The installation used knitting as a mechanism for meditation on war, an outlet for political expression, and a provocation for dialogue among people with differing political viewpoints.
Taking the form of machine knitted “photo portrait blankets” – which in 2005 were a popular way for families to honor relatives who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan – nine images culled from newspapers, historical societies and library archives depicted how knitting was for civic participation, protest, therapeutic distraction, and even direct attack during times of war.
Amidst this historical backdrop, a table, materials and instructions provided space and materials for museumgoers to knit wartime projects. Knitters were allowed to bring in their own projects, or they could choose to work on one of four wartime knitting patterns provided. The patterns include Lisa Anne Auerbach’s Body Count Mittens, which memorialized the number of US soldiers killed at the time the mittens were made; a simple square to be used for blankets, which were either mailed to Afghans for Afghans or to US soldiers recovering in military hospitals; balaclavas to be sent either to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or to Stitch for Senate (microRevolt.org’s war protest project); and stump socks, sent to war veterans and Iraqi children. Often, several different people would knit one object; one knitter would cast on, add a few stitches or rows, then put the project down, and later another knitter would advance the piece.
Anonymous museumgoers as well as diverse groups such as Grandmothers for Peace, Daughters of the American Revolution, Quakers Against War, microRevolt and Stitch and Bitch Astoria gathered at the installation. Participants often came back for return visits, like one woman who came to knit every day during her lunch break during the three and a half month run of one exhibition. Notable war critic Phyllis Rodriguez, whose life and work partially inspired the piece, was another return visitor.