Archives for posts with tag: fabric

Back in January, there was a guest post on Flintknits about fabric designer Heather Ross and race and ethnicity in her fabric designs. I’ve been following the discussion with some interest, but was too busy during January to write anything about it, and by the time my schedule freed up a bit, I felt like I had kind of missed the boat on a timely response.

Pamela Wynne just posted a followup to that earlier post and I figured I would take the opportunity to bring these posts to your attention, because I find them really interesting. Even more than the posts, the comments! Go check them out. We’ve got the crazy racists, the indignant Heather, the “me toos” and oh, also the engaged and insightful dialogue about the issue.

You know, I feel kind of bad about posting this, for a couple of reasons: first of all, I respect Pam and enjoy reading her blog, and used to enjoy reading Ashley’s blog when it was still around, and I feel like this was all done with the best of intentions but that I’m about to say some bad stuff about their actions; and secondly, as a good Berkeley-raised-and-educated liberal person of color (and, incidentally, daughter of an ethnic studies professor), it’s clear to me how I think I’m supposed to feel about the issue. But I really don’t feel that way. At the risk of being the next hapless victim of the PC crafting police, here’s my take on it.

I frankly think the first post was a shameful and shallow dogpile. Heather Ross was arbitrarily picked out as a figure to crucify in the name of racial inclusiveness. Her designs clearly weren’t created with the intention of being hateful or exclusive, and come on, it’s not like she was drawing kids doing Confederate Civil War reenactments or something, they’re just some little girls playing with horses, and they just happen to all be white and blonde. Someone essentially swooped in out of nowhere, told her she should put more non-white kids in her designs, and then, when she declined, because she doesn’t need to do every single thing that consumers ask her to do, declared her to have “fucked up, in kind of epic ways,” posted her response, and tore her a new one.

Yes, maybe she was being a little stubborn in not wanting to take the various requests for diversity to heart. However, Heather Ross has a perfect right to draw anything she wants to. There’s no rule or law that says she has to be inclusive and racially diverse in her designs. If she had responded to the emails/comments with “oh sure, that’s a great idea, maybe I’ll put some black kids in my next design, it just never occurred to me and I think it would be fun” or something, bully for her. But that’s not what she wanted to do, so if she just stuck some ethnic children in her next fabric design purely to cave in to pressure, we’d just have some whimsical and adorable tokenism going on, some diversity-as-economic-commodity. (Maybe she could use the magic of Photoshop!) That’s not right.

What’s more, I think this is a crazy tempest in a teapot. Her fabric represents just a tiny corner of the fabric world, which represents just a tiny corner of the world of commercially available representational art. I’m sure there are plenty of racially inclusive quilting fabrics out there, if not via your local Jo-Ann fabrics, then through the Magic of teh Internets, and if not, with the rise of Spoonflower and other print-on-demand fabric outfits, it’s easier than ever to make whatever fabrics you want. (No longer am I beholden to the clumsy medium of potato stamps to depict my idyllic Asian-American childhood activities: Kumon math sets, Chinese summer camp, and making won ton! Rejoice, rejoice.) Complainers, you are artsy, crafty people. I know this because you are focused on buying fabric yardage. Go make some fabrics that look like what you want and maybe make a bunch of money doing it.

Plus, there are more important venues where these efforts can be focused. I know crafting is all near and dear to the heart, but these are quilting fabrics probably intended for mentally and emotionally robust grown-ups to purchase and use; perhaps it would be more constructive to focus on the dolls and items intended directly for impressionable children. Or at least to aim all this guilty rage towards a larger corporate target with a more diffuse market rather than one independent fabric designer. This is not to say it’s not an important topic, but I just think this whole Heather Ross-specific anger is kind of misguided and misdirected.

Kristen wrote a poignant response where she discusses her children’s excitement at finding dolls that looked like them. I grew up with these same feelings of underrepresentation (probably this has changed a bit with the rise of anime and manga?) I probably never thought about quilting fabrics or even pajamas or t-shirts or whatever, but one thing I remember always feeling sad about was the Pleasant Company’s American Girl dolls. Oh man, did I ever want one of these. They are such a crazy expensive scam (at the time, back in the late 80s/early 90s, it was, I think, $80 for a vinyl doll plus one outfit?), but they construct such appealing narratives around them, and all the paraphrenalia and stories made me insane with covetousness. But they never had any dolls that looked like me, and I always wished they did. I’ve written them letters over the years asking them to include an Asian doll, always with some polite response about my request being taken into account, but being subject to long market research and development timelines.

