Creator of Women’s March Hat Forges Ahead with Rule Book for a WTF World
Knitters found themselves close to the center of a national conversation between Election Day 2016 and the Women’s March that took place on January 21, 2017. The talking point was a simple knitted pink hat featuring what looked like cat ears—the Pussyhat. It sparked controversy on both sides of the aisle, prompting the country to talk about knitting, craft, how the two fit into political discussion, and if they can create real change in society. Knitters and crafters welcomed the opportunity and ran with it, and many people—women and men alike—learned how to knit.
It’s been over a year since the conception of the Pussyhat Project, the brainchild of Hollywood screenwriter and feminist Krista Suh. Suh hasn’t slowed down in her efforts to get crafts on the map as a real vehicle for making grand societal change happen. She has spent her time since the Women’s March writing and promoting her book that’s out this month, DIY Rules for a WTF World: How to Speak Up, Get Creative, and Change the World (Grand Central Publishing). I recently spoke with Krista about her inspiration for the Pussyhat Project, the aftermath of the Women’s March and her journey to writing this book, what the book is all about, and how she sees craft as an important part of the forward movement of women’s rights issues.
“It was just a few days after the election and . . . I remember waking up and just feeling unreal,” Krista says, setting the scene. “The Women’s March was underway and I knew immediately I would go.” It was November 12, 2016, and Krista was on a road trip with her parents for their anniversary. She sat in the backseat and looked out the window, pondering over her upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., for the march. She was thinking about what she herself could do that was more than simply showing up to march.
“I was even thinking that I could, like, march naked or something,” she tells me, adding that she rarely checks the weather since she lives in Los Angeles, and that’s what she would do if she were marching there. But she was headed to cold D.C., and marching naked would not be an option.
“That’s when it occurred to me that I’d have to rethink my outfit—I can’t show up naked, I can’t just show up in a T-shirt. I have to wear a winter coat, and not just for looks. I have to button it up and fill in the cracks with mittens and a scarf and a hat.” Since knitting had resurfaced in her life recently—her grandmother had taught her when she was young, she said—she had a quick thought that she could knit herself a hat for the march.
Krista began to think about a handmade hat as a piece of “protest gear,” and that if she, a beginner-level knitter, could knit a basic hat for the march, maybe she could share a pattern for others to knit and wear to the march as well. She also thought about the visual element, as movements often have imagery associated with them, and imagined a sea of matching hats.
“Since hats are worn on top of the heads an aerial shot would be really striking.”
She immediately texted a knitter friend of hers, Kat Coyle, whom she knows from her local yarn shop in L.A., The Little Knittery, to share her idea. The two met in person shortly after to work out the details. Kat proved to be the perfect person to get this idea rolling into action, since she had designed knitting patterns before, and considered all the different elements that should be included. They spent some time adjusting the pattern and considering the most ideal elements so that someone with the most basic knitting skills could complete one, and quickly. What they ended up with became the iconic image that dominated news cycles for weeks, and that was met with both praise and criticism.
After the Pussyhat Project and the Women’s March, Suh’s next step of her journey was a little unclear at first. People encouraged her to go in certain directions, like transforming the Pussyhat Project into a nonprofit opportunity, but nothing people suggested felt right to her. She was invited to speak at her alma mater, Barnard College in New York City, and she wanted to use the opportunity to impart to those listening that each and every one of them is capable of their own versions of the Pussyhat Project. She wanted to encourage everyone inspired by her project to nurture their creative sparks, instead of letting the inner negative voice talk them out of it or convince them that their idea isn’t good enough to pursue.
And that is what DIY Rules is all about.
The 46 short chapters of Suh’s book—a number that is her nod to the hope of the 46th POTUS—are filled with lessons and meditations about nurturing our ideas. Suh wants to encourage creative people—creative women, especially—to not shut down our ideas just because they may not seem feasible at first. She wants to help people foster their ideas so they can grow, gain traction, become big and bold and help us realize their potential. She also focuses on the power of developing strong mental health in order for us to be our best when we go out to fight the good fight.
Suh believes that crafting and creating are central to making positive changes in society. They give us the ability to do three things, she says. First, they give us an opportunity to get into a state of flow, which happens when we become immersed and fully engaged in what we are doing that we lose all sense of time and anything else going on around us. Flow is essential to the creative process, as getting lost in the work is a huge draw to creative endeavors.
Second, there is a strong sense of accomplishment once a project is completed. It’s an empowering feeling to see something that you started be completely finished, and for Suh, a knitting project is a great example of something that has a very obvious finishing point, unlike activities such as writing, when it can be very unclear when a project is complete.
We spoke of the parallels between finishing a knitting project, which is built upon one stitch at a time, and societal progression in the form of legislative action, which is built upon baby steps as well. Nothing can just happen immediately—we have to slowly work toward the end goal, and sometimes it can take a very long time. But each tiny step, each stitch, has to happen to get to the final product.
Third, and specifically regarding something like the Pussyhat Project, there is connection and appreciation in giving a handmade item to someone. It connects two people, and there is a physical, tactile item that has been created with the intention of giving it to another person.
“It’s so funny because now, hearing myself say it it’s like ‘That’s so obvious!'” Suh emotes. “I think for so many people it’s not. It’s one of the most powerful things we can do for each other. Also, it’s so visible. Rather than something on the screen . . . when I get a gift certificate, answer a survey, or make a donation on my computer or phone, of course I’m making a difference. But I think the animal part of us hasn’t caught up to that yet. I think sometimes we have to speak to the animal part of us and let us really feel it in our bodies that we are making a difference.
“Crafts are frankly more primal than social media, computers, internet. I think the Pussyhat Project did a good job of bridging those two worlds. The tactile and the immediate community around you but also the widespread, all over the world, Instagram—there was a community around that, too. You could write the hashtag and see women everywhere casting on and wearing the hat and it was really amazing.”
DIY Rules for a WTF World by Krista Suh, and illustrated by Aurora Lady, is currently on sale, and you can order your copy right now from Interweave. Additionally, we are giving away Kat Coyle’s Double Cap pattern (download below) from knitscene Fall 2008, which looks just like a very early version of the Pussyhat Hat, totally for free for the next couple of weeks. In case you get the itch to knit another Pussyhat, this is an easy way to go.
What do you believe about the intersection of crafts and politics and human rights issues? Do you have a story about how knitting or other crafts have made a difference in your community, or in the way you think about a particular issue in today’s society? How are you personally incorporating your craft into a larger political or social context in 2018? Are you going to the this year’s Women’s March? Tell us in the comments!
Download Kat Coyle’s Double Cap Pattern
Our header image is a sample from the original photo gallery offered last year during the Women’s March. View the full gallery here.