising campaign called Dressember. It’s a style challenge and a really fun was to raise awareness and make a difference. 

Where do the proceeds go? Do you have any control over that? What do you think we can do in our Western society (you are in US, I am in Europe) to battle human trafficking? I feel that I am very unaware of how much human trafficking is actually around me! Unfortunately, human trafficking is all around us and happens for various reasons. I like to keep a hotline number in my phone to call in case I meet someone who needs help. Its also great to be in touch with various organizations who do different types of work in this field. People’s stories and situations are usually complicated and it is good to have different ways in which you can offer help. I love Dressember because they partner with organizations like International Justice Mission (IJM) and A21 (on an mission to abolish slavery) who have multiple teams of trained professionals who do everything from rescue to rehab. I am always confident that any donation will be put to good use. 

What does the fiber community bring you? “The Fiber community is absolutely incredible. It has been such a blessing to make friends and connect over crafting. I have met so many like minded artistic individuals that I consider good friends. I have connected deeply with other makers through the testing process, the joy of the art and even fundraising to fight human trafficking together! The fiber community is really important to me and I hope to bless their lives as much as they have blessed mine.”

Dominique and her friends modelling her (bridal) designs

What do you think the fashion world could learn from yarnies and vice versa? 
“The fashion industry is catered toward fast fashion. People aren’t caring or valuing their clothes enough and as a result the consumption rate is so high. I believe slow fashion is extremely valuable when it comes to providing an ethical option. I believe fashion is an incredible form of art and self expression. I love to window shop and keep up with fashion designers to see innovative designs and get inspired for my own work. I believe we can all learn from one another and be inspired to create a more ethical and innovative fashion industry.”

After chatting with Dominique I have a couple of life lessons I want to share with you:
– Go check out her page: she designs for all bodies. Yes, also yours!
– There is human trafficking everywhere. Help is appreciated, raising awareness is a small step. If you want to do more, you can participate in Dressember or donate.
– When I go out an buy new clothes, I want to buy them more consciously. No more fast, cheap fashion here!

She combined glammed up photoshoots of finished makes, a weekly face mask and a hashtag was born

Kate working on her Knot Sweater (available as pattern and as kit from Lion Brand)

In a world filled with beautiful women, I am honoured I got to interview Kate, the designer behind OneofAKate. Instagram is really a place of glam, of a red lip and fashion. She is definitely more than that: once I got to know her, I know she is a beautiful woman inside and out! She has always been into the weird, quirky, unique, one of a kind things – which gave the double meaning to OneofAKate. She has an associates degree in mass communications journalism and a bachelors in sociology. She loves documentaries, but carbs are her weakness. In an unpopular opinion, she prefers cotton or acrylic over wool. She started OneofAKate in 2016 with the intention of selling finished makes. But after starting pattern testing in early 2018 she started designing in the late 2018. Her designing has propelled since she became a Lion Brand blogger in 2020. She now has 20 designs (and counting) available on Ravelry.

You can find Kate on Instagram: OneOfAKate

How/when/where did your fiber journey start?
“I am an Air Force brat; my dad retired after 20 years right as I graduated high school in 2003. We made our final move to Texas, and I started college knowing no one. At that time, I was eager to learn anything and everything. Crochet happened to be one of those things that stuck. I made scarves and blankets for a while before learning that I could make my own clothes. I made several attempts to learn knitting but it didn’t stick until I tried continental style in 2018.”

“They definitely question whether I’m okay if I don’t have a project in hand”

Your motto is Crochet is Glam – how did you come up with that? What is the story?
“You know, I’m not really sure how ‘crochet is glam’ became my thing. I believe it just evolved because I got those traditional comments of being a grandma and noticing how people tend to look at crochet as dated. I was doing weekly face mask self-care days, as well as, glammed up photoshoots of my finished makes. I wanted my own hashtag, so I decided to lean into this vibe. I have also since become a grandma and leaned into the glam in my personal life as well, adopting the name ‘glamma.’”

left to right: Kates bestie Valerie, Stephanie of @allaboutami and Kate

What role does the fiber community play for you with regards to diversity and inclusion?
“The fiber community is definitely a part of my everyday life in general. As far as diversity and inclusion goes, I have gotten frustrated over the division of knitters and crocheters. I do think some of this has improved but it may never go away. When I first started designing, this was a focus I really wanted to adopt – designing with both knitting and crochet techniques; I have a couple patterns, but it is something that is difficult to advertise as platforms tend to only allow for one or the other.

Also, as a Korean American, I do find extra joy when I come across Asian yarnies. I must admit that this is only a thing that has come to my attention since the conversation of 2020. Representation was all real subliminal for me growing up. Looking back, my mom was very open about her struggles being Asian in predominantly White settings. However, being mixed is a weird thing because you don’t fit in either box, and people like to stereotype. So, I learned that I would rather claim to be White than Asian. With that, I never put deep thought into how I may fit into the predominantly White fiber community. But when I came across Asians like @1dogwoof, @allaboutami and @twinkiechan, I had feelings. Having met them all in real life further solidified that representation does matter.”

You spend a lot of time on your YouTube vlogs on your makes. Why do you make them? And in terms of representation, do you think it matters to put yourself out there? Do you ever think of yourself as being representative? “I personally enjoy watching vlog style videos, but I have not found many who do them except for events like vlogmas. Podcasts had become a big thing to do, but I didn’t feel I could commit to that. I never really saw make videos, so I felt it was a great gap I could fill. I also love the ability to look back at things that I’ve made.

I honestly never thought in the perspective of being representative as any reason to vlog. I do believe I have inspired others to document their makes or become testers, and that brings me motivation to continue.”

Kate with her husband Jeff, modeling the Incendiary Tank by @by.stephanie.erin

You follow your husband Jeff when he’s racing on the weekends – you crochet and knit while supporting him. What’s the most cool thing you experienced while doing that?
“Oh geez, I have been yarning on-the-go since before Jeff, so I really don’t think much of it, as in I don’t see it in any extra cool light. Most of the people at the races are used to it now. They definitely question whether I’m okay if I don’t have a project in hand. Strangers everywhere have recognized my husband and I simply because of my unapologetic public yarning, and that does bring a smile to my face.

I guess when I think about it there might actually be some cool things – Jeff has allowed me to craft it like Beckham on one of his race cars and done a specific finished object photoshoot in theme with another one of his race cars.

There was also that one time while yarning in a concessions line that John Reinke from Tiger King talked to me about my WIP.”

Also, you spend a lot of time on hat not hate and other charities, can you tell us a little bit more about why you do this? “I switch up charities that I participate in, but I always try to make time to give back every year. It’s usually a great stash buster and allows me to use my skills to help make the world a better place. These days it’s really hard for me to maintain hope that the world can be a better place, but I do believe that charities I have chosen to contribute to are moving the needle closer. Sometimes, giving back helps rejuvenate my joy; it’s humbling to know how privileged I am to be able to give back. Hat Not Hate, Warm Up America, Knitted Knockers, Feel Better Friends, Children With Hair Loss are some of the groups that resonate with me.”

Kate and her squares for Warm Up America blankets

After talking to Kate, I have learned:
– Handmade items can be GLAMOROUS, it’s all about how you present them.
– Representation matters.
– Yarning in public is not a common sight (yet!)… But it is definitely okay to do so!
– Yarning is not a competition. Kate has shown us that crochet and knit can be combined beautifully. Also, if you want to give back to the community, you can and I’m sure Kate would love to help you get started on one of the charities that she gives to!

It’s a dopamine hit, to handle neon skeins of yarn that I’ve created, every day!

Tracey in her Example Sweater (pattern by @hgdesignscrochet) in scraps of her colourways

As March has passed by me like I did not know what was happening, and turned into April, I feel I should have done better… Here I am, with my blog, wanting to post every month, but it didn’t happen. And that is okay! Especially because I have had the honour and pleasure of doing an interview with one of my favourite Indie Dyers: Tracey Mustard of What Mustard Made, that she runs for a living! I absolutely LOVE her bright colourful yarn! She is from the North East of England and lives with her partner Peter and their indoor rescue cats, Darwin and Rocket. They’re very well behaved around yarn (Peter, not so much).
Tracey has ADHD and a chronic vestibular migraine/sensory hypersensitivity disorder, and she’s still trying to figure out how all of that works alongside running a business full time. Sometimes it doesn’t actually work… but she’s mostly muddling through! And dare I say, doing pretty well and dyeing very bright and happy yarns! She loves music to give her dopamine, especially rock (in many forms) and retrowave/pop. Colour, obviously, hugely drive her, and one of her favourite activities is starting new WIPs.

