(Xenobia Bailey, Acclaimed Visual Artist and Craftswoman, Afropunk.com)
I recently posted something on Facebook about the diversity of crochet. It was in response to the lack of diversity in the knitting community. I have a lot of friends in both arenas. I both knit and crochet. However, I much prefer crochet. For several reasons: One, it’s easier. Two, it’s faster. Three, I much prefer the textures of crochet. Four, it’s so versatile. If you’re an artist, you can go to town. You can create whatever you want. You can mix media, offend, bless, deconstruct, and recreate anything from any other art form–from music to dance–with crochet. True story. With the right tools, your designs can create musical notes and they can provide props for a dance movement. You can recreate the Mona Lisa with a tiny hook and some leftover yarn. I’ve seen it done. I have taught special needs students to crochet, immigrants who only share the language of knots with me to crochet, people recovering from addiction to crochet, unskilled workers to crochet. And, in every case, it was a benefit to the person’s life. Five, as a result of it’s versatility and connections to ancient cultures from every continent, the crowd is far more diverse and much less snobby.
I don’t attend too many highbrow yarn festivals. I used to go to anything that had the word “yarn” in it, but they’re usually in some far flung rural area, the skeins of precious hand-died yarn cost more than I make in an hour as a college English instructor, and they’re very white. I realized this immediately when I started crocheting “in public.” When I went to yarn stores or sought out needle arts groups and shops. The knitters are definitely the catered-to crowd, and the ones catered-to are usually white, suburban and well off. Regular working folks can’t afford the private yarn store’s hand-died silk yarn. They have to go to Michael’s, A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, or even Wal-Mart for their yarn. It would be amazing if high-quality yarn was even an inch more affordable. I can only imagine how my circle of influence in the needle arts world would have been effected if I had had the ability to purchase yarn of quality when I was first learning to crochet and knit. But because I, like so many needle artists, couldn’t afford (and still can’t for the most part) to purchase anything of local quality, I visit the “authentic” yarn stores, maybe, once a year and only after a good tax refund. This is not right, and I find the outrageous costs (while explainable to a degree) to be suspiciously high-priced. My immigrant students aren’t shopping there when they want to make a baby blanket. They don’t even know such places exist, and they’d feel the rub if they walked inside. For one thing, not a soul inside the doors would speak Spanish, Arabic or Chinese to help them with their purchases.
My beautiful Latina daughter noticed this when I first taught her to crochet and knit and brought her places with me. She didn’t see a reflection of herself in anything. And before you go saying, “Well, she had you. You were there.” Look at my picture, folks. I’m as white they come. Half-Celtic/Half-European Jewish. Super white. My husband is Latino, and my children all look like him. My daughter picked up knitting and abandoned it pretty quickly, and she was even very good at it. She studied visual arts at a local, prestigious arts high school. She used to take her knitting with her everywhere. Every form of art was encouraged in her educational circles, but she knew that outside of that protected cocoon, she was not the norm. At least, she wasn’t the norm at knitting and yarn shows, in prayer shawl ministries (even in the heart of the city), at textile events. She was the outsider. So, she picked up crochet again, and there was so much to see.
(Raúl de Nieves, Art21.com)
“Raul de Nieves was born in 1983 in Michoacán, Mexico and lives and works in New York. De Nieves, who works in sculpture and performance, attributes his art practice to his childhood education in Mexico, where he was taught to sew and crochet” (Art21.com)
Regularly, I share with her designs I find from African, Japanese, Russian, Turkish (so many brilliant Turkish crocheters out there!), Brazilian (sexy crochet), and so many other stunningly talented women, men and youth crochet artists from around the world. While my daughter is pretty busy with college now, she does still ocassionally work on crochet projects, and these artists from a rich volume of ethnicities, always inspire her.
I don’t follow too many knitters anymore. Their online appearance is blindingly white. They’re clearly exclusionary. I can’t afford them. No one of great importance to me can. I do have friends of color who knit and weave and dye yarn. I follow them on a daily basis. Many of them have been shut out of the knitting community. I’ve watched them get banned and muted online for pointing out racial disparities in their online and local knitting communities. I’ve watched them get mocked for demanding equality. I also follow Scottish, Irish and Israeli knitters, but I’m pretty much out of the knitting scene. In general, the world looks a lot more diverse, open, and reflective of reality in the crochet world. Maybe it’s just my personal experience, but that’s how I see it. What say you, My Dear Readers? Have you had this same experience? Are you a person of color who knits or crochets? What has your adventure with either, or both, art forms been like? I know which crowd I can kick off my shoes with, drink a few cups of coffee with, and shoot the breeze with without feeling like I’m sitting in a segregated church pew on a Sunday morning, and they generally, aren’t knitting.
(Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, thisiscolossal.com)