When Crafting Gets Political

If you missed it earlier today, Ravelry, a resource a great many crafters use to find patterns, ideas, and other crafters drew a line in the sand.

To make a long story short, leave your support of Trump and his administration off of Ravelry.  If you want to read the full announcement you can find it here.  It’s been one of the biggest political moves I’ve seen in the crafting world, period.

I was surprised by the move, but will admit I’ve not been surprised by the reactions I’ve seen in other crafting groups I follow online, responses to the policy seem to be firmly in one camp or the other.   The political climate in the good ol’ US of A has been more than a little tense the past few years.  I try to make it a point to keep my own political beliefs off of Coffee and Wool and it’s associated facebook page unless a craft related event warrants it, and even then, I do my best to remain neutral.  Which, believe me, can be pretty difficult somedays. I’m not politically neutral in my non-crafting life.

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of heated political discussion getting involved in a medium I use to relax and use as a form of thoughtful meditation.  It’s just a good way to ruin a good thing, but there is a great many people that use fiber art in many forms to express their political beliefs.  Art in any form has a lot to do with personal preference and expression.

The most recent example that a lot of us saw, made, or where asked to make where the “pink pussy hats”.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with craftivism or crafting your political viewpoint, I’m all for it if that’s your thing.

What a lot of people tend to forget when it comes to membership in large social networking forums like Ravelry, Facebook, Twitter, etc., that they are entities that are making their own rules and those rules can evolve as needed.  We all sign ToS agreements (that very few of us read) that all have legal language along the lines that our posts can be moderated on whatever terms the site choses.

If you find yourself disagreeing with the new Ravelry policy and don’t feel like you can further participate within those realms, you have the option to collect your patterns, download your site data and move on.  If you find yourself celebrating the new policy, carry on as normal.  But I feel like the point needing to be stressed that ad hominem  attacks on fellow crafters for falling one way or another does little to help ease tensions.  We are unique in the fact that we are such an amazingly diverse group that has a single element that unites us.

So the big question here is, did Ravelry make a mistake with this announcement?

Yes, no, maybe?  Yeah I know, I’m not a help at all here.  Go back and read that part where I would like to politically neutral. The best answer here is, time will tell. The crafting community is incredibly diverse.  There will be a noticeable percentage of people that will walk away from Ravelry over this new rule.  Will it be enough that advertising slows?  Is there a chance advertisers will pull their own sponsorship? Maybe.

A lot of us American’s are a little too tense these days.  Maybe we should just pick up our yarn, master our craft, and be the better example and keep things civil.

Update: Much like the sites I’ve listed above having rules about what can and can’t be said, this blog also has some very basic guidelines.  I moderate the comments, and anything I deem inappropriate or down right spam gets rejected. There’s only been two that I’ve rejected and one of those was on this post.

I was rather rudely told to “check my privilege” and my crafting history over the comments I made in the rest of this post.  I’m going to address it very quickly.  There is a long and beautiful history of knitting participating in politics, codes and information have been hiding in hand crafted items for centuries.  There are thousands of objects created that have a clear political stance.  I’ve always supported those that have chosen to express their political views despite how I feel about where they fall on the political spectrum.  I expressed that support in the main text as well.  Read things before you jump down someone’s throat.

I’m far from blind or ignorant of the discussions regarding racism and white privilege within the fiber arts and crafting communities that spawned from instagram posts and into broader mediums.

Bottom line, this crafter has chosen not to express her political viewpoint on a blog or on a facebook page.  The rest of my life is affected by political choices and the ideologies of others being forced on me wether I agree or not, crafting is the one realm where I can reject that influence and I intend to keep doing so. It does not mean I remain silent on political topics in the rest of my life.

The greater goal of Coffee and Wool is to share information, encourage fiber artists new and old, and remind people that crafting can have an amazing impact on one’s life by being a medium for meditation, relaxation, and at times socialization. I cannot have a public political stance and have those goals for this ongoing project. I won’t alienate people that way.

