OCCUPY BERKELEY KNIT-IN: a solidarity action
San Francisco Bay Area knitters making hats for occupiers
and other activists in support of social justice

New baby hats sent to Nicarguan midwife education project

Sewing a bag (here in Berkeley) to hold the 14 small hats.
The finished bag with some of the hats. Click here to see close-up photos of all the hats sent this month.

This is our third shipment of baby hats to the midwife education project in Nicaragua started by Dorothy Granada. (See the flier describing the project and previous posts on this page for more information about her work.)

Because Nicaragua is warm all year round, though not so warm in the mountains in the rainy season that hats for babies aren't useful, and because baby hats take only a little yarn, we've had lots of creative freedom in doing this knitting. No need to knit up massive bundles of wool suitable for a Canadian or East Coast winter. No need to worry about a skein of yarn running out. People have set to work combining colorful bits of yarn into lively, playful unexpected designs that come together quickly. You can see some close-up photos of our recent baby hats here.

Knitted swatches - help with choosing yarns and needles

Samples of different yarns knitted with needles of various sizes.

For knitters trying to decide which needles to use with which yarns when following a pattern or aiming for a particular size of hat or scarf, we now have a collection of knitted swatches. These are only a rough guide, of course. Everyone's working style is unique; yarns vary not just in width but in elasticity and other factors; and some knitters hold the yarn under more tension than others. Still, the swatches are useful and beautiful in themselves. Come by, if you're in Berkeley, and take look.

More knitted things for Walmart workers and activists

People from OURWalmart in Seattle after the box of hats and scarves arrived.
Getting ready to send off a box of hand-knitted items to Seattle for distribution to Walmart activists.
A closer view of the hats and scarves (with a handwritten note of support).

Our box of twenty hand-knitted hats and scarves was delivered today in Seattle. From there they'll get distributed to Walmart workers and activists fighting for better pay, better working conditions, and freedom from unjust employer retaliation.

You can read more about the struggle of Walmart workers on the OURWalmart Facebook page and at forrespect.org.

Walmart workers

A bag with a sampling of our hats donated at a meeting in support of Walmart workers.
Closer view of some hats included in the donation.

Early last month one of our knitters visited a meeting organized by the OURWalmart group in support of Walmart workers. We hope to distribute more of our knitted things to Walmart activists striving for better pay and working conditions in places where a warm hat can bring some moral support and comfort.

More about the Nicaraguan midwife education project

A second bag of hats that we sent to Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
A two-page flier describing the work and goals of the midwife project in Nicaragua. Click here to download it.

Back in January we sent off a second bag of our hand-knitted baby hats to the midwife education project in Nicaragua. (See previous post for more background on this effort.) We've since received a copy of the flier prepared by the project and also some kind words from Dorothy Granada, the project coordinator:

"Mil gracias for the adorable hats!!"

Nicaragua - the midwife education project

Some hand-knitted things we've made (including 20 baby hats) now en route to Nicaragua.
Getting ready to squeeze a lot of kntting into a smallish box.

Dorothy Granada is a nurse and activist well-known for her work in the interest of peace, social justice, and, in the last two decades, better health care for women and children in rural Nicaragua.

During the 1980s, while living in the Bay Area, Dorothy worked with Nuremberg Actions, the group most famous for its efforts to halt munitions trains leaving the Concord Naval Weapons Station during the Contra wars. Some of the history of these efforts is available on the Nuremberg Actions web site, in an interview with Brian Willson on Democracy Now, and on the Irish Anti-War Movement web site.

Since moving to Nicaragua in 1989 Dorothy has worked tirelessly to deliver health care there to people in need.You can read about some of her accomplishments, especially her work at the Maria Luisa Ortiz clinic and women's center in Mulukuku, in the magazine El andar and also at peacehost.net.

Her current project involves training "mentors" to work with midwives and other health care givers in remote villages in mountainous areas around the city of Matagalpa. (The lives of many women and infants in these villages have been lost in the past because of minor complications in pregancy and birth that, with timely medical care, needn't have proved fatal.) The plan is for midwives and other care givers to journey to the mountains to provide prenatal care and offer pregnant women the option, if they so choose, of traveling in advance of the birth to Matagalpa, to a clinic with medical services beyond those available in the villages.

We've sent off these knitted things (and hope to send more later on) as a token of our support and solidarity with this effort to empower women in remote mountain villages. More information about the goals of this project is available here.

The Egyptian revolution - discussion with Gihan Abou Zeid

Flier for the upcoming August 24th event. It's available in pdf format for online reading or downloading and printing here.

Gihan Abou Zeid, the Egyptian revolutionary activist, journalist and technical advisor on youth policies, gender mainstreaming, women’s political participation, and minorities' rights in the Arab world, has worked through non-governmental groups and governmental agencies worldwide on behalf of women and youth in particular. She was part of the revolution of 2011 which brought millions of people, including whole families, to Tahrir Square to demand, among many things, that Mubarek give up the presidency. He was forced to leave, though Egyptians have recently faced elections that many felt offered only two bad options.

