Random Musings About Life and/or Yarn – OMG Yarn (balls)

Random Musings About Life and/or Yarn

Guest Post: Art, Cultural Appropriation, and Inspiration an Essay by John Ziv

August 2, 2017




Uh oh, look out, another controversial post about a topic that affects artists everywhere. This time it is cultural appropriation.

It is a topic that comes up quite often in social media. With the sociopolitical climate being what it is, “call-out culture” has reshaped what it means to be an active participant online, even within the fiber arts community.

And the discussion always gets heated.

No one, not even members within disparaged culture/group in question, can agree on the subject, and because the Internet is what it is, people get offensive, defensive, or just plain bold. Maybe it’s an effort to not look a certain way, BUT feelings ALWAYS get hurt.

When the lovely John Ziv of Working Wood Production approached me with an essay on this topic to post in Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists, a LARGE Facebook group that I help admin, I sat back and read it. It provoked thought, and I immediately envisioned the s**t storm that would ensue within the group.

This is a message that must be shared as food for thought, but as I mentioned, feelings ALWAYS get hurt. So in an effort to be more about community rather than competition – in this case, the cliche competition of “who’s the most woke” comes to mind – I am posting this essay with comments turned off.

That does not mean approach me or other admins from the group, or John about the topic with name-calling or assumptions about our intent. The intent is to start discussion outside of this arena, because really, OMG Yarn (Balls) is about appreciation of the fiber arts and provoking thought for you to do with what you will, as long as any negative energy is not being flung at others.

Anyway, I love the group members, readers and customers I work with on a daily basis, but right now, this is the world we live in. So, just food for thought, don’t shoot the messenger, and any other overused saying…shenanigans won’t be tolerated.

Without further ado…




Art, Cultural Appropriation, and Inspiration by John Ziv

This is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately, and unfortunately, I think a great many people don’t actually understand 1) what the terms mean, and 2) that generally, it is none of their business.

—–

First off, what is Art?

Art is in its simplest form, expression. It can be stacking two rocks on top of each other in a way that pleases or satisfies the person doing the stacking. It can be someone banging those two rocks together. It can be someone taking strands of grass and wrapping those rocks in them. Does that mean that it has to please or satisfy anyone else, or evoke an emotion or expression? Absolutely not.

Art is personal. It has nothing whatsoever to do with other people, unless the artist themselves decides to make it for other people. Even then, their opinion of said art, unless they are buying it, displaying it, or helping put it together, is their opinion, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the expression of the artist.

—–

Cultural Appropriation?

That is the “theft” of cultural icons by another culture. This can be anything from clothing patterns, to music, and even to linguistic idioms. Most commonly it is done by a dominant culture to a minority culture.

The biggest problem with cultural appropriation is that it often distorts, and eventually leads to the loss of meaning in regards to the elements of the culture that have been stolen. This can lead to severe misunderstandings and prejudices, as well as damage to both cultures.

However, one thing to note is that cultural assimilation is an ongoing process, and will happen no matter how protective of ones culture a community may be. For instance, we have historic evidence of the Nordic Seafarers(aka the Vikings) having adopted elements all the way from Russia to Africa, and even some from India and the Far East.

Some exchanges are good, in that they have been exchanges of knowledge. Better methods of construction, medicine, textiles, even cooking. Others have been extremely harmful, such as the Opium Epidemic in the far east, the Abrahmic religions(which are based on an amalgamation of several religions dating back to at least as early as 2000BC), and the forced loss of culture by slave owners and conquerors of various countries/indigenous peoples.

—–

Inspiration is just that, whatever happens to inspire you to do something. Sometimes it is something that happens to be part of your personal mainstream culture. Other times it is something that is part and parcel of another culture entirely, but happens to call you to create.

—–

Obviously, these three things can and do come into conflict when people are more concerned about protecting something that is effectively immaterial, rather than appreciating that the thought process is different for each person.

What inspires one person, and what that person takes from another culture, and then creates in expression, will not, cannot, be properly judged by anyone else, because it is a personal expression of what they think, feel, and wish to create.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like it. In fact you are free to dislike it, dislike what it stands for, dislike the person creating it, and otherwise just despise the entirety. I certainly have some artists who I can’t stand them, their work, their inspiration, or the fact that they pull it from a culture that they know nothing about.

What it does mean is that you should stop, and really think about why something bothers you, and if there truly is a theft, then speak out. If it is someone simply crafting for the beauty of it, appreciate it, ask about their inspiration, and discuss it and politely note that it bothers you slightly. If it is something that is simply a cheapening of your culture, laugh at them, and walk away. If it is outright theft, go at them hammer and tongs.

