In which I get political and start a fundraising project

I’ve narrowed down the options I’d like to work with. Please see my next post for my reasoning and to take a poll.


I don’t think I’ve gotten politics in my craftblogging before. (Unless you count the Bread & Roses and Occupy patterns.) On Twitter, yes, on Google+, yes, in some of my comments on Ravelry, yes. But not here. I’ve tried to avoid it. But I’m starting a design project for some political fundraising that requires me starting a discussion and asking questions. This is the best place for it, I think.

I’ve become more and more horrified over the last decade about the state of systemic racism in the United States. (For-profit prisons, voter suppression — not just Voter ID and reduction in earlier voting, but also disenfranchising felons in a country where more people with brown skin are convicted of things that shouldn’t be felonies, or where white people aren’t charged as much as they should be; the school-to-prison pipeline, the difficulty in finding jobs after being convicted as a felon… the list goes on and on and on.) And then of course, Trayvon Martin and in the same year, Marissa Alexander. And the many, many cases of cops shooting unarmed black people and not even being tried for it. These are names I wouldn’t know if their owners hadn’t been killed in this last year: Mike Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Darrien Hunt. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.

I can’t be silent. I can’t pretend that it’s fair that I don’t have to be scared of being pulled over by the cops for a traffic violation – nervous, yes. Worried about fines, yes. But not scared that the police will think I’m pulling a gun when I’m getting out my driver’s license. So that’s part of the reason for this post. There is an unjust situation in this country, and has been since its founding. It needs to be fixed. One of the ways to fix it is to talk about it, but that isn’t enough by itself.

I often find myself at a loss about what I can do as an individual to change things. One thing I can do is to listen and recognize what’s happening. Another thing I can do is to try to raise my child to be aware of injustice and discrimination (pretending to be “color blind” is counterproductive). I can write letters to my politicians and vote. None of those is enough by itself.

What else can I do? I can protest. I would like to donate to organizations that are working for change, but I don’t have a lot of money.

So, what am I able to do? What do I do in my everyday life? I am a knitting designer. I can design a pattern and sell it in exchange for donations. This seems like a very small thing, but I do think that having physical objects that have been made for a purpose can be a reminder of that purpose. People are of course free to make donations without needing to buy anything! But sometimes getting something in return is a help in motivating people.

I proposed this on Twitter and immediately had some support for the idea (despite it being Sunday morning; a fairly quiet time in my Twitter community). I’m bringing the discussion here because I want to write more of my thinking all in one place and ask for a discussion in comments.

So here is the tentative plan so far:

First, I will encode one or two words that describe what we want to have happen as a knit/purl stitch pattern (that could also be worked as stranded knitting). I will then write that stitch pattern into a simple design – a hat and a matching cowl, perhaps. I might also make a lace pattern for the lace lovers out there. But I want there to be something that most knitters could make.

I would love to work with a crochet designer to make a crochet stitch pattern that they could then turn into a design for the same purpose. I am physically unable to crochet now, or I would do it myself.

I’d like some help in picking words to encode; the current thinking is Justice and Equality. I don’t want to use any of the current slogans being used as hashtags on Twitter and in demonstrations because I feel uncomfortably as if I’d be co-opting them if I were to ask for money in exchange, even for a good cause.

@scienceknitster on Twitter volunteered to donate her tech editing time for the project, so it will be a pattern of professional quality. I will probably look for volunteers to test knit after tech editing.

Second, we will need to work out which organizations we’d like to support.

Third, of course, there’s the money question. I could sell the pattern, collect the money, and donate it to one or a few national organizations working for meaningful change. That is possible. It has two difficulties I can think of: first, money will be lost in Paypal fees, and second, I’d be asking strangers to trust me with that money. I’ve done it before – I sold a pattern for donations to help Haiti after the earthquake (I donated it to Doctors without Borders and to a Haitian medical organization whose name I don’t recall offhand). And still, it’s a question that regularly comes up in cases of fundraising with pattern sales. However, donating money across international lines might be an issue.

Here’s my current thought on that: I could put the pattern up on Ravelry as a paid pattern. I would also include a coupon code that would allow people to get it for free. This would mean that people who want me to deal with the donation could pay me, while people who want to donate their money directly could do so. Yes, there would undoubtedly be people who took the pattern without donating, but that would be okay too.

So to summarize the three questions:

  1. What words to encode? The current suggestion is for Justice and Equality.
  2. What organizations to support? The NAACP? The ACLU?
  3. How to handle the money?

Thoughts? Quibbles? Suggestions?

(This project will certainly not be enough to fix systemic inequality in this country. But maybe it will help a little bit.)