Saturday, 24 October 2015

Crafters Against Cuts - keep going guys!

Hi there knitters, crocheters, friends and anti-austerity fans. I haven't done anything for a few weeks as I sort of floundered after the success of the knitted banner and all the work everyone did. The banner went out again on Friday to protest the meeting and nefarious dealings of David Cameron and President Xi in the town hall, by the way. She (she is a she, I've decided) is still fighting away. Good old banner.

At the protest someone secretly attached a crochet poppy to her, I love this! The banner got yarn-bombed!

So. Although the momentum of crafting against cuts might have slowed a bit, I want to keep on going and I hope you do too, a bit.

I started making a blanket out of the leftover squares, here it is so far.

I went for a nice checkerboard pattern.

The blanket is about 110cm square at the moment so I need to make it a bit bigger. I still have a lot of red and white squares left over:

I can probably get 1.5 to two decent sized blankets out of these squares. I also have a few squares in other colours, that I made with the purpose of making blankets:

The original idea was to send the finished blankets to Calais for the refugee camp, and later on I also wanted to donate some stuff to the homeless camps in town. Now. 1.5 blankets isn't going to do anyone much good and I can't do this alone. The thing is that blankets take a fair bit of time to make, and while they are desperately needed, it seems slightly futile to spend ages hand-making blankets which will get ruined fairly quickly and quite likely discarded. So first, I thought maybe hats, scarves, woolly socks would be appreciated and quicker to make - depending on your level of knitting expertise, you could choose what to make. 

Secondly, if we do make blankets, or other things, I thought we could sell them and donate the money for whatever supplies the organisers of Calais trips, or homeless provision, need the most. That way we are making something beautiful that people can use, but aren't spending loads of time and energy when really things are needed fast, and cheap. The money made from a beautiful handmade blanket could buy several like this, or this. Yes, buying fast and cheap carries its own ethical burden... but I'm trying to think practically and do things that can help. I reckon we could set up an auction or something and all the money made will be donated.

So to sum up: I need knitters and crocheters. Again.

You can make whatever you want: hats, scarves, gloves, warm things... which we can send directly to Calais and whoever needs them.

Baby things are needed too and even quicker to make. Blankets, little hats, maybe even toys.

Or, if you're still into squares we can make a load of blankets to sell. Or you could make something else to sell. 

I admit I am not sure what I'm doing here so please, please get in touch if you disagree with my ideas, or if you've got better ones. I want to do the best thing I can, and all I can really do is knit :) I will set up a meeting for Manchester types so we can knit together again, that was nice. But do join in if you're somewhere else too. I will get in touch with other organisations like Knit For Peace that do great work and have a wide reach. I just feel so helpless in the face of all this unfairness and I want to do something, even a little thing xxx

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Crafters Against Cuts goes on the road - Manchester Tory conference protest!

Hey guys!

Argh! what a weekend. I'm just in love with Manchester at the moment. You guys are all amazing.

So obviously the Tory conference is going on now and the banner, the beautiful giant banner, the culmination of all our efforts for the past two months, made its debut this weekend.

First of all it went to Piccadilly Station to welcome the Tory delegates to the city. It was ace: the Open Voice women's choir sang Bread and Roses, an old trade union anthem; someone handed out pig-shaped sweets; a brill lady called Sue dressed as a fat cat and gave out fake fifties with lefty slogans printed on them; and we hung the banner over the balcony to a great cheer from the concourse below. Exciting :)

Here's a pic from Real Media

I'm not in the photo because I was being interviewed at the time *hair swish*

We were supposed to be the signal for the choir to start singing, but I had no idea what my signal was, or where we were supposed to be or anything. Plus I only had Tim with me. The banner is seven metres long. So we set off to Piccadilly Gardens to recruit some of the ravers who'd been up all night to come and hold it with us. In the event, loads of passersby at the station helped out too - no one likes the Tories here.

PS, re. the rave: the Telegraph or someone was moaning that it was keeping delegates awake all night. well boo hoo, I was kept awake all Saturday night by a police helicopter which I assume was something to do with the conference, we all got problems BUBZ. Anyway they've all been moved on now so the little tories can sleep soundly in their beds, knowing that they've done a great job.

