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The other day the New York Times published an article titled, Scrapbooking Isn’t Just for White People, and I rolled my eyes. Not because the article isn’t correct, I have scrapbooks and have friends who love scrapbooking. I rolled my eyes because the New York Times felt it even necessary to write those words in 2020. I’m not surprised, though. Every day someone is waking up to the fact that we’ve centered our world on whiteness being the default, which makes it hard for people of color to get noticed or equal footing. When I read the title, I realized you can insert any craft or activity in place of Scrapbooking and get the same effect:

Knitting isn’t just for white people.

Weaving isn’t just for white people.

Running isn’t just for white people.

Sailing isn’t just for white people.

Joy isn’t just for white people.

Existing in a space where you feel comfortable isn’t just for white people.

In the responses to my questionnaire about topics for this column, I got questions about my work: what I do and how I balance it all. For those that may not know, I am a professor at Howard University, a HBCU (Historically Black College and University), where I teach social media marketing and business communications courses. I’m also a full-time doctoral student, getting my doctorate in Communications. I study and read a lot about Black women and representation in online spaces because of my interests in social media and feminism. I read a lot and am constantly mulling over my own existence in online spaces, what that looks like to people who don’t look like me, and how I can use my own voice to make some kind of impact in the world.

I also knit a lot as a way to try to give my brain a break from all of the heavy things I read on a daily basis. One thing that strikes me is that when a non-Black person finds out I work at an HBCU (and it is my undergraduate alma mater), I’m often asked why do we even need HBCU’s anymore. One of the reasons is because of articles like the one in the New York Times, showing that color is often an afterthought because White has been the default for so long.

Open up Ravelry, go to a pattern search page and count how many non-white models you see over the first five pages of patterns. You won’t find many people of color (or men, but that’s another conversation). When I was a beginning knitter, the whiteness all over Ravelry made me feel like the knitting industry didn’t have space for me. I made my own space with my blog, Yards of Happiness, but that shouldn’t always be the answer.

Over the last few years I have purposefully posted my own photographs of me modeling the things I knit because I want to be seen. I want people to know Black women knit and smile and dress their dogs in coordinating sweaters—just like you. With every feature I get online, inevitably I get emails and Ravelry messages from other Black women telling me they’re excited to know they’re not the only ones. To me it has always been clear that representation matters. To some, that’s a new realization because they’ve always seen themselves represented in the world.

Still Knitting

In addition to writing about race and the world around us, I am still knitting. I feel like in the last few weeks I’ve gotten my knitting appetite back and I just can’t knit enough things. Currently I am:

  • Admiring the Chaika Sweater by Midori Hirose, which I made for myself and Jellybean. This pattern gives you ways to make it a completely unique sweater with fingering weight up to worsted weight yarn, short to long sleeves and more length or width. It truly is a choose your own adventure type of knit.

About The Author

Dana Williams-Johnson knits every day. Knitting is what brings Dana joy, and she shows that through her use of color (hello, rainbows) and modifications of favorite patterns into replica sweaters for her dogs.

You can read about it all on Dana’s blog, Yards of Happiness, and watch her video podcasts on YouTube.


  • I’m just blown away by “27 sweaters in one year”. The speckles and spice top is so cute. I love the Cardigan you are wearing in your profile photo also. Is there a pattern?

    • Since yarn sister Dana is working on her dissertation this year, she may only have time for 20 sweaters in 2020.

      • I would well believe it. I wish I had her drive!

    • I found it on your you tube 🙂

  • I am just simply amazed at all you accomplish and love your use of color. It is all invigorating. Thanks for sharing.

  • When i was working at fibre space I was so impressed by your knitting output. But now i am blown away by your fearlessness in your writing and your academic and professional life, You are just amazing – and you keep smiling through it all.

  • Dana, you are an amazing knitter and woman. Thank you MDK for introducing us to you!

    • I love your knits but also your writing style. Thanks for keeping my brain working and growing.

