Sunday, 21 April 2013

A walk in the Woollen Woods (part 1)

Change the words of the song from 'love is in the air' to 'fun is in the air' and you get a sense of what it's like to take a walk right now in the Woolly Woods at the National Trust's Acorn Bank near Penrith.
The contributors board shows people from all over the UK and further afield took part.
Excited yells of 'look mummy look' from kids, mixed with the adults' more restrained 'aahh', 'ooh' and pointing is what you get when you line a woodland trail with wonderful woolly creatures - cute, cuddly, colourful, quaint and queer. There's something for everyone, up on the branches, dangling from strings, wrapped round trunks and sitting on roots, all making a lovely woodland walk even more enjoyable. And when you've had your fill outside there's a great tea room - how good does it get!

I've picked my top ten but it was a very hard choice and when I go back and see them again in a new season with leaves on the trees I'm sure I'll make a different selection!

So this is my first five (the second five will be in my next blog). The ones I've picked got on the list for different reasons but one thing they and every piece had in common was the sense of having been made by people who were enjoying themselves!

First pick:
The three owls - the six eyes looking down is very compelling, I think I might have been hypnotised! .... pick us, pick us, pick us.

 Second pick:
The Wallace & Gromit style birds (there were two but couldn't get them both in and show detail) - they're very Creature Comforts, in fact I think I overheard the conversation (in a brummy accent) talking about a recent trip to sunny climes, 'oi looved oibeeetha'.

Third pick:
The mouse and mushrooms - together who could resist? especially the little hands, aahh (there see I'm at it now).

Fourth pick:
The little brown bat - other great bats were flying confidently and self-assured from strings (look at me, I'm a real bat) but this one really appealed because he was so understated, you felt he was a bit like a small child looks in a cute animal costume; and he looks like he's not sure if he could fly, with those legs maybe he'd walk instead!

Fifth pick:
The tree climbing hedgehog (is it a hedgehog?) with red scarf - this one stood out for her quirkiness; I assumed it was a hedgehog, but you may think differently eg. armadillo, sloth, expat haggis (we are quite close to the Scottish border here).

So that's my first five picked and the second five will be in A Walk in the Woollen Woods (Part 2) which will be my next blog. Apart from the contributors (great work folks), I'd say well done too to the people from Eden Arts and everyone else who helped, you clearly spent a lot of time putting all the exhibits into the trees, and someone had a head for heights too!, thanks guys.

I've only one thing left to say, go and visit for yourself - it's fun, it's woods, it's fresh air and exercise, it's woolly, how many more reasons do you need?!

Wondering abut my Walk in the Woods part 2?  here's the second part...

 Find out more about Acorn Bank | Find out more about The Woollen Woods project

When I'm not walking in woods taking cute photos, I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my gallery; or follow me on Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

all photos | Lindy Doran;
Individual makers (as credited on Canopy's Facebook gallery)
Three owls: Ruth Packham
Wallace & Gromit birds: Amanda Berry
Mouse and mushrooms: Amy Scroggie
Brown Bat: Caroline Bletsis
Tree-climbing Hedgehog: Arts Council Crafts Group, Manchester

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Real knitting guilt

First there was guilt about not being able to cook 'properly' for the 30-something generation brought up on supermarket convenience food, now apparently comes guilt about not being able to knit, because in their formative years shop-bought knitwear (or anything-wear) was much better than anything home-made (which of course had the whiff of the Women's Institute and granny's Horlicks, two things which have now also made a comeback).

Shop-bought jumper (I know, I bought it!), cute dog...
Reading 'Red' magazine recently, it seems that knitting has made it to the list of new essential 'life skills' for the 30-something trend-savvy woman- about-town. It's up there now with being able to cook an exciting meal with four ingredients from your fridge that no-one knows how to pronounce properly, baking a light sponge that doubles as an eye-catching table decoration/conversation piece and dressing your home attractively yet inexpensively only from items you'd find in a High Street hardware shop and soft drinks cans.