Gihan will share a slideshow of life at Tahrir Square during the revolution while discussing women’s experience at the Square, mutual help, solidarity actions, and needs, hopes, and expectations for the future.

It was Gihan who received and distributed the box of knitted items sent to Tahrir Square activists last December by the Occupy Berkeley Solidarity Knit-in. (You can read more about that and see photos of the knitted items we sent here.) Gihan has come to the Bay Area to finish her book about women and the Egyptian revolution.

This event is sponsored by Occupy Berkeley and the BFUU Social Justice Committee. We hope to see you there:

Friday, August 24, 2012, 7 pm
1924 Cedar Street (near Bonita), Berkeley
Suggested Donation $5-$10
No one turned away for lack of funds! Free!

Bradley Manning supporters at San Francisco's Pride parade

The Bradley Manning contingent marching up Market Street, photo by Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist. Full-sized version of this photo is at indybay.org.
Occupy Berkeley Knit-in banner carried in the parade. It was knitted from fragments of an old blue tarp.

Some of us from the Knit-in marched this past Sunday in the annual Pride parade, where there was a large of contingent of Bradley Manning supporters.

Bradley Manning support

Box of knitted items sent to Wales

After exchanging some emails with Bradley Mannning supporters in the UK (the emails and more photos are here), we sent of a box of handknit hats and scarves to Wales. They'll be distributed later this fall, as the weather turns cold and activists continue the struggle, indoors and out, to focus attention on Bradley Manning's plight.

For those not familiar with the case, Bradley Manning is a Private First Class in the U.S. army accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks; he now faces a court martial that may well lead to his spending the rest of his life in prison.

Maybe the most crucial issue in the case is the nature of the documents released and eventually made public, e.g., the video footage of an apparently unprovoked helicopter attack in Iraq that killed at least 12 people, including two Reuters reporters. To quote a couple of rhetorical questions from the bradleymanning.org web site:

Was the information that PFC Manning is accused of leaking classified for our protection and national security, as government officials contend? Or do the revelations provide the American public with information that we should have had access to in the first place?

Both that site and couragetoresist.org have lots of links and information about Bradley Manning, the upcoming court martial, and ongoing efforts to support and defend him.

Summer schedule for the knit-in

Summer knitting: teaching children earlier this month during the Ecology Center Family Fun Festival. More photos from that day here.

There will be just one more knit-in this month - on Saturday, June 23. After that we'll switch, at least for the summer, to a monthly schedule. We'll be meeting every third Saturday, starting July 21. While meeting less often, we'll continue our knitting in solidarity with other activists.

We're currently making both baby hats for the Midwife Education Project in Matagalpa, Nicaragua (google "Dorothy Granada" for more information on this) and adult-sized hats and scarves for sending out this fall to Occupy groups and other activists carrying on related work in cold places.

Photos from Egypt

trying on a hat from the knit-in

We just received some photos of the hats we sent some months ago to Cairo, taken when a group of women met to write about Egypt's revolution. You can see more pictures and read some of our earlier related correspondence here.

Occupy Prisons - the Plowshares Anti-nuclear Activists

Susan Crane [left, with the hammer] and Maxina (Max) Ventura [right, with the guitar] at a potluck dinner held to welcome Susan home from prison. Susan Crane and Steve Kelly, SJ, longtime anti-nuclear activists, received long sentences for their actions in 2009 at The Trident submarine base at Bangor, about 20 miles from Seattle. (This base is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S., about 20% of the U.S arsenal. It contains more nuclear warheads than can be found in China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.) You can read more about Susan's and Steve’s action here. The hammer Susan is holding refers to the song "Swords into Plowshares" by Charlie King, which Max is singing.

In the picture above Susan is wearing a hat knitted by Max of our Occupy Berkeley Knit-in. Max was inspired to knit this hat - and another for Steve, who is still in prison - by her own experience when working wth Susan and other anti-war, anti-nuclear activists back in the 1990s. Below is Max's first-person account of that time.


In the early 90’s Susan Crane, three other women, and I, formed a lovely Affinity Group called The Global Peace Farmers. We focused on exposing the nuclear weapons in bunkers at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, right by a housing development and school. We went over fences to the bunkers to plant seeds and to demand that, that place of death be converted into a place for life.

Similarly, we focused on the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Labs. During Hiroshima week in 1993, Susan and I painted “shadows” outside and inside the Labs property in memory of the victims of our government’s bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945, where radiation vaporized some people instantly, leaving others to die slow, horrible deaths.

