Craftivism & Gentle Protest

I’m currently reading a book by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective.

The Craftivist Collective, founded by Corbett, is

“an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.”

https://craftivist-collective.com/our-story/

In her book How to be a Craftivist: The art of gentle protest, Corbett walks through definitions of craft (noun, verb and metaphor), activism (“the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”), and how to marry the two into craftivism.

In 2003, Betsey Greer coined the word craftivism and defined it as

“…a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.”

https://craftivism.com/definition/

Gentle Protest

What I love about Corbett’s book is her focus on gentle protest.

By her definition, gentle protest is not passive or weak, but instead it is kind, empathetic, supportive, compassionate and thoughtful.

Much of the book emphasizes the importance of doing your research: not just on the issue that you are tackling, but also truly getting to know the people you are trying to reach out to.

Corbett’s method of protesting is revolutionary because it puts the focus not on anger (though a measure of anger is needed to spark action), but on positive relationship-building.

She writes that instead of being enemies to those we disagree with, we should be “critical friends.”

How I Can Use Craftivism

I’m not going to do a full write-up of the book here. It’s easy enough to get a hold of a copy if you’re interested, or poke around more on the Craftivist Collective website.

But reading this book, a couple of ideas have struck me about how I can use craftivism to try and make small positive changes in our neighborhood.

Starting with some new neighbors we have.

We live in a townhouse, tightly sandwiched between our neighbors. The walls are about as thin as cardboard, and we hear a lot of what goes on next door (as do, I imagine, our neighbors!).

The house immediately next to ours on one side is a rental property, and we have already seen three different tenants come and go. The owner does the bare minimum to keep the house up and has proved himself to be a terrible landlord to previous tenants.

The current renters don’t seem to care too much about the state of the house. They’re a group of truck drivers who share the rent (probably against zoning laws…) and use the place as a crash pad. They didn’t even move furniture in for a couple of weeks!

Needless to say, these are not ideal neighbors for a family with small children. The first encounter we had with them was to ask them firmly but politely not to throw their cigarette butts in the shared public spaces. We’ve had to ask them to quiet down numerous times, including last night when they woke us up at 1am because they were out on their back terrace smoking and laughing.

There is definitely tension between us, and it makes for passive-aggressive behavior like loud music late at night and carelessly slamming doors.

Inspired by Craftivism

Corbett writes how the unexpectedly friendly nature of craftivism is part of its efficacy. Its basis in kindness and empathy disarms people and opens up avenues of positive, constructive interaction.

So I figured, why not try a similar approach with these neighbors?

Instead of allowing tension to build, why not adopt Corbett’s approach to try and difuse it?

After all, there is nothing we can do about these neighbors. We can’t get them evicted, and we don’t want to keep treading on each other’s toes.

I may not incorporate cross-stitching or knitting, but my idea was as simple as baking a batch of cookies and putting it in a tin with a nice hand-written note with the following quote:

“No one is rich enough to do without a neighbor.”

Danish Proverb

Starting Small

I may give this a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If it goes well, I have a further idea of how to use craftivism to tackle a problem in our neighborhood: littering.

I’ll keep you posted.

the_tempestry_project

The Tempestry Project

Are you a crafty person? Have you ever wondered how you can bring the reality of climate change to life?

Wonder no more, friends! Meet the Tempestry Project!

The Tempestry Project allows you to visualize “climate data in a way that is accurate, personal, tangible and beautiful.”

“Uh… what,” you say? It’s a marriage of crafting and climate change activism! Hooray!

Temperature Tapestries

Each Tempestry is a knitted tapestry of temperature data. You select your location and your year, and the Tempestry Project folks will send you the temperature highs for each day that year.

copyright the Tempestry Project

For example, I ordered a Tempestry kit for Geneva Switzerland, 1985. My kit arrived with an Excel spreadsheet with 365 lines, starting January 1st 1985, ending December 31st. Each line shows the date, the day’s high temperature, and which color you need to knit to correspond to that temperature.

The original kit also includes a color card (pictured above) with little yarn samples, and just the right amount of each color yarn for you to knit your full Tempestry.

Knit or Crochet (or Cross Stitch!)

Linen stitch Tempestries

You can choose either to knit or crochet your Tempestry. If you decide to knit, you can also choose whether to do it in garter stitch or linen stitch.

The lovely thing about the linen stitch is the texture it gives the whole Tempestry. The pattern recommends a small 3-stitch garter stitch border with the linen stitch, and I’m loving the way it looks.

