“Hey Allison, A friend of mine is teaching me to knit this weekend. Want to join?”
I’m not going to lie, the cost and “idea” of learning was intimidating. I’d never been exposed to knitting, and I thought I wouldn’t fit in. With the offer of a free ride and promise of coffee, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least tag along. On June 9, 2013, we headed to the Wisconsin Craft Market and Steep & Brew West. I cast on with size 7 bamboo needles, a deep lilac yarn, and as it turns out, really tight tension.
Fast forward several years. Generous friends have gifted me time, supplies, and patience throughout this journey. I still find some aspects of the craft to be difficult to navigate. Without a car, it can be difficult to make connections to the local guild. When I lived in Portland, Oregon, a shop owner followed my pal (who had a cute little kiddo in her kiddo-backpack in tow) and me around during the Rose City Yarn Crawl. A couple years ago, someone opined on my slow knitting technique: I’m a “thrower.” I’ve since gotten over it, especially since Ladies of the Court used this style, but what the heck?! If that is my experience, I imagine others who aren’t 30-something, white, law degree-holding women have experienced disincentives to keep stitching.
I’ve been looking for a way to stitch across my own gaps, and the access gaps in which I am complicit. I thought about where I feel the most at home as a fiber artist: at the Wisconsin Craft Market, which offers and celebrates ALL price points and skill levels, and at my Eastside Stitchers circle where everyone is welcome. That’s my jam. For years, my dream has been to somehow pay it forward.
Enter: Fibre Forward and the “Collectives.”
I aim to inspire new stitchers with access to free supplies, connect members of our worldwide fiber community with the exchanges, and obtain 501c3 status - pending! With Fibre Forward, I am carving out a neighborhood-based space for this access point. And together, my dream is to stitch a movement.
It takes the human collective to create our dynamic space where all skill levels, price points, components of the fiber arts community (think what, who, where, of EACH skein of yarn!), and cultural histories are celebrated. Fibre Forward aims to bring the human collective together and celebrate it.
sheep crossing, isle of skye
I want others experience what I experience while knitting: Each project, in itself, is a journey. Even seemingly mundane happenings could have their own chapters: Pattern selection, travel for and selection of yarn, frogging (always 2x min. at the beginning of a project). The environments in which I create each piece, the feel of the fibre, the conversations while knitting, lessons learned from mistakes, new friends, techniques for fixes, and new skills are stitched in to each piece.
My knitting-inspired friendships, travels, and adventures are a highlight of my life. It makes my day when a friend or family member thinks of me with something knitting or sheep-related! And when I’m lucky enough to travel, I visit an independent yarn shop, pattern and money saved specifically for it in hand, and select locally-sourced yarn for my newest project. To keep from unraveling, I incorporate one new knitting skill into each project I do, and it’s usually cable-related. Because, cables.
This year, I spent a few weeks away on an Isle of Lewis croft, through the WWOOF charity. I learned how our wool goes from sheep to shop, formed new friendships in the fiber community and beyond, and brought home what I learned to better effect Fibre Forward’s mission. If you told 2013-me I’d get to hang out with angora goats and sheep in the Outer Hebrides, I would not have believed you!