There are so many things that inspire me in my life. It can be as simple as watching the birds feeding in the garden, walking the dogs, clouds through window, the sound of baby’s laughter, the colours in a sunset. If you just keep your eyes, ears and heart open our world is a glorious and miraculous place.
When it comes to my knitting and designing, I tend to be more inspired by the mathematical and the physical. I love to spend time trawling round museums such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert, just absorbing the things I see.
A year or so ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive housed in an old mill building near Huddersfield. If you haven’t come across the Guild, it is well worth checking out to their website. Their aim is to keep the crafts of knitting and crochet alive; to celebrate and curate the history of our craft. The archive and collection are an important part of that remit.
As well as physical items such as jumpers, accessories, tablecloths and even bandages dating back to 1836, the archive has a comprehensive library of knitting patterns. They have a collection of Women’s Weekly magazines going back to the very first issue and original Weldons magazines – among my personal favourites. There are simply boxes and boxes and boxes stacked on metal shelving in the warehouse. Each week volunteers come along to help catalogue all the items that have been donated. When I visited, Coats Crafts had recently given the Guild their archive of knitted items and patterns, and I was allowed to open a few boxes at random. What a journey of adventure. Mittens from the 1950s, a beautifully delicate lace top from the 1960s and so much more. The knowledge that the curator Barbara and her team have is extraordinary. I have read so much about Bohus knitting and marvelled at the way the colours and designs are put together but to actually see examples of around 40 years old in front of me was the definition of inspiring.
I mentioned bandages above. The collection has items that date back to the First World War and that includes garter stitched bandages ready for the poor soldiers injured at the front, as well as the poignant tablecloth with the date 1915 on it, crocheted to welcome back the troops. No one then could possibly believe the war would go on so long. As well as all the physical items the archive also captures moments in history, peoples hopes and fears and the way communities come together. It’s amazing how simple a strand of wool connects us through the years.
The archive has several open days during the year and if you are a guild member you can visit and see some of the items I have described. It is so important we help and support their work, so please do think about joining the Knitting and Crochet Guild.