Have some mercy.



Which Way from Here?
G. Slonaker


Some Geography of the Western Washington Carceral State
E. Hudak

This spring, as a member of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), I was a Building a Movement (BAM) Labor Intern at the University of Washington. USAS is an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, student-led labor-solidarity organization, and the BAM internship gave me and other students opportunities to explore how a variety of different organizations work, in order that we might make systemic and community-level changes for the benefit of working people. 

Aberdeen, Washington. Two hours west of Seattle. Childhood home of Kurt Cobain, “Gateway to the Olympics,” and gateway to several Western Washington prisons, including the Women’s Correctional Center.

As part of my internship, I decided to visit some of the prisons nearest my home, and photograph them. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how to make people care, especially people who believe they are unaffected by the carceral system. Tacoma, Aberdeen, and Gig Harbor are all cities in Washington that many people visit for vacations, or pass through on their ways to other tourist attractions. Each city has its own major prison. The Stafford Creek Corrections Center (two hours from Seattle, on the way to the beach) is where incarcerated people earn $.065-$1.75 an hour making all the dorm furniture at the University of Washington. (The state minimum wage is $13.69/hr.) The Washington Correction Center for Women (an hour from Seattle) is home of the largest corrections center for women in the state. The WCCW is the only prison that has a program that allows new mothers to keep their infants with them; that program is currently threatened to be phased out, because most incarcerated women can’t afford its costs. The Northwest Immigration Detention Center (less than 30 minutes from Seattle) has been the center of a range of controversies related to human rights violations, and is owned by one of the largest private prison owners, Geo Group. Thousands of people are detained there for no reason other than that they tried to immigrate to the United States.

The carceral state is closer to you than you think it is. 


We Do Not Live Our Lives Without Others
A. Rhynders

Last spring, after several—often tearful—weeks of questions about each family’s workplace activities, personal interactions outside of the household, and grocery store comings-and-goings, our family finally arrived at the decision to pod with two other families.  Our kids are friends. The parents, to varying and never constant degrees, are friends. I cling to this partnership, even at times in the face of near friendship-rending conflict. Without this tenuous coalition my daughter and I would become shells.

Amelia, like her father was when he was young, is an extroverted, kinetic child. She requires almost constant interaction. I am much more introverted and need daily periods of quiet. Amelia’s time playing with her friends affords me the moments of introspection that keep me moving forward, however incrementally. When tensions arise between the kids or parents, or the threat of un-podding rears up, I find myself willingly entering into difficult conversations—inside my own family and out—and negotiating to come up with solutions that will keep us—me—from falling apart. I have discovered that feeling my small support system slip away scares me more than the possibly difficult confrontation that might be required to keep it intact.

One family—a single mother who works full time outside her home, and her son—recently decided to return to in-person learning. Amelia was devastated when my husband and I told her that her friend was returning to school. She and our friend’s little boy have been close since they were in preschool. We downsized to our tiny apartment almost five years ago so that we could live next door to them. For two months, an amount of time that feels like forever to a nine-year-old, Amelia will not be able to build pillow forts and wrestle with her friend, or play Legos for hours at a time in his bedroom. I still hold out hope, even though the two most vulnerable people in our pod have made it clear that it’s out of the question, that, maybe, if this boy’s mother gives enough ameliorating details about classroom set-up and distancing rules, we’ll soon be re-podded. 

My friend with this newsletter asked me to share my thoughts about parenting during the pandemic. The first thing that came to mind is what I have lost. Neither my husband or I have lost our jobs. We are not hungry, nor are we cold. And yet, to parent has been an almost absurdly difficult task during the last year. The seemingly small but unknowingly vast community I relied on to help me raise my daughter has shrunk to a desperately small number of people. Gone are the bus stop chats that began so many of my mornings. These morning visits with parents from my neighborhood were instrumental in finding afterschool care one fall. Largely absent are the skilled and loving teachers whose encouragement my daughter craves. During my childhood in an abusive and frightening home, I was buoyed by friendships with trusted adults. Amelia needs these relationships, too, and she misses having them with her teachers. People that we once shared a weekly meal with, we now only see from a distance. We can’t pack our tiny house anymore with a dozen of our neighbors and their kids for our weekly potlucks. 

