Estonia – here I come!

There is so much I want to tell you about… I have half a post written about the amazing process of editing the audio for Bathing & Dressing, parts 1 & 2; I have re-designed the KNITSONIK site; and you can now download and hear the audio from the Rheged gallery installation of Hûrd – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION here.

But other than that, the big news around here is that I am leaving in a couple of days for a residency at MoKS in Estonia, where I will be undertaking a creative project, the theme of which is The Wool Exchange.

During my time in Estonia working at the Tuned City festival, I was struck by the prevalence of wool and knitted goods in Tallinn City and by the focus within the tourist industry there on identifying Estonia as a centre for hand-knitted, woollen produce.

However, with limited time to investigate the realities of wool production and knitting in Estonia and without time to leave the city and explore the agricultural landscapes where sheep graze, I left the country feeling that I had only understood the relationships between wool, knitting, and a sense of place in Estonia in a very shallow way. I wish to participate in the MoKS artist-in-residence programme in order to deepen my knowledge of the Estonian wool industry, and in order to make connections between the landscapes which support sheep; the fleeces which those sheep produce; and the uses to which knitters have put such fleeces. I wish to participate in the MoKS artist-in-residence programme in order to make connections with Estonian knitters; to learn more about Estonian wool; and to exchange and document sheep lore using sound-recordings, collected artefacts, photos, and texts.

Objectives for the residency period

  • To treat the residency as a cultural exchange, bringing sonic and material artefacts from the UK wool industry to share with Estonian knitters
  • To seek corresponding sonic and material artefacts in Estonia
  • To create a collection of audio recordings telling the story of the project
  • To explore the Estonian countryside
  • To meet other knitters
  • To organise interviews and meetings with knowledgeable wool folk
  • To collect photos, wool, knitting and sounds
  • To knit something
  • To meet an Estonian sheep
  • To explore new ways of combining my interests in wool, knitting, and sound

The first fixture on my schedule is a workshop at Ptarmigan in Tallinn entitled The Instant Clothes Museum.

The idea behind this participatory, one-day workshop is that we will create a radio show together, exploring and celebrating the meaning of our outfits. I will provide all the necessary technology and materials.

The cost of participating in the workshop is €4.00 which covers the costs of stationery and woollen badges – both of which are provided as part of the workshop. If you are in Tallinn on 3rd May, I would love to see you there! You will need to register for the event online here:

Later in May, I travel to Mooste, and to MoKS, where I plan to dye some yarn with Woad as part of the exchange project. The yarn for this activity has been supplied very generously by Sue Blacker at Blacker Designs. I am hoping to learn about traditional Estonian dye plants while in Estonia in a corresponding activity, and the Madder roots which I grew over the past 4 years and harvested last Autumn will also be coming with me to find their way into my dye pot.

You will be able to keep track of my residency at KNITSONIK and on the Sound Diaries website, where I will be posting small snippets of sound from woolly contexts in Estonia.

Many thanks to the British Council, Estonia and MoKS for making my stay possible; to Ptarmigan for providing a venue for the Instant Clothes Museum, and to Sue Blacker for agreeing to supply me with some British Wool for my journey.

This last aspect of the trip feels particularly apposite, as some of the garments I intend to wear and work on during my stay are knitted in Blacker Yarns, including Layter and The Field-Recordist’s Tunic.

It is frustrating to me that progress on the tunic in particular has been so slow; although I have loved working on many of the projects I’ve been involved with in the past few months, I feel I am still learning how to get a good work/life balance. The pace I’ve been working at of late has not been conducive to knitting.

I am hopeful that my stay in Estonia will take on the quiet diligent timing that is conducive to knitting and listening. I intend to use that good timing to go to the deep woolly place in my imagination; to work un-rushed; to breathe; and to play. This is what it says about MoKS on the website:

During the colder months the resident artist should be prepared to handle the weather conditions (bring warm clothes). Basic tasks such as accepting village life, building fires to heat the stoves, cooking and shopping are part of the daily routine. MoKS guests are expected to be responsible, independent and adaptable to living and working in a foreign, rural village which can be socially isolating at times.

How perfect does that sound??

I wish for greasy wool with the earth still stuck to it; time to comb and spin; briers; weather; mushrooms; forests; lakes; fires at night and new sheep to meet.

If you have any ideas about things I should do/places I should visit etc. to fulfil my list of objectives for the residency or if you are in Estonia and you have something to tell me about wool, please get in touch via the comments and maybe we can play together.

Thanks once again to The British Council and MoKS for making this creative exploration possible.

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