Stitching for Sanity

Knitting is good for you. No, really, it is I swear! There’s science proving it.

And there we go, end of this post….

Okay, maybe not, I should probably elaborate a bit more. This is one of the more serious posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and it felt like time to get it done.

If you belong to any online knitting group you’ve seen the shared posts with a few bullet points with the benefits to knitting complied from a few recent studies. Even though these posts seem to be limited specifically to knitting, my gut hunch that the benefits spread across multiple crafting genres that require fine movement and concentration, like crochet, cross stitch, embroidery, on and on and on. These benefits have been listed as …

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced depression and anxiety
  • Slowed onset of dementia
  • Distraction from chronic pain
  • Increased sense of wellbeing
  • Reduced loneliness and isolation

Great, right?!?

This is where things get a little more personal. I’ve had my own battle with general anxiety disorder and moderate depression issues since my late high school – early college years, and being a mere 20 years ago, in southern West Virginia, we still didn’t really talk about mental health issues that much. The family doc would occasionally prescribe something to help me sleep or I would be on and off a low dose anti-depressant now and then but little was done beyond that. Almost nothing beyond a script was mentioned, no therapy, no mention of ways to manage stress, just pop a pill, get some sleep, and all will be fine. I even had a doctor tell me once that I would grow out of it, that these issues were normal for most people my age. Instead, it has intensified over the years, but I still manage at a level that leaves me able to do my job, and interact with friends and family on a regular basis with little notice that I may or may not be struggling at times. Is there a day every once in a while where I need to get away from work and people and just breathe? Absolutely. Do I still take medication? Yep. Have I learned to recognize I’m struggling and act accordingly? Yes, with time and maturity. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of us paddling in this same boat. I truly believe that our constant connection to others and the world through technology, social networking and the media we are more anxious and stressed than ever. We’ve made it hard to “unplug” and have the quiet time we need to manage ourselves and our own wellbeing.

Since my own issues began, the world has gotten a little better about addressing mental health issues, but we are still coming up dramatically short on effectively helping those that have them. I’ve seen the medical community fail close friends and even family, time and time again by insisting on medicating them into oblivion with little to no therapy, or education on tools that could help one manage more efficiently with the help of medication, others have coped well with the help of medical intervention. Then there is a fair share of people that thought they could self-medicate through legal or illegal means and do a better job than modern medicine. It’s a multi-faceted debate on mental health treatment and this could be a very long conversation on its own but let’s move on.

I’ve been a crocheter since I was a little kid, and started knitting in my 20s, and would just work on a project here and there to battle boredom or simply because I enjoyed it. I didn’t realize these hobbies could be a therapeutic tool for myself until after the sudden death of my brother in 2014. It was then that I began knitting on an almost daily basis because it helped me clear my mind, and work through the grieving process. Time has helped heal that wound to the extent that it can be, but even with the recent loss of others or at times of high stress, my now casual (because I truly enjoy it) knitting will evolve back into a form of therapy, usually done in the evening to help process the day and how I feel about it. I find myself more stressed at times when I’m too busy to sit down with yarn and needles. For me, yarn work has been as effective if not more so than medication for coping with anxiety, stress, and depression, it’s just a part of how I stay “sane”. It’s an outlet that has the benefit of a finished product at the end. However, it is not the only means of managing my own issues, I still see my doctor on a regular basis to determine medication needs.

Now that all said…this is my experience with knitting as a form of self therapy. Even if all you can do is knit garter stitch or crochet granny squares one after another these acts have value. Am I saying jump off your prescribed treatment by your medical professional, ABSOLUTELY NOT. Crafting is a compliment to your treatment plan whatever that may be.

If you feel like you’ve been struggling with anxiety, depression, or any issue that could be impacting your own wellbeing, I can not more strongly recommend trying a fiber craft as a form of self-therapy, but first, see a medical professional, and then find your local yarn store.

Yarn Snobbery: Justified?

