Color Coded

by Mary Kuna


[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size.]



Mary Kuna (she/they) is a librarian who lives in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. They received second prize in Brilliant Flash Fiction’s Librarians’ Choice Writing Contest and an honorable mention in Queer Sci Fi’s Innovation flash fiction contest and anthology, and have been published in 50-Word Stories. She is passionate about YA literature, queer representation, and writing that explores mental illness, trauma, and healing. When not reading, writing, or knitting, they are at ballet class or training for a marathon or a triathlon. She tweets sporadically at @MaryKuna.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Color Coded”?

Knitters constantly made creative, adventurous color and style choices when knitting for adults, kids, and even older babies, so I was surprised how stringently they stuck to the “rule” of “pink for girls, blue for boys” when infants were concerned. My regular customers weren’t necessarily rigid in their thinking, nor were the people who rarely knit but who emerged to buy yarn if someone close to them was expecting a baby. They primarily took the parents’ wishes into consideration—or what they assumed those wishes were. If uncertain, they exercised extreme caution. People often picked out a pattern but said they couldn’t purchase yarn until the parents learned the baby’s sex.

I’d long thought this could be the topic of a humor article in a knitting magazine, but then realized it wasn’t funny haha, it was funny peculiar. Unsettling, even, considering today most people claim to believe in gender equality and society is finally, slowly starting to become more accepting of trans and nonbinary people. So I decided on a less lighthearted approach, and I’m always interested in deep dives into the art, history, and science of colors. Some knitters are texture people, obsessed with cables, lace, or other textured stitch patterns. I’m a color person. My childhood bedroom had rainbow-print everything, I love colorwork in knitting, and I find the history of pigments and color symbolism fascinating. I recommend the books Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America by Jo B. Paoletti and Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher for more details than I could pack into a sentence-long bullet point.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

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