a week of knitting in public

I knit on the train most days. I really enjoy the extra layer of rhythm that the clicking of the needles adds to the jolting of the train on the tracks. Sometimes people might comment or ask what I’m doing; mostly they have a quick look and get on with their thing. In short, I’m used to knitting in public; but this week public knitting was taken to a whole new level for me.

As previously mentioned, I took part in a university library outreach programme in Winchester this past week. The Knitting Reference Library held an exhibition in a small gallery space, ‘Cornershop’ which had once been a pet shop. Set up like a living room,’The Knitting Room’ had plenty of places to sit and look at patterns from the library or read knitting books. An exhibition of knitted objects from the handling collection were suspended from fishing line in the large bay window and duplicate vintage patterns displayed in the windows.  I was invigilating for a good part of the week, and knitted in public like never before (and knitted over half a cardigan). I think that some people thought that we were an art installation, and certainly it felt like that at times! We taught plenty of people, young and old to knit. On the second weekend, 13th and 14th June, it was World Wide Knit in Public Days and all week we were very much encouraging people to come in and have a go. Lots did.

Throughout the week the library staff and I taught people to knit from scratch, how to make pompoms and helped knitters to learn new techniques. I think we had about 10 brand new knitters in total and 6 pompom-makers! It was great to have a selection of knitting books on hand which supplemented my own knowledge. I tend to teach knitting by showing the person how by ‘doing’ in the first instance, but needed a reference for things like cabling.

It  was a really fun week and the exhibition worked on many levels. Many more people know about and will be using the Knitting Reference Library now, there was a coming together of existing knitters and the beginnings of new knitters. Two artists came in and made a sound recording of the gathering, which will lead on to further work as well. The Knitting Room became a focus for discussion and debate on the culture, heritage and process of knitting for the week. I’m hoping for this discussion to continue on in a range of media too.

From a personal point of view, I particularly enjoyed the interaction with other artists and knitters: bouncing ideas around, learning new techniques and planning new artwork. I got an awful lot out of the experience of teaching. Although I teach people to knit on a fairly regular basis, I’d not taught children to knit before: well, no under 10s anyway. I’ll be reflecting on how it all went and what I’ve learned from it  in a separate blog post later in the week.

I’d love to hear from you if you came to the Knitting Room last week. What did you think of it?

Also, go and visit Cornershop if you are in Winchester to see Winchester School of Art’s Textile Art 3rd year student Bethany Mitchell‘s You and Whose Army? which she will be installing this coming week.

n.b. All photographs © Ingrid Murnane and used with the permission of those photographed, or their parents.


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