The most amazing cake ever made!
A very nice edible conversation piece
Maybe it's just me but this idea that knitting is an essential new 'must-have' (like a designer bag that can carry your essentials and your small dog in an appropriately organised manner) feels wrong. It's being desired not for anything it offers but because 'everyone' it seems is suddenly doing it and that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

a puppy in the purse
Positioned  somewhere between the keys, the sweeteners and the spare tights I think
Knitting is strange because it is both a wholly practical occupation and at the same time a magical one. Show me something else that starts with such unpromising material ie a jumbled mess of stuff that looks like string and instruments of possible torture, gives hours of steadily building expectation and arrives at a destination that is so satisfying that (assuming it has come out 'right') it can keep you feeling pleased with yourself for possibly years.I do it because I love that feeling of creating something from nothing and it's not just about the something, it's about the feeling of creating too.

To acquire a knitted piece, whether to wear or in my case more likely textile art to put on the wall, by wielding those needles and yarn in clickety-click style is a great creative way to spend time. And maybe the most important point there is that it does mean spending time (and a lot of it) to create something that is more meaningful than the standard scarf you can learn to 'knit-in-an-evening' project. A project like this usually consists of a pair of giant needles that can double as replacement coffee table legs, one ball of oversized fluff-out-a-lot yarn and gives you with a tricky to wear scarf/snood/cowl (delete as applicable).

Giant knitting needles
Certainly get a scarf knitted quick with these babies!
And maybe that's at the heart of my unease; to want something only because everyone else has it or does it is a motivation that is a bit shallow for an activity that needs a bit more commitment than that.

So don't feel guilty if you can't knit; although you might want to feel guilty because you jump at whatever the 'next big thing' is, because you want to 'do it' in one quick how-to session and because you're only filling the gap until the next 'next big thing' comes along. But try digging out the unfinished knitting project, that you tidied away into the back of the cupboard three years ago when you were having visitors round and feel constantly that you should get round to finishing off sometime, now that's real knitting guilt!

When I'm not feeling guilty about projects in the back of the wardrobe I'm creating textile art.
Check out my gallery; and you can follow me on Twitter

photos courtesy of Flickr except the jumper one which is courtesy of me

Friday, 5 April 2013

Granny grumble

One of the things I like about using Twitter is you get a great eclectic mix of stories and links to peruse and chuckle at. I think to celebrate April Fools day this year, the Campaign for Wool revived a story from a few years ago.

Mousehole's pretty little yarn 'bombs'
I like this story about some 'yarn bombing' that went on in Cornwall but I didn't like the title 'Graffiti Grannys'; I read the piece and then realised that the name had come from the group themselves. OK I get it that it's post-modern and subversive, counter-intutive and all that but grouping anything to do with knitting with anything implying chronologically-challenged (yeh, ok older) people takes away some of its appeal to a younger audience.
It seems that this view is really ingrained in our culture.

It's keeping someone in a job I suppose!
Another example that gets on my nerves is the 'nanas' that knit the Shreddies, and did you know that it has it's own Facebook page with over 700k likes!!  (that's it I've gone to lie down).

I know that its advertising and nothing to do with actual knitting and it's done its job because it got our attention and people are even spending time looking at the Facebook page and posting comments (it's a marketing brand triumph)...but come on give the kids who like knitting a chance, it'll never be 'swaggy' with this sort of profile! If you don't know what 'swaggy' means look it up here, I'm fighting hard for my non-granny credentials here remember!

And I'd like to think I'm in tune with others in the 'knitting community' here; the Knitting Forum did a little poll about the knitting nanas when they first came out and this was the result...

What does everyone think of the Shreddies Knitting Grannies?
Anything that putting knitting into the minds of everyone is great
16% [ 1 ]
Dreadful - it gives completely the wrong image of knitting
66% [ 4 ]
Other (please post below)
16% [ 1 ]
Total Votes : 6

(yeh ok, 6 votes isn't exactly an overwhelming response but who said the voice of the people had to be about big numbers? ask any politician).

And look at all the really fantastic young textile artists and knitting designers who have studied the subject at colleges and univesities and are anything but grannified (is that a word? is now!). They are clearly very excited about the whole creative, magical process that is knitting and are not in the least grannified (there used it again).

So this is an appeal to all those out there tempted to keep this outdated idea alive, SMH; please be less post-modern and more swaggy, don't just fall in line with the stereotypical view of 'knitting', you know I'm a hundo P right.

When I'm not grumbling about grannies, I'm creating textile art check out my website
or follow me on Twitter @TAbyLD