Conquering the Hekspoffer (Hexipuff) and oh gods not this fight again

Bee Keeper's Quilt: Tiny Owl Knits pattern hon...
Photo credit: chronographia

I have spent the past few days working out how to make a hexipuff type thing — a double sided hexagon that can be stuffed with fleece or scrap yarn — via trial and error. After a lot of the first and more of the second, I have finally come up with a working pattern for it and can start making the little buggers.

Now, you may ask me, Why would you do this Morag? There’s a pattern out there by Tiny Owl Knits that you can buy; it’s for the whole Beekeeper’s Quilt! Why would you put yourself through knitting torture?

Well, for one, I don’t have $5.50 for a pattern right now, nor will I for quite some time, and I am impatient. I wanted a hexipuff-thing now, or now-ish, and it only took me 3 days of working it out on my own (with a little help from this video, which gave me a starting point for casting on).

Two, far as I can tell, the original pattern calls for sock yarn and tiny needles, and I…do not work well with those. I wanted something in worsted weight, with bigger needles, because I have big hands and big hands hurt with small needles and small yarn.

And three…I don’t really want to financially support Tiny Owl Knits. For all that there are many cute patterns on that site that I would love to give a whirl, and gods would I love a copy of Woodland Knits, there is this pattern. And there is something very wrong with this pattern.

The title has a racial slur in it.

(Ok, actually, there are two things wrong with it — one is the racial slur, and the other is that it’s not a bloody petticoat. Petticoats are underskirts, not jackets with ruffles.)

I mean, come on, World, we’ve had this argument before! I see this all the time in the pagan netosphere, and the pagan meatspace-o-sphere, and now I’m seeing it in the knitosphere too. “Gypsy” is a racial slur. It’s not a word you should be using for your religious path and it’s certainly not a word you should be using for your knitting pattern. Not only that, it’s completely unnecessary — I often seen people complaining about being called on using the word “shaman” incorrectly, because “There are no alternatives!” Well, there is an alternative to gypsy. Bohemian.  No, it’s not entirely unproblematic — but it conveys the same sense that people are trying to get across when they use gypsy, and it’s not a fucking racial slur.

We have romanticized the lives of the Rroma and other Travelling peoples and adopted what we think of as their culture because it’s shiny and flashy. Meanwhile we ignore the very real marginalization and oppression going on against them, and use a word that we have no right to reclaim.

I’m sure Stephanie Dosen is a fine person, and I’m not accusing her of being some terrible racist monster. Her patterns are gorgeous, including the one that’s unfortunately named; she obviously is a very talented knitter. I’m sure naming the pattern “Gypsy Petticoat” was done in ignorance and perhaps no one has called her on it. Which is why I’ll be sending her an email, if I can find her email address.

Or heck, maybe she is Rroma, and I’m in the wrong here. I’m willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake.

But until I know for sure either way — and if it was done in ignorance, until she’s taken steps to rectify it — I won’t be supporting Tiny Owl Knits.

I will be knitting my own double sided hexagons, for my own blanket or quilt or jacket. If you don’t stuff them, they are flat enough to make clothing that would be pretty warm. I know this because I was so tired as I finished up the last test run — the perfect one — that I forgot to stuff it before binding off.

If you sewed enough of the flat ones together, in a certain way, you could probably make yourself a reversible jacket or sweater. In fact, I’ll be experimenting with that — half of them I’ll stuff, and half I’ll keep flat.

I’m calling my little guys hekspoffers.  (Heks means witch. Poffers means pancakes. They’re witch pancakes. Because, obviously, when a witch makes a pancake, it’s six-sided and reversible and done in stockinette.)

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12 Comments


  1. My dad is running a Con in 2015. He ran the theme by me last night, which included the word “gypsies”, and asked for my input. I told him it was a racial slur, and we came up with a few other ideas that conveyed what he wanted, without the racial slurs. And it is thanks to you (and a few others) who keep talking about this that I understood and saved him the conflict.

