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.

I have a saggy tummy, but I created tiny humans!

Paige in her Palm Your Knits T-Shirt by Chelsea @knittingtipsy
Yarn by Christa @thefrostedstitch

On this beautiful first of July (actually it’s pissing rain on this side of the pond, but we’ll make it a beautiful day anyhow), I have the pleasure of introducing Paige Wall. Paige celebrates her 29th birthday today! She is a mom to three girls, and married her high-school sweetheart Alex. They celebrate our 10-year anniversary this September. Living in South-Western Ontario, Canada, she spends her days as a stay at home (schooling) parent. She fills her days with teaching/playing with the kids, cleaning up the same toys at least 40282 times, and yarn. Lots of yarn. She started designing patterns a few years ago, and has been a pattern tester for just as long. She’s had a few patterns gone viral, but more recently her focus has shifted towards testing and promoting others!

Paige and I have connected over her unabashed pictures of her mommy tummy. The realness and rawness and the “Reality vs Instagram”-ness hit a nerve with me. After four pregnancies and three deliveries I struggle with my mirror-image. Even though I know my youngest son is not even 6 months old and there is this saying “9 months up (pregnancy) – 9 months down”, I feel the pressure to be back into shape, to be in my pre-pregnancy body as soon as possible. It feels as if my self worth depends on this, although I know it does not!

Paige and I share our experiences about our pregnancies and discuss the expectations of motherhood and our mommy bodies with you.

You can find Paige on Instagram: @perfectposiesbypaige

How does playing with fiber/yarn help dealing with the expectations of motherhood? “Most days, it’s a struggle to find something new or fun that will amuse my offspring, especially during a worldwide pandemic. We really cannot get out and do ‘fun things’, so often we are in our backyard, the kids play, and I create. I sit and knit, or crochet, and tend to a campfire. Most of the time I am frequently interrupted by screams of discontent (someone took someone’s toy), having to go help them in the bathroom, get the 1000th snack for the day/refill water bottles, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost my place in a colourwork chart, dropped a stitch, repeated or omitted an entire row, simply because of a distraction.
Despite all those issues, playing with yarn is definitely a stress reliever for me and a way to escape into my own little world, even if it is just one row at a time. Sometimes a project that would otherwise take a few hours, takes a few weeks. Sometimes my kids run through my working yarn, yanking it across the room and ruining 3 rows of work, but the joy I get from each item I create is worth it. One of the most rewarding parts is seeing the amazement on their face when I’ve made them a new shirt, or stuffed animal/their new favourite character. And yarn unboxings are way more exciting (and HONESTLY funny) when your four year old thinks the yarn you bought ‘looks like poop’ just because it’s a beautiful blend of browns.”

How did this community help you? “The fiber community has been the backbone behind my makes. I don’t have many ‘real life’ friends who truly understand my obsession with yarn. They are confused why I show up to social engagements with a work-in-progress, or new stitch markers I’ve just ordered. I have made so many TRUE friends, specifically through Instagram, who understand me and my hobby/business, are supportive. Some are sounding boards I can bounce ANY idea off of, and I trust them to tell me the TRUTH. I constantly see them engaging in my posts, appreciating me sharing my stories, and understanding my struggles. I have incredibly close friends I share my personal/family struggles with, my business issues, etc as well. And of course there are those that help me to escape into a fantastical world of creativity and beauty, just by them sharing their works!”

A recent family snapshot. The girls are wearing the chickadee crop top by Hailey @madebyhaileybailey, with yarn from Christa @thefrostedstitch

What is, in your opinion, the key to acceptance of our mommy body? “I’m still working on fully accepting mine, but there are some things that I have learned over the years. If I had to pick just one, it would be that it’s okay to have flaws, and you should be proud of them. We all have them: stretchmarks, saggy tummies, weird belly buttons, scars, cellulite, saggy breasts, chafed thighs… but if we can accept that our bodies CREATED AN ENTIRE PERSON, well, that makes it all worth it right? And there are millions of people out there who have tried for YEARS or DECADES to be able to bring a child into this world, because it is a privilege not everyone experiences. So to belittle those other people by complaining about a bit of extra fat around my tummy seems insensitive to me. SO I embrace my flaws now, and have only recently publicly shared photos of my ‘reality’.
It takes a lot of courage to show other people those flaws, but each time that I have, I have been met with resounding messages of encouragement from other people, saying that they have been inspired and accept their body just a little bit more after reading my words/hearing my story.”

