Several KNITSONIK projects are experiments in bringing finished woolen textiles together with location recordings in order to highlight the origins of textiles in specific landscapes and cultures. HÛRD – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION celebrates the characteristic textiles that hail from the Lake District, conveying sounds recorded in Cumbria through a speaker system covered in Lakeland wool. Recordings of Rough Fell and Herdwick Sheep, the voices of shepherds who maintain these breeds in Cumbria, and the sounds of water, weather and wind gathered on the fells are played through the distinctive textiles that have emerged from this context.
Hûrd – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION: speaker system clad in hand-knitted Cumbrian wool, devised specifically to convey sounds relating to shepherding and wool-growing in the Lake District and exhibited as part of the ‘Wonder of Wool‘ exhibition at the Rheged gallery
The tiny speakers hang at head height and the sounds levels are deliberately kept low so that people contemplating this work must physically touch the woolly speakers and bring them to their ears in order to hear the work. This type of KNITSONIK project is designed to close the gaps between producers and consumers of wool by giving a presence to the places where the wool comes from in the form of sound recordings gathered there, and by putting audiences physically “in touch” with wool.
Other experiments in this vein include disseminating yarns with known origins, related libraries of field-recordings, and knitting instructions amongst knitters. The idea of this approach is to give hand-knitters the resources to synthesise wool and sounds in their own personal way. This idea was first piloted at a workshop held during the Soond Gaitherin’ held in the Scottish borders in June 2012. At this workshop, participants were invited to select different yarns from my dedicated collection; knit a small pillow from these yarns with a speaker inside; stuff the knitted speaker pillow with local wool; and then obtain a set of recorded sounds from me corresponding to the particular yarns used in their creation.
Claire’s knitted speaker pillow: hand-knitted by Claire at a KNITSONIK workshop and featured here with kind permission from Claire
Claire whose pillow is shown here as an example chose some of Cecilia’s hand-spun yarn; Pam’s Herdwick yarn; and several different sheep breed Blacker Yarns all spun at The Natural Fibre Company (who kindly sponsored the workshop with yarn and allowed me to record many sounds in their spinning facility in Cornwall).
I then supplied Claire with downloadable tracks relating to these yarns – respectively these included:
The birds which sing in the summer in the trees beside Cecilia’s local flock of sheep
One of Cecilia’s local sheep grazing in winter
Pam’s herdwick sheep galloping through the gate from one pasture into another in winter
Carded wool being rubbed between boards prior to being woollen-spun at the Natural Fibre Company
Wool combs combing wool prior to it being worsted-spun at the Natural Fibre Company
Sue Blacker’s Gotland sheep in the barn in autumn
An ongoing project utilising the radio aporee maps created by Udo Noll involves mapping all the sounds relating to KNITSONIK projects which I have collected so far.