When I was a kid, the Pleasant Company’s approach to diversity was “we have a blonde white doll, a brunette white doll, and a brunette white doll with glasses”: they slowly started expanding their repertoire with a redheaded white doll, and then, slowly slowly (and I don’t remember the order in which these came, but I know they were all before the Asian-American doll), a black doll, a Mexican-American doll, a Native American doll, along with various other white dolls. Finally, although she’s just a sidekick, they introduced Ivy (from the 70s? It’s nearly time for my childhood’s decade to become “history”–good God!). Finally. I guess my point is that toys like this might be a better place to focus your requests and petitions. Heather Ross’s products are all essentially based around the brand of her individuality and personal style. Crap like the American Girl dolls is designed by committee and based on market demand, and I think has a greater impact on children’s psyches.

Don’t think I don’t notice all-white media or consumer product representations, I live in Wisconsin, for Christ’s sake, it happens all the time. For instance, check out the selection of neighborhood regulars at the Midtown Pub in nearby Middleton! Yeah, it’s pretty important, and it enters my mind all the time, and it kind of sucks that in those “what celebrity do you look like” games there are really not a whole lot of Asian females to choose from. But it’s just not the be-all and end-all, and I am not a helpless, spineless, media-absorbing jellyfish unable to stop my mind from absorbing all non-inclusive imagery and waving my sad tentacles going “noooo, it huuuuurts.” I looked at the cover of the menu and noticed this and found it a little funny and maybe a little sad, and then I opened the menu and ordered a hamburger and a beer and did not feel bad about myself or my place in the world. I could get upset, but I think the menu probably accurately reflects the reality around them–like Heather Ross’s point that her fabric was autobiographical and an accurate representation of a few faces she saw in her childhood–and I’d rather save the lion’s share of my emotional engagement for overt racism.

And I don’t deny that DIY culture and the online crafting blogosphere slant very heavily white. This commenter does a great job of articulating many of the things I see as problems with the racial issues in this subculture, so I’ll just point you over to him. (“The Feudal White Craftopia” is such a great description.) By being out here and saying my stuff and taking pictures of little yellow old me, I guess I’m probably doing my small part in helping diversify knitting blogs, but only racially: I mean, socioeconomically, I still come from a position of computer-literate, college-educated, middle-class privilege, like, I think, most of the craft bloggers out there. There’s diversity and there’s diversity.

P.S. Fun fact, did you know I started the pinny porn discussion that eventually led to the creation of BID on Ravelry? Ha ha!

P.P.S. Jesus, it’s 3:30 AM? Spring Forward, I hate you.

Edited to add: I did a bit more research and found a couple of other response posts I’d missed earlier:

Marirob

Cauchy

Bolstered by the success of my first Infinity Dress, I have gone on a huge sewing and fabric-buying rampage lately. (Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos in this post. They almost all came out very bright and overexposed. Just pretend it’s a halo of heavenly light and I am about to ascend into a hovering spacecraft, and you are an exclusive witness to this special moment.)

First, Rahul and I biked out to Wal-Mart the other day–a harrowing 4.5 mile ride along narrow, busy roads, on the west side of town, across a freeway. My bike nearly fell in a ditch and when I corrected to stay out of it, I nearly got hit by a truck. It was scary. But my reward was 4 yards of 1×1 ribbed black knit fabric for only $1 a yard. I went home and made another Infinity Dress, and then made a drape neck top with the leftovers. Because my fabric was only 45 inches wide, I made a gathered skirt instead of a circle skirt, so this one has a slimmer silhouette.

I also accidentally sewed the band on top of the straps instead of underneath, but I think it’s still OK.

Here’s the drape neck top. It is sewn together rather poorly. The rib knit was much stretchier than the jersey, so I ended up with a lot of lettuce edges where there shouldn’t have been any. The pattern is Simplicity New Look 6470, View B.

Here’s the new dress.

“Oh my god, that looks SO WEIRD,” said Rahul this morning, as I was going out to water my basil plants on the balcony, and took this picture of the back of the dress to demonstrate how weird it was that my dress had no back. I thought it looked fine, but the sleeves fell off when I was bent over my plants, so I retied it to cross over in the back.



Because the skirt has a pretty slim silhouette, I just wore it underneath my next two FOs instead of changing into a new top.

These are both made with quilting cotton I bought a while back at Shiisa Quilts, from their $4.99 bed sale.

This one is made with a dark purple fabric printed with white dragonflies. I made it into a circle skirt with ties and a zipper at the waist. Because I only had about a yard of 45″ fabric, it came out shorter than I would have liked and the overall silhouette is a little bit 80′s. A learning experience. I should have stuck with a plain A-line wrap skirt like I had originally planned.