Let’s talk about pregnancy and childbirth for a minute. Being from the Netherlands I have noticed there are some differences between the medical approach in pregnancy care and childbirth between the Netherlands and the United States. In the Netherlands the monitoring during pregnancy is done by midwives – medically trained, but not a gynaecologist. They assist in childbirth, whether at home or at the birthing center. Approximately 20% of Dutch births are done at home (read the science here), with the philosophy that when you are at home you are more relaxed, which will help the birthing process*. I’ve had one medically induced birth, with epidural, and subsequently two home births, without any painkillers or medical interference. In these homebirths, I have felt I was in control of the process, I was giving birth and I had the assistance if I needed this. Unfortunately I’ve heard many stories from women of having their autonomy being taken away from them and that aspect being traumatising to them.

*In the Netherlands, between 37-42 weeks’ gestation, mothers with low-risk pregnancies can choose between giving birth at home, in a midwife-led birthing center or at the hospital. When complications arise, the woman is transferred to a hospital. There is a multidisciplinary guideline developed through consensus of all health professionals involved in perinatal care on the indications for transfer to the hospital.

Paige and Alex celebrate the pregnancy of their first daughter

Can you tell me about your experiences giving birth and how they have shaped you? “I have been pregnant 4 times, the first two resulting in early miscarriages, and then a high risk singleton pregnancy, followed by an extremely high risk identical twin pregnancy. Due to the nature of my pregnancies, a home birth was NOT an option for me at any point. I’ll try to break down my experiences below. I didn’t know what a doula was, and didn’t understand the process of finding a midwife at the time, but I feel like having one would’ve been very beneficial to have them help advocate for me.”

TRIGGER WARNING
—If details about pregnancy, miscarriages, or difficult birth stories can be triggering for you, please skip the green blocks

2 Miscarriages: “When you experience an early MC like I did (8 and 9 weeks) the doctors don’t do much for you. They tell you your HCG (pregnancy hormone) numbers have dropped. There is not really an explanation, and they are sorry for your loss, tell you to follow up in a few weeks, and send you on your way. I had trust issues with doctors and with myself. Feelings of being a failure as a mother, and my inability to protect my babies.”

I do believe there is a changing wind in this medical field, there is more known about miscarriages and women open up about this more often. For me, it wasn’t until I had my own miscarriage (second pregnancy) that I found out that approximately 30% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage (read the science here). Half of these go unnoticed because women think they have their “normal” period. I believe that shared experience can help in the grieving process of men and women who’ve gone through the experience of miscarriage. 

First Birth/pregnancy: “Due to a mix-up with my doctor leaving the country and my file not being updated/passed along, the doctor I had seen didn’t believe me that my due date had changed. He told me I had another week before they would even consider induction, even though at that point I was 40 weeks and 2 days. I went home, barely moved for a week due to discomfort. Then finally on my father’s birthday, I messaged him and my mom and said I NEEDED to go in, my baby wasn’t moving, and I was worried. I arrived at the hospital, and the triage nurse argued with me AGAIN about due dates, and about kick counts, and wanted me to go home. I KNEW something was wrong. I refused to leave the hospital, and asked them to keep me there, do a stretch and sweep, and monitor my baby. I was only 3 cm dilated, and experiencing incredibly intense ‘contractions’ (over a minute long, every other minute). As it turned out my placenta was detaching due to me being so far past due (41+3 at that point). I asked for an epidural, because it was unbearable. The nurse rolled her eyes, but at least she put the order through. I got my epidural, but it didn’t help much with the pain. They said I had lots of time still to labour, and my husband could go find his mom who was lost in the hospital. My husband’s mother convinced him to go take a shower at home, and of course at that point my baby went into severe distress. The doctors couldn’t find her heartbeat, even with the clip they could place directly on her skull. They played “pancake” with me, flopping me side to side to try and find the heartbeat (thinking her cord was pinched), all the while I experienced minute long ‘contractions’. Nothing worked, so they had me scribble a VERY shaky signature on a few papers, and moments later I was rushed to the ER. They tried to put me under, but I fought HARD (like, repeatedly took the mask off my face and pushed doctors away but couldn’t move my lower half to escape HARD) because they had originally told me that they could wait for my husband to return. But they couldn’t.  I’m very lucky I did receive the epidural, because not even 5 minutes later my baby was out of me. Call it mother’s intuition that made me refuse to leave, but the next day my doctor told me if I had gone home when the triage nurse told me, my baby would’ve likely died. My placenta was detaching. My baby’s cord was only 6” long (most cords are between 18-23 inches), and therefor she could not drop. There was no nutrition left for her. They saved her life. Despite my struggle, and my fighting, they did what was best for my baby and I am grateful. I had an extremely difficult emotional recovery, and physical as well (they were ROUGH in order to get my baby out as soon as possible). I missed a lot of firsts (first cry, measurements, first glance, first to hold my baby, etc). Pictures of my baby were already on Facebook before I had even woken up from my surgery. It was a lot to process. I felt like I had no control over anything, and it took years to deal with those feelings. Which leads me to my second birth experience.”

