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Jean Oberlander MA Textiles (Knit)

What is softness, but a well worn jumper: unravelling the cross-overs of love, memory and tactility in knitting

2018 Tutor: Tanveer Ahmed Word Count: 9,993 words 

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1.

Introduction

๏ What is Softness?

pg 3

๏ Aims and Themes for Unravelling

pg 4

๏ Illustrations

pg 6

2. Knitting the Jumper ๏ Strategy for Storytelling Gathering

pg 7

๏ Gathering Techniques

pg 9

- Blog - Instagram - Facebook Groups ๏ Ethical Issues

pg 10

3. Unravelling the Jumper ๏ The Space Between Skin and the Jumper

pg 11

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The Peacock Cardigan

pg 16

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Jack’s Back Cardigan

pg 17

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The Red Mittens

pg 19

๏ Ugliness and Softness

pg 21

The Eeyore Jumper

pg 25

๏ The Eternal Jumper

pg 28

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Darning Dad’s Jumpers

pg 28

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The Last Scarf

pg 30

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The Green Cardigan

pg 31

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4. Conclusion

pg 33

5. Holes in the Jumper

pg 35

6. Bibliography

pg 36

7. Appendices


pg 44

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1. Introduction ๏ What is Softness? What is softness but a just-warmed scraggly knitted jumper, freshly dried in the winter sun on a kitchen table, for when the central heating doesn’t quite do the trick? What is softness, but the collecting of gifted jumpers from your grandmother, never to be worn but cherished in Tesco’s Bags for Life in the back of your wardrobe, moved from flat to flat, year to year - never worn but cherished as it was made by her hand. It shows the paradox of fashion, the swirling cyclical mess of fashion and its counterparts, that every single person has at least one garment that they could sit and discuss, at length, the memories attached to it. Whether those memories are good, or bad, nearly does not matter - it simply shows that clothing can hold a certain power over the past by encasing history within them. Realising that a cardigan my mum made for herself, and bestowed to me when I complained of being stuck in a cold Aberdeen ground floor flat with no central heating, was how she communicated her love for me, was what instilled a sense of appreciation for knitting as a way to construct our own narratives within families, between best friends, as mothers, grandmothers, beyond the grave, face to face and through the Internet. The everyday items we keep close to our skin, the lovingly made items we do not let touch the sunlight or even water, contain hidden archives and hugely long, encompassing histories that decry the popular theory that fashion is fickle. These soft things deserve to be listened to, and by doing so we can learn to appreciate the impact of knitted garments and objects in our lives, and how we can use this appreciation to stem the tide of unloved mass-produced clothing and re-think the way we wear and use the soft things in our wardrobes.


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๏ Aims and Themes for Unravelling The narrative of this dissertation follows the knitting of a metaphorical jumper, to its eventual unravelling. Under the core idea of “unravelling” - based around the blog of the same name - I aim to take apart what has been said and done previously within the semantics of knitting, craft, making and unmaking… while knitting together gathered stories and narratives that underlie the three key themes of love, self and death. Love is “The Space Between Skin and the Jumper” - that imperceptibly uttered reason why you keep a jumper is the hidden and unseen, not your skin and not the jumper… it is the space between. Self is “Ugliness and Softness”, the unwanted objects and resurrection of objects through touch and memory that only one person can experience, yourself. Death is “The Eternal Jumper”, and shows how literally and metaphorically a jumper can become eternal by becoming embodied with a persons essence, and how grief is alleviated through softness. Within this dissertation, the analysis of stories and narratives is imperative to aiding the analysis and core theories on material culture, love and knitting, as it adds an essential human and personal quality to it that is part of the ‘everyday’ investigation that is being unravelled. These ‘everyday’ stories that are being analysed in order to contextualise the academic and theoretical musings, bringing the human qualities of love and grief within the same framework. My definition of ‘everyday’ in this context is in line with descriptors of knitting within the household, the amateur knitter that knits for loved ones. Turney describes how domestically knitted objects “do not circulate within the ‘legitimate’ marketplace” and are not made for financial or economic gain, and run parallel to the capitalistic tendencies of the finance world in what is coined the ‘moral economy’.1 Knitting, as Turney defines, is “the creation of a surface through the looping and entwining of a single thread; a precarious act that creates strength, but can equally unravel and fall apart.”2 The primary focus of this dissertation is on hand knitting, and how women, primarily, use it to communicate and feel empowered through memories, love, death and self. The focus on women in this dissertation is due to the demographic gathered from within my own means, from those that I could access via social media, and those that were willing to part with stories and narratives on garments were mainly women, apart from one contribution. These garments and objects that were contributed will be analysed

1

Joanne Turney, The Culture of Knitting (New York: Berg, 2009). p. 40.

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 25. 2

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through their power to retain memories, sense of nostalgia and whether they form what I like to term as object histories or tangible archives - both synonyms of each other. An object history/tangible archive is the manifestation of records within a single object. The framework of this dissertation is loose so as to emulate the softness of a jumper allowing for seams to connect the threads of thought, combining tangible theory in the context of nostalgia, memory and love while juxtaposing intangible cultural histories by including contributed stories and narratives from everyday people who love a jumper, a pair of mittens or a ratty cardigan. This dissertation aims to combine theory and experience, which helps to connect it with knitting as a practice - considered easy enough to pick up but notoriously difficult to master - and emulates the knowledge needed to understand knitting’s cultural and critical importance while including real, human stories of hand- and machine-knitted objects and garments that contextualise the findings within the dissertation. It is less a question of how we communicate through craft - that is a question answered by the many people I look to throughout this study - and more of a nuanced investigation of how people, and, in particular, women, establish narratives and communication in knitted objects and garments. It is a study on how we use knit to communicate types of love; familial, romantic, affection, charity - a type of soft storytelling that is routinely sidelined as it is the work of women, the unflinching love of hand washing a used jumper, and woven into our daily lives so seamlessly as to be ignored. Darning perfectly means the labour is hidden, a passed down cardigan is reminiscent of a lost loved one and helps the wearer grieve‌ The power of softness is that it is simultaneously telling a story, giving a narrative to an object, passing down a memory, and yet it is not taken seriously because it is soft. Much like knitting is continued to be used by artists and designers to push boundaries within art, politics and feminism, the fact that knitting has been routinely sidelined by history and the arts gives it that metaphorical power in which those artists and designers can use to push against. I hope to unravel the semantics of a jumper, a mitten - and input metaphors and understanding within it, to question how much more powerful does it become knowing how it was made, who by, and whether it was passed down? Who touched this jumper to give it that power? The storytelling within a garment helps us psychoanalyse knitting and its role in contemporary society, and I am interested in investigating how past, present and futures are wrapped in softness. 

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๏ Illustrations 1.

Oberlander, Jean, Scans of Mum, Unpublished 35mm film photographs, 2016

2. Oberlander, Jean, Screenshot of Author’s Instagram, 2018 <https:// www.instagram.com/p/9EoQLSQNdM/?taken-by=oberjean> [accessed 11 January 2018] 3. Oberlander, Jean, Screenshot of Author’s Instagram, 2018 <https:// www.instagram.com/p/w_ta3OwNcO/?taken-by=oberjean> [accessed 11 January 2018] 4. Munro, Kirsty, Polaroid of Jean, Unpublished photographs, 2014 5. Munro, Kirsty, Red mittens, iPhone, Unpublished Facebook Messenger photograph, 2018 6. Morrison, Elsbeth, Screenshot of Eeyore jumper (front and back), Unpublished Instagram Story correspondence, 2018


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2. Knitting the Jumper ๏ Strategy for Storytelling Gathering Before I ever started writing this dissertation, I had already accidentally collected a story of a loved knitted jumper, from a friend of my granny. She told me how she knitted a jumper for her then 18 year old son, Jonathan, when he came home for Christmas after attending university, and it soon became loose and straggly, so as a solution she put it in a hot wash - it shrunk and returned to a size suitable for him to wear. At the time of the story, she said how he was now 53 years old, and his wife now routinely stuck the jumper in a hot wash so that it became whole again and he could wear it until it was baggy. Despite being a few sentences long, it quickly epitomises a snippet of two peoples lives in relation to each other, around one garment. The knitted garments and objects themselves act as harborers of stories and it was through those stories that interesting analysis and appreciation for knitting could be developed. Storytelling as a research method has been used by a number of craft practitioners. This method entails gathering contributions of writing and photographic evidence from people willing to take part in the research. In some cases they are written and sent to the researcher in order to fulfil the investigation or questions provided by the researcher. Examples of this include Emily Spivak’s Worn Stories which is a collation of wardrobe memoirs, and in particular, Craft of Use by Kate Fletcher, which anonymises contributions and separates them into various sections all looking at how more thoughtful thinking around crafting and objects and things that are crafted can be utilised within sustainable practices, and then analysed by Fletcher. Narratives and storytelling within research help to bring back a sense of emotion, feeling and rawness to the research process, and this is due to how our own lives are linear and flexible in form, we aim to find the story in our lives by retelling experiences in different ways and the storytelling approach within academic contexts brings those two differing ways of working together.3 A story can be defined as something with a beginning, middle, and end. Sandelowski epitomises why it is human nature to form narratives and stories; “A life history, or self-story, or any personal account is still a story, a representation of a life at a given moment rather than the life itself… the outcome of any one telling is necessarily a re-telling.”4 Margarete Sandelowski, ‘Telling Stories: Narrative Approaches in Qualitative Research’, in The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 23.3 (1991), 161–66. p. 162. 3

4

Sandelowski, Telling Stories. p.163. 7


Storytelling is a natural, fluid way of approaching qualitative research that allows the researcher to not only receive data that is willingly given, but is imbued with emotion, feeling and narrative thought that more biographical and rigid constructing of data cannot reach. By conducting research in this way, we as researchers can â&#x20AC;?gain insight into the way human beings understand and enact their lives through stories.â&#x20AC;?5 The format of this dissertation is flexible and fluid and enacts the making and unravelling of a jumper, and the storytelling research method fits into this narrative with an ease that other methods would detract from the genuine feeling and emotions behind the everyday people that contributed. Stories are not only for aligning our own personal identities with narrative thought strands, but also for others, through interacting and communicating stories, and without them we cannot breathe, and we cannot live. The ultimate purpose of people sharing their stories of knitted objects and garments is to understand the power of softness, to answer what is softness in our contemporary society, and how we as humans, particularly women, communicate using knitted objects and garments. In order to answer these, I gathered stories from different call outs, and in order to select them for this dissertation I followed the three sub themes of love, self and death, and separated each into those sub themes. For each section of Unravelling the Jumper, I chose between one and three stories to analyse in depth. I am aiming to re-cast these stories in a new light, emphasising the importance of knitting in everyday lives and how we use it to foster relationships, utilise nostalgia and envelope ourselves in softness in our daily lives.â&#x20AC;Š

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Sandelowski, Telling Stories. p.163. 8


๏ Gathering Techniques Blog A blog was started in January 2018, entitled Unravelling, which can be found at http:// unravellingjumpers.blogspot.com. This serves to collate stories of knitwear loved and lost, grieved and found again, and acts as a pillar in which my MA dissertation research can be derived from. A call out for contributions was posted on Twitter and Instagram. Screenshots of those call-outs can be found in Appendix A. The stories provided through the blog’s contact form and through email, and anonymised where asked for, are found in Appendix B. Instagram A second call-out was posted using the same initial image used in Appendix A. This time I used the Instagram Stories feature which, instead of following the algorithms of a traditional Instagram post, is seen in a looping feature along the top of the Instagram application and allows for the poster to see how many people have watched the Story. A screenshot of the call out on the Story on the author’s Instagram account is in Appendix C. The stories (anonymised where asked for) provided through replies to the Instagram Story can be found in Appendix D. Facebook Groups Using similar information from the blog and on the previous social media call-outs, the author posted early on in the Facebook Group “Addicted to Knitting”. The post can be found in Appendix E. Transcripts of the comments - all anonymised - can be found in Appendix F. Later on, the author posted on the Facebook Group “Women in the Arts Scotland”. The post can be found in Appendix G, and transcripts of the anonymised comments can be found in Appendix H.


