Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Pom Pom Quarterly’s Sea Change issue

An African American woman models a blue and sand textured wrap on the cover of Pom Pom Quarterly

The cover features Seelig by Katrin Schubert, modeled by Arrish Wol. All photos by Shingi Rice, with make-up by Eleanor Hammond.

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.

A woman models a mosaic sand and blue sweater

Trove by Emma Ducher, modeled by Gina Patch.

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.

A sand colored cabled sweater modeled by the sea

Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry

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.

A peach hat with cables

Timbre by Meghan Fernandes

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.

Untangling: Knit Stars

knitstars

Something very exciting is happening in the knitting world in October — and, believe it or not, I don’t mean Rhinebeck.

About a month ago, someone in my knitting group told me about Knit Stars, an online summit with classes from Stephen West, Hannah Fettig, Rosemary “Romi” Hill, Meghan Fernandes of Pom Pom Quarterly and many other members of the “knitterati.” The idea behind the summit, which runs from October 10 to 21, is to provide access to top-tier instruction without the expense of travel. You’re also able to watch the classes whenever you have time, even after the summit ends.

Along with the videos, Knit Stars includes the ability to snag yarn in exclusive colorways from several indie dyers, including The Uncommon Thread and Julie Asselin, who is also filming a class. It’s a great way to gather with the knitting community if you’re not headed to New York in a couple of weeks, or a nice instructional supplement to the yarn-buying and cider donut-eating you’ll be doing at Rhinebeck. Enrollment in Knit Stars reopens on Friday, so head here to sign up by Oct. 6.

I thought Knit Stars was such a cool idea and immediately reached out to the creator, Shelley Brander to learn a little more. Shelley also owns Loops, a bricks-and-mortar and online yarn shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as a branding company with her husband.

Tell me how the idea for Knit Stars came about.

My Knit Stars partner, Ashley, approached me at an online marketing conference. She had created the Modern Calligraphy Summit which was a tremendous success in the calligraphy space, and she asked if I’d like to collaborate. I loved the idea of bringing such a new, fresh platform to the yarn world – and enabling people around the world to come together and access the knowledge of the top Knit Stars.

How did you decide which instructors to include?

We considered many factors, including areas of expertise, teaching style, personality, and social media presence. We wanted a blend of the widely known (like Stephen West) and up-and-comers (like Julie and Jeff Asselin). Stephen travels and teaches a lot, but there are so many people who never have access to him. Hannah travels very little by choice, so it’s a really unique opportunity to have her teach in the Summit. Ultimately, I thought of the people I most love to hang out with and learn from at market and other industry events. The people I would invite to the ultimate yarn and cocktail party.

Hannah Fettig shooting a Knit Stars video.

How does the video production work? Do you send crews to film the instructors, do they come to you, or do they create their own videos?

For the free pre-launch videos, we interviewed the instructors via Skype. But for the actual Summit content, we went to them, utilizing a professional video and editing crew. I have a 30-year background in branding and broadcast production, and I wanted this to be the highest possible quality. Our team delivered, big time! The result is beautiful, engaging instructional content, mixed with mini-movies that give you a peek into each Star’s world, lifestyle and inspiration.

What have been the biggest challenges in putting Knit Stars together?

It’s been so much fun, I’ve barely noticed the challenges! It has been a LOT of work but so gratifying to hear everyone’s positive comments. I’d say the biggest challenge has probably been educating people about this platform, because it’s completely new to our industry. It’s hard for people to believe that they could get nine Stars’ full workshops at this price, and we have to explain that they will own the classes forever, and be able to refer to them again and again – which is so critical when it comes to knitting instruction. You can attend an amazing in-person workshop but it’s hard to absorb everything in the moment. You need to be able to go back, pause, rewind… and practice.

Are you planning for this to be an annual event?

Based on the huge response thus far, I would say yes. I also believe that once Knit Stars enrollees see the quality and depth of the content and bonuses, the word is going to spread, and there will be lots of demand for more.

Shelley Brander

Shelley Brander

How do you juggle running Loops while also organizing Knit Stars?

One word: Coffee. No, seriously, I have a tremendous staff (we call them the Loops Troops) and Ashley has been spectacular to work with. She is the one putting the nuts and bolts of the actual Summit together.