“My doctor told me, if I had gone home, my baby would’ve likely died. I listened to my intuition”

Twin pregnancy: “I found out at 9 weeks I was expecting mono-chorionic, di-amniotic twins, (MO-DI: one shared placenta, two separate amniotic sacs with a thin membrane between them). This rare form of identical twins is known to coincide with a myriad of issues that could arise during the pregnancy, plus the fact I already was high-risk. I was seen constantly throughout my pregnancy, and at 17+3 I was diagnosed with stage 2/3 Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). This, very simply put, is an unequal sharing of the placenta between the babies, that could result in the death of one or both babies if left untreated. I underwent laser surgery the next day by a specialist who pioneered the surgery to correct for TTTS. He said he only sees about 200 cases of TTTS a year in Canada, but travels across the world teaching the procedure to others. I was incredibly blessed to have him clear his schedule (he was leaving for March break the next day) and perform my surgery; if my diagnosis would have been a day later, I would not have had him there. He told me at the time my girls had a 5% chance of living without the surgery, and still only 60% of them both making it to viability (24wks) with the surgery. 
I needed even more frequent monitoring going forwards, and at 32+6 when my water broke I was admitted to the hospital since I wasn’t in active labour. I was so worried yet again, but was assured that my babies were okay, not in distress, and at any sign of fever or anything else they would take them out. I told them I NEEDED to have control this time, and was opting for a c-section. I couldn’t risk going through what I did with my first again, or trying vaginally and then having to have an emergency c-section for the second baby. We planned to have the twins delivered at 34+1, as the risk of infection at that point outweighed the benefits of them staying in (week 33 is crucial for lung development, so we waited as long as we felt safe). I wasn’t allowed to walk, or even to go to the bathroom, due to the risk of cord prolapse. This is actually when my love of fiber rekindled, because I literally wasn’t able to do much else but sit, crochet, and watch tv. On my birthday I got special permission to go up to the roof to watch fireworks in a wheelchair (Canada Day). I also opted to have my tubes tied during my procedure, which my doctor fully supported even though I was only 24. I have several friends with kids, who are DONE having kids, that have doctors who don’t support this decision. Again, I feel incredibly blessed to have my doctor on my side on this decision. I got to be lucid during the procedure, my husband’s hand, and I got to hear my babies’ first cries! My doctor was able to calm my nerves and talk me through the surgery, and checked on me constantly. They rushed the babies to the NICU straight away (even before I saw them), but at least I was awake and knew they were going to be alright.”

Wow, those a such incredible and powerful stories, Paige ❤️ thank you for sharing them!!! 

