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="">

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Knitted banner squares: a word about gauge

Hey pals. I'm a bit overwhelmed with the amount of support I've had so far about the knitted anti-tory banner, it's almost as if nearly everyone doesn't think they're doing a very good job?! how extraordinary.

Because this is a rather massive undertaking I have been doing a bit of panicked knitting myself and experimenting with different sized needles, so I can share some gauge-based wisdom with you now in case you want to join in (yes, please want to) :)

So far I've done a few squares with 4mm needles, a few with 5.5mm ones and a few with 8mm ones.

needles, for reference

I have worked out that to make a 10x10cm square with 4mm needles, I need to start with 20 stitches. For 5mm needles I started with 16 and for 8mm ones I started with 12. This will vary slightly depending on how tight you like to make your stitches, but since knitting is stretchy I don't mind too much if the squares are a couple of millimetres smaller or bigger than 10cm. Also, I have no idea how many rows to do. I've just been knitting away until it's 10cm long. I'm so precise and accurate about things.

l-r: 4mm needles, 5.5mm, 8mm

So the above picture illustrates the different gauges produced with different sized needles. 4mm needles will make a tighter, more rigid, thicker fabric with less gaps between stitches. 8mm needles make a loose, floppy, gappy fabric. Both are fine for this project, so do whatever you want. Bigger needles mean you finish squares quicker, and also use less yarn: which means a) you can squeeze more squares outta that yarn ball, and b) the finished banner won't be quite as heavy. I think a mixture of different gauges will look good and patchworky, so like I say: do what you want :)

Same goes for stitch pattern. I've used garter stitch mostly but you could do some stocking, moss, lace, cable, or whatever makes you feel happy.

I have made one crocheted square so far: a granny square made of double crochet stitches, four rounds, with a 4mm hook. Again, yours might be different. The only stipulation is that they are 10x10cm!

Oh yeah, the only OTHER stipulation is that all squares are red or white. I need a lot of both, so do whichever. Red can mean scarlet, crimson, vermilion, puce, magenta, maroon, burgundy or whatever reddish shade you've got lurking in that stash bag behind the couch. White obviously doesn't come in that many shades, but I will accept cream or very pale grey as I think it'll look good.

err.... can't think of anything else right now. If you are coming to the first workshop tomorrow, please bring your own needles/hook and yarn if you have them - I have a few bits but I'm scared we'll run out. Also please bring any squares you have made already! I'm delighted that so many people have expressed an interest in taking part. So we have to get this done now crafters. 

Maybe see you tomorrow, maybe not - but happy and rebellious crafting to you! you're the best xx

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Massive knitted anti-tory banner IS GO! CRAFTERS AGAINST CUTS!

so hey again my dudes. I realise that it has yet again been a million years since I posted, and I'm sure you're all gutted, but never fear, because I am about get all righteous and worthy up in here and you'll be all agitated.

have you heard of this thing called the Tory Party? yeah, they're pretty popular for some reason, but they're also rather unpopular and particularly in the North. they just keep on shafting us. it's wack.

Manchester is hosting the Conservative Party Conference from 4-8th October, and a few of us medium-full on radical lefty types are pretty angry about this (and about the party's general existence). you see since 2010, when the Tories first got into government in a pretend coalition, we've been shat on. Here are some facts about how hard they've shat on us, in case you weren't already aware:

Budget cuts in Manchester amount to £311.94 PER HEAD between 2010 and 2015. This makes up £250 million of cuts to our public services, OURS. Manchester City Council is proposing more cuts, totalling £59 million in 2015-16 and £31 million in 2016-17. This includes cutting council services to equality, drug services, youth and play, advice, home care, supported housing and city infrastructure. GREAT, I'm sure none of us were using any of that.

Here are links if you want more info, or just google 'Manchester cuts 2015' and see how fun it is! hooray!

Manchester Community Central

Manchester City Council

This is obviously on top of the twenty million other shit things they keep doing.