  • Hi there, I’m a white woman from Australia . I think you are amazing. I love to look at what you’ve been knitting or doing. I have just come to knitting later in life. I’m a bit basic but I love it. I’m challenging myself to do bigger and better knitting projects. Anyway that’s another topic for discussion. In Australia we do have the sad but true discrimination to a degree with the Australian Aboriginal, nothing near what you have to put up with in America. You see I don’t get it. Doesn’t matter what race or colour you are,
    you are still a person. We are all the same on the inside.There are good and bad in every race and religion. Don’t mean to carry on. Just wanted to let you know that there are a lot of people in this world outside of America that don’t see you as different. Keep up the beautiful knitting.

  • oooh – like elori! can’t wait to see yours – i did missoni accomplished plain and like a circular yoke – charka is pretty too. and i’m glad you’re here in this space. i admire you and your drive.

  • Love your voice and your modeling. Keep on keeping on and we can Continue to work towards a day when the knitting world is as colorful as our sweaters!

  • I also saw the scrapbooking article and thought “Really? Isn’t that more than obvious?” but maybe things like that need to be overstated in this moment. Sometimes us white folks really need to be forced to see. But let’s talk knitting! What yarn are you using for Elorie? The idea of it being light and floaty sounds lovely. That sweater is on my “want to knit” list too.

  • As a black woman who knits and has been doing so for five decades since my Mom taught me, I love reading your posts. I also love Jellybean’s wardrobe too. 🙂 Keep knitting, inspiring us all and reminding me that I’m not alone.

  • You inspired me from the first time I saw you and jellybean on MDK IG. I appreciate your knitting and non-knitting posts. Your voice helps me become a better ally. Thank you.

  • Thanks Dana. I enjoy reading your column. Education and inspiration for life, and for knitting. What could be better?

  • Hi Dana,

    I read that NYT article as well and smacked my head. DUH! Why is it always a surprise when “others” realize that Black people do the same activities and have the same hopes and dreams and aspire to the same things them? Why do we have to constantly prove our worth and explain that yes, we value education, enjoy learning and that we are smart and capable just like you. Like you, we enjoy making things with our hands and relish exploring our creativity with as many mediums as possible.
    I’ve been full on crafting since 1994 when a dear friend, now deceased, taught me how to crochet. In the proceeding years, I indulged in all things fiber and learned how to knit, weave (card and rigid heddle),spin and dye yarn and felt. I also adore paper crafting and have embedded elements of scrapbooking in my paper planners. It’s a sad state of things when publications such as the NYT feels compelled to publish such content. But then again I’m not surprised. Anyhow, Dana, thank you for everything you do and I’m so glad you share your story with us here at MDK (❤️ The name change! Good job ladies and thank you for that!). Keep up the good work and we can’t wait to see you and Jellybean again!

  • Every time I see an article like ” First woman to…” , or “First person of color to…”I think t to myself, ” Yay, they’re finally evolved to be smart enough to…”. What the headlines should read is ” White male establishment has finally allowed a woman or person of color to…”.

    • Well said!

  • Thank you.

  • OMG, I am dying over the mom-and-puppy matching sweaters!! So cute!

    For what it is worth, which may not be much, as a White woman I too notice when Black pattern designers and knitters post pics of themselves in their projects on Ravelry, or when they have Ravatars that indicate their ethnicity. The increasing diversity makes me happy for all of us. Looking forward to a world where every person makes the cultural or ethnic expressions that bring them joy and satisfaction, and there is no controvery attached to any of it.

  • Dana, thank you for you! I first saw you in the feature on Ravelry and am so glad I did. You are amazing and a true inspiration! I love reading and hearing what you have to say, about representation, knitting, school, you name it, it’s ALL relevant!

  • Thank you Dana! for all your inpsiring, thoughtful and colorful contributions, including this piece, and esp for prompting the MDK name change – even as a Canadian, it made me cringe.

  • Twenty. Seven. Sweaters. Mind blown.
    I’ve been working on knitting my first sweater for weeks. Weeks!

    For anyone interested in having your mind blown in another way, read “White Fragility.” I learned so much from this book.

  • You are the coolest, Dana! I love your posts. Thanks for speaking up.

