Sunday, January 29, 2017

Pussyhats and their Afterlife: This Teapot is Not My President

This just in!
 And this!

To those of us who have been stitching for years, it's not at all shocking to see stitchery expressing political sentiments. In fact, political stitchery has a long history in the US. A couple of years back, I wrote a blog post about political quilts that included this donkey quilt made by African American quilter Beatrice Williamson of Arkansas, around 1933, as sign of support for President Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.

And speaking of party animals, that brings us to last weekend's women's marches. The marches became an opportunity for fiber-art lovers to make a fast, easy, graphic political statement, through knitting, crochet, and/or sewing. I am talking, of course, about the #pussyhats.
Meet Captain, my friend Paula's Lynx Point Siamese, adopted from the local shelter. That makes him a refugee as well as a LGBT ally.
Last Saturday, millions of women and men marched, many in their fine and unsubtle hats. I went to the LA gathering, and I've never been in such a huge crowd - 750,000 people. It was so uplifting, so heartening, not least because it gave me the opportunity to see some of the 15+ hats I made on living, breathing people that I love (and strangers.)

You saw a bunch of them in my blog post from two weeks ago, but here are a couple more. I made this special order, for my friend Paula Cannon (owned by the cat above):
She asked for the word "Ally" on the back...
That's ally as in a straight ally to the LGBTQ community. 
Her daughter wanted something similar. Side 1: 
Side 2: 
And here they are, on the bus en route to the march....

Also on the bus, several people asked about the hats, and I was able to gift one young women with one of my made from a supersoft scrap of pink faux fur:

It went great with her lipstick. (There was some fabulous pink lipstick at the march). 

You already saw this one, but the back was blank. 
My friend N, who is a ladylike, G-rated soul, asked me to put this on the back:
She and I were both shocked by this choice. But, I told myself, X-rated presidents call for X-rated measures.

Quite by coincidence, another friend, Carolyn, who doesn't know N, saw N's hat across a crowded train platform,  and took a picture of it, suspecting it was one of mine! She was right!
N. is petite.  Have no idea who the guy in the beard is. This was a station platform near Pasadena, crammed with over 1,000 people. Packed trains went by, unable to take anyone else on. N and many others never made it to the march.

[Detour: What can you do with a pussyhat after the march? Paula, who is British, suggested they might serve as tea cozies. So in the aftermath of the march, I tested N's hat with my three teapots, large, medium and small.
This teapot may be better qualified to be President than you-know-who.
[My large aqua teapot looks so good against the pink, but it was too big for N's hat.  Further testing revealed that the hat worked very well to cover my small, cactus-themed teapot.  Before:

[The other side:
[All the way on:
[It works! Thanks, Paula, that's brilliant! Paula also suggests undoing part of a side seam to create a hole for the teapot spout to poke through. What else can we do with used pussyhats? Pillows? Baskets? Donate them to the Smithsonian?]

Back to the march, Teresa is enchanting regardless of what she wears, but in a tee shirt with a cat in the pocket, and a hat declaring her "nasty," which she isn't, she was even more irresistible.

I couldn't fit "Adorable" on the hat, which is a more accurate description.

Also adorable: my DH, who wore a cat-astrophe hat, shown off in my earlier blog post.   I added buttons since then. 
Real men wear pink. It's crocheted in the round, so the ears were add-ons.
But wait, there's more! I was almost completely out of pink yarn when I made this one:  
My gentle friend Margaret claimed it. At the march, this hat helped turned her into a ferocious, high-visibility Moses, dragging five of us in a modified conga line behind her, riding the streams of humanity, like Duke Kahanamoku surfed Honolulu waves (to mix metaphors), moving us forward, ever forward, so that - what, Margaret? - we would finish faster? Thanks to Margaret, we finished faster. 
All we had to do was hold hands and follow the very prominent Ugh on the back. 
And speaking of UGH, my college freshman daughter marched in Manhattan in a hat that says "Ugh" on one side, "Impeach" on the other (posted last week). 
I badgered my dignified son into saying he wanted one, for the march in Boston. By this time, I was running low on pink yarn. Plus he's not a pink lover. So out came this: 

One of the hats I gave away was knitted by my SIL. A friend of a friend had asked for me to write "nyet" (which means "no" in Russian) on it. In Russian script, it looks like the word Hem. 
The orders kept coming, even after I ran out of pink yarn. My right arm was seizing and numb, and I didn't want to buy more pink yarn, plus it was the day before the march. So I scoured my fabric stash for fleece. I found this tie-dye, with some bright pink in it. Folded it over, sewed up the side and over the top, turn it right side out, and voila, two-minute hat with no irritation to the carpal tunnel!  
At the march, Paula's son Jack, and his friend Vineet, were happy to wear the "nyet", and the rainbow hat, respectively. 
Other people who picked up hats from me included:
Marian (It says "Love the Rainbow"),

June (I was almost out of pink yarn).

Ann and friend:

Ellie in Philidelphia admired the rainbow hats from afar, plus she's just been through chemo, so I shipped her a particularly warm and fuzzy one: 
I don't know why those ears came out looking like horns?  Ellie is devilishly smart. 

I sent the next hat up to my friend Saraj in Northern California. This is one of the hats I showed earlier, that says "Dump Him" on one side, and "He's Nuts" on the other.  I finally decided to go for it, and stitched down a patch of quilting fabric depicting mixed nuts. 
It's important for us milliners to keep ourselves amused.

