Commuting and conversing

Sometimes the drive to school can be relaxing. Sometimes, it goes more like this.

This mornings car conversation.

🦑 oh, they have a whole series of these books. There’s an Introduction to Empiricism!

🤦🏾‍♀️ so what’s your understanding of empiricism?

🦑 only what I got from “Sophie’s World”, about trusting the evidence of your senses.

🤦🏾‍♀️ so would you say that empiricism is anthetical to relativism?

🦑 what is relativism?

🤦🏾‍♀️ remember yesterday on “The Philosophers Zone” they were talking about the dangers of philosophy in school, walking a tightrope between relativism and indoctrination? That indoctrination teaches that there is only a single truth, and relativism that a single truth is impossible.”

🦑 well, I suppose it is then

🤦🏾‍♀️ so would you include “thought” as a sensory experience for the purposes of that argument?

🦑 for the sake of the thought experiment, I think it’s easier to think of thought and sensory experience as different categories. It just makes it easier to think about.

So, how was your commute? 😂

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

A few recommended articles to help white people think about race. It’s not about you, but you do have the power to make a difference.

I’m going to keep posting about racism as I come across interesting articles.

If you find it uncomfortable, I encourage you to sit with your discomfort and examine it. Like feminism, ableism, and homophobia, educating yourself about issues that don’t effect you personally is key.

I’m not gay, but it sickens me that my loved ones are treated differently, and that the law supports and entrenches discrimination.

I don’t have a visible disability, but I’m outraged that my friends can’t get in to a concert hall to see her kids perform.

I am a woman, and I grew up thinking that gender equality had been established before my birth, and that it was a fight I’d never have to face.

As a woman, and as a mother of a son, I see it as my responsibility to educate him to advocate for others, and to use his privilege to make the world a better place.

As a “white”* person, I see it as my place to be the first to intervene when I see injustice, and to normalise conversations about issues of race. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

This week a darling friend disclosed some of the abuse she’s been subjected to online, and it’s kept me awake. Being protected from that knowledge is privilege.

I don’t have all the answers, I’m not better than you, I’m probably missing important stuff. But I’m not going to stop trying.

*my forebears were a mixed lot, and so I’m part Chinese, maybe a little Spanish, possibly indigenous Australian, but mostly Irish, English, and white. I look vaguely Greek or Lebanese, and have experienced abuse because of my perceived ethnicity. But this abuse has been sporadic, usually pretty mild, and easy to shake off. Again, that is privilege.

How I discovered I Was White – think you’re “post racial”? You don’t see colour? An examination of privilege.

To The Non-Racist White People, Please Just Be The First – when you see it, do something. Stand beside them, block the racist, ask for assistance. But do something. Never turn your back on injustice. Be the first.

We Don’t Do That Here – how to deflect a racist and shut down pushback

And a long post from a private group, copied and pasted here with permission.

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Author – Ayse Sercan on Facebook

I’m going to include a trigger warning here for fragile white people. You will not like this post and will be tempted to report it to the moderators (go ahead!). It’s going to hurt your feelings. I don’t care. If you can’t read anything that might possibly indicate you don’t come from a flawless heritage of heroes and patriots, you should move along and read something else. Maybe even block me right now and keep your world crystal clear and shiny white like you like it.

Also, I cuss a lot and I’m not editing that out because this pisses me off.

I’m going to give you a second to leave the room.

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OK? Everybody else cool for having a real discussion? Let’s go.

Over the weekend we had a shitty little conversation about how white people like to exoticize Turks. It got deleted by a fragile white woman who has since flounced off because she doesn’t like conflict so if you missed it, too bad. But I wanted to have a meta-discussion about the discussion that happens here so often.

My stance:

I do not consider it reasonable or appropriate behaviour by an adult with even minimal social skills and no social impairments to even consider asking the question, “Is calling X thing an [ethnicity or nationality name here]-X offensive? [Ethnicity or nationality name] isn’t a racial slur.”

EVER.

That is never, ever a reasonable thing to ask.

Whaaaat? you ask. “But isn’t asking questions what you WANT from us? Doesn’t it mean our hearts are in the right place? That we are trying to LEARN???”

1. I’m not the fucking ambassador from Brownistan. The *majority* of the world’s population is not white and one person does not speak for everybody else. You are going to have to use more critical thinking skills than just asking literally the only person you’ve ever met who has any connection to [ethnicity or nationality].

2. Asking questions in this case is a passive-aggressive move. It forces people of [ethnicity or nationality] to respond to a discussion they may not want to get into AGAIN, it forces people to act as representatives of their entire race or ethnicity (something white people literally never have to do), and it leaves a door open to the idea that exoticizing entire cultures could ever be acceptable just because it’s been done for a long time.