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ŕš? Ethical Issues

Within this dissertation, the gathering of personal stories is key, and within that there are personal and sometimes very disheartening stories. The data gathered is stored on one laptop and backed-up on an external hard drive, and when it has been asked for, the stories have been anonymised. The strategy to gather this was simply through social media and email encounters to prospective contributors - by asking people to willingly give stories while framing it under the title and investigation meant that anything sent to me was in good faith, something the person wanted to share and was willingly provided to be shared and written about within this work. Respondents through the blog call-out, and the Instagram Story call-out, as well as those that provided detailed stories and images via the Facebook Groups all filled in and signed the Informed Consent Form. The form can be found in Appendix I. Respondents in the comments of the Facebook Group call-outs were informed in the post about participating in the research, and were able to let me know of not taking part, the commenters were not contacted due to time constraints but their comments were written down from Facebook and anonymised so no profile picture could be connected to them. All the commenters on the Facebook Groups that did not contact me via message with a story or photograph were not included in the final dissertation because the time constraints meant an Informed Consent Form would not have been provided back in time, but they are included to show the variety of stories. The sample was all women except one poetic contribution from a male respondent, and I think instead of men being absent in the core sample being seen as a bias within the dissertation, it shows a different weighting and impact of knitting on those who identify as women specifically, and highlights how it is mainly those that communicate through knitting in clothing and objects.â&#x20AC;Š

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3. Unravelling the Jumper ๏ The Space Between Skin and the Jumper (LOVE) “Jumpers don’t just keep us warm. Given as gifts or knitted from patterns passed down, we love them well worn. We wear our lover’s, we keep our mother’s, we know exactly how it feels to hold someone who’s wearing one and we always remember the exact scent they keep.”6 What is that unutterable feeling of content and warmth when wearing a jumper? When disentangling the love from within objects, the metaphorical jumper we are now unravelling now contains coded memories, tangible archives and markers of emotion that hark back to personal life changes for the metaphorical wearer. They realise there is a space between their skin and their jumper - but what is it? Something they cannot explain, yet both gives them feelings of nostalgia, appreciation for a lost memory and reminders of the jumpers past life. Love is a notoriously unquantifiable concept, and a modern interpretation of love is eloquently posited by bell hooks: “To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients - care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication. Learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving as we grow older.”7 This definition of love is paradoxical to ones in the past, it is not shifting, it does not give love an aura of mystery or unknowingness - it plants it firmly into the ground. Hooks almost makes love owe us an explanation for being so opaque, and it is this understanding of love that will be posited throughout this study on the knitted objects and garments we all cherish. Bell Hooks definitions and illuminations on love, as well as her uncovering of how paragons of writing on love routinely hide the impact of and love of women, despite women being stigmatised as ‘feeling’ and ‘emotional’, is both alarming and strikingly similar to how knitting has been pushed to the sidelines throughout history. Physically, the history of knitting is patchy because despite wool fabric having been used on man for

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Unknown.

Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions, First Perennial edition (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001). p. 5. 7

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Illustration one

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Illustration two eons, its early history is largely unknown because it simply deteriorates over time.8 The softness is lost to the ground, but despite that loss knitting lives on not only through surviving artefacts but through literal memory - Sundbø writes about the invisible threads in knitting, detailing how, “although a large part of knitting history has not been written down and many things are not visible, there are guiding threads to many of its hiding places.”9 It lives on in our minds, and in the small pieces of yarn that act as a trail. Beginning to look at cloth in general, the literal use of memory and attachment to clothing has continued to be a source of fascination from academics, and Stallybrass, a key figure in analysing clothing and memory, wrote how: “The magic of cloth, I came to believe, is that it receives us: receives our smells, our sweat, our shape even. … Bodies come and go; the clothes which have received those bodies survive. They circulate through secondhand shops, through rummage sales, Heinz Edgar Kiewe, The Sacred History of Knitting, Recent Discoveries (Art Needlework Industries Ltd., 1967). p. 5. 8

Annemor Sundbø, Invisible Threads in Knitting (Kristiansand, Norway: Torridal Tweed, 2007). p. 116. 13 9


through the Salvation Army; or they are transmitted from parent to child, from sister to sister, from brother to brother, from sister to brother, from lover to lover, from friend to friend. Clothes receive the human imprint.”10 It is the distinctly human parts of us that envelope the fibres of clothing, that allow it to retain such a hold over us. Considering how fast fashion moves normally, it is very contradicting considering how material objects, in such a way as clothing does, can live with us for so long and create such powerful memories that we are fraught over getting rid of them. Stallybrass manages to, in a short time, convince you that clothing is inherently human, and it is that ability to contain history that makes it incredibly fascinating.11 Material objects and clothing, most importantly, in time, “receive the human imprint,”12 so once they have emotions woven and looped into them, it becomes harder to not only let go of them but to even wash them. Despite its coherency, Stallybrass continues focusing on clothing and cloth as a whole, and in many ways looking at it generally belittles the importance of individual fibres in how they interact with humans. In this instance, my own interest in how knitting has evolved from being a traditional rural income, into a mass-produced industry fabric while continuing to be seen as a metaphor for the ‘feminine’ runs into how knitted objects and, in particular, the knitted jumper, receive us, and carry both stories and narratives over time. Turney details how knitting is a vehicle for memories,13 and is capable of forming narratives and connections, and that the “forging and maintaining links with female family members through the production of what may become an ‘heirloom’ item…”14 From personal experiences that will be discussed in-depth in the following chapters, the knitting of jumpers and cardigans that then instil memories of the original wearer, and the maker, are; less likely to be washed, more likely to be worn as comfort, and kept safe for sporadic but necessary use. It is less that the skill of knitting was passed down, but that the story and past of the object was embedded into the jumper and the cardigan, which meant they developed and contained an archive of memories: of touch, of smell, of a story. Peter Stallybrass, ‘Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning and the Life of Things’, in The Textile Reader, ed. by Jessica Hemmings, 1st edn (New York: Berg Publishers, 2012), pp. 68–77 (p.69). 10

11

Stallybrass, Worn Worlds. p.69.

12

Stallybrass, Worn Worlds. p.69.

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 23. 13

David Gauntlett, ‘Making is connecting: the social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to Youtube and Web 2.0.’, 2011, quoted in Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 2. 14

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Illustration four

Illustration three

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Being made from wool and hand crafted was key in how these objects developed this certain higher power, more-so than other clothing in the wardrobe. When analysing tactile responses in terms of wool, it has been discovered that 41% of subjects listed wool as a fabric they “disliked touching”, and detailed how changes in their preference happened because of “repeated exposure, focus on some features, discovery of new features or new associated experiences”.15 Hence, it surmised how tactile responses were affected by how the wool felt on the person’s body, their surroundings and atmosphere, and experiences with the familial.16 Even with more negative reactions to wool, a person still can change their response to its properties after considering their own past and tactile memories of their familial interactions. An Instagram contributor stated how, “There’s something really comforting about how uncomfortable knitwear can be sometimes, when I put on an itchy wool jumper I feel like I’m a kid and my grans (sic) just tucked me into bed with an itchy welsh blanket - also the smell… like knitted things hold smells in such a distinct way.”17 Without taking into consideration the impact of hand knitting and how emotions feed into the maker, it shows the enveloping of wool in the mind as something that can carry a story, a narrative and shows how it can genuinely impact on how someone feels about a completely separate fabric, just because it was made from the same fibre. Wool is a time and temporal travelling material, and knitting is its wormhole. To ground the academic writing on sweaters as a time-traveling object, where Turney posits that “the sweater offers a link with the past; it is cozy, comforting, and offers warmth in cold and harsh times”,18 I will analyse two different knitted objects that have impacted on my life, in the way that Turney phrases here… it is somehow to do with the warmth it provides, and the memories it brings back. The Peacock Cardigan The cardigan was knitted by mum in 1991, and can be seen worn by her in Illustration one. Illustration two shows a photograph taken by myself in 2015 for Instagram, detailing how “horrifically great” it is. The garish peacock and swirl pattern is quilted and huge, and was a passed down gift because I was complaining of cold Aberdeen winters. It was knitted beautifully but now the quilting has a slight hole in it, and has a few coffee and

Marilyn Delong, Juanjuan Wu, and Juyeon Park, ‘Tactile Response and Shifting Touch Preference’, TEXTILE, 10.1 (2012), p. 45. 15

16

Delong, Wu and Park, Tactile Response. p.45.

17

“rosie.pdf”, Instagram Contributor, See Appendix D, p. 54.

Joanne Turney, ‘A Sweater to Die for: Fair Isle and Fair Play in The Killing’, TEXTILE, 12.1 (2014), 18–33. p. 27. 16 18


chocolate stains on it, but I won’t wash it. The more detailed story can be found in Appendix K.19 Jack’s Back Cardigan Jack’s Back was a Kaffe Fassett pattern for Rowan that my Granny Valerie knitted for my late grandfather. She gifted it to me after I expressed my interest in knitting, and it is a colour work pattern that she had never attempted before, so there is a lot of unravelling happening throughout, and I have to be very careful when wearing it so as not to let it snag on things. Sometimes, I think I can still smell my Grandpa on it, even though I have worn it numerous times. Pictures of me wearing it can be seen in Illustrations three and four. The more detailed story can be found in Appendix L.20 These two stories of cardigans, passed down to me from mother, from grandmother, are indicative of how women in particularly communicate through knitted objects, and it is even more potent when those doing the giving have made the object with their own hands, each time I am able to wear these cardigans I think of them, the memories of talking about the cardigans, of my mum wearing the Peacock cardigan in 1991, of my late grandpa keeping cosy in the evenings. Turney agrees that communicating through knitted objects is both “sharing and bonding; respectful and repetitive.”21 Having these objects connects me and my appreciation for knitting, to both my mother and grandmother - we have mutual hobbies to talk about and positive memories of late family members by talking about the loved garments they wore and appreciated themselves. Dawson emphasises that “even if you work from an existing pattern, where every detail has been worked out for you and is given in row-by-row instructions, the resulting garment will still be stamped with your individual mark.”22 They were patterns, followed to the tee by my mother and grandmother, and yet there will not be a single garment like these anywhere else in the world, and that makes them powerful, even if it is powerful only in my mind, and in a way, that is just as important. A commenter in the Women in the Arts Scotland group relayed a story, and emphasised how she did not realise knitted objects having power was a ‘thing’; “I have a half-knitted jumper that my mum was making for me when I was a teenager. I’m not that size any

19

Jean Oberlander, Peacock Cardigan, See Appendix K, p. 69.

20

Jean Oberlander, Jack’s Back Cardigan, See Appendix L, p. 70.

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 23. 21

22

Pam Dawson, Knitting Fashion (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1976). p. 9. 17


more, I don’t like that colour any more, and I can’t knit, but I’d not part with it.”23 In a way, this story becomes all the more powerful considering the person does not knit, and maybe does not appreciate the work that goes into knitting - yet knows that because her mum made it she cannot let it go. Mothers and knitting go hand in hand, it is how we are bound. As Gibson said, “clothes are literally the threads that bind us, as women, as mothers, as daughters, and as lovers of clothes.”24 In a way, knitting and its objects both emphasises the past, while creating the future, Turney relays how “the knitting is projective, a nurturing map for the younger woman’s journey through motherhood, on the other, it is retrojective, connecting the present with the past and a history of mothers.”25 It becomes its own storytelling device, a maker of its own narrative while nodding at its traditional past. It warms the hearts of those it has touched by embracing memories of those who make them, while giving them a skill and hobby that can literally make their future. A similar story from a contributor relays the strength of a knitted jumper: “My mum knitted me a jumper when I was 11 to replace my favourite jumper that I’d grown out… I’m now 24 and it still fits… it stretched as I grew. It’s completely shapeless now… but I could never throw it away. My mum taught me to knit when I was three, and I still go to her for advice with my knitting, even though we’re about the same standard now.”26 In a way, this jumper acted as a springboard for this person’s love for knitting, it was washed and worn, stretched and loved, and now mother and daughter can share knitting tips and continue a relationship that was helped and formed by the softness of the jumper. This affirms how the making and wearing of a knitted object becomes a way of forming a persons identity and relationship with a family member, and it accentuates how hand knitted items become vehicles for meaning and instil memories in them, more so than purchased garments as there is far more energy and love put into the making.27

23

Anonymous 19, Women in the Arts Scotland, See Appendix H, p. 62.

