The #safetypin thing won’t help you overcome the noxious fumes of bystander effect

I saw the fupping #safetypin thing pop up again. My eyes almost rolled into the back of my head! Ouch! 

One thing you need to know. 

The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. 

I hope you never have to see harassment, I hope you don’t have to take action.  But I hope we all know when it’s time and what to do. 

Know this – a pin isn’t going to help or prepare you. 

Wear all the pins you want like a punk rocker or Liz Hurley

Just don’t think it’s going to make anyone but yourself feel better. And this really isn’t about you. 

Will it help you overcome THE BYSTANDER EFFECT? Probably not. 

Imagine a noxious vapour that paralyses people when they are in crowds. Especially crowds. The more people the worse it is. 

Your body tells you it’s not your place to do anything, surely someone else is going to do something?? And no one does. Even the most well-meaning people can suffer from it. 

The bystander effect has been repeated experimentally. It takes an enormous effort and courage to just take action. Sometimes the action required is blocking someone, or distracting someone. And effective action starts with empathy. 

We need to listen to people who are vulnerable about how they feel about it. Read “Why I don’t care about your safety pins” 

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No I can’t know what it feels like – but I couldn’t help trying to imagine how I would feel. It occurred to me it would be condescending somehow. It instantly bugged me when I first heard about it around Brexit. Why should vulnerable people and supporters have to develop a secret code!! Support should be obvious and effective. 

Another problem is Moral Licensing. This is why you start in groceries shops in the veg aisle and leave by the sweeties. Moral licensing is why when people donate even meagrely to some massive international campaign, other campaigns find they can’t get anyone to cough up the cash. Ugh it’s bad. 

Someone said Hey! These things aren’t mutually exclusive! 

And no – more symbolism will NOT help. Symbols, signs, slogans are narrow. Why wear a t-shirt or slogan which only supports one vulnerable group and not another! 

How many badges do you have to wear anyway?? 

We need to know how to take REAL action and what to do. 

You don’t have to put yourself in harms way. 

You need to be aware and CALL IT OUT when you see it. And even if you don’t see it, take action locally to make it safer. 

Maybe you think it will be a sign! People will see! Most likely know the heat of a stressful moment they aren’t going to see your tiny safety pin. And what if they aren’t close enough? 

In this thread, Naomi Parkhurst describes two different situations where she was able to take positive action. In one the crowd was overcome with the bystander effect. In both there was so much physical distance and symbol would not have helped. This is the start of the thread:

This example article in Slate probably got thousands of shares and eyeballs. And there isn’t one bit of constructive advice about how to overcome the incredibly powerful bystander effect, how to safely intervene, and deescalate.
I’m disappointed in Boing Boing by sharing this meme and not offering any constructive advice AT ALL.
This article in Huffington post shows loads of people “raising awareness” but not educating themselves or others on what to do.

Here’s a good list of resources

Share this: Some Hard Truths and Ally Resources

^ Actually useful! 

Oh and another problem: easy to mock and abuse 

Someone said it was started by an “SJW” spoof or troll. And I thought: what a honeypot. 

I’m not going to link to the stupid alt-right threads where people joke about abusing the symbol to trap and divert people. Trust, many people find it really funny to say they will wear it and then “SURPRISE”! 

Why does that matter? Sticks and stones, right? Who cares what those goofballs think? 

Well the point is that if we spent THE SAME amount of effort educating people about the bystander effect, why it happens and how to over come it… imagine. 

This stupid pin is supplanted raising awareness of what you can actually do! And dividing us more. 

The beauty part of knowing what to do v wearing a symbol: you can’t mock the techniques used to intercept harassment and bullying because they are designed to intercept things like mockery! 

It’s distracted us. 

It is totally inneffective in offering REAL help. 

What can we do?? 

I love this post I saw shared on FB by a friend of a friend on the same discussion. It’s by Middle Eastern Feminist and although it’s about how to respond when you see Islamophobia, the same techniques work no matter WHO is vulnerable! Way better than wearing safety pins or a t-shirt with ‘I support X group’ on it. 

I also like it because of the comments by people who took action. They talk about what happened. And they give advice about what could have been done differently. 

We can get better at this. 

