I Run This Knit by Alix Kramer
Guest Post | 3 min read time
Alix shares her story of becoming a pattern designer, and the importance of representation in the crafting community.
How I created I Run This Knit
I never thought I’d be designing patterns, although I bet if you asked my loved ones they would have said that as soon as I knitted my first garment the next step was designing. I’ve always been someone who likes to go bigger and bigger with my passions (sometimes to the detriment of the hobby, but what can you do?).
Despite my dominant personality trait of always going bigger with everything in my life, I had no intention of ever designing. I was happy just to knit other people’s patterns (and still am – I am a huge proponent that all designers should continue to knit from other patterns to expand their creative repertoire and support other designers). I fell into designing almost by chance. Actually, scratch that, I fell into designing because I am stubborn as an ox and obsessed with 'making things fair' wherever and whenever I can.
Where did my tireless quest for justice take me in the knitting world? After celebrating just a single winter in the maker community, I noticed the prevailing cultural imperialism in European and American circles that trickled down into the maker community. Starting in July, companies begin promoting crochet and knitting patterns for Christmas. Around the same time, indie yarn dyers release their Yarn Advents for pre-order, choosing language that appeals only to those who celebrate Christmas even where alternative, non-denominational language is equally as effective (and a better business strategy!). For a closer look at why the use of 'Advent' in the maker community is exclusive, check out this post of mine. Beginning on the first of November my inbox is full with newsletters from big box companies on ‘12 Weeks of Free Christmas Patterns!’ and my feed is full of people knitting stockings, wreaths, Christmas sweaters...
To make a long story short, I dove into designing Jewish patterns to bring a minuscule amount of Jewish representation into the maker community (which is filled with Jewish makers!). I was shocked, but not surprised, at the total lack of Hanukkah patterns. I was shocked (and totally surprised) by the lack of non-denominational winter patterns during the same period. While there is a prevailing belief among makers who celebrate Christmas that everyone in the community does as well (as evidenced in the slew of negative responses to my posts about inclusion during the wintertime), the number of makers who celebrate a different winter holiday or none at all is significant. Considering this, in my first winter of designing, I released a Hanukkah sweater and a non-denominational winter sweater that used the winter iconography of a steaming mug of coffee/hot cocoa/tea.
Since then I’ve tried to design only garments that fill niches and identities that aren’t already widely represented by the maker community. I’ve released an Afikomen Cover for Passover, a pronoun top for expressing gender identity, a spoonie top for chronically ill makers, and for this winter a Hanukkah vest.
In a way I never could have anticipated, knitting and designing became a form of activism for me – a way to bring my bisexual, chronically ill, Jewish self meaningfully into a space which performatively welcomed those parts of me, but scorned them in practice. I recognise that for many people, they are always acting from a place of best intention. In the maker community, I know that there is an abundance of wonderful people who deeply care about making the community inclusive. So for all makers, especially those who make up dominant majorities in the community, it is important to examine ways in which you can bring in your friends who hold minority identities into a space which has historically excluded them.
Please Note: I wrote this post before knowing about Stitch & Story’s upcoming Advent CALendar this December. I’m pleased to say that Stitch & Story has already taken other steps for making their winter language less exclusive and will be re-examining their Advent CALendar for 2022.