Valley News – Out & About: Knitting the Vote

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan is a talented textile artist. She’s also a former attorney, having spent 18 years as Vermont’s assistant attorney general specializing in election law.

Her latest project, Knit Democracy Together, combines these professions along with the mindset that every voice counts – and has the potential to make a difference. Since 2020, Jacobs-Carnahan has worked with artisans to create a model of the Vermont Statehouse that measures 5 feet long, 3½ feet high, and 3 ½ feet deep.

“The idea is to excite people because of the craft and the visual part, and once they get enticed by that, we can talk about more serious stuff like how elections work,” Jacobs said. -Carnahan, from Montpellier.

In August, Jacobs-Carnahan will begin bringing these workshops to the Upper Valley. The first will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at the Latham Memorial Library in Thetford. The second will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16 at the Converse Free Library in Lyme. The Howe Library in Hannover will host a workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 23 and another is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 29 at the Sharon Academy. Each workshop tackles a different electoral topic: in Thetford and Sharon it’s “Counting the vote: the process, the people and the electoral college”, in Lyme it’s “Representing all voices: gerrymandering and preferential voting and in Hanover it’s “The Supreme Court, State Legislatures, and Elections.” For more information and to register, visit knitdemocracy.org.

“Most of the building is built up, so what people are going to do is 4×6 rectangles to become pieces of the lawn, walkways, gardens, all the way through the sculpture,” Jacobs said. -Carnahan.

These pieces are sewn together and glued to the structure.

She pointed out that those who don’t know how to knit are welcome: they can embroider flowers on the rectangles that make up the lawn or simply come and take part in the conversation. From late August to early fall, the completed sculpture is scheduled to be displayed at the Vermont Statehouse.

Jacobs-Carnahan started the project in 2019 and the first workshops took place on Zoom in the spring of 2020. She drew inspiration from other examples of Craftivism – using craftsmanship as a form of activism – such as the Crochet Coral Reef project which was started by sisters Christine and Margaret Wertheim to raise awareness of the risks that climate change poses to coral reefs. In this project, people collectively crocheted different parts of the sculptures.

“It took off and there were reefs like that in many countries,” Jacobs-Carnahan said. “Along the way, they taught people about environmental issues.”

Knit Democracy Together took on even more meaning after the 2020 election and the misinformation that followed.

“What I’m really trying to do is build democracy by running these knitting circles that bring together civic-minded crafters to deepen their understanding of the electoral system,” Jacobs-Carnahan said. “I hope people will be inspired to become more involved in strengthening the electoral system by ensuring that everyone’s vote is counted, that everyone has access to vote and that the process is as representative as possible. I would love to see people take positive action afterwards, but for a lot of people the action they take is to understand more and be aware, which is also very important.

Knit Democracy Together is also an accessible way to get involved in the political process, said Lynn Sheldon of Lyme, a friend of Jacobs-Carnahan who helped with the project. Sometimes going for a walk can be daunting, she says – sitting down, knitting and talking is a little less so.

“It’s been interesting for me to see how I can be more active on the things that concern me,” Sheldon said. “It’s kind of a call to action.”

Circles are also part of a deep tradition among people, mostly women, who use crafts to create change in their communities, such as knitting warm items for refugees or others in need.

“I think part of what appeals to me is the kind of historical idea that women sat together to knit because you were never supposed to leave your hands idle, you were always supposed to be doing something. helpful,” Sheldon said. “When they were trying to get women’s suffrage, trying to get women’s votes, they would get together in these groups but they would knit as they talked.”

Since Jacobs-Carnahan started Knit Democracy Together, she’s worked with groups in Chicago and Rochester, NY, to create similar projects. She is interested in creating a sculpture of the New Hampshire Statehouse.

“We all make pieces that have our own personality and each one is a small contribution, but we put them all together to create this big sculpture,” Jacobs-Carnahan said. “It’s a metaphor for everyone in the community to participate in the electoral system by voting, running for office, or casting their voice so that the government can be made up of all of us. Each of our pieces constitutes this greatest piece of democracy.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.