3. Your question comes with the assumption that unless that name is literally a racial slur, it’s totally OK. But a reasonable, polite person who literally actually believes that all humans are created equal and nobody is more equal than others should know that there’s a lot of room between “yeah, that’s what we call it, too” and “that’s a racial slur connected to centuries of enslavement and oppression” and quite a bit of that spectrum is ALSO not OK.

Also, I think literally every thinking adult can figure out the answer to this question with a quick Google search, and I will repeat that search here now for those of you who may not understand how the internet works. Type in: “origin of X thing” and see where X thing comes from, and what culture is associated with it. There’s your answer.

If for example you type in “Turk’s head knot” and find literally not one reference that gives a name for the same knot in Turkish, and no references to it as part of Turkish culture, chances are it is an exoticism, which is when the name of another culture is applied to a thing to make it sound more sexy or risque.

Are exoticism racial slurs? No. But they are patently stupid and offensive on the face of it. We know better now. We now know enough to know that Turks didn’t wear turbans because we can look it up on the internet, and all educated people should be aware of what the Crusades were and why the possibility that the knot is named after DECAPITATED Turks might make the name uncomfortable. And there are plenty of other ways of naming knots or tying patterns, after things that are not people or cultures.

So a reasonable, polite human being should know better than to even ask the question, and should not be surprised when people who have a connection to that culture react strongly. If you call a person a slur you should expect to be insulted in return because you’re being a shithead. If you exoticize somebody’s culture, you should likewise understand that it was *your* behaviour that was out of line and you deserve any grief you get for your actions.

And because for sure some fragile flowers of whitehood have stuck it out because they think they can handle this conversation and now they’re triggered as fuck:

If you hurt somebody, even unintentionally, you have to understand that they may decide to hurt you back intentionally. That’s what we call consequences, and if you’re an adult, you take that as a learning experience and try to do better over time, working slowly on being a better person like we all should be doing. If you choose to react by saying, “Well you are so touchy I can’t even say anything” you are an asshole who has decided that not having to learn anything is more important to you than treating other people as your equals, and fuck you. Once you’ve been told not to do something because it’s stupid or offensive, continuing to do it makes the hurt intentional, and you should expect a strong response to that.

Learn to Knit

Since I’ve been teaching knitting for a while now, I thought it would be useful to gather together a collection of resources for students to reference after the class ends. I can always be contacted through the blog if you have questions, and I will keep updating this page as new resources or corrections come to hand.

Gizmodo has a great tutorial (absolutely the last place I’d expect to find a knitting tutorial, gold star to them!), with animated GIFs to demonstrate each step. Unfortunately, the cast on they demonstrate is the long tail cast on, which is probably more complex than most beginners will be comfortable with.

Starting with a a knitted or cabled cast on would be my recommendation, as even though these are not the simplest methods available, they do introduce the skills you will need for the knit stitch, and therefore they provide a better foundation skill.

Brooke’s Magic Sproingy Cast On is my absolute favourite for both ease of execution and the super stretch edge it delivers, but beginner projects are more likely to call for a more stable edging.

Quick video here – more detailed video on my Pattern Support page.

The Knit Stitch

Each loop on your needle that you have cast on (including the slip knot if you started with one), will now be referred to as a “stitch”.

Each stitch sits on your needle with a “leg” on Esther side. With the needle in your left hand, and the tip of the needle pointing to your right, we will refer to the legs of the stitches facing you as the “front” leg.

As you knit each stitch, you will insert your needle from the left hand side of the front leg, underneath the needle and out towards the back of the work to the right hand side of the back leg of the stitch. Your right hand needle will travel between the legs of each stitch, from front to back, from left to right.

Next, wrap the working yarn around the right hand needle from left to right in a clockwise direction. Holding the working yarn and the needle together, pull the loop you have just made through to the front of the work, being careful not to let it fall of the needle. Once the loop is at the front of the work, you can then slip the foundation loop off the left hand needle. Congratulations, you have just knit your first stitch!

Though there is infinite variation in knitting, every stitch of every knitted item is merely a variation of the stitch you have just learned how to make.

A handy rhyme for remembering each of these steps that I like (especially when teaching bloodthirsty kids) has a piratical theme.

