Yesterday I popped into knit mecca Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green to firm up my exhibition-and-celebration plans with the lovely Rachael Matthews. We're celebrating ten years (to the day) of Keep & Share, with a party next Thursday. The exhibition will stay up for a month or so, including a range of pieces from the Keep & Share archive, plus a new work called The Backbone of Britain.
This work comes with a story.
It is made from a collection of twenty cardigans which my dad found stashed in a chest of drawers when he was clearing out my great aunt's house - hand knitted, seemingly unworn, all acrylic. Within the collection, there is a range of styles - although there are multiple versions of several patterns, knitted in different colours and sizes. We think my nana, Gladys (Auntie Alice's sister), knitted them - but can't be sure, as she died a few years before they were found. My nana was a prolific knitter, and taught me to knit when I was little, so this pile of cardigans felt emotionally significant, as well as representing a staggering amount of effort.
For obvious reasons, I ended up with this collection of cardigans. I didn't feel a desire to wear any of them - despite my cardigan fetish, I don't 'do' acrylic - but didn't feel I could get rid of them either. So, for years they were stashed away in a cupboard, and each time I saw them, I felt guilty.
Last autumn I reorganised the studio, and the cardigans re-emerged from the cupboard. Still, I didn't know what to do with them. The huge pile of knitting continued to lurk, as I shifted it from surface to surface in the studio. The cardigans needed to be resolved!
A little later in the autumn, I met my wonderful friend Celia Pym, told her about the cardigans and asked for her help. Celia - accompanied by Rachael - came to visit me in Hereford on a gloriously sunny day. We drank tea and ate cake and looked at the cardigans together... talked about them... played with them. As you will see in the photos, the weight of all this skill and time and effort weighed heavily on our shoulders for a while! (That's Celia with her head in her hands.) But as we talked and played, a plan began to emerge. The cardigans organised themselves into a new form which will be unveiled at Prick Your Finger in a week's time.
Nana, or whoever knitted these cardigans originally, made most of this work. I have just arranged it a little. Many, many thanks to Celia and Rachael for their help!
During the playing process, we were thinking about the amount of effort that women like my nana have put into catering (and over-catering) for their families' knitwear needs over the years. Rachael suggested that we might think of such effort as the Backbone of Britain - and the name stuck.
Please come and see! All are welcome at the tenth anniversary celebration on Thursday 21st August, 2014 at Prick Your Finger, 260 Globe Road, E2 0JD - join us to celebrate between 6pm and 9pm. I’ll be giving a slideshow talk – sharing my experiences of a decade in experimental slow fashion knitting – at 7pm.
After a break from blogging - due to being busy relocating from Hereford to Leeds (read more) - I'm back with another childhood making-related gem!
This time, it's my doll Betty (notable for her problem hair) and bear Beary (notable for his imaginative name) - and their awesome garter stitch knitwear. Betty's jumpsuit was definitely made by my mum... and the provenance of Beary's jumper is lost in the mists of time, though I, for one, would rather like to recreate its graphic simplicity in adult size.
In other news: PhD amendments approved, so I am all done! I've put the thesis abstract and some excerpts from the conclusion - including my key insights - on the website, here. If you'd like to read the full document, please contact me for a download link!
I've found a rich seam of material to mine in the 'things I made when I was young' theme.
But my making wasn't restricted to sewing and knitting - as demonstrated by this beautifully preserved (by my mum) 'Cave painting in a Vitalite tub'.
Vitalite tubs = making in our house, being the ideal receptacle for all manner of craft materials. And versatile, too! This one provided the mould for my work of art, and then kept it protected so it could be photographed for a blog 25(ish) years later.
More childhood making coming soon!
As a bit of light relief from my thesis-related blog posts, I thought I would share another of my childhood making projects, which has somehow survived to the present day (minus one mitten).
I cannot recall exactly why I chose to knit a bonnet, jumper, cape and mittens for this donkey puppet ... but I'm glad I did!
Apropos of not much really, I thought I would show off my brown corduroy bear (or maybe it's a cat).
I think it's the first thing I ever sewed, by myself. Unfortunately the annals of Twigger history didn't record how old I was ... we think maybe six.
I have a very vague memory of sitting in my parents' bedroom (where the sewing stuff was kept), making it.
Here's my mum's memory: 'I remember thinking I could have explained about seams usually being on the inside if I'd been consulted prior to construction but managed not to say it at the time as you were so pleased with it...'
And I'm still pleased with it now! Particularly the experimental use of grain, and disregard for the conventions of matching thread colour... plus the backstitching is pretty good, considering.
In my last post, I showed some photos I'd taken at the Leach Pottery in St. Ives - and promised I would document my own studio in a similar way.
It's been an interesting little exercise, which made me look in a slightly different way at the stuff I use every day. I've mainly focused on tools - there's something nice about the bits and pieces that are used in the process of making.
Of course, this visual snapshot doesn't show the piles of yarn, piles of knitwear and piles of paper also surrounding me...
I seem to be using up all my words on my thesis (6 chapters done now!), conference papers (available here), book chapters and funding bids at the moment. Not too much brain-space left over for blog posts!
So here's a visual blog post, from my visit to the Leach Pottery in St. Ives last month. I found it quite moving to be in the former workspace of a maker I have read a lot about - and particularly special to see the homemade tools, and little odd unexpected things, around the workshop.
On Thursday, I'll do a follow-up post documenting the tools and such around my own studio...
Let’s have another story in pictures – this time showing the stitch-hacking of my most recent piece, ’14GB’.
Update: see images of the finished piece here
14GB is on display in the Made in the Middle exhibition, along with three other stitch-hacked pieces and my pattern-blagged Shetland lace shawl (more info about those pieces here). Here’s some information about the exhibition:
It’s been a while since my last post… so much going on, it has left little time for reflection and communication. Anyway, to make amends, here is the story of the making of a new stitch-hacking piece.
Update: see images of the finished piece here
I’ve just spent a lovely weekend at Llanthony Art in the Black Mountains of Wales, doing a fantastic woodcut printmaking workshop taught by painter/printmaker Veronica Gibson. I’ve wanted to try woodcut printmaking for ages – there’s something about the quality of the images that really appeals to me.