Yesterday knitting came out of the closet. It came out from the house and walked the streets, powerful and political and pink. Thousands, if not millions, of pink #pussyhats were knitted and worn by people across the world in protest against the loathsome politics of Donald Trump.
My Instagram feed became a sea of pink knitwear and placards. I wasn’t out with my sisters and brothers in person, but every time I checked in online I liked and shared and supported them. I wanted them to know that I applaud their marching, their physical protest. I share their desire for equality and justice.
But more than that – I feel part of them. I like these people who stand up against tyranny, who march, protest and knit themselves into the public gaze. This last year I have felt so disconnected from political events. Brexit made me feel an alien in my own country – since when did it become OK to try and shut the door on people wanting to join us here? I think immigration is a fantastic thing: I love working in a town where people from all over the world come to live, study and learn. Trump’s election scares the crap out of me – is there anything this demagogue won’t do or say? I felt scared and powerless: what can I do against this tide of fear and hate?
What I felt looking at the sea of people marching in Washington, London, Edinburgh and around the world was a sense of empowerment. The reason that people protest is the same as the reason they knit: they want to do something positive. They want to stop being passive and get stuck in. They want to help others, they want to create a future that is something more than where they are now. They also want to be part of something, join a community that works together and supports each other. Never mind ‘stitch and bitch’: it’s really knit and commit.
Knitting as protest is nothing new. Over two hundred years ago les tricoteuses were connected with the French Revolution, with Olympe De Gouges founding her revolutionary ‘Club De Tricoteuses’ in 1790. Five years ago Wool against Weapons saw a seven-scarf created in protest against new Trident missiles, and this month the knitting of #pussyhats has engaged people across the world in making a symbolic stand against the politics of Donald Trump.
Craftivism, a portmanteau of craft and activism, is a particularly female form of protest. It takes traditional domestic skills like needlework and knitting and uses them as a positive platform for political engagement. The Pussy Hat Project reclaims the offensive language of Trump, turning it into something positive and powerful.
I love that knitting can unite the world. It showcases our skills and helps our voices be heard. Let’s make 2017 a year defined by those pink hats and the people that made them – warm, clever, skilful, and more than just a little bit funny.