Really, you can knit or crochet this any way you choose. You just have to be conscious that you only have a certain amount of each yarn. This project is easy to adapt and personalize.

Giving Climate Change Data Context

What this project does is it allows you to contextualize climate change data. If you’re like me and you struggle to see how climate change awareness and activism can fit into your daily life, then this might help.

I mentioned my kit for Geneva, 1985. I also ordered one for Geneva, 2017, because some extraordinary circumstances meant that our second son, our Bear, was born in Geneva in 2017 (we were expecting him to be born in Germany).

It will be interesting to see how these two kits compare once they’re knitted. How much warmer was Geneva in 2017 than in 1985? I remember it being hot as hell in 2017, especially as I traipsed around town the morning of the Bear’s birth, unaware that I was going to deliver a baby later that afternoon. The Tempestries should illustrate the difference.

A Tutorial for Your Tempestry

I discovered the Tempestry Project from Staci Perry over at VeryPink Knits. She published a video tutorial for knitting a Tempestry, and her colleague Casey from the (now defunct) VeryPink podcast interviewed the crew at the Tempestry Project.

I’m sharing Staci’s tutorial below, in case anyone is interested. Her YouTube channel has been my go-to resource for knitting lessons.

Other Ways to Participate

There are lots of other ways to participate in the Tempestry project. They sell their very own needle wranglers, as well as other patterns and kits on their websites.

They’ve developed a “new normal” series, which show “a visual representation of annual deviations-from-average temperature for different locations.” Some of the results are pretty nuts.

This is a great project, and a great way to dip your toes into what is now being called “craftivism.” More on that another time, perhaps.

Staci’s Video Tutorial

copyright VeryPink Knits
frogging-knitting

The Emotional Value of Frogging

Frogging, in the knitting world, means to completely unravel a piece of knitted work.

emotional-value-of-frogging
See the little frog? Yup. That means it’s been frogged.

Remember my beautiful Rolling Rock sweater I completed a few months ago? It no longer exists in sweater form. It has been frogged.

“Jane!” you exclaim, “That’s terrible! Why? After all your hard work!”

You’d be right there. It was a lot of hard work. But it turned out to be simply too fitted. And I figure, if I’m going to be making clothes for myself, I want them to fit correctly. And so, I frogged it.

How to Frog

I always find inspiration on YouTube from Stacey Perry of VeryPink Knits. Her video about reusing yarn is super helpful.

I would just make one note: I did NOT take the ball off the ball winder once I had finished unraveling. I kept it on there and wound the yarn around the swift, and put it back into hank form from there. It just seemed a little easier than dealing with the cake of yarn rolling all over the place.

How I Got to This Point

You might think that this must be the world’s most frustrating thing to do. After spending hours on a project, having to rip it out and start over again must be maddening.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

In my case, I wasn’t so frustrated, because I did see it coming. I tried on my sweater periodically, and I knew it was more fitted than I had wanted. But I kept telling myself I would be sure to like it when it was done.

But when I had finally finished it, I had to be completely honest.

I was never going to wear this sweater.

It was going to be one of those things that sat in my closet and I never put on because it clung a bit too unforgivingly to my curves. *Sigh* I simply had to frog it.

Where is the Emotional Value in Frogging?

Frogging does have its value. It is a rather cathartic exercise. It’s fun to see how quickly you can unravel something that took HOURS to make (did I say “fun”? I guess I’m masochistic).

But of more value still is the thought process that leads to frogging as a conclusion.

We want everything we do to be successful and beautiful, but that’s not always going to happen. Some things simply don’t turn out well.

And that is okay!

It’s okay to fail at things, and recognize that we have failed. Especially when failure is so relatively unimportant, as in the case of an ill-fitting sweater.

Frogging allows us to acknowledge our failure, embrace it, learn from it, and try again (or move on).

Try, Try Again

I plan to make this sweater again. An indication that something was wrong should have been that I had an entire skein of yarn leftover. Seeing as I had an over abundance, I will make the sweater again in a larger size.

No one likes to have to admit that we need a larger size, but hey. That’s life. It’s hard not to slowly expand as the years go by and the baby weight never totally comes off (SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT ALONE ON THIS).

At the very least, I will have a beautiful, nicely fitting sweater that will flatter my new figure.

Finished_Triangle_Crochet_Baby_Blanket

Trendy Triangle Baby Blanket

Triangles are all the rage these days. Just a glance through DIY décor ideas on Pinterest will tell you that much.

