Los Angeles' quaint Atwater Village is the unlikely epicenter of a political movement that's gone viral. The founders of the Pussyhat Project are responsible for the thousands of protesters who will be wearing pink cat-eared hats at this weekend’s post-inauguration Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Screenwriter Krista Suh and architect Jayna Zweiman spun the Pussyhat Project at The Little Knittery last November. Friends for only a few months, the two novice knitters were devastated by the election of Donald Trump and turned to yarn and needles to channel their disappointment.
Inspiration for the project came to Suh while planning to attend the march.
“I should knit a hat because it's going to be really cold there and I'm just an L.A. girl not used to the elements,” recalls Suh, wearing a Pussyhat made with hot pink yarn. “And that's when it really hit me. If I, a beginner knitter, can make this hat, other people can, too. And it’s not just about me anymore.”
And the name? Well, there's that infamous comment Donald Trump made while filming an episode of "Access Hollywood."
“It's the Pussy Power Hat!" says Suh, laughing. "Everyone fell silent. They’re like, That. Is. It. It was like history was being made.”
Along with Kat Coyle, the owner of The Little Knittery, Suh and Zweiman quickly designed the “Pussy Power Hat” and released the pattern via social media. And just like that, the project went viral.
On a recent Friday night at The Little Knittery, there’s not an empty seat at the suddenly bustling store. Pink balls of yarn spin as needles click and conversation flows. Seated at a large, long table covered with cookies, candy and coffee mugs, Marina Mont’Ros is working on her 24th Pussyhat.
“I've made ones with fuzzy ears. I made one with reflective yarn so that it glows in the dark," she says.
Since the project started, Mont’Ros has made the 45-minute bus trip each week to be here.
“Not everybody lives right here in this area, but we can all come together and do this because it's something we believe in,” says Mont’Ros. “And that's an amazing thing to me.”
This “knit-in” is just one of many taking place in yarn shops up and down the state and across the county. Even women in places as far away as Australia and Norway have formed Pussyhat knitting groups. The goal is to knit, crochet or sew tens of thousands of these hats to give away to marchers going to D.C.
But according to Suh and Zweiman, it doesn’t stop with those who will go to Washington. They see the Pussyhat Project as way women can participate in the event even if they can’t physically be in D.C. or at one of the many women’s marches slated for big and small towns across the nation that day.
Wearing a thick, loose-knit Pussyhat, co-founder Jayna Zweiman has an easy smile as she talks about the project.
“I'm really hoping that this is a very strong powerful visual, but also that there are these connections amongst people to be ready for women's activism in the future,” says Zweiman. “It's not just about the hats. It's so much more.”
And it is. Each hat will bear the message of a women’s issue important to the knitter. A message delivered so much easier because, you can’t deny it, these hats are cute.
“When the hat is laid flat it's in the shape of a rectangle. But when you put it on your head, the little corners of the rectangle at the top pop out a little bit to look like cat ears," Zweiman explains. "It's a pussycat hat. So in a way it can be very G-rated.”
“You can call it the kitty hat. A lot of parents have been talking to their daughters and sons about it in that way," affirms Zweiman.
Kazi Pitelka agrees. She's been knitting since she was a child.
"I just love it. Love, you know, reclaiming the word ‘pussy’ and using it as an expression of power instead of the way that it's been used.”
Mont’Ros seconds that emotion.
"If you call it a pussy. If you say, you know, va-jay-jay... or your lady place. Whatever you call it, say it proudly."
And the project is making a difference to her. The camaraderie. The shared values. And it says something important about the collective strength of women in a challenging new time.
"You know we’re knitting these and we're feeling powerful while we're making them, and that's going into the hat itself. All of this love,” says Mont’Ros. “And now somebody is going to wear it and that's going to be a symbol. Symbols are powerful things.”
With less than a week to go until the Women's March, Suh and Zweiman have no idea how many Pussyhats have been made. They think the total is somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 from crafters working across the country and beyond. But both say they’re more concerned with creating a community than reaching a certain number. That’s the power of the Pussyhat.
“It tells everyone that I believe in women's rights,” says Suh, “and I'm not ashamed to talk about it and show it to people.”
But she admits with a laugh that she has bigger plans.
"I hope it becomes a really hot fashion item. I hope people give the hat to their granddaughters one day, like, I wore this to the Women's March in 2017."