Hello, how are you?
October whizzed by very fast and every time I thought I had five minutes to sit down and write something here, something else came up with the result that now the month has ended and there is almost no news of anything on here. But rest assured: plenty has been going on, quietly, behind the scenes.
The KNITSONIK System
The biggest news and main reason for the blog being so quiet is that I have been dusting off The KNITSONIK System online course that I created during lockdown in 2020 and adapting it to be a self-paced standalone course. This is my flagship course – the one that shows you how to turn an everyday inspiration source into stranded colourwork of your own design – and I’m really enjoying revisiting everything I created two years ago and sprucing it up for a relaunch. Though the core-content (several hours of pre-recorded instructional videos plus worksheets) will remain as before, I am working on more clearly signposting the learning arc throughout the course (which I think is extra important for self-paced learning). I’m also working to ensure that the downloadable PDFs are every bit as beautiful as the videos, and to carefully build in a sustainable way for me to support the learning of everyone who enrols. I’m really enjoying going back through all the imagery I created when I first made the course, centred on an in-real-time swatch that I worked on, while producing the course, inspired by a tin of pastilles I picked up on holiday.
There will be no Zoom calls associated with this new edition of The KNITSONIK System – instead, I’m going to respond to participants’ queries and questions in a way that will be evergreen; that will be easily searchable by query; and that will bring some levity to navigating road-bumps in the creative path. This new feature will be THE STRANDED COLOURWORK AGONY AUNT UPLOADS! in which I shall embrace my inner Agony Aunt in order to kindly, lightly, and helpfully address issues that arise during the creative process. I will write more about this when the course goes live but, in the meantime, if you’re interested in doing a self-paced online course that shows you how to translate daily life into stranded colourwork, make sure you’re signed up to the KNITSONIK Newsletter. As a subscriber you’ll be first to hear when the course goes live; have access to earlybird pricing; and – of course – receive a coupon-code that will allow you to avail of a 10% newsletter subscriber discount when the cart opens.
I’d like to say a massive thank you here to three KNITSONIK graduates who did the course the first time around, who each produced amazing projects using the ideas from the course, and who each sent me testimonials that were so positive they made me cry (in the good way). Thank You Jimenez, Sue and Lauren Leigh – your kind words about The KNITSONIK System have really energised my wish to reboot it. Sometimes it’s hard running a creative business on your own, and all you see are the complaints and unfinished tasks. Sincere, positive feedback is deeply appreciated.
The KNITSONIK & Friends: Colour to Knit Club
Back in May myself and the other designers from the KNITSONIK & Friends: Colour to Knit eBook (Beverlet Dott, Patricia Kimmitt and Nolwenn Pensivy) launched a club. Every month from May – August a new design from the book was revealed to club members, while live creative Zoom sessions enabled us to share our creative processes and play together. The plan was that spacing out the launches would give everyone a chance to play and knit each design between pattern releases. We took a break over the summer as the last two projects – Flombre (an accessory set of mittens, hat and cowl) and Japonica (a massive statement wrap that is both a fashion statement and a wearable blanket) were far too wool-heavy to contemplate during the incredibly hot summer we had here in the UK this year. October saw the revival of the club calls with the last one happening this coming Friday and drawing to a close the formal CLUB ACTIVITIES here at KNITSONIK HQ. It’s been really amazing to see folks in the club using our ideas, patterns and processes as launch-pads for new creative adventures. My favourite thing by far has been seeing several club members designing their first stranded colourwork as a result of engaging with our club. SHOUT OUT TO CLUB MEMBERS! And thanks to everyone who signed up – it’s been so brilliant to share the creative process with you all. If you missed the club, you can still get hold of the eBook here.
I was lucky enough to start October in Shetland, my favourite place on Earth. I had the most wonderful time there doing many fun things – making sourdough with Caroline and John Wm.; taking refreshing dips in the North Atlantic; seeing THE MAREEL (bio luminous plankton that glows in the sea and looks like glitter); getting magic time with friends old and new; and modelling for Niela Kalra’s awesome Nielanell knitwear brand. The photoshoot was an amazing experience for lots of reasons but especially for enabling me to experience and appreciate the depth, beauty and richness of Niela’s work. Modelling is interesting as I have a complicated relationship to my body image (something I’ve touched on here before) but the chance to be part of a relaxed, joyful photoshoot surrounded by lovely creative people, playing dress-up, and making the kinds of images I want to see in the world was just too good to pass up, as was the opportunity to play with fellow model and cherished friend, Jeanette Sloan. Thanks to Astrid Johnston for this lovely picture of us wearing our Wool Week hats in one of Niela’s sheds.
My right-hand wrist continues to be too sore for knitting and I can only go for 20 minutes at a time, followed by hand-exercises and ice-packs. I had an injection of steroids into the joint last week, Mark made a huge fuss of me and been incredibly supportive, and I’m blessed to have amazing friends who are extra nice to me at times like this so really and truly, I’m doing fine… but it does mean that I have no knitting news to share with you. I did have a bit of a crazy week last week that involved many needles – flu jab, 4th COVID booster, steroid injection into my wrist, blood tests (routine monitoring) and my 2 regular medication injections. A friend called it PINCUSHION WEEK which reminded me of these felted wool cake/pin-cushions I made years ago, and of wet-felting, which might be a way for me to work with wool while my knitting capacity is limited.
