On Woman’s Hour!
Me in my Missy Elliott Sweater and Kate in her amazing Miss Rachel's Gauntlets and Yoke, at Edinburgh Yarn Festival earlier this year!

Me in my Missy Elliott Sweater and Kate in Miss Rachel’s Gauntlets and Yoke, pictured together at Edinburgh Yarn Festival earlier this year

This morning I was on Woman’s Hour speaking about my work with sounds. I was nominated for this honour by my amazing friend Kate Davies, whose inspiring interview aired yesterday. Our interviews are links in a chain started by Maylin Scott for Listener Week. Maylin recommended Kate, Kate recommended me, I have nominated the wonderful Lara for tomorrow, and so it goes… a chain of interviews with women, connected by female friendships and yarn: HURRAH!

Myself and Lara in Edinburgh, 2010

Myself and Lara in Edinburgh, 2010

Because I spend so much time editing audio, I am an infrequent listener to day-time radio. However, no feminist professing an interest in women’s lives could be ignorant of the amazing National Institution that is BBC Woman’s Hour. It was on Woman’s Hour that I first discovered the artist Bobby Baker – one of my all time favourite art heroines; and it was while listening to Alison Lapper speaking about representations of disability on Woman’s Hour that I was inspired to produce my own radio show about disability entitled The Missability Radio Show. It was a big deal for me to be on there!

My dodgy poster for "I am knitting in a room" an early sound/knitting project from 2006

My dodgy poster for “I am knitting in a room” an early sound/knitting project from 2006

I spoke about some very early work I did using the sounds of knitting, and I also spoke about some of the sounds recorded for a more recent project, Listening to Shetland Wool. Jane Garvey asked me about my current work in the Charles Dickens Museum, which celebrates Catherine Dickens.

I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear the baas of Shetland Sheep on Woman’s Hour, and to have an opportunity to talk up the mischief and camaraderie of the days when I learnt to knit again in the august company of The Oxford Bluestockings. It seems crazy to imagine that it was a decade ago that I met these amazing women and we ranted together in the pub over our knitting projects.

With some of the Oxford Bluestockings comrades at the end of I Knit London, 2007!

With some of the Oxford Bluestockings comrades at the end of I Knit London, 2007!

It was through The Oxford Bluestockings that I discovered the world of online knitting blogs, and needled – the (then) online home of Kate Davies Designs. In her glorious writing I felt I had discovered a kindred spirit; a comrade whose thirst to critically engage with everyday objects, textiles and women’s history was underscored by a deep, feminist conviction in their cultural significance. When we finally met in real life, I discovered that as well as having closely aligned academic interests, we also shared a raucous sense of humour, a love of good, strong tea; of woolly wool; of fine cheeses; and of setting the world to rights. I was then working on the Fantastical Reality Radio Show in association with Mundane Appreciation, and Kate let me record her descriptions of producing the perfect cup of tea and the contents of her handbag for two radio features: Perfect Tea and What’s In Your Handbag?

Kate in one of her amazing coats, on a wondrous jaunt in York in 2009

Kate in one of her amazing coats, on a wondrous jaunt in York in 2009

Kate’s interview yesterday filled me with joy for other shared memories; she mentioned our woolly tour of Sussex and Kent, during which we crushed M&Ms and mud into the footwells of the KNITSONIK mobile; I gave Kate the shakes with a legendary pot of espresso-strength leaf tea; and we got lost in the endless marshes of Romney.

Exploring a crazy yarn emporium in Sussex in 2008

Exploring a crazy yarn emporium in Sussex in 2008

Kate in Romney Marshes

Kate in Romney Marshes in 2008

In those muddy, joyous, oomska-laden days we hatched a harebrained scheme to produce a zine with Lara, entitled “The Knitting Forecast”. It was to be a self-published zine chock-full of feminist content and articles documenting the extraordinary history of knitting and the British Wool Industry. “The Knitting Forecast” never saw the light of day as our respective research projects and PhDs and jobs did not afford sufficient time for its production. However, many of our ideas for articles later appeared on the WOVEMBER website which we co-founded some years later, and which is now run by myself and another glorious comrade from the world of wool, Louise Scollay.

The glorious Louise Scollay, my comrade in knitting punditry and Wovembering - knitter, podcaster, Shetlander and champion of British knitting!

The glorious Louise Scollay, my comrade in knitting punditry and Wovembering – knitter, podcaster, Shetlander and champion of British knitting!

