U.K. resident Geraldine Warner published a book in October 2017 titled “Protest Knits” to combine social commentary with her passion for knitted textiles. Fifteen projects using a crochet hook or knitting needles are highlighted in the paperback that includes patterns for items such as anarchist socks, political pin cushions, protest scarfs and, of course, the infamous pussy hat!
Napa resident Evelyn Zlomke, a nurse educator by profession, is also an activist and an avid knitter since age 12. She’s knitted pink pussy hats for the past two Women’s Marches, as gifts for speakers and special guests including Rep. Mike Thompson, and taught others how to knit them as well.
After the last local Women’s March on Jan. 20, 2018, Zlomke came up with the “#365 Hats Project.” She decided to knit a hat a day until the third annual March, taking place in downtown Napa on Jan. 19.
“When it was first conceived,” she said, “I realized I could knit one hat in an hour, and that’s a commitment I could keep. Even if I get behind, I can get ahead.”
When I visited the Zlomke house a few weeks ago, 13 large boxes of completed hats, all with those familiar pussycat ears, were waiting to be unpacked and stacked on the dining room table for photographing. Only 19 were left to knit before the year-end deadline.
Except for size and pattern, based on the original pussy hat design, each hat is colorfully and thematically unique. (One size fits all suitable for men, women and children.) Slips of square white paper inside each are numbered and descriptive. Zlomke can recall her inspiration and yarn choices for each hat on sight.
I was privy to a preview of the combined contents of three full boxes and in awe of Zlomke’s creativity, knitting expertise (she uses from two to seven yarns at a time) and breadth of topic inclusion. Each day’s knitted hat, embodying complex, complementary-colored patterns, was been created “in honor of” or a “remembrance to.” There’s power in numbers here.
“I started out as prosaic, but got more political, depending upon what was happening in the news,” Zlomke said.
Subject matter drives the colors selected by Zlomke, who said she is grateful for multi-year donations of yarns from Yarns on First plus friends Terry Beck and Vicki Green. For example: purple denotes domestic violence; peace is green; orange signifies gun violence; blue evokes science, oceans and environmental action and consciousness. A deep red embodies women’s heart health and a nod to indigenous women who have, in Zlomke’s words, “never found justice.”
There are also hats that pay tribute to the 9/11 Memorial, Thanksgiving, mermaids, Halloween, the global climate summit action, Chanukah, the #MeToo movement and Betty Reid Soskin, a 96-year-old ranger with the National Park Service.
There are two upcoming opportunities to meet Zlomke and her hats.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Napa Main Library Community Room, all hats will be on display and available for adoption. This event is held in support of three nonprofits that focus on women’s issues: Napa Valley Women’s March, Northern California Planned Parenthood and Napa Valley Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 255-5370.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, at 9 a.m., Zlomke will be selling her hats to keep you warm at an outdoor table in the Sullivan Parking Lot, at 725 Coombs St., as part of Women’s March Napa Valley. All proceeds support Women’s March expenses. For information, visit womensmarchnapavalley.org.
“Any hats left,” says Zlomke, “will be donated to Syrian refugees in Greece.”
After knitting 365 hats, Zlomke is contemplating her next project to use up leftover yarn.
“I may be knitting dolls, knitting for peace – a doll a day, who knows,” she said. “The dolls would be ‘comfort dolls’ for refugee kids in Central America. A lot of them have lost everything.”
“I started out as prosaic, but got more political, depending upon what was happening in the news.” Evelyn Zlomke, a nurse educator by profession, activist and avid knitter from Napa