The women binding society by knitting stories into clothing


Gloria Cooper-Smith has been knitting for nearly 70 years. As needles click together in her hands a new creation begins to take shape. This demands time and attention to detail. But the garment she is creating is just one part of her process. It will be sold along with a hand-written letter that captures the essence of Cooper-Smith’s difficult life. The 75-year-old’s words will be intimate, a story told in confidence to a recipient whose identity she does not know.

Cooper-Smith is a member of The Wearable Library, a group of women who are combining fashion and storytelling. They come from different places, but have all overcome hardship during their lives. And some, like Cooper-Smith, are dependent on selling their knitwear for a living. But these women partake in more than a mere exchange of materials. Each carefully created item comes with a message telling the story of its maker, so that the buyer can fully appreciate the difference their purchase has made.

For whoever buys the luxurious jersey that Cooper-Smith is creating, the letter will reveal the experience of a single mother who has put four children through school. By knitting. The idea is to make a social exchange along with the material transfer, opening up conversation between people who otherwise occupy separate worlds. At a time when society often seems more divided than ever before, the initiative is an important reminder that stories have the power to bring us together.