ANYWAY! a few of us (led into battle by the inimitable Cathy Crabb) are doing an arts intervention at the conference, setting up creative things here there and everywhere to get people involved in interesting ways, and to show the Tory bumheads that we DO NOT want them here.

So here's mine. (PS thanks for reading this far xx)

yeah that's right. DON'T.

So the idea is we knit 476 squares which will make up a 7 metre-long banner which says 'DON'T STITCH US UP!' slightly cheesy slogan but better than all the others we came up with (thanks to everyone who 'helped')

This is a slightly ambitious undertaking given that the conference is in like 6 weeks, so I NEED YOUR HELP, crafters! Come to a workshop at the Castle Hotel on Oldham Street in Manchester, every Monday 6-9pm starting next week. If you can't come, I'd still appreciate the help. Give your squares to someone who knows me or email me and I'll tell you where to post them.

This is what I needs:

  • Knitted or crocheted squares. Red or white (any shade). Any stitch pattern and yarn weight you can lay your grubby hands on. The only thing that matters is that they are 10x10cm.
  • If you can use your own yarn stash or buy some cheapo yarn that'd be fab. I have a bit but I don't have a lot of money. Ditto needles.
  • Oh! So a 10cm square knitted patch is roughly 20 stitches on 4mm needles using DK wool. Play around to suit. I am not that bothered about intricate beauty here but use your creative genius as you see fit. You can do lace or intarsia or what-have-you. But I need like a million squares, so it's quantity over quality (like all my other artwork, HA)
  • I need 331 red squares and 145 white. But don't worry about that at the moment, just make whichever your beautiful heart desires.
Okay think that's everything. Oh there's a catch-up meeting, upstairs in the Castle tomorrow at 7pm if you want to come meet everyone, but no worries if not! email me and join in the fun! Show 'em what a fucking Northern Powerhouse really is! YEAH 

love you xx

Monday, 6 April 2015


Hi there campers

It's been a GODDAMN long time again, I always say that, but blimey, when was the last time I wrote anything here?

The answer is FEBRUARY LAST YEAR. Man!!!

I have excuses guys. Last year I broke up with my boyfriend, broke my elbow in a dramatic fashion, moved to Todmorden, had a mental breakdown and finally moved back to Manchester. Since then I have been concentrating on getting better and knitting and crochet have not been high on my priorities, at least until I mastered things like: getting out of bed, getting dressed etc.

I am feeling a lot better now you guys! I am on a new drug (yum!) I have a new dude, an ace little flat in Chorlton where cats come to visit, and I have got up and got dressed MOST DAYS in the past few months! HOORAY

Okay so I will shut up about that now and get on with the important matter of BLOGGING. I have ideas, I want to make things and tell you about them and talk about craft and feminism some more and shit like this, although I will have to read some books and stuff before I can do that (one devastating consequence of depression/anti-depressants is not being able to read more than about four words before my mind trails off, Very Frustrating).

But a few weeks ago I went to St Helens to do a little crochet workshop with some of my mum's friends, so I will tell you about that. It was a lot of fun. I forgot how much I enjoy crocheting with other people, and teaching people (although I am a bit incoherent at it).

Have some pics.

Evelyn and Pat (aka mum)

Janet and Rose Ita

Janet and Rose Ita and some beautiful examples of crochet by me

Mastering the chain

a stylish bag ornament.

me being helpful and NOT forgetting how to hold the yarn

woo hoo - Rose Ita made the middle bit of a square!

onto the second round

So that was exciting. Afterwards I got an email from Rose Ita containing this excellent photo.


awesome, I won the crochet tutelage game.

I hope I will update again at some point, I need to make something good to show you. At the moment a lot of people are poppin' out babies like whoa, so I am using this as an excuse to make babythings which are small. So expect a babything, baby-makers.

I was inspired to blog today by my beautiful friend Valpuri who has just been sticking her ace makes on her own blog here. Check em out if you haven't already, she's wicked.