 The twins first time back together after birth, they were several days old at the time and showcase the typical “Instagram vs Reality” side of photographing newborns

“I know this was long winded, but I didn’t have ‘normal’ births. So to fully understand how these events shaped me, I needed to give context/clarity as to how traumatic they were. It took a LONG time to recover emotionally. And I still have feelings I struggle with when it comes to births. I have lots of friends who had the EASIEST pregnancy/births, and there is a hint of jealousy. But I also have friends who I have bonded with over shared experiences, and am able to discuss openly with other mommies. I was able to be at the hospital when my closest friend needed an emergency c-section, and we have had many discussions since then about our feelings regarding our births. I’m always very willing to discuss my story and answer questions, as a lot of what happens is rarely talked about, or is taboo to bring up in conversation. But I will ALWAYS be the one willing to tell my story in the hopes that it helps someone else to know that they are not alone, and that their feelings are valid. I am forever thankful that I don’t have immense medical debt due to my procedures (estimated over 1 million dollars due to my birthing experiences/surgeries/procedures), because I didn’t have a choice. They weren’t cosmetic, they were NECESSARY. There are so many women who have to decide between being in debt for the rest of their lives, or the safety/health of their babies. Even though at times my decisions seemed forced upon me, I have three healthy girls who are my world.”

I find it interesting you say you didn’t have normal births, I have come to think there are no normal births for two reasons: First, all births are special, because they make us a mom (again), and are life-changing to the other children as they become the big brother/sister. And second, it’s all about perspective. With my last birth, I woke up with my water broken at 2.45 am and Jonah was born at 4.10 am. He was my third delivery. It was such a fast one, it would have been traumatising if it had been my first.  Now, I knew what was going to happen and I knew I had done this before, I knew to trust my body and open my body! I am in such awe of my body being able to grow a human and deliver it safely! 

“I say ‘normal’ I guess synonymous with easy/routine. As in, go occasionally for ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy, start contracting, labour for a while with their partner there, go to the hospital, have their baby, and go home the next day. The ‘natural’ births that most women aspire to have. Not the stressful ones, with weekly appointments, being hospitalized bed rest, followed by intense and immediate surgeries to save lives, and NICU stays. It is ‘normal’ in the sense that it’s not unique. Surely thousands of women have been through my small situation, and we need to normalize those birth experiences too.”

“I throw on something that is COMFY and take pride in the fact that my body produced three incredible kids”

It has been almost 5 years since your twins were born, you have had time to process. How do you regard your body now? “My body has flaws, it has scars, but… it has been through a lot, and I should celebrate all that it has accomplished. Some days I wake up, and that is not easy to do. I speak down to myself, or cringe in certain outfits. My underwear rolls, my thighs chafe, my boobs spill out of a very uncomfortable wired bra, my kids comment on my jiggle…but still, I am thankful. I pick myself up, throw on something that is COMFY, ignore the size on the label, and take pride in the fact that my body produced three incredible kids.”

Paige demonstrating her authentic body: pregnant with twins (left); “Instagram” (middle); and “Reality” (right).
in her WIP Captiva Crop by Laura @murphymadecrochet, with yarn from Christa @thefrostedstitch

What role do you think we, as moms with our beautiful mom-bodies have in the yarn community now? “With the more recent and frequent conversations emerging regarding size inclusivity, body acceptance, and self love in the fiber world, I think it is becoming more important than ever to accept our bodies. They change frequently, regardless of motherhood, and learning to accept these changes and differences promotes unity. I also think it’s important to show a more authentic version of our bodies than the perfectly curated feeds of posing at just the right angle to hide something. People don’t relate to those as much as they can relate to having imperfections. But it is through sharing our stories and being authentically ourselves that people connect and engage, as well as learn to accept themselves and their own bodies. I also think it’s important to show younger people (the target demographic of Instagram) that edited/Photoshopped pictures is not real life; that it’s okay to be YOU; and that people gravitate towards authenticity over fakeness.”

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:

All in all what have I learned about pregnancy and childbirth is applicable to everyone:

  • Our bodies have done amazing work, let us celebrate the scars that remind us of that.
  • You cannot expect a mother to be ‘back’ in her pre-pregnancy body within a couple of months. Or ever. It is physically not possible due to the changed hormones, changed living circumstances and changed priorities
  • Yarn helps, playing with yarn is a stress reliever and a little escape. Also, our community is amazing at lifting each other up and getting us towards body acceptance!

The colour wheel of ASD

Laura in her Tunisian Simple Cable Cardigan
(@handmadebyRoeska)

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Laura Beth King. Laura is a military spouse and stay-at-home mom to two amazing autistic boys, Zane and Zeke. She spends much of her time with them, learning and exploring the world. She uses crochet as a tool during their therapy and also to connect with them. She also loves to bake, read, and play piano, which her sons also enjoy. You can find Laura on Instagram: @lost_boys_crochet.

