Activism

Creative Saturday: It’s Hat Knitting Season!

Knit yourself a warm hat, knit for politics, knit for others who need warmth

Fall is here and it’s the perfect time to spend the weekend knitting a hat with the heat cranked on while watching all of the episodes of your new favorite TV show (recommendations: Raising Dion or HBO’s Watchmen; or if you want to be inspired by gorgeous knits, Outlander).

The personal is political, as the saying goes, and knitting is no different. In fact, knitting has a long political history:

As the British occupied Philadelphia in 1777, Molly “Old Mom” Rinker, a tavern owner in Philadelphia, reportedly hid information about their troop movements in balls of yarn. She would pretend to knit on a rock overlooking Wissahickon Valley and drop them to Gen. George Washington’s troops below.

[…]

As leftist groups in France planned to overthrow the monarchy, they rallied around the red Phrygian caps, “liberty caps,” which were based on hats that emancipated slaves wore in ancient Rome. (Source)

Not only that but there is something empowering about being able to make your own clothes and accessories in the era of fast fashion. You can buy handspun yarn from a local business to support your community. You can unravel sweaters and turn them into something else. You can find all kinds of cool patterns on Ravelry, an organization that explicitly does not support Trump.

In the featured image is a hat I just knit for my baby (and I also knit one for me and my other child), called “Simple Kitten Ears Beanie.” I got it because, frankly, ears on hats is adorable and I liked the little details in the hat. The original pattern is from Patternery on Etsy and is easy enough for beginners to follow (even though there are a few challenges, such as cabling and using a 3-needle bind-off at the end). The pattern has multiple hat sizes, including newborn, baby, child, teen, and adult

For the yarn, I used Red Heart Super Saver in Polo Stripe, which had a lot of cute bold colors and transitions from green to pink (and it kind of reminds me of a peacock feather). One skein had enough yarn for three hats!

If you’ve never knit before but you’re interested in learning how, there are plenty of tutorials online for beginners. All you need after that are some knitting needles (for this pattern I used circular), yarn, and a large darning needle (to weave in the ends). A pattern like the one above also uses cabling needles, but in a pinch you can use a large safety pin or a pen. I like to knit because it’s a great way to keep my hands busy while I’m just sitting around (either commuting on the train or listening to a podcast).

Knitting isn’t just something to do with your spare time, it can also have health benefits. There is research that suggests that learning new skills may prevent some age-related cognitive decline (and even as an advanced knitter, I am constantly seeking out patterns that challenge me).

In a 2011 study, researchers led by Dr. Yonas E. Geda, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., interviewed a random sample of 1,321 people ages 70 to 89, most of whom were cognitively normal, about the cognitive activities they engaged in late in life. The study, published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, found that those who engaged in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss.

Although it is possible that only people who are cognitively healthy would pursue such activities, those who read newspapers or magazines or played music did not show similar benefits. The researchers speculate that craft activities promote the development of neural pathways in the brain that help to maintain cognitive health. (Source)

Now is the perfect time to learn how to knit and have something ready in time for the winter holidays! Especially if there are any children in your family (because those are the fastest projects). Who couldn’t use a winter hat, especially hand-made? Here are some more great knit patterns from Ravelry:

If you’re out of people to knit for in your life, good news: there are plenty of charities that will accept your knitted goods! Like Knit for Peace in the UK, where you can donate knit accessories for anyone who needs them and especially warm blankets and snuggly toys for children. Or Warm Up America, where you can donate blankets for anyone who needs a warm snuggle at the hospital.

And while you’re at it, increase the good you can do in the world by joining up with other knitters in your area and starting a knitting circle! Discuss a book you’ve read, pick a charity to knit for, or talk about how the impeachment hearings are going (and how to cope with all the bad shit that happens in the world). Pick up your knitting needles and just get started!

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Mary

Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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