For The Yarn Mission–a group of knitters in Ferguson, Missouri, brought together in 2014 by the city’s egregious police brutality and subsequent protests–practicing their craft in public is an opportunity to engage the community in their unique form of activism, bound by yarn, needles, and a desire for radical social change.
By Sarah Kendzior at The Guardian:
“People consistently underestimate the power of knitting,” says [PhD student in criminology and founder CheyOnna] Sewell. “They don’t recognize its radical properties. They’re always surprised when they talk to us about what why we’re knitting, like, ‘Is she talking about racism right now? Did she really just say ‘police brutality?’”
Inside MoKaBe’s, a coffeehouse where the group frequently meets – and where protesters were famously teargassed last November as Ferguson burned – a display of cowls and scarves stands on a back room table. One is labeled a “unity cowl” with a tag declaring: “Look at the cowl’s pattern and you will see the properties of unity. Even when we seem loose and spread out, we are connected.”
According to Sewell, the Yarn Mission not only furthers discussion of racism and sexism, but serves an under-represented group: black knitters.
“When you see images of women knitting on TV, they’re predominantly white,” she says. “When you go into a local yarn store, everyone is white. The concept of having time for leisure is predominantly white. As a black person you might not want to join an all-white knitting group, you might feel like it’s safer to censor yourself in those circumstances. But I always feel that anyone who wants to come here can. If you want to be the Yarn Mission, then you are the Yarn Mission.”