Close Knit Community

Last month, the ‘Knitting and Stitch’ show visited Alexandra Palace, London. The ‘Knitting and Stitch’ show exhibited textile related arts and craft, showcasing some fantastic stitch/knitted/crafted art. It was great; and the atmosphere felt celebratory and social. In this post I want to focus on the ‘Knitted Village’ that was exhibited at the entrance of the show. The ‘Knitted Village’ was part of a competition organised by Twisted Thread, organisers of the ‘Knitting and Stitch Show’. The competition was so popular, that despite its completion, Twisted Thread reopened space for entries so that the village could be added to and exhibited at the Show at Alexandra Palace in October.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of the village with the view of London from ‘Ally Pally’ – London, in all its vastness, seemed miniature itself. Of course, there are lots of textile metaphors that come to the fore in the production of a knitted village, that highlight the pervasion of textile metaphor in our understandings of communities and everyday life – ‘Close knit community’, ‘social fabric’, ‘warp and weft of life’ ‘texture of place’ etc. Textiles are familiar, we experience life through the clothed body, and our houses are made homes through soft furnishings. Knitted objects and knitted cloth has certain connotations and memories, notably grandmas, Christmas jumpers, scarves etc. As I’ve explored in the blog previously, this supposed ordinariness and knowingness of knitting allows artists and crafters to use knitterly skills for different (subversive or activist) ends. One artist that has worked with knitting, notions of home and ordinariness to subversive ends is Freddie Robbins, in her work on ‘Homes of Knitted Crimes’.




For me, the knitted village at the Knitting and Stitch show made me ‘nostalgic’ for childhood TV shows and play, I was reminded of Postman Pat and Greendale, Fireman Sam and Pontypandy.  The roads that snake through the ‘knitted village’ reminded me of another familiar textile; the ‘road track play rug’ that seems to have a firm presence in nurseries, homes and playgroups. This soft textured surface allows for the creation and curation of imaginary worlds (I was personally quite fond of making my plastic toy crocodile joy-ride the town in his large yellow van – with careless abandon). The ‘Knitted Village’ also shares similarities with Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony set.  The set featured “meadows, families taking picnics, people playing sports on the village green, and farmers tiling the soil. Real farmyard animals grazed the ‘countryside’” (BBC, 2012).  Ultimately these ‘sets’ reflect some sort of ‘rural idyll’, though arguably the ‘living road map’ has more grey spaces and industry it still reflects an ‘idyllic’ landscape: ‘a representation of the countryside as somewhere that is more relaxed and relaxing, scenic yet human scale, ‘organic’ yet someone ‘external to otherwise distanced from the negative features of modern society’ (Halfacree, 2009).




In “Producing Postman Pat: the popular cultural construction of idyllic rurality” (2008) John Horton interviewed John Cuncliffe, author of Postman Pat and a ‘sometimes Children’s BBC producer’, both important figures in the television production Postman Pat and Greendale. Horton (2008) drew attention to the ways that rural idylls literally come to be constructed, engineered and eventually taken for granted. To this end, attempting to make the metaphors of ‘production’ and ‘fabrication’ of the rural idyll, more physical and productive and perhaps ‘more honest, reflective and tangible’ (Horton, 2008; 397). Perhaps this means engaging with sets and landscapes in a similar way to Richard Yarwood and Jon Shaw (2010) and the attention they pay to the curating and making of model railway landscapes as a form of craft consumption (Campbell, 2005). I’d like to take this further, thinking through the material affordances of craft processes and their production. Such as, what knitting means as a form of comfort and cosiness and how this is enacted in the making of a ‘knitted village’ and what this means for the ‘production’ of ‘rural idyll’. Artist, Freddie Robbins reworked these associations in ‘Knitted Houses of Crime’. Knitted objects afford a specific sensory experience in terms of craft process and product. Perhaps more work needs to be done, as John Horton (2008) has argued, on the actual ‘production’ and ‘fabrication’ of ideas such as the rural idyll and beyond. Thinking through craft metaphors with the actual materiality and matter of craft processes could ‘unravel’ or ‘stitch’ new stories; and better explore the links between metaphor and materiality.  It would be great to hold a conversation with makers of the knitted houses, fire station, farm etc. and ‘Twisted Thread” who curated the ‘knitted village’ competition; their multiple production techniques would have much to say about an array of ‘geographies’ at ‘play’ in the village.

