Publication update

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: 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!

2013 in Review

(Belated) happy new year all! And sorry about the lack of blog posts towards the end of 2013… I don’t really know what happened. My new year’s resolution is to blog more regularly, although it seems I haven’t got off to the best of starts.

The life of a PhD student is a strange one. Often you feel like you achieve very little, plodding into the office every day, reading a bit, and then plodding home again for dinner (and a knit). As we moved into the New Year I didn’t feel as if 2013 had been particularly significant for me. It was that ‘middle stage’ of the PhD, the bit that doesn’t have the freshness and excitement of starting but also the bit without the panic and pressure of writing up and getting-it-done. But actually, when I stopped and considered it 2013 was alright. More than alright in many respects, and quite eventful!

At the start of the year I was busy throwing myself into interviewing local makers. I met some wonderful people – including basket weavers, fabric artists, a ceramicist, mosaicist, silversmith, and a metal sculptor – who welcomed me into their workspaces and allowed me an insight into their craft worlds. I also spoke with Matthew Partington from UWE about interviewing craftspeople and the on-going project he is involved in called ‘recording the crafts’. This was useful, not only for the interviewing work I had already been doing, but for the archival practice I was about to embark on at the University of Southampton.


As many of you know I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘In the Loop 3.5’ conference in Shetland over the summer, which marked my first ever visit to the northerly Island. The scenery was stunning, the conference fascinating, and the wool plentiful. Needless to say I came back with a case stuffed full of yarny goodness. In the Loop was organised by the lovely, and totally inspirational, Linda Newington. Linda is based at Winchester School of Arts and curates the Knitting Reference Library (KRL). After hearing about this veritable treasure trove at In the Loop I arranged a visit to delve through some of the books and patterns held both at Winchester and in Southampton. Oh my gosh, it’s a wonderful collection! Everything you can think of to do with knitting is here – from Victorian patterns to yarn samples, letters between famous knitters to needles, and drop spindles to toilet roll covers. It’s just jaw-dropping, and such a privilege to be allowed a glimpse of craft history. Longer blog post to follow dedicated solely to the KRL, I promise.

994228_10153105547705534_151050738_nA Shetland Knitting Circle

I’ve also been spending an increasing amount of time at Paper Village and getting involved with their community projects. In May we unveiled the coral reef – a fab crochet project that involved 38 local crafters making a woolly underwater wonderland that went on display for a month or so and got some great feedback from crafters and non-crafters alike. The next project is the City of Briswool – a mission to knit, crochet, and needlefelt a fibrous representation of Bristol. I’ve been tasked with making Beese’s tea rooms and some trees for Arnos Vale cemetery. It’s going to be massive and I can’t wait to see the finished piece! Going to Paper Village isn’t all about project work though; I’ve also been going to the weekly knit and natter group there and enrolled in a few courses. As a result I can now make my own (cotton, not knitted) knickers!

971408_628315547181681_1907177861_nThe Paper Village Coral Reef

Vicky from Paper Village was also kind enough to collaborate with me in a recent conference we did on crafting at the University’s ‘Thinking Futures’ event. We spoke alongside other academics and practitioners at what was, overall, a relaxed, fun, and interesting evening discussing a range of craft-related issues. On the subject of conferences, 2013 was my first visit to the annual RGS-IBG conference in London at which I also presented in a session on the geographies of comfort. It turned out to be a great few days actually, helped in no small part by some glorious weather, where I got to meet a huge range of geographers and generally mingle with people working in similar fields. My paper went much better than I expected it to (given how incredibly anxious I’d been about it in the weeks leading up to the event) and the conference as a whole was a bit of a summer boost.

In terms of yarn bombing this year I’ve largely kept my head down, excluding one or two big events. My absolute favourite commission was being asked to decorate the surroundings for one of Bristol’s Gromits over the summer for Hotel du Vin. The team were so lovely and welcoming and helped me cover their courtyard in bunting, pom-poms, and a giant bone. It looked great, and I had lots of positive feedback on it too. I also did some work for AXA’s graduate scheme again, this time making pom-poms to adorn Warwick University’s campus during a career fair. Apparently though the wrap from 2012 is still doing the rounds and has been displayed all over the country! Nice to know it’s holding up ok. I was also sent a link to a yarn bombing documentary a few weeks ago which I was interviewed for. The other participants are Spanish, but this version of the video has English subtitles if you fancy a watch. There’s some very impressive work going on!

It probably goes without much saying that I did a fair amount of knitting in 2013. Not as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to get through over 7 miles of yarn – just in my personal projects! Not too shabby. I doubt I’ll get as much knitted up in 2014, but watch out for a few upcoming posts I have planned on some exciting projects I’ll be embarking on shortly. It’s going to be an exciting year by all accounts – I’m off to Australia for three months starting in February having been awarded a grant by the ESRC to work with a professor at the University of Newcastle. I can’t wait! Then it will almost be time for another RGS-IBG conference (at which I’m co-organising a session), before getting the thesis written and finished. Lots to look forward to then! 

Knitting for Gromit Unleashed

A few weeks ago I installed a very exciting yarn bomb commission for Hotel du Vin in Bristol. During July and August the city hosted 80 five foot tall Gromit sculptures (from Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit fame) as part of a giant arts trail. Locals and visitors alike were encouraged to find and admire as many Gromits as possible, by way of the free printed maps or using the dect-o-gromit phone app. Each Gromit was designed by a different artist and the variety was fantastic! We had Vincent Van Gromit, the Gromitosaurus, the Gromberry, and Isambark Kingdog Brunel to name but a few. Ultimately all the Gromit statutes will be auctioned off to raise money for the Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Early in June Hotel du Vin contacted me to say they would be hosting Katy Christianson’s Gromit and wondered if I might be able to help brighten up their courtyard to provide a cosy home for Gromit whilst he stayed in Bristol. They didn’t have to ask twice… I set about making pom-poms, bunting, stars, and dog-themed wraps to adorn the space with. And here are some of the results!