We do not live our lives without others. 

I value the dinners and movie nights we spend with the family we’re podded with; I want our partnership to be enough. Even though I can’t walk into her house right now, I see my neighbor every morning in our shared courtyard and we talk about our gardens and our kids; I want this to be enough. Our kids can play in masks outdoors, and with the correctly distanced seating arrangement, are able to have lunches together. This isn’t enough. Sometimes that sense of loss is crushing.       


How Sen Perkins and Seattle Sunshine Made it Through

Sen Perkins is a coffee enthusiast and the owner of Seattle Sunshine Coffee, a coffee shop located in the Bryant neighborhood of Seattle, next to the University of Washington. Behind a Door believes Perkins makes the best coffee in Seattle, and recently asked about her experiences during pandemic. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

BaD: Do you remember the day you realized covid-19 would change the way you worked?

Perkins: I remember the day we were waiting for Governor Inslee’s order on which businesses would be shut down, and which would continue operating in a limited capacity as essential businesses. The coffee shop remained open for to-go only per Governor’s order.

It was a relief to learn the shop would remain open, but I was nervous at the same time, as there were a lot of uncertainty and confusion regarding what the actual status was on covid-19, and therefore how it would all pan out. 

BaD: That was in April, 2020, right? How did spring, 2020 work out?

Perkins: That was March, 2020.

Spring 2020—it seemed obvious that people were uncertain and nervous. There were noticeably far fewer people on the street and, naturally, fewer coming through the shop. And that continued for several months.

BaD: What were your days like in the cafe?

Perkins: It was intense, mentally and physically. As the flow of the shop was unpredictable due to the unprecedented circumstances, I stationed myself at the shop everyday during business hours, so I was prepared to engage if/when my help was needed. Also, I wanted to greet and thank customers coming through the shop during these unusual times. Outside of that, we were constantly planning and adapting to the new guidelines all the while trying to figure out how to keep the crew afloat. 

BaD: What size crew were you? And what kinds of adaptations did you make?

Perkins: We have six team members. Covid-specific guidelines included, but weren’t limited to, mask requirements, six feet of social distancing, additional sanitizing and cleaning procedures, switching from to-go to limited seating, etc. As they issued new guidelines, we continually changed. 

Perkins: The plant was a gift from a regular who came by the shop, every single day. He recently relocated for a job. The day he left, he gifted us the plant. He said to me that it really feels like we’ve gone through something together, having gone through the pandemic, and that touched my heart.

BaD: What was that like—having to change so often?

Perkins: It added to the intensity. On top of trying to keep the business afloat, and take care of the employees, we were checking on the guidelines, daily, to ensure we were up to the standard—which we have been from day one. 

BaD: Did you do anything in particular to maintain your and your staff’s sanity during such intense times?

Perkins: I accommodated every request by all employees during this time, whether to stay home from work, or hold their position while they focused on their studies, or to have days off for a vacation, or work additional days to pay rent, etc. 

BaD: And what did you do to help keep yourself sane?

Perkins: I tried to work out and meditate.*

Editor’s note: After finally getting vaccinated, a BaD editor recently met Perkins for dinner, and can confirm she got very strong during pandemic.


Playing with Plain Socks
C. Hudak

Fair warning: the writer has been reading Anna Zilboorg’s Knitting for Anarchists, and this recipe is written in that spirit. 

Recommendation: If you find terms or ideas in here that aren’t familiar to you, look them up on the internet, or check out some knitting books from your local library. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, your local yarn shop will also be a fount of information.

