Knitting and yarn festivals 2015

I’ve been planning out some things to look forward to throughout the year ahead recently, and as usual I’m keen to visit a yarn festival or two throughout the year. I thought it only right to research a good geographical spread and find out what is on and where and it seemed only right to share the results! I’m making no claims to it being a fully comprehensive list, but it’s definitely enough to keep even the speediest knitter busy and stocked-up with stash given that there’s at least one event a month that I’ve come across so far!

2015

29-31 Jan Craft 4 Crafters, Westpoint Arena, Exeter

20-22 Feb Unravel, Farnham Maltings, Farnham, Surrey

5-8 March Spring knitting and stitching show, Olympia Central, London

14-15 March Edinburgh Yarn Festival Edinburgh Corn Exchange, Edinburgh

25-26 April Wonderwool Wales, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells

23 May Highland WoolFest Dingwall Mart, Dingwall

30-31 May Proper Woolly Holsworthy, Devon

26-27 June Woolfest Mitchell’s Lakeland Livestock Centre, Cockermouth, Cumbria

25-26 July Fibre-East Ampthill, Bedfordshire

15 Aug Pop-Up Wool Show The Oval Leisure Centre, Bebington, Cheshire

TBC Sept Bristol Wool Fair The Downs, Bristol

26-27 Sept Yarndale, Skipton Auction Mart, Yorkshire

26 Sept – 5 Oct Shetland Wool Week, Shetland

7-11 Oct The knitting and stitching show Alexandra Palace, London

17-18 Oct Bakewell Wool Gathering Bakewell Agricultural Centre, Derbyshire

12-15 Nov The knitting and stitching show Simmonscourt, RDS, Dublin

26-29 Nov The knitting and stitching show Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate

Giant knitting

Me – Giant knitting at Bristol Wool Fair 2014!

Where it begins: Knitting as creation story (Excerpt)

“It begins with the circle of friends. There is always something beyond your beyond, the aged parents and teenager who crack up the family cars on the selfsame day, the bone-picked divorce, the winter of chemo, the gorgeous mistake, the long unraveling misery that needs company, reading glasses and glasses of wine and all the chairs pulled into the living room. Project bags bulge like sacks of oranges, ripe for beginning. Cast on, knit two together girlfriendwise. Rip it, pick up the pieces where you can, along the headless yoke or scandalously loose button placket, pick up and knit. Always, you will have to keep two projects going: first, the no-brainer stockinette that can run on cruise control when the talk is delicious. And the other one, the brainer, a maddening intarsia or fussy fair-isle you’ll save for the day when the chat gets less interesting, though really it never does. Knitting only makes the talk go softer, as long as it needs to be, fondly ribbed and yarned-over, loosely structured or not at all, with embellishment on every edge. Laughter makes dropped stitches.”

Where it begins: knitting as creation story by Barbara Kingsolver. Published in the Nov/Dec issue of Orion magazine

Bassett Lecture 2015: Professor Marcus Doel

Bassett lecture

My lovely colleague Nina has been busy organising this year’s Bassett Lecture. It looks set to be a great talk and, as usual, all are welcome to come along. Details as follows: 

The 5th annual Bassett lecture will take place in the School of Geographical Sciences on Thursday 29th January 2015.

This year’s speaker is Professor Marcus Doel from Swansea University, who will be presenting under the title, ‘Through a net darkly: spatial expression and schizoanalysis (subject to finance).’

The lecture will take place at 4pm on Thursday 29th January in the Peel Lecture Theatre.

All Welcome!

No booking required, for enquiries contact Nina Williams (Nina.Williams@bristol.ac.uk).

