What the heck is knitvism? It is activism through knitting. You may have also heard of it as craftivism, which is essentially the same. Not your typical grandmother’s knitting…so you may think.
The word knitvism intrigued me. I come from a union family. I worked for the largest labour organization in Canada. I am a knitter. But never was knitvism talked about.
Knitting is not only a past-time for some, or an income for others. Knitting can be a means to social justice or a way to protest.
In my search, I came across the Tricoteuses from the French Revolution. When the market women of Paris realized there was no food, they marched into the streets demanding bread to feed their family. This was the start of the Revolution. However, because of their rise in popularity and political role, the Revolution government felt threatened and banned the market women from sitting in the gallery of the National Convention. But the women did not give up and brought chairs to where the executions took place. And knitted. The Tricoteuses knitted liberty caps while watching the beheading of the aristocrats. A bit gruesome.
Hundreds of years later, during WWI and WWII, many knitters from both sides encrypted codes into their knitting or hid information in their basket of wool. Knitters would also come together to knit warm garments for soldiers.
Closer to home, in the early 20th century, Nellie McClung (Canadian feminist) talked about knitting in her book In Times Like These to help address feminism to the women of that time, in hope to change their opinions about women’s war efforts and suffrage.
Fast forward to the Women’s March in 2017 in Washington. I knitted two pussy hats for a co-worker and her daughter who were part of the march. I guess you can say this was my first “knitvism”. Although I was not able to actively participate in the march, I was able to show my solidarity by knitting the hats.
Isn’t it crazy how the Tricoteuses knitted hats for their social justice in the 18th century and in 2017 we have done the same?
The following year, in 2018, the Ontario Conservative government made cuts to French services. Franco-Ontarians and their allies led massive demonstrations across the province. A pattern for mittens was designed by Julie Gravelle representing the Franco-Ontarian flag and many pairs were knitted for demonstrators to wear.
Finally, how can we forget the Bernie Mittens. After seeing Bernie Sanders with his mittens during the presidential inauguration, a design to match the mittens was created (not to mention the sweaters, cowls, and socks) with the request to make a donation to a local food bank or a similar organization to end hunger.
I have only described snippets of knitvism. So much more can be written about it. Knitters fighting for social justice. Knitters protesting for basic rights.
We all know how knitting can sooth the soul. But have you realized just how much knitting is and can be incorporated to fight for a cause? I think it is pretty amazing.
If this is a subject you would like to read more about, you might want to look into the book Power of Knitting