Most of all, don’t get on a high horse about the work of someone else, when you know nothing about their culture, or their inspiration. Rushing to judge is not good for you, or the artist.

—–

My personal thoughts.

I see artistic culture as an ever evolving ecosystem. Some species never really change much, waxing and waning, but always there. Other species flare up, grow enormously for a short while, and then die off suddenly. And some species are born from a mixture of other species, and find their niche in the ecosystem that allows them to grow, thrive, and be a productive part of that particular biosphere.

I do not approve of outright cultural theft. Do not go and claim your art is the real thing, when you have not immersed yourself into that culture and really learned what it means.

Be inspired by whatever you come across. If you happen to be inspired by music, dance, painting, textiles, language, or whatever, that is A-OK. Let it influence your world view, learn about it, interpret it, keep your mind open to other thoughts and ways of doing things. And be respectful while you do it.

If it weren’t for the good parts of cultural appropriation, we would not have music such as R&B, Rock, or regional Folk Music. We would not have such amazing spices for cooking such as Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon. We would not have Chocolate or Coffee! We would not have Arabic mathematical symbols and calculating methods. We would not have advanced medicine. We simply would not have much of what most of us appreciate on a day to day basis.

Sharing pieces of a culture does not take from that culture. The culture itself is still intact, unless it is being repressed. If you want to preserve your culture intact, make the effort to do so, but be glad that people outside your culture find parts or even most of it, something that inspires them and is appreciated by them, however misguided they may be.

Basically, don’t be an ass.

—–

As always, my Essays, Rants, Jokes, and Philosophical Maunderings are free to share. On topic discussion is welcome. Trolls and off topic discussion will be removed with an industrial blender and a hose fertilizer attachment.




Put Down the Yarn Balls for a Minute: Let’s Make Some Slime

July 12, 2017




As a work from home mom, I need to find a good balance of work and play. That means sometimes I have to put the yarn down and pick up some fun activities that the kiddos can enjoy.

This time, my not-so-little Peanut had been BEGGING to make slime. I gave in. Of course, with this being a trend, and even having seen a YouTube goddess on Good Morning America with her own slime recipe, I had to try it.

The problem: All the slime recipes contained Borax. I make my own laundry detergent, so this is a common household item for me, but I also know that it destroys my skin if I touch it with my bare hands. I can only imagine what that would’ve done to my kiddos’ hands.

And because we do things with the OMG Factor, we needed to make bright and glittery slime without the requisite glitter epidemic that follows (I usually refer to this as glerpes, because once you have glitter, you have it for life).

My instructions are for one batch of slime which is enough for one child.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 6oz bottle of Elmer’s Glitter Glue
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons Contact Solution
  • OPTIONAL: You’re welcome to add little things to the slime like toys, those little styrofoam balls, or whatever you like to make your slime even more awesome for your kiddos. I opted to add “Slime Ballz” that I found at Michael’s.

Other supplies:

  • Measuring spoons – Tablespoon and teaspoon
  • Mixing bowl – You might want to use disposable bowls or ones that you don’t care if you don’t use them again for anything else
  • Wooden stirrer – Like a paint stirrer or popsicle stick used for craft projects
  • Ziplock bags – For storage

Making slime is so easy, even 3 year old Sharky helped!

Instructions

  1. Pour the glue into the mixing bowl.
  2. Add the baking soda to the glue and stir until it’s completely mixed in. The glitter glue will look cloudy when ready. OPTIONAL: If you’re adding any toys or other things to your slime, this is the step where you add them.
  3. Add the contact lens solution. The mixture will start to harden quickly, so stir as much as you can before it turns into a ball. It will also stick to the stirrer, so you can pull the slime off of there when you get to the next step.
  4. Knead the slime by hand. Knead your slime into the remaining contact solution in the bowl like you’re making bread. The contact solution will make the glue become less and less sticky.
  5. Enjoy your slime! Play games with your slime. See how far you can stretch it. Mash it into a ball. Whatever you want, the sky is the limit.




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Quick Crochet Tutorial: How to do a Standing Double Crochet

July 5, 2017




You know I love to do ALL things fiber arts, right? That includes crochet.

I’m always knitting and always crocheting and sometimes things don’t always work out how you like them to, so you learn to fudge it, scheme it, or just plain make it work.

The goal of the site is to help cut out some of the scheming to make your projects look better by actually teaching some of the complicated stitches you might come across in your patterns.

Standing Double Crochet: A Brief Tutorial

I came across the standing double crochet while working on a cute little crochet sweater for Sharky two Christmases ago.