In all cases – when more people know what to do the response is more effective. 

A simple spinning on a stick demo for shows

In my previous rant about the student spindle, I pointed out you’d be better off showing people to spin with a CD spindle, and showing them how simple it is to make one, than giving them a way-too-heavy spindle.

You really can spin with anything, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

And spinning with a stick is a great way to teach anyone the power of twist.

How to give a simple handspinning demo with a stick

I did this demo when we went with my guildies to the Rare Breeds Show & Sale¬†recently. This is basically a very condensed version of¬†Abby Franquemont’s Make yarn with a pencil demo. I found I could make it shorter, because you I had¬†lots of takers¬†coming over and waiting to have a go!

Probably all¬†of the terminology will go over someone’s head when you demo this. But the idea of adding twist to keep fibres together will be¬†clearly understood at the end. It looks long, but takes about 7 mins¬†do the demo with groups of 3-4.

Supplies: Good combed top. I used BFL, and it was nice and not compacted. Very important. Sticks. I used sticks from cat toys, chop sticks, etc. Stick should be somewhat smooth if possible?

  1. Set up the challenge: Using combed top, show how to take the very end of the tip and pull a tiny bit out from your fibre supply. Everyone gets a tiny floating piece, which they pull out from the end.
    • Explain this grew from a sheep.
    • Staple¬†length:¬†You can’t pull it apart if you keep your hands close, but if you put your hands at the ends, you can slowly draft out, and pull it apart. Let them see how gently they pull it until it comes apart.
    • OK now we have a challenge! We don’t want it to pull apart. We need twist.
    • At this point they understand that the top is made of fibres that would come¬†apart if you pulled them.
  2. The fibre: Using combed top, rip down a thumb’s width strip about 16 inches long. Give one to each kid, and one for you! (this will come in handy later.)
    • Drafting: Show how you can gently pull the fibre again, but don’t pull too hard because you will pull it apart. Move along the length, and show how you can draft.
    • If someone breaks theirs, hand them yours.
  3. The stick: Now add the stick.
    • With your thumb holding down¬†on the end of the fibre, show how you take the other end and wind it around the stick.
    • If they run our of space they can push it down.
  4. The magic reveal: Check the twist!
    • Take someone’s example, and unroll it. Show how the twist was added when they wrapped around the stick, and it’s not lost when you unroll it.
    • Show you can tug it and it won’t come apart.
    • Ask: Why is that?¬†At this point they can see they added twist and the fibres won’t come apart.
    • You might need to add a little twist as you unwind, to help it along!
  5. Plying and tying
    • You hold both ends and ask them to hold the centre point. Then you bring two ends together to fold it. You can explain this is “plying” which means to fold.
    • And you tie the two ends together to lock the twist.
    • Then they can see their little fibre strip now looks like yarn!
  6. Let them take it home. They are¬†delighted to have something they can take with them. So simpleūüôā

Below you can see all the lovely new yarn they made. Usually, the kids were automatically comparing and could see some were better than others.  If they start comparing, you could ask what they think they could do to improve Рand they can usually figure it out!


In this example, where mum is helping, they are wrapping it the wrong way, letting the fibres slip so they wrap flat.  She was leading the fibre to wrap around the stick without adding twist. You can see the fibre is flat against the stick. We spotted that and then the kid got set up and was able to do this on her own. She was 4!

Handspinning with a pencil

Abby Franquemont breaks down a demo of teaching spinning on a pencil. You can learn enough in this demo to understand staple length, drafting and the power of twist.

Handspinning from the tip of a stick

This technique is an upgrade from that would be to spin off the tip from a stick. This is nearly how the Navajo Spindle works, except without the whorl. It would work if you had people sitting down, so they could get to their lap easier.




The scourge of the heavy “student spindle”

For the third time in as many weeks, on Saturday a would-be spinner told me of her woes trying to spin on a spindle. I diagnosed her problem: a way-too-heavy spindle.

I have been delighted recently to demo spinning and learn more about how to break down the steps and condense my tutorials down to get people spinning happily as quickly as possible.

