Knitted Maze?

What are we trying to do?

Yarn bomb the turf maze in Saffron Walden – a mile long labyrinth style turf maze.

Why are we trying?

From August 20th – 28th 2011 the town of Saffron Walden in Essex is holding a maze festival. We have two mazes in the town – a turf maze and a hedge maze so someone had the idea to celebrate the maziness of our town.

The organizers thought it would be great to have a knitted component to the festival but the word on the street was that they couldn’t find anyone to coordinate it. In steps me.

I run an online yarn business and am interested in how knitting helps build communities so it was a natural opportunity for me to jump in feet first without any thought of how impossible it would be to achieve or how much it would take over my life, my home, my forearm ligaments.

In the beginning I wanted to achieve something along these lines but it soon became clear that getting people to engage with such an abstract concept was a difficult sell. And if there was one thing I knew it was that I needed help, and a lot of it.

In mulling over the options I decided that the best approach was to use what we have already – the mazes, and so we decided to try and yarn bomb the main maze in town.

To do this we require a mile of knitting which is approx 9 – 12 inches wide and a mile long with 5 large circular pieces as well.

How hard can it be to knit a mile – once I had done my sums I realised I would have to knit 203 feet a week in order to get there. Well on a good week I manage 20 feet. So the grand adventure has begun to get enough people involved to get a mile of knitting done by 20th August 2011.

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it’s nearly here

haven’t blogged because i’ve been knitting and crocheting and panicking. 5 days to go, a house full of knitting, parcels arriving daily.
a lot of knitting to sew up and my “centrepiece” to finish.

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Are we nearly there yet?

I get asked this a lot.

I used to know the answer. No.

I used to know how far we had come, and how far there was to go. First we got to 100 ft, then 200 ft, then I reckoned on 500 ft, then I thought there must be  1000 ft completed. Now I have absolutely no idea. I feel like Harrison Ford towards the end of Indiana Jones #3 when he has to make the Leap of Faith. I know there is a lot of knitting out there, I also know there is quite a lot in my house. I also know how much I think I can get done in the next 6 weeks. I also know that some people out there are knitting up a storm. Beyond that I have absolutely no idea, so until we hit early August and bits and pieces start to drop through the door I won’t know whether to panic or not.

But to be on the safe side let’s all just keep knitting for a while longer.

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WWK(orC)IP day

Whilst I was sitting in a traffic jam on the autoroute in France, knitters in Saffron Walden were having an altogether more exciting time. Emma Dobson and Hannah Henley organized  a great World Wide Knit (or Crochet) In Public day during the Saturday market. Deckchairs, knitting and a lot of explaining to bemused onlookers.

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By all accounts it was a fantastic success and was great for publicizing the Maze Festival and the Knitted Maze. If I had to organize a Knit in Public event I suspect that I would have sat in a corner somewhere mumbling to myself and occasionally raising my head out of my lap.

The press came and did some interviews and the Saffron Walden Photographic Society took some great pics of people who turned up. The strange result was me being rung in my seaside retreat by various press and journalists to be interviewed about the maze. I suspect my phone may even have been hacked at some point.

There was a wonderful article in the Saffron Walden Weekly News
featuring Emma and Tabitha on the front cover of the paper.

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Long time, no blog…

Just to Spain have been in exile in Spain for a while – due back in UK next week. Have been knitting a Noro section whilst away so more on that later plus news of the great maze KIP day and a round up of the wonderful press we have been getting of late.

Watch this space but don’t stop knitting to do so.

And my nephew was born on Saturday – Wyn – can’t wait to meet him and am just glad he’s a summer baby and won’t mind waiting until winter to get his knitted goodies.

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The most unlikely product recall

Sirdar Fizz – admit it, you have some in your stash. Possibly in bright blue.

Sirdar Fizz

Fizz in all its fluffy glory

Fizz was the precursor to pompom, rios, ondas, can-can and other highly textured one-ball scarf yarns. Sirdar Fizz was released for the A/W 2004 season as the main contender in Sirdar’s fancy yarns division. Only a few months later in February 2005 it was recalled due to its “high viscose content and loose construction”. This made it highly flammable and if held in or near a naked flame would most likely catch fire, and if you were wearing a garment made out of it and you stood near or in a naked flame then you might catch fire too. As it was primarily used for making scarves it was like wearing a candlewick around your neck. Scarves have an illustrious history of exotic departures – Isadora Duncan.