Robyn Gibson, The Memory of Clothes, 2015 <https://www.sensepublishers.com/ media/2241-the-memory-of-clothes.pdf> [accessed 21 November 2017]. 24

25

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 23. 26

Anonymous 25, Women in the Arts Scotland, See Appendix H, p. 63.

Amy Twigger Holroyd, Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes (London, UK: Tauris, 2017). p. 90. 27

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The Red Mittens This continues even in other types of relationships, not familial in nature. A pair of mittens is pictured in Illustration five. I knitted these for my best friend Kirsty for her birthday in March 2018. I remember knitting them in my bed, watching things and thinking of seeing her (we live far away from each other now), and quickly finishing them on the train to Edinburgh, scissors in hand and bits of red fluff all over my cream cord trousers. An amateur knitter cited in Steed eloquently posits how “…the knitter also remembers where the sock was knitted, sitting on the sofa at home, perhaps, or on a splendid vacation, or maybe at the sick-bed of a beloved relative. Each stitch captures the tick of the clock while the curtains stirred the breeze, the vista of the mountains unscrolling through the train window, the love and concern for the person in the bed.”28 Memories become so easily attached to wool because of its softness, and making for others is seen as the ultimate sacrifice of time and love. Millar explains how “the haptic relationship between our bodies and the textiles which accompany us provides an alternative language of memory”,29 and concludes that memories are “dissolving, slipping through the porous membrane of time, conflating experiences: memories are the wayward threads we use to reconstruct the narrative of our life.”30 In many ways, these experiences and memories can become a crutch, the fact they are wayward and dissolving raises questions of reliability. Memories of love and nostalgia may become attached to wool, but that does not always mean they are wanted, needed or loved. That is where the inherent ugliness in softness worms itself into the discourse of wool.


28

Josephine Steed, ‘Unravel: Revaluing the Craft of Knitting For New Emergent Design Contexts Within a Post-Industrial World’, in Making Futures: The Crafts as ChangeMaker in Sustainably Aware Cultures, ed. by Malcolm Ferris (Plymouth, UK: Plymouth College of Art, 2016), ii, 297–306. 29

Lesley Millar, Cloth & Memory {2} (Saltley, UK: Salts Estates Ltd, 2013). p. 15.

30

Millar, Cloth & Memory, p.13. 19


Illustration five

â&#x20AC;Š

20


๏ Ugliness and Softness (SELF) “To knit is like a construction.. A knitted garment can encompass everything from daily events to great dramas. It is as though a personal handwriting is embedded in the yarn. If we unravel a well-used knitted garment, we can still see the wavy traces of the stitches and they aren’t easily washed away.”31 Frequently I have alluded to the twisting, changing qualities of knitting - how it writes its own narrative while being, physically, a story, and it is the tangible and intangible qualities it possesses that enable it to be fed into other more mysterious, illustrious existences within our lives. What has continued to interest me as a maker for myself, for others and when thinking about and writing about knitting is how it continuously juxtaposes its own paradoxes, and knits its own stereotypes while unravelling those same negative qualities. In this chapter, stories of self and empowerment are enveloped with the sad, forlorn ugliness of an unwanted Christmas hand knit sweater. Both the literal and metaphorical ugly jumper in this chapter will be analysed and put next to each other, in order for the stark contrasts and easy connections to both be made, despite the inevitable paradoxes within knitting as a craft and contributor of its own stories and narratives. The ugly jumper as both a literal thing, and a metaphorical entity, is a ripe object to decode and analyse. Within the ugly jumper as a painful object - we look into how knitters use the craft as a weapon of softness, knitting things for loved ones with a certain force that pushes against what knitting is meant to be. Textiles, and knitting, has the ability “inflict pain and suffering”.32 Relationships become strained when a knitted gift is unwanted and unneeded, yet the amount of effort that goes into a knitted thing pushes a sense of displacement and hate, not merely against the object, but against the maker themselves - thus rendering a hate within the relationship that could have been avoided if the knitter had simply not knitted the silly thing in the first place. Beginning at the ugly jumper as a metaphorical thing, as a physical object that subsumes and envelopes those that come into contact with it and in a way cause harm in relationships - means looking at how love can be turned into an ugly sentiment. Love is an inherently good thing, and empathy is an inherently creative mechanism,33 yet like all emotions and human acts, it can be pushed too far and becoming smothering. In the case 31

Kari Steihaug, Arkiv: De Ufullendte (Oslo: Magikon, 2011). p. 3.

Freddie Robins, ‘Who’s Scared Of The Soft Stuff?’ (presented at the RCA Cross-College Symposium: Feminisms and Materialisms, Royal College of Art: Royal College of Art, 2018). 32

Empathy Lab, ‘Empathy Is An Inherently Creative Mechanism’, Empathy Lab, 2017 <http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-is-an-inherently-creative-mechanism> [accessed 15 March 2018]. 21 33


Illustration six of an ugly jumper, this smothering can also be literal in the form of a cloying, thick knit, and smothering in the terms of forcing someone to love you for putting the effort into making a knitted thing. Myths in knitting are nearly as rampant as the knitting patterns themselves, and last far longer. Knitting and its history can easily be lost due to the deteriorating nature of wool and woollen items, so in generations past the ways of passing on knowledge and skill was through tacit skill passing and communicating through stories, narratives and myths. One such myth is a favourite of writers on knitting, and is entitled The Sweater Curse. Curse in this instance instantly raises alarm bells, and the negative connotation of the word curse next to a seemingly harmless entity such as a sweater shows the versatility and inevitable paradoxes that occur so easily within knitting as a craft. The myth is thus; “if you start knitting a sweater for any man in whom you have a serious romantic interest, he will break up with you before it is finished.”34 The physical handmade sweater is normally oversized, thick and enclosing, it clings, and insinuates the person gifting the

Alison Lurie, ‘The Sweater Curse’, The New Yorker (New York, 28 August 2013) <https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-sweater-curse> [accessed 4 June 2018]. 22 34


sweater wants to “surround its recipient and enclose him”.35 Steihaug reminisces on a memory like this, “I remember the beau who didn’t last long enough to receive the patterned sweater I was knitting for him.”36 Knitting is soft, but that softness is not always a positive thing. Freddie Robins posited how, by “shifting the commonly held views of soft, by completely subverting them… the qualities of softness can be used for evil”, and questioned “the justification of knitting because of therapeutic benefits - why does it have to be good for you?”.37 Robins eloquently put that there is a poetics to the softness, and it “holds power, seemingly because we are in fear of it, or there is an avoidance”.38 It can literally and metaphorically cause pain, and it can metaphorically act as an evil and be seen as a precursor for things much worse than it physically aches for it to be. A response from Facebook relayed this feeling from an unwanted gift: “I remember my mum teaching me to knit aged 5. I used to make everyone presents: knitted, sewn, clay etc. One Christmas my dad got a tie I’d knitted: I only recall him wearing it for an hour. That’s when I realised that not everyone appreciates hand made gifts. But I still knitted!”39 Handmade items might take more time, and take more effort, but foisting a handmade gift on someone is not always wanted or needed, it could actually force a sense of gratification on someone that does not want to feel that. Twigger Holroyd affirmed that “a garment is intended for use, and wearing a homemade garment legitimates the activity of making it.”40 It instantly makes it more difficult for the maker to appreciate the other persons feelings when their own need for legitimacy in acceptance is questioned. It was noted in a poll near a particular Christmas that the most unwanted gift was a hand-knit sweater.41 It becomes difficult for a mother or a grandmother to make things with the intentions to gift, when that love is not seen as acceptable. Turney eloquently puts the difficulty of a mother using knitting as a form of enduring love; “Love, here, is a double-edged sword; one must love, but not too much; one must nurture

Alison Lurie, ‘The Sweater Curse’, The New Yorker (New York, 28 August 2013) <https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-sweater-curse> [accessed 4 June 2018]. 35

36

Steihaug, Arkiv. p. 3.

37

Robins, ‘Who’s Scared Of The Soft Stuff?’.

38

Robins, ‘Who’s Scared Of The Soft Stuff?’.

39

Anonymous 15, Women in the Arts Scotland, See Appendix H, p. 62.

Amy Twigger Holroyd, Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes (London New York: I.B. Tauris, 2017). p. 82. 40

Lan Samantha Chang, ‘The Perfect Gift’ in Ann Hood, Knitting Yarns - Writers on Knitting (New York, USA: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014). p. 18. 41

23


but not stifle; or one must ‘mother’, but not ‘smother’,”42 and this begins to beg the question of knitting for a loved one as a form of force; “such a garment may proclaim “made with love,” but it also says “you must love me because I made this for you,” and such is both loaded and problematic.”43 The interactions of mother and child, husband and wife, certainly begin to unravel the idea of a knitted jumper being gratefully received the year-on-year Christmas joke of the ugly jumper contains far more problematic coding than it could be taken credit for originally. The maker holds a certain power over the reluctant wearer, as surely the maker knows that it will be perceived as aesthetically challenged.44 Looking at memories in this sense offers the necessary harsher and negative angle, and Turney attributes this to the “intention of the knitter, their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, demonstrated through the period spent knitting”, and how that has actually not been “adequately communicated or received by the recipient. Memories may linger, but they are not always fond, and even when they are, they frequently differ and change over time.”45 Nostalgia, then, is a lens that routinely clouds the vision of a person and their memories; at once the past becomes rose-tinted, but in many ways it hides the horrible underbelly and sweaty nervousness of forgotten, negative moments. This feeling of stifling love is also evidenced in smaller children, in the need to escape itchy jumpers. Turney states how a hand knitted item is such an act of love and care that it is precarious in the mother/child relationship, as “as the child attempts to formulate his/her own identity and establish a distance from his/her parents, and is evidenced by the number of children who refuse to wear handmade sweaters. Regardless of the time and effort invested in a sweater’s construction, these items are rejected as they signify parental control and a loss of the child’s personal identity.”46 At once, knitting both is the instigator of identities, and robbing of them. For children that embrace the soft things it becomes a loving object, and for those that strive to escape that love it is a smothering action and instigates a need to form their own identity.

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 22. 42

Joanne Turney, ‘Making Love with Needles: Knitted Objects as Signs of Love?’, TEXTILE, 10.3 (2012), p. 310. 43

44

Turney, Making Love with Needles. p.306.

45

Turney, Making Love with Needles. p.310.