Okayyyy that's enough for now. take it easy friends. love you a lot xxxx

Friday, 14 February 2014

how to be feminine

okay so I said to Jenny that I'd write a little bit about the crafty aspect of the Stature project: obviously I am a crafter, it's my medium, and I'm also a feminist so naturally I'm intrigued to learn and share how craft has contributed to women's history.

I'm in the middle of reading The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker which is frankly fascinating. I know there was a conference at the V&A last year called The Subversive Stitch Revisited, exploring the legacy of the book 20 years after its first publication. I didn't go because I hadn't read the book then and didn't know it was on, but I know some people who went and I'm going to do some secondhand research involving them at some point. The book largely covers the craft of embroidery from Victorian times and links it with the false notion of femininity, and how this relates to class and women's roles within and outside the home.


So embroidery was at one time an upper class ladies' pursuit and kept them occupied for no real reason other than to give them something to do all day. It was considered a proper ladies' activity, and was practised by young girls who wanted to be 'good' and feminine even though some of them hated it. It was more or less considered to be an art like any other. Then the Renaissance came along and the idea of the artist as a 'divine, inspired individual' was big, so copying patterns designed by someone else, no matter how accomplished, started to look a bit shit next to these wonderful conceptual oil painters who just happened to be mostly men.

This division between fine art and craft went on for ages and still continues to this day to an extent. Craft is still mostly practised by women and tends to serve a more functional, domestic purpose. The Arts and Crafts movement went some way to uphold the value of a well-made object, though, so props to them. Nowadays the likes of Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin mix fine art and craft in their work and seem to do quite well out of it.

High Priestess Cape by Grayson Perry

Crochet has a slightly different history it seems. Developed from a type of embroidery called 'tambour' it was practised by poor Irish women during the potato famine, who used it as a cheap way to make lace to sell abroad. It was deemed a bit common until Queen Victoria got into it and then it became all the rage. Here she is look:

taken from

Jump forward a few years and here we are today. Crafts got left behind slightly in the 80s when people started buying cheap factory-made items and handmade wasn't very cool. Now we are in a recession, or were, or something, and a big crafts revival has taken place (actually it started way before the recession but whatevs). Funnily a lot of the stuff people make nowadays doesn't seem to have much function; yarn, especially wool, is expensive, and people still buy cheap goods from abroad, even more than ever, so it doesn't really have much correlation. But it's super cool to crochet.

So the issue of femininity. I would say, from my travels on Etsy and the like, that being cute and childlike is kind of a big trend in handmade items. People favour woodland creatures and kittens and cupcakes, crochet food, doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not knocking it because it obviously makes people happy and they like making it and buying it so who am I to judge. I'm as guilty as anyone else to be fair. But when you look at those women from Victorian times, embroidering flowers on everything in the house (for a while, the word 'flowering' was synonymous with embroidering) and women now, crocheting teddy bear cupcakes: the styles have obviously changed, and women (presumably) are making things of their own free will these days; but what it means to be feminine is more or less the same. Soft, unobtrusive, child-like. As Rozsika Parker says: 'there is no hint of the determination, application, ambition and education demanded by [these works]'

cupcake bears by Amigurumi Kingdom/from

Our very own Elizabeth Gaskell saw the limiting social structures held in place by embroidery. In Wives and Daughters, 1866, she depicts her heroines using the craft to intimidate others, throwing their reels around, and to seduce men by being ever so feminine. The woman without needle skills is hopeless at attracting men. Parker notes that she 'relied on [her] readers' familiarity with the art', sympathising with the heroines' lack of real power but allowing them to win their own small victories using their only weapon: embroidery.

More on this another time. Maybe when I have actually read a book and am not just making it up in my head.


Monday, 27 January 2014

six months on

hi guys

I was going to post more or less constantly about the trials and tribs of doing Warp and Weft stuff, but then I got caught up in actually doing it, and then I had a bit of a blip mental-health wise, and then it was Christmas and now it's now and I've actually more or less finished all 8 masks. There is more info about the project on our blog.

I don't want to give too much away but here are some secretive photies.

looking good, although not really in these pictures because my camera isn't working all that well any more.

