Book Review – This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection

This Long Thread by Jen Hewett is stunning collection of interviews, essays, and survey responses by a variety of makers that discusses their experiences as crafters of color. I’m delighted that this title provides a beautiful space to many voices, there were over 269 interview contributors, 19 interviews, and many commissioned essays. The result? A book that ties together the diverse threads of participants and crafts to create a common fabric of creativity.

Organized into nine sections it covers all parts of the crafting experience. Starting with why we do it, how we learn, and leading into craft as business and the political. It continues by sharing experiences of crafting history, creating one’s place within craft, representation, community, and teaching. I’ll admit that I thought I would find the variety of response formats a challenge – I’m more used to reading a group of essays – however I found that variety made this an even more approachable collection to read cover to cover. Each individual voice carries through the survey responses, the essays, and the interviews adding their own thread to the work. Hewett has worked to create a feeling of the reader conversing with each contributor.

I enjoyed reading it especially now during this continued time of limited social interactions due to the pandemic. It was nice to connect with like-minded individuals; I know that despite outward differences our childhoods and early forays into creating things were similar. It’s delightful to meet in the pages creators, many of whom I was not familiar with before opening this book. My experiences as a white woman who now resides in a middle-class suburban house mean it’s impossible for me to experience most of the challenges these crafters face every day. I found by reading this book it reiterated how much we have in common. May I learn from this and remember it. I highly recommend searching out this title and more importantly reading it.


Book cover for "This Long Thread". An orange background showing subtle texture with 3 diverse hands (none are white) touching threads of reds, browns, and other earth tones.

This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection

By Jen Hewett

November 2021 | Roost Books | 376 pages

ISBN: 9781611808247

Find a copy:

  • Bookshop.org
  • Public libraries: Worldcat.
    I read a copy of this book in print form thanks to my local library as well as an e-book through Overdrive.

Hello, again, world.

While most of my planning and goal setting happens in the autumn, I often use the new calendar year as a time to make small changes for my business. This year’s shift is to meet the modest goal of flexibility and finding new ways to adapt during this continued and prolonged period of change and uncertainty. To do so I’m going to return to creating new fiber art while I finalize a few long-promised patterns.

Why the shift in focus? The current expectations for knitting and crochet patterns are not sustainable. Each pattern requires significant time and resources; it’s hard to make that happen in a sustainable manner for a $6 pattern that sells only a dozen copies a year. What will I do instead?  I plan to return to creating small fiber art sculptures and jewelry.

 I love to create and enjoy figuring out how to make yarn exist in freeform shapes. Here’s an example of a puppy I knit in 2011.

Poloraoid photo of a black spotted white dog sitting on a beach and the back of a tiny knitted version

If you’ve met me at an in-person event, it’s possible you’ve seen examples of my necklaces. They often include a found or remixed object, such as part of an old decommissioned hard drive. I’m also exploring a collaboration with a local pottery artist. As soon as I have a few items finished I’ll add them to the shop.

Don’t worry, I’ll continue writing regular posts here and the monthly newsletter. I love sharing for free and know you may like to show your support. So, you can do so here. There’s no expectations on my part, but plenty of gratitude if you’re so inclined.

One crochet pattern design that is close to completion is a one-skein shawl ideal for 400m of a long-color-repeat/ombre dyed sport weight yarn. Dot’s been extra helpful as I work to finish the sample. I hope to release this by early February (two years later than planned).

tuxedo cat looking at a crochet hook and some crochet fabric

Update (13 January 2022): looking for this crochet design? It’s Strataterra.

Gifts for creative individuals

It’s that time of year—you want to support your favorite makers and organizations during the holiday season. This year’s edition of this post is a revised and recycled regift. I’m cleaning up and revising all the posts I’ve written about this topic over the years and updating for the new world we live in.

First, Thank you

For those who have taken a few seconds to read one of my posts or social media updates, thank you. If you’ve then taken a few more moments to comment or react, thank you. To the knitters and crocheters who invested in one of my patterns, thank you. To those who have taken the time to knit or crochet one of my designs, thank you.

Gifts to give creative individuals

There are three gifts that I strongly believe the creative people in your life will appreciate and use:

  • Time.
  • Space.
  • Support.

Yes. These are difficult to wrap but that’s an incentive for you to be creative. While financial support helps artists to have the time and space to create, there are other ways you can help if your budget is tight.

Do they sell things? Buy their stuff!

Of course, if you can (and want) to buy something the creative in your life offers for sale, please do so!

Time

Time is a finite resource, even more so when you want to meet a gift deadline. If you want to help a maker who is working on a deadline, take on some housework or errands. Assisting with cooking, cleaning, child/elder care, cleaning the litter box, etc. you get the idea.

Space

My experience is that crafting needs evolve and yet the work area is the last to see updates.

Ask what would help make a crafting space more useful. This could be storage, lighting, or spending time helping to organize supplies.

Tool Upgrades (or maintenance). Ask if there’s a tool they’d love upgraded or needs some more TLC than they can do on their own.