Yarn-Snob-Pin-IvoryIf I’ve learned anything hanging out with knitting types is that there are varying levels of yarn snobbery.

I’ve met them before: the true, honest-to-god-, in the wild, classic yarn snob.  These are the people who only knit 100% natural fibers, usually with the highest price tag, and shrivel at the notion of touching any man-made fiber.   I’ve actually had a classic yarn snob say to me with a straight face that they were allergic to acrylic yarns and meant it. I’m not saying that an acrylic allergy is impossible but the gut hunch in this situation was this person felt the need to justify their fiber extravagance with a statement that many wouldn’t go out of the way to question.

There’s another classification of yarn snob; the acrylic snob.  Yes, they actually exist, and usually stand aghast in a local yarn store when they see the price of high-end yarns.  These folks love their yarn work, but they can’t justify the cost of pricier yarns for a myriad of reasons.

Both sides of the snobbery fence can make beautiful knitted or crocheted projects out of their materials of choice; and often stand in judgement on one side of the fence or the other.  The classic snobs are seen as pretentous the acrylic snobs are accused of beign cheap. Is it really worth it to park firmly in one camp or the other?

That answer is NAH!

I’ll admit that I’ve railed against certain brands of mass-produced commercial yarns (cough cough Red Heart cough cough) but even it has its purpose in the crafting world.  Most beginning knitters and crocheters begin with these types of yarns.  I fall into that category, dozens of projects were hooked in my childhood and teenage years.  Honestly, chain craft store yarn was really the only thing available to me for a very long time, and I really didn’t know any better.  I learned to knit in my 20s on the same yarns, and then I eventually wandered into local yarn shop and my knitwork began to change dramatically, and went through a few solid years of classic yarn snobbery.  It was lacework that forced me down the classic snob path, and I still won’t use a anything but a natural fiber for the thinnest of yarns, personally, I think it’s a risk to do fine lace work and then not have it block out correctly because of a too high man-made fiber content.

Being a classic yarn snob is expensive as hell though, and I evolved into a yarn connoisseur by necessity and a great deal of crafters fall into the connoisseur category.

Connoisseurs have learned the pros and cons to different fiber types and blends of those types.  An 100% acrylic yarn can’t be traditionally blocked and may not be the best for a garment, but an acrylic yarn with a 20-30% natural fiber content will block beautifully most of the time instead of dropping $150+ for higher end natural yarns for a sweater.  We’ve learned that there are some projects that an inexpensive acrylic yarn can really be the best choice, especially for items that could really end up taking a beating like toys and some afghans.  We’ve learned that the super squishy soft cashmere and wool blend would be gorgeous for that baby sweater for a friend but know that it would realistically be a burden on a new parent to have to hand wash it so it’ll end up worn once and put in a drawer, so we find a soft, washer and dryer friendly yarn instead. We all know that one craft-worthy friend that simply can’t wear animal fiber due to allergy or lifestyle choices, blends of cottons, bamboo, viscose, or other materials are acquired. Knowing fiber types and how they function and are made go a long way, and is absolutely worth taking the time to learn, and help others learn that walking down the middle path of yarn acquisition isn’t a bad idea.

While introducing crafty types to different yarns and manufacturing processes – they learn how to make an educated decision for their individual project needs.  But, what one ultimately chooses is entirely personal choice. Yep, totally personal choice.  Curling your nose and someone’s choice of yarn isn’t polite.

I personally prefer animal fiber or mostly animal fiber blends for myself.  I will admit that this preference isn’t the most budget friendly at times, but it helps if you have a talent for catching a good sale here and there.  If you take a good look at my horde though, you’ll find a pretty fair split between high-end animal fibers, and animal fiber and man-made fiber blends.  There’s even a fair amount of acrylics for oddball needs here and there.  It’s a balanced horde, and one I’ve sworn to work from for quite a while (well, unless someone asks me to knit them something specific as a commissioned project).

 

All in all, to each their own, it all really boils down to we’re making stuff for ourselves, and for others, and are having a great time doing it.