The joy of making: Black History Month

Published on 1 October 2019 5 min read

At LoveCrafts we believe that the joy of making is for everyone – from every race, culture, and part of the world. We knit, we crochet, we make, we love. However, we and many other voices have become painfully aware that people of colour are underrepresented, and that their history is also not adequately documented. This year, important discussions on social media in the craft community (and beyond) have taken place. Vital conversations on racism, representation, and diversity. Each of us plays a part in shaping how we act now, how we make fundamental changes to ensure we create a craft community, where all makers, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion or disability feel welcomed, heard, valued and respected.

To commemorate Black History Month this October, we celebrate today's wonderful makers, ask you to join us in supporting the BIPOC in Fiber campaign, and take a look back at crafting in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) community.

Support BIPOC in Fiber

Join us as we support the BIPOC in Fiber campaign. If you don’t know what it is, read on!

BIPOC in Fiber is a fantastic project designed and created by the amazing knitwear designer, Jeanette Sloan to improve the representation of black, indigenous and people of colour in the fiber community. The website and resource portal, BIPOC in Fiber, will support, connect and profile BIPOC designers and crafters. The aim is simple: finally, level the playing field so those in the BIPOC community are acknowledged for their work.

Whether it’s a publication looking for a tech editor, a consumer looking for an indie dyer or a student looking to interview a knitwear designer… we will include them all and everything in between - thereby enabling them to be recognised and rewarded for their work; something we believe is long overdue." - BIPOC in Fiber

Support BIPOC in Fiber

What to make, read, listen to, and who to follow this Black History Month

Diversity in the craft community needs to be intrinsic, not superficial tokenism. This October marks the 32nd Black History Month here in the UK, so we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of our favourite reads, artists, podcasts and more to craft along to.

What to make

Browse patterns by these brilliant UK-based designers!

What to listen to… 

Make a power playlist to craft along to. Here are some of our favourite BIPOC artists and podcasts.

Celeste

We also can’t get enough of Celeste, check out her song, Lately – you’ll be hooked on the dulcet sounds of her soulful R&B vocals. Channeling influences such as Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday, this powerful US-born and UK-raised singer will blow your handmade socks off. 

Slow Down Show

We love this poetry podcast – our daily dose of a different way to see the world. This one, highlights how poems make us attentive to the wonders within each other. Tracey K Smith reads Sonia Sanchez’s poem “This is not a small voice.” A celebration of those voices that often get overlooked.

Desert Island Discs

Dive in to Desert Island Discs for hours and hours of brilliant stories and magical music from some of your favourite celebs. The perfect easy listening for crafting! Some of our favourite Desert Island Discs by BIPOC include Pat McGrath, Edna Adan Ismail, Arundhati Roy, Nicola Adams and Nadiya Hussain.    

‘Back to school sewing’ - Stitch Please 

A new podcast from Lisa Woolfork, Stitch Please. What does belonging mean in a multi-racial family? Woolfork’s inaugural episode explores the back-to-school tradition of sewing matching outfits and the importance of sewing as a family connection. 

Photo credit: © Chasten Harmon

What to read…  

‘Black people do knit’ by Jeanette Sloan

One of our favourite knitwear designers, Jeanette Sloan wrote for Knitting Magazine about diversity in the crafting world in her guest column, ‘Black people do knit’. This post highlights the lack of diversity in the knitting community and that more black knitters and knitwear designers – because there are plenty – need to be not just shown in the knitting community as an act of tokenism, but truly ingrained. Jeanette has a section on her blog dedicated to black designers and crafters, which we think is an essential read.

‘Warming the Hands—and Hearts—of Black Soldiers’ by Roger Glass

The blog post shares the true story of the Glass’ great grandmother knitting for black soldiers during WWI, after discovering that the Red Cross at the time were decidedly only sending handmade goods to white soldiers.

 

‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit’ by Lorna Hamilton Brown

In Jeanette Sloan’s column, Lorna Hamilton Brown’s dissertation, ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit’ has consistently been referred to as a significant source. This wonderful piece of academia discusses the importance of documenting the experiences of black knitters now and throughout history.

What to watch...

Diarus Jackson Overcoming Negative Perception

Who to follow...

Hit the follow button on these super cool Instagram crafters and fill your feed with stitchspiration!

@Abolajiooo 

Follow @abolajioo

@heartzeena

Follow @heartzeena

@selfassemblyrequired

Follow @selfassemblyrequired

@jenhewett

Follow @jenhewett

@cauchycomplete

Follow @cauchycomplete

@latifahsaafirstudios

Follow @latifahsaafirstudios

@rashida_coleman_hale

Follow @rashida_coleman_hale

Restitching history

Maybe the famous photograph of former African American slave, activist, and abolitionist, Sojourner Truth sitting tall and proud, with knitting in hand has made its way into your life. Or perhaps you’ve heard of US botanist and pioneer of recycling, George Washington Carver whose crochet was as delicate and intricate as the ecosystems he loved to study and preserve so dearly.

Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." - James Baldwin

However, if like us, you have searched for the stories and lives of black knitters and crocheters in Western history and come up short, it's not because these stories don't exist. When it comes to historical Britain in particular, the search feels even narrower: a tough pill to swallow in 2019.

The hidden knitters of history

If you’ve read articles about knitting in WWI and WWII, you would have noticed that significant moments in history are ignored and therefore show a complete lack of diversity. It is only through tiny snippets here and there that we have found out many black women during those wars were unable to join the white knitting societies (started to keep soldiers in warm socks and jumpers), and so had to start their own. And not only this, that black soldiers weren’t given the luxury of receiving these items when their white counterparts readily were.

Julia Hammonds’ yarn holding invention

In 1896, Julia Hammonds became one of the earliest black female inventors when she was issued a patent for her yarn apparatus. Hammonds’ invention was created for knitters and crocheters to hold and wind yarns, silk, cottons, and other fibres easily without the help of another person.

Garrett Morgan’s sewing machine invention

Garrett Morgan was a man of inventions. After opening a sewing machine repair shop in the early 1900s, Morgan developed the belt fastener for the sewing machine, and applied for a patent for an improved sewing machine design.

If you have a historical craft story from the BIPOC community we’d love to hear from you. Together, we’d love to be a part of restitching this gap in the history books.

Share your story with us on Instagram or Facebook.

Celebrate the joy of creating! Share your craft and knowledge or pick up some tips.

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