  • Stab them
  • Hang them
  • Throw them off the plank

Experienced knitters will develop a flow with their knitting so that each of these three steps becomes almost indistinguishable from the others, with each stitch seeming to fly off the needles. In order to get to this level of intuitive and effortless knitting, the most important thing to master is the way you hold your knitting needles and your working yarn. Tensioning the working yarn is something that is completely individual, and something that you will have to work out for yourself. What works for me isn’t necessarily what is going to work for you, and though your handedness is something worth considering, many right handed people will choose to knit continental style, and many left handers are quite comfortable knitting English style.
Loosely, “English” refers to managing the working yarn in the right hand, and “Continental” refers to holding the working yarn with the left hand. “Picking” means using your needle to “grab” onto the working yarn with your right hand needle, and pulling it through to create a stitch, and “throwing” refers to the action of using your fingers to wrap the yarn around the needle. As with which hand you hold the working yarn in, the difference between picking and throwing is down to individual preference, and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to perform the knit stitch.
While you’re learning how to tension your yarn (if you’re interested in learning how to knit the Continental method) you may find it useful to grab a crochet hook and some yarn and practice making a crochet chain. While you work on finding a method of wrapping the yarn around your fingers and hand, you’ll want to find a path to wrap the yarn that feels comfortable, and allows the yarn to flow through the fingers when you need it to, but allows you the control to be able to keep a firm hold when you need the working yarn to be constrained.
The Purl Stitch
Ordinarily, knitting projects are knit from right to left, and the work is turned at the end of every row. If you knit every row, you will end up with a fabric that has bumps on each row, this is called garter stitch fabric. To create a fabric that is smooth on one side (stocking stitch, sometimes called stockingette), you will need to either learn to perform the knit stitch from left to right (perfect for people who are naturally ambidextrous), or learn the Purl stitch, which is effectively the same as a knit stitch, but executed from the reverse side of the fabric.
Insert the right hand needle into the stitch from right to left, back to front. Wrap the stitch from right to left over the right hand needle, in an anti-clockwise direction. Holding the working yarn snugly, pull the new stitch through to the back of the work, and then work the foundation stitch off the left hand needle.
Cast Off
Like casting on, there are numerous ways to cast off. As illustrated in the Gizmodo video above, this basic cast off with provide a firm and stable edge, suitable for any project that doesn’t require a stretchy edge.
Knit (or purl) two stitches, then pick up the first stitch and drop it over the second stitch. Knit one more stitch, drop the second stitch over the third. Keep working in this manner until you reach the final stitch. Measure out at least 20cm of yarn from the working yarn, and cut the yarn. Thread the yarn through the final loop, and pull snugly.
Finishing
The “tail” at the end of your work can be woven through the cast off edge with a tapestry needle to hide it, or used to sew up your work. Sew in the tail from your cast on edge, and your knitting is done!
For a professional finish, most projects will benefit from a gentle bath in warm water. You can use a little shampoo if your yarn feels greasy or needs a clean, or conditioner if you’d like to soften it up a little. Once out of the bath, squeeze gently to remove excess moisture, then press between layers of clean towel. You can then pin the work to shape, or gently tug to shape and leave to dry in the shade. This blocking process will allow your work to relax, and will often even out slightly wonky looking knitting.
Celebrate your accomplishment!
Although knitting can seem effortless when you watch an accomplished knitter, remember that every stitch you perform is reinforcing a new pathway in your brain. When you begin, like any new skill, learning to knit can be very frustrating, and may seem quite counterintuitive. Persistence when things get hard will eventually get you to a place where each stitch flows, but if you need to take a break, do so!
Sometimes changing hands can be worthwhile, sometimes just taking a break for a glass of water, or maybe a stretch. You’ll be using your muscles in a new way, and it is normal to feel a little stiff after a period of intense work. If you find that you are repeatedly sore in a particular muscle, it may be worth trying a new method, and perhaps having a chat with a Physio or Osteo about the ergonomics of your method. While each stitch is an accomplishment, in order to make a garment, you’ll enjoy the process a lot more if you can knit comfortably!
And when you get to the point that you can knit without having to concentrate on what you are doing, you can use your knitting as a tool for Cognitive Anchoring. Well before I knew it was a thing, my knitting became my constant companion, and allowing me to escape “Death by PowerPoint” on many occasions.
What’s next?
Once you are comfortable knitting and purling, you can start to take on some nw challenges like lace, cabling, learning to read patterns and charts, and a whole world of creating will open up to you.
Check out Ravelry and create an account. Start to gather some favourite projects, and research what sort of skills you will need to learn before you cast on. Connect with your local Guild or Creative Fibre group, join a knitting group, and you’ll reap the benefits of connection and support that generations of knitters have enjoyed. Congratulations, you are one of us.

Some recommend beginner patterns

Christine’s Stay On Booties – perfect for keeping tiny toes toasty.

Milo – a simple baby/kids vest with some cool techniques, well explained.

Ten Stitch Blanket – a fun way to knit a blanket, just ten stitches at a time. Pattern is easily memorised, and makes great tv knitting. Also a brilliant project for learning to knit (purl) backwards.

Time Traveller Sock toe up with a firm gauge, well described instructions, and a timeless, classic, well fitting design.

Kid has a friend over

Kids refuse to go outside to play.

Adults threaten them with Star Trek if they won’t go outside. Kids accept Star Trek alternative and sit and wait for TV.

Adults then begin an in depth discussion of which series is the best place to start them, because TOS requires a historical context, and Next Gen has too many annoying characters, and Voyager is starting too late in the canon. And the movies are so wildly variable, you need a context to be able to make it through.

Kids go outside and play…