Asy Connelly. Poughkeepsie, NY. USA.

climate change, knitting

Dear Textiles,

If you traveled back to 2015 and, after the prerequisite warnings about the last 4 years, told me that in 5 years my full-time job would be running an international fiber-art-activism project that I started with the woman I had just met that summer… well in hindsight it might not have been the wildest part of the conversation, but it certainly would’ve been shocking.

Back then I’d have told you that I’m not a crafter. Sure, I’d done the occasional crafty thing – everyone remembers making those beaded geckos in the ’90s, right? – but they never developed into a hobby. To be honest, I’m not even sure how I’d describe myself now. Am I a crafter? An artist? An activist? Data analyst? Researcher? Science communicator? Who knows? I’m just a person who cares deeply about climate change and loves spreadsheets more than most. So… how did all this get started?

(Click all photos to see them in a larger version) 

(Left to right: The Tempestry Project founders: Emily, Asy, and Marissa.)

I guess I should start at the beginning – meeting my partner, Emily. We met in the summer of 2015, a few months after she’d moved from New York City to my small town on the west coast, and our friendship quickly became a partnership. She always had something soft on her needles, from scarves to cowls to lovely lace shawls. Knitting had been her passion and pastime for a decade by then. As for me, I’m a tinkerer. I’d had many jobs, most of them revolving around drafting and 3D modeling, and have something of an engineer’s brain. That fall I was tinkering with a DIY 3D printer kit from a Kickstarter I’d supported, and had done a few prints of simple little things. Then one evening Emily got frustrated.

She often used rubber bands to keep her knitting and needles together after having those annoying rubber point protectors pop off one too many times in her project bags while walking to and from work at our local yarn shop. On this fateful evening, it was a fine lace shawl on the needles, and the yarn got bound up in the rubber band and the process of untangling the mess broke the delicate yarn. My brain went into problem solving mode and after asking a few questions about common needle sizes, I told her I’d do some tinkering and get back to her.

A week later I presented her with the very first Needle Wrangler, hot off the 3D printer – a simple little gadget to keep needles together and stitches firmly in place, without frustrating tangles. She was delighted so I printed several more for her various projects (or WIPs, as I came to learn). Over the next few months local knitters were noticing the Needle Wranglers on her projects at the shop and it turned out there was a market for them. Soon I had the printer running nearly 24/7 just to keep up with our LYS’s demand.

We’ve since been granted a patent and trademark for Needle Wranglers and graduated from 3D printing to having them injection molded for us by a small company in a nearby town, and they’ve been picked up by Bryson Distributing and are available in local yarn shops around the country! Whew!

And all of that is really just tangential to our primary focus – the Tempestry Project.

Around inauguration in 2017 we were reading all these articles about hackers and scientists working together to download and save scientific data (particularly climate data) from government sources for fear of the incoming administration deleting it or removing access to it. We joked about how ephemeral modern data storage is, how massive amounts of data can disappear at the press of a button, and how we should be recording important data sets using ancient techniques like cuneiform tablets or tapestries that last centuries or millennia. Given Emily’s background in knitting and her involvement in the local knitting community by way of the yarn shop, we realized that maybe we were on to something with the tapestry idea.

Knitting temperature wasn’t a novel idea. Knitters and crocheters have been making temperature blankets for ages, but these were always individual efforts and often focused on the current year as a very personal mindfulness exercise.

Knitting temperature wasn’t a novel idea. Knitters and crocheters have been making temperature blankets for ages, but these were always individual efforts and often focused on the current year as a very personal mindfulness exercise. We wanted to create a framework through which people could create temperature tapestries (Tempestries) that would be comparable from place to place and, crucially, from time to time. We wanted people to use historical temperature data to make Tempestries that could show the effects of climate change, an issue I’ve been obsessing over for decades. We spent several months working out the details. It would have been great to use yarn from our LYS but all of their yarn is hand dyed and we needed colors to be consistent. We also wanted to keep costs down because we didn’t want that to be a barrier to entry for anyone wanting to participate. We worked out a spectrum of 32 colors representing temperatures ranging from less than -31°F to greater than 121°F in 5°F increments. We settled on the linen stitch as our suggested stitch because it makes a beautiful, sturdy fabric that hangs nicely without stretching or curling.