    So thank you. And keep talking.
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  2. She was also wearing a bindi in one of her hexipuff videos, which is appropriation of South Asian culture (unless she is South Asian, but I think she’s just using it because it’s pretty and bohemian these days). That video about casting on was super helpful and I’m just going to try to figure it out myself even though i’m quite the novice knitter. Finding this blog really brought my spirits up in terms of finding conscious and aware knitters :)

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    1. Yeah, I heard about the bindi thing. It’s a weird thing for me, because I grew up and live again in a place with a very high East Indian population (or, just “Indian” — here we say “East Indian” to distinguish from First Nations; it often confuses non-Canadians that I speak to), and non-East Indians wearing bindis has never been seen as a problem here. In fact, walking into Little India to buy some will usually please shopkeepers quite a bit. So growing up it was just kind of…like, oh yeah, that’s a type of East Indian jewelry! I was really confused when I started hearing it was a form of cultural appropriation, because the city I’m from it’s just…not. But it also wasn’t such a popular thing when I was a kid, so.

      Anyway, I’m glad my blog brought your spirits up! I try to be conscious and aware. Don’t always succeed, but I do try. :)
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  3. Hi,

    I am a Gypsy. We don’t find the word ‘Gypsy’ offensive, it is merely a descriptive word albeit outdated and it wasn’t too accurate back then :)

    ‘Gyppo’ is very offensive, ‘Pikey’ too.

    I don’t think she meant any harm by her choice of name…Gypsy skirts in the seventies anyone? It’s a word that is often used to try to express ‘Free Spirit’-ish sentiments.

    Btw, am I the only knitter on the planet who does not know how to knit a hexagon?!

    Peace :)

    Reply

    1. Hey there. I appreciate your response.

      I understand that there are Rroma or people of Rroma descent who don’t find the word offensive (I even personally know some!), just like there are American Indians who don’t find “Indian” offensive. In my case, I’m mixed race American Indian, and I don’t particularly find “Indian” offensive — but it’s still a racial slur, and there are Aboriginal/Indigenous people who *do* find it offensive and hurtful. I can’t speak for all First Nations people. So I will continue to argue that non-Native people should not use it, instead opting for First Nations, Aboriginal, or Indigenous, or other, better words. (American Indian is fine by me, but again, other Indigenous people will probably disagree.)

      With regards to the word ‘gypsy’, I am following the lead of the majority of Rroma people that I have encountered both online and off who *do* find ‘gypsy’ to be offensive and racist, along with the fetishization and appropriation of what non-Rroma think is Rroma culture. I’m not of Rroma descent; I have no right to reclaim the word “gypsy”, unlike the word Indian, and I can’t tell Rroma people how to self-define.

      The use of the word “gypsy” has been an issue in NeoPagan circles to describe religious paths and other such things, and one that has been called out numerous times by Rroma people. With this post, I mean to stand in solidarity with Rroma people who are asking NeoPagans and others to stop appropriating the term and fetishizing the culture.

      Hope that clarifies my stance a bit!

      As for knitting hexagons, if you can increase/decrease you can do it. :) I don’t think you’re the only knitter who doesn’t know how to do it; I didn’t until I figured out the hekspoffer.

      Basic instructions are starting with, say, 10 stitches. Knit one row. Increase on second stitch and second to last stitch. Knit next row. Continue knit/increase alternating rows until you reach 20 stitches. Do not knit next row; immediately decrease. (So it’ll go, Increase (20 st), decrease (18 sts).) I decrease on the first and last stitches (slip st, knit, pass slipped st over, then knit to last 2 stitches, k2tog). Decrease next row, to reach 16 st. Then alternate knit rows and decrease rows until you reach 10 stitches. Bind off. You have a hexagon!

      (Substitute “knit” for “purl” when appropriate; I transcribed the instructions for a double-sided hexagon into ones for a flat one.)
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  4. I am so glad I found this post! I was looking for a different source for a pattern similar to the hexipuffs where I could use it for free.

    Anyway, I’m glad you brought up the cultural appropriation. I watched TOK’s video where she was wearing the bindi and I was a bit turned off. And the “gypsy” usage is also problematic the same way every trendy fashion retailer sells “kimonos” now.

    It’s rare that I find crafters and activists in the same spaces but when I do it’s refreshing :)

    Now back to my search… or else I’ll be spending some time figuring out the pattern myself as well.

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  5. I’m doing mine in worsted weight yarn as well. Would you mind if I referred to them as hekspoffers? I like that term far better and they are in worsted too vs sock yarn.

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  6. I might be blind but I don’t see the pattern for hekspoffers, please let me know where I can find it.
    Thank you

    Reply

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