  • You are such an inspiration. I have been knitting for 64 years on and off. My Gramma taught all her granddaughters to knit. I was 4 when she sat us all to start our lessons. I passed the love of knitting on to my daughter and hope I live long enough to teach my granddaughter. Like you, my Grandmother knit beautiful sweaters.

  • Dana,
    Elori looks and sounds great. Everytime you write I am shown another piece to place on my knitting wish list! I love your use of color since it is so like my own choices. In New England, some people are still quite conservative but that’s ok, too. I like to wear unique color combinations.
    I live about 20 miles outside of Boston. I moved back to a small coastal town from a diverse neighborhood in Boston. Prior to my move, someone remarked, Oh, you are moving to one of the white towns? They explained that the Boston globe had an article on the 3 white towns including my now hometown. I had lived here before and hoped some diversity had altered the demographics. Not so, my hair salon owner informed me it was 98% white. I was disappointed. I live in senior affordable housing, I soon observed the residents are all white. My town is a historic, lovely, not too large, clean, expensive community. We have the commuter rail, a ferry and bus connection to other trains into Boston. Why is it still 98% white? This is wrong! My building is now owned by the town and subsidized by HUD. Before the town purchase, they want to remove the low income qualifier. The prior owner, a monastery said NO. The town board acquiesced. Wow bigotry, low income even in senior citizens =trouble/ non whites. I t is a factor that I don’t like and want to advocate to change!
    Recently, I was in a conversation with 2 other residents, a man and a woman. The man was mostly listening, I almost could not believe how many racist comments the woman made. I confronted her statements and she remained obtuse. I may revisit the conversation to make her aware that, I have no need to speak with her again.
    I may need to move back to an urban area. Idk or I will try to model and push for inclusive policies and actions here.
    Thank you

    • Racism is a condition of the heart. The heart changes only when the intentional work of love begins and becomes important. My prayer is for the world to open their hearts to love ❤️ True love is color blind

  • Thanks for the inspiration, Dana. And thanks to Jellybean. My Chihuahua has been naked far too long. I must get busy.

  • Thank you Dana. I have been following you because I love your posts, attitude and Jellybean!

  • Thank you for your article. You made me think about race equality and representation in a new way. I also appreciated the inclusion of your projects at the end. I really enjoy seeing what you knit – you are such a prolific knitter and your color choices are beautiful and bold.

  • Dana, thank you for writing today and teaching at a HBCU. We need you and we need HBCUs! Please continue to share your voice and know that we are listening and learning from you. I like that because of Kamala Harris, Howard is getting extra praise & attention. Thank you for teaching and guiding the students at Howard, how lucky they are to have you! We feel lucky to have you too.

  • Thank you so much for the post! When I say thank you for putting your voice out there and modeling your knits, I want you to know I am also sensitive to extra burden we put on people of color to educate white people and remind us to combat our implicit biases. So an extra-big thank you—I love being reminded that knitting is not just for white people! Of course it isn’t, but the default biases we start learning from birth are strong, and only honest self-awareness and conscious work will root them out. I’m working hard on it. You are amazing. I only started knitting this fall by taking a class at Fibre Space—maybe I’ll see you around the DC knitting scene sometime!

  • Black people do things that non-white people do? Wow – would have never guessed that! Thanks for enlightening me, NYT. /S. FWIW, I’m brown (Asian Indian), so I find that I’m in yet another category – not quite white, but not Black. It’s been an interesting place to be all these 45+ years of my life here in the US.

    Thanks for reminding me about the Elorie pattern! I’d purchased that when it was released. I’m going to have to add it to queue & dig through stash to see what might work for it.

  • Speckles and Spice top would be GREAT for you!!!

  • Having (partly) grown-up in DC and area as well as reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, I have a deep appreciation and respect for HBCUs. It also jives with my feminism and my support of women’s colleges as well as spaces. We are on a long road and all our travelers need to feel safe along the way.

  • LOVE the fuschia frills on you and Bean!!!!! So freakin’ cute. I’m jealous of your ability to knit a sweater that fits you and looks great. Someday!

    Do you or have you ever posted how you configure your sweaters for Jellybean? My daughter has a dog about that size, and I think she (my daughter, I’m not sure about her dog) would love one.

