I’ve not felt much like writing on the blog recently. I’m in frantic writing mode with the PhD, and I’ve been keen not to waste writing energy on anything that isn’t the thesis. Sorry blog. Anyway, that isn’t to say that I’ve not been doing fun things too – quite the contrary. Given how all-encompassing the PhD can be I’ve been keener than ever to ensure weekends involve activities that can distract me from writing, writing, writing. A few weeks ago Colin and I drove down to South Molton for the John Arbon Mill open day. The event was really well organised; we were greeted by friendly staff, delicious homemade cakes, discounted yarn and fluff, and taken on a tour of the mill. We had a fabulous time learning about how wool goes from sheep to skein, and I can honestly say I had no idea there were so many stages involved in the production! I can’t remember all the technical names of the processes, and even if I could my descriptions wouldn’t be as good as John’s. So I’m going to use that as an excuse to stop writing and show off some photographs instead (I’ve also been learning to use a DSLR camera, and think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it…)
This morning fellow PhD-er Nina and I attended the Tote bag making session for Marks and Spencer’s ‘Shwop and Sew Lab’ in Broadmead, Bristol. Neither of us had any idea of what to expect, but it was brilliant! Run as part of Bristol’s ‘Big Green Week’, the idea behind it is to get people recycling, up-cyling, and re-loving their clothes again.
When we arrived at M&S we were greeted by an array of brand new (and very swanky) Pfaff sewing machines and some exciting boxes of fabric. After the introductions, we were invited to delve through the fabric and choose the design for our bags. The fabric was actually old advertising banners which was a particularly nice idea, and they featured a whole array of different designs – including a headless David Gandy, some stylish shoes, beautiful patterns, or some hairy men’s legs! I opted for some rolled up pairs of knitted socks – I’m always a sucker for knitted things!
Nina choosing her fabric and design
After cutting out the rectangles, our lovely tutor Delia from FloJo boutique showed us how to whip up a practical and stylish tote. It took less than an hour for each of the 6 participants to complete their project, and they all looked great. Afterwards, M&S treated us to some tea and cupcakes – because who doesn’t need re-fuelling after a sewing session?!
I was also pretty excited to meet Alex from series three of the Sewing Bee! She works for M&S and was one of the brains behind the workshops being run over the nexttwo days. She was really lovely and gave me some fitting (and reading) advice for my ongoing issue in making sleeves fit. Hopefully it’s something I’ll get sorted out soon… In the meantime, I’m happy to keep making sleeveless garments now the weather is a bit nicer.
If anyone around Bristol is looking for something fun to do this evening or tomorrow I can definitely recommend a sewing session at M&S. They’re free, friendly and fashionable, and I really don’t think you can ask for anything more than that! Thanks for having us!
Our finished bags!
On Saturday 26th April I headed up to Builth Wells with my boyfriend, mum and sister in tow to attend my second Wonderwool Wales festival!
Fibre festivals are a fabulous place to pick up lots of gorgeous goodies from independent spinners and dyers. I often look (and lust) online over various skeins but am always a little wary of splashing my cash on something I’ve not had the chance to squish. Whereas when you get to these events everywhere you look there are people hugging skeins of yarn, poking, prodding, and sniffing fibre without a second thought. It’s lovely. These events also foster a lovely atmosphere, as people from all walks of life come together to indulge in a shared passion. There are Ravelry gatherings where online friends can meet in person, and plenty of stopping places for people to pause and share advice over coffee and cake. Some of our furrier friends are also usually present, and this year was no exception. Also at Wonderwool were two TOFT alpacas, plenty of sheep, and the fluffiest angora bunnies in all of Wales!
Also on display was the cardigan of Cardigan:
And the most incredibly intricate hand-knitted (life-sized!) gingerbread house!!!
Colin, it has to be said, was mainly in it for the scotch eggs…
But Chloe and I came away with armfuls of yarn (and a couple of cakes):
I was remarkably restrained really. The 800g of maroon wool is mine, intended for a boxy, and the light pink semi-solid is an alpaca blend from easyknits which I just fell in love with. I also bought some pearly buttons and some more stitch markers and a replacement needle sizer from atomic knitting.
All in all it was a lovely day out!
PhD life has been hectic recently; it’s full steam-ahead with writing, and the undergraduate assignments have been flowing in thick and fast for marking. I also had the opportunity to teach on our MSc course at Bristol this term and ran a guest seminar on ‘making as method’ for the ‘practising posthumanism’ module. Excitingly, I was also invited to lecture on an MA course at UWE last week where I was fortunate enough to meet a lovely and engaged group of art students for a session on Actor-Network Theory. Having done very little on ANT since my own undergraduate degree it was really interesting to revisit some of the key themes and topics and trace the path my work has taken since. That being said, I’m incredibly grateful that the Easter holidays are upon us. Although I’m only taking a few days out, it will be nice to have a break from the marking for a couple of weeks!
My most exciting news, however, is that I’ve been published! Remember the yarn bombing that started this blog?! Well I’ve been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) working at writing that up and it is now in the current issue of the journal Area. For those of you with university subscriptions you can find a copy here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/area.12164/abstract.If you don’t have access and are interested, drop me an email. Thank you to each and every one of you that made the research possible in the first place – whether that was commenting on the blog, taking photos of my yarn bombs in situ or encouraging me to write it all up! Hopefully you’ll enjoy the finished article ;-)
Lots of exciting updates to follow in the next few weeks!
Happy Springtime – one from the archives!
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!
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
Me – Giant knitting at Bristol Wool Fair 2014!
“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
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.
No booking required, for enquiries contact Nina Williams (Nina.Williams@bristol.ac.uk).
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.