The joy of making: Black History Month

Published on October 1, 2020 6 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, Black makers are underrepresented, and their history has been inadequately documented. This year, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality sparked Black Lives Matter rallies across the world. Vital conversations on racism, representation, and diversity have taken place in the craft community and beyond. 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.

We commemorate UK Black History Month in October, but here at LoveCrafts we want to celebrate wonderful Black makers all year round. We 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 Color) 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 color in the fibre 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 recognized 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 33rd Black History Month here in the UK and you can find out more about the events, and opportunities to learn more here. But what to make? We wanted to take the opportunity to share some of our favorite reads, artists and podcasts to craft along to.

What to make

Browse patterns by these brilliant designers!

What to listen to… 

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

The Michelle Obama Podcast

The former First Lady dives deep into conversation with friends, family and colleagues on how the relationships in our lives make us who we are. Michelle Obama's Podcast is a real treat, with thoughtful discussion and not to be missed guests - including Barack Obama himself!

Confessions of a Werkaholic

Lots of makers are entrepreneurs trying to achieve their dreams of becoming a designer! Confessions of a Werkaholic gives you the inside scoop on what it takes to build a business and succeed.

The Friend Zone

Dustin Ross, Francheska and Assante get together to talk about mental health on their podcast: 'The Friend Zone'. Settle in for a cozy chat with these three friends talk about relationships, health, pop culture and so much more. Funny and therapeutic!

Love to Sew

Love to Sew is a crafty podcast and their 156th episode interviews Julian Collins, where they chat about his sewing journey and the Black Makers Matter coalition.

Desert Island Discs

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

Stitch Please 

Lisa Woolfork, is the amazing maker behind Stitch Please podcast which centers Black women, girls and femmes in sewing!

What to read…  

‘Black people do knit’ by Jeanette Sloan

One of our favorite 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.

We knit too: Diversity in knitting by Gaye Glasspie

Gaye Glasspie, otherwise known as GGmadeit on Instagram (yep, that iconic orange obsessed superstar) discusses her thoughts on diversity in knitting.

Black Makers Matter Founder, Monica Tetteh interviewed by Lori Caldwell

The Black Makers Matter collective is a fantastic organization that empowers and inspires other Black makers, in this interview Lori Caldwell talks to founder of the organization, Monica Tetteh, about where it all began and where it's going.

'Little Black Book: A toolkit for working women' by Otegha Uwagba

Described at the "essential career book for working creative women", Otegha's Little Black Book is a fantastic resource for anyone working in a creative industry - that means you designers! Packed with no-nonsense (and seriously helpful) advice, this little book is essential reading to building the career you want.

'Real Men Knit' by Kwana Jackson

If you're looking for something cozy and crafty, Kwana's cute contemporary story of four brothers, one neighbourhood knitting shop and a whole lotta love, is perfect for you!

'This is why making matters to Samantha Brunson' by Samantha Brunson

Samantha Brunson is a self identified knitaholic, elderly millennial, and owner of the wonderful Bobble Club House. Samantha's making journey is truly inspiring; through a patchwork of family history and an insatiable need to create, discover why making matters to Samantha.

Making while Black in white crafting spaces by Carolyn

In this blog post, Carolyn, otherwise known as Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, and Black Makers Matter member, discusses her experiences as a Black maker in a predominately white crafting space and the challenges that come with it.

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

@ggmadeit

Follow @ggmadeit

@kre8iveshack

Follow @kre8iveshack

@jenhewett

Follow @jenhewett

@cauchycomplete

Follow @cauchycomplete

@latifahsaafirstudios

Follow @latifahsaafirstudios

@rashida_coleman_hale

Follow @rashida_coleman_hale

@prettystrangedesign

Follow @prettystrangedesign

@iiirdwind

Follow @iiirdwind

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 2020.

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 fibers 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.

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