So that's exciting. Here's the flyer for the show, in case you haven't seen it 5,000 other times on twitter and wherever.

do feel free to pass it around. We would really love you to come along and see all the masks in situ. It will mean a lot to us and it will blow your fucking mind.

I thought here I would say some stuff about the inspiration for the masks, crafts-wise. I had a murky idea about how I wanted them to look, and I have to say I've been heavily influenced by Jo Hamilton's crazily accurate crocheted portraits:

If you look on her website there are some mannequin masks which are a bit like my crochet ladymasks, which I hadn't seen before I started the project honest guv. Anyway she's a super talented needlewoman and I praise her highly. skill.

what else. this is Blanka Amezkua. She makes embroideries based on the way women are depicted in comic books, they're pretty cool. Embroidery not crochet, but what the hey, we're all craftswomen aren't we?

I'm also well into yarnbombing, if it's done creatively (none of this wet-scarf-round-a-lamppost eyesore-osity). I live on knithacker (they featured us last year! and my Ron Swanson monster a bit earlier which resulted in a possible meeting with the man himself) and there's loads of amazing cool ideas for getting knitting/crochet into the public realm.

finally I am in super love with Olek. You'll have seen pictures of her work on craft blogs and the internet generally: she makes crochet fabric in bright coloured camouflage patterns and uses it to yarnbomb tanks, bikes, people. She's a total dude and she dresses like she's crocheted herself every morning. Once she crocheted an entire flat, including all the people in it, and covered the walls with crocheted drunken sexts.

my favourite thing she ever did though, is this amazing installation 'The End is Far'. It's pink and glittery and the walls are covered in fussy, girly scrawled affirmations. There's CROCHETED GOLD SKELETONS in this piece. 

That'll do for now, not least because I can't think of anything else to say at the moment. Please come to the show if you can! and tweet about it and make me and Jenny famous! I want to do another post soon about the Art Party conference but realistically I will probably do it in June


Sunday, 11 August 2013

warp and weft and masks and women

Hi guys

this is a new thing about a new project i'm doing with my mate Jenny, it is to do with feminism, yay! The town hall is full of statues and busts that look like this

and are big ol whiskery men. The thing is, as Jenny found out, in the golden olden days people who could afford to get statues done of themselves did - and there aren't ANY women in the Sculpture Hall, surprise!

Sooo we're doing a little proj whereby we celebrate notable Manc women throughout history, by temporarily covering up the men's faces and hiding them, behind massive badass crochet womanface masks. I'm doing the crocheting and Jen's boning up on her history and learning about some seriously astonishing women doing their bits for a better world. The official blog and info about our women etc, is at but I'm going to post here now and again, so I can talk about my feelings and complain and swear and things.

Right so first off can I just say it is EXTREMELY difficult to make a mask which a) looks like a person's face, b) looks like an actual, real, specific person's face, c) fits over the completely different face of a manstatue with a stupid massive nose (and in one case a stupid massive BEARD) and d) isn't completely dreadful in every possible way. I'm not going to lie to you, it's very hard. At the moment I've given up on a) and b) and am focussing on c), after which I will attempt to do features and whatnot.

As for d) well time will tell won't it!

Here's some photos of eyes I have done so far.

this is Elizabeth Gaskell

this is Sylvia Pankhurst

this is Sunny Lowry (she looks angry)

I'm having most trouble with noses so that's why I've stopped at the 'masquerade ball' stage here. It's going okay now, I've got a few wonky noses sorted out. 

Another thing which is bothersome, is that I don't really have terribly great photos to work from, so I'm sort of guessing what they look like anyway. It's pretty hard and my motivation keeps wandering off and falling down the nearest drain. I am enjoying the process though, it's fun to try new things even when they are impossible. 

Some half-finished masks will be in PS Mirabel's Artifice exhibition curated by Aziza Mills at the end of August, so keep an eye out for that.

Ohh I'm sure it'll be fine. Join me next week for more worries and general chitchat!