Seeing as our friend Perrin PimPim has been bitten by the triangle bug, Taloline and Clelola decided a homemade triangle baby blanket would make the perfect baby shower gift for her. They weren’t wrong!

Picking the Pattern

Photo credit from MorganOurs.com
Photo credit from MorganOurs.com

Taloline and Clelola sneakily made use of Pinterest’s secret board feature and created the distractingly named “Choco” board just for us. From there, they went a-searchin’ for triangle patterns.

They decided to go for crochet because it seemed quicker and simpler than knitting for making triangles.

The pattern they decided on is an easy step-by-step tutorial by MorganOurs they found on Pinterest. The slight modification we made was instead of simply not crocheting the last stitch on each end, we decided to do a decrease stitch on the ends for a cleaner look.

Choosing the Yarn

Berroco_vintage_yarn_crochetThe girls decided on a color scheme of 7 complementary colors and visited Mouliné Yarns here in Montreal to pick out the best yarn.

The yarn had to be, of course, machine washable for practicality! So they picked out an old, reliable option: Berroco Vintage yarn. It’s a wool-acrylic blend and it comes in a wide variety of beautiful colors.

To Work!

We each had to do at least 4 triangles, and those of us with more experience crocheting did a couple more. The pattern said to use a 4.5mm hook, but since we were three different people with three different tensions, we all ended up using different sizes to get the final triangle size right.

After a couple of screw-up attempts (Taloline and I found ourselves decreasing too quickly), we finally got the hang of it and started producing our beautiful triangles.

I crochet in the back, while the girls crochet in both.
I crochet in the back, while the girls crochet in both.

As we worked, though, we realized our triangles looked different! Mine had more of a textured look, while Clelola’s and Taloline’s were smoother. A little investigating soon told us why:

I learned to crochet in the back loop only (see figure) rather than in both loops. The others crochet in both loops.

We decided, though, rather than have me do my triangles over again, that the different textures looked quite nice when put together. We would just have to be sure to mix my triangles in well with the others’.

Placement of the Colors

triangle_crochet_blanket_schema
Color coding the blanket

In one evening, after finishing up our last triangles and deciding who was to make which half-triangles and in which colors, Clelola set about placing the colors in the right order.

This was delicate because we didn’t want colors to repeat too frequently within a row or a column. Clelola spent quite some time placing the triangles on the floor, trying to decide what would work best.

We probably could have used some kind of Excel spreadsheet to place them so that they were mathematically correct, but whatever. It looked fine to us.

Blocking the Triangles

I was given all the finished triangles to block, and took this responsibility very seriously!

Some people block simply by ironing the piece with a towel placed between the iron and the crocheting, to avoid squishing the pattern too much. I learned, though, that the best way to block is to fully wet an item and pin it out to dry.

So that’s what I did. Using my new washing machine’s delicate wool cycle (how I love it!), I washed all the triangles and pinned them out on my bed over some towels. It was a tedious process, and I had to do a lot of stretching and measuring to try to get them all the same size.

Blocking_crochet_blanket

 

In the end, I finally also ironed them for good measure. Oh well.

Assembling the Rows

We were each assigned a row or two and our homework over the next couple of weeks was to sew our designated rows together. I, of course, finished mine just before the girls came over to assemble all the rows together (whoops! Procrastinator!).

Building_Perrine_Blanket
Sorry, the photo’s a bit blurry

But finally, once we had sewn it all together (with only one restart), and Clelola had added the border, it looked stunning:

Finished_Triangle_Crochet_Baby_Blanket

 

Optional: Sewn-On Backing

To add a touch of class (and to incorporate another craft) to the project, we visited Effiloché and picked out a great fabric to add as a backing to the blanket.

Normally, if sewn correctly, there is neither a “right side” or a “wrong side” to a blanket like this (it’s a bit like a granny square blanket). But we liked the idea of making it feel like a quilt-crochet combo.

So Taloline broke out the sewing machine and added the cutest fabric to the back:

triangle_crochet_baby_blanket_backing
Perrin PimPim’s other half is a photographer, so we thought he’d enjoy this fabric on the baby’s blanket.

Needless to say, we were all mightily pleased with the result, and Perrin PimPim was delighted, both by her surprise baby shower and by her homemade gift for her little bundle of joy.

Thank you to Taloline and Clelola for organizing the gift idea and for a fun time putting it all together!