Last year I had my second piece ever, “The Feminist Knitter,” published in my college’s literary magazine. Now that the publication has run, I’m free to share it with you here! I wrote this in response to the Women’s March 2018 and felt today was good timing to share it with you. 🙂
I don’t have a picture handy of the Pussyhat I made, but I’ll edit this post when I get one. Instead, have a colorful crochet divider:
The Feminist Knitter
It’s January 20, and women across the country are protesting a year of the Trump presidency. My mom, who was stuck in traffic because of the protests, describes it to me that evening. “There were pink hats everywhere,” she says, busily knitting away on her latest sock project. “This dad and his little boy were wearing them, too!”
We agree that this is the cutest thing. He’s raising him right.
“The hats are cool,” I say. They’re called “pussyhats,” based off a remark that Trump made about grabbing women by that body part. “I can’t believe I haven’t knitted one yet.”
“Me neither,” says my mom.
I decide that needs to change. I was too timid to join the knitting rebellion last year, but now I’m ready to take a stand.
The Pussyhat was designed by a group of knitters who wanted to create a visual protest at the Women’s March on Washington. It’s a pink hat with cat ears, hence the name “pussy” hat. The pattern is knitted, and I am a crocheter. It would be easier to adapt the pattern to crochet, and there are in fact designers who have done just that. But I want to challenge myself and make the original knit design.
I scrounge through my yarn drawer and produce a ball of pink yarn. The pattern calls for size 5 needles. I have size 4 and size 6, and am far too cheap to buy another pair. I figure that a bigger hat is better than a too-small hat, so I gamble on the size 6 needles.
The pattern says to cast on 50 stitches. I pull out three arm’s lengths of yarn and begin my long-tail cast on, counting under my breath to the click-clickof the plastic needles. When I reach the end, I survey my handiwork and sigh. It took me ten minutes to accomplish the first row. I could have crocheted that in ten seconds.
But, I remind myself, crocheting was slow at first too. I will never improve if I keep giving up.
Nobody thinks of knitters as particularly rebellious. The stereotype is that only old women knit, and for hundreds of years it was “women’s work.” It makes it all the more powerful to have a knit hat be the symbol of the 2016 Women’s March.
I taught myself to crochet when I was 14 years old and quickly fell in love with it. It’s my creative outlet and my comfort zone. When people find out I crochet, they will inevitably tell me: “You should sell what you make!” They don’t realize it’s nearly impossible to make a profit from selling your crafts because nobody is willing to pay for all the time spent. Is our time really worth that little?
The Pussyhat is a way for yarn crafters to say: Our work is worth something.
The Pussyhat is, essentially, a knitted rectangle folded in half and seamed up the sides. This makes it the perfect pattern for a beginning knitter. And I am certainly a beginner.
The first four inches of the hat are ribbed. I am happy to finish this stitch pattern and move onto stockinette stitch, but it only takes me two rows before I realize just how long this is going to take. Each row is barely a centimeter long. I’m going to have to knit hundreds of rows before this hat is complete.
I groan and stretch the fabric to see if it will magically grow.
Then I pick up the needles and keep going – knit one row, purl the next…
This hat has become more than just a knitting project for me. I wanted so badly to be part of the Women’s March, but my anxiety kept me inside. Crowds make me panic, which prevents me from marching, but the Pussyhat allows me to be a part of the protest anyway. I can’t be on the front lines of feminism, but I can still make a stand, however small. The world needs all kinds of feminists.
The hat comes together in a series of moments. A few rows knit before bed, a few more between assignments. I finish a book for my English class and pick up my knitting. Critique a classmate’s piece, back to the hat. Since the knitting is so monotonous, I watch the entire first season of Friends. Slowly but surely the fabric grows, and I am delighted.
I notice a twisted stitch twenty rows back, and my inner perfectionist wakes from its slumber. I gingerly drop the stitch until I reach the mistake, untwist it, and ravel it back up again.
My mom finishes her first pair of knit socks, and I cheer with her. We are two crocheters learning to knit – a task that once seemed insurmountable. But a little at a time, we are learning.
I have my first French exam of the term, and the knitting takes a backseat as I frantically review interrogative pronouns. Quand est-ce que je finirai ce chapeau? When will I finish this hat?
I finish the last stitch and cut the yarn triumphantly. It is full of imperfections that no one but me will ever notice, yet it still quickly becomes my favorite hat. It is my quiet form of feminism.
My French teacher compliments my hat and asks: Est-ce que vous l’avez tricoté?Yes, I reply, I did indeed knit it myself. And I smile.
I have a long way to go on my knitting journey, just as women have a long way to go to achieve equality. But I have faith that one day we’ll get there, one knit stitch at a time.
Originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Portland Community College’s Letter and Line. © Claire G.