Author Archives: Lily

Stretching Across Media

For the next while I’m going to focus on Instagram to integrate transmedia storytelling into the website. At the beginning I think I stretched a little too thin starting a few other connected profiles, and Instagram is the most fitting channel for me to focus on right now.

On Instagram, I’d like to shadow what I post on this blog, but in smaller pieces, so people can see what I’m working on without having to check around a bunch of different forms of media to find different content. One unique aspect of Instagram is that I’ll be able to share little bits from a project I’m working on or something I’m researching, before I write the full post.

I’m looking forward to getting a lot more time to knit over the break. I’d like to try to make another YouTube video for my next project. I have an idea in mind, inspired by Roxanne Richardson, that has to do with socks and time. I’m not entirely sure how it will work yet, and I’ll have to do some yarn shopping, but I’m excited to create more of a narrative within the blog and social media channels. I’ve just been publishing content surrounding knitting and a couple of other hobbies, but I really want to narrow down because it’s tricky to keep coming up with things to talk about within such a general topic. At first, I was considering a blog focused on the how-tos of knitting alongside my own progress in the craft, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not great at explaining things. I learned what I know through a mix of other knitters’ explanations and trial and error, and because I’m really not an expert I’d rather leave the teaching to experienced knitters.

What I do enjoy is history. Not the kind of history where you study all the bad things and wars, though that is important and I like a bit of that. What I really like to learn about is how people used to live, day to day, how they ate and slept and dressed and filled their time. There’s a few historical dress experts and historical knitters that I’ll list in another post who convinced me that not all history is trying and failing to remember which day/month/year a very important event happened.

Personal projects take a lot of time. I’ll always think there’s something that can be better, or an avenue I’d like to go down that contradicts my earlier focus. I’m not going to rush it, and I’m going to give myself license to do silly things and imperfect posts and spend a few weeks obsessing over something, make myself tired of it, and never mention it again.

Narrowing into a Niche

A few days ago I started an Instagram account connecting with this website. It’s worked quite well to bring more readers to the website, especially if I mention a new blog post in a caption. About 37% of the traffic from the last 28 days has come from Instagram, and I saw a spike after a social media post on Nov 13 when 15 users visited the site. I’ve had 63 users for the past month, which might not seem like many, but it’s a 54% increase since last month.

Overall I’ve had 99 users in total with a bounce rate around 47%. The bounce rate has been fairly steadily decreasing since early October, which hopefully means my posts are not terribly boring.

I’ve been trying to refine my targeted audience, because I think choosing a niche will help me reach more people. I’d like to do something around the history of knitting, like knitting superstitions, using vintage patterns, and how knitting has changed over the years. I follow a lot of content creators who focus on historical dress, and I really enjoy learning about how crafts and art used to be done. I don’t want to narrow down my focus too much, and I still want to keep the recipe section and be able to write odd posts that align with my interests at a particular point in time, but I’m excited to learn more about knitting through history and maybe make that my focus.

The semester only has a few weeks left, which is both exciting, because I’m looking forward to winter break, but also blows my mind, because I can’t believe how fast time is going. It’s true that once you get older, time goes by much quicker. In December I’ll have more time overall for knitting, so I’d like to prepare by learning a bit more about knitting as a historical craft over the next few weeks.

A Guide to Yarn Weights

Lace yarn (or: fingering, thread, or cobweb)

US 000 to 1

1.5 to 2.25 millimetres

Super fine yarn (or: sock, fingering, or baby)

US 1 to 3

2.25 to 3.5 millimetres

Fine yarn (or: sport or baby)

US 3 to 5

3.5 to 4.5 millimetres

Light yarn (or: DK or light worsted)

US 3 to 5

3.5 to 4.5 millimetres

Medium yarn (or: worsted, afghan, or aran)

US 7 to 9

4.5 to 5.5 millimetres

Bulky yarn (or: chunky, craft, or rug)

US 9 to 11

5.5 to 8 millimetres

Super bulky yarn (or: roving)

US 11 to 17

8 to 12.75 millimetres

Democratic Data

It’s almost impossible to avoid being on social media. I receive updates from my school, friends, family, and organizations I’m involved in through social media. I’ve tried to take breaks, but the fear of missing out on something gravely important, like a friend forwarding a reel, keeps me habitually checking notifications. With increased usage of social media comes the collection of vast amounts of personal data on every user. We’ve grown accustomed to sharing more of our lives than others would ordinarily see, and with that comes the natural concern for personal privacy. But what we share can be used on a larger scale to analyze information about our personality, voting habits, and personal beliefs, and target us with ads and posts aimed to sway our political leanings. Can data then be used fairly within a democracy, if it can also be used to manipulate voters?

