Happy Pride Month! Representation matters. Furls is committed to telling the stories of all makers, including makers of underrepresented communities.
For those who haven’t hung out with me during live interviews it's never to late to catch a replay. During the Live with Mathew Boudreaux aka Mister Domestic, we launched the latest Furls hook the Streamline PRIDE! We have had the pleasure of chatting with, Lord Von Schmidt and tapestry crochet artist Paquilitzi. This Pride Month has been a blast!
Today I have the honor of chatting with Free Deshields a professional sample knitter and fiber artist.
My name is Free (and yes that’s my real LEGAL name!) and I’m a Professional Sample Knitter and Fiber Artist. I’ve been knitting for 17 years. I knit samples for independent yarn dyers & designers and I also knit commissioned items for non-knitters. I own and operate Black Girl Knit Magic and I’ve been dubbed the The Shawl Whisperer. Shawls are my favorite thing to knit of course and the bigger the better! I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and I’m a United States Navy Veteran. Fun fact: I was on the USS Carl Vinson on deployment when the Navy SEALS captured & killed Osama Bin Laden and my ship buried him at sea. I am obsessed with butterflies! I have a wonderful 9 year old daughter who likes to knit occasionally, but her craft of choice is drawing and painting. I’ve traveled all over the country and world due to the military but I currently live in the First State. I refuse to swatch, knit socks, or use DPNs. Support of antiracism is very important to me.
Mrs. Deveter: Free, thank you so much for agreeing to chat with me today. I love your name and that you have to tell people that it's your real LEGAL name! Happy Pride Month! I have started out most of my interviews this month with this question so I'll ask you as well. Queer activism through the visual arts is nothing new, but there have been quite a few emerging queer artists working in fiber over the past decade. I was recently introduced to the term “craftivism”, in the beautiful coffee table book, “Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community,”. Would you consider yourself a craftivist? If so, what does that mean to you?
Free: I think craftivism is using your craft, voice, art, and platform to speak on social subjects that don’t necessarily relate to craft but deal with our everyday lives. I would definitely consider myself a craftivist! I love to knit and show off my beautiful work but my social media is not only for that purpose. I speak A LOT about antiracism – especially in the crafting community. I like to teach my followers about the black history they may not have learned in public schools. I also give them a perspective on racial issues they may not have otherwise understood had they not heard it from someone like me.
Mrs. Deveter: That is beautiful. Thank you for being a voice! Speaking of teaching followers about black history, for a long time, crochet and knitting have been seen as something older (White) women have done. This inherently gendered medium according to Chaich in the book is being ‘turned on its head’. There has been an emergence of men, multi-ethnic, and much younger people embracing fiber arts. Why did you learn to knit?
Free: I started knitting as a way to give my hands something to do when I was bored. This was in 2004 a long time before fancy touchscreen cell phones and fun internet. I grabbed a book and needles from Walmart and went to town! In 2018, I decided to actually teach myself from “YouTube University” lol and here we are!!! I understand the older white women comment so much because people call me grandma! OR they will see me with my tattoos and piercings and dreadlocs and brown skin and give me the WEIRDEST looks!! That’s ok because I stare back! LOL
Mrs. Deveter: Oh yes, stare right back! What five words would best describe you?
Free: Outspoken, free-spirited, nonchalant, hilarious, creative
Mrs. Deveter: Finish the sentence … “If I couldn’t knit, I would … “
Free: Be a hot mess!!! Knitting saved my life and continues to do so! It helps with my anxiety and when I have dissociative moments! It calms me when I’m angry. Knitting is truly my therapy.
Mrs. Deveter: I I heard so many people say that hand crafts calm them. I'm glad you are able to find an outlet through knitting. What is your favorite Furls tool?
Free: I love the Furls Ebony knitting needles! Because they say “Life is too short to use ugly tools”!! Their wooden needles are soooooo gorgeous!! As soon as you open the package you will be HIGHLY impressed!!!!
Mrs. Deveter: Using beautiful tools is a must! What makes your work unique and special? What is the mission of your business/ art?
Free: My work is special because I create magic with every yard of yarn I touch! I’m The Shawl Whisperer and I knit the most beautiful shawls! I’m a Professional Sample Knitter and Fiber Artist. My ultimate goal is to inspire my butterflies to be the best knitters they can be! I learned all my techniques on my own and I think everyone can too!!! The mission of my business is to say that when I die that “I Was Here”. I just want my art known. I want people to be proud of the garments they have/wear that adorn a leather tag that says “Black Girl Knit Magic” or “The Shawl Whisperer”. I want others to feel that I taught them something…that I made them feel loved…that I made them feel that they could do anything.
Mrs. Deveter: Free, I felt that! It so important to leave a legacy and teaching others to how make magic with yarn is powerful. We live in a mass-produced, buy-it-now society. Why should people continue to make things by hand?
Free: Although it’s easier, quicker, and cheaper to buy things in store, there’s nothing more special then receiving a handmade product made with LOVE stitch by stitch.
Mrs. Deveter: That's a perfect answer. Nothing compares to handmade products! Thank you so much for sharing Free!
Furls Fans I hope you learned something new in this interview with Free and have been inspired by her story. Be sure to like, and follow her on social media!