On Saturday I returned to the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford for the ‘Keep Calm and Carry Yarn’ event. The Sun was shining and the countryside looked beautiful. During Keep Calm and Carry Yarn there were exhibitions, demonstrations of spinning and weaving, and opportunities to try felting, crochet and hand knitting.
I’ve written about the main exhibition ‘Beauty is the First Test‘ before, and was glad of a second opportunity to visit and see things I had missed the first time. The new exhibition in the rooftop gallery is ‘The Curious World of Becky Adams‘. My favourite pieces were the books in which she uses stitch, vintage fabric and antique ephemera to tell a story; these are beautifully charming.
Nearby artist Anna Krystina Casey was doing a solo crochet-athon. She is inspired by images of microscopic structures, which really appeals to me. I first saw Anna’s work at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate in 2011; I was immediately interested by the processes she used. Most of her work involves crocheting wire, which she then encapsulates in various media such as glass, paper, wax or plaster. She uses these techniques to create beautiful jewellery, paperweights and coasters as well as wall art, some of which you can see behind her in the first photo.
Sally Spinks‘ knitted graffiti was displayed in the stair well; this should not be confused with yarn-bombing. Sally uses machine and hand knit to create colourful graffiti-like tags. If you look at the letters more closely, you will realise that the letters are all abbreviations used in knitting patterns. You can also see one of her very convincing knitted cigarettes! Sally took an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College, where many students use textiles in their fine art practice. Take a look at her website; her knitted art is really varied and she also knits garments for films!
Woolly Spires, a group who are knitting replicas of Lincolnshire churches, unveiled their latest church – St Botoloph’s Church, Boston (the ‘Boston Stump’). It is beautifully done using yarn from the Lincolnshire Longwool and choosing stitches to reflect the textures of the different surfaces; the attention to detail was fantastic and the spire lit up! This might seem to be an unusual project, but there is a link between wool and churches – certain medieval churches are known as ‘wool churches’ because the money to build them came from the wool trade, so this is an appropriate tribute. Most of the medieval wool churches can be found in the Cotswolds, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Woolly Spires have also knitted St Mary & St Nicholas in Spalding and St Denys, Sleaford. You can see more images on the Woolly Spires facebook page.
Staff from the Framework Knitters’ Museum, Ruddington were demonstrating Griswold knitting machines; these are small circular machines that were used to knit socks. This museum is dear to me because many of my ancestors were framework knitters, and the museum shows how they lived and worked during different eras.
Early framework knitters worked from home on frames that they hired. The frame
would have occupied most of the living room and the whole family was involved in different tasks leading to finished socks. Usually the father worked the knitting frame, the mother seamed the socks and the younger children wound cones of yarn. Later small factories were built with maybe 20 or so frames, so the men had to go out to work; this set-up was resisted for many years. Conditions were very cramped and noisy and hours were very long.
The local Spinners, Weavers and Dyers guild were in the main gallery demonstrating spinning and weaving. I’d love to have ago at spinning – it looks so relaxing when done by an expert. One lifetime really is not long enough when you love textile crafts!
My contribution to Keep Calm and Carry Yarn was a workshop called ‘Tessellating Crochet’. This workshop was inspired by ‘Beauty is the first Test’, which explores the links between maths, craft and textile design. I think a few people were confused by the title, but the idea was simple enough.
During my MA I researched some of the mathematical ideas that can be used to explain natural pattern and form. One of these is tessellation, which means covering a flat surface with regular polygons so that no part is uncovered. Tessellation is frequently used in the design of patchwork and the layout of floor tiles; perhaps it is so common that we don’t think of it as mathematical. You have to know which shapes will work, so if you want to use only one shape you must use triangles, squares or hexagons; this is known as regular tessellation.
You can create more complex designs using more than one type of polygon, where the polygons are arranged in the same order around each point – this is semi-regular tessellation. There are only eight possible arrangements, so there’s a challenge – what are they?
The workshop was just two hours long, so we started with granny squares, then used the same method to make triangles and hexagons. Granny squares are much derided, but they have so much potential for design, especially with lots of colour.
One thing guaranteed to make knitters or crocheters excited at the beginning of a workshop is a selection of yarn in many colours. All the samples you see here were made using Golf from Lang Yarns. It is a mercerized cotton available in a superb colour range (available from ArtYarn, who just happen to be based near Sleaford).
You may be thinking “why did she choose those hideous/ beautiful (delete as appropriate) colours for the hexagons?” Now I admit that these are not colours I would normally put together, but recently I have been drawn to bright colour combinations (I blame that long winter). I bought some Kaffe Fassett fabric recently, and was amazed to find that most of the colours were in this cotton yarn.
We also tested a variety of crochet hooks from Addi (also supplied by ArtYarn). The choice was between the basic aluminium hook, a bamboo hook and the ‘Comfort grip’ hook. The latter was very popular. This led to discussion about old crochet hooks (several of us had inherited old fine metal hooks); how the sizing was so unreliable, but we still kept them because they were beautifully decorated and a link to textile traditions.