ImageCanis Major Gromit in the courtyard

Image  Image

         Gromit and a big knitted bone            Dog themed wraps in the trees 🙂 

It was a really fun project to be involved in and the staff at the hotel were super friendly and excited about the prospect of hosting some yarn bombing for the summer. The knitted bone took forever to make, but I’m so happy with the results and very glad I persevered with it. Despite the flat being covered in woolly goodies I was really worried there wouldn’t be enough stuff to cover the courtyard, but I think the fears were unfounded. The courtyard looked suitably cosy without being over the top. I’ve also seen a few lovely blog posts by Gromit spotters who enjoyed the woolly additions which is great news.  My current project is another commission (remember the AXA one I did last year? They want more!) and that’s due to be installed in early October. Seems yarn bombing is still in fashion 😉

Love Storm

Love is in the air in Bristol today, and now it’s on the street furniture too. It only really struck me on Monday that Valentine’s day was almost upon us once again so I dug out my hook and crocheted up some little hearts. Luckily each heart only takes a matter of minutes to create. Three made their way onto a purple background with red scalloped edges, and the other eleven became two strings of hearts. The harbourside area of Bristol gets incredibly busy during the day so I decided to get these up late last night rather than risk being caught in the morning (besides, I hate getting up early!) I’m pleased to report they’re still all in-situ, although once the Brunel Buttery opens I’m not sure they’ll hang around for long! Hopefully they’ll have cheered up someone’s morning anyway.  Happy valentine’s day Bristol!

Snow business

We in Bristol (and most of the UK by all accounts) woke up to a white winter wonderland this morning. Which suddenly reminded me that I never got around to blogging about the results of our woolly winter mischief at the end of 2012! On the evening of December 18th seven members of the paper village ‘knit and natter’ group met in Southville at 10:30 pm clutching carrier bags filled with knitted and crocheted snowflakes. Our plan was to create a snowstorm in one of the little public gardens just off North Street but we had so many snowflakes that we ended up finding a second tree further down the road to adorn as well. It looked amazing when it was done, and even as we were putting it up people were walking past and exclaiming how lovely and festive it was. I even gave one lady a crocheted snowflake for her to take home and hang in the tree in her garden as she was so taken with them! Apparently there are a few still left hanging, so I hope they’re enjoying the real snow landing around them today. As promised, here are a few photos from the night….

And a token image of the actual snow in Bristol today (just because it’s pretty):

Winter Woolly Mischief (in progress…)

One of the lovely local craft shops in Bristol – Paper Village – is well known for its yarn bombing exploits around the city, especially in the Bedminster/Southville area. Just check out their Flickr photostream for examples of some of their past projects!

Anyway,  I’ve recently been asked to help out with creating some winter-themed woolly mischief with them. As such I’ve been busy crocheting away to create lots of snowflakes. It’s great fun and really easy to do – my favourite design (and one that I’ve now committed to memory) is loosely based on a red heart pattern I found online. I like this pattern as the finished product comes out pretty sturdy and looks quite effective. They look even better when covered in a clear layer of glitter glue as well! It’s been a while since I really did any crochet – I’ve taken more to knitting lately and have been busy crafting Christmas presents and such like (blog post on that to follow in due course…)

I can’t give too much away about what we’re planning to do with all the snowflakes at the moment, but it’s not long now until the wool is unleashed! I’m looking forward to it, I’ve not yarn bombed in a while and I’ve never done anything as part of a larger group so it should be fun! Watch this space for updates!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak-preview of what I’ve been making:

Waiting for a train…

“A small speckled visitor
Wearing a crimson cape
Brighter than a cherry
Smaller than a grape
A polka-dotted someone
Walking on my wall
A black-hooded lady
In a scarlet shawl.”
~Joan Walsh Anglund

The ladybirds have scuttled their way onto a pillar at Redland Station! I made the ladybirds a while ago now and have just been knitting up the fuzzy blue background for them to nestle upon. I was really pleased with the insects themselves, but the blue part was a nightmare to get sorted. Not only was it dead boring to do (constant rows of knitting a purling weren’t exciting me after a while) but the yarn was horrible to work with. It was scratchy, it malted on the carpets and it was so stretchy that it was impossible to work out if it was even the right size. We had to stretch it a bit at the top but luckily it did fit. It didn’t take too long to attach either which was a blessing given that we were trying to sew it on between trains when the platform was quiet. Ideally I’d have done the blue part a bit bigger but I couldn’t face doing any more so the other ladybird’s will have to find homes in other parts of Bristol. I’m sure that won’t be too tricky!

The idea of using the ladybird motif came from the conference I attended in New York back in February. During the session we were encouraged to craft and the organisers provided materials for us to play around with. One of these things was a big reusable shopping bag with little ladybirds pictured on it. The bags (one of which now comes on weekly trips to aldi with me) were part of the geographical project run by Ian Cook et al at Exeter called ‘follow the things‘. The project aims to trace the histories of commodities in order to get people to better understand, and appreciate, where the things which populate our lives come from. It’s a fascinating scheme and the website is well worth a visit.  I also adore the emblem of the ladybird and so making my own 3d versions was the next logical step. I use trains to and from Bristol a lot and have been keen to get one up in a station somewhere for a long time. Hopefully they’ll brighten up the day of some commuter – the sun certainly isn’t doing that at the moment!