Even with almost two decades of crochet experience under my belt, I had never heard of this stitch which was being used to start rows of stripes along the front of his sweater. Sorry, I just remember what pattern I was using.

I initially shared the short tutorial on Instagram back in 2015, but it’s time to put this all in one searchable place that both you and I can come back to for reference. So, here we go:

Using the photograph above as a guide, complete these steps…
1. Yarn over hook twice. 2 loops on hook.
2. Insert your hook into the stitch, draw up a loop. 3 loops on hook.
3. Yarn over and pull through two loops on hook. 2 loops on hook.
4. Yarn over again and pull through two loops on hook. 1 loop remains and you’re done!
5. Once your next stitch is completed, your tail is tucked into the work.




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Gritty Photography, Free Spirits and The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

June 28, 2017




 I like photography that stands out. I also like yarn that stands out and speaks for itself. When paired with the perfect project, photography and yarn can certainly make indie dyed yarn into a work of art.

The idea behind the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic design was to have a simple, oversized top that I could wear anywhere AND show off my yarn in a way that doesn’t take away from the speckled colorways I have been dyeing lately.

With the photography, I got adventurous in every way.

iPhone Photography

I use my iPhone for photography these days. Gone are the days where I had the time to grab my camera, take photos, download photos, edit photos, and then choose the best to go into patterns.

I take photos and edit them right in Instagram, send them to myself, and they get done in a much more streamlined manner (if that’s not another blog post, I don’t know what is…haha). The results are more unique photos and way less time is spent fighting with computer software to do what I want it to do.

The photos from the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic were purposefully grittier. They’re a throwback to when photography was new and a bit more of a raw art.

They’re also an homage to my favorite cinema director Tony Scott who experimented with older hand cranked cameras in the movie Man on Fire. The raw cinematography contributed to the die hard emotions of the film and was a way to draw the audience in to the wild spirt that comes alive when avenging the apparent death of a loved one.

I got a little adventurous and took the short walk to our lakefront in order to get a unique backdrop from the Lake Michigan shore. The free spirit in me has always loved looking out onto the lake and seeing nothing but endless skies and, of course, endless possibilities.

Showing off what gorgeous fabric that OMG Rushmore and the new color Newsprint is Dead can do, I created the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic.




Newsprint is Dead

The colorway wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my three-year-old. I was playing with an idea (I’ve been looking for black speckled yarn that looked like newspaper EVERYWHERE) and layered grey and black together. My toddler snuck up behind me and asked, “What you doing?” half-jokingly, because he knew what I was doing.

I asked if I should add another color to the yarn and he said, “Yes! Pink!”

The result: A page of newspaper that looked a little bloody before the dye set. It almost looked like a murder scene. Perfect.

Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

As the pattern description says, as a mom of three young kiddos that are always on the go, I need to wear comfortable, loose clothing that allows me to keep up with all the fun. One of my go-to clothing items is a tank top or sleeveless shirt that I can layer under a cardigan or over a t-shirt.

The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic is designed to be a go-to knit that you can actually wear, be comfortable, and stylish at the same time. Pair this with solid color yoga pants, layer with your favorite tank tops and/or cardigans and knit it with your favorite sport weight, hand dyed yarn.

This design is beginner-friendly and perfect to show off a speckled, variegated, or even solid colored yarn. There’s six inches of ease, so your top will have a gorgeous drape to accentuate almost any figure shape.

It is constructed from the bottom up and in the round. The front and back are worked flat and there is a faux seam on the side that tapers to the under arm.

The day that I photographed this, I walked down to the lakefront and back, and it was just so comfortable that I left it on ALL DAY. I ran to pick up my boys from their dad’s house, I took all three kiddos shopping at Target, and then came home to rest. Mom clothing needs to feel un-impeding of the process of caring for kiddos and this did just that.

It also will go perfectly with a black cardigan I just bought, so it’ll likely get put into the rotation of my mom wardrobe aka the mom uniform.

The pattern is available for purchase in my Ravelry store and my Etsy shop as well. See links below.

Limited time only: The pattern is free in my Ravelry store until July 4, 2017, no coupon code necessary.




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For the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artist in You: Cross Stitch

May 30, 2017




Well, we finally did it. The Mildly Offensive Fiber Arts Group that I help admin has reached over 10,000 people. Our favorite way to greet new members: “Welcome to the Fucking Fold”.

I first uttered those words, believe it or not, when I introduced my boyfriend to both my sons at the same time. We’re kind of a rowdy bunch; free spirits if you will. So, of course, knowing that I’m a yarn girl, I snakily said in exhausted newly single mom mode, “Welcome to the Fucking Fold. I should stitch that on a pillow.”