  • Dear Dana,
    Thank you for doing the work that you do and for your always amazing words. I’m so sorry that you have to do it. It’s not your job but your willingness to do it is inspiring. When I first joined Instagram, part of it was to see if I could somehow control my own algorithm. I started seeking out BIPOC knitters and following them. And liking posts. And commenting. And reading the hashtags and following them too. It wasn’t hard to build an inclusive feed on my IG. It’s harder in real life but not by much. Seeking out BIPOC owned businesses and restaurants in my community. Looking at whose art is being shown and where. Working my algorithm on Spotify (I’m pretty sure that they think I have multiple personalities!). These are all little tiny steps but they make for a wonderful path.

    • Yes, I’ve been doing this on my IG too and it is working so I now have a wonderful feed full of a diverse mixture of makers who inspire, and sometimes challenge, me and help me work on changing my own perspective.

  • I just found out that Kamala Harris is a graduate of Howard. I am not very knowledgeable about HBCUs so i am going to work on fixing that. I have always enjoyed reading your contributions to MDK, now more than ever.

    I think other POC also have much work to do understanding the lived experience of our Black compatriots. I am grateful to Kay and Ann for featuring the voices we need to hear.

  • Enjoyed reading this and enjoyed meeting you Dana a few years back at the nail salon. I didn’t know you were a knitting rockstar then. You were so kind, sharing with me a shawl you were working on at the time.

  • I’m a BIPOC and want to echo what you wrote: representation matters. It really, really does. My passion is diversity in children’s literature, but it’s so important everywhere. I almost cried when I found your blog. Ravelry is lovely, but it does sometimes feel like we don’t exist there. Thank you for all you do, Dana.

    The Elorie sweater is gorgeous, I’d like to knit that someday, perhaps after the stack of fabric in my sewing corner goes down!

    • Love this! Thank you!!!

  • I’ve followed you on IG and now love reading your editorials here. Your voice is needed and respected plus you and Jellybean in your matchy-matchy sweaters – happy inspiration! Your knitting queen crown is firmly in place!

  • Thank you Dana for all of your writing and knitting. You keep me encouraged to try new knitting projects. I knitted a log cabin afghan and a 2-color dishcloth for the first time as a way to try out these patterns before doing a “serious” gift to give to someone. As a POC , I find that when people find out we do “other” things that are beyond their stereotypes, they are “surprised. As a teenager in the 1960s, I used to get mad that other people lumped POC in one group. I finally made “peace with myself” then and do all I can do with Grace.

  • For knitting and your words have inspired me again. my Ravelry queue gets longer every time I see one of your photos but more importantly I always have something to think about As a younger knitter I was inspired by a black woman who used to come to a knitting group in the lys where I lived. She could try any project and it would look amazing. She also patiently helped me, a left hander, figure out instructions that could be a little hard if your knitting went in the opposite direction. For me, it was a foregone conclusion that knitting wasn’t just for white women (our group also had a Latina and a guy)I think it is terrible that we are still in a place where the Times had to write an article to inform that black women did crafts but until everyone figures it out maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

  • Thank you for setting your sails and your rudder and sailing on to let everyone know who you are and the many things you do well. I am a 78-year old woman chemical engineer who has been sailing since I decided in the late 50s what I wanted to be and my Dad said, “Sure, you can do that.” Then I applied to Rice Institute and they asked me to be a student in chemical engineering. By being present and showing my talents I have gained the support of many people and it has been a heck of a ride. Sail on !

    • Woohoo! I’m a Rice University graduate also, from Will Rice College ‘00. And I’m a biomedical engineer too, continuing the path forged by you and other female engineers. Thank you for everything that you’ve done in your life. Gotta say that I’m pretty excited to find another Rice alum who knits!

  • Dana, thanks so much for this post. Representation is so important and I’m glad more people are becoming aware of the lack of representation for BIPOC in most spaces. I’m knitting the Elorie sweater right now and I love it. I’m not very experienced, as I’ve been knitting for less than a year, but I find the pattern so well written that it’s been a pleasure to knit. Using the same yarn & color as the pattern photo. I look forward to seeing yours!

