The human knitting machine

This week we continued exploring yarn and knitting with knitwear designer and WSA tutor Antonia Sullivan.

We began by creating yarn using t shirts, we had all perfected this technique having practiced last week. Once we had an enormous mountain of yarn we got into groups and became a human knitting machine. Based on the principle of ā€˜French knittingā€™, usually using a cone with a central hole and a series of pegs to loop the yarn around, this time the pegs were replaced with people creating a giant web of yarn, which grew really fast once we had all worked out how it worked. We then displayed our finished lengths around the room creating a network of threads.

Moving from the collaborative to the individual, from the macro to the micro we scaled down and tried ā€˜hand knittingā€™ and ā€˜finger knittingā€™. These processes using no needles created fun quick results, particularly with the jumbo t-shirt yarn. We then battled with giant broom handle needles but the results were slower than the earlier techniques.

These were then added to the growing ā€˜installationā€™ in the room. Seeing the knitting in this way allowed you to understand the structure of the process and where different knitters had different ‘tension’ creating tighter or looser patterns.

It was a really hands on, playful, physical end to this terms’ series of workshops and we all felt proud of having mastered a new skill.

The possibilities in a length of yarn

Todayā€™s workshop was led by Antonia Sullivan, tutor on BA Textile Design specialising in knit. She introduced us to the variety of ways that knitting can be used as a basic binary process. Depending on the type of yarn and the scale it has an amazing number of applications: from clothing to heart surgery. There were examples of giant flags knitted by cranes, knitted computer coding and miniature clothing smaller than a fingernail.

We made yarn out of old t-shirts by cutting them into strips to create a continuous length. We then knitted this on giant needles. Only a couple of the group had knitted before but we got the hang of this really quickly and the thick yarn meant we made speedy progress.

During our break we took a tour around the BA and MA Fine Art interim show. Georgia, Saturday Club assistant, had a sound work in the exhibition so it was great for us to get a better idea of her practice. It was an interesting contrast to our visit to the Courtauld Gallery to see the variety of media and subjects explored by the students studying at WSA.

Once we had got to grips with hand knitting we moved on to making pom-poms. We turned chairs upside down to use the legs to wind the yarn. We chose as many different colours and textures of yarns as we wanted and used as much yarn as we could wind and then tied it into sections. Then we cut the windings, which magically transformed into pom-poms.

The morning was a playful but productive introduction to the possibilities using just a length of yarn.

For inspiration and resources take a look at the pinterest page Antonia has set up:Ā