You can find Tracey on Instagram: @whatmustardmade

How, when and where did your fiber journey start? “Thank you so much for ‘inviting’ me onto your blog, Roe, I really honestly appreciate it! It’s always nice when someone thinks you have things to say that are worth listening to.
Where did it start…. if we go right back to the very beginning, my grandma taught me to knit when I was little, maybe about 7 or 8? I’m not too sure as I don’t really remember my childhood, but just imagine I was quite young! It didn’t ‘take’, and I forgot all about yarn until my mam bought me a crochet pattern book from the 70s (it had a crochet tie in it, which I made with black yarn and wore for my Sixth Form uniform), with a hook and some cheap yarn, when I was 16 or 17. I was hooked, pardon the pun.
Since then, I’ve crocheted on and off, and it wasn’t until I stumbled upon hand dyed yarn on Etsy back in January 2017 that I started down the path that I had no idea would bring me here…! The yarn came with stitch markers attached. I had never actually used one before, and I was smitten. Before you know it, I had rabbit holed hard and I was creating my own stitch markers and selling them on Etsy as What Mustard Made by November 2017.
I started hand dyeing yarn and fibre in 2018, and that’s really the beginning of everything.”

Your yarn is very colourful, what inspires you? “I wasn’t sure whether to mention this or not, as I’m still pending a formal diagnosis in June, but I can’t see how they’ll tell me that I don’t have ADHD as the assessments all point to it being very likely, so let’s bring it up!
My brain is incredibly chaotic, and it definitely comes out in the yarn I dye. I absolutely adore using neon, especially in a full kaleidoscope of colours, and I am starting to understand why – my brain is seeking high stimulation all the time so it doesn’t get bored, and colour, especially neon, just makes me so incredibly happy! It’s definitely a dopamine hit, getting to handle neon skeins of yarn that I’ve created, every day.”

Tracey’s speckled yarn: Bert Dappled Rainbow Bundle

You identify as ace, would you care to explain what that means? What does it mean to you? How did you find out? How did your direct family and friends react? “I am indeed ace, asexual for those who aren’t familiar with the shortening. It basically means that I don’t experience sexual attraction. I won’t go into explaining about it too much as there is a whole enormous diverse spectrum, and a tonne of micro-labels that can help people find their particular ace identity, so I would encourage anyone who is curious to just give it a Google! I am personally omniromantic ace, which means I can be attracted to all genders (and everything in between or outside of the genders) and I experience romantic attraction – I desire relationships and being close to someone. Attraction for me can also be aesthetic, I can find people extremely pleasing to look at, the same as allosexual (normal) people do, but I don’t want to act sexually on it. It might mean that because I effectively ‘fancy’ them (I call it finding someone ‘asexy’ 🙂 ), I just want to be around that person and have them pay attention to me and me to them, or if they’re a celebrity I’ll get a bit ‘thirsty’ and go on a Google images rampage to get as much of their physical form into my brain as I can!”

“We’re stronger as a community when we don’t treat others as our ‘competition’ – others aren’t our competition. There is no competition”

I won’t go into my sexual experiences too much, except to say that I now know how incredibly important it is for young people to be aware that asexuality exists. If I had known I was ace when I was in my teens and early twenties, I wouldn’t have put myself in any of the dangerous situations that I ended up in. I was basically trying to find ‘that thing’ that everyone else had – sexual attraction – and I was doing what I thought I ‘should’ be doing, based on what our heteroallosexual society tells us we should be doing. The assumption that everyone is heterallosexual is incredibly damaging to some young souls, like me.
I wish I could hug young Tracey, she didn’t know any better, and she had some truly awful experiences because she didn’t know about her aceness. Now I know, and I’m so grateful! Obviously my whole life I’ve known I don’t experience sexual attraction, but I didn’t have the language/words to know what it meant, or how to talk about it, or what to Google etc. The beginning of realising who I am came about initially from playing the video game The Outer Worlds – there’s an ace character, Parvati Holcomb, and her incredibly well written storyline started to wake me up. All of a sudden I was like “Whaaaaat is this, asexuality?!”. At that point I actually kind of forgot about it for a couple of years, but it was always there in the back of my mind. Then there was an article in The Guardian in March 2021, about asexuality and how more and more people are identifying that way. That was it, I knew. I had found the words and the experiences of others helped me to feel more confident about who I was. I did a lot of research, but it was perfectly clear to me that yes, I am ace, and it’s perfectly okay.

How is being ace reflected in your work? “Not so much at the moment, mostly because I have a ‘fear’ of not representing well enough! I do have an Ace bundle for the Shawlography pattern, and I have some sock blanks that I do intend on painting the ace flag onto once I get up the courage to try (sock blanks aren’t something I’ve used much yet in my dyeing).”

Typical Tracey Rainbow colours: the Neon Saturated Rainbow Bundle

What do you think we can learn from each other in the yarn Instagram community that we can apply to ‘real life’? “Community over competition. We’re stronger as a community when we don’t treat others as our ‘competition’ – others aren’t our competition. There is no competition.
When I talk about this specifically with dyers in mind, we’re all so different, there’s no need to feel threatened by other people. My colourways are mine, and your colourways are yours. Even if they’re similar, we both came up with them, dyed them in our own way, with our own dyes we use and our own saturation levels and our own techniques. I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will: outright copying is clearly a different thing. However, I do see a lot of dyers taking umbrage that someone else has ‘dared’ to have the same idea as them, whether that’s a colourway, or a minis set, or a stitch marker design, or a ‘new’ dyeing technique, or recently I saw someone apologising for making an art batt that was similar to someone else’s… and I just think, stop. Take a breath. Realise that other people are allowed to have the same ideas as you. Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’, it makes you think completely differently about ideas. And makes you realise, there are no unique ideas. We’re all just recycling the same ideas, all around the world, in our own way. 
I think this can be applied to everything, not just dyeing and not just the fibre community – we are not competing with each other. And we are allowed to have the same ideas. We make those ideas unique by virtue of them being ours, and our creative minds all work differently so we all execute them differently. We exist alongside each other whether we like it or not, and we’re all just trying to do our best and to make a living. Let’s help each other do that!
Surely things are way more exciting when we’re all rooting for each other?”

So, talking to Tracey made me realise that she has taught me some valuable lessons that I need to implement into my life! Here’s what I have learned:

  • community over competition: we are such a great community and we have one thing in common: our love for yarn. So dye the yarn in all the colours you love. Crochet, knit, weave that thing you love. Support the dyers and designers and makers! Also, I need to read that book 🙂
  • don’t expect an advent from Tracey (this year), instead buy all the minis and make your own unique advent! All yarn has some kind of neon in and will fit together perfectly (look what I did with the Tunisian Confetti Shawl)
  • there are so many more ways of sexuality than I had realised as a cis-hetero female. I will be more open to experiences of others. Also I want to teach my kids that it is okay to feel any way they feel or feel attracted to anyone they feel attracted to (or not!).

Rainbow on a mission: to create a truly inclusive sewing and crafting community

Mathew and his crochet version of Falkor from The Neverending Story

As Valentine’s Day passed unnoticed in our household (it was a regular school day, and it mayyy have been regarded as a commercial thing), I was cycling to work on the rainbow bicycle path, whilst thinking about love a lot these last weeks. I am working on some rainbow (in garment) patterns and am intrigued with the representation of rainbows for inclusivity. Therefor I put on my brave face and asked Mathew Boudreaux to speak about inclusivity in my blog. Inclusivity is a major, if not the most important topic of Mathews reels on Instagram. And even though the reels make me laugh out loud, they also have me reflect on my actions with regards to inclusivity!

Mathew learned to sew as a kid, but the antiquated binary gender expectations of his parents got in the way, so he never really felt compelled to up his game. Shortly after his daughter Helena was born in 2013, his spouse bought him a couple sewing classes and then he took off like he was at the races. And with his kid as his muse and inspiration, the quality and coolness of the stuff he made far exceeded anything that he thought he’d ever be able to create with his own hands. Then the social media powers-that-be combined with his desire to test out the knowledge he’d just acquired from his MBA at Portland State sparked the serendipitous journey that is the Mister Domestic of today. He’s a fabric & pattern designer, sewing instructor, owner of his new online sewing school SEW U, inspirational speaker, consultant, and global influencer with his virtual community nearing 600,000 members strong across all platforms that include TikTok, YouTube, Instagram & Facebook. And hands down, his favorite thing about this entire journey is the truly inclusive Mister Domestic community that has been created by all of its members. And everyone is legit welcome. Unless their happiness if based on the oppression of someone else, of course!