Back to the march - by noon, we were all starving. So, along with a thousand of our closest friends, we queued up at legendary LA sandwich shop Philippe's. Teresas DH joined us, heroically, straight from the airport [!] and I was able to gift him with part-fleece, part-crochet hat that I'd made at the last minute, this one,
Here's how it works: 
Note how evenly spaced the stitches are (except on the left - don't look there). It's not because I'm  a a precise stitcher. It's because I rolled about 1/2" above and parallel to the cut edge with an "Edge Perfect" blade in my rotary cutter (no financial affiliation). This serrated blade cuts evenly spaced holes and is ideal for adding crochet to sewing projects.
Here's another hat I made from a deep magenta fleece scrap, and the last of my pink fur, with an eyelash yarn for embellishment. 
Now you're thinking, this poor woman has no life, how many flipping people did she make hats for?  I'm an empty nester, I spent about three weeks of evenings working on them. I crochet the way I type: Very quickly, very inaccurately.

But plenty of people made many more, including my friend Susan Big of Georgia. She wrote, "I made 150 sewn fleece hats, and distributed 100 of them in Atlanta, with some of them going to the librarian's convention that was in town. The other 50 were adopted by a busload from Atlanta, bound for DC!" 
Susan Big, you totally win. Librarians! And busloads! 

I can't tell you how many people came over to admire our kooky hats, and I think it's because when you're stuck in a historic crowd of nearly a million people, you have nothing to do but read signs and gaze at hats. With words on them, the hats are extra-tasty eye candy.   

I'm not going to tell you how to do lettering on knitting, because I'm not a knitting expert. I think you might use "duplicate stitch," (Google that), but if I'm wrong, please let me know.
I can tell you how I do lettering on crocheted fabric, and these simple ideas also apply to knitting.

My goal with this lettering was to make it potentially temporary. So if person wanted to wear the hat for, say, skiing in a red state, like Utah or Montana, they could easily cut out the lettering and remove it, without cutting into the main part of the hat. 

This picture will give you the idea:  
That's an "Nas", as in Nasty. My choice of pink yarn wasn't really great for showing up (I later changed it), so pick something with high contrast against the background.  

The first step is to look at your background fabric like a grid, track holes, and then choose a height and width for each letter.  (For typographical correctness, vary the width - obviously "w" will be wider than "d".) 

Find the central letter in your word or phrase, and (it's "s" in "Nasty") and the vertical center of your hat. Start stitching there.  Pick a direction, and then, with a large yarn or tapestry needle, do large LOOSE straight stitches to spell out the letters.  Keep the tension very loose, because remember, this hat has to stretch once it's on a head. 

Once you've done all the lettering in one direction out from the center, with a single thickness straight stitch, bring the yarn and needle to the front. Then go around and around all the stitches, wrapping and wrapping, and crossing from one stitch to the next. The extra thickness adds legibility, and if you vary the colors, you can wind up with interesting effects. Here's the word "Nyet", triple-wrapped with pink, white and red....
Do keep in mind that the more you wrap it, the tighter the stitchery gets, so you don't want to get the point where it's very tight. Hang loose!

As for the ends - as noted earlier, if you want the lettering to be perfect, you can bury the ends using your tapestry or yarn needle. I simply tied off knots on the inside, then cut the ends, first because I was in a hurry, and second, because people might want the wording removed. I think it's permanent enough to last us for four years of marches. 

I also made sewn hats, from patterns developed by my friend Marian. They involved sewing a dart, two sides, and two ears. 

What's next? I am refusing to allow myself to crochet for at least another week, because really, my arm was so messed up. But now people are talking about a March for Science - that means BRAIN hats! Like this one:  For more, Google "knitted brain hat" or "crocheted brain hat". These are MUCH more complex than pussyhats! And they take MUCH longer to make! Oh nooooooooooooo!!! My aching arm! Here we go again!


  1. I looked at the brain hat pattern a few days ago, after my daughter sent a photo. Miles of I-cord! What else could we do? Perhaps some kind of Egghead Hat? Dot

    1. Egghead is brilliant - I guess you'd just need a fleshtone? I'm thinking we could embroider scientific symbols on preexisting hats...a friend suggested Saturn...or an equation...or an atomic structure....anything but those miles of I-cord!

  2. Your hats are wonderful. Looks like we may need to wear them a lot during the next few years!!!

    1. Thanks, FC. I'm afraid we will get a lot of use out of them.

  3. Love each and everyone of your hats :)

  4. Proud owner of one of these hats! Thank you for being fabulous, Cathy.

  5. OMG I did not realize that the hats were so creative. I should have know..great post, I am linking it to my blog love

    1. Thank you, OQ! Let me know when you put it up! Did you make pussyhats?

  6. Your hats were such an inspiration! I managed to knit 3 hats before all the pink yarn in Boston was sold out, and then I bought some pink fleece and made 21 hats out of 2 yards of it. So much fun to give them away to a group of women at the subway in Cambridge! Your inspiration spurred me onward...Thank you!!

    1. Jeri, you win a quantity and quality prize, because your knit hats are gorgeous! What else can we do with them if we don't drink tea? Pillows?

  7. Fantastic! I knit 10 hats myself, there will no relaxing for the next 4 years. Keep up the great effort.

    1. That's impressive, Deborah - knitting takes me soooo much longer than crochet - 10 knitted hats is awesome! Thanks for the comment, and for making the hats!

  8. Oh my goodness! These are amazing! I'm going to share this post with my friend who made hats for our guild. You deserve some much-needed rest! Also, the tea cozy idea is genius.

    1. Thank you, Jessica. My arm has healed amazingly quickly. Like childbirth, I'm going to forget the pain and start on brain hats. Maybe. Tea cozy, Paula's idea, was genius! Thanks for stopping by.