I know I can never have too many notebooks. If you’re unsure what to get I highly suggest the quality of Rhodia and Clairefontaine notebooks. I happen to have a few in stock.

Support

Be a friend. Art is often a lonely profession and the creative process can be rough. Set up a reoccurring date to chat with a friend and work hard so you don’t both back out.

Share & promote! It’s important to like/share/promote. I have brilliant friends and while I wish I could buy everything they make, realistically that isn’t possible. One way to help is to let the authors/artists know that you like their work and tell others about it. Buy legitimate copies of their work (or borrow from a library) and write a review to a book review website (or online store).

Say thank you. Is there someone in your creative community or even outside you find inspiring? Drop them a note, I personally think handwritten is best, but addresses aren’t always easy to find, so an email or contact form works too. Send a short note to let them know you appreciate their work and how it inspires or makes you smile.

Bonus: Donate

I’ve been seeing variations of: “did you buy extra stuff or clean out your closet earlier this year and now you don’t know what to do with it? Donate your things!”

No. By and large, please don’t. My mantra is this: Give Money, Give Time (and Social Media boosts), and only if you know the organization well (and have checked first) Give Stuff.

When a friend donates, it is beyond a humbling experience. While I highly recommend my local humane society, Westchester Humane Society at New Rochelle, find out what organization they care about and donate in their honor. Giving doesn’t always require money. You can start simple and small: share their message and donate a few dollars if you can.

Please help support independent businesses & artists. When monies are invested with them, they very often then turn around and help support others in their communities. I know that I do!

Best wishes for this holiday season.

a gift box wrapped in kraft paper and tied with a light blue bow. the background is a bokeh lights and light blue

This post is a 2021 update and consolidation of posts first written in 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Book Review: The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches

We know that I have a thing for stitch dictionaries. I’m especially fascinated by crochet pattern libraries because I didn’t know they existed for the first decade or so I crocheted. The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches is the book I wish I had when I first started to figure out how to do more than crochet granny squares.

It is a beautiful and clear guide to crochet stitches and useful for both beginner and experienced crocheters alike.

Everyone will appreciate that each stitch includes both written instructions and a chart. The photographs are clear and highlight not only a complete swatch of the stitch, but many of the steps are shown to help you successfully work it.

The book covers a range of stitches, and they are grouped by type of stitch; this allows you to quickly turn to the section you might want. There are basics which include not only the standard stitches but also fans and shells, clusters, puffs, and popcorns. If that weren’t enough there are examples of spikes, raised stitches, waves, chevrons, and textured stitches. I can keep going, there are 200 stitches in all. There are also mesh and filet as well as other lace and open work stitches, you can also explore Tunisian stitches, colour work, and finish off with eleven different edgings! Finally, there is an illustrated tutorial section that shows tips for changing colors, fastening off and weaving in ends, and more.

The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches is a useful one for any crocheters bookshelf.

Book cover: The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches. The background is a tan woven type perhaps paper background. There is a teal ball of yarn in the upper right. 6 swatches are spread on the left showing different stitches.

The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches

By Tracey Todhunter

January 2019 | Interweave | 192 pages | ISBN 9781632506573

Notes: The book is published in the UK by Search Press Ltd as 200 More Crochet Stitches. This review was initially published in a slightly different form at NetGalley on 08 April 2019.

3 tips for washing wool

It’s my favourite time of year — I’m no longer the only person wearing and washing woolen items. Today I’ll discuss 3 tips for caring for items that are made with wool. While this post is written mostly geared to knit socks, it does apply to other woolen items. A future post will discuss both short and longer term storage (can’t wait? I’m a fan of cedar and/or lavender).

Tip one – skip washing for a week (or more)

For years I washed my socks every week because that’s how I had always washed the cotton/acrylic socks I wore. The social media campaign about wearing a wool dress for 100 days is what actually made me stop to reflect about how often I actually needed to wash my wool socks.

Now I’ll wear a pair, hang them to air out for a night or two, then give a sniff test. They tend to go straight back into my sock drawer. I will wear them several times before I feel they need a bath. I’ve noticed that the amount of nylon, the number of plies, and how I knit the fabric all influence how often they need washing. I haven’t made a formal study with recorded data, but I hope to knit a pair of socks from a multi-ply and high-twist wool/silk combo soon.

Tip two – cool water and no rinse wool wash

Can you wash socks in a machine? Yes, I did for years. It’s also why I have sock toys for cats and mug cozies. Sometimes I didn’t check the settings and the entire load ended up on warm (and therefore felted).

I’m a big fan of wool wash. You can purchase it pre-made as I’ve done for years. I’m about to make my own batch because I’m almost out and I’m not too keen on paying to have what’s primarily water shipped. I plan to follow this popular recipe with modifications based on other’s experiences and honestly what I have around the house. I’ve started to gather everything.

various cleaning bottles sitting on top of a white surface.