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 28. 24 46


Eeyore Jumper â&#x20AC;&#x153;I have this jumper that my granny knitted for my mum when she was wee. I used to wear it when I was a teenager because I thought it looked cute đ&#x;&#x2122;&#x201E; but people always laughed at itâ&#x20AC;Ś And now even the thought of getting rid of it makes me feel guilt!! Also it hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been washed since the 70s and it still smells like my granny and grandads little old house even now đ&#x;&#x152;&#x; â&#x20AC;?47

The Eeyore Jumper, seen in Illustration six, is a clear example of a knitted item that was given without thought to whether the wearer would like it, and instils a sense of guilt at the thought of washing or throwing away. Chang questions whether â&#x20AC;&#x153;Is it possible that we need and like to knit so badly that we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really care if the recipients of our knitted goods find them aesthetically pleasing or even bearable?â&#x20AC;?,48 and in this case it shows how Elsbethâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s granny did not think to see the repercussions of a Winnie The Pooh themed jumper could have, not only on her daughter but her granddaughter. Elsbeth feels attachment and guilt at not throwing it away, and even though she loves it in its own way, it highlights how a person can feel forced to love a knitted object despite having had negative experiences both with wearing and owning it. Elsbeth not washing the jumper highlights the societally unacceptable ideal of notwashing. Fletcher describes how â&#x20AC;&#x153;some pieces defy social pressure and are never washed, often motivated by the fear that laundering causes something precious to be lost: a scent, a memory, the particular way a garment fits, its colour, the quality of handwork, and even a political stanceâ&#x20AC;?.49 In society, it is seen as socially unacceptable to be seen as dirty and unclean, so juxtaposing the rather subverting action of not washing garments with what is habitual for people, shows the power of tactile memory, human emotion, love and knowing the past of a garment, insofar that a person decides to forgo the societal tendency to wash and clean. This is key in woollen garments, and in hand knitted clothing in particular. The more they are washed, the more likely they are prone to shrinking, bobbling and losing elasticity and warmth that it offers. A poem I wrote about a Primark jumper, shared by my best friend, involves the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;not washingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and keeping the form and shape of a jumper to my exact specifications: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I have washed it only twice, by hand, in the sink. Washing it too much means I lose the softnessâ&#x20AC;Ś We lived together, and shared our

47

Elsbeth Morrison, See Appendix D, p. 55.

Lan Samantha Chang, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Perfect Giftâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; in Ann Hood, Knitting Yarns - Writers on Knitting (New York, USA: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014). p. 16. 48

Kate Fletcher, Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion (Londonâ&#x20AC;Ż; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), p. 147. 49

25


wardrobes… In places it is bobbly, and scruffy… I have washed it only twice, by hand, in the sink. I want it to stay soft.” Fletcher reinforced that sharing “works when a bond and joint identity is reinforced by common use; when a memory is re-lived; and when access is gained not just to more and different pieces but also to the values, taste and sensibilities of the owner.”50 The passing down of knitted garments, either originally mass-produced or hand-crafted, is usually between a family member, or close friend, and normally comes with; a story or narrative of its original use, how it was made, attachment to the giver and/or maker, and consequently this means the garment instantly receives a bigger sense of value despite having been ‘free’. This kind of attachment and sense of memory-driven clothing is seen in the poem I wrote about the Primark Jumper as well as in the Eeyore Jumper. Even though the Primark jumper was not originally crafted by a family member or friend, and it was not technically “hand made”, the properties of wool and wool hybrid materials means it allows for smells, stains and shapes to be retained. The recording of these is notable within knitted garments and can act as carriers and markers of passages of time - the wearer, myself, can look at marks on the jumper and remember particular moments while wearing it, much like in Elsbeth’s Eeyore jumper, where the smell of her grandparents house can still be felt in the presence of the jumper. By not washing, these garments manage to retain their memories, because doing so would mean they are lost forever.51 The literal ugliness is seen in these examples, and becomes a touchstone for how knitting is inherently its own worst enemy at the same time as being the very reason it has stayed around for so long. Turney details how “hand-knitting is stifled by its selfreferentiality, and, second, the prerequisite of memory in perpetuating the ‘meaning’ of knitting offers subjective and selective mythologies that naturalise the dominant ideology, particularly the patriarchal constructs of the ‘good woman’ and the ‘good mother’.”52 Memory being the meaning behind knitting and forcing the patriarchal ideals of goodness and softness in its most ugly sense is unavoidable and paradoxical to the softness of the wool. Turney surmises that “love, it appears, is not jumper-shaped, and acts of love are not always appreciated or reciprocated.”53 It enforces all these ideals while breaking them, so it begs the question that perhaps the power of softness is that it is not

50

Fletcher, Craft of Use. p.227.

51

Fletcher, Craft of Use. p.145.

Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 21. 52

53

Turney, Making Love with Needles. p.310. 26


inherently loving, not inherently soft, it is twisting and stifling and clinging, evil and goodâ&#x20AC;Ś a soft and dangerous dichotomy.â&#x20AC;Š

27


๏ The Eternal Jumper (Death) “Why then not accept the ‘ghostly existence’ of clothes? Why not value it?”54 Much like the previous chapter, which scrutinised the literal and metaphorical icon of the ugly jumper, this chapter is creating a symbol around the idea of The Eternal Jumper. How can a jumper become eternal? Is it through the continuing wear, being physically passed down through generations, or is it as simple as being a memory? The analyses within this chapter look at the literal and metaphorical meaning behind the eternal jumper, and the literal and metaphorical death of a jumper and of a person. Is there somehow a resurrection of a person by wearing their clothes, can a jumper become eternal by being mended, by being thought of and loved like the original, late, wearer? Kopytoff states how “knitted objects also exist in time and within commodity exchange structures and are therefore subject to their own biography.”55 In a way, the jumpers create their own narrative. Death is a difficult subject to talk about, let alone write about, and for many people, in grief you turn to material objects when it is hard to communicate with other people, even if they are going through the same process as you. Those material objects can routinely be the items the person wore, and in the case of knitted objects, if it is something knitted by the person the hugely strong power that object can hold over you is both suffocating and euphoric, cathartic and chaotic as the grief overwhelms you. Darning Dad’s Jumper Ruaridh, a respondent, wrote a poem about wearing his late father’s clothes: “I wear a lot of my Dad's clothes now. wearing his jumper reminds me of him; what he used to do when he was alive; the cautious way he moved his arms; I move my arms in the same way.

Peter Stallybrass, ‘Worn Worlds’, 1993 quoted in Karen De Perthuis, ‘Darning Mark’s Jumper: Wearing Love and Sorrow’, Cultural Studies Review, 22.1 (2016), 59-77. p. 59. 54

Igor Kopytoff, ‘The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditisation as Process’, 1986, quoted in Joanne Turney, The Culture of Knitting (New York: Berg, 2009). p. 135. 55

28


yellowed and frayed from countless mountain journeys. sweat and rain and sheep. through storms and in the sun. I just discovered a hole while examining it, so I'll have to sew it up.”56 There is an inherent unreliability in memory, nostalgia can be dangerous, as posited in the last chapter, but that amalgamation of fact and fiction can nourish us, and keep us going. Barone states how “… memory, that easily maligned process, nevertheless plays a vital role in binding together a selfhood. Memory, however fragile and untrustworthy turns out to be ‘self-serving’ in more than its tendency to skew reality according to a particular set of interests. It also serves the self in its construction. Memory is the glue that holds meaning together, that allows a life story to be fashioned and related”57 - we use the past and the objects within it to keep us going in times of need, and as above in Ruaridh’s poem, it is clear that the object, even if it is unravelling, can nurture and nourish the heart in times of grief. In the absence of a person, the memories of them are stimulated through the feeling, sensing and seeing of an item of clothing, it means we can imagine the past, when they did exist, and in several ways that process is positive, not sentimental, and by being able to imagine it highlights the proof of “one’s own existence in the knowledge of the other’s absence.”58 In this instance, Darning Dad’s Jumper highlights how the eternal can be made and fashioned, the act of fixing, such as darning, a knitted item that has been worn by an absent person enables that item to become eternal. Karen de Perthuis wrote beautifully about darning her late husband’s jumper, and said how “each passage of the needle, each stitch, was restoring something that had been eaten away and I didn’t pretend to ignore the symbolism. This was more than the resurrection of a woollen jumper.”59 It became eternal, enabling her grief to be funnelled through a channel of repetition in a simple gesture, and the fixing emphasised especially that “it is to extend its life, or because it 56

Ruaridh Phillips, See Appendix B, p. 49.

57

Tom Barone, ‘Touching Eternity: The Enduring Outcomes of Teaching’, 2001, quoted in Robyn Gibson, The Memory of Clothes, 2015 <https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/ 2241-the-memory-of-clothes.pdf> [accessed 21 November 2017]. p. xv. Juliet Ash, ‘Memory and Objects’, in The Gendered Object, ed. by Pat Kirkham (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1996). pp. 221-222. 58

59

De Perthuis, Darning Mark’s Jumper. p.59. 29


matters enough not to be replaced. Either way, once darned, the garment becomes unique, singular- literally, irreplaceable.”60 The fixing can also be seen in an unfinished knitting project, or unfinished object. A knitter who dies leaves behind eternally unfinished jumpers, and a response from Facebook detailed how that can be the beginnings of something else: “I finish off dead relatives (sic) knitting… Seems that most knitters die before completion of garments…It’s a sad and happy task, difficult to maintain same tension and sometimes very difficult to cipher what the garment is supposed to be. Often they are quite grimy but I am always asked not to wash them.”61 Steihaug outlines the embarrassment of an unfinished object; “an unfinished knitting project is not anything you want to display; it is often placed in a bag at the back of the closet. At the same time it is invested with personal involvement and is often kept from generation to generation… The knitted object became the carrier of time and thoughts, sorrows and joys, hopes and dreams.”62 It becomes eternally unfinished, unloved and never seen, even worse than a seemingly ugly jumper, but in the story above where someone finishes off dead relative’s knitting, there is a certain bittersweet feeling to it that is felt through the touching of an absent persons belongings, and continuing what they can never finish. The original memories entangled within those objects are lost forever, but new ones are made when the maker touches them again and makes them new. The Last Scarf “Technically I should hate [the scarf] because it’s itchy and kind of ugly and far too long to actually be wearable but it’s one of my most treasured possessions… She died ten years ago but I still have that scarf… I don’t wear it outside because I’m terrified of losing it somewhere…”63 Rachel details how the itchiness and thought of her late grandmother means the world to her, understanding that her last moments were spent on a knitted scarf for her to wear now reminds her of the love and appreciation that they shared for each other when she was alive, and the physical enveloping of the scarf as a security blanket is activated through touch, which is our most social and engaging sense, as it provides our contact

60

De Perthuis, Darning Mark’s Jumper. p.59.

61

Anonymous 16, Women in the Arts Scotland, See Appendix H, p. 62.

62

Steihaug, Arkiv. p. 3.

63

Rachel Hollis, See Appendix B, p. 51. 30


and ability to communicate with bodies to the world.64 Turney emphasises that knitting can be seen as a “temporal narrative, a means of marking time, and therefore understands knitting as a continuum, representative of both the life of the knitter and the ensuing life of the knitted object.”65 The jumper can become its own biography, recording wearers and makers, and by receiving stains and smells a person, in death, can live on, much like the jumper itself. It is this enveloping definition that knitting can be seen as symptomatic of - it is itself an author of archives, the creator of stories and the story itself. It is the maker, the giver and receiver. Rachel’s Last Scarf epitomises the future of an object after death, it is still loved and cherished because it is a lasting reminder of the physicalness of a person and their presence on the world, and the fact that her grandmother made it herself means that Rachel can read into stitch and de-code parts of her grandmother, allowing for moments of recognition that help in the process of grief. The Green Cardigan “My memories of my nan involve her either cooking dinner, making a cup of tea, or knitting… I left my work cardigan on the tube. I was devastated and very stressed about what I was going to wear, so we went to her wardrobe… I still have that cardigan, it sits in my wardrobe. I never wear it, it’s far too small, I don’t really wear cardigans anymore. I will never get rid of it… it reminds me of the quiet bond we shared, her desire to care for me…”66 In many ways, knitted objects are “inherently connected to the maker. Each object is unique because it cannot be exactly replicated although it is repeatable; it bears witness to the imperfection of the maker’s hand, carries DNA, and therefore each object is testimony to this imperfection.”67 Mel’s green cardigan is never worn anymore, she only keeps it literally because of its power as a knitted item, because her grandmother was able to pass on a knitted item with love and affection. In death, a person can still live on in the items they have passed on, and having been in receipt of knitted items of a passed relative, somehow there is more feeling, more emotion and love within that object than one that had never been made by their hand, or worn by them. The power of softness is in how it retains memories of someone, and despite death being so disorientating, a knitted object somehow can reorientate the griever to the physicalness and love of a person. These garments and objects act as an aide-memoire, offering a connection with

Nicholas, Jude, ‘From Active Touch to Tactile Communication’, The Danish Resource Centre on Congenital Deaf Blindness, 2 (Aalborg, Denmark: Danish Resource Centre on Congenital Deafblindness, 2010) p. 6. 64

65

Joanne Turney, The Culture of Knitting (New York: Berg, 2009). p.135.