Once we’d worked out all these details we put it all up online for free. This included my spreadsheet for processing NOAA weather data into a knitable worksheet, the knitting pattern (more like suggested guidelines), a guide for how to download data directly from NOAA, a printable color card template – everything we could think of that someone might need in order to make a Tempestry. We started showing our work to the local knitting community as soon as Emily finished the first one in May 2017. They were very excited about what we were doing, but many of them just wanted to knit a Tempestry without doing all the behind-the-scenes work of data research and spreadsheets. At their request, we started making kits that would have everything they needed. People would request a year and location, I would track down the data and process it into a worksheet, and Emily and our roommate, Marissa, would hand-wind all the yarn colors into exactly the right amounts needed for each temperature range. And that’s how our business accidentally got going.

And that’s how our business accidentally got going.

After making the first Tempestry (for Deception Pass, WA, 2016) Emily and Marissa got busy making four more that were displayed that June as the first showing of what would become our Deception Pass Collection. This collection now includes over twenty Tempestries depicting temperatures from years ranging from 1948 through 2016, knitted by over a dozen volunteers.

Since that first local exhibit in 2017, I quit my day job to do this full time (“this” mostly consists of finding and preparing custom temperature data for people). We’ve made thousands of Tempestry kits including for all 50 states, over 30 countries, and for all 7 continents. We’ve carried our Tempestries like medieval war banners to climate protests and marches. Tempestry collections (in progress or finished) have been created for places ranging from Australia to the San Juan Islands and Philadelphia to Mexico City, with more and more cropping up every year. There’s even a National Parks Tempestry Collection (click the link to view an image gallery) with about a hundred participants organized by an avid knitter, environmentalist, and writer for the National Parks Traveler Magazine. We were invited to enter our work in the 2018 Creative Climate Awards in New York; a Tempestry workshop was hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and we’ve been featured in various publications from Smithsonian Magazine to the New York Times. Our New Normal Tempestries, based on Professor Ed Hawkins’ Warming Stripes data visualization showing global and regional warming trends over the last century, have been displayed in classrooms, public libraries, universities, and even government offices — made by knitters and crocheters around the country.

It has been an incredible, at times grueling and stressful, wild ride up to this point, and this summer we’ve taken on two more new and exciting endeavors.

It has been an incredible, at times grueling and stressful, wild ride up to this point, and this summer we’ve taken on two more new and exciting endeavors.

In June, we started a project with my daughter where she keeps track of her daily mood and we knit a row every day representing the color that best fits the day — red for anger, blue for sadness, yellow for happy, etc. It’s been a simple and comforting way to think and talk about emotions during these staggering times we’re living through. The Tempestry community liked this idea so much that we’ve started offering Emotion Tempestry kits, with the hope that others will benefit from the practice as much as we have.

And our biggest project to date is also in the works: creating an entire line of custom milled and dyed worsted weight Tempestry yarns in all 38 of our colors. We’re excited to be working with a a Pennsylvania-based fiber mill and a Pennsylvania-based dyeworks, and delighted that our kits will soon be using US-sourced merino wool — and supporting American jobs.

I feel incredibly fortunate that my life has taken this drastic turn for the worsted, and grateful that the textile community has welcomed me into the fold. I got to fly in a plane for the first time when we went to the Creative Climate Awards in New York, we’ve been interviewed on a couple podcasts, and I even did a pair of brief interviews on the Weather Channel.

Five years ago I would never have imagined the life I’m leading, and while I’ve only knit one and a half hats so far, my whole life now revolves around textiles — and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

– Asy Connelly

Our website:

We also have a Tempestry Project Instagram,FaceBook page and a Facebook group for Tempestry Project Participants (or those interested).

Vanessa Marr – Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, UK


 (Click on photos to see them in a larger version.) 

Dear Textiles,

Like many others, it was my favourite Grandmother who truly introduced me to you, although I remember my Mum and other Grandmother sewing and knitting too. I spent a week every summer with ‘Granny Bye’ for the whole of my childhood, a precious week without my siblings where I was spoilt rotten. She taught me to cross stitch on pieces of cloth she called binca, with easy holes to follow, which became sampler-style mats for family cups of tea on bedside tables. I still have a sampler she’d stitched on the same cloth. From then onwards I always had a textile project on the go; a knitted hot water bottle cover for my Dad, a wrap top for my Mum (on reflection I’m impressed she wore it out as it wasn’t well made!) This continued into adulthood when I went to University and trained a graphic designer, following my love of all things visual through a steady career, with textiles sitting firmly in the ‘craft’ box, outside of my professional aspirations.

