From PPQ 26, Autumn ’18: Like the cycles of the moon, stitches make an excellent marker of the passage of time. Each stitch is a unit, equivalent to the seconds it took to shape. When knitting in the round, we even make ourselves an alternative clock face that our hands travel round, leaving behind them indelible marks of minutes, and then hours, passed in stitches. The stitches we form are a beautiful manifestation of time, the benefits of age, and the acquired knowledge for shaping them. So why is it that these accumulated years are not celebrated, but derided in jokes about older women and caricatures of grandmothers? And why is ageing absent from the majority of images presented to us?
From PPQ 25, Summer ’18: Stripes are everywhere. Inspiration for their colour, depth and texture in textiles can be found all over the natural and made world, from zebras to zebra crossings, from strata created over millennia in canyon rock faces to the comparatively quick layers of a lasagne. You’ll find stripes in the desert, in the waves blown in the sand by the wind, and in THE dessert for lovers of stripes: the pinnacle of layer cakes, known variously as keh lapis, kueh lapis, lapis legit, spekkoek, spiku and thousand layer cake, depending, in part, on where you are in the world and slight variations in looks and composition.
From PPQ 24, Spring ’18: Philately – nope, it’s not a fancy word for licking male members, it’s the knowledge and appreciation of postal services, which is what Issue 24 is about. All the patterns found their design inspiration in specific postage stamps, which, in turn, dictated the country of origin of the yarn used for each one. The last in this list of stamps is the Penny Black. As the world’s first adhesive stamp, introduced for public use in Great Britain in 1840, the Penny Black was created to simplify and standardise the method for payment and delivery of mail. Thanks to her success, pre-paid lick-and-stick postage was quickly adopted by other countries and became not just a way to pay for messages and goods to get from one place to another, but also a means for national priorities and identity to be broadcast around the world. So much beautiful, groundbreaking, and public-minded design has traversed the globe in the diminutive (and affordable) form of stamps. Their proliferation birthed a new hobby: stamp collecting.
From PPQ 23, Winter ’17: It is said that there are many ways to skin a cat. Indeed, there are many ways to shear a sheep. Of course, this is much more animal-friendly as the sheep survive the process. But there are hundreds of ways to release the fleece, with diverse results in regards to comfort of the sheep during and after the process, speed, ease for the shearer, and quality of the resulting wool. No matter how carefully the process is tailored to all those involved, ovine and human alike, there will still be individuals who think it should be done differently. Others believe that we should eschew the use of anything recently animal-based altogether. I say ‘recently’ because the petro-chemicals that produce plastics often used in substitutes for animal-based products such as pleather and acrylic come from long-dead dinosaurs. And it’s terribly difficult to ensure that no insects are hurt in the harvesting of vegetable-based fibres… but now I’m clutching at straws. Why can’t anything ever be straightforward? Good or bad. An indisputable best way to do The Thing.
From PPQ 22, Autumn ’17: I fought it for a long time, but I have recently started to fully embrace my role as flamboyant textile lady. This means bright colours, brash prints, interesting weaves and embroidery originating from diverse cultures. I feel I owe it to the wonders, skills and diversity of the world to shun style that is commonly referred to as neutral or classic – styles that uphold the dominant hegemony. Let me explain… I wholeheartedly agree with the growing call for respectful and conscientious consumerism: buying less, and respecting the human and environmental impact of clothes manufacturing. However, I cannot get on board with the dominant approach to achieving such a wardrobe. You see, when I hear terms like ‘neutrals’, ‘classic’, ‘timeless’, ‘chic’, ‘staples’ or ‘basics’, I start to squirm with ornery conviction because, in the vast majority of instances, this describes a look from a narrow window of recent Western history. Such styles have spread globally thanks to colonialism – both in the old-fashioned, sending- ships-out-to-‘discover’-new lands sense, and in the sly contemporary sense of cultural imperialism.
From PPQ 21, Summer ’17: In an era when print is struggling and most magazines fold after their maiden issue, printing a 21st issue could be considered an achievement in and of itself. But Pom Pom continues to grow and flourish, building a community that supports both new and established knitters, designers and other assorted creatives. With sumptuous colour and enthusiasm to spare, Pom Pom lovingly advocates alternatives to mass-production and gently encourages creative diversity. Oddly, with the internet so ubiquitous, print now feels like a comparatively personal mode of communication, and buying a magazine is a conscious choice to be a part of something special. Damn, I’m proud to be a part of it! High fives all round!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
From PPQ 15, Winter ’15: I’ve never quite understood why people don’t wear especially cheerful colours in the winter. With little light, the world is at its drabbest, but we needn’t be! This is when apple red, marigold yellow, cornflower blue, beetroot pink, grass green, shades of hydrangea – you name it – are needed most. I’m not suggesting you have to go full-on Crazy Textile Lady, but a step in that direction would certainly brighten my day. I’d be willing to compromise and accept softer tones in the summer when nature’s abundance seems to make even these colours sparkle. Sadly, I don’t have that level of bargaining power.