As you may know – in fact it may be why you’re here – in 2021, I was invited to be a part of Knit Stars, Season 6: Live Colourfully. I have deeply appreciated this experience – more than I can say – and am happy to have been able to join in with more Knit Stars stuff this year, because on Saturday I was invited to participate in a live event, produced as part of the Knit Stars Yarniverse – a new initiative designed to make some of the amazing content produced for Knit Stars accessible at a lower entry-point, and also to provide a greater sense of community. The Live was amazing fun, but before getting into that – and why I’m so excited about The Yarniverse – I want to reflect a bit more on what my involvement with Knit Stars has meant.
Creating a Knit Stars Masterclass was a life-changing opportunity for me. The last three years have brought about huge changes and uncertainty for tiny businesses like mine. Postal prices have risen dramatically, dropping the numbers of folks who can afford to buy my books. My departure from Instagram – while an essential step for me to take – has lowered the number of visitors finding this site; signing up to my mailing list; and discovering my books and online classes – the sales of which sustain my practice so I can continue making new work. I now use this blog and my mailing list as my main platforms for sharing my work, but am continually stretched between trying to market what I create and actually creating what I create. I’m deeply grateful for many amazing friends and colleagues across the industry – and especially my dear friend Kate – for encouragement, support, opportunities and advice that have kept me going during some of the toughest times. I’m also not too proud to admit that it is is highly unlikely KNITSONIK would still be here, were it not for Knit Stars.
Affiliate link payments are still quite a new thing to me but, at a simple level, they have enabled Shelley Brander to build Knit Stars in a way that means that as it grows in size and success, all the designers who have contributed are compensated. The Knit Stars mission is “to knit the world together” and I love that, deeply embedded in this mission, is a firm belief that designers and makers should be paid well for our time, creativity and skill. I will never think of myself as being any sort of “Star” – I am Felicity (Felix) Ford, flawed and messy human being; maker; artist; disabled business owner – but I must admit it was incredibly humbling and provided a much-needed bolster to my creative confidence to have a film team come to my house and produce my Masterclass. Not just any film-crew; the very same folks who film Nigella’s cooking programmes: YE GODS.
I still cry when I think about how affirming and kind and creative the team were – and what it meant to share the filming experience with my dear friend and fellow Knit Star, Jeanette, who was also a Knit Star for Season 6 and produced a stunning and enabling class on beaded colourwork.
I also laugh at the memory of how I made them go and film manholes and record the creaky gates on the street – aspects of noticing the everyday that underpin my work – and Mark commenting “you are happy, because everyone is joining in with your games”. He wasn’t wrong. It makes me indescribably happy to know that so many fellow designers in the industry have had this experience, and that our practices and creativity have been so lovingly uplifted, documented and shared in this way. The fibre industry suffers from deeply embedded sexism and some rather fixed ideas about gender. Knitting and crochet are still dismissed in so many contexts as just something little and crafty. Yet those of us who make things with our hands know how profoundly significant and amazing this work can be.
The epic, dignifying and celebratory style of the Knit Stars classes and the lifestyle segments that explain the creative context and practice of each designer are genuinely refreshing and speak to what we makers know about the richness of our craft. Through showing the diversity of our community, and getting to the heart of each makers’ practice, the Knit Stars Masterclasses challenge old ideas and lift up our crafts in a lot of love and dignity. It’s expensive to make something this excellent, and the pricing of Knit Stars reflects the cost of the production as well as the cost of compensating tutors well. Everyone who has invested in Knit Stars from the outset – everyone who has bought seasons or paid to be an All Star member – has enabled the production of something that’s really amazing.
In terms of my own involvement, it also meant a lot to be able to share the rewards of being a tutor for Knit Stars with my comrades in wool, and to be able to work with my friends at John Arbon Textiles to produce the limited edition Knit Stars kits. Seeing the machine (Piglet) that John revived and modified for the purpose of speeding up mini-skein production so that the Knit Stars orders could be fulfilled has been one of my favourite things in recent years; hard to put into words but no less meaningful for that.
Designing my masterclass gave me an opportunity to condense several ideas developed over many projects into one coherent thing. I didn’t want to compete with my own school, or to make a class to rival my own flagship class – The KNITSONIK System – but I did want to share something of my methods for translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. The Think Like An Artist cowl was the vessel I designed for this purpose.
With the cowl and the class that talks you through its creation, I wanted to provide different levels of entry so that folks could work within their own experience and comfort level. Finally, I wanted to share some of the creative methods behind the Balance for Better Blanket on which I collaborated with my friends at KDD&Co. for International Women’s Day.