Well, this isn’t a pillow, but it’s definitely getting hung on the wall.

As a gift for you Mildly (or even Very) Offensive Fiber Artists and reaching 10,000 members of semi-controlled chaos, I’m posting the chart for you to use. Anyone willing to make a graphghan or non cross stitch wall hanging from this? 

Remember, if you share your finished work, include a link back to the site and give OMG Yarn credit!




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Choosing the Right Yarn Continued: How I Picked Out Yarn for Dyeing

May 26, 2017




Just about 3 years ago now, I launched an Indiegogo campaign to grow OMG Yarn and convert my yarn shop space into a studio. At the time, I was only using one yarn base – a fingering weight, 2-ply yarn that was pretty awesome to work with – and I wanted to expand the line so that I could focus more on yarn dyeing and the aspects of being a yarnie that I loved the most.

Well, being a yarn shop owner turned yarn dyer, I was a bit of a yarn snob in the sense that I only liked working with yarns that had certain characteristics, but mainly I liked yarns that were great for both knitting and crochet AND a variety of project types.

What should you look for in a yarn to dye?

  1. Fiber content. Yes, I know the industry is saturated with 100% Superwash Merino yarns, but that was the first one I looked at. It’s easy for beginning dyers to work with and you don’t have to worry about the yarn felting while you figure out which dye techniques work best for you.If you want to focus on a specific target market (your tribe) do some research on what that group prefers. The average die hard sock knitter likes to see some nylon or other durable fiber content in their yarn, so a wool/nylon blend or a cotton blend might work best for you to start with.Want to focus on knitters and crocheters who drop big bucks on luxury fibers? Mohair, angora, cashmere, alpaca and the like may be what you want to go for. If you have no experience dyeing yarn, I’d suggest not working with these expensive fibers while you experiment.
  2. How the yarn takes up dye. Once you’ve found a good source/supplier, figured out a good dye technique, and found a type of dye you like, try a few different yarn bases of similar fiber content to see how they take up the dye.Believe it or not, the two different fingering weight yarn SW Merino bases I’ve worked with took dye differently. Sometimes it has to do with how many plies the yarn has, how tightly spun the yarn is, what dye you’re using, etc. There are so many variables that effect the dye process.




    After playing around with samples from my supplier, I actually dropped the original fingering weight yarn base I used and went all in on a more energetically spun 4-ply yarn that was SUPER soft, yet durable enough for socks. Why? The depth at which the yarn took dye compared to others was absolutely spectacular.
  3. Cost. I am a big fan of maximum quality for the lowest cost. Why spend $20 a ball for ok yarn that doesn’t do what you want it to when you can spend $10 a ball for a more luxurious feeling yarn? Why work with expensive dyes that require costly mordants or extra supplies to protect the environment you’re dyeing in, etc.Having a multi-income stream (diversified) business, I needed to get the most bang for my buck, as I essentially owned two businesses: the yarn dyeing side and the brick and mortar yarn shop side. I also paid cash for EVERYTHING, so managing cash flow was high on the priority list. Can you tell I put my MBA to good use?I was fortunate that my yarn supplier had a bajillion different yarn bases at varying costs, weights, and fiber content, so I had plenty of options to choose from. When you buy more, the bigger discount you get too! My supplier also offers free shipping on everything, and what’s not to love about that? I don’t even want to know what shipping would cost on 100 pounds of yarn (although, with my most recent collaboration for yarn dyeing, I’m about to find out…haha).
  4. The manufacturer/supplier. Yes, this is important too. Can you rely on your supplier to properly skein and protect your yarn from damage or dirt from the shipping and dye process?With over half a decade of yarn dyeing experience and yarn shop ownership at this point, I’ve definitely hit some speed bumps dealing with manufacturers. I’ve had a mill throw white yarn into a dirty box, then ship it with no bag to protect the yarn from the Wisconsin winter weather once it arrived on the shop doorstep. I was livid.And when I went to dye the yarn, I found out the hard way that the skeins were not properly tied, so I ended up with some really expensive yarn barf that I couldn’t even sell. When I called to complain, NO ONE returned my calls or addressed my concerns. I was DONE (with a capital ‘D’ DONE).No, you can’t possibly prepare for all of the what ifs, but you can significantly cut down on your disappointment or potential loss of income by choosing reputable suppliers (ask around the inter-webs…some dyers may not offer up any secrets, others, like me, are happy to offer some advice).

Check out my other post about how to choose the right yarn for a project, because that’s also a good guide for choosing yarn to dye.

