Towards the end of last summer my friend Kate of KDD & Co. visited me here in Reading so we could plan a collaborative project. Our idea was to design something together which would speak to our shared interests in the creative possibilities of stranded colourwork, and the textures of womens’ lives, history, and creativity. We wanted to build on our many conversations over the years, and to work with our mutual friend, collaborator and comrade, Mel.
That meeting of many months ago has culminated in the co-creation of a celebratory, commemorative blanket.
This blanket represents many hours of exploring our own feminism; thinking about the people whose creative practices have informed our own; and the slow process of finding ways to appropriately and respectfully translate their work into stranded colourwork designs. Kate has written a bit about this process on the KDD & Co. blog today and we will both share more in coming days but, in the meantime, if you want to have a go at designing your own squares, you can download the blank chart template for doing so here.
In our friendship Kate and I are always enthusing to one another about artists, writers, designers and makers whose work speaks to us: “have you read…” “have you seen…” “have you heard…”. We wanted to infuse our blanket with that same spirit of joyous sharing. The final piece features 30 squares, each of which is inspired by the work of a maker who has, in turn, inspired us. Kate and I designed 15 squares each which Mel then knitted up, making helpful improvements to our charts and joining in with the conversations prompted by the background story for each square.
The process of celebrating anyone’s life and work is complex and researching and developing our squares for this project challenged us to think carefully about representation and commemoration. Also, a small colourwork square presents very particular limitations. It’s a low-resolution medium; the format of the squares and the shape of their chart means that designs repeat four times around each one; and working with Kate’s Milarrochy Tweed restricted us to a palette of 16 shades. These constraints imposed structure and discipline onto our ideas and forced us to regard the work and legacy of each of the women celebrated in a very particular way. Like the knitted postcards of Yumi and Muriel’s magnificent #KnittedCorrespondence project, each square offers a very small canvas for experimentation, learning, and exchange.
Too, there were questions about what our final choices should be, and what sort of feminist celebration our finished blanket would represent. This led to many challenging and thoughtful conversations as we thought about different intersections of identity and the shifting definitions of what feminism has meant to us at different stages in our friendship of over a decade. The process of poring over poems, letters, paintings, album covers and other manifestations of womens’ creativity was deeply moving and made me appreciate the many messy and multi-layered ways in which other women inspire me and influence my ideas. From the books beside my bed, to the sweaters I knit and wear, to what I watch, to the images stuck up on my kitchen cupboards, to the music I listen to, record, and mix, my life and my work are messily and joyously and intentionally connected with the creative expressions of a very diverse range of women. These connections lift me up and give me hope; they challenge me; they affirm me and my experiences but they also teach me about places within my feminism where I need more understanding, awareness and empathy. All these different layers and levels of inspiration and connection are stitched into our blanket and sketched into the pages where we worked out the details of our squares.
The collaborative nature of the project also meant that while exploring both old and new feminist ideas, I was also introduced to new perspectives, identities and makers by Kate and her designs. What a gift, for example, to find the moving performance poetry of Suheir Hammad…
…and to be introduced to the inspiring world of Alice Coltrane’s compositions and performances, whose album cover for Ptah the El Daoud, influenced Kate’s swirling commemoration of her work.
There are many more stories and connections embedded in our blanket – each of which deserve their own posts, really – but while we’re working on those, you can read more about the whole project here.
Working on this together was an immense privilege – a project both personal and political, and one that has made me think about what sort of feminist I want to be and why I even knit in the first place. From our first conversations about the blanket until now, we have hoped our project might inspire other groups to get together to create collaborative, commemorative blankets and to use that process as an opportunity for growth, dialogue and creative exploration. In that spirit, we’re starting to share what we’ve made together with you.
We really hope our work will give you ideas for your own Square Share.
Who will you celebrate, how will you commemorate their work? Who will you recognise and what will you learn from engaging with their work through creative processes of charting, knitting, swatching and design?
Perhaps – most importantly – with whom will you share your squares?
With greatest thanks to Kate and Mel for being such willing, thoughtful, challenging, supportive and constructive comrades through this creative project: it has been amazing to KNITSONIK with KDD & Co..
YOURS IN ALL THE KNITTED SQUARES,
Until soon –