What to Knit: The Underground Railroad

Why Colors and Styles Matter:

As a result of the Chinese government’s endangerment of North Korean escapees, refugees must try to blend in with native Chinese citizens. Refugees wearing knitted items that look foreign, too prosperous, or atypical of local style face the danger of discovery and deportation. Upon repatriation, refugees are routinely executed. Therefore, avoiding detection by China’s authorities is an extremely serious concern for these refugees of North Korea.


What Colors and Styles to Use:

Ordinary, inconspicuous colors such as black, brown, dark green, navy blue, or maroon. Styles should be simple and plain; avoid stripes, polka dots, etc. ARC is sending items in all sizes (from newborn to adult).

  • Hats: Beanies are best. Earflaps are okay, but no pom-poms please, as they make it easier to identify the wearer in a crowd.
  • Scarves: Straightforward garter stitch or ribbing is preferred. Various designs should not be too distinctive or uncommon; no tassels please.
  • Gloves & Mittens: Unadorned but made to keep warm.
  • Sweaters, socks, and other garments: Sweaters are great for layering; thin or thickly knitted sweaters are very much appreciated. Socks with longer cuffs are preferred. Headbands, hooded jackets, and leg-warmers also qualify if they are discreet. Please email us if you have any questions.


ARC refrains from sending any two knitted items that are exactly alike, to prevent noticeable trends. Given limitations on style and color, adding minor details such as ribbing or a simple border can help make knits similar, but not identical.

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