At Woven Art, a yarn shop in East Lansing, there’s a run on hot pink yarn.
The same is true at Spun in Ann Arbor.
Bright pink yarn is flying off the shelves at Ewe-nique Knits in Royal Oak, too.
The sudden popularity in this particular shade, yarn shop owners say, is due to the Pussyhat Project, a national effort to flood the nation’s capital with women wearing pink, cat-ear hats at the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21.
The project’s goal is to make a visual statement on the first day of President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to show that women stand united when it comes to protecting their rights, said the Pussyhat Project’s co-founder Jayna Zweiman.
In response to the call to action, many crafters around the country are knitting, crocheting, and even sewing hats as quickly as they can to ensure that marchers at the Women’s March on Washington and at sister marches in cities like Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Marquette have pink pussyhats to wear.
The goal is to deliver at least 1 million hats to Washington, D.C., for distribution at the march.
Women are making them for themselves, for their sisters, their daughters, and even for strangers, dropping them off at pick-up points around the country. Any shade of pink is OK, even though hot pink seems to be the most popular.
“I think it’s resonating a lot because we’re really saying that no matter who you are or where you are, you can be politically active,” said Zweiman, 38, of Los Angeles, who teamed up with her friend, 29-year-old Krista Suh, to launch the project in late November.
As soon as the Women’s March on Washington was announced, Suh made plans to be there. But Zweiman is recovering from a concussion and can’t march. So together, they came up with a large-scale, national hat project to engage people — whether they’re marching or supporting someone else who is — and launched www.pussyhatproject.com.
“It’s about the knitting, but it’s also about so much more,” Zweiman said, noting that hats can be hand knit, crocheted or sewn. They used the term “pussyhat” for the project as a play on words referencing the way Trump bragged about groping unsuspecting women.
“The original hat has these adorable cat ears, so ‘pussyhat’ also is a play on ‘pussy cat.’ … The word ‘pussy’ is often used in a derogative way. It’s almost impossible to ignore the Access Hollywood video with Donald Trump saying, ‘Grab them by the pussy.’ … ‘Pussy’ is a very charged word; I’m now very used to saying it, but it’s interesting to hear people talk about the word, and how they feel about the word. These are conversations we all need to have. The discussions are around what is this word, what does it mean? A lot of it is constructive dialogue.
“In this era of really divisive politics and the news cycle is so pessimistic and gut-wrenching, people are rallying around being politically active and standing up for themselves. … This gives an opportunity for people to support the marchers and physically represent themselves at the march, and it’s giving them warmth and support.”
Volunteer knitters have dropped off pussyhats at Woven Art in East Lansing to be given away free to anyone who is going to a women’s march, said Meg Croft, who co-owns the yarn shop. The hope is that those who pick up a free hat might consider a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union or to Planned Parenthood.
Many women are concerned that Trump will make good on campaign promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, defund Planned Parenthood and appoint anti-abortion Supreme Court justices.
“We have a big local demand, and being in a college town, we have a lot of people who are very concerned about the way things have been going recently,” Croft said. “We’re in a fairly liberal county, so people are upset and very concerned that rights are going to disappear,” Croft said.
Croft’s favorite yarn for the pussyhats is a hot pink, hand-dyed worsted-weight wool from Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan. But that particular yarn is sold out right now, she said.
Debbie McDermott, who has owned Stonehedge Fiber Mill for 18 years and has had her own wholesale line of Shepherd’s Wool Yarn for a decade, said the hot pink shade has never been so popular.
“We don’t usually sell a whole lot of that, and then all of a sudden, everybody wanted hot pink,” said McDermott, whose Shepherd’s Wool Yarn is sold in 300 stores nationally. “There has been more demand. When yarn shops call and they need it right now, and you haven’t sold that much of a color for the nine years you’ve been making it, no, you can’t meet demand.
“We have a couple other pinks, but the hot pink is the one everybody’s been wanting lately.”
Spun in Ann Arbor is also out of McDermott’s hot pink Shepherd’s Wool Yarn, said co-owner Peter Sickman-Garner. But, he said, there’s a zinnia pink that’s also popular for pussyhats.
He said the rush for hot pink came out of nowhere.
“All of a sudden, it was everywhere,” said Sickman-Garner. “The knitting and crochet community is pretty tight, so when something is happening, word gets out pretty quickly.
“We’ve been getting all kinds of inquiries from people who want the hat and ask to learn how to make it. … A lot of people are coming in to buy yarn for a friend who does know how to knit. A lot of people are knitting extra hats to bring to D.C.”
The store is keeping a list of people who are interested in receiving a donated hat, and one employee has offered to take extras with her to the march. But, Sickman-Garner said, “I’m confident we won’t have as many hats as we have people who’ve been asking for them.”
The shop plans a pussyhat knitting event from 3-4:30 Sunday at the shop, 407 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor.
“I’ve seen the estimates for the crowd. I think it’s going to be a much, much bigger march than they’re estimating,” he said. “They’re going down from all over Michigan. I don’t know that it’s so much a red versus blue, as it is just a respect for sisters march.”
Marilyn Grazioli, who owns Ewe-nique Knits in Royal Oak with her daughter Amy Goller, spent Tuesday afternoon calling customers who wanted hot pink yarn. The store had just received a new shipment of Maxima by Manos del Uruguay, a hand-dyed merino wool variety.
“I put it on Facebook, too, so if you were to look at our Facebook page, it would say that it’s here,” Grazioli said.
At Twisted Warp &Skeins in Merrill, co-owners Dale Blunk and Pam Hickey are giving away hats knitted by volunteers. And they’re also trying to collect donations of 200 hats for the women who are riding buses leaving from Midland. Saginaw and Bay City for the march.
Though Blunk and Hickey can’t attend the march, Blunk said the shop will be open Jan. 21 to anyone who might like to come in for coffee, camaraderie and to watch broadcasts or live-streaming of the event.
At Craft Raft Studio in Grand Rapids, about 15 people came together one night in early January to learn to knit their pink pussyhats together, said Heather Robinson, whose husband, Jake Sleutel, owns the studio.
“It’s normal people getting involved for once, which is so interesting to me,” said Robinson, 42, of Grand Rapids. “It’s not outwardly protesty — it’s women standing up for what they believe in. It’s kind of refreshing.
“You’re just making a hat, you know? Who can object to that?”
The studio is selling pussyhats for $25-$45, depending on the style. Any proceeds from sales of the hats will be donated to a nonprofit organization in Grand Rapids called Be a Rose, which distributes feminine-hygiene products to low-income girls and women. Other hats are being donated to the march.
“I really feel this whole movement-project for me and Jake hasn’t been about a rejection of the president-elect directly … but more about what kind of world we want to be part of,” Robinson said. “We choose making as a way of spreading peace and kindness.”
Another group knitting session is planned for 5-8 p.m. Friday at the studio, 207 Quimby NE, Grand Rapids, she said.
“In our culture, knitting is often seen as women’s work,” Zweiman said. “When women get together to knit, they’re both doing an activity of creation, but they’re also getting together to talk. Already if you’re part of a knitting circle, you’re part of something that is political. It’s a very powerful thing, connecting with people and creating something. It’s something pretty special to give a gift to a stranger over a political issue and a discussion.”
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