Sunday, 6 September 2015

In The Loop 4 Knitting Conference

The most recent in a series of excellent knitting conferences, In the Loop 4, was held at the University of Glasgow at the end of August. I had been looking forward to attending since the Conference was announced some months ago! There were many speakers over the three days and every one of them made an interesting contribution to the Conference theme, Knitting: From Craft to Couture. Arriving the day before the conference began gave me the opportunity to join in a very enjoyable tour of Glasgow University.

It also meant that there was time to visit The Yarn Cake, an excellent Glasgow yarn shop on Queen Margaret Drive.

The Yarn Cake yarns

The Yarn Cake wall

We were welcomed to the conference by organisers Professor Lynn Abrams and Marina Moskowitz from the University of Glasgow along with the founder and Director of In The Loop, Linda Newington from the University of Southampton.

The Opening Speaker was Research Fellow Dinah Eastop. Dinah introduced us to the wonderful resource of the Board of Trade Design Register that is held at the National Archives. There are 11,122 boxes full of records of "useful or ornamental' designs that were registered from 1839 onwards. The range of designs is amazing! One of the main points of focus is linking the design register to items in other collections and I was fascinated by the examples of image browsing and sorting that Dinah showed us.

"Past and Present Making Practises" were looked at by the next group of speakers, beginning with Barbara Burman's review of her ongoing research into long purses. Jennie Atkinson wowed us with her investigation onto beaded knitting and we will all be looking out for her new designs with Rowan yarns and Swarovski crystals! Helen Robertson's work with knitting with wire and metals in Shetland was so beautiful.

A lunchtime session presented by Angharad Thomas, featured items from the Knitting and Crochet Guild Collection. It is always a pleasure to have a close-up look at these beautiful examples of knit and crochet.

Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection

Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection

"Authenticity in Local and Global Contexts" was looked at in detail by our next group of speakers. Annemor Sundbo had brough a huge selection of beautiful Setesdal sweaters with her to illustrate her talk. Karie Westermann raised many issues in her presentation, "Reading The Sarah Lund Jumper: Local Tradition, Global Attention". Siun Carden looked at the search for meaning in Aran knitting in her paper and Linda Newington considered the ownership of "place centred" knitting cultures and patterns. These fascinating, in depth presentations challenged the conference to define 'tradition' and raised many questions that we were unable to answer, but will be thinking about from now on!

All delegates and speakers were invited to a civic reception at Glasgow City Chambers. We were given a very warm welcome to the City in stunning surroundings!

Glasgow City Chambers
Glasgow City Chambers
Spinning at Glasgow City Chambers
Day 2 opened with an exploration of Craft versus High Fashion knitting by Jonathan Faiers in his talk, "Exaggerated domesticity and extravagant utility: knitting and the runway". We then moved on to consider the theme of "Earning a Living Through Knitting". Lesley O'Connell Edwards looked at Cap and Stocking Knitting in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Jade Halbert illustrated the 1980s trend of machine knitting by outworkers in Easterhouse with examples from her own family.

"Knitting in the Digital Age" was the theme for our next three speakers. Ruth Gilbert explored Cultural heritage vs Craft tradition and again brought us back to consider what defines "tradition". I loved Ruth's comparison of craft to folk music and in particular Jazz music. Alison Mayne introduced us to the 'Woolly Wellbeing Research Group' and Dr Kate Orton-Johnson looked at Ravelry as an illustration of how a digital layer of creativity has been added to knitting.

Karin Landahl was the first speaker in the "Design Process" session and she showed us her investigations into form in knitting through her 'knitted knots'. Amanda Smith from AUT University discussed 3D seamless techniques and whole garment production as part of her research into 'Translating the Traditional to the Digital'. Kari Steihaug's beautiful work with knitted items has featured in many galleries and her Archive: The Unfinished Ones was a fascinating look at unfinished objects in knitting.

In "Collecting and Collaborating Knitting Culture", the knitter as collector was explored by Charlotte Mace and almost all hands were raised in amswer to the questions 'does your knitting stash exceed your life expectancy?'! The short film of the Women's Institute (WI) collaboration with Kingston University Fashion Students was a brilliant illustration of cooperation in knitting and the resulting garments were stunning. Rose Sinclair, Goldsmiths, University of London, told us about her current research into Dorcas Societies and in particular about Beatrice Clugston, founder of a Dorcas Society based at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow.

Our conference dinner was in the Brasserie at Oran Mor, a converted church at the top of Byers Road in the West End of Glasgow. The staff were very friendly and helpful and even found time to give us a quick tour of the main hall. This was a real treat as the ceiling is a wonderful work by Alasdair Gray.

Ceiling by Alasdair Gray at Oran Mor

The first theme of Day 3 was "Thrift, Re-use and Sustainability". Dr Lyanne Holcombe looked at Vogue's 3rd Book of Knitting and Crochet. Tom van Deijen presented 'Old Techniques and New Cardigans: a case study in traditional knit repair techniques'  and showed us images of darning samples from the Fries Museum in the Netherlands. I particularly liked Tom's quote that "A beautiful darn is a badge of honour"! Tone Tobiasson and Ingun Klepp from KRUS put across strongly that "local is the new organic' and discussed the need to re-establish the notion of where clothes come from.

As well as organising much of this excellent conference, Roslyn Chapman presented a very intriguing investigation into her mystery knitter, in' James Moar: the only male Shetland lace knitter?' The theme of 'Knitting and Gender' was explored further by Tom West in his talk, 'Modern Masculinites in Knitting and crochet'. Katherine Harrison and Cassie Ogden shared the early results of their focus groups exploring 'Knitting Together Craft and Feminism".

In the last session of the conference, Jill Rodgers and Grainne Swann demonstrated how knitting helped with student well being and retention at Norwich University of the Arts. Dr Margaret Sutherland and Dr Naimh Stack gave us an overview of how they see knitting as 'A Catalyst for Interdisciplinary learning in Schools'. Anna Kouhia's short film "Crafts in My Life" was a beautiful cinematic response to her recent research.

Our final speaker was the extremely creative Di Gilpin. Di emphasised how important it is to look at the past to reinvent the future and told us about her love of putting things in knitting that shouldn't be there! Her message to the conference was that it was very important to have an open mind when designing and knitting. Di's collaborations with designers such as Graeme Black and Nike showed off her talents for inventing new stitches and creative ways of constructing garments.

The last event of the conference was the much anticipated fashion show. The show featured garments and accessories by many well known Scottish designers such as Di Gilpin and Kate Davis. You can watch the show here.

I really enjoyed the whole conference, from being challenged about the definition of traditional to being in the company of so many knowledgeable knitters! A huge thank you to the organisers for an excellent programme and a really well run conference. I will definitely being going to In the Loop 5 in 2017.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Emma for this very useful summary of the ITL conference. A great way for people who weren't able to go to catch up with it.