Sample socks knit with approximately 2/3 of a skein of Retrosaria Mondim yarn, colorway 203.

1. Choose a yarn you think is beautiful.

2. Play with it. Knit up several rounds or rows of stockinette on a few different-sized needles. When you get a fabric that is firm but pliable, call that match of yarn + needle your sock-knitting pair.

3. Cast on some stitches. The sample pair were knit in a fingering weight yarn on size 0 needles, to fit a size 7 foot. The sample knitter cast on 56 stitches. Go up or down from that number in groups of four—i.e., cast on 52 stitches if you’re knitting a size 7 sock using heavier yarn, e.g., or 60 or 64 stitches if you’re making a larger sock in fingering weight yarn. 

If this freaks you out, a. play with your yarn some more, until you feel less freaked out, and/or b. use the internet or your local library to learn more about gauge swatches and the math behind hand-knit socks.

It’s just yarn. There are no mistakes—only new realizations.

4. Join your cast-on stitches to knit in the round. Add a stitch marker to mark the beginning of your round, and then proceed in 2x2 ribbing (K2, P2) until the cuff of your sock is a length that pleases you. 

5. Knit in stockinette (K all stitches) until the leg of your sock is a length that pleases you. 

Tip: you’ll know best whether it pleases you if you try it on. 

6. Divide your stitches exactly in half. If, by chance, you’ve somehow ended up with an odd number of stitches, just add or subtract one. You can add a stitch by knitting into the front and back of a stitch. You can subtract a stitch by knitting two stitches together. 

Reminder: If there are terms—like knitting into the front and back, or knitting two together—that are foreign to you, try the internet or your local library for further information.

7.  Work a heel flap over one half of your stitches. 

Row 1: *Slip one 1, Knit 1. Repeat from * to end of row. Turn your work.Row 2: Slip 1. Purl across to end of row. Turn your work.Row 3: Slip 1, Knit 2. *Slip 1, Knit 1. Repeat from * to one before the end of the row, and then knit the last stitch. Turn your work.Row 4: Repeat Row 2.

Repeat Rows 1-4 until the heel flap is the height of the back of your heel. The sample socks’ heel flaps were knit for 16 rows. 

8. Work a heel turn. The sample knitter used the calculator at Dots Dabbles Designs and knit her favorite heel, which is a French heel. If you don’t know your favorite heel, maybe try the French one, and see how it goes. Next time, you can try a different one.

Whatever you do, finish your heel turn with a purl row.

9. Rejoin to work again in the round. If you have never knit a sock before, the next bit might feel the freakiest. Now’s a good time to just trust the pattern:

Part 1: Knit across your heel stitches.Part 2: Pick up and knit along the row of slipped stitches. Because the sample heel flap was knit for 16 rows, the sample knitter picked up 16 stitches.Part 3: Place a stitch marker, and then knit across the other half of your stitches, now known as the “top of your sock” stitches.Part 4: Place a stitch marker, and then pick up and knit along the other side of your heel’s slipped stitches. Make sure you pick up the same number of stitches that you picked up in Part 2.Part 5: Knit across half your heel stitches. Place a marker to mark the new beginning of your round. This marker is called the BOR marker.

10. Make a gusset.

Round 1: Slip BOR marker. Knit to 2 before the next marker. Knit 2 together. Slip your marker. Knit across top of foot stitches. Slip marker. Slip, slip, knit (aka SSK). Knit to BOR.Round 2: Knit all stitches.

Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until the bottom of your sock has the same number of stitches as the top of your sock. 

11. Knit all stitches. Every so often, try on your sock. If, while trying on, the sock seems loose or tight, you can add or subtract stitches to please you. When adding or subtracting stitches, always do so in pairs, so that you’re always working an even number of stitches.

12. Keep knitting until you’re ready to make your toe. Deciding when to make your toe will be a conversation between you and your sock. The only way to get a perfect-for-you toe is to play around until you get it right. The sample knitter began her toes when the socks were about 1.75 inches shorter than her foot, because that’s what worked for her yarn, fabric, and foot. 

