'Knit-In at the Sit-In'

‘Knit-In at the Sit-In’

Thursday I had the opportunity to speak with Maxina “Max” Ventura who started ‘Knit-In at the Sit-In,’ at the Occupy Berkeley protest.

Max Ventura has been a part of Occupy Berkeley since its inception on October 8, 2011. She has been involved in activist activities for 30 years and believes that the work of thousands of activists over the past few decades has finally come to fruition in the form of the Occupy movement. Ventura has a tent set up at the camp and often brings her daughter and two sons whom she home schools to the protest, she says that their time there has become their civics class.

Tired of the press focusing on the negative stories coming out of the Occupy movement, Ventura wanted to start a project that was both positive and productive. A long time knitter, she decided that knitting with its tradition of bringing people together and its ability to create objects which clothe and comfort, would be a great activity to bring to the Berkeley occupation. ‘Knit-In at the Sit-in’ invites participants to knit and crochet hats, scarves and mittens to send to encampments in colder regions. Although Occupy Berkeley has faced pounding rains and gale force winds, Ventura was aware that their camp still has better weather conditions than a lot of other camps across the country. She says the knit-in project is “a statement of solidarity… a way to recognize that we are part of one big web” and a way to “share time and love with others.” Participants are encouraged to add a note to the recipient of the objects they knit to make it more personal and take the message of solidarity one step further.

The first knit-in was held on Saturday, November 26 and there have been three more held since. The knit-ins have been successful at attracting more people to the protest. At one knit-in a woman named Jennifer told Ventura that she had been angry for so long about so many things that have been happening, but she didn’t know what to do about it until she saw the ‘Knit-In at the Sit-In’ flier. According to Ventura, Jennifer said that the knit-ins have given her a way to participate. She has attended several of the knit-ins and has been helpful in teaching others to knit and crochet. A few participants who could not attend the knit-ins have sent packages with clothing they’ve knitted. “One woman knitted a bag full of hats, 10 or 12 things, each with a note attached,” Ventura said with excitement.

She has been overwhelmed with people’s involvement in the knit-ins and the way that its brought people together. Although knitting has an antiquated association as “woman’s work,” Ventura has been happy to find that men have been just as involved as women. Not only does Ventura’s two sons come to knit, “we had all these guys show up, five guys knitted the first week, it’s been so great.” She plans to send the knitted items they’ve collected so far to the Occupy movement in New York City and to Occupy Manitoba. Globally, Ventura plans to send items to Cairo and to Fukashima, Japan. “[At Occupy Berkeley] we can go to the 99 cent store if we need a hat… you can knit for yourself if you want to, but it’s really about reaching out, knitting a web around the world.” Ventura hopes that the packages will lift up the spirits of the recipients and sees the knit-in project as “a little gesture that will create ripples.”

Flier from ‘Knit-In at the Sit-In #3’