You can find Mathew on Instagram: @MisterDomestic

How/when/where did your fiber journey start? “My fiber journey began shortly after the birth of my (now) 8 year-old daughter. I had always wanted to learn to sew and craft from my mom when I was younger, but I was discouraged by my step-dad because it wasn’t a “boy” thing, whatever that means anymore. My spouse remembered this and a year after Helena was born, they bought me a couple apparel sewing classes. And once I got the basics down, I was off to the races. And ever since I began, I try to master a new medium each year because I want to learn all the things. This year is knitting, so wish me luck!”

You are very open about who you are, where you stand. What have you learned from the Yarnstagram population from being yourself? “In this whole journey of self-discovery and self-love, the more I really began loving myself and who I am, the less concerned I became about whether others liked me and how people perceived who I was authentically. But then I discovered that I had put myself in a lot of toxic situations and relationships that I needed to let go of. And as I took stock in relationships that aligned to my values, I also discovered that there weren’t a lot of “safe” people and places for me to “be myself.” So that became the mission of Mister Domestic…. to create a truly inclusive sewing & crafting community. And since pandering to racists and homophobes seems to be the baseline for most spaces in general, it became equally critical for me to speak on and share my values of inclusion and protecting oppressed groups as much as I could to both make certain that those in the community felt seen and save and make certain that mindsets antithetical to inclusion did not feel welcome. And the need to set these boundaries on social media is what I learned from “Yarnstagram”. And somewhat shockingly at first, I learned that there are A LOT of humans who feel the same way I do and have often felt intentionally excluded or pushed out by groups choosing to placate racists and homophobes instead of protecting and supporting those who are oppressed.”

“No one is entitled to causing your spirit harm”

How do you deal with negative comments? “For the most part, I follow the wisdom of Mrs. Tina Knowles Lawson, which is “don’t engage, block, delete.” But sometimes I use them as examples of what not to do in order to educate the community. I call that game “Whack-a-Troll.” And that’s how I deal. Generally, I don’t give power to strangers to harm my spirit and often just feel sad that they needed to spew hate. But on those off days, it hurts and sometimes I get caught up in it before course correcting and taking time to replenish my spirit. But honestly, I restricted my comments and DMs over a year ago only to folks who follow me, which has helped a lot. No one is entitled to causing your spirit harm.”

I come from a (European) self-proclaimed liberal family where, I believed we were allowed to be anything we wanted to be(come). In the last few years of selfcare and personal development, I have discovered biases and prejudices. I am sure you have had to deal with those – what is your defense strategy and or coping mechanism? “At 45 years of age, I’m at a place and stage in my life where I won’t tolerate it. But that took a lot of identifying and unlearning my own biases to recognize that I’m fabulous and perfect and that the racists and homophobes were wrong. And like I always knew that in my spirit, but that’s not what society at large shows us. Correcting racism and homophobia in real time should be way more normalized than it is and not seeing many humans do that for most of my life gaslit me into questioning my own integrity. So I finally have reached a place where I’m unwaveringly confident that my moral compass is actually correct and now I mandate that anywhere that I am going to be or in anything I am going to create.”

February is the month of love, what does love mean to you? “To varying degrees, love is genuinely caring about someone or something. But it’s not that phony stuff where someone would say they love you and then vote against your rights. It’s that genuine compassion and empathy where you truly want to see the other human thrive, and to be there for them, and to think about them. Unconditional love is the love my chosen family has for each other and, wow, is it fabulous to know that other humans love me no matter who or what I am and I feel the same about them. That’s powerful.”

What is your favourite colour and why rainbows? “My favorite colour is a darker hue of turquoise. If the world were only shades of turquoise, I’d be a happy camper. The rainbows aren’t for me. I mean, I’ve learned that rainbow projects and posts generally perform well on social media, but that’s a bonus. I use the rainbow as like a beacon or a lighthouse to the queer community and anyone who’s ever felt excluded, or othered, or alone. There honestly aren’t a lot of “safe” spaces for us. Where it is inexcusable for someone to weaponize their religious texts against us or to invalidate any of us because someone doesn’t understand. And for a space to be safe, at least for me, people with those mindsets need to be told that their wrong. Because they are. So the rainbows are a symbol to communicate all of that. At least that’s my intention.” 

Rainbows are used to show inclusivity. In Utrecht, the Netherlands (my hometown), the university has created the longest rainbow bike path in the world in order to support the LGTBQ+ community throughout the year. It’s a reminder that a safe learning environment is not a daily given for everyone. I appreciate cycling there and being sent a daily reminder. To many, rainbows are only associated with inclusivity when it’s associated with the (yearly) Pride in June. What are your thoughts on commercializing of Pride? “This is one of those topics where I hold space for multiple feelings about commercializing Pride that might superficially appear antithetical, but are not. First and foremost, visibility is soooooo important. When I was a kid in the 1980s, there were mere crumbs of queer visibility anywhere, so I took on the messages of being wrong and a sinner that I heard around me. And the suicidality [rates] within the LGBTQ youth is devastating (it is 4(!!!) times higher than in non-LGBTQ+ youth). So from this perspective, I feel the more rainbow products and pro-queer messaging and visibility there is, the better because it is literally saving lives. However, Rainbow Capitalism often exploits our pain for profit and perception without making any queer-positive internal changes and doing anything for the LGBTQ+ community beyond the products in June. Frankly, if queerness is only shown on a brand’s social media in June and/or they don’t donate a portion of the profits from the Pride Products to a Queer Organization, I’d assume they were disingenuous with their support and wouldn’t buy from them. So I challenge all of us to know the difference in our own spending and if we see a disconnect between Rainbow Capitalism and a brand’s core messaging, we need to call them on it. When this happens, it’s clear the queer voice wasn’t at the table when they made these decisions, so we can be that for them.”

Mathew and his Crochet African Flower Tarantula by @larriecraftsnl

What, in your opinion, can we learn from the yarn Instagram community that we can apply to ‘real life’? “My preference would be to flip this question and ask myself what can we learn from real life that we can apply to the yarn Instagram community? Many people act very differently online and do and say things online that they would never say or do in real life. Nothing online is anonymous, folks. So before you lean into your inner-keyboard-warrior, ask yourself whether you’d say or do that to the person if they were in front of you.”

What do you think we (on the gram) can learn from each other ? “First and foremost, Instagram has a wonderful creative community of mostly super awesome humans that are supportive and willing to help. Beyond this, however, more of us need to learn to be more intentional regarding diversity by investigating and checking our own biases. It’s beautiful seeing much more of this than in the past, but many of these white female cis-hetero crafting groups think that they’re already inclusive, so they’re not doing the work to become safe for oppressed groups. But if they were inclusive, their meetings and membership wouldn’t be either only or mostly-only white female cis-het humans. And there are crafting humans getting it right and doing the work and wanting to help. Just gotta wanna learn.”

Last question: do you have tips for (me) the white cis woman, how can they help, be an ally, what do they do (and do not do or say) in order to support the LGBTQ+ community? “In all honesty, the best thing you can do as a cis woman is do the work on your own to find out how you can help directly in your community. Asking the oppressed group how you can help them, makes them do more mental labor for you when it is on you to investigate, research, and educate yourself. An example, find a group in your community or a friend. Listen to their stories, understand their struggle, and support them. There is no checklist to being an ally, you just have to get out there and pay attention.”

From talking to Mathew some things had me thinking about the work I do and I thought I’d share those with you as my take home message: 

  • Inclusivity means to look at your own biases. To understand where you come from, where your opinions were formed and why they developed a certain way. For example: why do we assign certain toys to only girls/boys? It is the awareness, then the action. We need to take action in order to change and become more inclusive.
  • Inclusivity means throughout the year. Every day, not just the love on Valentine’s day or for the LBGTQ+ community in June, EVERY DAY.
  • Speak up when you notice behaviour that is not inclusive. I still find this scary, but I try.