I first met Laura while pattern testing together and more recently, she has tested my #TunisianSimpleCableCardigan over the last few months. In the tester chat, she has shared several pictures of the unfinished cardigan being confiscated by her sons.

Z in the Tunisian Rainbow Winter Set (@handmadebyRoeska)

Laura, first of all, what exactly is autism? “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder in which the individual’s brain is wired differently. As this is the case, they perceive the world differently than others.” 

What I find interesting here is that in the genetics class I teach, we discuss “normal” genes and mutations. I always tell my students we describe genes as wild type (functional) genes versus mutant genes and we are all a mixture of wild type and mutant – nobody is normal! For example, are you fair haired? You are a pigment – mutant… So to perceive the world differently than what is typically considered mainstream is quite normal, in my opinion!

“While someone can be fully social and do well in crowds, they can have trouble with auditory processing, another can be the complete opposite”

Z in the Ruby and Lace Sweater (@sweetcrochetdreams)

The way autism is perceived has been changing lately; a mainstream view of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and autistic people is generally based on popular media, starting with the movie Rainman and more recently going to the more popular (Netflix series) Atypical and The Good Doctor (ABC). Laura tells me, “These views show individuals who are savants as well, and have the same characteristics of not handling loud noises, being touched, self-harming, etc. Even more recently was the moment with (popstar) Sia where she chose to cast an actor for her newest film who did not have ASD to portray Autism because she claimed that it was too difficult to work with an autistic person. The actor who did get the role admitted to getting ready for the part by watching hours of autistic people having meltdowns, which is seriously messed up (read more about this here).

Because of these perceptions, many autistic people are told that they don’t look like they have Autism or are asked to do amazing mathematical or scientific feats. It is a full spectrum, and only part is really represented in the media.”

Lack of representation in media has been a major topic of discussion for BIPOC communities, and Autistic people are similarly underrepresented.   Even when there is an Autistic character in a show or movie, it’s not uncommon for a neurotypical actor to be cast in the role. This made me wonder what Laura thinks of how people perceive people with ASD

“Both boys love helping me frog, so I have to watch them around WIPs”

Z in the Despite Shawl (@detroitknots)

“Because of the stereotyping, most people don’t understand it, at all. ASD is best represented as a color wheel. While someone can be fully social and do well in crowds, they can have trouble with auditory processing where they only hear parts of what is said of trouble with executive function. Another person can be the complete opposite. There are so many different facets that meeting one person with ASD or viewing one show with a character with ASD, does not prepare them for others on the spectrum. Most people also don’t realize that there are individuals on the spectrum who are non-speaking while others take every word said as absolute truth. Without Zane’s device, and if there is no one around to understand American Sign Language (ASL), he cannot communicate. There are different triggers, different ways of handling those triggers, and Zane can help communicate his needs, but someone has to take the time to know and understand. Whereas Zeke is also considered non-speaking, even with all of his words, because he does what is called echolalia. He feels compelled to echo back words or phrases that he has heard, but rarely uses those words appropriately to communicate. For many, this can be unsettling. And it is that perception that they are odd or other that worries me. It ostracizes them, and what they really need is others who are persistent in helping them. We as a society often push those who are other to the fringes. When we don’t understand something, society has a tendency to bully it, or worse. There are still several groups that are trying to find a cure, when autistic people and people who love autistic people have said numerous times that there is nothing wrong and no cure is needed. It is easy for those without voices to not be heard and to fall into the cracks of a system that was never truly meant to support them.” 

“When we don’t understand something, society has a tendency to bully it, or worse”

Z in the Tunisian Meadow Shawl (@Mikahraedeluctions)

How can the fiber arts help build a bridge between autistic people and neurotypical people? “Some of the ways that fiber arts can build a bridge is accepting others who are different, such as the quirky coworker or the odd person in the group. But, other ways, more interesting ways, would include things like Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos or makes that appeal in a sensory way. An example of this would be Shirsty Cat (https://www.shirstycat.com/), an indie dyer, who does ASMR videos when she dyes her yarn. Zane in particular loves watching them (his favorite so far was the video when she dyed up The Void Stares Back). Or there are some ASMR videos for knitting and crocheting.”

