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.

Unapologetically Busy

When was the last time I wrote anything?
May?
I’m just a little behind on updates and my knitting.

I haven’t finished anything significant in a little while.

No, I’ve not fallen out of love with knitting, life has been a little busy lately.  It happens to even the most dedicated of knit junkies.  There’s a few unfinished projects laying around and there’s a sweater to knit for a good friend of mine that I would like to finish before the coldest part of winter arrives in Georgia.  So deadlines….

What’s been going on?

Well there’s always work shenanigans.  It’s been a very busy summer.

Then there’s the big change.  I moved.  This wasn’t entirely planned but when the opportunity to purchase a home that had a mortgage that could fit my budget, fit my needs, and had also been recently remodeled, I jumped on it.  I moved into the new place in early August and still have a room full of boxes to unpack.  Most of my knitting goodies are behind the wall of boxes on purpose, if there were easily accessible, those last boxes may never get unpacked.

That’s part of the plans for my weekend though, unpacking, and organizing it into a functional space.

There it is, it’s short, but it’s an update.  Things will settle down before long, and things will get back to normal.

Travel Season is Here. What Are You Taking With You?

Long car rides and flights, days on the beach, evenings on campsites, summer vacation season is days away.  What are you taking with you to work on?

If you’ve never taken a project on the road, give it a shot on your next trip!

So what makes a good travel project?

I’ve traveled with everything from socks to sweaters, it really depends on the type of trip, but I’ve found that there are few guidelines to making travel crafting pleasurable.

  • Think small. I know summer seems like a the wrong time of year to be thinking about hats, socks and scarves, but these are great small projects to bring along.  They take up just a little space and in most cases don’t require more than yarn, needles/hook, and maybe a pair of scissors.
  • Think simple.  If your project requires multiple charts or a novel of directions, it can get fidgety when confined to a small work space like a plane or car.  There are plenty of one page projects or one page, easy to remember charts out there to pick from.
  • Think color.  One color is your friend!  Trying to manage multiple colors can be light fighting an octopus when you’re on the move.

Here are a few ideas for projects to throw into a project bag and carry along on your next adventure….

Lataa can be made with a single skein of sock yarn and has a small repeating chart.

The Vortex Shawl can get a little large but is still manageable on the road. Once you’ve completed a few repeats of the pattern, it’ll stick with you until it’s done.

These Poseidon Socks pack a lot of punch without a lot of fiddling around.

Coraline in Wine Country has an easy to memorize pattern and it’s a crochet piece so it’ll move along fast.

Vanilla Latte Socks are a quick work up, and would work with virtually any colorway.

With a linen based yarn the Clapotis Cowl would be a great summer piece for those chilly office spaces you’ll have to return to after your vacation.

There it is…just a handful ideas to pack up and take with you on the road this summer.  Give it a try! Want to share your favorite travel projects? Post them up in the comments.

A Yarn Addict Without a Dealer: What’s Next?

It’s been officially announced.  Yarn Rhapsody, the home away from home, the place where I’ve met people who have become family and close friends, and the host site for my classes and knitalongs is closing.

I walked into Yarn Rhapsody early in 2015, and bought two skeins of deep purple Malabrigo sock weight.  I was on the verge of a knitting binge of epic proportions and finding a yarn shop in my own backyard was a blessing in more ways than one. When I needed a sense of community the most it was there.  It sounds cheesy but this little store on Dawsonville Highway changed my life.

Over the years watching others create beautiful projects one stitch at a time encouraged me to challenge myself with harder and harder projects.  It was Claudia (the owner) who encouraged me to begin teaching.  Without her, this ongoing project of mine would not exist.

It’s been heartbreaking to see customers fall away as shop hours became unpredictable last summer/ fall while Claudia was going through cancer treatment.  Even though she’s regained her health, the customer base didn’t come back despite efforts to pull people back in. Small business can not afford to lose momentum.

I’m deeply concerned for my friend (and German big sister), she’s loosing her livelihood and her dream job.  She’s a survivor in more ways than one, isn’t the type to wallow in self pity, and she’ll land on her feet and continue to move forward to her next chapter, but this type of transition is never easy for anyone.  So please, wish her well, and help her with her biggest request as the store wraps up its last days, empty it.  She would like to close the doors on the last day with nothing left to pack up.