Data reveals who we are. It can predict how we will behave, what we believe in, who we will vote for. It is a given that our online data is being shared, from the moment we agree to privacy policies. There is little we can do to mitigate this personal privacy breach other than opting out of the odd cookie or choosing to stay off of social media. Unfortunately, the latter option is impossible for those who receive updates from their schools, workplaces, friends and family, and public services from social media feeds. Data use is now an unavoidable part of democracy, but not a wholly negative one. Political parties can use data to learn the needs of their voters to determine which issues to focus on in their campaign, lending publicity to important issues (Hankey et al., 2018). Though social media is widely cited as negatively affecting democracy, it cannot be said that it is a universally poor resource for information. Social media invites people who would not usually have a platform to participate visibly in social and political issues. But this can be explored too; our behaviour is influenced by that of others. If we can see how many people support an issue, we are more likely to become involved (Margetts, 2018).

This is not a new part of democracy. Advertisers and politicians alike market to certain demographics with messages that invoke a reaction based on personal experience. The difference is the scale of information available for use in political campaigns and the detailed profiles that can be created for each voter (Hankey et al,. 2018). If politicians build social media campaigns using thousands of data points to identify statements that may sway voters, the information being spread is likely false or only partly honest (Amer & Noujaim, 2019). Rather than being a true reflection of their ideas and goals, their platform becomes untrustworthy. A candidate may authentically intend to curb carbon emissions, but a quotable statement on environmentalism will also draw the attention of left-leaning voters who are on the fence. This creates a political process that is closer to a popularity contest than a democratic election, visible in the personal insults levied at political candidates based on their appearance, age, and gender, rather than their political platform and qualifications. 

The 2019 documentary The Great Hack features Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting company that processed data points on American voters to determine who could be persuaded through targeted ads to vote for the Republican party. Their involvement in the campaign led many to wonder who can rightfully view and use personal data. Is it still democratic to intentionally influence voters with the aid of data that can identify each person’s personality, personal connections, personal history, and political opinions? Even if the voter alone is responsible for what they put on their ballot?  

Political campaigns increasingly rely on social media to directly address voters, as opposed to using mediums like news outlets that require intermediaries (Sahly A. et al, 2019). With that freedom to discuss their platforms, politicians may stretch the boundaries of a democratic election by discouraging respectful and productive debate. In the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump was known for using conspiracy theories and false information circulated by extremist groups to demean fellow politicians and incite anger among his supporters (Marwick, A. & Lewis, R., 2017). This reads like a description of a soon-to-be authoritarian, rather than a candidate for presidency in a democratic country. With inflammatory statements, political issues can quickly become a collection of misinformation and disinformation that, coupled with strong loyalty to either the ‘left’ or the ‘right’, create a prime environment for uninformed and emotional voting. People under a democracy should make freely formed decisions. If social media were truly democratic, its main function would not be profit. Social media companies need to make money from freely downloadable apps. Advertisement and the sale of data are the main sources of income for these corporations, which means users are the product (Mod, 2017). Advertisers buy data to determine effective marketing strategies to target specific audiences. Even more invasive and morally questionable are the political campaigns that collect data on voters, with the aim of gaining their support. A democracy by definition is a system that is governed by and for the people. With data gathered from social media used to purposefully aggravate or polarize, democratic elections become akin to marketing campaigns. As social media is now inextricable from democracy, it will need to be considered as such, and regulated to prevent extremism and manipulation.

Works Cited:

Amer, K. & Noujaim, J. (Directors). (2019). The Great Hack [Film]. Netflix & The Othrs.

