When we think about creators, we often focus on the end product — the colors, patterns, and general happiness that we receive from yarn. And that’s great! But unfortunately, a dark secret hides behind the curtain. Well, maybe secret isn’t the best word. It’s often an unspoken truth that appears before our eyes every day.
And recently, this issue has received a lot of attention in the knitting community. If you are active on the knitting social media sphere, you’re probably aware of the conversation about racism in the industry. The genesis of this issue is multi-faceted and complex, and I encourage you to read the mainstream coverage on Vice News for yourself.
I’m happy this issue has finally been spotlighted. But the conversation has only scratched the surface. Let’s take a closer look.
The heart of this issue is race. More specifically, different creators face different challenges based on their ethnicity and individual economic situations. This is true in pretty much all aspects of our daily lives. But knitting presents its own sets of challenges.
If you’ve knit for any significant amount of time, you know how much of a financial toll it takes. Creators face a large monetary barriers to even get started. I tried to break down an average supply chest to get started.
As you can see, this is a huge investment from the get-go. I’m not even counting the monthly and quarterly expenses you need to replenish your yarn or wool wash. In short, all of this quickly becomes a hurdle for anyone to overcome. But for groups who have even less, a dire picture comes into focus.
US Bureau Labor statistics don’t look pretty. White singles earn a median income of $48,412 (this estimate accounts for race, not gender). In comparison, black singles only average $37,024 a year. That’s a huge difference. And it will completely change how each group budgets for yarn supplies.
When broken down monthly, it’s about a $1K difference in budget. In other words, black earners work with a pool of about 24.5% less income than the majority group. And because everyone has to take care of regular expenses, this leaves a significantly smaller chunk of cash that can be used to enter the knitting hobby. Going by our previous example, that’s about $197.60 compared to the original $260.
In the image below, you will see a common example of how many supplies both groups can afford in their first month. As you can see, black knitters have much less to work with at first. It’s hard, less effective, and just not as fun.
Black creators (left) are typically able to afford 24.5% fewer supplies than white creators (right).
Any economics student knows that money doesn’t tell the full story. There’s also the issue of time. And yes, yarn projects take a lot of it! Sadly, black creators tend to have less time to invest in their work. Why is that?
Well, time can be difficult to show in statistics. But there’s one area where we can clearly demonstrate this disparity: overtime. Even though we established that black workers earn less, they have to work longer to receive that income.
Let’s take married women with children as an example. According to the Economic Policy Institute, white women work about 36.6 hours a week, while black women work 39.3 hours a week — a 7% difference. These are women are already impacted by the responsibility of raising children. But black women take on the added responsibility of longer hours to help make up for low-paying jobs.
Things look a little better for single mothers and childless women, but there’s still a gap. The difference is about 3.6% for the former category and 1% for the latter.
To help show this point, have a look at my garter stitch scarf project below. At a regular speed, you can see how far I got in 3 hours. Then, I tried to see how far I could get with 7% less time (almost a 13 minute difference).
Top: Average progress for black creator
Bottom: Average progress for white creator
The single-percentage gaps may not seem like a huge difference. But visualizing it shows how it would significantly impact your workload. And it all adds up as the months go on.
I point these things out to show how broad societal issues affect niche hobbies like ours. I also point it out not just to show that it exists, but to hopefully encourage all of us to tackle these issues — even if it’s something small.
These can be things like lending supplies, offering affordable products (if you own a yarn shop), or sharing time-saving tips with each other. In a future blog post, I’ll show you some ways you can save money on needles and other supplies. Do you have any ideas? Let me know in the comments below.
Speaking of future blog posts, I plan on writing a series of other pieces that discuss race in the knitting community. Researching this initial topic has already given me a lot of perspective and things to think about. Racism affects more than what we’d expect — we just have to see it.