Susan and I spent a chunk of time in jail because, during our Shadow Painters trial, we had refused either to apologize for our actions or to agree to abide by restrictions that might be placed on us in lieu of, or in addition to, jail time.... Continue reading--->

Hats and scarves arrive in Washington, D.C.

Occupy protesters in Washington, D.C. red box full of hats, scarves, etc. During the Occupy Berkeley encampment, Charlie McGarry was part of the backbone, nearly always at the info tent getting out information, one of the Knit-in's biggest supporters. He made sure anyone coming to visit learned of the Knit-in and encouraged people to join us.

After the encampment was dismantled, Charlie helped Occupy Berkeley as we continued visioning for the future, and spent hours night after night, week after week, helping us figure out ways we could describe: What is Occupy Berkeley? Who is Occupy Berkeley? Eventually, he headed out to Occupy Freedom Plaza, in Washington, D.C. There, he has continued the central work of the Occupy movement, reaching out to people and discussing not only the problems which have brought people out around the world, but challenging us all to see what we can do to change our own lives and help bring justice to everyone in the world.

In honor of his work, and the work of Occupiers at the two occupations in Washington, D.C., we sent a box overflowing with many really warm items to help people at Freedom Plaza, what Charlie describes as a wind tunnel coming through an all-stone plaza, and to help the other Occupiers at Franklin Square who also face many very cold nights and early mornings. (More pictures here.)

Photos of anti-nuclear protesters from Fukushima

anti-nuclear protesters from Fukushima at protest in Tokyo

Back in December the knit-in sent a box of hand-knitted hats and other items to our friends in Fukushima. It arrived just in time - right as they were preparing to board a bus to Tokyo for an anti-nuclear protest in front the the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (site of the former Occupy Tokyo camp).

We've just now received some photos taken by Ruiko Muto at the protest.

These were forwarded to us, along with a very thoughtful note, translated into English by Victor Palacios and Umi Hagitani of the Japan Multicultural Relief Fund .

Dear Ms. Akane Nobusa,

I am sending photos of the women’s year-end protest for December 28th, 2011.

Thank you very much for all the gifts. We distributed the scarves and warm hats by means of a lottery on the bus from Fukushima destined for the protest. It was very fun! We very much appreciate the gifts and have even shared with the group in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Thank you very much for everything.

Please send Max our most sincere regards. We are very happy about our solidarity with the Occupy movement in Berkeley. Even though we are sad to hear that police raided Occupy Berkeley, we know that they can never suppress your spirits, and our solidarity.

Let’s continue building a better world hand in hand. We are empowered by connecting with women across the ocean. Every circumstance seems to stand against us, but we know that women survive through this. Our deep compassion, our abilities to create new ideas, and our strength without resorting to violence is what will change the world.

Ruiko Muto

Additional photos are on our page of emails about solidarity with the Fukushima protesters.

Hats and scarves reach Newfoundland / Labrador

box of hats and scarves
occupiers wearing hats We just got word that our package of knitted things arrived safely at Occupy Newfoundland - and on the coldest day of the year so far! There's a post about it on their web site with lots of pictures (besides these) and even a video.

99% Knowledge Share

What: Workshop /Info Day for the 99% and Occupy
When: 12:30-7pm, March 3rd, 2012
Where: 1000 Broadway, 5th floor, Oakland CA
(Alameda county Public Health Department)

From the 99% Knowledge Share web site:

"Everyone is encouraged to attend this event, whether you are a veteran activist or new to the Occupy and 99% movement. There will be workshops, discussion groups, info tables, and film screening. We will talk about the movement, the social issues it addresses, and various solutions to those issues. This is a free and public event."

This Saturday, March 3, after our regular knit-in in Berkeley some of us will be going to this event (arriving by 4:30) to share and discuss our ongoing positive experience with the knit-in. Please join us!

More boxes of warm things

hand-knitted hats, etc. The weather's been mild in Berkeley, but it's still cold elsewhere, and the knit-in is ongoing. We're now about to send off more of our hand-knitted items - this time to Canada, the UK, and colder parts of the US.

Earlier boxes of knitted things went to Japan (to Fukushima for people protesting against Tokyo Electric), to Tahrir Square in Cairo, and to Occupy NYC. We've received some very moving letters of thanks - see links to the right.

Some background on the knit-in

children knitting hats, etc. closeup group knitting The knit-in was organized in November at the Occupy Berkeley camp about a month and a half before the camp was dismantled. Since then it's been meeting weekly at the site of the former camp, which is next to the Saturday Farmers' Market. Quite a range of people - old and young, men and women, locals, near neighbors, and visitors from overseas have stopped by to knit, crochet, discuss the occupy movement, or learn how to knit or teach others.

Along the way, the knit-in has received friendly media coverage (see links to the right), support from local yarn stores, donations of time, talent, and yarn from local knitters, and, most important, appreciation from people who can use a hat, a scarf, or a pair of mittens while working toward the goals of the occupy movement.