Knitting in Solidarity
Corresponded by Connor Walden
Those who prayed with their hands: Abbey Blackwell, Alex Taft, Andrea Kalus, Andrea Rodriguez Burckhardt, Angie Pool, Ann Ringstad, Anne Lewis, Barbie Swisher, Berkeley Parks, Beth Snyder, Bonnie Walden, Brian Evans, Brian Park, Caitlin Beare, Caitlin Pensak, Camarie Keosoff, Carrie Kubetz, Cassi McDougall, Cassidy Jones, Chandler Grace Terry, Chris Vincent, Cicelia Ross-Gotta, Claudia Burckhardt, Connor Walden, Dani Reinhardt, Debbie Hiscock, Debbie Raby, Dolores Doyle, Donna Allen, Dr. Lora-Ellen McKinney, Eleanor Schubert, Elena Kochetova, Evelyn Burckhardt, Haley Hyde, Holly Dirks, Jeanne Dolan, Jennifer Jones, Jennifer Simpson, Judy Ko, Judy Le Blanc, Kalee Vandergrift, Kaplan Cooperative, Karen Eisenbrey, Karin Scovill, Kate Thompson, Kathy Donnellan, Kathy Walden, Katrina England, Kazie Good, Kirsten Yelin, Kristin Joyner, Kyle Walden, Larnell Randolph, Laura De La Cruz, Laura Haack, Lauren Leshly, Leah Fulmer, Linda Allen, Linda Frank, Louise Guryan, Lynn Harris, Margie Clark, Maria Phoutrides, Marlene Fernandez, Mary Dickson Diaz, Meylen Rosas, Molly Hoffman, Noor Asif, Northwest University, Pam Richardson, Patty Hoey, Person from Great Britain, Phyllis Holzworth, Phyllis Jackson, Rachel Kirby, Ren Nguyen, Ronan Delisle, Sandra Matthews, Sara Fishman, Sarah Patlan, Selena Hawryluk, St. Luke’s Catholic School, Stacie Scaduto, Susan Lauzac, Susan Medeiros, Susan Sasnett, Tanya Sidarova, Theresa Olson, Tiana Powell, Tristan Greeno, Vivy Phan
Christchurch. Pittsburgh. Parkland. Charleston. These are four of the many communities that continue to collectively grieve the trauma of mass shootings. Many survivors who have spoken publicly about being present during the shooting or being at home waiting in horror describe prayer as their only place to turn. For the houses of worship attacked, it was during an evening or afternoon prayer that the assailant chose to attack. As someone hearing about these atrocities on social media or on the news, prayer was the only response I could muster. Prayer can be an act of desperation, vulnerability, sending love, and hope. Steeping in the mystery and power of prayer, these community-knit prayer shawls are an act of solidarity and compassion as a way to respond to the continual grief of our sisters and brothers. Borrowing from the Jewish tradition of the tallit in which the garment is given to prepare or cover the person during prayer, the Protestant tradition of prayer shawls are a way to transmit prayer to the recipient as a gesture of love, comfort, and protection.
Constituted by an intergenerational network of over 100 people across Seattle, the US, and the world, we created five prayer shawls as gifts to five hurting communities. We wish to recognize the trauma and pain that persists for these communities, and the collective grief your that persists after the time that has passed since the atrocious mass shootings. Therefore, we are sending these gifts to their respective communities with the prayer shawl as a gesture from our community to yours—from our hands to your hearts—to show that we see you, we recognize your pain, and that we send our love even from afar and know that the Creator is holding you as well.
Here is the story of how the prayer shawls came to be from our hands to your hearts. Knitting in Solidarity is a three month long on-going project to mobilize community members to knit squares for stitched together prayer shawls. In order to accomplish this, there were Knitting and Listening events where people gathered together to knit, pray, and listen to music together. These events were ritualized with activities for participants such as holding onto written prayers, knitting with provided yarn and needles, learning how to knit from a skilled knitter, writing down prayers for survivor communities, chatting with someone while knitting, or listening to music provided by local musicians.
Beyond the knitting events, correspondence pushed the project forward. Through email, social media, phone calls, and word-of-mouth, the prayer shawl project made its way to people across the country and world including Seattle, Oregon, California, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mexico, and Great Britain. In the end, over 90 people from church knitting groups, senior center knitting groups, friends, family, family of friends, and friends of family contributed to the project through knitting squares, providing music, or financially contributing to the project. Through this process, enough knitted squares were received to not only create the five proposed prayer shawls, but we have enough squares to assemble five more.
Once all of the squares were collected, the prayer shawls were assembled by four people at the final knitting event, at a retirement home, and in the artist’s studio. By using a baseball stitch with light blue yarn, all five shawls were assembled, revealing the variety of color, pattern, and size of the multitude of squares that each knitter hand-made. An embroidered border was professionally added to ensure structure and framing for the prayer shawls.
Once the five prayer shawls were assembled, they were sewn together and installed at the Henry Art Gallery from May 25 through June 20. They were installed in a spiral formation to suggest both a falling of rain and a rising of prayers, the constant push and pull that grief calls out of us in times of mourning. This form allowed people in the installation to walk inside, feel wrapped, and to embed their own prayers into the prayer shawls. The shawls were showcased in this way to both capture more prayers and to inspire action for folks to pray, to reflect, and to send their love to you through these shawls. The exhibition concluded with a Sending Ceremony where a group of folks disassembled the prayer shawls, prayed over them, blessed them, sang over them, and prepared them for delivery for each community.
We hope that this prayer shawls can serve as a symbol of the Love that binds all of us. We still hold your community in our hearts, and we hope this shawl brings warmth and love in this time.
Recipients of the first 5 shawls:
Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre
Christchurch, New Zealand
Tree of Life Congregation
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Charleston, SC, USA
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Parkland, FL, USA
Below is the text and instructions for corresponding the knitting of over 580 squares:
Blanketing the wounded with love. Every stitch is a prayer from our hands to their hearts.
I NEED YOUR HELP TO RESPOND TO THE TRAUMA OF MASS SHOOTINGS.
A gunman, fueled by hatred and white-supremacist ideologies, killed 51 Muslims during Friday prayers.
Before that, the cities of Pittsburgh, Charleston and Parkland were traumatized by mass murders.
In communities where mass shootings have occurred, the survivors and their communities continue processing through the trauma and grief.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS?
I am an artist. A knitter. A musician. A Christian.
I have determined that my impact can best be made by applying who I am and what I do to the pain and trauma of mass shootings.
I will make a stand for peace, compassion and understanding. We are children of the same God. We must support and love one another.
I will knit my prayers for peace and love into cloths that can carry them around the world.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
By joining me to knit this prayer cloth in community. Each stitch we knit is a prayer that we learn to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Now that we have all of the squares needed to complete 5 more shawls, raising funds is the next priority to help embroider prayers and sew edges of fabric onto each prayer shawl.
Please send knitted squares and money by May 8th to ensure we can get everything done in time for sending.
THEN WHAT HAPPENS?
1. The large prayer cloth, made of our knitted squares will be displayed at the Henry Gallery between May 25 and June 23rd as part of my thesis work.
2. Connected by yarn and embroidered edges, the one large prayer cloth will be divided into five separate cloths. The extra prayer shawls will be stitched together and brought to the Sending Ceremony on June 20th.
3. As a community, we will bless and send the shawls to 10 communities that have been impacted by gun violence. Each cloth will be sent as a gesture of solidarity, compassion, and love.
I HOPE YOU WILL JOIN THIS JOURNEY.
See you soon! - Connor