(Note to the reader, feel free to skip this and go to “Bill’s Opinion” at the end of the page).
A Sydney craft store has become caught up in a vitriolic online campaign that has seen members of the knitting community labelled as racist by people who say they were ignored in yarn stores and felt uncomfortable at “white-majority knitting groups”.
Claims of bullying, lying and harassment have gone back and forth on social media since the dispute began over the treatment of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPoC) in the knitting community.
An online campaign about racism in the knitting community has ensnared a Sydney craft store.
Sukrita Mahon, a spinner and weaver from the NSW Central Coast, has played a prominent role in the campaign to highlight and combat racism and prejudice among knitters.
“Sydney, we have a problem,” Ms Mahon wrote in January. “Your knitting spaces are unsafe for bipoc (and probably others). You have shown yourself unwilling to listen, at best.”
Ms Mahon did not respond to the Sun-Herald’s interview requests, but her Instagram account @su.krita refers to “the times I felt uncomfortable in their shop”.
She also refers to a time when the shop’s owner was “racist to me and my brown friend”.
The owner also declined to be interviewed but has expressed distress on social media about the accusations of racism.
Ms Mahon’s Instagram story Racist Knitters lists experiences of racism such as being ignored or followed in a yarn store when other patrons were not, and being mistaken for another person.
Cynthia Mulholland, the president of the Knitters’ Guild NSW, said her organisation welcomed anyone who shared a passion for knitting and crochet.
“I think there is racism everywhere, however it is up to groups like the Knitters Guild to welcome everyone into a comfortable environment,” she said.
Sukrita Mahon is part of an online campaign against racism in the knitting community.
Melbourne-based writer Sophia Cai suggested the dispute began when the owner was asked by members of the BIPoC community to make a statement denouncing racism.
“Their silence and silencing was noted, and they became defensive that they may been (sic) seen in a negative light,” Ms Cai wrote.
Ms Mahon then set up the Sydney is Cancelled online group, with the aim of creating places where BIPoC can meet, “away from the white gaze, without having to justify our existence at every step”.
“Our meetings will not be open to the public,” she explained on the Unfinished Object site.
However, the row turned ugly during a public event at Carriageworks in February organised by Ms Mahon’s craft group.
Ms Mahon said the event was disrupted by the owner of the Sydney craft store, which The Sun-Herald cannot identify for legal reasons, and another knitting designer.
“They spotted me standing away from the group and saw an opportunity to corner me,” Ms Mahon wrote in a blog post. “They demanded that I let them have their say. Through gritted teeth, I explained why I was upset with them, but received no acknowledgement of my feelings.”
Ms Mahon said she was intimidated by their behaviour, which they took “as a personal affront — manipulating the narrative so they appeared to be the victims”.
The confrontation at Carriageworks follows earlier allegations of racism levelled against American hand-dyer and knitter Maria Tusken and knitting designer Karen Templer, whose blog post about an upcoming trip to India prompted intense criticism. The online journal, Quillette, labelled the campaign against Templer a witch hunt.
Other Instagram users weighed into the controversy, including @mia.p.nguyen, who said the craft shop was racist and whose product/service was to marginalise.
The same user posted several other references to the controversy, which prompted @sometimesanislander to comment: “They have shown their racist disgusting selves.”
Several Instagram users, including Ms Mahon, have complained about posts being deleted or users blocked after criticising the shop and its owners.
“These two need to be accountable for everything they’ve done: initial invading of (what was supposed to be) a safe space for BIPoC, the silence on the issue, then the defensiveness, the ignoring, the silencing, the threats of legal action,” @nakkiknits wrote.
Someone with a mental illness is shit-posting on the internet and Andrew Taylor has managed to spin out an entire article about it in a national newspaper.
This is how the decline of Roman Empire started.