Weaving an Intergenerational Call for Climate Justice

Sue Pyke shares the story of three generations working together to knit their climate stripe scarf - a journey of patience, persistence and purpose that weaves together their concern for the future and hopes for climate action.

My heart leapt at the email from Common Grace, with its plan for parliamentarians to wear scarves telling a century-old story of climate change.

Imagine, every politician, no matter how red, green or blue, wearing climate justice as the issue, led by the sovereign peoples of this land.

But I didn’t put my hand up. Too hard, I told myself. It was the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. Everything was too hard.

Then a friend from Sophia’s Spring’s ecofeminist faith community offered to make up kits for anyone who knew how to knit. She’d drop them within five kilometres of her home.

I thought about putting my hand up, faltered. I couldn’t do it on my own. 

Then again, I’d knitted a big scarf before, collaboratively. Years ago, with my crafty mate from Tallangatta. My mother, in her mid-eighties, and my niece, in her early thirties, were zooming into Sophia Springs now and then over lockdown. I asked, Would they help? No problems, they said. No excuses, I thought.  

My niece, on Wurundjeri Country, was close enough to get the kit. When lockdown lifted, she brought her work down to Tyakoort Woorroong Country.

I got knitting. A few rows in I stopped. It didn’t look anything like my niece’s fine work in blues and greys. I waited until my niece’s mother, my younger big sister, came down from Wadawurrung Country. It’s easy, she told me. Just knit to the back, not the front. So that was how the first part of the scarf was so much thicker, neater, warmer, straighter. Unravel. Reknit. 

But I couldn’t break my hard-won knitting habits, stitches dropped like rain. I unraveled it. My sister picked up the stitches. Reknitted them the easy way. She gave it back, her tight tension a neat bridge between my niece’s work and mine.  I did another stint then passed the scarf to my sister to take a turn. She held it up. I’d been turning it into a shawl. She pointed out the importance of the slip stitch. Unravel. Reknit. 

My mother visited from Gulidjan Country and left her mark in the scarf as well. Another pattern within the pattern. Her tension looser than mine, her rows nearly as uniform as those of my younger big sister. But got yakking and what should have been three rows turned into six. Unravel. Reknit. 

My older big sister came down to visit from Taribelang Country, up north. She took up the needles, knitted herself into the project. Tighter tension than Mum, looser than mine and my other sister. Methodical. Not a single dropped stitch. 

Half done. It felt like change, knitting our differences into one fabric. 

Knitting alone, through the sixties and seventies, more creams, less blue and grey. Then I reached 1980. The first yellow. In 1980, when I was fifteen, my parents put their first and last bumper sticker on their car. Live simply so all may simply live. It didn’t seem like too much to ask. Greta Thunberg was fifteen when she went ballistic. My kids aren’t that much older. They just want to live, to dare have kids, it’s that simple. I fell into tears.

On it went. Row after row, into orange and red, the story of ongoing injustices against the earth.

Then those last terrifying rows of burgundies and purples, knitted with my mother and younger big sister, in a hospital ward in Geelong/Djillong. Each nurse and patient who asked about the scarf understood what we were doing and why. The message is not complicated. The earth is hurting. It needs to heal. People in hospitals understand that.

Time to tie in the threads. Mum helped. An easy job, no counting, yakking, the ends getting closer.

Done. A rough around the edges scarf, salted with tears. A bond between me and my family, our concern for the future of the young ones we love, rolled up in stitches of hope for the world that gives us life.

I sent it off, and the prayer that went with it was this: may this beautiful project free governments to act with bipartisan effectiveness. May policy responses be as swift as they have been for those more visible and related disasters, the unprecedented – but predicted – fires, pandemics and floods. May this scarf be part of a stitch in time, to get people behind the targets needed to keep the earth habitable for all the species of this world.


TAKE ACTION Join us on June 21 #ShowYourStripes Day and call on our nation's leaders to take bold, urgent action on climate change. Find out how you can take action through social media.

FIND OUT MORE about Common Grace's Knit for Climate Action campaign and how you can take part. 

Sue Hall Pyke is a writer, researcher and teacher. The other collaborative knitters/enablers were Mona Pyke (mum), Tiana Knights (niece), Lynne Pyke (younger big sister) and Jan Thomas (older big sister).

Creation & Climate Justice