In May 2014, Prick Your Finger presented the first opportunity for a Knitted Mandala at the ‘Yan Tan Tethera’ Show at Cecil Sharp House in London. The Show was curated by David Littler, who gave us a wonderful chance to go through the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Sharps and pull out songs about making textiles, which we could then sing with Aimee Leonard’s Folk choir.
Last weekend we went on tour to Winbourne’s Walford Mill, to show our works and take part in the Winbourne Folk Festival. Here we all are, at the mill, gathered like we are in a band photo, in between Freddie Robins’s artworks. We were all camping in a field down the road, and as you can see from the photo, we had kept ‘it’ all together. Top left is David Littler our curator, and the one who makes everything funny and possible. In the middle is Aimee Leonard, who sings like a lark, with a soft Orkney accent, and can get any tune out of her drum, which she made herself. Shane Waltner is crouching down at the back, and he is our master of lace dancing in the street, and on the dance floor. He can calmly mastermind many dancers to weave fabric whilst dancing to a fiddle. Faye McNulty with her practical boots, is a wizard in the print room, and runs the events at the English Folk Song and Dance Society. This means she can make anything run smoothly, and give you that feeling that you are on holiday, which is the emotion that I am expressing on the floor on the right hand side. Those flipflops were hopeless for barn dancing later.
We missed our absent friends, Freddie Robins, Stewart Easton, Celia Ward and the McGrath Makers, and all our friends from Spin Cycle. Here is a morris dancing outfit made by the McGrath Makers, the adults with learning difficulties, who would have loved to see all the other Morris Dancers at the festival.
The idea of a Mandala came about when thinking about the communial knitting projects we had experienced before, and the singing of traditional songs to help us get through the work. Curating site specific knitting events is always strange because time has to play such a huge part in your plans. Here is a booklet I produced for Yan Tan Tethera’s knitters, showing patterns for little charms which could be added to the mandala.
Knitting is slow, so music and dance can be the key to getting a project finished. There is a temptation for group knitting projects to produce something ‘big’. The knitted mandala was designed as an event piece having no beginning or end, and small pieces could be made and added to it at any time.
Here we are one year ago, at Cecil Sharp’s with the Mandala Mark#1. This mandala had a solid, knitted background, which we realized made the application of charms, less fluid. Each charm had to be stitched on, which prevented it from being moved easily. We learned that charms need to be moved so they can relate to other charms as they arrive.
The fluidity of the Mandala came with a re-build from ‘string art’! Using the ‘Knit by Numbers’ range of Merino DK, the new background was woven in multi – shades of the same colours, giving a new depth and plenty of space to hide, gather and accentuate the charms which had been added.
As new groups bring new charms to the piece, we can now arrange new patterns.
It took a long time to bang in all the nails around the edges, but the work was a joy to make and it cast beautiful shadows on the floor. It was fun hiding the sheep in between the grass, and letting the mini socks fall out of the sky. Sometimes the mandala looks good with lots of yellow ducks gathered together to form the sun, (as seen above) and sometimes it is nice to have the space in the middle just left black.
Here are the Winbourne knitters having a go at the Yan Tan Tethera Patterns. Aimee taught us folk songs while we worked, and pretty soon we were all joining in.
David Littler our curator, learned to knit again! He’s really good when he gets going, but his little tie is still too small to wear. It really doesn’t matter though – he got us all there in the first place, so we reckon he is a great knitter whatever he does.
The Winbourne knitters made their contributions in acrylics, despite the free matching merino on offer. It was their choice of yarn, and as a result their work really stands out, so we will always remember them! The amount of knitted orange chickens continues to overwhelm us. They are so popular.
It’s a nice vibe at Walford Mill. If you don’t want to knit you can sit and watch the YTT film in one of the arm chairs, which is asking for embroidered graffiti. There are Shane Waltner’s Bobbins from his lace dancing hanging in the window.
Shane’s lace dancing was great out in the street. Ben played the fiddle and Amiee her drum and her you can see all the threads from all the dancers, taking over the street.
It’s a bit like maypole dancing I guess, or friendship bracelets on a rather large scale. Shane calls the finished piece a ‘score’.
These were my favourite Morris Dancers, the Exmoor Borders. I bet they wear John Arbon’s teal and purple 4ply alpacca socks in winter.