Fast forward to my late 30’s, I grew tired of the graphic design client’s demands and found my place teaching, also enrolling onto a Master’s degree. This changed my relationship with textiles forever. As part of my studies I explored the domestic origins of fairy tales and discovered their role as narratives told by and to empower women, often as they worked with cloth. I sought out an object that could sum up the invisibility of domestic tasks and yet was also beautiful. I choose a duster, a ubiquitous bright yellow cloth used commonly in the UK to polish dust away from household surfaces. It’s the sort of cloth that my Granny would have used to do it properly! I began to hand embroider onto it, tentatively at first, then encouraged to embroider a set of seven dusters I called ‘Promises and Expectations’ that reimagined fairy tales promises told to women and girls. This expanded into a project asking other women to stitch their domestic experiences onto dusters. To my pleasure and surprise, they responded and the ‘Women and Domesticity’ duster project began. It’s now over 100 contributions strong and still growing. It has become the focus of my academic research and is regularly exhibited. I got to know my dusters back in 2012 and I’m still working with them, now as the focus of my PhD. And so, this should really be a letter to my dusters:

Dear Dusters,

I look at you now, littering my workspace and wonder what my Granny would have said (except to tidy up!) and I hope she’d be proud. The route to this point in my life has been one of domestic challenges: a family started young, divorce, the challenge of higher education with children in tow; experiences that reduced me to a perception of you. Invisible, domestic, but waiting for the opportunity to shine.

You are now an enticer, keeper and presenter of stories, both mine and those of other women. I am forever imagining new ways to transform you, to stitch my story with and onto you. When I stand with others, surrounded by you on each side when hung for display, you are transformed into a spectacular performance. When I sit quietly with you with needle and thread, you become a catalyst for my voice. You unite us, just as the fairy tales did hundreds of years ago.

Without you dear duster I would not have discovered that textiles could change my life, that a cleaning cloth could emancipate me, or that you could free other women too.

So, thank you.
Vanessa Marr

To find out more about Vanessa and Domestic Dusters on Instagram, see @vanemarr and @domesticdusters respectively, or at


Julia. 84. Toronto, Canada.


Textiles have been part of my life since learning to knit at the age of 4.

I have explored weaving, cross stitch and needlepoint, but crochet and knitting are my constant companions. Many years ago I discovered Tunisian crochet which is a complete marriage of knitting and crochet that produces a wonderful woven fabric. I have a passion for colour and found this a great medium for my designs. 

As there were no patterns available for the colour inlay technique  I was forced into designing my own pieces. There have been many missteps along the way, but I have learnt a lot. I worked as an occupational therapist in the field of psychiatry for 50 years, and am now enjoying being an education volunteer at the Textile Museum of Canada, such a joy.

The attached picture is of a crib blanket I made as a gift for my friend Doris’s grandchild. You will see a camel in one of the squares – that is a thank you for Doris introducing me to beautiful Morocco and our subsequent 7 trips together! The colours and designs of Morocco have had an enormous influence on my work as you will see from the picture attached below.

You can see more of Julia’s work over on

Diana H. Germany.


Diana shared something she wrote about her grandmother’s wedding dress:

My grandmother wore black at her wedding. She wanted to be different, to break rules, to stand her point, you might think.

I thought so too when I scrolled through the pictures in the family photo album. All the brides wore white, ivory or cream – except her.

Decades later I came to the explanation why she chose that colour: she married a widower.

When my grandfather’s first wife died in late spring of that year, she left 4 children behind, age 7 to 13.

My grandfather remarried in autumn. Doing this he broke a significant social rule of his time: After the death of a spouse a whole year of mourning period had to be formally fullfilled before remarriage.

My grandmother wore black at her wedding day because it was still the official mourning period for her husband. What she did was a kind of obeisance for his deceased wife. No act of rebellion, but one of modesty.

When you look at people’s actions, mere assumptions can lead to complete wrong conclusions concerning people’s reasons and motives. You always need background information, about the culture, the society, the setting in which people grew up, to understand their values and their deeds.