I’ve learned that giving students the right tools can make this much faster and easier.¬†I also do think the beauty of a spindle is part of the joy of the craft. I’m delighted to share handmade¬†tools with beginners. I don’t think they should be relegated to using something brutally plain.

So why, please tell me, is the first spinning experience most people have (including me!) with ugly, heavy, lumbering spindles that take two twirls before they conk out?

Why so HEAVY?

I remember teaching someone spindle spinning at a show, and an hour later she came back with the dreaded Student Spindle. That brute is 85¬†grams? Apparently it’s not just Ashford, because Kromski also makes a heavy student spindle at 80 grams. It spins¬†reluctantly, and the weight means it’s physically limited in the size of yarn it can spin.

Can someone explain this to me??¬†Great for plying, I guess? Yes, I wish they sold it as a plying spindle. Does anyone actually use this beast of a student spindle? ¬†Even the “Maxi”plying ¬†spindles sold by Bosworth top out at 56g.¬†I assume it’s for making bulky yarns?

I think it’s a terrible shame to give learners¬†such as HEAVY spindle.¬†These heavy spindles¬†seem to be the only spindle on offer when someone is looking for an inexpensive spindle to learn on. If a vendor is going to only carry a few spindles to help people get started, they will tend to veer towards the only “student spindle” option out there.

In fact it is the one that was sold to me on the first spinning workshop I went on. ¬†I tried to spin when I got home without a teacher’s help, and I created¬†some horribly over spun heavy yarn. It was awful and I didn’t touch spinning again until years later.

This great article on about selecting spindles gives a helpful table. They recommend you would spin a worsted weight yarn on a 70 gram spindle. ¬†Making a worsted weight single is¬†a challenge on its own. Mechanically this means you need to draft out more fibre to make your yarn. You need a thicker fibre supply. If you have a compacted hand-dyed fibre, then you can’t do much pre-drafting.¬†From my experience a lighter weight spindle will mean you have to draft less fibre¬†and¬†you can use a looser fibre supply, and even do some pre-drafting.

I would say you want to stay in the range of 28-50 grams for a beginner spindle. This will be in the range of spinning fingering, sport and DK weight yarns.

Trying to save money?

OK I can understand if people want to give learners a chance to learning spinning without having to make a major investment. Paying £10 or so for a spindle *seems* better than buying a handmade spindle for £30. But to me, that is money wasted.

If the cost is the main issue, I think a much better student spindle is one made of materials lying about the house. Handmade and simple.

Don’t have a spindle but you¬†have a pencil handy?¬†Yes you can spin wool with a pencil.¬†Abby Franquemont has proven you can pretty much spin wool with anything. But the mechanics of a spindle with a whorl makes spinning much faster and more efficient.

There are some great tutorials about making spindles. Such as with CD and a dowel or toy-wheel spindles in this Spin Off free guide on DIY spinning equipment. Though even these requires a trip to the hardware store.  (oh! here you can make a CD spindle without the grommets if you have some blu-tac!)

How about making one out of a door knob and a chopstick! Or just whip a turkish spindle together with some twigs! These homemade spindles show that you can spin with anything, and if someone is inspired they can see this can be done with a low-cost and easily with what they have lying around.

Affordable spindles

I’m so keen on getting people to spin,¬†I’ve given away some of my spindles in the past. Now I need to get new ones specifically for teaching and demoing spindle spinning, and I want something affordable but still really beautiful.

You don’t have to get a gem-studded¬†Golding spindle for over $150 USD. (Though if you’re trying to figure out what to get my for me birthday, the¬† “BLACK EYED SUSAN” would be lovely, thanks!) There are lots of really nice affordable spindles.

My search is focused on spindles in the UK.¬†Woodland Turnery has hand-turned¬†bottom (approx 45-60grms)¬†and top whorl spindles (approx 30-50grms)¬†for ¬£13.95. Kevin Rhodes has a beginner spindle at 35-40g and it’s only ¬£13.95. Most of Adelaide Walker’s spindles are under ¬£20.

Luckily, the UK Spinners for sale board on Ravelry  has come through.  Buying secondhand equipment can save you about 10-25%. The nice thing is, if you keep your equipment in good condition it holds its value better than most things you buy!