Here's some more press coverage!

and here's a Real Media video of the event, featuring me with a horrible voice and face.

So there was that. On Sunday was the giant massive march, and my first proper protest march ever, AND the moment of truth for banner-pole-things.

We went into town real early to sit in Sidney St LGBT centre and drink brews and panic quietly. But I needn't have worried: it could NOT have gone better. It was smooth as silk, a lean mean protestin' machine, beautiful. The lefty gods were smiling on us, the sun was shining, and everyone was upbeat and positive. Apart from the over-reported spitting/egg-throwing incidents, which by the way I think were planted, everyone was cool.

This is the BEST picture of the banner in action, taken by Ruth Kerfoot... how amazing does it look!


Here's some coverage from the march - obviously there wasn't much, but we DID come in at number 5 of the MEN's top 7 banners, so THAT'S amazing.

If you have any more, please do let me know as I'm collecting them. There are a lot of pics on social media as well which is amazing. I could not have done this project without the help of so many awesome crafters and craftivists and I am so thrilled. I'm taking the banner to the conference tomorrow morning for Cameron's final speech, come along if you can and look out for me :)

It's a shame they had to get all peevish with the whole 'Castlefield Arena is full' nonsense, but it just proves they're scared. If that's what they have to do to stop us congregating, then shit, try harder bozos. 10,000 people turned out last night to hear Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Jones, Natalie Bennett and the rest of them at the cathedral. That is truly something. We are on the rise, don't DARE stitch us up, we're coming for you and some of us got knitting needles.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

How to make a 7 metre-long protest banner poley-holdy thing (keywords for Google)

Hey friends and allies.

Last time you saw me I was delirious and hysterical because I couldn't work out how to make a structure for the immense 7 metre banner, and I started wondering what the hell I was thinking when I decided that would be a good idea.

After I posted my tantrum online I got absolutely tons of responses from helpful kind people, thank you all, I know some awesome dudes.

I ignored the problem for a few more days, and yesterday Kelly, Claire and Laura, my chief pole consultants, came round to tackle the stupid thing in the garden. And.... it worked!

 Extensive googling tells me that there are no online tutorials explaining how to construct supports for such a long banner. So this will be the first ever one. If you're making a very stupidly long protest banner, follow these simple steps for easy and efficient banner-carrying (I hope).

You will need:

  • Long tent pole, the same length as the banner, one of those bendy ones with elastic through the middle that come apart.
  • Some bits of wood, the height you want your banner to be off the ground. I used 1x2in (ish) pine from B&Q.
  • Some hose clips. The same number as bits of wood.
  • Twenty million cable ties
  • Drill
  • Capable friends

1. Get wood. Drill four holes in the end your banner is going to hang from. There should be enough room between the holes for a hose clip to fit, vertically (I'll show you in a minute).

Claire being rugged

2. Attach hose clamp to the wood using two cable ties in a cross configuration, like this:

3. Do the same to all the other lengths of wood.

looking sweeeeet

4. Realise you haven't got enough wood or hose clamps and send Laura to buy some more. Thanks Laura!

5. Attach all the tent pole bits together and thread through all the hose clamps. Make sure the uprights are roughly evenly spaced, tighten all the hose clamps.

My tent pole is about 9mm wide and the clamps won't tighten that much, so we wrapped strips of fabric around the pole and taped them in place, to thicken it up a bit.

If you look closely you can see Kelly in the undergrowth. My garden is not quite long enough for this project.

6. Attach the banner to the tent pole and uprights in a manner of your choosing. At the march I will probably use cable ties or sew some fabric to keep the banner in place, but for the practice run we just tied it on using the loose threads at the back.

7. Lift the banner up with the help of as many people as you can find. It will be v wobbly but strong enough to hold. Oh, I should mention that we taped round all the joins in the tent pole, to stop it from coming apart.

If you're very lucky you will have a washing line in the way that impedes the banner somewhat, so in this event, send everyone round to the front of the house.