In the image above, to the left are the two bottles of no rinse wool wash I bought years ago. They work & I like them, but they aren’t easy for me to buy more of. On the right is a bar of hand-made soap I was given years ago, some liquid castile soap, essential oil, and some isopropyl alcohol. So far that’s as far as I’ve gotten in the gathering of supplies!

Tip three – roll, stomp, let dry 

I don’t have a wringer for handwashing (yet, I have an idea on how I’ll make one). For now, I roll items in a clean towel and gently step on it, rotating the roll. This helps to draw out the extra water and helps the items to dry faster. If the weather is nice, I let them dry outside in the sun.


I hope this post helps you care for your wool items.

Need to read more?

a plastic bowl with sudsy water and some knitting. a post it with "gauge" handwritten, a pen, and a small ruler is in front of the bowl

knitting stripes, a tip to “carry up”

The first time I worked a project in stripes I was confused what it meant to “carry up”. How did I do that? My sole reference book at the time simply stated: “Wrap the working yarn around the other yarn(s) every 2-3cm (1in). Make sure the yarns do not pull.”[1] Did I twist the yarns together to the right or left? How many times did I twist? What if I tried knitting the two strands together? At the time information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now, this was over twenty years ago. All I had was the one book, while full of techniques, wasn’t a successful way to teach this crocheter how to knit!

More importantly, I didn’t understand the value of swatching yet. Yarn was precious and I didn’t think that a swatch could help me learn new things. It was a way to figure out my gauge, that was it! I also thought swatches wasted my yarn. Yes, I know now how limiting that mindset was.

Now, with years of experience I know how to successfully carry up yarn for knitting stripes. Further, I can prove it.

TL;DR: The secret is consistency.

Ok fine, I hear you grumble. Does it really matter?

That depends.

What are your goals for the project? Will the edge of your fabric be prominent (perhaps the edge of a cowl joined together at the short ends), or will another stitch cover it to create a border? In this second case, it may not matter as much if at all.

Swatch Example

Since I now love to swatch, I knitted up this example to show how different inconsistencies affect the edge. I also knit up a bit with a consistent change. From a distance, this unblocked swatch isn’t extra loud about that edge.

knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. The striped sections are seperated by solid purple knitting.

Yes it’s a bit wonky, but the entire thing could use a blocking.

Let’s look more closely at this knitted fabric. I’ll describe the three sections starting at the bottom, the cast-on edge.

Inconsistent Edge Examples

inconsistent knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This swatch shows the inconsistencies in changing the working yarn.
click on the image to view larger

In this first stripe section, I twisted a few times one way, then switched to going the opposite, then returned to what I did at the start.

The inconsistencies for this edge are subtle. It’s likely no one would notice once it’s blocked and worn a few times.

Can you switch back and forth how you twist? You can, but I think you’ll find it easier to always do it in the same way. It turns into muscle memory and then you don’t even think about it.


inconsistent knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This swatch shows additional inconsistencies in changing the working yarn.
click on image to view larger

The second section was when I decided to first twist for a few rows, then for a few of the color changes I knit both yarns together on the first stitch of the change, and in the final few rows, I twisted again.

This is more obvious in its inconsistencies.

Is it clear to those who aren’t knitters? Probably not until they stare at it for a while after you point it out.

I find this type of inconsistency the hardest to create. The act of knitting the two strands together is a very different action than twisting. There might be a reason you choose one method over another, but I wouldn’t suggest mixing them in one edge.


Consistent Edge Example

close up of knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This photo shows the consistent edge.
click on image to view larger

In this final third section I picked up the new yarn the same way every time.

It should be no surprise that I think this consistent edge looks the best.

It was also the fastest sample to work. The first two took me about 15 minutes each. This one took less than 10 minutes.

Confession: It was challenging to intentionally make inconsistencies in this swatch. I had to rip it out a few times to make it happen.

For any other consistencies in this swatch, I had a feline assistant.

A black cat is sitting on a lap looking at the knitted swatch laying on a wooden desk.
My helper while knitting the striped swatch.

He didn’t spend the entire time on my lap either. He wanted to climb onto my shoulders.

Summary

The key to a clean edge is to be consistent in whatever method you choose for carrying up your yarn.

If you’d like to learn more about working with multiple colors, the best way to learn is to try different methods in a swatch. I like to write down what I do in a notebook and also record my thoughts on each method.

If you want to read more, technique and beginner books offer ideas and often clear photos of how different methods look. Remember, your public library can be a valuable resource, and don’t forget that many (all at this point?) also offer eBooks. I wrote about a few books I recommend in reference books – knit and crochet.

As you work certain designs you may find a benefit to using one method over the another.

If you’re working with multiple colors and can’t carry them all up at once, I recommend Xandy Peter‘s solution for weaving in ends as you go, it’s available as a YouTube video.

Crocheters, I’m working on swatches that explore why consistency is important for you too.

References

  1. Stanley, Montse. Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook: A comprehensive guide to the principles and techniques of handknitting. Reader’s Digest, 1993. p. 159-60.