This one I’m very proud of. The fabric is a Rowan/Westminster Martha Negley cotton, dark red, striped with tree trunks. I drafted my own pattern according to the A-line skirt, fitted waist directions in Sew What! Skirts, an excellent book for the beginning skirt-sewer like myself–highly recommended. I went on to cut the pieces on the bias to make chevron stripes, put in side pockets (these need some work–for some reason, I cut them so the pockets don’t really dip down, just go straight in, so I can’t put anything in them, though I can use them to warm my hands) and installed what I think is an invisible zipper in the back. I just need to put in some snaps to secure the waistband.


After all that, I went to Jo-Ann and back to Shiisa Quilts, where they’ve dropped the price of the bed sale fabrics to $3.99 a yard and are having a buy one yard, get one yard free offer through today, so I scored a bunch of nice fabric for just $2 a yard.

Here’s some of what I got:

Cloud fabric (not on sale, but I loved it. This is Moda fabric, named, puzzlingly, “Bears just wanna have fun”)

Gray fabric with chartreuse hydrangeas, Kaffe Fassett Lille Arbour. I loved this fabric last time I was in the store, but Rahul prevented me from buying it with his protestations of how hideous it was. So I went back without him and bought several yards of it for half price. I think I might make the Anna Dress with it.

Some other stuff: from Shiisa, some blue Rowan Martha Negley fabric with green plums, some blue striped fabric, the aforementioned Kaffe Fassett fabric, and blue fabric with delicate geometric traceries–this is Free Spirit Mendhi Lotus, and is much drapier and silkier than the other fabrics. I haven’t decided what to do with any of this yet, though the default is “knee-length skirt.”

The linen print with brown embroidered flowers is from Jo-Ann (was also on sale) and is destined for another simple A-line skirt.

This is my new favorite summer dress. It was so fast and easy it hardly counts as an FO, since it’s essentially putting together a kit. I saw the fabric on sale at Jo-Ann and bought it on impulse: they sell a big roll of cotton gauze pre-smocked with elastic thread, and you just buy a piece a couple of inches larger than your bust size, sew a tube, add straps as desired, and hem it. I made nice wide straps to cover up bra straps and this dress fits perfectly, aside from the fact that I didn’t pre-shrink my fabric so I ended up with a dress an inch or two shorter than what I had wanted.

Edited to add, since I had some comments about this: if you’re in the US and don’t have a Jo-Ann Fabrics nearby, it looks like you can get pre-smocked fabric online via Hancock Fabrics. I couldn’t find this specific fabric on the Jo-Ann website, but when I was in the store they also had the same stuff in pink and green, and some tropical Hawaiian-looking smocked fabrics.

I also have some brown jersey (not shown) for yet another Infinity Dress and another try at that drape-neck top. All I can say is that it’s a good thing sewing is so much faster than knitting.

Speaking of which, here is the current progress on the Loquat Shawl:


Apparently, as maid of honor, I’m going to have to make a toast at this wedding, which fills me with a deep sense of terror and anxiety (I would rather eat bugs than do any kind of public speaking). If only they were traditionalists and left all the public speaking to the best man and all the fussy lady’s maid duties to the maid of honor. I’m sure I can carry bobby pins and straighten hairdos like nobody’s business.

I must soothe myself with admiring my newest yarn acquisition, the first shipment of the Sundara Seasons club, June 2008, the Autumn season. This is Sundara Sock yarn in Arabian Nights, a rich, warm brown shot through with henna highlights. Isn’t it gorgeous? I have a pattern idea in my head for this already, but can’t start anything new till I’m done with the shawl.

And a knitter’s PSA: Knit Picks is having their annual 40% off book sale, and they’ve just posted a bunch of new yarns for sale: delicious-looking semi-solid kettle dyes, new colors of many yarns, Imagination hand-painted sock yarn, Swish Bulky superwash, and more.

I flew back to Indiana last night, and boy, are my arms tired!

I had a busy weekend–had a Chinese foot massage, got kicked out of a psychic parlor because my “energy” was spoiling my friend’s reading, went thrift shopping, snuck my friend’s 18-year-old brother into a lesbian bar in DUMBO, visited MOMA and saw the Seurat exhibit, helped cat-sit a ridiculously flat-faced Persian cat named Sasha, had delicious brunch with some friends at an Israeli restaurant named Miriam in Cobble Hill, caught the first snowfall of the year in New York (so insanely cold! I need a new coat) so the only other yarn shopping I managed to sneak in was at Purl, right before meeting my cousin for shopping and hot cider.