  • First, I want to thank you for always being candid-
    I always look forward to reading your articles and helping me examine my beliefs. I also want to thank you for the patterns you find -I never find these on Ravelry.
    Good luck with you doctoral program. Knitting was my lifesaver as I completed my degree and during my time in academia.

  • Dana I learned to knit when working on my doctoral dissertation. After a hard day thinking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, it was so good to let it all process in the background. It kinda saved me. Good luck!
    PS. read a scholarly book about the history of textiles this spring. Just for historical perspective, evidence of fancy knotting and weaving is only about 40,000 years old, with evidence of fancy knitted fabric found in the tombs of pharaohs. Knitting didn’t start with white people, and if you look on FaceBook for blankets for baby rhinos, you can see examples of kids from Africa and Asia knitting alongside photos of Europeans. My lady friends in Zimbabwe enjoy knitting jumpers and socks for those “cold” winter months, though they aren’t on Ravelry. The center of the knitting universe over time has shifted from Africa to the Middle East to Europe to North America, and it is rapidly overtaking East Asia. Talk about universal! Second, DNA analysis of a Scandanavian woman who died about 9k years ago showed she had blue eyes—and dark skin. Scientists think some humans became lighter skinned only about 7,500 years ago as they moved into Northern latitudes. So you are the original, so be proud.

    • I must say, that as a WOC, that’s an awesome piece of history to learn about! Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for expressing why representation matters so well. As a woman who’s had a career first in science and then in an area of law where women are under-represented, I know how not seeing yourself represented can make you feel. But I hadn’t realized until recently how many places POC didn’t see themselves accurately represented – or represented at all. Thanks for helping me see my own blind spot – with pictures of knitting (which also bring me joy).

  • Dana,

    I love reading your columns, you are bright, cheery and smart. No way I can keep up with your 27 sweaters a year. plus I will never let my dogs get a glimpse of the well dressed JellyBean. They would have bad cases of sweater envy. Thank you for starting to discuss race. I am working hard to learn more about my racism and what to do about it. Glad to see lots of advertisers being smarter about modeling inclusivity.

  • I have often thought about the power of words, and how “black” and “white” have been chosen, as it were, to present opposites. But I’m not white. I am beige. And I’ve never met someone who is actually black. They are shades of brown and tan. I think we could start to mentally work toward understanding if we used the much more neutral colors of “beige” and “brown”. It would be lovely if we didn’t need color designations at all, but when you describe someone, skin color is one of the obvious descriptive facts: she is a woman, middle-aged, and beige. This may sound silly, but words have great power.

    But we can still use black and white in our knitting, of course! My favorite design element in any artwork — and I include knitting as art — is a black-and-white checkerboard.

    • This is what I’ve always said. I’ve been arguing with people on line and in the world about this and the shade “nude” for many years. I’m a light redhead type beige and most “nudes” are fine for me, but I’ve never understood how people didn’t see it as racist. I remember arguing about it at uni 19 years ago with a beautiful capuccino coloured Palestinian girl who thought I was exaggerating:(. It is a sad world when the need to point out that different skin colours also!

      Interestingly, I grew up pretty complxed about being Pamela as I live in a Mediterranean island where most people are darker than me and get really deep tans in summer…. I was always being asked if I was ill:)

  • Hi Dana, thanks for bringing this to our attention and sharing your perspective. Sadly, I hadn’t done a lot of reflection on who I saw in crafting spaces until recently. Everyone deserves to feel welcome and to see themselves reflected in every facet of life.

    Your knitting is absolutely inspirational and aspirational. I’m new to knitting and can only hope I can create anything half as beautiful as what you’ve already done.

    • Hello Dana,
      I was in Washington DC last fall on a sabbatical at Georgetown. My secret wish was that I would bump into you at a yarn store and say Dana- I am following your every post, love Jelly Bean and and I wish you well in your graduate work. I can’t thank you enough for your willingness to share your thoughts and perspectives and your amazing sweaters. Please know that you have so many friends and admirers who are inspired by your creativity, energy and timely comments that challenge us to become fully inclusive in all that we do.

