This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.
Pom Pom Quarterly‘s autumn issue focuses on the conversations about racism and white supremacy in the fiber industry that have been taking place since January. Called “Sea Change,” it includes sand- and surf-inspired garments by designers and makers, including some who were brought to editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes’ attention due to the movement for more diversity and inclusion in the knitting community.
Over its seven-year history, Pom Pom has featured models of diverse races and ages, and has plans to continue working with a larger range of designers. I asked Lydia how she and Meghan tackled this topic in the issue, which was released August 30, and how they plan to continue to address inclusivity going forward.
How did you decide on the sea as a metaphor for the ongoing discussion about diversity and white supremacy in the fiber industry?
We had been thinking about a sea-themed issue for a while, as it’s almost an obsession for me; I grew up on the Welsh coast and will always go for a salty dip if I can. The sea is also part of Meghan’s father’s background. He is from the tiny seaside state of Goa in India, and that heritage really resonated for Meghan at this time. I guess the sea has always been a source of solace and inspiration, but we hadn’t quite found the right time to do the issue. When we were thinking about putting together this autumn we realised it was the perfect time for the sea theme. We think that the outward-looking feeling that the shore gives, along with the place for reflection it provides is a great way to embody the expansive feeling of trying to create a genuinely inclusive and welcoming space. The sea is always changing, and we hope to carry on growing and changing too.
How was your approach to this issue of the magazine different than previous ones?
We had been spending a lot of time following and engaging with the racism, diversity, and inclusion conversations that have been more present online in the knitting world and felt that we had to start putting what we were learning into practice. We want to make Pom Pom a good option for people who feel that they aren’t represented in the knitting world at the moment. For this issue we put more time into making sure our line-up of contributors and collaborators was more diverse in various ways, and we hope that through diversity will come inclusion and we know Pom Pom will only be richer for it.
Our approach has also been different in terms of layout; we added pages to the magazine so that we could increase the font size – something we have wanted to do for a long time and finally have been able to because we have changed the way we ship the magazines (yay logistics!). We also added sizes to make our sizing more inclusive. We owe so much to the BIPOC and other marginalised voices who have been bringing to our attention what needs to change to make publications accessible and inclusive and we couldn’t be more grateful that they have done such difficult and dangerous work to make our world a better place. They are the heroes in this story.
What does diversity and inclusion look like for Pom Pom?
Diversity and inclusion looks like the magazine being accessible, welcoming to, and representative of anyone who wants to be part of our community. We want to work with and amplify the voices of people whose perspectives and experiences aren’t usually included in and reflected by the media.
Who has most inspired the Pom Pom team as you’ve taken on anti-racism work?
The team behind Unfinished Object have been particularly inspirational. Without those voices, we don’t think the movement would have burst forth in January in the way that it did. We are all making progress, and continuing to make progress now thanks to their work.
What advice would you give to crafters and fiber business owners looking to take on anti-racism work?
Remember that whether racism exists in the knitting world is not a debate. That’s step one. Then educate yourself; we would say visiting Unfinished Object is a good place to start, and the anti-racist educators @rachel.cargle and @laylafsaad have plenty of resources. Make sure to be respectful when you are visiting spaces held for and by marginalised people, and check whether an answer to your question already exists before asking it.
The most important thing is to be ready to learn and get things wrong. There’s a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing, but we think it’s important to make sure that fear doesn’t come from a place of defensiveness or thinking that people will deliberately misinterpret you. If you get something wrong and receive critique from the community, it’s vital to listen and make sure you take feedback on board. No one is expected to be perfect, but we think it’s worth holding yourself to a high standard, while being kind to yourself. We can and must do better as a community, and in order to do that we have to be ready to rigorously examine our deeply embedded biases and our unequal societies.
And, if it’s possible for you, do pay people for the education you have received from them. Ko-fi is a great way to do that. Again we want to emphasise that we are following the lead of others in this regard, and we advise doing the same.
I’ve noticed this is the first published design for a few of the designers in the magazine. How do you work with designers who haven’t self-published a knitting or crochet design before? How are you finding new designers and dyers?
We have always worked with designers who haven’t been published or self-published before. Most issues of the magazine have had an open call for submissions because we are always interested in finding people who are not yet part of the knitting scene. We try and provide as much support as we can when we are working with new designers. We know there’s a lot about the process that might be new, so we are on hand to answer questions and can provide help with technical aspects, for example getting assistance with grading if needed. We are always honoured when someone entrusts their vision to us, whether they are a new designer or not, so our main concern is making sure we do their creativity justice.
We also spend a lot of time looking for new designers and dyers online through social media, and if appropriate reach out to people who we think would be interested in working with us. Sometimes people email us too! If we go to shows we make sure to go and check out stands that we don’t yet know.
Have either of you knit any of the designs from the issue (aside from Meghan’s Timbre hat, of course!) or do you plan to knit them?
I am working on Astragal by Ainur Berkimbayeva in some beautiful avocado-dyed yarn from Hey Mama Wolf, and I’m planning to make Eventide by Inyoung Kim next. Meghan is waiting to get her hands on some of Ocean Rose’s yarn to make Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry. If we had time we would make every pattern… but at least we get to live vicariously through our reader’s projects online!
Speaking of Timbre, how did you decide to include a pattern from Meghan in this issue?
When Pom Pom first started we both designed a lot of the patterns (we did all of them for Issue 1!) but as the business has grown we’ve had less and less time to design. Turns out running a magazine is pretty time-consuming! And of course we love making the patterns that we publish. But every now and then, if we have time, we like to design, and if we feel we have an idea that fits the brief then we’ll pitch it to the other and to the team. Meghan’s hat was perfect for this issue because the mohair cables skim over the surface and look like little rivulets, and the rhythmic quality of cables made us think of the sound of waves. I designed a sweater (Woodwardia) for Issue 28 this year which I loved, but we both feel that one design a year is probably plenty for us!
Are there plans for a plus size issue?
We don’t have plans for a specific plus size issue at the moment. We have increased our sizing, so we are intending for every issue to feature a larger range of sizes so that our patterns are accessible to more bodies. We plan to continue featuring a range of models of different sizes too.