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Emily Wessel

Hello - I'm from Vancouver Island, Canada, but I live and work in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am co-founder and designer at Tin Can Knits - www.tincanknits.com

34 Comments

  1. jncrmk
    March 15, 2019 @ 11:07 am

    “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    Words of inspiration, to share every day and on March 15th. Happy Birthday RBG!

  2. cathy oshea
    March 7, 2019 @ 7:06 am

    I applaud your journey and effort in this area. Thanks for this blog entry.

  3. Jess
    March 6, 2019 @ 8:11 am

    Thank you for this post.

  4. Jane Ramsbotham
    March 4, 2019 @ 8:20 pm

    I am a knitter and a lawyer and a woman. Although more women are in law then ever before, the misogyny and parternalistic attitudes can wear me down. In the knitting world I found a group of fascinating, interesting talented women who embraced and encoraged me. I saw myself reflected everywhere. I am white and a mother of one. This conversation has made me reflect on my happy place and realize that very few others are often reflected in that world and it makes me sad but also excited. Sad for the people who haven’t felt invited to this happy place and haven’t seen themselves reflected. Excited because there are knitters out there with stories and perspectives I don’t know and I am sure with amazing ideas and a love for the craft that I will now seek out. I think my happy place just got larger and more interesting and I hope I can do something to make people feel that we see you.

  5. Bindy in Australia
    March 3, 2019 @ 2:37 am

    Hi Alexa and Emily,
    I think it’s wonderful that you’re tackling the issue of racism and under-representation of people of colour in the knitting world. I also really appreciate your willingness to say, “we’re still learning”. As a white woman who has studied race and privilege and now teaches about it, one of the damaging habits we white people have held onto for centuries is to say “we’ve got this figured out…let us tell you how it’s going to be”. As I teach, the need for humility is HUGE and I appreciate yours.

  6. Pam Yurk
    March 2, 2019 @ 4:39 am

    Thank you for helping us all in our journey of understanding. We can go on as is – status quo, exclusion and ignorance or we can work toward empathy, growth and change. I am committed to educating myself, and I appreciate your commitment to understanding and sharing. I’ve learned so much from you both about knitting, design and color – thank you for helping me grow in this direction too.

  7. liz n.
    March 1, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

    The clarity of your statement is encouraging. I’m pleased to see you using your influence within the community to exhibit real and sustained progress toward inclusion.

    As a WOC, I understand that many white women within the knitting community have been, in effect, blindsided to learn how their own unrecognized biases contribute to the exclusion of us, and I’m encouraged by those who have taken the problem of racism within the knitting community as their own burden to carry with us. Others would rather we keep quiet. That isn’t going to happen.

    I am not surprised that we continue to see so many who completely–intentionally or otherwise–misunderstand what racism, supremacy, privilege, fragility, exclusion, and silencing actually are. To be surprised that knitting blogs and Instagram accounts are speaking to racism (often referred to strictly as political) is amusingly befuddling to me. Makers of all crafts–knitting, quilting, weaving, etc.–have, for centuries, used their craft to express political thought and to influence change.

    To those who are uncomfortable with this discussion and would like for the rest of us to be quiet, oh, how I wish I had your privilege. If only I could slough off the color of my skin to live one day without watching my back, my step, my tone, as you do. If only I could freely enter my LYS without someone thinking I’m there to steal what they think I cannot afford. If only it were as easy for me to ignore daily aggressions as it is for you to ignore this very real problem within our community.

    • Michelle
      March 15, 2019 @ 11:45 am

      This makes me so sad! As a white woman who grew up in a largely racist household, and NEVER understood it! I challenged my parents at a very YOUNG age….saying “they are just people; why does the color of their shin matter.” I don’t understand and never will. It makes me sad to see and hear about stories of people being treating differently and brutally simply because they are viewed as “different” because of skin color. I am so sorry this happens and I appreciate you being vulnerable and sharing some struggles with us!

  8. Dani
    March 1, 2019 @ 3:13 pm

    Thank you both for sharing such a thoughtful and inclusive post. Growing up and being a part of a bi-racial family, it is certainly something that is always on my mind. As a business owner, I too am considering how I can change, be better, be more aware.. and most importantly make everyone feel safe and loved in this community.

  9. Mimi
    March 1, 2019 @ 12:57 pm

    Great post! The reluctance that some people have to hearing words about inclusion and diversity, especially in the “sacred” space of knitting, reveals that this conversation must be held. I have no doubt they are also unwilling to challenge the status quo in schools, churches, and their own neighborhoods. I stand with the BIPOC knitters!

  10. honeybeepurls
    March 1, 2019 @ 9:03 am

    Thank you for this. We can all do better.

    • Sharon
      March 1, 2019 @ 1:06 pm

      How often I have read blogs by enthusiasts and small business owners of all kinds who say they started because they couldn’t find the content they were looking for! In the process they have become experts, not by including everything under the sun, but by honing in on their own passion. How can everyone be everything to all people?!

