Beki Grinter

COVID 19: Week 1 at home

In academia, academic management on March 22, 2020 at 3:02 pm

This is the end of the first work week of being at home, not under a mandatory curfew. Its Spring Break. It’s pollen season (which in Atlanta is a serious thing, and also makes allergies — dry cough — a bit more exciting than usual).

Like others I want to write about my experiences so I figured I would brush off the blog.

  • Im losing track of time. I’ve spent the better part of today thinking it was Monday, when it’s Sunday. It’s really not working in my favour. I’m now contemplating ways to make myself more aware of the days. Its Spring Break and while everyday has been COVID planning day, I think that with less movement from one place to another (the routine of going to work, going to swim) and the intensity of the planning itself, it’s been easy to lose track.
  • I’m an Associate Dean, which means that this week has been about working with lots of different people across campus to try and sort out issues and find answers. Sometimes it’s also about making answers, decision-making. I’ve learned this week that I have some discomfort with making decisions, and I’ve also learned this week that sometimes I just have to do it. I foresee much more of that going forward as we continue in uncertain waters.
  • On Friday, my colleague and friend, Amy Bruckman hosted a Friday faculty social lunch via Blue Jeans. With all the meetings I’d had that week I wasn’t sure whether I would join. I was so glad I did. It was so much fun to be connected with my colleagues and share our experiences of the week. Lots of discussion about home offices and technologies to support the new working realities. Lots of discussion about how to reconfigure space in the home. On another social media I saw lots of pictures of people’s home office set ups.
  • In other social worlds, particularly crafts, there’s been lots of energy. Working from home and knitting. Sewing masks for hospitals. I’ve struggled with that. Not just because I have plenty of work to do. Even when I’ve tried to carve out space, I haven’t felt creative. I have managed one modest top, so I suppose that’s a good thing, but it hasn’t brought me the same joy that I usually experience and I’m sad about that. But also trying to tell myself that it’s OK to feel however I feel. These are very strange times.
  • I miss shops and restaurants. Very much. How integrated they were into my way of living. We’d always enjoyed a nice meal out. We’d also moved to a mode of grocery shopping where we stocked up every few days. Both of these patterns have gone for the time being and I miss all the interactions I had with people. It’s not just the food, it’s the people.

OK that’s what I have for week 1. My webcam and gaming headphones are on their way to my house. I foresee an interesting Week 2.

Knitting and Racism

In DRAFT on February 6, 2019 at 2:31 pm

For a long time, knitting was where I went to get away. It was a place of refuge, disconnecting me from the computer (you can not type and knit). It was a source of calm,  sometimes it’s almost like my hands are working without me, disconnected from my mind. My mind freed to go to other places—often to reflect and remember those who taught me or just to relax and watch the world go by.

More recently, knitting and cross-stitch have become political outlets for me. My way to express values. Women’s rights sewn into cloth or knitted into a hat. Pink, I was told was reclaimed.

Pink was perhaps reclaimed for white women, like me. I read the critiques of the hats. Knitting and other fiber and fabric arts have other ways to exclude, for example, their cost. Forums I read remind me that not everyone can afford all the yarns they would like. I watch with joy as people triumph in finding beautiful yarn in thrift shops, and “like” posts with people who produce amazing things with acrylic yarn.

2019 has seen the knitting community revisit conversations about racism—this time sparked by a blog post written by a knitter. I’ve watched YouTube videos, and read posts, learning as I go. Some of this took place on Instagram, reminding me of its role in the knitting community, and here is a list of POC designers and dyers that I can and will start following. Much of it has been a reminder to be vigilant and thoughtful about how I can promote and support inclusivity in my own knitting practice.

Perhaps most importantly I’ve downloaded a copy of Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” Workbook. I am sure this is going to be a long, difficult journey. But, as a white woman its a journey I need to take.

