September Sassy Holidays 2019: Hobbit Day

Who doesn’t love the Hobbits, those adorable and tenacious humanoids from JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy? Who wouldn’t love to celebrate Frodo and Bilbo Baggins’ shared birthday with a big party, complete with food, friends, fireworks, and frivolity? Indulging in elevenses, entering their cozy Hobbit holes, and hearing Frodo and Bilbo regale us with tales of their very un-Hobbity adventures? Well, we can all celebrate on September 22nd, which, along with being the birthday of the two most adventurous Hobbits the Shire has ever seen, is also celebrated as Hobbit Day, smack-dab in the middle of Tolkien week. 

In Tolkien’s writing, Hobbits, which are about half the size of humans, are often referred to as Halflings. Our Halfling colorway plays homage to these very special Hobbits that captured our imaginations as children (and adults). The Hobbit was written as a children’s book, and is a wonderful adventure to share with the kiddos in your life. We listened to it as a family on a long road trip, and mine were captivated by it. I remember the first time I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a young adult; I cried, because I was so sad I would never read it for the first time again. If you haven’t read the books, we highly recommend you do. And, on September 22nd, indulge in a bit of the Hobbit life, if you will, in honor of the magic that Tolkien shared with us.

HerStory September 2019: Joana Choumali

We’d love to introduce you to Joana Choumali. Her Awoulaba/Taille Fine project is so amazing, and the statement it makes about beauty standards and ideals is so powerful, that we had to share it with you all for our September HerStory. The image that most inspired the Crafted Perfection colorway we created is the final image of the project linked here: http://joanachoumali.com/index.php/projects/photography/awoulaba-taille-fine.

Joana Choumali is a visual artist based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire whose work often explores issues of identity and womanhood, mostly in African culture. She is currently delving into the use of embroidery over photography as a medium, and her most recent work is a stunning look at a town in trauma, as well as an inspiring artistic marriage of two different crafty art mediums. For HerStory, however, it’s her Awoulaba/Taille Fine project that grabbed us, and the statements the project makes about standards of beauty across the world. 

Awoulaba/Taille Fine explores the variances in standards of beauty among African and American/Western cultures using images of “perfect” body parts and Awoulaba mannequins all mixed together as indicators of a culture’s prevailing beauty ideals. In the early 2010s in Africa, mannequins began being produced/crafted that reflected a more African standard of beauty: wider hips, fuller breasts, heavier arms and legs. Called “Awoulaba,” meaning “Beauty Queens,” these mannequins were so unlike the more common “Taille Fine” (a term used to describe a more Western standard of beauty) mannequins usually seen that they inspired this project. The project blends the two in a way that is both jarring and beautiful. Choumali juxtaposed images of body parts of women in popular culture who embody different combinations of the two standards, making a powerful statement about aspirational beauty and the damage it can do. She asks of viewers the question: why are we aspiring to the generic, mannequin-like perfection society wants us to? Why not celebrate our uniqueness instead? And maybe most importantly, who is the keeper of the standards? From her website:

“They evoke the venus celebrities who embody perfect beauty in popular culture: Kim Kardashian (the white Awoulaba); Nikki Minaj (the light skinned Awoulaba); Naomi Campbell (the black Taille Fine); Lupita Niango (the black Taille Fine); and Beyonce (the light skinned Awoulaba).”

We hope you take some time to explore Joana Choumali’s visual art, and that we all realize that those standards of beauty that we aspire to are baloney. 

National Parks 2019: Joshua Tree

Skein of our National Parks colorway Joshua Tree in Sock

It’s like a gorgeous alien landscape, Joshua Tree National Park. Like something out of a Dr Seuss book (if only Dr Seuss wasn’t such a racist). The park showcases two very different ecosystems: the Colorado Desert in the eastern portion, and the Mojave Desert in the western portion, which is slightly cooler and gives rise to the iconic Joshua Trees. Don’t tell the other parks, but this one might just be our favorite.

