over the past year or so, there’s been a lot of discussion in the knitting community about racism, diversity, and inclusion. it’s been pretty challenging and uncomfortable stuff for the white folks in this community (myself included!); most of us had never had to think about this before because of our position of relative privilege, and it was pretty upsetting to realise that we’d been ignoring these issues for so long. a lot of BIPOC/BAME 1 folks have been incredibly generous with their time & knowledge, and a lot of us white folks have been trying hard to learn how we can be better allies and speak up for the marginalised members of our community.
from what i can see, i do think that there has been some progress; but like all things in life, it seems that as soon as there’s any sign of positive change, there’s always a small faction who lash out. they want to maintain the status quo because it benefits them, or don’t see what the problem is in the first place, or just don’t want to deal with the things that make them uncomfortable or challenged. in the knitting community, this has taken several forms. there’s been a lot of “can’t we just get back to our knitting?”, or “why do you have to make everything political?”. some of the more vocal BIPOC/BAME folks have been targeted on social media, receiving harassing comments and messages, or even having their accounts shut down or suspended. and in typical gaslighting DARVO fashion 2 some of the people who have been lashing out are now declaring that they themselves are the victims of “bullying” – because asking someone not to be racist is just too much, apparently. and recently a popular yarn-dyer (who had already made some posts and comments that were incredibly problematic) released a collection of colourways which she named by using some of the more common phrases that have been used in these discussions (such as “echo chamber”, “woke”, “microagression” etc) as a way to mock and attack those who she saw as “bullies”.
after that collection was released, GamerCrafting posted about wanting to do a yarn collection with names like “Trans Rights are Human Rights” and “Nevertheless She Persisted”, with a portion of the proceeds going to various social justice charities. i suggested that other dyers and makers might like to get in on that idea, and Operation: Social Justice was born (one of the favoured insults for those of us who want things to be better is “Social Justice Warrior” – which is somehow supposed to be a bad thing, fighting for social justice?). there are currently 185 such warriors participating in this collaborative fundraiser, and Old Maiden Aunt Yarns is proud to be one of them.
i’ve created two new colourways for Operation: Social Justice, which i’ll be dyeing on my merino/cashmere/nylon 4ply base only. i’m sticking to this base because i want to emphasise softness – in some circles, softness is seen as a negative thing (“you need to toughen up!”) but i think staying soft in such a hard and violent world can be a powerful thing. the colourways are designed to work together; the lovely designer Maddie Harvey is also participating in Operation: Social Justice and is creating a stunning cowl pattern that uses both colourways.
the first colourway is “bleeding heart”; usually used as an insult for those who care too much about social issues (ie “bleeding heart liberal”), this colourway is actually inspired by the Bleeding Heart flower and is a layered mix of vibrant pinks and oranges with rich touches of purple & blue.
the second colourway is “soft-centred”; inspired by the song “Stand Together” by Ruby Blue, but also by marshmallows (i love marshmallows!), it uses exactly the same dyes as “bleeding heart” but in very small amounts to create layered, soft tones of pale pink, blue, orange, and plum.
these will be priced at £20 per 100g skein; £5 from each skein sold will be donated to charity. i’m going to be splitting my charity donation between Refuweegee (a Glasgow-based organisation that welcome and support refugees arriving in Scotland) and Scottish Trans Initiative (who support trans people in Scotland and work towards equality for trans people). the yarns will launch at noon on Sunday 15th March; i’ll be selling mine as pre-orders only (this means that the yarns will be dyed to order and will ship within four weeks at the most). i haven’t decided yet how long i’ll keep selling them for but will be limiting my initial run of pre-orders so that i don’t get too overwhelmed.
i’m hoping that this wave of positivity can help undo some of the damage that continues to be perpetrated on the marginalised members of our community. i think it’s incredibly important that those of us with more privilege continue to fight and to be better allies; it’s not as easy as making one “everyone is welcome” or “bigotry isn’t tolerated here” statement and then going back to business as usual. we need to keep pushing, keep fighting, and keep being Social Justice Warriors.
1 BIPOC = Black, Indigenous, & People of Colour – commonly used in North America; BAME = Black, Asian, & Minority Ethnic – commonly used in the UK.
2 DARVO refers to a common tactic used by perpetrators of wrongs; it stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.