Abstract:
In Anti-Oedipus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari wrote that Louis Hjelmslev’s “concerted destruction of the signifier” not only unleashed “a decoded theory of language” that was perfectly attuned to both capitalist and schizophrenic flows, but also that it was “the only modern—and not archaic—theory of language.” Hjemslev was the blast of fresh air that blew Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Lacan away, and ushered in a post-structuralist schizoanalysis of world-historical libidinal flows. The encounter with Hjelmslev proved pivotal for Guattari, the force of which reverberated throughout all of his subsequent writings. Hjelmslev effectively counter-signed the two volumes of Capitalism & Schizophrenia and Kafka that Guattari wrote with Deleuze, as well as Guattari’s own Machinic Unconscious, Schizoanalytic Cartographies, The Three Ecologies, and Chaosmosis. And yet, “the Danish Spinozist geologist, Hjelmslev, that dark prince descended from Hamlet,” was never the subject of sustained attention in any of these texts. In this lecture I consider the import of Hjelmslev for Guattari, with particular reference to the spatiality of the structural unconscious and the machinic unconscious, and use this as a basis to think through the bewildering cast of characters that are ‘subject to finance’ and that increasingly plague our world, such as Homo Economicus, Homo Debitor, Homo Faber, Homo Subprimicus, and Financial Homo Sacer.

My hoard of yarn

Happy 2015!

I’ve had a relatively quiet start to the year, and the days just seem to have slid by. Christmas was lovely but already seems like a distant memory, and the New Year rolled in without much fuss. I’m not really one for making resolutions (or for sticking to the ones I do make for that matter), but there is a certain little ritual I’m starting to get involved with. I expect a lot of knitters and crocheters are already familiar with the annual Ravelry ‘Flash your Stash’, but for those who are not I’ll briefly explain…

Let’s start with the basics. Knitters like yarn. A lot of knitters like to have a lot of yarn. It comes home from sales where the price is just too good to ignore, functions as a treasured souvenir from a special trip, gets given as gifts, or is the result of a day out at a fibre festival (or three). As a general rule of thumb, these stockpiles of yarn amount faster than the average knitter can knit them. Said yarn is therefore hoarded – or ‘stashed’ – until its day of reckoning arrives. So what does this have to do with rituals? Well, in the virtual world knitters gather to flash their stash on the Ravelry forums at the beginning of the year.  In this space members are invited, indeed encouraged, to photograph their stocks of yarn and fibre and show them to the rest of the group. The ‘stashes’ presented in this Ravelry thread vary in quality and quantity, but most people who take part are displaying implausibly large stockpiles, many of which are said to have grown rapidly. Whereas many forum posters admit hiding their stashes from friends and family, this thread is a place of openness, honesty, admiration, and even encouragement. People express wonder and jealousy, never judgement of people’s habits and hoards. Consequently, the thread has become a really interesting space in which hoards of materials cross the border from a private collection into a public display.

The rationale behind flash your stash is that it allows the crafter to get to grips with what they own – as usually it is stored in bags and boxes out of sight. However it is also an excuse to squish and admire the fabrics and make plans for the year ahead, even if they just turn out to be pipe dreams. I could write pages on the deliciousness of some of the stashes displayed on Ravelry, but for now I’ll leave you with an update on my own hoard.

My collection has grown in an interesting (well interesting to me) way. I started crocheting for my MSc project in 2011 when I was yarn bombing in Bristol, and at this time put out a plea for yarn donations. Amazingly, I was gifted about three huge black sacks full of yarn. I managed to get through a lot of it when yarn bombing, and after the project had finished re-gifted much of what was left. I started knitting seriously at the beginning of 2012 and haven’t stopped since. Since then I’ve received a fair bit of nice yarn in the way of gifts and acquired plenty more from various shops and yarn fairs. My early forays into the craft mainly used acrylic yarns due to the low price-point and my relative inability, but I’ve since become a little more discerning about what I use and chose to go for natural fibres – mainly wool and alpaca – where possible. This has involved a process of slowly using up and weeding out the cheaper bits to make way for nicer stuff.