A few days ago, she also shared this with me:

Another, more personal memory of my family’s remarkable “black dress” I wrote about the impression the picture of my grandma in her wedding dress made on me:  

I first saw that picture when I was a four or five year old child. I remember very well my astonishment: Brides always wear white gowns (and there were many brides in the family album, dressed in perfect white), so why did she wear black?   Since I could remember I felt like a kind of stranger in my family; as if I didn’t belong, the ugly duckling. I stared so many times at the wedding picture of my grandmother and imagined my own marriage to-be also in black. For the little granddaughter the black wedding dress was full of symbolism, in equal measure a symbol for the commitment to one’s own individuality (to wear black when one should wear white) and for the possibility to live a ‘normal’ life even as a stranger (to belong, to be married).  

Through my adulthood I occasionally wore and wear the famous ‘little black dress’. Although some of these dresses were really gorgeous, they are long forgotten. I never married, so none of my black dresses could have been as magical as the black dress my grandmother wore as a wedding gown.

Thanks for sharing, Diana!

Catherine. 60. Marble Falls, Texas. USA.


Dear Textiles,

A piece of work that holds particularly fond memories for me is a stained and worn potholder –

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, my sister and I threw ourselves completely into the embroidered clothing craze when all the cool hippie chicks were adding crewel work flowers, dogs, fish, feathers and every groovy motif to overalls, denim shirts, oxford shirts, jeans and everything else that was hanging in their closets. 

Though I  had never even threaded a needle before, my big sis patiently taught me how to get started on an old pink cotton camp shirt.  For unremembered reasons, I decided to make a snarky looking black outline of an owl on the shirt, filling in parts of the body with red satin (like) stitches.  

Although that first embroidered owl led to a lot of other embroidered clothing, I kept that shirt all through childhood moves, college and beyond, holding it as a talisman of my sisterly bond.  Eventually, I cut the owl out and made it into a potholder, which I kept in the drawer by the stove, using it to pull hot pies and cakes from the oven and to grab pot handles when the pasta needed a stir.

Sadly, when the fashion for embroidered clothes died out at the end of the 70’s, so did our interest, so needles and hoops were put away and forgotten until, just a few years ago, I rediscovered the therapeutic value of stitching.

After I started seriously embroidering, I remembered my little owl, and went looking for it at the bottom of the kitchen drawer.  It wasn’t there.  I felt very sad when I couldn’t find my owl, but I figured it had gotten lost in a move or accidentally thrown away.  

Then a year or so ago, while visiting my older son at his post college apartment, I opened a drawer to help him with something on the stove and there was my faded little owl embroidered on the shabby pink fabric.  That silly little owl, sitting in a drawer in a Cambridge Bachelor Pad, had been actualized as a bona fide piece of art: it had been loved by another, and kept as a precious (though utilitarian) object.

Here is a photo of the potholder, stains and all:

Since picking up my needles again about 5 years ago, I have created hand embroidered work that has been shown all over the United States and the UK.  I have won prizes for my work, sold many pieces to happy collectors, and have lectured and taught embroidery, just the same way my big sister taught me those many years ago.

You can find out more about Catherine at

Lora. 27. Oregon. USA.


Dear Textiles,

I had a needle and thread in my hand before I ever learned to read or write. They are the one thing I feel like I have in common with my family outside of my blue eyes and the ubiquitous “Kramer nose”. My family doesn’t say “I love you” to one another with words so much as we say it with sets of embroidered tea towels or crocheted afghans.

For my fourth birthday, I received toy trucks from my uncles and this yellow quilt with appliqued butterflies on it from my grandmother. To be honest, the toy trucks were more my speed. I hate yellow, and I’ve never really like butterflies. Regardless, this quilt warmed my bed throughout my childhood.

As I got older, spring breaks and summers found me up at my grandparents’ house “on the hill”. I alternated between shadowing my grandpa as he puttered around the back yard, and standing over a quilt sandwiched on a tabletop alongside my mom and grandmother. Like birds of prey, we dove down into the layers of fabric and batting with curved needles, scooping them together with short lengths of yarn.

