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.)

25 thoughts on “In which I get political and start a fundraising project”

  1. I think this is a terrific idea; thank you!

    I don’t have much to contribute in the way of choosing organizations and method of donation—my inclination would be not to worry about a handful of free-riders, but then I told the workers here at the library not to draw attention to it if a student steals mittens off the mitten tree.

    As for the words… I have been thinking about this since you tweeted it, and I don’t really have an answer at all. I’m afraid I am less keen on the topic of ‘justice’—a lot of the police problem in the US is in the name of justice, after all. I do think that pairing ‘justice’ with ‘equality’ is better, and the combination has a nice rhetorical power, so perhaps that’s your best choice.

    But as I’ve been thinking about it, I keep coming back to the word ‘mercy’. I don’t mean as a word for your pattern, really, but the concept of mercy seems to me sadly undervalued in our world right now. Mercy would solve the inequality (although a merciful society would at least mitigate the the prison pipeline) but it would have kept many people alive. A police culture that equates mercy with weakness; a court culture that equates mercy with lawlessness; a popular culture that equates mercy with—well, femininity, which it then equates with more general worthlessness—these things are profound problems.

    And I like the idea of people wearing hats or scarves or shawls that constantly remind them—secretly, whisperingly—’Mercy’.


    1. Oh, now, Mercy. That’s a really beautiful choice. And it rings all kinds of useful resonances about balancing justice and mercy. Hm. I will think about this – it would not be difficult to combine even three words.

  2. Well, December 10 is International Human Rights Day, to mark the United Nations General Assembly adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
    The actual words used in the UDHR were negotiated tirelessly by Eleanor Roosevelt the first chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the Declaration. It was perhaps the first time in history that people from vastly different cultures came together to set a universal standard.

    So some two-word phrases that come to mind are:


    ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, who was also a knitter

    As to what organizations to support, I would recommend that you support an organization whose work you are interested in reading about, perhaps even getting involved with. I know the Center for Constitutional Rights has been doing really admirable work which I do enjoy reading about, and I personally support.

    As to how to handle the money, you might want to put this question out on a ravelry forum and ask other designers for advice.

    Thank you for doing this,

    1. There must have been some threads about fundraising with patterns on Ravelry in the past – I will go have a look. That’s a useful reminder.

      I will look into the Center for Constitutional Rights – that’s an excellent lead. I’ve also been thinking about the NAACP and the ACLU, as well as more local organizations. There’s one that’s Ferguson-specific, and the North Carolina NAACP are among the people doing the Moral Mondays movement here in North Carolina (which seems related). If I go the route of a free pattern with suggested donations, then I can link to a variety of choices and people can decide for themselves.

      Perhaps I will do a poll about words in a couple of days – your suggestions both have their merits, though I suspect that Eleanor Roosevelt might be too indirect a connection for people who don’t know their history. Human Rights is more direct. (I’m thinking here of people seeing a pattern come up in a search on Ravelry – seeing a pattern name of Justice, Mercy, Equality or Human Rights would give them more of a hint of what the pattern’s about before reading the description than Eleanor Roosevelt would. (I love Eleanor Roosevelt; she was an amazing woman.)

  3. What about Peace and Justice? One thing you can do is have people message or email you a screenshot or other confirmation of their donation and then you can give them the pattern. I do like the idea of offering it for free and trusting people to donate because that encourages people to be ethical 🙂 I would think people who would be interested in such a pattern would be people who would want to do the right thing. I don’t know if you’re interested in tallying how much was raised, though.
    I’ll think about organizations. I do like the ACLU. There’s also the Innocence Project. I’ll ponder some local organizations that might fit the bill.

    1. Definitely looking like a word poll is in order!

      And possibly a money-handling poll. Keeping some sort of tally is an interesting thought. I am leaning more and more toward an honor system method for all the reasons mentioned so far. And having people walking around with a hat that reminds them of mercy or peace or justice or human rights seems like a good thing even if they didn’t donate (for whatever reason).


  4. hear hear!
    by actively and mindfully making what ( from our end) appear to be small changes, the tide WILL turn eventually
    together we are more than the sum of our parts

  5. I’m in. I wonder whether Fraternity would work? I’m envisioning a scarf thing with reverse coloring on each half, for instance.

    1. The scarf structure could definitely work.

      Fraternity would be lovely in France, but the first thing most people in the US would think of is the student groups on college campuses – not actually something I want to evoke here, since the fraternity system has (in general) helped perpetuate our current power structures.

  6. I’m really leaning toward Equality, Justice, Mercy. Equality for obvious reasons. Justice for oppressed people. Mercy for all the reasons Vardibidian says above, and to remind us to give people chances and to give them the benefit of the doubt. (This is particularly for those of us in positions of privilege to think about. I’m afraid I’m having trouble giving many police officers the benefit of the doubt right now. Though I have known specific police officers whom I admire for their behavior toward people of color, the homeless, and other people with difficulties with the law.)

    I’m going to think about it overnight.

    The phrase Civil Rights is also coming to mind.

  7. Chiming in again here,

    Offering options, in case you are inspired to do this more than once, or in case the words somehow don’t work in creating a stitch pattern, there’s a wonderful word in Spanish that combines justice and peace which is the name of a Mennonite organization active all over Latin America, advocating for peace, justice and nonviolent action:


    They do good work but it’s a little far afield from your current concern. The word, though, might encode nicely. Who knows?

    naomipaz (and yes that really is my first and middle name as one word)

    1. The words will definitely combine to make a good stitch pattern (I’ve already charted out several possibilities – the charts are the easy part.)

      I don’t yet know how often I will do something like this–I have to balance this kind of work with my work that I’m doing to try to earn money–but I will definitely keep that in mind for future reference.


  8. Ack have to repost.

    Local-to-me organizations, good for ideas: Books not Bars (part of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), Causa Justa::Just Cause

    Words: I think Peace and Justice together is a good strong recognized phrase, not associated with law enforcement. Justice by itself, without modifiers, I suppose could be. Flipping into Spanish is always nice (I’m biased) Paz y Justicia

    1. Thanks! Much appreciated. Peace and Justice is certainly a good option. Still pondering, though soon pondering will be done and I’ll either take a poll or just go with a gut feeling. 🙂

      (I don’t want to rush, and yet I want to keep moving. Onward!)

  9. I am in as well, and like the Peace and Justice suggestions. Mercy connotes an adversary and that compassion/forgiveness is being shown to an offender who is in another’s power. The issue is such that even the innocent are at risk of injury and death with no trial on indictment much less criminal sanction. Being at the mercy is so closely connected to the problem itself, and even has its own Latin phrase from feudal law, in misericordia.

    1. The thing is… well. Perhaps I’d better save that for the next post. But the specific problem that precipitated my post is exactly that the police and our justice system are exhibiting an adversarial relationship toward the African American community. Mercy seems entirely apt to me, while Peace feels too undefined for the purpose.

  10. I love this idea. Such a neat way to express our frustrations with the current situation. I might even knit your final project and see if I could auction it off with the funds going to one of your organizations.

    The words I keep going back to are tolerance and compassion. I’m trying hard to have both at the moment.

    As for organizations, you might want to consider the Southern Poverty Law Center and the work they do against hate crimes and to teach people tolerance.

    1. Those are good words for me to think about for a future project – thanks. (Since I’ve already settled on something for this time.) I hope the auctioning off works out!

      And the Southern Poverty Law Center – of course! I’d ask why I didn’t think of them, but of course that’s why I’m asking people, so I don’t miss the important things.

      Other possibilities that are more regional – Institute for Southern Studies and Democracy North Carolina.

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