Chinese whispers: “Hugging” the Styx Forest, Tasmania
In 2003, Australian artist Dawn Csutoros began Knitting for the Styx, a community knitting project, with the Wilderness Society of Australia and a wide variety of members of the larger community to raise awareness of the plight of the “Valley of the Giants”, the endangered Styx Forest. According to Csutoros, word of the project spread like “Chinese whispers”. “Knit-ins” in were staged in schools, retirement homes, pubs, soccer fields and cafés, giving housewives, students, home-bound elderly, punkers and musicians, businessmen, and many others the opportunity to participate in the environmental debate in a concrete way – through the power of needles and wool. Within a year, more than 800 knitted red squares and rectangles (more than 115 square yards in total!) were donated by knitters new and old from across the Australian continent, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The result?
The Red Sweater Project: memory hugs
A forest of giant red sweaters are persuasive advocacy for the protection of old growth trees. And a giant tree full of miniature sweaters is an equally persuasive voice for peace in Iraq. The Red Sweater Project (try here if link is down) is a U.S. led protest against the war in Iraq – one small sweater for each fallen American soldier. Strung together as a community art installation, these thousands of 4″ sweaters embrace the soldiers’ memories.
Having traveled to Washington, D.C. last winter to participate in the anti-surge rally against escalation of U.S. involvement in the war, knitting a tiny red sweater to honor any of the lost soldiers seemed the least I could do. Hard as it is to believe, as of today 3,739 soldiers have died; 2,546 sweaters have been knitted, so there are still 1,193 red memories to knit …
I used the project’s pattern as a general guide ( you’ll find the pattern here), and Red Heart’s Cherry Red worsted. My red sweater is entirely seamless, as I adapted the double-knitting technique I recently learned making a “double knit bear” (instructions for knitting closed seamless tubes on on a pair of straight needles (!) here – I sorted out a double-knit version with an open bottom, and now have visions of gloves and finger dancing, and the toes of socks, in my head).
My DK bear (made of Jojoland’s Rhythm 8-M26) will travel to an Iraqi child through Operation Give. I’d like to think that the hug the bear elicits from its young companion will be a ripple from a distant old growth forest.