13. Make a toe. 

Round 1: Slip BOR marker. Knit to 3 stitches before the next marker. Knit 2 together. Knit one. Slip the marker. Knit 1. Slip, slip, knit. Knit to 3 before the next marker. Knit 2 together. Knit one. Slip the marker. Knit 1. Slip, slip, knit. Knit to end of round.Round 2: Slip BOR marker. Knit all stitches, all the way around, to end of round.

Continue Rounds 1 and 2 until your toe is the length and shape you want it. Round 1 slowly angles your sock’s toe smaller. If you’d like to make a shorter toe, you can play around with skipping Round 2 now and again. If you’d like a longer toe, add more Round 2s. Try it out. See what happens. When your toe is the shape you want, you’re ready to graft and cast off.

14. [1] On March 20, 1602, the government of Holland consolidated a bunch of companies into one, and called it the Dutch East India Company. Fifty years later, on April 6, 1652, five Dutch ships sailed into harbor in the country we know today as South Africa, to establish a Dutch East India Company trading colony there.

Skipping over hundreds of years of violence, we’ll go straight to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, in which the Netherlands ceded their holdings in South Africa to Britain, as that treaty seems to have been the early spark that led to the conflagrations of the Boer Wars of the late 1800s, which will, I promise, eventually bring us to the completion of our sock.

Between 1899 and 1904, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, led the British side in the killings of approximately 6000-7000 Boer (Dutch-descended South Africans) fighters, 20,000-28,000 Boer civilians, and 20,000 Black African Boer allies. Kitchener was known for his “scorched earth” policies and his concentration camps. 

The British celebrated Earl Kitchener’s barbarism by naming him Commander-in-Chief of India, and then giving him quite a bit of power during World War I. During WWI, Kitchener became famous for rousing the pro-war sentiments of the community with his emotional GOD SAVE THE KING and BRITONS FOREVER posters. Their sentiments sufficiently roused, British women were encouraged to knit socks for the troops, and British women did their bits. 

Conditions on the ground were horrendous, and soldiers, though grateful for any and all socks, found that some socks were better than others. Some socks had toes that were grafted in a superior manner that didn’t result in chafing. (Better to shoot and be shot at with unchafed toes.) That superior method of grafting came to be known as the Kitchener stitch.

Here’s how to graft your socks so that your toes (whether you’re a soldier or not) will not chafe.

Remove your BOR marker, knit to the next marker, and remove that, too. Divide your stitches in half, and line them up parallel to one another. Leaving a decent length of it for grafting, cut your yarn and thread it onto a tapestry needle. 

Step 1, front needle: Knit into the first stitch on the front needle, and slide that off the needle. Then purl into the next stitch on the front needle, but leave that on the needle. Step 2, back needle: Purl into the first stitch on the back needle, and slide that off the needle. Then knit into the next stitch on the back needle, but leave that on the needle.

Cinch things up—gently!—and repeat steps 1 and 2 until you’ve worked all the stitches off both needles. Draw your yarn through the last remaining stitch.

Cut your yarn, leaving a long enough tail to weave in the end.

15. Make a second sock. You can make it to match the first one, or you can play around and make it different. It’s up to you.

[1] Note from my editor, that I did not accept:

I suggest you change 14 to: “Graft with Kitchener stitch.” (Or similar)

Then, continue with the knitting pattern. Then, put the Boer War in a footnote. It is an awesome footnote.

You know, when following a pattern it’s tough. It’s tough to find your place, it’s tough to understand, and to have to figure out where the pattern is before and after Boer War, it’s a lot. I know you were feeling like an anarchist, but still. Have some mercy.

Sitting by a fire in a fireplace, wearing hand-knit socks, slowly knitting another sock. Seattle, WA, U.S.A. June, 2021.

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