Big things are happening here at the FIT library this summer. The Periodicals and Electronic Resources department is moving from the sixth floor to the fourth floor, and a lot of our faculty/staff are also shifting office spaces as well.
I have spent a lot more of my time packing up magazines and a lot less writing about them. Sorry about that! But I promise that come mid-August, as the dust settles, “Mags of the Week” and other articles will resume. I may even be able to squeeze one out next week, so watch this space.
But just to show you what’s happening at the moment… Here we have lots of pieces getting prepped, waiting for the library movers to begin their work. They began moving things the week of July 10.
We’re working hard to make sure that everything is shiny and organized so we can welcome back our students the week of August 21st!
Every summer in New York there is a major parade to celebrate a several communities crucial to NYC cultural life. This is true of several parades, but the one I’m talking about is NYC Pride, one of New York City’s more joyous celebrations.
The programming for Pride month celebrates the struggle for civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men, women, and everyone in between in the United States. It is an annual celebration marking the riot at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. The first Gay Pride march was held on June 28, 1970, on Christopher street (it took up 15 surrounding NYC blocks) to commemorate that riot.
I’ve written about these events before because the LGBT community is so much a fabric of FIT life. I mentioned before that by the time I came back to FIT to work in the library (and attend graduate school here) in 1996, every. single. one. of the male professors from my undergraduate year 1987-1988 were dead. These were not old men. They were gay men in the midst of plague years. AIDS cut a swath of death through the fashion community in the 1980s and ’90s.
First, think about what it would be like if everyone you knew, all your friends and colleagues, the people pouring your coffee in the morning, the people teaching your classes, the people doing your makeup, or stitching your samples, the people you saw daily on your commute… what would it be like if everyone you knew had lost a friend, a lover, a brother or sister, or teacher, or colleague, or boss in a series of years?
In New York City, the AIDS crisis was like the terrorism event September 11, only stretched out over 15 agonizing years and hospital rooms all over the tri-state area. The crisis was like the 1918 flu epidemic, or the Black Death.
Sadly, ignorance and fear still drive policies which prevent poorer citizens from contracting and treating this potentially fatal disease. Several decades of decreases in sex and drug use education have increased incidences of AIDS-related illness in local groups. As recently as 2015 a county in Indiana had a major AIDS outbreak, apparently tied to opiate drug use in a financially-depressed area. The local health clinic, a Planned Parenthood, had been defunded, making health care and testing inaccessible for the victims.
FIT has policies designed to protect our students and workers from such violence and harassment. If someone is hurting you, contact someone!
Descent into violence serves none of us, however. When people march for Pride month this coming Sunday, it is a celebration that, despite all the death, violence, ignorance and fear, the community of LGBT, with all it’s different colors, sizes, genders, shapes, and personalities, within the larger community of New York City, has survived. And will continue to thrive.
A colleague here sent around this cool article about WWI and WWII spies who used knitting to code observations for the Resistance. It seems unlikely to me that a lot of knitters went to the trouble to learn codes in order to report findings, it seems perfectly reasonable that a person might use knitting or needlework as cover for close observation. There is something about these “womanly” pursuits that render the crafter seemingly harmless.
I think it unlikely that knitting was taught or practiced as an organized espionage technique because this article in the Telegraph references the exact same case of the Belgian woman making notes as she sat at her window, watching trains go by. If it were an organized and more widespread practice, it seems like more would have been published about it by now. (I could be wrong, but it generally seems like this kind of “women’s” task is just not on the radar of most military minds.)
People were encouraged to knit to provide soldiers with warm socks and other clothing through multiple wars (see my post Textiles Speak) as this WWI poster from the National Archive shows. (You can read more about it here and here and here.) There is even a current project, through the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, to donate scarves to veteran’s hospitals and homes.
Knitting has a long history of being an observer’s pasttime during important political events. Madame Defarge, Charles Dickens’ famous guillotine observer, was based on historical women who knit while watching the public executions at the guillotine during the French Revolution. In Tale of Two Cities, Defarge encodes the names of each victim into her knitting.
The idea of knitting in codes has caught the imagination of knitters in recent years. A quick internet search turned up manyexamples of patterns where the creator used the stitches to spell out messages in the dots and dashes of Morse code. These seem to most often be worked on a plain knit ground with a single purl stitch as a dot and a row of three purl stitches as a dash. Knitting coded words into garments like these gives them an apotropaic or protective quality, not unlike wearing medieval Tiraz bands or glass evil eye pendants.
Knitting consists of two basic looped stitches, a knit and a purl. All larger pieces of patterns are made of these two stitches, making it similar to the binary coding aspect of computer programming. These two women designed a collection of knits inspired by Bletchley Park, the WWII secret site where English secret service recruits developed the first computing machine and broke the Nazi’s Enigma code.
Computer coders play with the binary nature of both knitting and coding in allkinds of ways. Because of the similarities in logic, knitting is being used as a way to explain major coding concepts. Here are some other playful things knitter/coders have done with their yarn recently: