On the Thrums Books Facebook page earlier this week, I posted a photo of a “textile designed for peace,” a fragment of which is part of the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s collection. You can read the whole story here. It seemed important to think about designs for peace after all the recent and terrible events in our old world. This peace cloth, as I’m calling it, was designed by Norwegian designer Else Poulsson to decorate the first United Nations Security Council chamber. It has several motifs: anchors of faith, growing wheat of hope, and hearts of charity.
While I was admiring the symbols woven into the fabric, it was an easy jump to think about Weave A Real Peace (WARP), the international nonprofit started with the principal that “sharing information can be one of the most power tools for constructive change,” as their nifty “What is WARP?” video explains. WARP strives to support time-honored textile traditions for cultural preservation as well as for grassroots economic development. Its large network provides a way for individuals who are working with small artisan groups and their supporters to share information. I’ve long been a fan of WARP and Thrums Books is a member.
But with a jaded sort of sorrow, I asked “But can we weave a real peace?” That sorrow has caused me to keep my head low this week, focused on a fuzzy little ball of qiviut that I’ve been trying to knit into something. You know, in that way that working with your hands focuses, stills, gives hope as a little piece of thread transforms into something useful. My yarn, spun inconsistently, forces my needles to navigate slubs and then lacy strands that I think will break if I pull too hard. They don’t. And while I feared that my fabric would be motley, this thick and thin knitted as one, it’s not.
Maybe peace can be that simple: thread joined together. Thread has held our lives together for centuries. Thread and story. Mine, yours, a netted bag in Chiapas, a huipil in Guatemala, a ch’ullo in Peru, rayon satin damask from Norway. Maybe it’s as simple as sharing stories, preserving and honoring tradition—across time, across cultures until the thread of every narrative is woven into a textile designed for peace.