      • Emily Wessel
        March 1, 2019 @ 1:15 pm

        Clearly we’re never gonna be ‘everything to all people’, that’s never been our aim – we just love designing knitting patterns. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t consider how to be more inclusive! That has been one of our central missions, in sharing our work, and we’re confident that we can do better.

  11. Jenn Thomas
    March 1, 2019 @ 9:02 am

    This conversation can also be extended to LGBTQ issues as well. My 11 year old homosexual child has been bullied about being homosexual and that he chooses to learn to knit (which I’m especially proud of how he has handled the situation). Thank you for acknowledging that there is a problem within the knitting, (and indeed the entire crafting community).

    • alexaludeman
      March 1, 2019 @ 9:06 am

      Hi Jenn – Thank you for this, we absolutely agree. We plan to look at the many ways we can more inclusive!

      • Jenn Thomas
        March 1, 2019 @ 9:48 am

        Thank you. And I really love your designs.

  12. Ruth
    March 1, 2019 @ 12:46 am

    I fully concur with Erin Echlin’s words above.
    I’m not really sure why you feel you have to explain or justify your ‘whiteness’. I love your blog because you share your work, ideas and inspiration along with your family in beautiful photographs on the land that you live. It truly inspires me to challenge and believe in myself, as I am sure it does for anyone who reads it, giving me the confidence to try new projects with a sense of encouragement and excitement.
    Being sympathetic and understanding of negative and harmful experiences people have had is a fundamental, important and supportive part of being in any community, be it knitting or otherwise, but assuming a role of complicity by default is, I believe, a confusing and very damaging stance to take. It’s equates confidence and pride with patronising ignorance at best and arrogant superiority at worst.
    Please don’t make your wonderful positive, encouraging and inspiring work that you do and share into a racial and political apology!

    • alexaludeman
      March 1, 2019 @ 9:11 am

      Hi Ruth – We are happy that our work is inspiring to you, but we have come to realize that it is not true that for everyone. We want to do better and make our work more inclusive and inspiring to all.

  13. Erin Echlin
    February 28, 2019 @ 8:47 pm

    i don’t know what happened to initiate this post, I do know that your newsletter was about sharing your beautiful patterns, sharing your knowledge, sharing your beliefs that we could stretch our belief in our own skills to try new things and accomplish things that we never thought we could. You opened a door to share your lives and family with us which is both brave and generous.

    From what I have read, your blog / newsletter was not meant to be about politics or racism or parenting or philosophy so I am uncertain why you should feel the need to apologize that it was not…. it was about knitting and designing. Being black, white, yellow, indigenous, or eurasian is irrelevant to anyone’s skills in knitting, none of those things affect your skill so your not talking about them is not surprising.

    Please know that I appreciate what you have shared with us, that you have encouraged me to try things that I otherwise would not have without ever knowing what age, race or sex I am and I, in no way felt abused, berated or belittled by that fact. Rather I felt encouraged and empowered. I am truly sorry that people have made you feel bad about having put yourselves out in the world to share something that you love. That you use your family for your models should not be a reason to feel that you are white washing or blatantly enforcing or highting your “white entitlement:. You were talking about your knitting, your patterns and teaching others something that you loved. Being made to feel bad for accomplishing your goal and not talking about something entirely different that you never set out to discuss should not be something that you should be castigated for.

    Know that many of us appreciate you and what you have done and never may have told you so… in this moment I am stopping to ensure that you know there are those of us who thank you, appreciate you and have felt empowered by you.

    • Emily Wessel
      March 1, 2019 @ 9:22 am

      This conversation has been ongoing on Instagram for the last 2 months, you can check out the links at the top of our post, if you’re interested in learning more.

      We’ve not been, as you say ‘made to feel bad’, we’ve been listening and learning, and feel a responsibility to do better.

      We’re glad you’ve been inspired, however, we’re working towards being more inclusive, to inspire and welcome more people. In order to do this, we need to recognize the ways in which we’ve not been inclusive.

      One’s race is irrelevant to a knitter’s skills, however, I think it’s important to recognize how unwelcoming it can be to not see yourself, not see examples of people of your own race, in the images that surround you.

  14. Heather
    February 28, 2019 @ 6:30 pm

    Thank you for this. It’s nice to see such a thoughtful, considered post. To be honest I never even considered that this was an issue which of course means that it is!

  15. lkvy
    February 28, 2019 @ 6:18 pm

    Thanks for this post! I support the changes you’re bringing to Tin Can Knits!

    I’d also like to bring up how difficult it has been for me, a deaf person, to find knitting tutorials with captions. On occasion, I’d leave a comment under someone’s youtube tutorial suggesting captions only to be met with, “…but the auto-generated captions are pretty good” (they aren’t) or “I don’t know how/I’m just a small channel.” I’ve given up on knitting projects because I couldn’t find help online.

