Knitting together to foster conversations on democracy

Kara Mollano, a teacher at Second Start, poinyd up at the Knit Democracy Together State House knitting model at the New Hampshire State Library on Thursday, June 13, 2024. The project was part of a intitiative from New Hampshire Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kara Mollano, a teacher at Second Start, poinyd up at the Knit Democracy Together State House knitting model at the New Hampshire State Library on Thursday, June 13, 2024. The project was part of a intitiative from New Hampshire Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Virginia Drew of Epsom takes a photo of the Knit Democracy Together State House knitting model at the New Hampshire State Library on Thursday, June 13, 2024. The project was part of a intitiative from New Hampshire Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Virginia Drew of Epsom takes a photo of the Knit Democracy Together State House knitting model at the New Hampshire State Library on Thursday, June 13, 2024. The project was part of a intitiative from New Hampshire Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Knit Democracy Together project creator Eve Jacobs-Carnahan shows off the State House knitting model at the New Hampshire State Library on  June 13. The project was part of a initiative from New Hampshire Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Knit Democracy Together project creator Eve Jacobs-Carnahan shows off the State House knitting model at the New Hampshire State Library on June 13. The project was part of a initiative from New Hampshire Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By SOPHIE LEVENSON

Monitor staff

Published: 06-22-2024 7:00 AM

Eve Jacobs Carnahan had a long career as an elections lawyer before her experiences with the American electoral system gave her the idea for something different. In 2018, she started “Knit Democracy Together,” a project that aims to fuel productive conversations about improving democracy with pairs of needles and wool.

“Knitting is an act of love,” Carnahan said.

Thursday afternoon, Carnahan and New Hampshire Humanities presented a knit model of the New Hampshire State House in a “50th Celebration & Knit Democracy Together Exhibit Unveiling” at the state library. Carnahan created the woolen replica by combining patches and chords knitted by people from all over the state. Over the past several months, she hosted knitting circles in six parts of New Hampshire, inviting community members as well as students in local schools to participate. Carnahan led her guests in knitting while facilitating discussions about preserving and advocating for democratic action.

Dori Hamilton, who knit her square remotely, sourced her own wool from the sheep she used to keep on her farm in Lisbon. Hamilton believes in “knitting for a better world.”

Her connection to American democracy runs deep: Hamilton was a nurse in the Navy as well as the senior nurse at the White House under the Carter and Reagan administrations. She volunteers for the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, for her local farmer’s market and for the Lisbon Area Historical Society museum. While Hamilton thinks there’s plenty of room for democracy to improve, she didn’t knit her square for lack of hope.

“We all have a say in our government as long as we’re willing to participate,” she said.

That’s the tricky part, though — it’s difficult to get people to attend events like Carnahan’s if they don’t already care about democracy, which means that most of the people involved in the state house reproduction weren’t exactly branching out.

Michael Haley Goldman, the executive director of New Hampshire Humanities, was candid about this. He’s proud of his organization’s partnership with Carnahan.

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“We’re not only talking about it — we’re actually doing something,” he said. But Goldman is well aware that their scope of participants is limited. Everybody in the room on Tuesday was white, and almost everyone was an older woman with a standing interest in fostering democracy. And in knitting.

“There’s still a long way to go for us to find out how to get everybody in the same room,” Goldman said.

Sophie Levenson can be reached at slevenson@cmonitor.com.