The Picture Frame Square – making a blanket, a metaphor for diversity and inclusion

Arunima in her Tunisian Pocket Shawl

Last year I made a couple of squares of the Knitterknotter Tunisian Blanket CAL 2021, I loved to learn new techniques from my fellow Tunisian crochet designers. This year I have designed a square for the new 2022 blanket! Also, I have been talking to Arunima a lot (featured the Tunisian Rainbow Fringe Scarf on her blog). I have the pleasure to interview her about her Tunisian Blanket CAL journey and her views on the fiber community.

Arunima is originally from India and came to the US to get her Master’s degree in Computer Science. She has worked as a software engineer for over 6 years and then decided to take a break when her first son was born. That’s when she started designing and decided to do it full time. She is now mom to two little ones who keep her on her toes. Being a crochet designer gives her the flexibility to spend time with them and work around their schedules. It usually means that she gets very little sleep but she cannot complain! She is always excited to learn and tries to offer something new in all of her patterns. With her patterns, she hope you will be able to make memorable family heirlooms that will be cherished for generations.

You can find Arunima on Instagram: @knitterknotter and her blog.

Get the KnitterKnotter Tunisian Blanket CAL 2022 here! You will receive an update everytime a new square is published!

How/when/where did your fiber journey start? I was in high school when I learnt the basics of crochet from my mother. I come from the northern part of India and it gets really cold there in winter. Most of my elder female relatives know how to knit and crochet and it was something that I was always interested in. When I learnt it for the first time, I made a really big shawl. It was so big, it was almost a blanket! 🙂 Then, I got busy with school and didn’t really do much with it. Fast forward to 8ish years later – I had completed school, gotten a Bachelor’s degree, worked for two years, traveled to the US and was working on my Master’s degree (in Computer Science) and I was in serious need of something that would take me away from a computer because I was spending over 8 hours every day in front of a screen. That is when I bought myself a hook and some yarn and started teaching myself from YouTube and free patterns that I could find online. And that’s how it all started.

Arunima wrapped up in her version of the KnitterKnotter Tunisian Blanket CAL 2020

You are known for your Knitterknotter Blanket CAL, this is the third consecutive year you host this CAL. How did you start and what have you learned from this journey? This is an interesting story now that I am trying to recollect how I started my yearly CALs. My original idea was to introduce Tunisian crochet stitches to people who wanted to try Tunisian crochet but were intimidated by it. When I shared my tutorials with my audience, I didn’t see a lot of participation and I realized that it wasn’t working the way I had envisioned it. I have hosted CALs every year since I started designing (from my patterns with a limited but engaged audience) so I knew what it takes to host one and how it brings people together to try new things. I noticed that people are motivated to do something if there are others doing the same thing, the community gets together and pulls everyone upward. I saw that people were willing to try things they never thought they would be able to do just because others were doing it too. The idea for a blanket CAL began to take form and I decided to just go for it and see if it would make a difference. It did!! I had so many participants, people who would linger in my Facebook group or visit my blog but never tried Tunisian crochet were all buying new hooks and trying new stitches. It was wonderful! So, the first blanket CAL that I hosted in 2020 was just a collection of basic Tunisian crochet stitches that got more complex as you progressed. So, if you followed the order of the squares, you would always be learning a little bit more with every square and you would end up with a beautiful blanket with a feeling of great accomplishment of having built a full blanket while learning something new.

“There is no limit on age for learning”

When I was nearing the end of the 2020 CAL, I thought about hosting another one in 2021 and I took some inspiration from the yearly CAL hosted by Moogly and decided to rope in other Tunisian crochet designers. It was a great opportunity to bring the Tunisian crochet designer community together, explore new stitch patterns, and give people (and myself) something to look forward to as we all dealt with the effects of the pandemic. The interest in the CAL was beyond my expectation and we all ended up learning so many new stitches and techniques that I just had to do it again in 2022! What I have learned from this journey is that the maker community is incredibly generous, hard working, and creative. AND that age is no barrier in learning something new:

  • The participating designers have offered some amazing patterns and I have learnt a lot of new stitches and techniques. Because of the pandemic, I have been the primary caregiver for my two kids (under the age of 4), and it has not been the easiest to keep things going on the business front. The participants of the CAL have been extremely supportive and encouraging and I’ve always felt like I am hanging out with my friends rather than working. 
  • I was pleasantly surprised by how creative people can get with their squares. Not everyone is a designer but I think everyone has a creative streak and, given the freedom to create, they build some amazing things. In my CALs, everyone has the freedom (and are encouraged) to experiment and that has resulted in so many beautiful squares!
  • I have had participants from all walks of life. One of them told me that they are over 70 years of age and are just starting to learn Tunisian crochet. One of the best lessons that I’ve learnt from this CAL is that there is no limit on age for learning. I really hope that I will be just as eager to learn and experiment when I am older.

Does the CAL reflect the fiber community, its diversity and inclusivity, in your opinion? Is it important to you to have designers from all over the world to participate? It is my hope that it does reflect the fiber community. In the CALs so far, I have had the pleasure to work with:

Arunima in her “I love you so much wrap”
  • designers from different parts of the world;
  • male and female designers;
  • designers from the BIPOC community (I identify as one myself too);
  • established designers and those who have just started their designing journey;
  • my testers who have started designing their own projects and sharing their patterns.

I would love to include designers from the LGBTQ+ community and any others that I may have missed. The Tunisian crochet designer community is not very large, and I keep looking for new designers all the time. To be as inclusive as possible, I am always happy to get recommendations from other designers and direct requests from designers who want to be a part of my CALs. 

“people are willing to try new things, just because others are doing it too”

It is very important to me to have designers from all over the world – every designer brings a little bit of their experiences, tradition and history in their designs. This is great since it translates to having unique patterns with something to learn from each one of them. The participants of the CAL are from all over the world so they also feel more connected to the project if they see a designer from their region. And, behind the scenes, I end up making so many friends from all over the world, I get to share stories, learn about new cultures, learn about the struggles of other designers, share our experiences and help each other grow. I think what the diversity in the CAL offers is priceless!

What have you learned from the fiber community and what do you think we can all take home from it? My biggest takeaway from being in the fiber community is that the best way to learn and grow is to do it with others. We bring out the best in each other and everyone has a place here. When I began my designer journey, I didn’t know where to start. I was not on Facebook or Instagram and I had only used written patterns with no real communication with anyone in the fiber community. I started reaching out to designers, and other bloggers and I’ve never been turned away. I’ve been supported, guided, and encouraged by other designers, testers, my sponsors, and my audience. It is amazing how much kindness we have in our community and that’s what I love about it.

This is exactly how I feel about the fiber community. When I first started posting pictures on Instagram, I only received encouragement and kindness. And with that in mind I designed my contribution to the #knitterknottertunisianblanketcal2022. I want to frame my image of the kindness that this community gives, into a picture frame.

Pattern: The Picture Frame Square

Buy the whole KnitterKnotter Tunisian Blanket CAL 2022 using this affiliate link.

The Honeycomb section of the Picture Frame Square

Notes: The first loop on the hook and the edge stitch each count as stitches. Upon completing a forward pass (FwdP), you should have 36 loops on your hook. I changed to contrast colour (CC) in the return pass (RetP) at the Honeycomb section: this is the atypical RetP (aRetP). Change for the honeycomb section only. You can either cut the yarn and weave in all the ends or use floats. When opting to do floats, make sure these do not pull the stitches and change the shape of your square. 

Materials needed:

  • Yarn: Wibra Anne, 100% Manufactured Fibers – Acrylic, 50 g = approx 219y/200m, worsted (or any other yarn with which you meet gauge; Knitpicks Brava, Red Heart Super Saver, Caron Simply Soft)
  • Yardage: main colour (MC): 110y/100m and contrast colour (CC): 11y/10m
  • 8 mm (US L-11) Tunisian hook (optional: with a 10-20” cord)
  • Darning needle
  • Scissors
  • Optional: removable stitch markers (2x)

Gauge: I used 36 st x 36 rows for a 12” x 12” square. The gauge square is completed in Tunisian Full Stitch (Tfs), and blocked.

The Picture Frame Square by @sosewsally

Pattern: Start to chain 36, skip the first loop, Tunisian simple stitch (Tss) in the back loop of the 2nd chain and each stitch across. RetP (36 stitches). 

