Protest Knits Past and Present

There’s a brand new book in town and an exciting drop in session to go with it. Geraldine Warner, author of ‘Protest Knits’ will be joining forces with the University of Brighton to hold a workshop at The Ditchling Museum. It’s this Saturday from 11-4 and I would dearly love to be there, but will of course be knitting away at the shop - so I’d love for you all to go for me.

Protest Knits is a brand new book by Geraldine Warner. The book offers a great selection of politically charged projects for absolute beginners through to pieces that are a little more challenging for keen knitters to really get their teeth stuck into. It is certainly a timely book, given the way our political and moral compasses are being tested as of late.

Protest Knits Geraldine Warner

Protest Knits of the Past

Whilst protest knitting may seem like a newfangled idea, it’s been around a long time - for a fairly obvious reason - craft has been around for ages. Whilst boys were afforded an education in times gone by, girls were largely expected to stay at home. During the hours in the home girls learnt to cook, clean, look after babies and keep a tidy house, most pastimes revolved in some way around craft, particularly knitting, crochet and embroidery.

Of course, these crafts were considered feminine, quiet and unlikely to cause any sort of trouble, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Of course women began to use these skills for revolutionary means. To protest the Stamp Act women organised knitting circles; one lady ‘Old Mom Rinker’ transported enemy information hidden in balls of yarn to General George Washington; Sojourner Truth taught slaves how to sew, enabling them to become financially independent; during both the World Wars women knitted coded messages into fabric to be passed to soldiers.

Protest Knits Now

Perhaps one of the most famous protest knits is ‘The Pussy Hat Project’ the name coming in part from the disgusting comments Donald Trump made, transform the word into one of empowerment and of course draw attention to the pussycat ear design of the hat! This orotest struck a chord with me and Laine is listed on their website as an ally, so if anyone wants to learn how to knit a Pussy Hat, then give me a shout!

In Canada, the Revolutionary Knitting Circle made headlines for their protest at the 2002 G8 summit by holding ‘knit ins’ outside major corportate buildings. Similarly Australia’s Knitting Nannas protest environmental issues by holding knit-ins. Wool Against Weapons is a UK based activist group, perhaps most famous for their protest against Nuclear Weapons, where they knitted a seven mile long ‘peace scarf’ which was later repurposed into blankets and scarves for people in warzones.

Knitting is a brilliant tool for protest because it is easily taught and accessible, materials can be very cheap and you don’t have to think of yourself as an artist to have a go and pick up the needles.

Embroidery as Protest

It’s not just knitting that’s for activists, perhaps the most famous piece in recent history is the ‘Boys will be held accountable for their fucking actions’ embroidery, which Vogue featured as a headline on their website in late 2017. The creator Shannon Downey has been a protest embroiderer for a long time, but this piece fit so perfectly the #metoo dialogue that her piece quickly became viral.

Along with this piece she has created many others, ranging from the feminist ‘Anything you can do I can do Bleeding’ and one of our favourites ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ a statement quoined by Fashion Revolution to question big brands about their garment workers conditions.

This brings us neatly to the end of the Protest Knits blog - I’m feeling inspired and possibly ready to set up a workshop? Let me know if you’d be interested!

Claudia HartleyComment