In the end, it’s up to you what yarns you settle on to dye, but I wish all new yarn dyers good luck in their endeavors. It’s not easy, but it is soooooooo much fun. I mean, how else can you mix a little mad scientist work – that’s how I feel when dyeing yarn – with artistry and end up with something that will be beautiful for a lifetime (as long as you take good care of it)?




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Offensive Fiber Art and the Art of Offending through Art

May 11, 2017




My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort we have mass entertainment and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish. – Joyce Carol Oates

What do you think? Should art provoke? Should art offend? It certainly can.

Let’s explore that fact today, shall we?

In case you did not know, I help admin a Facebook group called, “Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists”. My friend Nicole Goetz of Mercantile 519 started the group a few months ago and it’s now composed of over 8,000 people!

Being an admin for large Facebook groups requires you to step back from your own personal beliefs in order to objectively look at problems that may arise between members of the group and offer a fair solution that may or may not help. If you can’t help, sometimes you remove people from the group, sometimes you take down posts, and sometimes you offend or enlighten others around you.

Offensive Fiber Art(ists)

My foray into my own mildly offensive fiber art didn’t start with knitting that big pile of pink hats for the March on Washington earlier this year, but it certainly influenced me a great deal. Discussions surrounding the hats usually took on one of two forms:

  1. People who were greatly offended by their interpretation of what the hats were all about AND
  2. People who were offended at the offense people took over the hats.

This eventually pointed me in the direction of where I wanted to go with OMG Yarn (Balls) and this little bloggy of mine.

I LOVE art. I have my own projects (like the “It Is Too Fucking Cold” hat pictured above), but I love seeing what people come up with on a daily basis in the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists group. What I look forward to most is seeing some of the things that cross stitchers and embroiderers post: sassy sayings stitched in a way to provoke.

Most recently and most notably, a post in the group provoked a bit more than just an “OMG” from our members, but an intense discussion of institutional racism and experiences of others. Discussions got aggressive and beyond mildly offensive, leading multiple reports of the post. The image itself offended many as well.

Trying to stay neutral, I posted: “Admin here: Hi, stop reporting this post. If someone is being disrespectful to each other, contact us admins. You may not agree with the viewpoint given by the art in this post, but art is supposed to be provocative. Don’t like it, keep on scrolling.”

Then, I thought twice. Yes, art is supposed to be provocative but if it isn’t, is it still art?




The Art of Offending

As artists we cannot choose what is offensive to others, we can only create artistic works and hope that our intended meaning comes through. I mean, of course, sometimes a hat is just a hat and a sweater is just a sweater, but what about knitting or crocheting a uterus and sending it to a legislator to invoke change?

I cannot create a piece of art meant to offend and expect that EVERYONE will be offended. I also cannot tell someone who is offended by what I think is benign that they don’t have the right to be offended, even if it wasn’t my original intent. Like I said, we cannot control who is offended from who is not, but we can use art media in a way to provoke conversation.

Hell, there was a point at which someone was offended by my modern take on a dream catcher, even though I, myself, am Native American. I could have been offended by someone telling me what pieces I could and could not make, or I could have learned from the conversation. Why was she offended? What could I do better as a person to explain myself? Am I even required to explain myself as not exploiting a particular culture?

And then you could be offensive in what materials you use or how you use them…

The one thing that comes to mind when I think of offensive art was the fallout from Chris Ofili’s painting, “The Holy Virgin Mary”. The artist used elephant dung as a medium and the whole world lost their damn minds over it. Haha!

In the fiber arts community, there’s that lady who knits while keeping her yarn in her vagina. Nah, I’ll pass.

Offending, Provoking, and Invoking Fiber Arts as Means to an End for Change 

Me, personally, I just stick to my occasional craftivism and hope to impact the world positively through knitting and crocheting for a cause and also to help pass on the tradition of fiber arts to younger generations. That’s what I mean to do with my fiber art for fun. The heavy lifting for OMG Yarn, obviously is yarn dyeing and designing, but still, it wouldn’t be fiber art without a little bit of stirring up the pot, right?

Historically, knitters and crocheters have been on the forefront of change in many ways, and craftivism is not a new concept.

“The history of craftivist art lies in the foundations first established by the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK. The idea of ethical interactions and relationships between the artist and his or her environment as a whole has carried through the generations. Female-led efforts to promote craft industries in Canada during the late 19thcentury have also influenced today’s craftivist undertakings by implanting the trend with feminist values and ethics. Craft artists and social action groups are thus driven to create their art in conjunction with a framework dedicated to political change and constructive protest. Through the manipulation and exploitation of stereotypes that lie in the assumed innocence of knitted artwork, the familiarity and gentleness of craft art has become a tool for assertive social action.” (Hardy-Moffat, 2012).

