Shannon Johnston
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The Scarf
In response to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan of March 11, 2011 I started knitting a scarf. A handmade scarf is an intimate gesture of affection. Intimate due to the personal time invested in the making. Affectionate through the way it is worn, wrapped around the neck as if a hug. Scarves by their nature and function insinuate warmth as well. All of these were things I was feeling and hoping for the people of Japan.
This scarf being a gesture to a community of people I felt it needed to come from a community. Other artists, men, women, and high school students of all different social, religious, and economic backgrounds have contributed portions to the scarf. As they knit all of contributors have been asked to knit their hops, prayers, good thoughts, and love for the people of Japan into the scarf. Some people have chosen to knit actual items into the scarf that symbolize these prayers, others have made metaphors through knitted wool, and others still have simply used the time knitting to reflect and pray.
It was important to me that any gesture I made in this situation be creative, as it is the best gift that I have to give. The restoration of beauty, artistry and creativity I believe is also a larger part of healing. For these reasons the size of the scarf was very important. Knitting a single scarf would not carry the importance of the intentions, and many scarves would not be a creative response to the events of March 11th. The scarf is two feet wide, 24". A foot implies stillness, you can’t walk with just one foot and so the scarf is two feet because the people of Japan are moving forward in rebuilding and healing. When the scarf is taken to Tokyo, in March of 2012, it will be 80 feet long. Eight is seen in Japanese culture as being a lot, a 80 foot long scarf is a symbol that there are a lot of people praying for Japan and hoping for their rebuilding.
The scarf has knitting needles still attached, rather than the stitches being cast off and the scarf “finished.” This is so that people can continue to add their prayers to it. It is an ongoing project, just as healing is an ongoing process. Although this project was conceived for Japan in response to events that happened there it is not intended to stay there. It is my hope that each person or group the receives the scarf will then add to it and pass it on to someone else who needs prayer, comfort, hope, and encouragement.
The scarf has been added to in response to Hurricane Sandy and the devastation it brought to New England. It has been exhibited in Japan, Australia, and the USA and is currently over 100 feet long.
Currently, individuals around the world are making pieces to add for those feeling the impact of COVID-19. I invite you to join us in embracing those suffering from any of these disasters by knitting, crocheting, weaving, or whatever your preferred method is. There is no required size, pattern, method or material. The scarf is 24" wide, pieces with one side being 24" can easily be added, bits and pieces of all shapes and sizes have been added and are most welcomed! For details, questions, or more information visit the contact page.