 Last year was the first time I hauled all my yarn out for a good look and organise, and resulted in this:

stash 2014(Jan 2014)

 It was more than I thought, but fairly modest by the standards of many stashes I’ve seen (excuses excuses!) My vague goal for 2014 was to reduce it, although I had no specific plan by which to do so. I knew I hadn’t been particularly good at not buying yarn in 2014, so when I hauled it all out this year I was quite pleased with the result:

stash 2015

(Jan 2015)

It doesn’t take a genius to see that a lot of the same yarns are still present. Those cones of cotton for instance – goodness knows what I’ll do with them. There are 8 skeins of baby yarn in my stash, but no-one has afforded me the opportunity to let me knit for them this year (it should be noted none of the baby yarns were purchased but gifted to me as ‘payment’ for something, I’m not completely crazy). They take up an annoying amount of space, but are the sort of thing that might come in handy one day for making gifts. The massive ball of aran at the top has been reduced, although it doesn’t look like it. Then there are a load of leftovers from other projects which haven’t found themselves a secondary project yet. They will, one day.

These are the yarns which are new this year:

stash 2015 new

The purple Lopi on the right was a gift from my sister when she went to Iceland and the purple alpaca at the bottom was a birthday gift from Colin. The 2 bamboo skeins are to make Mama Mann some socks and the red balls in the middle are souvenirs from my trip to Germany in December. A couple are leftover skeins from other completed projects. I did acquire more yarn than pictured here, but that was made straight into garments without languishing in the stash box.

At the moment it all fits into one box, and my aim for the year is to try and keep it that way. The only problem is the one resolution that I have made this year – not to cast on any new projects until my current ones are off the needles! This means that before I can go stash diving I need to finish:

1 green and grey sock

1 Shetland lace shawl

1 jumper

1 hat

It’s not masses, but that shawl is taking FOREVER. Indeed, the lack of progress on said shawl is the reason for the resolution because otherwise I keep casting on other items so I don’t have to finish it. Hopefully I’ll get it done before Wonderwool in April so I can justify buying some new goodies to add to the collection. In the meantime I’ll just have to settle for drooling over other people’s stashes on Ravelry…

Have a look for yourself at some of the wonderful collections of yarn at: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/yarn/3103696/1-25

A Needle Pulling Thread

I saw this mentioned on the blog of ‘Did you make that?’ earlier this week, and have just gotten round to listening to it. ‘A needle pulling thread’ is a collection of stories about the role of the sewing needle in our lives, and the programme introduces us to entrepreneurs, quilters, farmers, and prisoners amongst others. I’d really recommend a listen if you get the chance – I’d never before considered how a needle could be so important, and potentially harmful, to lives around the world. Here we learn how the needle is instrumental for memories, livelihood, friendships, rehabilitation and relaxation. Fascinating stuff.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04p7xls

needle pulling thread

Work in progress – a viewpoint from the middle of the pile

Work in progress. I’ve got quite a lot of that at the moment! Writing, marking, knitting…. And I’ve realised that they’re not all that different. This is my pile of knitting WIPs:

WIP pile

Here’s 7 of them. The jumper in the middle was technically finished, but I’ve decided I want it to be longer so it’s been moved out of the wardrobe and is hanging around waiting for me to be interested in it again. The white lace shawl, top left, is my long-term ongoing project of remaking the Shetland shawl. It’s so fiddly that I rarely pick it up – it’s been in this state for months now. I just need to make myself do it. Then there are the two obligatory single socks (I hate doing the second one – severe second sock syndrome always kicks in). Bottom left are some gingerbread men awaiting eyes and some hanging ribbon in time to decorate the flat for the festive season. Then, just because I didn’t have enough to do, I decided to cast on a cowl last night out of some gorgeous alpaca that I bought for a different project that didn’t work out so well. The red yarn in the top right isn’t technically mine, but is standing in to represent some of the Christmas gifts I have one the needles. Yes, there are more unfinished objects which haven’t made the picture. 10 WIPS in total maybe? I hadn’t realised there were so many ongoing projects until I sat amidst them all last night.