  1. Skip 1, Tfs 34, edge stitch. RetP (36).
  2. Tfs 34, sk 1, edge stitch. RetP (36).
  3. Repeat 1.
  4. Repeat 2.
  5. Repeat 1.
  6. Repeat 2.
  7. Repeat 1.
  8. Repeat 2.
  9. Skip 1, Tfs 34, edge stitch. Optional, but highly recommended: mark the 9th and the 28th loop on the hook. aRetP (36). Move the stitch markers to the 9th and 28th loops in the next rows. These are the stitches that mark where to start (after the 9th loop) and end (before the 28th loop) the honeycomb part. 
  10. Tfs 8, *Tss, Tps* repeat * to * 9x in total, (place the first Tfs in the space before the marked st) Tfs 8, sk 1, edge stitch. aRetP (see notes) (36).
  11. Skip 1, Tfs 8, *Tps, Tss* repeat * to * 9x in total, sk 1, (place the first Tfs in the space directly after the marked st) Tfs 8, edge stitch. aRetP (see notes) (36).
  12. Repeat 10.
  13. Repeat 11.
  14. Repeat 10.
  15. Repeat 11.
  16. Repeat 10.
  17. Repeat 11.
  18. Repeat 10.
  19. Repeat 11.
  20. Repeat 10.
  21. Repeat 11.
  22. Repeat 10.
  23. Repeat 11.
  24. Repeat 10.
  25. Repeat 11.
  26. Repeat 10.
  27. Repeat 11.
  28. Tfs 8, *Tss, Tps* repeat * to * 9x in total, place the first Tfs in the space before the marked st) Tfs 8, sk 1, edge stitch. RetP (36).
  29. skip 1, Tfs 8, Tfs across the Honeycomb section, skip 1, Tfs 8, edge stitch. RetP (36).
  30. Tfs 34, sk 1, edge stitch. RetP (36).
  31. skip 1, Tfs 34, edge stitch. RetP (36).
  32. Repeat 30.
  33. Repeat 31.
  34. Repeat 30.
  35. Repeat 31.
  36. Repeat 30. End with Tunisian bind off of your liking, fasten off, weave in ends, block according to fiber.

And that’s it! You have finished the second square of the #knitterknottertunisianblanketcal2022 🙂

You can find more of my designs on Ravelry or in my Etsy shop.

I need to extend a huge thank you to Arunima for having me as one of the designers for the KnitterKnotter Tunisian Blanket CAL 2022. I want to thank Sally (@sosewsally) for testing the pattern and making beautiful pictures. I want to thank Tiffany (@wootcrafts) for tech editing the pattern.

Buy the whole KnitterKnotter Tunisian Blanket CAL 2022 using this affiliate link.

Arunima also makes all the squares of the KnitterKnotter Tunisian Blanket CALs. This is her version of the The Picture Frame Square.

Decision making as a parent with a fiber hobby, it’s all about priorities…

Katherine in her #Hestiacardigan

As the days turn dark and Christmas is near, I am delighted to interview a good friend of mine. Like me, Katherine is a mom of three kids and we discuss how yarn affects them and how current events have affected her as a mom. Katherine is a single mom of three amazing black littles, aged 5, 6, and 9. She works full time fixing booboos and saving lives in a rural emergency room in Upstate NY, and attends school full time for her Masters degree in Nursing. 

She is a full time stitcher, spinner and yarn dyer. She designs, and tests knitting and crochet patterns whenever she can, and can always be found with yarn on her, even when going to a party with the girls. When she is not stitching (well, let’s be real, she is always bringing her stitching), the Littles and Katherine enjoy hiking the Adirondacks and Exploring the St Lawrence River where they live. When they are inside, they like to play video games and watch all the nerdy movies, like star wars, marvel, anime, etc. 

You can find Katherine on Instagram: @jojodabom

How/when/where did your fiber journey start? My Fiber Journey has been a long one, I was seven when my grandmother taught me how to knit. I was watching her one day and was fascinated. I made my first yarn purchase at a local church rummage sale, it was red acrylic with US size 7 straight needles. As I grew in my yarn skills I started designing things myself, I knew stitches would do certain things and I made garments and such based on what I already knew. I even had a book deal started with Interweave Knits, I was just never able to finish all the patterns. This was before the time of i-phones so stealing my parents digital camera was a big deal.

You are now a single mom, and you have a demanding job in health care, how do you find time to yarn and to design? Oh my, that is a hard one. I am super busy, all the time, raising three kids and I work full time in the local Emergency Room. Unfortunately we have seen a huge uptick in covid-19 cases, and we have been flat out most shifts, because of that I have become more lax with deadlines. I have, mostly, given up testing for a while. That being said, I make time for my art, whether it is when the littles are at school, or at night after they go to bed. My yarning was something that was left to the wayside when I was in my previous abusive relationship, because of that it is not something that will ever be put to the side again. Plus I will admit I have been known to put off household chores for yarning especially if  I have an idea I can’t get out of my head. 

It’s all about priorities, isn’t it?! Especially with kids, you’re forced to look at yourself. Because you are mirrored by them, you need to take care of yourself, which means to give priority to self care and thus yarn. I think we can all relate to that 😊

How does you yarning affect the kids, what does it bring them? 
Shockingly my children usually love yarning, it has always been in their lives so I think they are used to it. They find joy when I make them things, they are very “stitchworthy” and are constantly begging me to make them something. Each one has a list for me of what I am making them. They get excited over new yarn, unless they dislike the colour. They are over the moon that I allowed them to open my advents this year. And have already told me what I am making with the minis; the eldest (Terra) requested a tee out of Leroocotton, the middle one (Jace) would like a sweater out of Miami Fiber Co and the youngest (Eoghan, pronounced Owen) would like anything out of Beachy Breeze Fibers set. They kill me with their level of excitement. 

“I have been known to put off household chores for yarning”

It’s interesting to see how the kids get carried away with the yarn advents. My kids also really like to open the gifts. Kyra keeps saying she thinks I will really like the next one, because she thinks it soft and could be yarn. I have not told her I know it’s all yarn! Yarning helps them in being considerate of others: my Owen will always ask me if I can put it down, please, to play with him. He’s two years old! I love how your kids have each claimed an advent and you’ll make them something with it!

You are a mommy to black kids, how did the recent developments (Instagram influencer Kirsty Glass was found to have tokenized designers and makers of colour for her own profit) affect you and them? 
My father used to talk about black men and women being hired, enrolled in good schools, or put in TV shows simply because they were black. Not because they were the best for the role, but because of the color of their skin. And this wasn’t because the schools, jobs or agencies cared about these people, it was solely to make them look better. I didn’t know if I believed him until I attended college. I watched the college enroll hundreds of kids from the big city, all from poor black areas, and then they let them fail. I watched them throw out one of my good friends that was black because she got pregnant. She dropped out of nursing because the school kicked her off of campus, she would be replaced the next year. I never wanted my child to have to be the “token black kid”, or get special treatment because it makes someone look better. To be the one that is put in every picture because of their skin color, the one in every brochure to show diversity. 

When I heard Adela’s story about the women that had been used by Kirsty to boost her status, I was enraged. I stayed quiet in quarantine with my children, thinking about what I would do if it had happened to them. What would I have said or thought if Terra had put out money to make it big and was spoken down to the entire time, because of the color of her skin. As a child, I was mortified thinking people got picked for something so they could fill a color quota, I was enraged as an adult. These people are my children’s people, therefore they are people, they are my family. And even if I may never understand completely, I will fight for them like they are my brothers and sisters. No one should get rich or make money on someone else, especially on someone who is just starting and is scared because they are new, and are not the right color to make it big. 

Katherine with her kids. From left to right: Terra, Eoghan and Jace

I feel like I am rambling talking about this. There is so much swirling still from it. Sometimes I forget how cruel the world is. My babies are amazing, Terra is so generous and giving, she gives with no thought, she loves everyone, she is the first to hug someone that is hurting and is a beautiful light. Jace is a fierce fighter. He can be so mean, especially when he is tired or scared, but he is the first to stand up for the little guy, to stop someone from getting hurt, even if he gets hurt in the process. My youngest, Eoghan, is the gentlest,  sweetest little boy. He dances his way through his life, I tease he is going to be the next Ru Paul. I can not imagine anyone pretending to be their friend because of their skin colour, and then to take in the money because you were kind enough to “uplift” black people. 

I hate days like this when I am reminded of the hate in people’s hearts. My children know nothing of the matter. I told them I was listening to story time from my friends, but nothing more. That being said they will be taught about snakes, people that are to use them for their own personal gain. They will be taught to be careful who they trust, because not everyone has their best interest at heart. Because of the color of their skin they must be ever vigilant and never allow themselves to be the victims. And yes I held them close as I cried that weekend. I told them I had a headache so I wouldn’t have to explain and hoped to God that it would never be them in this situation. 