  • I think the surprise is due to the lack of diverse communities and yes prejudices. Crochet is looked down by by a lot of knitters because the Irish did it, and anything the Irish did was substandard and of course they were the help so you didn’t do what the help did. How long has society been segregated? I remember my grandmother saying under her breath that she was going to sell to a black family to get even with the neighbors. My grandmother was completely and totally nuts/mentally ill. She left a lot of damage individuals behind when she died. Lots of damage that can never be undone. Once in high school I was exposed to a lot more African Americans, but I am so old that it was the Black is Beautiful era. College meant even more people and so much wonderful music. From Grandmaster Flash, Fleetwood Mac, the stone, and everyone influencing everyone else. I also remember my mom looking around for housing, but discounting areas because they were black. I remember thinking, “we are the white people that black people don’t want in their neighborhoods. We don’t bring anything of promise or good to the neighborhood.” Eventually we both moved into mixed neighborhoods that change to primary African American. It worked fine for me. I was able to go to college, get married, and live a fine life. It only got bad when houses started to go section 8. Still today there are some neighborhood one can walk through and some neighborhoods you don’t. Unlearning segregation is going to be a long haul. I as a white person know very little of the black culture other than what I have experienced first hand. I don’t understand the hair thing, don’t understand family dynamics because my own family is so seriously screwed up, and lots of friends are finally telling me about their dysfunctional families. We never knew because when you are white there is no poverty, everyone has a mom and dad, there is no drug abuse, psychiatric issue, no blame, or accountability, because “normal” white families are just like the tv shows where everything is fine.

    Now we are slowly starting to ask questions that may seem rude, inpertainate, or even stupid. In 99% it is not. It is wanting to connect and crafting is a connection. Some just want to understand, and to connect.

  • I do not know how you accomplish all you do, both professionally and knit-wise. You are an inspiration! The fact you do it all in the face of racism you’ve faced all your life makes you heroic, in my view.
    I can just ‘hear’ those comments about whether Howard University is still needed. I completed my undergraduate degree at a women’s college, one of the few that still remains. Mentioning it is my alma mater has frequently led to questioning about the need for women’s colleges (most always with a scoff, usually referred to as a ‘girls’ school’) all my adult life. It’s too exhausting sometimes to engage in this discussion with people, and at those times I simply say their question is actually the answer.

  • Thank you for this Dana. I have only known about you since reading your posts here on MDK, but now follow on ig and Twitter too.

    I enjoy your posts so much, your knitting is inspirational, I also aspire to work in a university and do research for a PhD so you inspire me in that too.

    And the kind and helpful way that you explain to me elements of my white privilege that I hadn’t realised existed is really important. I appreciate that it’s not your job to tell me these things and that it must be difficult to have to explain what you experience, so I am really grateful that you do so.

    But most of all I love the gorgeous photos of you and jellybean and your sweaters (and your handsome husband too). Thank you so much for all you share.

  • Love your photo with Jellybean.

  • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Yet another “I am black and everyone picks on me bla bla bla“ boring post ..Try to get over yourself, seriously! If black people focused on getting somewhere in lives and on achieving something, rather than expectIng to get everything on a silver plater just because they feel the world owe them for the past sins, maybe they would be where Asian Americans are, or Indian Americans ( they are dark skinned too,right, but manage to become one of the most successful demographics in America, so apparently “racism”does not interfere with their lives that much) are..Stop whining and take responsibility for your life
    • What a horrible, mean and spiteful comment to a wonderful, thoughtful and educational article, written by a wonder, thoughtful and generous woman.

    • I am sorry that you found it necessary to contribute this hateful response to this thoughtful article and commentary. Sadly, we know attitudes like this are out there and will show up even in a community consciously trying to open itself to a deeper understanding of the world we all share. Try to become a part of this effort. You will feel better for it.

    • Such ugly sentiments as yours do not belong here or anywhere. Get thee to a bookstore and purchase a copy of “White Fragility”, read it and get yourself educated NOW.

  • Have always loved your designs, your creations, your joyful spirit, your academic credentials, and Jellybean!

  • How clever to have made Chaika in textured yarn in the v. You and jellybean make great models. I am coveting the Elorie sweater!