This tip is only really useful for protest marches taking place in your garden.

Finally - hooray! It can stand up.

Here's me shouting, when Laura zoomed in by mistake. I was excited.

You may have noticed that Claire is holding the end of the banner up because the pole isn't bloody long enough. Don't worry, I'm going to add a bit of stick to that end.

8. March! have fun and get the bastards! Basically what I'm hoping is that David Cameron sees the banner and immediately disbands the Tory party. realistic.

so that's how we did it. Whether it will stay upright for the whole day next Sunday... well you'll have to come along and see for yourself won't you! Rest assured I will have a rucksack full of cable ties, tape and glue for emergencies.


Monday, 21 September 2015

Crisis at Banner HQ

Hey fellas, nice to see you again.

So the general consensus on Facebook was that the banner should be LONG, as originally planned, which I was pleased about, because I agreed. So I've sewn it all together now and it is bundled in a corner of my living room awaiting its debut.


there is a bit of a spanner in the works here, in that I don't know how to construct a poley-carrying-structure for it, in fact I apparently don't even know what that is called :( I am going to appeal for help in a minute, but first I will describe my cack-handed attempts so far.

I'm illustrating this on MS Paint because I haven't taken any photos of anything and I love MS Paint.

Okay so first of all I went to B&Q with no idea what I was going to get. I thought I'd just mosey around and see what looked useful. So mosey I did, and eventually I decided on a structure somewhat like this.

After an appropriate amount of moseying, I decided to get some wooden dowel and some T-joints and elbow-joints that plumbers use, they're copper. You've seen them. I actually got 15mm square cut pinewood, instead of circular dowel, because it was cheaper and I doubted it would make any difference. My plan was to wedge the ends of the wood in the joints like this.

Bob's yer uncle. When I got home, I realised that the wood didn't fit in the ends of the joints, so I shaved a bit off one end with a Stanley knife (by now you are seeing what my DIY efforts are generally like).

The wood now jammed quite solidly in the joint, but I was suddenly struck that we would be carrying this around a lot, it might be jostled and stuff, and basically this was not very secure and quite rubbish. Also, a piece of wood 15mm wide and 2.3m long is quite bendy and I think they will snap if it's a bit windy or anything, really.


Okay so THEN I sat around and tried to think outside the box and I thought, tent poles are long and strong and flexible and can be dismantled and mantled (?) with ease (oh yeah. it needs to be dismantlable because I have to get it on the tram and I doubt the other passengers would take kindly to a 7m stick taking up the whole carriage).

Off I went to Go Outdoors (other camping shops are available), and lo and behold, a tent pole repair kit with 11 sections which add up to exactly 7m. Excellent. I bought one.

Now I still don't know how to attach the vertical bits to the horizontal bit. I thought I could still use some of the wood I bought earlier for the upright carrying poles, but ARGH

So I traipsed off to Wilkinsons (other shops which sell everything in the world are available). I wandered round the DIY section for a bit and eventually came away with these.

And this was how I envisaged it all working:

the superglue is for emergencies.

Anyway, that hasn't worked either, because the hose clamps won't tighten to the width of the tent pole and the plastic clippy things are too wide for the wood. so fuck it.


sorry for shouting but I'm fed up now. Please pass it around: I need someone to help me with the banner poles. thank you guys, I love you xxxx

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Crafters Against Cuts workshop #4: MORE SQUARES

Hi creatures

I'm feeling ill and sorry for myself today, so I thought I'd cheer myself up by writing a post celebrating what we've done.

Here are some very low-quality pictures I took at the workshop last night. We had some new people and some old faithfuls. It was a fun evening and I left with 4,000 squares (again).


Ruth is sick of me

Mark is overjoyed by Cathy and Deborah's knitting

That's it. It was dark in the pub, and I tried to adjust the exposure and stuff on my phone but it didn't really work. Will try harder.

So if you are friends with me on Facebook or you follow any of the groups related to crafting against cuts, arting against austerity or taking back Manchester, you will know that the banner is pretty much done besides a bit of sewing together. Now I have a dilemma and I want to ask you about it.

