Not least for Halloween ideas.
I just read several knitting books and several anti-colonial books at the same time, and I have all these new ideas about my own knitting. As happens when you read different topics at the same time, I found where they overlap and connect. An example.
From Michael Pearson’s Traditional Knitting: Aran, Fair Isle and fisher ganseys, 1984.
[The Shetland Islands] lie to the north east of Britain and are in fact closer to Norway than mainland Scotland. … The inhabitants owe their heritage to the Norsemen who settled there in the 8th and 9th centuries, living under the patronage of Norway for over 500 years before the influx of Scottish mainlanders in the 13th century. Norse influence then began to fade and ended with the sale of the islands in 1496 by Norway to the Scottish Crown.
From this date right through to the present day the history of the inhabitants has been one of ruthless exploitation— by the Stuart family till 1615 and then by the splitting up of the islands into estates run by rich immigrant Churchmen and landowners…
The two knitting traditions that had the most resonance for me were Cowichan sweaters and Fair Isle knitting, both affected by Scottish colonialism. The more I read about Scottish history, the more it seems like Scotland has been a volcano of settlers for hundreds of years. They can’t stay home. Why? I continue to read. I want to know more about how I ended up here, descended from at least five different Scottish settler families on Coast Salish territories.
But. Ideas I got from this round of reading.
- Folk knitting history is patchy and there are many versions of events and stories.
- Reading books by American and British people mostly involves serious denial about colonization of any kind. It’s almost a relief to read books about North American genocide, because at least the destruction is presented as destruction. I read one book about Fair Isle knitting that presented Norway’s sale of Fair Isle to Scotland as simply a “reflection of the fact that the island was by then more Scottish than Norse.” OK, author, but how did that happen?
- Knitting has labour politics as well as the more discussed gender roles. I hadn’t thought much before about the history of underpaid cottage industries where poor people knit clothes for rich people, for peanuts per hour. It is still basically impossible to make a living wage selling hand knitting. Like gardening, it’s one of those subsistence activities that middle class people dabble in for leisure. Not sure what to do with that right now.
- Again, being a folk art, patterns and ideas spread whenever one crafter meets another (or even a craft). It sounds like Cowichan spinners and weavers were keen to pick up knitting from European settlers and missionaries, just as crafters. But also, English style knitting (yarn in the receiving hand) was taught in residential schools as a “civilizing” domestic skill, sometimes to produce items the school sold for profit. I want to find out how Turkish style knitting (with the yarn around the back of the neck) ended up in the Andes, when by the time of colonization I think Iberians were knitting in continental style (yarn in the loading hand). So far I haven’t found a resource that has both crafty knowledge and awareness of colonialism.
More from Michael Pearson.
Because of the natural tendency to identify with areas within reach, British knitters have usually assumed that Fair Isle was the place where two-colour knitting was invented.
I don’t know how natural that is. It does seem to be part of British and maybe European culture, to assume cultural dominance or sameness. Do non-Euro people have a history of that too? Assuming that everything was invented nearby just because it’s here now? (Two colour knitting, as far as I have been able to find out, first turned up in Turkey and Egypt, then spread via trade routes to Baltic and Nordic Europe.)
(Excerpt from the Suo Sarumawashi Association’s official introduction)
Sarumawashi, literally “monkey dancing” evolved over a 1000-year history in Japan. Ancient Japanese chronicles refer to it as a form of religious ritual designed to protect the horses of warriors. It later developed into a popular form of festival entertainment, and was performed all over Japan from temples to imperial courts. Today, Sarumawashi is ranked alongside Noh and Kabuki as one of the oldest and most traditional of Japan’s performing arts. It features acrobatic stunts and comedic skits performed by highly trained macaque monkeys.
Is that Batman, Spiderman and… Colonel Sanders?
From the Strumpet & Pink website, a goal I can get behind:
Our knickers are experiential and focus
on feeling rather than objectification.
Years ago, my friend Logan talked so much about wanting velvet underwear with the pile facing inwards that someone finally made him some. Fuzzy on the inside.
Apologies for all the skinny, pale-skinned bums. I thought the ruffles were worth it. I am imagining my future undercrafts.
Those blue and green colours give me physical pleasure the same way red and blue do. There are other colour schemes that I get excited about, but I have a soft spot for red-green-blue because of working at a monitor all day.
All this to say that I made an RGB outfit and wearing it is my own spiritual rapture. The colours of personal happiness. On my body. I may or may not succeed in documenting it with a full length photo, but I have collected these fragments.
The bottom of the dress (I’m the fishnets).
The top of the dress (under a cardigan, and I should mention that I shrunk one eye in photoshop because my camera has a bit of a fishbowl effect around the edges and sometimes it catches faces in distracting ways).
I made a sash out of lime green dupioni silk (shiny).
And then with this scarf, it makes the holy trinity of colour pixels.
I’m working on expressing more political intentions with my wardrobe (slowly… I am mostly making things not buying them), but for now I am glad to express any conscious intention.
I still note pictures of masks in fashion and pop culture. I go on long quiet breaks every few years, but I also ponder some topics for years and years. I am trying to figure out what this persistence/absence is about. Hiding out whenever I am processing anything? Needing to be better at learning in public? Being a generalist and working on a thousand things at the same time, gradually, over a long period of time? Those are good starting ideas.
This mask, I think I like because it is both campy and inhuman. The pantyhose fabric is so gross that it’s funny, but then the full face coverage is too creepy to be fun. I am delighted.
I will leave the “gosh models are skinny, etc” disclaimer as an exercise for the reader.
This is a couple of years old, but it is still my favourite thing at Steal This Sweater. It doesn’t even make sense as clothes, only as decoration.
My instinct is to knit up a weird costume/uniform and wear it every day. When I don’t instantly know the name of an article of clothing, I seem to interpret it as having some qualities of a costume. This is a ruff, I suppose. I feel it is festive.