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Knitting Fire and Fury

From PPQ 20, Spring ’17: Here’s to 2017! Last year has unanimously been called an annus horribilis. We lost a number of high-profile creative souls far too soon, and even more passed on at a ripe old age. David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Mohammed Ali, Prince, Phife Dawg and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few we collectively mourned last year. In their creative and public lives these artists challenged the status quo and extended what was possible. They opened up avenues many of us struggled to walk alone and inspired us to speak up, sing out, laugh together, and dance a better world into being. At the same time, elections and referendums across the globe threw up results that removed the luxury of ignoring some disturbing realities. Many have become ‘woke’ to the need for vocal and creative action in their everyday lives. We entered 2017 with our eyes open, knowing we may need to stand up and stand together In new ways. Undoubtedly, difficult and uncomfortable confrontations lie ahead. Knitting will provide a solace, as it always does, but can it also provide the fire?

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Fitting Reflections

From PPQ 19, Winter ’16: I have a long-standing, unsubstantiated theory that the rise of mass-produced clothing has brought about a rise in dissatisfaction with our bodies. There are many associated reasons, but it boils down to the fact that, like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, rather than finding the clothes (or glass slipper) to fit us, we try to change ourselves to fit the clothes. Before the Industrial Revolution, and a good number of decades following, we made our own clothes, or had them made for us by a seamstress or tailor, according to our own body shape. With the advent of ready-to-wear clothing and mass production, the vast majority of us now dress in impersonal pre-made garments. That is not a shift to be taken lightly if you consider how many of us feel oddly-sized and shaped when looking at our reflections wearing these standardised clothes.

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Witches, Friends and Fugitives

From PPQ 18, Autumn ’16: There is something wonderfully witchy about dyeing, especially natural dyeing. Turning weeds and peelings into shimmering gold is a type of alchemy. Every dyer I know keeps at least one book of spells, and consults yet more. Whether cryptically scrawled or fastidiously ordered, they contain recipes for summoning up their desired colours with precision. Bubbling pots are part of the package. Whether or not you choose to call them cauldrons, they steam and bring forth potent smells, followed by colour. Witchery has long been derided and condemned by the straight-laced powers that be: caricatured as crones all in black with pointy hats and crooked-tailed cats, up to all sorts of nefarious activities. This can throw us off the scent from the fact that these characters of fable and history are actually wise, creative women with knowledge of the sort that comes from experience and deep understanding.

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Seductive & Slow

From PPQ 17, Summer ’16: Hopefully your summer plans include a decent smattering of lazy days to kick back, switch off and take time out from the un-fun musts in life (not the fun musts: fresh air; good conversations with interesting people; deliciously nourishing food; engaging your brain by learning exciting new things; sleeping – keep doing those in abundance). We all need proper breaks – at least a few days where we try to quiet the laundry list of to-dos in our head. Ideally the summer months are a time to lay aside our need for speed and just enjoy, well, being. And clearly there should be knitting involved.

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Bigger Sheep to Dye

From PPQ 16, Spring ’16: Palettes can be found and palettes can be created in many different ways, naturally or chemically, with or without intervention. Though not quite as old as death itself, dyeing is an ancient tradition, practised in countless cultures throughout the ages. For the entertainment and beauty that colour brings, we have explored the boundaries of the organic environment and stretched the horizons of science. Wool doesn’t need to be dyed: it comes straight off the beast in a range of delicious colours from full cream milk, through warm shades of caramel, to near black of the treacle variety.

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So yesterday, something very exciting and unexpected happened, Clara Parke’s put Penguin: a Knit Collection on her 2015 Gift List for The Knitter’s Review. Turns out that a penguin was her high-school mascot and I’m her favourite instagrammer – high praise indeed from a woman I have utmost respect and…more