  • Hi Dana, Love your latest Elizabeth Doherty choice. Can’t wait to see the finished product. As a VERY long-time reader of Vogue I remember admiring the patterns of Shirley Paden back to at least to the late 90’s, so I’ve known for a long time that “black people knit”. In addition I had the happy chance to chat briefly with her (maybe after attending one of her classes? can’t remember) and she is a lovely, serene and approachable person. I think you would love chatting with her (if you haven’t already) as she was/still is! a pioneer and took on the daunting task of breaking into Vogue Knitting just as any designer, of any color for that matter, most likely has. So love reading your MDK columns and many of your pattern choices work for me!

  • Thanks for sharing your perspective. I find myself thinking twice about my attitude or lack there of these days. It never occurred to me that Black or other folks of Color felt underserved. Bless you for all you do. ❤️

  • Can’t wait to call you “Dr.”! I hope your course is going well.

  • Dana, I love everything you do — thank you! And please tell Jellybean that her Chaika sweater is the perfect color for her; she looks adorable!

  • Yes! (Sez the white chick.)

  • Thank you for this. As always, so much thoughtful wisdom. And I love your explanation for why HBCUs are still relevant – “White has been the default for too long.” Talk about an understatement. <3

  • Yes, yes, and yes. And — with a certain degree of self-absorption, admittedly — thank you for mentioning men who knit (and, by extension, who quilt and weave and sew and craft and…).

    As I was drinking my coffee this morning and doing some hand-piecing on a quilt I’m working on, and before I read this article, I was thinking about what feels like the oddness of being me in this Knitting Etc. world. On one hand, I exist in it with certain privileges: I’m a white male, and with or without trying, the advantages — both overt and subtle — of being in that demographic accrue to me. And simply by virtue of being somewhat of a novelty (a man knitting in a public space?!), I get undeserved, unearned attention and praise.

    (It reminds me of 20-30 years ago when I was, for many cisgendered, heterosexual acquaintances — and even some family and friends — the gay friend/relative that demonstrated their “cool.” “But one of my best friends is gay!” went the line, something I have no doubt will ring familiar for many readers here, just fill in the blank.)

    On the flip side of those advantages — the unearned positive regard — is the lack of real representation. Not that people don’t try, and I appreciate the effort: I was in an online sashiko workshop a few weeks ago, and the wonderful instructor kept saying, “Now ladies… (pause, pause, then a self-interruption)… and MEN!” But I get email after email, see class after class, look at pattern after workshop after KAL without seeing anything that speaks to me. And while I know that there are organizations for men who knit (or engage in any other sort of craft), it’s always felt odd for me to be part of a group that is focused on one thing (say, surface design and fiber arts) but organized around some other factor (gender, age, race, religion, etc.).

    So I float between worlds, but never really touch down on any of them.

    Hopefully, this isn’t coming across as whining — it’s not intended as such. I have made some amazing friends in the craft world, relationships that have deepened and endured long after the novelty of my Y chromosome has worn off. I have the skills, the intellect and the resources to take the techniques I’ve learned and adapt or repurpose them to the things I want to make. I’m (mostly, consciously) unburdened by distinctions and assumptions about what “boys” should and shouldn’t do: If I want to knit a lace shawl, I’ll do it with as little hesitation as when I pull out my tools and build a table.

    So, at the end of this lengthy ramble, I guess I’m not trying to make a point or defend or anything. These are just observations, written down and shared after taking a sip of my morning coffee and before picking up my needle and thread.

    Thank you for this and your previous posts. I look forward to them, every time.

    • Replying to myself, because I just realized: you said this was a conversation for another day. And I just went ahead and conversed. Sorry!

  • This is my first ever comment on any MD posts, ever. I am so grateful that you are writing this, and that you are here, in this space. I am full of joy that the discussion gets more nuanced, more honest, more real, and that there is no “let’s not talk about politics, let’s just talk about knitting and avoid all the other stuff”. I can’t express how much it means to me that you write about representation, and what that means.

  • Hi Dana, i had no idea when I commented about her this morning that Shirley Paden was scheduled to be on Virtual Vogue Knitting Live today. Too bad because I missed her! I just brought her up because my experience with her seemed relevant to your column today. Just wanted you and others to know this wasn’t some kind of subtle (sneaky) promotional thing. Just pure coincidence!