I got a great deal on two Kerry spindles. Even still, brand new, they are great value. Look at this one, a beautiful wood, and a cool 30g for £20. I think that is a great spindle.

In a search on Etsy for sellers in the UK with spindles £25 and under I found several vendors. ThomasWoodandWool has a 40g hand turned beeswax finished spindle for £8.50.

You can also check out the UK Spindlers group on Ravelry for some good deals.

Find a special spindle

The best place to choose a special spindle would be at a fibre festival. Ideally you could hold the spindle in your hands to choose it.

Pro-tip: Make sure to check the vendors at the shows you’re thinking about attending. I was disappointed after trawling all over Edinburgh Yarn Fest that few vendors were selling spindles, and of course¬†there were no¬†specialist spindle makers. The spindles¬†available were too heavy, poorly made or uninspiring mass produced spindles. (Nothing wrong with mass-produced, but I’m talking about finding that beautiful spindle.) ¬†But EYF¬†aren’t claiming to be a fibre fest per se, it’s more of a knitting fest with a few bits of other things.

So check and make sure you’re headed to a fibre fest!

I had the best experience at Fibre East with all the spindle vendors. I remember seeing these crafts people’s¬†hands all gnarly from woodwork. They also let you¬†have a go! I felt a bit shy about trying them, but Ian of IST encouraged me to give a¬†tiny Turkish spindle¬†a try. It went on spinning and spinning and spinning. And I fell in love. SOLD!

The Interweave¬†Guide to choosing a drop spindle¬†mentions the option of getting either a low or high whorl spindle. I’ve noticed some actually have both possibilities. With hooks to spin high-whorl and¬†notches to spend low-whorl on the other end. To me that seems like the best option, since you won’t know until you try which suits you best. I really liked a high-whorl spindle when started, but now that I have the half-hitch down, I find it’s easier to slide my hand along the thread, and flick the top of the spindle.

However if you can’t try it in person stick to some tried and true highly recommended spindle makers:

Conclusion: Stop the spread of The Student Spindle

OK my rant is OVER. If you can explain to me why student spindles are so heavy, please enlighten me.

If you know of some great, affordable spindles, I’d also love to hear!

Crafts in the UK will be disproportionately affected by Brexit

The first time I realised craft related businesses¬†were going to be disproportionately affected by Brexit was on Hilltop Cloud’s recent newsletter, Katie assured customers that they shouldn’t feel “guilty”¬†about the sudden discount they were going to receive due to the pound crashing. Afterall, she is getting paid the same…

Problem is, soon her suppliers, and her supplier’s suppliers are going to make increases, and soon small business margins will be further squeezed. This will happen across the entire market.

The next sign, Artesano today announced on facebook they are ceasing trading.

‚ÄúWe have made our best efforts to get stock moving and to fulfil all orders, but once the Brexit was announced last week, our main suppliers took the view not to continue delivering to us.‚ÄĚ

We’re not even OUT of the EU yet technically, and it’s starting already.

Small businesses struggle, that is a given. I don’t think this supplier issue was the only factor in their closing up today.¬†Artesano was working on changing their business model, they were trying something new with online sales and new distribution.

Small businesses have to be nimble and take chances to adapt. They have to deal with smaller margins, and smaller scales. There isn’t a lot of “wiggle room.” Running a small business is a risky business on the best days…. but this is going to be like nothing else.

All the businesses we love are at risk right now. Small businesses are often labours of love, and sweat equity, and don’t benefit from big investment. They don’t have the wherewithal to weather this crisis.

As crafters we’re going to notice this most quickly. These businesses rely on other small businesses, they have smaller, niche markets, and they rely on international supply chains.


Vultures may delight in picking among the discounted detritus of crashed businesses.¬†I just feel like saying, I hope¬†you’re happy now.¬†It’s positively infuriating.

I’m going to a local meeting tonight to see what is being planned, how we can advocate for our communities, and work towards solutions. I have to do something, because it’s all looking a bit hopeless right now.



My first best friend was a refugee

Bit of an odd title, but it seemed to only occur to me *today* that my first best friend was a refugee. I was reading Fecility Ford’s article “The Political is Personal.”¬†This post is sort of a tangent from her main point, but I was struck by her description of her child hood, in primary school with many kids who spoke¬†English as a second language. I suddenly realised, and I understood what this meant.¬†I don’t think I had considered how I came to have a first best friend from Laos.