I do feel bad, I want the items to be finished so they can be used and loved as they’re intended to be. But equally I quite like having lots of projects on the go. Each one of these fulfils a different role and makes up a different component of my love of knitting. The lace shawl for instance is something I can do when I want a bit of a challenge, when I’m home alone and just listening to music or sitting quietly for a bit. At the other end of the spectrum is something like the jumper- just miles of stocking stitch in the round that I can do without thinking or looking – whilst watching tv or semi-supervising dinner simmering away. Socks make good travelling projects – simple, but portable. The gingerbread men are a bit of fun, and the cowl makes me feel like I’m using up stash yarn whilst giving the gratification of a quickly completed project. So depending on my mood or context, I’ve always got the perfect project to pick up! It just means that everything takes that much longer to finish, for they’re always competing with other projects.

What I’ve noticed though is that my academic work has started to resemble a pile of WIPs as well. I’m in the ‘writing-up’ stage of my PhD now, the part where it all gets serious. When I started writing I was using Microsoft word to type up chapters or sections of chapters, each in their own file. I was finding it quite muddily and slow, and so when I read about a programme called Scrivener designed to help with the writing process, I downloaded it at once. It suits me perfectly. All of my bitty little documents are now in one place, and it looks much more like a thesis. What is great about Scrivener though is the ability to focus down on small sections (whether that’s a chapter or a paragraph) and look at them in isolation or in context. So when I suddenly come across a quote that would be great in my literature review whilst working on my methodology I can quickly zoom to the section I want to insert it in without having to quit the programme and trawl through my documents to find the literature review and the appropriate section of it. (That’s a really bad description – I’d recommend looking at the Scrivener website if you’re interested, plus it does loads more cool stuff that I won’t even attempt to explain here.) Since switching to writing with Scrivener I’ve found myself to be more productive, but also a lot more jumpy. Whereas before I tended to try and focus on one chapter, I now switch between all the chapters. It’s good because I’ve started treating the thesis as a whole. But, like with my knitting projects, I’m not getting anything finished. I’m jumping between sections and chapters depending on what suits my mood or the situation. So if I’m not feeling particularly motivated I might label up all my figures in the almost-completed chapter 1. And then if a flash of inspiration strikes, I’ll go and fiddle with the structure in chapter 3, before adding in a linking paragraph at the end of chapter 2. I think I’m getting stuff done, but it’s quite difficult to tell for sure when you’re sat in the middle of the pile.

Anyway, I need to go and address a pile of marking. Which I’m also mid-way through. The biggest challenge is going to be ignoring the call of these newly-acquired beauties:

New yarn I’m thinking mittens?!

The Great British Sewing Bee

bbc-children-in-need-great-british-sewing-bee-02

So last week we were treated to three episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee for Children in Need. I love the Sewing Bee. It’s informative, the people are always really nice, and that haberdashery? I just want to jump straight in! It’s different from a lot of other things on television too – no sniping competitors like ‘the apprentice’, no talk of the ‘journeys’ people have been on like the big talent shows, no special favours given to age or beauty, and no ‘life-changing’ sums of money up for grabs, just a humble token prize and some lovely new friends. Do I sound jealous? I think might be.

The reason that I say it’s different from ‘most things’ because it is quite similar to the Great British Bake Off. Let’s face it, they couldn’t even think of a unique show title! As with GBBO we’ve got a male and a female judge (with the same initials), there are three challenges, the judging is somewhat subjective, and frequent attempts are made to ‘educate’ the audience throughout both shows. One interesting difference between the two is the setting – GBBO is in a tent in the grounds of an English manor house, GBSB in a gritty old London textile factory. Whereas GBBO gets pretty bunting and meadow flowers (plus the occasional squirrel), GBSB gets bare brick work and strip lighting. I sort of get it. But I sort of don’t. I’m just not really sure why anyone would bake intricate pastries in a tent, I think that’s the problem.