Hankey, S., Morrison, J., & Naik, R. (2018). (rep.). Data and Democracy in the Digital Age

Margetts, H. (2018). Rethinking democracy with social media. Political Quarterly90(S1).

Marwick, A., & Lewis, R. (2017). (rep.). Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online

Mod, C. (2017, January 13). How I Got My Attention Back. Wired. Retrieved from 

Sahly, A., Shao, C., & Kwon, K. H. (2019). Social Media for Political Campaigns: An Examination of Trump’s and Clinton’s Frame Building and Its Effect on Audience Engagement. Social Media + Society, 5(2).

Ownership and Connection

This past week I’ve been carrying out little tweaks, and running into a couple of problems with the website that I’ll have to deal with soon. When someone makes a comment they are led to a page with a list of errors. I’m not sure if this is because I need to approve comments before they’re visible, but I’ll see what I can do. There are also a list of warnings at the bottom of posts about accessing array offset- I’m not sure if they were caused by me updating the theme, so I’ll need to look into that too.

I’ve been focusing on small things that improve the navigation and visibility of the website, like including an archive of posts by month for PUB 101 because I realized it may be a bit tricky to see my progress through the course without a timeline. I linked my website in my social media profiles, and I think it’s directed some more readers to the website because users have increased in the past couple of weeks.

I’ve also been thinking about ownership of content with the readings we were assigned this past week. I own this domain, but Instagram has the license to use the content I’ve posted under the Knitting After Hours profile. I caught myself thinking about the future of this blog as I prepared for course selection for next semester, whether I’ll feel motivated enough to keep it up. I’d love to continue with it because it’s a new mode of expression for me. It’s a place where I don’t need to align my writing with the style of an organization I’m volunteering for, or format my writing for an academic setting.

I was born at the time when the Internet had already been around for a while, but I didn’t grow up on the Internet. I got my first phone when I was 10 to call my mom and my dad for emergencies, and nothing else. I stayed off social media until my second year of high school. Even so, over the last five years with my small Internet presence I’ve become accustomed to giving up a certain amount of privacy in order to stay connected. A blog is something entirely different. This website’s purpose is not so much connection as it is logging my progress in this course and exploring my interest in knitting and related topics. I own what I put out on this website, and it’s a reflection of me.

I also gave some thought to Google Adsense, and decided not to install it. After testing to see where the ads would appear on my site, I realized I don’t like the idea of having things that I didn’t create on here.

I want to build and continue this website. I hope to write knitting patterns at some point, and I would love to be able to use this website as a way to list them for download rather than using a platform like Ravelry. I also think it’s good for me to detach a bit from the expectation that I give up ownership when I put things out on the Internet.

Sunday Picnic Sweater

This is the simplest sweater I’ve knitted. It’s also the third sweater I’ve knitted, and the only one I haven’t unravelled. The pattern is by Angeline Webb on Ravelry. I used KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted yarn in Peacoat for the sleeves and back, and an undyed skein my mother gave me for my birthday last year.

This sweater is knit flat, even the sleeves, and then seamed together after being blocked. The first two sweaters I tried were knit in the round. One had cables, and the other had colour work. I think I have this problem where I try too much too quickly, because I get overexcited and forget that I’m still relatively new at knitting. Now I’m a little more experienced, but when I made my first sweater I could definitely have used more practice before attempting intermediate techniques.

Lily wearing the Sunday Picnic Sweater

One of the things I love about knitting is that even if you make hundreds of mistakes, all is not lost. You can reuse yarn for new projects, backtrack to fix dropped stitches or wrong stitches. And even if you don’t catch a mistake until you’ve washed your project, woven in the ends, and folded it away into your closet, it’s okay. The point of any hand-made thing is to be perfect because it was made by you, not because it’s free of errors.

When I wear hand-knit sweaters I don’t care that I accidentally knitted instead of purled a couple of stitches, and I really doubt anyone else cares either. I remember how it felt when I wore the first sweater I made. It was warm and heavy. It smelled like coffee and vanilla hand lotion and wool wash and my cats’ fur. I was proud of myself. Even though that sweater doesn’t exist anymore and its yarn is going into a new pattern, I don’t think about the mistakes I made more than I think about how excited I was that I had taught myself how to knit.