By Lauren Cook amNewYork, New York
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The "Pussyhat project" got its start after founder Jayna Zweiman offered to knit a hat for co-founder Krista Suh to wear to the Women's March on Washington. The organization helps connect people interested in grass roots activism through knitting.
amNewYork, New York
The Pussyhat Project is taking its message of solidarity for women's rights (and its signature Pussyhats) to the streets of Manhattan with the hope of creating another sea of pink at the second annual Women's March on NYC.
Following a tumultuous year in American politics, Pussyhat Project co-creator and co-founder Jayna Zweiman, 39, said she sees this year's marches, planned in cities and towns across the country, as an opportunity to remind the nation that feminism is not going anywhere.
"The 2017 march was at the beginning of a new time, and it was more about setting the tone: We are here and this matters," Zweiman, who will be attending her hometown march in Los Angeles, said. "I really hope this time around in New York, it's we are still here, our feet are planted."
The project, which got its start after Zweiman offered to knit a hat for co-founder Krista Suh to wear to the Women's March on Washington, helps connect people interested in grass roots activism through knitting.
To get the yarn ball rolling last year, project organizers reached out to local studios across the country and asked them to become hubs of community as well as Pussyhat collection points.
The women hoped to empower people to create roughly 1 million hats ahead of the women's marches last year. While it's impossible to say how many were actually created and worn, since the knitting pattern was purposely shared online for free, Zweiman said she believes they did get close to their goal.
"We've never had anyone who does crowd estimates to figure out how many hats were out there," she said. "When you look at photos, maybe 15 to 20 percent of people were wearing them. We very much might have made 1 million hats . . . definitely in the hundreds of thousands."
Since then, the small group of women behind the craftivism sensation has spent the past year working on how to move forward their two-pronged mission -- to create a strong visual statement at women's marches around the world and provide people who can't attend a way to feel involved -- particularly in light of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements that have opened up public discourse about sexual abuse and harassment in recent months.
While the inspiration for the knitted Pussyhats was essentially born out of the 2005 hot mic moment that recorded Donald Trump stating he grabbed women by the genitals, which came to light during the 2016 presidential election, Zweiman said the nexus of the Pussyhat Project has always been about women's rights and solidarity.
"This is really about pro-women rather than anti-anything," she said. "This was so much bigger than Trump, from the get-go. I think that we've seen that as well with the #MeToo movement and Time's Up really coming together in the last couple of weeks."
For Zweiman, one of the best things about working on the project -- aside from seeing her design come to life in the form of hundreds of thousands of Pussyhats -- has been watching grass roots activism take shape before her eyes.
"[Last year] was a really tough year politically, in that macro level, but I'm seeing all these citizens coming together and having their voices heard and making noise when they didn't before," she said. "Had I not been involved in a project like this, I wouldn't see that as closely."
Zweiman has since begun to shift toward a broader idea of "design interventions for social change."
Enter: The Welcome Blanket, a knitting initiative launched by Zweiman's team in June that re-imagines Trump's proposed 2,000-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in the form of blankets for refugees. The goal is to connect people in the U.S. with new immigrants through handmade blankets, creating "both symbolic and literal comfort and warmth," according to the project's website.
Knitters early to the project were encouraged to send their blankets to the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, where they were on display between July 18 and Dec. 17.
Zweiman said her design projects offer a way for people to get involved in grass roots activism that is different from traditional activities, like door-to-door canvassing.
"Craftivism is connecting people and creating support and solidarity," Zweiman said. "Both the Pussyhat Project and the Welcome Blanket allow people to express in a really thoughtful way things that they might be feeling or thinking and then having a dialogue about it."
In New York City, knitting studios like Knitty City have hosted knit-ins, where attendees can create hats while trading knitting tips and chatting about politics.
As the Pussyhat Project enters another year of activism, Zweiman said she's looking for new ways to support other groups and bring people together in the same way that Pussyhat knit-ins connect people looking to affect change.
"Just that gesture of sitting and knitting a hat for someone that you don't even know can really make an impact on how someone else's world is," she added. "[It's] really the beauty of the project."
Although there are no plans at the moment to set up a specific Pussyhat distribution point for Saturday's Women's March on NYC, which is being held at 11 a.m. near Columbus Circle, Zweiman said they encourage people to hand them out on their own.
"I think for anyone who has handed out hats at the march, it's a really wonderful thing to do. It's a great way to connect with people," she said, adding that she has high hopes for a repeat of the estimated 400,000-person crowd seen at the 2017 march in NYC. "I hope that New York's march is just huge. I really hope that people come out and show up and come together as we head into midterm [elections]."