SPEAKING OF WOOL… you may have noticed on various social media platforms that WOVEMBER is being revived this year under new woolly leadership. Jointly founded in 2011 by myself and Kate Davies of KDD&Co., continued with Tom van Deijnen through 2012 and 2013, and then managed and maintained by myself and Louise Scollay of the WoolWork podcast from 2014 – 2017, the project was a woolly labour of love that we reluctantly had to draw to a close in 2018. I’m really proud of the work that went into WOVEMBER over the years. Going forward, the blog archive will remain in place as long as WOVEMBER lives so that it can be searched and so the record of everyone who ever contributed to the site will stay in place as a valuable archive of woolly joy. Becci at RiverKnits started dyeing and working with wool as a result of reading the Wovember blog, and it is Becci who approached me about taking Wovember forward – there’s a beautiful circularity in that. Becci’s joined by Markus (also at RiverKnits) and Fay Dashper-Hughes of Provenance Craft Co. The values of RiverKnits and Provenance Craft Co are aligned with what Wovember was always about: transparency, traceability, provenance and working with beautiful woolly wool. It has been quite a lot of work to disentangle all the back-end things for Wovember: logins, passwords, etc. and there are a few snaggy bits still to sort out (hello self-hosted website) but the new WOVEMBER team have put together a lovely list of prompts to get us all thinking about wool and I hope you’ll join them for a month of woolly fun; wishing everyone the warmest and woolliest of WOVEMBERS XXX
I’ve had a great time this evening, putting together a page in my KNITSONIK Bullet Journal featuring all the prompts, all my sheepy rubber stamps, and a mix of sheepy washi tapes including these by Katie Green.
Playing The Race Card
Finally, and importantly, I want to tell you about one more thing from October while it’s still on, and that is the fantastic group exhibition Playing The Race Card which remains open until 6th November:
21 October to 6 November 2022
Opening times: Thursday to Sunday from 11am-5pm
Please note: We will open at 12 noon on Saturday 5 Nov
Location: Greenhalf Art Studio, 7-11 Market Street, St Leonards, TN38 0DG
This show began life in 2020, instigated and envisioned by community leader Claudine Eccleston in response to her experiences of the term from which the exhibition takes its title. Playing The Race Card started life online as an open call inviting Black artists to respond creatively to the phrase:
Formed of new and existing works, the exhibition seeks to turn this problematic metaphor on its head and replace a culture of victim blaming with a celebration of diversity.
The process of turning online creativity into a real-life exhibition that you can walk around and take your time to experience was project-managed by the always brilliant and thoughtful Lorna Hamilton-Brown (AKA the Banksy of Knitting). If you can get to see it, go. Mark and I went last week and really appreciated the breadth of responses and the thoughtful connections and threads running through the work. Taken together, the work by the 25 contributing artists refutes and challenges the nonsense idea that being Black provides any kind of trump card or advantage in a structurally racist world – an idea perhaps most directly addressed in Nicole Thornton’s powerful painting, The Game is Rigged.
Nicole says “this piece depicts two people playing Black Jack. The black player’s hand consists of cards that read ‘Slavery’, ‘Prison’, ‘Oppression’, ‘Inequality’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’. These cards are of no value in the game, symbolising the fact that black people are repeatedly told to ‘get over’ the past and turn a blind eye to the disproportionate incarceration rates, oppression and inequality they face. In 2020 when millions of people tried to call out injustices faced by black people on a global scale, the ‘All Lives Matter’ movement, a power card held by the white player, diluted it… in the instances when a black person tries to call out racism, we are told to stop playing ‘the race card’. This is a fallacy. The person often saying this is the one who is truly playing the race card to undermine our efforts to call out racism and facilitate change… the ‘Race’ card has the same effect that an Ace card has in the game of Black Jack: the Ace card enables the player to change the suit in the same way that the ‘Race’ card forces us to change the direction of the conversation that we need to have”.
Not everything speaks so directly to the theme, and this exhibition really fulfils its promise to be a celebration of diversity, with a variety of media and a nuanced range of approaches forming rich conversations and offering different viewpoints. For example, Lorna Hamilton-Brown’s work I Don’t See Colour speaks to how this phrase – like “Playing The Race Card” – is often used to shut down conversations. Lorna says “For Black people, it sounds like “I don’t see you”. It’s used as a full stop in conversations about racism, inequality, or injustice and serves to invalidate Black people’s lived experiences”. Lorna made her piece using a gridded fabric constructed of Tunisian crochet stitches, on which she has embroidered the word Black using cross-stitch embroidery.
The word Black also appears in Anna Maria Nabirye’s letterpress piece This Black Bites Back. Here, it’s assertively repeated in ways that are rhythmic and celebratory. Anna Maria says “Something a little spikey is growing inside and outside of me and words feel like a place of freedom to explore this”.
These are just three examples that I’ve picked to try and show the rich ways in which words, phrases, ideas and diverse creative approaches have been used in this important exhibition to speak powerfully to its theme. Further information about the exhibition as well as the biographies and websites for all the artists involved can be found online here. Thank you to everyone involved with the show for giving us such a warm welcome, and for creating this fantastic exhibition.