Thoughts on Inclusion in the Knitting Community

There have been multiple conversations happening recently around inclusion in the knitting world, and I wanted to write my thoughts about these conversations in one place. It’s probably overdue, but it’s given me a chance to really think through all of the issues that are being discussed.

My core values as a business are sustainability, community, and integrity, and I want to talk about what those mean to me.

Sustainability

I have been concerned about environmental impact for a long time. Before starting this business I worked as an environmental engineer, and my concern about fast fashion is one of the reasons I started making many of my own clothes.

As a designer sustainability to me means, first and foremost, designing for longevity. I want you to knit a garment that will last, and that is modern and fresh but still timeless enough not to be cast aside when the next trend comes along. It also means using natural, low impact materials as much as possible. It does not mean following a certain design aesthetic. I also love to knit with yarns that are local to me and have knit myself two sweaters using only yarns available from a local farm. I am an active member of the Piedmont Fibershed, which seeks to support an equitable, local fiber economy in my region. I am exploring ways to use more local fibers in my designs while allowing for a yarn selection that is locally available to the knitter.

It’s true that sustainable materials can cost more because they reflect the true cost of manufacturing and fair labor standards. However, I do design patterns using yarns at a variety of price points that I feel are going to stand up well. I always give full yardage information and yarn content and characteristics in my patterns, and my test knitters use a range of yarns in their projects. I also give yardage information so that you don’t end up buying significantly more yarn than you need for the project, another way of making knitting more sustainable – just keep in mind that yardage requirements are estimates and may vary depending on the yarn chosen and how you knit.

Community

I unequivocally believe in a community where everyone is welcome. While I have been in engaged in anti-racist learning and action personally over the past several years, as a white woman whose sole employee is me, and who doesn’t yet have a large audience or platform, it’s tempting to sit back and dream about what I can do once my business grows. But the thing is, I already support small, local and independent businesses whenever I can. And I can do more to support independent BIPOC-owned businesses. I am currently auditing where I spend my dollars and looking for ways to align my spending with my values. And I can look for collaborations that support those businesses and makers too. I also am committed to giving a percentage of my income back to the community, and I’m making it a priority to shift my support to organizations that are run by the communities they serve.

Size Inclusivity

All of my independently published garment designs are sized to fit at least a 30-60 inch bust measurement, and I am continually working on improving my sizing. If you’d like to help with that please participate in my test knits! I will commit to working with you on any issues that arise so that you come away with a garment that you’re happy with.

Accessibilty

To tell you the truth, this is an area I am still learning about. I am looking into making my patterns, as well as my website and social media, more accessible. I do work hard to write my patterns clearly and succinctly so they are easy to follow for as many knitters as possible. I offer directions in both charted and written form where it is useful, and going forward I plan to include symbols as well as colors in my colorwork charts so they are easier to read and can be printed in black and white. Since Ravelry’s new design has made it inaccessible to many, I am working on making more of my knitting patterns available on Etsy, in both print and digital format, and most of my independently published patterns are already available on the LoveCrafts website. You can find links to those sources on my front page.

Integrity

I chose to go into business for myself because I wanted my work to align with my life and my values, and to truly reflect who I am in the world. All of this is a work in progress, and I’m not claiming to do any of it perfectly. I do commit to continuing to work toward the kind of fiber community I want to see, and to be accountable in my work.

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Spinning from Raw Fleece

Last year while visiting my aunt in Saskatchewan I purchased a few ounces of raw fleece from a local yarn shop. This was my first time working with raw fleece, and I never got around to sharing my experience. The fleece is a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, and since I hadn’t worked with Clun Forest before, I decided to buy a few ounces as a souvenir. I’m not sure how much the characteristics of this fleece resemble pure Clun Forest, but I’ve recently purchased some Clun Forest Roving for one of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects, and both have a certain spongy quality that is different than other wool types I’ve encountered.

My first adventure was figuring out how to get my purchase across the border. I learned that it is legal to send fleece across the border, but decided to mail the fleece home in case the TSA agents weren’t aware of this fact. I figured the postal inspectors know what they’re doing, but I was still a little bit nervous about it being confiscated.

Raw Clun Forest x Corriedale fleece

The fleece did arrive in the mail, however, and I set about washing and drying it. There was a fair bit of dirt and VM in the fleece, so I went through several soakings in plain water after the initial scouring with mild soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented formula).