This is the photo I posted on FB the other day: the banner is currently in three bits:

Welcome to my messy shelf

Now, originally my plan was to sew it together in a long strip, making it 7 metres long and just under 1 metre wide. Which would be very amazing to see marching up Oxford Road. I have just tried to take some pictures of it in this state to show you, but again my photography skills are somewhat lacking. Plus my flat is actually not 7 metres long at any point so it's a bit scrunched, but see what you think

Panoramic experiment 1

Panoramic experiment 2

It does indeed look pretty awesome, although you need to use your imagination a bit, sorry. My preference is still leaning towards the 7m long version, just cos it's a proper sight to behold. However, I am a bit concerned about a) the logistics of carrying it, b) the fact that it might be hard to take pictures of, and c) because I am always concerned. Square-banner will be very tall and might also be hard to handle.

What do you think please. Squarey or longy? 

PS I am SO STOKED that this is where we're at on 15 September. I can't believe it. I started this project about three weeks ago. This is NUTS. 

thanks buds xxx

Oh PS. I think we're still meeting next week, maybe to knit squares and also discuss what we should do next. Crafters Against Cutz 4eva <3 p="">

The Castle, Oldham Street, Manchester M4 1LE - please come! x

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Crafters Against Cuts workshop #2 (or #3) - we are cookin' with gas my friends

Ey up!

So two weeks ago we held our first workshop, so far so good, we made some squares, more than I had imagined, it was fabby.

THEN, last week I wasn't in Manchester, Kelly stood in as workshop lady, no one turned up, she cried and went home. I hoped people hadn't lost their momentum, and it was just because it was a bank holiday and raining.

Last night I was completely astounded, and moved, and excited, and demented. LOADS of people came, LOADS.

Check it out:

HUGE pile of squares :)

It's gone dark in this one.

As you can see it's a bit of whatever the opposite of a sausage-fest is (Becca's suggestion: clam-jam)

We want more boys! Do you know any crafty boys? GIVE THEM TO ME

Are you wondering what the banner looks like by the way? Have some of that.


OKAY so this is the banner half-finished. I think I have enough red and white squares to finish the banner within the next couple of weeks, which is utterly, utterly bonkers seeing as how we only started properly two weeks ago. Knitters are angry, guys! So angry they could knit!

NOW don't think you are allowed to stop being a crafter against cuts just yet. I've got a lot of leftover squares and I thought we could sew them together for blankets, for the Calais appeal or for the homeless camps in Manchester (or anywhere). If you've got any ideas, let me know. We're doing good, don't let's stop now! So there will still be another workshop next Monday so COME.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Protest banner workshop #1: aka Helen's austerity sweatshop and partytime

Me again, you cannot get rid of me.

Just wanted to ramble on a bit about the first workshop we did on Monday night at the Castle in Manchester city centre. It was great to meet new people, all of whom share my intense dislike for the Tories and their cruel and useless austerity measures, AND a passion for craft and making! Awesome. I've made friends.

Here are a few photos from the evening.

all the wool.

Here is Molly learning to knit for the very first time. She mastered casting on and the knit stitch in under an hour, and informs me that her first square doubles as a cat cape. Versatile.

Ames and Kelly riding the crochet train

Louella, Jo and Beth

smashin the system, needlecraft style.

Kelly learning to make granny squares

Kelly's first square plus stoic Eastwood style pose

dem squers

Okay so that was fun and rewarding, and we now have a bit of banner. Here is it:

I'm aware that the letters look a bit rubbish at the moment but that will be rectified and they will be MEGA legible, so don't fret. I wanted to get a word finished by the weekend, so I'm on a square-collecting mission, do you have any?

There will be another workshop this Monday, despite it being a bank holiday, because we are THAT DEDICATED. Well, I'm not, because I foolishly am going to London and I won't be back in time, so newly qualified granny square expert, Kelly will be overseeing proceedings. I will be around the week after and every other week forever.

Thanks to all my lovely knitting and crocheting bros and sisses! I'm thrilled that this banner MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN <3 p="" xx="">