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WWW: Yarn bombing, Yarn batteries, Yarn allergies, Yarn bridges and Embellishing a Yarn

This delightful story about 104-year old Grace Brett landed in my inbox last week, describing her role in helping a group of “yarnstormers” decorate the burgh of Selkirk in Scotland and claiming she “just might be the oldest street artist in the world”.

The town of Listowel in Ontario, Canada – home to Canada’s largest mainstream yarn manufacturer Spinrite – is also building a yarnbombing tradition including a town-wide scavenger hunt and selfie contest.

Both of these stories had me recall a thoughtful essay by crochet activist Hinda Mandell. Mandell makes a case for dropping the term “yarn bombing” in favour of “yarn graffiti”, or even “yarn installation”. As a metaphor, “bombing” is too violent a word for the sort of transformation of public spaces and thoughtful commentary sought by these yarn artists. Can we collectively come up with a better term for these “Random Acts of Yarn”?


Under the heading of science is awesome, a team of Chinese researchers have developed a “rechargeable and flexible yarn-based battery that could be produced at scale on existing industrial knitting and weaving machines”. Holy doodle, but that’s cool!


Nothing can get yarn folk’s dander up faster than saying “wool allergy”! As a yarn-seller for nearly a decade, I had lots of experience with customers who said they’re allergic to wool or would never use wool for a baby item. Knowing that the actual prevalence of a wool or lanolin allergy affects only a very small percentage of the population (including Knitty founder Amy!), I attributed  some reaction to a bias they may have developed from experiencing rustic wools in the past, which are nothing like the modern finewools or the de-cuticled super wash wools in today’s marketplace. Many of those folks happily went on to fondle and enjoy working with wool-based yarns, and some continued to use only plant and man-made fibres. I was interested then to read a post from Topsy Farms that stated that wool allergy reactions often come from the chemicals – like sulphuric acid and insecticides – that have been used in processing the fibre. Indeed, your doctor or a qualified allergist is the place to go if you have had reactions, but note that you may need to test not just wool, or lanolin, but perhaps other things that go into the making of the end product.


Anyone who’s been part of a crafting group that meets regularly knows the support that comes from sharing and making together. How heartening then, to read of a weekly craft and yarn-based program at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan that’s offered to women who are refugees and new arrivals. The workshops provide an opportunity to share their stories while learning life skills such as accessing health care and transit in a safe space. “We base what we do on Canadian Mental Health Association’s recommendations for immigrants. What they tell us is most important is first of all belonging and developing a connection and a group where everyone feels comfortable.”


Yes, please, to living in a world where “principal embroiderer” is an actual job title. (Hey, this might be a tad spoiler-y if you only just started watching Game of Thrones.)


 

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WWW: Knitting as exercise, Brontës, socks in history, more poppies, real body templates

New South Wales extreme knitter Jacqueline Fink is renowned for creating brilliant knit textiles at an impressive scale. She says “giant knitting requires whole body movement and a lot of weight bearing.” That sounds like an attractive way to skip the gym. Jacqueline works and teaches at her studio Little Dandelion – check out her gallery for some really gorgeous pieces.


We love any intersection of literature and knits – Welsh knitter Denise Salway has knitted the four famous Brontë siblings, based on a recent television production.


New Zealand newspaper Otago Daily Times runs a “100 years ago today” feature, which popped up a reference from August 15, 1917 to a knitter who’d worked out how to create two socks at a time, the better to speed up production of socks for servicemen fighting in WW1. I don’t know that Miss Cornish was the first to work this technique, but she was mighty clever, and generously offered to share her instructions with others.


We mentioned last week a drive to collect handmade poppies for a memorial organized by Wonderwool Wales. Australian knitters can knit their bit for a centenary commemoration for the Australian War Memorial as well.


“Croquis” are body outlines used by makers to sketch and design attire and accessories, and they’re often generic and based on “standard” proportions. My Body Model is running a Kickstarter campaign for their software that allows designers & stitchers to use their own body measurements to create custom croquis. How wonderful to see a full range of real body sizes and proportions, and to “try on” designs before making them!


 

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WWW: Knitting Conversations, poppies for peace, community visible from space

It’s been a stressful few days in the news, which makes us look to those who seek to draw people together – particularly people from different races, cultures and languages.

Textile artist Movana Chen recently held an exhibition at Los Angeles’ 14th Factory called “Knitting Conversations”. Chen asks friends and audiences to bring books they have read and found meaningful. She reads them, shreds them, and turns the resulting “magazine clothes” into fabric. She often teaches these participants to knit a few stitches and contribute to the whole. The garments and projects made from this fabric are then an ongoing cross-cultural, poly-lingual conversation.


Welsh fibre and stitching show Wonderwool Wales is asking crafters to contribute poppies – knitted, crocheted, woven, sewn, or felted – to a large-scale commemorative WWI display to be built in 2018. The aim is to create a “Curtain of Poppies” made up of 887,858 flowers, one for each person from the UK who died serving in the conflict. The Wonderwool Wales site is keeping a running tally of the poppies contributed to date.


Prisoners in South Africa’s Zonderwater Correctional Centre are knitting blanket squares which when laid together will form a portrait of Nelson Mandela, in commemoration of what would be Madiba’s 100th birthday. Over 150 inmates will participate, with the blankets going to others in the community in need.


 

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WWW: Burgled beagle, knitted knockers, stitches on a plane, school of yarn

A knitting shop in Benfleet, UK, about an hour east of London, had it’s knitted beagle pinched recently. Hopefully it was just someone full of, er, *spirits* and will soon find it’s way back. The beagle, along with other customer-crafted yarn bombings, has been part of the shop’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Retinitis Pigmentosa Fighting Blindess.


Breast cancer survivor Beryl Tsang first published  Tit Bits with Knitty.com back in 2005. Her pattern, to craft a breast prosthesis for women who have undergone a mastectomy, has helped hundreds if not thousands of women feel some post-surgery normalcy. Always clever knitters have now hacked instructions to work on different needle arrangements and construction methods so that many more knitters can contribute to the making of “knockers”. Knitting Knockers organizations now exist in the United States and Canada to connect makers with those who need them. You’ve come a long way, Beryl!


Super pop star Demi Lovato apparently has the knitting bug, seen recently knitting on a plane. We agree – nothing like a little garter stitch to take the edge off travel tension.


Have you ever wanted to learn more about yarn bases, ply construction, dye take-up and all manner of fiber info? Yarn friends Blue Moon Fiber Arts are kicking off their School of Yarn, a subscription club filled with yarny treats and knowledge. Check out the link for a first semester discount, good only until August 15th!


 

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