How does the yarn community help keep your sanity?
Ok thinking about this one is making me tear up. I have made so many friends in this community, mostly thanks to Stephanie (@byStephanieErin) and testing for her. My yarn friends have been my rock through this massive stress and are willing to chat even when they are super busy. I know I have had Heart to Hearts with you Laura (@MurphyMadeCrochet), Chloe (@LibertineCrochet), Christina (@InchwormCrafts), Asia (@YarnFixation), Dani (@TheBisqueBelle), Sunaina (@StationOwl), Mel (@ArrowheadKnits), Ruth (@RuthBrasch) among so many others. And of course my vampire sister Tiffany (@WootsCrafts) who is there for all the insanity and is the first person I call for everything anymore. Without the crafting and yarn community I wouldn’t have met all these amazing friends, and honestly without the pandemic and how we were all there for each other I wouldn’t have gotten as close to everyone like I have. 

Katherine wearing her #SweetDiamondCardigan by @handmadebyRoeska

What do you think we can learn from each other in the yarn Instagram community that we can apply to ‘real life’? The biggest thing I LOVE about our yarnie community on Instagram is we are all there boosting each other up. We are always promoting each other, taking part in one another’s giveaway, and doing everything we can to make the community great for everyone. I love this and find it so important. Working in a hospital I have seen catty nurses and nurses “eating their young” and staff blame shifting and throwing other staff under the bus for things because they can. Literally tearing each other down because they want to get ahead. Thank goodness most of that staff has come and gone now, but I have seen it all. I feel that everyone and every place should mimic our community and build each other up, and grow from one another’s strengths and weaknesses like we all tend to. It would make life and work easier. 

You were at home, with the little ones in quarantaine, as Jace has tested positive for covid-19. I hope he has little to no symptoms. How did you survive quarantine? 
OMG I hate quarantine. It is miserable. It was cold the first week. It was around 15°F (-9°C) so the kids would hang out outside for about an hour and then were back inside. The kids were bored, they missed their friends, their cousins, we were surviving but by a thread. What did we do? Vlogmas! The kids have been so excited to be filmed opening advents. We were also supposed to be making cookies that week and filming it. I have played video games with them which I haven’t done in a long time. Some drawing contests. But we are all super grateful it is over now. I also finished a semester of nursing at the beginning of quarantine and the kids were super helpful with it. And of course I have caught up on Christmas makes. The kids are each getting a sweater for three kings day (January 6th)… So I have my (yarn)work cut out for me!

From talking to Katherine, it is very clear to me she is a lioness protecting her kids. So as my take home message: 

– as a yarning mom, our first priority is our kids, then our yarn, but preferably combined. And only then, may be, chores.
– our yarning teaches our kids about about slow fashion and soft skills such as creativity, being considerate, worth and value. It teaches community over competitions. Even when there are snakes…
– being quarantined with kids is hard! They need constant entertainment and when the weather is cold and miserable, that makes it even harder.
– we are all human, no matter the colour of our skin. We deserve to be treated equally. We should not tokenise or become a token. And even if I may never understand completely, I see it has happened. I hope to be able to recognise it and act accordingly.

My body was never the problem, my thoughts about it were…

Chelsea wearing her #lotustop #lotusskirt by @namasteandcrochet

As October is nearing its end I am dreading the dark months of winter to come and my seasonal depression to hit again. When I think of self-worth and body positivity, I cannot think of anyone other than Chelsea! She is the beach loving, boozy maker behind Knitting Tipsy. She’s a Florida girl and a warm weather maker, which means she will gravitate towards light and airy knit and crochet makes you can wear on your next tropical vacation. She loves all things palm trees, champagne, bourbon, and beach. She has anxiety and depression and talks about them a lot on her platform. She’s also a huge advocate of loving yourself, even when society tells you that you shouldn’t and she encourages others to join her on her journey of self love and body acceptance.

You can find Chelsea on Instagram @knittingtipsy

How, when and where did your fiber journey start?
My Great-Grammy Kay was the OG (original gangster – someone who’s incredibly exceptional, authentic, or “old-school) yarny maker and taught me to knit/crochet/spin/weave when I was just a wee one. I used to go with her to the county fair where she would do demonstration spinning in the sheep barn and I’d spin on a wheel beside her. While I enjoyed doing these things with her, I didn’t really get very involved with knitting and crochet until after college. In 2014, during a serious depressive episode, I found one of my knitting bags from my Grammy Kay under my childhood bed. Something had me putting it in my suitcase when I went back home and I pulled it out to see if I could still remember what to do. I ended up making a simple garter stitch cowl and I remember the feeling of sitting there, stitching away meditatively and losing all track of time. It was so peaceful and for once, my brain shut up and stopped yelling at me. When I finished and looked at this thing that I had made with my own two hands, I felt such a burst of pride and accomplishment that I cried. I called my Mom and had her mail all the yarning supplies still at my home and I started making any simple pattern I could get my hands on. Once I discovered the yarny community on Instagram and that there were fashionable, modern, stylish knit and crochet patterns designed by amazing, fun, talented, (and sexy!!!!) designers, I was hooked and I’ve never looked back. 

I love this story! I think we can all relate to finding the modern, stylish knit and crochet patterns. So happy you (amongst other designers) have added sexy to that list! 

What did working with yarn teach you with regards to your depression/anxiety? How does knitting/crocheting help you? What aspects of your depression/anxiety does it help relieve?
From that first moment I picked my needles back up as an adult, I found that knitting quiets the negative thoughts in my mind. The rhythm and sound of the needles is incredibly soothing to me and I’m able to achieve a meditative state when working on a simple stockinette or garter stitch project. Knitting and crochet are also both very helpful in grounding me as it engages so many of my senses. I often reach for my WIP if I feel my anxiety climbing and it helps me to ground my senses and calm my body and mind. Additionally to the process of knitting or crochet, the finished objects I’ve created have helped so much in building my confidence and my sense of self worth. I get that “omg, I MADE THIS!” feeling every time I finish a project and the excitement and pride I feel chips away at those feelings of unworthiness and negativity about myself. I’ve struggled with body image and body confidence in the past and being able to make clothes that fit MY body as it is, is empowering. Making and wearing clothing that fit and not trying to fit into an arbitrary size I think I should be wearing has helped me realize my body is beautiful and great as it is. My body is not a problem, my body has never been a problem. It’s always been what I thought about my body. Knitting and crocheting my own clothes has definitely played a positive role in how I view myself and raised my confidence. 

“for once, my brain shut up and stopped yelling at me”

Chelsea wearing her own #palmyourknits and the #beverlyskirt from @gorillaknits

Besides being a maker, you also design. How does your depression/anxiety affect your designing process? 
Ohhhhhh it can make it quite difficult. Haha. I often have to battle my negative thoughts and fears in order to even get started on a design. But I feel like designing has made me realize how brave and strong I can be. It’s forced me outside of my comfort zone and it’s helped me to find a lot of confidence. I have a lot of negative self talk when it comes to math and myself. I struggled with math learning all through school. I had to work my ass off to understand concepts that seemed so easy to my classmates. I still don’t visualize math the same way others do, which honestly helped me greatly to explain math in a more visual and hands on way when I became a 3rd grade MATH teacher of all things to ESOL students. But that’s a story for another day 😉 But my anxiety still crops up when I need to Math out a pattern and I have to remind myself that I am smart and capable and it’s ok to ask for help. I do worry that during a test I’ll have issues with my depression/anxiety and let down my testing group. But I’ve found my testers to be the most amazing people and I’ve been honest with all my groups about my fears and issues and they’ve responded so lovingly that I’m becoming less scared that my mental health will hold me back from testing and designing in general. 

In the end it’s all about communication isn’t it? To be upfront about expectations and also about our fears and pitfalls. That way we can better understand how to deal with a (math) situation and communicate accordingly. We’re all human! 