I’m horrible at eulogizing Yarn Rhapsody, but this is a bitter loss, a blow to the local crafting community, the small business community, and Claudia.

Despite the resurgence of knitting and crocheting, local yarn stores are struggling.  Like most brick and mortar stores they battle online retailers that offer the same products for a buck or two cheaper with free delivery.  There’s also competition heating up between yarn stores and commercial chain craft stores, with the resurgence of yarnwork these retailers are slowly getting better yarns on their shelves at better prices, Red Heart even has a 100% merino wool line now. Everyone knows Red Heart, especially their super saver line with it’s scratchy plastic feel, known for decades for their 100% acrylic yarns.  How many millions of  blankets have been made out of it though? Are these yarns the quality you would see at most local yarn shops? No.  They certainly are tempting for some project types though, like the quick gift for the questionably knit worthy friend or family member, or for those that are ready to start knitting/crocheting larger and more difficult projects but are worried about the financial commitment.   All of this sends yarn stores a little further down the specialty store rabbit hole when lines like Encore Worsted and Cascade 220 have competitors readily available at Michael’s and JoAnn’s.

So what happens with Coffee and Wool now? Simply put, things are evolving.

First, let me make clear, that Claudia and I have discussed a lot of what I’m about to type out, even now, I have no intention on stepping on her toes.  She’s been a knitting mentor and a very good friend for several years now, if she decides she wants to teach and offer other project based services after the shop closes, I have no intention of doing anything to aggressively compete with her.  We have similar abilities, know what our individual strengths are, and have somewhat different teaching styles.  I can still see us working together on quite a few levels to make sure the educational/project help/repair needs of the local knitting/crochet community are still met after the dust settles and Claudia lands on her feet again.

Of course little of the blog side will change.  I’ll write posts, and share what information I can about the crafts we commonly love.  I’m still in search of people, places, and products that make yarnwork more interesting.

Locations for classes and craftalongs will change.  There may not be one single location in the end, and I won’t offer as many options per month.  I’m hoping to have the location issues worked out by mid-month and begin offering classes and craftalongs again beginning in May.

There will not be the convenience of a yarn store at the fingertips, so there will be need to be  better pre-planning and communication with students and participants to make sure every one has what they need before sessions begin. Options for a reservation/booking system and pre-payment are being researched. The duration of individual sessions and the number of sessions for each class/knitalong will likely change.  The current plan is longer sessions of 2-3 hours each with 1-2 meetings per class instead of one hour sessions. Craftalongs will more than likely remain at one hour each for a designated number of sessions.

I am working on creating a dedicated space in my home to serve some of the needs that the shop used to fill.  This will be space for finishing and repair services, that I intend to keep as pet free as possible.  It has always been a concern of mine when bringing home a client’s project to keep my cats (and their fluff) as far away as possible, both for the protection of project and reducing allergens.  Living in an historic small home, this is an interesting challenge but one well under way with some planning and rearranging.

I will continue to work with my private students and will happily take on more.  Individual classes will be offered at my home from time to time, a local coffee-house (the most likely option), or if the student is comfortable with the idea, I can travel to their home.  Unfortunately, my home isn’t well suited for group sessions, but I can work with a single student easily.

I am currently not interested in being a shop teacher at a single location again like I was with Yarn Rhapsody, at least not right now.  I have greater interest in possibly traveling for a half or full day group class with focus on a single project type or technique.  I am beginning to develop these type of classes and hope to roll them out late summer or early fall, more likely winter.

I would like to seriously begin designing more.  In fact, there’s a design project looming for a close friend that will be hilarious and adorable at the same time.

There it is, change is inevitable and rolling with the punches is necessary.  At a minimum I would love to stay in contact with the amazing people I have met through the shop since walking in the doors for the first time in 2015, and those that have waltzed through the shop doors since then.  The yarn craft community in northeast Georgia is special.

For those that aren’t local to northeast Georgia, its too late to save this local yarn store in Gainesville, but please, shop at your own local yarn stores for your crafting needs whenever possible.  These  business are ran by a lot of love and fairly small profit margins, no one is going to get rich selling yarn, but they are invaluable resources to the crafting community.  Too many of them have shuttered their doors over the years and we’re loosing another great one.

Shop small, shop local.