August Sassy Holidays 2019: National Watermelon Day

A skein of our Seed Spitting Contest, the colorway we created to celebrate National Watermelon Day

Get thee to a farm stand or grocery store, because Saturday, August 3rd is National Watermelon Day, and you don’t want to be caught without this delicious representation of summertime goodness. Whether you eat it sliced up, cubed, or blended with other fruits, there’s nothing like a sweet and light bite of the watermelon. We’ve found a few yummy (and surprising) watermelon-based recipes for your summertime enjoyment:

WATERMELON SALAD WITH JALAPENO AND LIME (from geniuskitchen.com)

  • 3 T lime juice 
  • 2 t olive oil 
  • 1 pinch lime zest 
  • 2 C seedless watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced ⁄ cup basil (or Thai basil) 
  • 1 t black sesame seed 
  • 1 t sea salt

Whisk together lime juice, oil and lime zest. Set aside. Place frozen watermelon cubes in single layer in large shallow dish. Pour lime juice mixture over watermelon, and gently toss to combine. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Place 5 jalapeño rings each in 4 shallow serving bowls. Mound 1/2 cup watermelon in center of each bowl. Divide marinade among bowls. Sprinkle with basil, sesame seeds and salt, and serve.

WATERMELON LIME CHILLER (from toravey.com)

  • 3 C cubed seedless watermelon, well chilled
  • 1 1/2 fresh limes, juiced
  • 1/4 C rum (optional)
  • Simple syrup or agave nectar, or your favorite sweetener, to taste
  • Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Put watermelon chunks and lime juice into a blender. Process on high until smooth. Add sweetener to taste, if needed, and blend again. Pour drink into two glasses over ice. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve.

We hope you enjoy our Watermelon-Day-inspired yarn AND find the time to make some delicious watermelon-based treats on National Watermelon Day. 

HerStory August 2019: Judith Jamison

August’s HerStory recipient, Judith Jamison, is a world-renowned ballet dancer and choreographer. Born in Philadelphia in the early 1940s, Judith Jamison was introduced to music at a young age. Her parents had wide-ranging musical interests, which they enthusiastically shared with young Judi, but it was dance that captured her heart. Her earliest dance teacher, Marion Cuyjet, recognized and was energized by Jamison’s immense talent. Judith was surrounded by the best of the best in dance, made even better by the fact that this danceratti was also black; the whole representation matters thing writ large. Even now, when just this past year, ballet shoes were finally made in colors that reflected brown skin tones, classical ballet and dance in America has existed more fully for white people than for people of color, so the fact that this young black girl was able to experience her passion by being taught by a woman of color, then, later, by being welcomed into and showcased by a black dance company (which she later was in charge of) is so important.

Now in her mid-70s, Jamison has transitioned to an Artistic Director Emerita status at her old dance company, but was with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for much of her career. She started as a dancer, whose failed audition for another dance company so beguiled Alvin Ailey that he offered her a position in his company, and Jamison later grew to become a close confidant and artistic muse of Ailey.  He choreographed the 1971 solo, Cry as a love letter to his mother, and specifically to be performed by Jamison. Ailey later dedicated it to “all black women everywhere, especially our mothers.” The dance solo, which Jamison had never performed in its entirety at once until the debut, celebrates feminine strength and resilience, and has been said to be very emotionally and physically taxing to perform.

Shortly before his death, Ailey asked Jamison to take over artistic directorship of his dance company. She had been building her own company, but realized that she could do such good work at the helm of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and she definitely did. She grew the company’s endowment many times over, helped launch a BFA program in collaboration with Fordham University, and was the driving force behind the building of the dance company’s permanent home, which is the largest building dedicated to dance in the USA. Her legacy is amazing and lasting, and she’s still going strong. She’s a true icon in the dance field, showcasing and uplifting the African American experience in dance and sharing her interpretation of that experience with the world. She’s won multiple awards, and continues to be recognized for her contribution to the dance world. We hope, as you knit your skein of Dancing Queen into beautiful pieces of your own art, you think about the doors this HerStory recipient opened for young black women all over.