Chelsea, on the beach, working on her #captivacroptop by @murphymadecrochet

How open and accepting do you find the yarn/fiber community compared to ‘real life society’ with regards to depression/anxiety?
I think the fiber community is more open/accepting about a lot of things compared to real life society and it makes me really happy that a conversation about mental health is one of those things. I love that as I read through posts in the fiber community, I find it more and more common to see people mentioning therapy or see people being open about their struggles with anxiety/depression/mental health. These aren’t things that are easy to talk about and I know, even in our community, there is still stigma, but it’s definitely becoming more normalized. The more we talk about things and destigmatize them, the easier it is for people to become aware of issues in their lives and get help. No one should have to suffer through these things alone. I’m really, truly blessed to be friends with some absolutely amazing and loving humans in this community who always make me feel like I have a safe space to talk and be myself. I’m also incredibly grateful to all my followers who show so much support on my posts about mental health and who drop into my DMs all the time when I’m feeling down or needing to take a break to let me know they support me.

I think feeling seen is very important in depression or related mental health issues with regards to self worth. Knowing that you are cared for is incredibly important, even if they are on the other side of the world. You have a yarnie-friend that cares for you and thinks of you. So, shoot them a message if you haven’t heard from them for a while. Or if they seem to go through a rough phase. I recognise the feelings of gratefulness if a follower/friend drops a DM when I have been feeling down. It helps! 

“I’ve been honest with all my groups about my fears and issues and they’ve responded so lovingly that I’m becoming less scared”

Chelsea in her own #FloridaBabeBikini

What do you think we can learn from each other in the yarn Instagram community that we can apply to ‘real life’? 
SO MUCH! I love that while we are all connected through our love of fiber, we are all so different from one another. I really appreciate all the effort that people in this community put into educating others. Whether it’s about new yarning techniques, fiber information, activism surrounding race, gender, mental health, fat phobia, etc., it is a LOT of emotional labor and time away from our jobs, crafts, and families to present this information online. It can be scary to share about our real lives and to be vulnerable to strangers or people we may only know from online interactions. But honestly, I feel SO connected to so many in this community and I attribute much of my growth from what I’ve learned from the humans on yarnstagram. It wouldn’t be untrue to say that this little nook of the interwebz has changed and will continue to change my life. I’m so grateful for that.

From talking to Chelsea some points resonated with me and I thought I’d share those with you as my take home message: 

  • Talk about your depression/anxiety. Name her/him/them. Normalise therapy. We could all use a professional from time to time, to discuss our feelings and thoughts. Maybe even discover where they originated and how to deal with them.. 
  • If you notice a friend is absent for whatever reason, shoot them a message that you think of them. No expectations, just letting them know they are loved and seen. 
  • Bring this behaviour from the yarnstagram into daily life. Send a postcard. 
  • Wear the clothes that fit your body and make you feel good. Don’t look at the size.

I also asked Chelsea for some tips against seasonal depression. This kind of disorder is more common I thought it is: approximately 1 out of every 20 adults suffers from seasonal affective disorder. It lasts up to 40 percent of the year – that’s roughly 4 months (!) – and is more common in woman than in men. Read more here. So, four great tips:

My Tips For Seasonal Depression:

1) Move to Florida 🌴🌞🤣 No but seriously, Florida with its sunshine and palm trees is my happy place. During the long cold winters when I lived up north, the thing that made me feel best was having a trip to Florida or someplace warm and sunny to look forward to. I know that’s not an option or possibility for everyone, but if you’re able, don’t be afraid to use those vacation days!!! Planning and having a trip is SO helpful during those dark, cold days. And even if you can’t travel, sometimes watching a movie with a beachy setting or planning a tropical one day trip can get you in a sunnier state of mind.

2) Get outside. Yup I know its cold. But fresh air and natural light can do wonders for your body, spirit, and mental health.

3) Move your body in ways that feel good. This is not about how you look or anything to do with your weight. This is about getting some happy endorphins and making your body feel good. On those days you just wanna stay bundled on the couch – try something fun and goofy. Dance in the living room. Do some stretching on the couch. Put on a yoga video. Try jump roping or hoola hooping! Anything that feels good is great.

4) Treat yourself gently, take extra time for self care, and seek help if you can. Depression can feel overwhelming and all consuming. Be gentle with yourself. If you’re able, seek the help of a mental health professional. Take time each day for extra self care, whatever that means for you. Treat yourself to the little things to boost your spirit, read a new book, buy/make that cozy blanket or sweater, make a special tea or fun coffee. And always know you are not alone and you can and will get through this 💕💕💕

Not just for grandma. The next generation knits too!

Mia in her crochet #EverythingsPine top, by @murphymadecrochet

September is the month of going back to school. I have started a new job teaching at the University of Applied Sciences and to be surrounded with youngsters makes me feel old and young at the same time. I love that feeling, there is so much to be learned from each other! That is why I have invited Mia for a chat. Mia is a teen knitter (15) and she is so glad to be a part of this community! She knits, crochets, and Tunisian crochets pretty much all the time and every chance she gets! She loves working on her projects by the lake, and if she is not making she can be found running cross country, drinking lattes, or hanging with her friends.

You can find Mia on Instagram: @the_yarn_goddess

How/when/where did your fiber journey start?
“I started knitting when I was very little. My grandma taught me how to make dishcloths and little blankets for my dolls, but I would say my fiber journey truly started during the first quarantine weeks when I suddenly had time to work on my hobbies. I took a course on knitting a cardigan and dove in from there.”

Now you also crochet and do Tunisian crochet, why the transition? Or do you want to do them all? And you are a pattern tester, how do you decide what you are going to make?
“Yes! As I got more and more into pattern testing and the insta yarn community I saw so many beautiful crochet things that I wanted to make, so I just had to learn! And once I got into crochet I of course found out about Tunisian crochet! Kasey from @theskeiniac helped me get going with that! (She helped me a lot with many other things as I got into yarning <3). For pattern tests I try to choose things that I genuinely think are cute/that I would wear. I also like to challenge myself with new skills so I love choosing tests with new things. Unfortunately I cannot test everything, especially now that I am getting busier, so I have to narrow it down somehow!”

“It is ingrained in most people’s minds that only grandmas knit, but it isn’t necessary to wait so long to start crafting”

What did it teach you? How does knitting/crocheting help you?
“Knitting and crocheting have taught me a lot of things, one of them being that free time is something you can juggle and appreciate. Before covid when I was in the full swing of things and had pretty much no free time, all I wanted was a little breather and then quarantine happened. (which was a lot more than a little breather!) I then had so much time and spent most days knitting and watching Criminal Minds or listening to podcasts. I went from seeing friends everyday to seeing nobody (obviously) and I learned that that was ok! I found so much joy from knitting and crocheting and learning new things.
I did struggle with productivity and trying to compare my beforehand level to covid times. During the in-between of understanding the new normal, knitting turned into so much more than just something to do. It was something to learn and feel proud of. It took up a lot of time and it was the perfect way to adjust to doing less but still “doing” a lot. I did end up learning that measuring productivity doesn’t get you anywhere and productivity doesn’t necessarily mean being busy at all times. But I am glad I had something to fill in those hours, especially since it turned into so much more and I ended up finding an entire community!”

Mia in her knit skirt: #beverlyset by @gorillaknits

How does your direct community, family friends, classmates view knitting/crocheting?
“My family and friends view my knitting in the best way. They are really supportive and understand my knitting addiction. My friends know I’m always knitting, and that I can give them my full attention even if my hands are doing something else! (mostly) They have lots of jokes about my constant yarning, and sometimes my stress about messing up! My close friends and family see the most behind the scenes of my projects. I’m not really sure what my classmates think about it, or if they really know. A lot of them follow my yarn account which is kinda great and kinda terrifying at the same time.”

Some of your friends also yarn, did you teach them? And do you have tips for us if we wanted to teach your/the next generation about yarn? I think there still might be a huge stigma of “grannies knit” associated with yarn and knitting.
“Yes! I taught my friend Bo how to knit and crochet so we can make cute matching things! We also like to have “knit pics” where we sit outside on a picnic blanket and knit and sing Taylor Swift (songs).
I agree there is always a funny reaction when I tell anyone of any age that I knit. It is definitely ingrained in most people’s minds that only grandmas knit. I would just like to say that I one hundred percent support grandma’s knitting but it isn’t necessary to wait so long to start crafting! I’ve heard most makers say they wish they had started knitting earlier so if you’re interested in learning or are thinking of teaching someone, go for it! I taught my friend Georgia how to knit a little while ago and she is only 10! And she’s crushing it!”

That is an amazing feeling, isn’t it! As teacher it is possible to be more proud of what a student achieves than when I did something myself. Whenever a student is taught by a teacher that is enthusiastic about their subject, they find it is so much easier to learn!