66

Mel Reeve, See Appendix B, p. 48.

67

Turney, The Culture of Knitting. p.80. 31


people, places and times, and establishing a sense of personal biography, a place within a lineage. Stories and knitting are interwoven into the experience of the everyday, becoming metaphors and markers of life events and experiences.”68 The everyday is life, the everyday is death, and the everyday is ourselves, and what can be seen is that like in life where there is joy, sadness and heartbreak, there is that same paradox of simple good and bad within knitted objects themselves. If a mere cardigan can act as a vehicle for getting over death, then it has a power that sometimes even other humans cannot manage to grasp. These garments are never washed, they are never used or presented, in order to preserve the essence of the person that used to inhabit it. The Last Scarf details exactly how an object can contain a history, a tactile archive, where Rachel’s touch alone can remind her of moments and memories, imagined and real, that existed when her grandmother was alive, bringing her back to life in the most considerate way possible. The softness here is raw and real, able to heal wounds that other material objects could not manage to do. Another tactile archive can be evidenced in the making and unravelling of a shawl: “It is a great way to get through grief. Just a simple, shawl, 150 stitches to start and reducing to zero stitches. I wore it for years, until finally, buried it, when the time was right. Each stitch threaded flesh back onto my skeletal self, and then each stitch kept me warm. I have a new knitted shawl now.”69 Each stitch became part of a grieving process, the twisting of yarn, wrapping and finger movements in turn a piece by piece deliverance of grief, manifesting from an emotional, guttural and unutterable pain into a physical movement, prompting a sense of release and catharsis. In a sense, the literal and metaphorical understanding of what powers knitting holds is that it can manifest and become key to growth and change while still remaining the exact same technique, over and over. Repetition that through material becomes ever-changing - the same loops over and over are infused with feelings of hate, love, death and life that create a history for both the maker and the wearer - and even if the loops of history become stagnant and unwanted, they still existed… and that is where the true power of softness lies, in its shifting paradoxical qualities of unequivocal humanity.


68

Turney, The Culture of Knitting. p.171.

69

Anonymous 14, Women in the Arts Scotland, See Appendix H, p. 62. 32


4.

Conclusion

“Sweaters are forever. Sweaters with messages become historic.”70 In a way, by knitting and then unravelling the semantics of the ugly jumper, the ratty cardigan, the hole-y sweater, the squishy mittens, it both continues to answer and raise questions of what craft is, and how knitting places itself in our post-modern, digital world where we are all eternally struggling against late capitalism. What then, can we do, but simply continue the knitting, the passing down, the hiding, of these ugly jumpers? One can argue, however, that simply bringing joy to a person is enough. Is that all we can hope for in a world where an individual is continuously harangued to forego capitalism, when individualism itself is not the root cause? Can we only hope to ask each other for love, acceptance, and an ugly jumper we can proudly wear? Wool may be scratchy, but it is that scratchiness that upon initial dislike, can be changed because of a person’s memory of their past and their present. Pagoldh71 epitomises this phenomenon: “Machines produce clothes more cheaply and quickly. But machines can’t copy human hand work or create one-of-kind colours and patterns. Machines form stitches evenly and monotonously, with no trace of feeling. Every stitch in a hand-knitted sweater bears the traces of a time, a trip, a landscape; of persons, events, and thoughts.” Even to those that do not knit, but simply have a fond memory of a woollen jumper or a devastating memory of mittens for a lost child, knitting is powerful, and the objects themselves can attach to memories of love, self and death. Knitting is prevalent everywhere, seen and unseen, but it does not receive its recognition for being the everyday, there with us through seasons and stagnant in the most paradoxically positive way. It does not change, but shows us that the things we hold dear to us in daily lives is what is most powerful. Each story, from my own to those women (and man) that contributed, was imbued with appreciation for the maker, for the object, and the memories attached to it. It offered a connection to the past and aided the person in the present to feel close to far away family members in location and in death, and offered a future of a love for knitting, or a life without the person in it that felt, in some ways, more normal. Is that, then, the power of softness? That it is both past, present and Lisa Anne Auerbach, ‘KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave’, 2007 quoted in Joanne Turney, The Culture of Knitting (New York: Berg, 2009). p. 209. 70

Susan Pagoldh, ‘Nordic Knitting: Thirty-One Patterns in the Scandinavian Tradtion, 1987, quoted in Joanne Turney, The Culture of Knitting (New York: Berg, 2009). p. 42. 71

33


future - it reminds us of our pasts while in our presents, marking a future where we can grieve, where we can remember memories of love and warmth. It smothers, but we want it to - love can stifle but without it humans are not able to live. Without stories and narratives in these objects we forget people, we forget the past, and thus the future becomes hard, solid, scary, unknownâ&#x20AC;Ś not soft.â&#x20AC;Š

34


5. Holes in the Jumper “Knitting is the creation of a surface through the looping and entwining of a single thread; a precarious act that creates strength, but can equally unravel and fall apart.”72 Much like a jumper, this dissertation may be a whole but there is inevitably holes, but with knitting the loops are integral to the structure and the holes are integral to the structure of the jumper. The holes in this dissertation were inevitable and part of the structure before I even began. The large and encompassing ideas to understand how we use and empower ourselves with knitted objects would be difficult to condense down into the word limit without missing out important lines of of theory and investigation that I wish I could have delved more into. With the time frame, I was able to collect stories and narratives using social media and word of mouth from friends and family, gathering narratives mainly from groups within Scotland, where I am from, and from a sample largely of either 18-24 year old white women or 40+ year old white women. Naturally, this is due to the friendship groups I am involved in and the Facebook groups I was able to reach out to, it meant these narratives are skewed to a particular race, a particular class and a particular experience. In prior writings I have delved into the problematics of knitting as a hobby and leisure when it is largely a hobby and leisure to middle and upper class white women. In addition, the data gathered through narrative structures and stories could be argued to be not developed enough or rich enough for analysis, and with a bigger time frame it would enable a larger sample and more time to reach people not only through the Internet but in person, and reach out to community groups to interview and gather stories face-to-face, which would gather a richer and more natural approach to storytelling, as that is the form that humans have used the longest.


Joanne Turney, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30. p. 25. 35 72


6. Bibliography Print sources Abrams, Lynn, ‘Knitting, Autonomy and Identity: The Role of Hand-Knitting in the Construction of Women’s Sense of Self in an Island Community, Shetland, c . 1850–2000’, Textile History, 37 (2006), 149–65 Barthes, Roland, The Fashion System (Berkeley, USA: University of California Press, 1990) Barthes, Roland, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, Vintage Classics (London, UK: Vintage, 2002) Berzowska, Joanna, ‘Memory Rich Clothing: Second Skins that Communicate Physical Memory’ in Proceedings of the 5th conference on Creativity & Cognition, (New York, USA: ACM Press 2005), 32-40 Binns, Polly, and Angel Row Gallery, Textures of Memory: The Poetics of Cloth : Polly Binns, Maxine Bristow, Caroline Broadhead, Alicia Felberbaum, Marianne Ryan, Anne Wilson, Verdi Yahooda. (Nottingham, UK: Angel Row Gallery, 1999) Busch, Otto von, Becoming Fashion-Able: Hacktivism and Engaged Fashion Design (Gothenburg: Camino, 2009) Carnac, Helen, and Craftspace Touring (Organisation), Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution : A Touring Exhibition from Craftspace, (Birmingham, UK: Craftspace, 2009) Christensen, Julia, ‘Telling Stories: Exploring Research Storytelling as a Meaningful Approach to Knowledge Mobilization with Indigenous Research Collaborators and Diverse Audiences in Community-Based Participatory Research: Research Storytelling as a Meaningful Approach to Knowledge Mobilization’, The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien, 56 (2012), 231–42 Corkhill, Betsan, Jessica Hemmings, Angela Maddock, and Jill Riley, ‘Knitting and WellBeing’, TEXTILE, 12 (2014), 34–57 Davis, Pauline, ‘Storytelling as a Democratic Approach to Data Collection: Interviewing Children about Reading’, Educational Research, 49 (2007), 169–84

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Dawson, Pam, Knitting Fashion (London, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1976) Day, Lucy, Eliza Gluckman, and Freddie Robins, ‘Unpicking the Narrative: Difficult Women, Difficult Work’, TEXTILE, 2018, 1–9 Delong, Marilyn, Juanjuan Wu, and Juyeon Park, ‘Tactile Response and Shifting Touch Preference’, TEXTILE, 10 (2012), 44–59 De Perthuis, Karen, ‘Darning Mark’s Jumper: Wearing Love and Sorrow’, Cultural Studies Review, 22 (2016), 59 Dormer, Peter, ed., The Culture of Craft: Status and Future, Studies in Design and Material Culture (Manchester, UK ; Manchester University Press , 1997) Fashion Revolution: Loved Clothes Last, Fashion Revolution (London: Self-published), 2017) Fletcher, Kate, Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion (London, UK: Routledge, 2016) Gallace, Alberto, and Charles Spence, ‘The Cognitive and Neural Correlates of Tactile Memory.’, Psychological Bulletin, 135 (2009), 380–406 Gardner, Emily, ‘“Yeah, I taught myself on YouTube” Young women and navigating the traditional world of crafting’ (unpublished Honors Program Theses, University of Northern Iowa, 2016) Gauntlett, David, Making Is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0 (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011) Gibson, Robyn, The Memory of Clothes, 2015 <https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/ 2241-the-memory-of-clothes.pdf> [accessed 21 November 2017] Guffey, Elizabeth E., Retro: The Culture of Revival, Focus on Contemporary Issues (London, UK: Reaktion, 2006) Hemmings, Jessica, ed., The Textile Reader (New York, USA: Berg Publishers, 2012) Hendry, Petra Munro, ‘The Future of Narrative’, Qualitative Inquiry, 13 (2007), 487–98 Hood, Ann, Knitting Yarns - Writers on Knitting (New York, USA: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014) 37


Hooks, Bell, Communion: The Female Search for Love, Nachdr. (New York: Perennial, 2010) Hooks, Bell, All About Love: New Visions, First Perennial edition (New York, USA: Harper Perennial, 2001) Jenß, Heike, ‘Cross-Temporal Explorations: Notes on Fashion and Nostalgia’, Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, 4 (2013), 107–24 Kendall, Julie E, and Kenneth E Kendall, ‘Storytelling as a Qualitative Method for IS Research: Heralding the Heroic and Echoing the Mythic’, Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 17 (2012), 161-187 Kiewe, Heinz Edgar, The Sacred History of Knitting, Recent Discoveries (Art Needlework Industries Ltd., 1967) Kim, Jungsik, and Elaine Hatfield, ‘Love Types and Subjective Well-Being: A Cross Cultural Study’, Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 32 (2004), 173– 82 Kirkham, Pat, ed., The Gendered Object (Manchester, UK : Manchester University Press, 1996) Koch, Tina, ‘Story Telling: Is It Really Research?’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 6 (1998), 1182-1190 Kular, Onkar, Inigo Minns, and Crafts Council (Great Britain), Crafting Narrative: Storytelling through Objects & Making, (London, UK: Pitzhanger Manor Gallery, 2014) Krugh, Michele A., ‘Etsy, Inc: Crafting a Living in a Capitalist Economy’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, George Mason University, 2016) Laing, Morna, ‘The Lula Girl as “Sublime and Childlike”: Nostalgic Investments in Contemporary Fashion Magazines’, Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, 5 (2014), 271–93 Lampitt Adey, Kate, ‘Understanding Why Women Knit: Finding Creativity and “Flow”’, TEXTILE, 16 (2018), 84–97 Lampitt Adey, Kate, ‘Knitting Identities: Creativity and Community amongst Women Hand Knitters in Edinburgh’ (Edinburgh, UK: The University of Edinburgh, 2016) 38