  • I have worked (before retiring) managing subsidized housing. I say this to show my credentials for my knowledge. Yes the community was over 90% non-white and yes, I lived in the community. Many were fascinated with my love of knitting and expressed interest in learning. Its a no-brainer that men and women white and nonwhite enjoy needlework. I would love to teach this to my neighbors once the pandemic has abated. Yes I still live in a subsidized community that is very colorful, just like many of the pieces I create! Thanks for a great article.

  • Dana, I love your posts. Reading them gives
    Me encouragement to continue my pursuit of learning to knit. You make it look fun and very possible. I have no doubt you are an awesome tracher! And, a very beautiful person. Just wanted to let you know this old lady respects all you do!

  • Dear Dana, I happened upon your story somewhere, I can’t remember, but I immediately felt like I wanted to follow your knitting journey. I’m not a person of color, but I loved your color sense in your knitting and that is what I saw. I also read your bio and was immediately happy to see a woman achieve all you have and all you do, still knitting 27 sweaters in one year. A very strong woman. I’m from a different generation than you are and although my generation preached equal rights for women, I think we fell a bit short. I want to live to see that change and also see change in issues of race. I’m always happy to see your beautiful sweaters and Jellybean and your beautiful smile, but most of all I’m happy to see a woman succeeding so spectacularly! Thank you for sharing your journey and for giving us food for thought as it relates to race in this country and this world. I hope and pray that we will be able to make a change before it’s too late.

  • I love the new sweaters for you and Jellybean. 🙂 Thank you for being yourself in the world! Your voice is a joy, and a helpful guide.

  • I’m so happy your knitting appetite is back, Dana. I missed you and I missed your voice.

    • Dana: “how I can use my own voice to make some kind of impact in the world”
      It may be obvious to hear and to say, but you are doing it by teaching step by step, again and again. Thank you!!!!

  • Prof. Williams-Johnson, Thank You for engaging us in this conversation about how racism presents in the making world and the NYtimes. Living with systems of oppression is bad enough; add the weight of lots of WP like me waking up (and writing not so pithy articles about Black people being here _______ knitting/scrapbooking/etc)and suddenly engaged and outraged — well, I can’t imagine how exhausting that might be. Your work matters in so many ways. Thanks for taking time out of your busy teaching and writing career to share your brilliance with us. Your knitting and words are revelations, much as the pictures of you and your tiny dog in matching outfits that you completed (it took me 12 years to complete a baby cardigan for my oldest) are an absolute joy. Thank you for engaging MDK/this community in talking about real change.

  • Sad. You are really prejudice against white people.

    • Take your sad attitude to a bookstore to purchase a copy of “White Fragility” and read it immediately. You clearly need educating.

      • First of all, it is “prejudiced” not “prejudice”. Secondly, your remark sounds a lot like our previous president (which is not a compliment). And finally, try and educate yourself from under your rock. BIPOC have very right to speak about their experiences.

  • I always look forward to your articles here on MDK. It’s a good bit of mind opening complemented by cute doggie sweaters. What could be better? Thanks for putting yourself out there to help the rest of us learn to be better people. I know it shouldn’t all fall on you but I appreciate what you are doing.

  • Thank you so much for this post and all your posts. As a white woman who was an undergraduate at a state university in the sciences, I dearly wish after the fact that I had attended a women’s college. The classes could have been about the classes, and not so much about disproving anyone’s sexist views (and there were many that were expressed) about a woman’s place in the lab. I totally get that attending Howard and now teaching there (congrats!) is a way to live a more normal life, allowing the focus to be more about the intellectual and social development of students (which should be the goal of any college) with many of the layers of racism removed. Blessings on the path!

  • I’m a knitter and also have a Chi, so I was immediately drawn to your posts, then stayed for the excellent writing. I’ve been following you ever since. You inspired me to knit my first sweater! Excellent article as always.

  • Glad to meet you. I have been a “beginner “ all my life. I think it is time for me to improve my knitting skills.

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