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The Creators Of The Pussyhat Project Explain How Craft Projects Are Protest

Thousands of women will be wearing pink cat-eared hats during the Women’s March on Washington. We spoke to the women behind the phenomenon.

We’re in a time of rapid, dramatic change. People are angry, and scared, and ready to fight for what they believe in. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the organizing of the Women’s March on Washington, a protest against the rhetoric used toward women and minorities in the last election cycle.

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Cassady Fendlay, a spokeswoman for the organizers of the march, told the New York Times that they’re expecting up to 200,000 participants at the D.C. march alone. There are over 600 sister marches organized in cities and towns all over the world. Planned for January 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the protest has a clear mission: “In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.”

Born from this protest was the Pussyhat Project, a movement with a mission to knit a pink, cat-eared hat for marchers in D.C. and cities across the country. The vision of cofounders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman borders on magical realism: a sea of pink, cat-eared hats forcefully marching toward the White House. The inspiration for the hats are the comments about sexual assault made by Trump in the infamous Access Hollywood video.

The project launched Thanksgiving weekend, an idea that grew from Suh’s and Zweiman’s recent introduction to knitting at their local L.A. yarn store, the Little Knittery. After hearing about the march, Suh, who is planning to attend, realized she had the basic need for a warm hat and a strong desire to make a statement.

“She thought if she could knit a hat, then other people could knit a hat and send them in,” says Zweiman of her cofounder. “I thought about how this is an incredible advocacy project where all these people, who can’t necessarily go to the front lines, can really show themselves and really have representation.”

And from there, the project took off. Kat Coyle, who works at the Little Knittery and is a bit of a rock star in the knitting community, designed the simple pattern, allowing people of all knitting levels to be part of the project. While some knitters are making hats for themselves or taking orders, others are dropping hats off at one of the 100 drop-off locations around the country to then be flown to D.C. and distributed to marchers at no cost.

Knitting stores across the country are reportedly running out of pink yarn, and this project has grown to be bigger than either Suh or Zweiman ever imagined. As of January 19 (their most recent count), an estimated 100,000 hats had been knit, crocheted, or sewn, and gifted from knitters to marchers.

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I spoke to Zweiman about the unexpected success of this project.

What was the thinking behind the Pussyhat Project ?

It was sort of a twofold idea. We were imagining this sea of pink hats making a really large statement. So, there was a big goal. I think having that visual creates an impetus for people to really get involved. For people who are knitters and not marchers, it’s a way of representing themselves. To physically make something is really special in this day and age where a lot of stuff is very virtual. [The knitters] have the opportunity to send a note to a marcher, so they connect with someone directly if they want to. It’s great for both introverts and extroverts.

It’s also these knitting stores; what we noticed is that a lot of these knitting stores across the country work as these really beautiful little community hubs, and so in thinking about these hubs and these really wonderful spaces where it’s predominantly women, these are already active participants. The project is creating real connections with people, physical connections, not just virtual ones.

What is it specifically about this project that is making people turn up?

Overall, this is an incredible advocacy project. It’s giving visibility to all the people who want to show up. And I think that it’s really special to make something physical and share conversation at the same time. We are opening it up for people to personally represent themselves through someone else, and support them, it’s something a lot of people want to do. They want to be positive, and I think you can be politically active and positive at the same time.

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How would you describe the knitting community this project grew from?

I am new to the knitting community, so I feel like I can’t speak for everyone, but what I’ve found is that whenever I’m within a knitting community, it’s extraordinarily supportive and positive. I’d say that knitters really care for and respect each other. Knitters are a very supportive, smart, active bunch, and they’re a really good model for a great kind of community, and everyone is welcome.

There has been some criticism of the project. One Washington Post writer said the project “undercuts the message that the march is trying to send.” What do you think about that?

It’s important to understand that in this project, all these people who want to be at the march, who support women’s rights, who can’t be there (often because they’re caregivers, which is usually women’s work) or have medical issues, or financial issues or scheduling issues, are all showing up in the form of these hats. That’s a very powerful thing—it’s creating more representation.

This project is very much about creating connections among women on the local level, and it has galvanized people into action, even for the first time. We had a 70-year-old say, “I’ve never been political before, but now I am.” That way of recognizing that being an activist can take many different forms is an important to recognize.

How has this project spread?

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It’s been a combination of a number of things. One is Kat Goyle who made the pattern and is our knitting instructor, she is really highly regarded. It also took off on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has been really good for conversation and news. And Instagram has been really great to show who is involved. From there media caught on.

I think this is different from a lot of ways that people have been active. I think everyone should stand up for what they believe in. We don’t know the effects of what we put out there. If we knew, then we’d only do the things that had an effect. But I think that we’re seeing the effect in the process of making these hats. That’s something that we always like to witness, and that’s really exciting.

Following the march, what’s next for the Pussyhat Project?

Keep wearing your hats. Loudly, proudly for the next march. Wear it around town, wear it to the grocery store, talk about women’s rights. Or if you’re not going to wear it again, if it’s not your style, give it to another feminist you know. You can also donate it to someone who needs the warmth of a hat, which would be great. There are so many things that these hats can do after.

Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who filibustered for women’s rights, reached out to us asking for a hat. We’re really hitting on this note of potential for feminist activism. And it’s really wonderful to have a physical symbol to show that. People as individuals are so powerful. People in the Pussyhat Project aren’t just sending something along on the internet. They’re connecting and creating communities, actively participating. We’re trying to make a space so that everyone can do it.

You can look at it so many different ways. It can be seen as a huge art project or a huge installation of people or an architecture project or an urbanism project on how to connect people together. It’s really exciting.

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Seconds after our conversation came to an end, Jayna called me back to add:

We’ve been asked to be part of a permanent collection at Michigan State University’s museum. They want to preserve this as an important piece of feminist history. Women in the U.S. have been using craft as a form of protest since the American revolution. We’re part of a historical precedent, and I think it’s really important to not undermine what’s considered traditionally women’s work. Thought and care and creativity goes into all these hats; knitters who are really experienced or who are new, they’re really displaying that. And that is incredibly powerful.