Lee, Yeseung, and Claire Pajaczkowska, Seamlessness: Making and (Un)Knowing in Fashion Practice (Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2016) Lee, Yeseung, The Ambiguity of Seamlessness: The Poetic Function of Making (Unpublished Doctoral Program Theses, Royal College of Art, 2012) Lewis, C. S., The Four Loves, First edition (San Francisco, USA: HarperOne, 2017) Lewis, Patrick J., ‘Storytelling as Research/Research as Storytelling’, Qualitative Inquiry, 17 (2011), 505–10 Millar, Lesley, Cloth & Memory {2} (Saltley, UK: Salts Estates Ltd, 2013). Minahan, Stella, and Julie Wolfram Cox, ‘Stitch’nBitch: Cyberfeminism, a Third Place and the New Materiality’, Journal of Material Culture, 12 (2007), 5–21 Moen, Torill, ‘Reflections on the Narrative Research Approach’, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5 (2006), 56–69 Myzelev, Alla, ‘Whip Your Hobby into Shape: Knitting, Feminism and Construction of Gender’, TEXTILE, 7 (2009), 148–63 Newell, Laurie Britton, ed., Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, Pbk. ed (London, UK: V&A Publications and the Crafts Council , 2007) Newington, Linda, ‘“In the Loop”: Challenging and Disrupting the Stereotypes of Knitting’, TEXTILE, 12 (2014), 8–17 Newington, Linda, ‘At BABE with the Knitting and Sewing School’, in Artist’s Book Yearbook 2010-2011: The Journey of a Book Is the Beginning of a Cover, ed. by Sarah Bodman (Bristol, UK: Impact Press, 2009), pp. 93–98 Nicholas, Jude, ‘From Active Touch to Tactile Communication’, The Danish Resource Centre on Congenital Deaf Blindness, 2 (Aalborg, Denmark: Danish Resource Centre on Congenital Deafblindness, 2010) Paterson, Elaine Cheasley, and Susan Surette, eds., Sloppy Craft: Postdisciplinirity and the Crafts (London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2015)

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Prain, Leanne, and Jeanie Ow, Strange Material: Storytelling through Textiles (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014) Prigoda, Elena, and Pamela J. McKenzie, ‘Purls of Wisdom: A Collectivist Study of Human Information Behaviour in a Public Library Knitting Group’, ed. by Amanda Spink, Journal of Documentation, 63 (2007), 90–114 Proust, Marcel, Remembrance of Things Past. 2 2 (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 2006) Robertson, Kirsty, ‘The Revolution Will Wear a Sweater: Knitting and Global Justice Activism’, in Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations//Collective Theorization, ed. by Stevphen Shukaitis, David Graeber, and Erika Biddle (AK Press, 2007), p. 14 Rooney, Tara, Katrina Lawlor, and Eddie Rohan, ‘Telling Tales: Storytelling as a Methodological Approach in Research’, in The Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 14(2) (2016), 147-156 Sandelowski, Margarete, ‘Telling Stories: Narrative Approaches in Qualitative Research’, in The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 23 (1991), 161–66 Skjold, Else, ‘Biographical Wardrobes—A Temporal View on Dress Practice’, Fashion Practice, 8 (2016), 135–48 Slaney, Di, ed., Ten Poems About Knitting (Nottingham, UK: Candlestick Press, 2015) Snare, Eleanor, ‘New Young Writers on Wool’, TEXTILE, 12 (2014), 322–27 Spivack, Emily, Worn Stories (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014) Stallybrass, Peter, ‘Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning and the Life of Things’, in The Textile Reader, ed. by Jessica Hemmings, 1st edn (New York: Berg Publishers, 2012), pp. 68–77 Stalp, Marybeth C., ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Too): Complicating the Study of Femininity and Women’s Leisure: Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Too)’, Sociology Compass, 9 (2015), 261–71 Steed, Josephine, ‘Unravel: Revaluing the Craft of Knitting For New Emergent Design Contexts Within a Post-Industrial World’, in Making Futures: The Crafts as Change40


Maker in Sustainably Aware Cultures, ed. by Malcolm Ferris (Plymouth, UK: Plymouth College of Art, 2016), ii, 297–306 Steihaug, Kari, Arkiv: De Ufullendte (Oslo: Magikon, 2011) Sundbø, Annemor, Invisible Threads in Knitting (Kristiansand, Norway: Torridal Tweed, 2007) Taylor, Jane, and Katherine Townsend, ‘Reprogramming the Hand: Bridging the Craft Skills Gap in 3D/Digital Fashion Knitwear Design’, Craft Research, 5 (2014), 155–74 Tulloch, Carol, ‘Units of Possibility: The Reknit Revolution’, Fashion Practice, 1 (2018), 1–6 Turney, Joanne, ‘A Sweater to Die for: Fair Isle and Fair Play in The Killing’, TEXTILE, 12 (2014), 18–33 Turney, Joanne, ‘(S)Mother’s Love, or, Baby Knitting’, in Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, ed. by A. Moran and S. O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 21–30 Turney, Joanne, ‘Making Love with Needles: Knitted Objects as Signs of Love?’, TEXTILE, 10 (2012), 302–11 Turney, Joanne, The Culture of Knitting (New York: Berg Publishers, 2009) Twigger Holroyd, Amy, Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes (London New York: I.B. Tauris, 2017) Twigger Holroyd, Amy, ‘Perceptions and Practices of Dress-Related Leisure: Shopping, Sorting, Making and Mending’, in Annals of Leisure Research, 19 (2016), 275–93 Wolfram Cox, Julie, and Stella Minahan, ‘Where Pop Meets Purl: Knitting, the Curation of Craft, and the Folk/Mass Culture Divide’, in Curator: The Museum Journal, 58 (2015), 235– 49

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Non-print sources Beck, Julie, ‘When Nostalgia Was Disease’, The Atlantic, 14 August 2013 <https:// www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/when-nostalgia-was-a-disease/278648/> [accessed 22 November 2017] Brinck, Alexandra, ‘Break the Boyfriend Sweater Curse | WATG Blog’, Wool and the Gang Blog, 2014 <https://www.woolandthegang.com/blog/2014/12/break-the-boyfriendsweater-curse> [accessed 29 May 2018] Dale, Lachlan R., ‘How to Love Better — Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments’, Medium, 2016 <https://medium.com/@lachlanrdale/how-to-love-better-roland-barthesa-lover-s-discourse-fragments-dee02e350151> [accessed 8 March 2018] Empathy Lab, ‘Empathy Is An Inherently Creative Mechanism’, Empathy Lab, 2017 <http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-is-an-inherently-creative-mechanism> [accessed 15 March 2018] Georgina Leslie, ‘Fabric of Britain: Knitting’s Golden Age’, Knitting’s Golden Age (London: BBC4, 2017) <https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/05AF96B3> [accessed 12 July 2017]. Giorgio Griffa: A Continuous Becoming, Camden Arts Centre, London, 26 January 2018-8 April 2018. Leslie, Georgina, ‘Fabric of Britain: Knitting’s Golden Age’, Knitting’s Golden Age (London: BBC4, 2017) <https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/05AF96B3> [accessed 12 July 2017] Lurie, Alison, ‘The Sweater Curse’, The New Yorker (New York, 28 August 2013) <https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-sweater-curse> [accessed 4 June 2018] Robins, Freddie, ‘Who’s Scared Of The Soft Stuff?’ (presented at the RCA Cross-College Symposium: Feminisms and Materialisms, Royal College of Art: Royal College of Art, 2018) Twigger Holroyd, Amy, Keep and Share: The First Ten Years, Amy Twigger Holroyd, 2014 <https://files.cargocollective.com/c180390/Keep-and-Share-the-first-tenyears.pdf> [accessed 16 May 2018] 42


Vink, Josina, ‘Storytelling’, Design Research Techniques <http:// designresearchtechniques.com/casestudies/storytelling/> [accessed 17 May 2018] Williams, Zoe, ‘Close Knit’, The Guardian, 8 January 2005, <http://www.theguardian.com/ lifeandstyle/2005/jan/08/weekend.zoewilliams1> [accessed 7 June 2018] Women’s Hour Craft Prize, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 7 September 2017-5 February 2018.


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7. Appendices ๏ Appendix A - Twitter / Instagram Call Out 


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Call for participants / submissions

unravelling For my MA dissertation I am unravelling the meaning of why we keep certain items in our wardrobes and not others. The hand-knitted mittens, the Christmas jumper, the passed down Topshop cardi. They hold memories, smells, stories and love which stop us from washing them, wearing them and throwing them away. In ways, knitted garments become ways of telling stories and form emotional bonds with the wearer. If you have a garment in your wardrobe that means something, anything, to you, then please feel free to contribute. Any and all stories about; shrinking, unravelling, passing down / to, and of the not washing variety - anything! - are welcome. Get in touch at my email address: jean.oberlander@gmail.com Find my â&#x20AC;&#x153;unravellingâ&#x20AC;? stories here: unravellingjumpers.blogspot.co.uk

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๏ Appendix B - ‘Unravelling’ Blog Contributions Freddie Robins March 2018 Tarzan Written and sent to me. The most important knitted object that I remember, I no longer own. As a teenager I had worn this jumper through many winters but then it had loitered unworn in my wardrobe for over twenty years. One day, in a rash and uncharacteristic move, I gave it to a charity shop. Over the past ten years I have spent many hours, adding up to countless days, searching ebay in the hope that I might find it. I am not sure what I will do if I do find it. The thought that I might actually find it is much more exciting than the prospect of owning it again. The object of my ebay quest is a hand knitted mohair picture knit, Tarzan, designed by my favourite hand knitting designer, Patricia Roberts. I knitted this jumper for myself when I was a teenager. I saved up for the yarn from my weekend job, and even then I couldn’t afford Patricia Roberts’s ‘Woolleybear’ 100% mohair yarn. I had to buy a cheaper mixed blend. Patricia Roberts’s patterns are complicated, containing lots of three-dimensional structures, but I persisted. I am not sure that I could do it now. I have lost patience. I have had several people offer to knit it for me from the original pattern that I still own, but again the longing is more fulfilling than the reality of owning it. I don’t need it as I have bought many other Patricia Roberts jumpers, tops and cardigans over the years. To be completely honest I don’t even like wearing jumpers anymore!

SELF


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Stephanie Wooster January 2018 Written and sent to me. Jumpers hold an important part in my connection to my family. Amongst a number of hand knitted garments I have four Aran jumpers, all knitted by my mother. The first is one that she knitted for herself, one of a matching pair when she was first married. Because I kept borrowing it when I was a teenager she knitted one for me, she also knitted one for my sister that I now own and wear all the time during the winter months, it is the one that is oversized, big enough to pull over my knees, the yarn is polished to a shine in places and the edges are frayed, the elbows worn through, I have darned them two or three times. I have attached a couple of photos of me in my sister's Aran. She finds it too hot (she does central heating) but I like winters to be cold so that I can layer up the knitwear. It is difficult to see all the darning in the elbows as I have used a similar colour thread and use Swiss darning that follows the route of the original knitting keeping the structure and stretch in the fabric (not aways straightforwards working Aran cables, increases/decreases and knit/purl) today I patched the latest hole in moss stitch, sometimes I do think it would be quicker to re-knit it. It is seldom washed, one or twice a year if I'm clumsy and get dirt on it. I have now inherited a fourth jumper that my Mum knitted for my niece, she wanted me to have it as she doesn't wear it. In time the yarn will polish and it will hold my memories too.

