Wild & Woolly Knit 15

Do you remember the Balance for Better Blanket project on which I collaborated with the amazing team at KDD & Co. last year? It was formally recognised by International Women’s Day as an example of best practice, and it’s one of my favourite projects to date because it speaks to friendship; collaboration; creativity; stranded colourwork; and to the contemplation and celebration of womens’ lives and histories. On a more personal note, I love Kate and cherished this opportunity to work together.

celebratory stranded colourwork blanket, made up of many different, intricately-designed squares

I was due to speak about our blanket at the fabulous emporium of my friend Anna: Wild & Woolly – and was really looking forward to meeting some of you there and sharing the Balance for Better Blanket.

However, because of Covid-19 and social distancing, my talk – like so many other fibre events scheduled for this year – had to be cancelled.

Happily, Anna had the idea that we could maybe talk about the blanket on the phone instead and so last Friday, covered in microphones and wires, I sat down on the sofa with a stack of books and notes beside my mobile phone and we spoke for half an hour or so about the project.

You can hear our conversation here.

It was wonderful to sit down and reflect on the process and the context for this project. From meeting last August, to discuss the project; to setting the parameters for the project and thinking about how to work with Kate’s carefully considered Milarrochy Tweed palette; to our methods for remote working which enabled me to work with the KDD & Co. team across the four-hundred mile distance between Reading and Glasgow which separates us; to the final designs for the 30 squares honouring a diverse range of amazing creative women.

In the Wild & Woolly podcast, we briefly touch on a bit of historic context – on projects of mine and Kate’s from the past which speak to this idea of celebrating or making visible the women history has not recorded (such as my Hearing Catherine project for the Charles Dickens Museum, or Kate’s In the steps of Jane Gaugain walk and article originally written for Twist Collective.) I love this square by Kate which celebrates Jane Gaugain and which speaks to the pattern for a PINE APPLE BAG featured in her book, The Lady’s Assistant for executing useful and fancy designs in knitting, netting, and crochet work.

Jane Gaugain square by Kate Davies for the Balance for Better Blanket; the design features a pineapple, in honour of the pineapple purse pattern in Jane Gaugain's first book of knitting patterns

We also talk a little bit about the non-literal translation of Rocky Rivera’s gorgeous music video for Best Shot, from which I took the angles and the palette for my square celebrating this amazing artist…

Blanket square celebrating Rocky Rivera, with visual elements taken from the music video for Best Shot

…the complexity of trying to condense the vast body of text produced by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper into a single square, and deciding to focus in on the title line from her iconic poem, BURY ME IN A FREE LAND…

a square that features the words BURY ME IN A FREE LAND repeated in each quarter, with the suggestion of soil, mountains, skies and land in the palette used in the background

…the incredible joy of Alma Thomas’s magnificent art and her painting, Resurrection.

Resurrection - a beautiful painting by Alma Thomas, in which concentric circles of luminous colours are arranged in disciplined yet organic brushstrokes around a glowing centre

This was the first piece of work by an African-American Woman to be acquired for the permanent collection for The White House, and the inspiration for my square celebrating the legacy, brilliance and colourful joy of this amazing 20th century abstract painter.

Resurrection by Alma Thomas, translated into stranded colourwork

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation over on the Wild & Woolly Knit 15 Podcast and huge thanks to Anna for hosting me and for finding a way for the talk to go ahead!

If you are inspired to design your OWN celebratory blanket, our Square Share template is freely available to download from here.

Yours in celebratory knitting, friendship, collaboration and stranded colourwork –

4 thoughts on “Wild & Woolly Knit 15

  1. This was an inspiration, a wondrous listen. The whole process was so exciting I felt I might need to make my own blanket. It’s a beautiful work of art; I wanted to be able to touch it.

    1. Thanks Eleanor – you definitely need to make your own blanket, and I think you’ll find the palette of Milarrochy Tweed particularly wonderful to work with. It’s soft in the hand, blocks out into something airy and light, and is extremely forgiving of any errors in your tension. The process of celebrating different women in wool is ewarding and absorbing work.

  2. What an amazing work of art and what a lovely history! Thanks for sharing it with us and the world!

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