I was around 5 or 6¬†and I lived down the street from Milo. She was my first real friend. (I had had imaginary friends too.) Her brother Shu-tung (which I thought was a nickname “shoe-tongue”) could ride a 10 speed. I thought he was amazing.¬†Milo could do flips on the railing on the stairs near¬†her house. I thought she was amazing.

We would practice flipping with one leg over that railing til we were dizzzzzzy! You had to wear jeans, because -let me tell you- how much it hurt to do that with bare legs! But Milo could. She really was amazing.

We would explore what I thought was a giant wood behind her house. We’d walk down to the big huge tunnels, scream and get deadly scared. There was a cold, cold stream of water running to the tunnels. We’d try to catch scurrying¬†crayfish. I liked to watch¬†them in the water. We’d put things in the water and watch them float into the tunnels. Horrifying!

I would go over to Milo’s house for dinner. Her mother was so nice to let me go over. My mother told me so. I loved the smell of the dinner cooking at Milo’s¬†house, and the warm fog of rice steam.

I missed Milo so much when she had to move to Springfield. I missed her, and her family. Whenever my mother cooked white rice, I insisted on getting her to put more water in it.

It wasn’t until years later, when I lived in Taiwan that I learned it was probably congee which she served. The smooth rice porridge has a¬†distinctly¬†cozy flavour. It really brought me back in the way only smells and tastes can.

I knew Milo¬†came from far away. I knew it was “on the other side of the earth and you could actually dig a hole to get there.” I knew she¬†was from Laos, that she was Laotian.

I didn’t know she was a refugee. I wouldn’t have known what that even meant.

Until years later, when I was in junior high, and we learned about wars and the truly terrible things. I learned from fellow students of their experiences escaping, literally Рon boats. As a young boy, one of my classmates had escaped on a boat, with his entire family from somewhere in Korea. I knew that Milo came through similar circumstances to live in the US.

I realise better now what that meant. And just how lucky I am¬†to have met her and her family. But when I knew her I was really little, I couldn’t have imagined our lives any other way.

She opened up a whole world to me. I never forgot Milo, and I was always inspired by knowing her. I think I was proud in some way. I loved to tell people my first friend was from Laos. It’s one of those things I’ll tell you about me, it’s part of who I am.¬†Knowing her really had a huge effect on me.¬†She made me want to travel and meet more amazing people who could do amazing things.

Of course, in all the great places I’ve lived I found out we aren’t all that much different…

And out there, there are people, like us, in terrible need… refugees – who could be future friends and neighbours.

The political really is personal. Indeed.

I decorate with sound

This post was inspired by listening to A Playful Day’s interview with Felicity Ford of Knitsonik.¬†I recommend it highly! What a great adventure in sound, something I didn’t realize was so important. I am funny about sound, and I didn’t even know it.

I decorate with sound.¬†I have certain bells on different doors in my home. ¬†We’ve moved a lot. I’ve moved a lot. Since I lived in Taiwan I’ve had this little black bell. This to me is the sound of home.¬†I hear the bell and I know I’m home.

I have small “noisy” decorations on other doors too.¬†These mark going through rooms. They announce if someone is coming. They remind you that you’re home.


Sound is actually far more important to me than I thought. My husband’s voice is very important to me, and I am very sensitive to “ticking” and “drips” kinds of sounds others find innocuous. Anywho! After listening to the episode, I think I can’t “unhear it,” amazing.
So do listen to this¬†episode of A Playful Day – an interview with Knitsonik. As the host rightly points out you may have to listen to it in two sittings, but it’s worth it! I will likely¬†listen again, to be honest.
Felicity spoke about the soundscape around us. She prompted the listener to remember a sound, and explore sound memory. I paused the podcast and got the most amazing memories. They were mixed up with remembering smells. I can rarely remember smells. Try it!
She also spoke about the connection to knitting. The title “Knitsonik” describes her focus. The connection is about marking time in sound, and marking time in stitches. I really never understood the connection until then.
 Great stuff!