I have been knitting for quite a long time, and have been designing for 12 years. For the most part, knitting has been a relaxing hobby and a very satisfying side job. 2019 threatened to take all of that away. It was a year of people being mean and accusatory to one another, and that took most of the fun out of a really big part of my life.
I once had a customer in the LYS where I worked describe knitters as a lot like campers. People in a campground often have nothing in common except their love for camping. They all talk to one another, give advice on the best way to do things, and become friends around a campfire. It is an instant community. Knitters behave in much the same way. I have seen a doctor and a grocery store bakery employee become good friends around a knitting table, a young mother and a socialite bond over potato chip scarves, and on and on. People used their love of craft to develop a community. Race, orientation, politics and religion didn't seem to keep any of the knitters from bonding over this one thing that they loved or were learning.
Everything changed last year. People were being vilified over innocent posts on Instagram, names of patterns or dye colors that for some unknown reason offended others, a blog post about a long anticipated travel dream that for some unknown reason someone thought was racist, etc. Knitters/designers/dyers either jumped on the bandwagon of manufactured outrage over some perceived slight, or they were afraid to post anything on social media because they were afraid of being attacked. I had always dreamed that I would one day become a big name knitwear designer, but last year I was happy that I was not very well known. My anonymity let me fly under the radar. I was one of those afraid to post much of anything.
In June, when Ravelry made the decision to ban all promotion of the President, and call any supporters of the President white supremacists, I was on a 5 week camping trip. I did not have much internet access during this time period, and I feel lucky that I had time to think about what I wanted to do. Mostly, I thought it was a stupid business decision to alienate half of your users. I also thought that the bad decision really affected the business of many other people, like dyers, designers, publishers, and LYS owners. I did not leave Ravelry, but I did back away because I don't want to allow my little business to be controlled by the decisions of another business. Ravelry is a privately held company and they do have the right to free speech, and to run their business as they want to run their business. However, I would have much rather have them ban political speech on both sides of the aisle, than to target just one side.
I don't like that I was dependent on the site and my business was negatively affected by their actions. I can work on changing that dependence, but the reality is that right now Ravelry is really a good and useful site, and that is where many knitters are. Fiberocity and a few other sites are in development, so perhaps one or two of these sites will become viable alternatives to Ravelry. In the meantime, I have all of my patterns on my own website as well as on Ravelry, and I have my email list. I will keep knitting and designing, because that is what I like to do.
It makes me sad that knitting turned so mean in 2019. I hope and pray that our sense of community and civility will return in 2020. Here's to a New Year and a new decade. Let's all be kind to one another and try and forget about all the unfortunate behavior that happened in 2019.