Great British Bake Off Christopher Bowles  WP_20131023_14_37_05_Pro   day2

Bake off – lovely meadow and pastel kitchen stations

Metropolitan-Wharf-Photo-by-Alan-Murray-Rust-Source-Wikimedia-Commons-via-geograph.org_.uk_    Guardian-Chinelo

Sewing Bee – Gritty urban warehouse and exposed brickwork

The thing that does bother me about both of these programmes (but particularly the sewing bee) is the issue of time. In each episode participants (I just can’t get on board with ‘contestants’) are given a very specific time slot in which to make their garment – ‘You have 2 hours to make a skirt!’, ‘1 hour to modify this shirt!’, ‘5 hours to make a coat’, ‘GO GO GO’.

Arrrrgh!

The sociologist Richard Sennett once commented that:

in contemporary capitalism, production is based on speed; fast, short-term transactions; and constantly shifting deadlines and tasks – it is world where ‘craftsmanship sits uneasily’ (2006: 105).

For me this tension really comes to the fore in the Sewing Bee. The craft of sewing is about applying skills, learning to work with a variety of fabrics, stitches, materials, and other notions. And yet, good craft – well executed skills – take time. They take time to develop, and more often than not, time to do well. Now, I supposed the assumption behind the sewing bee is that participants have already put in the time to develop a library of skills which they can in some way just extract and ‘apply’ to the task presented to them. As those of you who read our piece on skilled practice will know, I’m really not a fan of this continual reinforcement of a mind-body divide. But that’s a topic for another post. My specific gripe here is with the way Sewing Bee participants are allocated the minimal amount of time for each challenge, and thus have to work as fast as they possibly can. Each task ends with a countdown, often forcing sewists to leave raw edges on their work, or parts of the garment missing. I remember being particularly cross about this in the first series of the Sewing Bee when Tilly Walnes didn’t get enough time to finish her beautiful blouse (from a self-drafted pattern!) and was (in my opinion) unfairly ejected from the competition. It just all seems to go against what craft is about.

Craft, for me at least, is about taking the time to exercise care in the construction process. It’s not simply about an active human subject imposing her will onto a piece of wood, fabric, or metal, but instead cooperating with, co-producing if you like, a finished article. The maker needs to get to know the material, listen to what it wants. A sewer, for instance, needs to know the drape of her fabric, know what its strengths and limitations are, work with grain lines, work around (or incorporate) imperfections… Even if on paper it is ideally suited for making a specific garment, in practice it might not want to be that. Knitters often talk about waiting for their yarn to tell them what it wants to be, and I think the same is true of materials other than yarn as well. Such a process of communication takes time – just as you get to know people, you need to get to know the materials with which you work.

The fingers that craft can only go as fast as they can go. There is no switch to flick for full power, no gears for them to move through. And yet rather than feeling like they are failing at being efficient, or desperately trying to shave a few minutes off of making time, most craftspeople learn to accept and inhabit this slow space in which things grow logically and methodically – one stitch, one cut, one piece at a time. Particularly for those of us who craft for personal pleasure (rather than a for-profit business venture), craft is about finding joy in the process of making rather than a focus on reaching the finish line. It thus becomes intensely personal – finding what works and what doesn’t (whether someone does an hour here, 20 minutes there, or a huge 7 hour crafting binge, what methods are effective, what shapes and colours suit), creating something that is valued for its absolute uniqueness and being able to take the time to do it as you want.

Not for the Sewing Bee contestants though. It’s all about that finish line, trying to please other people, and direct comparisons. It has to be watchable television, yes, but it needs to have substance too. If it’s supposed to be about racing through life as quickly as possible then I guess it succeeds. But if it’s supposed to be about craft and crafting a lifestyle, well, it’s not a craft that I recognise.