By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Warning: this post may contain some offensive photos. In fact, this post DOES contain some offensive photos.
I’ve been knitting since high school. As I have recorded here before, the rhythmic motion of the needles and the creative act of designing has helped me keep what little sanity I have left. So I was a bit dismayed when politics reared its ugly head in my favorite hobby. Politics in knitting, you ask? Yep – it started with the Women’s March in January 2017 when millions of women donned the pink “pussy hats” in protest. Suddenly, the website Ravelry, which is the largest knitting website in the world with over 7 million members, began to attract younger subscribers so they could access the pattern for the hat. In addition to providing patterns, reviews and general information on all things knitting, Ravelry has thousands of chat forums on any number of topics, everything from books to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. But naturally, there are also plenty of political forums, both right and left leaning. Reading the posts on those forums is actually a good way to hear both sides of an issue, although some people seem to be grabbing facts from the unicorn universe – kind of like watching cable news.
Over the past several months young designers have taken the pussy hat project “resist” philosophy to new heights – or lows, depending on your viewpoint. Suddenly, on the front page of Ravelry where they show photos of the “Hot Right Now” projects there began to be projects that were a bit over the top. The hat in this photo is representative of that (I’ve erased the X-rated part but you get the drift). I usually don’t comment on them but I did read the feedback that Ravelry received from many outraged subscribers. As anyone who has ever played golf with me knows, I am not immune from the “F” word, but I do realize there is a time and place. After all, what is the point in wearing such a hat? Sure, you might get high fives from those who agree with you but it also prevents people from assuming they could have a reasonable discussion with you. After all, it exudes hate which I thought we were trying to stamp out. I was dismayed by the thought of my “safe space” website being highjacked by political viewpoints so I contributed to the forum on the subject of X-rated projects. Here’s what I wrote:
I am the president of a large knitting guild. We have members that are gay, straight, of different ethnic backgrounds, and are liberal and conservative. In other words – a large cross-section of people. We have decided that it is in everyone’s best interests to find what we have in common – what binds us and makes us connected – rather than what divides us. It is amazing how people who have radically different political and social views can come together and enjoy one another’s company by sharing the craft of knitting. By getting to know the person we foster relationships, not divisions based on political opinions. If you are going to continue to publish divisive/x-rated projects why don’t you at least find a way to “hide” those projects from the front page?
I thought that was a reasonable suggestion but it just goes to show how behind the times I am. There were FIVE TIMES more people that disagreed with me than agreed. I was shocked. My post received lots of comments – most of them were nasty. Very nasty. The only good news is that over the next few weeks Ravelry did find a way for members to block anything they found offensive. Personally, I’ve used it more to hide toilet paper covers than anything else.
Still, the patterns continue. This week, in an effort to “get out the vote”, the hat pattern (left) was posted. So…why do I bring this up when the vast majority of you don’t knit? Because I think that when we have injected politics into something as innocuous and soothing as knitting, we’re in trouble. In commenting about their designs, the artists who publish these items express their outrage and frustration and allow no room for an opposing viewpoint. The warfare that is our political system is infiltrating every nook and cranny. At the risk of once again holding a minority viewpoint, I think we would all be better off if these designers and their followers spent their knitting time creating something for the homeless, the Vets, or anyone in need in their community. Wearing a “F..K” Trump hat doesn’t help solve the problems we face, it only serves to further shut down productive discussion and debate. But then what do I know? I’m just a grandmother who knits.