One of my favorite signs from the Women’s March in 2017 was this:
The message really resonated with me because I am an introvert and I don’t like large crowds. But I was there marching with my friends, my daughter, and my grandsons because I needed to do something to express the outrage I felt. The outrage and the need to do something about it hasn’t left me these past few years. If anything, it has intensified as people continue to express their cruelty, hatred, misogyny, and bigotry in myriad ways. I have felt frustrated and helpless when I ponder what I can do to change things around me. Mostly I have focused on small things I can do to make a difference. In social media I have consciously chosen to be positive and upbeat instead of railing against the state of things. I’ve aimed to inspire instead of depress or anger but its hard to judge whether this actually makes a difference. Since moving to Whidbey Island I’ve been in search of a way to have more of an impact in my own introverted way.
Serendipitously, I met Darcy Sinclair, another former graphic designer who had similar feelings about wanting to make a difference. We came up with a plan to start a community of makers who would gather weekly to make things together and then give them to people in need. We both sew so we started searching locally for people who might need stitched items and found that the sheriff’s office and a local agency that works with foster kids needed blankets and tote bags for children who are suddenly moved out of their homes. I stumbled upon a Facebook post about ArtDivisionLA, a group that is making blankets to send to the people who are trying to immigrate to the US and have ended up in cages at the border.
We approached the people who run a community art center in Langley, WA called CreateSpace to see if we could start a regular meeting there to make blankets. They were very happy to let us use their space for this purpose so we advertised locally and had our first meeting. We emphasized that experts and beginners were welcome because we wanted this to be a place where people could learn new skills.
At our first meeting there were people who knit, crocheted, and sewed. Some who showed up had never sewed before and wanted to learn so we began to teach them. We started with the smallest size quilt that was needed and started cutting, designing, and stitching. We used donated fabrics and yarns. Some of the knitters, anxious to start, had already begun knitting blankets before the first meeting.
At our second meeting most of the people who came to the first meeting returned and there were several new people. Some already knew each other but most had never met. We started making new friends. Some people wanted only to make blankets for the local foster kids. Some wanted only to make blankets for the border families.
We’ve already given some of the fleece blankets to the local foster kids. We finished our first baby quilt and by this Friday’s meeting we should also have some knitted blankets ready to send to ArtDivisionLA for their Blanket Project. What is especially exciting to me is to watch the birth of a supportive maker community. I love seeing people teach each other new skills and help each other as they work. But what really thrilled me was when I overheard one woman say, “It feels so good that I can finally DO something to make a difference!” I feel that way too.
Want to get inspired or learn more about craftivism? Check out the Craftivist Collective. Or watch this TED talk by Sara Corbett. Or this site about craftivism. Here’s an interesting article about the rise of craft-based activism in recent years.