Tell me about how you learned to knit.

I was 16 and my family took a car trip from Tulsa to the east coast. We stopped in to see a friend of my mom’s who owned a yarn shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. She put the needles in my hands, and taught me to cast on. From there, I spent the rest of the car trip making a cable sweater (with orangutan arms!). The rest is history.

Do you have a favorite FO?

Whatever I’m designing for LoopsClub is my favorite FO of the moment. I get the most compliments on the coral Andromeda poncho that I made years ago from Knit Collage Stargazer, a 100% silk with cool brass paillettes, so I wore it in the Knit Stars video. We’ve had so many requests for the pattern, we’re bringing the yarn back from the discontinued pile with Amy from Knit Collage, and offering kits on LoopsLove.com to Summit enrollees!

Partying with the Poms

Kettle Yarn Co. goodies on the table at the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas party. / Limited edition Shibori-dyed Islington.

Kettle Yarn Co. goodies on the table at the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas party. / Limited edition Shibori-dyed Islington.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to hop a cheap flight across the pond and attend amazing fiber events in the UK like last week’s Pompom Quarterly Christmas party, which is organized by one of my favorite knitting mags. Recently, Ali, the awesome moderator of the Indie Untangled Ravelry group, suggested I could do the next best thing, and have the people I know who are able to attend these events cover them for the blog. So, I asked Linda of Kettle Yarn Co. to write about the party. Reading her recap is really the next best thing to being there — minus the pressure to buy yarn!—Lisa

Last Friday, I prepared some extra special goodies, packed up my heavy suitcase of yarny goodness and boarded the train for the two-hour journey from my sleepy seaside Hastings to the big city for the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas party. It was held in the shiny new Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road, in the bustling heart of the London shopping district, where the Christmas lights were a-sparkle!

There was so much to look forward to this year and so many talented people in one room. The vibe at the party this year was relaxed and warm. I saw so many people catching up and ran into lovely folk I hadn’t seen since last year’s party!

Image © Anna Maltz

Image © Anna Maltz

Naturally the Pom ladies – Meghan, Lydia (above), Amy and Sophie – were all in fine form and the hostesses with the mostest!

The big news of the evening was Pom Pom’s move into publishing with their first book, Take Heart: A Transatlantic Knitting Journey by Fiona Alice, which was just released. It’s a beautifully packaged book of cozy knits, including a new design I’ve been dying to see for months. Called Ketch Harbor, Fiona used my Islington DK in the Icicle colorway for this dreamy shawl that seems to hug your shoulders like angel wings. What a beauty! I kept heading back to Fiona’s table to fondle it and marvel at the shimmering shapes and may have tried to walk away with it. Maybe. Once or twice. ;-P

Images left © Julu Vail

Images left © Julu Vail

Released earlier last week was a bundle of pure joyous fun: Penguin: a Knit Collection, self published by the ever-playful Anna Maltz, aka Sweaterspotter on Instagram. I’ve known Anna for a few years now and her book matches her effervescent personality – it’s full of stunning designs presented with mischievous humour. This animation Anna posted on Instagram pretty well sums it up:

Too. fun. ;-P

I may have picked up a signed copy at the party, despite a firm resolution not to buy anything after a boiler mishap this week. It was seriously difficult to pick a favourite in these designs, but I’ve narrowed it down to two I simply MUST make: the furry Teenguin and cropped Humboldt.

Images © Anna Maltz / Skein of Clara yarn © me

Images © Anna Maltz / Skein of Clara yarn © me

There was even a visit this year from the Yarn Whisperer herself, Clara Parkes, my yarn hero. A skein of lofty Clara Yarn – version 3.0 – may have worked it’s way into my bag, as I just couldn’t resist this skein of the most deliciously fluffy Cormo. Especially as I’d followed along with Clara’s Great White Bale adventure last year! I also managed to squeeze in a quick chat with Clara herself, and only wished I’d had more time to pick this wool maven’s brains. She is just as lovely in real life as I’d hoped, if not more. I did my best not to fangirl all over her. Sorry Clara. ;-P

All in all the most lovely and inspiring Christmas party yet. Can’t wait till next year. xo