In 2009, Oxford Bluestockings Liz, Lara and I drove up to the Lake District in the KNITSONIK mobile. We camped in Buttermere with Tom and Kate and attended WOOLFEST in nearby Cockermouth. We spoke of wool and sheep shades; ranted late into the night about the state of the British Wool Industry; met with sheep breeders and their animals; and filled our tents with our glorious hauls of WOOL.

At WOOLFEST in 2009 with Lara and Liz of the Oxford Bluestockings, and our esteemed comrade, Kate Davies

At WOOLFEST in 2009 with Lara and Liz of the Oxford Bluestockings, and our esteemed comrade, Kate Davies

Many of my own subsequent projects – WOVEMBER, HÛRD and Listening to Shetland Wool – grew out of those times; I also cannot help feeling that some of the rich love for WOOL fostered on that trip can be detected in Kate’s glorious Buachaille yarn.

A huge amount has happened since I first met the Oxford Bluestockings and met Kate through her blog.

Liz getting married in a dress and veil of her own making

Liz getting married in a dress and veil of her own making

Marriages, babies, house-moves, PhDs, serious illnesses, changes of jobs, publishing projects, art projects and more have filled our lives so that now it seems much harder than it once was to get together en masse and put the world to rights over our knitting.

Lara at the glow in the dark knitting event at the Barbican on International Woman's Day in 2008

Lara at the glow in the dark knitting event at the Barbican on International Woman’s Day in 2008

However, it is hard to overstate the rich influence of the ever-widening sisterhood of wool and, doing today’s interview, in the friendship-themed context of the Woman’s Hour chain, I found myself reflecting on how unimaginably poor my life would be without it. I do not know what sort of work I would be making and doing without the shaping force of my fellow knitting buddies whose supportive words, abilities to survive crises together, amazing online writings, keen critical minds and ceaseless creative powers have never ceased to amaze and inspire me.

15 Responses to On Woman’s Hour!

  1. Jenny says:

    I loved hearing you today and Kate yesterday, you’re both great ambassadors for knitting!

    • Thank you Jenny, I am so glad you think so. I also want to say props to Woman’s Hour for this one. There is far too much clownshoes coverage of knitting in the mainstream media, but I feel the team at Woman’s Hour have done us proud this time round. They let us talk about our work in our own way and to give context to our knitting; they asked great questions; they edited sensitively and they did not create some kind of comedy intro as so many radio and media features on knitting sadly often do. HURRAH FOR WOMAN’S HOUR!!!

  2. It was brilliant listening to you and Kate on Women’s Hour, as Jenny said above, you’re both great ambassadors for knitting and sheepy wool appreciation. I loved listening to the sound of the Shetland mantle clock. Thank you for such a great interview.

  3. Colleen says:

    Such a pleasure listening to you and Kate this week. Can hardly believe how long ago I came across your work- through PYF – and how opened up the sonic world to me. Wonderful to hear the sisterly love.

    • Dear wonderful Colleen, I have been thinking of you so much lately, and am really hoping you have recovered from your terrible fall? When I was thinking about this blog post, and about the richness of the woolly sisterhood, I found myself reminiscing about your posts about the laundry lines and your mum’s turban, and I also remembered with huge fondness the toaster poster that you mailed to me once. Huge hugs and I hope all is well in your world x

  4. Clare says:

    So wonderful to hear your interview and very excited you nominated Lara! And so great to hear you talk about Oxford bluestockings!

  5. Susan McKee-Nugent says:

    Since I am FAR FAR away….I heard Kate today and hopefully will hear you tomorrow! Guess it takes a while to get across the pond 🙂

  6. Yumi says:

    Such a wonderful interview! I downloaded the MP3 file and listened to it last night. I was very interested in Catherine Dickens’s life. Love your unique approach to sounds, knitting and people’s lives. Thank you!

  7. Lara says:

    AMEN TO THIS! I LOVE THIS POST!

    So much love for good times, knitting love, amazing friendships, creative ideas and very strong beverages. I also was thinking of our trip to Edinburgh when we went to see Kate, messy Tuesdays and lots of our beautiful conversations.

    Hurrah for the bluestockings and for knitting drawing us all together in the first place! It was an honour to be on woman’s hour – thanks so much for nominating me!

    LXXX

  8. Allison says:

    This is a lovely post. I can’t wait to go out and find the recording of your interview!

  9. Linda Tytko says:

    I think this is so encouraging to Woman thank you for all your hard work in the knitting and wool industry .

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