LOVEâ&#x20AC;Š

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Mel Reeve January 2018 Written and sent to me. My memories of my nan involve her either cooking dinner, making a cup of tea, or knitting. She knitted impossibly tiny baby clothes for me and my sister, which then became useful for dressing up toys when I was a kid (and at some points even the cat). She tried to teach me a few times but my hands couldn’t do things the way hers could, she could knit beautiful jumpers and cardigans with her eyes fixed on the TV, her fingers only making the smallest movements and sending out rows and rows of perfect wool. By the time I hit my teens her arthritis was so bad she couldn’t knit anymore. But she was so proud of her creations still. I stayed at hers for a few weeks once for work experience and I left my work cardigan on the tube. I was devastated and very stressed about what I was going to wear, so we went to her wardrobe and out of the piles of lovingly crafted items she pulled out a light green cardigan. I still have that cardigan, it sits in my wardrobe. I never wear it, it’s far too small, I don’t really wear cardigans anymore. I will never get rid of it. The green cardigan is the only thing I have of hers now, after she died we got a bag of knitted jumpers and that was it, all there was left of her and our relationship. I couldn’t bring myself to open the bag so I left it with my parents, it smelt of laundry powder and a slight hint of tobacco smoke, just like her house did and that was too much. But the green cardigan stays, it reminds me of the quiet bond we shared, her desire to care for me, her amazing talent which she always downplayed because to her it was just something she did. She made those clothes for people because it was what she could do to show she cared and she was amazing at it. The crafts of women, particularly from her generation, are rarely given they deserve but I can see the skill and art in what she did and it is precious to me.

LOVE


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Ruaridh Phillips January 2018 Written and sent to me. I wear a lot of my Dad's clothes now. wearing his jumper reminds me of him; what he used to do when he was alive; the cautious way he moved his arms; I move my arms in the same way. yellowed and frayed from countless mountain journeys. sweat and rain and sheep. through storms and in the sun. I just discovered a hole while examining it, so I'll have to sew it up.

DEATHâ&#x20AC;Š

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Amber Bardell January 2018 Written and sent to me. My great nana always knitted us scarves, made from this beautiful fluffy wool which came in different graduated colours. There were always slightly too many colours but we loved and wore them anyway, bright pinks and yellows with terracotta and colours of disintegrating leaves. The wool stopped being manufactured around the time of her death (she was very old, in her nineties) which makes them all the more special. My mother, older sister and I all had different scarves made by her which suited us best but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure we gained one almost every time we went to visit her in her captivating, timeless house in Devon.

LOVEâ&#x20AC;Š

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Rachel K. Hollis April 2018 Written and sent to me. So I have this scarf that technically I should hate because it’s itchy and kind of ugly and far too long to actually be wearable (I legit feel like Lenny kravitz in it) but it’s one of my most treasured possessions. My grannie hand knitted it for me when she was sick with cancer. Knitting and crochet were some of the only of her previous hobbies she should continue to do while she was in hospital going through chemo. When she was told (sooner than we ever expected) that her cancer was terminal and she didn’t have have long left she set to work on knitting scarves for everyone in the family, all different colours. Mine was the last one she did and it’s so much longer than anyone else’s, I can’t help but think that she knew once she had finished mine that was it and there was nothing left between her and death? To me it’s mad that after that diagnosis her main priority was knitting and to create something for other people rather than focusing on herself but to be honest that’s exactly who she was. I also think knitting and keeping herself occupied was her kind of coping mechanism because how the hell do you cope with that news? She died ten years ago but I still have that scarf she made me and I absolutely treasure it. I don’t wear it outside because I’m terrified of losing it somewhere, but I keep it by my bed kind of like a child would a cuddly toy. I always look at the stitching and think how many stitches went into the scarf and picture her painstakingly doing every single one despite how tired she must have been and despite how painful her hands must have been from repeated attempts at getting a cannula in, and think of the sheer love and desperation that must have gone into it. I often think about if she had knitted it for me in different circumstances when she was healthy and well, teenage me who received it wouldn’t have been so grateful for it and would probably have unknowingly to her not kept it seeing as it isn’t a fashionable scarf at all, it would have been one of those gifts where you’re like “oh wow, thanks!” But inwardly you’re like “oh god what am I gonna do with this”. But because of the circumstances it’s become my most treasured possession and it’s the only item of clothing I own that I can wholeheartedly say I’m never going to get rid of and I’d be heartbroken if I lost it.

DEATH


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๏ Appendix C - Instagram Call Out


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Eilish Murtha April 2018 Written and sent to me. I don’t have a good relationship with my mum and never will but I have always found comfort in going into her wardrobe and smelling her oversized jumpers that she used to wear when I was little and smelling the perfume that’s vaguely there. I always feel like I’ve shrunk down into little me and I feel the love I used to feel when I was little. She doesn’t wear the clothes she used to now but I’m sure if I were to go in her wardrobe I’d find an oversized jumper at the back full of memories.

SELF


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๏ Appendix D - Instagram Story Contributions rosie.pdf April 2018 Written and sent to me. There’s something really comforting about how uncomfortable knitwear can be sometimes, when I put on an itchy wool jumper I feel like I’m a kid and my grans (sic) just tucked me into bed with an itchy welsh blanket - also the smell like knitted things hold smells in such a distinct way.

SELF


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Elsbeth Morrison April 2018 Written and sent to me. I have this jumper that my granny knitted for my mum when she was wee. I used to wear it when I was a teenager because I thought it looked cute *eye roll emoji* but people always laughed at it… And now even the thought of getting rid of it makes me feel guilt!! Also it hasn’t been washed since the 70s and it still smells like my granny and grandads little old house even now *star emoji*

SELF


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Rachael Doig April 2018 Written and sent to me. I have my dads old jumper and it’s bit grim and not that soft but I’ve kept it because think it’s one of my earliest memories of him. He used to wear it all the time. Also have a picture of him holding me when I’m a baby as well [while wearing the jumper].

LOVE


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๏ Appendix E - Addicted to Knitting Facebook Group Post 


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๏ Appendix F - Addicted to Knitting Facebook Group Comments Facebook Comments, Addicted to Knitting Group September 2017 Anonymous 1: I feel I pass on the love of generation of women gone from our family. We have a family baby booty pattern known as the hardman wellies. I’ve seen similar to them on ravelry so they’re clearly not ‘our’ pattern but you know what i mean. I knit them now following the handwritten pattern from my mother in law that was passed on from her mother in law. Neither of these women are still with us in body but a bit of their spirit passes to every new baby in the family. I learned to knit from my mum and I’m now teaching my 6 year old son. If he can learn to pay attention and stop dropping his stitches he might become the next guardian of the pattern. Anonymous 2: Both of my grandmothers knit as well as one of my grandfathers, learning wasn’t a choice but rather something that was done. Anonymous 3: I have a twin size Afghan my grandmother made me when I was ten. I didn’t appreciate the work that went into this knit and crocheted piece back then. Fast forward over 30 years and a friend taught me to knit. I still use my grandmothers blanket because it looks the same as the day she gave it to me but now I can fully appreciate the long hours and thousands of sts in worsted weight yarn. I feel badly that I didn’t fully appreciate her gift until after she was gone, but I believe she is content wherever she is knowing it still gives me comfort. She made three twin size for all of us and one queen actually. Each is still treasured. Anonymous 4: In fourth grade, my mom knit me a yellow sweater. It was a rough year for me, we had moved and I was all alone in a new school and a vastly different social environment. I wore that yellow sweater rain or shine. It was a hug from my mom. I’m in my 30s now and still remember the feel of the sweater around me, down to the bumpy wooden buttons. Just thinking of it makes me feel happy and loved, even now. Anonymous 5: My beautiful mum was a constant knitter and taught me to love it. In later age she suffered with arthritis in her fingers (same here…) and she switched to crochet. She made me a gorgeous rug that I use every night while watching telly and I’ll keep it forever. She also knitted my granddaughter a pale pink lacy blank when she was born. She used to lay in her bed and pluck at it. It was Mum’s job to repair it and, when Mum died, I took over the job. My granddaughter is now 16 and the blankie (sic) looks like grey scar tissue!! But she still has it…

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Anonymous 6: My aunt, who was like my grandmother, knit all the time. When I was about five she made me a red and white cardigan with a gold zipper and a circle pull. I loved that sweater!! I learned to knit from my 3rd grade teacher because I so wanted to show my aunt that I knew how to knit. When she got Alzheimer’s she stopped knitting. I now have her needles and many patterns. I knit for everyone I love. I hope some day to make a grandchild a zippered cardigan with a circle purl, using red/white twist yarn. Anonymous 7: The memories of hand-knit items are perfectly etched in the mind in vibrant colours and in perfection, and bring happy thoughts. This is only made better when the garment is still available and allows the recipient to see the love in every stitch. Anonymous 8: I’m happy to participate. My mother made me quite a few sweaters. I’ve made my adult son an abundance of hats and an Aran sweater he has worn quite a few times doing research in Antarctica. I’ve made it through a recurrence of cancer and I’m a little obsessed with leaving knitted things for my two adult kids even thought I may live many years yet. I also have my mother’s needles and it was special using them recently for a baby gift. Anonymous 9: I have a hand knitted pair of mittens made by a nurse caring for my premature son. He died of a blood virus at 3 months old. He would have been 35 years old now. They are precious and treasured. Anonymous 10: A little different but a homeless lady I donated a hat and blanket to said that every time she held the blanket she knew someone thought she was worth something somehow. Every time she woke under the blanket she held it to get strength for another day. Heartbreaking. It made her feel someone loved her, thought she was worth the effort and it really meant so much to her. Anonymous 11: I think you have really understood the very essence of why knitting and other handmade crafts are so special! My grandmother learned to knit as a schoolgirl in Ireland as part of the curriculum. She taught me as a child. I just finished making a baby blanket for my first grandchild who will be born in November. I like to feel that the craft connects us all. Not only as a wonderful, peaceful pastime but as a way to provide our loved ones with warmth and love! Anonymous 12: My favourite thing about growing up in a “crafty” family was Christmas. My Mom and Grandma would be so busy with craft shows, school programs, decorating, and making gifts and everything, that someone always got “The Box”! You would have this beautifully wrapped present, and then you opened it up… and inside would be a couple of skeins of yarn and a picture of what it will be! 59


Anonymous 13: When I was in high school, my mom decided to reorganise my dad’s 1/2 of the closet. She pulled out all the boxes with my dad’s hand knitted things and found a few surprised mixed in. There was a cream cabled wool sweater with wood toggle buttons that my grandmother knit for my dad when he left for college. I asked if I could have it and seeing as how it didn’t fit my dad anymore and I was heading for college soon, my parents thought it would be fitting for it to be passed on to me. I LOVED that sweater… until my ex decided to help with the laundry and threw it in a hot water wash. I got the pattern from my grandmother a few years ago and plan to knit those sweaters for each of my children to take when they leave for college. I recently bought the yarn to start knitting for my oldest, who is now less than 2 years away from graduating high school.

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เน Appendix G - Women in the Arts Scotland Facebook Group Post

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๏ Appendix H - Women in the Arts Scotland Facebook Group Comments Facebook Comments, Women in the Arts Scotland Group May/June 2018 Anonymous 14: Well i do remember teaching myself to knit, I had a few mixed wools in the cupboard, it is a great way to get through grief. just a simple, shawl, 150 stitches to start and reducing to zero stitches. I wore it for years, until finally, buried it, when the time was right. each stitch threaded flesh back onto my skeletal self, and then each stitch kept me warm. I have a new knitted shawl now. Anonymous 15: I remember my mum teaching me to knit aged 5. I used to make everyone presents: knitted, sewn, clay etc. One Christmas my dad got a tie I’d knitted: I only recall him wearing it for an hour. That’s when I realised that not everyone appreciates hand made gifts. But I still knitted! 
 Anonymous 16: I finish off dead relatives knitting… Seems that most knitters die before completion of garments (mostly baby things)… I have managed to get a reputation for this… It’s a sad and happy task, difficult to maintain same tension and sometimes very difficult to cipher what the garment is supposed to be. Often they are quite grimy but I am always asked not to wash them. Anonymous 17: My daughter’s godmother knitted her a beautiful christening gown, complete with hat, bootees and a sort of covering robe. It’s incredibly precious to us. We had the other three subsequent children christened in it too, and have sewed each of their name tapes to the inside. We hope they’ll all use it for their children, and add their name tapes too. Anonymous 18: I knitted my granddaughter in Australia a picnic with glasses with lemonade and straws, sandwiches, a cake and roly poly. I’ll need to look at the pics think there was more and knitted my son a jumper totally randomly with every section totally different. He is working in a trendy shop at the mo and gets offers for it heehee, it was knitted with no thought out of scraps from jumble sales. Anonymous 19: It didn’t occur to me that this was a thing! I have a half-knitted jumper that my mum was making for me when I was a teenager. I’m not that size any more, I don’t like that colour any more, and I can’t knit, but I’d not part with it.