Now, I’m seeing people I’ve met in the fiber arts industry, people like Donna Druchunas and more, invoking social change and awareness with their fiber arts. Facebook groups like Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists and Compassionate Craftivists have popped up for fiber artists to unite their efforts or just ogle over others’ hard work at “offending”.

In the end…

Fiber artists are really just group of people out for tolerance, acceptance, and change and they’re united through an obsession with various fibers made into string. What’s not to love about that?

And yes, I do realize that there are people that knit, crochet, spin, etc. just to relax or have fun, but that is evocative too, no? What say you?




References.

Frank, P. (2015, June 01). At $2.3 Million, It’s The Most Expensive Painting Made Of Elephant Poop. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/01/chris-ofili-elephant-dung_n_7470692.html

Hardy-Moffat, M. (2012, November 16). Feminism and the Art of “Craftivism”: Knitting for Social Change under the Principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://cujah.org/past-volumes/volume-v/essay3-volume5/

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Baa Baa Black Sheep: Being a Person of Color in the Fiber Arts Industry

May 2, 2017




*Hits publish and waits for the trolls* I got my first trolls a few weeks ago. Seriously, just don’t bother, I won’t engage. Didn’t I tell you I was a little bit sassy? PS. My title was meant to be a little bit provocative to get your attention.

Reviving my fiber arts business has made me personally reflect on my life experiences, not only as a business person, but also on my career as a yarn shop owner and yarn dyer. Most of my experiences are good and only very few laden with the self-doubt that usually is involved with being a person of color in any realm of life. What does that all mean? Well, let me share a little bit of that with you today.




First, A Brief Sociology Lesson 

Although I was born in Florida, I have spent most of my life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and its suburbs. Milwaukee competes with other major cities each year being one of the most segregated cities in the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean what most people think it means; it means that there are pocket communities within the city itself, but it also means that there is a lot of racial disparities, class/caste divides, and a ton of stereotypes about ANYONE and EVERYONE flying around.

Race is actually a social construct, so the definition of being a person of color has changed throughout history. Being black usually meant being an “undesirable” or “unacceptable”. It didn’t always mean African American, but included a number of ethnicities that now would be classified as Caucasian or White. It is because of that fact – and my personal family genetics – that I do not personally identify as black, but as either “other” or “mixed race”.

So WHAT are you?!

Sassy answer: I’m a superhero.

Semi-sassy answer: I’m human.

Real answer: There isn’t a real answer. I don’t fit into a nice and neat category and that bugs A LOT of people. My father’s family is Jamaican and Costa Rican with history that can be traced back to a dude that got kicked out of Ireland (What the hell do you have to do to get kicked out of Ireland?! ). On my mother’s side there’s (*deep breath*) German, French, Swiss, Native American, Chinese, and somewhere, buried deep is a couple drops of African American.




As a result of that cocktail of nationalities, this All-American Navy brat has “frotastic” curly hair, freckles, and white chocolate, mocha-colored skin with olive undertones (thanks to my Costa Rican familia). All that European background means I have some blonde hair mixed in to my deep brown and ZERO booty to shake, but all the other bass clef, Marilyn Monroe-esque curves.

My kids are various shades of beige ranging from “glow in the dark” to caramel latte. Ola has auburn/red curly hair, Sharky always looks pale, and Peanut was born with Royal Blue eyes (which has changed to a gorgeous shade of hazel).

But This is 2017! How does being a POC effect your fiber arts business?!

Meh, most days, it doesn’t. Seriously, I’ve been #blessed beyond words. My regular customers are wonderful and I have no complaints. In fact, I would argue that the fiber arts industry is much more open-minded than the rest of the country, probably why fiber artists have been the face of a lot of different social change movements both recently (think pink hats and knit/crochet uteri) and in the past. Remember, the road to change is paved with yarn.

Most of the effects are self-inflicted, but I have had some experiences that shape how I personally choose to do business. How?

    1. I refuse to be a patron to businesses that show obvious bias against me personally or my business. Not naming names, but outside of the fiber arts industry, there are some hotels that I will not stay at because of terrible service as the result of my perceived race and also because of my gender. One chain even went so far as to not return my calls when I filed a complaint, but they would return my then husband’s calls within minutes of his voicemails.It was only months later, when I filed a public review of management’s treatment of me and had the credit card company reverse charges, did I receive a call, which went something like, “You can’t possibly think we discriminated against you. Come stay with us again, free of charge, and we’ll change your mind.” To which I responded, “You couldn’t pay me enough to make me want to stay there again. Money is not something that motivates me.” *click*
    2. I am actively inclusive of ALL people. Hey, I may not always be able to properly vocalize how much of a neutral person I am, but seriously, everyone who isn’t a danger to me or my family is welcome in my proverbial store and is welcome to a hug if we ever meet in person. I also started out with silent tutorials to be inclusive of my hearing impaired audience.
    3. I pledge to get in front of the camera more so that people of color can have a fiber arts hero that looks like them, even if I didn’t.  My new motto these days, “If you can’t find a hero that looks like you, be that hero.” I am working on building up my self-esteem to get in front of the camera and introduce myself to you personally. See the person behind the knitting and crocheting hands and the personality behind the crass and sass.