Sirdar considered it important enough to issue a financial press release predicting a potential cost of $2.7 million. In the end it cost the company only $0.5 million. The conclusion I draw from this? There is a lot of Fizz still out there, and it seems to be finding its way to the maze.

If someone donates me a bag of unused yarn for the maze then you can guarantee it will have some Fizz in it. If a group get together for a Maze knit-a-long then you can guarantee that someone will pull out the Fizz.

The maze is a great project for destashing your yarn. All those odd 30 metres left over, or those random purchases or gifts of yarn which face it, you are NEVER going to put to good purpose. The Maze is the answer to your problems. In one fell swoop my stash is now reduced to either luscious or functional yarns which have an identifiable purpose.

Most people knitting for the maze have also discovered this – and after all once destashed it gives you the perfect excuse to go shopping again. So I am helping people feel good and fuelling the economic recovery as well.

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How to knit quick

I am quite a quick knitter, although obviously not as fast as this:

But even with my chunky needles and fat yarn I thought there had to be a speedier way then my usual style. Throwing the yarn over cannot be the fastest way to knit so I set out to teach myself a speedier way to knit. Continental seemed to be the way to go so I went back to basics and got out my knit encyclopaedia.

Oh my god.

Did the yarn have to slip off my index finger quite so much? Tension? What tension. After two weeks of perseverance I got the hang of it and now I am flying along. I have tried the odd purl but that seems very tricky indeed. And although I know continental knitting is used to create some of the most beautiful and intricate lace in the world how on earth does anyone do anything other than big loopy stitches with it. For my purposes it is great, I can zoom along with great elan making the biggest, loopiest stitches possible. Once the maze is over I am going to go back to basics again to try to learn more continental techniques as for me it does seem a preferable way to knit.

My only gripe is that it may be speedy but that is because it involves a narrower range of movement so my elbow seems to get a bit more achey. Then again that may have something to do with the fact that I am knitting 20 feet a week. Learning continental knitting is also very handy when it comes to doing colour work as it means that if you know “both” styles you can have a colour in each hand.

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So far so a-mazing.

Once I knew what shape and size the maze was going to be I realised I needed to start knitting. It will be easy I thought. I will just get big needles and left over yarn and get knitting. I thought I was doing pretty well, I was easily managing 1-2 ft an evening if I put my mind to it.

Then I worked out how much I needed to do to achieve the “dream”.  I had to knit 203 ft a week.

Time to rally the troops. I bombarded rav, facebook and twitter and told everyone I knew who could knit. I contacted groups and suggested knit-a-long get-togethers. The first was a great success: two people turned up and one of them was me.

Then I met the Walden WI. They made really good cake. And they can knit.  Their parting words to me after an afternoon of cake, knitting, royal wedding dissection, more cake (it was really good cake – coffee cake and I don’t like coffee cake) were “leave it with us, we’ll have it done.” I trust the WI, I believe in them.

That same evening I went down to Bishops Stortford and met with the StitchinBishopsStortford rav group.  I turned up at the pub and was greeted by about a dozen people, dustbin bags of yarn and some really big needles. I admitted it then and will admit here, I was quite choked up. All these people, some I knew, some I didn’t turned out in force and got knitting for a somewhat ludicrous reason. Jenny Parker started a new knitting fetish as can be evidenced here.

At the knittogethers, people either cast/hook off at the end of the evening and I take it home with me or else they keep hold and add to it, and hopefully it will wing its way to me one way or the other throughout the summer.

Since then there have been a variety of KALs – the methodist church in Walden hold a monthly knit and natter and were happy to dedicate an afternoon to the art of knitting long and loopy. One half of KTOG in Cambridge invited me along to a sunny afternoon by the Cam and knitted up a storm.

The abiding feeling I get is one of the great sense of community that crafties and knitters have. There is no way I could do this on my own, but I now know that we will achieve it for sure, one way or the other.

And along the way there will be some really good cake.

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