Eve Jacobs-Carnahan Knit Democracy Together (maquette) 2020, wool, wool blend yarns, knitting needles, cardboard boxes, cotton fabric, rigid foam, felt, knitted, 15” x 29” x 14”.

“Knit Democracy Together Project” by Eve Jacobs-Carnahan

I sort through the knitted blocks sent to me by participants in Knit Democracy Together knitting circles. I am stitching them together to form a sculpture of a state capitol building. Alone in my studio, I feel surrounded by a community of knitters who are concerned about the future of our democratic system. Like the knitters who made them, each building block has its own individual character. Together the pieces will form a sculpture symbolizing a proper representative democracy. 

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan Knit Democracy Together (maquette) 2020, wool, wool blend yarns, knitting needles, cardboard boxes, cotton fabric, rigid foam, felt, knitted, 15” x 29” x 14”.

Knit Democracy Together is a collaborative art project with several components: knitting circles, a sculpture, and discussion about electoral reform. I developed the idea for the project in early 2019, because I saw too many people throwing up their hands in frustration with the democratic process. As a former election lawyer, I know that our electoral system can be improved. Through this project, I am raising awareness of alternatives to the system of funding campaigns with private money. I want people to learn about measures used in cities and states around the U.S. that reconnect officeholders to their constituents and increase their accountability to voters.

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan Knit Democracy Together (maquette center section) 2020, wool, wool blend yarns, knitting needles, cardboard boxes, cotton fabric, rigid foam, felt, wool batting, knitted, 15” x 9” x 12”. Dome knit by Abby Colihan.

The tangible part of the project is a sculptural representation of a state capitol adorned with knitted hands. When completed, the sculpture will stand three feet tall, five feet wide, and two feet deep. The armature is primarily made of cardboard boxes faced with acid-free foam board for added strength. The exterior surfaces are covered with knitted blocks made by project participants.

Sorting knitted blocks made by participants in Knit Democracy Together knitting circles held in Vermont in summer 2020.

Individuals made the building blocks during online knitting circles in the summer of 2020. Originally planned as in-person gatherings throughout Vermont, the events moved online because of the pandemic. Despite the challenges of creating conversation among strangers in an online forum, people have eagerly come together. In the stressful months of the pandemic, police killings, social unrest, and pre-election anxiety, people have sought connection through the restorative, constructive activity of knitting.

Knitted blocks and notebook with calculations of number of knitting blocks needed to cover full-size sculpture.

The disarming nature of knitting makes this art approachable. I use that quality to my advantage in my knitted sculpture, addressing serious issues under cover of soft yarn. Likewise, in today’s political environment, knitting circles can be a safe space for discussion. The shared act of handcrafting creates a common bond and puts people at ease.

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan sewing knitted building blocks together for sculpture in her studio in Montpelier, Vermont, in November 2020.

Knitting circle participants have become collaborators on the sculpture, as they choose the yarn and design the building blocks within size parameters I provide. Knitted blocks have been arriving in my mailbox in many colors: cream, putty, caramel, smoke, slate. Some knitters employ smooth textures like stockinette and garter stitch. Others use stitches to simulate bricks or courses of stone. It is an interesting challenge to work with elements created by other people in colors and textures I do not fully control. In order to minimize the patchwork effect, I grouped blocks by shade, creating a more unified look for each section of the building.

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan and knitting circle participants Knit Democracy Together (in progress) 2020, wool, wool blend yarns, cardboard boxes, foam board, metal tin, fabric, wood dowels, knitted, sewn, 40” x 63” x 32”.

The capitol sculpture will be adorned by colorful hands holding knitting needles, as if they are constructing the legislative building. They are meant to signify the hands of the community whose representatives write the laws. These hands will be attached to unfinished sections of the walls, suggesting the ongoing process of governing.

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan and knitting circle participants Knit Democracy Together (in progress, detail of portico) 2020, wool, wool blend yarns, cardboard boxes, foam board, metal tin, fabric, wood dowels, knitted, sewn, 40” x 63” x 32”.

After finishing the construction, my next step will be to design an exhibition surrounding the sculpture. I would like to enrich the display of the knitted building with context about the history of knitting and activism. I also plan to use text and audio storytelling to explore the subject of our electoral system and how to improve it. I hope to expand Knit Democracy Together knitting circles into other communities beyond my area of Vermont. I think the project can be a useful tool for bringing people together in conversation about critical issues in democracy.

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan and knitting circle participants Knit Democracy Together (in progress, detail) 2020, wool, wool blend yarns, cardboard boxes, foam board, metal tin, fabric, wood dowels, knitted, sewn, 40” x 63” x 32”.

– Eve Jacobs-Carnahan


Eve Jacobs-Carnahan arranging knitted blocks on wall of armature for Knit Democracy Together sculpture, work in progress, November 2020.

4 Comments

  • Nancy Koenigsberg says

    November 20, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Bravo! What a marvelous project. A fantastic way to bring people together. Are you stilll accepting squares and if so until when? I am just recovering from a stroke and would like to try to contribute. Am recovering in VT. Best wishes, Nancy

  • Eve Jacobs-Carnahan says

    November 22, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Nancy, I would be happy for you to make a building block for the sculpture. You'll find details about the knitted pieces that I need here: https://knitdemocracy.org/makeblocks/.

  • Leslie horan simon says

    November 23, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    A fantastic project that serves to strengthen our understanding of our democracy. Bringing people together this way can only sooth our spirits and your contribution of time and energy should be applauded...FANTASTIC WORK!

  • Christine Aaron says

    November 28, 2020 at 9:32 am

    Such a wonderful and powerful project Eve, on every level. I could totally see this in conjunction with the Handwriting the Constitution Project I've been reading about (https://www.handwritingtheconstitution.com/). All these reminders that "we the people" have a responsibility to and for this country and its path. Really enjoyed the last image of you with the piece so I could sense its scale. Looking forward to seeing it when complete. Brava!

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