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An Uneven Playing Field: How Time and Money Affects POC Knitting Creators

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. 

Knitting Supplies bold Grey.png

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).

Scarf_Comparison

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.

3 thoughts on “An Uneven Playing Field: How Time and Money Affects POC Knitting Creators”

  1. Costs and time are not exactly signs that knitting is racist. You made a pretty graphic, but it’s misleading.

    To start, anyone on a tight budget looking to learn to knit can get a giant ball of caron by the pound for $6 on sale or $5 with a coupon. Or they can get red heart super saver.

    Next, they’re only going to need ONE set of needles. Why on earth would anyone invest $130 in an interchangeable needle set until they even know they can figure out knitting.

    Stitch markers don’t have to be bought. You can literally make stitch markers out of anything, including pieces of yarn, bobby pins, or safety pins. A project bag? A plastic market bag will do.

    Add ons? None of that is needed until a person feels comfortable getting the basics down.

    A paid pattern? Why? The internet has thousands of free ones, not to mention the library.

    Time? We all have to work, raise kids, cook, clean, tend to our houses, and families. It’s a hobby – you set aside time for it.

    Seems to me like you and the original Vox writer are grasping at straws looking for racism where there isn’t any and both of you sound elitist as a result.

    1. First off, thank you so much for your comment. Knitting is not racist, however there is a systemic problem of racism in our world that spills over into knitting. The numbers that were used for this article are an average, there are always individuals that do not fit the mold but we are looking at broad patterns. A wage gap and a time gap are going to have larger effects that limit the ability for BIPOC people to be able to advance and become a better knitter over the course of several years knitting.

      Second, you are absolutely right about you can knit on a budget! There are a great deal of budget friendly options that I started with, and many that I continue to use. However, I chose to include the tools and add ons that I find myself reaching to the most after 15 years of knitting. When I was creating the budget, I decided to use an interchangeable needle set as opposed to a single pair of needles because in the long run they are considerably less expensive than buying single needle sets; especially when you start knitting in the round. You are right that someone who has never picked up needles before would not need an interchangeable set, however someone who has finished a few projects and wants to really get into knitting may not have the money available to purchase one (or to purchase all of the individual needles). The point of this article was to show a broader picture of how many BIPOC knitters have fewer resources available to dedicate to knitting.

      As for the available time, you’re right! We all have to make time to knit in our busy lives. However, if you have to work for more hours each day to make the same amount of money, there is simply less knitting time available period. By having less time available, that means that BIPOC knitters will not finish projects as quickly, it will be more difficult to advance, and it is even more difficult to progress in a knitting career.

      There are so many facets to this issue and I am sorry to not have gone into more detail. I promise there will be more articles that go into some of these facets. Additionally, I will be sharing blog posts on how to reduce costs as a knitter, you already mentioned a few. At the end of the day, I hope that this article inspires you to at least listen to BIPOC knitter’s stories about racism in the commuknitty.

  2. This is a good article and I can believe there is racism for the black creator. But I am black and I shop for the economical yarns and knitting supplies. That’s why there is Walmart, Mejier and thrift stores where we can buy these items. I love to knit so I am beginning to shop at the chain yarn stores and use coupons to save money. I haven’t shop in our local shops yet, but once I feel ready to invest in expensive yarns I will visit those shops.

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