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Women’s March NYC sparks free pussyhat knit-in events at Knitty City

The store is involved in several charity projects throughout the year, including supporting a women’s shelter in Queens and making “knitted knockers” for breast cancer survivors.

Pussyhat knit-in attendees Gail Siegel, 71, and Miriam

Pussyhat knit-in attendees Gail Siegel, 71, and Miriam Hidalgo, 62, at Knitty City on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Photo Credit: Rajvi Desai

As New Yorkers get ready to attend the second annual Women’s March, a yarn studio on the Upper West Side is making sure there are enough pussyhats to go around.

Knitty City, located at 208 W. 79th St., has taken up the cause of the Pussyhat Project by providing free knitting lessons for those who want to be clad in solidarity colors (mainly different shades of pink) on Jan. 20.

The store, founded by owner Pearl Chin 12 years ago, is involved in several charity projects throughout the year, including free knitting sessions at Bryant Park, supporting a women’s shelter in Queens and making “knitted knockers” for breast cancer survivors.

When Chin found out about Krista Suh and co-founder Jayna Zweiman’s Pussyhat Project online, she immediately knew she had to be a part of it.

“After [President Donald] Trump’s win, there was a lot of anger and frustration expressed among our community of knitters,” said Chin, who started offering 10 percent off pink yarn and organizing Tuesday afternoon “knitalongs” after the election. “This was a therapeutic way of venting, or channeling, via craftivism.”

The Pussyhat Project took off shortly after the Women’s March on Washington was announced as a response to Trump’s election win in November 2016. The name for the pink, knitted hats was inspired by Trump’s claim, in a 2005 video that surfaced during the election, that he grabbed women by the genitals.

The project was started as a way to show solidarity with women, and succeeded in creating a sea of pink at multiple marches held around the world.

In the months leading up to the Women’s March on NYC in 2017, which saw an attendance of over 400,000, Knitty City sold enough yarn to make approximately 1,000 pussyhats, according to Chin. More than 250 knitters from the community had also engaged in relentless knitting, sewing and crocheting — and by the end of it, the store had given away more than 300 hats, Gale Siegel, a store employee, added.

Sitting at a yarn-covered table in the shop Tuesday afternoon, Siegel sported a “Resist Trump” button on her pussyhat as she compared Trump’s America to the dystopian world in George Orwell’s “1984” to fellow knitters. “The United States has a long way to go. We have no clue how far behind we are. When you have someone in power who convinces everyone that we are the best, and he is wrong, you have to do something,” she said.

The 71-year-old from Jackson Heights considers knitting pussyhats a way to deal with the anxiety that stems from Trump’s policies.

“You can’t necessarily write the postcards, make the calls, do the marches. But this? This I can do. Making the hats is very meditative, it’s calming, it’s productive. You’re making a mark,” Siegel said, exemplifying the second goal of the Pussyhat Project: “Provid[ing] people who cannot physically be at the Women’s Marches a way to represent themselves and support women’s rights.”

Maggie Groening, 56, of Winter Terrace, hadn’t thought about going to the march before she stepped into the pussyhat knit-in event organized by the store. With only an hour to spare, she was persuaded to take a seat with a couple needles and a ball of light pink yarn.

“I really needed an outlet for my outrage and incredulity,” she said, referring to her frustrations with the Trump administration and its policies. “I think that knitting this hat and actually wearing it is taking a stand, making a statement, and letting people know without actually speaking to them. I kind of wouldn’t mind being a part of that.”

Halfway through the knit-in, Groening admitted that she might go to the march after all.

The knitters — regulars and otherwise — exchanged scathing Trump critiques, shared childhood stories and hoped for an Oprah 2020 presidential run while sharing knitting techniques and swapping needles. Meanwhile, an 8-year-old Maltese pup in a bright pink pussyhat tried his best to not get tangled in the yarn that occupied most of the store’s surfaces.

Keeping a shrewd eye on him was owner and Knitty City regular, Sara Sprung of the Upper West Side. Inspired by the women who wore black at the Golden Globes, she sewed “Time’s Up!” with black yarn on her pussyhat from last year.

“It is very important for people to understand that you don’t have the right to grab us by the p----. And the pussyhat is a part of that,” Sprung said as her fingers flew over the fabric. “But it also says that stand up, women matter. Women are not objects and not something for you to take.”

The Women’s March on NYC has a new location this year: Columbus Circle, near the Trump Hotel and International Tower and begins 11 a.m.

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