There’s a run on pink yarn in Greater Portland.
Suzie von Reyn, co-owner of KnitWit Yarn Shop, restocked a deep pink color called “Rosa Rogusa” last week. A group of knitters and crocheters will gather with their pink yarn Saturday afternoon at PortFiber. At Tess’ Designer Yarns, Tess Bickford just dyed at least five large pots of yarn in various shades of pink. “All of a sudden, we started getting calls,” Bickford said. “They’re having trouble finding pink yarn anywhere.”
It’s all because of the Pussyhat Project.
Crafters across the country are making thousands of pink, cat-eared hats for participants in women’s marches in the nation’s capital and other communities – including Portland, Brunswick and Augusta – on Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump is to be inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president. Started by two knitters in Los Angeles, the idea has spread through social media and sewing circles.
The name for the hats is in part a cheeky reference to videotaped remarks Trump made in 2005 about grabbing women without their consent. On their website, the Pussyhat Project founders said they want to reclaim the term, while making a visual statement about women’s rights.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the project had received more than 60,000 hats, which will be donated to marchers at the protest on the National Mall next Saturday. Thousands of other knitters are distributing hats to friends, family members and strangers who will be in Washington, D.C., or participating in local marches next Saturday.
Susan Pennoyer, co-owner of Mother of Purl Yarn Shop in Freeport, said she doesn’t want to take a political position on the hats. She did stock up on pink yarn, and several participants in the shop’s Thursday night knitting group were working on their own cat ears.
“They were making them for themselves, and for friends who didn’t know how to knit, who may have needed a hand, so to speak,” Pennoyer said.
At KnitWit in Portland, von Reyn said the project has helped strangers in her shop bond as they peruse her selection of pink yarn.
“There seems to be a lot of interest and a lot of camaraderie,” she said. “They’ll ask, ‘Which march are you going to?’ ”
A SIMPLE PATTERN
The pattern for the cat-eared caps is simple, which local store owners said is part of its success. While advanced knitters have varied the design and colors, even beginners haven’t been intimidated from trying to make their own.
“The starting point was very accessible for people,” said Gretchen Jaeger at Halcyon Yarn in Bath.
The Pussyhat Project also is intended to give people who aren’t marching a way to participate. Crafters who can’t be at the march in person can attach a card to their hats before sending them off to be given to someone else, on which they can write their names and an issue important to them.
Casey Ryder, owner of PortFiber, is making hats for herself and her friends to wear at the march in Washington, but she’s also making extras and collecting hats at her Portland shop until the end of Thursday.
“I’ll just bring a stack and hand them out,” Ryder said.
Cape Elizabeth resident Erica McNally is a regional volunteer coordinator who is organizing more than 3,000 Maine women traveling to the Women’s March on Washington, as well as a sister march in Augusta. She said one woman enlisted her sewing group to make hats for the 55 women riding the bus from Rockland because she can’t attend the march herself.
“They’ve been knitting hats like crazy,” McNally said.
While the end result is a woolly set of animal ears, the knitters aren’t worried their caps or the name of the project will distract from the march’s mission.
McNally said the name of the hats is purposeful. “It’s vulgar, it’s crude, it’s crass, it’s wimpy, it’s not strong,” McNally said. “We’re taking it back and having fun with the word.”
LIKE QUILTS MADE BY SUFFRAGETTES
For Maggie Muth of Portland, the hats are reminiscent of the quilts suffragettes made for banners.
Muth rejected criticism that the hats are a gimmick unfit for a serious cause.
“When you feel powerless, you need to do something,” she said. “Everyone can’t get to Washington. Everyone can’t change a law in Congress. It’s a concrete way to bring people together, people of different backgrounds.”
So Muth, who founded a sewing group called Stitch HIVE, is meeting at PortFiber to make hats on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. The event is open to the public. Participants can bring their own supplies, and Muth will have tools and yarn for those without.
“This has energized a lot of people across generations to use their everyday skills in simple ways, but ways that are effective,” she said.
Bickford, who dyed fresh batches of pink yarn to sell in Tess’ Designer Yarns in Portland next week, said she hasn’t had the chance to think about making a hat for herself.
“I’m actually so busy trying to make sure everyone has their own yarn,” Bickford said.
Staff writer Mary Pols contributed to this report.