    Even as a white person, the knitting community has been exclusive, just for an entirely different reason.

    • alexaludeman
      February 28, 2019 @ 6:20 pm

      Thank you for this! We need to improve our inclusivity on multiple levels!

  16. Anita
    February 28, 2019 @ 4:43 pm

    Please continue to photograph your families in all your creations. That is part of the magic of Tin Can Knits. You are always friendly to everyone.

    • Emily Wessel
      March 1, 2019 @ 9:32 am

      We’re glad you felt welcome here, but that hasn’t been true for everybody. We want everybody to feel welcomed and inspired like you do.

  17. Ina Davis
    February 28, 2019 @ 3:56 pm

    I agree with Pjenzi. I was surprised and pleased to receive this post today. I have a Korean son-in-law and an Amer-Asian granddaughter so I am happy to join the conversation. Although I try to not be racist in my daily life, I was raised in a racist environment and carry some of those scars within me. I try to consciously act in non-racist ways to accept people of all colors and races in my life.

  18. Julia Mason
    February 28, 2019 @ 2:34 pm

    My extended family has been bi racial since I was a child. Growing up with cousins who were half Korean and American with skins tones different from me made no differences to me. Now one of my cousin’s has biracial children and grandchildren.So I do not make a distinction of color when I meet some one. It is their actions and behavior that determines how I interact with them.

    • Emily Wessel
      March 1, 2019 @ 9:45 am

      We’re learning too – here’s something that we read that helped us understand how the idea that we ‘don’t judge a person by the colour of their skin’ can reinforce rather than question racism: https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/06/refusing-to-see-color-still-racist/

      • Alleigh
        March 15, 2019 @ 10:05 am

        Thanks for that link– it’s a terrific summary, especially for someone like me who not only never thought about color, but even about gender. While I grew up in a mostly white town in California, it never crossed my mind that my friends were different races (some of us looked different, but then, to me everyone looked different even of the same race), and looking back I remember the student body president and the head cheerleader were black (as the term was then); I had no associations to give me prejudice in my narrow world. I genuinely believed that racism was a thing of the past, something that was taught in history class. I always found the colors and features of people from different heritages beautiful. As a girl and later a woman, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t go into the sciences (I was really good in math and science and *always* had encouragement as far back as I can remember) and went on to a successful career in chemistry. It helps to be shown that it is really important to become aware of the differences and difficulties people of color face (especially in a non-angry piece, to be honest; it’s easier to understand when laid out this way). I had no idea there was a problem in the knitting world before the Instagram explosion.

        I searched my past to see if there was any way I could personally relate to issues women of color face. I remembered feeling a bit wistful and left out because all the princesses in the fairy tales I loved were blonde and blue-eyed, while I am brown-haired and brown-eyed… and that therefore it was something I could never be. Obviously this is ridiculously minor, but it was a small window into the importance of seeing people who look like you in the things you do or want to do. It’s a small thing, but it’s a window, or at least a glimpse, into the experience of women of color, something to start from. Perhaps others might find a similar touchstone to begin from. Understanding helps action.

  19. lkeke35
    February 28, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

    Thank you for this.

    In the absence of a blatant statement of support, PoC are inclined to believe White people stand for the status quo, and will be reluctant to engage. So even though you may not consider yourselves racist (and know your are not) sometimes you need to be explicit in your statements and behavior, lest you be considered part of the crowd. Sometimes you have to stand up and make it clear who you’re standing with!

    I’m a Black woman who has been knitting for about two years now and while I have found several BIPoC knitters, it was a real struggle to find resources on spinners and weavers. ( I would love to buy yarns and supplies, in support of them, but it’s really hard to find them.) luckily I did come across a couple of websites doing in depth interviews and focuses on BIPoC in knitting.

    • alexaludeman
      February 28, 2019 @ 2:26 pm

      If you check out the solidarity swap on Ravelry.com it is a great resource for finding BIPOC yarnies and designers!

  20. Katie
    February 28, 2019 @ 1:53 pm

    Talks about racism on a knitting website are surprising.

    • pjenz1
      February 28, 2019 @ 2:34 pm

      It’s not an easy path. It’s an important one. You will be teaching a lot of people who are truly unaware. Good for you! The fact that you are talking about it an unexpected space is going to bring awareness. Thank you.

    • Cindy
      February 28, 2019 @ 6:47 pm

      Katie, as I’ve listened to BIPOC makers these last few months, one thing I hear them saying is that this is only surprising to those of us who are white. They have been dealing with racism in maker communities their whole lives; we are the ones who are just now seeing it. I’m so grateful to them for their patience and courage.

      Thank you, Tin Can Knits, for the obviously thoughtful vocabulary and sentiments expressed in this post! This is important stuff.