Meet the Artists is a new series for The Knitter about knitters who venture beyond the sweater. So far I’ve written about Zandra Rhodes, Freddie Robins, Kate Jenkins in Issue 102. Max Alexander and Celia Pym are coming up, with more artists in knit to follow.
On a recent trip to Marrakech we went out towards the Atlas Mountains and came across this cactus-like plant. It looks a bit like an aloe, but apparently its an agave plant. Each leaf contains long fibres that are used to make a local silk. Breaking down the fibre, retting or decortication, is probably done in the countryside by machines as in this image of processing sisal from Tanzania from 1906 and 1918.
In the souks in the heart of the medina, piles of this spun yarn are dyed and hung up in the sun to dry on long poles that reach across the streets below. The salesman was confused about someone wanting to buy the yarn rather than one of the woven scarves on sale. I’m sure I paid over the odds, but we did have a tour of the dyers’ quarter. Back home the task is to untangle the huge slippery skein. I can’t wait to knit some swatches and I’ll post them here when they’re done.
This is Dawn Cole at an In the Loop study day at Winchester School of Art. Her performance piece, The Silence of Knitting, is based on the life story of her Great Aunt Clarice Alberta Spratling, a volunteer nurse during WWI. Dawn showed us some slides of her solar plate etchings that make beautiful patterns out of the writing found in Nurse Spratling’s diaries and letters. Then she sat down and began to knit. The audience weren’t sure what to expect, some music perhaps or a narration, but there was only the ‘cacophony of silence’. The trouble with quiet is that you start thinking about what those women must have been going through as they made socks and clothing for the men folk at the front. All those unspoken messages and thoughts being sent to brothers, fathers and husbands, woven into every stitch. The audience felt rather awkward and there was some shuffling in seats. Dawn worked a shamrock lace pattern, and didn’t stop until she had finished a whole pattern repeat.
This autumn’s Rowan magazine is out with an article about knitting in WWI by yours truly.
It has been a moving experience looking into the hardships of the period. You can recognise the same generous and stalwart spirits who inhabit the knitting world today.
“When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrows these gave their today.” John Maxwell Edmonds
Welcome to the Craftivist’s Garden. I’m an advisor for this exciting new project by Craftivist Collective with Falmouth University and Arts for Health Cornwall that is about collecting data so that we can prove to policy makers that craft is good for you. Of course we know this already, but you try standing up in the House of Commons and saying that, which is what MP for Penryn and Falmouth Sarah Newton would have to do. We thought she could do with some ammunition in the way of data. We need your help to spread the word, and the crafting before our finale next January. Download the app here.
The project was launched last night in London to great fanfare, some good cake and some lovely people. (Lots of quiet stitching and reflecting went on too as we made flowers for the Craftivist Garden.)
- This is the lovely Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective explaining all about her new project.
Sarah says, “If you’re based in the UK, we’d love you to join in and hand-embroider, knit or crochet a flower for our #wellMAKING Craftivists Garden, while reflecting on the importance of wellbeing and what we need in order to flourish as individuals and as a society.”
It has been a while since my last confession on this blog. It’s Wool Week and I’m recovering from a long weekend at the Knitting & Stitching Show, Knitting for Peace at the House of Commons, (very cool) and negotiating one of our patterns to go on the Guardian website. Later this week we’re off to the Rowan awards at Libertys, so it’s all go.
On the Knit for Peace stand at the K&S Show we were telling anyone who would listen about the kits that we send out. Each box contains yarn, needles and patterns, all donated by you, the public. These are a lifeline to women who may be stuck in a refugee holding centre with nothing to do, and means that they can knit for their families and keep themselves busy.
When I had my lunch break I hot-footed it around some of the other stalls and stumbled into Max’s World. She was selling necklaces with my name on, so one had to be purchased. I also adored her Knitting Octopus. If you are very keen you can buy the pattern (or just buy the card, that’s what I did).
Post K&S we ran on to the House of Commons for a Good Gifts reception where we talked even more about Knit for Peace. We laughed about knitting peas for peace with Susie Johns, the pea designer, and Marie Wallin from Rowan (above) who has donated a lovely crochet cowl pattern to the cause. You can read all about it and see the patterns at www.knitforpeace.org.uk