I love love love Purl Soho’s online store and the Purl Bee, so it came as a bit of a surprise when I was thoroughly underwhelmed with the actual, in-person shopping experience. The stores were cute, nay, beautiful, but in the way that makes them nice to photograph for a Martha Stewart Living photo spread rather than nice to shop in as an experienced knitter. The spaces were incredibly tiny and cramped (I almost stepped on a tiny Chihuahua someone had brought in with her) and the yarns were shoved into the shelves so that you could only see the very end of the skein.

Admittedly, this makes the store very beautiful, but it’s also really annoying. If you see a skein you like, you have to pull it out to look at the label and price, and then shove it back in, and I felt like I was mangling the yarn every time I did that. I would also sometimes want to know if I was looking at the same yarn or a different one and would have to continually pull out and push back new skeins, because it wasn’t always obvious which ones were the same or where the boundaries between yarns fell.

The selection was gorgeous–so many colors of the Fibre Company Terra!–but pretty limited, with the pricing set the way you’d expect it to be for a bijou boutique in Soho (Kelp Knits called this “the Purl tax”) and between all these factors, I ended up feeling like I’d rather just go shopping online, especially considering Purl’s 40% off yarns are only available on their website.

It was nice to see the gorgeous shop projects in person. I’ve made the Child’s Rainbow Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts about 5 times, and I wanted to make it yet again after seeing their version in Alchemy Migration.

Because I’m not a particularly experienced or knowledgeable seamstress, on the other hand, I decided to buy some fabric at Purl Patchwork for aprons and bags.

1/2 yard of Kokka Trefle, a heavyish cotton-linen blend printed with chickens:

1 yard of Anna Griffin Blythe printed with a botanical pattern:

and some Amy Butler fat quarters in acid yellow and teal.

In case my own sewing doesn’t work out so well, I also invested in an absolutely adorable patchwork tote bag made by Along the Grain, being sold at a temporary holiday crafts store called La Superette, set up for this year in a storefront near Times Square. It has a zippered pocket inside, and little round appliques all over the front like bubbles. Floating in some of the bubbles are chickens and bunnies. How could I resist, especially when it’s such a cheerful color? (Mine looks exactly like the one I linked on Etsy)

So back to yarn shopping: School Products was wonderful. Thanks to everyone who recommended it! It was kind of the opposite shopping experience from Purl: hidden on an upper floor of a dark and decrepit-looking office building, it was totally empty when I went in, and had huge spaces with clearly labeled yarn spread out on tables and loosely stacked in bins and baskets.

There was So. Much. Cashmere. Brushed and smooth, chunky and laceweight, tweedy and handpainted, and so many droolworthy blends on top of the “plain” cashmere. It was kind of hard to shop for yarn here for a different reason, though: not all of the “special” skeins are labeled with yarn weight, yardage, skein weight, or recommended needle size, and many of them are sold by the ounce. In combination, all this makes it hard to compare prices in your head to see if you’re getting a good deal or not. You have to take any skein you’re interested in to the register to have it weighed and priced out for you.

I bought two skeins of Karabella Camissimo because they have a screaming deal on this yarn right now–normally $16-17, it’s selling for $6. It doesn’t look like it will be especially fun to knit, and it doesn’t look especially expensive–a chunky boucle, it has the look of something hairy and terrible from Michael’s. However, it is 50% merino and 32% baby camel and accordingly wonderfully soft and luxurious. (The rest is polyamide.)

The color I got was rather camelly, the brown/cream color labeled 18109 in the picture below:

I think I’m going to make a super-simple mistake-rib scarf with this. The yarn is so fuzzy, there’s no point in doing anything too special with the stitch pattern.

I also got two skeins of a chunky pale gray cashmere/merino two-ply and a skein of a redwood-colored, multi-stranded yak/merino worsted weight blend that, from the look of their shop sample, blooms into a fluffy, absolutely gorgeous fabric. I think the colors I got were 18 and 4, respectively.

I have one thing to say about MOMA. It was great to visit, but be advised that you cannot check in a suitcase at the bag check. The first time I tried to go, on my way from checking out from my hotel to my friend’s apartment, I was thwarted by the bag check people and had to content myself with buying some 3D sketchpads and lusting after the Reveal watch in the museum store–fun, but not quite the same experience as getting to see great art.

One of the sketchpads was a gift for the friend I stayed with–I also ended up showing him the Boku Hyphening wristwarmers and promising them at some future date. So I’ll have to add some wristwarmer thumbs to my knitting queue, and meanwhile my essential Christmas knitting has not progressed at all in the last week. A little less than three weeks left to go now…

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