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.

HerStory July 2019: Amy Sherald

July’s HerStory recipient, Amy Sherald, became a household name when she was announced as Michelle Obama’s choice as portrait painter for her official First Lady portrait. Along with the artist tapped to paint Barack, they were the first black artists ever to paint official presidential portraits. Although she’s been painted (see what I did there?) as an overnight success, she’s been a working artist for decades, and has an amazing body of work. 

Sherald’s work focuses on the black experience in America. For the most part, her subjects are the only focal point in her paintings; backgrounds are mostly monochromatic (although some of her newer pieces feature backgrounds that are a part of the story the painting is telling) and it’s the person being painted you are drawn to. She exclusively paints black subjects, often stopping people in the street and asking if she can photograph them for her work, but deemphasizes their skin tone by rendering it grey (in her words, as a “way of challenging the concept of color-as-race”), while choosing bright colors and prints for their clothing and backgrounds. 

Sherald’s style has been described as “magical realism” or “stylized realism,” and she is a portrait artist, first and foremost; no landscapes for her. Her subjects seem to be gazing at the viewer, not smiling, not acquiescing, but merely existing. The result is arresting; most of her subjects look out of the painting, unapologetically themselves, not smiling for the viewer, but they are thoughtful and strong. If you haven’t seen her work, get over to her website (http://www.amysherald.com/) and spend some time looking through her portraits; they are compelling and telling. Strong and empowering.

Our July colorway, Believing in the Good, is inspired by the 2018 portrait entitled She Always Believed in the Good About Those She Loved. In it, a woman gazes out of the portrait with a look of satisfaction on her face. She’s not smiling, nor does she need to be. She wears a dark blue dress liberally sprinkled with lemons (harkening to the seminal Lemonade album by our first HerStory recipient of the year, Beyoncé). She looks like someone you want believing the good about you. It’s a stunning piece, and creating a colorway to pay homage to it was such a fabulous challenge.