Thursday, 10 March 2011

The power of the stitch

Usually, knitting seems to me just like any hobby that one may or may not pursue. Then there are days like the day before yesterday, when knitting takes on a whole new meaning.

When artists Jetson, Janssen and Jo called for squares to be knitted for a massive blanket to celebrate the centenary of International Women's Day, while remembering the staggering 100 million women who are missing in our world due to gender inequality, I personally took to the initiative because it combined knitting with equalities issues, both of which are close to my heart. I never thought they could get the number of squares needed (I think it would take 600,000 squares but I'm a bit lazy with my maths so it may be a zero more or less) just to have one stitch per woman who is not with us today. Now my experience told me that knitters are a great bunch of people and up for any charitable effort. Still, I didn't think there was enough publicity for this project to become really big or make a powerful statement. After all, it was only a few people in Glasgow, there was one leaflet, a little website and a twitter/facebook stream, none of them with a massive following as far as I could see.

How wrong was I.

Yesterday, on International Women's Day, Glasgow's Tramway was transformed into a sea of colour. I have no idea how many squares there were (and I still want to know!!!) but regardless of it, there were a lot of squares. Blankets on every chair. The bare industrial look of the venue transformed utterly. Even the baby changing room was full of blankets. Catching the visitor's eye right from the start was the big rainbow blanket near the entrance.

Consider the time it took to knit all this. And then sew it up. It takes me 2 hours straight knitting to get a square, I spent 2 hours to sew a heap of squares into one stripe (and didn't even sew it onto the next stripe). How many stitches, how many fingers' work. The pride of having contributed to it, even if my contribution was small.

It was moving to say the least. And suddenly, it all made sense. The way that only art can at times. Because ultimately that was what it was - art, a transformation of the ordinary, the knitting, into the extraordinary. The solidarity and sisterhood of so many people working towards one goal. The knowledge that not one person could have done it. The beauty of the transformed space, the warmth of the blanket that welcomed everyone, the rainbow of the diversity of yarn and colour representative of the people who knit and the women of the world, how one stitch which is the same across the globe has so many manifestations and that only the multitude of stitches is the whole wonderful picture.

I experienced before how knitting connects women across the globe. It may be surprising (or not) that knitting is done in every continent and that there's a real connection when you start knitting with people from other parts of the world. It's similar to parenthood - once a mother, you feel connected to all the other mothers of the world, regardless of differences (well I do anyway).
Still I asked why and how the idea came about. As if there was some well thought out plan.

The blankets spoke to me and there it was: the stitches that connect us all, the diversity they represent, the tragedy of the missing women remembered with a beautiful, strong statement that celebrates women at the same time.

Something captured lots of people's imagination and they started knitting, for one reason or another. For everyone who saw the result, they walked away inspired, uplifted and with a feeling of belonging. To celebrate in style, there were 100 events (Loop) for people all ages to go to, and I particularly enjoyed dancing to Ma vie en Rose with Snowflake, watching yarn being spun, and generally bumping into rather a lot of people that I knew from so many different corners of my life. There were people I used to work with a long time ago, people from our outdoors playgroup, people from the knitting group, colleagues to have a chat over lunch with (did I call you a "colleague" again, J?), people from the Kinderclub. I even took part in a workshop on the theatre of the oppressed, with Snowflake trying out a creche and being without mummy for a couple of hours.

Happy International Women's Day, wishing all the women of the world that the future will bring equality and that soon there will be no more women missing in this world.


talking to Hattie said...

I wasn't aware this was happening (I am in Dundee), which is such a pity because I would have taken part for sure. You are right, it is a glorious piece of art, thank you so much for sharing.Will this be an annual even do you know?

Elle and Belle said...

This is beautiful, the photos and your words. I love it.

Jen said...

I was surprised at myself, but I was touched by this. Must be getting sentimental as I get older... But no, it is really inspiring and reminded me to get back in touch with my more "right on" self which has been a little grounded recently through the repeated onslaughts of triple motherhood. Thank you, genuinely.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, that's gigantic! I love the idea of such a huge effort made up out of lots of small but heartfelt contributions. Kind of like the campaigns that have been happening about keeping our forests or similar things.

cartside said...

@ Val, I doubt it will be repeated. It was a particularly massive effort because it was the centenary of International Women's Day. Also it was so much work for the few people running it, I can't see them doing it again soon, they must be utterly exhausted!
@Elle and Belle, it's such a beautiful transformation, very special. Words can't describe it appropriately.
@Jen, nothing wrong with being touched or sentimental ;)
@dadwhowrites, oh yes, the forest campaign, how good was that. Reminds you that things can be changed/influenced. Incidentally, they achieved 1/5 of the stitches needed to represent the 100 Million missing women. Which I think is a fabulous achievement, much more than I ever expected to come together.



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