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Anonymous 20: For my son’s 40th birthday I gave him the matinee coat that I brought him home from hospital in following his birth. I knitted it whilst pregnant. I also gave him the little arm band he had on following his birth and my own wrist band, his first happy pin… oh and a whack of cash otherwise he would have been utterly underwhelmed!!!!! Yes, I kept that bloody 4 ply lacy matinee coat for 40 years but it was the hard cash that mattered! Only joking… he and his lovely wife were surprised that I had kept those mementos for all that time. Just wait until his 50th…. lots more in the box just waiting to be ‘gifted’… the hand knitted shawl, pram blanket and his cubs jumper with cute badges! Anonymous 21: My mum learned to knit when she was 3 years old. Knit her first adult sized jumper when she was 10 years old. Worked in a hosiery in Irvine. Knit and sold jumpers to raise funds to pay for a ticket to America as a teen… so many stories. Anonymous 22: My Nana was blind but she was rarely without her knitting needles 2 or 4 and as a young child she taught me how to read a knitting pattern to her. I still have a baby doll for which she knitted in 4 ply a complete outfit from pants and vest to dress, coat and hat. She also tried to help me learn to knit but having sorted out my mistake she handed it back to me and I decided knitting was not for me. Anonymous 23: A pal of my mums knitted a wee cape/ cardie… all one piece for my first baby. My second dressed her dollies in it. I saved it for my first grandchild. Anonymous 24: My Grannie knitted clothes for my tiny tears and my sister’s tiny tears and nearly 30 years on we still have them in the loft. I’ve tried knitting but cannot for the life of me work out how to do it! Every time I try I can imagine my Granny having a giggle to herself at my attempts! Anonymous 25: My mum knitted me a jumper when I was 11 to replace my favourite jumper that I’d grown out, and they didn’t sell any more. It took her a year, and by the time she’d finished she had to unravel the ends of the sleeves and make them longer because I’d grown. I’m now 24 and it still fits because I wore it year-in, year-out; it stretched as I grew. It’s completely shapeless now and makes me look like a 12 year old, so I only wear it round the house from time to time, but I could never throw it away. My mum taught me to knit when I was three, and I still go to her for advice with my knitting, even though we’re about the same standard now.


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Anonymous, Women in Arts Scotland May 2018 My lovely nana, born 1920 in Orkney knitted these mitts. In Shetland, we were taught at school how to Knit and Spin wool. It was just a normal part of everyday school life.

SELFâ&#x20AC;Š

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Anonymous 2, Women in Arts Scotland May 2018 My mum -aged 87 at the time of my request- knitted me a fruitbat ( still one of my most treasured and favourite things ever) and trigger finger mittens the colour of my daughters cat....( she'd been taught how to knit the mittens as a schoolgirl as part of the war effort.) Sadly my mum passed away nearly 3 years ago, the fruitbat still makes me smile and I've now taken to buying creatures knitted by pensioners for charity....delighted with my freakish pig in a dress!!!! Knitting is the best.

SELFâ&#x20AC;Š

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Rosie Brown, Women in Arts Scotland May 2018

I have a hand knit story for you. In 2001 my Granny Mary was diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live. She was a keen knitter and maker and loved clothes and fabrics. Her daughter, my Aunt had just given up on IVF and was beginning the process of getting approved for adoption. My granny lived another two years, and towards the end, heard that the first part of the process was approved. She made a little jumper for the unknown baby coming from an overseas orphanage. She was pretty ill, so it’s not an amazing piece of knitting. It is not new born size because they knew the baby wouldn’t be a newborn. She died in 2003 and in November 2005 the baby arrived from the Philippines. In February 2010, I had my first baby, and my Aunt posted me the jumper, which my baby wore, and which was then handed on to his sister, who has my granny’s name. I’ve just today (literally minutes before I saw your post!) packed it up to send to my brother and his wife, who are pregnant with their first. It doesn’t look like much, and it’s pretty stretched out. But it means a great deal to us for the babies who never met our Granny. I’ll attach a picture.

DEATH


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๏ Appendix I - Informed Consent Form INFORMED CONSENT ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART Informed Consent Form MA Textiles (Knit) dissertation research Please complete this form after you have read the Information Sheet and/or listened to an explanation about the research.

Project Title: Remembering the loop: unravelling cross-overs of memory and tactility in knitting and the narrative of the passed-down jumper Researcher: Jean Oberlander Thank you for your interest in taking part in this research. Before you agree to take part, the person organising the research must explain the project to you. If you have any questions arising from the Information Sheet or explanation already given to you, please ask the researcher before you to decide whether to join in. You will be given a copy of this Consent Form to keep and refer to at any time.

Participant’s Statement I agree that: • • • • •

• •

I have read the notes written above and the Information Sheet, and understand what the study involves. I understand that if I decide at any time that I no longer wish to take part in this project, I can notify the researchers involved and withdraw immediately. I consent to the processing of my personal information for the purposes of this research study. I understand that my participation may include the providing of personal photographic material, and I consent to use of this material as part of the research project. I understand that the information I have submitted will be published as a dissertation and I will be sent a copy. I may be identified by name, job title and location in the final dissertation, and waive the right to anonymity for the purposes of this research. I understand that I have the option to remain anonymous in the final dissertation. I am assured that the confidentiality of my personal data will be upheld through the removal of identifiers, if I so choose to. I understand that such information will be treated as strictly confidential and handled in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. I agree that the research project named above has been explained to me to my satisfaction and I agree to take part in this study.

Signature:

Date:

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๏ Appendix J - Primark Cream Jumper Poem Jean Oberlander October 2017 “I have washed it only twice, by hand, in the sink. Washing it too much means I lose the softness, Lose the rigidness. It is Primark, scratchy yet soft. It was Kirsty’s jumper, which gives it a certain softness, one I cannot fathom. We lived together, and shared our wardrobes. At one point, this jumper did not make the cut. Now I wear it when I draw, and when I paint. It is stained from the gouache, the ink. Over time, the shape has conformed to me, and the neck sits just right. In places it is bobbly, and scruffy. I don’t mind, as it doesn’t need to look nice. I have washed it only twice, by hand, in the sink. I want it to stay soft.”


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๏ Appendix K - Author’s Stories - Peacock Cardigan The Peacock Cardigan Studying in Aberdeen, Scotland for four years came with a lot of benefits, and a fair amount of drawbacks. One of those drawbacks consisted of very harsh winters, and with the rental market being the state that it is there, it resulted in several winters of shivering. One flat did not have central heating and was infested by slugs, and another was high-ceilinged and wooden-floor covered, while another much improved flat had a broken boiler over a bitterly cold January. By the time of the slug-infested flat, a Christmas visit home led to a conversation with my mother, Rosemary, about needing two sets of duvets and two blankets to fall asleep comfortably. She brought out the Peacock cardigan, which can be seen in Illustration one. These scanned in 35mm photographs have the date 24th February 1991 on the back, the time she knitted it for herself to wear. She continued to wear it off and on for several years after that, then as time progressed it moved to underneath the bed and became part of a treasure trove of knits. The peacocks and swirls all over the oversized cardigan are delightfully self-aware in their stark ugliness, but it is made from warm wool and there is a soft and squishy hand-sewn quilted lining in it. The largeness, the soft wool and quilted lining meant it was perfect for wearing around my freezing flat, and I was able to take a few layers off of blankets and wear this so I was not shivering trying to sleep. The quilted lining is now fraying, and coming apart, there are a few stains from when I would drink hot chocolate in bed or rush out in the mornings with coffee, but the versatility and warmth in the cardigan has never been lost. Each time I wear it I think of my mum and how she knitted it with great skill. Illustration two shows a screenshot of an Instagram post, of a photograph taken by myself of myself (henceforth referred to as a “selfie”), and records the days after I was gifted the cardigan, and when I would still refer to knitted items with words like “horrific”. Despite being someone who appreciates knitting and the items it creates, it is still interesting to note that on social media it was still important to be shown as “ironically” liking hand-knitted things. I do not struggle to word how much I love this cardigan now, but looking back it is clear that sometimes it is easier to think of loved, hand-knitted items as ugly things. Forthcoming stories will delve more into smothering love and ugly hand-knits.

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๏ Appendix L - Author’s Stories - Jack’s Back Cardigan Jack’s Back Cardigan I do not get to see my granny very often, as she stays in the Scottish Borders and I do not get a chance to go home as much as I would like. A few years ago, before I had really realised my special interest in knitting, I had mentioned in passing to my granny Valerie about how much I was enjoying knitting while studying, and as granny’s often do with a small snippet of information, they use that to make you feel noticed and seen by collecting things relevant to your interests - that feeling of knowing someone thinks about you when they go on a Tesco shop is warming and comforting. In this instance, a visit to her a few years ago included a rifle through her wardrobes - her favourite thing to do is to clear out her house and “gift” as much of it as possible to my family. The Jack’s Back cardigan was in a pile of things that she had set aside thinking I would like to have. The cardigan is an intricate colour work design (colour work being the use of several colours, passing behind one another, to create a pattern) that was designed by Kaffe Fassett for Rowan Yarns, and came in a “Do-It-Yourself” box with a pattern and enough yarn balls. Valerie knitted the cardigan back in the 1970s for my grandpa Bill. He passed in 2011 and my granny routinely sorts through his things, taking them to charity shops and passing them on to friends and family. My grandpa wore it for several years and since my granny learned of my fondness for knitting she thought I would love it, and she was right. It is very large, knitted to fit my grandpa who was very tall, yet its largeness offers an enveloping, warm closeness that not many garments can do. The pattern is very intricate, and at the time was notably different from machine-knitted knitwear and even other hand-knit patterns as it is knitted horizontally rather than vertically, meaning you start knitting from one sleeve and end at the other, instead of the usual way of knitting which is either bottom to top or top to bottom. It was her first attempt at colour work, which you can tell from the slight unravelling of the different colours, a few on the outside and a lot on the inside. This means when I wear it I am very careful about snagging, as even pulling it on and off can mean I get a watch or fingers stuck inside and pull on it. As I am regularly around knitting machines and point-y objects, it means that I have to be very careful, so for the most part this cardigan stays at home because of how heavy it is. In addition, it means that I do not move it around with me, and it is currently at home in Scotland, where it is much more needed when I stay home for Christmas, it is not nearly as cold in London. In Illustration four it is another example of one of my Instagram posts, from 2015, showing my appreciation for the cardigan. Notably, here, is that I again have used the

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phrase â&#x20AC;&#x153;ugly cardigan seasonâ&#x20AC;? ironically to poke fun at wearing something hand-knitted, something I refrain from doing now as I would much rather use positive words.

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Profile for Jean Oberlander

What is softness, but a jumper? Unravelling the crossovers of love, memory and tactility in knitting  

What is softness but a just-warmed scraggly knitted jumper, freshly dried in the winter sun on a kitchen table, for when the central heating...

What is softness, but a jumper? Unravelling the crossovers of love, memory and tactility in knitting  

What is softness but a just-warmed scraggly knitted jumper, freshly dried in the winter sun on a kitchen table, for when the central heating...

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