Beki’s favourite craft tools

In DRAFT on January 3, 2019 at 7:23 pm

It’s been a while, several years since I wrote anything for this blog. I suppose I finally have something to say. It begins sometime in 2018, back when Summer was still refusing to give way to Fall.

I’d been cycling for about a year, by which I mean I’d been using my e-bike as a commute vehicle and tool to be outside in the relentless heat of the Atlanta summer. When I wasn’t cycling to work, I’d been biking to my Local Yarn Store (LYS), The Craftivist in Inman Park. It was in the month of September when temperatures are supposed to drop from the 90s (F not C) that I discovered Topstitch Studio and Lounge, my Local Fabric Store (LFS).

Now at the start of 2019, I find myself with all the fibre arts within cycling distance. My LYS supplies my knitting and crochet needs, while my LFS manages my cross-stitch and sewing habits. This is the most access I’ve had to local supplies for crafts since I was a teenager who worked in Norwich and spent much of my money in the haberdashers on St. Stephens Street. The result is that I am spending much more time making things, including clothes which hasn’t happened since the 1980s.

So, since I last crafted at this level what has changed and what do I love?

  1. My toolbox. I’ve been through three this year, but I’ve finally found one that works for me. It’s a toolbox advertised for professional contractors. It has two shelves in addition to the large container. It’s deep, but not too long or wide. Perfect for keeping everything organised—really that’s a battle with crafting.
  2. Seam guide magnet. It’s a magnet that sticks onto the sewing machine, it helps you sew straight seams by ensuring that you always have the right distance between the edge of your fabric and the needle. It’s the first thing that has ever worked for me, and I’ve tried a lot of different things.
  3. A widescreen monitor (computer implied). I’ve always liked (I say liked, the process is usually one in which I swear a lot, procrastinate, but eventually get on with it) to customise patterns. Tops are too short for me, pockets either don’t exist or are repressively small. So I like to blend patterns. I also like to watch a film while I work. Sometimes I need to stop and watch a YouTube help video. What this means is that I need three windows open, side by side. Two PDFs, or a PDF and website, and then a video window.
  4. Smartphone. This is the tool of choice for knitting get-togethers (a.k.a. stitch-and-bitch). Carrying my pattern, checking a quick video, touching base with Ravelry to make sure that I don’t already own the size needle I’m about to buy again. It also connects me to Instagram, a useful social media platform for the fibre arts I now realise. (It’s also a social media platform that I find somewhat confusing, that’s been interesting.)
  5. Circular cutter. Wow, how did I not know of the existence of a circular cutter? It’s a pizza wheel for fabric and it’s an amazing cutting tool.
  6. The automatic needle threader (any needle threader). When I was a young teenager I always wondered why anyone needed help threading a needle. When I was a slightly older teenager I started to realise that arthritis might make threading needles physically difficult. It’s now as a middle-aged person I understand the importance of light in this process. My automatic needle threader, and the more basic needle threaders, along with those needles that are easier to thread… I understand their value. I’m also grateful for LED lights.
  7. Circular and interchangeable needles. My recollection of knitting needles as a child is that they were long and straight. As a small child, wielding them felt a bit like my first encounters with chopsticks: how am I supposed to make these work? Circular needles are knitting needles that allow you not just to knit round things, but also support knitting very long straight things without having a needle as long as your arm. Interchangeable needles allow you to screw on and off different sized needles.
  8. A glow in the dark crochet hook (or knitting needles). Seriously, it lights up. That must be useful even though I’ve been too embarrassed to use it in public.

I’m really grateful to be reconnecting intensely with my crafting passions. I’m delighted to have two Local F/Y Stores, not just because I can support small business, but also because they are routes to communities of makers. I’ve also felt more acutely how the digital has come to infuse my crafting, not just for help or other practical matters, but also to entertain me as I work. At the same time, some of the things I’ve discovered remind me of how my crafts history is embedded in my family history, how the things I need now are probably what my mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts would have wanted or used if they were available to them. It reminds me that I was once a young crafter, now I contend with my new physical reality.