An important book was published this week.
It’s This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection by Jen Hewett. A few weeks ago, the publisher kindly sent me an advance reading copy, so I’ve been digging in, and loving it.
A few years ago, a conversation began in the online knitting and crafting community. Knitters, crocheters, sewists, weavers, and other crafters of color shared their own stories of being excluded from the places—real-life and virtual—where crafters gather. To an overwhelming degree, these spaces have been dominated and led by white people, who—whether they recognized it or not—served as gatekeepers.
For many white crafters, this conversation was a painful (and obviously belated) awakening to harsh inequities in a setting that had seemed like a refuge from the problems of the larger world. We had to lay down that wishful thinking and change—an ongoing task that is far from being accomplished, but has to be worked toward urgently.
Jen Hewett, a woman of color who is prominent in the fabric world, where she is a printmaker, surface designer, and teacher, responded to that conversation with this book. In This Long Thread, she presents a rich collection of interviews, first-person essays, and artist profiles that highlight the extraordinary contributions to the fiber arts by women and nonbinary people representing a broad spectrum of race, age, region, cultural identity, education, and economic class.
It’s enlightening, and it’s inspiring.
I started out reading interviews of people I know: sewist and international style icon Sonya Philip, artist and quilter Chawne Kimber, and knitter Dana Williams-Johnson. I then got into other interview subjects, such as Brandi Cheyenne Harper, who has a sublime knitting book coming out in January 2022.
These are excellent interviews. The author’s open-ended questions let each person answer in their own way, which leads to a nuanced conversation and a deeper sense of the person and their life. I’m also really enjoying the snippets, interspersed throughout, of responses by crafters of color to a survey. Their answers touch on everything, from how a person first learned their craft—often, but not always, from a beloved family member—to what they are making right now, down to the exact sweater pattern. While these crafters have had a very different experience of the mainstream crafting world than I have had as a white woman, their experience of learning and practicing and loving their craft resonates with my own. We have so much in common.
I’ll stop blabbing and just say: get a copy and read it. You’ll be glad you did.