Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention 2017

I can't believe that a week has passed already since I was at the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention in Birmingham! It was a wonderful weekend, with inspirational speakers and excellent workshops. If you were at the convention you will know what I mean. If you were unable to make it this year I hope this post will give you a flavour of the weekend and perhaps encourage you to join the Guild and come along for the next one. The Convention was held in the Ibis Hotel in central Birmingham, Friday 6th July to Sunday 8th July 2017. 

Gansey Sweaters from the Gansey Workshop by
Deb Gillanders

Delegates arriving a day early were treated to a series of visits arranged by the Birmingham KCG Branch. These included trips to The Crescent Theatre, Cadbury World, the National Trust Back to Backs properties and the Jewellery Quarter. My weekend began on Friday 7th July with the Convention dinner. The meal was followed by this year's keynote speaker, Betsan Corkhill of Stitchlinks. Betsan’s work on therapeutic crafts is absolutely fascinating. Betsan started Stitchlinks in 2005 with the aim to improve wellbeing through knitting and crochet. Her Convention talk explored ways that people can actively manage symptoms of a condition by using knitting and crochet. In particular, the portability of knit and crochet projects means that they can be carried anywhere for use in multiple situations. The actual process of knitting or crocheting is very calming, however Betsan reminded us of the importance of sitting well while we work and getting up to stretch and move on a regular basis. I particularly liked Betsan’s recommendation to “experiment, explore, be curious” for a healthy brain. For more information please see the Stitchlinks website.

Saturday was a very full day and it got off to a great start with a talk by Emma Price from “In the Wool Shed”. Emma certainly passed on her “deep passion for making” to the delegates! Having trained as an accountant, Emma has since travelled and worked extensively in India. She also completed a degree in Fine Art, creating a rug made from sand as her final piece. As well producing and selling her beautiful natural dyed yarn, she runs creative trips to India exploring techniques such as block printing and weaving. The trips are run for small groups of up to 10 people. Emma’s focus is for the groups to be a part of the local communities, so they stay in the back streets, travel by rickshaw and explore small textile markets together. Emma talked us through some of her own collection of stunning textiles from India to highlight some of the printing and weaving techniques covered on the trips. More information about Emma, her gorgeous yarns and the mindful textile journeys to India can be found on her website.

In The Wool Shed Yarns by Emma Price
In The Wool Shed Yarns by Emma Price
Our annual general meeting took care of the formal business of the convention and was a great opportunity to say thank you to the current board for all their hard work over the year. Our membership has grown to 847 members over the last year. My favourite quote of the meeting is from Tricia, encouraging the setting up of new branches even if there are only a small number of members in one area, “from little acorns, big branches grow.” Branch meetings and events are publicised through the Guild website and the Guild’s Facebook page.

After lunch, we had a presentation from Maureen and Barbara entitled "so you want to host a Trunk Show?". A Trunk Show is one of the ways that the Collection Team can show items to a wide audience who are unable to visit Lee Mills. Items are carefully packed up and mailed out to branches with plenty of descriptive notes and background detail. This provides lots of information for a fascinating presentation and discussion. Everyone at the Convention enjoyed the items Maureen and Barbara had brought along as examples. I know from attending trunk shows at previous events that this is a great way to hear about the stories behind the items in the Guild’s Collections. Barbara has written a blog post about the Convention which you can read here.

Saturday afternoon was a chance for delegates to learn new skills in workshops run by members. I was delighted to have a place on the Gansey Workshop with Deb Gillanders aka “Propagansey”. Deb’s eye for detail is amazing. I was entranced by the way she revealed hidden details on the Ganseys she had brought along. From delicate garter stitch lines within patterns to beautifully neat false side seams that flow into gussets, Deb showed us details that we would have otherwise missed. We looked at the placement of patterning, such as rope and ladder, and the precise positioning of the pattern sections, both horizontally and vertically. I also discovered that although the panels and patterning are placed symmetrically, there is no mirror imaging of the cables. We also talked about what makes a “proper” Gansey and Deb’s descriptions of her Scottish Aunty’s assessment of her Gansey knitting was really funny! There is a wealth of information about Gansey knitting and it’s fascinating history on Deb’s websiteThe other workshops that took place included: Cast On/Cast Off techniques; Crochet Basics; Fair Isle techniques; The History of Knitting; Tunisian Entrelac.

Gansey Workshop in progress
Mini Gansey Sweater sample on display
at the Gansey workshop with Deb Gillanders

Our dinner on Saturday was followed by a conference highlight: Show and Tell! This year everyone had been asked to label items for display before the evening session. This helped delegates to discover more about the work brought along. Rachel was a fantastic Show and Tell Host, reading out the descriptions and encouraging the creator of each piece to reveal more about it. I love listening to the creative passion of our members describing their favourite work, or even their complete disaster, of the past year.

Close up of Sally Magill's delicate Crochet on display for Show and Tell
Section of a stunning crochet blanket by Gillian Oliver
on display for Show and Tell
Sunday morning began with a talk by Guild Life Member, Denise Musk. Denise discussed her career and showed us her amazing mixed media garments. She had brought along a wide selection of her work and we were all able to have a close look at her techniques as she described her inspiration.

Small section of a garment by Denise Musk

Our second set of workshops began mid morning and I took the opportunity to try a new technique. Having long admired amazing creations that use brioche knitting, Mary Lambert's “Brioche Basics” Workshop was perfect for me. Mary had brought along lots of examples and her stunning orange scarf was outstanding. Learning this technique required a lot of concentration and I would like to say a big thank you to Gill who spotted that my yarn overs were going the wrong way round. In my knitted sample, you can clearly see the point where she intervened and the pattern fell into place! The other workshops running on Sunday morning were: Beaded Knitting; E textiles; Broomstick Crochet; Möbius Knitting; Steeking.

Close up of Mary's Brioche Scarf
Once again, thank you to all the organisers, especially Tricia, Janet and the Birmingham Branch for such a wonderful weekend. Talking to Guild members throughout the weekend is the best part of the Convention for me. I love catching up with everyone I have met at previous events and making lots of new friends too. We all have so much in common and it's great getting to know people over the weekend. Next year's conference dates and location are already set for 6th to 8th July 2018 at the Warwick University Convention Centre in Coventry. This will be a very special Convention celebrating 40 years of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. I hope to see you there!

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