We've been quite for a while, not because we disappeared and took it easy but because we've been travelling along the south coat - more specifically to the In The Loop conference in Winchester, followed by Camp Bestival, where we hosted the UK's first festival knitting tent. More of that later....
Our first port of call was Winchester for a really special three-day knitting conference. Speakers ranged from r Martin Polley discussing Sportsmen and their sweaters: Using knitting patterns as historical reference (a favourite with the crowd due to the use of a certain undies ad featuring Freddie Ljundberg), to Sabrina Gschwandtner, Jennie Atkinson, Jane Waller and Rachel Beth Egenhofer's knitting/technology work. We were treated to a splendid array of subjects, plus got to meet the speakers, recent graduate artists and other delegates. There were many familiar faces to Gerard and myself, and hopefully we made some new ones too. Some of the talks and presentations meant more to us than others, and we were disappointed with the preponderence of machine-knitting and mass market knitwear presentations, but on the whole it was a brillaint three days. Some work by a couple of recent graduates will be shown at our I Knit Day in September and we hope to be giving our own presentation next year! If you can make it to Winchester it is well worth stopping by to visit the knitting refernece library, and, in Southampton the Montse Stanley collection which partly inspired the conference in the first place. One of the highlights for me was when I skipped out at lunchtime and did my now traditional charity shop crawl - came away with a few choice books, including Patricia Roberts Knitting Book 2. Best of all though was a market stall with a huge box full of patterns - they weren't cheap but I got them anyway and have quite a few nice 1930s and 1940s ones mixed in amongst the other stuff. They can be seen at the shop, where we are still deciding exactly what to do with all of our old patterns. After a terrible night's camping (nice campsite, shame it was next to a dual carriageway!) we opted for the posh option and stayed in a hotel for the rest of the stay!
That wasn't an option for rest of the weekend though, as we drove along to Lulworth castle to set up our Camp Bestival knitting tent. When Rob called way back when to ask if we'd like to do it we jumped at the chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! But not everything we do is a success, and there were thoughts that perhaps this could be one of those forgettable times! I'm ever the pessimist! Gerard, on the other hand, just believes everything is brilliant (he's right, of course) so all he needs to look to the heavens for is more beer (pictured). Who wants to knit at a festival anyway? Well, by the looks of it, quite a few people. The knitting tent was packed all weekend and we pretty much covered our fabulous Great British Sheep in glorious knitting. This was a genuinely family-friendly festival and the kids got so into it that the sheep now has an amazing finger-knitted necklace. But it was incredibly reassuring to see so many young people, including some very tiny ones, who could already knit, and especially the number of boys who didn't shirk from getting involved. it's interesting that they haven't (yet) received any of the stereotypes or hang-ups that quite a few men seem to encounter when they come near a ball of yarn and some needles - that said, we must pay respect to all the blokes who got down and knitted with us too. We had a brilliant team of volunteers who worked their bloody socks of all weekend and we thank them.
This was a really different festival -such a great atmosphere all weekend, mainly helped by the number of young 'uns running around. As Wayne Coyne (Flmaing Lips) said during his Saturday night headline slot, "I can't believe how many kids are here! All you people under 10 years old I want you to remember this moment and when you're older, turn to your parents and thank them for being so fucking COOL for bringing you to a festival like this!" How right you are Mr Coyle. It was loveliness all the way, and we even met up with some friends from The Shellac Sisters and regulars at the shop and knitting group too.
One of our main reasons for creating The Great British Sheep and taking parts in events like Camp Bestival are to get people knitting. We don't care how 'cool' it is, how old the knitters are, how crap you are at it, just as long as you're making stuff it doesn't really matter. It was great to see so many people getting involved and we must've taught well over a hundred people their first casting on and off. We just hope they take something away from the knitting tent and keep it up. It was certainly a resounding success and we're looking forward to doing it all over again next year.
And, if you really must say knitting's cool, then....we did have Kate Nash (pictured) along for the afternoon on Sunday and she gave the knitting tent a mention on the main stage during her set too. OK, so knitting is cool after all.
We could write so much more about the weekend, but at our age our memories don't hold much info. instead, take a look at our pictures for more...