The Knitting and Stitching Show 2013

21 October 2013

The Janie Crow 2013 Crochet Club taster pack. Just one of the myriad of temptations at the K & S show

Ooops. Has it been more than a week since the textile bonanza that is the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace?

I think it has. My, how time has flown and I think I've just about recovered enough to write a word or two and share a few pictures.


Overall, it was great. Textiley temptations? Tick. Nanas of Northampton body surfing on bags of bargain yarn? Tick. Throngs? Tick. 

Bargain bags of yarn before the body surfing began at the Black Sheep Wools stall(s)

I will grant you, that the throngs got a bit much. I only lasted two hours before I had to leave. Well, it was actually a combination of throngs and too much visual stimulation. It's something I noticed during the doctorate. Even though I am trained to look at Art, enjoy, appreciate, wax lyrical and occasionally write something erudite on the subject... within 1/2 an hour in a gallery I'm like an exhausted and grumpy toddler after a raucous music class involving kazoos. Odd, I know, but too much of an aesthetically pleasing thing gets a bit overwhelming and I need to retreat before I am rude to somebody.

And a Nana of Northampton wielding sharpened knitting needles does not suffer rudeness gladly. Not even from lapsed Art Historians.

I thought you should have a virtual taste of what the throngs were like. Uffa. Small wonder I only lasted 2 hours.

But before I hit the wall there were wonderful and pretty things to behold.


I am ever so taken by Janie Crow's crochet-a-long clubs. Every year she puts together a pack of yarns and send them out to Crochet Club subscribers. By the end of a few months, with drip-fed instructions and many acquired crochet skills en route, a magnificent bit of textile art is revealed. One year I'll find the time to join (BAHAHAHAHA! Wishful thinking, Willis...) but for now I'll just admire from afar.

The Moorish inspired 2012 Crochet Club project by Janie Crow. Ooooh.

Lotsa skeins of yarn from Mrs Moon.

There was also the Upcycling Academy. Yayness! It was even more of a success than Barley Massey, Craftivist Collective, War on Want and TRAID could have hoped for. I'm especially pleased for Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective as her contribution was just the tonic.

The Upcycling Academy before the doors opened. © Rosie Allt

An important theme at the Upcycling Academy.  © Rosie Allt
Sarah created a small corner of tranquility in and amongst the chaotic throngs where people were encouraged not only to sign a "Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops" petition, but to embroider their signatures. This made a lovely and welcome space for making, discussion and sweet, blissful calm in the face of the frenzy. Here's hoping she will return next year.

The "Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops"embroidered petition from the Craftivist Collective.

Jumbo knitting with recycled textile waste on the Fabrications table at the Upcycling Academy.

Some intensive embellishment underway at TRAID's table, part of the Upcycling Academy.

But what of my own acquisitions? Below is what was meant to be a tasteful, Pinterest-able still life until a small person decided that those wooden buttons would make perfect plates for a dinner party that Upsy Daisy was planning at her bijoux apartment.

The Haul
Ahem. I had other plans for those buttons and the stripey linen ribbon, mainly finishing off the Cricket cardigan I'm making for said small person. The Liberty print ribbon is for an intended Heathered cardigan, essentially a big person's version of the small person's cardigan. I know, I know. We're dabbling with Mummy / Daughter identical dressing, which is just wierd. But my planned cardigan will be in a sensible navy blue and should last a lifetime. Small person will get two months out of Cricket if she's lucky.

As for the yarns, the variegated, lilacky balls of the Garnstudio DROPS Big Delight (Wow. What a name) acquired from Nest will become not one but two of the bajillion versions on Ravelry of Purl Soho's infamous Bandana Cowl

Christmas is coming, people. I need to get prepared.

Then there are the two skeins of mariney, bluey, fantabulous Malabrigo Yarn Merino Worsted. I've no idea what they will become but, by gum, they are things of beauty.

Finally, I am now the proud owner of two indigo house aprons from Chang Textiles. This is a company who import textiles from East Asia, predominantly indigo-dyed and batik print fabric from rural south western China. I find the myriad of shades produced during the indigo dyeing process very appealing and Chang's has everything from fat quarters to batik hangings to fabric by the metre to Muji-esque house aprons.

And from these house aprons was a fascinating element of continuity from the Upcycling Academy; the notion of how textiles and clothing are part of a complicated global web that connects all of modern humanity.

One of the ladies helping on the Chang stall told me that this sort of indigo fabric and the skills needed to create them are becoming increasingly hard to come by in south west China. With echoes of the societal and economic problems that forged the Ricefield Collective, internal migration and the increasing urbanisation of China's population means these skills are fading. Mothers are no longer passing the knowledge on to daughters. Why learn about indigo if you're working in a factory that produces a heap of cheap clothes for the West? Also, the local market for these products are vanishing in the face of dwindling rural populations. Maybe a significant international demand for these indigo textiles could mean enough women find it worthwhile to stay in their rural homes and thus ensure the continuity of both culture and community?

Here's hoping it's that simple.

(Images: Zoë F. Willis & Rosie Allt)


Nina said...

Ah, I was starting to think there'd been a blogger boycott of the show this year! I stayed away despite living very close by, and having seen the throngs in your photo and relived previous years' bargain-yarn-body-surfing exploits, I don't entirely regret it! The Upcycling Academy seems to have grown, though - it looks great. And buttons as plates? That's genius.

Zoe F. Willis said...

I think it best to tackle the K & S show first thing on the Thursday morning. That's been my strategy in the past but this year was my first Saturday foray. BONKERS. It was amazing to see the Upcycling Academy thriving though. Well worth the foray alone.