Hoopla Yarn : New Project I

26 August 2012

Remember how I was struggling a wee while back with Hoopla Yarn? Wondering what on earth to do with the stuff that wouldn't turn it into some sort of soft furnishing abomination? Well, I emailed the company and let them know of my travails.

Wonderfully - rather than brutally mocking my attempts at extreme crocheting - the new distributor, Karen Lacey, replied sympathetically with some ideas and a link to Hoopla's Pinterest board.

This got the creative juices flowing. I don't just have to knit this stuff. I can ravel it as well.

And here's the result.

It's a scarf. But it's a necklace. But it's a scarf. But it's a statement piece. But it's a scarf. AND it's machine washable at 30 degrees C.

Please try and imagine that Tim Walker, Mario Testino or Tommy Ton took the photos, thus giving this textured statement piece (Necklace? Scarf?) the proper representational treatment that it deserves.

In three words; Hurrah for Hoopla! Now I just need to think about what to do with the rest of my stash. How many statement neck things does a girl actually need?
  (Images: Zoë F. Willis)

Insight : Chloé Burrow of The Merry Bobbins

17 August 2012

One side of the family are farmers from Devon who survived World War II on lashings of clotted cream and hearty English breakfasts (do bear in mind that the rest of the country was living off powdered egg and corned beef). Meanwhile a grandmother was a dressmaker from Paris who worked for the couturiers.

What sort of woman is forged from such stock? A highly creative, thoughtful and ambitious one with a passion for marmalade, that's what.  And so may I introduce Chloé Burrow, co-founder of the craft evangelisation company, The Merry Bobbins

Miss Chloé Burrow

Following her degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion at Central Saint Martins, Chloé had the usual slew of suitably fashiony internships. However, the revelation struck that pursuits of a polished "make do and mend" nature combined with home economics were what really got her excited. As a means of promoting her passion to the masses she established the Merry Bobbins with her chum Kirstie Beaven.

Past workshops have included forging slippers from old jumpers, Adventures in Marmalade Making (February only. That's when the Seville oranges - which make the tangiest marmalade with that hint of citrussy bitterness - are in season) and Make Your Own Lipstick.

"Ho hum!" I hear you cry, "But why are Chloé's ventures any different to the rash of pop up workshops that typify the twee revolution resulting from these economically straightened times?" An excellent point, and one that Chloé herself is mulling over. Whilst it would be easy to make her millions  by cynically exploiting hen party after hen party with promises of lipstick and pompom'd slippers 52 Saturdays of the year... there's something rather soulless about such a path.

An afternoon helping a self-contained clique make a souvenier is not enough. Granted, an exceptionally high-quality product of a souvenier, but a souvenier nonetheless. Where's the heart in that? 

Chloé wants to create spaces to form new, intergenerational communities bound by the glue of craft and cookery. Chloé works at Age UK's Camden Activities Resource Centre for the over 60s. She creates contemporary and edgy projects for the members to deploy lifetimes' worth of knitting, crocheting and sewing skills.

And they love it. And they want more.

"For that generation, resourcefulness is a way of life" says Chloé. So combining new looks with old skills is a chance to flex those creative muscles. Rethinking and reworking objects and materials is all a part of the adventure.

Meanwhile the most incredible stories of love, loss and risqué frolics are recounted over tea, cake and crochet. Guidance and tips are exchanged whilst friendships are formed and strengthened. Each week the community's roots grow ever deeper.

Yeah, you can kind of see why Chloé would want to bring this feeling into the Merry Bobbins. We live in a society that promotes consumption at speed, a world in which unachievable, photoshopped beauty brings misery to the richest people on earth. Children are demonised and oldies are portrayed as incapable societal burdens. Loneliness abounds.

Pfff... I feel depressed just thinking about it.

But to learn and engage with the older generation, enjoy the skills and products you then make, followed by the chance to pass on the knowledge yourself ... it sounds terribly fluffy, but oh so simple and oh so...


But how to combine this wholesome simplicity with a business, without corrupting the inherent good of such projects by the need to make a living? Now there's a conundrum upon which Chloé is currently pondering.

If you want to help her work it out, whilst keeping some terribly useful skills alive and joining this fledgling community of intergenerational crafters, keep your eyes on the Merry Bobbins website. Future workshops include Recreate your Favourite Dress or Blouse (a snazzier title is in development as we speak) weekender, bow-tie making for the dandy in your life as well as vintage dress adjustments. All body-shapes and ages are catered for!

For now we at TWIHM HQ will be keeping an eye on Miss Burrow's progress. There's an intriguing profundity to her mission, one that has much wider societal implications for pompom'd slippers and marmalade than you would otherwise think.

(Images: The Merry Bobbins)

Phoenix from the ashes II

5 August 2012

I've had this whizz bang blog up for a few of weeks now but thought it might be good - for posterity's sake - to have a spot of compare and contrast between the old and the new. And also a chance to present a small declaration of what the PLAN is for the future of TWIHM.

To start with, the PLAN.
I'd like to interview people. Interesting people who are doing exciting things in the craft world. Ambitious types with a creative bent. I've been curating a hit list and hope to convince a few to acquiesce. Do watch this space! Or get in touch if you reckon you fit the aforementioned brief.

And a few reviews are also part of the PLAN. Exhibitions, shops, books and magazines (I've already done one for Pompom magazine)... that sort of thing. From independent pop ups and one offs to established institutions and publications. It's a pretty wide remit but it'll be intriguing to see how it branches out, as I've spotted that this world of craft has many facets. 

That's probably glaringly obvious, but I'm not just talking about the creative "ooooh, look at this magnificent, highly complex and totally desirable jumper I've designed" or "check out the amigurumi crocheted figures of historical figures from my doctoral thesis" side of it. But, for example, how about the social? What is it about certain crafts that binds families and communities together? Or even defines certain social groups? 

Or what about the economic networks that various crafts are a part of? Take wool for instance. That fluffy stuff from a sheep's back was the making of Medieval England and 19th-century Australia. Today it's still a commodity used in a variety of ways, from the mundane yet important (roof insulation, anyone?) to the luxurious and bonkersly excessive (Loro Piana bespoke tailored suit anyone?). Your ball of superwash merino is somewhere in the middle of that range.

You see where I'm going with this? There's a lot to do. At some point I'll have to sit down, do some deeper research and actually define what "Craft" is. Gah. There's no escaping the academic inside.

On a lighter note, this blog -of course - will show Things Wot I Have Made. For better or for worse. Hopefully both my writing and crafty skills shall improve as time passes.

And now to end, an opportunity to "compare and contrast".

So, here's the old blog:

And look around you. There's the new. Courtesy of the lovely design people from Studio 17.

Chalk and cheese, my friends. Chalk and cheese.