Mis in her #silkmotruana by @madebyhaileybailey

What do you think will be the future of the fiber community?
“I think the future of the fiber community will be nothing short of amazing. Everything I find right now is incredible and so very impressive and I think it can only get better. I have also found that many of the people I support in the fiber community share the same concerns about the state of the world, including my fellow teen crafters. I hope that we can all work toward solutions that are meaningful to us while we are knitting up a storm.”

What can we learn from you/your generation?
“My generation values inclusivity. I think we strive to tackle a lot of the things like body image, gender norms, racial injustices, and much more. We have less unlearning to do and more of setting the path so that the next generation doesn’t have to feel pressured about their sexual orientation or how they identify; so they don’t have to feel like outsiders because of their race or cultural beliefs or disabilities. Obviously we have a very long way to go still but I think that is a lot of what my generation is about.”

Mia in her #lotustop by @namasteandcrochet

I value inclusivity too. As a teacher I think it’s the most important value in order to create a safe space and in a safe space is where the best learning happens. What do you think we can do to help to be more inclusive?
“I think the best thing we can do is listen and learn from other people and their experiences. Also being open to the new norms and all. If everyone was willing to be accepting just a little more I think the world would be a better place.”

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:

  • Don’t wait until you are grey and old to try a new yarn technique! You want to learn how to knit? Tunisian crochet? Just do it and see if it fits you. Teach your children and others around you if they show interest. Tell them where to find the best tutorials that helped you!
  • Productivity is best not to be measured. Enjoy the process to make something you like. Try not to compare one period in time with an other in terms of your output. The world is, slowly, going forward into a new normal, with more social interactions and less home alone time. You cannot compare your output.
  • The next generation values inclusivity. Listen to them, and see what you can do in order to be more inclusive and accepting.

A new normal, life lessons and some things will never change…

Stephanie is the designer behind @by.stepahnie.erin, she wears her Evermore Dress here.

As we progress into August and I am back from my summer holidays (which was hard work with three young kids), I can’t help wondering what our new normal will look like. 

Today I have the pleasure to introduce Stephanie Erin to you. She is the designer behind @by.stephanie.erin, whom I got to know very well since testing for her numerous times ever since I tested the once upon a dream dress in the summer of 2019. 

Stephanie Erin is an experienced crochet and Tunisian designer. She focuses on modern design elements that make knitters want to pick up a hook. Size inclusivity is not an issue with Stephanie’s mathematical magic. She continues to come up with unique designs that are accessible to all levels of experience.
Stephanie designs size inclusive garments during the evenings and weekends, whereas in her day job she is fighting covid-19. In this blog, we discuss how we fight covid-19 in our respective countries and how our worlds have changed since the pandemic. 

You can find Stephanie on Instagram: @by.stephanie.erin

Stephanie in her Once Upon a Dream Dress – I was honoured to be able to test this dress for her and I have tested for her ever since!

First of all, Stephanie, can you explain what you do in your job fighting COVID-19? “I am responsible for managing a team that updates the daily numbers for our local Public Health Unit. This includes the number of newly infected people, hospitalisations and deaths. We provide analytics on these numbers to our council and government for them to make decisions regarding when closures need to occur and when it is safe to reopen.”

Do you also include the number of vaccinated people in that? Are you seeing an effect?  “Yes we are also responsible for reporting on the number of people vaccinated. In Canada this has a direct relation to when reopening steps are allowed.”

With the rise of the delta variant, do you think we will ever go back to before (I like to call it B.C.) COVID-19? Or do we need to figure out a new normal with waves of new variants and new vaccines? “I think COVID-19 is here to stay. I think we will need to adapt to a combined Flu and COVID season each year and it will become everyone’s personal responsibility to get their yearly COVID shot.”

As an evolutionary biologist, I very much agree with this. As we adapt to COVID-19 by protecting ourselves with vaccines, the virus will continue to adapt to us and slightly change (mutations). We have seen this already as we deal with the delta variant now. My hope is that we can all take our responsibility and get our vaccinations, so we slow down the virus and slow down the rise of a potential epsilon (the next letter in the Greek alphabet that the virus variants are named after). 

Your life has changed quite a bit since the pandemic. How do you think it influenced you and your designs? “I have found myself being very intentional with my designs since I have a lot less free time these days! I am generally working 15-20 hours of overtime a week so I am trying to only design things that feed my brain instead of being an additional drain.”

Stephanie in her Pretty in PANK! This pattern was tested in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic when most of the world was in lock-down. The majority of the testers in this testergroup have bonded over the pandemic and have become close crochet friends!

What, in your opinion, can we learn from the pandemic? “I think it really taught us what is most important. Hugs from my grandma after not seeing her for months had me in tears, and that is more important than anything else.”

With regards to the yarn community, what do you think the pandemic has given us? “I know I have become a lot closer with a number of fiber friends in the last year. I think since we were all at home we started having more zoom calls, more time to text/video chat on Instagram and Marco Polo. I treasure this time I am able to spend with these friends and have grown as a person having tough conversations since we all have different worldviews being from so many countries around the world.”

So in summary, do you think it has made you more of a world citizen?“I think I have learned more about the intimate day to day lives of my friends that live around the world. It has made me really appreciate our differences. I look forward to being able to travel again and hug my friends around the world.” 

What is the most important learning lesson from the pandemic for you (that might apply to all of us)? “I think the most important lesson for me has been re-evaluating what is truly important. Pre-pandemic I was never home, I was constantly running from work to teaching and was always at some level of exhaustion from never having time to myself. When it came time to spend time with friends and family sometimes it felt like a chore since I was already so busy. This time has really allowed me to reflect that running around is not important and that spending time with my loved ones is more valuable than I could ever express.”

What changes has the pandemic brought us that you think we should keep? What do you want to see going back to ‘normal’? “I hope we see some level of continuing to work from home for those that are able. As well as normalising when you are ill, stay home. I feel like we as a culture wore it as a badge of honour to come into work sick to “prove” that you weren’t just taking a day off. I hope that employers will encourage everyone to stay home until you are well, and allow those that are able to work from home even on a part time basis. 

“Spending time with my loved ones is more valuable than I could ever express”

I also hope we continue to see virtual fiber events occur even when we are able to get back together. I have been lucky enough to teach for Vogue Knitting Live (VKL) and have taught people all over the world from my home. Most of these people and myself would not have been able to travel to one location month over month and I have gained so much joy from seeing students grow and understand new concepts that they previously may not have had the opportunity to learn.”

Stephanie in – what I think is – her master piece:
Tessellation Tee. This tee can be seen (on the mannequin in the background) when Stephanie is teaching at VKL!

Including me! I have been able to take some VKL classes over zoom that I would have never been able to participate in before COVID-19! I think that even though we have been forced to work with all the technology, we have gained much more inclusion than we could have before! 

Being so up close to fighting COVID-19, what bothers you in the (fiber) community? How do you think this has come about and what can we do to change it? “The thing that has bothered me most is the sharing of misleading and potentially dangerous information about vaccines. Working in the fight against COVID-19 I have seen first hand the long term effects and trauma it can cause even on those that recover. So to hear so many people unwilling to get vaccinated has been very hard to watch. I understand that everyone has the freedom of choice, but when people selfishly put their own freedoms above the lives of others that is something I am unwilling to be OK with.”

Personally, I absolutely agree. The new normal will facilitate more working from home, less interactions, without losing personal attention. As a teacher myself I have seen the (mental) effects from the closing of the schools; students have suffered. We have suffered, we need human interaction! I sincerely hope we can all respect the rules and vaccinate so we can indeed go forward to interactions without a screen as well as with a screen! I too am grateful for being able to have connected with makers all over the world and realigning my priorities. 

Personally, I agree. But what I hope you do, if you disagree or are not sure, is to educate yourself, using actual (peer-reviewed) research. Also, I am a life sciences teacher, I love answering all of your questions, so feel free to reach out to me! 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:

  • COVID-19 is here to stay. We need to learn to live with it the best we can. We need to prioritise and realise we cannot do everything anymore. Take a step back, evaluate and breathe! And hug our grandma’s when we’re fully vaccinated! 
  • Make, create, design what you enjoy. In the end that’s what is more important than what society thinks or how productive you are. 
  • Educate yourself. Be critical of the sources you find. Are they peer reviewed? Is it evidence based? Is it not incidental? Ask, be open and find the people that you trust and feel free to open up with and know they are willing to discuss this with you.