Washing the fleece
Locks post-washing

Once dried I decided to process the locks with my flick-carder. About half the fleece was leftover from this process, so I hand carded it to spin separately. I was finding it difficult to manage a short-forward draft, so after a bit of experimentation I settled on long-draw, which I used for both the flicked locks and the carded fleece.

A single lock
The final skeins. (L) Flick-carded, undyed. (R) Hand carded, dyed with avocado pits.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The carded fleece had a few neps in it and so is a bit more irregular. The flick-carded yarn is fairly even and pleasantly bouncy, and the yarn took the dye well. I’m looking forward to spinning the Clun Forest roving I’ve bought so I can compare the two.

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Spinning Teeswater

Recently I spun up a sample of Teeswater roving that I bought at SAFF a couple of years ago (from Gwyneth Glynn Longwools). Now that I have more experience with spinning, and especially on my wheel, I’m attempting to be a little bit more scientific about my breed sampling. Even though it’s not a combed prep, the small sample that I Andean plied had a bit of sheen to it, so I decided to spin it with a short forward draft to maximize the sheen. I aimed for a thickness that would match my other breed samples. The roving had a bit of grease left in it, and I found it a wee bit difficult to draft consistently.

The finished yarn does have a nice sheen, and a certain silkiness. I plan to use this sample to knit one of my hexagon blanket ‘squares’, but I could also see it being used as a weft yarn for weaving. The finished skein is 41 g/ about 65 yds at 14wpi and 2-3 twists per inch.


New Design: Composure Cardigan

Composure Cardigan by Kerry Bullock-Ozkan

My latest design, the Composure Cardigan, is now available on Ravelry and Etsy. Sweaters are, of course, my favorite thing to knit, and this one lived in my head for several years until I figured out how to make it just right.

My first knitting project that I can remember was an (unfinished) doll sweater, and when I first picked up knitting again after a 20-ish year hiatus, sweaters were what I wanted to knit. I still have a picture in my scrapbook of a RTW advertisement that had the perfect cozy sweater: all-over texture, an easy fit, and that perfect shade of oatmeal gray. The sweater that will go with everything. I wanted to create my own version of that sweater. And so the Composure Cardigan was born.

Detail of Composure Cardigan

Composure features a relaxed, drop shoulder fit and a slight A-line shape. The shoulders are shaped with short rows mainly at the back, so that the neckline fits close to keep the sweater on your shoulders, and the front hem angles slightly upward for an easy, flattering shape. It’s sized to fit up to a 61-inch chest circumference with approximately 4-6 inches of positive ease. Here I’m modeling the size 40 1/2; my upper chest is 34 inches and my full bust is 38 inches.

Shoulder shaping on the Composure Cardigan

For this sweater I’ve used Echoview Fiber Mill’s Ranger DK in the colorway Chickadee, which has exactly the heathered gray look I was going for. I think it would look equally stunning in Bunting Blue (faded denim anyone?) or a soft shade like Cedar Waxwing or Robin’s Egg. The 10% Rambouillet gives this yarn a lot of bounce and it has a lofty, almost cotton-like feel in the hands.

I hope you enjoy knitting and wearing this design as much as I have, and please share your finished sweaters on social media (#ComposureCardigan).

Happy knitting!


Beach Pebbles Hat and Cowl

Beach Pebbles Hat and Cowl © Kerry Bullock-Ozkan

Introducing the Beach Pebbles Hat and Cowl. This set, like the Backshore Pullover, was inspired by my family’s trip two summers ago to the Great Lakes, where I grew up. On the trip I became fascinated with the Petoskey stones that can be found along Lake Michigan, and even found a couple. According to Wikipedia, Petoskey stones are a form of fossilized rugosa coral, Hexagonaria percarinata. The hexagon shapes of the knits and purls resemble the shapes of these fossils.

Petoskey Stone. © Kerry Bullock-Ozkan

This also gave me a perfect opportunity to use natural undyed wool for the design. Knit Picks Simply Wool Bulky comes in a range of natural grays and browns, and perfect for making a textural fabric. As much as I love yarns from my local farms, it’s nice to see an affordable eco-friendly undyed wool on the market.

Hat Crown. © Kerry Bullock-Ozkan

The Beach Pebbles pattern is available now in my Ravelry store, on LoveCrafts, and on Patternvine. The hat is written in two adult sizes, the cowl in one size, and is a quick knit suitable for an advanced beginner knitting, with both charted and written instructions.

Beach Pebbles Cowl. © Kerry Bullock-Ozkan

I‘m offering this pattern for a one-time introductory price of $2.50 until February 2nd, 2020.