We don’t always get to see people of color in fiber arts, so it can lead to a lot of self-consciousness for those of us to don’t fit the mold of stereotypical knitter or crocheter.Since knit and crochet design also fits into the realm of fashion, I need to get out and represent the curvy-hipped, larger-bosomed ladies like myself. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colors of the rainbow, and I want OMG Yarn to reflect that vision. I’m totally ok with you and want you to be ok with you too!




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Healing with Fiber Arts: Why I’ll Never Put Down My Yarn

March 24, 2017

I have always been intrigued by music and art therapy. In fact, as a former classical musician, my mother suggested that I become a music therapist and incorporate my talent into helping others. I never chose that career path, however, it wasn’t too far off from what drives me to be a part of the fiber arts industry now. Rather than just tell you a bunch of facts about how the fiber arts heals the mind, body, and soul, I thought I’d add a little personal touch and incorporate a little bit about how the fiber arts have helped me personally.




So what is art therapy?
Art therapy is defined as expressive therapy using the “creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being”.

I didn’t know it when I was younger, but my passion for the arts was keeping me whole. I was a bundle of nerves, insecure, and anxious all the time, but when I played the flute, my troubles just melted away. Playing an instrument was all about breathing control, expressing one’s self through notes scrawled on a page, and becoming one with a piece of music. Nothing else mattered.

How could you not feel powerful when Mozart’s Concerto No. 1 in G left you in control of the orchestra behind you? They backed me up. They slowed down when I slowed down. They paused when I paused. They quieted when I quieted. They flourished when I flourished. I overrode the conductor with every note that escaped my instrument.

I was quietly confident when I was on stage, but only when I was on stage. For the decade or so that I played the flute on a semi-professional basis, that’s all I did was live my life to be on stage where I felt the most comfortable. I went chasing that feeling, but did not think I could find that serenity without a flute in my hands…until I discovered the fiber arts.

What’s so special about the fiber arts, anyway?

Sharky’s Rainbow Blanket is ongoing. He loves rainbows and I love mindlessly crocheting this design of mine.

There are many benefits to the practice of fiber arts. According to the article 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting, the repetitive motions of knitting (or crochet) can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. A lot of times, depending on the mental health issue at hand, cognitive behavioral therapists recommend meditation. The act of knitting or crochet mimics this meditation as we count stitches, focus on written instructions, and repeat the same stitches over and over again.

Early last year, The New York Times published an article about the health benefits of knitting. The fiber artist community passed the article around online, thrilled about the positive press that the craft was getting. Knitting was not for grandmas and cat ladies anymore (yea, I know we all hate that stereotype…), it was therapeutic and healing for so many people. In fact, I had a few people encourage me to come and volunteer to teach knitting as a part of addiction recovery therapy at a local shelter, because there were proven benefits to this type of art therapy.





Reaching Nirvana Through Stitches

The different textures of knit and crochet fabrics can stimulate the release of happiness hormones.

I recall my littlest (and favorite) customer, an 8 year old boy who had learned to knit at school and would drag his mother into my shop periodically to buy “the good yarn” for another project. His mother would comment about how it was a brave new world once he had learned to knit. She, herself, didn’t knit or crochet, but something about her son eyes lighting up every time they walked into my studio made the trip worth it. I could see the universe turn into a haze behind him as he focused on each ball of yarn that he ran his fingers across. It was as if the tactile experience brought him to a place of nirvana.

Science explains this phenomena pretty well, too. The happiness we get from playing with yarn or making it releases dopamine, the happiness/feel-good hormone in our bodies. This hormone can keep us fiber artists motivated to begin (and yes, complete) project after project and send us back to our favorite yarn retailers over and over.

Healing One Stitch At a Time

Knit and crochet can also help with motor skills, help prevent arthritis pain and mild cognitive impairment. What hits home the most for me is help with motor skills. A few years back, as the result of malnutrition from a severe illness, I experienced nerve damage in my left hand. For a few weeks, I had intermittent paralysis and pain from constant muscle spasms. I used knitting to retrain my left hand to function, thus eliminating my need for physical therapy in a clinical setting. Yes, yarn saved me money and time and healed me through knitting and crochet.