“The focus of the ASMR videos is to take away the noise and give something visually appealing to help calm down. For example, Shirty Cat’s videos simply show the yarn and the colors being poured over it. There is music in the background, but it is barely audible. The focus is on the yarn and colors. The crochet (IG handle @prosperityroom) ones focus on the texture of the pattern being made, texture of the yarn, and the person doing the video whispers the entire time. For knitting ones, you really just hear the needles clicking as they knit. Those usually have no talking in them as the needles already make a sound.” 

How do your boys influence the pattern testing that you do? How do they contribute? “More often than not, I look for patterns that will appeal to them in some way. Top down garments with no seams, pieces with cool textural elements, or ones with colorways are more appealing to them, and to me. Zane will often sit next to me and hold the hook to help me crochet. They also love watching me wind up the yarn. The only problem being that they will also grab the swift in the process, Zeke especially. Both boys love helping me frog, so I have to watch them around WIPs. There have been a few times that they have taken part of my project apart, and I find them on the floor with yarn on their heads cackling maniacally as they continue to frog my piece. I also let them help me pick out colors for my projects.”

“Autistic people are people. They may think differently or act differently, but it doesn’t make them lesser”

Z in the Tunisian Simple Cable Cardigan (@handmadebyRoeska)

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Autistic people are people. They may think differently or act differently, but it doesn’t make them lesser. There is so much to learn, so much happiness and wonder, but only if you take the time to know them. So many times when I (Laura) say that the boys are autistic, people will tell me about someone that they know, but more often than not, it is someone that they know of but haven’t taken the time to get to know. Take the time to see them, to know them, to experience things with them. Autistic people can make the most mundane things something spectacular. There is so much beauty and joy that can be found and learned through autistic people. There are moments that are just so awe inspiring, and it is in those seemingly normal moments when the most amazing things truly happen.

“Autistic people can make the most mundane things something spectacular”

All in all what have I learned about autistic people is applicable to everyone:

  • Take the time to get to know a person
  • Never judge someone based on media portrayals: don’t say “you don’t look like you are _____.”
  • Yarn soothes – and I need to look up those ASMR videos of yarn being dyed and knits being made, and we all need to admire more crochet texture!

Introduction

Since diversity and inclusion are hot topics in several communities, whether it is science or the yarnie crafty community, for me as a teacher and scientist by profession I feel obliged to my community to write about people. In this blog post I will get into a dialog with crafters from our community and (hopefully) show you how diverse, but beautiful we ALL are!

I started my PhD in molecular plant development in 2012. You might ask me: “what does that have to do with anything? Scientists?” Well, I’ve started to realize that in order to be a very successful scientist, you need to be able to communicate. Listening to a presentation is much more fun if the presenter knows their audience and can tickle their interest. How do they know their audience? Let me ask you, as  a fellow yarnie, how do you know your audience? Your first clue is: they are like me, so whatever I like, they like.

When I started teaching Biomedical Sciences in 2017 – teaching is my calling – I needed to know my audience. How do I get difficult biological concepts into the brains of my eager students? And so, I followed a course in diversity and inclusion. A whole new world opened for me. We all know we are different, but did you realize we are ALL unique? We all come from a different story, different part of the world, different parents, different socio-economic backgrounds, WE ARE ALL SHAPED IN A UNIQUE WAY. Especially with the recent developments in our fiber community and discussions, I wanted to take my diversity and inclusion experiences to you and this blog was born.

Why this blog?

  • Because I want to show you that even though we are different, we have FIBER to bind us;
  • Because it will help you understand that we are all beautiful in our own ways;
  • Because I hope to create more understanding towards each other!

Every month, I will interview one of our beautiful community and write a blog about it. I am hoping to co-host the dialog between makers…
all designers (=pattern makers), fiber makers, notions makers, etc are welcome!
…to get an idea of what we will discuss:

Including, but not limited to:

  • neurodiversity, (chronic) illnesses;
  • racism, Black Lives Matter (BLM), Asian/Pacific Islander (API);
  • self-love, feminism, size inclusivity;
  • indigenous peoples, the LGBTQIA2S+ community, and religious diversity

I am looking forward to publishing the first blog very sooooon!

Feel free to reach out if you want to suggest a topic, or cohost, or be interviewed!

All the Fiber Feelings, talk soon!