Craft Experience

A few weekends ago, the sun shone and the parks of London were hives of activity. During this weekend, I visited Craft Central. Craft Central is based in Clerkenwell. It is a place, and a space for makers. Craftspeople can rent space to work there; exhibit in the gallery; and individuals can take classes and support the makers for whom, Craft Central is their home. From 24 to 27 of May, Craft Central opened its studios, within its two buildings, to the public for their perusal and as a ‘unique shopping destination’.

The sun, the music, and the festival atmosphere that welcomed visitors inside made the day feel a celebration of craftsmanship. Displays of crafts for sale were exhibited in workshops and studios. At times I felt intrusive, entering the small space of a workshop to gaze upon the wares for sale. I was made to feel welcome, as were all visitors, and my Cambridge Satchel acted as a point of conversation. The Cambridge Satchel Company is highly successful; its beautiful bags have found their place in glossy magazines and the high street.  Julie Deane, founder and maker has said she feels the success is down to the ‘britishness’ and ‘nostalgia’ evoked through the handmade satchels.


As makers engaged with my Satchel, I felt able to engage with their crafts. Though some of the jewellery was so delicate that I did not trust myself to touch it. My experience of the open studios was multisensory – I was eager to pick up and stroke or touch the crafts on show. Since receiving my Cambridge Satchel for Christmas, I have felt great about placing my laptop, my readings, and other essentials – within the satchel. In many ways I think it’s important to explore embodied experience of crafts and crafting. As well as reflecting on the process of making, and the maker’s experience – the experience of ‘being with’ crafted objects is, I have felt, a sensuous and open experience. In an interview I conducted with textile artist Bettina Matzkuhn in 2009, Bettina reflected on her textile medium – ‘no one’s dying to touch paper – but everyone reaches out to touch textiles’ and I think this is a wonderfully true. I’ve been wondering, how this sensuous experience relates to ideas of nostalgia, material memories and the ability of materiality to make social and emotional binds. Methodologically, material engagement with crafting and craft objects will been important in answering questions about the contemporary interest in textile crafting.

For more information on:

Craft Central:

Bettina Matzkuhn:

Cambridge Satchel Company:

Crafting the Jubilee


Preparations for the Diamond Jubilee this weekend are in full swing; London appears to have turned red, white and blue. As I trawled, online, through links to potential weekend festivals, adventures and features I couldn’t help be notice the variety of craft based celebrations. Cath Kidston are to release a special edition knitted ‘guard’; one ardent Royal fan has knitted the scene of the Queen’s boat pageant and later in the Jubilee week, Stitch London are to host a ‘Jubilee Picnic’ that celebrates ‘National Knit in Public Day’ as well as 60 years of the Queen.


(Knitted Guards, available in Cath Kidston shops 1/06/12)

With many arguing that the ‘revival of craft’ is related to senses of nostalgia I do find myself examining the relationship in context of the Jubilee celebrations. Oxford Street is adorned with Union Jacks and sitting amongst those flags flies ‘CRAFT IS GREAT’. Notions of heritage are of course reworked, as though to evoke a sense of life sixty years ago. Yet life is very different and I’m not sure what this renewed fervour for craft within these celebrations does to the ‘status of craft’. Many of the craft celebrations are ‘make your own cake stand’ or ‘make your own bunting’. The paper plates (below) that mock the design of china memorabilia evokes an essence of craftsmanship in the design, but ultimately are made cheaply, on paper rather than china, are mass manufactured and have a different temporality (ultimately after a few soggy sandwiches they’d be for the bin.)


I’m still undecided about the status of craft in the Jubilee; I am interested in paper plates and the idea of evoking craft symbolically, but materially lacking the skill or the sustained material experience in making, that scholars like Glenn Adamson would associate with the term. Often, being fortunate to be so immersed in knitting and its contemporary practice, I underestimate the ‘wow’ factor experienced by viewing designs such as the knitted boat pageant.  This still very much reworks perceptions of knitting, which makes me think that although the knitted celebrations may seem to correlate with a sense of nostalgia – to focus too much on this would negate the power of contemporary knit practice. I, for one, hope to have my needles and yarn at the ready for Knit in Public Day.

(Knitter Shelia Carter, 75. Shelia has worked five hours each day, on the project, since January, which in total has used 400 balls of wool)

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