Fiesta Hat & Cowl

It started with figuring out how to hold a needle in my left hand, because my grip was so weak. Then, I could grip larger needles, and began designing patterns for weights of yarn that I was not used to knitting with. OMG Yarn’s launch would not have been possible without patterns like the Fiesta Hat and Cowl, which was the first pattern design I came up with after experiencing the loss of function in my left hand. Fair isle/intarsia knitting, plus Aran weight yarn and knitting the sample out of yarn I had dyed was a big catalyst to turning life around (someday, I’ll share the rest of that story). That process alone is why I’ll never give up my fiber fanaticism. Occasionally, I take breaks to reflect on life, but I always come back.

Well, I hope this is the start of a good discussion as to why yarn is awesome. You know I’m not just saying that too. I encourage everyone to share this article with anyone interested in art therapy or to help prove why your yarn habit is much more beneficial than having something warm to wear in winter.

References.

Brody, J. E. (2016, January 25). The Health Benefits of Knitting. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/the-health-benefits-of-knitting/?_r=0.

Harper, K. (n.d.). 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/314247/6-unexpected-benefits-knitting.

Locke, R. (n.d.). Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer and Happier Mentally. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/319404/science-says-knitting-makes-humans-warmer-and-happier-mentally.

What is Art Therapy? (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.arttherapyblog.com/what-is-art-therapy/#.WNUwlWMdfVo.




Moving Onward and Upward: “Resist” Beanie Pattern Now Available on Ravelry

March 21, 2017

I can be fierce and I can be strong. I stand in solidarity with my re-sisters.

International Women’s Day was on March 8th, so now what? Do we just go back to the inequity, lack of support and less than human treatment from before that day or do we plunge ahead with the call to make things better for all women?




I, personally, would like to see a better world for all three of my kids, not just my daughter. I have two very intelligent, caring sons and a beautiful daughter who would all like to see a world of possibilities for everyone in their lives.

As a business owner in an industry that is characteristically female, I would like to commit OMG Yarn and myself to the empowerment of other women seeking equality.

Let’s stop marginalizing women and their accomplishments. There was nothing I hated more than hearing, “Oh your husband must be a great accountant,” when I would talk about the success of my little yarn shop and other business endeavors. I earned my Masters in Business Administration when I was 24 years old. That was after completing a 4-year education in only 3.5 years at a competitive school. Did I mention I was there on a full scholarship based on academics? Do you see how I had to qualify that?

When you look at the statistics, African American women lead the way as the most educated group in America. So yea, as a group, they’re fiercely killing it, but still experiencing institutional racism, misogyny, wage gaps, injustice in the legal system, and much more than I care to share. Not right. Right?

Let’s stop shaming women for their choices. Every day, we make choices and someone is always standing there to shame us. Whether it’s the choice to work versus be a stay at home mom or any other choice, every woman deserves support, whether you think they’re deserving of it or not. I have translated for a patient who wanted to report a domestic violence nightmare. I have held hands in support of undocumented women experiencing the horrors of escaping oppression in their home country only to witness worse here. I don’t judge anyone for what they do and that goes a long way for bridging gaps.




So let’s support women for all that they do. The single moms holding down three jobs and going to school to make a better life for their children, my hat’s off to you. The mothers marching against injustice, my hat’s off to you. The women who make our lives brighter and more beautiful in every way, my hat’s off to you.

The top of the hat is a beautiful spiral.

I’m not just saying all this either. I do what I can to raise awareness through the arts. I always have and always will.

To show my ongoing commitment to the cause of women’s rights and the craftivism movement, I created the Resist Beanie. Honestly, I was inspired by the hard work of Donna Druchunas, a knit designer I have admired for some time.

The Resist Beanie is a crocheted hat with a filet crochet brim that spells out the word “resist” in filet crochet. With spring and summer fast approaching, the need for a lighter, cotton hat to support change has come up. Though it fits the average-sized head snugly, this hat is light, comfortable, and breathable, ideal for warmer weather. A portion of the proceeds from this pattern will be used to support local causes for the resistance, including small businesses that are mostly female-owned/operated.




The pattern is on sale through my Ravelry Store here. It is my new favorite hat and I’ve been wearing it since I finished it a few days ago.

I can be fierce and I can be strong. I stand in solidarity with my re-sisters.

I am committing to making the world a little bit more awesome for the next generation, and the road will be paved with yarn.

References.

Stewart, K. (2016, May 27). Black Women Are Now America’s Most Educated Group. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from http://www.upworthy.com/black-women-are-now-americas-most-educated-group.