For that blanket, Kate and I each worked at translating and celebrating the ideas of different creative women into the form of stranded colourwork – I wrote about my square for Bobby Baker here, for example, and about my square inspired by Wendy Carlos here. I loved working on that project and perhaps especially because of the connections between the medium we used, and the creative ideas and practitioners’ work we were exploring together. One of the themes that broadly runs through the history of women’s creativity is one of being overlooked, under-celebrated, and under-appreciated. Our blanket is worked in a medium that has suffered a similar historic oversight: knitting. Taking this very medium and insistently reclaiming it as a site of rich feminist meaning and power is magic – a magic with its roots in the same 1970s feminist art practices that inspired me, in 2007, to begin a PhD focused on uplifting and celebrating “mundane” domestic and everyday sounds as special sites of meaning. A blanket can be an everyday thing, but it can also be a special site of meaning and every time anyone sees the Balance for Better Blanket it provides a tactile and friendly route into a deeper and more important conversation about the significance of women’s creative endeavours and cultural contributions. When I talked about this with Shelley from Knit Stars – and when I canvased my mailing list for ideas for my Knit Stars Masterclass – this aspect of my work came through as something on which to focus; something I should say more about.
I poured ideas from my PhD and from my work on the cherished Balance for Better Blanket collaboration into my Knit Stars class to design a cowl that celebrates women artists, with each section speaking to a different creative practice and practitioner. My good friend Muriel and her daughter Nolwenn shared their experience of making the cowl here, conveying something of what it is to knit the cowl as designed, vs. what it is to make modifications so that it reflects a more personal set of associations and artists.
So Think Like An Artist is a pattern for a cowl, yes; but it’s also a framework for stranded colourwork design; a masterclass in appreciating a wide variety of creative approaches from artists; and a feminist celebration of under-appreciated artists. I am really proud of it. There have been a lot of tricky days in the last few years but, almost by magic, when I seem to hit rock bottom, someone will share with me that they have made the cowl and that they found it rewarding; inspiring and enriching to make. It always makes my day.
Yet I know that the last few years have been tough for all of us – for the customers of small businesses as well as for small businesses. And I know that the price of investing in Knit Stars puts it beyond the reach of many of you who would otherwise love to take Think Like An Artist, or any of the other Masterclasses produced by so many creative people over the years. Dear Muriel was explaining to me only the other day how someone saw her cowl when she was out with her wondrous Boîte à Moutons and was very curious to buy the pattern but, understandably, felt she could not afford to buy Season 6 of Knit Stars in order to make one. This does leave me with a conundrum; I’ve never wanted to list Think Like An Artist as a standalone pattern because with all the resources that come along with the pattern – essays on creativity; blank and black and white charts to recolour; explanations of creative process; photography etc. – it really is a book. Though I’ve toyed with producing it as such, in these uncertain times it is a book I cannot afford to risk the cost of printing and storing.
However, I’m happy to share that there’s now a new way to take my masterclass and a more accessible entry-point for those of you who wish to support Knit Stars and get a taste of what it’s all about without needing to purchase an entire season: Welcome to The Yarniverse, with which we started this post.
Rather than owning a season, subscribing to The Yarniverse is done on a monthly or annual basis, so you can dip your toe in as much or as little as you want. In The Yarniverse, you sign up to what are known as tracks: creative pathways through curated sets of Masterclasses that speak to your particular interests. As well as making a lot of Knit Stars content accessible to makers who sign up to The Yarniverse, there are more community-building events.
Shelley generously invited me to be a part of one of these – a regular Zoom session that’s both live and recorded for members of The Yarniverse. It was a huge amount of fun, and a really joyful thing in which to participate. I confess to being pretty Zoomed out (aren’t we all?) but it made an enormous difference to attend a Zoom session that I didn’t have to plan or manage myself, and to be in such warm and friendly company. I really loved it and had a great time. Members of the Knit Stars Team – Sunnie Ko (Ravelry Link), Beth Gorishek (Adaptive Knitter), the incomparably warm Gaye Glasspie (GGMadeit) and my friend and fellow Season 6 Knit Star Louis Boria (Brooklyn Boy Knits) put me at my ease right away and the hour just flew by.
Gaye Glasspie asked me about my notions bag (I brought in a sonic bag with speakers, through which I can play the music that inspired my current project); and Sunnie and Beth spoke with me about the connections between knitting and sound in my practice from my first ever project combining these elements (the Knitted Speakers, 2005) up to this latest project on which I’m working with my friend and collaborator, Muriel – in which we are knitting actual music – Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1. Louis asked me about swatching, and – JOY! – I got to see Rose’s beautiful finished Think Like An Artist cowl, for which she won first prize in the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. She put all the artist names on the entry card so everyone could see what the project was about; Rose did such a beautiful job with this and it really made my day to see it.
I think these Yarniverse LIVE! Events happen every week for members of The Yarniverse (I hope someone from Knit Stars will tell me if I’m wrong) and, like everything Knit Stars do, it seems like a really well-thought through, supportive and thoroughly creative addition to all the Masterclass content. In the autumn of 2021 when my Knit Stars class launched, there was a live Zoom call for Knit Stars Season 6 owners, in which I talked about Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 – this precious and exciting collaboration with Muriel on which I’m working through the summer. We were working on it then, but the size and ambition of the project means it’s only finally coming to light this year. It was really wonderful to bring things full circle, and to be able to share it with the Yarniverse; and to get such positive feedback on what we’re doing in our quest to make music to wear, patterns to hear.
Thanks so much for having me along, Team Knit Stars!
Yours in Knitting The World Together; in Knitting and in Sounds –
This post uses my affiliate link to The Yarniverse which means that when you purchase through it, I earn commission. This is a great way to support me and my practice; thank you.