In my family, I grew into the one who got good grades, the one who graduated from college, and the one who moved away. First, it was three hours away. Now, it’s states away. As I loaded my car to move that first time – and every time I’ve done it since – my back seat was full of blankets and quilts made by the women in my family.

The last few times I visited my parents, the same yellow, butterfly appliqued quilt was still on my bed. Twenty-three years later, it was threadbare in places, and the batting had grown lumpy and shredded. Armed with a seam ripper apiece, my mom and I sat in front of the TV on New Year’s Eve, removing the binding and the original ties to separate the quilt top. It came home to Oregon with me.

I’ll probably never say “I love you” with words, but I feel love as I am slowly working my way through restoring this quilt top, embroidering yellow flowers in a copycat of my grandma’s perfect and tiny stitches, and mending places the fabric is worn through. Eventually, I’ll get to re-quilting and binding this quilt.

One thing is for sure: I’ll never be cold.


(Note: You can find Lora on Instagram at @loramakesthings.)

Betsy. 44. Durham, NC. USA.


Dear Textiles,

I’ve taken some time out from stitching after having it be a companion in my life for almost 20 years, which is, in the stitching world, not very long. But, if I’m really honest about it, stitching became a presence in my life long before that point when I was 25. 

It started in my grandmother’s living room in north Georgia when I was maybe 11 or 12, So the mid-1980s. She taught me how to cross-stitch. I sat in my grandfather’s big leather chair and fumbled with the tiny stitches, a cow bookmark I had picked out for my mother at the craft store. 

My grandmother could be stern, but when it came to crafts, she was all about the love they provide. After I learned at her house, I stitched a few things here and there, not really picking craft back up until I was living far away from the South, and found myself in New York City. I found something sacred in the softness of the yarn and the click of the needles even though my first scarf was crooked and full of holes. I found that there was a sense of kind power in the making of something from nothing. 

And when I started writing about crafts and activism, it was her I was thinking of, making baby hats for newborns in the hospital she volunteered with. She would have never called herself an activist, but, boy, did she make the world better with her own two hands. Quietly. Deftly. In objects that were given to babies born to relatives and strangers and community members. 

Decades later, when I was visiting her at her retirement home, after the death of my grandfather and uncle, her son, who both died within a span of three days, she wordlessly tucked a round needlepoint pillow underneath my arm. It was black with a pink flower. She had a habit of giving things away to people she thought might appreciate them and this was no different. This was before dementia kept her from speaking or connecting. The last few times I was with her, I remember her watching and enjoying two things, my dog’s tongue licking her hand and my hands knitting.

The pillow lived on a chair in my bedroom for awhile, but now it lives on my sofa. And I know she’d be happy to see it be used to prop my boyfriend’s head up behind the back of the couch when we’re sitting on it and at how my dog, Sadie, sometimes uses it as a dog-sized pillow. 

When I look at this pillow, I think of all the times I’d have a question about knitting something or that time I couldn’t figure out how to crochet an edge and she sat down next to me and patiently showed me how to work the yarn. At how she kept stitching through breast cancer and my grandfather’s own cancer battles and heart attack. At how she made me two pairs of the exact same socks, wanting to make sure that she had given me something to keep my feet warm. 

She could be strict, yes, but would melt when it came to stitching. I used to think it was the knitting circle I joined in New York that welcomed me into the craft community, but the more I think about it, it was her and her quiet acceptance and patience when I got the stitches wrong or tangled the thread or had a question. 

She died a few summers ago, and right before then didn’t even seem to know on my last visit that there were seven of her family members in the room with her. But, she still shows up when I look at the pillow. Like she showed up whenever I stitched. I put my needles down for many reasons, but it’s time to pick them up again, I’ve been buoyed by all the craft stories I’ve studied about strength in the arpilleristas, Jim Simpson, the women of Greenham Common, Gandhi’s khadi movement. But know there are many other stories to be heard too. Quiet ones, loud ones, family ones, stories wondered about found objects in thrift stores or Etsy, stories of craft that embed themselves in our lives and help make us stronger and more resilient in their essence and detail and memory. 

My grandmother’s stitches live on in both in the things that she made me and in the things that I make now. I’d love to hear your own stories about stitches and textiles, stories of love or strength or mystery or kindness or skill or a million other things. This story is just one story. I’d love to hear yours too. 

Love, Betsy